Live anywhere in the world while being your own boss, and earning money
How do you find work in Spain for English speakers? Or in Italy, France, or anywhere else you are planning to move to? Unless you are retired and are bringing a healthy pension, moving abroad means figuring out how to earn money to pay for your lifestyle. Some expats are able to work remotely for their employer overseas, but many expats who move to countries where the unemployment numbers are high, start up their own small business.
And why not? You are already brave, making the move abroad, so becoming an entrepreneur is really not that big a step.
I am Dutch, but moved abroad twice, once for love and once for the sunshine, and I managed to earn an income on both occasions. I moved to Valencia, Spain and was able to build a small business from scratch. First as a copywriter, now as a business coach. And I am a freelance tour guide too! There are possibilities, but you do have to look for them.
If you have a creative mind, skills that are in demand, and a pro-active attitude, the world really is your oyster. You can build a business and create the dream life you want, while living in the sun. I am not making this up. I am the living proof.
So what skills could you monetise as a small business abroad?
Grab a notebook and a pen, to start off with. Jot down ALL the skills, knowledge and passions you have, no matter how crazy they sound. Don’t just think what is on your CV, think beyond that. What are you good at? Organising parties? Vegan cooking? Grooming pets? What do people always pick your brains on? Whatever expertise you are holding in your head, there will be someone out there who you can help.
And any of those things can be turned into a little creative business. Or a big creative business! It can be in the form of passive income, like an e-book or an ever-green course, or perhaps you can offer in-person services locally. You could offer your services or products online, globally. It is all possible.
I have written a short e-book to help you get some ideas for making money abroad, and it is free to download. Do you want it? Here you go!
As a creative business coach I am on a mission to keep business and marketing simple
As a business coach I work with creative entrepreneurs and small businesses, to help them get more clients. Most of them have one thing in common: fear. Fear of becoming visible through marketing and getting judged for it, fear of starting, fear of failing – but also fear of tech and being a business in itself. They over-complicate things in their head, start feeling overwhelmed, and then they freeze. They think they need to have it all 100% sorted, or else they can’t call themselves a business. They look at peers and competitors, and believe that everyone else has it all well organised and they are in a mess. So they procrastinate, panic, or even give up. Is that you? Today I am telling you to chill out, and listen. It ain’t that hard, really!
Just because you have started your own business, and you call yourself a business owner, does not mean you have to think in corporate, business-y terms.
Some of my clients come to me asking for help with a business plan. “A business plan?” I ask. “What on earth do you need a business plan for?” Unless you are applying for a bank loan, the only thing a business plan is good for, is the bottom drawer. Nobody looks at it ever again.
A marketing plan, now, that is a different thing. You will need a marketing strategy to find clients and make sales. Not a business plan. This is what I mean by creative entrepreneurs over-complicating their lives, and creating chaos in their minds. If you feel you have to write a business plan before you even start trading, it may be another two years before you even get your first client. No need. Relax. Just start focusing on the actions.
You are not a big company. You are a small business. Perhaps a freelancer. Perhaps a creative studio with a small team. You can keep it simple. Promise. Outsource your accounts, for sure, but the rest should be pretty straight-forward. Simple does it.
So what do you need, then? You need clarity and goals. Know what you want to achieve, and by when. If you know that, then you can create a strategy. How will you get where you want to be? By the way, even the word ‘strategy’ scares a lot of people. Stop using that word in that case. Strategy is just a big word for a plan.
Have you ever planned a holiday a few months in advance? Did you manage OK? Then you can also make a plan to reach your business goals. Nothing difficult. Just use common sense. You’re smart enough.
Decide where you want your business to be in 12 months, and then walk back in time. What steps do you need to take each month or week to reach those milestones? If you want to earn, say, 3k / month (or whatever is your ideal income) by this time next year, how does that translate in terms of sales? What do you need to sell each month to earn that? How many clients will you need? How will you find those additional clients? Break it down into small chunks, and you will start seeing the wood from the trees.
The key ingredients to a successful small business
Have it clear in your mind what you are offering, to whom you are offering this, and what your message is to your ideal clients. Clarity! You need to have those key ingredients absolutely clear. Once you know what you are selling, and who your ideal client is, you can tailor your message, and all your marketing activity will be so much easier. Whether it is Instagram posts, videos, email marketing, or blog posts, it all flows so much better if you know where you are heading with it. As a creative business coach and mentor, I help my clients with all of this in my coaching programs.
No more randomly shooting from the hip, but targeted communication. Your dream client will be able to recognise themselves instantly in your offer if you know how to tap into their problem, pain point, or emotions. Your job to find out what these are.
So no, you don’t need a business plan, excel sheets full of sales targets, nor pages full of complicated strategies. Running a business should be fun, joyful, and simple. You have a product, you need to find a buyer who needs that product. Know where the client hangs out on social media, try and get them on your email list, or sort out your SEO so they find you organically (eek, another scary thing? No, also pretty easy to sort out! Read this blog post about SEO).
Oh, and don’t forget to talk to your real-life network. As in real people, off-screen. Very useful, and you can’t beat some good old fashioned marketing by face-to-face networking. The more people know about your business, the more chances you have to get clients. Go for it. And remember; you are a brave go-getter already! You’ve got this.
Work with me
If you want to work with me 1-to-1, I offer coaching programs for creatives and other small businesses.
How much did you spend on starting up your online business?
Imagine opening a physical shop in your local town. You get the keys to the space, you are dead excited. But there is nothing in it. What do you need? Shelving, display units, and a counter, if you are running a retail business. Kitchen facilities and furniture, if it’s a cafe. And you need to decorate it of course. Bits and pieces, artwork on the wall, paint, wallpaper, maybe some bespoke joinery. And someone to fix the lighting. Add it all up, how much would you need to invest before the grand opening day? Thousands, probably even tens of thousands, if you include everything.
