May I introduce you to Donna Ford of Donna Fordography and Skirting Boards and Chandeliers. I’m absolutely thrilled to be hosting a new series of blogs celebrating female entrepreneurs who are simply thriving. It’s my aim to bring you a varied range of stories featuring women who are living life on their own terms and shunning the idea that life has to take a back seat when you run your own business. Although these women will share their tips and advice, I hope this blog series also inspires you to do things your way – to carve your own path. Click here to see the first interview and to read a full explanation of what a Simply Thriving Entrepreneur is.
Donna is deeply passionate about helping others to access their creative potential. She is a very talented interiors enthusiast (follow her renovation journey on Instagram for gorgeous inspiration) and an incredible photographer too. Not only is Donna creative, she is also incredibly tuned in when it comes to personal development and being self-aware. She’s worked out what she needs to thrive – from face-to-face contact, to a note at the top of her to do list of what she’s proud of and looking forward to – and she makes sure these things are present each week. I love how Donna mentions that knowing your overarching “why” can help you avoid overwhelm – that’s definitely something I’ll call upon in the future too! Read on to find out more about Donna…
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
Well… I do a few things. I have an interior blog that inspires people to get creative and colourful in their home, I run Room Service which is an affordable room concept service and I also do personal branding and event photography. Before that I was a dancer who also taught creative dance to all ages as well as arts project management. It may seem like a strange cocktail but one evolved from the other and the thread that ties it all together is my deep passion to enable others to access their own creativity and potential.
How do you plan your day/week?
Gosh I’ve never actually considered how I do this! I look at my diary and schedule to see whether a blog or due or client work as they takes priority. I see the time available in my week (which is 9-12 every day while my son is in pre-school) and schedule it all in on a Sunday night. I do my hardest, most creative things as early in the day when I know I’ll be the most productive (it takes me an hour to write an email in the evening that would take me maybe 10 minutes earlier in the day). I’m also aware that I need to be with people face-to-face at events or business friends so make sure I have a least one human contact planned each week!
I also try to make time to think and brainstorm where I want the business to go, and how I can achieve the scarier things that I want to achieve. That growth is important to me and keeps me motivated.
Something I’ve also started doing recently that gets me into a really good mind set is each week at the top of my to-do list and schedule I write the thing I’m most proud of recently and the things I’m excited about. This stops me getting too bogged down in only the things going on that week and helps me remember the bigger picture!
What does success look like to you?
This is a great question because I think until you’ve defined this for YOURSELF you can’t be content in your business. In a world where following numbers and popularity seem the definition of success it can take time and a lot of inner work to understand your personal why and motivation, staying in your own lane and being true to your purpose.
For me success in my blog and interiors is seeing people step into their own creativity and really that their intuition plays such an important role in designing their home. Running workshops where there is more immediate feedback or seeing a transformed room motivated by my words is very rewarding. It’s such an authentic process and needs some good design principles as well but without your own creative input it’s just a show home with no soul. In my photography work it’s all about enabling the business owner to respect themselves and see themselves with renewed confidence through the personal branding shooting experience. But on a personal level getting to be creative, supporting my family financially and pushing myself outside my comfort zone and achieving new things is what drives me and also measures my success.
What does self-care mean to you, and how is that reflected in your life?
I have learnt (sometimes the hard way!) that self-care is non-negotiable. I think when you become a parent there’s such a strong tendency to be completely self-sacrificial but I’ve fought hard to protect time to look after myself as I know without it I will burnout and not be able to support anyone. Whether it’s bath or time with friends or making time to paint, knit or sew or visit a gallery, I’ve realised that I am a better mum, wife, friend and business owner when I look after myself. We know that things like journaling, meditating and exercise are good things to do but in the last couple of years I have claimed these things for myself and found the way it works for me. But it’s always a struggle to protect that time but worth the discipline.
Looking back, is there anything you would you change about your first year in business?
Mmmm… I’m not sure there is to be honest! I don’t like to live with regrets as I think mistakes and failures all work towards our good and teach us important lessons if we let them. I sometimes ponder whether I would have started my own business if ‘d realised how little I knew and how much I had to learn but that’s the beauty sometimes of not knowing what you don’t know! You learn along the way and that is an amazing gift. In those early days I still followed my heart, wrote about things I wanted to and allowed it all to evolve in an organic way. To flip the question, the most important thing I did was connect with people. Yes online communities are great but meeting with like-minded new business owners in real life whether in the same industry or not were a true lifeline to me and stopped me throwing in the towel.
What boundaries do you have in place regarding your work/life balance?
I try to only work when the kids are at school and in the evenings. Of course I look at my phone at other times and think I need to be better at putting my phone in another room and being fully present with my family. When I’m on holiday I make sure everyone knows not to bother me with business stuff and I only share on social media what I want to as I want my life to be lived for me not something for others to gaze upon. The problem with being a creative is that ideas and thoughts are always rattling around your brain so it is hard to have clear boundaries and life influences my business and vice versa. I think the key though is to set boundaries that work for you and your family, there is no right and wrong really.
What’s the best and worst thing about working for yourself?
The best thing is the creative freedom, the scheduling, having no other voices to cloud my head and ambitions, working on my laptop in my pyjamas, feeling no pressure to follow a dream that your heart isn’t in, having to deal with tricky people who clash with my personality (you choose your clients as much as they choose you!), being able to do the school run and school assemblies, I could go on. I love freelance life and would NEVER change it. The only challenges are needing to create a community to support you but that’s probably about it!
Please can you share a top tip for an overwhelmed entrepreneur
If you’re overwhelmed you need to do the most counter-intuitive thing. STOP. Make time to just be. Question why you’re getting overwhelmed. What can you let of? What are doing only to please someone else? Are you maybe doing something that doesn’t serve your bigger goal? Meditate, take a walk, find the inner calm that is always waiting for you. It takes discipline but knowing the overarching goal for your business (the deep why not the making money bit) and make sure everything you do is working towards that. Learning this skill is great for productivity as well as allowing your ideas and deepest passions to flourish and impact the world!
Where can we find you online?
My interiors blog is www.skirtingboardsandchandeliers.com
Photography – www.donnaford.co.uk