The difference between an entrepreneur and a (small) business owner
What would you call yourself? An entrepreneur or a small business owner? Or a business owner in general? Or self-employed? We often intersperse these terms because most people don’t give it much thought and feel they are more or less the same thing. But more often than not, we feel the term ‘entrepreneur’ sounds too posh, too much, too pretentious. So we stick with ‘small business owner’, and you notice this especially amongst women. Feels safe, right? But there really is a difference, and creativity is at the core of it. I tell you why you should start calling yourself an entrepreneur from now on, and feel good about it.
ɒntrəprəˈnəː/“a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.”
That’s the definition in the dictionary. Basically, being an entrepreneur means that you are starting a business from scratch, you are the inventor, and the creator of your business, accepting the fact it may not work. But for me, it is so more than ‘taking on financial risks’. If it wasn’t for you, it wouldn’t exist. It is all about creativity, passion and vision. You dreamt it, you visualised it, you put the steps in place to bring it into reality. Tell, me, is this exactly what you did? Then call yourself an entrepreneur! Take the credit, my friend!
You are a creative powerhouse, and you made this happen, all by yourself. You ARE an entrepreneur.
Owning a business does not equal entrepreneurhsip
You can be an entrepreneur AND run a business. This is ultimately what most end up doing. But just owning a business does not automatically make you an entrepreneur. How does this work, then? Let’s say your parents owned a shoe shop. You helped them when you were young, and then when the time came, you took over the ownership. You are now the owner of a shoe shop. Your mum and dad were the entrepreneurs, when they opened the shop thirty years ago. They created it, and took on the financial risk. But now you own the business, which makes you a business owner. However, if you decide to set up another shoe shop, selling pink trainers only, not knowing if it will take off, that makes you an entrepreneur. Because you are the creator. Get it?
Entrepreneurship is 100% creativity
If you are a creative, you most likely have an entrepreneurial spirit. Being creative is another term that often gets confused, as many believe that creativity is the same as being artistic. That is not true. Being creative means you are creating something. First there was nothing, now there is. A painting….or a business. You are creative. And being entrepreneurial does not always have to mean starting a business en making money, in my eyes. If you organise a local fair, start a choir in the neighbourhood, or get people together for a networking event – you are showing your entrepreneurial spirit too.
You have an idea, and make it reality. You have a thought, figure out how to do it, and you make it come true. This is creativity. This is entrepreneurship. They are very much entwined.
Entrepreneurs are brave and fearless
How would I describe myself then? I am a creative being, but happen to be artistic too. But it is my creativity, which I have had inside me all my life, that has made me into an entrepreneur. That, together with my adventurous personality, and not being risk-averse. Because to become an entrepreneur and start your own business requires you to take risks, and be brave. Because, if you invest money in yourself and your new business, this means a financial risk. If you leave employment to start a business, this is scary!
Not only that, but it often comes with self-doubt, fear of judgement, and a lot of hard work for little income at the beginning. Will you be able to make it work? What will people think? What if you won’t make any sales?
Be proud of what you have created
But if you run a business, whatever size, that you crafted yourself, out of a dream, out of your own ideas, with your bare hands, with your dedication and passion, energy and money, then you can bloomin’ well call yourself an entrepreneur. If you don’t use this term because you feel it is pretentious in some way, stop feeling you are not worth such a title. You are a rock star entrepreneur. Perhaps your business is small, but it is mighty.
How life shapes you (and how bosses can have a huge impact on your self-confidence)
I can safely say that now I am in my 40s I am a lot more confident than I was in my 20s. Life experience, becoming a parent, moving countries, and setting up a number of businesses from scratch have all helped me become the woman I am today. I am a lot braver these days. Gosh, I even gave a talk in Spanish last week, in front of a bunch of students. But I do remember some of the bosses I used to have when I was a young girl, starting out on the career ladder. You probably all have examples of those types: authoritarian, snobbish, with terrible social skills, and just making you feel like shit.
It’s funny how, when you least expect it, these memories can suddenly pop up again years later. Here’s a story that I remembered again last weekend, out of the blue.
When I was 23, I landed myself a pretty decent job in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. I got hired as one of the grants advisors for a Dutch organisation that was the portal to a whole host of subsidies for people needing money for research, books, exhibitions and other projects in the field of architecture and design. It was very enjoyable helping all these creatives with their projects. I worked hard to make sure their applications were well written and ticked all the boxes, so they were successful in receiving the money.
In a way, the coaching of entrepreneurs was already inside me somehow, even then. We also had a great team of people, and there was never a day when we didn’t have a good old laugh.
Not worthy enough
After two years my contract was not being renewed. It was already on the cards, as it was a temporary post, but to be told that my time was up, was still a bit of a bummer. As a token, I was offered to do a career orientation session with an agency. The result? Communication and Culture. I loved it! It was so accurate. I am a prolific writer, a true creative, and I love the communications and marketing aspect of the cultural sector. I had a meeting with my boss in her glass office, to talk about my experience and test results, and what she then said to me, was a slap in the face.
