A question I’ve been asked a lot recently is how I got to where I am now with my blog and my business. This is a funny question for me as I never really think of myself as someone who has got anywhere, I’m just doing what I love, figuring things out as I go, and working really hard to make it happen along the way.
Today I want to share with you my journey step-by-step so far, from my first ever blog post to the coaching business I have today. I want to share both the blogging and business journey alongside some insights from my personal journey too, as for me they both go hand in hand. My personal life affects my business and my business affects my personal life and the lines are so blurred now between them that it wouldn’t be the full story if I didn’t share them both side by side.
I started my blog, which was then called Jennypurr. I had been obsessed with the UK beauty blogging community for the past year, and the beauty community on YouTube too. Back then I had a slightly unhealthy spending habit (most likely fuelled by my love for beauty blogs) and found so much joy in just reading these personal, fun, and down-to-earth blogs from everyday girls just like me and wanted to try creating my own. At the time I was in my last year of university studying for a degree in Social Work but was very unwell and found myself spending most of my days inside and disconnected from the world around me.
My health will play a big part in telling this story, as it’s the whole reason I wanted to become my own boss in the first place, so to be as open as possible I’ll give you a little background: during my second year of university I had a mental health breakdown. I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and then with Bipolar disorder but that has since been re-diagnosed. The main ways my health affects me is through dissociative episodes, bouts of depression, irregular moods, and anxiety.
A big reason I started my blog was to give myself an outlet, as I was struggling with my health and feeling very isolated and lost within my illness. It gave me a way to be creative, to focus on something other than just being sick, and connect with others too.
After working on my blog for the past 4-5 months - usually posting 5-7 days a week - I reached my first 1,000 subscribers via Bloglovin in the summer of 2013. I remember this completely blowing my mind - I never expected 10 people to read my blog, let alone 1,000. At this time I had graduated university and was working full time in retail while I found my feet in post-graduate life. I was still struggling with my health and didn’t have as much understanding as I do now about my illness and symptoms, so this was a really tough time in my life and my blog was the one thing that gave me some joy and escape throughout the week. Back then I was sharing posts on beauty products I was enjoying, and sharing the occasional lifestyle and personal post too.
After a few months, I found myself unwell and struggling to hold down the full time job. I had another breakdown and quit my day job due to illness and Alex and I moved back home to my parents so we could have a support system around us and somewhere to live while I tried to get better and back on my feet. All I had was my little blog to keep me busy. I never thought of it as a job, but for me it was a way to keep myself focused on something when the rest of my life felt like it was completely falling apart. On the days when my health was so bad that I couldn’t even get out of bed, sometimes just writing up a blog post for the next day was the only way I felt like I was capable of more than just being sick. At this point my audience continued to grow little by little, and I also started to connect with PR companies and beauty brands to trial and test beauty products to feature on my blog.
These months feel like a complete blur. I was very unwell and was in a long waiting list for access to mental health care that felt never ending. Working on my little blog every day - back then I was posting 7 days a week - gave my some focus and joy in the middle of all of this. My audience continued to grow, and more importantly I slowly but surely started to realise that I was actually starting to really find my feet with this whole blogging thing too.
This was a really exciting month as I launched A Little Opulent alongside one of my closest friends, Rebecca. This was an online lifestyle magazine we had been working on behind the scenes for the past 2 months and it was such an incredible project to work on together. We collaborated with other bloggers and creatives who contributed to the site and it was so fun to build a brand completely from scratch together. This was a complete passion project but also a great way to develop new skills too - it’s all thanks to ALO that I learned how to use Squarespace! We closed the site a year later due to us both being busy with our own creative work, but I’m so glad we did this project as I learned so much about content creation, collaboration, and building an engaged and active community online.
April 2014-July 2014:
These were a really fun few months. I was working on my blog and ALO and making little bits of money here and there and focusing behind the scenes on my health and recovery. My confidence was starting to grow again little by little, and I was really engaged with something that I was super passionate about. ALO was growing really well and reaching an engaged audience - on our best months we had over 100,000 monthly page views - and my blog was averaging on over 15,000 unique visitors each month too. I was making money by selling advertising space, collaborating with brands, and affiliate income too.
This was when I registered as self-employed. I maybe had only made £1500 at this point through my online presence, but I knew by then that working for myself was going to be the best option for managing my illness and living a whole life alongside it. What I knew most back then was that I was really committed to making something happen with my online space.
