Starting an Internet business is the opportunity of a lifetime.
The Internet has become our primary tool for communication and sales. An Internet business offers you many advantages over a conventional business.
You can operate a global Internet business right from home, often by yourself. Your Internet business does not require a bricks-and-mortar storefront.
Your Internet business has unlimited potential for success with only a small investment. Sometimes it takes only part-time work to make full-time profits. Do not be deterred by the process of building a web site, which is actually fairly straightforward. The investment of your time and your expertise can earn big rewards.
From the beginning, the hot areas for an Internet business have always been software, music, books, electronics, weight loss and travel. But opportunities abound in every area of business. Take time to review your own abilities, interests, hobbies and background. Choose a field where other Internet businesses have already been successful, and know that there’s always room for you in any market. Then study successful Internet businesses as your models. You may also be interested in Sam’s article about how to promote your online business for free.
Here we’ll discuss 12 ideas for your new Internet business, how you can make money with them, and provide you examples of success.
- Publish Content
- Run an Online Store
- Sell Virtual Items
- Develop Applications
- Write and Sell Your Own Ebook
- Provide Online Resources
- Become a Marketing Affiliate
- Market Your Offline Services
- Sell Online Software Tools
- Run a Membership Website
- Sell Domain Names
- Build and Sell Websites
Publish Content. One of the most popular ways to make money is to create a website or blog of interesting content, advice, information, news or opinions. You’ll make money by running advertising on your pages. Your site could offer movie reviews, car reviews, tech news, do-it-yourself help or celebrity gossip. The website WebMD.com, a provider of health information, has had notable success online. The celebrity gossip site PerezHilton.com is another top ranked website that profits from advertising revenue. The home improvement site AskTheBuilder.com is a well-known resource for do-it-yourself advice that makes money from advertising. CarTalk.com and its auto mechanics Tom and Ray have a devoted following.
On your Internet business website, advertising can be provided by ad networks like Google AdSense and DoubleClick, among others. Once you have a website or blog with content, you can make extra money by writing paid reviews of products, trade shows and online businesses.
Run An Online Store
Your business can be as simple as a merchant store at an Internet mall like Yahoo or Amazon, which requires no technology background. These malls provide an automatic shopping cart, credit card acceptance, secure transactions, and backend processing of your sales. The mall takes a small percentage of each sale, and may charge a monthly fee or a one-time setup fee. Another easy way to get started as a merchant is to use an online auction site, like eBay, with its built-in technology, huge customer base and community of successful merchants.
When you are ready to advance to the next step with your own Internet business site, you can purchase your own shopping cart software. Then follow its instructions to set up a database of product pictures, thumbnails and descriptions, provide secure processing, and sign up for a credit card merchant account. Check out the excellent companies like aplus.net that provide complete hosting service for your online store along with shopping cart software and secure processing.
What products should you sell in your Internet store? Specialty items can be successful on the Internet because it reaches a large market of customers everywhere. I’ll just list a few product categories to get the buzz going. Your Internet business could sell novelty socks and t-shirts, model trains, computer components, cameras, your own photography, artwork and crafts, pocket knives, hair accessories, beauty products, outdoor clothing, gift baskets, cheese and wine, baby clothes, doll clothes, sports memorabilia, silk flower arrangements, car accessories, vintage jewelry, stuffed animals, shoes, licensed sports clothing, fish tanks, heirloom vegetable seeds, party supplies or new and used books. The list of merchandise is endless.
Don’t be afraid to concentrate on a narrow product specialty. There are several successful Internet businesses that sell only items with a dolphin motif, including dolphin jewelry, figurines, stationery, aprons, t-shirts and dolphin artwork.
Recently I discovered a unique example of a successful Internet online store. It is the site called PartyPieces.co.uk owned by the family of Kate Middleton, spouse of Prince William of England. Their Internet business sells the essentials for a child’s party, like balloons, plastic plates, and favors. The strength of this site is its party planning information blog, which makes it easy to pull off a successful event.
Sell Virtual Items
Sell Virtual Items. You could build an online store to sell electronic and virtual items that aren’t tangible, like computer games, ringtones, downloadable software, iPad applications, Facebook games, or ebooks on subjects that interest you. An online comic strip is a good way to show off your wit and cartoons, and offers the possibility of newspaper syndication. Some virtual items are actually given away free, while the website profits from the advertising it runs. Virtual items like cellphone wallpaper, desktop backgrounds, home pages for browsers, greeting cards to email, and graphics for your MySpace page are all provided absolutely free by small Internet businesses.
If you have a programming background, you can also develop and sell new applications. After you choose your platform, like iPad, cellphones, Facebook or iPhone, follow the guidelines provided online. Keep your target market in mind. One of the best selling cell phone apps of all time, iFart, simply makes offensive flatulence sounds and sells well at 99 cents. Farmville is on online game app at Facebook that has taken the world by storm. Angry Birds is another incredibly popular game app created by Finland-based Rovio Mobile for several platforms. Online virtual reality games like Second City and World of Warcraft make real money selling virtual tools and trophies to gamers.
