Hey everyone, happy Monday!
I am delighted to send another interview your way today – this time with the wonderful Sophy Dale. I really want to bring you more true and real stories from folks who created beautiful businesses while also working with some limitations, so it feels great to actually chat about the stories we tell and how powerful they can be in this episode!
Here is what Sophy and I talked about:
- Writing as an empowering creative practice for entrepreneurs
- Changing directions while staying true to our passions and values
- Meeting our own needs for supportive, sustainable working conditions
- Why understanding our own story and telling it in powerful ways is so important
Hey, everyone, my name is Yarrow and you’re listening to the DIY small business podcast. Welcome back. Happy Monday. Happy almost till noon. I am so glad you’re here. And I’m excited to share another interview with you today. So this time I spoke to Sophie Dale who’s a really wonderful messaging and writing coach, and who also runs the community, credibly connected on maybe networks that I’m a part of, and really love. And interestingly, storytelling had already been on my mind a lot this year, I’ve been thinking about the stories we tell ourselves, the stories that we collectively hold about what’s possible, or what’s desirable, or what success could look like. And so it’s been really cool to dive deeper into that and to better understand why creative writing as a regular practice can be so powerful for entrepreneurs, and really anyone but we specifically talked about writing in business. And that’s been really cool. So if you’re stuck with your about page right now, if you’re not sure where your business is going, or if you feel like you want to be able to communicate what you’re here to do and what your story is in a more powerful way, then I really hope you get some inspiration and insight and encouragement out of this episode. Just a couple of announcements for me. The first one is that on Wednesday, two days from today, I am running a free workshop on business visions, which is going to be all about and timing ourselves from harmful ideas around scarcity and competition. And I hope that it’s gonna give you a framework or container to explore what success could look like for you this year, what you want it to even do with your business, how you can find it, find the overwhelm, and really feel grounded and connected to your purpose. So yeah, the link to sign up for free is in the show notes. If you’re listening to this later on, don’t worry, still check out the link, because I’m always offering workshops that you can sign up for under that same link. The other announcement that I want to make is that half capacity for May and June for one on one word. And so if you need a new or an updated work website, I would love to support you check out my site, you can learn more adyar editor about digital COMM And I also have space for retainer, one on one support. So you can book 510 or 20 hours to have me support you with things like social media strategy, branding, and graphics and design, your overall vision and strategy, tag integrations, course launches or development, project management. And also it just if you feel a bit lost in your business, and you would need someone to help you figure out what the next steps could be and what your technical and design and practical options are. I would really love to talk to you. And I will link to that in the show notes as well. Okay, thank you so much for listening, and I will send you off to listen to today’s show now. Bye. Hey, everyone, welcome back to the DIY small business podcast. I’m really excited to share another interview with you today. And I’m speaking with Sophie Dale who I met originally, I’m not sure in which online space it was now but I remember immediately feeling like this is a like minded soul. And Sophie has such a beautiful approach to coaching and supporting people, and especially to burning community as well. She’s running and network and mighty networks that I’m part of and really enjoy. And I’m just excited to speak to more people about the story of their business, because I remember that when when I was in employment and dreaming about working for myself, I found it so hard to imagine what it could feel like and look like. So yeah, I want to bring you more of these conversations. And I’m really excited to speak to Sophie, thank you so much for being here. Welcome. Can you tell us what you are doing in a business and where you live in the world?
Sure. So I work as a business coach mainly these days, and also writing coach and mentor. And I live in Edinburgh, and work with people who are based all over the world, which I think is one of the most magical things about working online. So yes. Do you want a little bit more detail about what I do? or?
Yeah, of course Tell us more because I think a business coach can mean so many different things. And I really, really love how you’re approaching things and how you’re working with people.
