Have you ever felt yourself longing to be more creative, thought about writing a book, or maybe painting, starting a side hustle, or taking up a musical instrument, but you’re always too busy or never seem to have the time? You’re not alone. Did you know it is possible to tap back into your creative side. And maybe you might just find that following that little spark of creativity takes you on an unexpected path, perhaps even to living the life you’ve always actually wanted. This is something a little bit different than what I normally cover. Now, when you think of property management, you don’t really think of creativity, do you? But just because you are a property manager and you’re probably highly structured and organized, with great attention to detail, all the things that I am not, which is why I struggled day to day as a property manager, that doesn’t mean you still don’t have a creative streak or side to you.
You see, we aren’t just one thing. A mother, a business owner, a BDM or a property manager. Often we wear those hats and many more and there are no rules around who we can and can’t be. We can be a motorbike rider, a surfer, a florist, a fashion designer. We never have to stay locked into the one identity. Heck, I’ve been a barmaid, a corporate marketer, a sports journalist, a property manager, a business founder, a coach, a digital marketer, and who knows what next. I’ve still got another half a century of living to go. Fingers crossed! So, if you’re wondering, but how do I know what else I might want to do or try? We’ll start by thinking back to when you were a kid. What did you really love to do or be back then? What got you excited? What were you passionate about? For me, it was reading, writing, and acting. I loved writing a little play and then acting it out for my family. I even started charging kids in the neighborhood two cents. Yep, you heard me right. A whopping 2 cents to come and watch me perform a self-written play. Usually my dolls and toys were the other characters, but that was what I loved to do. (Two cents was probably overcharging too!!) Even throughout high school, I wrote the end of year plays. I absolutely loved it. Somehow though, life took a different turn and I ended up far, far away from my original dreams. Not that I have any regrets, because I do believe that everything happens for a reason. Now, my guest is Jess Spencer and I met Jess at a business retreat I went to. She has an amazing story to share. She’s a mom of three little kids who found her creative side and left her nine to five corporate banking job to become a children’s author and create amazing children’s products. It hasn’t been an easy road for Jess. The fear has been massive and the pivots many, but she wouldn’t change a thing. Stepping back into her creative self was the best thing she could have ever done. She’s a better mother, wife, person, and is now making more money than she ever thought possible, doing something she absolutely loves. Making a profitable business from your passion doesn’t happen for everyone. But I think the lesson here is to at least give yourself some time to tap back into the things that you love and that actually lights you up.
HOW YOU GOT STARTED AS CHILDREN’S AUTHOR?
‘My business is adored illustrations, and I got started with my business when, my daughter was four and she was obsessed with all things magical, whimsical fairy’s mermaids. And I couldn’t find a book out there that sort of had everything that she wanted. I’ve always been interested in writing, and I just had this like idea. I was like, Oh, I’ll just make it myself. Like how hard can it be, and so the book just snowballed from there. What started off as like this very simple idea that I was just going to make her a book just really snowballed because me being me, I’m quite a perfectionist and it had to be a certain way. It was just an idea for a book with my daughter.’
LEAVING YOUR CORPORATE JOB FOR A CREATIVE ONE
‘I was working at one of the big four banks in their commercial property team. I was working part-time. I had Aila who was four at the time, and Will, who was two, or not even quite two, I don’t think. And I’d gotten to the point where I’m a person who gets easily bored and the three days at work was great, but I still was bored at nighttime and I was bored a little bit when Will slept during the day and I was like, oh, what else can I do? And so, it sorts of all came together that I was like, oh, well I’ll just make this book for Aila. But yeah, I was working part-time when I started the book and that was not easy. I didn’t really, when I first started it, anticipate that it would obviously grow to what it grew to.’
