There seem to be two groups of people when talking about starting a business online. There are the people that think the internet is easy money, and you just have to come up with one interesting idea to become a billionaire. On the other hand, there are the people that think it’s too hard, or you have to be a computer geek, or there’s already too much competition. The list of 10 myths below about starting an online business isn’t meant to convince you one way or the other. It’s simply information from experience that it may not be as easy or hard as you think.
Let’s start with 5 myths that make you think it’s too hard to start an online business:
Myth #1: You Need a Professionally Designed Website
The truth is that you can find endless amounts of free or very cheap templates. For example, Smashing Magazine has a list of 100 free standards-compliant website templates. You may need to learn basic HTML, but you do not need to pay an expensive web developer to build you a custom site.
This is especially true if you’re opening an ecommerce website. With free ecommerce platforms like OSCommerce and Magento, you can basically load your products and have the platform take care of the rest.
Myth #2: It’s too Easy, So Everyone’s Already Doing It
You should find a way to bring value to the market with your individual skills, but being totally unique is not necessary. There are many millions of people online. All you need to do is stand out from the crowd a bit and you’ll be in a position to enjoy your piece of the pie.
Myth #3: You Need Funding or an Otherwise Enormous Budget
It is absolutely possible to start an online business with no money. (or at least very little) A domain costs about $10, and hosting between $50 and $100 per year. There are free alternatives to these, but you’ll be forced to advertise someone else’s services. Beyond that cost, there’s no requirement for spending a lot of money. If you’re savvy with the computer and don’t mind learning some new tricks, you can absolutely do all of the work yourself.
Myth #4: You Need to Update Your Website Every Day
At first, you’ll have a lot of updating/customizing to do. However, once your site is finished, there’s rarely a need to make daily updates. Of course, unless you’re running a blog or have daily product updates. Most websites can be launched and left alone for extended periods of time. Is it better to update your website often? Yes, but it’s not essential.
Myth #5: You Need a Huge Advertising Budget
You don’t need to spend a dime, but you will need to spend some time. If you have products with descriptions and features, your site will naturally be “picked up” by the search engines. You will need to do some advertising on your own, but it’s not necessary to shell out a bunch of money to have a banner on someone else’s site. (btw…banners are very 1995) The name of the game is search engine optimization (SEO). You’ll need to get in good with the search engines and I promise you will receive traffic. How you get in good with them is the center of an entirely separate industry known as internet marketing.
Some good SEO / Internet Marketing blogs are: SEOMoz, SEOBook, and Awesome-SEO.
And now to pull you back to reality, because everything you just learned above isn’t really that easy.
Here are the top 5 myths that make you think starting an online business is easy money:
Myth #1: Just Launch a Website and Start Collecting Your Money
This is probably the longest-running myth of starting a business online. Simply putting up a website does not mean anyone will ever see it. You may be able to get 50 or 100 visitors a month by accident if you have a decent amount of content on your site. However, you need to write quality content, offer quality products, and you’ll still need to do some advertising. You need to build links from other websites to rank higher in the search engines, and you need to optimize your site so your visitors do what you want when they get to your site.
Myth #2: You Can Buy an Online Business Plan or System and Become Instantly Successful
That eBook or seminar is NOT going to be the key to your internet riches. In the decade that I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen hundreds of these offers, and even purchased quite a few. They’re just like any other business. You need to work at them and have your own plan for making them succeed. The only people making money from these systems are the ones selling them.
Myth #3: A Home-Based Online Business Will Give you More Free Time
Until your home business gets really successful, don’t plan on quitting that day job. And since you’ll be working a day job and moonlighting with your online business, you’ll have LESS free time. This may go on for 6 months, a year, or many more than that. You will need to sacrifice some free time if you want the future benefits of owning your own business. (So I guess this isn’t really a myth because you will eventually have more free time if you’re wildly successful. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t successful right away, so it may be a grind for a very long time. *It’s after midnight as I write this.)
Myth #4: You Can Get a Grant or Loan to Start Your Business
There are government grants to aid local businesses, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) does help people get loans, but you cannot expect to get much help from either of these sources. The government and SBA are interested in creating jobs. They will help you out if you expect to create X number of jobs in your region, but for a home-based business, you really need to assume everything will come out of your pocket. (See the first 5 myths if you’re scared about not having enough money.)
Myth #5: You’ll be able to Claim Everything as a Tax Deduction
This is one where you can get into big trouble if you don’t take it seriously. Business and personal expenses must be tracked separately. Now remember that I’m not a tax advisor, but if you claim your tickets to the Steeler’s football game as a business expense, you better be able to prove it was a legitimate business-related activity. You can absolutely write off parts of your house and your utilities, depending on your local tax laws, but if you start writing off personal expenses, expect a call from the tax man.
I hope this list helped you to better understand what’s really involved in starting an online or home based business. If you thought it would be too hard, I hope this inspired you to give it a try, and if you thought it would be easy, I hope you take a second look at your plan before making any crazy decisions.
There are so many more myths about starting an online business that I’d like to discuss, but let’s leave it up to you what we talk about next. Please comment with your own myths or ideas you have about working from home.