The Speedy Story: 7 lessons I've learned over the years

Welcome to my new website - Speedy Digital! 

Ironically, my journey here has been anything but speedy, but I've learned lots of valuable lessons along the way that I'm happy to share with you.

Back in 2008 I had my first child, then in 2009 the second followed a little faster than we expected. I didn't want to go back to full time employment after my daughter arrived, and as a software trainer who travelled across the UK it wasn't a very practical option. When my son arrived the following year, the childcare bill for two kids under three meant there was no point in me having a job. So that meant I was a freelancer working around nap times.

Having two kids in under two years was such a dramatic change that I assumed I had to totally re-invent my career. Or maybe it was the raging lack of sleep. So I started a blog to help other parents of young kids research business ideas. I was really lucky to be approached by author Antonia Chitty who asked if I'd like to co-author the book Start a Family Friendly Business, which was a huge confidence boost.

Lesson learned 1: Just do it even if you feel like a beginner. You never know who might be watching.

After a few years of running the blog, I was drawn back to my training  career when I discovered Udemy, an online course platform. I created three Udemy courses and although one is still selling a consistent trickle of courses 7 years later, I found the pricing very low, the competition high and the rules quite restrictive. I didn't want to put all my efforts into building an audience on a platform I didn't have much control over, so the only way forward was to build my own customer list.

Lesson learned 2: It's easy to overlook what you know and do well.

Lesson learned 3: Don't build your business on platform you have little control over, however hard the alternative might look.

By then I saw there was a huge demand from small website owners who wanted to sell courses but didn't have the time, skill or inclination to make them themselves. So I made several packs of 'white label' courses that they could buy and upload. These sold pretty well, but I had two major problems a) recording and editing videos all day got boring fast and b) I couldn't produce the courses people wanted (e.g. Canva, Mailchimp and other small business tools) because the platforms' terms didn't allow me to use their intellectual property.

Lesson learned 4: It's possible to sell something that people really want, but be held back by all sorts of things you hadn't considered. Run a pilot before committing too much and don't get too wedded to your ideas too soon.

I had some requests to teach people to make online courses, but I found this frustrating too, because so many people wanting to make courses had none of the foundations in place to sell them (a mailing list, marketing strategy, time to promote them and more). I felt I was setting them up to fail.

Lesson learned 5: It's not enough to just sell my product, I need to feel that people are getting real value from it, too. This also makes good business sense because you're not going to get repeat customers if your first product doesn't work for them.

Time for another change, then! 

I looked at where my skills and knowledge crossed over with a need in the micro business world. I'd been a CRM (customer relationship management software) trainer and this something that could make a huge difference to micro businesses. Imagine how much more more profit a small business could make if they switched their email inbox and post-it notes for a customer database that reminded them every time a prospect or customer was due a call. Enormous potential there. 

Having been bitten several times by my online course business ideas, this time I went straight to offering a service. Then followed several years of family problems, one after another, which meant that I made some progress, but not as much as I hoped. Things are fine now, but let's just say the pandemic in 2020 was an improvement for our family compared to 2018-2020!

Lesson learned 6: If life gets in the way, don't beat yourself up. Take the time out you need, your business will be there later.

Here's what I did manage to do in that time, though:

- Learned enough to understand the problems micro businesses have with their sales and marketing, and find some good solutions.

- Got to know a fantastic community of business owners at Drive The Network, where I could try things out and bounce ideas around.

- Built very, very slowly. Ironic, eh? But that meant I had lots of time to test things out and talk to people, so looking back it wasn't a bad thing.

- Worked as part of a team that developed and launched a learning platform at the European Association of Certified Turnaround Professionals.

- Did some work as an IT trainer at Bedford College, then moved on to being a distance learning lecturer in adult education for Bedford College.

All of which made me realise that I'm a trainer at heart (either teaching about tech or using tech to teach - or both!) I don't mind offering some services, but aiming to build a digital agency wasn't going to be my cup of tea. It was time to get serious about building Speedy Digital and launching my first course. Except it wasn't really my first course, was it?

Lesson learned 7: Sometimes what looks like a detour can give you fresh insights and time to think.

So with a story that's the opposite of speedy, why Speedy Digital? Find out in this post.

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Categories: Online Business