If you were to open a brick and mortar retail store, would you simply ask a realtor for a storefront and be given one for free? Would the city give you utilities at no cost? Would thousands of people walk into your store every month without an advertising budget or even any planning?Yet this is exactly how most people looking to make money online approach an online business. And it isn’t completely their fault. For years shady marketers have claimed we can make thousands a month doing next to nothing. In reality, they are trying to make quick and easy sales from their internet marketing products by manipulating our hope.But this doesn’t mean an online business is just as expensive as an offline business; in fact it is quite a bit less and has far more potential reach. When you think of how many customers you can reach with an offline retail business, it is only those within driving distance. And most people aren’t willing or able to make a commute across town which limits your reach even more.An online business can reach anyone across the world and a sale can be made any time of day or night. No employees are required to complete a transaction meaning zero labor costs.So with these endless possibilities, why is it that a great percentage of people fail to make any money online?I believe the primary reason people fail to make money online is because they treat an online business as a fantasy and do not treat it like a real business. A brick and mortar business requires costs; lease, interior design, utilities, inventory, advertising, and these costs are carefully budgeted.Traffic generation is also researched and planned. Nearly all banks won’t approve a business loan without a business plan which includes extensive demographic research. Offline business owners know who their target customers are and how to reach them. They choose locations that benefit from foot traffic. They are prepared.If we want to succeed with an online business we must understand that an internet business does not do away with the normal costs of operating a successful business, it simply has inexpensive equivalents.- A domain. Registering a domain is the equivalent of choosing a location for your business. The better your location, the greater chance of gaining foot traffic.- A Website. Think of your website as your storefront. You need a place for your customers to come into, and they need to be able to find it appealing and easy to find what they need and check out.- Hosting. A web hosting plan can be compared to your utilities. If you don’t pay the phone bill a customer will not be able to reach you.- Advertising. How many businesses do you know of that have no listing in the phone book, budget no advertising, and stay in business? None. So why would it be any different to run your online business this way?Running an online business is very inexpensive. Most hosting plans combine domain registration (an est. $7-$15 one-time yearly fee), hosting (est. $3.95-9.95 a month), and a website all into one plan leaving advertising as your only primary cost.So even though the cost of an online business is incredibly low, we must still treat it like we would any other business. Do proper research to know who your audience is and how to offer them the greatest value. Design your websites with the customer in mind. And be willing to invest in advertising, and your continued training.There are no miracle techniques or secrets to making thousands of dollars without doing anything in return. But an online business remains the best way to make money with the least amount of expense.