6 Great Online Business Opportunities for Retirees

Thank you for visiting our website.  In this article, I am going to tell you about 6 great online business opportunities for retirees.  They are very diverse in nature and each one would work well for people of any age but, for various reasons, I consider them especially suitable for retirees and those approaching retirement.

The one common thread of all these options is that each can be done without prior experience although some additional training may be necessary, or at least advisable, in some cases.

Why Should a Retiree Choose to Work Online?

There are many benefits to working online.  Here are a few of them:

  • Work from home
  • Avoid the dreaded commute
  • Option to work with a spouse or partner
  • Opportunity to travel – all you need is a computer and an internet connection
  • Less rigid hours – the internet never sleeps
  • Greater opportunity to spend time with family
  • Physically less demanding
  • Lower costs (typically)
  • Opportunity to lower living costs by moving to a state or country with a lower cost of living

Affiliate Marketing

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Flow Chart Showing How Affiliate Marketing WorksAs an affiliate marketer, you promote the products and services of third-party vendors, and each time someone purchases one of those products or services you earn a pre-agreed commission.

Your promotion is typically done online and the three most common forms of promotion are in posts on your own website, through email campaigns, or in your own YouTube videos.

You are not involved in the sale itself.  That is handled by the third-party Vendor through its own online store.  You simply direct the would-be purchaser to that online store.

Clearly there is a lot more detail involved in the actual process but that’s it in a nutshell.  You can read a more detailed explanation of affiliate marketing here.

Skills Required

Some experience in marketing is helpful, but not essential.

Knowledge of the products or services you are promoting will be needed but most affiliate marketers at least start in a field (niche) in which they are familiar and already have some knowledge, even if they wouldn’t call themselves experts.  For anyone else, there is, of course, an endless supply of information available on the internet.

If you plan to do your marketing through articles on your own website or email campaigns then, clearly, some writing will be involved but you do not need to be a great writer to succeed.  Just write in your own natural style, and keep what you say relevant to whatever it is you are promoting and you’ll be fine.

How to Get Started

Particularly if you are new to marketing (as are the majority of new affiliate marketers) then getting some training is advisable.  At the very least you will need to know how you go about finding products or services to promote and, more particularly, the vendors who are selling those products and have the necessary affiliate programs in place.

There are many online training programs available and most of these will at least cover the essentials you will need in order to get started.  My particular favorite is Wealthy Affiliate because, as well as providing all the training you will need to become a successful affiliate marketer, it also includes website building tools, website hosting, research tools, and excellent technical support.  They also have a very supportive community of members and membership can be canceled at any time.

What you Need (and the Cost) to Get Started

As for any online business, the only essential equipment you will need is a computer with an internet connection, and which you will likely already have.  A tablet can work but trying to run your business on a smartphone is very difficult.

If you are going to have your own website (recommended) then you will need to register its domain name (typically around $15.00 for a year) and you will also need a hosting service, i.e. where your website will live.  Website hosting can cost anything from a few dollars each month to $200.00 or more depending on the type of service you sign up for.  As a beginner, it is a good idea to start towards the lower end and then consider upgrading as and when your website starts to gain traction and you see regular income coming in.

At least you won’t need to pay someone to create your website because this is now so easy to do yourself.

For successful email marketing, you will need an autoresponder.  There are perfectly adequate free autoresponder programs available together with paid ones that offer a few more bells and whistles and which start at around $20.00 per month.

If you are marketing through video, you will need a camera (smartphones work fine, at least for getting started) and some video editing software (again, free versions are available).  It is free to set up a YouTube channel and to upload your videos.

The cost of affiliate training can vary considerably, depending in particular on whether you go the monthly subscription or modular purchase route.  Monthly subscription payments are typically under $100.00 per month.  At Wealthy Affiliate (see above), monthly membership is $49.00 (less if you pay twelve months upfront) and this includes hosting for up to 10 websites.

Some training programs offer their training in a modular format where you pay upfront for the training module(s) of your choice.  The cost of these modules can run from under $50.00 to many thousands of dollars and there is typically no refund so if you go this route be sure you understand exactly what you are getting before you commit.

How Much Money Can You Make?

