How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur on the Web

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How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur on the Web

By: Will Spencer

Becoming a successful entrepreneur in the online world is no different than becoming a successful entrepreneur in the brick-and-mortar world. Both tasks require vision, determination, and hard work.

The online world of the web offers many exciting opportunities for entrepreneurship because it is fresh, new, and exciting. The cutting edge of development has always been the most fertile ground for growing a new enterprise. In the 1800's, the new frontier was the American west and many fortunes were made there. In the 2000's, the new frontier is the web, where many fortunes have yet to be made.

Jeff Bezos of is worth 4.) 85 billion dollars. Pierre Omidyar of eBay is worth just over seven billion dollars. David Filo and Jerry Yang of Yahoo are both billionaires. These men made fortunes on the web, and so can you.

The path to becoming a successful online entrepreneur has changed in the last few years. The over-optimism which characterized the late '90s and ultimately led to the subsequent crash in the technology sector has matured into a cautious and reasonable optimism grounded in traditional business values.

The party is over; it's time to get to work.

What Are You Going to Sell?

The #1 thing you need to succeed in business is the customer. Whether you have one customer, fifty customers, or millions of customers, it is critical to remember that customers are the foundation of any business. Without customers, you don't have a business; you have a hobby.

Going into an online business, people usually either know what they want to sell or know how they want to sell it. If the online business is an extension of a brick-and-mortar business, the entrepreneur knows what he or she has to sell and is looking for a new channel for their good and services. If the entrepreneur is looking to start a new business online, they may not yet know what product or service will offer the best opportunities for success.

Product or Service

Every business sells either products or services, a few businesses sell both. Products are easier to sell online because they can be more easily commoditized. People have become comfortable buying known commodities online. Services which are sold online are sometimes delivered online and sometimes delivered offline.

Selling Services Online

If you choose to sell services, the next decision to consider is how the services you sell will be provided. You can choose to:

  • Sell your own services
  • Sell the services of others
  • Sell an automated service

Selling Your Own Services Online

Each of us has specific talents, abilities, and skills which can be useful to other people. These things which we have can be offered to others over the web. Perhaps you are a lawyer, a web designer, or a painter. It should be the easiest thing in the world to create a web page to tell the world about who you are and what you can do for them.

The key to success in selling your own services over the web is to focus on the needs of your customer. For every sentence you write about yourself online, write an entire page about what you can do for your customers.

Selling the Services of Others

Selling the services of others allows us to leverage a larger workforce, and ultimately to build revenue more quickly.

Perhaps you run a lawn-care business where you sell monthly lawn-care packages to home-owners. Your lawn-care staff may be employees, or they may be independent subcontractors who do business with you at pre-negotiated rates. In fact, you may not be in the lawn-care business at all, you may simply be in the business of being paid for generating referrals to existing lawn care firms.

Selling Automated Online Services

Selling automated online services presents a very lucrative business proposition, because it represents a potential revenue stream with very low maintenance costs. The trade-off is often in the form of considerable up-front development cost.

If you have the right idea, and the determination to follow it through to a successful conclusion, there can be no better business opportunity than selling an automated online service.

The first step, of course, is to determine what people want and what people are willing to pay for. Will people pay $9.) 95 for an online personality test? Will they pay $19.) 95 for an online personal wardrobe analysis? What would someone pay for a personalized online horoscope? How about an automated resume writing tool?

Selling Products Online

If you choose to sell products, you are not limited to selling products which you manufacture. If you are already in the manufacturing business, that is a significant advantage and the web is an excellent sales outlet for many products.

Greater opportunities exist for the rest of us by working with the distribution channel. We may buy products from manufacturers and sell then over the web, or we may buy products from wholesale distributors and sell them over the web.

We may inventory our products and oversee their shipment to customers, or we may send a request to have the products drop-shipped from our suppliers to our customers. We may never even see the products we sell.

Setting up IT

Information technology is daunting to many entrepreneurs. Each little sub-field of IT has its own culture and terminology. It is difficult for the novice to understand all of the jargon and to determine truth from hype.

You will not be successful if you try to separate yourself completely from the technology, but you will also not be successful if you immerse yourself in it. You must understand IT decisions from a business level in the same way they you understand decisions which your business makes in terms of setting prices or acquiring real estate.

The most obvious need for your new online business will be a company web site. This will introduce you to the professionals known as web designers. If your business sells more than a few products online, you will also have to work with database administrators. If you want to sell an automated service online, you will find yourself working with software architects and software developers.

