Debbie O’Connor on Mum’s the Boss and Digital Marketing Solutions
Debbie O’Connor has been a stay-at-home mum since 2002. She has done a portfolio of home businesses and is the creator of Mum’s the Boss. Her story.
Wow Debbie! Thanks so much for doing this interview! You have a powerful online brand that I would love to learn more about. So, let’s get started!
What did your parents do for a living and was there any Entrepreneurship in the family?
I grew up on the South Coast of England. My dad worked in a bank and my mum worked in a hotel, they were just good, honest, hard working people. I was quite good at languages, particularly French. My mum said I should try to be an air hostess or maybe a bilingual secretary.
Nobody in my immediate family is self-employed, it was never presented to me as an option. Growing up I always assumed I would work in some kind of office like my dad.
Nobody in my family had been to university – those sounded like very ambitious and exciting jobs for my mum. But I got into a good secondary school and some very committed and passionate teachers persuaded me to go to university.
I studied international Business and French and then took accountancy exams. I worked my way up the career ladder and my last corporate job was as European Finance Director for an American company. In that job, I had plenty of air travel and a bilingual secretary of my own….
What caused you to leave that lifestyle and become a stay at home mum?
I started the European Finance Director role in 2001. It was the peak of my ambition and I really loved the job, the travel, and the lovely team of people I worked with. It was hard work and very stressful but so much fun.
At the same time, I got engaged to another accountant that I had worked with previously and we bought a house together. Then out of the blue he was offered a job in Jersey in the Channel Islands, and we started a lifestyle where we worked apart in the week and only saw each other at weekends.
This worked to a certain extent, but it was sometimes difficult for me working extremely hard, and coming home to an empty house. We were working in 2 different countries when 9/11 happened and I remember feeling so empty and alone without him, and really wishing I could see him every night.
Planning the wedding was interesting too – complicated by the fact that we married in Ireland yet neither of us lived there. We took 3 weeks off for the wedding and honeymoon and it was just so good to actually spend some time with my husband.
When we came back from the honeymoon I found out I was pregnant. I decided to leave my job and go and live with my husband in the Channel Islands for the remaining 3 or 4 years of his contract. I didn’t have a work permit there, so we decided that during that time I would be a stay at home mum. Our daughter was born in 2003 and our son in late 2004.
What kind of business opportunities did you do from home at that time?
I had no experience whatsoever of babies, so when my daughter came along, at first I fell into the fog of just caring for her, learning as I went along.
There were quite a lot of stay at home wives in my husband’s company, and we had a lovely little mums community, which was very supportive. I also did some voluntary work to keep my brain active.
But once I got the hang of babycare I did find that my mind was itching to do something a little bit more. I found out that although I couldn’t be employed in Jersey I could work for myself.
So I signed up with Usborne books, and started selling children’s books when I went to the various baby and toddler activities with my children.
After 3 years living in Jersey and looking after the children I realised that I didn’t want to go back to work full time.
So when we got back to the UK, I studied to become a Personal Trainer, and also discovered Cambridge Weight Plan. I did the weight loss programme myself very successfully and then became a consultant,
I was going to carry on Usborne books when I got back to the UK, but I moved 3 doors down from one of the UK’s most successful Usborne sellers, who was already selling at most of the type of events that I wanted to sell at. So I stopped doing that, and for a while I just focused on my Cambridge business which was doing really well.
When did you discover internet/network marketing, and what was your first two years like?
When I did Usborne books and Cambridge Weight plan I wasn’t really aware of the whole network marketing thing. I knew it was possible to build teams and make a full time income out of these businesses, but I really wanted to just focus on selling the products myself.
With Cambridge weight plan you can only recruit people on your team who have successfully lost weight with you and who have the right personality for weight loss consulting.
It took me quite a long time to find somebody that I wanted to recruit. She was with me for over six months and we became great friends, but when I went to recruit her it turned out that she had been to another Cambridge consultant for one month before me.
