5 Online Business Startups for People in Rural Canadian Communities

Online business holds great promise for Canada. Part of the reason for that is we’re spread across such a vast country. We live in a world where you can have a thriving online business, even if you live in a remote Arctic hamlet. All you need is an internet connection and suddenly you have access to a global market and remote staff if you need them. From the isolated North to the rural Maritimes, anyone can start and run a successful online business in Canada. It’s the most exciting thing to happen in our lifetime and the potential is virtually limitless.

However, some online businesses will work better for rural communities than others. You may want to avoid shipping physical products due to high inbound and outbound shipping costs in remote locations, for example.

Conversely, you may discover some advantages to living in a rural area or small town. You could choose to service only your community or province, where there’s little competition. Grants and other funding are sometimes available for businesses in small, isolated communities as well. Check your local government business websites to see what kind of support is available to you.

The first thing you’ll need to do is learn about online business in general. We have a free, step-by-step guide that will take you through the entire process, How to Start an Online Business in Canada.

5 Online Businesses for People Living in Rural Canadian Communities

The following ideas have been chosen because they need little more than an internet connection and a website. With today’s tools, you can build your own website (and learn some skills that are in demand while you’re at it). Choose a website host, install WordPress, and follow the virtual yellow brick road.

Tip: All of these suggestions will have a better chance of success if you do at least some blogging on your website. Fresh content attracts web traffic and demonstrates your level of expertise. Most website hosts have WordPress built in so you can install it with a click, free of charge. WordPress allows you to build a fully featured website using tons of free templates and countless plug-ins, while also providing the most popular blogging platform. Learn more from our free ultimate guide: How to Make Money Blogging in Canada

1. Digital Information Products

Virtually everyone has a high level of expertise on one topic or another. Create and sell information products such as courses, white papers, reports, or even an eBook. Learn more about How to Develop Your Own Online Coaching Info-Products.

2. Virtual Assistant (VA)

Virtual assistants may do anything from social media management to administrative tasks. Whatever skill you have that can be done remotely, is marketable under the ‘Virtual Assistant’ label.  Tasks like design and accounting are easily accomplished thanks to “the cloud”, along with other online collaboration and file sharing tools. If you need marketable qualifications, you can take an inexpensive course in executive administration, computer tech or other profession suitable for working at home.

3. Freelance Digital Content

There is a constant demand for quality website content, be it blog posts, videos, graphics design and more. If you speak another language, you can carve out a niche providing content in that language or by translating existing content for online businesses. Read How to Start a Digital Content Freelancing Business in Canada to get started.

4. Drop Shipping

Dropshipping is the ideal way to get into eCommerce without inventory or shipping. Simply put, 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 via online auctions like eBay, or through a sellers’ market like Amazon. The customer price minus the wholesale cost equals your profit. The drop shipper does the actual shipping for you, usually without any indication that it didn’t come directly from you. Read Wholesale Dropshipping for Canadian Sellers for more information.

5. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate programs allow you to advertise for a company and earn a percentage of the sales you generate for them. You’ll have to build your traffic (and ideally an email list) before you’ll earn much money from affiliate marketing, but it can be very lucrative as you grow. It’s easier to get started if you join an affiliate network. We have the best affiliate networks for Canadians listed here.

Many people combine affiliate marketing with other online businesses, to one degree or another. A blogger often earns a large percentage of their income through affiliate marketing, for example, whereas a website designer may only recommend a couple of related businesses to their clients.

Read How to Start Affiliate Marketing in Canada for a comprehensive guide through the process.

How Your Government Can Help

Connectivity in rural Canada has finally come to the attention of the government, promising 100% of Canadian households will have access to high-speed internet by 2030. This is wonderful news for residents and the people who want to reach them online.

Canadians need the internet to start online businesses or to make their existing businesses thrive. The economic boost that would result from a focus on online business is hard to deny, yet guidance and assistance from our government continues to lag behind other countries. Pressure your government representatives to empower rural communities and small businesses across the country, through initiatives that educate and facilitate success.

I imagine a Canada where virtually anyone can build a successful business or become self-employed, no matter where they live or what challenges they face. The internet can make that happen.

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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I’d love to get into freelancing but I’m a little intimidated by getting started and getting clients. It must be hard without experience??


It sounds like somebody is a small town girl! The web sure has opened up a world of possibilities for everyone who wants to start a business. Good to know the inside take to make sure we don’t trip along the way. I think being a VA is perfect for almost everyone!