Before you worry about keywords and web sites, you should first decide whether you need a business license, whether to do your own bookkeeping or hire an accountant, what software you might need, and how to use that business license to make money.
Over the years, I have seen so many people try to make money without being properly licensed, and there is really no excuse for it. Obtaining a business license is neither difficult nor is it expensive. But, in reality, for web work, you may not need one, unless you are buying physical products wholesale from another vendor.
Not that I am in favor of handing some government entity fees all the time, but having that license and making the decision to operate as an officially licensed business not only puts that money (and more) back in your pocket, but it gives you the mindset that this is serious legal business and your business should be taken seriously and run professionally.
You don’t technically “have” to have a business license in order to claim your expenses on your income tax deductions. For instance, my wife is a musician… specifically a church organist… and even then it’s only as she gets called to sit in for other people as she is available. Unless you are on salary as a music director, it’s normally not a regular job nor a business.
For that, she has no business license, but it is still technically a business, and as such, any expenses for travel or supplies are recorded and included in a Schedule C on our taxes. Any time you have a vocation or hobby that you make money from, you are legally allowed to deduct proper expenses from the income from that business in order to determine your profits. If you don’t do that, then you are paying income taxes on your expenses! And THAT is money foolishly thrown down the drain!
A few years back, I read a report that said a small business has about 27 legal deductions it can take that an individual cannot. That figure may have gone up or down slightly since then, but it probably remains pretty close to that figure. Basically, almost everything that you spend money on to operate your business, in order to make the money you make from it, is tax deductible, either in part or in full. The law changes every year, so it pays to stay informed.
If studying tax laws aren’t your favorite thing, then you need to use an accountant. But it still pays to know the rules, as an accountant can only use the information you give him. A good accountant should guide you in what you need to provide to him, and you need to pay attention and listen to him! If you fail to keep track of expenses that you should, he may not know that! It’s YOUR business, not his! Educate yourself in what you need to know to learn to manage it properly!
Monthly accounting… yes or no?
Do you need to pay an accountant every month? Most small businesses just starting out may not need to. I tried it for awhile with my contracting business, and I found I was paying $125 a month (early nineties prices) just to get some comb-bound report of less than a half dozen pages, that I glanced at once (upon receiving it) and then it got stored in the archives… never to be seen again!
Unless you are in the process of obtaining loans or credit for your business, monthly financial reports may be useless and expensive. Those monthly statements and having an accountant on call may be a great “showing” for the other people you do business with, but if you are operating on a “cash” basis (no credit accounts, no loans, and no accounts receivable nor payable) then you are going to be wasting money with monthly reports… unless… you don’t bother to do any bookkeeping of your own, and need someone to do it for you and sort it all out.
But that will still cost you. The more you can do “in house” the less you have to pay someone else, and that puts money in your own pocket. When you start making so much money that your accountant’s hourly time is worth less than yours, then you can hire one on a monthly basis!
Many small businesses use ready-made programs for bookkeeping these days, such as Intuit QuickBooks, and most accountants are set up to know how to handle the information you give them on those programs. Even if you only use an accountant at tax time, you should ask them what programs they use and recommend. If you can work with your tax person and make things easier for them at tax time, it will save you a considerable amount of money. After all, they charge by the hour! And most of that software can be found on Amazon.
I spend about an hour and a half “total” on bookkeeping per month, even though I use my own custom designed spreadsheets. I have formulas in place so that I can go to the end of the spreadsheet and see exactly what my profit or loss is for any given day, or the month. I don’t need an accountant to tell me where I stand.
But I have developed this spreadsheet over the past twenty years! The columns are all laid out in the same order as the IRS tax forms, and marked with the corresponding line numbers, so when I do my taxes, all I have to do is transfer the figures onto the forms, and I’m done! I check it over every year to make sure it still complies with the current tax year, and update it where it needs it before starting the next tax year’s records.
Now, if I was making more than $100 an hour, and had to deal with credit and business loans, “maybe” it would be worth my time to pay someone else. But as a business owner, I would still want to know how to do it, just to protect myself. Only you can decide what works best for you.
