Growing a stress-free online business takes time and can be a daunting prospect! I’ve been taking the time to talk to my members about their business journey and find out what made them join the club.
I caught up with Gayle Johnson who runs her own copywriting business, focusing on people who create positive change around personal wellbeing, community, social justice or the environment.
Hi Gayle, thanks for featuring! If you could first of all introduce yourself and say a bit more about your background/life story.
If you asked me 10 years ago what I’d be up to now, I would never have imagined this, not even after a few glasses of red! I spent most of my working life in management positions in a university. Not because it was work I’d dreamed of, more because the opportunities were there, so I drifted into them.
Ironically, I worked in a careers service, which existed to help students work out what they wanted to do after their degrees. And most of the people there, including me, hadn’t worked out for themselves what they wanted to do when they grew up.
And now I work for myself and would go as far as to say I’m unemployable, in that I can’t imagine working for anyone else again!
I have two children, aged six and three. And I home educate them, so they’re a big part of my working week too.
Tell me a bit more about your business and how you first came up with the idea?
Motherhood woke me up. I know it’s a cliché, but having these tiny people really brought home what’s important in life. And while financial security is important, I felt strongly that staying in work that I found increasingly uninspiring and draining was not a good message to them. I wanted to be full of life and enjoy that with them. And I wanted them to know that work is a way you contribute to the world, not a chore you have to get to so you can live your life at the weekends.
During my second maternity leave I started serious research into how I could run my own business. I had a friend who was a copy editor, so I was looking at that. It was my partner who suggested writing. Writing has always been a big part of my life, in and out of work. At work I’d be the person asked to write the proposals, strategies, funding bids etc. As soon as he suggested it, it just felt right. But I didn’t have a clue where to start! I invested in online courses to learn the ropes. And it turned out that becoming a writer is in many ways quite simple. You don’t need a big outlay, fancy website or business systems. You just need to be able to write and find people to pay you.
Finding clients wasn’t always easy, of course. And I learned very early on to not say yes to everything. To my eternal shame, the first article I ever wrote for money was entitled, “Should I Choose Labial Sculpting?” The answer to that question, in my mind at least, is always an emphatic “No!”, but `I’d been subcontracted to write for a cosmetic surgeon so agreed to do the work in advance without knowing what I was writing about. Never again. I’m not a churning stuff out sort of writer. I only work with people who do work I respect.
How do you fit in running your business with your home and family?
We home educate which makes life extra interesting and complicated! My partner works part-time so we share the childcare, plus there’s a fantastic home ed community where we live, so I have friends who help me out when it gets tough. I enlist childcare when I need to.
Plus the kids are getting to a stage now where we can all do some work together – I get on with planning, sketching out ideas, replying to emails etc while they write, draw, create dinosaur tea parties.
In terms of housekeeping, it’s bottom of the pile! I try to ensure we are sanitary and not breaking our necks over piles of lego, washing or sylvanian families, and that will do.
How do you cope with overwhelm?
I’ve been reading about mindfulness for years now, and have finally committed to a daily meditation practice. The first thing I do everyday is make a list of 10 things I’m grateful for, which is a lovely way to start the day. And then whenever I can escape for 20 minutes in the morning I meditate. I’ve found that’s helped with my attitude and resilience a lot, I’m so much less anxious than I used to be. Though definitely not in the zen mode all the time! But taking a deep breath, being still for a second, then making a list focusing on what I CAN do, always helps.
How do you find the time to grow your business?
In terms of growing my business, this is the year I’ve invested in myself, my personal development and my networks. After a year of getting a feel for everything, I’m now focused on going after what I really want to do, which is help entrepreneurs who are changing the world get their books and blogs written. I’m doing some coaching and training, and things feel very exciting.
In terms of systems and organisation, I have a way to go! I had to be very organised in my employed work, and I think I’ve rebelled a bit against that! I do look at the week ahead each Sunday, and the day ahead each evening and make a list of what I want to get done. But it’s time to make my life easier by having decent online and paper filing soon. I use Acuity Scheduling to book client calls in and will be looking for a VA later this year. I’m all for people doing what they’re best at, and being organised is definitely someone else’s zone of genius!
What’s been the lowest point in your business journey?
I had a copywriting gig go wrong last year. I produced copy based on the client’s brief, they signed it off, then later decided it was not what they wanted at all. It knocked me sideways, especially as it was one of the first webcopy projects I’d taken on. I felt like a total fraud, like I should never write copy again and hugely embarrassed and ashamed to my very core. It was horrible. Though I had some wonderful people in my personal life gently trying to point out that it was nowhere near the disaster I’d created in my head, I let it in deep.
I ended up rewriting all the copy for free (which, perhaps isn’t the decision I’d make now, but I recognise I didn’t get as full a brief as I wanted, so it was definitely in part my fault). I also sought some copywriting mentoring which was hugely reassuring as I realised I wasn’t a complete fraud after all, I was a professional who knew what she was doing! It taught me a lesson about gut feeling – I had a sense this client wasn’t right for me, and it would have saved a whole lot of energy for both of us if I’d been brave enough to signpost her to someone else.
What’s been your most amazing moment in your journey so far?
At the end of 2016 I was offered the opportunity to ghostwrite a book, for a client I deeply admire. It was the most energising, fantastic, fulfilling experience. And she liked it so much she got a better publishing deal.
It made me realise what I love doing, which is working deeply with people whose work I respect and helping them get their expertise, wisdom and personality out there in full force. And particularly, to help people get their books written!
How did you find out about Suzannah and Super Mums Business Club?
I think I found Suzanah’s website online when I was first looking at entrepreneurship, flexible working etc.
What inspired you to join the Club?
I was drawn to the club because of the network and the training on offer.
What do you like best about being in the club?
It’s so supportive! I love how people aren’t competing with each other, they’re urging each other on. And the training is clear and helpful too.
If your business hadn’t worked out, what would you have done?
That wasn’t/isn’t an option!
Describe how your business looks now, what’s next?
I have loved the clients I’ve worked with over the past year. I’ve realised I far and away do my best writing when I have a strong rapport with my clients. Over the next year I plan on continuing offering the services I currently offer as standard: blogs, web copy, LinkedIn profiles and taking on more book-writing and mentoring clients too. Lots of people want help unlocking all their knowledge and expertise and laying it out in a powerful way. And I love doing that. Eventually I’d love to run mindful writing workshops and retreats.
What business advice would you pass onto other mums who are running a business and want to grow it online?
Be yourself. Don’t underestimate the power of a network. Though for me, networks don’t have to be huge, that business model isn’t for everyone. But interacting with someone in a genuine, helpful way can be the route to a lovely new client relationship. Or a way to learn more and feel support or give support. Either way you can’t lose.
Connect with Gayle online…