First of all, thank you for starting a thread that I hope many of us can sink our teeth into. : )
I make my living completely online. I am a website developer, graphic artist and columnist.
I'd like to share my thoughts and hope others do the same.
>... but the interesting thing
> I discovered about my survey was that most
> people, while agreeing that the Net was a
> good tool it was severely lacking as any
> kind of replacement for anything.
> Replacement as in TV, Radio, DVD, Telephone,
> Shopping etcÖÖ
That's the funny thing. Some of the best "inventions" that have come along have not been a replacement for anything. Look at airplanes, for example - they didn't "replace" cars or trains - we still use them. Television didn't "replace" radio, because radio still exists.
But here's food for thought. The Internet doesn't come with a user's manual, so most people haven't the faintest clue what to really do with it. The average surfer will use the Internet as yet another method of entertainment. Yes, lonely people will hang out online to talk with other lonely people. Some people will use it to email friends or family because it allows more frequent contact without the long distance bills.
One of the things I've been saying for over four years is that the Internet is hands down, the fastest and cheapest method of communication available today... but that's all it is - a method of communication.
People communicate with people. Businesses communicate with customers and shoppers communicate with stores. (more on business below)
> Another thing I find interesting about the
> Internet is the so called facts about how
> 90% of all money spent on the Internet is by
> businesses going online.
That's the funny thing about statistics. It depends on which ones you read, because they almost always contradict each other. Despite the huge losses, Amazon is pulling in millions in sales. Travel agencies are cleaning up because they have global reach now. I don't have to go to my local travel agent to book a flight anymore. I can book it from any agent, anywhere, online. The one with the best offer gets the sale - and the commission.
> And yet look at the high fail rate of things
> that youíd expect people to except, like
> furniture.com, pets.com, toys.com and many,
> many other companies coming online on the
> promise that people are going to suddenly
> stop leaving their homes, stop shopping and
> sit at a computer and buy dog food,
> furniture and toys.
> Yes I know some of the failed dotcoms made
> huge sales, but I believe it was a novelty
> and generally once the novelty wore off, the
> people went back to what theyíve been doing
> for the last few hundred years.
I would have to totally disagree. The companies that went under failed because they made stupid decisions. A lot of them had venture capital behind them and didn't worry about profit from the word go. They concentrated on acquiring customers and visitors at any price... and they paid the price.
A big part of the problem is that the little guy (like you and me) often look to the big dogs to provide a role model. Except the big dogs have their "suits" sitting around a board room table deciding what to do with the company website - and the suits don't have a clue about how the net works.
It's like school days again, but the geeks are in control - and the geeks aren't at the board room table. So.. you end up with the big dogs failing at their attempts to succeed online, and the little geeks like me building companies that grow in leaps and bounds because we "do" know what works online.
About a year ago, I got a phonecall from a large company in New York. The company produced infomercials. Do you know what they said when I
answered the phone? Not hello. Oh, no... they said "How did you get on page one of Yahoo in three different categories and how much will it cost for you to tell us how to do it?"
But, I digress... or do I?
> See thatís the problem, you canít change
> human behaviour overnight. If people have
> been buying offline for centuries, then why
> are they going to suddenly change.
Price. Price. Price. That's why. Money inspires more behaviour changes that you'd believe. I won't go into the psychological reasons for it, but we can reserve that discussion for another day. :)
I wanted to bring my Mom here for a vacation a while ago. I called a local travel agent. The airfare was $675. I then went online. The airfare at another agency was $495.
I called the agency I found online. Yes, I could pay for the ticket with my credit card - and pop over to the Toronto Airport (local) to pick it up. I did. And saved $180.
I wanted to buy Eudora Pro. The price, locally, was $79.99 (CDN) That's about $52 US. I went to Eudora.com. It was $39.99 USD - and they offered a discount if you were upgrading from a previous version. I was. I bought it online.
> I actually believe there is some deception
> going on. No Iím not into conspiracy
> theories usually, but what about all the
> positive surveys about how people are in
> love with the Internet.
There is a lot of deception online. Where is there not deception when people are involved?
