Every day more people turn to Google and type in a phrase like: “How to make money online.” Or: How to run an online business.”
Most of the time they find over-hyped information that deliver implausible solutions. (And they’re the good results).
And that’s a shame – because setting up an online business that can grow and deliver sustainable results has never been easier – particularly if that online business is going to be based on information (we’ll explore this concept in more depth in future articles).
Even 10 years ago there were 5 major barriers that had to be surmounted to grow a successful business – but now the barriers of entry are set so low that anyone with a basic computer, an internet connection, and the technical skills to write emails or simple word processor documents can start an online business.
In this article I want to take a closer look at those 5 barriers
The first barrier to setting up a business used to be the cost – and this is still a barrier if you want to set up a business based on the traditional off line model. Before you can even open for trading on Day 1 you need to purchase or lease premises, you need to decorate the business premises, you need to buy stock to actually sell, you may need to apply for licenses depending on the nature of your business.
Then there’s advertising costs to let potential customers know about your new ventures. And you may need to hire employees too – which is a cost beyond their basic salary. You have to advertise to find them, and spend the time sifting through the responses, and then you have to spend the time to actually interview the prospective candidates and select the most suitable for the job(s) you need filling.
We’re talking thousands of dollars before you even begin trading.
In comparison you can start your online based business for less than a $100. The main cost you’ll have initially is your website. A good domain name (i.e. a ‘.com’ name) will set you back the princely sum of $15 a year. And if you get your website hosted at somewhere like Hostgator.com, you can get a starter hosting plan for $8.95 a month.
If even a 100 Dollars is too much you can start out by creating a website on one of the many free platforms out there to assess if there will be interest in your online business. (These free platforms are websites like Blogger.com, WordPress.com, Weebly, Squidoo, HubPages, WetPaint and a gazillion others).
So to start an online based business there’s no need to go cap in hand to your Bank Manager. All you need to risk is a measley $100 or less and some of your time.
Back in the day many potential entrepreneurs would have failed to overcome the barrier of cost. That barriers is now set so low that you can offset the start up costs simply by drinking one less cup of coffee a week from Starbucks.
So let’s move onto the next barrier: technology.
Setting up an online business involves setting up, maintaining and regularly updating a website. Ten years ago this used to be difficult. You needed to know how to program in HTML. Or PHP. It helped if you understood CSS too. And when you’d got your website design sorted you needed to upload it via FTP.
If HTML,FTP,PHP sounds like jargon or geek speak there’s no need to panic. Provided your technical skill level is enough to allow you to send emails or create simple word processor documents you have the technical ability necessary to both create a professional website, and just as importantly, to maintain that website.
“How is that possible?” you ask. It’s possible through the use of free ‘blogging’ software called WordPress. Not only does this software make it a cinch to create and maintain low cost but professional looking websites, but most Website Hosting Companies these days have One Click Installs of WordPress.
The OneSpoonAtATime.com website is built in WordPress – so you can see there’s a good degree of flexibility available. If you look around the site you’ll see that there are different ‘layouts’ for the static pages of the website (e.g. the ‘Home Page’, the ‘About US’ page) than the ‘dynamic’ pages of the website (the pages under the ‘Blog’ header).
Let’s move onto the next barrier: Gatekeepers
Until relatively recently, if you wanted to create a business that involved any kind of publishing to display your expertise you had to try and get published via a small number of publication outlets (e.g. TV, Radio, Books or Newspapers and Magazines).
Each of those outlets had its own system of Gatekeepers – people whose job is was to filter out the crap and let the good stuff get through. Except each of those Gatekeepers has their own pre-defined idea of what’s good and what’s not. Or are told what kind of content they should be publishing. And because the cost of publishing in a traditional medium is expensive, the Gatekeeper system was designed to filter out potentially non-commercial material.
But now you can create a high quality website in literally minutes, and be publishing your own content within hours. The necessity to use the traditional channels is no longer there – indeed it’s become an almost everyday occurrence for traditional publishing channels to find ‘new’ material to publish from people who first published their content online and found an audience for that content.
Which brings us to the next barrier that’s been dramatically lowered: Audience Reach.
4) Audience Reach And Distribution Channels
We talked about Gatekeepers, and how in the past you had to go through these Gatekeepers to try and get your information out to your audience.
With the rise of Social Media that’s no longer necessary. You can create a low cost website as we’ve already talked about, and you can get your message out to a potential audience by using Facebook. Or YouTube. Or iTunes. Or Twitter. Or LinkedIn.
Or you can piggyback on the audience that someone else has already built up – by commenting on their blog and building a relationship with them. Or maybe guest posting on their blog.
If you want to get really creative you can also generate an audience by using Amazon or eBay (strategies that we’ll look at in future posts).
You can even let Google bring your audience to you, by finding and indexing your content in the Search Engines. (One thing I forgot to note earlier – Google LOVES WordPress based websites, especially blogs).
Once you’ve built an audience then you start the process of communicating with that audience and turning them from people who like your content into people who buy your content.
And the cost of producing and delivering professional content is the final barrier that’s been lowered
5) Digital Products – Digital Delivery
The Desktop Publishing boom of the 90s, combined with the qualitative advances in digitization in the 00s, has led to the position we’re at today – where it’s possible to produce high quality information in a variety of formats for potential customers (e.g. PDF, MP3 or MP4).
As well as being able to create high quality digital products, it’s possible to finish a product and literally upload it and be selling it within an hour of finishing it. You could deliver your digital product to customers by emailing it, by sending them to a protected page on your website (via a clickable link in an email, along with a password), or you could use a Delivery Service like e-Junkie.com (which costs the grand total of $5 a month).
So you can literally be making sales almost overnight. And the programs that produce this high quality content are readily affordable. Most of you reading this have probably got tools on your computers that you could use to get started – word processor software, movie editing software and/or audio software.
The barriers to starting an online based business – in terms of cost, technology, getting past the gatekeepers, audience reach and delivering high quality digital information – have never been lower.
If starting your own online business is something you’ve been thinking about, NOW is just about the best time there’s ever been to do this and create an audience for yourself, and a sustainable business.
That’s what this website is all about. So if you want to find out more, stick around. Oh and don’t forget the next step…
Over the coming months there will be articles on different aspects of setting up your own online, information based business. To make sure you don’t miss anything, make sure you head over to the ‘Subscribe’ page and subscribe to the regular newsletter.