THE SNOWBALL EFFECT
‘I now have six books. So, I have three ABC books, three, 1, 2, 3 books. I have flashcards, I have puzzles, I have memory cards. I’ve just launched a baby journal and Milestone Cards and I have another book series coming out at the end of the year. And so, when I launched my first book, which was the book for Aila, which ended up costing like five times the amount that I told my husband it was going to cost. So, I was very nervous when I launched it, but I had been quite big on Instagram and that was where I was getting ideas from. I brought like a few things for the décor for Aila’s room and that’s where I’d found my artists for my book was through Instagram. I was like, well, hopefully I’ll be able to sell some of these copies through Instagram. So I sort of started up a little business to hopefully offset some of the money that I had spent on creating this book. When I launched, I think it was like 400 copies in the first weekend. So, three days in and it was just, I could actually shut my website down because I couldn’t keep up with packing books. Then obviously that gave me back the money to reinvest into another book and I thought, well, I’ve made a book for my daughter, I need to make one for my son or you know, he’s going to grow up with a complex. So, I made the Incredible ABC as the next book for my son. And then again, that sold really well, and I just kept being able to reinvest that money because I was working part-time as well, so I put back into the business to scale it, and it grew quite quickly. Then I was able to leave my corporate job I think 18 months into starting the business and then I’ve just focused on the business ever since.’
BIGGEST FEARS LEAVING YOUR DAY JOB
‘It was one of these hard things. I had hired a business coach at the time and when we first started working together, you know, the first thing they said to me was, ‘What’s your goal? Like, where do you want to be in a few years’ time?’ I said, well, I don’t want to be working at the bank anymore. So, she said, well let’s work out how to get you there. And so we worked really hard. When I started, I had no email campaign, no sign-up list, I had nothing. And so, they sort of started me getting all those things. They started me on Facebook ads. We started making some revenue after I started working them with them, but I was really nervous about leaving my job at the same time. I had just gotten myself to a point where I was so stressed every single day trying to go to my corporate job, deal with my two kids at home and run this business. So, it was like, I was nervous, but there was also a sense of relief when I finally did it because I was had been running on empty for so long, that I just needed to do it. And one of the good things was that the team that I worked in was very supportive and they did say to me, if it doesn’t work out, like come back, you’re welcome back. So that was really nice to, I guess I sort of knew that I had a, like I could go back if I needed to, but even beyond that I knew that the skills that I had in finance and accounting were pretty transferable. I sort of knew that if this book thing didn’t work out that I could find another job. So I wasn’t super, I guess financially stressed. It was more just like going from having this full-time job, part-time job where you know, what you’re doing every single day to like trying to run your business and grow it, it’s such a huge change.’
OVERCOMING IMPOSTER SYNDROME AND YOUR INNER CRITIC
‘I think that’s one of the things that over the last few years, I have had so many messages from other mums who say, oh, I would love to do what you are doing. Even when I actually left my corporate job, I had one of the male staff say to me, he had written a children’s book. He hadn’t done it in the same way that I’d done it to start a bit of a business. I obviously was very calculated in how I did mine and how I created it and the overall product. But he said to me, you’re living my dream job. Like, I would love to just be able to like to write books. The number of mums that message me, and it might not be writing books, it might be something else creative, you know, it might be sewing, it might be hand making jewelry, whatever it is. For me, I was just, I think I’m not trained, but I didn’t really see being a creative as a way to make money. Like when I was younger, it was very much, you know, you needed to sort of follow a certain career path or go to university or go do the jobs that made sense. And you know the outcome, you know the money you were getting paid each fortnight. And creativity, like being creative just didn’t even occur to me that I could make money from writing. I think that’s why, especially with my daughters, and my son, I really want to instill that you don’t need to always be using your brain and doing something to further your education, it doesn’t mean you have to work in a bank, or you have to be a nurse, or you have to be a teacher. Like, there are so many things that we can do nowadays, and I really feel so much for the women who message me because I know how it feels. I know how it feels to be stuck and not necessarily have the money to leave a job and if you’ve got little kids, it’s even harder to quit your day job. So, I hadn’t long left my corporate job when I had Miller, my third child who is two now, but I can’t imagine how I would’ve done it all with three little kids either. I just always had some voice in the background, so I guess realising that the corporate lifestyle wasn’t for me and accepting the creative one was the one that I wanted to lead. So, I think that I would just encourage anyone who is feeling like you are locked into some sort of career that you don’t think is your passion or where you want to go, is to find little, small ways to work on your passion each day. No matter if it’s created a Pinterest board of something you want to create, or write books, or look at illustrations, whatever it might be to just give yourself something, so you feel like, you do have something that that’s a creative outlet, even if it’s only small.’
