“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backwards, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”
― Anais Nin
My career story and how I got to where I am now, is probably the most requested question that lands in my inbox every week. Like every story in my colourful life, it is by no means linear — it’s less about what I did and more about who I became.
The short version (what I did) goes like this: I spent 4 years at university and left with a degree in psychology. I studied Level 1 and 2 Reiki and completed formal and informal studies in the areas of emotional engineering, counselling, business, meditation, positive psychology, epigenetics and neurolinguistic programming as well as developed an analytical practice observing humans in their natural habitat. I delved into personal development out of curious compulsion and for the sake of my own growth and tested (and continue to test) everything I teach, on myself first. I became a blogger and that led to the business that I have now. I continue to study with a focus on spirituality, manifestation, astrology, marketing, photography and deepening my understanding of human behaviour.
It was 2007. I was wandering through the gothic quarter of Barcelona where I lived in a boat-shed-turned-studio-apartment with my best friend, and a string of DJ’s that moved in and out, based on where they were playing. On that one day, I turned to her and said “I wish I could create my own job! One where I could get paid to just be me.” It was the comment that planted the seed.
I was getting to the end of my festival career, tired of the drugs, the sleepless weeks, and the shady characters that bespeckled my otherwise rainbow-filled eccentric life. I’d spent the past 4 years contracted as an artist coordinator for underground music festivals all over the world. Something that I unintentionally fell into right after I finished my psychology degree by being charming, fun and getting to know all the festival producers.
It was the end of the year, the weather was getting cooler and the next job was at a New Year’s Festival in Portugal, still some weeks away. I knew things had to change but I had no idea what to do or where to even begin. I had outgrown the festival life. It had served me well. I had travelled and seen more of the world than anyone else I knew, stories of which I shared in monthly group emails to my ever-growing list of international friends.
Right after Portugal, I moved to London for the second time in my life, became an event coordinator for a prestigious dance company and started seeing a kind man from Manchester. A year later I was done with city life, still no closer to an answer. My self-doubt of what I was capable of and my confusion on how to even start infiltrated any ideas I came up with. I booked a one-way flight to India, hoping that I would discover the missing pieces of myself there. My boyfriend begged me to get Facebook so we could stay in touch, something I forcibly resisted because I was obstinately against the internet at the time. I eventually gave in and created a profile to keep him happy, right before boarding my plane.
I spent 5 months travelling those magical lands, turning to write down every little insight and observation. Writing had always been my solace. One day, a sweet Swiss man who had joined me on my travels for a few days, emailed me back after one of my lengthy group emails and told me that he loved my writing and that I should start a blog. Too attached to the idea that the internet is not “natural” I resisted and dismissed his suggestion.
What I did work out on those travels were two things: 1. I, in my essence, am creative. And to be truly fulfilled and happy, I need a creative project at all times. 2. I really suck at being an employee. I had to create my own thing. I started exploring what was in front of me. I have always loved self-expression through fashion and living in London amplified that. I also wanted to do good in the world, and ethical fashion brands were amazing but the styles mostly drab. Plus, I loved drawing and designing. And I was in India — the land of textiles and inexpensive tailors. My conclusion: start an ethical fashion brand.
I continued travelling, letting this idea infuse within me: back to Europe for a final summer of festivals, then a contract to work in Abu Dhabi for a film festival, then Australia to visit my mum. Another year had passed before I took steps towards this idea.
In 2009 I took a government-funded business course to give me a foundation to this dream of mine alongside a pattern cutting and design intensive. I was terrified and deeply limited by my belief that, as a sensitive creative woman, I was not going to be any good at business.
I was right. I didn’t do any of the inner work to look at my limiting beliefs and how they were impacting my life, so my aptly named brand Etica&Ella failed. After developing the branding, the first season of designs and spending 3 months in India forming relationships with ethical production companies, and sinking $20,000 of my savings into the concept, I realised I had no idea how to market my brand and launch it out into the world, and I was already completely over having to cart around so much fabric. And I quit.
I was wiser now. I knew my strengths and limitations better, and while I smarted from the failure of my first attempt my desire to be self-employed only became stronger. It wasn’t even a dream or desire anymore. It was the only way.
In 2010, with the intention to learn how to market and run a business, I was hired as a business manager for an author and public speaker whose expertise was in marketing, with the intention that I would learn everything I could to apply to my own thing. I embarked on the steep learning-curve of coding and WordPress, started blogging and developing an online voice, and did BSchool while cocooned in the safety of that role for 2.5 years.
THE NEW VISION
I distinctly recall shaking with fear and apprehension the first time I shared a blog post on my Facebook wall. I finally pushed the ‘post’ button with the force of my second hand on my finger and waited with bated breath for something to happen. For someone to judge me. To tell me I was being ridiculous. And then… nothing happened. Nothing at all. Some hours later a couple of friends left some sweet words of encouragement. And that was it. I learned that I had to keep going. Keep writing. Keep sharing. Keep honing my skills.
While I didn’t learn as many of the marketing skills as I had hoped, running someone else’s business gave me the confidence I previously lacked, that I could run my own. Consistently blogging and sharing, as uncomfortable as it was at first, grew my self-worth and as a result, my belief in myself. It was the devoted consistency that I showed up with, that allowed the momentum to build and grow.
I still didn’t really know what kind of business I wanted. I was willing to surrender my ego at this point and live my work life the way I lived the rest of my life: with the spiritual philosophies of surrender, trust and being guided. The key lesson in this initial stages was to stop looking for validation to start doing what I felt inspired to do. To just start creating. To do it for me, first.
