Of all the businesses you could start, an online one is by far the cheapest--and the quickest. To help you get started on the right foot, here are some tips for getting your business online--and making a profit--in 30 days with less than $200.
1. Use Wordtracker to find a product people already want to buy.
Cost: $55.78 for one month
The first thing you need to do is locate a niche market and find a product you can sell to them. Wordtracker is a keyword research tool that makes this step as easy as possible. It shows you what people are searching for in the search engines, so you can figure out what their needs are and then present them with solutions. (To learn how to do keyword research, check out this article from my free newsletter.)
A one-month Wordtracker membership should give you plenty of time to complete this first step.
2. Choose a domain and set up your hosting account.
Cost: $23.94 for three months
Most hosting companies are dirt cheap these days and will give you a domain name when you sign up. If you get a beginner account with 1&1, you can get three months of hosting for $23.94. It will provide you with everything you need to get started.
3. Build your site using NVU.
Although 1and1.com provides you with a basic website builder, you may decide you need more advanced HTML editing capabilities to customize your site.
If you're on a tight budget, NVU will do the trick. It offers a great WYSIWYG editor for free. As you get more advanced, you may want to upgrade to Dreamweaver, which you can buy at Adobe.com. But NVU is more than enough to get you started.
You can try it out at NVU.com.
4. Set up your payment process using PayPal.
If you're going to sell your product online, you need to be able to accept payment for it. And if you're counting pennies, PayPal is by far your best option because it's free and easy to add to your site. Be sure to sign up for a "Premier" account. It's still free but offers some additional features you need as an e-business.
Now your site is up and you're able to process payments. Now you need visitors. But how do you generate traffic on a shoestring budget?
5. Use pay-per-click ads to drive qualified traffic to your site.
Cost: $100 for the first month's starting cost
Here's some good news: When you sign up for your hosting account with 1and1.com, you get $100 in free traffic from Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft. If you match that investment, you'll have $200 to play with. And that amount of money can go a long way if you do things right.
Just make sure you don't blow your money on high-priced, overly general keywords. Stick to savvy pay-per-click strategies and bid on cheap, overlooked keywords, and you'll be able to get quality traffic without draining your bank account. Think about synonyms, misspellings and phrases.
6. Distribute articles to free directories and content sites.
One of my favorite free traffic strategies is writing a couple of info-packed articles and posting them in newsletter directories and free content sites where other people can pick them up and republish them.
It's a great way to get inbound links pointing to your site, which will help you move to the top of the search engine listings. Plus, the articles spread the word about your business and help build your credibility as an industry expert.
Here are a few popular content syndication sites:
PPC and distributing free content are just two traffic strategies that cost very little and will help you start making money quickly. There are plenty of other tactics as well, including blogging, social networking and affiliate marketing.
That's what I love about the internet: It's so unbelievably cheap to get started. How cheap? Well, the six steps I listed above will cost you $179.72.
However, there's one thing you need to know: The secret to setting up a truly successful business in such a short time is to make sure you have the right training and information guiding you along the way. The entrepreneurs who end up blowing all their money with nothing to show for it are the ones who spend too much on strategies that haven't been proven to work, who get sucked into "get rich quick" scams or who try to reinvent the wheel.
A small investment in your education will save you a huge amount of money over the long term. Not only will you learn what you need to do to avoid costly mistakes and grow your business in record time, but you'll also discover how to recognize incredible money-saving opportunities when they come your way.
Derek Gehl is Entrepreneur.com's "E-Business" columnist and CEO of the Internet Marketing Center,www.marketingtips.com, an internet marketing firm that has helped thousands of people learn to start and run their own online businesses.
His comprehensive course, The Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet has been the best-selling internet marketing course for 10 consecutive years.