May I introduce you to Ruth Poundwhite, writer and business mentor. 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.
Ruth is a leader in running a business online as an introvert. As a fellow INFJ, a lot of what Ruth talks about resonates highly with me; and I love how honest and open she is about the challenges of being an introvert and running an online business. Ruth faces these challenges head on and has found a way of working that suits her preferences and plays to her strengths. In particular, Ruth is a huge advocate of the power of the email list in business and it’s personally been a pleasure learning from her to create my own email list. Also, if you don’t listen to Ruth’s podcast Creatively Human already, please do tune in – it’s always top of my list when I’m looking for inspiration or reassurance that someone is facing the same challenges in business as I am!
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
I am a freelance writer turned successful online business owner and business mentor to quietly ambitious humans. I’m a huge introvert, and when I started my business completely accidentally in 2008 I had no idea that it was possible to build a successful business without being “loud” and trying to do all the things that everybody else was teaching. Since then I’ve found a way of owning my big goals, and of marketing, selling and showing up online that works for me.
How do you plan your day/week?
I have a weekly planning ritual that I usually carry out on Fridays. I like to finish each working week knowing that I’ve got everything in place for the next week and I’m not worrying about it over the weekend. The ritual is simple but powerful, and when I don’t take time to do it I definitely feel it! It’s based on Kate Northrup’s philosophy from the book ‘Do Less’, and it incorporates my energy levels and where I am in my cycle, my top 3 to-dos, how I want to feel, and the lunar phase. I love that it goes beyond just getting things done and takes into account the bigger picture.
What does success look like to you?
Something I’ve learned about myself is that I need my work to feel fulfilling. I’m ambitious and driven to earn money, but I’ve earned good money without the passion and it just wasn’t enough for me. So now success to me looks like always tuning in with how I feel and what matters to me. Which, at present, is partly doing work I enjoy for its own sake (like writing), and partly helping others (mentoring).
What does self-care mean to you, and how is that reflected in your life?
Self-care for me comes down to a constant practice of self-awareness. Noticing when I feel tired, anxious, scared, sad, excited, optimistic etc. and asking myself “why”? I don’t always know the answer, but I’ve learned a lot through this ongoing practice of self-reflection. The more I know myself the more I can either (a) improve the things I struggle with or (b) come to terms with my natural tendencies (which I choose to no longer see as “shortcomings”) and work around them.
For example, I’m an introvert and I can’t change the fact that I get tired after too much “people-ing”. Pushing through rarely works. Instead I now build a buffer of rest around times when I have a lot on. And rest doesn’t always look like a glorious bath surrounded by candles and incense. Often for me it looks like lying in bed with my laptop, or dropping the ball on something I wanted to do but isn’t essential right now.
Looking back, is there anything you would you change about your first year in business?
So much! I was young and had no idea about the business side of things. I started writing because I could and because I needed the money, not because I wanted to run a business. If I could go back, I’d start thinking and talking about it as a business from day one. I’d charge higher rates when I was booked out (instead of working longer hours). And I’d go for the clients that truly lit me up, instead of saying yes to everybody. But doing things the wrong way taught me so much, and I’m grateful for those lessons.
What boundaries do you have in place regarding your work/life balance?
I am pretty much a workaholic, but I do have boundaries in place to curb those sometimes unhealthy tendencies. I try to plan concrete time off well in advance. I am very intentional about the times I have open to clients and interviews on my calendar. I have learned to be vulnerable with what I share, but with boundaries (I don’t share much about my day-to-day personal life, and I only share the tough stuff when I’ve gone through it). And I firmly believe that having strong boundaries is just as good for my clients as it is for me.
What’s the best and worst thing about working for yourself?
The best thing has got to be the freedom and the flexibility, not only to follow what you love, but also to give yourself a pay rise when you need it. But with that comes the inevitable rollercoaster. The realization that sometimes, even after years of growth, you can have a bad year, or the constant questioning of whether you’re doing the right thing when you’re the only one making the decisions.
Please can you share a top tip for an overwhelmed entrepreneur
Overwhelm is so, so common for entrepreneurs. So my first piece of advice would be to be kind to yourself. In my experience, overwhelm isn’t necessarily always a symptom of having too much to do. Often it’s something bigger: a fear, or a way that your brain is trying to keep you safe. I’d say that if you can dig into that, and if you can take one tiny step towards where you want to go, then the momentum that creates can help curb the overwhelm. Tiny steps count.