From there you will learn about shared and dedicated hosting and about the plethora of services (and pricing) available to you as a hosting customer.

The key in these communications is that each of these professionals owes you, as their customer a clear explanation of the business value which they are providing for the money which you are paying them. This may be an unfamiliar concept to many techies who grew up in the public school system. Remember, there are always more vendors for a willing customer.

In many ways, IT is the easiest challenge you will face, because so many entrepreneurs have trodden the path before you. An entire industry exists to market IT services to entrepreneurs. You only have to decide what to buy.

Selling Online - Successfully

Once your have negotiated with your suppliers and you have you distribution system arranged -- now comes the difficult part. Now you must bridge the gap between your business and your customers.

Most Internet traffic is currently brokered by search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN. To do well in business on the Internet, you must do well in the search engines.

This means appearing very early in the search results for the key words or phrases your potential customers will use to shop for your good or services.

Very few potential customers will look for you by name. You must determine the phrases which potential customers will type into the search engines and make sure that you rank well in the result listings for those phrases. Product types or names are common search phrases, such as "sleeping bags" or "bumper stickers." Key phrases for services often include a geographic component, such as "real estate kansas city" or "house painter colorado springs."

Once your key phrases are defined, you must make certain that your company's web presence is optimized for those phrases. This consist of two sets of tasks: on-site optimization and off-site optimization.

On-site optimization is designing your web site to be focused on those key phrases. This is where your web site designer will work with a professional in the field of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Off-site optimization consists of networking with others in your field to make sure they know about your web site -- and that they link to your web site. The top search engines use the number of links to a web site as one of the criteria for determining which web sites to rank highly in the search results. A SEO specialist can help you in this task, but no one will know your industry as well as you.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is critical to the success of an online business. The difference between ranking third and thirtieth for your key phrase is significant revenue for your business.

For more information on Search Engine Optimization, visit the Internet Search Engines FAQ at

The eBay Alternative

The tasks involved in setting up a web site and driving traffic towards it can be time consuming and resource intensive for a small business. The time delay imposed by website development and search engine marketing can require many months to begin to deliver ROI.

Many web entrepreneurs use eBay and other online auction houses to short-cut this process and begin selling to online customers almost immediately.

On eBay, you create auctions for the products you are selling and potential buyers bid to determine what they will pay. You are able to set minimum prices to ensure that you will not sell products at prices below your necessary profit margin. You are also able to set up dutch auctions where you are able to sell large quantities of the same item.

For more information on starting an eBay business, visit at


The options involved in becoming a successful entrepreneur on the web are extensive. Picking the right path for you own journey is your first step on the road to online success.

About The Author

Will Spencer is the webmaster of Entrepreneur Support.


caz111175 27.02.2008. 15:18

How do you become a virtual office assistant? I would like to work from home. I have always worked in an office environment and have vast experience. I've seen companies on the net advertise virtual pa's and office support, how do you become one yourself?


Admin 27.02.2008. 15:18

Hi there! Well, I'll give you the real answer! :) I am a virtual assistant and run a successful practice from Brisbane, Australia. I have been in business (yes, REAL business) since 2000 and provide services to clients all around the world.

A virtual assistant is an entrepreneur business owner who has generally transitioned years in corporate settings and who has experience with technologies that enable work to be completed remotely. This includes digital transcription software and VoIP technologies like web conferencing rooms and Skype.

Whilst there are "training" and "coaching" courses offered online in my experience if you already have the skills and equipment then you have what it takes to get started. You do need to add to that though the ability to "run a business" - meaning you need to do all the groundwork applicable to your location to set up a business, get appropriate registrations, business cards and then promote, promote, promote! Whilst you provide services remotely, you DO need to let people know you're around!

VAs are self-employed - not employed by others - so you'll be working for yourself: meaning you'll have to FIND that work for yourself.

I always advise 'newbies' that they should try to find the one thing they do that's a core skill: it might be web design, bookkeeping, or transcription - and then market that skill to your local business community. You may also have experience in a particular industry, so market to that industry specifically. Start with your contacts, as well as friends, family and anyone else you know who can get the word out about what you are doing.

Join local chambers of commerce and other business networks in your area. And also join online virtual assistant networks. I've included some source links below for you.

