Why You Need a Website

You hear a great deal about the Internet these days -- that it's revolutionised communication ... commerce ... education ... Life-As-We-Know-It ...

Is this just hype?

You be the judge:

AN INTERNET TALE

After spending over twenty years at the Chalk-face, as a high school teacher, the novelty had worn off somewhat, so I did what so many others are doing now, I started looking for ways I could achieve that most desirable of lifestyles and be my own boss.

Home Based Businesses (HBB) are the fastest growing segment of the economy with thousands of people launching out on their own every week.

But there are pitfalls in setting up your own business: capital equipment can consume huge quantities of your precious resources; advertising costs can be horrendous, but since they're the only way you can tell people about your product or service, you have no choice; printing costs eat into more of your money; then you have to pay for postage, long distance phone calls and faxes to suppliers and customers. And we haven't got to the problems that can arise when suppliers let you down, when there are problems with transport ... aargh!

If I sound as if I've 'been there and done that,' it's because I have. My first business was marketing a series of courses I'd written.

I had the courses printed; I set up a free-call number and a reply-paid postal system; I advertised in all the major newspapers in three states; I paid to have the courses mailed to those who ordered them, and I soon discovered that I was just covering costs ... but only just.

This certainly wasn't the door to economic freedom I'd visualised (OK, let's be honest, it wasn't the freedom I'd fantasised about. Where were the big cheques every week? Where was the huge customer base that was supposed to be clamouring for me to write more and more courses for them? Mere figments of my imagination!)

ENTER: THE INTERNET!

But then I discovered the Internet, and suddenly there was no need to print hard copies of my course; I could email the whole course to students anywhere in the world!

And it didn't cost me any more to send courses to a hundred people than it did to send one course to one person. Suddenly my running costs were reduced, and I was able to halve the price of my courses.

I could change the course as I saw the need, adding newer examples to keep it up to date, deleting sections I wasn't happy with, rewriting whole sections. Plus, I now had the most amazing advertising vehicle for my course -- a website!

I was able to put up examples of my writing; I could show people what was in the course; I could point out the importance of being able to write well. I could do anything! And this was all because of the Internet.

Mind you, it took me some time to work out how to actually build a website; I made some terrible mistakes and wasted an incredible amount of time -- time that I could have been using to build my business. (My first efforts are outlined in an article I wrote, The Saga of the alt tags: http://www.write101.com/saga.htm )

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

That was in 1998 and my business has expanded to include professional writing services -- something I'd never thought about doing. It grew because people I met through the Internet asked my advice about their own writing and then asked me to write for them; I now have clients from every continent (except Antarctica).

That's what happens with business opportunities -- they just sort of arrive out of nowhere, and you have to be ready to recognise them and grab them before they get away!

MASSIVE GROWTH

The Internet provides the greatest opportunity of all in its capacity to change the way we do business and communicate, and in the rapidity with which all this has happened.

In 1996, there were an estimated 40 million Internet users worldwide, but according to a study released by market researcher the Angus Reid Group, global Internet usage is well on its way to reaching 1 billion users by this year (2005).

Consider the following:

? A world where e-mailboxes outnumber TV sets and telephone lines is probably only two years away.

According to statistics compiled by Messaging Online, the total number of e-mailboxes in the world has soared 83.5% in the past year. For comparison, the CIA says there are almost one billion TVs in the world, and according to the ITU there are less than 800 million phone lines. This means email has in 12 years done what it took 50 years for the TV and 125 years for the telephone to do.

? Online advertising revenues are expected to grow to $28 billion worldwide this year, according to new Jupiter research released in June at the Global Online Advertising Forum in Cannes, France. Jupiter says that nearly 6% of all global advertising revenue will be spent online and that growth will partly be driven by the rise of the online population worldwide, which will more than double within the next five years.

? Because of the swift time-to-market and the strong return on investment of e-mail, a new Jupiter report estimates that commercial e-mail spending will grow from $164 million in 1999 to $7.3 billion in 2005 - an estimated forty-fold increase in e-mail volume.

? The online population growth in Northern Europe, Asia and Latin America will lead to a global melting pot in a few years, eMarketer predicts and most of the Internet's growth will be in Western Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

? eMarketer also predicts that wireless devices will link millions of new users to the web in the next few years.

According to the European Commission, Europe has one of the highest cell phone penetration rates in the world, with Finland leading the pack at 64.4% (Statistics from Masha E. Geller's MediaPost: http://www.mediapost.com)

Convinced?

WHY YOU NEED A WEBSITE

As well as using your website to facilitate your business, as I did, there are countless other uses:

? Keep in touch with family. So many families these days are spread across the country and around the world. We miss out on all those precious moments such as new babies, first steps, graduations, birthdays, weddings ... but having your own website means you can post pictures of your family, you can even put up videos and recordings so everyone in the family can keep up to date.

? Have you retired? Use the Internet to plan that great Retirement Odyssey; put up maps of your travels so friends can follow your trip; post your travel diary and keep the best travel memories fresh for all time.

? Set up a site around your hobby, sport or craft and show off your work or collections.

? Are you a member of a charity organisation? Build a website to keep in touch with members and benefactors. Use it to arrange fund raisers.

? We all know that children these days seem to be born computer literate, so give your children the opportunity to explore their talents and to build their skills by giving them their very own website. If the Internet is going to play such a dominant role in our lives, your kids need to be thoroughly skilled in all its uses.

Developers have seen the writing on the wall and many are now building housing estates with Internet access a standard inclusion in new homes.

Websites are the way of the future and we can learn to use them or get left behind.

NB If the spelling of words such as "visualised" in this article worried you, please read this: http://www.write101.com/aus.htm

Jennifer Stewart has had her own web-based business since 1998 and offers ghost writing and other professional services to clients from every continent except Antarctica. Visit http://www.write101.com and subscribe to free, weekly Writing Tips: mailto:[email protected]

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