Even if you don’t want to do your own bookkeeping, you need to talk to an accountant to learn what records you need to keep… even if it’s only the sales receipts and invoices you collect in a shoebox. An accountant can only process what you give him to process. It’s up to YOU to know what is important or not, and if you fail to give him the proper receipts or vehicle expense reports (like mileage), then he can’t very well give you proper deductions for those expenses!
Buy wholesale when you can!
Another reason to get a business license (usually issued by the state) is to prove to suppliers that you aren’t just some tightwad schmuck trying to save money by buying at wholesale prices… which they obviously reserve for those who really ARE in business. Although there are many places you can buy at cheap prices these days (and admittedly, some are less than what the wholesalers want for the same product), it is still better to have that license. Many suppliers will ask for it in the application you fill out, and they won’t let you buy from them without it!
The other reason to have a business license is that most states have sales tax laws in effect, and that license, which usually doubles as a sales tax license, is legally required to be able to collect sales tax on purchases within your state, which you then legally have to forward to the state with the proper form (normally) every month. Usually, after you have been in business a year, and can prove that you have very little taxes to report, they will allow you to file on a yearly basis, thereby saving you a lot of paperwork!
So in summary, even though you think that what you do is a “hobby”… it is probably in your best financial interest to treat it as though it were a business. If you don’t, you can’t take the proper tax deductions, and will end up paying income tax on what the business costs you to run! And that is the same as throwing money down the drain! If you expect to make money at your business, you have to pay certain fees to operate it, which in turn will save you even more money in the long run! And learning to operate your business efficiently and profitably is what it’s all about.
Addendum 1/24/16. This blog was originally started on the date below, but I have gone through it to update it. It was originally on Wordpress on the Azgrand.com site, but is being updated on the Blogger platform. The information is good, solid information still today. Once you understand online sales techniques, and what you need, it doesn't matter what you want to sell. We don't offer any products of our own for you to resell, as many other marketers do. Most of those products are designed to sell only by their methods, and if you venture off into other products, you won't have the knowledge of other techniques. Rather, we offer the knowledge of how to sell "anything" online, no matter what it is.
Many people say they don't need to know marketing, because they are only writing a blog and they aren't selling anything. The only way that is true is if you are writing for a very limited audience and don't want any other traffic to their site or blog. But most people either write to be heard, or they want to monetize their blogs to earn money. Either way, you have to understand marketing if you ever hope you increase the readership and loyalty on your site or blog. Even if you don't sell anything, just gaining readers requires the same exact techniques as gaining paying customers. That means having the proper subscribe forms for people to follow your site or blog, and knowing where to put them. It means knowing what colors your site should have to attract the most readers. It means proper (and easy) navigation links to get them where they want to go, from the first post on your site to a particular topic of which they may be interested.
So in an effort to give you insight into the process, we are starting with the things you need to know before you ever choose a name or URL for your site or blog. If you have done that already, don't worry...we'll show you the work-arounds to still optimize for the search engines so the public can find you, and even how to use social media to gain traffic. We'll even get into how to set up your site, whether it be on Wordpress, Blogger, or any other platform or site builder. Are we going to show you a few ads in the process? Of course we are. That's how we make our money. It's your choice whether to buy from them or not. More about that later, though. For now, let's get back to the original post...
Today, May 25th, 2012, we begin a new era in internet marketing here at Azgrand. This site has been the mainstay of our business since we started in 1999, with many changes through the years. Today we are starting it’s most radical change.
Many people have asked about a blog, so now we have one. In fact the entire site is blog based, using WordPress (now Blogger, in 2016), which we believe is one of the best ways to go with any new site. I threw in a sub-title of “Beginner Web Marketing Training”, which can apply to many things. We do most of our marketing on our own web sites, although we also do some online auctions for some items. Web site marketing is what we do. We not only build web sites and blogs, but we also manage our own graphics and SEO.
Graphics don’t sell!
Many people think that just because they get a site or blog online that they are in the business of selling. Many blogs prefer not to sell, just to keep their sites free of advertising of any kind. That’s the users choice and right to do so. Still, unless they are only blogging for the benefit of a closed group, like a family, they want to acquire readers, and even that is a type of selling, only you are selling yourself. Your readership depends on your writing style, how useful your information is, and how credible you are. That becomes a form of psychological selling, and when it comes right down to it, all selling depends more on psychological effects on people, more than anything else. It doesn’t matter how good your product is, if something about your site or your presentation “turns them off”, they are going to end up going somewhere else!
