How to start a low-risk web business

These are truly incredible times. In January, the tech industry alone promised to make a workforce equivalent to the population of the Isle of Man redundant. Meanwhile UK unemployment, at the time of writing, stands at more than two million – the worst figures since the early 1990s.

How to start a low-risk web business

Back in the days of Black Wednesday, the internet was little more than an academic project for Tim Berners-Lee and his chums. Today, it represents an opportunity for those out of work to build a successful business of their own. It could also throw a lifeline to anyone who is struggling to keep an offline business afloat – even today, a quarter of UK businesses don’t have a website, according to Google.

With only a modest budget, a modicum of technical skill and bucketfuls of determination, it’s possible to build your own web business from scratch. And while it’s feasible for someone who couldn’t tell a URL from an SSL to succeed online, the technical know-how of the average PC Pro reader could give them that crucial advantage over the thousands of entrepreneurs who are entering the internet business from a standing start. At the very least it could save you money on hiring dedicated web developers.

We’re going to guide you through the process of starting your own, low-risk internet business. We’ll offer advice on picking the right business strategy, finding the right software, and getting your site noticed on Google. We’ll also be talking to successful British internet start-ups to find out how they got started, and pass on their invaluable tips.

Start skimming the profit from web links

Searching for success

What type of business?

The classic mistake of the web entrepreneur is being over-ambitious. Forget about pre-ordering your first yacht by becoming the next Google or iTunes: it isn’t going to happen. These companies have quarterly revenue counted in the billions, worldwide server infrastructures, and enough marketing clout to crush a small start-up in the time it takes their work-experience lad to get back from his tea-break.

Focus instead on finding a potentially profitable niche. This might mean claiming a small part of an already well-established and lucrative market. There’s little point in taking on dozens of high-street sports chains by selling replica football shirts online, for example, but a site such as has prospered (both online and off) by selling smartly designed football shirts emblazoned with famous quotes from everyone from Bobby Moore to Albert Camus.

Web businesses can also thrive by delivering an everyday service or product that’s hard to come by elsewhere. has forged a highly successful business backed by £3 million of venture capital by offering high-quality, bespoke business cards of the type not typically found at high-street printers. “We spent 18 months getting it pretty badly wrong,” Moo chief executive and founder Richard Moross told PC Pro. “We started off as a Facebook-style social-networking site with a card-printing service. It was difficult to change direction, but it was necessary. Now we’re trying to do for business cards what Swatch did for watches in the 1980s.”

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