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Want To Know What The Best Online Business Model Is? [2018 Update]

best online business

best online business model

Image courtesy of Presenter Media

Having an online business sounds like a great idea. Yet for so many who go down this path, this business model doesn’t work.

Rather, it just doesn’t work for them.

So, what is the best online business model? In actual fact, there is no perfect or best online business model.

What works for one person could easily spiral into a disaster for another. The success or failure often depends on the time the entrepreneur has available, their budget, their past-experience, the product or service they are offering, the connections they’ve made and any one of a hundred other factors.

The best solution is planning and knowing your options. From there, you can start to work out which one is likely to be the best for YOU, given your unique circumstances.

Here’s a run-down on some of the best online business models, to give you a better understanding of what’s available.

Affiliate Marketing

This is a type of marketing where a business offers rewards to those recommending their products and/or services (affiliates). It may be that affiliates receive a payment for each paying visitor or customer that they send to the business, or some companies pay for each lead they’re sent. In the digital business world, this can be very easy. Simply copying and promoting a unique link for a product or service can bring a surprising number of visitors to a business’ website.

One of the best things about this business model is that you, as the affiliate, don’t need to create or manufacture the products, nor are you responsible for processing the product payments or distribution.

Drop Shipping

For businesses selling a physical product, drop-shipping is where the business selling the product doesn’t necessarily keep stocks of the product on hand.

In some cases, a business may sell a product they’ve never even seen. For example, Business A promotes a product that is manufactured by Business B. When a customer purchases a product from Business A, they send the shipping details to Business B who ships the product.

Another example would be where the business selling the product has the product made on an as-needed basis. Once the product is ordered, it’s created and then sent directly to the customer. There’s no need for it to go via the business selling it for them to ship to the customer.

One of the benefits to this model is that you don’t need to order minimum quantities of stock and arrange storage of it, nor look after the packaging and shipping. You may not even need to pay for the product until you’ve received the money from the customer. So it can be an extremely cost-effective business model.

On the downside, you can run into problems if a third-party product is out of stock and you don’t find out until AFTER you place the order for your customer. Your reputation also depends on the quality of the product and relying on the drop-shipper to send the product promptly and with proper packaging.

This can be a good business model for some … just do your research first and even buy the product for yourself, as a sample, before promoting it.

Selling on ebay

While ebay is not always seen as the best venue for a large scale company and is sometimes referred to as essentially “the world’s largest garage sale”, many small businesses do have a great business selling on ebay. This could include selling their products or selling unnecessary equipment.

I know several people who make very high, full-time incomes from their ebay businesses, with one couple making $50,000 per month. Of course, they didn’t start out making this income. They began by selling things they no longer needed from around their homes. Then they began buying wholesale products to sell.

While the ebay system does take some getting used to, it is intended to be very user friendly, hence its global popularity. Many small companies who can afford the time to give every customer attention will find it a great marketplace.

Done well, this can be a great home-based business for those who don’t mind packaging products and making sure they’re mailed daily.

Selling on Other Sites

However, ebay is only one site that allows nearly anyone to sell a number of different products under the auspices of a larger, more well known site. Etsy is a worldwide site that’s popular for selling things such as handicrafts. Meanwhile, a number of different businesses have signed on as Amazon affiliates, getting their products listed on Amazon in exchange for following certain protocols to maintain Amazon’s reputation.

If you are keen to sell your own products, you may be able to do so via one of these sites (e.g. Amazon.com). However you could also apply to become an Amazon Associate, whereby you can promote Amazon.com products and receive a commission for sales that come from your referrals. This comes under the “Affiliate Marketing” business model, above.

Selling Digital and/or Information Products

Selling purely digital products, from eBooks to smart phone apps, software to online training courses and the likes, is a means of making money that is growing in popularity. There are a number of storefronts focused on allowing users to sell such products, depending on what type of product you’re creating. (e.g. the Apple Apps store or Amazon’s eBook section).

While it can take some technical know how to get all these products together, they can be an amazing cost saver for companies who’s products are just as good in purely digital form as they are in physical form.

You can also create your own website and sell your products via your own site, rather than going through one of the bigger companies. If you want to sell digital products from your own website, the Kartra system will help make this easy for you. (Kartra will manage your website, emails, products, and so much more, all in the one place. In full disclosure, this link is an affiliate link so if you do end up subscribing to Kartra via my link, I may receive a commission from them as a thank you for referring you.)

Selling Physical Products

selling products online

Image courtesy of Presenter Media

Online marketing has made it considerably easier to sell a great number of physical products as well. While there are a number of places to do so (such as the larger storefronts like ebay or Etsy), each of them has their own ups and downs, as well as terms of use. You should consider these carefully before signing on for them.

Make sure you check out what each of these sites does and doesn’t allow, the commissions or fees payable and what their expectations of you are.

As with selling digital or information products, you can also sell physical products via your own website. For anyone who’s not so tech-savvy, you can pay someone to set up your web site and a good shopping cart system. Although with a little effort it’s not overly difficult to manage.

