This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

December 3rd, 2001

Get Rich Quick?

Reading Al Campell's series on Get Rich Quick, I couldn't help but think of all the people who have contacted us over the last four years wanting to build their own websites. Some just want to share the information about their local fishery and region and that's great, but some "want to get rich quick."

The demise of many big 'dot com' companies over the past year, would lead one to think it may not be as easy as it seems. True, some people made a lot of money selling their web ideas to investors who dumped tons of money into technology, payrolls and equipment. But when the website was not profitable, they folded. People were out of jobs, investors lost their money and it makes it ever harder for the next person with a great idea or concept to succeed.

One large publishing company, (who I won't name), spent 6.5 million dollars on their half ownership of a website. Eventually they sold their half-interest to an even bigger company, and stopped the money hemorrhage. It's still up, but I don't think it has made one dollar in profit. Some of the big ones familiar to you, for example, has yet to show a profit.

So where does that leave the 'little guy?'

Here's some food for thought.

Anyone can have a 'free website' - there are many services who will let you build a small website for your personal use. Some will allow commercial sites as well, but you are limited as to how many pages, or how much space you can take up. This might be a good way to try out your idea, see what you can do, and if you wish to sell a product or service, is there any interest in what you offer.

If what you have in mind is larger than the freebee hosting available, you need to find a service which will host your website. Check the service out! Do they host other websites? If so, get the names of those websites and contact the owners. Are they happy? Do they get what they pay for? What happens if there are problems? Will you always have complete access to your site? Can you reach someone if your website is off line?

Costs for hosting a website vary greatly. If the website is large you may be charged for the space it takes up, or how much use it gets. An option is to own your own server and have it co-located at a reputable internet service provider. There of course is a charge for that too. The cost does not always reflect the amount of support or quality of the service. What kind of access do your potential readers have to you? Regular phone lines? T-3 lines? Fiber Optics? I'm getting a little technical here, but most service providers do not own their connecting web access across the world. Those 'lines' are called backbones. There are several. How dependable are they? How often are they out of service? If a back-hoe cuts a line in Chicago are you out of business? It happens!

How are you going to pay for your website? There are a few sites in the fly-fishing world which charge a subscription fee. I only have personal knowledge of one by a extremely well-known personality. It is not profitable. By profitable, that means covering the expenses to operate it. Profitable does not mean paying you (or me) a living wage. It may take a very long time before you can quit your day job. In the meantime, be prepared to pay for everything you cannot personally do.

Your ideas for a website may not be fly fishing related, but here's some figures for you. Alta Vista's search engine lists 6,073,304 websites for Fly Fishing. Google's search engine lists 921,000. Check it for yourself on your favorite search feature.

Either way, that's pretty tough competition. If you are interested in a different field, do a search and see how many websites already exist for that field.

How is your idea better? What can you offer the others don't? And the biggie, how are you going to get people to your website instead of the others?

If that's not enough to think about, how are you going to produce your website? There are many 'programs' available to write the code for you, but all have drawbacks of one sort or another. Most do not 'read' the same (or sometimes not at all) on more than one browser. If the program is Microsoft based, there are problems reading the page in Netscape. Some teckies will tell you it doesn't matter, because everyone uses Microsoft Internet Explorer (MISE). The readers on FAOL do not all use MISE, in fact 42% use Netscape or other browsers. Are you willing to lose 42% of your possible readers? The alternative is to learn to write HTML code. This website is not written using a program, and is written in HTML.

If you have decided to sell a product, you need to provide a means for people to buy it. That may be as simple as having the customer send you a check, or may require a 'shopping cart' which fills out an order and emails it to you, along with the customer's credit card information. Opps, now you need something called a "secure" website, where dorks can't come in and steal the credit card information. There is a charge, usually monthly, for that. And there is a charge to be able to take credit cards as well. You need to factor those costs into your product costs as well. If you are thinking small, like a special fly you tie and want to sell, you could do just fine by using a service called Pay Pal. The customer pays Pay Pal and Pay Pal pays you. I believe the charge for this service is a very small percentage of the price, which is less than most credit card services.

How are you going to get people to your website? We probably get 50 emails a week from folks wanting us to put their website on our "links page." If they had done their homework they would know we don't have a "links page." Then there are search engines. I've been told when a new domain name is issued the search engines 'search' it within eight days. Could be. I do know for sure there are hundreds if not thousands of companies who tell website owners they can get you in the top ten of all the search engines (for a fee of course.) So if of 1% of those websites signed up for this paid-for-placement, that would be 6,073 websites listed in the top ten for Fly Fishing. For what period of time? If at all? There are hundreds of search engines, the record for search engines on FAOL in one day is 522. It's my belief search engines do pay attention to something called 'meta tags' and if they are done properly you will be found.

Lastly, how much time are you willing to devote to your website? If you wish to sell a service or products, you must keep the pages current, interesting and correct. Advertising your guide service is one thing - selling drift boats is something else. A well-managed website requires content, good graphics, all pages must load and do so as fast as possible on all web browsers, interaction of some sort, (if it's only email links), attention to user and error logs - constant care and feeding, especially if you want the reader to come back.

Can you build a website? Absolutely. Will it be successful? Depends on your ability, tenacity and passion. Profitable? Maybe. Will I send you complete instructions on how to build a Fly Anglers OnLine? Get your checkbook out. ~ LadyFisher

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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