(Originally appeared in MX Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney)
by Debra Bela
Kate Ascough pulled the plug on her Melbourne craft market stall to start an online career. She’s now one of a growing number of online entrepreneurs, managing 10 websites with her husband Richard, and they’re making plans to expand.
Their range of directory and shopping websites includes a wedding directory and a baby universe shopping and advice centre, with a retail site planned to sell their T-shirt designs. “It’s working for us at the moment,” says Kate, who also juggles motherhood.
“People are wanting to shop online, and might pay a little bit more for the convenience.”
The Ascoughs spend a combined four hours a day servicing their websites and checking emails. But other than this, the sites run themselves.
“I went to a local market on the weekend and saw so many stalls with great products, but you could get to so many other people,” Kate says.
Sydney-based digital entrepreneur Chris Sharkey, who sold his first online business three years ago for $12.7 million, feels the internet is a haven for people looking to resurrect or develop careers, particularly in an economic crisis. But he believes an idea is not as important as a plan to properly market that idea online.
Sharkey’s new venture is Sharkey Media, a guide for online entrepreneurs to learn the tricks of the trade and get their name at the top of search engine directories without spending top dollar on advertising.
“I’ve never had a good idea for a website, but what I’m good at is seeing how to bring an idea into action on the web and making it profitable,” he says.
“Don’t wait too long before you launch your site, even if you think you’re not ready.
“We launched (the holiday accommodation site) stayz.com with two properties and within a few weeks we had 69.”
He says it’s possible to find ways to promote your product online without spending money.
“Look at social networking and using the traditional search engine optimisation with relevant content and links for your industry, which is virtually free advertising,” he says.
According to Sharkey, it can take two years to make a profit in a web business, after which, if it’s still not working, you have to be able to cut your losses.
“I’ve seen a lot of turnover; people tend to think the idea is everything,” he says.