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Cash in With a Web Site

These 'treps are logging on and finding success online.

(YoungBiz.com) - You've heard the stories of mega Web success. There's the one about Jeff Bezos, who jotted down his idea for amazon.com on a scrap of paper during a road trip. And, of course, you can't forget the phenomenal success of eBay. We've even got one of our own--the story of Bill Martin, Greg Wright and Rusty Szurek, the 'treps behind RagingBull.com, a financial message board site so successful that it attracted a few million in investor cash just a year after it was founded.

But for all those Internet gurus who have made the front page, there are plenty of Web bizzes that never see the light of day. Still, opportunities for successful Web-based businesses abound, and it's the savvy 'trep who capitalizes on them.

That said, how do you figure out if--and which--Web biz is right for you? Before you make the leap, check out these tips from 'treps who have been there, done that:

  • Tip #1: Follow your heart. Ever heard that old adage Do what you love, and the money will come? That's not just an old wives' tale; the truth is, success rarely comes when you're doing something just for the money. It's much better to start with something you love and take it from there.

    Just ask Stephanie Pakrul. The 20-year-old 'trep from Ontario, Canada, never thought her computer hobby would turn into a business.

    "I've always been an artist and a musician," Pakrul says. "Computers snuck into my life many years ago. I picked them up very quickly, and I have been on the Internet since 1995."

    Like Pakrul, 20-year-old 'trep Chad Hogan of Mission Viejo, California, hadn't given much thought to computers when he first got acquainted with them back in 1995. "A neighbor let me watch him rebuild his personal computer, and I was hooked," Hogan recalls.

  • Tip #2: Learn all you can. Pakrul began by taking a few programming classes, then created several Web sites for free. "After taking a multimedia class that touched on Web design, I became frustrated with the lack of control and formatting that WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors give you, but also learned that I loved this new way of combining technical stuff and art. So I learned HTML and did my first real sites (a couple of music/movie fan sites) with a text editor and started implementing things like Java/JavaScript and getting proficient with graphics programs."

    Hogan was self-taught, digging into his computer manual and software books--even calling tech support hotlines. "Those things were helpful, but what really taught me how to rebuild and repair computers was plain old trial and error," he says.

    He convinced some of his friends and family members to let him practice some of that "trial and error" method on their computers, spending two years fixing and upgrading computers for free until he was comfortable with his skills.

  • Tip 3: Seize opportunity. Things quickly progressed for both Pakrul and Hogan. "My sister told me that Ice Sports wanted someone to create a Web site for their new local arena," Pakrul says. "I went in to talk to the guy in charge and he gave me the job. Then I got a contract doing the site for the Bank of Montreal's North American Cash Management department."

    Hogan quickly learned that a young business can go a long way on a little ingenuity. He exchanged services with an attorney to get help on legal steps, such as registering his business name. A short time later, when word-of-mouth advertising wasn't bringing enough customers in the door, Hogan traded services with a public relations firm.

  • Tip #4: Take the next step. With several Web sites under her belt, Pakrul decided to take the next step and start her own business. "I decided to start a business doing Web design, so I registered as Web Solutions," she says.

    Hogan, too, was ready for the real thing, electing to open his own PC servicing company. "I chose the repair business because overhead is low," he says. "Parts are inexpensive. What the customer is really paying for is my expertise."

  • Tip #5: Stay current. Though she started off with HTML, Pakrul didn't stop there. She quickly added Visual Basic, SQL and ASP to her repertoire. Her versatility allows her to tackle many different kinds of projects and has busted the doors of opportunity wide open. "Never turn your brain off," she says. "Learn to do a bit of everything."

Logging on and Cashing in
Whether you dream of becoming a Web designer or computer technician, or you're convinced you've got the next mega Web site idea, good preparation is key. As Hogan points out, "computer repair isn't a business you can learn overnight."

So is hard work, confidence and creativity. "We worked hard," says Greg Wright of RagingBull.com. As is often the case, success is created out of opportunity and hard work. These guys were sharp enough to see that the Internet offered tremendous opportunities, and they were confident that they could put together a site that a lot of people would find useful. Are you next?

Next Step
  • Get the rest of the RagingBull.com story on YoungBiz.com.
  • Check out 10 Web bizzes you can start today here.
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