Wow, the last few weeks have been insanely busy. Not only did I launch my e-book, Don’t Panic! A Practical Guide to Twins, Triplets and More: A book for parents of multiples, by parents of multiples (available from your local Amazon store), but I’m also well underway with my new digital business – Smart Steps to Australia!
It has been total chaos as I’ve been juggling the kids and the house while hubby has been working long hours AND working on a major outdoor DIY project at home (if I never hear the word ‘retaining wall’ again it will be too soon!) Combine it with the fact that I’ve had to reduce E’s childcare days while I’m building the business up, so I’m basically trying to do a lot more work with a lot less time. All while trying to keep the house from turning into mayhem, keeping up with the never-ending washing mountain (my kids have to just look at a sock before it finds it’s way into the laundry basket) and making endless packed lunches. Totally crazy, right? I’m sure a few of you can relate.
When things are like this, something has to give. It’s not possible to keep on top of everything, so for now the house isn’t getting cleaned as often as I’d like (so please don’t drop around unannounced unless you don’t mind stepping on Lego). Beds aren’t being changed as often as usual. The dishwasher isn’t getting stacked as often (although I HATE finishing work to find the entire worktop crammed with pots). I’m trying to be smart about things like packed lunches (making things for the kids that can do a couple of days and freezing things so that it’s just a matter of gathering the items in the morning) and I’m rocking some gigantic slow cooker meals at the weekends to fill the freezer so that we don’t fall foul of living on take aways (which I’d happily do in the short term if we could afford it, but as my business isn’t bringing in much income yet, take aways have become a luxury reserved for only the most exhausted evenings).
Smart Steps to Australia – website launching soon
Anyway, I promised to blog through the process of setting up my new digital business, and I’m loving the feedback and questions that people have been sending me. Yes setting up a business when you’re a mum to young kids is hard. Especially when you’re doing it without any family around to help out. And especially when your income is needed to contribute towards running the house. But I can see so much potential in this business, I love the example I’m setting for my kids AND the most important thing is I can’t wait to start a business helping people in a subject that I’m utterly passionate about. This is the most excited I’ve ever been about work before in my life which I think means I’m on the right path.
Before getting into the nitty gritty about where I’ve been investing my time and money, here’s a bit of background about how I ended up here and to share with you my ‘why’.
Why I’m setting up Smart Steps to Australia
Being a freelance writer is *almost* my dream job. I LOVE it, but it still involves writing things for other people. Over the last couple of years I’ve been getting more inspired by my own creative projects. Having a series of business coaching sessions with Jenna Black at the end of last year (that were funded by the Queensland home-based business grant that I was lucky enough to be awarded) helped me identify what areas of work made me happy and what parts I was ready to let go. By the end of the sessions, I realised that it was time to step back from the freelancing and jump headlong into a new adventure.
Smart Steps to Australia is an online support service for UK families who are considering moving to Australia. I know first-hand how complicated and long-winded the whole process is and I want to streamline it for families to help them through the admin so they can live the life of their dreams, without regrets. My income will be generated through three main areas: 1) selling digital content 2) affiliate sales and 3) referrals to businesses that I know and trust. I have other ideas too but these will be the core areas I’m focusing on this year.
I’ve just been awarded phase two of the Queensland home-based business grant, which will fund 50% of projects adding up to $5000 to take the ideas forward that I identified during the coaching sessions. (If you’re a permanent resident in Queensland and would like to be kept up to date with similar grants in future, you can subscribe here. – getting these two grants has made a HUGE different to my business and all it took was an afternoon to fill in the application forms.)
The actions I’ve taken so far
Smart Steps to Australia is now well underway. I have a landing page that is collecting email addresses in return for a free gift (5 simple steps you can take to help you decide whether to relocate to Australia). This took a couple of hours to write (I watched a few hours of training through Lead Pages about creating the perfect opt in which really helped) and for the pdf I used a template I’d had designed on Fiverr for this blog a while ago. I’ve also launched a questionnaire (using the free level of Smart Survey) so I can better understand my audience and collect further emails (this is throwing back some really exciting answers about what is stopping people from following their dreams to relocate to Australia – as a lot of the perceived roadblocks can be overcome with the right support and knowledge).
I’ve been busy working on my business model to make sure it allows me to help people while living a ‘laptop lifestyle’ so I can work from anywhere. As a freelance writer I kind of already have that, but the bonus of this new business is that once everything is set up, it will allow me to stop trading one hour of writing for one hour of pay. Instead, I’ll be able to earn a fairly passive income that has no time restrictions (I say ‘fairly passive’ as of course I’ll still be writing blog posts, creating content, answering queries, developing new products and being active on social media, so it’s still going to involve an ongoing time investment, but there is potential to earn more than my writing allows at the moment once I’ve built up my traffic. It will also allow me to be flexible with my working hours to fit around family life).
