Starting Up Your Own Business

The gurus kept on saying that the best place to start a new business is the internet. Apparently, it’s the cheapest place to fail.

But that really isn’t the best frame of mind in which to decide that you want to put yourself out there, liable to ridicule and the risk of failure.

With all his experience at dealing with official form completion, my friend, Gray, would say that you have to start with a business development plan which addresses exactly what you want to achieve from your labours. What’s the end result? Where do you see yourself in five years time if all has gone according to plan?

I’m afraid I did none of those things. I sort of toyed with the idea that I might be any good and I put a few feelers out here and there which led me to believe that people might be interested… at the right price.

More than anything, what I came to understand was that there was no money available for internet advertising because it was an unknown quantity. They were still putting their faith in more ‘reliable’ methods of driving traffic, even though they knew that it was expensive. As far as they were concerned, they had spent their money on something that had a ‘proven’ track record. So, whilst accepted strategies appeared to work to a certain extent, business owners were not prepared to pour any more money into their marketing budget. Especially when they didn’t understand the new ideas or any of the new-fangled technology.

Now you’re probably wondering why I’ve put a picture of two neck/shoulder muscles at the side of this picture. Well, they were what gave me the oomph. The final push to actually launch myself back into the business world and face the consequences.

It’s been nearly three years since I first started to get a pain in my shoulder and realised that the movement in my neck was restricted. Two osteopaths, a physio and a year’s worth of yoga and pilates later, I’m finally starting to get better. But it was Mike’s massage that really put my recovery into hyperdrive.

I went in for an Indian head massage to try to free up the tension in my traps – those two muscles that run down the side of your neck to your shoulders, but he suggested that I have a good, old-fashioned back and neck treatment instead… and could he use some sports massage techniques?

I should have known from the twinkle in his eye when I gave him the affirmative that it was not going to be pleasant. Hell, I’ve listened to Chris Moyles and his team receiving sports massage on the radio in the morning. Their squeals have confirmed to me that, generally, a sports massage tends to equate to pain before relief.

So, as I lay there with his elbow wedged into my semi-spinalis capitis, exhaling enthusiastically to try to relieve the agony and knowing that he still had to do the other side, I heard my voice say: ‘So, do you have a website?’.

His response echoed the well-worn path of other friends in business… and that’s when the idea struck me. I knew that I needed to have a lot more treatment to really get better but I couldn’t afford to come twice a week every week. So supposing, instead of using cold, hard cash, we came to some sort of mutually benefical arrangement that utilised the swap of services.

And that’s when I made the appointment to see him and discuss it properly.

I’m not sure that I really thought this business deal through properly because, as things stand, he gets to look at my bottom and inflict pain, whilst I get to stay up ’til 2am cursing the computer…. hmmmm…

Anyway, no cash has changed hands but he has a fully-functioning website with an ongoing marketing strategy and I can now turn my neck to either side without experiencing the familiar tightness and discomfort.

He’s now moving in on my tight hamstrings and I’m looking at the many opportunities to list his business with online directories.

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Setting Up A UK Web Host

Since I have been advising my various customers that UK sites should be hosted by UK businesses, I have taken my own advice and set about changing my own hosting arrangements.

It’s scary, seat of your pants stuff to be honest.  I had just got comfortable with the current hosts but I was made an offer that I couldn’t refuse by someone whose advice I trust so I thought I’d give it a try.

Of course, this meant that I had to change some things in the control panel.


Name servers and ‘A’ records, IP addresses and other such geeky language was mentioned.

If you can still read this tomorrow, then the transition worked seamlessly and I will be able to tell you more about my new UK Web Host 🙂

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Paperless Billing

"Paperless Billing"I was going to stick to writing about my business endeavours but sometimes the ridiculousness of life’s systems just cannot go unpublished.

When I got an email asking me to submit online meter readings for my gas and electricity, I suddenly noticed that I had built up a £500 of credit.   Further investigation of my account revealed that I had not actually been billed for my power for almost a year.

This is one of the downsides of paperless billing.  It’s fabulous for the trees but, for household management, it means that you don’t keep your finger on the pulse in quite the same way as with proper quarterly bills that drop through the letterbox and require attention.

After it had been ascertained that, once the amount owed had been paid, there was still over £200 left in credit, I was told that it would be possible to reduce my direct debit payments from £50 to £40.

“Hold on,” says I.  “If my bill for a year was less than £300 and my account is £200 in credit, why am I still paying such a large MONTHLY direct debit?”

The operator went away to check and announced that the credit would be refunded and she would call me back to confirm this had been authorised and discuss a revised direct debit.

