When Fiona Lewis’ husband was involved in a serious accident just after she gave birth to their third child, they found themselves in a vulnerable family situation. However, starting online marketing consulting business Mumpreneurs Online saw her replaced my full time teacher’s salary within the first nine months of starting out online – and only working part time hours. Here’s her story…
What were you doing when you decided to create your own business?
I had been at home with my first two sons from 2002-2006 and loved being a stay at home mum. BUT, after a while, I felt I needed al little more professional stimulation for the ‘grey matter’ – so decided to go back to work as a primary school teacher in 2007. I soon learnt that the grass is not always greener – as although I was loving the idea of being back in a professional environment, I desperately missed being with my kids and I was in a constant state of being tired and time poor.
In 2008, I fell pregnant with our third son and I knew at that point that I needed to find something I could do from home…
What inspired you to start the business? When did you officially start it?
Early in 2008 when I first fell pregnant, I began to play around with the idea of blogging and affiliate marketing. I already had a keen interest in the internet and suspected at that point that it would be a good way for me to make money from home. However, having never previously been a business owner before, I pretty much treated it as a hobby – and as a result, the money I earned represented what you would expect from a hobby.
It was later that same year, however, that tragedy struck. Just one week before the birth of my 3rd son, my husband was involved in a serious accident at work. He had always prided himself on leading a very physical and active life both at work and home, so to find himself suddenly incapacitated was absolutely devastating.
We were now in an extremely vulnerable family situation. There was me – hormonal and tired having just given birth to our newborn son, my two other young children running about the place and my husband in desperate need of my love and support and sadly, unable to work. The situation had the potential to be dire but I was determined to pull all our resources together and make it work. I actually had no choice. I simply had to be successful in working from home. It’s true that necessity is the mother of invention!
So I suppose I officially started my first ‘serious’ online business in October 2008! Word had got around between friends that I was putting websites together and getting to rank front page in Google – so before I knew it I had an online marketing consulting business (and I’ve never looked back!)
What was your start-up cost? How did you acquire the money and what did you use it for?
Fortunately for me and my situation, starting an online business costs next to nothing. I already had my computer and internet connection. I quickly learnt how to put a website together, and became a serious student of online marketing.
So the cost for me was mainly my time and energy. I do remember plenty of late nights (and early mornings!!) sitting on the couch with my computer, tearing my hair out whilst I tried to work through technical challenges.
What was the biggest obstacle?
The biggest obstacle for me was initially the isolation of not having anyone to run to when I faced difficulties. As I mentioned earlier, there were technical challenges I had to work through, and I often found the ‘help desks’ of services and software I purchased laborious to work with – especially with the time differences between countries. Sometime it would take me days to fix an issue that was really a five minute job!
The other thing that I really wished for was access to more online training with videos that allowed me to ‘look over someone’s shoulder’ as they demonstrated something – but back then there wasn’t a lot around – and if I did find some, it was usually by some ‘tech head’ who found it difficult to break an explanation down into simplistic language!
How did you rise above the tough days? Those days when people said no, things fell through or someone said they didn’t “get it’’.
As my online marketing consulting business grew, I started to take on outsource staff (which, in the early days was a complete nightmare!!!).
There were some really stressful times when outsource staff I had hired to build a website delivered work that was SO bad I had to get it completely re-done by another developer. I ended up having to pay for the work twice and lost money on that job. BUT, from all of this came experience and now I have a reliable system in place to reduce the chance of this ever happening to me again.
Eventually I joined a private internet marketing forum where there were ‘other people like me’. Here I was able to relate to people who spoke my language and understood the highs and lows of internet marketing. This really helped me to make it through those tough days.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
Because of the very low start up costs, I started to make money from the ‘get-go’. There were a couple of jobs where I lost money, but by and large, I was making profit pretty quickly. In fact, I had replaced my full time teacher’s salary within the first nine months of starting out online – and was working part time hours!
What do you love most about being your own boss? What is the downside?