Today I want to talk to you about investing in your online business, and yourself. I know it all too well, I’ve been there myself, and I didn’t invest much in either my businesses or myself, for years. I did everything on a shoestring budget, all my startups, and I was pretty proud of it too. But was it a very wise decision? I managed to get the projects off the ground, for sure, but I also wasted a lot of time and energy on figuring stuff out myself, stuff someone with more expertise would have done way quicker, and better.
If you are serious about growing your online business, then investing is something that will pay off, no doubt about it. If you would open a physical shop, you’d probably even get a loan from the bank. Why do we regard the startup needs for online businesses so differently, just because we work on a laptop?
Small business owners who operate online often have this idea that they don’t need to spend much to get started. And it is true in many ways. You can build a simple website yourself for very little, social media is free (costing just your time), and perhaps you have a few Pro subscriptions on Canva, Zoom and a few other apps. So basically, you run your business on very little money each month, and you are trying to get clients that way. What else do you need, right?
Yes, what else could you invest in, as an online business?
Outsourcing. Number one mistake most solo entrepreneurs and creatives make, is trying do do EVERYTHING themselves. From social media marketing to accounts, and from blogging to project admin. Are you good at all of those things? Really? Where do your strengths lie? What could you establish in a week, if you didn’t have to do the bookkeeping, for example? Or the Instagram posting?
Outsourcing as soon as you can, can help you grow much faster than you would on your own. Hiring a VA for a few hours each week to help you with admin or social media, already makes a difference. And outsourcing the headache that is your accounts and tax returns is a no-brainer.
So what else? Investing in yourself and your personal development is another thing that is well worth it. Signing up for extra training, online courses, buying books, hiring a business mentor. But also working on mindset and doing the inner work. Diving into entrepreneurship comes with a lot of mindset issues, which can really put the brakes on your growth as a small business. It is very common for new business owners to feel quite wobbly and insecure when they first start an you feel all eyes are on you.
You have your ideas and your first few clients, perhaps, but without guidance and accountability, it can quickly become very overwhelming and chaotic in your head. And then we haven’t even mentioned the loneliness that comes with being a solo entrepreneur or freelancer.
You spend a lot of time by yourself, and any self-limiting beliefs, every week. How will you overcome these startup struggles, without anyone to support you? It is very hard to get your business where you want it to be, without any help. Investing in a mentor or coach, or joining a business support group, is a smart investment.
Now, I would say that, wouldn’t I, being a coach for small businesses? But I would not say this to you, if I did not believe in it, or if I hadn’t put the money where my mouth is. Whereas I failed to invest enough in my physical shop in the past, to have it really take off and earn me a good income, I invested thousands in my current business, and it is now paying off. How? Because not only did I learn a whole heap of new skills through the training, memberships and courses I invested in, I grew as a person. I have loved every minute of this entrepreneurial journey since becoming a business mentor and coach.
Investing in yourself is a gift that lasts a lifetime
By investing in myself, I have not only been able to grow my business and learn how to attract clients, I have grown as a person. And that, for me, has been the biggest return on investment. When you start working with a mentor or coach, you feel supported, inspired, and pushed out of your comfort zone at times. It has helped me gain valuable insights about myself as a person, and as a business owner; and to really tune in to what is important to me. My values, my niche, my message, my offer.
I mean, you can invest in the fanciest laptop or iPhone for your business… but nothing gives you the mental boost like having someone by your side who helps you to believe in yourself. That beats any gadget.
Who are you, and what brings you joy? What do you find hard, and why do you struggle with these things? Those things are very difficult to fully understand when just working on your own. And the more I learn, the more I am able to integrate the teachings into my own practice as a coach, but also as a friend, a mother and a partner. It is a holistic investment, really, and it’s been the best thing I have done for myself.
If you are thinking of working with a coach or mentor who is specialised in helping small businesses and creatives to attract more clients, book a free call with me to see if we are a good fit.
When you start Googling the term SEO, you’ll quickly find yourself lost in a long list of websites all telling you what to do, how to do this, the newest trends in the field of SEO, and why you should hire some expensive fancy agency to improve your website for you. I mean, who wants that headache, trawling through all that? Exactly.
I just want to bust that myth right here: SEO is not rocket science.
It means nothing else that making sure your website contains the right keywords and phrases so that potential clients find your business in the search engines when they type in their query. Agencies make it look all super technical, and when you have to believe the web results, SEO is done mainly by men in suits looking very important, who deal with this kind of sh*t. Nope. I have recently woven in plenty of relevant keywords and phrases into my website, and within weeks I attracted clients from Hawaii, simply because they found me in Google. You can do this too. So how do you start?
Making your website found in search engines is essential if you want to market your business outside of social media. We all know that social media is very temperamental, your posts don’t get shown half the time, and if tomorrow Facebook and Instagram would cease to exist, you would have lost all of your followers on there. It is therefore important to not put all your eggs in one basket, but promote your offer on other platforms too, such as your email list – and your own website.
How to rank high in Google as a small business
But the world wide web is ginormous, and competition is fierce. If you are a photographer, for example, how on earth do you stand out from the crowd and get found in the search engines?
The key is in…the keywords. Keywords and key phrases are nothing else than the things your ideal client (the person you want to come to your website) types into Google, or similar search engines. They have a problem, or want to find out something, and they search for it online. What do they type in?
One of the first tips for SEO is therefore: don’t use jargon, use the words your client would use when searching online. Keep it simple, and crawl into the mind of your audience. What are they going through, what problem do they have, what are they interested in? Try and rank for those terms.
Of course, if you are location-based, you don’t have to try and attract clients on the other side of the world. What you then do, is using your location, your area, and your state or province in the keywords and phrases, in combination with whatever it is that you offer. Wedding photograher in (location), for example. Or English yoga teacher in Valencia. You make your search terms a little more specific, and detailed, so you increase your chances to be found by the right people, who are looking exactly for what you offer.
Find that sweet spot in your SEO keyword selection
The more niche you go, the more your ideal client will be able to find you. Don’t go too niche either, however. You want to stay clear of the big boys and huge competition, but if nobody uses the keywords and phrases you have included in your website content, then there will be no traffic either. So try and find that sweet spot. Niche, but a big enough niche so enough people are looking for those terms.
And add more content than just the Home page and your About. Blog posts are the ideal way to boost your SEO for your small business. Blogs are also a fabulous way to add value to your website, position yourself as an authority in your industry, and offer quality information to your readers and potential clients. But think outside the box too. Just because you are a small travel business, that does not mean that you only talk about your next package deals on offer.
Talking only about yourself in your blog posts quickly gets boring. See your blog as a magazine: what are you going to talk about this week, or month that is of interest to your ideal client? A small travel business, for example, could share itineraries of the location they are in, top tips on what to bring on their holiday, or books and novels to read about this destination. Possibilities are endless, really.
Free e-book download: Simple SEO for small businesses
I have created a mini masterclass, or e-book, on SEO, which I am giving away for free. I take you through a number of lessons on what to think about when improving your own website, and it even has a blog template included.
A story about mindset and how you need to clear out the demons
I had a very powerful call with my own coach not long ago. I love having those weekly calls with someone who has been in my shoes, helps me grow as a business owner, and holds me accountable. Whilst we were talking, we discovered I still had some self-limiting beliefs (like everyone does!), and she asked me where I thought these came from. I know from my own work with clients, that many of them fear judgement from family and friends. But I realised, that it was not my loved ones and dear ones who I was afraid of; but that I had other demons haunting me. Memories of people that were holding me back from stepping into my true power. Or were they?
The mind is a funny thing. And what you tell yourself is often only partly true, or even a complete and utter lie. What narratives are you still keeping alive right now, that you fully believe in? And why do you regard these stories as true?
Stories are thoughts made up by someone – usually yourself, and put in your head. Thoughts are nothing else than energy and information. The information, in turn, is fed and fabricated by experiences and memories from your past. The things that have shaped you. But memories become muddled and vague and usually start to lead a life of their own as years go by.
Monsters in your head become bigger and more real, the more attention you give them. What is the truth? What is the reality you are creating for yourself?
When certain things keep popping up, they are a message
“Who are these people you feel judged by?” my coach asked me on the call. They weren’t my parents, as they are very supportive. My friends are also generally interested in what I do, and don’t judge me. So who were the demons that came up? I knew. Ex-bosses from the past. I wrote a blog post about one of them already, not long ago, so it obviously was something that needed my attention – yet again. It was the memory of their words and attitudes toward me that was still running through me, and kept popping up. Why now? What was going on? What was the message?
I am 42 now, and generally a very confident, positive person, who doesn’t dwell much on the past. But I am on a continuous journey, just like you, and learn about myself every day. Old phrases from a long lost past like: “We hired you for too much money”, “You are not someone with a lot of depth”, and belittling the word ‘marketing’, as if it doesn’t belong in the creative world, were still somewhere deep in my subconscious, and I clearly needed to deal with them, once and for all.
You are not worthy and other BS
As I told these stories to my coach, she listened (she is good at that), scribbled down some notes, and then looked back at me. “Nina”, she said, “You still have a horrible boss right now, don’t you?” I looked at her puzzled. What did she mean? I don’t have a boss anymore, I am self-employed. And then it hit me. God darn. Bull’s eye.
I have always been my own worst boss.
None of these memories, words, and hurtful comments still had anything to do with the people who had once delivered them. The messengers were just that: messengers. They carried no other meaning any longer. Things that hurt you, or haunt you, are the things that are already within yourself. They are reflections of your own demons and limiting self-beliefs. I was my ex-bosses. Both of them. And I was not being very kind to myself at all.
The memories of my ex-bosses were bubbling up to the surface more than once this year, because I was going through an important period of growth. And when you grow, old beliefs will do anything to try and hold you back. Reminding you of all the things that could go wrong, and why you’re not worthy of success. But if you look at them closely, those old stories are trying to tell you that it is time to let go and move on. Because nobody’s judgement will affect you, really, if you truly believe in yourself.
When you are embarking on something new, like starting your own business, be aware of those inner voices that make you doubt yourself. The demons that pop up. The fear of judgement. Don’t give them power.
Who are you fearing? Whose voices are they? Are those people really that spiteful? Why would they care so much about your failure or success? Who is really judging your bravery, your courage, your creativity, and your zest for life? Who tells you that you are not worthy?
Them? Or is it really you, who is judging yourself?
The ‘I am just’ stories that get stuck down with superglue
I recalled going to an opening night of an art exhibition one night, at my old work place, and talking to my ex-boss, many years after I had left my job. By then, I had already opened my own vintage furniture shop, and had just won an actual award for my creative contribution to the local area. What an achievement, right? My ex-boss congratulated me at first, but then sniggered when he heard it was an award given out by a local magazine. Obviously a lot less impressive in his eyes. Or in mine?
For many years, especially in my twenties and thirties, I did not feel I had a ‘proper’ career, like people had in law, or in corporate jobs. I wouldn’t even call myself a professional, despite already stacking up an impressive amount of years in marketing, copywriting and PR. I was enjoying the jobs I was involved in, doing the creative work that fired me up, but I never thought it was as important as other people’s jobs. Probably also something to do with the low wages in the cultural sector.
So, “I was just working in the arts”, “I was just doing the PR”, “I was just selling vintage furniture”, “I was just working part-time as marketing manager”, and laughing at my “so-called-career”. I really was my own worst boss, unkind, depreciating and always pushing myself to the limit. Appearing pretty confident on the outside, but keeping myself very small inside.
These kinds of beliefs are so incredibly common, especially among creatives. Maybe you are even nodding your head right now. Yep, you’re thinking you’re a fraud too. We talk ourselves down, think others are doing a way better job, and because of these beliefs we freeze. Big dreams stay just that. Dreams. We undercharge because we believe we ‘first need more experience’. We over-deliver, because we look for validation from the outside. We are scared of judgement, fear negative reviews, only think in ‘what-ifs’.