Write and Sell Your Own Ebook
Write Your Own Ebook. If you like to explain things, why not put your thoughts together in an ebook and sell it online. Your ebook can be a simple text file you turn into Adobe PDF format. Even graphic image files of charts and pictures can be included in your ebook. There are online sites to help you can create a graphic file as a cover for your personal ebook. When you are ready to sell your ebook, you might submit it to some of the affiliate networks like Clickbank. You can also market your ebook from your own website or blog. I’ve come across self-promoted ebooks of barbecue recipes, lawn care, photography, self-help, fitness workouts, speed-reading, and a thousand opportunities to make money online. Maybe you have a story to tell the world, too.
Provide Online Resources
Provide Online Resources. Your Internet business can provide useful online resources. Some examples are online business directories, a catalog of photographic work for sale, travel guides, a cybermall, a press release site, an auction site, an advertising network, apartment locator, classified ad listings, a directory of trade shows, for-sale-by-owner real estate site, discount coupon site, a small business resource center, search engine submission service, a banner exchange program, a music source, a survey service or event schedules. Your Internet business will charge for each listing or for each customer lead you provide. For example, Etsy.com is a well-known online mall where crafters can sell their handwork. Groupon.com is an exciting new website that offers a local deal-of-the-day to consumers in each city, and is now valued by investors at over $1 billion.
Become a Marketing Affiliate
Become a Marketing Affiliate. Your Internet business can market the products of other companies by signing up as an affiliate on their websites. Amazon and many other retailers have strong affiliate programs. You’ll put links on your website or blog so you can funnel customers to the retailer. You’ll receive a commission for each buyer you refer to their sites. To becoming an affiliate simply means that you sign up with a vendor and add the provided HTML code to your web pages.
Market Your Offline Services
Market Your Offline Services. You can create an Internet business and website to market your own personal services, like a copywriter, a dentist or a child care provider might do. A few more examples of offline services are resume writer, private investigator, virtual makeover artist, translator, travel consultant, social media consultant, commercial cleaning, genealogy research, interior designer, and bookkeeping, accounting, and tax services. Steve Pavlina, a popular blogger from Las Vegas, uses his website StevePavlina.com to introduce himself as a public speaker. Your Internet business could possibly be a graphic design firm that creates custom websites, banner advertising, Flash animated ads and logos. You could also provide email marketing services. Every business needs its own website and blog to reach new customers and build its brand.
Sell Online Software Tools
Sell Online Software Tools. You can write or purchase online software and make it available for use by the general public. Your online Internet business could be a search engine, file swapping, music player, instant messaging, cloud computing, video publishing or social networking. The tool you provide could be a desktop widget or toolbar. For example, Hootsuite.com offers a widget to combine messages from Twitter and other social networks all in one place on your desktop. Your product could be a financial toolbar that installs on each personal computer. It might be a toolbar of graphic emoticons for use with emails. The website SmileyCentral.com offers a downloadable toolbar to provide free smiley graphics along with advertising links.
Run a Membership Website
Run a Membership Website. You can create a membership website that charges members a subscription fee to join. Some membership sites offer their basic service for free, while they charge a fee for upgraded membership. With a membership site, your Internet business could be a forum for bikers, a research resource, a dating service, an online college, Who’s Who Directory, Internet hosting, greeting card service, a photography school, psychic counseling, a newspaper, pages of special content, or a library of downloadable ebooks. Webkinz is a successful membership play site for children and their stuffed Webkinz animals. Flickr.com and Photobucket.com are large sites where members can save, display and print their photographs. StumbleUpon.com is a site where members bookmark and recommend web pages they like.
Sell Domain Names
Sell Domain Names. You can accumulate an inventory of domain names for new websites, and set up an Internet business that offers the domain names for sale. As the Internet grows, there is a real scarcity of available, unclaimed domain names. Start brainstorming for creative domain names, and check the InterNIC registry of domain names to see if your concepts are available. It costs anywhere from $4 to $10 to register each domain name for a year. You can offer your domains for sale on your own website, or you can list them for sale in free classified ads. You can also advertise domain names for sale in online directories or list your domains in an auction site like eBay. Google and many hosting companies will “park” your domains for you, so you earn advertising revenue while you wait for a buyer. When you sell one of your domain names, you simply transfer the InterNIC registration to the buyer.
Build and Sell Websites
Build and Sell Websites. Your Internet business can create websites from scratch and sell them. Design any type of general purpose website and build up its traffic with the intention of selling the website to a new owner. Websites, large and small, sell every day, and often for big bucks. Instead of an outright sale, another alternative is to take a successful website public, by selling shares in the business to investors.
You may remember these well-publicized sales of Internet business websites. Why not aim high, and plan for a scalable, salable Internet business?
- Microsoft bought the email service Hotmail.com for $400 million.
- Amazon bought Internet Movie Database and CDNow.
- Ebay bought the online financial service PayPal for $1.5 billion in 2002.
- Yahoo! paid $235 million for the search engine Inktomi.
- Google paid $1.65 billion for the video sharing website YouTube.
- Cisco bought WebEx and its Internet videoconferencing software for $3.2 billion.
- News Corporation bought the social network MySpace for $580 million.
- CBS paid $280 million for Last.fm, an interactive music site.
- Yahoo! bought an Internet bookmarking site called del.icio.us for $15 million.