“Ah yes”, she said, when peering at the papers over her black designer glasses, “That figures. You are not someone who goes into a lot of depth.”
Just 25 I was. Still at the start of my career. Sitting in front of a 50-something-year-old female boss, who tells me that basically, I am a shallow person.
When she then asked me how my job hunting was going, I told her that I had been interviewed somewhere, but that they had chosen someone else because I was ‘more expensive’ (based on my salary back then). “Yes,” she then replied. “We did hire you for too much money”.
You brush it off but it always sticks
It is funny how these comments never leave you. To be told as a young person you are not worth the salary you were hired for, is hugely damaging. I had never had any negative comments about the work I delivered. To use your power as a senior boss over a young employee to crush them like that is so bad. I have no idea whether my boss at the time even had the slightest idea what impact her words would have on me, and that nearly 20 years later, I still remember them so clearly.
Especially as another woman, twice as old as myself at the time, wouldn’t you try and give your young female employee the self-esteem to go out into the world and do beautiful things?
Do I suffer from imposter syndrome? Of course, I do, at times. Especially when launching something new, or making myself visible online. And in particular on LinkedIn, where many of my contacts from twenty years ago are still in my network. And everything on LinkedIn always looks so shiny, professional, and business-like. I am no longer the young girl I was twenty years ago and have so much more experience and knowledge. I really shouldn’t care about what old colleagues, bosses or even ex-boyfriends think. But still, those words from long ago creep in at the weirdest times, and I have to remind myself that I am no less than someone with an impressive profile picture and a huge following. I have a lot of goodness to share.
Forgiveness is the only way
I have helped so many creatives in my life. My support lifted them up, gave them the confidence to grow and have a positive impact on the world. I know I can motivate and inspire people with my talents and gifts, and my eternal optimism. I have written so many strong promotional words to help attract the audience my clients and their work deserved. And I have become a fearless entrepreneur, who emigrated twice, now speaks three languages pretty fluently, and is able to create a whole new life from scratch, no problem.
Perhaps those harsh words from my old boss, so many years ago, fired me up to prove her wrong. I went into the world and waved my magic wand. And perhaps she had her own hurt, sadness and struggles to carry, that made her so blunt. Everybody has their own story, and everyone has their own internal battles to fight. So today I will forgive you, dear boss from 2004, for saying the things you said to me in that swanky glass Dutch office. They made me stronger, but not bitter. And we are all human. And we can all be better tomorrow. I hope you found some softness in your heart and smile a bit more.
Are you trying to overcome mindset blocks or confidence issues in your business? Book a free 30-minute call with me to see if and how I can help you as a coach.
Why I don’t believe going on another marketing course is the solution
Many of you will not have a marketing or business background. You will probably have worked a ‘normal’ office job for most of your working life, or maybe you were a teacher or otherwise employed. Most of you will have started your business as a side hustle before deciding to leave your job completely and becoming self-employed. Well done for being brave! The freedom that comes with entrepreneurship is amazing, but you will sometimes hit a block. That is normal. Running a small business on your own is not easy, and keeping yourself constantly motivated and visible online is a challenge.
So what is my advice?
You may think you are rubbish at marketing, or need more skills. You may search online for inspiration, or sign up for yet another ‘free’ challenge, masterclass or webinar coming past on your timeline, hoping to find the holy grail. You know the ones, right? They all sound fantastic, but in the end, they are all the same. You may learn a few quick tricks, but more likely, you probably waste an hour of your time watching something that taught you nothing unless you paid for an expensive course. Stop it.
You keep swimming, but you need a lifebuoy.
I don’t believe going on another marketing course or webinar will boost your business.
Unless you are an absolute beginner, or you feel you want to learn a specific skill such as blogging or closing a sale, you already know what to do to become more visible online. You have all the knowledge already in you.
The problem is; you feel overwhelmed and deflated. Or you have some pesky mindset and confidence blocks, telling you that nobody is interested in your content, or they will laugh at you if you go live. Am I right?
So you procrastinate. You avoid working on your marketing, don’t think about your content strategically, and just keep doing what you do, hoping that somehow it’ll all be OK. Or you accept that you won’t earn a lot with your business, but at least it’s a fun thing to do.
You need support. Someone who believes in you. You are worth more than this.
Going on more courses is just an excuse for not taking action
Signing up for yet another course makes you feel that you are doing something positive, right? You are working on your business, learning more. But I don’t believe another marketing course will solve your problem. You can gather all the knowledge in the world, it does nothing if you don’t start using it.
I believe you need someone to hold your hand, and help you implement it all. You need a freakin’ cheerleader! How would it make you feel if you were being held accountable every week, or fortnightly, so you got stuff done? Someone who would give you the confidence to try new things, push you out of your comfort zone and make you feel incredibly proud of yourself? No more lonely study hours, please.
Your business is worth shouting about! You are amazing, with all your skills, expertise and talents, and your gifts can help people and change the world. Keeping yourself small is not the answer. I believe in you.
