Hi Margaret, Bliss to have you amongst this series of interviews. Do please introduce yourself to those who don’t know you as well as I feel I do (though I suspect I am about to find out some new news as well!)
I am Margaret Collins, the first of six children in a Welsh working class family, destined for a secure job and a stable, traditional lifestyle. Except my life didn’t quite work out like that. I’ve been a reliable, hardworking employee for most of my life and only discovered self-employment in the last decade or so.
I first registered as a self-employed coach, while at the same time being employed. I was promptly investigated by HMRC who didn’t believe a business could make so little money. That was while I was learning how to run a business and be successfully self-employed before I cut off my major income stream.
The only reason I ever considered leaving employment was because I needed some way of paying my mortgage while providing care, support and stability for my sister who has Williams Syndrome and is unable to live alone; the reality of aging parents brings such needs into sharp focus. When our parents died, I was ready to provide that support.
Now tell us something about your business. What’s it all about, how do you think and feel about it now?
I’m moving along two strands to my business – no “all my eggs in one basket” here. The business which flourished first is Training For Universities. I design and deliver bespoke professional training workshops in skills relating to communication, confidence and personal effectiveness. In answering the question “How does that work?” I aim to provide each client with the tools they need to be highly effective in their professional role. This usually involves travelling to my clients’ premises and ensures I don’t get lonely.
The parallel second strand to my business is professional coaching services branded as Lemonade Life Planning. My clients are largely professionals struggling to do too much with little resource in a male dominated environment. We work towards life and career planning which uses their natural strengths and leverages their professional abilities to greatest effect.
Being a biologist by training I work to combine a knowledge of practical neuroscience, the stuff that really gets our brains working and our bodies motivated, with some pragmatic skills. My clients don’t need to know that but some find it fun so let me put a little more context there.
Personal and professional relationships achieve more when they are based in trust or motivated by excitement. Fear or anger result in stress, they might get short term wins but really produce toxic results that cannot be sustained. When working with a coaching client it’s important to create a secure relationship of trust and discover how to add a little excitement or anticipation. This then makes them self-motivating as they explore how to create similar environments in which to work and play. When you start here, your goals and your plans often look very different.
My ambitions for my business? I want people to know in their souls that they do have the resources they need, they are resilient, they are powerful and creative. If I can facilitate more of that with face to face workshops or virtual coaching that’s the only legacy I need.
The essential by-product will be to create a stable home for my disabled sister to become all she can be. After all, she’s the reason I started this journey at all.
This series of interviews is designed to inspire others, mainly women, on the same path. What tips would you share with them which would short-cut their journey to happiness being their own boss?
Life is too short to be unhappy. Don’t put up with mediocre. If what you’re doing isn’t working, find something that you can make work for you. Whatever your situation, however imperfect, with patience and persistence you can, step by step, create a life that is ever closer to what you need. One step, one step, one step… and if you can’t see that far ahead, work with a guide, a mentor, a coach.
I know that sounds like a string of clichés, it is just how life has worked for me.
What did you struggle with most in your start-up phase, and how did you crack that?
Three things in particular bothered me as my businesses emerged – the first was a change in perception about my professional identity. I struggled with the idea of being self-employed and an independent trainer – I was a scientist and a researcher. When I discovered I could easily be a woman who loved science and who loved research yet who designed and delivered training, life was so much easier.
The second thing was getting over the fact that I needed to be fully me in order to sell my services. My presence, my personality and my confidence in my own experience is what sold my services, not paper qualifications. If you believe in you, it shows.
The third breakthrough was learning to really believe I can deliver coaching and training of value, face-to-face with a client, in the moment. A small but persistent voice still tries to remind me I’m a fraud; that’s how I know so much about beating the Imposter Syndrome.
What have you learned about yourself while working solo?
I am more resourceful, creative and resilient than I would ever have predicted. After a decade of doing it, I still don’t enjoy selling.
Did you choose self-employment or did it choose you? Any regrets?
I chose self-employment. When I could see that in the near future I would need to be full-time carer for my disabled sister, I knew a job as a full-time academic wouldn’t make that possible. I knew I needed to find another way of living, another way of earning. I had to find, to create a new way.
Self-employment is what that involved. I do miss my previous work and I do sometimes wish I had more security but I have no regrets at all. I’m doing what I want for the reasons I want and it feels good.
Do you have a current project you would like readers to know about?
Right now I’m keen to work with more people who are struggling to create a way forward in their life and career, help them unlock some resources. To make this easier I’m offering a number of free taster sessions and some low-cost 100 minutes a month places in my coaching practice. LemonadeLifePlanning.com/Coaching
I’ve also written a work book for people wanting to know more about the Imposter Syndrome and how to beat it. I’m happy to work with this in a coaching situation but have made the workbook available to everyone as there is no need to be held back by this stuff! LemonadeLifePlanning.com/Imposter
Do you feel lonely or isolated when working for yourself? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you get your social needs met? What do you recommend to others in this regard?
Naturally I’m an introvert – friendly and approachable I hope but I could happily go years with minimal contact with other people. I don’t ever have the chance to put that to the test!
In both my work roles I need to be the facilitator, to regulate the relationship between myself and my clients so that they get what they need from our professional encounter. That role places me firmly in a responsive and adaptive role, dancing in relationship with my clients. Afterwards I might spend joyful hours quietly updating my resources, workshops or website.
I always go home to the most amazing sister – that oscillates between the experience of heaven and occasionally hell but a loving partner always makes that work.
My recommendation for others – find what you need, prioritise what you need. You can’t give to others when you’re running on empty yourself.
And finally, Margaret, how can readers become your fans and followers (I’m already both!)
I’m always adding more information to my blog and Facebook pages if you’d like to keep in touch using social media: