Think Before You Bank on the Web

When people first heard about Ebay, it seemed like a dream come true. For just a couple of bucks, you could list all your old stuff online and clean out that garage or attic without having bargain hunters invade your property. Small business owners also discovered Ebay and found that it was a great way to move items that weren't flying off the shelves. Artists and specialty item sellers found a home at the online auction site and a worldwide audience of potential buyers looking for just what they are selling. Entrepreneurs took the whole thing, ran with it and created some very successful businesses within a business.

Just when it seemed that Ebay was a dream comes true for almost anyone selling stuff, the website just got too big. All of a sudden, people found themselves paying huge fees for a featured listing. Without a featured listing in the correct category, you were just another seller among the millions. Such listing fees often ate up most of any potential profits to be made and offered no actual promise of success. Today, it seems that creating a listing on Ebay and paying the requested listing fees is akin to dropping coins into a slot machine. Welcome to the world of trying to make money online!

Most people laugh about web-based get rich quick schemes, but there is no place to make or lose money faster, except maybe the stock market. For better or worse, the nature of anything web-based is to get in on the ground floor, make your money and get out before too many others join the party. Anyone who banks long term on the web tends to lose. Just ask any of the once highly touted online marketing websites. The problem is that when they lose, they tend to take many people with them.

There is no doubt that anyone who has a legitimate item to sell needs to have it available online. The question is, "How much are you willing to spend to become an Ebay Power Seller, get a high sales ranking on Amazon or be listed somewhere in the top twenty on the search engines?" Whether you have a personal website or depend on some mega-shopping website to get your item out there, it's going to cost you some bucks to bring people to your product. So before you quit your day job and get ready to rack in all those big web bucks, make sure it will be worth your while.

Getting a product noticed on the web can be a very expensive lesson. More then a few online merchants invested all their efforts in one online marketing plan, made money and then lost big. Others never even made it out of the starting gate. Here are some simple ways to avoid complete online financial failure:

1. Never put all your eggs in one online shopping basket.

Do not depend on one website, one submission program or service, one e-shopping mega-listing site or one payment method for your online income.

2. Avoid digital products unless you're an expert.

Don't be taken in by reselling schemes to market useless reports. If you have life experience in a particular industry or expertise that others may be able to profit from, use it to your advantage. Create and market an ebook. Before you do, research the procedure, expected cost and profit potential.

3. If you can't sell soap to your neighbors, you will not sell it online.

Tens of thousands of people are taken in each year by extravagant plans to sell jewelry, medications, vitamins, cosmetics and household cleaning products online. Most of these people would not be a success trying to sell these things offline to neighbors and will not fair any better in the digital world.

4. Do not depend on Affiliate Programs for a substantial income.

Affiliate programs are a way to get a few extra bucks out of a popular website. A stable and fairly honest affiliate program like the one offered by Amazon.com is good. Some multi-merchant affiliate websites like Share-A-Sale are also worth a shot. Others may be geared to change once you start making any money, essentially robbing you of commissions due for sending motivated buyers to their merchants.

5. Sell unique or competitive products.

Don't be taken in by scams that get you to purchase a bunch of wholesale junk, and then try to sell it on Ebay. If you do plan on buying to resell online, do your homework. Find out who else is selling the same thing for how much they're charging. The most successful online merchants sell items that are unique or in such high demand that the market allows for a wide variety of sellers and prices.

6. Less clicks mean more customers.

The less complicated you make it for customers to purchase your products, the more you will sell. It's estimated that for every one click a customer executes to find or purchase your products, you can lose as little as ten or as many as one thousand sales. Make it easy for them, even if it's harder for you.

7. Expect the worst, enjoy the best.

A responsible real world merchant will be ready for major setbacks like natural disasters, thefts and personal injury lawsuits. Online merchants regularly face cancelled listings or withheld payments fueled by buyer complaints, website or payment processing outages and sudden search engine dropouts.

8. Selling is an art. Are you an artist?

Not everyone has the personality and skills needed to be a success at selling. Anyone who wants to sell online has to be able to translate his or her personality and skills into the digital world. If you are completely baffled by the internet and lack the time needed to learn what it's all about, becoming an online merchant would probably be a very bad idea.

The vast majority of people who try to make money online will never meet their own financial expectations. In most cases, the culprit will be poor planning. In others, bad execution. Overall, anyone planning a web-based business needs to approach his or her endeavor in a serious way. While optimism is always a good motivator, it cannot replace proper planning and risk assessment.

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