They say that in life you should excel at just one thing only, and I'm inclined to agree with them - to a degree.
But what if you're pretty good at more than one thing? That's the challenge I've faced as I began to realise that you can be an expert at more than one discipline at a time. I've built my career on it.
While most people in my industry only specialise in one particular thing (such as web development, or web design, or SEO), I'm not too afraid to admit that I have multiple specialisms.
It all goes back to the late 90s when I was hired as a 'Webmaster' at a large law firm in the City of London. This was a time when the Webmaster had to do everything - plan, design, develop and market the company's website, as well as create intranets, extranets and microsites. There were few of us, but we had to do it all.
And that's how my skillset grew over the years - more than twenty, in fact. The more I had to do all of these tasks, the more I learned about each of them.
In total I've spent more than 40,000 man-hours undertaking digital marketing. According to the book 'Outliers', it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Given that I have multiple disciplines (strategy, design, development and marketing) some would say that I'm qualified as an expert.
Over this time, I've pretty much covered every aspect of marketing at some point. In fact, quite recently (April 2023) I created and launched a marketing glossary website which I've been meaning to do for more years than I care to remember!
I'm relatively inexperienced as a teacher, however. So if you come to one of my seminars or workshops don't expect me to deliver a polished presentation. It might be a bit rough and ready, and I may stumble over my words, but what really matters is that the knowledge is passed to you effectively so you can go away and implement your new skills in your own business. And that's my goal.
In the early years I didn't even consider that I was an 'entrepreneur'. As far as I was concerned I was just doing what I loved doing the most - building stuff on the web and giving the public information they wanted. The fact that I was monetising what I was building was irrelevant to me (although it came in handy).
But it was only when I came clean with HMRC and paid off all the tax I owed from my early work and incorporated my business into a limited company that I started to see myself in a different light.
After I incoporated my business, I knew I had to get the structure in place so that I could take it seriously. I'd just given up my job as digital marketing manager for an online pet wholesale company, and I had a steep learning curve ahead of my to get my books in order (quite literally).
Since those early days, I've learned a great deal about business through necessity. Tax, spreadsheets, PAYE, finance and HR have all been added to my belt, and have since helped me launched dozens of internet businesses - some more successful than others; but all have been launched using best practices in business.
We entrepreneurs love to start businesses. It's almost as if it runs in our blood. But one common mistake is to build and launch without a strategy. This is one of the primary reasons that businesses go bust.
I've learned this first hand. Some of my earlier businesses were created without any research - and without any strategy. Sure, you can get away with it, but the stakes are high, because you're launching without really knowing what you're doing.
Having an effective strategy is crucial. According to data from Companies House, Turnerlittle.com discovered that between 2007 and 2016, more than 39,000 businesses failed in the first year. Failure rates are high in business, so it works in your favour if you're following a tried-and-tested strategy.
Back in 2016 I set up StartPad.biz with the help of Enterprise Nation Champion Fay Easton. StartPad is a free platform that helps budding entrepreneurs by giving them a tried-and-tested strategy for starting their business. There's nothing else out there that is on this level, so please try it out.
Right from the very start I knew that the design side of my business was quite possibly my weakest point.
I love getting my hands dirty with code, but creating beautiful designs was a completely different kettle of fish. I guess that some people are good designers naturally - and I don't think I ever had this.
But I didn't want that to stop me from producing websites, so I learned the basics of good design, and let the content do the talking.
Let's face it, you can have a stunning website, but if it hasn't been optimised for conversions, you might as well have created it yourself. In fact, some of the most profitable websites I've ever made are disappointingly poor designs. Yet, they're profitable because they focus on giving the end user what they want; and that's all that matters.
I'll produce a blog post at some point on the fundamentals of good design. Like me, it shouldn't stop you from making a success out of trying it - you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Now we're talking! I wear my developer's hat with pride, because (to me) there are few things more satisfying than sitting down in front of a computer, typing a whole bunch of seemingly random code and see it in action, doing what it's intended to do.
I was recently asked what skills would be needed to become an effective internet marketer. I replied that in my honest opinion I think that the best internet marketers also know how to code.
It's only when you can roll up your sleeves and get stuck into the actual code that runs a website that you can truly optimise it for conversions. Sure, there are plugins available that can pretty much do anything with your Wordpress website. But my approach is completely different. If I build a new website for an exciting new niche that I've just discovered, I'll create it from scratch without using a CMS such as Wordpress. Every line of code is created by myself.
Whilst some developers insist on the latest high-level programming languages such as Ballerina, Python, Julia, Typescript - to name just a few - they're not really essential. I code using solid languages that have been around for some time - perhaps due to familiarity, but I don't believe in keeping up just for the sake of it. As long as a cloud service runs quickly and with minimal overhead, that's all that matters for the end user.
Long before the advent of the internet, I was doing lots of marketing stuff - writing adverts, running campaigns, creating seminars (real ones, not the online ones), sending out direct mail pieces, building brands etc.
I think it was the fact that I was using a lot of creativity that really appealed to me, and I was pretty good at it, even if I say so myself. Probably because I was allowed the freedom to test and experiment with all these activities.
The work was incredibly varied too, as you can imagine. Whilst everyone else was doing the same thing day in, day out, there were rarely any two consecutive days that I was doing the same thing.
And of course, having experience with traditional marketing activities set me up perfectly for digital marketing. Whether you're running marketing campaigns online or offline, the fundamentals are the same (hint - it's all about understanding the buying cycles and motivations of your customers), so digital marketing was just a natural progression.
Today, I've expanded quite a lot on that; there are so many new and wonderful ways of reaching a target audience through digital platforms. With few exceptions, I'm pretty sure that I've experimented with all of them at some point.
Ahhh, my newest chapter in my journey. Most people who know me already know that I absolutely love helping other people build their businesses. Whilst I can't help everyone (my own business would suffer), I get a real kick out of holding someone's hand to help them through their own difficulties.
It's this passion for helping others that inspired me to start producing courses, lessons and workshops.
But I'll be honest. There's another reason too. Over the last ten years I've developed Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) in my wrists and arms, thanks to spending much of my working life in front of a PC. I already experience a lot of pain every single minute that I'm working on my computer, and it's getting worse. So I'm making provisions to ensure that my knowledge can be passed down to other business owners whilst I can still work.
Above all, that's what it comes down to - sharing my knowledge. As they say, rather morbidly, 'you can't take it with you when you're gone', so I want to share my techniques, experience and knowledge by passing them on through my courses and workshops.
Make sure you check out my Training pages for more details of what courses and workshops I'm currently running.
Let's have an informal chat about where your business is heading, and to see if I can help you to smash your goals.
How can I help you?
From homelessness to multiple business owner
It's been a tough ride, but it's been worth it all, and I wouldn't change a thing. Despite my struggles to get from living on the streets of London to running a successful business, I now look back and realise that every step of the way, every challenge and every obstacle was there for a reason - to help me become resilient and determined enough to see it through.What a ride!