Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs is the ultimate how-to guide for those looking to learn how to create, grow and ultimately sell an online business. Through in-depth interviews with 35 of Australia's greatest online entrepreneurs, including Stephanie Alexander (The Cooks Companion), Gabby Leibovich (Catch of the Day) and Kate Morris (Adore Beauty), author Bernadette Schwerdt reveals the secrets behind their success " what they did right, what they did wrong, what they would do differently, the challenges they faced and how you can achieve their success.
Readers discover how to create an epic online business using a proven 7-step process, identify industries that are ready for disruption, how to turn your favourite hobby or great idea into a lucrative business, the steps to developing a memorable personal brand, they key to monetising social media and tips to help your team develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
Packed with useful tips, tools and techniques for setting up and maintaining an online business, Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs is a must-read for both budding and experienced entrepreneurs.
An actress, award-winning online marketing strategist and director of the Australian School of Copywriting, Bernadette Schwerdt's clients include Apple, BHP, Optus, Telstra, Coles, Australia Post and Goldman Sachs.
Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs
Author: Bernadette Schwerdt
Bernadette Schwerdt is the director of the Australian School of Copywriting, a copywriting tutor with the Australian Writers' Centre, and the author of the new book, -Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs (How Australia's Online Mavericks, Innovators and Disruptors Built Their Businesses…And How You Can Too.) To download a sample chapter and access free resources on how to build an online business, go to www.BernadetteSchwerdt.com.au.
Question: Why did you write Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs?
Bernadette Schwerdt: In essence, I wanted to write a book that I wanted to read but couldn't find – and that was about how to build an online business. I wanted to know the nitty-gritty, -how to' secrets that few ever reveal in a business book so that was my motivation for writing it.
We've all heard the rags-to-riches stories of Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jack Ma, (founder of AliBaba), Elon Musk (SpaceX, Tesla Motors), but it was really hard to find the success stories of the superstars behind Australia's top businesses and more specifically, online businesses.
As an online business owner myself, the reality is we here in Australia operate in a market that has 23 million people. Yet all the online success stories we hear about are from businesses operating in massive markets like the USA with 350 million people or China (1.3 billion).
The strategies the Americans or the Chinese might use to build an online business are different because they can scale easily. We can't. So I was very interested in knowing what it takes to build a successful online business in our market. And that's how the idea for telling these stories got started.
Question: What do you hope readers take from Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs?
Bernadette Schwerdt: I hope I can break some limiting beliefs that people have about online business. I speak to a lot of people about this topic and the questions that come up regularly are questions like –
Are all the good ideas gone?
Have I missed the -online' boat?
I'm not technical – do I have to be?
I don't have it ready – I'll wait until everything is perfect.
So here's a few tips on how to obliterate those limiting beliefs:
Find a problem and solve it:
When it comes to setting up an online business, a lot of people think they've -missed the boat' or that all the good ideas are gone so what's the point in getting started? Nothing could be further from the truth.
The reality is that every successful business is successful because it solves a problem and problems are cropping up all the time.
If you can find a problem that has yet to be solved, then you have the makings of a successful business.
Look at all the -problems' Facebook has created that now need solving – social media analytics, social media content creators, app development for Facebook, social media monitoring software – the list of businesses that have cropped up because of Facebook is phenomenal.
The minute one new business crops up, a new business pops up to solve the problems the first business created. That's why there will always be a place for new ideas and room for new businesses.
All the good ideas are not gone and you have not missed the boat when it comes to getting on the online entrepreneur -gravy train'.
Get others to do the bits you can't.
One of the main reasons people fail to manifest their business dreams is because they think they have to do it all themselves, especially the technical bit. It's not the case.
There's dozens of sites out there ready and waiting to help you. Sites like Freelancer, elance or fiverr offer everything you need, cost less than you think and will save you a lot of stress and you can often get things created overnight or within a few days.
The -tech bit' can be a big barrier to success but if you can outsource that to those who love doing it, it will enable you to focus on the bits you do best.
Getting help from others and accepting you don't have all the answers is a key factor in realising any goal.
Start before you're ready.
This may come as a surprise but many of the people I interviewed didn't have a clue what they were doing when they started out. They had a passion, an idea, a vague sense of a product and just went out and sold it.
The key message is - don't wait too long to build a website or invest too much in research. Just create a prototype (a minimum viable product), build a site, drive some traffic to it, get feedback, sell it as quickly as you can and see how much, if any, money people will pay for it.
Don't wait until you feel you know everything before you start because you won't and it just becomes an excuse for not starting.
Question: Can you provide your top growth tips for a small company who've just started social media accounts?
Bernadette Schwerdt: The 2 top tips would be as follows:
'If you want to make money from social media, you need to get your prospects off social media." – James Tuckerman, Anthill Online.
Think about how you use Facebook or Twitter. Do you go there to buy something or for other reasons? Chances are it's the latter. If you wanted to buy what someone had to offer, you'd probably go direct to their site and buy it instantly. You might find them via Facebook but if you wanted to give them your money you'd probably go to their website to do it.
If you want to monetise social media, you should use it to drive people to your website, not the other way around.
Invest in your own 'real estate'.
Investing heavily in social media at the expense of your own 'real estate' (like your website, your blog etc) is like being a tenant in a lovely flat – at the start, it all looks great. Nice landlord, reasonable rent, great view. But who makes the rules? The landlord, so if they say -go' or -pay more' you have to do as they say. It's the same with social media. Whoever owns the platform (Zuckerberg, Dorsey etc), makes the rules.
So don't invest all your time and money into someone else's platform when they could change the rules at any time (as they do) and take you out of the game.
Make it a point to start collecting customer contact details (email addresses, phone numbers etc) so that you 'own' the customer, rather than relying on social media platforms to do the collecting for you.
Question: Can you talk about the research and interviews that went into Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs?
Bernadette Schwerdt: The idea for the book evolved over time. I was always interested in business success stories and in particular, how people dealt with adversity, setbacks and challenges. I have an online business myself so I was particularly interested in the unique challenges that online businesses face.
That idea led to the creation of a TV show called 'Secrets of Aussie Online Entrepreneurs", a business chat show that focussed on the start-up journeys of some of Australia's most successful businesses.
I made a -wish list' of all the people I wanted to interview, contacted them, went out and conducted those interviews, made a pilot, pitched it to Fairfax Media (the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) and they picked it up. Wiley Publishing saw the TV show and liked the concept so they signed me to a book deal and here we are.
The interviews were often done in person, at their office, warehouse or studio which was fascinating as I got to see them in action, with their staff, on their turf.
Other interviews were conducted in a film studio and others were done via Skype. The interviews often went for a couple of hours. The basis of each interview was – what would I want to learn from them about my online business? I really put myself in the shoes of a regular business owner and asked all the questions that I thought they would like to know. People say the book is very -authentic' and that's because it came from a place of genuine curiosity and my need to know.
Question: How important is it to include the mistakes others have how-to guides like this?
Bernadette Schwerdt: I think it's essential – people love a bit of schadenfreude, the opportunity to revel in the mistakes others make. I'm personally interested in how others deal with adversity, criticism and setbacks because we often think we're the only ones who are going through it or silly enough to make stupid mistakes and yet when we see the litany of mistakes successful people have made we say, -oh well, maybe this is just part of the process' and we continue on.
My belief is that these people are successful simply because they knew how to reframe failure, had the self-belief to get back up after massive set-backs and continue on. That truly is the secret to success.
Interview by Brooke Hunter