Call them WebMatrons — a new breed of businesswomen who’ve reinvented themselves on the internet ~~
By Beth Hendry-Yim ~~
After spending more than half her life working hard to raise her two boys alone, Susan Peach is ready for life to get a little easier. At 46, the B.C. fitness instructor wants time to putter in her garden, take a week or two to visit a warmer climate, and maybe write her memoirs.
She’s dreaming of a four-hour work week, and setting up office anywhere there’s an Internet café and a chai latte.
And her dream may be coming true. Peach is among a growing number of women between the ages of 45 and 60 who make an income from websites. Call them WebMatrons — a new breed of businesswomen, in an age bracket Stats Canada says is bursting with first-time entrepreneurs.
In her home office, which used to be her eldest son’s bedroom, Peach’s choice of office wear is decidedly casual: workout pants, a yoga top, and sandals. On the bulletin board above the eight–year–old Mac desktop computer from which she runs her business is a flow chart of her website structure. Next to it is a cheque from Google AdSense for $136.18. She earned the money from strategically placing Google ads on her website’s pages. Every time someone clicks on an ad link, Peach gets paid. She points to the cheque. “That was my first one,” she says. “It’s a photocopy. I didn’t want to cash it, but I needed the money. I got it copied in colour so it looks real.”
Peach’s website, Pole Dancing for Fitness, provides comprehensive advice and information on one of her favourite ways to stay in shape. “Everyone seems to have their own opinion on the subject of pole dancing,” she writes on the site, “but as far as I’m concerned it’s a great way to build some incredible strength and have a ton of fun at the same time.”
She started the site after reading about SiteSell, an all–in–one site–building and hosting service that also provides advice on monetization — ie., making money. In addition to Google ads, she surrounds the written content with banner ads from affiliate sites. When one of Peach’s visitors clicks on a banner, goes to the partner site, and makes a purchase, she gets paid a commission in the 10–25 percent range. “My most popular link is Lil’ Mynx Poles,” she says. “So far I’ve made over $250 in commissions since I signed up for their affiliate program. I even had another pole company contact me to say I needed to sell their product. You know you’ve made it when companies start contacting you!”
Peach’s bigger goal is to find a balance between work and pleasure. According to a CIBC report on women entrepreneurs, she’s a “lifestyler” — a self-employed businessperson looking for a good mix of satisfying work and leisure time.
“I’ve done my stint working a 9-to-9 job running a fitness studio,” she says. “Maintaining a website gives me time to play and money to play with.”
Gale Lennard, a 51–year old analyst for a large aerospace company, knows what Peach means. She owns HappyHalfway.com, a site with the motto “How to be happy in midlife.”
“I’ve been with the same corporation for 26 years,” Lennard says. “The company has been extremely good to me — great pay and benefits. But in recent years, I’ve seen shifts due to economy and changes in funding for our Space programs, and realized that the only way for me to be in control of my career and financial destiny is to be my own boss.”
For Lennard, however, success isn’t only measured by AdSense revenue. “My definition of success is to get paid to do something you love,” she says, “and I love working on my web business — communicating with people all over the world, getting feedback from visitors, and learning new things.”
Control and fulfillment are a common theme for WebMatrons. Elizabeth Martyn, owner of Healthy Eating Made Easy, was a freelance writer when she decided she wanted a project “that was mine, rather than working on projects where others were in control both of content and timing.” At 57, she now focuses solely on her web business, which allows her to take a few months off every now and then. “Some weeks I do a lot of work, some weeks none at all. [It] averages 10–12 hours weekly over the year.” She’s been developing her website since 2005, and it’s now bringing her a “reliable four–figure income” every month.
Peach’s website has seen similar growth. “I started out setting a goal of earning $1.00 from AdSense per day and one purchase from an affiliate partner per month,” she says. “After just a few months, I’m looking at over $200.00 a month.” Peach recently added a feature which provides pole dancing studios with a free listing in a searchable database. For a small monthly fee, they can supplement it with content such as video, live links, pictures, and a Google map “As my traffic increases and I keep adding new monetizing methods, my income will keep going up. Once you start researching and looking around, it’s amazing how easy it is to generate a decent income.”