Contrary to popular
belief nothing is as simple as buying a magic e-book
or joining the latest network marketing craze, to suddenly
owning a healthy low maintenance online business. It just
It a nut shell, it
takes LOTS of time, money, effort, dedication and a lot
of skill and planning. If you are looking for a quick
$25 fix, then I am afraid that I simply can't help you.
Oh, I forgot that the most important skill of all is juggling.
juggling. You need to prepare yourself for the long
haul. My first online business, took nearly 6 months before
it even covered my startup costs (business name, legal
fees, bank accounts, web hosting etc.) So I needed some
way to eat, sleep and be happy for 6 months while building
this business. I chose to continue with my day job and
put away as much money as I could to live on for the following
6 months, when I would take the switch from running the
"home based business" while I was still actually
working full time, to spending the following 6 months
dedicated to growing my own business. I needed cash in
the bank to do this.
I'd wake at 6:00am
and respond to emails and process my online orders. I'd
leave home at 8:00am to arrive at work by 9:00am. I had
a special relationship with our international courier
to pickup deliveries from our garage (without being present
personally.) Fortunately I was able to use my ISP's web
mail facility from my "day desk" to response
to my personal clients during the day. It was great. I
could respond to my personal customers quickly, answer
questions and let them know their orders had been received
and would be processed later that day. And I mean, speak
with them personally by email. Auto-Responders are great,
but they always look like an auto-responder. In exchange
for this fringe benefit from my employer, I gave up ½
my lunch break and offered to be available by telephone
for emergency after hours support (I worked in IT if you
hadn't guessed.) When I arrived home at 6:00pm, I'd spend
usually another hour processing orders received during
the day, have di!
nner, watch the nightly news, have a quick 30min bike
ride if possible, and slip into bed around 10pm after
doing some web page marketing.
I had designed
a system that allowed be to slowly build an online
business, while saving money to make the jump to full
time, self employed, work at home. Which inevitable comes
with an initial salary sacrifice. Something like 3 out
of every 4 small business's fail. It is simply because
they have large startup over heads, with little or no
immediate income. You don't need an accounting degree
to work out if your expenses are larger than your net
income, the business is not in good shape. Hence, so many
people end up closing their small business and going back
to their "day job." I was determined that this
would NOT happen to me.
There was lots
to learn, and learn fast. Accounting, advertising,
marketing, business practices, web page design, web page
optimization, web page promotion, email marketing, web
page statistics... the list goes on. Oh, and customer
relations. So many articles I see focus so much on meta
tags, keywords etc, not paying much attention to the customers,
and people actually looking at your web page.
I dabbled for
months, years probably, in optimizing my web pages,
using submission software, swapping web page links. NOTHING
has worked better than following up with my customers,
offering affiliate and referral commissions, providing
an online post-sales customer followup / satisfaction
survey. I've since noticed customers of mine writing nice
reviews about their experience with us on industry forums,
I can track the click throughs from these reviews and
they do generate sales for us. The best advertising is
simply the advertising that works, not necessarily that
is the most expensive. From this I can see more and more
incoming web page links and I haven't even needed to ask
I try to update
or add content to our web page EVERY DAY. I spend
at least 1 hour every morning improving the content, changing
the content, looking at ways to stream line the HTML code,
checking what our competition is doing, looking for the
latest innovations in our industry. This constant tinkering
with my web page seemed to interest search engine spiders
like Google to return more often. I'd see google crawlers
in my site stats maybe 1-2 times a month, its not nearly
100 times a month. So changes to my web page are quickly
with home businesses is that they run themselves. This
might be the case for electronic products, such as e-books
and web templates that don't involved actual product handling.
But this market is saturated beyond comprehension, and
from my understanding, charge backs from credit card providers
are rampant as customers aren't happy with their purchase
and demand refunds.
In order to convince
a real person to order from your online business,
they must be convinced that you are, in fact, also a real
person. You need to speak with them. This can be via content
on your web page, PERSONALIZED email replies (e.g. Dear
John or Dear Mary, not Dear Client or Dear Customer.)
Your need to answer their emails fully, honestly, promptly
and also follow up on your emails. If a customer on Monday
asks you to confirm a price, availability and TOTAL order
cost. Email the information ASAP, address the customer
by name, and sign the email with your name. If you don't
hear back from the customer, follow-up with THEM (don't
to keep everybody happy.) Who knows, if you don't follow
up with the potential client, they could already have
their wallet open, credit card out, and ordering from
your biggest competitor. Best you get back to them before
somebody else does. And it will happen! I started this!
policy after the exact same thing happened to me. I learn
quickly and make sure that I will never lose a sale to
a competitor again by not following up with EVERY potential
SPEED is also
important. You need to respond to emails ASAP. If
you consider that most people still access the internet
by dial up modem, they login the internet, do a bit of
web surfing, send some emails and then logoff. Their home
computer is switched off, and may not be turned on again
sometimes for days. So if you take a day to respond to
emails, there is every likely hood that your potential
client may not actually receive your response for some
time - maybe a week. The best way to grab this potential
client's attention is to response to their email IMMEDIATELY.
They will receive your reply during their same internet
session. It also sets their expectation on your high service
levels and responsiveness. Answering their first question,
which must be "how good is this company anyway"
and "do I trust them with my money?"
Hmmm, so I have
to sit at my computer 24 hours a day and respond to
emails? Doesn't sound like much of an existence does it?
Sadly, I admit I went through a period actually doing
this. About 1 or 2 months I think. Yes, I am sad I know.
This was the largest recordable growth period for my first
online business. Then I learnt about Outlook mail rules
(I actually knew about them all along, I just hadn't thought
to use them!) I could setup Microsoft Outlook to screen
my emails looking for orders from my web page, send them
to a specific folder, and then play a sound file when
an order or customer question arrived from my web page.
Now, at last, I was finally free from the computer and
home office, just listening out for my incoming order
/ customer question sound. Actually, it became a motivation
factor. My wife and I picked some of the sound clips from
Comedy Central Inc, which make receiving an order even
more fun (yes I know, simple things.) But it is good to
n I hear "I've got mail" sung by Special Ed,
we've got an order.
need to build a strong loyalty with your customers.
You can do this by responding to them fast, giving them
accurate information, and delivering their products fast.
You need to spell out explicitly why they should buy your
widget and chose your company, over the 1,000 other similar
firms. To start a successful home business, you need to
prepare for an initial dry spell. Remember, nothing just
happens over night.
You need to
pick a product or niche market. You need to make
yourself known as an expert in this field, you need
to get your name out there and you need to convince
potential customers to become real customers. This all
involves the evil W-word; WORK.
sound too like a cliché, we own our own house,
work about 2 hours a day (early morning) have a little
boy crawling around, another on the way, and building
a brand new dream house for ourselves - all with cash
without any bank loans, fees, guarantees or interest.
We didn't get here by paying $25 for a "guaranteed
successful online business design" that simply
involved selling $25 "guaranteed successful online
business designs." We have daily regular and scheduled
collections from our local and international couriers,
and if we aren't home, we leave them at the front door.
So the rest of the day, is all free time now.
About the Author
Balgowan is the winner of several Australian sponsored
small business and entrepreneur awards. Since 1995 he
has build and sold several successful online businesses.
His current online businesses include www.beatpsoriasis.com
offering medical product worldwide and www.veryownweb.com
offering unique and cut price web hosting to the Australian
market. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
mailings, click here