So we keep doing what we do, and don’t go up the ladder of success. Not because we are not capable, because we are. But because our demons tell us it is safer to not risk it, or we may be ridiculed – so why stick your head above the parapet?
List all your negative beliefs….and then tell yourself the opposite, positive story
So I started listing all of my self-limiting beliefs, and stories about my career, past jobs, and achievements. It was such a good exercise, I can really recommend it. It clearly exposes how you quickly down-play any of your achievements. I wrote for example that I believed that I “had never had any significant success in marketing the arts centres I once worked for, because visitor numbers had never gone up much, despite my efforts.” Holy moly, woman, that is a pretty negative way of talking about your work!
Then on the opposite page, I tried to see it through a different set of glasses, and I wrote:
“I have increased (online) visibility and the national reputation of both arts centres significantly, through consistent, powerful marketing, which helped them to boost their image in the industry, and attract continuous funding. I kept attracting visitors, despite the challenging physical locations of both arts centres (one down a dark city alleyway; the other in the middle of the countryside), and despite their programming not being much aligned with the general conservative taste of the local, ageing, population.”
Right, now we’re talking!
You see how the same story can be told in two different ways? It depends from which angle you look at it.
And what about that award I won? I won a freakin’ award, for goodness’ sake! All by myself! Because I built a business from the ground, with my own money, with my own bare hands, while holding a baby, and then another one, while running an actual, physical shop, in the middle of nowhere, and organising a string of successful creative events that inspired many. There. Take that, you inner critic.
What about you? What are the stories you can dig up about yourself today, that you keep telling yourself? What are you down-playing? How can you change those stories, show yourself some self-love and appreciation, giving the events and achievements the glory they deserve?
Get your journal out right now, and jot it all down. It helps, I tell you! I bet you’ll see some patterns there, and gain insights. And I bet you too are your own worst boss right now. Telling yourself to work harder, that you are not good enough, and that you are not worthy.
Let’s show some compassion to that inner boss, and tell her that you’ve got this. She was only trying to guide you, but was acting like a bull in a china shop. Forgive her. You can change this now. You are only at the beginning of your incredible journey as an entrepreneur, and you are learning so much. You don’t need to have it all figured out from day one. You are doing so much better than you think you are. Keep going, you are worthy!
Did this story resonate? You can work with me 1-to-1, to battle your demons and build your business. Book a free call to get to know me.
Why not offering a cookie-cutter coaching program is perfect for solo entrepreneurs
When I first started my coaching business, I was figuring out what kind of coach I was, or wanted to be. I was new to the coaching industry, and even though I knew I had tons of marketing experience and business skills to share with my clients, I was seeking guidance on how to this coaching stuff right. “Doing it right“, in fact, became a bit of an obsession, and I looked at my peers in the industry for ideas. Of course, I made mistake number one right there: don’t think you need to be like your competitors, in order to be successful. Nope.
I now know that my coaching style is very unique, and nothing like anyone else’s. I don’t offer a cookie-cutter service, and I that is my USP.
Of course, there are certain things ALL coaches do. Listening being one of them. If you are not a good listener, don’t become a coach. Asking open questions is another one of the standard ingredients in any coaching program. But becoming a good coach, or in fact any good entrepreneur, has a lot more to do with making the most of your own strengths and talents, and finding your own style and approach. And in my case, those are not particularly standard. I don’t have the word ‘creative’ in my business name for nothing, right?
I love working with clients, whether it is long-term, or during a fruitful power session of 90 minutes. And over time, I discovered what I am really good at: treasure hunting.
Now I knew that I was a good treasure-hunter when I had my vintage furniture store, back in Scotland, years ago. I’d go to a flea market or a garage sale to look for stock, and be overwhelmed by the amount of junk and chaos in front of me. And then I’d start sifting.
Oh, that’s a great find! And look at this unique shiny thing here! What could I use that for? What story does it tell?
Sifting through the chaos
It’s not that different when I start working with a client nowadays. I use the same skill set! They usually come to me with a very chaotic brain and too many ideas and projects. It’s a jumble sale in their head. They need that treasure-hunter to go up there and find those hidden diamonds that we can then start polishing.
One by one, the treasures, stories and wonderful unique talents will appear.
When I am on a call with a client, I am curious, and go on a fact-finding mission. Digging for diamonds, diving for pearls! I want to know what makes them tick, what makes them scared, what holds them back. A lot of people think that I just help clients put a marketing plan together, and tell them how to find clients. It is so much more than that.
Learning how to create a marketing strategy is something you can find all over the internet. Yes, we will look at this too, of course, but a good business coach will make you grow as a person, not just get your sales up. To build a sustainable, joyful business, I approach it holistically and creatively.
So I ask questions, and they tell me their story. I listen. I ask more. I collect their brain waves, their stories, and their thoughts. And then, usually towards the end of a session, I reflect back, and bring some clarity. My intuition and creative brain kick into action, and guide me to make sense of it all. And more often than not, it is something my client did not see coming.
My feedback and coaching on a certain topic can be in the form of a fabulous creative idea they had never thought of themselves. But it can also be an underlying issue, that is actually the true cause for their struggle.
Sometimes clients get emotional. That is OK. After all, I am here to help them become the person they want to be. And if there is rubbish in the way, we got to do some cleaning first.
Leaving space for new ideas and creativity
Solo entrepreneurs require a very different style of business coaching than a larger company. I am not some kind of corporate, purely sales-driven, brand strategy focused marketing consultant. I am a creative entrepreneur, with a ton of marketing and copywriting experience, a lot of energy, and a fun personality.
My small business coaching services are intuitive, follow a client’s flow and individual needs, and leave plenty of space for new things and a lot of creativity. Therefore, my approach suits those quirky small businesses who are trying to figure it all out in their first few years. I don’t like to limit myself, let alone my clients, to a standard coaching structure, that quickly becomes rigid and boring.
If you choose to work with me, I want you to look forward to our weekly calls, not see them as another chore or homework on your list. Business is supposed to be fun, and I want us to have fun, while working towards your goals.
