A Guest Post by Dee Barizo
If you want to step into the entrepreneurship pool, a low risk way of doing so is starting a side business on the internet. Online businesses are great because of the low overhead. All you really need is an internet connection and $10 for a domain name. You don’t have to deal with the hassle of stocking physical goods because there are powerful business models that don’t require product inventory. For example, many people earn a full time income selling products as an affiliate or selling information products that they created.
Another reason to try out the online marketplace is you can stay small and run a one person shop. There’s no need to hire staff. Later on, if the business goes well, you have the option of scaling it by hiring from a global pool of workers. You can hire the best and brightest from around the world.
Also, you can sell to buyers all over the world. In comparison, a local business usually only attracts buyers in the same geographic area. Finally, you can set your own hours and work at home.
My advice is to create a site based on your interests so you will enjoy the process whether or not the business succeeds. Even if the business fails, you will learn a lot from the experience and you can use what you learned in the future to try again.
Building the Business
Start with the end in mind by considering how you will make money. More specifically, think of the products you will be selling. This seems like common sense but many so-called experts are still recommending an advertising based model. This model can still work but you usually need a ton of traffic to make a decent income. And driving a lot of traffic is very difficult.
On the other hand, if you are selling actual products to consumers instead of ads, you don’t need as much traffic. You can sell services but I tend to stay away from that model because client work can often be “feast or famine.” Not to mention, clients can be a pain to deal with and it can be hard to scale a service based business.
Also, by considering monetization first, you can skip some of your interests because they are not very lucrative due to the amount of competition and difficulty in monetization. For example, sports writing is a tough industry to break into because of all the sports bloggers and aspiring sportswriters out there. Plus, there are common products you can sell in the industry.
Once you’ve figured out the products you’re selling, you need to think about how you’re going to build an audience. I say audience instead of traffic because an audience implies repeat visitors. Sure, you can just focus on raw traffic but it takes much more resources to gain a new customer than to get an existing customer to buy more products. Therefore, you don’t want to attract visitors that visit just one time. Instead, you want visitors that bookmark your site and come back on a regular basis.
Healthy online businesses have a loyal audience. In fact, for the best businesses, their audience would probably be better characterized as fans. Their fans not only buy products but also provide free marketing by talking about the business to their friends and family.
How do you build this kind of audience? The main method I recommend is producing great content. I like this method because it is cheap and offers a great long term return.
The internet is very accessible. It doesn’t take much to setup a commercial website but that also means you will have a lot of competition. To stand out from the competition, you should produce a lot of great content related to your industry. This content attracts visitors. Many of them will support your site by spending money, because they have gotten great value from your content. Even the ones who do not buy anything may pass on your content to a friend who may become a customer.
Since you’re interested in the industry, creating great content should not be a problem. You should have a lot to say about it. And even if you don’t, you can learn about the industry and then simply share what you learn.
Examples of Businesses From My Experience
Gaming Blog (magicgameplan.com)
I ran this site as just a hobby blog about strategy tips for the popular collectible card game, Magic The Gathering. I never considered monetizing it but the audience grew much bigger than I expected. Therefore, I looked for a way to make money.
I discovered that eBay had an affiliate program and had a very active market for Magic The Gathering cards. I applied to the affiliate program and was accepted. I started linking to eBay in my posts and after a couple of months, the site now makes a part time income.
Online Degree Site (thebestdegrees.org)
I had a friend who wanted to start a site with me about online degrees. I’ve always been interested in higher education ever since my college days when I earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
I did some research on the industry and found it was experiencing rapid growth and many online schools were paying top dollar for leads. So, we setup the site and I did a lot of research to find out the main issues in the niche. Then, based on what I learned, I created useful articles to build an audience.
In the less than a year, the site is earning a full time income.
Construction Inspection Test Prep
Currently, I’m coaching a friend who wants to setup a construction inspection test prep business. As a construction inspector, he was able to greatly increase his wage rate by passing a couple inspection tests.
He’s creating a training program to help other inspectors pass those tests. He plans on building an audience by sharing his opinion on different issues within the industry including how to make yourself indispensable. He will also share his story of how he got into the industry.
If I’ve peaked your interest in running an online business based on your interests, the first step to is to make a list of the things you’re interested in.
Next, see if there is a lot of money being spent in related industries. If there is, think of specific ways to earn some of that money. Two effective monetization strategies are joining affiliate programs and creating your own product.
Then, start brainstorming article topics that will attract an audience to visit your site on a regular basis.
Once you’ve done these things, you have a great foundation for an online business that will be both enjoyable to run and have a strong chance of succeeding.
Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
This is a guest post from Dee Barizo. He’s been working online for the last three years as an affiliate marketer and search engine consultant. His latest online business is The Best Degrees, which has a list of top online schools based on cost and quality.