Everyone knows at this point that if you own a business, you absolutely must have a website for it. Whether your company has any kind of digital component to it or not, if you’re not easily located with a quick Google search via mobile device, you’re essentially invisible to most of your potential customers.
But there’s another aspect of business website ownership that many entrepreneurs overlook when brainstorming ways to startup or expand their commercial activity. That’s the concept of purchasing an existing website as a business, or as an extension of the business you already have.
Although it’s been a valid money-making path for many years now, few people realize the commercial opportunity that a popular online business represents. That’s partly due to some persistent myths about online businesses that make smart entrepreneurs back away, and partly due to a lack of exposure to everyday business leaders who have made a success of an online property.
Let’s take each of these in turn, and break down why buying a successful website can be a very smart business idea.
Myth: All you need to do is put up the site and you’re rolling in cash
Even online businesses built completely around getting other people to start online businesses don’t use this line anymore, but they used to and that’s where it originated.
The idea began back in the earliest days of the Internet when the number of websites was very low but interest in “surfing the web” was very high. At that time, it probably seemed fairly quick and easy to put up a simple website selling a physical product in a mail order style or a digital information product (eBook) and have it found almost immediately. If the product was even slightly good, it probably sold well right off the bat.
These days, the number of websites available online is mind boggling and there are more appearing every day. Putting up a simple website today will net you absolutely nothing. It’s like erecting a billboard on the floor of the ocean - no one’s going to see it.
Smart entrepreneurs know that this myth sounds fishy, and they steer clear of the entire idea of online business as a result.
Myth: You can run your business from your kitchen table, in your pajamas, in 45 minutes per week.
While it’s true that you can run an online business from a kitchen table while wearing pyjamas, the real myth here is the idea that online success requires next to no effort or time investment. Again, smart entrepreneurs realize every legitimate business opportunity requires effort, so they steer clear of this unbelievable claim.
The origin of this myth is also rooted in the early days of online business when competition was still fairly light but helpful software started proliferating that could be used to automate much of the busy work required to keep things running. For example, when PayPal and similar services appeared, it suddenly became possible for anyone sitting on their couch to accept credit card payments through their website 24 hours a day. No more manual payment processing or waiting for a check in the mail.
It’s true, even today, that online business owners are wise to take advantage of apps and SaaS solutions when automation can enhance the customer experience. But with competition as it stands today and with search engines continually improving their algorithms to focus results on the highest quality content available, it’s no longer possible to put a website on autopilot and sit back collecting checks.
Myth: To succeed online, you’ll need to work 100 hours a week and you can expect to lose money for the first 3 years.
From the “glass half empty” department comes this myth at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Actually, calling this a myth may not be fair since it’s unfortunately based on what really happens to people who dive head first into online business without understanding how to accomplish their goals or not even taking the time to set goals at all. Often, these people are drawn in by one or both of the first two myths and assume there’s nothing to it.
But running an online business requires all the same skills, self-discipline, and effort as running any other kind of business. So, while smart entrepreneurs know to expect to work hard, especially in the startup phase, anyone who is involuntarily sacrificing 100+ hours a week for years to their startup is doing something wrong.
While most of us are familiar with the huge online business successes like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, it’s pretty rare to hear details about everyday small business owners we can all relate to who have succeeded online. In comparison to that small group of multibillion-dollar mega-brands, most individual websites are fairly anonymous and operate under the radar, although they’re well known and appreciated by the target market that keeps them in business.
Here are a few recent examples to consider of entrepreneurs who decided to build their startup online and how they made a go of it:
1.Vincent Ray Wong: Owner of screameleons.com, the internet’s largest retail source for pet chameleons. An avid chameleon owner himself, Wong realized that breeding the exotic pet could be a lucrative side business, and that no one was selling them online. He created the site, focused on thoroughly optimizing it for search, and it quickly brought in more income than his fulltime job.
2.Craig Newmark: You’ve probably heard of Craigslist.org, right? While the modern Craigslist is huge and thriving, it all began in 1995 as a homemade email list that Newmark managed among a small group of friends after moving to the San Francisco area. He wanted a way to stay up-to-date on local events in his new home and began the email list to accomplish this. By 2000, the ubiquitous online classified site had branched out nationwide.
3.Noah Kagan: The founder of AppSumo.com, an app marketplace, started his company in 2010 with a very simple, scaled down version of the same site being used today. Within the first year he gained over 200,000 email subscribers and over $1 million in revenue, and hasn’t looked back since.
No doubt there are thousands of other similar examples out there of entrepreneurs with great ideas that were able to build successful businesses solely online.
A shortcut to success
But what if there was an even easier way to achieve online business success?
If you’re a smart entrepreneur, your ears may be tingling and that little voice in your head may be warning you not to listen because “there are no shortcuts to success.” But this isn’t just another myth like the ones described above.
The shortcut involves buying an existing (and successful) business website instead of starting a new one from scratch. Since the initial establishment of the website itself, getting noticed amid all the online clutter, and closing those first few deals is the hardest part of the entire process, buying an existing online property can offer potentially instant cashflow and profit that simply aren’t possible with a brand new startup.
If that sounds appealing and you’re ready to look further into accomplishing your entrepreneurial goals with an online business, take a few minutes to review what websites are for sale right now.