Affiliate marketing is definitely not a get rich quick scheme but if you stick with it the sky is the limit in terms of what you can earn ultimately and many affiliate marketers earn hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

For most affiliate marketers it takes at least six months before they have any sales commissions coming in and even then it is sporadic.  Think in terms of between twelve and twenty-four months before you will start to see a steady flow of income and maybe two to four years for that income to be enough to actually live on.  But by the time you get to that point, you will have a tried and tested method that is clearly working and you are on your way.

Freelance Writing

What is Freelance Writing?

Elderly Man Writing on a Laptop in a Beautiful Location Overlooking the Sea
Freelance writing can, literally, be done from anywhere!

A freelance writer is an independent contractor (not an employee) who writes text for others in return for payment.  That text can be as short as a few words, as in the case of a greetings card, or run into hundreds of thousands of words, as in the case of a ghostwriter writing a novel.

In this digital age and with the decline in demand for printed materials, in particular books and magazines, you could be forgiven for thinking that freelance writing is a dying profession.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth because today the demand for freelance writers is greater than it has ever been.  People are still reading, they are just doing it more and more online rather than via books, magazines, etc. and their appetite seems insatiable.

In the past, many would-be publishers were excluded from the exclusive publishing club for reasons of cost, opportunity or simple lack of talent.  Modern technology has made it so much easier, and far less expensive, to publish written work, principally online but in print also, that now, more or less anyone can get their work published and offered to the general public.  And because many of those new publishers cannot, or don’t want to, write themselves they look for others (freelance writers) to do it for them.

There is a huge range of freelance writing opportunities available, including the following:

  • Blog posts
  • Articles for magazines, both printed and online
  • E-books
  • Copywriting
  • Ghostwriting
  • Social media content writing
  • Editing
  • E-learning courses
  • Website content
  • Video scriptwriting
  • Email newsletters
  • Greetings cards
  • And much, much more!

Skills Required

Some natural writing ability is a help, but you don’t need to be a T.S. Eliot to be successful.

The quality of the writing required will vary considerably from case to case so, for example, a much higher standard is likely going to be required if you are being hired to ghostwrite a novel or an article for a science magazine as opposed to a short blog post.  With the vast variety of writing opportunities that are available, there is always going to be something for every level of writing talent.

Grammar and spelling are always going to be important but, even if your skills in these areas are not great, you can always utilize one of the many excellent grammar and spell checkers that are now available.  I particularly like Grammarly in this regard.

You will need to be able to type and because your income will depend on the speed and accuracy with which you write and complete your assignments,  you will need to have decent typing skills.  If you need help in this area you could consider doing an online typing course like Typesy.

How to Get Started

Based on your experience, writing ability, and technical knowledge you would be best advised to focus on one specific area, at least at the beginning.

Blog post/website content writing is a great place to start, particularly if you have no prior writing experience.  Blog/website owners need to be constantly adding new content if they want to rank in the online search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, and many find it difficult (particularly if they have more than one blog/website) to produce all that content by themselves.  Enter the freelance writer!

As you gain experience (and a reputation for good work) potential clients will start to seek you out but in the beginning, you will have to hustle and seek out the writing jobs yourself and the best way to do this is through one or more of the many online agencies that are available, such as:

  • Fivver – This is a worldwide platform that offers freelancers work in a wide range of categories, including writing.  Freelancers can create their own profile (for free) and wait for employers to contact them or they can apply for one of the thousands of assignments that are posted there each day.  Be aware that many of the assignments offer very low remuneration rates, sometimes as little as $5.00 (hence the name) but it’s a great place to start, especially if you have no prior experience, and with a few completed assignments under your belt you can start to apply for some of the many, more lucrative jobs that are also posted there.
  • Upwork – Like Fiverr, Upwork offers freelance assignments in a wide range of categories but has a very strong writing section.  It is a little more sophisticated than Fiverr and generally offers higher remuneration rates.  It also offers a timesheet app that allows employers to offer an hourly rate, rather than a flat rate, for any given job.
  • Writers Work – As the name suggests, Writers Work is an agency that deals only with writers.  As well as putting freelance writers in contact with potential clients, it also offers a variety of features such as training videos, useful tools to assist in the writing process, and live chat.  It’s a good choice if you feel you will need some additional support as you get started.
  • Freelance Writing – This is another agency that deals just with writers.  The website is simple to navigate and for the job postings there is a nice feature that designates the wring level required for each job from beginner through to expert.