By this point I started to really discover what it was I was passionate about with my blog. I had started to outgrow the beauty content and was much more interested in writing about blogging and creativity, and I also realised that I did not enjoy making money with my blog in the traditional way. I found adverts, sponsored content, and even affiliate income uncomfortable - it didn’t light me up in a way that felt good, and I knew I didn’t want to make my income that way. This doesn’t mean to say I don’t respect that way of making money - many of my clients and friends monetise that way and I’m crazy proud of them - it just wasn’t the route for me.
At this point I was borderline-obsessed with the world of blogging and content. I was fascinated by how much content could connect with others, and loved sharing through my blog everything I had learned about building an audience and engagement through my blog and ALO. Looking back this was my a-ha moment - when I really started to realise what I was passionate about and what I was good at too.
I started to do some pro-bono and low-paid freelance content strategy work for creative friends, family, and contacts - this was to see if I enjoyed it and if I was any good at it. Looking back, I was truly just following my curiosity and intuition during this stage and being okay with just figuring it out as I went.
This was when I decided I wanted to start offering blog coaching services in early 2015 and transition my blog into more of a business and brand. This was super scary - I had no idea if I even had “permission” to do this, or whether it was going to work out or not, but I had thankfully found blogs such as By Regina, XO Sarah, Braid Creative, and Breanna Rose and their content helped me to find my confidence and put my business-hat on too.
Behind the scenes I was working on the upcoming launch - I also thought about creating an e-book but didn’t follow through on this as I knew deep down it wasn’t the right time. On the blog I was sharing more focused content on blogging and creativity - this was to transition my audience into my new niche even more, prepare them for the launch, and give me space to explore and express my ideas too. I also started therapy during this season of my life so it was a really interesting time of working on the new business behind the scenes and doing lots of deep and reflective work in my personal life too.
I launched my blog coaching services at the end of the month - and I was as excited as I was petrified. Looking back, I feel like I was very naive and fearless - but in a good way. It helped me to launch my business without worrying too much about the bigger picture - I was ready and willing to just launch and learn and experiment along the way. I priced very low - it was just £75 for content coaching back then and £169 for mentoring.
I started to get my first few enquiries and I worked with my first ever client. It was so exciting and also very nerve-wracking at the same time - exciting that I was having the opportunity to do work I was crazy passionate about, nerve-wracking that I really did need to find my feet in this new work and truly show up and deliver for my clients. I will be completely honest - as a coach I have grown into my craft so much more since then. But everyone starts somewhere, and that’s why starting small and pricing low is sometimes a good thing when you’re first getting started - to give yourself space to find your feet.
March was a really exciting month as I matched how much I used to make a month at my full time retail job from my business (this was around £950). This was when I really started to believe in what this could become, and it was just the boost I needed to fuel me to keep on working hard moving forward. At this point in my personal life we were still living at home with my parents, Alex was working full time, and I was still struggling with my health but in therapy and doing my best to get as better as possible. Our biggest focus as a couple was to get on our feet and be able to move out and be financially stable moving forward - while also dealing with the realities of my health too.
April was a really strange month, but looking back it was a catalyst for bigger and better things to come. The most exciting thing that happened was that I launched my podcast, Make It Happen. Not only has Make It Happen been a great new challenge for me as a content creator, it’s also been an incredible tool for business and brand growth too. Launching the podcast has similarities to how I launched my blog - I was fascinated with podcasts for months, and decided to start my own because I was enjoying the medium so much. Little did I know it would grow to become such a big part of my life and work.
The not so fun part of April was being let go from therapy because they didn’t have available the support or services I really needed. To be told that there was nothing more they could do to help, that I was just going to have to live with my symptoms that felt so crippling and scary, and to feel completely alone again in my health and like there was no light at the end of the tunnel was a really tough place to be. Even though I had recovered from my second breakdown and was able to leave the house again, work full time on my business, and engage so much more with my life, I felt completely lost and was so afraid that I was going to hit rock bottom again. I remember deciding during that time that I had two options: I could give up and just let life happen to me, or I could take my life into my own hands and build a career and a lifestyle that enables me to take care of myself, thrive in my life, and do work that feels meaningful instead of being controlled by my illness every step of the way.
This leads onto May, a month I will never ever forget. This was a busy, busy, month. This was when I started putting in 50+ hour weeks into my business, and pushing myself more and more to give my work everything I had. Even though I was still struggling and sad from what happened in April, I worked harder than I ever had before and I am so so glad I did. In May I made around £3000 - which completely blew my mind. This was more than I even made in a quarter when I worked full time in retail, and we were able to pay off all our remaining overdraft debt from our student days and save for our deposit for moving out too. So much more than just the money though, May showed me what I was truly capable of and it’s a month that really did change our lives. Getting out of debt and being able to start saving to move out was the jumping off point to getting us to where we are now.
