One of the newest emerging frontiers for entrepreneurs is the Internet. There is still so much untapped capability and it grows by leaps and bounds on a daily basis. From when I was first exposed to online service until today, about 15 years, the potential has multiplied logarithmically. If you want to go into business for yourself, the Internet is one of the best places to start. What do you do to get going?
1) PRODUCT / SERVICE: Choose your product or service wisely. Select something you already know about. You are going to be learning enough already don’t force yourself to learn a new product/service as well. Choose something that can be handled over the Internet. Advertising on the Internet is different than a business on the Internet. Yard care is not an Internet business, no matter how much you advertise on the net. Offering to edit manuscripts, novels, screen plays and so on can easily be an online business.
2) RESEARCH: When you have selected your product / service, use the Internet to find out all you can about it. Hopefully you took the hint in step one and chose something you already know about, now you need to learn more about it. People will be paying you for your offerings, make sure you know enough to answer their questions.
3) COMPETITORS: Search the Internet, the Yellow Pages, the local Newspaper, all over for who else offers your services. A simple google search will identify all your competitors. Scour their websites for ideas. Look at their prices and their offerings to see if they are providing the same thing, better or not as good as you are. Then compare the prices they are asking. If feasible set your prices just a bit below them, perhaps 5% to 10% less. Most important is that you know who is getting more of the business than you.
4) WEBSITE / BLOG: Establish a presence on the Internet. There are many sites that will host your website for free. There are some that will even host your domain for free. There will be some limitations for the free package but it will get you in front of people right away with little to no investment at all. If things seem to be working then you can consider the more expensive options. Just google “free website hosting.” When I did it I got over 25 million returns; surely you can find a couple in that group that will do you justice. Many of them even have their own control panel for you to build your website right on their site.
5) MAILING LIST: Almost a necessity even for Internet businesses is the mailing list. Perhaps yours will be a list of email addresses. You are looking for anyone who has ever expressed an interest in what you have to offer. You can email your specials, deals, new offerings and any unique items to all of them with the flick of a keyboard key. If nothing else at least get your URL in front of them weekly.
6) SPECIALS: At least when you first go live with your new site and your new business offer an “offer they can’t refuse.” Give them something everyone wants for a price no one can beat or even match. Continue with this “specials” approach throughout the life of your business. Keep your clients / customers interested and coming back.
7) SEO: SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION: Find out how to make the most of your website placement. How do you get your site address to pop up when someone does a google search? What key words are best to use and where do you put them? If you can’t figure it out for yourself then go to an expert and pay to have it done. This is one of those things that will pay for itself in a very short time.
8) WEB LINK: Similar to SEO, get your site linked to every other site you can think of that will allow you to link to them. The toughest part, but clearly the most valuable, is to get those important sites to add a link to their page directly to your site. Sometimes you have to pay for the link sometimes it is free. We have several home-based business and most of our links are free. You really can get something for nothing today.
9) BUSINESS CARDS: Tried and true is the classic business card. Get a logo and a hook phrase for your business and get some business cards made up. Google “free business cards” and see what you get. Hundreds and thousands of little Internet entrepreneurs want to give you their services. The most it will cost you is $3 to $5 for postage and handling. Get some made up then strategically leave them all over town. Send some out to past associates and give some to family to hand out. All you are trying to do is to get your website in front of potential buyers. You can do the same for brochures.
10) UPDATE: Key for any business is to stay up to date. Make sure your product / service is always in demand and know who wants it. Continually research your offering to make sure you are still in line with what the public expects. Always monitor your competition for any changes or trends that you should move with. Change your website often. Re-arrange graphics, revise font, add different colors, make it look like a new site all the time. Keep your mailing list current. If you have to, send out test emails or place telephone calls to the individual or organization to verify everything. Offer something special all the time and change it often. Make sure you are always as close to the top on all searches as you possibly can be by always verifying your keywords and your web links. Since business cards are free, make each group you get a different style and design.
Starting any business, Internet or brick and mortar or home based, is going to be full of surprises and challenges. This one will be no different. Even if you faithfully follow all the steps I just outlined you will still run into that exception. You just need to be ready for anything by always being right on top of your product. Probably the number one best tip anyone could give is to know what you have for sale.