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Power User Spotlight: From Computer Programmer to Home-Business Scam Expert
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Power User Spotlight: From Computer Programmer to Home-Business Scam Expert
Paul Schlegel started his own business in 2004 when his employer began to outsource jobs to countries with cheaper wages. He discovered his unique talent for analyzing fraud in the home business arena and launched workathometruth.com. He helps many avoid fraud through his website.
While managing his online businesses, Mr. Schlegel, also known as paulms, is an active member of Business.go;s Community. We recently asked Mr. Schlegel to share some insight about work-at-home scams, and his experiences starting and running a business.
You quit your job to start your own business. How did you know you were ready to take the leap?
For me, the risk of staying at my job and starting my own business was the same. I was a programmer back in 2004, when the job market for computer programmers in the U.S. was quickly shrinking. Global economic changes pushed my company to outsource jobs to countries with lower wages like India. Many programmers at my company were losing their jobs. There were 80 employees when I started and 2 when I left. Furthermore, my wife and I just had our first child, and I had to make sure that I was able to support my family.
With that, I decided to start an online affiliate niche marketing business. I did some marketing on the side while I was a programmer, so I was familiar with the industry.
You started a home-based online business to help others start home-based online businesses. How did you come up with this idea?
Truthfully, I did not plan or structure workathometruth.com this way. I initially launched the website in 2005 as a web traffic experiment. Though I was an experienced computer programmer, I was unfamiliar with generating traffic. However, I quickly abandoned the website and ran an online affiliate marketing business instead.
Three years later, visitors who found my site started emailing me because the Internet has become rampant with work-at-home scams. I began to receive a deluge of questions from small business owners about scam prevention and ways to spot them. With my technical background, I was able to tie websites and clues together. As more people checked in with me, the more I researched about new online scams. I directed people on how to file proper state and federal complaints against companies potentially committing home business frauds.
Two things motivated my work with online scams. One, I found these scams fascinating. Two, I wanted to help people. Many were losing their jobs and houses because of these scams. I was also fortunate enough to have worked with the Federal Trade Commission and provided extensive documentation for one of their fraud cases.
How did you finance your business?
I financed my business through savings. I also took out a home equity loan, which ended up being a good decision. I feel the best way to finance your business is through self-funding and bootstrapping. It makes running and managing your business a lot less nerve-wracking because you have one less thing to worry about. Otherwise, you would have to manage loans and investors, which takes up even more of your time and energy.
How would you finish this sentence?-I love what I do becaus'
I love what I do because it allows me the flexibility to spend time with my family. In my particular line of business, I love what I do because it is a nice balance between the analytical thinking and creativity. I majored in music in both undergraduate and graduate school, so I love the creative part of marketing and the analysis of programming.
What is the toughest challenge you faced in your experience as a small business owner? How did you meet that challenge?
To me, the emotional and financial challenges of running a business are the toughest. You are always worrying about economic downturns, or whether putting your house on the market was a good idea. Many people do not understand the mental toll running a small business takes on your mind and body.
The best way to meet this challenge is a strong support network. I found that talking to others who are going through or have gone through the same experience pull you through these hard times. I looked to role models and mentors for intellectual and emotional support to make it through.
You publish many articles exposing home business scams. Which types of scams are the most prevalent? Have you fallen into one?
When I was much younger I fell for one' the envelope stuffing scam just after college graduation. I actually see many educated people fall into this one. For those who are unfamiliar with the envelope stuffing scam, you send the scammer money and they send your instructions to stuff a certain number of envelopes. The more you stuff, the more you earned.
Home mailing is another popular one. You get paid for every envelope you mail out. If the person buys something from it, you get paid.
Nowadays, scammers have become much craftier. Fake blogs became very popular in 2008. Scammers create blogs advertising how they earn money by posting links on Google, or promoting a trial Google kit or federal grant. The blogs would include fake comments in it to make it seem more believable. Then, they would ask for your credit card number and initiate recurring charges on it.
If you were to give a person who wants to start a business one piece of advice, what would it be?
Build a support network. Make connections. Go to local meetings, network during lunch, present at a workshop. It is the foundation of a successful business because other entrepreneurs inspire and spark new ideas. They also provide emotional support when your business goes through a tough patch.
You should also offer your services and share advice without asking for anything in return. They will remember you and lend a hand in times of need. At the same time, you should never let others take advantage of you. There should be a balance.
You have been very active in the Community answering questions and providing suggestions. What keeps you coming back?
I am fascinated by what other entrepreneurs are working on. Members come from a variety of backgrounds and run a wide range of businesses.
I have sent clients to the Business.gov forums and tools and they are amazed. Clients have told me that the Loans and Grants, Permit Me, and Search tools are especially helpful in building their business.
The Business.gov Community is also very well balanced and well moderated. People have the freedom to ask questions and share their experiences, but spammers are not tolerated. Furthermore, discussions are focused, especially for the online business community.
Date registered: 7/27/2009
Total messages posted: 94
Total kudos received: 70
As of May 11, 2010
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