Sure, well, because my background is working and I kind of dotted around being an employee and being a freelancer but working in the arts and in publishing for a About probably about 15 years or so. So when I first set up in business, it was as a freelance arts project manager. And I also did some freelance editorial work. And then I, I guess, when I had my daughter, I realised that was going to have to work in a different way, because I had been working very much kind of on site with people and, you know, needing to be in a certain place at a certain time. And then all of a sudden, I needed a business that I could run completely from home. And it had to be something that could run in nap times, and I didn’t know when that times would be a constantly moving target. And so I changed my business quite completely at that point, and made it purely editorial and writing, mentoring, and something I could do kind of in my own time, and get back to clients, you know, I completed a piece of work or questions for them, or whatever. And I also needed that business to be quite flexible, because I had so little time. So I worked with a whole group of through my previous work, I knew lots of writers and editors and literary agents. So I brought them on, so that when I didn’t have time to take on a particular piece of work, I would pass it on to one of them. And that worked fine for a few years when my daughter was a baby and a toddler. But I kind of got frustrated with I guess it just a bit burnt out, we’re trying to help people to get published in the traditional publishing world, which was the main thing I was doing, because it’s just increasingly hard to do that. Because publishing is has changed so much. And at the same time, I had found it really, really hard to get my head around how to market yourself online, when I set up this completely online business. And all that kind of, you know, the hype and manipulative selling and all those things that I know that you also find just as frustrating. And so it took me quite a long time to find my own way. But having found my own way, I found that then people started asking me about, well, how, you know, how had I done what? And I don’t know if that’s how you got started with the kind of coaching mentoring side of your business. But for me, it kind of just came out with people asking me. And so gradually, over time, instead of being mostly an editor and writing mentor, who was occasionally answering people’s questions, I kind of morphed into being mostly a business mentor, who still I mean, I still do edit manuscripts, as in, you know, novels, and so every now and then, but it’s not the main thing that I do anymore.
That’s so beautiful to hear. Thank you so much for sharing. And by the way, I would love to edit sometimes as well. I’m not a native speaker, and I did some translation work in my 20s. But this is kind of like what I imagined to do in a few years time maybe when, like a change. But no, not to worry anyone who’s into my web design at work at the moment. I’m not going anywhere with that. But yeah, it’s really nice to hear that your business has been growing out of a need in the first place. Because I think sometimes we’re romanticise this idea that people, you know, sit in their comfy chair one day and and they have this brilliant idea that like, yes, this is my purpose alive. And that’s not to say that this isn’t your purpose, it’s clearly something that’s super close to your heart, and it feels super aligned with your purpose. But I think it’s also really important to name that sometimes recreate these things to meet our own needs to work flexible in our own ways to be at home with our families, or dogs or with ourselves. And so yeah, I think that’s, that’s really great to hear. And I can also really see how your background and writing is weaving into your work. Now, one of the things on your website that I really liked is that you’re talking about building businesses that honour people’s true nature and like give people breathing space, can you maybe speak a little bit more to that of what that means to you and how you see that in your clients.
So I think that the main thing that I do with my clients that I think is maybe a little bit different from what I see in terms of, you know, other business coaches and so on, is that I think it’s, it’s so important to get to the heart of what motivates us as individuals, you know, to find our own purpose, and then, as you say, to see how you can weave that into this your purpose, but there’s also your needs and there’s also what your, what your audience needs as well and really, you have to find a way of kind of plotting all of those strands together. But the thing that I find essential and is sometimes missing for people Or it’s just not quite in focus for them, I think more than actually being missing is really having a sense of what your own story is, and what it is that makes that story unique. And what that means for your business, because I think your audiences similar to mine, in the sense that it’s mostly solopreneurs. And so it’s very hard to separate yourself from your business. And there’s also no reason to you don’t, you don’t need to, that’s one of the amazing things about being in yourself is that you don’t have to have this, you know, how people who work in corporate settings often have this kind of, it’s almost like they put on a suit of armour when they go to work. And then they get to take that off in the evenings or at the weekends. But the rest of the time, we have this kind of mask between themselves and the people they work with. And we don’t have to do that at all, as solopreneurs. But often, I think people still feel some need to have a distance or a mask or some other kind of almost intermediary between themselves and how they present themselves. And sometimes that’s a need for kind of, you know, to look all perfectly curated on social media or whatever, or sometimes it’s that they don’t feel that their own lived experiences enough. And that they feel they should have more qualifications or, you know, external rubber stamps, to do what they really want to do. Yeah. So I think that the process that I go through with my clients, which is about kind of uncovering the stories, that have brought them to where they are now, and then looking for the common threads and looking for how it all fits together. And that generally what that does for people is just to give them that extra little bit of clarity like it sharpens the focus for them. And suddenly they can see how how the different strands fit together, and how that makes them uniquely suited to run their business. As opposed to somebody else’s.