You could also use the services of a fulfillment house. For a fee, they store your products and ship them out on your behalf. This is particularly worthwhile as your business grows and you have more and more orders to process each day.

Providing Services

There are also many services that can be provided online, such as:

  • graphic design
  • website design
  • virtual assistance
  • bookkeeping
  • many forms of coaching and/or training
  • writing
  • social media management
  • software development
  • games development
  • business management
  • marketing
  • … the list goes on.

With the amazing technology available today, many services can be provided without needing to visit your customers or meeting them face-to-face.

If you don’t have any particular skills to provide services yourself, that’s okay too. You can employ or contract others who are skilled to provide the services. This allows you to focus on marketing and managing your business. This is the business model I began with, in July 1998.

Membership Sites

Managing a successful membership site (or two) is another good online business model. You collate beneficial information on a particular topic and your members pay to access this content. Although this model can be more complex to set up initially, by charging a recurring fee you’re bringing in income over and over again. Meaning that you’re not having to continually market for new customers.

You will most likely still do some marketing to bring in new members, but by looking after your members they are more likely to stay on long-term. Also, the more you look after your members the more they will refer others to you.

Blogging

Many businesses find that maintaining a blog is a great way to stay in touch with their customers. But many people aren’t aware that a blog itself can be the main part of a business – and its income.

While there are countless blogs around, only a minority of those blogs are profitable from a business perspective. Some people just love to write and share their ideas and thoughts or promote a cause and that’s perfectly fine.

Others integrate monetisation strategies into their blogging so it earns an income. That income could be a few dollars extra here and there to full-time, 6- and 7-figure incomes.

Monetising strategies can include advertising from your site, selling products or services, charging a fee for premium content, “Pay Per Click” advertising (PPC) or recommending affiliate products.

If you’re recommending affiliate products, only do so if you feel they’re worthwhile. Don’t get caught up recommending solely because you’ll earn a commission. In the long-term, your readers will value your honesty and ethics and this will grow into more income over time.

Determining what the best online business model is, of course, is a complex question. Consider your budget for time and money and your existing experiences, along with personal preferences, lifestyle and ability. Learning a little more about each of these business models is also a good idea. This will help you decide which online business model is more likely best for you.

How To Manage Information Overload

manage information overload

We live in a high-speed, digital world. There is no denying that.

Unfortunately, this can make the life of a small business owner extremely complicated with the need for one or more email accounts, social media accounts, texting, websites, blogs, and many other needed software and programs. Not to mention that you may have multiples as you have them for your business and your personal use. Aaargh!

The technology age has definitely laid out a great map for information overload. Especially with its enticing thoughts of accomplishing something. It’s easy to believe you’re being productive – after all, you are learning. Or networking.

Even with all that learning, you will put yourself in a paralysis of sorts because you become inactive. If you are constantly learning new things without taking action and implementing what you have learned, you are not really being productive.

That is just the knowledge information available to you. What about all the email, social media, and YouTube videos?

These can cause you to easily lose time as you are sucked into reading, responding, listening, and repeating. You enter a zone of information paralysis.

There is also such a thing as “too much information.” If you have too much information, you may begin making more errors and bad decisions. Especially when you hear (or read) that lists of things that you should be doing in your business, yet they are not all the same.

The best thing you can do for yourself and your business is learn how to manage information overload.

Here are some strategies you can use to better manage information overload:

Email

1. Unless you are in a customer support role or otherwise need to do so more often, only check your email at one or two scheduled times throughout your day. One way to avoid becoming sucked into the email trap is to schedule when you check and send your email.

Also, there are many new software programs that allow you to manipulate your email. You can write it ahead of time and schedule it to be delivered at a certain time, have it leave your inbox and comeback at a better time, and set up automatic responses.

If someone needs an immediate response they will find another way to contact you. The more you practice this habit, the more people will begin to expect your responses only when you send them.

You can also set up an auto-reply to your emails, if necessary, advising that you respond to emails each morning or evening … or whatever time-frame is appropriate for your new routine.

2. Place emails in folders immediately. Many email clients offer the ability to automatically send them to various folders before they even hit your inbox. If they go to your inbox, during your allotted time, place them into folders such as reply, read, take action.

I have my email program set up with many folders and sub-folders and sub-sub-folders to file completed emails in. This also makes it easier to refer back to later. My goal is to have my Inbox at (or close to) “0”.

Social Media

1. How many accounts do you really need? Where are your customers hanging out?

Take a bit of time to do the research for your specific business and determine how many social accounts you need.

Unless you have a social media business, you most likely only need 2-3 to have a successful business.

2. Use a social media dashboard to manage your accounts. Having your accounts all in one place will help save time. Plus, many of them allow you to post to several of your accounts at once and schedule them to go out later.

3. Schedule time to manage social media. Although it may seem as though you need to be connected to social media at all times, you actually don’t.

Using one of the many tools available to you, you can make it appear as though you are always online, even when you are not. This will allow you to dedicate one chunk of time to social media while having a consistent presence.

Unnecessary Electronic Devices and Notifications

1. Turn off all electronic devices you don’t need for your current activity. Yes, this includes your phone.

You get used to not having it on with practice.