Stepping into your true power, discovering yourself, and riding the big waves
I work with many clients on my small business coaching programs, who are on the edge of jumping into the scary deep end of starting their own business, or have already jumped. They dreamed for years about doing this, dabbled a bit in it as a hobby, dipped a toe into it with the odd paid job. And then the moment arrived to walk through that door, and become the free, creative business owner they desire to be. 99% of my clients will recognise themselves in this description, and all the big feelings that come with it.
“I will fail”, “I won’t make enough money”, “people will think I’m stupid”, “I should just stick with my old job`’. It is very normal to have those feelings, but they are not helpful in growing your business. How can you break through that first wobbly phase?
I have had those negative feelings myself, every time I started a new business, and something that I had never done before. I felt wobbly when I first opened a vintage shop (I had never even worked in a shop before, let alone owned one!), I felt insecure when going freelance as a copywriter (how to find clients? what to charge?), and it was another scary step when launching this coaching business.
But each time, the stories in my head were far worse than the reality, and I succeeded. I kept working on my mindset, and I learned on the job. Starting your own business is like hopping on a surf board and trying to ride the waves. It would be rare if you were a champion surfer from day one.
Changing the narrative, and acknowledging your inner critic
When you are about to take the big leap, your inner voice wants to protect you. She will tell you all the reasons why it’s a bad idea. Mostly that you don’t have what it takes, that you will struggle, and that it will be one great big flop and everyone will laugh at you. Don’t you just hate that inner critic? What right does she have to talk to you like that?
But remember, that voice is just that: a voice. A narrative. A story in your head. We all have this voice, but there are ways to start changing this voice, and all the other stories that hold you back from stepping into your most shiny party shoes with full confidence, and following your life’s purpose.
Oh gosh, and isn’t that surf board wobbly at the start! You launch your business with so much energy and joy, only to discover that it’s bloody hard to make any money in the first year.
You get one amazing first client, or a fab commission, and then nothing. You are spending so much time on social media, posting about your offers, building your audience, you’ve even done some silly reels on Instagram. But…no leads. And you start believing those stories in your head. The self-doubt creeps in.
Your inner critic was right all along, wasn’t she? You’re not cut out for this stuff. What were you even thinking? You start feeling overwhelmed, and confused about what you are doing wrong. The waves were already hard to navigate, but now the water is cloudy too. You can’t see clearly, and you have no idea what to do next.
The truth is, that inner critic will always live inside you, whether you like it or not. I have one too, and I sometimes call her Bitchy Betty. The way to deal with her is to acknowledge her, and recognise this voice when you hear it. “Ah, thank you very much for that feedback, Bitchy Betty, but I’m alright actually!”
The inner voice does not like to see you hurt. So thank her for that. Show compassion to your inner critic. But at the same time, don’t let Bitchy Betty grow into a monster. Keep her as small as you can. The more you listen to her, the more powerful she gets. You have other, more supportive and helpful parts of your mind to focus on.
Confidence creates balance and attracts clients
The decision to start your own creative small business is so brave! You really are brave. For that alone, you deserve applause. How many of your friends and family had the courage to do what you did? It is totally normal to feel deflated and confused in the first year of business. You are learning so much, you are stretching yourself, pushing out of your comfort zone, growing your skills, even if it does not feel like this right now.
Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? Did you just one day decide you wanted to ride a bike, and rode off into the distance, no problem? You probably fell many times. You needed people to support you and stay upright, to find your balance. And above all: to find the confidence to ride that bike all by yourself, without the stabilizers.
Running a successful small business, as a creative, an artist or other soulful entrepreneur, takes time. Be forgiving to yourself. It depends greatly on your own self confidence. You can have the most beautiful products and services, but if you don’t believe that you have what it takes, who will? Keep working on that mindset.
If you have ever been on skis, ice skates, or rode a mountain bike downhill, or did anything that felt quite scary and required focus to stay balanced, you know that the moment you start doubting your abilities, you crash. However, when you get into the zone of confidence and truly believe that you can do it – you don’t fall.
Relight that fire in your belly
What can you do get over those wobbles in your first years of business? How to you grow confidence as a small business owner? There are many paths, but a few things are super important when you first start out: knowing what you want to do and WHY. Know who you want to help, and really ask yourself: “what gives me most joy?” To build a sustainable business, you’ve got to find joy, or else you will soon be bored. Decide on where you want to be in 12 months time, and walk back from there. What practical steps can you take today to put the wheels in motion?
Do the inner work. Running your own business is all about personal growth. If anyone thinks it is as simple as creating a product and putting a price on it, they are wrong. When you decided to leave your old job, you decided to leave the old you behind, and transform yourself into something different, stronger, bigger. Every struggle, every wobble, and every wave is helping you become the person you desire to be. Nothing is ever wasted.
And remember why you started. You had a fire in your belly that told you that you had something good to offer to the world. Rekindle that fire, find it back, and dive into what it was that lit it in the first place. Know your passion, your why, and who you want to help. That compass will answer a lot of your questions, and will clear the muddy waters that are currently clouding your vision.
And why sticking to your values will attract like-minded souls
When everyone goes left, I go right. I don’t follow the masses, never have done. If people tell me that something has to be done in a certain way, I question it. When people put restrictions on me, I rebel. Freedom is my everything, and my creative mind leads the way. I choose uniqueness over acceptable. I don’t follow trends, I have never been a groupie, I do not idolise anyone. Most people want to fit in with what is socially acceptable, are afraid to stand out and be ridiculed. I am very comfortable with being unusual.
I have never given it much thought until now, as it is not something I daily study. It is who I am. But I do know that there are more beautiful, weird and unique people amongst my readers and followers, who may need some encouragement to ‘come out’ and feel supported in their weirdness. Today I give you full permission to flaunt it.
