5 Online Home Businesses to Start When You Retire

There was a time not long ago when Canadians over the age of 50 weren’t expected to know anything about the Internet. Then, we saw them learning the basics so they could keep in touch in touch or search for information. As time went on, older Canadians learned more, either through their jobs or on their own at home.

Today, mature Canadians who have mastered the Internet for business often blow away younger generations. Dragons’ Den veteran Arlene Dickinson is over 60 years old and Jim Treliving is pushing 80, for example, but they certainly know plenty about how to use the Internet for business. Applying that to decades of experience brings it to the level of superpower.

At the same time, using the Internet for business has become easier. Canadians of all ages are starting side businesses online with very little tech knowledge. Website and eCommerce software is designed for people who don’t know HTML, making it largely a matter of pointing and clicking. There are endless sources of information online to guide you through the rest.

How many times have you said, “I wish I knew then, what I know now?”  When you start a business with some experience under your belt, it gives you a head start.

I’m 53 and have been working online for over 20 years. Experience has taught me as much as any formal learning has, and it greatly enhanced what I’ve learned in a classroom. Age alone has absolutely no negative impact on starting a business, but it comes with plenty of benefits. Experience and wisdom are differentiating factors in success, no matter what you’re tackling.

What Do You Want?

Some people want to be semi-retired or start a full time home business on their own terms. You may want to build an empire, or just earn enough to cover a new hobby. Maybe you’ll do it to challenge yourself or because you need to supplement your pension. Perhaps you’ve accepted that you have to continue to work past 65 like many other Canadians, but you want to do it on your own terms.

Whatever your goals are, you’re not alone.

“In 2012, individuals 50+ made up the fastest growing age demographic for start-ups in Canada, accounting for approximately 30% of the total number of start-ups in the country,” says a report by Sheridan Centre for Elder Research. “Since 1990, the rate of entrepreneurs 50+ has more than doubled itself, and the trend continues to rise.”

Benefits of Starting an Online Business When Your Retire

A few of the benefits of launching an online business when you retire are:

  • Enjoy a new source of income.
  • You don’t have to invest a lot of money, and the odds for a healthy return on investment (ROI) are in your favour. Nobody should “bet the farm” in retirement.
  • Be able to work while traveling or just enjoy the freedom of being mobile.
  • Enjoy a higher quality of life when you take back control from an employer.
  • Manage health issues or any other reason for requiring a flexible schedule.
  • If semi-retirement is the goal, you can control your growth to be as busy as you want to be.
  • No commute.
  • Keep your mind active and agile.

5 Online Home Businesses to Start When You Retire

The below suggestions link to more detailed, free guides on our website. To begin, please review our Checklist: How to Start an Online Business in Canada.

1. Digital Information Products

As time goes by, our knowledge on any given topic can build to expert levels. It could also be that our wisdom results in exceptional insights.

Create & sell information products such as courses, white papers, reports, or eBooks. You’ll only need a computer/laptop and an internet connection to get started. You can easily expand this online business idea to include speaking engagements, if you like.  There is a lot of work involved in product creation, but once that’s done you can earn revenue from the products repeatedly with little additional effort.

Learn More: How to Develop Your Own Online Coaching Info-Products

2. Virtual Assistant (VA)

Your experience and expertise will also serve you well if you offer your services online. Virtual assistants may do anything from marketing to secretarial tasks. Whatever skill you have that can be done remotely, is marketable under the ‘Virtual Assistant’ label. Tasks like collaborative design and accounting are easily accomplished thanks to “the cloud”, along with other online collaboration and file sharing tools.

Learn More: How to Become a Virtual Assistant (VA) in Canada

3. Drop Shipping

Drop Shipping (or dropshipping) is a way to get into online retail without worrying about inventory or shipping. You can still have the freedom to work from anywhere, because you don’t have to fill or ship orders.

Drop Shipping is the easiest, least expensive way to sell products online. You make arrangements with a wholesale supplier or manufacturer to sell their products direct online. You can offer these products on your own website or through a sellers’ market like Amazon. The customer price minus the wholesale cost equals your profit.

“Dropshipped goods: this is one of the most hands-off of ecommerce businesses, and ideal for new entrepreneurs who want to make a little extra travel money with minimal effort,” says Shopify Canada.

Learn More: Drop Shipping / Wholesale for Canadian Sellers

4. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate programs allow you to advertise for a company and earn a percentage of the sales you generate for them. You’ll need a website and steady traffic to it. This will be your home base for everything from building a mailing list to social media promotion.  Once you’ve established a following, both on your website and in newsletter subscribers, it will get easier.

Learn More: How to Start Affiliate Marketing in Canada

5.  Web Translation

In Canada, there are a good number of websites, social media accounts and videos that need a French version of their content. If you speak both English and French, you can easily set up a basic website to promote your translation services. You could network with web designers and even offer them a commission if they refer clients to you.  You can also offer digital content in French.

Learn More: Start an Online Content Translation Business in Canada

Learn How to Start an Online Business in Canada

Online business and marketing are based on technology, and that means there’s a perpetual learning curve. It’s actually what I love most about being a digital entrepreneur and why I have no plans to retire.

Canadian Universities frequently have learning opportunities for seniors, such as the University of British Columbia.  You’ll also find many free courses available online from universities all over the world.

Your public library can be a valuable resource as you build your business. Many offer business courses (sometimes just for seniors) and of course, they have books. You may find books about online business to be somewhat outdated, but you’ll still learn from them. Check out your local library’s website to find out what they have to offer.

Keep an eye out for regional programs that pop up, like SPICE, a program offered for senior-preneurs in the Durham region of Ontario.

Government programs for small businesses are available at both the Federal and Provincial level.

“The federal government offers free webinars, online events, and live small business workshops in major cities across Canada,” writes Sarita Harbour for Dragon’s Den. “Learn what’s available in your region by visiting Canada Business Network for the calendar of events for your province. Check out your home province’s websites as well.”

Basic digital literacy has been a focus of the current government. If you need some help at the beginner level, check out their funded initiatives.

Otherwise, when it comes to business the government has been focused on young entrepreneurs, immigrant entrepreneurs and female entrepreneurs, but they still have some work to do in regards to “mature” entrepreneurs. As much of Canada’s population ages into the retirement and senior categories, ignoring them as mentors and business owners is a big mistake.

“It’s time for government to realize it has been ignoring a valuable resource to the startup community: older entrepreneurs,” writes Wendy Mayhew for The Globe and Mail. “They bring both skills and experience to their businesses, and create mentorship opportunities and jobs.”

Mature Canadians are enjoying a longer lifespan and we have more living to do. Sadly, many will need more money to live comfortably. Online businesses can work for so many retirees, no matter what obstacle stands in their way. They can do this work even if they have physical challenges or if they’re caring for a spouse at home. It can make a significant difference in their life and help them to help themselves. Plus, a society that values its older members is destined to thrive and prosper.

What has factored into your decision to start a business later in life? Please share your thoughts and question in the comments below, or discuss this and other online business topics in the Online Business Canada Facebook group!


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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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Bon Voy

I love the idea of running a business but being free to move around!! It didn’t even occur to me when I thought of doing a part time business….thanks for the ideas and heres to retirement!!

Happy Herman

2 more years!!!! I’m planning to stay active, travel and start a new business on the side to pay for it all!!!! Thanks for the tips!


I just want to work on the fly so I can travel and pay for it. You’ve given me lots to think about.