As well as owning my own VA practice, I also run the Australian Virtual Business Network which is for seasoned virtual business owners. We also have a group here at Yahoo that is free to join for newbies who are interested in getting started. There are lots of others too. The AVBN runs webinars each year on topics of interest to anyone in business - you might like to check those.

I am also on the steering committee of the Online International VA Convention - which is held in May each year. There will be loads of information there for you on getting started and other things you need to know.

So I'm here to tell you it can be done and you can be very successful at it - and I'm happy to answer any further questions you might have. My sites are also included in resources should you wish to contact me that way.

Lyn Prowse-Bishop, MVA ASO CAVB


neenerneener 02.07.2006. 17:37

What goes into starting a retail-type web based business? I have had interest in starting a retail kind of web business for sometime and would like information on the requirements, etc. Any links, or books one could reccomend are welcome!
Thanks in advance!


Admin 02.07.2006. 17:37

The best routes to take are to research the process of starting a business as well as the industry you're interested in.

I recommend checking out the SBA, Entrepreneur, The Start Up Journal & Nolo. All 4 are great informational resources for the new/small business owner. I posted links for you in the source box.

Associations may be a good avenue to explore as well. These organizations will address many of the thoughts, questions and concerns you'll inevitably have as well as many you haven't anticipated yet. See the source box for some relevant links.

Research, research, research ? this cannot be stressed enough. Read as much as you can about the industry. Here are some book titles that are relevant:

* Selling Online: How to Become a Successful E-Commerce Merchant by Jim Carroll, Rick Broadhead
* The Complete E-Commerce Book: Design, Build, and Maintain a Successful Web-Based Business by Janice Reynolds
* Intelligent Selling: The Art & Science of Selling Online by Ken Burke
* E-Commerce for Dummies by Don Jones

There are plenty of free informational resources out there. Check the source box for links to articles.

Hope that helps! I wish you much success & happiness in all your ventures!


Rowena S 17.11.2006. 01:19

What are all the steps involved in starting your own online business? I currently have my own website and I have a bunch of stuff I want to include in the store. I am also aware of the tools I need to actually get the business on the internet, however, I am unsure if I need to make the business "official" since it will be online only. Like do I need to get a federal identification number? Do I have to become a type of company ie., corporation, LLC etc. Do I need to get some kind of special license? Do I need to write a business plan? Can I still go to a bank for a business loan? If so, what type of information should I bring or have in place before I go?

Rowena S

Admin 17.11.2006. 01:19

The best routes to take are to research the process of starting a business as well as the industry you're interested in.

I recommend checking out the SBA, Entrepreneur, The Start Up Journal & Nolo. All 4 are great informational resources for the new/small business owner. I posted links for you in the source box.

Research, research, research ? this cannot be stressed enough. Read as much as you can. Here are some book titles that are relevant:

* Starting an Online Business For Dummies, 4th Edition by Greg Holden
* How to Start and Maintain A Successful Online Business by Kelly Thornton
* The Complete E-Commerce Book: Design, Build, and Maintain a Successful Web-Based Business by Janice Reynolds

There are plenty of free informational resources out there. Check the source box for links to articles.

Hope that helps! I wish you much success & happiness in all your ventures!


imisidro 15.01.2007. 18:30

How can small businesses use social networking sites such as MySpace? MySpace, Facebook and other social networks have become extremely popular on the Web. How can small businesses develop a presence on these social networks? How can small businesses use these sites to get customers? Examples of successful small business entrepreneurs using these social networking sites will be appreciated.


Admin 15.01.2007. 18:30

I've actually contemplated creating a MySpace for the business but have hesitated mostly due to the very nature of MySpace. It's primarily, as you state, a social networking site that's really geared towards person-to-person socialization.

I also think that the nature of the small business will determine if a valid presence can be made or not. For example, businesses geared towards the entertainment industries may fare better than say insurance companies due to the inordinate amount of musicians, wanna be models & actors on MySpace.

There are a few avenues on MySpace that may be worth exploring:

1) Groups: Create a group centered around your small business. Recruit members, encourage discussion, publish posts, etc.

2) Events: Create an event centered around your business, be it in a physical location or out in the virtual world.

3) Classifieds: Pretty self-explanatory

Hmm, now that I took some time to devote some thought to it, I may look into MySpace again. Thanks for the inspiration imisidro!

The social network sites that seem to be more advantageous to small businesses are Squidoo, Ryze & LinkedIn. I'm a member of all three but admittedly have not had much time to devote to exploration.

