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079: How to Start a Full-time Online Business with Zero Startup Capital (w/ Daniel Scott)

Daniel Walter Scott is a certified Adobe instructor (ICE) in Ireland, an Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) and he completed the Adobe Certified Associate training (ACA). He has been teaching for more than 14 years and is the founder of Bring Your Own Laptop (BYOL), an Adobe Certified Training Centre in Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and online.

He has over 16,000 students on the Udemy platform with over 1,000 reviews and over 16 courses.

Period in full-time business

He had always been doing little businesses on the side in his evenings and weekends, but he went into it full-time business in 2009.

Core revenue streams

He has two main streams that are both based on training. One is a sit-down classroom where people book a course, come in and learn from an instructor. He has such training centres in Australia and Ireland.

His other stream is online video training on Udemy and other platforms.

Starting out in business

Daniel used to work for other people but he was always curious about doing it for himself and when he decided to move from the UK to New Zealand, he also decided to start an online business. He started by building a sit-down classroom courses website and promoting it through SEO. He had to borrow some money from his grandmother to cater for his personal expenses so he could focus on building the website and getting customers.

Getting the first set of clients

He got his first customers through search engine optimization (SEO). He learnt everything he could about SEO because he wasn’t a good salesman so he needed the website to do the selling for him. Through that, his website ranked well and because there were people looking for courses, he was able to get customers.

Working with zero budget

Daniel says the one crucial thing he did that can work for anyone now, is content marketing. He says content marketing offers the best value for money. He makes his content in form of videos and in the beginning he used to write a lot of blog posts about his work. It was easy and free for him to do it because he wrote them himself.

Number of videos

At the beginning, he used to write a lot of blog posts and then he did one or two videos a month as a test. When the videos started doing well, he narrowed his content marketing down to videos.

He says if he could get a do-over, he would have focused on videos from the very beginning, because progress on getting the website ranked would have taken place ten times faster. He says the content marketing through blog posts was very slow.

Growth strategy at the beginning

The sit-down classroom courses were more locally targeted so he worked with local businesses like blogs that existed around what he did. He also used to reach out to companies that complimented his work, to see whether he could do free stuff with them. That was the easiest way for him to market the business since it was targeting the local market.

Tip: If you have something local, you have to focus your marketing (including SEO) on the local market

The fundamentals that worked

He says some of the things that really worked for him that can work for a local business include Google local listings (now known as Google Places, Goog Business, or Google Local) which get a business on a map that easily puts a business on top of searches for local products. The other thing, he says, is finding other websites that are linked to the business one is doing (these are mostly professional listings)

Other things that may take some time and effort include relationship building with other businesses, going to conferences and meet-ups organized by businesses that are related to what one does. That way, one gets clients through word of mouth and referrals.

Adobe certification

He says being Adobe certified and having his training centre certified by Adobe, is very helpful. That’s because as part of certification, he gets linked to his website, and it helps a lot, because Google likes to see big companies linking to smaller websites.

He deals with corporate clients and they only trust people who have Adobe certification. His training centre is the only one with Adobe certification in New Zealand, and among only 10 in Australia.

Tip: Corporate clients always prefer fully certified service providers

The transition to online

He says the sit-down classes were successful enough to get him out of formal employment, but it was tough. He kept doing them because he didn’t know anything about online business. When it was time to leave New Zealand and get

back to Ireland, he decided to start his trainings online. The first videos he put up online as content marketing, had generated a lot of interest in his work, so they formed a good foundation for his start online.

To test whether people would pay for his courses, he used a free 30-video YouTube course he had, to direct traffic to his online course. He did that by pulling down half of the videos, and asking people to go to his online course if they needed to get the rest of the course. He has since put the full course back on YouTube for free.

He used a subscription model for his first course and it went for $12 a month or $80 a year. He has been testing out different prices so that over time he can determine which will work best.

The numbers

In terms of the sit-down classrooms, he has great teams running them without his constant input. He earns good income from them every year, ranging between $30,000 and $40,000. He started the online courses in November 2015 and they give him a 6-figure income now, with about $10,000+ a month. In the first 5 months of starting the online course, he was a making $100 per month but after the 6th month, it started picking up. The business has almost zero overheads.

The first 6 months

He says the online courses started doing better because he improved on his productivity. Initially, he was making courses, editing them, putting them out, distributing them and getting social traffic. When he found things that are working, he hired people to help him fulfil some of the tasks so he can focus more on course production. That has enabled him to move from making a course every 2 months, to making 2 courses a month. He has 16 courses and is currently creating a few more.

From his statistics, he has seen most individual customers buying more than one course from him.

Tip: The more courses you create, the more audience you have

Working with Adobe

Adobe found his courses on YouTube and reached out to him so he could help them with a video for a new feature they had created. Since then, he has been making different videos for different Adobe products. Other product managers also work with him when they come across what he’s done for Adobe.

Adobe pays him for every video he works on for them.

The platforms

He offers his courses on Udemy, SkillShare and his website. They generate almost equal income for him. He teaches digital design media (creative IT) which includes digital publishing, web, video and print.

He says the most important aspect of the business is distribution (determining the target market and what they want). He is still in the phase of creating different varieties of courses that people want. He has a check list that he uses to keep up with what courses work well. His distribution channels include Udemy, SkillShare and his website. Udemy and SkillShare are very helpful in marketing his courses but with his website, he has to put up videos on YouTube, and do a lot of video SEO. YouTube is the biggest driver of his website traffic.

Video SEO on YouTube includes coming up with good titles, creating detailed descriptions, and adding tags. He also adds a call to action in all his videos.

Tip: When you upload a video on YouTube, do some research on what to call it and make sure it has usable search terms within the heading. Make sure there is unique content in the description and that it has good tags.

Biggest breakthrough moment

He says this was when he realised that there is more to putting up videos on YouTube including ranking them well in order to ensure that they get good traffic. Half of the conversions on his website are from YouTube.

Another breakthrough was recently discovering that he didn’t need to give away so many of his courses for free because customers were willing to pay for them.

Tip: If you are getting into YouTube, you have to put a lot of effort into it


Book recommendation for entrepreneurs: 

  1. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses – Eric Ries
  2. The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph – Ryan Holiday


To be remembered as someone who loved to share what he knew and help others – Daniel.


Best way to connect: – Daniel’s Business website
@DanLovesAdobe – Daniel’s Twitter Handle

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About the author, Davis

My Dream of sharing inspirational success stories started many years ago and this Podcast is an amazing show that brings some of those conversations to light.

This show is dedicated to being a voice of encouragement to you because I believe God created you and I with a purpose to fulfill and I want to be here to cheer you on through this Podcast, our Blog and through our other channels of interaction via our comments section after each Podcast and Blog as well as on social media.

I love business and entrepreneurship and I truly believe you have greatness inside of you 🙂