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If you’ve got something to say or sell, odds are there are people surfing the Internet at this very moment who want to read it or buy it. With an estimated 1.5 billion people using the Internet worldwide, there are opportunities to reach them at every click.
Setting up shop online is quick and easy. The drawback is that it’s easy for everyone, so websites are plentiful and competition is fierce. Standing out from the crowd and getting noticed isn’t so easy. It’s wise to develop a niche and target a specific group of consumers.
It’s impossible to offer a better price than massive established sites or online retailers with giant stocked warehouses so you have to offer something else, whether it’s a unique product or superior customer service. Do your homework to determine what and how to sell. Research your target consumer and find out what his needs are and especially what needs aren’t being met.
Retail can be tricky since there is so much available on the Internet these days. However, if you have a real niche product, the Internet may be the best place to reach potential customers. Being able to lend a level of expertise helps establish you as an authority on the product—another selling point.
The Bottom Line
Domain names are cheap (about $10 a year). Web hosting is also inexpensive if you have the know-how to build the site yourself ($5-$12 per month). However, you can also buy packages that offer design and maintenance services. Depending on your needs and the sophistication of your site, prices vary greatly. To give you an idea, Register.com offers a standard 10-page website for $55 a month.
Most important is a reliable server. If the server goes down, your clients can’t use your site and that puts your business at a complete standstill.
Also, just because you could feasibly set up an online business overnight doesn’t mean you should.
Just like any other business, a well researched online business plan is the key to getting off to a good start and laying the foundation for a profitable enterprise.
Is It Right for You?
Personality traits required: Self-motivation, drive, good multitasker, organization, attention to details, not afraid of technology and automation.
Risks: Although the financial risk is low, you need to spend a significant amount of time marketing.
Also, watch out for so-called opportunities that ask for an upfront investment or costly tutorial programs that promise to make you a millionaire.
Potential Income: This depends greatly on your knowledge, experience and creativity.
Pros and Cons at a Glance
|1. Can be done exclusively from home||1. Hard to stand out on the Internet|
|2. Quick to get up and running||2. Time-intensive to build awareness/traffic|
|3. Websites can be maintained at night/on weekends||3. For retail, difficult to compete with big-box retailers|
|4. Low-cost startup||4. You can’t see your customers|