There are some questions that I’m asked over and over again by clients, awesome people on the internet, and creative friends too.
I love answering them as openly and honestly as possible and I realised recently that it may just be easier to answer some of the most frequently asked questions all in one place for everyone who is curious about the answers to read. So here are answers to ten of the questions you may have wanted to pick my brain about:
1. How do you balance your relationship, your friendships, your life, and your business?
For my first year in business I found this really, really, tough. There were weeks when, even though we live together, Alex and I would only really spend time together over dinner (and even then I’d be half paying attention to whatever task I was working on) or when I’d be talking about my work and needing his feedback and support. I’d struggle even more to make time for friends and family, and self-care and “me time” was feeling like a thing of the past too. It felt really crappy and wasn’t how I wanted to live my life so this year I decided to change that.
My honest answer now is this - I make time for the things that matter to me, and my business isn’t the only thing that matters to me and I’m no longer afraid to not have it as my number one focus every single hour of the day. My relationship will always be one of the biggest priorities in my life, and I never want my work to steal all my time and energy throughout the week - the life we’re building together means more to me than anything and the more I nurture it the more I feel peaceful and fulfilled in my life. My close friendships bring me so much joy and I always try and make time for my friends as much as possible - but I won’t lie, sometimes this is the area where I feel like I’m “failing” the most when it comes to managing and prioritising my time. If our families need us, I never question making time for them no matter what our schedules look like. And as for self-care and “me time”, it’s now a non-negotiable - because it enables me to be better at my work and be more present and open in my relationships too.
2. What are your favourite must-read blogs?
The blogs I return to and read over and over again are Alexandra Franzen, Braid Creative, The Fresh Exchange, Zen Habits, Un-Fancy, No Sidebar, Design For Mankind, Nishaantishu, The Financial Diet, and Jenna Kutcher.
3. How do you deal with imposter syndrome?
I spoke about this a little in recent Make It Happen mini episode here, but the general gist of it is that I try and face imposter syndrome head on whenever it shows up in my life. Whenever I start to feel like I’m a fraud, or not worthy of the life I’ve built for myself, I try and question all of those negative thought patterns that creep up along the way. I surround myself with reminders that I am good at what I do, and that I do have permission to pursue my goals and dreams, and when things get really tough I turn to the people in my life who see what I’m capable of even when I can’t see it myself.
4. How do you manage your illness alongside your business?
For a little more background on this you can read more here. The main way I manage my illness alongside my business is that promoting my health and wellbeing always, always, comes first. I like to think of my business as very health & soul centered - I always want to stay true to my values in this journey, but I also want to promote my own wellbeing every step of the way too.
I’ve pretty much built my entire life around the limitations of my mental health to enable me to live as whole a life as possible. In a practical sense, that looks like prioritising my sleep, downtime and rest, and checking in with my health as much as possible. I’ve built my weekly schedule with this in mind, and I’ve really learned over the years what it is I need (sleep, a good diet, rest, margin) to stay as healthy as possible. The best part is that, thanks to being my own boss, I’m able to live my life on my own terms, and because I’ve devoted a big chunk of my life so far to really tackling my illness and understanding it as much as possible, being “sick” doesn’t really come into my head that much anymore. Building healthy habits and putting my health first has enabled me to take care of my health in a way that means it no longer has to be the entire focus point of my life at all times.
I’ve also built a lot of buffer time into my schedule, so when bad bouts of health do happen I’m usually able to recover without it affecting my usual workload too much. There is always only so much you can do when you're living alongside mental health illness - so much of it can feel wildly out of our control - but I've found that being as proactive as possible instead of always waiting to be reactive has made a big difference for me. The biggest lesson I’m learning is to never feel any shame for when my health does need my full attention - showing myself as much compassion as possible keeps me from spiralling into a really negative place. This article sums up exactly how I feel about running a business when you're living with mental health illness and is a great read for anyone else struggling with it too.
5. How do you come up with fresh ideas for content every single week?
The secret here is that I’m not always coming up with fresh ideas for content every single week - sometime’s I’m scheduled a few weeks in advance, and almost all of the time I have a running list of ideas just ready to be brought to life. I’ve learned to navigate the ebbs and flows of my own creativity by giving myself as much breathing room as possible.
When it comes to coming up with fresh ideas, I pay attention to the conversations I’m having in my work every week - whether that be with clients, or creative friends, or even just the conversations I have with myself in my head. If I’m ever really hitting a wall with ideas, that’s my sign to take a step back, switch off from creating content, and live a little and without fail a break is always followed by an influx of fresh ideas.
