For starters, what kind of business do you want to create?
Are you going to sell a physical product or are you just going to promote other peoples products and services? Do you want to build an evergreen (static) information site or do you prefer to blog?
Are you going to use a website builder or are you planning to limit your online presence to social media or youtube only?
Is your online presence a business in and of itself, or do you want to use your site to promote an offline business?
What will the content of your online presence be about and how will you make sure that the right people get to see it and interact with your business?
Choosing Between the Different Types of Online Home Businesses
To be successful, all online businesses need one thing - targeted traffic - but the way(s) you generate that traffic will differ depending on which type of online home business you decide to create. The online presence of some businesses will consist of little more than a sales page, whereas others can run to hundreds of pages.
Understanding which type of business you are trying to create will determine what your site will look like and how it will be structured. So it pays to spend a bit of time considering what type of business you are most comfortable with and what you are (or are not) prepared to do in the long term.
- Don't want to create a lot of pages? Then don't start a content site.
- Don't want to deal with customers or suppliers? Then e-commerce (an online store) is probably off the table.
Then there is the issue of resourcing. For some types of online businesses, you need little more that a computer with internet access. Others require additional costs related to hosting, software, and numerous online applications. An online store will involve many of the same costs as an offline store including the cost of your inventory, storage, distribution etc.
So please take your time and really think about what you want to do and do some planning before you are committed to a business that is not what you really want!
Content Marketing (Adsense) Website Business
This type of online home business relies solely on passive income streams. The business owners do not actually sell anything on their sites, they provide valuable (and interesting) information for their visitors and generate income by adding paid advertising to their pages.
Usually they have limited control over the content of the adverts, they can make some topics off-limits for their sites (e.g. religion, politics, sex, etc.) and they are able to do a limited amount of styling but generally the add company gets to choose which adverts appear in the widgets on the site.
In the good old days (way back when I first started) it was possible to earn a really good passive income with this type of site and it was a really satisfying way to earn a buck. As the owner of a content site, you got to write about and share information on a topic that was important to you and interact with like minded people around the world without feeling like you were out there "doing sales". Knitting Naturally started this way and at one stage, before it was hit by Google's Panda and Penguin updates, I was earning the equivalent of an extra weeks salary every month. (I earn six figures in my day job, so it was a significant amount of extra income...)
It has dropped a bit, but with next to no effort to maintain the site, it still more than pays it way and covers the costs of all of my other online activities, just from the income I earn from the adverts served by Google Adsense on the site. So if you have some knowledge to share and you dislike the idea of 'selling stuff online" then a content marketing site may be the right kind of online business for you.
Online Affiliate Marketing Business
These types of online home business do "sell stuff" but the processing of the sale and distribution of the "stuff' is handled by someone else. Basically an affiliate promotes someone else's product or services online and if one of their visitors clicks on their affiliate link, goes through to the sellers site and makes a purchase, the affiliate gets a commission on the sale.
And for some online home businesses, that is all they do. If you come across a review site (one that reviews comparable product or services) it is very likely that the person behind the site is an affiliate for the companies who produce the products or services that are being reviewed. The good review sites will offer honest reviews based on personal experience with the products or services. On these sites their recommendations are honest opinions of each product reviewed, but sadly, some affiliate marketers are just in it for the money and will offer their visitors biased or dishonest reviews designed purely to get the sale.
Please, if you decide to become an affiliate marketer, do it the right way. We really don't need any more misinformation on the internet than we already have! Having said that, creating an affiliate marketing business can be lucrative (if done the right way...) and it is definitely an option to consider.
Online Network Marketing Business
These online home businesses are created to spread the word about the owner/builders network marketing business. In network marketing, the business owner is an independent distributor, consultant or associate of a direct marketing company that operates using a multi-level compensation plan. These business owners get paid a commission on products they sell as well as a percentage of the sales generated by their team.
Some of these companies have very strict rules about any online presence related to their products or services so if you are an independent distributor for a Network Marketing company please do check with them about what you can and can't do online to promote your business. Sometimes rather than creating a site that focuses on a particular product range, it is advisable to create a site that is generic or non-brand specific but related. For example, you might have a site that focuses on the health benefits associated with a protein rich diet (if you are associated with a health food product company) or one that provides make-up tutorials (for those of you who are Avon Ladies or who sell Mary Kay perhaps). The topic will depend on which company you are associated with and their product line. By building a content rich site that provides valuable information you can position yourself as an expert in your niche and that will enable you to attract leads for your business without mentioning the company or specific products.
And if the company ceases trading or you are no longer associated with them at some point in the future, you still have a business!
Of course another way to do it is to build a community on social media rather than having your own website and direct any warm leads to the company website to close the sales. Of course if you are building a team, you also need to consider how you will manage that team - perhaps through a closed Facebook group? The structure and content of your business will vary depending on your personal preferences and the rules set by your company.
Just be aware that more than one way to skin an cat...
eCommerce Online Home Business
I have done this, I had a very successful online store attached to Knitting Naturally for several years. It was a lot of work, some of which I loved, and some of which I loathed.
If you want to set up an online store, you need to go through much of the pre-planning that you would do for an offline store. The major differences being that your shop front is virtual instead of bricks and mortar (each have their own very distinct advantages and disadvantages) and the way your customers receive their goods will be different.
You will still need to find suppliers, set up sales systems, build up your physical inventory and maintain your inventory online. You will need to deal with the legalities of setting up a business in your jurisdiction (best to talk to a small business accountant and find out what you need to do) and make sure that your local government authority is okay with you running the business out of your home.
This type of online home business generally required a higher level of financial investment, and therefore the risk is much higher than say, a content site and unless your product line is fairly static, it can take a fair but of time to manage your online store. Time or money if you decide to outsource the management of the site to a third party.
Lead Generating Site to Support an Offline Business
At its leanest, this type of site is really just an online version of your business card or service brochure. Or it could just be a sales page. For these sites to work, you need to drive traffic to the page(s), usually paid traffic as the search engines will be unlikely to send free traffic to a sale page type site, and you then have the copy on just one or two pages to make the sale.
Providing the amount you spend to get people to the site is less than the profit per sale, you will do okay. But a word of warning, cost per click advertising (paid traffic) can be very expensive and it can break the bank in the early days until you have honed you offering to make it appeal to the people coming to your page.
If you want free traffic, then your lead generation site is going to have to have more meat to it. Your content (yes back to content sites...) will need to be seen as valuable by the search engines and humans alike for free traffic to start arriving in a steady stream to your site.
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