Probably the biggest deception are some of the
"get rich quick" programs out there... and those exist offline, too. For some reason, though, people seem to be more gullible online and they fall for garbage that they wouldn't fall for offline. Let's save that for another conversation, too... because boy, could I go on about that one! *wink*
> I especially like the one about high income
> earners practically living online. A know a
> few people like this and not one of them
> even uses the Internet, except for email.
> Theyíre all busy doing what most high income
> earners are doing, building offline empires
> and businesses.
That's a classic mistake in thinking. Do you refer to segments as your life as your "on the phone life" and your "off the phone life?" Of course not. The people who classify things as "offline" and "online" don't "get" the Internet. The Internet is not an entity until itself. It's not a place. Yes, there are people that are making money both offline and online. Some of those people run "get rich quick" programs. Others, like me, realize that the Internet is nothing more than a communications medium, and they use it in conjunction with every other communications medium. Online and offline.
I started out as a graphic artist. In 1995 I discovered the Internet and moved my business online. I've created full size advertising materials and send them to clients in other countries via email. I employ several other people, one in Italy. I send them their work via email and send them their checks via mail. I have integrated online and offline if you want to look at it that way. I prefer to say that the Internet is a means of communication that has more capabilities than my telephone. But, I use it to communicate with real people, not "online" people. Real flesh and blood people with feelings and ideas, much like you and me.
Over the years, I've added computer graphics and website development to my services. I "fell into" writing and write as a columnist. I've written for an Asian women's group, and I have design and graphics clients around the world.
> Yes I know Iím generalising. But I think I
> know why the Internet will never be much
> more than a curiosity.
I disagree with all my heart. The Internet is a communications tool, but one that many people need to learn how to use.
Here is a prime example. I was talking to a fellow who had come to clean my drapes. He said
I'm just a small dry cleaner - what benefit would a website be to me? I don't need customers all around the world." I asked him how many of the homes he goes into have computers. He said most of them... and he said that people sure talk about the Internet a lot. So I asked him if he advertises much. He said only occasionally - it's very expensive to run ads that are of sufficient size to draw much attention.
So thenI asked him if he gets good responses when he puts out coupons. He said yes. I asked him how he'd like to be able to run coupon events regularly without having to print the coupons or run an ad. I told him that he could put a coupon on his website... then all he needs to do is let his customers know that there will be a different coupon on the website every month. All they have to do is log on, see what the discount is for - and when they bring their clothing in, tell him that they saw "xyz" special on his website.
I said to him... for example - if I knew my Mom wanted to get her winter coat cleaned, and I saw his coupon on his website because he told me about his website when I got my drapes cleaned, I'd be likely to phone and tell my mom where she could get a discount.
That's when his eyes lit up... he started to see the potential.
Sadly, too many businesses have NO idea how to make their websites work for them because any material that they do find online is some hokey marketing program that assures them that all they need is a good sales letter....
But I won't go there.. at least not today..
> Itís run by the people for the people. Sure
> itís great to finally have almost complete
> cheap control over something, but that may
> will be itís downfall.
No.. it's not in a downfall. It's in a state of learning. A lot of people are going to fall. Statistics indicate that 95% of websites are failing. That's because they haven't bothered to really research and find out what works.
I predict that there will be a paradigm shift over time and eventually people will learn how the Internet works... the hard way - which is (sadly) the way many people need to learn most things.
I have big dreams, but I hope to one day be a part of changing those numbers. All my clients are profiting online. It takes business skill and a sharp learning curve, but there are enough people that are doing it to prove it's viable.
However, there are always nay-sayers. There were those that said the automobile was a passing phase, that television would never catch on, and who the hell wanted to hear actors speak?? Not to mention that air flight was the dream of crazy people. Fortunately for us, there are the visionaries. The people who believe - and achieve.. and the rest of the world benefits from their dreams and aspirations. So it will be with the Internet.
> Look at other mediums. Television,
> controlled by large companies, sure thereís
> public access, but itís not popular like
> commercial TV. Radio? Same deal, Newspapers,
> Magazines? Same again.
