Australian School of Copywriting founder Bernadette Schwerdt. Picture: Supplied
Australian School of Copywriting founder Bernadette Schwerdt. Picture: Supplied

New mum: ‘I made $1600 overnight’

BACK in 2004, new mum Bernadette Schwerdt had a problem. She wanted the flexibility to be at home with her son, but also wanted to earn an income at the same time.

Before falling pregnant, Ms Schwerdt had travelled extensively through Australia delivering short copywriting courses to clients, but once her son was born, she dreaded the thought of facing early morning flights and strange hotel rooms.

So Ms Schwerdt, who is also an actor who appeared on Aussie classics including Blue Heelers, Jack Irish and Round the Twist, made what was then a fairly bold decision - to take her company online.

"I started Australia's first copywriting school, and within a week the course had sold out. It blew my mind and I realised there was a real need for this training," she said.

"In 2004 it was really a sideline while I was acting … but when I was pregnant with my son, I thought, how am I going to travel with a young baby?

"My first a-ha moment was when I realised this could be done at home. So I wrote the course, promoted it online and set up the website, which cost $10,000."

Ms Schwerdt, whose professional background was in advertising, said in the early noughties, online businesses were still relatively new.

But her website took off the first night it went live.

In fact, she made more in her first night of trading than most Aussies make in a week.

"It was a really basic site, but it was pretty easy pickings to be honest because it was kind of new; not that many people were using Google," she said.

"But it was easy; $1600 came into my account overnight.

"I was surprised waking up and seeing people had put money in my account. I thought, wow, there's trust here. I was taken aback by how readily people gave me money."

Ms Schwerdt said the business, the Australian School of Copywriting, continued to be a big earner, and that to make the equivalent income in the corporate world, she would have had to put in 12-hour days in a high-level role with huge responsibilities - and stress.

"For people who run big companies, it's a lifestyle, it's not just nine-to-five," she said.

"I didn't want that. I very strongly believe that you've got to know what you want and why, and for me, it wasn't having a high-flying career or being the best online entrepreneur - I was very clear I just wanted to be at home, I didn't want to schlep to the airport at 4am."

Ms Schwerdt has just launched a new book, How to Build an Online Business, which features business advice from some of Australia's most successful online entrepreneurs, including Appliances Online's John Winning, Showpo's Jane Lu, Booktopia's Tony Nash, TRIBE's Jules Lund and Vinomofo's Andre Eikmeier.

She said her personal top tips for turning a side hustle into a thriving online business were firstly working out why you want to start a business in the first place, then deciding what to sell.

Next, budding entrepreneurs should start offline by testing their business in the "real world" before creating an "info-product" such as an e-book or webinar.

Lastly, she suggested taking advantage of as many free resources as possible to design and build websites and logos.