A site or blog with the greatest of graphics is not what sells. You can have the ugliest of sites and make millions or you can have the fanciest of flash sites and go broke. It’s all in what you do with the site… not how it looks. As we provide information on this site, we hope to help you understand that.
Also, in order to gain readership, you have to follow the same techniques as one does when trying to make a profit, whether that is your goal or not. If you have no idea how to use keywords or to attract potential readers to your content, the search engines won’t be able to match up your blog to the keywords of searchers looking for your topic. It all boils down to learning proper marketing.
As we steer our business in the direction that we need it to go, we are also introducing new services and products. Many people have consulted with us in the past in regard to setting up a new web based business, or improving what they already have, and we have helped those that we could. Our fifteen+ years in this business and the knowledge and training that we have absorbed along the way can help many newbies get started in whatever they choose to do.
Free web marketing consulting!
We don’t currently offer our own products for you to go out and sell. What you sell and how you run your business is up to you. We can only guide you in the techniques to allow you to do that. We will always try to start newbies off by steering them toward free or open source products to get them started. We don’t believe in selling newbies a bunch of things that they don’t even understand.
How does internet marketing work?
Our very next post will be to explain how internet marketing works, and all the ways that you can make money by doing it. Although it’s nice to know all these different ways, not all will be suitable for your own needs. Maybe your goal is not to make money, but simply gain a following of loyal readers. As stated above, it still takes following certain techniques which are based on tested and proven marketing strategies.
Internet marketing requires dedication and concentration!
One of the worst things that happens to anyone trying to gather information on the webs is the inability to focus. With all kinds of links leading to all sorts of things, it is easy to get sidetracked with other marketing methods, and end up not working on any of them.
If we all share… we all benefit!
Everyone has certain talents in specific areas, and if we all work together, we can learn from each other in the areas we need that knowledge. No one person ever knows “everything” about the internet or about marketing on it. Each person’s needs, techniques and methods are different.
There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of ways to make money online, and not all are suitable for all people. The one thing that most marketers leave out in the “push” to sell their own products is how to help people decide what is the right path to pursue based on the customer’s own needs in this business. It doesn’t help you to understand the business by someone selling you a “package” and telling you what you need to do in order to sell just that one item by that one method.
Many packages are specifically geared toward leaving critical steps or knowledge out of it, in order to “force” you into spending even more on an “upgrade” to be able to continue. That may be a good marketing technique, and for making "them" money, but it takes away from what you are hoping to make as profit, and does you an injustice by not providing a full understanding of how to make money with other products and methods. And that is why our third post will be about helping you choose a path that is correct for you.
After that, we will discuss, and even “review”, some of the many ways to earn money online, and then you can make up your own mind what you wish to pursue, and we will be here to help guide you with your decision. Little by little our posts will work towards getting you on your way to making money online, but if you are already online and need some advice on your blog or site, contact me through the comments. I will read every one of them before I approve them for publication, and will help you with advice. The question you have is probably the same one that other people will have, so let's share our knowledge.
Remember the old saying that a horse can be led to water, but you can’t make him drink. The same goes with any learning process. I can show you what needs to be done, but even I can’t answer all questions that you have in your mind the first time around. If you don’t “raise your hand” (by commenting down below) and ask questions that I KNOW you are going to have, then your learning will never be complete. It takes participation to learn anything in any kind of class, and if I don’t see some comments, then there is no point in my continuing this free course, and it could go away!
Getting started in web marketing isn’t always easy!
Nearly all experienced marketers will tell you that it is easy to market online and takes little time at all. Well, sure, after you have been in it for a few years, have found your way around, decided what you want to specialize in, and learned the techniques. I think many of the professional marketers forget about, or “under-emphasize” all the work that they put in to get there, especially if they had to do it on their own.
