There was once a time when the only way to shop for things that you wanted or needed was to head into town or the city and look for the specific store you required. There were stores that specialized in just about anything that you might happen to need: hardware, auto parts, sewing materials, fly fishing supplies, pet food, maternity clothing. While all of these types of businesses still exist, there has been considerable consolidation in recent decades, and now with the Internet, the need to travel to these various stores is negated even further. Someone can log online and get their batteries, business apparel, and bottles of shampoo all in one go.
The fact is people like to shop regardless of the exact store they have to go to in order to get what they need. However, the ease with which they can obtain goods and services from the internet is something that is hard to overlook. The internet is such an efficient way for consumers to find what they are looking for that every year a larger and larger percentage of commerce is conducted online.
While all of this information provides compelling reasons to consider opening an online business to serve customers, there are some less obvious challenges that should be considered.
THE NEED FOR DISCIPLINE
The first thing that most people point to as a benefit of openinga business online is the fact that you instantly get to be your own boss and make money from home. People might also point to the fact that you can set your own hours and that you can select exactly how you want to set everything up in your business. This is usually true, but what is often left out is the fact that you will need to be disciplined in order to make this all work. You have to set your own schedule and expectations and hold yourself accountable. If you are not doing what you are supposed to, you will need the discipline to get back on task. You will suffer a loss in productivity but in profits as well. Bad service can quickly garner bad reviews, and particularly on the internet, word can travel fast.
THE CRAZY HOURS
Managing your own business (online or otherwise) is a lot of work. Ask any business owner and they will most likely tell you it is more work than a regular full-time job. Particularly when you have your business online, either in whole or in part, you can never truly punch in at 9am and leave at 5pm. Any workingperson’s dream is to have a job that gives freedom to do what you want. Keep in mind that an online business is open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You have to be prepared to answer questions and solve problems in a timely manner, or at least be able to point to someone who can. Particularly if you have customers emailing from other time zones, being available when they are online can be the difference that converts a potential customer.
THE NEED FOR TECH SUPPORT
Finally on the negative side, you will always have to concern yourself with the thought that it is entirely possible to have a computer glitch or other technological problem which causes your website to become unavailable or have some other issue. You may also be responsible for holding a lot of the personal information of your customers which can become a problem if there is ever a situation in which that data is lost or stolen. It is important when starting an online business to make sure that you have the best cybersecurity measures in place to ensure the safety of customer information and decrease your liability, and it is also important that either you or someone on your staff is available to troubleshoot tech issues for customers.
USE THE INTERNET TO EXTEND YOUR REACH
Of course there are a lot of upsides as well to having your business online. It can extend your reach to other parts of the world that may otherwise never be exposed to what you have to offer until they discover it online. The internet can be a nice launching pad for a great business—think of some of the great tech giants and businesses that exist today which started as little more than a small business run online from someone’s home. With the right product and services and some internet know-how, that can be your business as well.
If you do decide to run an online business make sure you have your expectations properly set. There is no reason to expect immediate success and huge amounts of money to fall into your lap; but at the same time, the potential to establish or grow a business through the internet is just a few mouse clicks away.