Digital entrepreneurship is the fastest growing work-at-home career going and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. If for no other reason, it has become a solid testimonial to the massive assortment of business opportunities available to those who own a computer and have the incentive to make money with it. It is the ease of getting started in these businesses that are their main selling point as well as what makes them so popular with aspiring online entrepreneurs.
For lack of a better description, the internet is the primary tool used to develop and operate a business opportunity and generate revenue. Basically, most online business models that exist today fall into one of these five categories:
Despite the dozens of business venues that exist online, there appears to be three endeavors that are at the head of the pack where the novice entrepreneur is concerned. These are Affiliate Programs, ePublications, and Traffic Exchanges, and they fall under category #’s 5, 3, and 1 respectively.
Affiliate Programs (also referred to as Affiliate Marketing) come in all shapes and sizes. For the most part, they are the best example of a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) revenue stream that you can find online. Affiliate Marketing is defined as “a web-based marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s marketing efforts.”
In most instances, affiliate programs involve either online retail store fronts or certain services such as internet providers or satellite television subscriptions. Membership fees that you pay the parent company supports your own fully functional website as well as a tutorial that instructs you on how the site operates, how to advertise and generate traffic to your site, and how to work the site in order to maximize your profits. The better programs (which obviously cost more) take care of the advertising and traffic generation for you.
In either situation, you have the opportunity to generate income two different ways. Your first revenue option is that you can earn commissions by retailing the products or getting subscribers to the service that you are offering. The other option involves signing up (or enlisting) other affiliates in what is referred to a downline. You earn money off of these signups as well as a percentage of the sales they generate and their enlistment endeavors, hence the MLM concept of the business.
Before moving on, I do want to caution you on the downside of affiliate programs/affiliate marketing. It’s a sad fact that not all of these endeavors are always honest and reputable. Some have been banned for failure to compensate their members. Others just disappear once you have earned a small return on your investment, only to reappear looking very similar but under a different name. The ones that I was always skeptical of are those that continually pitch you on spending more money on upgrading your membership or additional new money-making programs. In reality, the only real winner here is the person who owns the main site.
There are three forms of ePublications, namely eNewsletters, eZines, and eBooks, that can provide you with an income online, and you can do this one of two ways. The first way is to buy someone else’s eZine or eBook and resell it for your own profits. Believe it or not, there are hundreds of these out there to choose from and some sell for as little as $7 a piece. The trick to being successful with these is to constantly keep your inventory of product fresh and rotating. Unfortunately, these get old very quickly and your sales oftentimes come to a screeching halt. In addition to this, there are those publications that are not anywhere near the quality that the advertising portrays them to be. So be careful what ones you invest in.
The other revenue stream with ePublications involves publishing, renting, or selling your own content, and also provides you with two avenues of earning money as well. This requires having skills and talent as a writer and isn’t for everybody. One of the easiest ways to find out if you are remotely decent at writing is to join a content producing website that will pay you for your work, or a site where you can actually rent your articles to businesses who wish to use it. Chances are, if you sell or rent your content on a regular basis, you’re doing alright as a content producer. A word of caution here — there are some sites that purchase your content as exclusive or under “full rights” licensing.
When you sell your content under the guise of full rights, you no longer own the rights to your article once you sell it that way. And by law, you may never submit the article for publication to any other publication site unless you want to run the risk of copyright infringement. My advice to you is that if it doesn’t break your heart to do this then go for it. The benefit here is that you earn more money selling the content in this manner, but only once. Otherwise, either sell it as non-exclusive or rent it under “usage rights”, wherein you can rent it to as many customers as you want.
EZines and eBooks are a great way to go but they are time consuming and if you are not creative and skilled with the content you are writing, they can be very boring. Plus, they only generate revenue for you one way, namely by selling them. I have always contended that the best revenue streams result from producing content in the form of 500 to 2,000 word articles (that you can sell or rent more than once), or producing an eNewsletter on either a monthly, bi-monthly, or weekly basis.
There are several benefits to producing an eNewsletter. First and foremost, it is one of the best ways to brand and promote oneself and one’s business on the internet. Secondly, you have two options to help you pay for the publication and generate revenue, namely by developing a subscription base for the publication and by selling advertising space in it. Finally, where content is concerned, you don’t have to produce it all by yourself. Why? Because there are many individuals who are looking to brand and promote themselves and will gladly contribute content to the publication in order to gain exposure, mention the name of their business, and stroke their egos by displaying their expertise in print.
Last but not least is the Traffic Exchange. TE’s, as they are often referred to, are “websites that provide a service for webmasters in exchange for traffic”. However, I refer to these sites as a cheap avenue for the novice entrepreneur to advertise their businesses, products, or services online. Again you are confronted with two options where this form of business is concerned.
The first way of earning money from a TE is to treat it as a MLM vehicle. Join a TE (or more than one if you want), upgrade from a free to a paid membership (if you can), and then start building a downline that earns you commissions off of their efforts. Not only do you earn money, but your referral banner rotates with others and you earn visitors to your site that may join under you. That in turn will generate income for you as well.
Please understand something while we are on the subject of TE memberships. It isn’t a requirement that you upgrade to a paid membership, but the benefits of a paid one versus a free one are usually quite significant. Generally speaking, surfing ratios are lower and commissions are higher. In some cases you can generate enough commissions to pay your monthly membership fees and eventually an upgrade to a higher level which in turn will earn you more revenue.
The second option for earning money with TE’s is to create and operate your own. Again, this option isn’t for everyone either. You have to have a thorough working knowledge of graphic design, website management and mechanics, a high level of customer service ethics, and a ton of patience. So be careful before you embark on this journey.
On the other hand, if you have the finances to pay a designer and an administrative support person, that’s the way to go. This course of action results in the maximum benefit to you because you don’t share any earnings with a downline. But you will have tax implications to deal with so don’t overlook that when making your decisions on an online income opportunity.
Until the next time, good luck and I wish you continued success in all your endeavors.
Digital Entrepreneurship – Dr. Clyde Hull, RIT