Maybe you have never considered working with a coach. It just isn’t on your radar. Perhaps you think (like I did!), that a business coach is something for ‘real’ entrepreneurs who are doing ‘real’ business. But you are doing real business, and you work so hard at it. And having someone beside you, supporting you, and helping you grow as an entrepreneur, is not something ‘luxury’. It will probably be one of the best investments you have ever made. Not just in your business, but in yourself. You don’t need another marketing course. You need a buddy who believes in you.
Book a free 30-minute call with me to find out how I can support you in your business.
Easy ways to launch an online live course without complicated tech
So many clients and fellow entrepreneurs tell me how hard they find it to find their way around online tech. They may want to teach an online course, or a masterclass of some sort, but the idea of having to study platforms, payment systems and integration makes them run for the hills. Such a shame! So today, I am going to share my favourite tricks to launch a paid online programme, course or masterclass without giving yourself a headache.
The possibilities are endless now. Teachable, Thinkific, Membervault, Kartra, Podia, Kajabi…they all have exotic names, and all have their own tech attached. Also, you often have to spent AGES making the pages look the way you want, so it matches your branding, etc, and before you know it, another week has gone by before you even started creating the actual content! Oh, and let’s not forget the Pro upgrades you most likely need, which hammers your budget once again.
Keep it easy, perfection is overrated!
I felt like this a few months ago, before I launched my own group programme From Overwhelmed to On the Ball (which I will be running again in autumn). I felt all stressed out, and in the end, I almost didn’t do it. But then I decided to take a step back….and do it my way. The easy way. Because that is how I roll.
So where do I host my course? A weekly Zoom call, a PDF, and a private Facebook group.
I created a sales page, embedded a payment link, and now send a zoom link and a PDF attachment via email to my small group of participants. That’s it. THAT’S IT!
People want your knowledge and support, not a shiny system
OK, OK, there was a slightly longer run-up to actually getting people to sign up. I also created a landing page for a free challenge on Mailerlite, my email system, so I gathered lots of email addresses. Then I directed them to a special private Facebook group, where I gave the free training, and then promoted my paid course. But even the 3-day challenge I kept really simple. No PowerPoints, or complicated long presentations, but simply a daily 30-minute training on Facebook Live. I just showed up and talked. Easy peasy.
My advice? Keep it simple and just start. Learn as you go, tweak on the way, review it afterwards and improve. Get feedback, try things out, and next time it will be even better. We get so sucked into the tech bits, that we forget what it is actually about: YOUR KNOWLEDGE.
People don’t sign up because of your brand colours, or how pretty your freebie looks. They come to you for help. Go and help them. In all your beautiful imperfection.
What I recommend to launch your live online course
To build your audience:
A much better system than Mailchimp, in my opinion, Mailerlite gives you a very straightforward option to build a landing page to sell your course on, or gather email addresses (if you offer a free download or challenge). You can set up an automated email sequence as well, to start a funnel. It is free for up to 1000 subscribers.
Forget the pages and the profiles, it’s groups that are your best tool. Through any freebies you are offering, make sure you direct your subscribers to your free group, to nurture them some more. Promote your group wherever you can, so people will join. If it is clear who the group is for (in the title, the header and the description), people will join if they see the benefit.
In your group you can host Lives, events, free challenges and promote your paid courses. The more engaged your group is, the higher the chance that they will buy. For my live paid course I set up a separate private group, so my participants can chat with each other or ask me questions in between the weekly group calls.
To collect payments:
Paypal is often the first payment app people think of, but they take a hefty cut. I discovered Tillypay recently, which is from Stripe, and it works very well. They take 2.5% off the sale price, whereas Paypal takes around 4.4%. If you set up a Stripe account you can very easily create a Tillypay payment link, which you can share everywhere you need, in emails, on social media, wherever you promote your course. I created buttons on my web page and linked them to Tillypay. Simple. Once someone pays, you collect their email address, so you can contact them. You can also direct them to a URL (or your Facebook group).
To create pretty graphics and PDF workbooks:
Whether it is pretty posts for your social media, or an e-book, Canva is your best friend for nice looking graphics. I created my downloadable freebies in here, but for my paid course I also designed the workbooks and the whole presentation I share during the live training. I use my brand colours and make it all look good.
To deliver the training:
And then there is the delivery! I have a Zoom Pro subscription, so I can hold meetings longer than 40 minutes, but if you stay under that, it is a free app. I schedule the weekly training, and then send out my group email the day before with the link, and the PDF workbook attached.
I record the Zoom training calls, and download them on my computer. I then upload them onto Vimeo, so I can easily share the replay with my participants, or post it in our private Facebook group.
I know I have been banging on about my 7-week programme From Overwhelmed to On the Ball, but I know that sometimes there is a need. I know that some of you are thinking about signing up, and are still sitting on the fence, for whatever reason. Perhaps because you don’t know what you’ll get out of it. Or whether it will be too much to digest. Or that you are not sure if the investment is worth it.
