The Virtual Womantm

The Virtual Woman: A Woman's
Weekly Guide To Cyberspace

Winter has definitely arrived here in San Francisco. I spotted a few mushrooms growing beneath my keyboard. Always a sign. And while not as cold as our summer, it is rainier in the winter. I try and view all of this positively: At least rain requires no shoveling. We also have a nice Fall out here. There is this one beautiful native tree that changes colors up north in Mill Valley. People travel from all parts to see The Tree. (My east coast roots are showing, I can tell). But seriously, itís hard to stomach these wimpy seasons relative to the full fledged ones many of you have out there. But Iíll get over it. One trip back to Buffalo, one small breath of bone chilling air, and Iím cured and singing about leaving my heart back in San Francisco (despite delays in retrieving it due to horrendous traffic jams). Okay. Enough. This week, as usual, youíve sent me some great questions and Iíve got some great websites for you. Keep those emails coming, write to me, cheer me up!

Dear Virtual Woman:

For the last few years I've been running a small gift basket business out of my garage. After much hard work, juggling time, and sacrifice from my family the biz is finally turning a profit. My questions to you are: Do you think I should take the plunge and dive into developing a website or am I just too small for the internet? And what are some of the pitfalls I need to avoid?

- Betty's Baskets in Baltimore

Dear Betty:

Developing a profitable business is no small feat, congratulations!! And nope, you are not too small to benefit from using the internet (but you knew I'd say that). There are, however, a few things to consider before bringing your baskets into cyberspace. Achieving success on the net generally depends on effort, resources and the amount of time you devote to your website. Since this is your first internet venture I suggest you take the sound advice of some people who understand. Log onto Marketing Tips at the International Small Business Consortium These experts have pointers dealing with creating a web image and tailoring content to your target audience.

The folks at ISBC say one of the most common pitfalls small businesses fall into is believing that once their site is up the job is done. Not so. Think of your website as a favorite magazine with devoted readers always looking forward to the next issue. Giving your visitors the incentive to come back means continually putting out fresh content and doing regular updates to your site. If an online offshoot to your business sounds a bit too time consuming and elaborate for you right now, the web can be used to get ideas about running your biz in RL (real life). Surf over to Idea Site for Business where the main menu provides access to 206 Marketing Ideas, free for your own personal business use.

Dear Virtual Woman:

It seems lately there's a credit card craze going. I'm forever getting offers for low rate cards in my snail mail. Is there a place online to find out which cards are legit?

- Perusing For Plastic, Santa Monica, CA

Dear Peruser:

A good jumping off point for your credit card curiosity is the Credit Card section at Bank Rate Monitor ( Bank Rate Monitor is a site high on my list for independent financial information. In another section called, "Which Credit Card Is Best For You" ( you can read an explanation of credit card hidden fees and interest rates. Armed with that information, go back to the Credit Card section and click on the start button in the "Find the Best Rate For You" area. Fill in the blanks and Bank Rate Monitor will come up with several several card suggestions. This site is updated frequently, and the navigation changes slightly, but it's all in the name of bringing you the latest and best rates available. And for those of you really hooked on discovering the best credit card rate, go ahead and sign up for a free email alert at and get notified right away of changes in the personal finance industry.

Dear Virtual Woman:

My husband is being transferred out of state which means we'll all be relocating. We have three school age children, one in elementary, one in middle school and our oldest is about to graduate from high school. Since I don't know anyone in our new city, is there an online way to get the scoop on schools in the area?

- Carol M.,Boston, MA

Dear Carol:

Schoolmatch School Directory is a commercial service providing information on every public and accredited private school in the United States. You can search the directory by state, city, zip code or school name. Once you find your niche, School Match will sell you a report (for a very reasonable fee) on enrollment, class sizes, and test scores. The Supplementary Information Center offers a glossary of educational terms and some general statistics on education. Good luck getting settled in your new home town!

Happy Surfing!

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Find these links and more at WWWomen.Com ( the web's largest search directory of topics for women online. Email the Virtual Woman with your Internet questions or send snailmail to: WWWomen.Com, Attn: Virtual Woman, 3701 Geary Blvd., #325, S.F., CA 94118. Copyright, 1998. WWWomen, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Contributing Editor: Rita Kennen
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