How much does it cost to set up a digital business?
The truth is, you can set up a digital business without any investment. I’ve run my freelance writing business without any investment for the past 11 years (if you’re interested in being a freelance writer you can set up a Pinterest board to showcase your writing samples in different niches and send out pitch emails with pdf attachments of your work – or just set up a free wordpress.com site as a portfolio).
I’ve been running this Tales of a Twin Mum blog with minimal investment (it cost the price of a domain name, a host as I’m on wordpress.org, a backup system and a one-off fee to a designer to create the design) – so again, not big bucks. But for this new project, I want to make a stronger commitment to it. I want it to look professional from the start, and I want to put my digital marketing skills to work which means investing in some more expensive tools. So, these aren’t all essential costs but I’ve narrowed down my budget to include the things I feel will make the biggest difference to my business. Some of these are affiliate links, but they’re all things I’ve invested in myself because I think they’re important for my business. I wouldn’t promote things if I wasn’t prepared to put my money where my mouth is!
Budget invested so far:
So far, my investment in the business is as follows. I’m listing costs in $AU and £ as I know I have a mixed audience of readers – obviously exchange rates go up and down but they were accurate as I was writing this post.
One-off and annual fees:
Domain registration with 123 Reg for www.smartstepstoaustralia.com and .co.uk including privacy – $112/£57
(I’ve always used 123 Reg for my domains and have never had any problems with them. My domains auto renew, and I get update emails to remind me when payments are coming out.)
Nine hours of business coaching with Jenna Black – $2294/£1183 – this was paid for in full by the Queensland home-based business grant
(Finding the right coach is really important as there are SO many different business coaches out there and you need to find one who is a couple of steps ahead of where you’re at right now. The most important thing is to make sure they’ve had a successful business or blog so they’re teaching from a place of experience.)
LeadPages Pro annual plan – $776/£400
(I researched every possible landing page provider and felt Lead Pages offered a product that was both easy to use and good value. It’s a simple drag and drop system – great for non-techies like me – and you can sort the templates to see which ones convert the best. Mailchimp has its limitations and I love that I can now set up simple automations and content upgrades in posts easily – plus the bonus of a landing page is it removes all distractions so the customer can focus entirely on the offer. I’m really excited to get stuck into learning more about Lead Pages over the coming weeks.)
Angie B Studio logo design – $502/£259 – 50% of this is being funded by phase two of the Queensland home-based business grant
(Angie designed my book cover and did such an awesome job I couldn’t wait to work with her again on this. My logo is now finished and it is AMAZING. I’ll be sharing it with you soon!)
Website design and creation of a membership site by Jan Henry – $3200/£1650 – 50% of this is being funded by phase two of the Queensland home-based business grant
(Picking a web designer was really tough as I didn’t have any concrete recommendations to work with. What I liked most about Jan was the project plan she sent me with her quote. It outlined the whole schedule in full detail. As an experienced project manager, it was refreshing to see a designer that was super organised as well as creative. I’m sure she’s going to be a good fit for the project. Work kicks off on my site in the middle of this month.)
Branding photography to use for my website and social media by Renee Shea – $1165/£600 (50% of this is being funded by phase two of the Queensland home-based business grant)
(I hate having my photo taken and after visiting so many photographer websites, Renee stood out as she takes what I like to call non-portraits. They aren’t styled and posed shots – they’re natural and just capture the essence of people and the brand. I’m having my shoot with her tomorrow at the beach and I’m so excited!)
Total cost invested/committed so far:
$8049/£4149 – this includes the two business grants.
My investment, less the Queensland home-based business grants = $3322/£1711. So as you can see, the grants have made a HUGE difference.
Existing fees that I was already paying for my Tales of a Twin Mum blog:
As I run this blog, there are some fees that I’m already paying and can piggy pack my new site onto without incurring any extra costs.
MailChimp upgrade to get email automation – $14/£7.20 per month
(MailChimp is free if you don’t have many subscribers, but paying a small fee allows you to utilise their email automation feature so you can send new subscribers a series of emails. I set this up for my TalesofaTwinMum blog to use for my book promotion, but it is also essential for Smart Steps too. You can set up multiple lists for different businesses, so I just have a separate list for my Smart Steps subscribers. As I collect more subscribers and the monthly costs increase, I plan to switch to Convert Kit, but at this stage I can’t justify the cost increase.)