Stop thinking about it. I will get you off that fence right now.
I will give you five reasons why you should not book on my course.
Don’t sign up if:
You feel happy and in control of your marketing and social media.
You are already attracting a steady stream of clients. You’re fine.
You know where you’re going, you’ve got a clear business strategy.
You don’t need any coaching, or the support of a kind mentor who ‘gets’ you, gives you new ideas, and makes you feel super motivated.
You think that you are not worth the investment of €297 for nearly two months of group coaching, learning, and growing as an entrepreneur.
Did you disagree with one or more of these statements?
Many of you tell me that you feel lost in the whole marketing thing, that it’s a grind, and how much time you seem to be spending on it, while you would much rather focus on creating and serving in your business.
You feel tired of doing it all on your own, you need support, guidance – and above all: accountability, to stop procrastinating. I give you all this in the seven weeks we will work together as a group.
I will be your expert buddy, your happy-go-lucky, positive, solution-focused coach, who will make you feel motivated again and focused on your goals. We will work together on your message, marketing and mindset, so in less than two months you will feel ready to move to the next level in your business.
If you are making the incredible decision to invest in yourself today, I have some great news: you can grab the last seats on the programme, ready to rock.
Hiring a coach, isn’t that for ‘proper’ entrepreneurs?
Not long ago I thought that business coaches were for people who run, like, ‘proper’ businesses. Not like me. You know, little old me, who used to work from the spare bedroom, being a creative, and trying to make ends meet. Business coaches, I didn’t even have a clear idea of what they did. I imagined that they’d be talking about stuff like sales projections, the budgets of the company, the targets, whatever, blablabla. Not for me, anyway.
But now I am a coach myself. And you know what? It’s not like that at all. I am just like you.
I would be the last person to say that hiring a business coach was ever on my radar, all the years that I was a freelancer or had a creative business. I just battled on, I accepted my income was low, and I’d be working all hours. But boy, would I have loved to have a coach at times.
The lonely juggling entrepreneur
When you run a small business like you and I do, you are most likely the only one running the show. You may have outsourced part of it (like your accounts), but you are probably wearing ALL the other hats. And many of us are parents too. It is a lot to juggle. It can be lonely. And when do you ever take a break?
Don’t you feel anxious about keeping your social media updated daily, for example? Often half the day gets swallowed up by creating content, pushing stuff out, making yourself visible (again), and basically, making sure people don’t forget you exist. It can be so exhausting, can’t it?
The world would be boring without you
The thing is, you don’t have to do it all, every day. Give yourself a breather. And especially: give yourself a big pat on the back too! You are amazing, building a business all by yourself! I get it, you never feel good enough, I know. But please, hear this from me: You are good enough. I am ALWAYS blown away by people like you, and the passion you have for what you do. You are a fabulous human, and without you, the world would be a boring place. You just need some support, that’s all.
And that is exactly why hiring a coach is not such a bad idea at all. Yes, of course, you can hire other people too, like social media managers, or admin assistants. They will definitely take some load off you. But outsourcing these types of things doesn’t help you with the bigger picture, to help you grow professionally as an entrepreneur. Who will be providing you with a clear road map, navigating you to success?
A creative buddy to stop you procrastinating
Where do you want to be in a year’s time? How will you actually get there? Do you have a strategy? And are you using the right tactics? A coach is your partner-in-crime, who will be able to keep you motivated and hold you accountable, so you do get where you want to be.
And you don’t need to hire a coach forever. Often, investing in yourself and your business by signing up for a coaching programme will be for around 5 months. But by working with a coach, you are assured to get more stuff done and reach more of your goals than you probably would on your own. And hey, having a buddy beside you, who believes in you and cheers you on, and who understands your creative business, how nice would that be? No more procrastination, and you’ll feel incredibly proud of yourself as a result.
How would you feel if nothing changed?
So no, hiring a business coach is not just for the big corporate business guys and girls. And you are very much a proper business! If you feel like you’ve been struggling lately, and you really want to take your business to the next level, then hiring a coach is an investment you won’t regret. Just imagine what it would feel like if nothing had changed, by this time next year.
Now imagine how you would feel if you had more clients and sales because you had the right tactics and were targeting the right people who would pay your prices. You’d earn back the investment in no time.
I am a creative entrepreneur myself, and I know the creative brain inside out. I love supporting small businesses like yours, not just with marketing and business advice, but with personal development support too. Because we all struggle with mindset issues, and we all keep ourselves way smaller than we should. You deserve to be as successful as you wish to be. It’s your time.
Has anyone ever told you that “you’ll never earn money like that”, or “it’s better to find a ‘proper’ job”? I’ve been on the receiving end of such comments multiple times! I chose to study Art History at uni. My parents were always supportive of whichever study I’d choose (thank you, mum and dad!), but I remember the laughs and sniggers of classmates (who all chose business economics) and even eyebrow raises by family or friends of the family, asking whether there was any work in that. Basically, they all thought I was stupid to pick a subject that was destined to lead me to poverty.
