Women Who Do What They Love - Deborah Robinson

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Who is this woman? Deborah Robinson

What is her passion called? Australian Women Online, in operation since 10 October 2007.

Where can you take a squiz at her stuff? www.australianwomenonline.com

What does she actually produce? AWO is a free online magazine for women over the age of 25. The website started out as a blog written by me and then grew organically into the online magazine-style website you see today. The website also has a games section, an Australian business information section, and most recently I started a book club for women who are unable to attend local book club meetings.

Although we use affiliate links to generate site revenue, we don't actually sell editorial and article space is NOT for sale. All editorial decisions are based on a desire to inform our readers and to entertain them after a hard day's work at the office or in the home. I added the games section and the books section to the website because I wanted to encourage our readers to relax more.

Why does she do all this? I have used the website as a platform to promote Australian women in business and the arts. I am passionate about this, and I find our readers really enjoy reading these inspirational stories about women who have followed their dream. I also like to publish articles about the different careers women go into, and give readers a glimpse into a world they are not familiar with. As an added bonus, our articles inspire young people who come to the website, even though the content isn't specifically targeted to them.

What is this talented woman’s story? I'm 39, I live in the outer western suburbs of Sydney and I have two sons aged 17 and 21. I'm a very avid reader of women's fiction and I live for those moments when I can sit down and do some creative writing.

By virtue of the fact that I work from home, most of the contact I have with other human beings takes place over the telephone and by email. But to be honest, I actually prefer it that way. Through my involvement in Australian Women Online, I receive lots of invitations to launches, parties and events, but I haven't attended any of them. At heart, I'm the stereotype of a reclusive writer.

How has her journey been so far? Bitter/sweet but mostly exhausting. I do most of the writing for the website and everything else including design, maintenance and fixing any technical issues. 12-hour days are the norm, and 18 hours days are not uncommon.

My least favourite part of running the website is the business management. I'm a very reluctant businesswoman and I'm looking forward to the day when I can hand off all the business administration and management duties to someone else.

What pesky obstacles have tried to block her progress? Because we don't actually sell anything, monetising the website has been the biggest challenge of all. In addition to the fact that I'm a very reluctant businesswoman (see above), there is so much competition for web traffic on the Internet these days and it takes years to establish a significant following. We don't have a budget for advertising or promotion, so most of our web traffic has come from search engines and word of mouth. Our web traffic is still nowhere near the 150,000+ unique site visitors a month I'm aiming for.

Fortunately, I'm currently negotiating with a media network that will be launching in Australia this June, and this will include serving CPM (pay per impression) advertising to the AWO website. With steady increases in traffic to AWO, this should see a significant increase in site revenue. Then I can hire some writers and a business manager to ease the huge workload I've been carrying for the past 18 months.

What are her greatest joys in doing what she loves? The flexibility and freedom of being able to work my own hours and make all the decisions. I'm the boss and the employee, and now I've known the freedom of working for myself, I could never be happy working a regular 9 to 5 job for an employer again.

I'm also proud of the fact that Australian Women Online has provided a platform for so many women to promote their business or their latest book, or whatever else it is they are doing out there in the community.

What is she loving most at the moment? As a writer, my favourite part of the website would have to be the books. I have the best job in the world because I actually get to read lots of wonderful books supplied by the various publishers for free. Since I've been reviewing books on the website, I've discovered something I'm ashamed to say I didn't know before and that is – we have some very talented female authors in Australia, and I've made it my mission to promote their work on Australian Women Online.

What is her inspiration? I actually started Australian Women Online out of frustration with the lack of magazines and websites for women over 25. Most of what was out there was targeted to younger women and teenagers – lots of fluff about celebrities, fad diets and fashion no average wage earner could afford. So I launched Australian Women Online with a view to offering the women of Australia something different.

One of my critics called the website Australian Women's Weekly circa 1950 because we publish free recipes, but actually free recipes are one of the most popular search terms on the Internet (shows how much she knows). It's difficult when people criticise you but if you believe in what you're doing, you have to keep going and develop a thick skin!

If she could do anything in the whole wide, entire world – what would she do? A best-selling author. It's the writer's life for me!

Where would she escape to if she could? England. I've always wanted to travel the world, especially the United Kingdom and Western Europe. My grandparents were born in England, so the UK is like the motherland for my family and yet, I've never been there. Overseas travel is definitely on the top of my 'To Do List'.

What would she buy there? A cottage in the countryside with a thatched roof, situated near a small English village. I like the cold so it would be a wonderful place to escape to during the hot Australian summers.

What are her secret aspirations? Like most people, I'm just trying to survive the worldwide recession and hoping it won't last much longer. Fortunately, the business doesn't have any debts and because I do all the paid labour, there are currently no employees to worry about. But advertising revenue has dropped since the recession began and if it continues to drop, I'll be working for peanuts by the end of the financial year.

I would like to develop Australian Women Online into a profitable company and see it become one of the top websites for women in the world. But I can also see me selling it eventually so I can buy that thatched-roof cottage in the English countryside and write novels for a living.

What is her greatest achievement? After raising my two sons whom I am incredibly proud of, Australian Women Online would have to be my greatest achievement. I started with nothing and 18 months later the website has an excellent reputation.

Of course, we also have our critics but that's mostly because of my views about the Federal Government's plans to introduce mandatory internet filtering. But as far as the website itself goes, most of the women who visit AWO love it and we are building a solid following.
What would be her absolutely perfect day? Tucked up in bed on a cold winter's day with a good book.

What five words sum her up? Determined, Intelligent, Passionate, Idealist, Perfectionist (I have to work on the last one).

What really fabulous advice does she have for others wanting to Do What They Love? Life's too short to procrastinate – do it and do it now! Don't listen to those who tell you it can't be done. But don't go into debt for it because nothing will collapse your dream quicker than defaulting on a loan - be patient and start small. If you're passionate about it, you will find a way and the rewards will come.

Don’t miss AWO’s sensational book reviews and prize giveaways!

Are you doing what you love? Please contact me
here if you would like to tell your Do What You Love story. I’d love to hear from you – no matter where you are in the world.

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