As a fellow tea lover, admirer of countryside walks and fireside reading; I am so pleased to announce that this month Josephine Brooks is our Her Kindred Story guest.
You might know Josephine from her beautifully inspiring podcast; On The Make or recognise her from her gorgeous Instagram feed; @josephinepbrooks. Josephine’s mission is to help side-hustlers build a creative business that gives them the freedom to do more of what they love and create the lifestyle they long for, by helping them plan more effectively and giving them the tools to boost their productivity. She has a trademark approach to business that harnesses the power of planning and unlocks your ability to get things done in your business. Not only does Josephine have a podcast in full swing (already on its 30thepisode) but has recently launched her 12 week planners (which come highly recommended by myself!) as well as her planning and productivity boosting course; Make a Plan > Make it Happen. She also offers 1:1 mentoring for side-hustlers, helping them build the meaningful business and slower lifestyle they long for.
Josephine has been so generous in our little interview, so I am certain that you will find a great deal of value in what she has shared, so let’s get started.
Could you tell us about yourself and how you came to run your business as a planning and productivity coach for side-hustlers?
I’m a country bumpkin and tea addict who’s also got a very nerdy passion for planning and productivity.
I’ve always had a side-hustle that’s served as a creative outlet alongside my 9-5. Over a period of 4 years I grew a successful home décor business that I’d put my heart and soul into but it was on New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago that I had my lightbulb moment. I’d spent the day reviewing my business, creating charts, dreaming up product launch ideas for the year ahead and making an action plan. The day had sped by because I was doing the work I love most and in that moment, I realised planning and productivity was where my passion really lies and where I could offer something new and unique. Over the following year I pivoted my business to what I do now as a planning and productivity mentor for side-hustlers.
What does a typical day look like for you in your business?
I’m still working part time at the moment, so I have a couple of days a week to work on my business. This means I have to be really careful about how I plan my time. To help make my time as efficient as possible I tend to have theme days for my business where I batch together multiples of the same task. This helps to keep me organised in my business and have content scheduled a couple of weeks in advance. I find having theme days and batching together my tasks is a great way for me to get my head into one type of work and get ahead with my content schedule.
I also have 1:1 mentoring calls on Fridays and Saturdays. My 1:1 calls are my favourite part of my business, I have the most positive and exciting conversations with my clients and there’s nothing better than seeing someone’s confidence swell and their side-business grow and evolve over the time we work together.
I’m really looking forward to taking my side-hustle full time in March, partly so I can create a more solid routine around my business and life. I want to be able to fit in a long walk each lunch time to help break up the day and recharge me as well as time in the mornings for a well-rounded morning routine rather than battling through the commute.
What are your essential planning and productivity tools that you couldn’t live without?
1: My 12-week plan – This is like my business bible and something I’ve developed over the last 7 or so years of side-hustling. I pick three goals to focus on over a three month period and plot out all of the actions I need to take to reach those goals over the 12 weeks. Once I’ve created my plan all I need to do is to refer to it each week to see what needs to be done as the next steps towards my goals. It’s something I now share in my course Make a Plan > Make it happen as other people have found this way of planning a game changer in their businesses as well.
2: 2-minute method – When things are getting on top of me and my to-do list feels out of control, I put an hour aside and go through my list, putting a star next to everything on there that will take 2-minutes or less. Then I get to work on them right away. It’s amazing how quick jobs like responding to an email or tweaking something on my website can stay on my list for way too long before it actually gets done. This is a brilliant tool for shifting some stubborn actions off your to-do list and the bonus is the dopamine hit you get from crossing multiple tasks off your list in quick succession.
3: My must-do/could-do list – This is another to-do list hack that I use every single day. First, I write a must-do list with a maximum of three items for the day, this helps me to prioritise and approach the more important tasks first in my day. The could-do list follows with a few tasks that would be great to get done but aren’t essential. Writing a to-do list in this way makes it more likely I’ll get to the end of it and reach that feel good factor (as I only class the must-do list as my list for the day).
Can you share some of the biggest challenges that you face in your business?
Absolutely, well, where to start? There have been many. Building a business is a bit like playing tennis against one of those tennis ball machines, as soon as you’ve batted one challenge out of the way the next one’s flying at you.
Over the last year I’ve noticed that my challenges fit into two categories (and this seems to be true of my 1:1 mentoring clients as well). The first category is mental challenges and the second is practical challenges. As quite a practical, methodical person I can tackle the practical challenges like figuring out how to start a podcast or learning how to create and share video content with a bit of googling and asking around. However, I’ve found dealing with the mental challenges that bit trickier.
The challenges that I’ve come up against with real stopping power are things like the fear of failure, the fear of rejection or just generally being outside of my comfort zone. Although, I’ve come to accept that building a business is a process of feeling uncomfortable over and over again, of constantly challenging the boundaries of my comfort zone it doesn’t always make dealing with the fear and self-doubt any easier. This is where my support network has been essential to keeping me on the path to building my business.
Can you share some of the greatest joys in having your own business and working for yourself?
First up, there’s the obvious stuff like having the freedom to take a two hour walk in the middle of the day and the flexibility to manage my own work hours. I also really appreciate being able to make all the decisions in my business, I was never very good at corporate life and having to deal with lots of people’s opinions and input was always something I struggled with. I’m a bit of a lone wolf like that.
