I’ve still had limited success with my first attempt at business online. I like to say “limited success” instead of “complete failure” for a couple reasons:
- Positive thinking.
- I did actually have a customer, and many more with whom I interacted but ended up not purchasing anything. So, even though I didn’t make any money after counting hosting expenses (not to mention personal time spent), at least I have some kind of income for my personal balance sheet.
- It’s not dead, it’s just not taking off as quickly as I hoped. I’ll keep updating things occasionally, placing some low-cost Adwords ads, and fulfilling the orders of any customers who happen to show up at my virtual door. It costs me virtually nothing to do this, and may eventually lead to me getting a good enough online marketing pitch, smart enough Adwords ads, and high enough search engine ranking to have a profitable company.
- I’ve learned a lot (and I’m not just saying that). As far as technical subject matter, I’ve learned a ton about making websites, using a blog/content management package (like WordPress) vs. manually coding my own site, making online submission forms (hint: use FormMail!), navigating Adwords, search engine optimization (SEO)*, etc. These are all things that would be useful for just about any business owner to know something about, even for a business that isn’t based on the internet.
I’ve also learned some valuable lessons about business in general. For one thing, there are some serious downsides to offering a discount product. Beyond the obvious fact that you don’t make as much money per unit, you also aren’t leaving yourself much room for “cost-of-sale”** expenses. Expenses that aren’t associated with each sale (like a billboard or a Super Bowl ad) can be covered by a high volume of sales, but not so with cost-of-sale expenses. In my case, the big cost-of-sale expense was pay-per-click advertising (Google Adwords); ads with good placement just plain cost too much to make any sense for a really affordable product. This may seem obvious, but I didn’t really think about it, and I should have considered it much earlier in my planning of a low cost product. Now I know first hand, and I won’t forget it.
I also got to see first hand that low risk tends to equal low reward. I didn’t really risk much, so it’s not really surprising that I didn’t gain much.
Then there’s the important matter of persistence. I’m learning to learn from mistakes without discouragement, which could be one of the most important things a person can learn. I believe Winston Churchill said something along the lines of, “Success is facing one failure after another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Wise words. If nothing else, you’ll have more fun if you stay enthusiastic.
So, anyway, I’m keeping this first business running on low-input mode, but I’m also moving on (thus the first part of the title of the post). Specifically, I’ve moved to the next thing on my idea list. As with my first business, I’m going to be vague about what I’m doing, both to keep my idea safe and to keep my anonymity at least a little bit. Here’s how this idea compares and contrasts with the first one:
- This is also a mainly “internet business”, meaning that there will be no point of sale.
- It’s also offering a service, meaning that there is no physical inventory or thing to ship.
- Unlike the first idea, this is something that I’m really an expert in from my previous career, so I’m able to offer something unique.
- Also unlike the first idea, this is something that I feel strongly about (namely corporate responsibility and environmental sustainability). I would consider doing this even if I didn’t have to make money, so I’m bringing a lot more passion to this.
- This will take a lot more time and effort to get started, but there’s also the chance that I’m building something big here.
I’ve already been laying the ground work for months, including before and after work while I was still working a “normal” job. (Like I said, I’m passionate about this idea.) I’m hoping to have something in place within about a month.
Besides trying to start companies, I’ve decided to buy a little bit of some companies that already exist. In other words, I bought a couple stocks. I’ll talk more about my learning process and how I’m trying to choose stocks later. It’s exciting stuff!
* I haven’t applied any of that SEO knowledge to this blog yet, but it might be interesting to actually have readers (and maybe I could make a buck or two off of ads), so I might do that later. And of course, when I do that, I’ll write about it on the blog.
** I’ve also been reading up on accounting a little bit. I’m far from being an expert, or really even understanding most of what accountants do, but I think I’m picking up the important concepts for any business owner. I’ll have to post about that, too.