Naturally, I found myself chasing this up two days later.  The repayment would be forthcoming, but the computer insisted that the new figure for my direct debit would actually have to go UP to £79 per month because there was now no money left in the kitty to carry forward towards the October bill.

When I politely insisted that this was not going to happen, they suggested taking it back to £50 again.  Apparently, the computer wants to ensure that I have enough in the account when the next bill arrives in October.

As I explained, a payment of £50 had gone out by direct debit only that morning which, by my reckoning, was close to covering two months of the three relating to the next bill.

After going back and forth, I finally got their agreement to take it down to £40 since that was the figure the computer originally suggested.  Because there has been a mess up, they cannot tell what my actual average consumption is – it doesn’t work by dividing the amount used by the number of months that have elapsed since the last bill it would seem.

So, in October, if the computer does not recognise that I am ridiculously in credit, I have to call them to renegotiate a lower figure.

Anyone got any better ideas… that don’t involve four letter expletives?

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Lend me Your Ear!

“I’ve bought a ticket for the World Internet Summit and it’s a BOGOF. Why don’t you come with me and be my second set of ears?”

I agree that ‘lend me your ear’ is probably not the most effective chat-up line, but it was still Gray’s way of suggesting that we go away for a weekend together.

Oh, stoppit! Ever the gentleman, Mr. Wendes forked out for a separate room for my ‘ears’!

He told me to think of it as: “A catholic dirty weekend. Where a man and woman secretly run away to a hotel, stay in separate rooms and don’t do sex.”

So, that’s how I came to pitch up at a hotel overlooking Runway 5 at London’s Heathrow one Friday evening in November. Gray immediately took me to the bar to ‘catch me up’ on all that had gone on in the previous two days of the seminar. There had been a lot of speakers and he had already emptied his wallet buying two packages. One for mentoring and the other a sort of internet classroom complete with instruction on how to design websites that came with hosting thrown in.

For the next two days, I lived the seminar. We got up to take breakfast at 7, before the hordes of hoi polloi got there, and then into the conference room for a 9am start and the first of about eight speakers.

As a complete newbie, there was a lot of valuable information but, also, a huge amount that went straight over my head. And, indeed, looking through my copious notes, a lot of it still does.

What I remember most is the SELLING! Sure, there was a lot of content in the first half of every speaker’s presentation but then they had a product to shift and the NLP and persuasive techniques ramped up the hysterical pressure in the room so that people were just gagging to give their money away in case they lost out on the opportunity to change their life forever.

On the morning of the last day, Gray gave me his wallet for safe keeping. Not that there was any money left, mind, but just to be on the safe side.

I found myself entering a war of attrition. My mental faculties were using every means at their disposal to fight off the incoming urges that made me want to spend money I didn’t have on packages of information and software that I didn’t really understand.

In some ways, the fact that Gray had already spent so much was a wonderful brake on my own enthusiasm. Every time I felt as if I wanted to buy something, he would nod and say ‘Our package does that.’

So, reassured and relieved, I would allow the energy that was forcing me out of my seat to vent through my ears and drift away to infect the person in the row behind.

On Sunday night, after a silent dinner of fish, chips and mushy peas, two white-faced, shell-shocked fledgling  internet marketers made their way round the M25 and back to Essex to try to assimilate all the data buzzing around in their skulls.

It was the beginning.

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Starting Your Own Small Business

So, here we go!

Finally, I get my act together and start a blog about my own activities on the internet.

It’s all very well telling people that I can get them online and then find them customers, but if I can’t do it for myself, then there’s no pudding and certainly no proof.

In the eight months since I first attended an ‘internet marketing’ seminar, I have been sifting through all the different ways to make money on the ‘net.

And what I’ve discovered is that the only people who are really making money are the ones who are selling products that will make you money on the internet.

Invariably, there is one vital piece missing from all of their ‘inclusive courses’ or ‘mentoring programs’ – OOMPH!

People either don’t have the energy or the confidence to get out there and have a go.

Well, I’ve tried most of the methods now and I’ve made a few bob here and there but certainly nothing that would buy me a new Ferrari… or even support my expensive vegan chocolate habit.

I felt as if I had wasted my time and should go and get a proper job.

However, that’s when it struck me.  All these months, I’ve been learning all these systems to generate traffic to websites that were built from blogging templates.

I should be starting my own small business working with all this knowledge. In comparison to a lot of people, I am an expert in this area.
"Jo Shaer Social Media Solutions"
And who are the people I interact with every day?  Small local businesses who don’t have the budget to hire an expensive web designer and don’t have the time to market themselves online.

What they need is someone who can build them an affordable website that they can run themselves and a virtual assistant who will handle their online advertising strategy, preferably using as many free methods as possible.

Hello!  I’m over here!!!

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