Cyprus Living: Be an internet entrepreneur from home

Cyprus Living:  Be an internet entrepreneur from home

Article reprinted from Cyprus Living, December 2009 edition

Many people are looking for a simple business they can run from home. Starting an Internet business is the perfect way of doing this. It’s relatively low cost to get started, and it can be done at times to suit you.

Big Bang Business has helped loads of companies small and large get started and grow businesses on the Internet. From that experience, here’s our checklist to get you started down the right path.

Be clear about your plan

Have a clear view of what you’re trying to achieve. At the outset of any Internet business, we find it helpful to answer these questions:

  • What are you selling? Be clear about the products or services you’re going to sell, and stick to the plan.
  • Who’s going to buy? Have a view of who’s going to buy, what they’re going to do with what you’re selling and the benefits they’ll enjoy.
  • Why buy from you? Think carefully to establish a unique reason why they should buy from you. Almost always this is about your knowledge and experience and how you specifically can help them.
  • How much will you sell for and what will it cost? Do your numbers carefully so you know how much it’s going to cost you to run the business and what constitutes success.
  • How are you going to get your product to customers? If it’s a physical product, make sure you’ve covered all the shipping and logistics angles and the costs involved.
  • When will this happen? A plan is only a dream until you commit to action by a time. At the same time, don’t fall into the trap of setting unrealistic timescales.

Choose a business you’re passionate about

The buzz these days in internet marketing is to find a business niche you can own and supply. A niche is an opportunity that’s big enough to support your business, but specialist enough to be different.

When you consider there’s 375 million English-speaking people in the world, and you can get to most of them through the Internet, a niche can be very tight and still be successful.

We always recommend choosing a niche you’re already both knowledgeable and passionate about. It’s helpful to think about your personal interests and areas of specialist knowledge, and how you can turn them into an Internet business.

Sell information products

One of the biggest difficulties in setting up an Internet business is establishing the logistics around supplying the products you sell.

With physical products you have to source them, keep stock (that ties up money), and then deliver to customers.

When you start doing volumes of sales, you’re going to need some sort of premises to operate from, so the business overheads climb.

Information products are much easier. An information product can be a host of different things. Very often it’s an e-book. It could be a subscription to a website selling specialist knowledge. It could be a music track or a video.

The point is you’re creating the products so there are no suppliers to worry about. When you sell, you either e-mail it or provide a download. No stock and no physical deliveries.

Think from the customer to you

I heard a great expression recently, ‘Don’t expect customers to row out to your island’. So true. You need to make it as easy as possible for your potential customers to find you – ideally without them even having to look.

Many companies we work with worry about search engine optimisation. Whilst it has its place, all it’s ever going to do is help you get reasonable placing in a search engine when somebody searches for the words you’ve optimised.

What happens if they don’t know they want what you’re selling? What happens when they don’t use the words you’ve optimised for? Search engine optimisation is a passive marketing activity in which you’re expecting people to come to you. Sure it’s important, but it’s only a part of the story.

You need to go to the places on the internet where your potential customers hang out, and be seen there. So be visible on forums. Comment on other people’s blogs. Join Facebook and LinkedIn groups.

Don’t be afraid to say interesting or better still controversial things, and always sign off with your name and a link back to your web site. That’s real social networking, and it works.

The same principle applies with your own web site. In the old days it was good enough to put a ‘brochure’ type web site out there, and maybe visitors would make the effort to read it and get in touch with you. And maybe not.

These days you need to think about the path visitors to your site would like to follow, and structure your site to suit them. Expect them to arrive on your web site at places other than the home page, and make the navigation easy for them to find what they want. And of course make it easy to follow a path that leads to a ‘buy now’ button, quickly.

If you look at the figures, people won’t wade through pages of copy (however brilliant it is) unless you involve them. Get them clicking things. Making choices. Expressing opinions. You can only sell something to somebody when you form a relationship with them and they trust you.

That’s real web site optimisation. Thinking from the visitor’s perspective to make it easy for them to get what they want and to buy.

The skills you need

Running an Internet business is surprisingly easy. In our view, the key skill is being able to write persuasively.

You need to be able to write short, crisp sentences. Use lots of sub headings. Use bullet points. Everything to break up chunks of text that nobody will bother to read into much more interesting bits.

The second skill of course is some basic technical knowledge to be able to look after your web site. These days that’s pretty straightforward if you use one of the popular content management systems like Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal.

In our experience, once we’ve set up a content management system for a client, they’re usually perfectly capable of looking after it themselves.

Finally there’s the passion to keep at it. Like any other business, growing an Internet business takes time. Yes there are loads of stories out there that go along the lines of ‘I made $500,000 in two weeks’. Maybe they’re true.

In our experience, it takes at least three months to get an Internet business off the ground. That needs your passion and determination to keep on going. And that’s ultimately what makes the difference between success and failure.