Some got lucky, and had a close friend or relative that helped them to get started by showing them the quickest way to do it to get cash coming in, but that doesn’t happen to everybody else. The rest of us have had to wade our way through everything by ourselves! Even with some seminars behind us, and being in the loop of newsletters, it can take quite a while to get started.
Web marketing takes a sense of direction.
Besides the usual stuff that everyone says you need, like a business plan and mission statement, you first need to get familiar with all the different ways of making a living on the web (or in things associated with it), and determine exactly what it is you want to do. Before you can do that, you need to figure out where you want to go from where you are now, to where you want to be five years or more down the road. What may seem to work now, may not fit in with plans you have for the future, even into retirement!
Normally, in the real world, that would mean having a map. In the internet world, you need to create your own.
Here are some things that could determine your direction:
Age might be a factor. A younger person might want the adventure of building a multi-million dollar empire by a certain age. An older person might be happy with just making enough money to supplement retirement savings. Those in the middle may be just looking to work for themselves and meet their monthly budget without having a job to go to. Where are you in life, and where do you want to go from here?
Mindset. Some people might be more “people oriented” and don’t mind going out, talking to people and businesses, and selling to them directly. Other people may be “loners”, and prefer to deal with people from a distance (from their computers). Some may like selling. Others may hate it, but realize that sales are one of the few things in which you can do the hard work once, and then get paid for it over and over. That has never been truer than of internet sales. One you have a product, and do the work to put it on the web, it will be there “forever”, selling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for you. What kind of person are you? Would you rather sell a limited amount of product in a limited amount of area to a limited amount of people during nearly all of your waking (and working) hours, or would you rather create a system that will sell for you to a world-wide audience 24/7 long after you have stopped working on it? The answer to that seems like a no-brainer to me!
Wanderlust… or bust? Some people may like the freedom of traveling and being able to go anywhere they want to, and work from their computers. Others may be “homebodies” and don’t mind seeing the same scenery day after day, and warehousing and shipping products from a fixed location. Do you have a certain “wanderlust” or has your need for wandering gone “bust”?
Business Model. Somewhat related to that, is how to do business, and what type of business. Do you want to start a company and run a warehouse where you have to stock product, package and ship it (could be wholesale or retail), or do you want to be able to do ALL transactions by clicking a few buttons from anywhere in the world?
I have to relate a funny story here to get my point across. A realtor in another state once told me that in his state, they have “buyer’s brokers” and “seller’s brokers”, but few do both. He claimed to be a buyer’s broker, and yet in a city of several million people, he went through an entire year without making one single sale!
So I asked him point blank, “So in other words, every transaction you make, you have to split the commission with the person who listed the property, therefore purposely limiting your potential income by 50%, rather than collecting 100% for doing both the listing AND selling?” He had no good answer, because none of his arguments made sense!
Stop and think about that business model. Who in their right mind, would ever set up a business model that automatically limits their income to 50% of it’s potential? That is one of the stupidest business models that I have ever seen!
This is what I mean when I say that you have to stop and THINK to be in a business of your own! Even with all the training on how to fill out the proper real estate forms and stay within the law…unfortunately, some people don’t have that ability! All the education and degrees in the world won’t make you smart, or teach you to think! You’ll still be limited to your own genetically created mind, with it’s own intelligence level, and how it works! Not everyone was built to work with computers, nor to "work smarter, not harder"!
Sales or service oriented? Are you a sales oriented person, or would you rather perform a service? Besides sales of anything imaginable on the internet, those actions have to be backed by other services, from writers of sales letters and articles, to software developers, to graphic artists, to web site designers, computer technicians and installers of all kinds. Service oriented products don’t make as much money as sales, but someone has to do it. If you literally hate sales, this could be an option for you to make money from the web. What are your talents? You can always pay someone else to build a web site and do the sales for you... but remember... their cost is going to come out of YOUR profits!
Keep in mind here that services are limited to what you can personally accomplish within a set time frame. No matter how much business you have, your output is limited by the working hours in a week, and therefore your income is also limited.
As a comparison, one marketer promoted a program that sold over eight million dollars worth of training programs within the first 24 hours, because sales were coming in at the rate of hundreds per minute, 24 hours a day!
