I started Smart Steps to Australia to provide a resource for families who are considering moving to Australia. Initially, I thought about writing a couple of books on the subject but I knew that wouldn’t really offer the level of support I wanted to give – I wanted to provide the kind of support that I felt I needed when we decided to make the move over.
Now, I want to start by saying this: I don’t know everything about migration. I’m not qualified, or legally allowed, to give visa advice. Centrelink still baffles me (but I’m trying hard to get my head around it so I can answer questions when they come in). I can’t answer quick-fire questions about buying a house in different states. I’m a travel writer who loves chatting online and I’m a self-confessed marketing and project management obsessive. I’m also somebody who made the move over to Brisbane from Hampshire with a husband and three kids under five even though it was scary and we didn’t have family in this part of the country. I’m no more qualified than anyone else to tell you what to do or how to do it when it comes to moving abroad. But what I can do is offer encouragement and support from someone who has been through it.
As my site and my Facebook groups have started to dramatically grow over the last few weeks, I know there are new readers out there that don’t know anything about me, so I wanted to be honest and up front about what Smart Steps to Australia is. It’s a business. Only, to me, it’s more than a business – it’s a way for me to hang out with other families and hopefully make following their dreams a little bit easier. But at the base of it, it’s a business.
I’ve paid a lot of money to get my website and logo designed, to invest in the right software and plugins, to have photos taken to use in my marketing, to buy a system to capture your email addresses so I can send you emails each week, which again costs money every month. (I was very lucky to receive two government grants which helped towards my research and setup costs, but this only covered a percentage of my costs – the majority of the finance came out of my own pocket). I spend a lot of time in my Facebook group answering questions. I get a LOT of emails which I reply to personally. I work hard on this business.
Running an online business
Lately, I’ve seen a few posts in other migration groups about arguments and disagreements surrounding the issue of people taking commissions for services they recommend. I’m not in the groups that I keep seeing mentioned and I have no idea what has kicked off in them to deserve this ill feeling, but I felt the need to post this to explain some things and set some records straight because this has obviously got a lot of people’s backs up.
A business needs an income in order to fund the service that is being provided and there is nothing wrong with that. I’m open and honest about any way that I earn money through my site. I work hard to find reputable services (often which I have used and paid for myself so I can make sure they are legitimate), and only then when I am 100% confident in those services do I recommend them. My site clearly lists (in multiple places) that I receive commission or referral fees if you go on to use the services I’ve suggested. There is never any pressure to use those services at all – I just know that when we were moving I really wanted some genuine recommendations from someone who had used them before. Also, the services that I work with go above and beyond to give you extra support for free because you’re part of this awesome community. You will often see Veronika, the migration agent who works with me, hanging out in the Facebook groups answering questions during her evenings or adding her comments to posts. She doesn’t get paid for giving this advice and you wouldn’t get this extra tier of free advice outside of my group as usually agents wouldn’t be at their desk after 6pm to help you.
So you can be sure I will never encourage you to use a service that I don’t believe in and trust myself, and that I will always be honest if I am getting something out of the referral. Sometimes I recommend things and get nothing back other than goodwill, other times I might get a fee that pays for a month of my email service.
As an example, I’ve had a number of currency firms contact me about being an affiliate for them (where I receive a commission for any money transfers done through my links). But I’m not interested in what commission rates they’re willing to pay me. I’ve tried loads of them out myself and am confident that Transferwise and OFX are services that I trust so they’re who I recommend (you can find out more about them here).
I really don’t mind if you use my links or not, but hopefully if you find my content helpful then you will want to contribute towards the site’s growth by clicking through my link to transfer your money. Every penny I’m earning at the moment is being invested back into this business – I’m not laying on a beach drinking cocktails off my earnings, I promise. Although maybe I will one day 😉 #lifegoals
Admins set the tone of their Facebook group
Another thing I’ve seen mentioned a lot lately in other groups is how Facebook group admins are being out of order by deleting posts and blocking members. Now for me, my Facebook group is a bit like a party at my house. I’m loving the fun we’re having in the group and new people are joining all the time – it’s fantastic. The more the merrier. But taking the party analogy further, that makes the administrator (aka me) the party host. If there is someone in the corner looking lonely it is down to me to bring them out and start up a conversation. Just like if somebody drunk comes in being noisy it’s down to me to calm them down and maybe show them politely to the door because they’re upsetting the other guests. Facebook groups, I’m learning, are very delicate and they need somebody to keep an eye on them to make sure the party stays fun for everyone. I’m determined to keep my Facebook group a positive and supportive space and I will fiercely protect that at all costs.
If somebody comes into my Facebook group – which is the home of my business – and they start selling a service that I haven’t endorsed, then it reflects on me. If people hear about a service in my group and then go on to have a bad experience with it then it’s me who would come off worse from it as it would hurt my reputation. So I control any sales messages if I need to (so far I haven’t needed to but I know as the group expands this may become more of an issue). If anybody has a complaint about a service I’ve recommended (again it hasn’t happened, but if it ever does) then I’d love for that person to explain it privately to the business involved and to myself to allow any problems to be put right. Everybody makes mistakes and great customer service should be able to fix what went wrong if given the chance.
As I said, I wanted to write this after picking up on some vibes going on in other groups. There is obviously concern about how people are making money online and I just wanted to say this: If somebody is spending a lot of time helping people online, there is a very good chance that they are either running a business or are laying the foundations for an online business. It’s not underhand to make money online. It’s not sneaky or illegal. If a business consultant helped you write a marketing plan, you’d pay them for their service. If a plumber fixed your toilet, you’d pay them. If someone helps you online then they might be receiving payment even if it isn’t directly from you (but they should hopefully always clearly identify that this is the case although different countries have different laws on these things so they aren’t always legally bound to tell you up front – sometimes it comes down to ethics).
Running a business that matters
So there. I run a business. I’m totally transparent about it. And it’s my intention to keep running it and help it to grow so that I can do three things:
1) I can help as many families as possible live the life of their dreams, without any regrets.
2) So that I can use my platform and profit to help some local good causes that align with my own values and that of my community members.
3) So that I can earn enough money to enjoy a comfortable life with my own family.
It’s that simple.
My business was set up to help people because that’s something I feel passionate about. AND it has a potential to earn an income. I feel very lucky to be able to earn a living doing something that I love.