How to Make Money on the Web

Can you make money on the web? The answer is “Maybe.” Here’s the truth about Internet businesses and what you need to know about making money on the Internet.

If only you had a way to make more money! Your car needs brakes, Jimmy wants $89 to buy a new pair of sneakers, and the dentist just told you Julie needs braces. If only money grew on trees! But wait! What about the Internet? Heck, you already have a computer. And there are all these ads and stories about people making money online. Why not you? You could make money starting an Internet business, too. All you’ll need is a website and that how-to manual you saw advertised for $97 dollars. Right?

Well, not quite… let me explain.

Yes, many people make money on the Internet. And yes, if you own any type of business you need an Internet presence.  But, despite the opportunity ads that claim you can get rich in your own “Internet business,” the Internet is not a “business” unless you are an Internet Service Provider (ISP), a web developer, or run a huge web portal like Yahoo. Neither is it a fast-track yellow brick road to wealth.

The Internet, you see, is a tool. True, it is a multifaceted tool. It can be used as a place to make sales and to market what you sell. It can be used for research and to communicate with your customers, and remote employees or contractors. It can be used to find people to work for your business, too. But just like carpenters’ tools or mechanics’ tools, having access to the tool doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use it successfully to make money.

But what about all these people you hear about who are making money on the web? Not the Amazons and the Zappos of the world, but the “little” guys and gals, the ones who say they make anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 or more on the Internet? If they’re not running Internet businesses, what are they doing? And how can you do it, too?

The answer is that those who have succeeded in making money through the Internet have created a business with products and services that offer real or perceived value to their customers. The products may be information such as video training courses, e-books, software, apps, shippable products like soap, clothing, or jewelry. People also successfully sell writing services, design services on the web.  

But the Internet, by itself, isn’t what makes them successful. To make money online, they need the same things people have always needed to make money in their own business. Those include having desirable products and services with good profit margins, having a reasonably big market for those good and services, having the knowledge and money to reach that market, and products that satisfy their customers. These personal traits are needed, too: passion and willingness to persevere, experiment and learn the best ways to reach their market – online and offline.

You can do that, too. But don’t expect to make money overnight on the web. And don’t expect to make a killing overnight by purchasing a “business opportunity.” To be successful, you’ll have to put time and some money into developing a business concept that will work and that people will buy. Depending on who created it, that $97 course your saw advertised may help you learn some method for selling on the web, but chances are you’ll need to learn more than what the one course presents.

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Before you start any business on the web (or offline, for that matter), ask yourself these questions.

  • How much do you really know much about this business?
  • Do you have all the skills needed for this business?
  • If you’re going to teach people to do something, do you know how to do it yourself? If you are going to start a business providing office support services, be sure you can type accurately and have excellent spelling and grammatical skills. If you are going to help small businesses with their marketing, you need to be able to market your own services to those small businesses.
  • Do you need to bring in cash right now from this activity because the bill-collectors are knocking on your door? (If so, get a part-time job until your cash situation eases.)
  • Do you know how much money this business will cost to get started and to run?
  • Can you afford to spend that much money? 
  • Do you understand how much time and commitment it will take to be successful? Have you talked to other business owners? 
  • Are you willing and able to devote that much time?
  • Is this really a product or service that people (other than your relatives and best friend) would be willing to buy?
  • Would they buy it at the price you’ll have to charge to be profitable?
  • Do you know how to find the people who will buy this product? And how to find them regularly?
  • Have you checked into the regulations for starting a business – and for starting this particular business?
  • Do you know how to get people to visit a web site without sending unsolicited mail?

If you can answer the above questions affirmatively, and if you know that people actually do use the Internet to buy the product or service you want to sell, then write a business plan – even a simple one – so you know what it will take to be successful. Then put up that web site and test the Internet as a means to bring in added income. Plan on being persistent and proactive. Business won’t come to you. You’ll have to carve out your own road to success one step at a time. As you move forward, remember, too, that it takes many years for most businesses to become an overnight success.

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