When it comes right down to it, there is no real way to compare that type of sales work with selling services…and yet…someone has to provide the services, too. In fact, someone had to create the training program, have the literature printed, and do all the leg work to create the product and make it available. That's the "service" part of the equation. The rest was all sales!
There are so many choices of how to make money on the web, that if you are not aware of all of them, maybe you should do more research before deciding. It will make a big difference in how you go about learning how to market your product, and determining how you can avoid getting into the “information overload” trap.
For instance, if you don’t want to stock products and have to ship them, then listening to advice on how to buy products in bulk from China is not what you want. Ignore it.
If you hate to write (anything) then obviously you don’t need to worry about learning to write sales letters. You can hire someone to do that.
If the technical end of things leaves you scratching your head, then learning html and website building is a waste of time. Hire someone to do it for you.
If you want to travel and have as little to do with maintenance of a web site as possible, then obviously gathering email addresses to build lists with, or managing any kind of membership site is out of the question, so why bother listening to advice about it?
Web marketing requires focus!
This is what you need to know before you get too heavily involved with internet marketing. If you try to do too much right out of the gate, you’ll spread yourself too thin and won’t get anything off the ground before some new interest grabs your attention.
Figure out what kind of business model will get you to your goals, both now, and for five or ten years down the road, and then stick with it until it works! Dedication, consistency and perseverance is what will get you to your goals. Quitters never win!
You need to find out what you want your lifestyle to be first. Then set your goals to attain that lifestyle. Break them down into goals that are daily, weekly, monthly, six months out, a year out, three years out and five years out. We’ll get more into it in the lessons, but this will give you a start.
Web marketing takes concentration.
Make no mistake about it, the learning curve for beginners is a very long one. If you are not one to concentrate on one thing at a time, or for very long, you might be better off in some other profession.
Every new web site you go to has many other links to yet more and more new stuff, and if you haven’t got the stamina to just say “No” to yourself, you’re going to get lost in the jungle of information! You have to know when to stop and go back to the beginning and then stay there for awhile! If you don’t have the strong will power to stop bad habits on your own, even though doing so will make your life better, then you don’t have what it takes to study…anything!
If you are going to be in business for yourself, then the main objective is to make money…first and foremost!!
You haven’t got time to be web surfing, constantly checking emails, or looking at every new link that pops up. If you don’t have the ability to focus on one thing at a time, this is not the place for you. If that is a problem, then go one step further than I mentioned above and set some hourly goals. Write down what you want to do in the next hour on a sticky note, and place it on the face of your monitor as a reminder, and then do it! When you learn to control the hourly goals, the daily goals will become easier, and so on down the road.
Remember, some of the monthly goals, such as taking in a certain amount of money for the month to meet your expenses, can be broken down into daily goals as well. Once you can handle them on a daily basis, the monthly goals might take care of themselves along the way! It’s really easier than you think, when you break it down into bite-size pieces!
In sales management, you have to know what your expenses are first, including salaries. Then you have to figure out a sales campaign that will meet those goals in order to make it happen…otherwise you and your company will go broke! Looking at a month at a time may seem an overwhelming task. But if you break it down into daily goals, you’ll find that selling that much product in a day is a whole lot easier!
Another way is to write down everything you spend money on in a month’s time, along with the amounts. Then use the smallest of those amounts as your first goal. Once you create enough sustainable income to meet that goal, then go to the next amount on your list and meet that goal. Before you know it, you’ll have your entire budget met. Then you can start adding the luxuries, like a vacation, or a better car, or an RV. It’s totally up you as to when you have “enough”.
Web marketing does take some “tech” ability.
If you have spent your life going after every new gadget that hit the market, and reveled in being the first on the block with every new toy, you may have a shot at internet work. There is just something about the computer that fascinates some people, and they can spend hours at it. Others are afraid that if they touch it something might break. If you are the latter, then this job isn’t for you.
Many marketers will tell you that you don’t need to learn how to build web sites, or to learn (at least) how to correct or add some minor html, but if you can’t learn to do some of that stuff, you will continually be behind the eight ball. You will constantly have to call someone else to do it, which can delay your ideas as well as cost you in profits.
You’d be surprised at how many people still think that a computer has to be programmed, by the user, before they can do anything, and that’s why they have never taken the time to get interested in them! They think it’s too much work!
