Jen Carrington is a content coach and creative mentor at her self-named site, Jen Carrington. Like everyone else, we were drawn to Jen because of her design but stuck around because of what she had to say. Between coaching and blogging, Jen also shares touching weekly letters that are daringly honest about her mental health, why she chose to build her own business and how you can too.
It's brave. Period. And upon reading her posts, I knew I wanted to share her story with everyone here at Make Change. Jen's advice is spot on to help you build both an impactful, fulfilling, & sustainable business AND life. With a successful blog & growing podcast, here's what she has to say...
Tell us what you do in 2 sentences:
I’m a content coach and creative mentor and what that basically means is that I spend my days encouraging, empowering, and supporting big-hearted creatives to build an impactful, fulfilling, and sustainable creative life. I also blog and host a podcast too!
At what point did you decide to quit the proverbial 9-5 and what made you feel ready to do so?
I have a funny journey into being my own boss as I didn’t have the experience of quitting a 9-5 to do my business full time.
At 21 I quit my day job in retail (the first job I could get after graduating just to help me pay the bills) as I was unwell and had to move back home while I got back on my feet.
I had my second mental health breakdown in the space of two years and what I realised during that time of moving back home is that being able to be my own boss would be the best way to live a whole and happy life alongside my illness.
I had been blogging for a few years and decided to just take the leap into transitioning it into a business idea that I was passionate about and thankfully it’s gone really well so far!
What did you do next?
I experimented, I tried to take as many creative risks as possible, and I really pushed myself to see what I was going to be capable of with my work!
If you're doing the same, get Jen's exercise for free.
You got your start online as a beauty blogger, when did you decide to shift and become a content coach and creative mentor?
At University I studied Social Work and for a long time thought that would be the career path I would take, but after working in different placement settings and realising it just wasn’t the work for me.
I felt very lost after I graduated about what I really wanted to do with my life. At first I thought I wanted to pursue a freelance writing career, but what I realised I was really passionate about was the process of creating effective, meaningful, and impactful content in the digital space.
After blogging for a few years and running an online lifestyle magazine for a while too, I realised that I might actually have something useful to say for people who wanted to make things happen with their blogs.
I decided to take the leap into blog coaching and since then it’s evolved into the creative coaching business that I have today! As for shifting from writing about beauty to creativity, I honestly just outgrew the topic. I still love all things makeup and skincare, but I no longer have an unhealthy relationship with shopping like I did back then and I didn’t feel like it was an area where I had any more room to grow as a person and a creative.
In the beginning of your online career how did you go about finding clients? I know a lot of coaching businesses rely on word of mouth advertising, so how did you get over that initial hump?
I was really lucky in that I had already spent 2 years blogging consistently (back then I was posting daily content) and building up a community online, so I attracted my first few clients just through my blog and content marketing. I kind of did my business backwards - I built my community and know, like, and trust factor and then launched my business and services.
What did you struggle with in the early days of self-employment? Is there anything that you still struggle with?
Getting over the fear of money, believing in myself, and having the confidence to really put myself out there in my business were my biggest struggles when I first got started.
Then during my first year what I really struggled with was burnout, overwhelm, and stress in my business - I didn’t expect to book as many clients as I did in my first year and I just didn’t have control over my routine yet to truly manage my schedule and workload.
Thankfully I’ve spent a big chunk of 2016 so far taking control of my schedule and finding a way to make it work best for me.
Between coaching, blogging and podcasting you must have developed some great time management skills - what advice do you have for creative entrepreneurs who are feeling overwhelmed?
My biggest advice would be to read Essentialism by Greg McKeown - that book changed my life and my approach to time management.
Then I would just encourage anyone struggling with overwhelm to take the time to really take control of their schedule - focus on your most essential work and figure out how you work best in your business.
I also really love to map out my days for specific tasks - I share how I do this in more depth in this post.
What is the largest obstacle you’ve faced in your business so far and how did you overcome it?
Burnout has definitely been the biggest obstacle so far - you can love your work and be crazy passionate about it, but if it’s draining your energy and leaving you exhausted every single day sooner or later you just won’t be able to keep moving forward.
Giving myself permission to embrace and accept how I work best and how I want to actually work in my business - and how I want my business to play a part in my life - was the first step to overcoming this obstacle.
Then just doing some practical things like raising my prices, scheduling my week more intentionally, and building in more rest time and white space has made a huge difference too.
What advice would you give other creatives looking to create a career for themselves outside the 9-5?
Don’t get too caught up in the details - we make things happen best when we work through any obstacles in front of us. Be flexible, believe in yourself, make honing your craft your biggest priority, and find a way to market yourself in a way that is effective but also true to your personal values too.
What are your plans for the future?
I just want to keep on working with my awesome clients and sharing ideas and conversations through my blog and podcast! I’m also quietly working on a book idea behind the scenes and thinking up ways to connect with my community in real-life too!