Money blocks and undercharging
It somehow sticks when you hear that message. It becomes a mindset issue. Because everyone told me “there was no money in the arts”, I settled for less. I accepted the fact that pay was low, and that I should be grateful to even have a job in my industry. So even when I, years later, set up my own business and became a shop owner (in vintage furniture), I kept myself smaller than I should have. Because deep down I believed that, as a creative, you don’t earn much, and that “I wasn’t a real shop like the proper ones in the high street”. So I stuck to a tiny budget, didn’t feel brave or ‘business-y’ enough to take financial risks to grow, and I always over-delivered and undercharged.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved running my shop and had a fantastic four years doing it, but the truth is, I just covered my expenses with the sales I made, and a bit more. If it wasn’t for my husband’s steady income at the time, I couldn’t have lived off the revenue of my shop alone. I now look at those years as an investment in my business skills and knowledge, and I am super grateful for the opportunity they gave me to grow in confidence and to figure it all out by myself. I learned SO much. But I now know that with the right mindset, and perhaps a coach, I could have made it much bigger.
Your path is yours and yours alone
Despite my money blocks, I have never had to work a part-time job on the side just so I could do my creative stuff too. I have always worked in the arts and creative industries. And so: yes, there is work in it, and if there are no jobs, you can create your own. And yes, you can even have a creative business AND earn lots of money with it. It all depends on mindset, strategy, and skills.
I managed to find work in my field even before graduating, both in Holland and the UK, and I would tell anyone to follow their own path despite negativity from people around them. Get a ‘proper’ job? Fuck ‘em!
Know what you can offer, and share your USP
YOU know who you are and what type of work will bring the best out of you. I would have died in a corporate environment. The arts and culture are my life fuel.Small business, any time.
The one thing, however, I know was a leading factor in my success to always find work in my field, and how I launched my little vintage shop and got sales, was the fact that I am good at communicating. Communication is key.
Explaining your personal USP, making yourself visible, and making the right connections. You gotta be able to market yourself and convince people that they need you.
And this is my message to you today: if you want to succeed and grow as a small business – or even find interesting creative jobs – you cannot sit back and wait until somebody accidentally finds you. I know, putting yourself out there for all to see can be scary. Fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of a big fat ‘no’. I know this feeling well and it sucks!
But you have a dream, right? You don’t want to go back to that boring office job, or stressful work environment you used to be in, do you?No more ‘proper jobs’, life is too short for that, and you have so much to give.
You have everything already inside you to make it happen. Your ideal client is out there waiting for you to become visible and help them. Go for it. I believe in you.
In case you want a coach by your side for seven weeks to help you in your business:
Doors are now open for my 7-week group marketing training programme.
What a year it’s been. What a journey we’ve all been on. What has been the best thing that’s happened to you or your business since the lockdowns started 12 months ago? I talk to so many friends, peers and clients, and it seems that 2020’s shit show turned out to be a game changer for many. We were faced with a crisis, and we turned it around. At least, many of us did. Did you?
My income plummeted in spring 2020. I lost 50% of my clients. I felt deflated. Anxious. Hopeless. I started getting stressed out about being able to pay for my monthly outgoings.
Strict lockdowns and time to think
Months passed, and I wondered whether to pack it all in and stop my business. I literally just managed to cover my expenses. But I am an eternal optimist AND somehow there is a creative fire in my belly that I can always count on.
And ideas came. As I was sitting at home, spending time with my family in the strict Spanish lockdown (couldn’t leave the house), and homeschooling my kids (well, attempting to), all sorts of thoughts popped up in my head to pivot my business and try new things. Mainly online based. Drop-shipping businesses, e-courses, e-books. I once owned a vintage design shop, and thought I could perhaps go back into (online) retail. I was wrecking my brain, trying to come up with a new business idea. I researched stuff, but nothing really gave me that big ‘yes’ feeling.
Increasing prices when there is no work
In the meantime, I still continued with the few copywriting clients I had left. I also decided to promote myself more online, and become much more visible. Polished up my profiles on freelancer platforms, redesigned my website, redid all my web copy. That paid off, and I quickly attracted a lot more new clients. But they weren’t paying well, and often haggled me down. Still, I accepted, because, after all, we were in a pandemic, right? Beggars can’t be choosers, at least that’s what I was always told. Mindset issues, anyone?
On a late summer’s day, I chatted to a friend who told me to increase my prices for my copywriting services. “Nina,” he said, “If you don’t up your prices, you’ll always be that 40 euro girl”. (I was charging just 40 euros for a blog post at the time, to compete with the many cheap writers on Fiverr. I know, crazy!). Ouch, that comment hurt, and made me feel so small. I knew he was right. I knew I was worth more. But I felt I couldn’t possibly change things right now. I had to hold on to what I had, while everyone else was losing their clients too.