Obviously, they haven’t taken the time (in the last twenty years!) to get a full and correct demonstration of what they can do with one right out of the box. If it has taken them this long to figure that out, then I doubt if this medium is something that they want to play with for making a living! People that really enjoy the technology would have had one a long time ago, and had it figured out by now! And if you are a newbie who really wants to learn, then getting proper instruction on using all the functions of their computer, plus some additional things like spreadsheets, is a necessity BEFORE getting involved with internet marketing. If you don’t know the basics first, including creating folds to organize all that you will gather, you will become even more overwhelmed and not know what to do with all the information, tools and software you will need to use. If you don’t know where to get the training, don’t think you can afford it, or don’t have time for it, you need to go to http://gfclearnfree.org, and find the skill that you need to know and then study it on your own time…FOR FREE! If you don’t have the ambition to do that, then no one can help you!
If you are one of those people who can barely use their computer for email, or that still uses someone else’s email because you are too lazy or hard-headed to go to one of the free providers and spend two minutes getting your own, then this business probably isn’t for you!
Sure, I could lie to you and tell you that “anyone” can learn to do this, but I have been involved with teaching long enough to know who is capable of learning and who isn’t. And even without taking a survey, I can tell you that 95% of people still won’t “get it”.
I can lead a horse to water, but if he won’t put his head down to drink, then I guess he’ll have to die of thirst! I’m not going to sit there and pour water down his throat until he chokes on it. I’ve got better things to do. I’m sure the horse would rather be somewhere else, too!
Web marketing takes lots of time.
I know several people who have daytime jobs requiring heavy use of a computer. When they get home, the last thing they want to do is sit down at another one. I guess that’s why some people go for a week or more at a time between answering emails! People who literally love computers are on them from morning until night! You’ve heard the term “computer widow” (or widower, as the case may be). If you are made for marketing, your spouse will be one when starting out in this business! Later on, when you have automatic income coming in whether you work or not, you can kick back and thank yourself for sticking with it until you got to where you are!
Those are exactly the kind of people who are persistent enough to learn what they need to know and aren’t afraid to push a button to see what it does! If the thought of pushing a button and having the computer go up in smoke scares you to death, then slowly back away from the desk, carefully unplug it and put the dust cover over the computer you are looking at, and never touch it again! You might hurt yourself!
If the thought of spending countless hours learning what you have to do to be able to operate a computer the way you need to for ecommerce is more than you are willing to put in, then go back to a J-O-B, and work until you’re 70 (if you live that long), because obviously you don’t have the dedication it takes to do this.
Web marketing takes (at least) “some” money to get started.
Oh sure, I can show you ways to get started with absolutely nothing. I can show you several places to get a free web site, free hosting, use a sub-domain (which is a domain name behind the dot leading into someone else’s), but the search engines aren’t as friendly to those types for some unknown reason. I guess they figure if you don’t take your business seriously enough to get your own domain, why should they? But a good marketer knows how to fool them!
I can show you numerous ways to get products that you can sell without buying them first, or how to create your own products. In fact, nearly everything you can use or that you would need is available free on the web. All you have to do is look. If you are too lazy to do the research, then I, nor anyone else can help you.
On the other hand, some of the free stuff may be lacking something in quality, and many times control. For instance, many of the free web builders are limited in function, and many times you can’t get to certain parts (like the html code) to modify it. The type styles may be limited, pages may be limited, and overall function of the site may not allow some of the things you would like to do.
Other times there are products which haven’t been tested fully, and since they are free, there is no incentive to work the bugs out….until someone gets around to it….which may be never!
I have always found that it really does pay, in time saved and frustrations, let alone money, to buy name brand products, and pay to get things done the right way. In other words, you usually get what you pay for. It may cost you a little bit, but certainly a WHOLE lot less than it would cost to acquire a building, set up and start a business in the real world.
First, you should have equipment, starting with a computer. Sure you can use one for free at an internet café or library, but getting there and back is time and money wasted. Also, they won’t let you do some things that you will need to be able to do on one of your own, like load special software. It doesn’t matter whether you get a laptop, desk unit or a mobile device like a tablet. It depends on how much you are going to be working with it away from your desk.