Yeah, that makes so much sense to me. I don’t necessarily do storytelling work with people, but I often have them write their about page, which I think can be a really deeply emotional process. And also, I think it’s kind of therapy, writing. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, totally. I would recommend anyone who’s dreaming about running a business or building one one day should write in about page now, to see what that feels like and, and dream into it. And then the other piece that I sometimes do is to work people work with people under a social media strategy. Because I think it’s it can feel so intimidating and overwhelming. And many people come to me feeling like, you know, Who are they to talk about what they want to talk about? And what could they possibly add to the discussion of value, because there’s so much out there already. And I always think that it comes back to telling your story and making people feel less alone and what they’re dealing with. And I also always say that I think intimacy is so much more important than perfection. But it really takes courage to show up on Instagram or anywhere else and say, you know, this is why I’m doing this. And sometimes it’s hard. But I really believe in this. And I want to share these tools. And this is what I have to offer. So yeah, I’m super glad that you’re doing this work. And it’s exciting to see that it’s working for you. I think that’s another really important piece to me, every time I see someone who really genuinely does something that they believe in. There’s a part of me that’s like, yes, this is possible. Great, you know? Yeah. So can you tell us a little bit more about what that looks like when you’re working with someone new, or perhaps you can maybe like, tell us about an approach or an exercise or some kind of tool that you’re sometimes sharing with people when they come to you that you find is helpful and getting people to kind of step into their story in a in a deeper way.
Sure. perhaps the easiest way is to give an example of a client who’s given me permission to talk about her story. So great. So this client, Teresa is a website designer. So identify with I’m sure. And so she’s a Squarespace designer, and she was when when we first started working together, she was doing her design work as a side hustle. And she was she was just feeling overwhelmed about you know, how on earth when there are hundreds of 1000s of designers out there. How on earth do you kind of stand out? How do you show yourself to be different, excuse me, in any way. And what people often end up kind of feeling forced into is either they see somebody whose work they admire, and they try to To kind of emulate that, or they go for a kind of race to the bottom with the price. And she could see that she was kind of trapped between those two poles. So when we first started working together, I said, Well, you know, my processes is around storytelling and so on. So, you know, let’s work with your story. And she was like, Well, okay, I’m happy to try it. But you know, I don’t have an interesting story. And I’ve learned over time that the more often somebody protests that they don’t have an interesting story, the more amazing their story turns out to be. Yeah, yeah. And so in Teresa’s case, she lives in the states now. But she came to the States as a 16 year old. And parents brought her over from Nigeria, they stayed with her for three days to get her settled. And then they went back to Nigeria, and to the rest of her siblings, she’s the oldest in the family. And it was down to her to make her way, get her education, and, you know, be start becoming a breadwinner for the family. And, you know, that is just the most I would find that overwhelming to do. Now, if I, if you dropped me on a different continent, yeah. And said, right, get on with it, you know, make life for yourself. Yeah. And by the way the family is relying on you, you know, that, that is just such a huge thing to have to live with. And so we talked about that story for a while and what that had meant to her and what, what she had learned from that experience. And obviously, she’d learned to have huge resilience, and persistence, and so on. And all of those qualities are useful for her in her business. But actually, the thing that came out as being almost the most important was, you know, she’d had this overwhelming sense of culture shock, when she got to the States. And she has this huge empathy for her clients, the people that she likes working with the most are people who are really passionate about what they do. So they’re often you know, healers, or counsellors or therapists, things like that. And they’re really good at what they do. But the kind of tech side of running a business is really overwhelming for them. And so those, her ideal client is somebody who’s kind of culture shocked by having to deal with tech and websites and so on. And her empathy for them is kind of rooted in her experience, you know, her lived experience of her story. And so being able to talk that through made her kind of really understand who her ideal client was, and how she could talk to that person, as somebody who isn’t overwhelmed by tech, but who does understand what it feels like to be utterly overwhelmed. And so that’s, I guess, I’m just kind of giving that as an example of somebody who didn’t quite see how to differentiate themselves, didn’t quite see what their niche was. And I kind of had, she had Inklings around it, she sort of had a sense of it, but she couldn’t quite bring it into focus. And getting to grips with her specific story, just suddenly gave her that route into see, oh, I see that, you know, this is what I bring this is what’s different in my approach, and I think that that’s the key to us, to understanding our story is it, it helps us to understand our difference and our differences. What, you know, lots of people don’t need a web designer who particularly understands tech overwhelm, but some people do. And those people who do that, you know, they’re really relieved to find somebody who, who can hold their hands through the process.
Yeah, thank you so much for telling that story. I find it really relatable. And also, I think it’s such a beautiful example of how we can become relatable online, it’s, it’s to, you know, it is really about, you know, finding your niche. And that makes total sense to me is really beautiful. And also, I think this aspect of storytelling really inspired me to remember how important it is to become a relatable person online. Because you know, that there’s so many people out there, we get so overwhelmed with all these folks that inspire us, but at the end of the day that we just kind of see for two seconds every day on Instagram or something. And I think those kind of stories. I mean, I haven’t even ever met her. I haven’t even seen your Instagram profile or website or anything. But then like, yeah, that’s a real human being with a story in the background. And I would love to hear more. So. Yeah, that’s beautiful. Thank you.