Cost to Get Started

Your startup costs as a freelance writer are minimal, assuming you have a computer and internet.

Some of the agencies have some fees, particularly the writing-only ones, for example with Writers Work there is a one-time fee of $47.00 to register.

If you need a grammar/spell checker Grammarly has an excellent free version but if you want/need the extra bells and whistles that will cost you $29.95 each month or $139.95 annually.

If you need to brush up on your typing skills, Typesy is a very modest $29.95 for a three-year license.

How Much Money Can You Make?

At the bottom end, and particularly as a beginner, you might be making as little as $5.00 for a 500-word blog post with Fiverr but as you gain experience, and your writing skills improve, you can expect to earn a lot more.  The top writers with Writers Work can earn $60.00 per hour and Upwork claims that its best writers earn up to $75.00 per hour.  When your experience and/or reputation has grown to the point where potential clients are seeking you out, you can potentially earn considerably more.

Life Coach

What is a Life Coach?

Life Coach Word Cloud Concept angled with great terms such as actions, goals, change and more.A life coach is a person who helps a client to identify personal or professional goals and, having developed an appropriate plan of action, works with the client to help them achieve those goals.  The most common need for any potential coaching client is the need to be accountable to someone else.

Life coaches can and do offer their services in many different aspects of the human condition including:

  • relationships
  • retirement
  • careers
  • spiritual matters
  • health and fitness
  • business
  • personal finance
  • life balance
  • general life

It is important to note the difference between a life coach and a counselor/therapist.  The latter will have had years of specialized training that qualify them to deal with a wide range of human issues particularly in the field of mental health and they do this principally by examining a person’s past in order to understand a current problem or issue.  A life coach simply helps a client identify current problems and then develops a plan to help the client overcome them.

Skills Required

As a retiree, your life experience alone makes you a perfect candidate to become a life coach.  Beyond that, the following are the qualities and skills that will help to make you a great life coach:

  • passion for helping others
  • good listening skills
  • good questioning skills
  • effective communication
  • patience
  • positive and upbeat
  • objectivity
  • empathy
  • compassion

Also, certain areas of life coaching do involve an element of technical skill.  If, for instance, you are interested in coaching people in personal finance, while you don’t need to be a CPA you should at least have the knowledge to be able to direct your client to appropriate resources.

Consider your own personal background and existing skill set when choosing the type of coaching you are going to specialize in.  A personal trainer or an aerobics instructor would be a perfect candidate for health and fitness coaching and a yoga instructor for life balance coaching.  A retiree who has already settled into retirement is perfectly placed to help others who are stressfully approaching retirement.

How to Get Started

There is no national certification available/required to become a life coach but, unless you are coming from a therapy/counseling (or similar) background then you would be well advised to consider doing some kind of training, rather than just jumping in.  At the very least such a training course would teach you the essential communication skills that you will need in order to be successful, as well, typically, as some insight into the business side of running your own life coaching business, especially how to find clients.

Fortunately, there is a huge selection of online training courses available.  Some can be completed in as little as a month or two (less if you hustle) while others are as long as bachelor degree courses and can take years to complete.  At the shorter end of the spectrum, here are three that are written by acknowledged experts in the field, cover all the essentials, offer a graduation certificate on completion and won’t break the bank:

  1. Life Coach Certification Course, by Dr. Steve Jones – $39.00 (currently on sale)
  2. Certified Life Optimization Coach Course, by Dr. Joe Rubino – $97.00
  3. The Extreme Business Coaching Certification Course, by Dr. Steve Jones and Dr. Joe Rubino – $17.00 (currently on sale)

Cost to Get Started

For working online, all you need to get started is a computer and an internet connection.

As I mentioned before, there is no required certification to call yourself a life coach but if you decide to do one of the many training courses that are available these start at around $40.00 with the longer courses running into many thousands of dollars.

How Much Money Can You Make?

According to the Universal Coach Institute, in 2016 the annual income range for life coaches was $27,000.00 – $210,000.00 with the average being $61,900.00 in the US and $51,000.00 globally.

The amount you earn will depend upon a number of factors including experience, your area of expertise, geographical location (of your target audience if working online) and the hours you work.