If you are going to get a new one, then get the fastest processor with the biggest hard drive or built-in memory, and as much RAM as you can get. Look for one that says it’s “media ready”, which usually means that it already has a disk drive capable of writing and reading both CDs and DVDs, and should have all kinds of writing and playback software already in it.
The advent of video being used for almost everything you can think of these days, including training videos for web marketing, makes that necessary. Video eats up a LOT of memory, and if you get one too slow, the videos will be jumpy and take forever to download! You’ll be deleting the temporary internet files every other day, even on the better computers.
Tablets and mobile devices are the rage these days, but forget about things like iPads for serious marketing. They don’t have the functionality, and many marketing programs are not on apps and designed for them. Believe me, I own an iPad, and use it for many things, but for serious marketing work, I go back to my PC laptop.
Also, it wouldn’t hurt to spend less than a hundred bucks on an external hard drive, preferably as large as you can get. It will be useful for storing all that marketing information that you want to save, as well as serving as a back-up for your main hard drive. The less you store on your main computer, the faster it will run. But please know that an external hard drive is NOT proper back-up protection for your computer. You need to store your files safely to an off-site back-up facility like Carbonite (dot com) in order to have proper protection!
Computers slow down as their memories start to fill up, which will also slow down your working with them, the videos, and other things. The external hard drive isn’t normally accessed as part of the everyday workings or the start up, so it won’t interfere with speed. Limit your internal hard drive to the things that you absolutely need, and your computer will run better and faster. I should mention cloud storage here, as part of your back-up plan. Mobile devices are designed to rely on the cloud, and that is why you don't see mobile devices with much more than 64 gigs of internal memory. They rely on apps for some storage of files, but they also expect users to make use of the storage available on "the cloud". Rather than me try to explain something that is so complex, try Googling the "cloud storage" and read all that you can about it there.
A decent speaker system would be useful, as we have seen many audios that vary greatly in sound quality and volume. Make sure you have something with which you can hear them. Always check the sound quality of any laptop before you buy it, as many of them have pitiful sound quality! I have much better sound on my iPad than ANY of my laptops have ever had! I have to use earphones or external speakers with my laptops if I expect to listen to anything comfortably!
The next item would be a printer. As long as it prints in color, the choice is yours. Since most of your work will be on the web, it will mostly be used for off-line business correspondence, and your own personal printing, and an 8-1/2 x 11 platform is fine. I prefer a “flat-bed” type, as opposed to a “feed-through” type, if it has a scanner on it, as it will handle any size object for scanning, including open books! Besides being able to copy prints to use on the web, it can also be used as a copy machine (directly to the printer). A scanner is used in business almost more than a copier these days!
A fax machine is nearly obsolete anymore, as most people are sending most things by email attachment these days. If you use one, I wouldn’t put it on the same line with the phone, though, especially if you have voice mail. Either get a second line or sign up with an internet fax service, where they send your faxes to you by email. (That’s what we use.) That has the added advantage of your being able to receive faxes no matter where you are, and if you move, you don’t have to change your fax number, because it goes to them, not YOUR phone.
Most computers have fax sending capability built in, and all you have to do is hook up a phone line to it to use it. Otherwise the internet fax company has sending ability available for a slightly higher fee, and then you can send over the internet to them, and they will forward it to a land line for you.
Secondly, you have to have some kind of internet service. If you think you can run a business from a dial-up connection while it ties up your phone line, think again. The very minimum you will need is DSL. If there is something faster available, upgrade to it as soon as your profits can justify it.
In this age of video, a dial up connection is a dinosaur. We are paying for 10 megabyte service, but thanks to our phone service connection, not always getting it. Many times we are running 3.6 to 4.1 megabyte download speed (that’s faster than a T1 line, but sometimes all we can get in this location, due to lines and distance from the server) and even then, it leaves a lot to be desired. I think they have fixed the problem, but the more people that are on the system at one time, the slower it gets. So, we take what we can get…..for now.
