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How to create a successful online business startup while keeping your day job

'I remember the day the business model began to take shape in my mind; I was ready to ditch my full-time job.'
Ned Dwyer,

Top tips

  • Don't rush in on the wave of excitement - set aside the time to develop your idea properly
  • Get in touch with your customers. Know who they are and engage them early and often
  • Be clear about the skills you're looking for before you start recruiting staff

The business

GoDaddy (formally known as is a web-based service business dedicated to helping customers improve their websites - one tweak at a time. Customers submit work requests using forms on the website, and the job is broken down into bite-sized chunks and completed by an experienced web developer - at an affordable fixed price. The service even walks customers through the tricky process of providing an effective brief and adds a layer of expert project management.

Starting a business while also working full-time

'I knew this was going to be a good idea from the beginning.' Despite being sure, co-founder of the business Ned Dwyer says, getting it up and running took time. 'I remember the day the business model began to take shape in my mind; I was ready to ditch my full-time job.' Taking advice from a colleague, he opted instead to work on the project a couple of days a week and one weekend a month, while the idea matured.

This approach also meant that the project cost very little to get started. Funding became a priority when it came time go live and officially launch the site. The budding business received an injection of funding from 99Designs founders Leni Mayo and Mark Harbottle. Ned and business partner Peter (PJ) Morgan had already developed a kind of mentoring relationship with the guys from 99Designs, so the investment was a perfect fit. 'Their experience building a marketplace has been invaluable, and they've been very willing to share what they know.'

Friends, workmates and customers can be a good resource

Recruiting the right web developers has been fundamental to the site's success. 'At first we worked with friends, and people in the agency I was with at the time. They were "test pilots" who helped us understand the skills we needed in our workforce.' When it came time to hire, looked carefully at the LinkedIn profiles and recent projects of new applicants. 'That gave us an idea of how they communicated and the quality of their work.' 

Make sure that you've created a service that people will want to pay for. 'It sounds obvious, but find out your market really wants. Engage your customers early and often, and ask for feedback. Keep it low key at first so you have a chance to iron out any wrinkles; work with a friendly group of customers while the business is crystallising. If you get it right, they'll also do a great job of getting the word out when you launch.' 

Group decisions can be tough

With a small team, there were some intense discussions about approach.  'We were doing something that hadn't been done before and we had different backgrounds; different ideas about how to make this work. Even though the meetings became quite heated sometimes, we found a way through with mutual respect for each others' skills.'

The result reached profitability just nine months after the site went live. During that time, the site also served over 1500 customers and won Best Online Business at the 2012 Anthill Cool Company awards and the Best Startup Idea at the 2013 StartupSmart awards.

The team stayed motivated by taking a vow of sobriety until the business reached profitability. 'We were working hard to get to the point where we could break out the bubbly!'