Virtual Assistant

What is a Virtual Assistant?

“A virtual assistant is generally self-employed and provides professional administrative, technical, or creative assistance to clients remotely from a home office” (per Wikipedia).

The actual scope of the assistance provided is determined on a case by case basis, as are the hours to be worked and the remuneration.  The assistant might be working for an individual or a group of people and while the work the assistant does is more commonly itself done online this is not necessarily so and some physical tasks may be involved.  The one common factor that makes the relationship ‘virtual’ is that the assistant works remotely from the employer and most, if not all, communication is by internet or telephone.

The virtual arrangement has huge benefits for both parties.  For the employer, it frees up (and sometimes eliminates entirely) expensive office space, avoids costly employment taxes and benefits (virtual assistants are independent contractors, not employees), and opens up a worldwide talent pool.  The assistant, by working from home, is able to avoid the hassle and wasted time of the daily commute to the office, can better juggle their time between work and family and has worldwide job opportunities.  They also, typically, earn more than they would be if doing the same work as an employee in an office.

Virtual assistants can work in practically any field of business or other fields of human endeavor.  The potential is enormous.

Skills Required

 cartoon showing female virtual assistant sitting at a desk with headphoneThe technical skills and/or experience required will be dependent on the job itself but most ’employers’ are going to require some real-world experience in the tasks you will be performing for them.  This is because, unlike in a typical office environment, there is no opportunity for on-the-job training and the assistant will be expected to ‘hit the ground running’.  The one exception to this might be a ‘Girl/Man Friday’ position where the assistant is going to be performing more general, personal life tasks such as scheduling medical appointments, making travel bookings and taking Fido to doggie daycare.

In terms of general skills and qualities, the following are important:

  • Good communication skills – whether it be with your employer or others on behalf of your employer, it is essential that you can speak/type clearly and succinctly and that you are able, in turn, to quickly and accurately comprehend what is being said to you
  • Computer knowledge – your computer is likely to be your principal (if not sole) means of communication and tool for carrying out your assigned tasks so you need to be aware of its capabilities (and shortcomings) and also how to get it fixed quickly in the event of a breakdown
  • Internet-savvy – While your phone may also come into play, it is more than likely that most of the work you do will be done via the internet so you need to be surf the net quickly and efficiently
  • Good intrapersonal skills – if you are a moody person or have difficulty shaking off negative experiences (they will happen) your work will suffer – remember, you will be working alone and will not have the safety net of a supervisor or co-workers to offer help and support
  • Good interpersonal skills – in your interactions with others (including your employer) you will need to be able to convey a professional attitude while at the same time coming across as approachable and friendly
  • Self-motivated and disciplined – you will not have a supervisor looking over your shoulder so you will need the discipline to keep yourself moving and focused on your assigned tasks
  • Trustworthy – Even if your assigned tasks do not involve a financial element, your employer will be trusting that you are working in accordance with the agreed terms and that you will not be divulging any information to others
  • Organized – Working by yourself, especially from home, is a lot more challenging than many people realize and in particular, it is really important to assign yourself a specific workspace, work set hours and equip yourself with all the tools you need to carry out your assigned tasks

How to Get Started

There is no national certification required (or available) to work as a virtual assistant which means anyone can call themselves a virtual assistant and offer their services to the world.  But, just because you can doesn’t mean you should and, particularly if you are new to working as an independent contractor (and running your own business), you would be well advised to consider one of the multitudes of training courses that are available.

Many of these courses offer a ‘graduation’ certificate and which can be beneficial to show to potential employers as you start looking for jobs.

Most of the available training courses (the majority of which are online) do not train you for specific job situations but instead focus on developing the general skills you will need as well as how to market yourself (and find jobs), how to negotiate fees, how to set up your home office, and how to run your new business.

One course I particularly like is Virtual Assistant Career Training by Tawnia Sutherland who, through her website, VANetworking.com, also administers the largest global networking site for virtual assistants.  The course is a little on the pricy side but offers a lot including setting you up with your own virtual assistant website.  There is also a job board which is great if you are just starting out.

If you want to skip training and just jump straight in you could check out one of the many online job websites.  For beginners, Fiverr would be a good choice.

Cost to Get Started

As for any online business, you will need a computer and internet connection.

