The internet seems to be full of people who think that the best way to attract customers is to chase the latest fashions, and take advantage of short term movements in some areas of online business. Is this really the easy way to make money, or do you lose your identity chopping and changing your site too often?

While there is no doubt that many customers would like sites to take on board fashionable changes where applicable, the need to constantly chase the next trend is a little flawed. The chances are that the people who are following these trends, your potential customers, will have moved on to something else in a few weeks time and left you high and dry.

In reality, if you are looking at a long term business, you are not chasing the next passing customer, you are actually setting up a business which will attract customers TO you. You want to give them what they want, when they want it and in a fashion which makes it very easy to access and understand. Many internet users get used to the look of a site, they know what to expect and more importantly they know their way around. A customer that does not know their way around a site, or cannot easily see where to go, will not spend money. Make it as easy as you can, and you have more chance of bringing in some income.

In the online world of the internet, we are seeing new trends emerging in different areas of business every week, whether it is the use of web 2.0, information sites, switching to the latest affiliate product or direct sales. It is vital that you stay in your comfort zone as much as possible and ensure that you understand what you are offering. If you don’t understand what you are doing, or what you are offering then you have NO chance of any decent income as you will soon be found out.

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While there are many ways to make money on the internet, the main ones seem to be pay per click, affiliate and direct sales. Affiliate income and direct sales are probably the two more popular, but which route should you choose? What are the pros and cons?

While there is much to consider, you may like to think about the following before making any decision :-

Affiliate Sales

Pros

- There is no packaging and posting for you to carry out.

- You will not be called upon to sort out any after sales problems.

- There are literally thousands of different programs available.

- A big brand affiliate program can sometimes “sell itself”.

Cons

- You only receive a commission, rather than the full profit per item.

- You will likely only receive commission for a set period per customer. There is a great possibility of missing out on any repeat sales commission.

- Sometimes difficult to track the sales you have referred to the affiliate program. The major affiliate sites are very reliable, although others are some what less reliable.

Direct Sales

Pros

- You will receive the full profit per item, rather than paying a commission to a third party.

- You have full control of what is sold, new product launches, price, etc.

- Repeat orders are very much a part of this income stream.

Cons

- It can be hard work, and potentially expensive packaging and posting items.

- There are lots of costs including storage, insurance, etc.

- It can be expensive to advertise and promote your business / products.

All in all it really does depend what you are looking for, what kind of business you have and how much control you want to keep on sales. There are pros and cons to each of affiliate sales and direct sales, and you will need to balance all of these against what you want and what you have time to do.

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While there are many ways to promote your site, banners, pay per click or link exchanges to name but a few, how much money should you put towards promotion? Should you set aside a percentage of your income each month or should you use a set figure?

While there are many different things to consider such as, the effectiveness of promoting in certain areas, actual profit per sale and the age of your business, many people like to retain a certain percentage of their profit each month (if in profit) to reinvest into the business. However, you should only reinvest into the business when you can see a tangible return on investment. There is no point promoting your site purely so that you can have you name in the public eye – you need to see an increase in sales and a return on your investment.

There are no set rules as to how much you should retain to promote your site, or whether you should actually retain a specific amount of cash for promotion – it is up to you as you are the one who should know where to promote and what kind of return you can expect.

In the early days you may actually need to reinvest all of your profits back into the business, where you can, in order to build for the future. There is no point in bleeding your business dry while it is still young and stunting the potential growth for the future. A company needs to breath, to grow and above all to be fed – the food in this instance is your promotional budget.

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One of the main benefits and problems with the internet is the speed at which everything moves, from transferring between hosts, to re-designing your site to your traffic!

It has never been more vital that your site contains content about the latest products, the latest trends and the latest news. Yesterdays must have mobile phone is history tomorrow, it is as brutal as that in the high speed world of the internet. Unless you actually move with the times, the trends and your customers you could see your traffic collapse overnight and quickly see those regular visitors finding somewhere else to go.

So what can you do?

Rather than letting customers find somewhere else to go for tomorrows big seller, make sure that you check the news every day, check you competitors sites and actually see what is selling, what it looking good. There are a selection of blogs available for the latest must have products, and while they may only last a short time, if you are one of the first to market there is the potential to earn some decent income.

Never sit back and think how well you have done because tomorrow is another chapter, another challenge and another day in the life of a webmaster. While the majority of us trading on the net love the thrill and the chase, it can be hard work keeping up with everything – a 24/7 job!

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While big is not always beautiful in the business world, it sometimes pays to think big to get the best deal for yourself, and make more money from your sales. But how many people have the bottle to take that chance? To step into the unknown? To flash the cash?

Whatever commercial website you are operating, if you are successful then at some stage you will be faced with a very difficult decision – do you move up to another level, or do you stop growing and trade at a level you can currently cope with? Unfortunately it is not as easy as that because any company which is not growing, not moving with the times, is a company that has started the decent into oblivion – a site which is in effect dying.

This can pose a very difficult decision for any webmasters, the need to start buying products in bulk or entertaining more clients, but needing to find a way to service them all, on time and to the highest quality. In essence, this is the time when you might decide whether to take someone else on to help you with the business, but you do need to be very careful.

There are many people out there who will join up with you, check out how you run your business and copy it. This can lead to another difficult decision, do you employ someone you already know or do you void mixing business and pleasure at all costs?

This is just a small selection of the potential hazards of growing and growing, and while they can be managed easily if you plan ahead, it can be daunting when you need to take on extra risks, while increasing your over heads at the same time. Then again, there could be worse positions to be in – like no customers

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Over the last few years we have seen major growth in the website network area of business, with many webmasters looking to connect a vast array of sites where the subject matter is either similar or complimentary. While a number of online business people have been raving about the positive impact upon their income streams, do they really work? Is it something which you should consider?

While there is no doubt that those webmasters who are able to keep their traffic within a network, and circulate amongst their businesses can and do make better returns than stand alone sites, there are some factors to consider, including :-

· Connecting websites on the same IP address will impact upon your Page Rank status with Google – ensure they are all on different IPs.

· Ensure that there is sufficient bandwidth available to cover traffic which may be circulated more than once around the network.

· If a site is not profitable, or not forming part of an important link to others, you need to consider whether it should have a place in the network.

· Are your sites compatible with each other?

· Ultimately, is the network actually working?

If you structure your network correctly and ensure that the subject matter is complimentary there is no doubt that it could, and should work for you. However, it still boils down to the same old factor – traffic. Before you make big plans for a massive network, you should structure the increase in your network so that new sites are staggered, rather than hitting your visitors with a choice of numerous sites.

Let each site grow itself and attract traffic on a stand alone basis, because when you link them together the results could be startling if they all have a firm grounding in their own right.

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