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E-Commerce and Internet Businesses to Start Straight from Your Home Office

business ecommerce opps                                          By Priscilla Y. Huff

Many service-type businesses are successfully finding new customers through their web sites. Here is a sampling of e-commerce business ideas from which you might choose to start or to inspire you to launch a unique one of your own.

1. Customized Graphic Designs

Graphic designers supply business owners, promotional products companies, organizations, professionals, and/or consumers with designs for signs, web graphics, logos, promotional materials, presentations, film projects, special events, and other design needs. In starting out, solo designers often work on joint projects with other independent professionals while seeking their best niche markets.

Success Tips: Experience, education, and/or training in graphic design will qualify you and help you decide a business specialization. Utilize a well-written business plan and invest in high-quality technology and software. Maximize Internet marketing opportunities to attract customers. Build a strong customer base by providing quality service, products, and specialized customer service.

Suggested Resources:

*Graphic Artists Guild – www.gag.org – ethics; pricing handbook.*Start & Run a Graphic

Design Business by Michael Huggins.

2. Computer Support Online

Computer consultants help business owners and professionals stay productive and save money by keeping their office technology running efficiently; plus assist clients in choosing the best hardware and software for their needs. With online support, clients can get your help 24-7, receive regular tips, and participate in your online classes or webinars.

Success Tips: Market with direct mailings to local businesses, schools, and organizations and through your interactive web site. Send regular e-zines to clients and reward their referrals. Network with other computer consultants for referrals, leads, and to call on if you should need their additional expertise.

Suggested Resources:

*Independent Computer Consultants Association – www.icca.org/ – chapters, membership referrals.

Getting Started as an Independent Computer Consultant by Mitch Paioff.

3. E-Publishing: Blogs, E-Books, and E-Newsletters

Many major magazine and book publishers reject writers’ book proposals, because their potential readership is too small to be profitable. With the Internet, writers can reach niche readers with their own basic web sites and make more money selling electronic books, e-zine subscriptions, or self-publishing (print) books through print-on-demand companies.

Success Tips: Conduct market research before publishing your work to see if a potential readership exists and what they would be willing to pay. If you are successful in your field and a recognized expert, you will already have a good potential market. Writing articles in trade publications, public speaking, and directing workshops help build a paying following.

Suggested Resources:

*The Easy Way to Write and Sell E-Books by Kristina Seleshanko.

*Profitable E-mail Publishing: How To Publish A Profitable Emag by Angela Adair-Hoy.

4. Green-‘Tailing

Despite the recession (or maybe it has helped propel the movement), more people and business owners around the world are “going green,” in their consumption and production of products and services in order to save our world from permanent pollution; and to save money.

Success Tips: Research items or service-related products with which you are familiar and to see what environmentally-friendly items or services you can sell to a particular market. Promote your site with articles, social networking sites, and press releases to announce new products; and/or “green” community causes that you can support using your business’ offerings.

Suggested Resource:

*GreenBiz.com – Green business information; free e-newsletters.

5. Online Auction Specialist

If you have had success in selling through e-Bay or on other online auction sites, offer to sell clients’ collectibles or specialty items on consignment, and include or charge separately for market value appraisals; photos of items; listing and copywriting; and packing and shipping. Use your web site to list the items in which you specialize and your terms. Post photos of successfully-sold items and regular online auction news and selling tips.

Success Tips – Contact estate lawyers and network with non-competing online auction specialists for leads. Reward customers’ referrals with discounts. Stay current with collecting and online auction trends; and use consignment software for organization. Assist nonprofit organizations with fundraising and online charity auctions to promote community good will and publicity.

Suggested Resources

*Ecommercebytes.com/ – online ecommerce industry news; technology reviews.

*How to Start and Run an eBay Consignment Business by Skip McGrath.

6. Internet Technologist Recruiter

Business owners need the expertise of qualified Internet technologists to keep pace with their competitors, especially in slow economic times. Using online, newspaper, and trade journal ads; college and university job placement offices; job fairs; and networking referrals, recruiter specialists search and screen for skilled workers or independent contractors that best meet their clients’ criteria.

Success Tips: As an executive research recruiter, proving the value of your expertise to your clients with high-quality service and results will earn you commanding fees. Distinguish yourself from competitors with a strong Internet presence and a professional-looking web site that is both a resource for clients and a contact source for job-seeking Internet technologists.

Suggested Resources

*The Association for Internet Recruiting (AIRs) – www.recruitersnetwork.com/ – free, information resource for human-resource professionals, recruiters, hiring managers.

7. Marketing Specialist, Virtual

In recessions, regular clients need marketing experts’ advice to find new customers or develop additional, spin-off income sources; while owners of new start-ups and independent professionals use their expertise to implement a combination of affordable business-building tactics. You and your staff can use the Internet for ongoing, client consultations to create strategic plans to help them reach their target markets.

Success Tips: Having a web site helps your business appear as large as your competitors’. Use your site to post your clients’ successes and testimonials; and to stay in touch with them through regular e-communications, tips and news. Focus on your customers’ needs and how your expertise will help them overcome their biggest challenges and achieve their goals.

Suggested Resources

*American Marketing Association – www.marketingpower.com – professional membership.

*Internet Marketing Methods Revealed: The Complete Guide to Becoming an Internet Marketing Expert by Miguel Todaro.

8. Niche Hobby Supplier

With the endless number of hobbies people engage in, there is always a market for new or gently-used, related accessories or equipment. Having a web site to sell these items enables you reach potential buyers who may participate in less well-known hobbies or pursuits.

Success Tips – Many successful sellers started selling hobby supplies based on their own experiences in searching for hard-to-find related products and items and know the “insider” needs of their potential customers. Offering tips and articles on your web site and sending e-mails or e-zines for both beginners and experienced hobbyists will foster repeat business.

