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
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
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