TheirStory Number 11 - Eleanor Snare
Number 11 in my career story series is the glorious creative coach, Eleanor Snare.
So Eleanor, tell us about you and what you do…
My name is Eleanor and I get artists and writers organised so they can start creating, share their work and make money. I use coaching and mentoring techniques to change creative people’s mindsets from “I can’t do that” to “I can’t wait to do that!”, then I share project management tools with them that help them stay structured and motivated.
I like to call myself a Business Witch - someone who uses their intuition and experience to help others move forward on their own unique path while giving them some practical, down-to-earth remedies for what ails them!
I absolutely LOVE your self-proclaimed ‘Business Witch’ title! The perfect description! This all sounds incredible, but what were you doing before?
When I left school, I completed an art foundation year, then a BA in Design and Applied Arts and an MA in History of Art. Creativity has always been in my blood, and I took every chance I had as a student to spend time making, creating and writing about art.
But, like a lot of creative people, after graduating that enthusiasm didn’t seem sustainable and I found myself working in marketing.
I worked for five years full time in marketing and communications agencies. I worked with big clients - people like Unilever, Marks and Spencer, TSB, New Look, Littlewoods and many more. I was working on pitches for new work 50% of the time, including writing, pitching and winning a £1.5m event contract with a national telecoms provider. The other half of my time was spent creating editorial and marketing ideas for clients. Often I’d be working on four or five major projects at once, which is where my organisational skills came in handy.
When I started in the marketing industry, I was a content editor and edited or wrote about 20-30 short pieces of content a day (!) then moved upwards to working more strategically as a communications specialist: someone who works directly with a client, understands what they need, and develops internal communication strategies for businesses.
When I first chose to be self-employed, I continued this work and focused on providing copywriting and marketing services to small business owners. This included re-writing websites, verbal branding, developing social media strategies and a host of communication activities that most small business owners need but don’t have the brain space, time or energy to do just by themselves.
At the same time, I was a part time university lecturer in Fashion Marketing, supporting third year students with their dissertations, portfolios and final year projects. I played a big role in their pastoral care too.
So it was around that time I began to realise something. When business owners or students were coming to me about marketing, we always ended up talking about how they felt – their fears, worries, lack of confidence or frustrations. Because what most creative people need is help getting their thoughts organised and their self-confidence boosted; after that, it’s amazing how much we can do just by feeling secure and in control.
It’s also when I realised who I wanted to work with. I’m fascinated by everything, but the two things I believe are going to save the world are creativity and communication. It was only by taking the long road round that I came back to who and what I really love: creative souls and creativity. I wanted to take all that I’d learnt through design education, marketing, project management and communications and give it to the people who I love most so their work and lives could thrive.
In the last year and a half I’ve made a conscious decision to clearly articulate this service. I've been helping people get organised, coaching and mentoring them since I can remember - but it's only in the last 18 months where I've chosen to put that front and centre in my business.
Eeeesh! WOW! What a journey! The self-awareness you have of your path, playing to your strengths, your passions and how best to help other people…I love it all. So few people can approach their work with such amazing insight and direction. From big marketing contracts to working for yourself is a big leap - what made you make the change?
The thing that encouraged me to take the leap into self-employment in 2015 was a desire for time.
When I was working 40 hours a week, I had all these creative ideas and plans and dreams I wanted to fulfil, and never felt like I got anywhere with them.
I sat down, unrolled a massive bit of paper and in the middle wrote 'Where do I want to be in five years' time?'. For every idea I had, I wrote down the steps I would need to take to get there, and then what resources I would need to take those steps. Every single one of the ideas needed time, more than any other resource. I realised I could free up a lot of time for creativity by working for myself, on my schedule, and not 40 hours a week. So I handed in my notice!
The fact you’ve chosen to prioritise your own creativity and fulfilment is incredible. It’s a step so few would take and likely regret when they’re still stuck in a corporate job that doesn’t light them up. You’ve been your own boss a few years now, what’s your proudest moment so far?
I tell my clients the first step is always the hardest, and so undoubtedly one of my proudest moments is still the choice I made to take a calculated risk and become self-employed. Increasingly, over the years, those proud moments have occurred more and more regularly as I've taken further steps to what I feel I was placed here to do.
In a coaching capacity, I think there's an expectation that I will feel 'proud' whenever my clients achieve things they really want. But I don't - because pride is about me, and coaching is so not about me.
I feel deeply excited, pleased, enthused and a lot of other feelings when my clients achieve what they really want, but I only feel proud when I have done something which connects with what I really want, deep in my creative soul. That’s things like becoming self-employed, travelling for six months, writing a book, and choosing to allow my spirituality into my work.
