You might remember Margaret Goodwin of the ‘exploding chutney’ fame. That chutney opened doors for her after blowing off her fridge door and wrecking her kitchen. She even taught HRH Prince Charles how to Skype. Now she’s a Seniorpreneur, “someone with the wisdom and experience born of hard work, and sometimes hard knocks, still excited by a challenge and still tough enough to roll with the punches.”
Rolling with the punches is right, because she combined her exploding chutney notoriety and her rather noteworthy experiences in online dating to write “Pulling in the 21st Century”, an online dating etiquette ebook. Self-publishing is no easy pickle. We asked her about this venture.
1. I think what we’re all itching to know first is, what is your current occupation while you embark on seniorpreneurship? Are you balancing work with this pursuit or do you consider yourself retired?
I am technically retired, in that, I draw a retirement pension and am not formally employed by anyone to do a ‘regular’ job. However, like most people who do not have a company or private pension to boost their state pension I have found the economics of surviving day to day quite a challenge. My hope is that I will be able to establish a new stream of income from my writing.
2. You have recently self-published your first book, Pulling in the 21st Century, which is about online dating for mature adults. How did this come about?
The main driving force for writing the guide was my experience of online dating. I discovered some of the rather ambiguous advertising and claims of the online dating sites were extremely misleading, although carefully worded so as to avoid any accusations of misrepresentation or downright lies!
Most of the men I met via the sites were amazingly naive and did not seem to have a clue of how it all worked. I also found that most men had no idea about how to treat or approach women, especially older women. Women I met socially, who would admit to online dating, also seemed to be fairly gullible, where dating sites and the men on them, are concerned. I decided to write a guide that would help people to be more ‘savvy’ and to make it available via a website or blog so that anyone could read it.
3. Self-publishing, most people quickly think of 50 Shades of Grey, an incredibly successful self-published book. Can you explain how you published your book on Amazon?
Whilst looking into setting up a website, to make my online dating guide available, I was referred to a man who could help me with that, as I do not have much technological ability. He immediately told me that setting up a website was straight forward but in order to get the guide to plenty of people I would need to publish it as an ebook. I explained that I would not know where to start but he said he would do all the technical work. He proof-read and corrected my manuscript and converted it into a file-type acceptable to Amazon and then it was published and made available online. I reached an agreement with him where I paid him for setting up the website and we agreed that we would share the profits, if any, from the book sales generated. So far, not enough to move to the south of France!!
I am happy with the arrangement I made but some conversations I have since had have made me realise that I perhaps overestimated the difficulty of epublishing the book myself. Amazon have made a step-by-step guide to epublishing available which seems quite easy to follow, so I would advise anyone with writing ambitions to go down that path first.
It is fairly easy to find someone on the internet who will convert your manuscript into a file for Amazon but it is not cheap and it would be wiser to have a go first or get a younger member of your family to try it by following the Amazon guide.
4. Are there any DOs and DONTs which you wish you knew before embarking on being a self-publisher?
I wish I had realised that once you hand over your manuscript to someone else they will have their own ideas about what you have written and how you have written it. They will try to bring their opinions to bear on what you have written – which may not be a bad thing but which may alter the tone if not the content of your work considerably. I am not complaining about the service I paid for but, as a writer you should be aware that other people, with the best of intentions, can tweak your work until it is changed beyond recognition.
With this in mind, be prepared to stand firm and say ‘enough is enough’ and to insist that there should be no further editing if you feel you are losing control of what you are trying to say. The reverse side of this coin is that you must also be prepared to take advice about grammar, punctuation, sentence construction and the flow of the chapters. If you cannot agree about something go with your own instincts. The work is, after all, your creation and you will have a stronger ‘feel’ for what is right.
5. What ignited the spark in you to want to share your expertise and advice about online dating?
I fell in love with a man I met via an internet dating site and had a joyful six months, living half in France and half in the UK. Sadly, we were from dissimilar ethnic backgrounds and in the end the cultural differences between us were too great for us to overcome. I was heartbroken by the split even though I knew it was the right thing to do but it made me realise that I should have taken more time in getting to know my partner.
I subsequently met several dozen men and asked them all similar questions, leading me to realise that almost everyone was making the same mistakes. Socially, I began to search for women who used the internet and discovered the same results as I had with the men. Clearly someone needed to get the message out to both men and women that their expectations are unrealistic and more time needed to be invested in building a relationship if they wanted something that would last. This, and understanding the other person’s point of view, is the essence of my message.
5. The internet is a competitive environment for business. What do you believe gives you, and other mature entrepreneurs, the edge over your younger counterparts?
I think the advantage we have is life experience. We have bought the T-shirt several times over and know a lot more about what life holds, we are in a unique position to pass on our hard-earned wisdom. We also have reached a stage in life (well, most of us!) where we ‘don’t give a damn’ and are therefore not shy about what we do to get ourselves noticed. I am more bold about promoting myself now than I would ever have been in my youth – or even my 40s and 50s.
Younger people are still influenced and inhibited by peer pressure and celebrity. I have absolutely no inhibitions of that sort and I am sure most people of my age are the same. My meeting with HRH Prince Charles was like having a chat with an old pal, whereas the younger people around me (some of them holding senior positions) seemed quite overwhelmed by the occasion.