I doubled my income in just a month
What? I said. In a lockdown? Are you mad? How is that going to work?! Nobody will then want to work with me, surely! But he planted a seed. It kept going round in my head all evening. So I was brave, and I raised my prices the next day…it was scary! I also wrote to my existing clients, that from the next month my prices were going to go up. Oh, gosh, the stress I felt when I sent the email. I expected them to tell me they didn’t want to work with me anymore. But they came back, and agreed to it.
I kid you not: I doubled my income a month later, and I started to attract a very different set of clients who didn’t bat an eyelid when I named a higher price for a job. Shock! And the confidence that gives you, when you are finally valued for your work, it was such a huge improvement in my business.
From a poverty mindset to manifesting success
In autumn, I discovered a few other things that catapulted me forward: I discovered Yoga Nidra (and the art of intention setting – ever done this? Go and google it, it’s amazing), and I found Denise Duffield-Thomas and her money mindset affirmations on Facebook. I started writing down these affirmations in my journal (such as ‘I am worth to earn a lot of money for the work I do‘), and the Universe started to listen.
I don’t know if you believe in manifestation, or spirituality in general, but for me, things started to shift big time once I did the journaling, the yoga nidra affirmations, and the manifesting. I am aware of sounding like a right woo-woo coach now, telling you that you can “manifest 6-figures if you only start meditating on it”, but I have experienced manifestation enough times in my life, to know that it works. Not got to 6 figures yet, but am I certainly attracting better clients!
Investing in me and my business
A few weeks later, I came across a Facebook challenge (on creating semi-passive income), and signed up. And because I got so much out of this week-long free training, I invested £2000 in a 12-week business course. What was happening to me?! I had never ever invested that kind of money in my business or me. I come from the arty not-for-profit sector, for goodness’ sake. Plus, I am a mum, and I usually put everyone else before me.
But there I was, pulling out my debit card, signing up.
I felt so alive and so inspired to be working on my own professional and personal development again for the first time in many years. How empowering! Thank you, 2020 crisis! It was new and exciting, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it! And boy, was it worth it. I have since invested even more money in my development, by signing up to a membership with another coach.
And late 2020 it happened: The Creative Business Coach was born.
Finding clarity and focus
I decided to go back to my creative roots, and harness all that I learnt over the past 20 years in terms of marketing, copywriting and starting a creative business from scratch (multiple times!). I am not a drop shipper, or someone who is writing web copy for random companies that I have no affinity with whatsoever.
I am a creative entrepreneur with strong marketing skills and a real passion to inspire others in their business. I LOVE helping and motivating others.
I am a marketing and business coach with a creative brain, that’s who I am. This is my calling. I want to serve.
All you creative entrepreneurs out there, with your gorgeous businesses and fabulous products and services, I want to help you to grow to become the force in the world to make a positive change. I believe in you!
I want you to stop feeling small and undercharging, like I did, and I want to teach you the marketing skills and powers to become more visible to your ideal client. And double your own income! I want to help you become more visible, so you can shine your wonderful creative light on the world. And god, does the world need you right now! Creativity is the balm for the soul, and after last year we need small businesses like yours more than ever.
I want to see you succeed in business and spread your talents. No more #artiswork hashtags or other ways of putting yourself down. I kept myself small for far too long. We are worth so much more. You are worth so much more.
“You are worth to earn a lot of money for the work you do“. It worked for me, it can work for you. I want to support you, and I am here for you.
I never meant to be a marketing expert. I studied Art History, for goodness’ sake. Anything corporate or sales-y made me run a mile. It’s just not me. I loved, and still love, arts and culture. The creative industries. I always worked in this sector, and that is where I belong. I was born with a pencil in my hand, picked up a guitar on the way, and always have a head full of ideas. I am an artist at heart, really.
But I became a marketing expert.
How? Why? I rolled into it. As you do. And kept rolling for twenty years. Communications, PR, Marketing. I love writing, you see, and I am told I am pretty good at it. I also am very good at summarising the essence of a project, idea or event, and putting it into clear language. I like building bridges and connecting people. And having an eye for design, I know how to make things look pretty. Oh – and I am not shy of tech. All in all, a great cocktail for the role of marketing manager in the cultural sector. So that’s what I did, for many years.
But you know what I love even more? Being an entrepreneur and not working for a boss. I freakin’ love it. Oh gosh, it’s hard doing it all yourself and trying to grow your audience, and booking consistent clients. But it is wonderful, it gives me so much energy, and it really is the most creative thing you can do, crafting something out of nothing. It starts with a niggle, then a seed is planted, you water it, and it grows, and before you know it you have a plant that needs repotting because it’s getting big. Creativity is so much more than being ‘artistic’. We are all creative as business owners, all the time.
I recently launched my new business: ‘The Creative Business Coach’, helping creatives become really good at marketing. Why? Because like myself, so many others are in the process of watering and growing their plant. And they need nurturing. I want to be the compost.
(I have no idea why I suddenly start talking about plants and compost – it’s funny how a creative brain works and comes up with metaphors. Nevermind, do read on!)