I started to get booked out in advance for clients, and we signed on for our new apartment too which we moved into in September. This month I really started to discover what it is I do best and enjoy the most as a coach and I slowly started to pivot my services in that direction. Although I first started as a blog coach, where I realised my heart and best work truly belonged was a content coach and creative mentor. I talk more about this during my interview on the Space To Face podcast.
In August I launched a six month coaching and mastermind program with just 5 spots available and although I got sick halfway through the launch and couldn’t do everything I had planned, I was able to book out all 5 spots and that played a huge part in stabilising my business income for the rest of the year. This was when I really started to feel more stable in the business and less afraid that I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills every month once we moved out. Even more awesome though is that those 5 clients I’ve worked with over the past six months have been some of the most fulfilling and meaningful work I’ve done so far, and I’m so glad I took the leap and launched it last August.
September & October 2015:
These were a really fun couple of months. We’d moved out so we were crazy happy in our personal life, and I was able to have more space to work on my own terms too. I was booked out, working hard, and although I was super busy I was really enjoying my work and the life it was enabling us to live. By the end of October though, the 50-60 hour weeks were starting to take their toll and burnout was just around the corner. I was definitely hooked on the hustle and being busy in this season of my life - it was so great to see what I was able to achieve by working hard that I definitely started to attach too much of my self-worth to my work. I was afraid that if I slowed down my business would suffer and fall apart.
November was a fun month for two reasons - we took an awesome trip to Berlin, which was extra special as it had been almost 3 years since we were able to afford to go away together. And November is also the month where I rebranded to Jen Carrington - something I had been aching to do all year as the Jennypurr brand just wasn’t a good fit anymore. But November was also a tough month - I was really struggling with burnout and my coaching schedule of 15-18 meetings on average each week, and it was starting to take a toll on my health too. I knew I just had to survive November and early December until I could take 2 weeks off over Christmas to relax, recharge, and re-centre moving forward.
I took the last 2 weeks of December off and completely switched off, disconnected from work, and recharged after a busy few months in the business. I am so grateful for these 2 weeks - without them I don’t know if I’d have been able to really take a step back and make a positive change to my routine and approach to work moving forward. The best part was that after taking some time away, I came back completely inspired and excited to create and work again.
I started this year with a brand new state of mind - I knew I needed to take care of myself and focus on my health, wellbeing, and personal relationships as much as I do my business as this was the whole reason I became my own boss in the first place. I decided to take things slower, to focus on myself as much as I do my work, and to trust that everything I built last year would be able to give me the space to do this while also still being able to make a stable living along the way.
February & March 2016:
These have probably been my two favourite months in this entire journey so far. This slower season has been incredible - I feel so much more focused, intentional, and creative in my business. The business is feeling financially stable, and I feel no pressure or urge to strive for a 6-figure business in this season of my life (or maybe even ever - who knows) - I’m just so grateful, happy, and proud to be able to make enough to sustain our life and my business. The money fear has of course not gone away, but I’m learning to trust what I’ve built and trust in my ability to continue to make things happen along the way. I’m finding so much more joy and peace in my routine, and I’m wholeheartedly enjoying the work I do with the awesome clients I feel crazy lucky to work with.
And what’s next?
In 2016 I really want to focus on honing my coaching practice and becoming the best coach I can be, continue working with dream clients and doing some really impactful and meaningful work together, create content that I’m crazy excited to put out there, and continue to make space for rest, play, and joy in my life too. I’m the healthiest I’ve ever felt and that’s probably the thing I’m most grateful for in my life right now. It’s taken a long time but I really understand my illness and how best I can take care of myself, and bad episodes are very far and few between now. On a personal level, I hope to maybe travel more this year, spend time with the people I love, and most of all just be healthy, intentional, and peaceful in my life.
There we have it, my blogging and business journey so far. It’s been messy, surprising, challenging, and rewarding so far and if I’ve learned anything it’s that hard work, being brave, and moving forward even when you can’t guarantee the outcome are the foundations of making big and beautiful things happen in our creative work and life. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below and I will answer them in-depth in an upcoming mini episode of Make It Happen.
More than anything, whatever stage you’re at in your journey I’m rooting for you and want to encourage you to keep on moving forward and making incredible things happen in your creative work and life.
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