I have always felt a bit different, even as a kid. But in a likeable way, I was never bullied. I was OK with being myself. I was the “creative one”, the kid who loved drawing. I went to a tiny Dutch school in the province of Drenthe, back in the 1980s, and had a good time, generally. But there were no kids like me in the small class I was in. I played with them, but never felt I belonged. In a strange way, I kind of enjoyed that feeling of being a loner.
Even though I was just as provincial as the rest of them, with parents who had been born within an hour’s drive from where we lived, I knew the world was bigger, even at the age of 8.
My parents were not particularly conventional either, I must admit. Despite chosing ‘safe’ careers as public service workers, they had the courage to drive a 2CV to Moscow in the 1970s, in the middle of the Cold War. And while all other 1980s kids spent their summer locally, visiting fun fairs and playing football, my parents took me and my sister around Scandinavia, sleeping in tents in the wilderness, playing in streams, and spotting beavers while taking a canoe across the lake late at night. “This is freedom”, my dad would say, sniffing the crisp air of the Swedish forest.
As an adolescent, I briefly went through a ‘teenage angst’ phase of wanting to fit in and wearing what was seen as cool (I BEGGED for those Levi’s 501 denims, I refused to accept any other type of jeans – were you like that too?). It wasn’t long lived, though. At 15, I decided to become “alternative”. I started dressing like a hippie, wore purple flares, tie-die tees, and Doc Martens (but only after the hype had gone, and the trendy people had stopped wearing them). I pierced my own ears (ouch), used mascara to create black streaks in my hair (sticky), and got a boyfriend who liked walking barefoot and talk politics. The girls in my class all cried when boy band Take That fell apart. I just looked at them in amazement, like a visitor in a zoo.
Not belonging but having plenty of friends
I love my own company, but am a very social person at the same time. I get on with most people. I have never been an outcast, black sheep, or socially awkward person. I use my sense of humour to connect with people, and I am curious to know what moves them. I love talking to people from all walks of life.
As a teenager, I used to enjoy provoking the really square, conservative boys in my class with questions about life, and how they saw the world, getting into very funny conversations. I would take the mick out of them, tease them, and we enjoyed each other’s company because we could laugh at each other’s differences. I didn’t belong to any social group, but I was accepted by all. I’d like to think that that is still the case.
The thought of working for a boss, and starting some sort of office career, frightened me as a student. I felt a knot in my stomach by the time my university course came to an end, and I had to seriously consider my future. The idea of being trapped in a 9-5 job, five days a week horrified me from day one. Of course, being so young, and not having the experience, nor the knowledge to jump into entrepreneurship right away, I ended up working for an employer. But I like variety, and never stayed in the same role for years.
Self-enquiry and Enneagram numbers
My own coach asked me last week what Enneagram number I am. I had no idea what that meant. A funny question, and not necessarily anything to do with growing your business either. But curious as I am, I did the test, and I am a type 7, with ‘wing’ type 8 (number 8 being present, but not dominant). What does this mean? In brief: “The enthusiastic challenger. Full of plans, seeing life as one great adventure, always up for something new. Unwilling to be controlled, energetic, multi-talented, creative and entrepreneurial, running away from negative feelings and dark emotions. Master of her own fate…” I thought it was pretty spot on. You can do yours here. What do you think, accurate?
So why could finding out your Enneagram number, or similar, help you in your business? Running a business is extremely personal. Everything you offer, and put out, has your name on it, and comes from your mind. Whatever you create, it carries your past, your story, your thoughts, your experience and your view on things. This is why it is so important not to try and copy somebody else’s way of doing business. You can learn from others, but you have to stay true to your own values. Nevermind what others may tell you. Your business is none of their business. Literally. Study yourself, find out why you do things a certain way. Getting to know yourself inside out really helps you in growing your business.
When did you ever need approval to be yourself?
When starting out as entrepreneurs, we are all over the place. We gather information, look for help, feel overwhelmed by the amount of information, and oftentimes drift away from who we are as a person, and what drove us to create our business in the first place. We start doing what others do, because that seems to work for them, only to find out that we don’t get the same results at all. It’s all to do with how you show up, and showing up as you, 100%. If you have been feeling unique, an outsider, and a little different from anyone else, then why suddenly try to be a copy-cat, as a business? Where has that rebel gone?
You are likely trying to market your business in a ‘safe way’, because you are feeling somewhat wobbly, and are looking for approval and encouragement from the outside world, not wanting to alienate anyone, and not quite knowing what client to aim for. But when in your life did you ever look for approval from the outside world? You managed fine before. Why now?
The feeling of not belonging, but being comfortably different, and accepting this as your strength, can truly liberate you as a person and as a business. How? By embodying your true free spirit, and vibrating this in all you do, you will not only feel aligned and joyful (because it’s really you!), but you will attract like-minded people and clients who get you. You no longer have to pretend you are someone you are not, just because you think your clients will be put off. Choose your clients like you would choose your friends. Who do you want to hang out with?
If clients are disapproving of who you are in essence, would you want to work with them? How would you be able to help and serve people differently and better, if you started showing up 100% as you, with confidence, and all your quirks, unique views and weirdness?
Entrepreneurship is a journey, but so is life. Speaking your truth, listening to your heart, and loving yourself for who you really are, is something worth aiming for. Your business is more than a job, it is your creation. You have full permission to make it as weird and wonderful as you like. Be bold, not bland. You were never born to be a sheep, just grazing in a field with all the others. You are a wild lion, a beautiful peacock, or a mountain goat climbing to great heights.
Explore what makes you different, and share these values with your audience, whether in your marketing, in your personal encounters, or in your offers. People look for inspirational and original leaders, not boring copy-cats. Have faith. Be bold. You are on the right path.
If this resonated with you, you can work 1-to-1 with me as a coach, and we can build that weird business of yours together! Book a free strategy call here.
How would it feel if you would earn a good income from your art?