Saying that, recently I’ve been working with a client to control her workflow more through clearly explaining the creative workshops she offers. And she said to me: “I was worried about creating this list before, in case people want something else … but I realised – there’s a lot of stuff on there that is really great. And if people don’t want it, that’s okay!” Seeing her grow in confidence and take back control of her work has been an absolute pleasure.
Eleanor, it really sounds like you’ve made the career of your dreams! I adore your mindset on your job being about your clients and not you. I have a very similar ethos with my clients. Big achievements are great, but for me it’s the confidence and clarity they gain for their social media and business that I LOVE to see.
Things sound like they’ve been going really well - have you had any hurdles or obstacles you’ve had to overcome?
I think the hurdles and obstacles self-employed people face are rarely completely overcome; we're always in the process of climbing over the hurdles or navigating the obstacles, which can pop back up at any time.
One obstacle I feel confident navigating is the sensation (or opinion, in some cases) that what I'm doing isn't a 'proper' job. Because I'm not working full time, because I don't strive for the next job title, because I've chosen to opt out of the rat race, it's easy to fall into the trap that what I'm doing isn't ‘right’ or what I 'should' be doing.
However, as I continue down this path I am more sure than ever that what I am doing is exactly right. So that obstacle gets easier every day to navigate.
I think there’s something wonderful in being OK with where you’re at. Just being and enjoying where your life is. There’s a lot of pressure, especially online, that we need to be hustling and growing and pushing for bigger and better. I love the humility in being content and feeling enough.
Speaking of online, what part has social media played in your business?
I moved to Leeds in 2009 and immediately joined Twitter, and I credit Twitter for helping me get my first ever job in a marketing agency! From then on, I’ve used different social media channels to connect with the people who I can help and who I find inspiring. I work with people now I wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for Instagram, and even have clients who first met me through Twitter nearly a decade ago.
For me, thought, social media is just another network. It’s about people, connections and community. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that, so mixing it with ‘real life’ networking is always a good strategy.
Twitter is my first love too and absolutely perfect for building a network. Seeing social media as another form of networking, and making sure you network IRL too is really health. It’s never a good strategy to put all your business eggs in one basket.
If someone was thinking of starting up on their own, or doing what you do, what advice would you give?
People will give advice like 'just do it!' and 'go for it!' and all those leap of faith suggestions. Which is definitely important. But more important is preparing the ground work so when you do take that leap of faith, you don't feel like you're going to fall down the abyss. Essentially, it’s about getting organised!
That means saving carefully to give yourself a buffer, making networks whenever and wherever you can, and trying to get your first couple of jobs while you're still employed so you can build up your testimonials and experience.
If you’re spending all your energy worrying about organisational, practical stuff, it means you’re much more likely to ignore those deeper challenges – like a lack of confidence – which is actually what prevents creative people from going solo.
Giving yourself some stability around things like money and experience will mean you have more energy to overcome those deeper challenges - and those are the things that really make the difference to your happiness in your work.
Such powerful advice! Something I’ve learnt recently and am currently working on is what’s behind my blocks and there tends to always be something deeper that needs resolving first before trying to build beautiful processes. Ok, so flipping it a little, looking back is there advice you wish you’d had at the start of your journey?
The advice I wish I'd had at the start of my journey is "Listen to advice from people you trust, and act on it"
I got lots of advice, but not all of it from people I trusted. And I didn't always act on the advice I got from people I did trust! It takes time to work out who you trust to inform how you run your business - it might be people you least expect. But when you do get advice from those trusted people, take the time to digest and act on it. They're coming from a place of love and experience - so use that.
I’m currently forming a little ‘team’ for myself of trusted advisors – such as financial advisors, life coach, my therapist – to help me continue on this journey. It’s never too late to seek help and form the team that’ll help you get where you want to go.
This is so poignant! Thank you! I remember when I started, there was advice and information flying at me from all over the place, a lot of it conflicting and it was so overwhelming. Listening and then making your own informed decision based on trusted experience is so key.
Final question…what is a song that fires you up and gets you ready for the the working day to add to my playlist?
This Year by The Mountain Goats is a song I listen to when I need a reminder that, no matter how tough it is right now, I can make it through. Also really into Dorian Electra right now so that’s fun.
These are amazing tunes! You can listen to the full playlist > here <
Thank you so much Eleanor for chatting to me. I have loved hearing all about your unique, creative journey!
If you’d like to share your HerStory on my blog, I’d love to hear from you! Drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org