Yeah, just, I guess one of my hobby horses is the way in which story evolved for us as human beings, as a way of understanding as a human beings and a way of understanding, like giving us access to experiences before we’ve had the chance to have those experiences ourselves. And so it’s so powerful. And I really feel that people kind of skate over it. And don’t, don’t tap into it. And yet we’re all you know, even people who aren’t, you know, not necessarily great readers and don’t think of themselves as storytellers. You know, we all come home from work and tell people over the dinner table, what happened that day, or, you know, tell tall tales in the pub, or, you know, everybody does tell stories, it is a skill that we all have, you can’t reach adulthood without having it. And yet, we don’t necessarily tap into it as much as we could.
Yeah, that’s super true. And you’re also helping people with their web copy. And you and I think that’s really beautiful work. And I often see my clients struggle, this is usually the place where I kind of pick up I ask people to think about the pages that they will need and kind of what kind of information they want to have on each of them. And then I take that content and kind of make my magic with this. But it’s a tricky place to get to in the first place. So yeah, do you what is your approach with that? How is that usually working with when you’re working with clients on that?
And so we start with that same process of uncovering their stories first, and because then once you have those stories you can weave them into, because obviously, there’s all kinds of information that you need to have, you know, on your work with me page or your services page, or whatever. But that information is brought to life by weaving stories through it. And so is still it’s kind of the same process. It’s just the second step for me in that process is if if somebody does want to go in and do a full kind of web copy package with me, then then we still come at it from that same kind of story centred process.
Yeah, that’s great. Thank you. Another aspect of your business that I’m excited about is the community that you’re creating a mighty networks, can you tell us a bit more about the intention that you started out with and why you chose mighty networks, which I’m using, as well, by the way, so I really love it. But I would love to hear from you how you came to choose that place and what it means to you now?
Well, I suppose the first thing to say is I didn’t actually have an intention to set up the community. So what I originally intended to do was just a run, sort of pop up one month community project, which was around freedom and what what freedom really means in, in online business in particular. And that’s, that’s really, when you and I started to get to know each other better was because I’d asked you to be one of the contributors to that project. And so running that project for a month, and just having the just a Facebook group, for that project for that period, really kind of brought home to me that I I was missing, like I love doing one to one work, and I don’t ever want to not do it, because it does give you that that kind of depth and I guess intimacy that working with somebody one to one that is hard to get in the same way in any other form. But I hadn’t quite realised how much I was missing, having also the community dimension. And so just having that experience over the month of all of those voices, and people able to support one another was really, I just, I just find it really exciting and inspiring. And on top of that, I suddenly saw that I’ve been struggling for ages to find a way to make what I did more accessible price wise, because one to one, like it just is quite intensive, like time intensive. It’s hard to make your pricing fully accessible. And yet there’s a whole pile of people who don’t necessarily need that in depth help. But they do need to feel held and supported and to be able to support one another. And, and that kind of group dynamic gives you something different. Yeah. From what you can get working one to one. Yeah. And so just as the project was drawing to an end, it kind of dawned on me that I could just, you know, have this be an extra strand of my business. And I was vaguely aware of mighty networks and had been part of a community that was run on it. And I wanted something that was fully outside of Facebook and they algorithms in order. Just that noise and I also needed something unlike you because you would be much more able to I think, you know work with something that needed more kind of tech input at your end. But for me, I needed something that you know, would just roll out and I could, I could work with it. But the the framework was was there and being dealt with by somebody who knew what they were doing. And so, so yeah, I started it on mighty networks kind of as an experiment to see if it would work on that platform. And again, so far, I’m really happy with that.
Me too, I really, really love it. And I’m trying to get more of my clients run courses and communities are excited about it too, because I think it’s really beautiful to be in a space that’s set up to be an intentional community. Using these words, now, I think that has actually got different connotations. But for me, like, you know, a space that is really created to bring people together online, which feels like it’s just to not no longer the case on Facebook, it’s so busy, and it’s so hard to get people’s intention attention, there’s, I think it’s amazing to have your own little space. And I love the app that comes with that as well just also make things more accessible. I have my courses on there as well. So people can just open the ad and the app and you know, take the courses on the train or by driving and listening. And so yeah, that’s really cool. Is there anything that that you kind of would like to say to someone who’s interested in starting their own business, maybe something that you wish you had known sooner, or something that you would share as a resource to someone who is beginning to dream about their business?
