Going online can be a great adventure--and a lot of fun--for any small business. But if you want your Web site to be more than a hobby, you need to put some thought into how to make it profitable. No matter what your business is, you should always be thinking about ways to diversify your revenue streams to boost your profits.
So to get you thinking about new strategies, I've put together a list of the seven ways you can earn income on the Web, and then I've explained how you can incorporate all of these methods to create success.
Online Profit Steams
Whether you're just beginning to develop your business model or simply analyzing an existing business, your chief focus should be on how you're going to generate income. There are seven ways to generate revenue on the Web:
- Sell your own products
- Sell your own services
- Drop ship products
- Recommend affiliate products
- Sell ad space
- Create a joint venture with like-minded businesses
- Start an affiliate program
Let me explain each of these a little further:
1. Sell your own products. The main advantage to selling your own products is that you ultimately control how much profit you make on every sale and you therefore have the potential for the biggest profit margin. You know exactly what each product costs, and you can try out different price points to see what works the best. People appreciate good value, and removing the middleman is a great way to provide your customers with competitive prices that keep them coming back for more.
2. Sell your own services. Whether you're a small-town dentist, a high-priced online legal consultant, a real estate agent, a tutor, a landscaper, a bed and breakfast owner, an auto-mechanic, a caterer, a fitness trainer or anything in between, you can profit from selling your service online. It's easy to get started selling a service online, but your revenue potential, in most cases, is limited. That's because, unlike someone selling a physical product that can be stored and shipped on demand, you can only provide as many services as your time allows.
When you sell a service, you're essentially selling a relationship with yourself. And this requires that you spend more time and effort establishing your credibility and developing rapport with your visitors than is typically required on a site selling a physical product. You not only need to establish the benefits of the service you're offering, you also need to establish the value of you providing this service.
3. Drop ship products. If you want to sell products without the hassles of tracking your inventory, setting up warehouse space and maintaining a confusing shipping/receiving infrastructure, drop-shipping may be the choice for you. Drop shipping lets you sell quality, brand-name products on your site for a hefty profit, while the drop shipper takes care of fulfilling the order. They warehouse the stock, pack the orders and ship them out to your customers.
4. Recommend affiliate products. Recommending affiliate products creates a "no-risk" partnership that allows you to promote another company's products or services on your site to earn a percentage of their sales. As one of the company's "affiliates" or promotion partners, you earn a commission each time someone you've referred to their site makes a purchase. To advertise their wares, you might post a banner on your site that links to the affiliate program's site, or you might publish an article about the company and their products in your newsletter.
5. Sell ad space. Once your site has lots of highly targeted traffic, or a large, targeted opt-in list, you may be able to sell advertising. Advertisers are willing to buy ads when they're being directed at large numbers of their target market. Nowadays, though, advertising revenues are a lot less than they used to be, so I don't recommend you plan on making this your sole source of income. Selling ad space can be a great additional profit stream, but it's unlikely to keep your business afloat on its own.
6. Create a joint venture with like-minded businesses. Joint ventures are all about related businesses teaming up and combining skills, products, services and resources to create new streams of income and profit. One great way to profit through joint ventures is to seek out products or services that would benefit your visitors, and then approach the companies that provide those products or services. Ask them if you can recommend their product or service on your site for a portion of the profits. Most companies will gladly agree to this arrangement--after all, there's no risk for them since they only pay you when you refer a paying customer.
7. Start an affiliate program. With your own affiliate program, you can recruit an army of people (your affiliates) who will recommend your product on their web site for a percentage of any sale they refer. You have the power to exponentially increase your income as more and more affiliates sign up and you continue to teach your existing affiliates how to increase their commission checks (and your income).
It's one of the most powerful forms of online advertising I know. It allows you to grow your profits while keeping your business small, since you don't have to go out and spend money on salespeople and advertising. Your affiliates do the advertising for you, and you only pay them when they make a sale.
Derek Gehl is the CEO of theInternet Marketing Center, an internet marketing firm that has helped thousands of people learn to start and run their own online businesses.