She didn’t get on with that lady, which is why she came to me, but by the rules of Cambridge if she became a consultant, she automatically became part of that lady’s team.
Both she and I were gutted by that decision and I must admit it did put me off the whole network marketing idea for a while.
I did try again in network marketing in 2014 with Younique, when it first came to the UK. I made a bit more of a success of building my team that time, because I was much more able to use blogging and social media to get my point across and to recruit beyond the boundaries of my own friends. At one point I had over 40 people working for me and I advanced three or four steps up the promotion ladder.
But one thing I did learn about network marketing that in order to be really successful you have to be passionate about the products and also single-mindedly focused on your business and success.
Honestly, I was more excited about my digital marketing skills and the clients I was serving that way, than I was about selling cosmetics. Then I had to take a few months off to care for my mother, and so my business petered out and ultimately I was not successful.
I am still a passionate advocate of network marketing though – if you go into it with the right mindset, you learn how to work your particular business and keep learning new skills then it is a fabulous way to make a living from home.
You started blogging in 2010. How many blogs do you own, what is the daily traffic like to them, and how many posts are on them?
My youngest son started school full time in 2009. That’s when I realised that my Cambridge business mainly required me to work evenings and weekends – that’s when people wanted to see me. But I really wanted to work during the daytime when the children were at school.
I looked about online for something to do in the daytime from home, and I found an advert. A lady called Alli Price was moving back to her native Australia from the UK and wanted to sell her online business, Motivating Mum.
The website offered networking opportunities for mums in business, and also sold online advertising to small business owners. This sounded right up my street – by this time with my accountancy background and a few home businesses behind me I felt I was well qualified to help people.
So I met Alli, just two weeks before she went back to Australia and we had a brief handover. Her advice was: Just blog every week, do a bit of Facebook, a bit of Twitter and that’s about it really.
So I had a bit of a baptism of fire. I read through her blogs, and taught myself to blog and to use social media from the ground up. I started out with Twitter, but I kept abreast of all the trends. I tried out Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Tumblr, YouTube, instagram, Pinterest and a few more channels that don’t exist any more.
In 2012, I bought another similar blog, Mum’s the Boss, from two ladies that had set it up but needed to move on to other projects, and in 2016 I decided to merge the two blogs under the Mum’s the Boss brand, as Alli is still using Motivating Mum in Australia and I didn’t want to be a copycat version of her.
I also culled a lot of my earlier blogs from the site, as some of them do not get any views any more and were pretty rubbish, so I cut the number of posts on my site from almost 800 down to 350 of my best ones.
In 2014, a couple of the businesses that I was mentoring as part of Motivating Mum/Mum’s the Boss asked me to help them with their social media, and this has now developed to be the main part of what I do.
My own blog is less important to me now, as I am pouring a lot of my creative talents into blogging, social media and SEO for other people.
How often do you create content for them, and how many posts should a new blogger post per week?
A few years ago I would have advised people to write something small nearly every day, at least 4 or 5 times a week, and that is what I used to do myself.
But things are definitely changing in the blogging and SEO world. Now for most target markets, it seems that Google gives priority to slightly longer, better thought-out posts.
So, nowadays I tell my clients to concentrate on maybe one or two quality posts a week, focused on relevant keywords and maybe 500-1000 words long.
Then the important part, which takes almost as much time, is getting some relevant images into the posts, and getting them out and about on social media – then interacting with people online.
You’re a seasoned blogger, what have been some good SEO you’ve done to your blog to get more traffic and/or optimize it?
I wrote a blog just recently about four of my previous posts that went viral (by accident or design), and the lessons I learned from them. This also includes an anecdote about my other foray into network marketing in 2014.
These were my conclusions from that post, which I recommend to every blogger:
- Try to pick a topic that is just beginning to trend, but just before everybody starts talking about it.
- Try to find a quirky, humorous or controversial angle on your topic.
