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My Canadian Experience
Electric Scotland USA LLC

As it appears some business folk are reading my journal I've been asked if I could note something about how business is progressing since coming to Canada and so am willing to share some of this with you all :-)

The thing about an online business such as Electric Scotland is that you can actually operate it from anywhere in the world as long as high speed internet access is available at a reasonable cost. There is really no advantage to being in Scotland and indeed every advantage in being in Canada.

Canada has a rich Scottish heritage, they speak the same language, they have high speed Internet access at a reasonable cost, their housing is a lot cheaper than Scotland and their cost of living is lower. So from a business stand point I could operate my business at a much lower cost that I could in Scotland.

The big advantage Scotland has over the USA is that Scotland has a health service where your treatment is free.  In the USA health is expensive.  In Canada health is also mostly free apart from drugs but even then they are not too expensive.

I found that the various officials I had to deal with in Canada were really most helpful. In the case of work permits and all else Canada was steaks ahead of the USA. I would say that if you have at least some capital behind you, enough to put a 25% deposit on a house, enough to live on for one year, then you're going to be fine.  As a self employed business person you really have the same problems as everywhere else and that is getting a credit history.

I am very fortunate in having good friends here in Canada and through them I've been able to negotiate a favourable deal for a mortgage and a car. Without such friends things would have been way more expensive.

What I most wanted to get was a decent base to work from so I could build up my business and by that I really mean get advertisers for the site as that is where my income comes from. Of course without good numbers of visitors you don't get advertisers. So my job is two fold in that I need to keep adding good content to the site so that I get a growing number of visitors and then to seek advertisers willing to purchase advertising.

In many ways this is just like publishing a magazine. You need to get circulation up so that you can attract advertisers. The content of the magazine needs to be of sufficient interest and quality to attract people to buy it. To me the one difference is actually lack of space for advertisers.  In a magazine you can put up a full page advert and with say 100 or 200 hundred pages a good number of those will have an advert on them.

On Electric Scotland we have over 12,000 pages and one of those pages can be an entire chapter of a book.  So where can an advertiser place an advert where it will be seen?  That is the problem facing a site like Electric Scotland.

The solution I came up with was to make a common header and left border on the site so when an advertiser placed a graphic button in that space it would actually be on all pages of the site thus giving them very high exposure. At the same time too much advertising on a page can slow down the loading of that page and can put people off visiting your web site.  So... this is really a balancing act.

There is thus a limit to how much advertising you can take and so the only way to balance things is to charge more for a limited number of advertising graphics. The problem then is to persuade possible advertisers that it's good value for money.

Due to the problems of time zones around the world and the fact I really am just in a bed sit means you don't have the luxury of laying things out as you'd like.  What I am finding though is that having an American company and working from Canada is giving me a more International perspective than I had when I was in Scotland.

I did singularly fail to make progress in Scotland for whatever reason. My own personal thoughts are that people in Scotland do not understand how to communicate over the web and feel if they have their own web site that's all that matters.  In fact to this date I really only have one Scottish advertiser the rest coming from England, USA and Canada.

I have recently started to make phone calls to attract new advertisers as it's obviously essential to bring in more money now that I have a mortgage to pay and a car to purchase.  In the last month I have been successful in bringing in a lot of new advertising and if I've spent two days on this that would be about as much as I've managed.

The plan is to bring in sufficient new advertising to be able to afford to pay off my mortgage and car in a timely manner and to employ at least one full time person to help me with the site. At this stage I am very confident that I can do this. With the new income generated recently I have more than enough to pay my monthly costs and taxes and have something left over.  I do need to bring in more to pay off the mortgage faster and to employ an assistant and here in Canada I can see that happening.

I also think that online advertising is picking up as advertisers can see results coming from it.  I do still believe that marketing people are still not addressing the issue of communication in their web advertising and that there is much work for them still to do.

I am currently in discussions with a number of major companies and organisations with others still to be approached.  When I have a permanent base to work from I feel I can make much faster and better progress and that's only a couple of weeks away at time of writing.

Right now I have all the various cards I need... the OHIP Health card which entitles me to free medical care, my SIN card which is my National Insurance kind of card and my Canadian Driving Licence which is really used as an identity card.  I now have a house albeit it on a mortgage and I have a car to take me around. I have managed to purchase what I needed to get my home and office setup and have sufficient funds to pay for one years car insurance plus have over $10,000 in the bank along with the funds to pay for the immigration process to Canada. (You need to have $10,000 in liquid funds before they will let you immigrate). In four months time I will have started to get a credit history from the lease payments on the car and the fact I have purchased a house is a good step as well.

I have joined the board of the Scottish Studies Society and have applied to become a member of the Press Club here in Toronto. I hope once established in Chatham that I can integrate into the business community.

I also have excellent relations with the MacLaughlin Library at the Uni of Guelph which will give me an excellent source of additional content for the site. The library has also agreed to take a mirror of the web site onto their own library computers for future security.

I have formed a Canadian company although it won't trade until I know I have been approved for landed immigrant status.  I might add that this is not becoming a Canadian citizen but that can come if I wish after I've been here for I think 3 years.  I can also become a Canadian citizen while still retaining my citizenship of the U.K. and the EU.

So right now I've never been more optimistic about the future as I am now. I think I've made the right decision given the cost of living here in Canada and the various benefits that living here brings. I have a much lower cost base, about the same when it comes to paying tax as back in Scotland, and I believe much better prospects on the business front. The web site has continued to increase in visitor numbers despite my having been travelling around for close to 2 years now.

I'd certainly recommend anyone interested in coming to Canada to make a trip here to see for themselves but be clear about the costs that can entail. Use your trip to Canada to investigate those and talk to the people about them. You will find most everyone very helpful and frank. Certainly if you wish to settle in Toronto or other larger cities the cost of owning a house will be far higher than a place like Chatham. In the area I'm living in in Toronto the houses are certainly over CAN$500,000 and up to CAN$1 million. My house in Chatham which is a three bedroom detached house with a huge walk in attic and very large basement as well as three public rooms was purchased for CAN$90,000 and $15,000 of that is repairs, upgrades and decoration. For those reading this back in the UK that's around 38,000 or US$72,000. While down there I popped into a local restaurant for breakfast and got 2 cups of coffee, 2 eggs, 3 links of sausage, fried potatoes and 2 slices of toast for CAN$3.99. which is 1.68 or US$3.19. From a purely British perspective that might show more than anything how the cost of living in Canada is so low in comparison.

You can expect to pay more for car insurance and your driving record back in the UK won't count for anything so you will be starting off fresh. If you are from the US then you'll be ok. House Insurance seems to be lower than in the UK and you will have no problems there. Were you coming to Canada with an employment offer then things will be very easy for you.  Do remember however that Canada does have a 110 volt system as opposed to the UK's 240 volt so you will have problems with anything electrical.

And so you might say I've been fortunate in having so many friends in Canada that have been of great assistance to me which has certainly been a big help in getting settled. I believe the future prospects of the business are much better here than back in Scotland and pleased to say we have already picked up our first Canadian advertiser with prospects of more to come :-)

Of course you never know what the future holds but right now things are looking very good indeed :-)

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