12 Things you should know when starting an online business

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13 th Jun 2004
Having your own business is the American dream. It’s an escape from the day to day job that we hate or the boss that drives us crazy. For many of us, having that dream was fairly unattainable until the birth of the internet. E-commerce is an exploding business that is turning out new netrepreneurs every day. People have quit their jobs and dedicated their off hours to starting that dream. It’s an attainable goal for anyone but requires careful planning and consideration.

1. Easy or Not So Easy?
Don’t let anyone tell you that a business online is an easy way to go or a way to get rich quick. If you fall into that trap you’re in for disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, internet marketing can be extremely profitable and certainly a bit more affordable than most offline businesses but it’s not a cakewalk. Just as in any business you need to do your homework. Understand how things work and research, research, research. The good news is the internet offers lots of information to help your research.

2. Do you have what they want?
This is the million dollar question. Is what I have to offer in demand? Will people buy it? There are lots of tools out there to help you in this area. Google and Overture offer tools to help you know what people are searching for. Ask your friends if they’d buy your product online. Visit forums and see what people have to say. Is there a lot of competition for your product? Don’t be afraid if there is, this just means there’s high demand and an opportunity for you to make your product or site better. If there’s not a lot of competition this may be a huge opportunity for you.

3. It won’t happen overnight.
The internet is a “learn as you” go process. Things are changing all the time and experience is key. Don’t expect too much too soon and don’t get discouraged if things look a bit bleak heading out of the shoot. Most internet businesses took at least a year to show a profit and many took a lot longer. Resign yourself to the fact that it will take time. Nothing worthwhile happened over night. Stay focused on your goals and practice patience and persistence.

4. Will you make money on your own product or someone else’s?
You can sell your own product or business – In this process you do it all. You have a product or service and you to sell it online. You will need to coordinate the logistics of collecting money and providing delivery. You will do payment processing and you will perform customer service.
Affiliate sales – Affiliate sales is the process of marketing other merchants products or services. This can be done with or without a website. You are given a special tracking website address that tracks sales referred by your URL and you receive a percentage of each sale. You only perform advertising. There is no money to collect, or customer service to perform.
Drop shipping- The drop shipping process is where you accept orders for items you advertise on your website, however you do not hold any items in stock, instead you place orders you receive directly with the wholesaler and they deliver the items directly to your customer. You pay the wholesale price and your customer pays retail price. Your profit is the difference. You don’t have inventory to consider but you do have payables and receivables to process and customers to respond to.

4. There’s millions of sites out there, are they going to find you?
If you have a website, search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial. You won’t attract traffic to your website without it. There are things you can do to optimize your site. Read up on meta tag creation, there are lots of sites that offer free information on this. Also research website linking techniques. Both of these tactics will help you attain search engine ranking and acquire decent website traffic

5. Know your customers
Analyze your site traffic. Know what your customers are doing when they come to your site, where do they navigate to? Put yourself in their shoes. Find out what it is they are looking for. When they come to your site, how long are they there? There are free software tools that will help you with this but also you can post surveys, ask questions and get as much feedback as you can. Listen to your customers and they’ll respond favorably.

6. Know your products.
It’s a good rule of thumb to purchase and use the products you are promoting. This isn’t an absolute must but you’d be surprised how your ad campaign and marketing strategy can take form if you’ve actually used and experienced the product or service you’re selling. It’s a lot harder to convince someone they need something if you haven’t seen or used it yourself.

7. If it sounds too good to be true … you know the rest.
I’m constantly frustrated with ads that claim you can make lots of money and make it fast with little or no effort. There is no legitimate business that can do that for you. Get rich quick schemes are just that, they are schemes that could possibly bring in money through some illegal or legal creative maneuvering, but almost always disappoint you in the end. Check out all programs thoroughly and ask lots of questions.

8. Getting set up and the various costs.
Internet business costs are not as great as other business startups but you will have a few costs that you must budget for. For example, if you build a website there will be hosting costs. These are generally monthly fees and can be anywhere from $10 to $50 a month depending on your plan. Courses/Education should be budgeted. Search engine submission, with the exception of Google and DMOZ, now require yearly fees that can range anywhere from $20-$100 or more depending on your choices. Website building software may also have a fee. If you’ll be selling your own product you’ll need a merchant account to set up credit cards, etc. Don’t forget internet connection costs whereby you’ll need cable or dial up. I may have forgotten a few but these are the most common startup costs that you should consider budgeting for.

9. What to watch out for.
Scams are the biggest problem on the internet. Keep yourself aware of the latest scams by going to http://www.sec.gov/investor/online/scams.htm . Also invest in virus and firewall protection software. These aren’t popular expenses, especially starting out, but losing your computer to an attack is a dismal alternative.

10. To build a website or not to build a website.
Regardless of your internet business, it is a good idea to start with a website. It will ultimately become a reflection of you and your business. A website will build an image and draw viewers to your product or service. It will also allow you to provide and receive feedback as well as update your viewers on your products or services.

11. Email marketing.
Email and spam is a huge issue with regard to the internet. Know what the rules are before emailing anyone. The following site contains all the laws and may help you avoid unwanted trouble. http://www.spamlaws.com/federal/list108.html

12.The internet can be a lonely place.
Don’t go it alone. Make contacts and ask questions through the use of forums. This gives you the opportunity to learn the successes and failures of others and to also ask questions. You may even develop some great business partners in the process or possibly make a friend or two.

About author:
Elizabeth McGee is the owner of Pro-Marketing-Online, the Expert Marketing Tools site. If you wish to learn more about how to market online from the experts and find expert, trusted tools for promoting your site then please visit Pro-Marketing-Online or subscribe to her newsletter found at
http://www.pro-marketing-online.com or email Elizabeth at webmaster@pro-marketing-online.com

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