Following the success of her book Small Fry Outdoors – inspiration for being outside with kids, freelance writer Caro Webster realised people were hungrier than ever for information on how to keep kids connected to nature. Since launching Caro and Co, her ever growing site has been awarded the Sydney Writers Centre’s 2012 Best Parenting Blog award. This is her story…
What were you doing when you decided to create your own business?
I was a freelance writer, working from home. I had just had my first book (Small Fry Outdoors) published. I had also just begun exploring social media.
What inspired you to start the business? When did you officially start it?
Social media. It made me realise there was a new and exciting way of engaging with my audience/s. I was interested in disseminating information about nature, kids and outdoors and also garnering information about my areas of interest. Social media affords that in spades. I also wanted to give my book and writing a broader audience and drive sales of both. I started in late 2009.
What was your start-up cost? How did you acquire the money and what did you use it for?
No start up costs, other than my time, internet charges and a one-off fee to customise my website.
What was the biggest obstacle?
No real obstacles, other than juggling motherhood and work. Oh, and trying to explain to some friends and family exactly what it is that I do.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
My writing has always been profitable, as ideas (and then transferring them to the written word) are free and as such cost me nothing but are easy to on-sell. Monetising my blog has been a slower process. I’ve recently engaged a PR and marketing firm to assist in this area.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What is the downside?
In terms of my writing, being writer, editor and publisher really appeals. I like having total control and ownership of the content. Downsides? Not having enough time to capitalise on opportunities that present themselves. To be honest, I also dislike the admin that comes with having a business.
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
As mentioned, it has afforded me the opportunity to make contact with people that would have taken longer to discover via traditional methods. I see social media as primarily being a way of building effective relationships with people who will, in the short, medium and long term, support you and your business.
How have you been using public relations to grow your business? What strategies have you used?
I have just engaged a firm to do this. I’m excited to see where this will lead.
Who are your entrepreneurial role models? What’s so inspiring about them?
Mia Freedman and Wendy Harmer. I admire the ability they have to make themselves heard, to grow their teams and web businesses and to continually provide and provoke unique comment.
How have you acquired the skills and knowledge you have to make your business successful?
I have always written throughout my various careers. I am fortunate that it comes naturally to me. In terms of developing my website, I’m self taught. I do a lot of reading on my areas of interest to keep my writing fresh, topical and current. I have recently started attending conferences on blogging and will next year attend a formal writing course. I’m also planning to finish my horticulture degree in 2013.
What’s the best piece of business advice you ever received?
To always tackle the big issues/tasks first. In doing so, quite often the smaller ones disappear completely.
What is your favourite product/service that you offer?
My writing. I’m also very proud of my book – it was a joy to write.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Find your unique voice/product and stick with it. Don’t be tempted to stray off message. Be prepared for a slow build. Undertake as much market research as you can before you commence. Know who your audience is and who your competitors are. Understand that if you are working from home, you will need more discipline than if you are in a formal office environment.
How do you cope working from home? Are you able to stay focused on your daily tasks?