The harsh realities of starting a web-based business

Here’s a great piece on what happens when people’s idealistic expectations about online marketing are put to the test in the real world: 5 Harsh Realities of Making a Living Online

These are the points that most people don’t seem to understand.

  1. Compete…or die
  2. Traffic is never truly free
  3. You’re a slave to technology
  4. People don’t buy from strangers
  5. You may never make millions

I highly recommend that you read the whole thing. It’s hard medicine to swallow, but you’ll be better off for taking all it in one gulp. This part rings especially true:

Free traffic. It’s enticing, isn’t it?

Too bad it’s a fairytale.

Yes, there are traffic strategies you can use to get traffic without paying money for it, but that doesn’t mean it’s free. You still have to pay for it. You just use a different currency:


Strategies like blogging and SEO and video marketing can indeed help you get all the customers you want without spending a dime to get them. Instead though, you’ll invest hundreds or maybe even thousands of hours of your time.

There’s a disappointing point I reach with just about every client. No matter how matter-of-fact I’ve been in managing their expectations, they imply or suggest outright that they didn’t get their money’s worth because it’s not working the way they anticipated. “It” usually refers to recognition, buzz, exposure, traffic, sales, etc.

I get it.  They paid me to build them a website and integrate their brand with their new image and copy. Usually, they’ve also partnered with me to optimize their site for search crawls and integrate their outreach with the relevant social ecosystems. They see this as a transaction rather than a process, and they’re disappointed when the check clears and nothing much changes. When I give them an in-depth explanation as to why it takes time and work to create the inertia necessary to propel growth, they finally understand. But they don’t like it.

I don’t blame them. They’re already busy managing their business and trying to keep the lights on and here I come with another checklist of never-ending tasks. And I charge them for the privilege!  After about a year, when the results start to bubble to the surface, they realize that I gave them the tools and knowledge necessary to succeed. But that doesn’t make the learning curve any less frustrating.

Everything worth doing is worth doing right. Like most things in life, in order to do it right, you have to continually work at it. That means remaining authentic in a marketplace that sometimes rewards dishonesty and gimmicks. It means consistently creating new content that offers value to your customers. It means going where those customers are with a custom message tailored to them at the time when they’re ready to hear it.

If you think you’re just going to put up a shiny, new website and paste your boilerplate press releases around the internet to spur traffic and create conversions, you’re setting yourself up for a big disappointment. More to the point, you’re setting yourself up for predictable failure.  The good news is that it doesn’t take an advanced degree to be a good e-marketer. It just takes time and a little experience.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Start with these tips I’ve posted before to get your ball rolling in the right direction: Free Advice | Strategic Marketing Consulting

The harsh realities of starting a web-based business
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