Don walked across the street from his house to mine to announce he had finally retired. “But I’m not ready for the golf course,” he said. “I want to make a living on the Internet. What can I sell?”
This is a question many of us struggle with as we see money, freedom, and a bright future for those who manage to find their niche online. You may have tried to sell something from the Internet only to find it is difficult to get visitors to your web site and even harder to get them to buy.
The biggest hurdle is simple: most folks are trying to sell products to consumers. That’s not where the money is. It is a more daunting task than most realize.
Only one percent of retail sales happens on the Internet. Even though selling to consumers should be gargantuan one day, we have a long way to go before the majority of people are placing orders the Internet way.
Instead, sell something to businesses. While consumer sales amounted to many billion last year, business-to-business purchases vaulted to a whopping ten times that much. Clearly, if you want the easiest path to tapping into the landslide of Internet cash, sell a product or service needed by business.
So, you say, I should sell a product to businesses? Not exactly. Most products need to be sold in large volumes by many distributors before they turn a profit. Chances are the product you sell is also being pushed by hundreds or thousands of other affiliates. In the end, many business buyers will simply click to the main corporate site to make their purchase.
Your best bet for starting a small Internet business and earning a living online is to sell a service to businesses. Unlike products, it is hard to mass produce a service. Most service providers find their competition is relatively thin. This is especially true if you provide a very specialized service or do your job in a particular way that is hard to duplicate. Because services require time spent by an experienced expert, rates can be high, especially for business customers.
But I’m not an expert in anything people on the Internet would want to buy, you exclaim. Not true.
Sit down with a pen and jot down all the things bosses have paid you for during your work career. Add to your list things you have done on your own time that friends, neighbors, or co-workers have felt were valuable.
Which of these things could be sold on the Internet? If you kept books for a business with twenty employees, you can sell your bookkeeping service to the vast number of small Internet businesses who don’t have the time or expertise to manage their growing firm.
If you produced your church newsletter for several years, your desktop publishing and editing skills could fill the hot demand for people who can write and publish e-messaging campaigns, web sites, and print newsletters. Best of all, a writer/editor deals in pure information which is easiest and cheapest to deliver over the Internet.
My neighbor Don decided his skills from a career in law enforcement would be hard to sell on the Internet. But he knew lots of things businesses needed and he had a list of town residents who could fill those needs.
If you don’t readily have a service you can sell to business, find someone who does. Many in-demand people don’t know how to market themselves on the Internet or haven’t the time to try. Represent their service online and take a commission for each sale.
Put up your own web site with some articles business customers will find helpful. They can do double duty, showing you know plenty about your line of work.
Post testimonials from satisfied customers or other experts in your industry. To get full impact, be sure to list the person’s full name and the name of their business or city they live in.
Offer to send customers and prospects a monthly update via email. Include brief updates on important developments in the industry. Mix in three line ads promoting your service.
Selling a service to business is your least-expensive way to get started making money online. It is also the quickest way to tap into the huge amounts of money traveling from business to business.