Are Computer and Internet Business Opportunities Real?

Business opportunity ads are very appealing – but are they legitimate? Get advice on evaluating computer and work at home jobs.

Q: I see ads in the magazines and in classified ads that claim I can make hundreds thousands of dollars a month in various types of computers businesses. One claimed you could make “Big $$$ Fast” in a turnkey Internet business and that you didn’t need experience or even a computer. Another said I could “Make BIG Money” using my computer to print names on certificates that customers would buy. Still another claimed I would have unlimited income potential if I started my own business selling personalized books that I created on my computer. Are any of these opportunities for real? Can I really make thousands of dollars a month at home with my computer?

-Looking for the facts

A: Dear Looking,

The good news is, yes, you can work at home and make thousands of dollars a month with your computer. Buying a business opportunity such as the ones you describe isn’t the way to make much money, though. The secret to developing a profitable business is to build a business based on your skills and interests. 

A claim that you can make significant income in an Internet business without owning a computer is ridiculous. Although you may not need a computer to talk to someone about buying a web site, if you don’t own a computer and use it regularly on the Internet, you aren’t going to know enough about the Internet to be effective at selling any legitimate Internet product or service.

Other types of computer business “opportunities” such as  personalized books or certificates would give you a legitimate product to sell. But the companies promoting such opportunities tend to exaggerate the income potential and underplay the amount of time, effort, marketing dollars and skills needed to turn the opportunity into a profit-making business. Thus, while you might be able to make some money selling personalized books, if personalized books are all that you sell, you may find that the profit you clear after accounting for all of your costs (including the cost of your own labor), is nowhere near the high income implied by the ads.

If a business opportunity requires a large cash outlay, take the time to investigate it thoroughly before making your decision. Learn everything you can about the type of business and the company selling the opportunity before you sign any agreements or pay any money. Do your own research. Do not rely on facts given you by the opportunity company or testimonials presented in their sales literature.

Here are some of the questions you should research :

Who will buy the product or service? (Don’t assume – go out and ask possible customers IF they’d purchase it)

How much are they willing to pay for it?

How much will it cost you to find those customers? (Don’t get tricked into believing you’ll find all the customers you need by using telemarketing equipment. And, don’t assume one ad or one mailing is all it will take to get started. Marketing is an ongoing function, not a one-time thing. )

How much profit will you make per sale?

How many sales will it take to pay back the cost of buying the opportunity?

If you will be providing a service, how much time does it take to provide that service?

If you will have to hire employees, where will you find them and how much will you have to pay them? (Be sure to add in your costs for payroll taxes and other overhead costs.)

What technical knowledge do you need to make money in the field? Again, do not rely on advertising copy that says “no experience necessary.”

If an business opportunity offer includes a computer in the purchase price, what would you pay to buy the same equipment at a discount computer store or via mail order?

What kind of reputation does the company selling the opportunity have. Have they had complaints filed against them? How many? How were they resolved? Search the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) web site at for the name of the company. Call the District Attorney’s office and the Better Business Bureau in the city the opportunity company is located in and ask what information they have about the company.

Try to find other people who have purchased the opportunity and ask them for feedback. Find out as much as you can about their businesses to make sure any success stories and praise they pass along is legitimate. Sometimes people who claim to have made huge profits are really shills paid to dupe would-be business owners into buying questionable “opportunities.”

A final note: Don’t get pressured into or rushed into making your decision. You wouldn’t purchase hundreds of dollars worth of clothing without making sure the clothes fit and looked good on you. Give your bank account a break and make SURE the opportunities fit your budget, your personal work habits and preferences, and your marketing area.

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