“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world .” – Harriet Tubman

“What is the fastest way to make money on the Internet?” I’ve been asked that question more than once by aspiring entrepreneurs.

There are thousands of ways to make money on the Internet. You can do it in a few minutes by selling stuff on eBay, Amazon, or thousands of other sites. But a lot of entrepreneurs want to know how to do it with a Web-based business. One that generates monthly income. So I’m going to show you one of the fastest ways to make money with a Web-based business – and it may surprise you.

In 1996, I built my first Web-based business. I sold it three months later for a small wad of cash. Granted, my puny business was not a billion-dollar venture like Facebook, YouTube, or HotMail. But it was profitable the first month it went live. And 12 years later, I’m still building, buying, and selling Web-based businesses – and having a blast doing it.

The problem with building a profitable Web-based business from the ground up is that it’s not always fast. Granted, it’s fairly simple to set one up – especially for information products, memberships, or continuity-type programs – but it usually takes a while to make it profitable.

An example of a “membership” site would be one that charges a monthly or annual fee to access information, a publication subscription, or a buying club (like SamsClub.com).

A “continuity” website would be one that offers products or services on a continuing basis (like a flowers-of-the-month service).

It takes some time to build a site around a proven product, let alone an unproven one. On top of that, the site needs to be tested so it “flows” (walks prospects through the sale process) as easily for you as it does for your customers. And you have to develop a landing page or sales letter that actually closes a sale – without any human interaction.

But… you can buy a Web-based business that is already making money! I’ve done it myself.

Three years ago, I acquired a small, unknown website from a struggling company for one of my clients. It featured software reviews and recommendations. It also included an opt-in subscriber list that the owners used to send monthly updates. Today, the site receives more than 100,000 page views each month, and the opt-in subscriber list has grown by more than 900 percent. In other words, the value of that Web-based business has increased significantly.

It’s never been easier to acquire a profitable Web-based business. Over the last 12 months or so, a lot of people have become strapped for cash. Real estate foreclosures, bankruptcies, and defaults are at 30-year highs (by some estimates). This situation has affected some Internet savvy Web-based business owners and entrepreneurs too. And they’re interested in selling their businesses for cold, hard cash.

But money troubles aren’t the only reason Internet business owners are selling. Some simply want to reduce the number of sites they have and downsize. Others build Web-based businesses purely with the intent to sell them. Kevin Ham, for example, an entrepreneur in Vancouver, owns more than 300,000 domain names. In a recent interview, he said he’s building businesses around some of the domains and plans to sell them this year and next.

When the economy turns south, the end result is thousands – in some cases, tens of thousands – of profitable Web-based businesses on the market. Sometimes you can pick up these gems at a deep discount.

You can find Web-based businesses for sale through conventional means, like business brokers, in the business-opportunity listings of large newspapers like The New York Times, or through a network of friends and collogues.

But there’s an even better way…

I’ll tell you about it in a minute. But first, keep in mind that though Web-based businesses have many advantages over brick-and-mortar businesses, you’ll still need to perform some due diligence if you’re planning to buy one. That would include looking at the business’s cash flow and expenses, the viability of its products, and the goodwill it’s generated (i.e., what people are saying about the company/products on blogs and forums).

Keep in mind, too, that the Web-based business under consideration may be specializing in a product that is outdated or no longer competitive. For example, the site may be selling an e-book of search engine optimization tricks and tactics. And though it enjoyed spectacular sales over the past several years, the competition is now squeezing it out of the market by offering better products at lower prices.

If it turns out that the business is selling a dying product, it is possible to improve it and revive the business – but only if the “essence” of the product is still viable. Let’s say the product is an e-book about making money with Google AdSense. Though the sales and market share for the product may have deteriorated, the concept still works. With a little tweaking and a better marketing strategy, you should be able to bring it back to life.

Now, let me tell you about the best place to find a Web-based business for sale: the Internet. There are hundreds of websites that feature potentially profitable Web-based businesses (and domains) where you can start your research.

Here is a list of the top 11:

  • Afternic
  • BuyDomains
  • BuySellWebsite
  • CraigsList (Any City > For Sale > Businesses)
  • DNForum
  • GoDaddy
  • GreatDomains
  • NamePros
  • Sedo
  • SitePoint Marketplace
  • ViperBusiness

How much does a Web-based business cost?

You can purchase a Web-based business that offers a single information product for as little as $1,000. You can also purchase multi-faceted Web-based businesses that offer numerous products, services, and opt-in subscriber and customer lists for $500,000. In my experience, there is an abundance of Web businesses for sale in the $10,000-$20,000 range.

The greatest advantage to acquiring an active Web-based business is the immediate cash flow. Most profitable Web-based businesses will not require a lot of setup or training either. What’s more, a profitable Web-based business will typically have all of the “bugs” and technical problems worked out.

Once you have a successful Web-based business, you can apply the same “formula” that made it successful to test new products, services, and markets. But don’t mess with success. In other words, don’t try to add a product or service to the successful website. Launch another site instead. I have seen many entrepreneurs mess with a profitable formula and drive their Web-based businesses into the ground.

You can also “broker” Web-based business sales for extra income. For example, you can buy and sell Web-based businesses (and/or domain names) quite easily on most of the sites I listed above. When you become a Web-based business (or domain) broker, you don’t even have to run or manage an online business.

Purchasing a profitable Web-based business is one of the fastest ways to make money on the Internet. Start researching the market today – and get ready to launch your Web-based business empire in 2008!

[Ed. Note: If you’re looking to start a business but just can’t come up with the right idea, consider subscribing to Marc Charles’ weekly Profit Center Dispatch service. Marc’s reports tell you how to get started and who to market to. He also includes insider tips to accelerate your success.]

Marc Charles is often referred to as "The King of Business Opportunities", and he has launched more than 40 successful businesses over past 22 years (and advised on many more). One business (ad rep agency) produced more than $6 million in sales in 36 months with a start-up budget of less than $2000. Marc began his Internet adventure in 1993 by reviewing websites for Yahoo! Unplugged, which became a best selling book, online resource and interactive CD. His website reviews (more than 7500) were featured in Wired, Bloomberg Personal, Internet World, Internet Edge, Web Digest and Business 2.0. In 1999 he developed the first email newsletter advertorial. Email advertorials continue to be one of the most powerful marketing tools on the Internet. Marc's passion is identifying great digital and Internet business opportunities for start-up entrepreneurs. He has written dozens of top selling ebooks and money making courses including China Wholesale Secrets.