One day, I received an email from a reader, telling me her harrowing story about the big transition in her life that she was facing and how much my words and writing helped her. She closed the email asking if I was willing to get on a Skype call with her and guide her through some issues. She offered to compensate me. I jumped at the chance and told her that no payment was necessary. That I’d gladly support her in this way. At the end of the call, I realised something: this call was just like the counselling practicals I did after I finished studying psychology at uni. with a more intimate flavour.
A little light went on in my mind. Perhaps this is what I could do for my work! This tiny incident was the turning point for my entire career and I decided to pursue mentoring as the signature service of my business.
By mid-2012 my itchy gypsy feet called me back on the road. My tattoo-artist boyfriend agreed to join me and we booked flights to a festival in Portugal in August, and then travelled through Europe together before settling in Amsterdam, so he could work. I took on creative writing and social media marketing contracts to support myself and practice working online while travelling. I knew I needed to keep building my online presence by consistently sharing quality, free, helpful, entertaining content before I could start earning money from it. That first year, I devotedly kept showing up for my business, without receiving anything in return. I spent the second half of 2012 in Europe and then flew to Mexico for the Mayan end-of-the-world ceremony. I continued: Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, a month in Costa Rica to stop and work at Envision Festival, Panama… followed by San Francisco and 3 months in Venice Beach, LA.
THE (REAL) BEGINNING
By the time I hit Venice in Summer 2013 I knew something had to give. I had to start making money from my own business. I was absolutely terrified to step out from behind the shadows of supporting other people. It was so much easier relying on others to provide me with income, instead of being responsible for the money coming into my life myself. I knew my mindset and my relationship with money had to shift and that I needed to take a leap of faith and back myself fully even though I was scared.
I’ll never forget the week that I wrapped up and ended all of my contracts. I cried a lot. The fear was almost unbearable. I didn’t have a safehold or savings to fall back on. I was running on hope, my manifestation practices and a whole lot of faith. Inspired by the pain of fear, I rebranded myself as a gypset life coach and developed my first 1:1 offering. I finally put myself out on the line and visible for the world to see. The vulnerability hangover I felt was debilitating. To my disbelief and soul-shaking relief, I had 5 clients sign up to work with me right away. It felt like a fucking miracle. I was finally doing it! My first paying clients, the first time I was really in business, the beginning of it all: August 2013.
All that networking on social media and in real life, the consistent content creation, and the relationships I’d built with people had started to pay off. Showing up, creating and sharing consistently is the only way I know to build and grow a business, something I teach and share in depth in my collaborative course The Heartful Biz. It takes time and dedication and is an investment that grows if you are patient and continue to feed it.
THE MONEY + LESSONS
That first year of business was not easy, I won’t lie. Learning to handle the ebb and flow of income (sometimes it’s scarce, sometimes there’s more), learning to keep a steady stream of promotion and marketing material progressing, wearing every hat from strategy to admin to bookkeeping, and staying engaged in a professional manner was a steep learning curve. Financially, I struggled the first year, clearing just over $18,000. The second year was much easier — it took 2 years before I finally felt supported by my work. I learned a lot about money, my relationship to it, and how to make it.
The past 3 years have since been a development of maturation as my business grows. I developed courses on topics that were frequently repeated in my private client sessions to make those resources more available to everyone. I developed PR and marketing strategies that unfold with time as our online world changes with a key focus of showing up and sharing from a heartfelt place of authenticity, integrity and vulnerability with my key message essentially being “hey, we are all human trying to navigate this strange, beautiful, messy landscape that is life, each in our own unique way, together”.
This August I celebrated 5 years in business. Being self-employed isn’t for everyone. It’s tireless dedication, boundaries being tested, risks and endless learning. But I love it. It’s definitely for me. And when I am asked what I wished I had known before starting I would say these three things:
- Start sooner and don’t let fear of not knowing enough hold you back.
- Stop looking for validation to start doing what you feel inspired to do. Just start. Do it for you, first.
- Start where you are at and give yourself permission to evolve and grow instead of hiding behind the need to have it all figured out or “be something”.
YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED
You recently asked a multitude of other great questions so I thought I’d share the answers here.
Do you have an assistant or do you do everything yourself?
I have a video editor and I occasionally hire a graphic designer or accountant to help me with specific business assignments, and I usually have an intern that helps me with general administration tasks but I predominantly do everything myself. I enjoy having full creative control over my work and working in my own flow without having to explain my motives or having to manage other people. This may change in the future as I have considered hiring a full-time assistant to come on board but I’m not quite in that space yet.
What are the next steps in your business?
It’s starting to shift from a service to a product-based business. I’m slowly restricting my availability for private client sessions with my focus narrowing on short, affordable and potent courses that are more accessible to my audience. I love the creative process of teaching in this way and can see that it’s the future for personal development education. Which means that if you want to work with me in person, now is a really good time to get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m also running my popular signature course Manifest More for the very last time this November before retiring it as I have big plans for something completely new and exciting for next year, so if you want to learn about how I create and attract everything in my life, this is a really great course to get on board on before it disappears.
How did you manage the uncertainty of life/business?
I have really powerful practices around trust and manifestation (that I teach in Manifest More). I trust myself, I trust my intuition, I trust the Universe and where it is guiding me, and have tools that bring me back into trust and help me let go of the need to control things (which is fear expressing itself) when I find myself in doubt.
How do you make business decisions?
I 100% use my intuition for every single decision I make ever. I teach the simple process that I use in my course IntuiMethod. My intuition is the smartest, most strategic and surprisingly accurate advisor I have.