Backup Buddy Freelancer package to back up my websites– $53/£27
(I’ve been with them for a while so I get a discount for renewing but they often run special offers for new customers too.)
Blue Host including back up x 2 years (yes I have a double backup but you never know when you might need it – better to be safe than sorry!) – $411/£211
(I’ve added Smart Steps to Blue Host for no extra charge. I will review this as my sites grow but at the moment I’m running three different sites from it with no problems so far. I’ve also received really great online support in the past if I’ve had a question so I’m really happy with them as my host. It’s so easy to set up your wordpress blog using Blue Host – this Jeff Goins video walks you right through the process – I’ve used it myself and it’s super easy, even if you aren’t a techie).
I really want to invest in these other tools/products but they’re going to have to wait just a little longer while I focus on delivering the items I’ve agreed to do for the business grant.
Co-schedule annual solo plan – I think this will be really important once my site launches to help me with my social sharing as I know I don’t re-share my content enough – $237/£122
An Instagram scheduler – I haven’t decided which yet as I’ve been looking at a few different ones including Onlypult and Grum. As my readers will be based in the UK and I’m in Australia, this will allow me to post images at times my readers are online. There is also a new scheduler coming to market called Plan Your Gram – although this doesn’t let you automatically schedule, it sends you a push notification when it’s time to post (as technically Instagram could pull your account for going against its terms and conditions if you use one of the apps that posts for you – I’m currently weighing up the risks involved in going for total automation or not) – the cost range from $159 to $192 per year/from £82 to £99 depending on which solution I go for (prices for Plan Your Gram aren’t yet available).
Editing and proofreading – I’ll definitely be using Joanne Brady again to help edit my core products as she did a fantastic job on Don’t Panic! A Practical Guide to Twins, Triplets and More: A book for parents of multiples, by parents of multiples. I also hope to get her to help with some of the research as there is a huge amount of content to pull together. The difficulty with this is being organised enough to hand it over to someone else – I know outsourcing is a great thing to do but in reality it’s not something I’m very good at! The cost of this will depend on how much work I hand over and how long the editing process takes! $???/£???.
Video editing software – I need to research the best software for my needs, so I’m not sure about prices yet. Camtasia has been suggested to me and it looks good but it’s an investment at £418/£215 which sounds pretty steep at the moment.
A microphone – much as I love hiding behind my desk and working alone, I know I’m going to have to get into video and audio content so I’ll need a mic. I haven’t researched these yet but think I can get something suitable for $40 to $100/£20 to £51. The ultimate mic that everyone in the entrepreneur and blogger forums lusts after is the Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone – Silver Edition – if money were no object I’d probably get one but I’m pretty sure I can find something cheaper to start out with.
Professional Indemnity Insurance – it’s not actually a ‘wish list’ item, but more of a ‘must-have’ item. It’s something I had in the UK but I haven’t found an insurer here that is suitable for my needs just yet. I need to allocate an afternoon to ring around a few and make the effort. Making sure I have adequate cover is essential before I start selling anything.
To finish off, I wanted to add that setting up an online business in Australia is not really any different to in the UK. You just have to inform the tax office that you’re setting up a business. I’ve always been a sole trader which keeps things very simple. I have an Australian Business Number which covers all of the work I do – so I just have the one number that covers this blog, Smart Steps and freelance writing (call the ATO for advice like I did if you’re concerned about whether you need to register your company). I have someone to do my tax returns just like I did back in the UK, and I collect receipts for any outgoings related to my business (I’m just as disorganised with it all over here as I was back in the UK but I’m trying my best to keep on top of it all so it’s not such a crazy rush at year-end). I have a business bank account too to keep transactions separate, and I’ve just opened a business Paypal account so I can keep this separate to my personal transactions. All of the above applies to running a business anywhere in the world – these tools are available no matter where you’re based. The world has never been so small, and the opportunities to earn an income online have never been so great. If you’re debating about setting up an online business, then definitely go for it! You can learn as you go (like I am) and it really doesn’t need to cost a lot to get started. I’m so excited about what the next few weeks hold for me!
So, there you have it. My investments so far and the investments I want to make (although can’t justify just yet while I’m in the midst of delivering the projects for my business grant). I don’t believe in sharing too much – I want to tell you about the whole process as I know seeing something like this would have been a big help to me a few months ago.
I hope you find this useful – if you do please let me know in the comments and share with anyone you think might be interested!
And thanks for sticking with me til the end of such a long post!