I preach about anybody being able to compete with anyone on the Internet. You just need some hard work, something that people need and time (and perhaps some luck or the right group of people to spread the word about you). Many people don’t believe that though. They can’t see how they can compete, how they can stand out and be noticed and how they will make more than they spend?
Andy Budd has two good posts that address this thinking. Trying to compete on price as a small business against a chain with thousands of times the buying power is not going to work. So you need to compete on other factors, like service, selection or quality. You must also educate your customers about the benefits of paying a little more. Andy’s Why I Can’t Afford Cheap lays out a number of reasons why it is better to pay a little more, not only for the customer, but for the environment. Andy’s article Don’t treat your website like a commodity, while focused on website design and standing out, applies to the business as well. Having a unique product reduces your marketing because word-of-mouth is so much greater. These two ideas are important to consider when planning an entry onto the web.
The attitudes that seem prevalent with business people launching websites is they can’t compete or they are going to make themselves millionaires. If the web is to supplement an existing business, not be a stand-alone web enterprise, then the goal should be to supplement the business, not get rich quick. Having some base success is hard enough and higher expectations without any plan to accomplish it will result in failure. Topical websites/blogs supported by advertising have become all the rage with many people setting up multiple sites and trying to drive traffic to increase revenue. They produce these “Top X Ways to…” articles with information regurgitated from elsewhere to get noticed. A few may be able to make a comfortable living, or even well off, but is it sustainable? If everyone follows their formula, there would be a flood of crap content and no one interested in reading it; it would collapse under it’s own weight. My advice is to forget about trying to make money for doing the littlest possible, find something you enjoy and do it well and real success will come from the real people who are your customers.