"I love free stuff," says Doug Richard, ex 'dragon' from the den, entrepreneur and founder of the School for Startups, an enterprise focussed on teaching entrepreneurship across the UK.
I couldn't agree more, which is why I've come to the beautiful Union Chapel in Islington to attend a day's FREE bootcamp aimed at helping small businesses, entrepreneurs and freelancers to get the most out of the web.
Web Fuelled Business is the brainchild of the School for Startups; sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Yell, it means that they can provide the vast knowledge and experience of an otherwise very expensive man for free - (not presuming that you can buy Doug - maybe just hire him by the hour!)
Doug takes to the stage in front of around 600 budding businessmen and women and proceeds to keep us interested, intrigued and entertained for the majority of the next 7 hours.
He is genuinely one the best public speakers I have ever encountered, making you feel like you're simply absorbing the information and advice he imparts, rather than struggling to understand and remember it. (Rather like sleeping with your uni revision notes on top of your head, in the hope that something would seep in - or was that just me?!)
The day is split up into sections covering topics such as e-commerce, search engine optimisation (SEO) and using social media for business purposes, with a couple of networking breaks and lunch in between.
Even though I like to think of myself as fairly web-savvy, I was furiously scribbling during the sections on SEO and learnt some invaluable points on exactly how Google (or the very clever people behind it) works. For example, did you know that you can actually damage your Google rating by too much repeating of key words on your web pages, in a scatter gun approach to trying to improve your SEO?
Although I obviously can't rip off all of the very useful advice we received throughout the course of the day, I'm sure Doug wouldn't mind me sharing his top ten questions to ask yourself before going it alone - whether that involves starting a business, going freelance, or stepping into the world of part time e-commerce.
1. What do we do that people need or want?
2. Who is our customer?
3. How do customers find out about our products?
4. What distribution channels should we consider?
5. How much is this worth to the customer?
6. What pricing model should we choose?
7. What kind of relationship do we want with our customers?
8. Who are we up against?
9. What do we have in common with our industry?
10.What must we be good at?
These focus the mind and encourage you to be completely honest with yourself. Try them out and let me know how you get on - good luck!