Anyone who has spent more than a couple of hours online has read about people who have struck it rich by starting an Internet business. eBay, Google, and Amazon.com are a few of the companies at the top of the heap, but there are millions of individuals who are making a living through small e-commerce sites and niche blogs.
The prospect of working from home, setting your own hours, and being the architect of your own success can be very appealing for would-be online entrepreneurs, but for every successful startup, there are hundreds that don't make it. As is the case with any bricks-and-mortar storefront operation, the keys to a successful online business are a good idea and good planning.
It also helps to have some great advice before you get started.
In Internet Riches: The Simple Money-Making Secrets of Online Millionaires, Scott Fox takes some of the mystery out of building your own online business.
Fox is a successful online business owner and consultant whose former clients include Fox's Bill O'Reilly and CNN's Larry King. In his book, he uses his own experience to provide insight into the process of generating business ideas, finding the right niche to tap into, and building and promoting your first website.
If you're not sold on the value the Internet and the potential of an online business, Chapters One and Two should have you convinced. In them, Fox outlines the pros of e-commerce (such as low overhead, access to the marketplace 24 hours a day access, and global reach) and compares the startup costs of a traditional retail business to an online business. Guess which is cheaper?
Chapters Three, Four and Five describe what Fox calls the "three waves" of e-business. Efficiency-based e-businesses (eBay, WeddingChannel.com, and SitterCity.com are a few of the examples given) find new ways to trade information that helps sell products more efficiently. Product-based e-businesses (Amazon.com, Seyberts.com) are the closest to traditional retail stores – they actually sell products themselves. Fox includes affiliate marketing and information aggregators (like The Drudge Report, Fark.com, and Digital Media Wire) in this category, demonstrating that selling a product does not have to involve managing a physical inventory. Finally, niche-based e-businesses take advantage of the fact that the Internet can bring people together around highly specific interests, providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to sell products and information that caters to their particular needs, wants, and tastes.
The rest of the book can be used as a business startup manual. Fox takes the reader through every aspect of developing a promising idea and setting up an online business around it. For the beginner, he covers topics like choosing a domain name and arranging for web hosting. Fox is an avid proponent of using already-existing web tools instead of spending capital on developing proprietary technology, and makes several suggestions in his book (and on his website, InternetMillionaireSecrets.com) that will help readers select the site-building, payment processing, and email-management tools that are right for them.
Chapters on online marketing include rudimentary SEO tips, suggestions for managing and capitalizing on email lists, and a primer on pay-for-performance keyword advertising.
Fox also touches on the administrative aspects of business startups, including copyright considerations, incorporation, and legal and financial partnership arrangements.
At the end of every chapter, Fox includes reflection exercises that will help readers develop their business ideas. Interviews with actual online entrepreneurs, including Drew Curtis (Fark.com), as well as dozens of case-studies of successful online businesses, will give readers practical examples that will inspire them and keep them rooted in the real world at the same time.
Internet Riches is a book that will give Internet newbies the knowledge and confidence they need to get online. Longtime web surfers without business experience will also benefit from the practical step-by-step nature of the book. Both groups will probably have to spend some additional time doing their own research, because it is impossible to cover everything there is to know about online business in one book. Fox has done a good job of providing his audience with a foundation for their research.