“I want to be an artist when I grow up“. Did you say this as a child? What were the reactions from your family? Were they all for it? Or did they reply with something on the lines of:”That’s great, but you’ll be poor”, or “You’d better choose a proper career like law or engineering, because you’ll never make a living our of art”. Did you do it anyway? Or did you take their advice, got yourself a ‘proper job’, became miserable, and then went back to your original desire to be an artist later in life?
Whatever your situation, those early messages about being a poor artist are likely the biggest reason why you are currently not making enough money, and why you are reading his post. Let’s explore this a bit more.
I want to talk to you about how to make money from selling art. How do you sell artworks? Who do you sell to? Where to find art buyers? Those are the main questions I get asked by my artist clients, when they come to me for help, because this is what they struggle with. My artist clients are a special niche of mine, and require a different kind of business coaching. I work with many entrepreneurs, but helping product (art) -based businesses, is very different from coaching service-based clients, like photographers or life coaches, for example. As an artist you are not selling a transformation, or clear solution to a problem. Selling art is much more about emotion. How on earth do you sell emotion?
But, although my artist clients come to me because they are feeling overwhelmed and unsure about how to sell more art, these ‘how’ questions come later. The real issue for their financial struggle, and feeling lost as a creative entrepreneur, require much more profound work. It is about mindset.
I have worked with artists and creatives for over 20 years, and what I learnt is that nearly all of them have self-limiting beliefs and a poverty mindset that originates in their childhood. Most people become an artist out of a passion and real calling, but deep inside they don’t believe they will ever make it, because someone once told them that. Some come out of art school with a lot of zest to conquer the world, but only a minority is usually able to secure exhibitions, commissions or interesting projects to get involved in straight away. Most start their life’s journey of making ends meet, often working part-time in other jobs. Their belief that being an artist equals low income, becomes reality. Their parents were right. Right?
Why does this happen? And why do so few artists tell us a different story?
It won’t help that artists working with cultural institutions are almost always dependent on grants, which means waiting for some funding body to decide whether they think you are worthy of money. Being rejected time and again doesn’t help the old self-esteem. But more often than not, there is something else at play, namely, the deeper mindset of the artist, and how much they actually believe the stories in their head. What you focus on will grow. If you expect to stay poor, and have a chip on your shoulder, you won’t attract any abundance. Mindset dictates success. If you act out of fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of not making any money, then you will attract just that.
Say the following words out loud:”I am a successful artist and I am worth to be paid a lot of money for the work I make.”Do you feel any resistance? What beliefs and feelings come up?
A poverty mindset and accepting low-paid commissions
It doesn’t matter if you are a life coach or a painter, if you don’t believe in yourself and what you are offering to the world, then who will? If you keep undercharging, giving discounts, or marking things half price, who will value your work for what it is worth? You are not even valuing yourself.
If you make art, but you never call yourself an artist out loud, then how does this mindset come across in your marketing? If you keep mumbling that you are “just an artist”, how will you attract those amazing clients who are looking to buy from you? Showing up with confidence means people will take you seriously. You need to start seeing yourself as a real business, a professional, and someone who makes and sells art for a living.
One of my artist clients was asked to do a commission for the entrance of a building by a property developer the other day, but was offered a fee of just 150€ for making this drawing, which would have taken her around 10 hours to finish. I asked her how she felt about this. She said she was OK about it in principle, as she would also be allowed to use their machines and material to create some prints. I asked her if she would have accepted 150€ if she had been offering interior design solutions for the lobby of this same company, taking up the same 10 hours of drawing. “No, I wouldn’t”, she replied. I asked her why. She hesitated, and then said: “Because that is a professional service, and they are potentially bringing the company more clients.”
Send them to the high street if they think you are too expensive
This ‘I am just an artist’ mindset is what holds artists back. Seeing themselves as somehow lower on the ladder than other businesses, will keep them right there at the bottom. By accepting a very low fee for producing a unique piece of art for a commercial outfit (whether or not organised through a not-for-profit foundation that links artists to companies), the artist basically tells the client that her art has little value. She keeps the company’s belief alive that art is not a serious purchase, but ‘nice to have’ or ‘just’ an unimportant accessory.
The client will not appreciate the hours and effort (let alone the years of training) that go into the production of art, nor will they start seeing art as a business.
They will however regard the person who designed their office space (and who probably presented themselves with a lot of confidence, a shiny portfolio and big price tag), as more important and worth paying for. It’s all about the vibes and perception. But why on earth would a designer sofa in the lobby be more essential and valuable to a company than a unique piece of art on their wall? Just throwing that thought out there.
If you recognise yourself in that example, remember it for next time. Have the courage to say no. Saying no to low fees is the first step in your journey to becoming the artist you want to be.
Yes, you will find that scary, and yes, you will think you needed that bit of income, and what if no other jobs come in this month. But trust me, by putting out that message into the universe, and more importantly, into your own subconscious, things will start to shift for you. If a client is just looking for ‘some colour on the wall’ without any appreciation of your work, tell them to go and buy a mass-produced print. Think about it: what does a framed poster at Ikea cost? How much different is that from what you are being paid for creating something of a similar size?
This poverty mindset is not easy to get rid of, it runs deep. But you have to face these demons if you want to attract better paying clients and sell more art. You have to stop playing the ‘poor artist’, and start looking inwards to find out what it keeping you there.
Start by asking yourself how you feel as an artist, in general. And then ask yourself how you want to feel. How do you feel about your work? Why are you an artist, really? To start building your confidence as a professional artist who is worth buying from, you need to understand these things.
Take a moment today, and write down in your journal:
Why do you make art, why your work is meaningful to you, and why people should care. Why did you choose to be an artist?
How much money you would like to earn in an ideal world, no rules, no poverty mindset, with all the clients at your feet.
If you feel resistance coming up, write down what you feel. What are you resisting? Do you feel you are not worthy? Not good enough? What is that feeling?
All your fears around putting yourself out there, and showing up as the artist you desire to be. Why are you keeping yourself small, and accepting low fees?