For any given situation, there may be some additional set up expenses such as required specialized software but you may be able to negotiate a contribution, if not the complete cost, for this from the employer.

Training could well be your greatest start-up cost as many of the available courses tend to be on the expensive side.  The Virtual Assistant Career Training mentioned above comes in at a cool $997.00 although there is an installment plan available as well as a 7-day money-back guarantee.

How Much Money Can You Make?

Depending on the field you are working in (your niche), you could expect to be earning $16.00 – $20.00 an hour as you get started, maybe a little less if you have limited experience in your niche and certainly more if you are/were a pro in your field.  From there it just goes up as you gain in experience and reputation and hourly rates of $50.00 and above are not uncommon.

A really good virtual assistant can be worth their weight in gold and get paid accordingly.


What is Transcription?

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines ‘Transcribe’ as to “put (thoughts, speech, or data) into written or printed form”.   For practical purposes, a Transcriptionist is a professional typist who converts recorded speech into a typed/printed format.

Transcriptionists are always in high demand across a wide range of industries, including:

  • Non-profit and governmental organizations
  • Police departments and law enforcement agencies
  • Market research and consulting firms
  • Law firms and attorneys
  • Educational Institutions
  • Researchers
  • Real Estate professionals
  • Insurance professionals and claims adjusters

Transcription is perfect for a home-based business because by the very nature of the work, and while there may be deadlines to be met, the transcriptionist can work at their own pace and on their own schedule.

Skills Required

At the risk of stating the obvious, the number one skill that you really cannot manage without is fast, accurate typing.  If you currently type using two fingers then transcription probably isn’t for you, unless you are prepared to invest a lot of time (as well as money) in learning to type at a professional level.  The actual speed and accuracy required will depend on the job.  At one end of the scale, some data entry jobs require speeds as low as 60 wpm, while at the other end ‘real-time transcription’, such as in court reporting, requires speed in the 200-300 wpm range.

If your typing is decent, if not quite at the professional level, or your skills are just a little rusty, then you could consider doing one of the many online typing courses that are available.  These are typically inexpensive and self-paced, which means they can be completed in a relatively short time.  One such online course that I like is Typesy.

Not sure of your current typing speed and accuracy?  You can check that out (for free) here.

You will also need good grammar for most transcription work although using an online spelling and grammar checker, like Grammarly, can provide a bit of a safety net in this area.

You will also need to consider whether some industry-specific skills are required.  For instance, legal transcription and medical transcription will require knowledge of legal and medical terminology respectively.

How to Get Started

If you are completely new to transcription you might want to consider doing an online transcription course, like Transcribe Anywhere.  It covers such topics as the different types of transcription work that is available, the equipment you will need, how to hone the essential skills, some ‘tricks of the trade’, how to set up your home business and how to find work.  They also offer a free mini-course.  Colette has done an excellent review of Transcribe Anywhere, which you can read here.

If you prefer to just jump straight in then you can find transcription jobs on one of the many online job boards such as Fiverr, Upwork, and Flexjobs.  There are also some specialized sites that post just transcription jobs such as Transcribe Me, Speech Pad and Daily Transcription.

Cost to Get Started

Basic costs to get started, over and above the usual computer and internet connection, for general transcription are minimal as all you really need is a good set of headphones and a foot pedal (to control the audio).

Depending on the job, some specialized software may be required but you could find this provided for free by the employer.

Online Transcription courses can be on the expensive side.  The General Transcription Course offered by Transcribe Anywhere is $597.00 and their more specialized Legal Transcription Course is $697.00

How Much Money Can You Make?

At the beginner level, especially without training, you are likely looking at around $10.00 – $15.00 per hour but this can go up quickly and more experienced transcriptionists, especially in the more specialized fields, such as legal transcription, can earn $25.00 – $30.00 per hour.

Voice-Over Work

What is Voice-Over Work?

Per Wikipedia; “Voice-over (also known as off-camera or off-stage commentary) is a production technique where a voice—that is not part of the narrative (non-diegetic)—is used in a radiotelevision productionfilmmakingtheatre, or other presentations.  The voice-over is read from a script and may be spoken by someone who appears elsewhere in the production or by a specialist voice talent”.