6. Many of our readers may not know, but you are the “Exploding Chutney” lady. Firstly, it’s an incredible story and we’re so glad you’re okay. I was amazed with the virality and amplification that story received in the media. Did it take you by surprise? Can you tell us about how the event unfolded in the media?
What a surprise that was. I think, in retrospect, that like most things in life timing is everything. It happened in the ‘silly season’ i.e. July/August when the press is short of news. One of the firemen who came to my rescue also worked on the local newspaper and gave them the story. The young reporter who came to interview me was someone I got on with really well and, by chance, before the firemen arrived I had taken photographs of the devastation to show my children. I trusted him with the memory card from my phone and as soon as it hit the wires every national picked it up. I think his headline was what did it, really, I mean rhubarb chutney sounds a bit silly and the idea of it blowing up your fridge is just mad.
So it was a combination of factors as you can tell but the subject proved irresistible to the team on Mock The Week when they did their Christmas Special and they ‘milked’ it for all it was worth! It is not very helpful to anyone else to say ‘right place, right time’ but that is what happened. If you have a whacky story time it for July/August is about the only advice I can give and – keep your camera or phone handy.
7. Did the Exploding Chutney event give you insight into how to get noticed online and have you been able to use any of those tactics in promoting Pulling in the 21st Century?
I already had some media connections as I had been the AgeUK Internet Champion in 2011 and the exploding chutney story going viral gave me a chance to renew those connections, which I was very quick to do. My local newspaper were happy to to do a feature on me, as a follow up, when I wrote the guide, and a local radio station, Marlow FM, made me the guest on their business feature. All of these exposures led to lots of visitors to my website, some new followers on Twitter and Facebook and, I’m sure, some of the sales of my ebook.
My advice would be: Be Pushy! Local radio and newspapers are always looking for content. They will give you exposure if you can show them that you will not dry up on air and if you can give your story a topical spin. So being able to chat helps and linking your story to some local event or interest will give it relevance for a local newspaper or radio station.
8. Our readers, myself included, would like to know how you go about marketing your book? Do you have any insider tips you can share with our readers?
No great secrets I’m afraid but getting on Twitter and making a wide range of remarks is something it is worth doing on a regular basis – always mentioning your book when possible, of course. Facebook has regular updates from me which, I hope get further than my regular circle…add to your friends list wherever you can to increase the odds. I have had business cards printed with my book cover on the other side to my details and I scatter them like confetti wherever I go! Because I am lucky enough to do various PR promotions as a volunteer I do get quite a lot of opportunities to mention my book in other contexts as well – but I had already done many hours on a voluntary basis, which put me in a privileged position when the time came.
9. Many of our readers are asking, “How do I get started with my own online business?” What advice can you give them? Where should they start?
When you think about going into business for yourself, whether online or not, the first thing to consider is: how viable is your idea.Research your idea and whether or not there is a market for it. Assess the competition already in the market-place (if any). If you are considering something like setting up a business on eBay there is a very good guide on their site telling you how to go about it. In my experience I found it invaluable to have all my items packaged and ready to post with an identifying sticker re the contents on the outside before I advertised them.
If, like me, you decide to go down the route of having a website there are dozens of web-site designers in your local area who will be happy to quote for setting one up for you and some of them offer servicing as well, which means updating your website, sending out a Newsletter and linking to your FB and Twitter accounts…at a price, of course. Research is the key to any business before you start. You must satisfy yourself that there is a market for your goods or service before you risk any money but if you can afford to take a punt and there is a book you feel you must write, do it.
I am so happy that I wrote my guide and I would not mind losing the small amount of money I have invested in doing it, for the satisfaction of having achieved my goal.
10. On a more general note, would you say that technology, particularly the Internet, is improving the lives of seniors and older people?
I am a Digital Champion for Get Connected and spend as much time as I can encouraging older people to get onto the internet. I was a volunteer at my local library and have introduced dozens of older people to the basics of using a computer and I am sure it has made their communication with their family and friends easier and better. I hope it has done much more than just that, I would like to think that it has opened the door to a new world for them if only for the convenience of form-filling online, which can save so much time and trouble.
11. What does the next 12 month have in store for Margaret Goodwin?
Well, hopefully, an improvement in my health as I have just been diagnosed with cancer for the third time. But on the book front, I would like to think that my guide will become a little more well known…..it is what is known as a ‘slow burner’ I have been told, so perhaps it will be helpful to a lot of online daters as time goes on. I hope so, I think it is full of good advice. Perhaps there is another book in me trying to get out? We’ll see, but at the moment my health is my first concern.
12. Lastly, in your own words can you tell us how you would define a “seniorpreneur”?
I love the title, it says what it means, doesn’t it? But in my own words I would say a seniorpreneur is someone with the wisdom and experience born of hard work, and sometimes hard knocks, who is still excited by a challenge and still tough enough to roll with the punches.
Margaret’s book ‘Pulling in the 21st Century: A Guide to Online Dating Etiquette’ is available on Amazon. Simply download the book to your laptop, tablet or iPad from the Amazon site.
Like many people around my age we are redefining what retirement is all about. Our generation is not satisfied with just sitting around waiting for time to pass. We’re breaking the rules and making our latter years mean something.
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