I was so pleased interview Helen Lindop from Totally Courses about her business journey. It was a pleasure to hear more about her background as we’ve known each other virtually for many years and Helen is like an online business buddy.
Let’s get some success inspo…
If you could first of all introduce yourself and say a bit more about you
Hi, I’m Helen and I live in Bedfordshire, UK with my husband and kids aged 7 and nearly 9. Before I had children I’d been a trainer, mostly software training but I’d done some personal development training along the way, too.
Tell me a bit more about your business and how you first came up with the idea
I was a freelance trainer for six years before I had kids, but by the time my first baby was born I’d been back in employment for a couple of years. I travelled quite a lot for work which would have been really difficult as mum to a baby. I desperately didn’t want to send her to a nursery and – having been freelance before – I thought there had to be a way of being self-employed that fitted around a family. Except it couldn’t be freelance training because of the travelling and unpredictable work pattern. I started to research business ideas, which then turned into a mumpreneur blog and a book called Start a Family Friendly Business – and that’s where I met you (virtually) Suzannah!
After a few years (and another baby) I was ready for a change and creating online courses from home suddenly became – technically speaking – a lot easier. I could finally work as a trainer around my kids, without the travelling. I made a few courses and had some success, but then saw how many small business owners were struggling to make courses. Having spent a couple of years getting to grips with video, audio, plugins, learning platforms, shopping carts and everything else you need to know to make online courses, I was able to help. I started by making ‘done-for-you’ courses that small businesses could upload to their websites at TotallyCourses.com. I also recorded voice-overs for other people’s videos. Then people started to ask me for advice on making online courses, so now I also mentor small business owners through the course creation process, too.
My kids are now 7 and almost 9, so it’s been a long journey! But all the way along I’ve tried to match my own interests and skills with the needs of small business owners. So my ideas have come from a mixture of trying things out and listening to other people.
What have been the best and worst things that have happened since you’ve been in business?
In the early days I had so little time, I had so much to learn and I had no cash to outsource anything so I was bootstrapping all the way. It felt painfully slow and I was shattered the whole time because my kids were born only 15 months apart. Then we’ve had the usual things that life throws at you over a 9-year period – illness, older relatives needing support (and one died), threats of redundancy (my husband’s job). Sometimes it’s been hard to find time/space/quiet to do any work at all!
But there have been so many great things too, like having a book published, speaking at the BritMums conference, and all the things I’ve learned to do like being able to make online courses, record and edit my own voiceovers, design websites and do my own graphics. It blows my mind that I can now do all those things from my home computer. I feel very lucky to be around at a time when that’s all possible. And not forgetting all the fabulous people I’ve met over the years, often virtually but some face-to-face.
If you could go back in time, would you change anything?
I wish I’d started before I had kids, it would have been much easier! But on the other hand, making a better life for your family is the best motivation you can possibly have.
How do you fit in running your business with your family?
I have two schedules, a term-time and a school holiday one. During term time I work school hours and a little in the evenings. In the holidays I squeeze in a few hours here and there to keep things ticking over.
Who do you look up to in business?
I don’t really have heroes or gurus. There are people in the Internet marketing/ small business world I pay attention to and learn from including Gary Vaynerchuk, Ryan Lee, Lynn Terry, Pat Flynn and not forgetting the Brits, Ann Hawkins and Tony Shepherd. But that’s because they share great info that really works.
Are you a member of any networking groups or other associations which help support your business growth?
I’m a member of a few really helpful Facebook groups but I only do face-to-face networking occasionally these days. I can find pretty much everything I need online, apart from tea and cake!
What 3 words would you use to describe your ‘business self’?
Tenacious, curious, trustworthy
What 3 business tips & inspo would you pass onto other mums who are running a business?
- Sell something that people want to buy and that you can make a decent profit from. It sounds obvious but there will be a million things distracting you from this including ‘experts’ telling you to find your passion and the temptation to try a new business or marketing idea every month.
- Don’t do it alone. Develop a group of business buddies who know what it’s like and can offer advice and a listening ear.
- Don’t be afraid to have strong boundaries and say ‘no’ when you want to. There will be lots of people who want to take up your time and attention including friends and relatives who think you are free all day because you work from home and potential clients who want to pay you less than you’re worth. As a mum and a business owner your time is incredibly valuable and it’s OK to say ‘no’. There are some fantastic people you’ll meet on your business journey, too!