2. Turn off all notification pop-ups. These can interrupt your workflow, causing you to get distracted and possibly be pulled back into the information paralysis.

Project Management Tools

1. Use the many online project management tools to help keep you on task and organized. You can avoid much of this information overload when you know what must be done and are organized.

2. Use a calendar. You can use a desk calendar, planner, or online calendar. It will help you stay organized and see next projects and actions steps so that you remain focused.

If you’re addicted to your devices and accounts, and to always being reachable, it may take a little time to implement all of these suggestions.

That’s okay. Just start with one thing at a time. As you see the positive difference it makes, you’ll no doubt be more motivated to make more changes. Before long, you’ll be reaping the rewards of having more time available and getting more results from your productivity, rather than your constant busy-ness.

Who Is In Your Support Network?

support network

Image courtesy of PresenterMedia

Sometimes it can get lonely when you’re in business, especially if you work from home, by yourself. That’s why it’s essential to have a team of supportive people around you. Ideally, these people should include a mix of staff or team members, co-workers and colleagues, other business owners and mentors.

It’s good for all business owners to have a combination of each of the following in their support network.

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Family And Friends:

It’s really important that those closest to you are supportive of what you do. Often, these are the people who give you a reason for doing what you do. They may also be the ones who can help you through the tough times. The times when you wonder if it’s all worthwhile. (And there WILL be times like this.)

Unfortunately, not every business owner has the full support of their loved ones. Often, it’s because your family or friends love and care about you so much that they’re trying to protect you from what MAY go wrong.

Wherever possible, try to find at least two people close to you whom you can depend on to cheer you on when you need it.

And if you don’t have the support of those closest to you it’s even more important that you find others to help form your cheer squad (and give you a kick up the behind when you need it!)

Mentors:

Mentors can come in many forms but to me, mentors are usually those people who have already succeeded in an area that you want to succeed in. More importantly, they’re happy help you achieve your goals in that area too.

Relationships with mentors are often more of a professional nature but they may be friends too. They can be an informal relationship or a more formal mentoring arrangement such as through a coach or coaching program.

A mentor should be able to guide you in the right direction, but also cheer you on when things go well and offer honest feedback when you need it.

Other Business Owners:

business support network

Image courtesy of PresenterMedia

It’s also important that your support network include others who are on the same journey as you. In this instance, we’re looking at your business support network. So therefore it’s important to have other business owners you can discuss business issues with. (Keeping confidential information off-limits, of course).

Similarly, if you’re trying to lose weight you will often find it helps to be part of a community of others trying to lose weight so you can help each other. Or if you’re a new parent you may want to mingle with other parents.

An excellent way to connect with other business owners is via online forums and groups. There are many online groups and discussion forums – including Facebook groups. These are an ideal way to connect with other like-minded business owners.

A couple of things to keep in mind though … be very careful about what you post online. Sometimes it’s best to keep things general or save the more detailed nitty-gritty for more personal conversations with those you know you can trust.

Think about it. Do you really want your clients to stumble across your online posts complaining about certain customers? Or about the staffing or financial problems you’re having?

There are also many groups where members have the opportunity to mingle face-to-face.Look for some local business groups and Chambers of Commerce in your local area. These can be excellent for networking in general, finding new customers and getting leads and referrals.

But, perhaps more importantly, once you get to know some of the other members you may find one or two (or more if you’re really lucky) whom you ‘click’ with and a friendship develops. These people may well form part of the inner circle of your support network too.

Seminars:

Business and industry seminars can also be a brilliant way of forming a strong support network. You may discover some of the speakers at the seminars are ideal mentors for you. Often other attendees on a similar journey as you. Meaning that you can be a great support for each other too.

When you attend seminars, don’t be shy. Make the effort to say hello to a few people and start a conversation. I’ve met several colleagues and friends that way. Some connections lasted for just a short-time, where we worked on a particular project then drifted apart. But others have gone on to become close friends and we regularly have brainstorming sessions and the likes. Best of all, we know we can rely on each other for honest feedback.

Even if you don’t connect with anyone in particular at seminars and business events, often just the vibe you get from being there is enough to help keep you motivated and on track.

I consider myself to be extremely lucky. My greatest supporter is my son. He was 5 when I began this business and has always given unwavering support and encouragement. He’s also not too shy to give me a kick in the butt when I’ve needed it too!

I have also been blessed to have found some amazing mentors, colleagues and business friends along the way.

I’m sure you’ve got plenty to do each day but I strongly urge you to take just 5 minutes now to write a list of those people in your support network.

Who can you rely on when things aren’t going to plan and you need some advice?

Next, who can give you honest feedback when you need it?

Who will listen to you vent for just a few minutes, if necessary, before helping you find an appropriate solution to your problem?

Is there someone who you can help keep you accountable, to help you follow through and take the actions you plan to?

Who will join you in a happy dance or open a bottle of bubbles to help celebrate when you achieve success … even the little successes in your journey?

And just as importantly, who can you offer the same sort of support to?

No matter how committed you are to building a successful business, there’s no doubt that having a solid support network around you will improve your chances of success.

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