Sunday, November 19, 2006

Creating a Home Based Business Online

Creating a home based business online might just be the encapsulation of the American Dream, at least through my eyes. A huge reason for this is the amount of flexibility you could have in your schedule, which translates to more personal/family time. There's also the added benefit of cutting work travel down to virtually nil (depending on your business, of course). Not to mention, you aren't limited to working a number of hours-- hell, you don't even have to work full time to make what you can make in the job world. You might even decide to have more than one business and that would be fine, if you have the dedication.

The Business Idea

Having the dedication and discipline to actually build a business in the online world is only part of the struggle. You also have to have a good idea with your own little twist. Sure, you could potentially just steal someone else's idea, slap a new logo on it and let the ship sail and you would get a small part of the pie. If that's fine for you, go for it! For people like me, we want to create something new and fresh or at least put a spin on an already-existing product that will draw people in.

If you have an idea but don't know all there is to know about the business side of it (or any side of it), then do some research! Call people who are already in the business and ask them a few questions. Look over their websites and scour for hints at functionality and how they perform the business. Register an account and look at the usability. One thing that I find personally glorious is when a website has too many functions or options. Things like this give people choice overload and they go into a brief coma. Doing more with less is what will draw people in, in the end so focus on that. That could even be the spin on your product. Your product might be better because it has less features and is, therefore, easier to use. It's really up to you what you choose to market, but make sure you research what you're doing and it will be easier to bring people aboard. Speaking of bringing people aboard...

Advertising

That's what advertising is all about. It's what clearly states in your face and in your ears what makes my product different and therefore better than the next guy's. Keep in mind, advertising comes in many forms: word-of-mouth, billboards, magazines, tv, radio, Google maps, bus benches, internet banners, etc. What the internet does for us is make this not only cost effective but simple.

You can do a simple press release online for under $50 and in some cases, for free. Online advertising systems like Google Adwords, MSN adCenter and now Yahoo! Search Marketing are very cheap to use. From experience, I know you can have a limit of $1.00/day on Google Adwords and your banner/text ad will get shown a decent number of times. It's the cost-per-click you specify that makes the difference in placement.

The Website

Face it, you've got to have a website for any business these days whether it's online or not. Not all of us are programmers, designers or graphic artists. This is why it is a smart idea to hire someone else to build a website. Just make sure that there is an actual team working on it. From my experience, when you hire one person to get a project done, it takes much longer and not because they're working more; it's because they have no one to hold them responsible except the customer and that shouldn't be the customer's job. It's also an intelligent idea to hire someone who is close to you geographically so that you can have an in-person meeting to express what you want out of your product.

Being a designer/programmer, I am well aware that customers love the "just build something and I'll tell you if I like it" approach. Not only is this just a bad idea, but it's also horribly frustrating when you take the end result to the customer and they say "that's nothing like what I had pictured." No matter who you're dealing with, just be honest and forthright. I absolutely love customers who tell me when they don't like something-- it makes my job 1000% easier. It means I can get rid of what they don't like quickly and continue processing what they do like.

The Business Plan

This is why it's also an incredibly excellent idea to have an actual business plan. Yes, this word even makes me cringe because pictures of lengthy formal documents flash into my brain. When you actually think about how much of a headache it will save you in the future to actually have a defined business that you can hold in your hands and describe to other people, one day of coming up with a business plan is not actually a bad idea. So go to your local bookstore and pick up a book on business plans. Here are a couple I recommend:

Trust me, having a business plan will pay off for you tenfold in the end.

Self Discipline

When it comes to working on anything, we become our own worst enemy. If you haven't gone through at least basic training camp for the military, chances are you haven't figured out how to get yourself to finish tasks efficiently. Neither have I! I do find, however, two things that work out great when I need to get something done:
  1. Organizing the work into tasks ranked from most important to least
  2. Finding some way to reward myself when I finish them
Once you've organized your work into tasks, you've already worked through a huge part of the problem which is thinking your way through it. At that point, you can focus on the end and work will fly by.

Now when I say "reward," I don't automatically mean food. The obesity epidemic is no laughing matter, especially in America where it's something like 1/3rd of the population. Find something simple, like a game and give yourself a set amount of time. I like to give myself a straight hour of playtime for every three hours of work (a nice 1:3 ratio).

Obviously you have your own ideas about how these things should be accomplished, but keep in mind that these are just suggestions from my own experience that have helped me to build a successful business.

Knowing What You Don't Know

You're probably thinking "how can I know what I don't know?" Well, you can't know it specifically but you can know it in general. For example, I know I don't know anything about accounting or sales. I'm fully aware of that fact! So what does this gain me? Now that I've been honest with myself, I can do one of two things:
  1. Take the time to thoroughly learn the subjects I'm not good at
  2. Hire someone who knows the subject
Now for me to actually go out and learn accounting and sales would take months, if not years. So for my money, I'm going to hire these tasks out to other people. It's why I have an accountant and it's also why I have a friend at an advertising agency. They both have all the knowledge I need to make my business work and I can hire them for cheap! And the best part is, there are probably a hundred things I don't know about business that can all be hired out. It's beautiful. Another great example is payroll. I can hire this function and all that it entails out to a company that will do it all for me, for a fee. It's a great way of removing headaches.

Conclusion

So I think that the picture we all have in our heads of just starting a business and letting it run itself is almost out of the question for the first, say .. 5 years. By then, you just might have a decent system worked out where you can take long vacations but you will always have to run your business in some way. This article is about starting your business. After that, it's up to you to figure out how to run it efficiently, but efficiency is still the point nonetheless. That, and profitability but those things will come in later entries.

If you have anything to add, please leave it in comment form and let the people know!

Until next time...

-Scott

P.S. I wish you great luck in creating a home based business online!

4 comments:

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