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Six months ago I was pondering what mix could make up a portfolio career going forward. The ideas ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some were barking mad, like a chandelier venture with the lovely G, but other ideas have lingered and fermented. So, in addition to turning our small back garden into a vegetable plot and baking a few too many sweet treats over the last few months, I have also been digging the foundations, mixing the concrete and laying the bricks to turn a couple of those ideas into actual businesses.

I shall be unveiling both projects in the weeks to come but in the meantime, I want to take you behind the scenes of the decisions and labours of the last few months.

Telling your story

I happily joke that I have had many jobs and several careers but that I am linguist, wordsmith and storyteller at heart. Some of my friends have seen this in action. When asked to sanity check their CVs or cover letters, I would suggest ways they could weave their many skills and impressive achievements together with the challenges and opportunities of their desired new job or career to showcase their USPs and produce a compelling story that captivates future employers. With this in mind, I am taking the idea of CV coaching forward, but in my own way.

I am not setting myself up as a career coach or CV writer but as a personal communications coach who helps talented individuals find their marketing voice and articulate their own brand, whether for a new career or career progression with their current employer. Just as I enjoy working with friends to make their story sparkle, I shall be working with clients eager to project the skills and expertise that make them shine so they can secure and proactively manage a career that excites them. The onus will not be on embellishing their experience but on telling their story with integrity for maximum effect.

Turning heads

As well as turning the heads of potential employers, my second venture literally aims to make heads turn thanks to hand crafted hats. Since falling in love with the traditional craft of millinery, my own love of hats has taken on a whole new dimension.

I have eagerly devoured hat making courses and practiced my technique at home with felt, straw and buckram. As the months have passed, the third bedroom has been turned into a little millinery studio where I have been designing a capsule collection of hats, sourcing materials and blocking and stitching to my heart’s content. I have also learnt how to carve my own blocks to allow me to expand my range to meet the requests of the extraordinary ladies I am targeting as clients.

From luddite to technical director

As well as brushing the dust off my copywriting skills, developing specialist millinery techniques and improving as a stills photographer, I have also had to turn myself from IT novice into technical director overnight to keep costs down. As I shall be offering both hats and services over the Internet, I have learnt about web hosting, developed a rudimentary understanding of HTML, CSS and FTP and am building my own sites. I have looked to experts for help with artwork but thanks to the generous advice and suggestions of Jo Klima of The Darling Tree, I am using a highly customisable WordPress theme, which is a convenient starting point for someone more at home with fountain pen and Moleskine than computer scripts. That said, plug-ins and widgets have still been testing my patience!

My crash course in matters technology has been two-fold. As business generation will rely on web-based marketing (alongside word of mouth), I have immersed myself in the options available, exploring everything from social networking to SEO and free automation tools. My dictionary of acronyms has ballooned as my knowledge has expanded. However, to launch both projects within a feasible timeline I have had to balance researching and absorbing the wealth of opportunities with committing to a manageable first phase.

Resourceful cost management

Like anybody starting a new business, I am also learning to manage costs and waste closely, distinguish between essentials, and nice-to-have and prioritise what is necessary for phase one and what services, goods and window dressing can follow once the projects are up and running and commissions start to come in.

For example, as I am launching my personal communications skills service first and am targeting delivery via Skype and email, I am dispensing with highly designed stationery and focusing on launching a website that clearly explains my offering. By contrast, as my independent millinery involves elegant goods, more attention is needed to deliver a finished product in a stylish way. Although this means additional resources, I am enjoying finding ways to generate a sense of girly indulgence without going overboard on costs. Moo has been especially useful for generating small, multifunctional stationery products at affordable prices and by cross stitching my own labels rather than placing a minimum order of 500 machine stitched labels my finishing touches will really have a personal touch.

Finale – The Unveiling

The names of my ventures, and related websites, will be unveiled in the coming weeks but here are a sneak preview to whet your appetite…


  • Debra August 7, 2011, 1:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing your process. I’m so excited for you as you begin your new ventures. I really believe that if you let your heart and soul lead success will surely follow.

  • Sue Marzinske August 7, 2011, 7:16 pm

    I am totally amazed with how much you have accomplished in a short time, and how many big projects you have taken on! But how are you juggling so many different ventures, many requiring lots of time and new skills, all at once?

    With starting a portfolio business, making hats, learning technology, setting up web sites, writing a blog, taking photos, gardening, and cooking, etc., how are you handling the time management issues???

    You are living way more than a double life! It is more like a quadruple life!

    I am really curious, since so many “advisors” always say to focus on only one, or very few projects at a time. Or are you a Renaissance woman who has found a way to “do it all” in modern times? If so, we really need your secrets!


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