There are lots of entrepreneurs out there (maybe you!) who have a great business plan that happens to have either an e-business part to it or all of it would be an e-business. Having the business acumen to come up with a rock-solid plan, dazzle investors, and maintain the determination to launch it are one thing. Having the tech chops to launch the online presence necessary (a website, a mobile website, an auction storefront on eBAy, etc.) is another set of, well, chops.
We all know the uphill battle new businesses face. According to the Small Business Adminstration, about three out of 10 fail within the first two years. Within five years, about half of all start-ups fail. For the enterpreneur who is dicey about designing and launching their own website ... well, what statistical door do you think they will enter?
So, there you are looking at the promise of ease setting up an online shingle or storefront with your hosting domain's sitebuilding tool or an eBay page, etc. Here's what you need to know:
You get what you pay for.
If it's that easy to set up, you are not going to stand out among the crowd. Your site is going to look like a million other sites.
Unless you are entrepreneur who also happens to be an accomplished web producer, your site will have limited function, no search engine optimization to speak of and you your traffic numbers will be limited to your Mom and maybe few percent of your closest friends on Facebook who take pity on you and click on your site once to support your new endeavor.
It's ugly out there.
Hiring a pro to get you started might just be an even uglier option. It's just too expensive and easy credit is hard to come by in this economy.
Here's a third option. Buy someone else's website at a bargain-basement price.
If you sell shoes, I'm not suggesting buying Zappos. However, there are tons of websites out there brokering the sale of small business websites. Depending on the site, it may cost less than a grand. Other more successful sites will cost more, of course.
Other than saving you the sweat equity of building your own website, here are some other advantages (provided you do your homework and verify the numbers on the site):
1. An established site will come with at least some established site traffic.
2. An established site will already have a toe-hold in the search engine rankings for you to build on when you take it over.
3. An established site will already have a customer base from that site traffic.
4. It's easier to tweek a site cosmetically, then to dream up the entire look and feel from scratch. Fix it, don't fantasize it.
5. Talk to the previous owner and get some feedback on what worked and failed in the past. You'll make your own mistakes. But, there's no need to make the same mistakes twice.
6. One of your greatest challenges will be whether to launch multiple sites (one for the Web, one for the mobile Web, one within a high traffic, but walled garden venue like eBay, etc.). Buy the first one and use it as a launch pad onto other platforms.
Here are some places to shop around for existing websites:
- EBiz Brokers
- eBay's "Businesses and Web Sites For Sale" section
- BusinessBroker.net (clearinghouse of bricks and mortar businesses for sale, too)
- WebMaster's Marketplace
There are many other places to shop around. It goes without saying, "Caveat Emptor" (let the buyer beware). If it sounds too good to be true, very likely it is. If you can't get the owner of the website on the phone before putting your money down, something's fishy. Swim away.