6. How were you financially able to start your business so young?
I started blogging at 20 and I started my coaching business at 22 and I lived at home at my parents house from 21-23 and that, without a doubt, is one of the main reasons why I was financially able to start a business so young. I was out of work due to illness so I had a whole lot of free time to focus on my creative work, and my only financial commitments at that time in my life were feeding myself, paying my phone bill, and any of my super minimal business expenses too (Squarespace, domain hosting) - and Alex and I share all of our finances so the financial burden, even with minimal expenses back then, wasn’t all on me either.
Before I started my coaching business the only main money I had coming in every month was the little I was making from my blog through advertising and affiliate links, so that was a time in my life where apart from feeding myself I hardly spent money on anything else. I didn’t have a hair cut for over 2 years (back then I cut my own hair - a skill I’m now grateful for when I need to trim my fringe in-between visits to the hairdresser), I hardly bought new clothes, and because I blogged mostly about beauty I regularly was sent press samples of skincare and makeup products so I very rarely had to buy those either whenever my shampoo or face wash ran out. We very rarely ate out, we didn’t have a car back then, and even going to the cinemas felt like a financial stretch. But I’m so grateful for that time in my life and how it enabled me to build my business and get financially on my feet. No one helped me financially to start my business, but thankfully starting an online business has very low overhead costs so it was something I was able to do myself, but having a roof over my head and not having the pressure of rent or bills for 2 years is something I’m crazy grateful for every single day.
7. Do you ever feel lonely and isolated as a creative?
I sure do. As an introvert, working from home is a dream come true but I still get lonely and itch for company from time to time. Sometimes it’s hard to find people in “real life” who get what I do, and even though the internet is an awesome place to make friends and connect with likeminded people, nothing replaces how awesome in-person interaction is.
Alex freelances from home part time, so I thankfully have his company a few days throughout the week, and 2-3 days a week I also have calls with my clients so I very rarely go an entire work day without talking to someone, but somedays I do wish I had creative business friends in the same city as me to connect with on a regular basis.
8. How are you able to consistently be booked out with clients?
60-70% of my work comes in through word of mouth, referrals, and returning clients, and the remaining 30-40% comes in through my content marketing - so this blog, my podcast, and my Weekly Letters.
Word of mouth and current and past clients recommending my coaching services has probably made the biggest difference along the way - being able to build word of mouth around my coaching business has been able to move my work forward in ways I couldn’t do alone.
9. Why don’t you use social media that much?
The honest answer here is that it’s just not a huge focus point for me in my work, and it isn’t something that brings me a whole ton of joy either - I love seeing the other awesome things people are creating and sharing on social media (especially Instagram) but creating content for it myself doesn’t fill me with joy like writing blog posts and creating episodes for my podcast does.
I’m also not a big consumer of social media - I don’t even have any social apps on my phone anymore - and although I love to be vulnerable and open in my connect, I’m not a huge oversharer when it comes to my day-to-day life so social media just isn’t the most natural place for me to hang out. I’m over on Twitter throughout the week as I do enjoy connecting with people on there, but for now I just don’t see social media being a big part of my online presence and I’ve thankfully been able to make it work without.
10. How do you get your work done when you’re just not feeling motivated?
My mum rang me a few months back and asked me this exact same question - “Jen, how do you stay motivated every day to work?”. My answer was - “because, Mum - I have bills to pay, and you do too”. We laughed but we both knew that, on a very basic level, that it was true. When you work for yourself, there’s this fear that it’s too easy to not get things done. That, because we don’t answer to anybody else, we may struggle to hold ourselves accountable throughout the week. The thing is though - when you're self-employed you are still accountable. To your clients, your customers, your business, and your finances - so even during the days when I just want to stay in bed and watch Netflix all day, there are external responsibilities that get me out of bed and ready for the day.
I am crazy grateful that sometimes, if I’m just not feeling up to it, I can take the day off - especially if I’m ahead with content and my to-do list isn’t looking too crazy, I feel no guilt deciding not to work now and again on non-client days. But, on a deeper level, what keeps me going is that I've built this life and business for myself - step-by-step, piece-by-piece. I don’t want to lose what I’ve built, I want to keep moving forward and keep living an impactful, fulfilling, and sustainable creative life, so even when I wake up and feel like I just can’t be bothered, how much I want to continue to make things happen keeps me going even when immediate motivation is nowhere to be seen. But I won’t lie - somedays I do just work from the sofa, in my comfiest clothes, eating my favourite food, with Netflix breaks throughout the day.
In my experience, it’s important to have “bigger picture” things motivating us along the way, because if not the daily grind will always start to take its toll. For me, it’s the life I want to continue to build, the impact I want to have with my work, and the creatives I want to serve along the way.
There we have it, answers to some of the questions you may have wanted to pick my brain about. If you have any other burning questions, let me know in the comments below and I can hopefully answer them for you soon!
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