Suggested Resources

*Mastering Niche Marketing: A Definitive Guide to Profiting From Ideas in a Competitive Market by Eric V. Van Der Hope.

*The Ultimate Lead Generation Plan: Discover a Proven, but Little-Known System to Tap into Your Niche Market,… by Matt Bacak, Mike Litman.

9. Stock Photo Sales

Business owners, writers, organizations, tourist bureaus, web designers, and stock photo agencies know that photos help attract web site visitors and potential buyers. Use your web site as an online sampling of your stock photos. Use an FTP site to forward images to customers who have purchased them; and/or use discs to send them high-resolution images.

Success Tips: This is a competitive industry, so make sure your photographic skills and knowledge are at a professional level. Start on a part-time basis to learn about the industry and build your business; to test-market your photos’ salability; and to discover your best customers. Purchase good, used equipment and software until you can afford to upgrade. Market many photos and be persistent.

Suggested Resources

*Digital Stock Photography: How to Shoot and Sell by Michal Heron.

*Photographer’s Market (Annual). Writer’s Digest Books.

10. Teaching-Tutoring, Online

With today’s Internet technology and software, qualified experts and educators in every profession and industry are making good incomes with online learning—offering courses, live seminars, training sessions, coaching, counseling, tutoring, and other types of virtual instruction.

Success Tips: Based on your qualifications and background, decide what type of instruction you can offer potential learners/customers that stands out from competitors. Post your resume’ of career achievements, and testimonials from successful students on your web site to attract potential learners. Sell downloadable, related e-products for additional, sideline/residual profits.

Suggested Resources

*How to Make Money Teaching Online With Your Camcorder and PC: 25 Practical and Creative How-To Start-Ups To Teach Online by Anne Hart.

*Lessons from the Cyberspace Classroom: The Realities of Online Teaching by Rena M. Palloff and H. Keith Pratt.

11. Transcription Services – Medical and Legal

Physicians and other health care professionals often use independent medical transcribers to listen to their dictated recordings and transcribe them into medical reports and e-documents. Freelance court reporters also frequently subcontract independent scopists to review their audiotapes, notes, and documents, and to produce proofread transcripts. Home-based transcribers regularly use the Internet to receive the dictation and return transcribed reports.

Success Tips: Independent medical and legal transcribers need several years of training, education, and work experience, plus have the profession’s technology to do assigned work. Accuracy, flexibility, and knowledge of the terminology and specific technology are necessary for success. Market to medical and legal firms with direct mailings, and get leads from networking referrals. Hire experts to help you set up your computer, install software, and create your Internet connection and web site capabilities so you can work at home.

Suggested Resources

*The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHD) – www.ahdionline.org.

*National Court Reporters Assn. – http://www.ncra.org/– professional membership.

12. Translation Services

As the numbers of new, worldwide Internet users increase daily, so does the need for professional translator services to help business owners, organizations, and professionals expand their markets overseas; and communicate to them in different languages. Professional translators are usually accredited and have degrees in their specializations.

Success Tips: Previous experience will help prepare you for contracted projects. Use your web site to highlight your credentials, experience, expertise, rates, and other relevant information. Join industry associations to stay current with trends, and network with other translators for tips and leads.

Suggested Resources

*Becoming a Translator by Douglas Robinson.

*American Translators Association – www.atanet.org/ – seminars, accreditation, and publications.

13. Virtual Office Support Services

Virtual assistants, (VAs), are “cyber-partners,” that provide online and telecommunication support to professionals, solo entrepreneurs, authors, and business owners who cannot afford or need a full-time staff. VA’s often focus in certain fields, and their goals are to efficiently execute, time-consuming tasks so their clients can focus on their key business issues.

Success Tips: Decide on the services you wish to provide, research the types of businesses or professionals who could use these, and then market to them using direct mail and emails. Post testimonials of satisfied clients on your web site; plus encourage their referrals. Enroll in VA courses for how-to start-up information and certification

Suggested Resources

*International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) – professional standards, certification.

*Virtual Assistant, The Series: Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA by Diana Ennen and Kelly Poelker.

14. Web Freelance Writing

Internet experts say well-written web site content is important to attract repeat visitors. Business owners, professionals, and organizations use qualified writers to supply information, marketing copy, and timely articles in their blogs and social networks. Additional online writing gigs can include writing columns, ad copy, feature articles, and business profiles.

Success Tips: Successful web writers write concisely and precisely, and they know the audiences for whom they are writing, including the style and terminology. Network in writers’ online forums for leads and referrals. Use your own web site to exhibit your writing samples, provide contact information; and/or to sell sideline writing products and/or online classes.

Suggested Resource:

*www.MediaBistro.com – freelance online job listings.

15. Website Proofreading

Web site proofreaders provide business owners, professionals, authors, organizations, and web designers with a review of their sites’ posted articles, e-mails, and e-newsletters for grammatical and spelling errors and for general content overview. Some proofreaders will also “ghost” write articles or provide advertising copy.

Success Tips: Establish yourself as an expert by having experience in web writing, plus the schooling and credentials to qualify you to edit and proofread web content. Market your services to local business owners’ organizations and to industry associations in which you have worked, and know their terminology.

Suggested Resource:

*Copyediting & Proofreading For Dummies by Suzanne Gilad.

Take time to thoroughly research your potential online business ideas with the suggested resources. You will have a better chance to discover your ideal virtual venture and execute the essential business start-up steps that will ensure your future worldwide, home-based e-commerce success. HBM

Priscilla Y. Huff (www.PYHuff.com) welcomes comments on Twitter.

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