I love the fact that by business is totally portable and flexible. On most occasions, I can choose WHEN to work, WHERE I want to work and HOW OFTEN I want to work. All I need is my laptop, iPad or even my iPhone and I can still be functioning.
The downside to this is that it can sometimes be hard to draw a line between work time and family time. Working from home means that it can be tempting to fall into work mode when really it should be family time.
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
Social media is a vital part of my business. I think the key to remember here is that people don’t want to be ‘sold’ to when using social media sites. So for me, social media is a place to connect with my market and provide them good quality content. Interestingly, I have also found that it is important to share a little of ‘myself’ – posting pictures and comments that are non-business related always help to increase the interaction.
I also use social media to grow my market leadership within my niche. This can easily be done by connecting with the other leaders in your niche and get involved in THEIR conversations. Make sure they know WHO you are and in time you may develop a relationship with them. This also helps to give you exposure to their large number of followers.
It is really important that you set up your social media presence using the correct business pages and profiles. I use a Facebook Fan Page for the business and I also Facebook Fan page for my public profile. I have only recently set up the public profile page as this will mean that as I introduce new brands and businesses into my plan, I will not be tied wholly to one particular brand. It is so important to think ahead of time…
Of course, Facebook is not the only place I interact socially. There is also Twitter, YouTube and most recently, Pinterest.
One thing I am not a fan of is using auto posting.
How have you been using public relations to grow your business? What strategies have you used?
Definitely. I was fortunate enough to meet and become friends with Kate Engler (aka ‘The Publicity Princess). Kate has taught me about the power of getting FREE media exposure – and I have to say I have been shocked by how easy it is to get sometimes up to a third of a page in a newspaper – all about me and my business!
Of course, as an internet marketer, I also take advantage of online media releases to drive traffic to my website. This is also a strategy I use to increase brand awareness, credibility and trust.
Where do you work from?
I work from home mainly, but because the flexibility of running online businesses, I can work from anywhere – whether that be from the waiting area while the kids are doing gymnastics, in the café at the gym or most recently, I worked whilst on a business trip in Thailand!
Who are your entrepreneurial role models? What’s so inspiring about them?
My friend and mentor James Schramko is the man responsible for teaching me the majority of what I know when it comes to running an online business. He is a super intelligent man and when he starts to talk business, I listen! The way that man thinks just blows me away… he is a true role model and an inspiration.
Most importantly, James is a man of integrity – something that can be sadly lacking in the internet marketing field.
How have you acquired the skills and knowledge you have to make your business successful?
I have invested HEAVILY in my education. Initially I started with James (as I just mentioned), but I believe that in order to grow we must be in a constant state of learning and acquiring new skills.
I am a firm believer in having mentors – so this is where I invest. As the internet is constantly changing, it is important that I stay up to day in best practise. So, I have my Google Alerts and RSS feeds all set up to filter into my Google reader account – which means that the information I need to learn from comes to me (gotta love it!)
I am also an avid reader of books and always have one on the go!
What’s the best piece of business advice you ever received?
One of my mentors, Mal Emery preaches how important it is not to be a sales person – but rather come from the angle of being an educator. Provide massive value and always over deliver.
What is your favourite product/service that you offer?
By far, it is the Mentoring Mums Online program – an online program designed to support women who want to develop and grow online businesses. I have gathered a wonderful faculty of expert mentors to share their expertise in a wide range of areas so that we can offer training in things such as copywriting, PR, site flipping, affiliate marketing, blogging, SEO, outsourcing, WordPress, digital product creation and more… Another key component to this program is how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
I’m passionate about this because I want to help other women live the family flexible lifestyle they desire – and I truly believe that being the owner of an online business is such a fabulous solution!
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The biggest piece of advice I would give aspiring entrepreneurs is to get a mentor!
Whilst you might be capable of making it on your own, leverage off the experience and expertise of a mentor will speed up the process and reduce the amount of mistakes you make along the way.
And finally, enjoy the process!