Most cable modems have much faster standard speeds than telephone lines, but for a long time, we couldn’t get a cable modem in this area. A new provider has now made that possible, but we only plan to be here another year, so we don’t feel like switching at this point. Also cable lines are overhead and subject to line damage in ice and windstorms, whereas phone lines are underground, so there could be more down-time with cable in heavily forested areas like here. Don’t cheat yourself on speed!
If you are really serious about running a business based on computers, examine where you are located, and where you “should” be located. Internet speed on telephone and cable lines are dependant upon how far you are from the servers. The farther away you are, the more the speed slows down. Satellite internet “can” be an alternative, but also has its problems, plus the cost of higher speeds goes up almost exponentially above one megabyte, which is typical for basic service, and it can lose signal with bad weather conditions. The speed and costs are getting better, but I don’t feel that they are there yet! If you are using mostly mobile devices and/or travel a lot, you should research the blog at Technomadia.com. They have a lot of free information available, besides a membership version of their site, plus, they are the authors of a great Mobile Internet Handbook, for which they are constantly doing research and updating the book every year to the latest standards.
If you are thinking of relocating, check with your phone company or cable company to see what kind of speeds they can provide at your proposed location. Not all systems and providers are equal. It pays to do your homework on this issue.
Web marketing takes some software.
Although some types of internet businesses can be run straight from your computer, there will probably be some software that you will want, to make things quicker and easier.
The very first thing I would recommend is a good “suite” of virus, spam, firewall, and security programs. Most companies will have packages (called "suites”), to save you some money. Free programs are better than nothing, but if there is no profit to create an incentive to update them regularly, then how can you trust them? And why would you entrust a business computer system to them? We use McAfee for all of our protection. Others may use Norton, or one of the other top names, but don't jeopardize your business to any kind of questionable service. DO your research, read the reviews on the product, and make a wise decision!
The next thing you need is some kind of off-site back-up protection. An external hard drive won’t do you any good if someone breaks in and steals all your equipment, your house burns down, a tornado blows it away, or a flood washes it away! You need to have ALL of your files backed-up in a safe secure place away from your own physical location (off-site) where you can download them right back onto a new computer within 24 hours! We recommend Carbonite (dot com) for this.
Then you will need the typical suite of office software. Rather than paying for expensive stuff, I have found that the “open source” version, at OpenOffice.org, works nearly as well as the paid versions. So save your money for the more important things that you can’t get in free versions.
You will also need various “playback” software. Most of it today handles audio as well as video, and it is nearly all available for free on the web. If you buy a media ready computer, most of what you need will be there already, but for some file types, you may need more. Some programs will use Flash video (although that is nearly a thing of the past now), some will use Adobe .air files which are Adobe Air programs, some will use Quiktime, and others will use more universal players, like Windows Media Player. Some will be playable on more than one brand or type of player. Usually, if you try to open a program, it will tell you what you need and you can simply download them as you need them. It’s not only OK, but suggested, that you have more than one video player on your computer. Nearly all of them are free downloads.
You should have some kind of “unzipping” software to unzip files that are sent to you as .zip files. These are used to compress otherwise large files into faster downloading file types. Later on, it might be helpful to also create “zipped” files to send out. There are both free and paid versions available, and some computers already have the software on the computer.
You will also need some kind of software to open as well as create .pdf files. Again, there are both free and paid versions available.
Some software is available on the web for free, but unless it is “open source”, it usually is limited in function. To get the most out of it, they usually want you to upgrade to the paid version. That’s OK, if it works.
Prices can run from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars depending on the application, and how exclusive it is (basically that means what it cost to develop it against how much of it is sold). Most software for small business runs much less than $500, with the median price range under $200, unless you get into really specialized stuff. (I know of one graphics program used to print those “full wrap” packages that you see on buses, vans, and special promotional vehicles that cost upwards of $1800, not to mention the oversized printer used to make the actual “wrap” sheets.) As a marketer, you won’t need programs like that. In fact, except for virus protection and off-site back up, just about everything else is free… if you know how and where to look!
Sometimes downloading files, opening them, and then installing the software can be tricky, but you need to be able to tackle those kinds of jobs. Get over your fears of blowing up the computer, get your head on straight, and make up your mind to learn it. It’s necessary, if you expect to be in this business!
We will update this article as we think of other things that you should know.