Lockdown disasters and feeling sorry for ourselves
Last year, during the first lockdown, I saw many self-employed people in my network lose work and clients. It was rubbish. They struggled, and I read some pretty heartbreaking posts on social media of businesses who simply could not continue. But then I also saw people using the hashtag #artiswork, as some sort of justification of their creative existence, and it made me angry.
Why would any entrepreneur lower themselves to a hashtag like that? Can you image a plumber doing this? #plumbingiswork. Well, of course it bloody is. What else would it be? Why do we have to defend art like this? How is anyone going to see art as an equal player if we keep feeling sorry for ourselves? Chips on shoulders, big time. It irritated me immensely, because, for many creative entrepreneurs, myself included, the reason for losing business, has nothing to do with not being valued. It is how we present ourselves.
The biggest reason for losing business is that you are not sharing the right message consistently with the right audience. You are not visible enough.
If you are reading this, and you consider yourself a creative entrepreneur, be honest; how visible are you online to your ideal clients? How clear is your message?
When a pandemic hits, we need creative brains
Of course, of course, I am being confrontational here, as there are other factors at play, such as less money to spend perhaps by customers, or the simple fact that you could physically not deliver your services because of the restrictions. If a concert hall is closed, musicians are at home. If you are a ballet dancer, there is only so much you can do in a lockdown. I know that. But these are not the business owners I am talking about.
I have learned, after having worked for more than 20 years in the creative industries, that creatives like artists, photographers, designers, and makers, are not renowned for their marketing skills. In fact, most of them see the whole marketing-thing as a necessary evil.
Their work may be amazing, but I would be surprised if any of those businesses had a solid strategy on how to grow their audience and increase their sales. They usually have a hit-and-miss approach to marketing. And when a pandemic hits, that hits hard. I want to help those businesses see that there are solutions.
No idea how to attract more clients
Almost everyone who starts a small creative business does this out of passion and a drive to make a difference. And that is why I love working with creatives. They care.
They love what they make and do. And it deserves to be seen. The thing is, the fact that they start a business, doesn’t mean they automatically know how to market it and attract clients. Art schools don’t dedicate much of their curriculum to teaching students how to promote themselves, let alone how to run a business. So most self-employed creatives totally end up winging it. They start posting on Facebook and Instagram, maybe write a blog once a month, perhaps even have an email list. And some of them are better at it than others.
Many of them, however, all tell me the same thing:
“I feel lost in the whole marketing thing and I hate it. I’d rather throw my laptop out of the window than create another post that gets no engagement whatsoever. I wish I knew how to get more clients.”
I want creatives to feel excited about marketing
As excited as they are about creating a new product. And this is why last Autumn I started my new project, The Creative Business Coach. I saw a need, and I realised that with my background and experience I can help them. I want to help them get great at marketing and social media, so they feel empowered and know how to attract more clients with enthusiasm.
As a creative myself, I understand the mind of a creative, their background and industry, and their drive. I am not a corporate sales and marketing guru. Never will be. I understand what it is to run a small creative business on a budget. Because I’ve done it.
I make marketing simple
How do I make marketing less scary? It all started with a Facebook community, which I set up in November and now has well over 200 members. In there I share free marketing tips and mini live masterclasses, and I don’t use jargon. So many creatives have this huge block and resistance about marketing and sales, they don’t want to bother people, they don’t know what to post, and they wish they could just ignore it all.
People tell me “I take the fear out of marketing”, and that means a lot to me. Because, at the end of the day, marketing is not rocket science. But there is no way to avoid it when you are running a business. Otherwise, it’s just a hobby. So I am on a mission. Demystifying marketing for overwhelmed creatives. Small businesses with a passion. I don’t want to see any more #artiswork hashtags coming past on my timeline. If art is your business, then boost those marketing skills.
The perfect marketing training for creatives
I am very excited to be launching my first group training for creatives and small businesses, starting on the 20th of April. I recently did the same programme 1-to-1 with photographer Alex Baker, and it was such a joy to see the transformation in her. She literally went from hating social media with a vengeance to feeling excited about creating the next bit of content – not to mention the incredible feedback she’s had on it already since.
“Before working with Nina I was feeling completely daunted by the whole social media and marketing my business thing. After following Nina’s course I actually feel excited about the prospect of marketing my business, I have a much clearer idea of the message I want to get across, and I am brimming with fresh ideas. Already I have received several positive comments from people in my network who have noticed the difference in my social media interactions.“
Alex Baker, photographer, Spain
Seven weeks of inspiration, accountability and support
The 7-week programme ‘From Overwhelmed to On the Ball‘ covers all aspects of marketing a small business, and which will get people motivated and ready for the next chapter. I am offering it as a beta course, as it is the first time I am doing it in this format. That means that the group will be kept small, and the price is discounted. A fantastic opportunity for anyone who feels ready to boost their business this year. If you are interested in taking part, please visit my course page for more details.
“Before starting this course I thought it was going to be ‘just another marketing/business course’ like so many others which I had tried but never really stuck. But Nina is an absolute pro and knows the creative mind inside out (being one herself!).