I'm not familiar with any successful small business entrepreneurs using MySpace or Facebook. Sorry I can't help you there.

Hope that helps!


John 28.06.2013. 20:13

Geology vs Computer Science which major is better? I am going to college, and I don't know what major to pick. I am highly interested in computer science, but I am more interested in geology. I love computer programming, and I was going to use the computer science degree to become a web entrepreneur. I love geology but my parents think it is useless, and that I would never be successful with a geology degree. Could you give me opinions on what degree I should pick and why I should pick it? Thank you for any advice.


Admin 28.06.2013. 20:13

Your condition is exactly same as mine. I told my parents that I'm not choosing a major just for a job, but because it's gonna be my career. I chose Geology, as I'm interested in working in the field and can't sit infront of computers for the whole day. Even the jobs in the field of Geology requires you to work on computers (Not just basic software, there are some advanced programs).
Just try to understand what you really like. Your interest on computers may be because of curiosity in internet life, or your interest in Geology may be because of some glittering stones. Don't think about job while choosing career, it will most probably lead you towards a wrong option.


nicolassavovic 11.09.2006. 14:23

Where can I find resources in order to become an entrepeneur? I would like to start my own business. Anybody knows where I can find the best literature for this project? Like for example, which are the best magazines, books, websites on ideas and startup steps? I have heard of Entrepeneur and Small Biz Magazines, are there any others? That don't only focus on franchises?


Admin 11.09.2006. 14:23

I recommend that you read the following books:

- What No One Ever Tells You About Starting Your Own Business : Real Life Start-Up Advice from 101 Successful Entrepreneurs
- Starting From Scratch: How To Start A Business When You Don't Have Money
- If You're Clueless About Starting Your Own Business and Want to Know More
- On the Move : How to Succeed and Survive As an Entrepreneur
- How to Make 1000 Mistakes in Business and Still Succeed

As for magazines, it depends on what is the focus of your business but here are some general ones

Entrepreneur Magazine
Inc Magazine
Internet Retailer (if you're going to sell on the Web)
Home Business Magazine

If you need guidance in starting a business, there are several places that provide help to starting entrepreneurs. Here are places where you may be able to find a mentor:

- Government Mentoring Programs such as SBDCs, which works with community colleges and local business development councils to offer mentoring programs ; or the Women's Network for Entrepreneurial Training
- Volunteer programs such as SCORE which is composed of mostly retired executives and entrepreneurs
- Formal mentoring programs such as Athena Foundation , Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program , or The Aspen Institute MicroMentor Program
- Professional organizations such as the National Women?s Business Council
- Industry and trade associations
- Local business groups, such as the chamber of commerce
- Local chapters of business groups

There is so much to learn about starting a business that it is hard to put everything here. I suggest that you to check out the following websites and learn from their content:



Nikki 17.04.2008. 19:04

I am looking to become a travel agent, anyone heard anything about Global Travel International? I have heard wonderfu lthings about YTB and was leaning that way and then someone mentioned to me about GTI {Global Travel International.} Obviously I want to get with a reputible company that I can succeed with. GTI did provide a BBB Report to be seen. Anyone have any imput on these comapnies? I need help to make a decision! Thank you all in advance!


Admin 17.04.2008. 19:04

Hi Niki, YTB Is A Well Established, 7 Yr Old, Debt Free, Publicly Traded Company With A Guaranteed, Bonded Copywritten Compensation Plan That Increases Every Year, 28th Largest Travel Agency..11th In Leisure Travel, Revenue Growth 177%..$141 Million & Continuing To Grow Strongly..Over 300,00 People..150,000 Who Are Agents, Up Over 150% From Jan 2007. (60,000 Agents)

Received The Highest Awards 3 Years In A Row From Carnival Cruise Lines..On November 8th, 2007 Booked Over 12,000 Cruises In One Day! In January 2005, Received The Platium Award From Apple Vacations, Was Voted One Of The Top 500 Franchise Companies by Entrepreneur Magazine, In "SUCCESS FROM HOME MAGAZINE" Twice.. All 128 Pages Of The January 2008 Issue & In All 130 Pages Of The January 2007 Issue, Approved By The Direct Sellers Association. (DSA) & In Other Press Releases 73 Times..Most Receint..Today..4/17/08, In Every State, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Bahamas, Opening In Other Countries Later This Year. Global Travel Pays Less Commissions & Does Not Give You A Check Until You Earn $50. With YTB You Receive..25 Web Sites, Pays You Many Different Ways..Even At $10. You Can Also Start For Free As A Rep, Receive Health Benefits & Earn More Income Get Paid Sooner!! See The YTB Support Information Group Established To Help People Become Successful:


Suz E. Home BAKER 29.08.2009. 20:40

Do you really have to have a college degree and culinary certificate to have a successful bakery? I am mostly self taught and I plan on taking more classes on cake decorating. Ultimately, I'd like to construct and design cakes in my own bakery. Anyone out there know about this?