Most of all though, and probably unsurprisingly I just love working with my clients to help them improve their approach to planning and boost their productivity. It’s quite a new experience to love the work I do this much. It makes all of the hard work and discomfort that it took to build my business as a side-hustle worthwhile.
How important has the online community been to the work that you do?
Oh, so important. The online community has given me the opportunity to create a support network around me that I can lean on when times get tough. One thing I’ve really enjoyed over the last couple of years is meeting the people I chat to on social media in real life, whether that’s been at conferences like Blogtacular and Creatival or by meeting up with them for a coffee. I’ve made some really close friends through Instagram, it’s a place that feels genuinely supportive and community minded.
I really enjoy sitting down for a cup of tea and a scroll through Instagram, I try to engage with other people’s posts and stories as much as I can, after all it’s social media and that’s the best way to build connections with like-minded people.
Can you name some of your favourite fellow online creatives and why they inspire you?
Oh my goodness there are so many, but here are just a few of my favourites.
Rabya Lomas of @sheflourished on Instagram has a really lovely outlook on fostering creativity through play and creates the most inventive images for her grid. She also shares some really important conversations around inclusivity and representation which is an important topic for all of us to learn more about.
Kayte Ferris (@simpleandseason) has been a big help in figuring out my marketing approach and how to market my business in a way that feels authentic and true to me.
Lauren of Lauren Aston Designs (@laurenastondesigns) shares the most honest and truly hilarious stories on Instagram that are worth following her for alone. I’ve also done a few of Lauren’s knit kits as projects to help me switch off from my business in the evenings.
Morgan Harper Nichols (@morganharpernichols) is definitely one to follow on Instagram for a daily pick me up. She shares beautifully written and illustrated quotes and passages that will remind you not to be so hard on yourself and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working on your business?
Prioritising my self-care is a big focus for me at the moment. I struggle with anxiety and so taking time away from work and my business is really important (as it is for everyone). I’m trying to shift my mindset to a place where I know that taking breaks and time out from my business will help to fuel my productivity and enable me to do better work when I’m back at my desk but my business has a habit of taking over sometimes.
I love walking and find it to be one of the best ways of clearing my mind and helping me subconsciously solve problems while my brain’s taking a break too. One of my favourite things to do with friends is to meet for a dog walk and follow it up with a pub lunch. There’s something about walking that always makes space for the most interesting and fun conversations.
I’m terrible at switching off, I can’t even sit and watch a film as I get fidgety, so knitting is something that keeps my hands busy while I’m taking time out. I’m very much a beginner so I’ve found Lauren Aston’s chunky knitting kits to be a really rewarding way of knitting because with chunky yarn my projects come together fairly quickly and it’s not too intricate.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out with their own creative venture or business?
1: First of all, just start. Stop researching, dreaming and making mood boards just start where you are, follow your curiosity and see where it takes you. Taking action will teach you so much more than any amount of research, you’ll figure out what you love doing and what you don’t like doing along the way. It’s very rare to land on something that you’ll want to do first time around and that’s ok. Treat your business or creative venture as a constant experiment, tweaking your direction as you learn more along the way.
2: Make a Plan. Without a plan it’s really easy to lose focus and end up spreading yourself too thin across too many projects. I have a 3-step planning method that I developed as I’ve grown my own business and I now share it with all of my clients. In a nutshell the first step is to find your focus, pick just three projects to work on over a 12-week period. Next break down those projects into tiny steps, detailing out every action you’ll need to take to complete that project. Finally, plot those tasks out over the 12-week period and get to work on your plan.
3: Create a support network. It really is one of the essentials to building a business, especially when you’re side-hustling. The emotional roller-coaster that everyone experiences with building a business is part and parcel of the process. Your emotions can change by the minute. One moment you’ve had an enquiry through about your brand-new product that you only launched five minutes ago, the next your website has completely re-arranged itself and you have no idea how to fix it. In short, you’re going to need a support network around you to help you overcome those hurdles.
What’s instore for you and your business in 2019? Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share?
My word for 2019 is flourishbecause this is the year I’m leaving my part-time job to go after my dream of working for myself. A big part of living up to my word of the year will be continuing to challenge the boundaries of my comfort zone. I’ll also be making more connections with others in the online business world, working on more collaborations and sharing even more conversations on my podcast; On The Make.
This year I’m most looking forward to spending more time doing the work I love. I’m taking on more 1:1 mentoring clients and again running my course Make a Plan > Make it happen, which I’m really excited about. I’m also going to be running some workshops over the summer/ autumn as well as speaking at a few events (eeek, did I mention that challenging my comfort zone was a focus for me this year)!
For everyone building a business as a side-hustle it’s not always plain sailing and there’s a steep learning curve so my main goal for the year is to support as many side-hustlers as I can in building their business by sharing my approach to planning and productivity.
So, a big thank you to Josephine for sharing her story as well as so many practical tips on how to up your productivity levels in your creative business. Please do check out her planners and course; Make a Plan > Make it Happen. Also have a listen to my favourite episodes from Josephine’s On The Make podcast here, here and here.