When most people look at their online business, they see all the differences between it and an offline business. Online businesses are cheaper to run most of the time, for example. You usually don’t have much direct contact with customers, and it’s easier to run a small online business by yourself than it would be to run a similar sized business offline alone.

Despite the differences, there are many things that are true for your business no matter where you run it.

1. You must offer something that interests your niche.

There’s no point in offering a product or service that no one is interested in. It doesn’t matter where you run your business.

Online businesses can, however, often target a smaller niche than an offline one can. Online you’re pulling interest from a larger area, which is much to your advantage.

2. Good customer service matters.

When a customer needs your help, especially if it’s a problem with their order, you need to pay attention to their needs. It shows when you don’t care about your customers, and word gets out.

The internet has made this particularly true for all businesses, online and off. If a customer has a problem and you just ignore it, you don’t know who all they’re going to tell. Might be a few friends locally; might be their thousands of friends and followers online. Even someone without a large following can post a complaint that people will find when researching your business online.

Complaints posted online are really hard to hide. They don’t just go away in a short time. A complaint from years ago may still be pulled up in an online search.

3. Success is hard work.

Too many people start online ventures thinking that success will come easily. For the vast majority, that’s simply not true. Success with an online business is most often the result of years of hard work. It only looks instantaneous when it hits a sudden increase in visibility.

This is true in all kinds of business. Offline, you could compare this to starting a business in a major mall. There’s lots of foot traffic already in the mall, but if there isn’t something about your store that draws customers in, you aren’t going to succeed. You have to do the work online or offline to appeal to your niche market.

4. Marketing matters.

Some people have a rather… interesting… view of online marketing. That’s why there’s so much email spam, spammy forums posts and spammy blog comments. People take the view that any attention to their site is good, no matter how bad it makes you look to potential customers.

Certainly there’s some benefit to getting links from other sites, but forum links and blog comment links tend to be pretty weak. They may have some benefit with search engines, but spammy comments and posts make you look bad to customers who see them and get an impression of unprofessional behavior.

This is why, just as with offline business, it’s vitally important to do a good job with your marketing. Make your business the one people want to go to. Stand out in a positive way.

Blog commenting and forum posting is better used as a way to build relationships, not just for links. Show yourself as an expert and these are less likely to be a waste of your time. You also won’t lose so many posts to spam filters.

5. You have to take your business seriously.

It’s all too easy to get lazy with an online business. It sits there, maybe making money if you’ve been working at it, maybe not earning anything if it’s new, but it’s always there for you and not costing that much.

But if you want to earn serious money from any business, online or off, you have to take it seriously. You have to work to make it grow. Without serious effort, your business probably won’t go anywhere.