Suz E.    Home             BAKER

Admin 29.08.2009. 20:40

Having been very successful in various businesses, I can give you a very definite "maybe".

The beauty of running your own business is that unless you are going into a field that requires special licensing for legal purposes (dentist, electrician, hair dresser, etc.) you probably don't need a degree. This is especially true if your chosen field is more creative and less technical. You just need to be able to provide what a customer is looking for. I ran a very successful web design company for a couple of years just by reading books on the subject.

There are two benefits to getting a degree. Both of which are helpful, but neither is required.
1) Credibility - Having a diploma to hang on the wall behind the counter will probably help you in situations where there is competition from other bakeries. But if you're the only show in town you probably don't have anything to worry about as far as that goes. People will come to you if they need your product.
2) If you are seeking financing for your business, investors will want to know that you are qualified to perform the task at hand and won't just skip town with their money. A degree will help prove that you're serious.

If you're up for advice, I would highly recommend a book called "The E-Myth Revisited" by Michael Gerber. You should also study anything about business you can. See if your community has a SCORE chapter. You can check at They help guide new businesses and in most communities it's 100% free.

Whether you decide to pursue a degree or not, I wish you the best of luck. There are plenty of people who can help if you ask. Entrepreneurs helped make America great. Congratulations on your decision to become one!

(And no, I don't have a degree either.)


Jgil90 20.12.2011. 02:42

What degree is best to be a entrepreneur? Would either a business management degree, a bba, or a accounting degree be best to learn how to write a good business plan and how to start and manage a business?


Admin 20.12.2011. 02:42

Here is how to study to be an entrepreneur in terms of what education is required.

1) Think about what type of business you want to run. Determine whether or not you need a formal education to succeed in that particular field. Decide if their are certain business courses that may help you become more successful in your chosen profession. Search the Internet for online business courses. Start taking some courses on line or enroll in some adult business education courses.

2) Apply for college as a business major or enroll as a professional in a business school. Take courses in marketing so you can learn how to target specific customers through market research and develop marketing strategies to circumvent the competition. Take an advertising course so you can learn how to promote a business through various media. Study methods of raising capital for a business in finance; and take management so you can learn how to hire, train and manage employees.

3) Take technical courses such as computer programming or web design if you plan to run a more technically oriented business. Get a double major if you need a more technical degree. Take at least one course in business law.
Complete your business degree.

4) Hone your communication skills after college by taking business writing and communication courses. Learn basic computer skills by taking both beginning and intermediate courses in Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Attend seminars to learn proper techniques in developing and presenting business information.

5) Apply for graduate school through an online institution or at a university. Choose a field of study that is most closely related to the type of business you plan to own: marketing, management information systems or even entrepreneurial studies. Learn all that you can about your field of study. Take courses in all business areas such as finance, economics, managerial accounting, research methods, consumer and organizational behavior, and marketing strategies. Think about how each course will affect your future business. Take notes on a laptop in all of your classes. Organize these notes into specific files that you can later use for your business.


jsjry 15.11.2006. 16:37

How can I join, or create a network of new entrepreneurs/business real estate investors in NJ or NY? I'm just about to get started. For the past year I have been mentally preparing myself to become a business owner / real estate investor. I have been reading books, listening to CD's, and learning of the accomplishments of some of the most successful people of the yesterday and today, people like Dale Carnegie, Robert Kiyosaki, Earl Nightingale, Dolf Deroos and etc.... I have read and studied about many very successful companies. I just purchased an existing business, and taking the leap. I would greatly like to increase my leadership and networking skills. Also, I'm always looking for knew forms of education when it comes to personal development, business, and investing, I'll study anything, so any shared experiences would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to help.


Admin 15.11.2006. 16:37

I think using this kind of website is one of ways to create a network. I am interested in being in your network. I don't think you should narrow your network within only NJ and NY. Why don't you talk to people outside of your area. This is World Wide Web, why don't you use the best part of the future?


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