All those examples show me is that the ones that are run as a "for profit" business thrive. "Here's your free newspaper, ladies and gentleman - it sucks.. but it's free" doesn't work. "Here's your newspaper.. it will cost you a dollar or two - but it's a great paper" does work. Same for tv and website hosting and every other service you can think of. People don't mind paying a fair price if what they are paying for is worth the money. More people need to remember that. Offering anything that sucks.. for free.. does not create an item that many people want.
> And I think itís the same with the
> InternetÖlots of promise, but it just isnít
> happening and I think it has much to do with
> because we all have a hand in it, then weíll
> never agree on what exactly it should be.
Who is it not working for? The men and women that email their friends and family and keep their phone bill down? The lonely people that find someone to talk to when they are alone? The 350,000 people that subscribe to Ray's joke ezine cause they just like that "laugh" once a day?
It's working fine for them. That's what they want from it, and that's what they use it for.
It's not, however, working for the 95% of businesses that are failing. That's because there is a sad lack of information on how to run a business online.
It's not working for people that thought it was a fantastic new toy and still aren't sure what to do with it. They'll learn, too, in time. Once upon a time there were horse and buggies sharing the road with cars. We don't see that much anymore. As people learn that the Internet is a communication tool, they'll cease being so confused by it.
One day, instead of battling traffic to find out if the local Home Hardware has the part you need, you'll log onto their website to check their stock because you just know the 16 year old answering the phone on a Saturday afternoon won't know what part you're talking about unless you have a part number.
Even today, we (at my home) log onto the net to see a comparision list of what movies are playing at what theatres and at what times. Then we pick one - and go.. : )
> Getting back to my party survey. I found
> that most people had fallen in love with the
> Internet, surfed, bought, emailed, meet a
> few new people in other countries and then
> it had worn off, the newness of it all, the
> promise of something fantastically
> Most said after 12 months or so they didnít
> even bother going online.
I do understand that. The "average" surfer really isn't sure what to do with the Internet. That will change in time and one day the Internet will be as commonly used to get information as the telephone is today.
> Okay, so the Netís just a tool, like a phone
> or the computer itself, maybe itíll never
> realise the great promise of something
> entirely useful that everyone can fall for.
> Maybe in 50 years it may be different ,
That's one thing I'd agree on. It will grow in time. There's a great line in Louis Armstrong's song (It's a Wonderful World).. the line says,
" I hear babies cry, I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than I'll EVER know.."
Yes, this world belongs to our children - and God give us the wisdom to guide them right and teach them the morals to make it a better place. : )
> Still, itís a good place to make money;0)
Funny though that might be as a quip, I'd like to share a tiny snippet of my history with you. Several years ago I left an ugly marriage with an alcohlic and nasty ex. I took my daughter and literally left the house with nothing in hand.
I knew that we had a lot of money in the bank.. and I mean a lot, so I wasn't worried about finances. Except it didn't turn out that way.
He'd transferred it all into his name. I had nothing. To make it worse, the divorce (which he fought) ended up costing me over 40 thousand dollars that I didn't have.
I struggled for six months to push my offline home business (graphic arts/adcopy) to do more sales. But I lived in a small city and it was tough. We barely scraped by. I refused to work outside of the home because my ex was stalking both me and my daughter. I couldn't get police help because my ex was the guy that installed their systems. (Long story) But, I was insistant on being at home when my daughter had to go anywhere.
I finally discovered the Internet. In very short order, I had customers around the globe. Within a year, I was back on my feet and making more money than I could have dreamed. Enough to move clear across the country because my business no longer relied on local clients... so we moved.
I am so, so grateful for the opportunities that the Internet gave me to grow my little business.
There isn't a day that I don't thank my lucky stars that I live in a time that allows this sort of opportunity.
I get over 200 emails a day, many from people that have sad stories and unfortunate circumstances. I answer them all. Every one. Sometimes it takes me weeks to get my email caught up, but every letter is a reminder to me that I could not offer words of inspiration to another person across the world if not for the Internet.
I could share the success stories of many of my clients, too... but this letter is far too long already. *laughing*
> What do you think?
Well... I told you what I think. Are you sorry you asked?
Just my two cents..
Your image - is my business