I think what, what I wish I had known sooner was that you don’t need to have it all figured out. And actually, it’s more helpful to go into things with that kind of beta project, vibe to it, that you can kind of CO create things with the first people that you work with, whether that’s one to one, or whether it’s in small groups would happen, and that that’s much more powerful for the people that you’re working with. And it means that what you’re doing will feel more relevant to them, it’ll be more kind of targeted to exactly what they need. And so I think I had that tendency to feel that I had to go away into some kind of like, ivory tower, like space, and, and polish something until it was perfect. And then I could bring it out into the world. And actually, I think that’s really self defeating. And it’s so much more helpful to work with people, like when you first start out with people for free, if you can, you know, especially if you’re starting something as a side hustle to begin with. And just give yourself that space to experiment in and find out what people actually need. And also find out what you personally actually love doing, which might not be quite what you think. But you love doing. And just allow, allow yourself if it’s at all possible to do, you know, continue to work full time or part time so that you keep the financial pressure off the business in the early days. And give it the kind of time and space to to start to show what it can be. And without forcing it. Because I do you know, I guess the metaphor of a business’s a kind of gardening like process can be a bit overused, but you know, you can’t you can’t plan to a seed and then keep shouting at it, like, beat a tree. And if it’s not a tree immediately, you know, you think you failed. Yeah, it just it just doesn’t work that way. It does need time. And the right conditions. Yeah. And I think that I especially think most of my clients are women. And I think that there is a tendency towards perfectionism and feeling that you need to have things all perfectly lined up. Let them go into the world. And I certainly for me, I think that really held me back to begin with.
Yes. And it’s so beautiful to share that process and be transparent about that as well. I think, you know, like I said, I really have been a newsletter and I loved kind of being part of the early days of that pop up community and and seeing how things unfolded. And I never had the expectation or the desire to hear this perfect story of how you one day woke up. You know, it was already there and perfectly formed. It’s so beautiful to take people on that journey and saying I’ve planted a seed now and this is what I’m going to do next. And I’m allowing myself to experiment and play here. Let’s see what happens. Let me know what you think. What would you want me to do and so far, so Yeah, that’s beautiful. Thank you. And before we go, what are you currently offering? And where can people find you?
So, at the moment, I’m either working with people one to one doing the story power work, which is really what I was talking about earlier in terms of uncovering the story at the heart of your business, and web copy work, or just one to one mentoring with people. And then all of that can be found on my website, which is Sophie dale.com. And the other thing that I’m doing is running the community as we were talking about, and the community, again, if you go to my website, there’s a community tab on it. And that’s, that’s the quickest way to get there. And it’s called creatively connected. And it’s for creative entrepreneurs. And it’s a mixture of writing support and business support, which, again, is something that’s kind of evolved Initially, I was thinking of it as just being business support, and it still has quite a strong dimension of that. But the writing support kind of crept in there. Both.
Yeah, that’s beautiful. I think writing is such an important part of being in business, because we’re making so many micro decisions every day. And I think that the process of writing, even just for yourself is so deeply helpful to be present with the options that we have, and to get really clear on what it is that we want and to feel connected to our intuition as well.
Absolutely. I think I mean, when you were asking earlier about resources for people, and at any stage in your business, I think if you can bring a habit of journaling daily, into how you work, whether that’s right at the beginning, before you’ve even started journaling can be a really great way to start kind of uncovering what it might be, that you will do. But then, you know, however experienced you are in business, and however many other people you have to talk to in terms of, you know, mentors and peers and colleagues and so on. The one voice that you want to be sure that you listen to every day is your own tuning into your own intuition. And I mean, one of the one of the sort of prompts that I use when I’m journaling sometimes is just what’s really going on here. Because sometimes, especially if I feel a bit stuck, you know, what I would say USB is, well, I don’t know why I’m stuck. Generally, you do know, do you know what I mean? It’s just slightly, slightly buried. And so even writing out for yourself the question, what’s really going on here? Or what do i think is here under the surface? Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s just enough to unlock for you. And it’s such a resource, and it’s essentially free. And it doesn’t have to take very much time. 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in terms of just keeping you keeping you kind of in tune with yourself and not not letting your voice get drowned out by all the other voices that, you know, we’re exposed to on social media and, and, you know, clients and colleagues. And so it’s not that those other voices are not helpful, because often they are really helpful, but they can’t be You can’t let them take precedence over your own voice.
Yes, that is so true. And yeah, thank you for sharing that. I’m really glad we talked about that, too, because I think that is such an important piece. Thank you. So we’re going to add your links in the show notes as well, just in case anyone didn’t catch this. And then people can take you out that way. Thank you so so much for being here today. I really love talking to you. Oh, thank you very much for having me. Thank you.