- Make sure that what you are writing about fits the core theme of your blog.
- Check your blog analytics to see what your readers like best.
- If you can link your blog post to an up and coming celebrity, that could give you a boost.
- Try to find sub-topics that work alongside your main topic to keep the readers entertained.
- Every so often do a big post which goes into a subject in detail. Answer the questions that your readers what to ask
- If you have a specific area of expertise, then use it and let the readers see what you can do that they can’t. Educate and inform them.
- Use multimedia elements like video or slideshows.
- Learn how to use social media to promote your posts effectively. Track the channels you use and see which one works best for your readers.
- Run an occasional giveaway.
- Think of seasons and times of year as you write. If you provide good seasonal content and promote it well, it may come back year after year.
Should every internet marketer blog and why?
I would recommend blogging to most small business owners for several reasons:
- It brings fresh content to your website regularly which makes Google happy, and more likely to promote you.
- It allows you to show a bit of your personality and the face behind the brand, so you can build trust and a loyal following rather than just selling all the time.
- One thing you can do with a blog is make videos of you using your company’s products and showing how well they work. Done well, these can be the absolute best way of selling – I have seen a couple of videos of beauty products in particular, that were seen by thousands of people in a few days, and the demonstrators that made those videos became an instant overnight success
- It gives you lovely stuff to promote on social media – so much nicer than just pictures of your products and asking people to buy all the time.
- When you blog you join a great big community of bloggers, who can be immensely supportive of each other. If your target audience consists of women 20-60, then some of this blogging community may well end up being your customers too
I know that some network marketing companies are a little bit protective about their representatives having their own websites, blogging and using social media, so you will need to check the rules carefully from your organisation before you begin.
Be particularly aware as to what you are allowed to name your website and social media channels as your company has the right to shut your website down or suspend you if you do not comply with their social media rules
You offer various services on Mum’s the Boss, including business mentoring and virtual assistant support. Who is your ideal client and who should hire you?
I really enjoy helping people who are right at the start of their business journey. They started a business because they are passionate about the thing that they do, but they are finding all the online stuff a bit overwhelming and boggling.
I can help them, either by training and mentoring them to set up a basic blogging, SEO and social media routine, or by taking the hard work away and doing it for them.
My ideal client is somebody who is running a business from home and selling to women aged 20-60, because that is my target market too.
With clients like that I not only write and promote their own social media updates, but I can also promote their company on my blog, and distribute their updates to my own 50,000 Twitter followers, and in the numerous Facebook groups that I run or take part in.
I am currently writing and testing out a 12-week course for beginner bloggers, which I hope to have on the market by the end of February – I’m looking for some more testers right now so if anybody has just started a blog and is wondering how to make it grow then I’d love to hear from them.
What is your favorite book right now and why?
Over the last six months or so, I have been getting more into mindfulness, developing a meditation practice and working more on my own inner development. Although not specifically business related, I have found that this inner work is allowing me to find more focus and purpose in my business, which is definitely propelling me to success.
Two books which have really helped me with this are:
Adventures for your Soul by Sharon Kaiser
Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
I also regularly listen to the Calm App which I bought from the iOS app store, and the Chillpod and Confidence pod from Thinking Slimmer
What are your goals for 2017?
In 2017, I am mainly working on work-life balance. I have some lovely clients whose businesses inspire me, and I would like to help a few more passionate, talented individuals realise their dreams of business success.
At the same time, I want to factor in more time for me and my family, by becoming more focused and more productive when I am working, so that I can be entirely present with my family out of working hours.
The problem with working in social media is that sometimes “work”, promoting stuff for my clients, can easily morph into random social media browsing, for no real purpose whatsoever. I am working very hard on becoming aware of this and fighting against the time suck.
What is your favorite quote and why?
“If you want to get something done, ask a busy person”
This is just so true for me. I find that the more work I have, the more productive I can be, and I feel more alive when I am actively out there helping people.
Thank you so much for this interview Debbie!
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