FINDING YOUR CREATIVITY AGAIN
‘Honestly, for me it was just forcing myself to make the time. So, when I first started out with this book idea, I would often go on runs and that running time was half an hour, but I would just run and just think of all the ideas and all the books I could create and what the names would be and how, you know all the different things I could do. And it doesn’t sound like much, but any small amount of time that you can think or work on your creative idea, even if it’s just on a walk with your child in pram, just put on your headphones and let the thoughts roll in. The key is you just have to make the time. That’s the thing. And I think people do forget, and we do have this culture of we’re just so busy and we can’t possibly fit in anything else, but at the end of the day, we all have the same number of hours in the day and some of us seem to be able to build on these ideas and progress them and others can’t. And I, I truly believe it is you just forced the time because believe me, I had no time when it started. Like once I was working and I had my two kids and I was running this business, there was no time, but I still forced myself to work on the business. I would get up at five o’clock, many, many mornings and work while my kids slept. I am a very motivated person, but I think if you want it badly enough, you will find the time and creativity, you know, it can be journaling, it can be, it is just finding half an hour in your day, whether it’s first in the morning, last thing at night while the baby sleeps, why your kids are watching a movie, whatever. Like I do believe we all have half an hour in our day to focus on some sort of time for ourselves.’
PRIORITISING YOUR TIME
‘I’m writing my own novel at the moment is, it is a hundred percent beat on the back burner because I am so busy with my business and my three kids and I know I’m making the excuse, but I know it. And so, I also know that I’m not going to get this book finished until I stop making the excuses. And it’s just what are you happy to live with. If you are happy to live with the excuses and never, I guess progress your idea or, or it does not go further, then that’s totally fine. Like being a business owner and all of this, it’s honestly not for everyone. But if you do have that sort of goal to one day work for yourself or one day, you know, make money from your creative ideas, then you do have to find the time to put your energy into it.’
THINKING OF CREATING?
‘I have a coaching program is called Create. And so basically, it’s just an hour of my time with whoever would like to like chat with me about their creative idea. It doesn’t have to be self-publishing children’s books, but obviously if you have an idea to self-publish a children’s book, I’m going to be able to give you supplier options, give you cost options, give you advice on creating a book. I’ve had a couple of calls already and the ideas that these girls have are, are wonderful. It’s also about creating a business. It’s not just about being creative, it’s about having a business that makes money from your creative idea. A lot of creatives don’t necessarily have that business background or don’t necessarily think about the money side of it the way that they should when they first start out. They think it’s a great idea and they just want to get their book or their product out there. But I do, I’m a firm believer in actually knowing your numbers before you start anything because I’ve seen so many businesses and so many small businesses shut down in the last couple of years because they’re not making money. Mainly because I don’t think they’ve known how to start that concept properly at the beginning. So, it’s just a coaching program for people who are creative and want to create their own products or, or if they have products and maybe their business isn’t where they want it to be. I can give them advice, I guess, on how to scale it. Because that’s definitely something I’ve done. When I first started, I would have never dreamt that I’d have my own office full of my own products that I can see. And, you know, I’ll pack this afternoon. I have like a lot of orders coming over the last couple of days, so I’ve got to make time to pack those orders. I also have someone who helps me pack. It is honestly insane if you have that drive and you have that determination and you have that creativity, what you can actually accomplish.