Stripped of all the hype and hard sell, it's still realistic for the average small business to expect to make money by selling products or services on the web. Don't expect it to be easy, though.
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Successful Small-business on the Web

Stripped of all the hype and hard sell, it's still realistic for the average small business to expect to make money by selling products or services on the web. Don't expect it to be easy, though. Making money on the web is (and always was) hard work. This article discusses how to avoid the many pitfalls that await you.

Choose your field of battle

If you're looking to make money from the web, there are four main offerings that you can provide:

1. You can sell physical products like books, videos or CDs. Clients visiting your web site order these online using credit cards. You then post out the products.

2. You can sell online products like software, e-books or subscription-based newsletters. Clients can purchase these online using credit cards and then immediately download them.

3. You can advertise in-person services in which you meet face-to-face with your clients. Such services include accountancy, plumbing, gardening etc. Clients then pay in- person, not online.

4. You can advertise online services for which you don't need to meet the client, but can deal entirely via e-mail; e.g. proofreading.

The first step to making money on the web thus requires you to choose which of these offerings you plan to provide. You may decide to specialise in a single one, or you may try to cover all four.

Find a niche

The days when the Internet was considered new are long gone. Current estimates are that there are several hundred million computers hosting web sites and many billions of web pages. It's almost certain that whatever product or service you're going to sell, a lot of other people are selling it too.

A remedy for this situation is to specialise. Find a niche that's little covered. For example, if you wanted to sell music, you might specialise in Australian music or even Australian country music. By doing so, you're lessening the size of your audience, of course, but you're also lessening the number of people you're competing with.

The trick is to find a niche that will have a large enough audience to sustain you yet is specific enough that you have few competitors.

Achieving success

Having decided what products and services you want to sell -- and researched how much competition you'll have -- there are still a few major hurdles remaining:

1. If you're going to be selling online, you'll need to be able to accept credit card payments.

2. You'll need to be able to set up a web site.

3. You'll need to be able to market it effectively.

It's beyond the scope of this brief article to cover credit card payments in depth, so I will only mention my own experience and say that I have found Digibuy to be very a reliable means of accepting online credit-card payments.

Services like these allow you to accept credit-card payments without having to set yourself up with a merchant account. Of course, if you already have a merchant account, your bank can provide you with more details on how to use it to accept online payments.

Setting up a well designed web site and marketing it effectively are difficult tasks. In fact, unless you know what you're doing, they can be the most difficult stages in the entire procedure. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments regarding any of these matters.

Best regards, Tim North

You'll find many more helpful tips like this in Tim North's much applauded range of e-books. All come with a 90-day, money-back guarantee.

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