Self-inquiry is the key to growing as an artist
This self-inquiry will give you very valuable insights about why you act in certain ways, what decisions you make as an entrepreneur, and where this comes from. Yes, you want to know how to sell more art, but that is not the real issue here. You will sell more art. That is the how. First you have to dig deep into that soul of yours, and find the answers to your why.
You got to lift the fog before knowing what direction to drive in.
Your big ‘why’ holds the answers to many questions, including what motivates you, who you want to work with and sell to, and what the story is behind your work.
As an artist, your work is very personal, and your own thoughts, inspiration and unique style feed your practice. Knowing your big why while working on your mindset, will help you gain clarity, confidence and direction. If you want to become an artist who makes a full-time living out of selling art, try and imagine how this would change your life. Feel it. Embody it.
You’re selling a wonderful, soulful package: your original creation, your time and energy, and all the love and dedication you put into making your work. That is meaningful, and you deserve to be rewarded for it. No more keeping yourself small, because of some rubbish old belief that was once put in your head when you were 10 years old.
Next time you are in your studio painting or drawing a new piece, try and imagine clients buying your work and paying the price you want for it. Picture it already hanging on the wall of someone’s house, and how pleased they are with it. Imagine your reputation growing, and how people are now recommending your work to others. Orders are coming in every month, wonderful opportunities arise. Really feel it, as if it is already happening. Lift your vibes, pull yourself out of that old mindset. Brush off those chips on your shoulder. From today on you are the successful artist you are dreaming of. I believe in you. Now go and believe in yourself.
If you loved reading this story, and you feel the calling to work with me on your business and mindset, you are more than welcome to book a free 30-minute call to find out more.
Multiple income streams and how they can help you as a business owner
Last week I went back to being a tour guide on a bicycle in Valencia, after a break of two years. Tourists are back! I am planning to do one or two tours a week alongside being a business coach. Why? I strongly believe having multiple income streams is not a sign of business failure, but a conscious decision to create balance and joy in your life, and staying curious. Unless you are stacking shelves at the supermarket out of pure necessity and you hate it with a vengeance, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a portfolio of jobs and businesses. In fact, having multiple income streams can really help you in a number of ways. Here’s why.
I like variety, and being involved in different activities that generate income, for me, is a no-brainer. The tour guiding gets me away from my desk, keeps me fit, and also energises me. Making people happy by showing them around my beautiful city, is so much fun! (and the tips at the end give you that nice happy glow).
I am fully dedicated to growing my coaching business, absolutely. But I believe I am able to help more people in a better way, when I am involved in different things, not just sit at my laptop 8 hours a day. After a few days of just staring at a screen, I always start to feel irritated, stressed and less focused. My body craves that break.
A job on the side is more than just income
Some people have the discipline to do yoga first thing when they get up, or go for a 5 mile walk at lunchtime each day. I am someone who needs a little kick up the back side to get into action, and being needed at a certain time to cycle tourists around for three hours, works for me. And I earn some money, while I am at it. The income from the tour guiding job is not as much as I earn with my own business, but I look at it this way: it pays for my monthly business fees, plus it gives me much needed exercise and happy hormones for my brain. That is time well spent, in my opinion.
A job on the side can also help you to feel less lonely as an entrepreneur. Many freelancers and sole traders know how hard it is to always do everything on your own, not having colleagues, and spending all day at home. Having a small job or other source of income that gets you out of your office space, and lets you see other people, be in the community, and make yourself useful in a different capacity, can be so helpful.
For me, it means having a laugh with colleagues, finding the camaraderie I yearn for as a freelancer, and generally feeling happy to be outdoors, moving my body and talking to actual people. When I return to my laptop the next day, or sometimes that same afternoon, I feel more alive and ready to work on my business again.
A ‘job on the side’ could be anything, really. Whatever you feel drawn to. It could be working in the local craft bakery on Saturdays. It could mean teaching something to kids or adults (languages, art, photography, dance, whatever else you can teach with your box of talents!) once a week. If you don’t care about being financially rewarded, you could also choose to help out as a volunteer. It can be so satisfying to help out in the community, such as spending time with the elderly to combat loneliness, walking dogs at the local shelter, or perhaps reading stories to children at the library. There are so many options.
Getting yourself involved in the community or taking on a small job will open your mind and often lead you to new opportunities and insights. You never know who you will meet tomorrow, teaching you valuable knowledge, sharing their contacts or even giving you business. Growing your network does not happen behind closed doors.
Passive income as another ingredient
Creating a portfolio of income sources can be fun and creative, and can help you to feel both happier and secure. Not everything has to be ‘active’ though; creating passive income is another way of adding to the mix. Because having multiple income streams also creates financial security. And that is helpful, when business is slow – which happens to most of us at some points in the year. It prevents you from panicking when the feasting is over, and the famine appears.
I have money coming in each month from a number of directions: I have passive income (my e-books and affiliate links), income through copywriting jobs, income as a tour guide – and of course, I have my coaching clients. (I even get paid for singing sometimes, when I play live with my band).
Does it not get too busy with all of these commitments? Yes, sometimes. And that is the only thing I would say: protect your schedule. Don’t say yes to everything.
Check in with yourself regularly whether you are still in balance, or whether you need to let go of something to create more time in your diary and space in your head. The ‘job on the side’ should be just that: a little extra. To help you stay mentally or physically healthy, and to add to your financial security. But set clear boundaries. Your business has priority. If you feel at any point, that you want to spend more time working on your business, than do that. If the extra job is making you more tired than energised, then it is time to let it go.
But please don’t feel you are failing at business because you (still) do something else on the side to help you pay the bills. It is all good. It is your life. It is your choice. You design your working week the way you want it to be. You are amazing! Multiple income streams are also not a sign of ‘being all over the place’ or having to make ends meet.
For me, it is a sign of freedom to do what I love, and the ultimate way of being creative in life, and being rewarded for it.
What about you? Do you have multiple income streams? A job on the side which you like and combines well with your business?
Book a free 30-minute call with me if you are looking to work with a coach to help you grow your business, create multiple income streams, plan out your marketing strategy and more.