Where do you start building an online business?

Wow.  Isn’t this the question of the decade?  Given that the 2000’s have rocketed our society online.  It also tends to be the most mystifying question for anybody looking to start a business online.  So… where do you begin?

The answer will likely frustrate you as much as it has frustrated many, many online marketers.  You must start with yourself.  Huh? you’d say… Well, it may not be the absolute first thing you must tackle and figure out, yet it is one of the most important elements of your online business.  Here’s a question to ask yourself… “WHAT?  do I want to sell or market online?”  Oh.  Sounds easy?  Ok.  Have you ~really~ given it serious thought?

The best thing for you to sell or market online is something that you are or can be passionate about.  The passion will keep you inspired, motivated, and trudging through all the tasks that you might otherwise put aside.  It also makes you more convincing to the people you intend to market to.  So, again, what do you want to sell or market online?

Sometimes, it takes a while to figure out exactly what you intend to build your business around.  There are a number of options available for actually making money with your idea.  You could sell an actual product, if you have it.  What if you don’t?  Then, you’ll need to either get it manufactured or find a supplier.  Seem a little daunting?  It could be.  If you don’t have significant funds for up front investment, you won’t have anything to sell.  And, you haven’t even invested in the web site, design, and marketing in order to sell your idea.  Ow!

There is no need to give up on your dreams yet.  The internet has a number of ways to build a business without having your own physical product.  Yet, that’s why its important to have a sense of what you’re passionate about and what type of online business you’d like to build.  If you want to sell your ‘own’ product(s), you can arrange to work with a drop-shipper.  A drop-shipper is a distributor or manufacture that will take your orders and ship the product(s) for you.  A drop-ship arrangement can save you thousands in buying product(s), storing them or warehousing them, and the overhead necessary to ship your own product.  It does usually require a certain degree of credit and a credit line with the drop shipper.

Another way to sell or market products that you are passionate about is to enter into an affiliate relationship with a seller.  As an Affiliate, you would market a product or products on behalf of another business.  The affiliate company would track the traffic you sent to their website(s) and credit your account for any sales.  You would have no responsibility for the costs of having the products or shipping.

Is it sounding any easier at this point?  Maybe a little confusing?  That’s understandable.  My descriptions above are on the ‘slightly’ simplified side.  There are definitely pros and cons to each model of business I’m talking about.  For instance, a drop shipper will require more credit and is somewhat involved in setting up a relationship or relationships.  Not to mention the technical aspects of setting up ordering for drop shipped items.  The affiliate relationship, on the other hand, is usually relatively easy to set up because there is limited commitment on your part.  Affiliate commissions, on the downside, offer far less revenue for you than selling your ‘own’ product(s).  And, typically, there is a delay between when you sell something and when you get paid commission.

So, what do you do?  Well, maybe you don’t jump right into building a website, and do a little research.  I’d suggest starting with some market research.  On the simple side, you can begin doing searches in the search engines to learn how many people are selling in the area of your interest.  Don’t be put off too easily because typically anything you search for will have a LOT of returns and websites.  That could be a good thing.  Consider that if something is not being sold on the internet by many people, it is possible that it just doesn’t sell well.  The opposite spectrum would be that a market with a lot of competitors could be extremely difficult to break into.  So, don’t stop there.  Be sure to search on a variety of terms that are relevant to your topic/product(s).  Investigate the sites you find in the listings.  Are they really selling your product(s) or idea?  If so, what are they selling and how much are they selling them for?  How are they selling?  Tip: make a lot of bookmarks on the sites you find and put them in a place you can go back to.  As you get into the detail of these “competitor” sites, determine if they are selling the product(s) themselves (do they have a shopping cart?), or if they referring you to another site (hence, an affiliate) when you try to purchase.  This can give you some insight into their costs, strategies, or even a supplier.

I’m sure all of this is already beginning to confuse you or you’re getting information overload.  If not, continue reading the other posts and pages.  If so, just start at the beginning and begin to think about what you want to sell or market, then go searching.  Its a good idea to really get to know your potential market a bit before you begin spending any money on web sites or product investments.