Local shares advice on work-from-home online business
by Matt Shinall
Jul 26, 2012 | 5244 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Michelle Schoen decided to leave the rat race of corporate America and work at home to have more time with family, she waded through scams before realizing she had all the tools she needed for success.

Instead of finding an online job to support her preference for a work-at-home lifestyle, Schoen -- pronounced Shane -- created her own job and has built a successful business teaching others how to do what she used to do for a living.

"I worked for a lot of corporations -- IBM, AT&T, Delta -- as a training developer. I created online video courses for their employees, and then I had kids and I wanted to work from home. So I quit the corporate job, my last one was IBM, and went online looking for something," Schoen said. "I found that my skills transferred really well for creating an online-based business. So I'm kind of doing the same thing I used to do in the corporate world, but now it's my own business and I teach people how to create videos mainly using Camtasia software and PowerPoint video software."

Camtasia is a video creation software and is Schoen's primary teaching tool. Where she used to create instructional videos for corporate training use, she now teaches others how to make their own videos.

In addition to working from home, Schoen only works about 20 hours a week and makes more than she did in her previous jobs.

"The main thing is that I only work, maybe 20 hours a week, but I make more money than I did working for the corporation. So I can work less and have flexibility from working at home," Schoen said. "It's a lifestyle, it's just a completely different lifestyle not having to answer to anyone. And if I want to make more money a particular week because I have something I'm trying to spend money on, you can just push harder to deliver more training or more coaching or more online products."

In her quest for online entrepreneurship, Schoen faced several challenges, the largest of which being an abundance of scam artists prowling the Internet for people trying to make money online.

The Better Business Bureau warns against such offers, especially any online promotions advertising get-rich-quick promises. They also name popular job boards as a home for scams as the job-listing sites are commonly trusted sources for job leads.

"It's becoming more and more common for scammers to lure in potential candidates with phrases like, 'Get rich quick -- without even leaving your home!' in hope of acquiring their personal information. Craigslist, Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com and now even Facebook are all breeding grounds for scammers," stated the BBB in a 2011 scam alert. "Job seekers need to be on the lookout for potential scams. Before posting your resume to a career site or inquiring about a job, make sure you know with whom you are dealing. Many job scammers are having candidates set up direct deposit accounts as part of the application process and making it seem as though it's naturally part of the process to get an interview, when it's absolutely not."

Schoen suggests two ways to create an online business. One is creating a product to sale, especially an intellectual product, such as a tutorial. The other option is through affiliate marketing, a process where blogs are created to host expert material on a subject and from that site someone else's products are sold or recommended.

"The best way is to find out what you are really good at. I took what I already knew, I had a graduate degree in instructional design, which is just designing training courses. And it doesn't have to be what you do for a living, maybe you hate what you do for a living, but it has to be a hobby or something you know a lot about that other people would be interested in learning about. Then you create a training product and you sell it," Schoen said. "The other way to do it is affiliate marketing. You find somebody else, let's say I have a course on flower arranging and you knew something about it but not very much. You could start your own blog about flower arranging or landscaping or horticulture or whatever, and then you can sell other people's products. You don't have to create any products, you just recommend other products."

Another option is becoming a virtual assistant, a tool employed by Schoen in her own business to help her meet the needs of a demanding job while maintaining a home office. She has two virtual assistants and has developed instructional material for the industry. Virtual assistants act as administrative assistants working remotely from their own home.

Lastly, Schoen found the easiest way to avoid scams and rip-offs is to meet other online entrepreneurs and pick their brain. She did this by attending conferences, and since founding her company in 2008, she has become a featured speaker at the biannual Niche Affiliate Marketing System conference in Atlanta. She will be speaking at the upcoming NAMS event at the Atlanta Marriott Century Center Aug. 3 through 5.

"The online world is so completely different, the way it works, the way you market yourself and the way you deliver products. There's no way you could just go into it without seeking some type of training," Schoen said. "It's hard to know [what is real], because there's really nothing that has red flags to let you know of scams. You kind of have to meet somebody that is already in there somehow. That's why I recommend conferences, because you meet so many sincere people."

For more information on Schoen's video creation instruction, visit www.learncamtasia.com. For virtual assistants, she also maintains and operates www.vademogirl.com. For more information on the NAMS conference in August, visit www.mynams.com.