I had so many ‘Eureka’ moments, but I think my favourite was that marketing your business shouldn’t feel like a grind. I am now approaching this side of running my business with the same sense of energy and fun that I have for the creative aspects.”
Do you ever feel like you want to throw your computer out of the window because you’ve had enough of posting content on your social media? So many creative entrepreneurs feel like they are wasting so much energy at promoting themselves online, but without any real results. You get hardly any Likes, let alone engagement. And let’s not even mention leads and clients. It feels utterly pointless sometimes, but you still feel it is necessary to be visible online somehow. So you continue.
Why does it have to be so hard?
It is such a familiar story. Most creatives start their business because they love what they do or make. They have a passion, a skill, or a talent, and they want to share it with the world. Only, the world doesn’t know you exist yet. Running a business comes with, for many, a necessary evil: marketing. And marketing skills are not something everyone is naturally born with, in fact, it is something most new entrepreneurs know very little about.
And that is normal! So it is not surprising that there is tumbleweed on your Facebook page, and your Instagram account only has 50 followers, most of whom family and friends.
Stop beating yourself up, or feeling guilty about it. Marketing is a skill, and it doesn’t have to give you a headache. In fact, it can even be fun! I’ll tell you why, just keep reading.
The key is in the message
The biggest mistake I see creatives make is that they focus too much on crafting fabulous products and services, without knowing exactly who they are trying to sell to.
They often create the most gorgeous visuals to promote their work, but then randomly post on social media. They have no strategy, no clear message, and they don’t know who their audience is. Not only that, but they end up feeling deflated and even hating marketing because they don’t get any results from all the effort they put in. This is one of the things I help my clients with, to feel more in control of their marketing and attract real clients. Can you get excited about marketing? Oh, yes!
Feeling daunted by social media
I recently worked with commercial photographer Alex Baker over a period of six weeks, to help her get to grips with marketing her business. She is a typical example of a highly creative, and skilled photographer, producing incredible work. However, she was feeling completely daunted by the whole social media and marketing thing, in order to get more, and especially, better clients. So much so, that she just wasn’t doing anything effectively or strategically.
Alex said: “It was like a stab in the dark every couple of weeks when I felt inclined to post something. I felt like I would be irritating to people if I posted too much and just wasn’t really sure what I should be writing.”
We quickly discovered the crux of the problem: she had no clear message. She had several things she was offering, for different types of clients, but was not quite sure what direction to take. This was very visible in her marketing: it was random and without a strategy. The images were nice, but without a clear goal or audience, she was literally playing darts without an actual dartboard.
Everything starts to flow with a clear goal
The next few weeks Alex and I worked on defining her niche, and her main offer, and worked on her message: the who, the what, and the why. And I tell you: once that message is clear in your head, everything else falls into place. You know who you are talking to, or are trying to talk to on social media.
With a clear image in your head of your ideal client, it is so much easier to create the right content that will actually get engagement.
You no longer have to try and please everyone; you only focus on those people you want to work with. You have a plan, and the plan is to attract your ideal client. All content will therefore have to carry the right message, whether visually or written.
A clear road map to attract the right clients
After six weeks of working together, it was amazing to see the light bulbs going up in Alex’s head, and see the joy and excitement return. Not only did she now feel more confident of what she really wanted to do and offer, but it also started to show in her content almost immediately. And not just in terms of output, also in terms of mindset and confidence.
Having a clear message, she is no longer afraid to let her own personality stand out from the crowd (and Alex is an introvert!).
Alex: “Already I have received several positive comments from people in my network who have noticed the difference in my social media interactions, and I feel much more confident that I can continue to grow in the right direction, rather than wasting time on things that don’t matter to me.”
How you can find your marketing mojo back
Knowing the transformation people go through when working with me on their marketing strategy, I felt strongly that this service would be great for a lot more creatives who are struggling with the same issues. But not everyone is ready to invest in a 1-to-1 business coach. I have therefore designed something that will get you the same results, without the high ticket price.
A fun and easy marketing group training programme
I am super excited to be launching my new group training programme ‘From Overwhelmed to On the Ball‘ in April, which will give you lots of clarity for your business. Over the space of seven weeks, we will cover all parts of marketing, leaving you refreshed, excited, and motivated. You will be ready to tackle the online world with a crystal clear message and marketing strategy.
Don’t expect any jargon or gobbledygook – and certainly, no corporate sales speak. It’s me teaching you, remember? I am a creative entrepreneur myself, renowned for my clear language and practical attitude, and I am never short of new ideas. I make it fun!
“Before starting this course I thought it was going to be ‘just another marketing/business course’ like so many others which I had tried but never really stuck. But Nina is an absolute pro and knows the creative mind inside out (being one herself!). I had so many ‘Eureka’ moments during the 6 weeks, too many to mention them all, but I think my favourite was that marketing your business shouldn’t feel like a grind. I am now approaching this side of running my business with the same sense of energy and fun that I have for the creative aspects.” – Alex Baker, photographer, Valencia