To put it more simply, a voice-over actor provides their voice (only) for a piece of commercial audio work. 

The range of voice-over work available is staggering and includes:

  • TV commercials
  • Video games
  • Movies (including animated and dubbed foreign language movies)
  • Education and training videos
  • Toys
  • Audiobooks
  • Documentaries
  • Narrations
  • Radio ads
  • TV shows
  • Podcasts
  • Voicemail and other recorded message systems
  • and much more

Back in the day, almost all voice-over work was done in a professional recording studio but now, in our digital age, a very large proportion of it is done entirely online with the voice talent never actually meeting the employer or the employer’s production team.  This makes voice-over work a perfect opportunity for a home-based business.

Skills Needed

Illustration showing profile of female face and sound waves
Your voice is unique so why not make some money from it?

No special skills or qualifications are required to do voice-over work and you certainly don’t need to have a ‘perfect voice’, whatever that is anyway.  Remember, every voice is unique, even yours.  The trick is to recognize and develop that uniqueness.

You will be speaking from a script but, even if you have never done this before, this is a skill that can be easily learned with practice.

Working from home, you will be doing all your own recording so some technical skills will be required in handling the necessary recording hardware and software but, again, this can be easily learned.   

How to Get Started

If you are a complete beginner then your first step should be to learn a little more about the voice over industry generally.  There is a ton of information available on the internet so take a look.

Next, consider signing up for one of the many training courses that are available.  Many of these courses can be really expensive, running into thousands of dollars, but there are also a number of more budget-friendly online courses that will teach you the basics such as:

  • An overview of the voice-over industry
  • How to market yourself
  • How to set up your home recording studio
  • How to record and edit your work
  • How to negotiate fees
  • How to find work

One such course is VO Genesis.  It covers all of the above and is very reasonably priced at just $39.95.

Working from home, the minimum equipment you are going to need is a computer with recording/editing software installed and a stand-alone microphone.  The built-in microphone on your computer just isn’t going to cut it.  You will also need a quiet place to make your recordings.  If you have some spare space, for a relatively modest sum you can build your own small recording studio within your own home.  Otherwise, if you have a closet that you can fit into with your computer and microphone then that can work, especially as you are getting started. 

You should also consider finding a talent agent, either in your area or online.  An agent will not only find you work but will also negotiate the highest possible fee for you.  Sure they will take likely 20% of that fee but on balance, a good agent can give you a huge advantage.

If you prefer to go it alone then Fiverr is a good place to start.  At any given time, they have a lot of voice over work available and it’s also a great place to go and see how other voice-over actors are marketing themselves.  You will likely have to start at the very low end of the fee scale but it’s a great place to gain some experience, as well as building your confidence.

There are many other online platforms for finding voice-over work, including Upwork.com, Voice123.com, and Flexjobs.com.

Cost to Get Started

Training is potentially your greatest start-up cost but, as I mentioned previously, there are some decent online programs available for under $100.00 including my recommendation, VO Genesis at just $39.95.

In terms of equipment, and assuming you already have a computer, a microphone is the only really essential item you will need and there is a wide selection of good quality ones available in the $125.00 – $200.00 range.

Your recording software does not have to be overly sophisticated, particularly as you are getting started, and you may already have something suitable on your computer.  Otherwise, there are a number of decent free apps available.

If you want to consider setting up a home studio (rather than using a closet) then you can get a basic start-up kit for around $100.00 on Amazon.  You could also spend thousands on a custom made setup but I recommend keeping it simple as you begin.

How Much Money Can You Make?

If you have an agent, or otherwise have built up some experience and contacts, the going rate per hour for voice-over work is in the $250.00 – $350.00 range.  If you elect to start with Fiverr or something similar, you will be earning considerably less, particularly at the beginning.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has given you some insight into the huge diversity of online business opportunities that are available.  Most of the opportunities I have mentioned have little or no startup cost and are therefore excellent options for anyone on a tight budget and particularly retirees who are looking to make some additional income for their retirement.

If you have any experience working in any of the fields I have mentioned, whether good or bad, please share that experience with other readers through the comments box below.  If you otherwise have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments box or, if you prefer to keep your question private then send me an email via the Contact Us page.  Either way, I will respond as quickly as possible.

Thank you for reading.

Best wishes,


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