Once upon a time, there lived a business owner named Sidney who ran a small retail and online design shop in Detroit, Michigan. For more than a decade, Sidney prospered in her local community through independent contract work she performed for clients, from creating a new logo for the clothes cleaners down the street to managing a complete redesign of a Web site for a Chinese takeout restaurant just around the corner.

A couple of years ago she was honored with the Detroit Designer of the Year Award, which recognized her talent within the community and acknowledged her as their small business star. Everybody in Detroit knew and liked Sidney, or Sid as they liked to call her. She was the go-to person on anything to do with design.

Sidney managed to secure at least two key client assignments a month—enough to live a good life that included taking care of her two kids as a single parent and vacationing once a year. But lately business was slowing down and Sidney began to lie awake most nights fretting about how she was going to pay her bills or what she could do to turn her business around.

It became harder and harder for her to obtain repeat business, and no new businesses had been established in her neighborhood for quite some time. Cash flow had started to dwindle.

When the environment got tougher, she contemplated closing up shop and going to work for someone else. But that notion terrified her. Losing her creative and independent spirit in exchange for secure employment at a company outside of her own seemed like a high price to pay for not coming up with a solution to her business problem. But if she didn't make a change soon, her business would dry up—job or no job lined up—putting her and her family at risk both financially and emotionally.

After many sleepless nights and much thought, she set out to take a leap of faith and make a big change. That change, she realized, involved doing business not only with the guy or gal down the street but also with the world.

How could Sid, with a small operation and no real following outside of Detroit, do that? Easy. Let's take a look.

The first thing she did was conduct a Google search on the Internet population and arrived at Internet World Stats (internetworldstats.com). She learned that there are more than a billion people using the Internet—a whole heck of a lot more potential customers for her design business than in Detroit. Next she asked herself, How will they find me?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laurel Delaney (LaurelDelaney.com) is the founder of GlobeTrade.com and the creator of "Borderbuster," an e-newsletter, and The Global Small Business Blog. She can be reached at ldelaney@globetrade.com.