Whether you are a stay at home mom (SAHM), or want to be, or you need to add to your regular employment income, or want to replace your job entirely and work from home in your own business, starting an online business is one of the first things most people think of. And that's not a bad thing because there are so many different types of online business and so many ways you can make money online.

The most common types of online businesses involve one of these five concepts:

1) Online market sites
2) E-commerce websites
3) Affiliate marketing
4) Service businesses
5) Content-based websites

Online market sites like Main Street Mall Online, Etsy, or even Amazon, provide an easy way to get started with your online business. You can test the water, as it were, without a large commitment and find out how you will take to the world of selling. You get to see customer service from the vendor side of things -- often not what you expected -- and you can see what's involved in the completion of the sale and delivery of the item. Often you can start with extra things you have around the home saving yourself the cost of investing in inventory before you find out if the whole concept is for you or not. Some people will never move from this area, building a successful online venture rooted entirely in one or more online marketing sites.

Remember, though, that some of these sites put a great number of limitations on what you can offer, say, and do. They often restrict and control your business to the point of annoyance and beyond. If you expect to be creative and generally follow your own path with your business you may find a marketing site too restrictive.

E-commerce websites typically allow you the freedom to build your own business your own way.. These are business websites from which you market products of one type or another. Sometimes these are products you have purchased for resale and sometimes they are items handled through drop shippers.

There is a lot of contraversy about drop shippers. The things to consider in this regard are quality and consistancy of product, speed of delivery, customer service, and customer satisfaction. Drop shippers can make it seem easy to build your own online business but they may not make it easy for you to run your business your way. Their errors can cost you big time. Do your homework and be sure the drop shipper you choose will provide your customers with the kind of service you would want your name attached to. It will be.

Selling products from a website can be much easier, more profitable, and have much less risk than opening a regular real world store do offer the same products. Cost are almost always significantly lower. But don't think there isn't work involved. If you expect to list a few items on a website and then sit back and watch the money flow in then perhaps you should keep your day job. Building a successful online business requires commitment, investiment (time and money), deication, research, and work. The last one is most important. You have to work your business!

Don't forget that the products you sell do not always have to be physical goods. Selling ebooks, special reports, and access to premium online content all come under this ecommerce model. The product choices are endless but those considering an ecommerce business should think long and hard before jumping right into it. Do your homework. Research products and competitors. Create a business plan.

Affiliate marketing is an alternative for those who would like to be involved in ecommerce but without the often large upfront costs of inventory and the customer service issues that come with direct retail. Affiliate marketing is a simple concept. Other online merchants, with a product or service to sell, pay a commission to you (the affiliate) for each sale that you bring to them. Affiliates promote merchant products in a variety ways. These include building new websites around a niche topic, linking to products from existing websites, starting ezines and other promotional vehicles, or by using pay per click advertising on their websites.

Affiliate marketing can also be used as an inexpensive way to test your own marketing and promotional skills before branching out with your own e-commerce site. If you can be successful promoting affiliate products you should have no trouble doing the same with your own items.

Services have traditionally been difficult to market online but that is changing as the online market expands. Website designers, content writers, promotional/marketing experts, public relations professionals, business coaches, graphic designers, recruiters, and others now regularly market their services through websites, social and professional networks, and other contact media. In most of these cases there doesn't need to be face to face contact between buyer and seller. Most business can be conducted over the computer and/or telephone.

Professionals offering services online need to ensure their Internet presence reflects the professional nature of their business. Their website should be complete, professionally designed, and provide the right image for their business. A portfolio of work examples, where possible, testimonials, and other samples of services offered can help with this.

Content-based websites are often overlooked by those considering an online business. They can be a part of affiliate marketing, or in addition to it, or used to promote your own product or service based business. Content-based websites make money from advertising revenue and/or from redirecting visitors to other commercial websites.

It takes time and effort to create a good content-based website. You should target a narrow audience and focus on a narrow range of content. Content writers can be hired but you shouldn't have too much trouble finding freely available information and re-writing it to suit your needs. To get started pick a topic you enjoy and research/write the content for your site yourself.

Once your content-based website has good traffic it can be used to drive that traffic on to your primary selling site or you could sell advertising space on it to others. A good content-based website with high volumes of traffic could also be sold to another business so they can use it for their own promotional activities. Building, and selling, content-based websites could be a business in itelf.