Keep marketing, even when you’re busy. It’s so easy to take your foot of the gas, so to speak, when you get busy with client work. Do not stop your marketing efforts just because work is coming in now. When you stop marketing the inflow of clients will stop and you’ll end up in deep water.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chanelle Segerius-Bruce. Chanelle is the founder of Segerius-Bruce Business Coaching a company dedicated to teaching experienced, service-based business owners, to expand their vision and grow their business, and to build a stand-out personal brand and business online. With a career spanning 20-years, Chanelle works with successful entrepreneurs and business owners looking to add on or pivot into coaching, consulting or mentoring within their industry. Chanelle gives her clients the tools they need to build their brand online and become the most sought after go-to industry leader that everyone wants to work with. Chanelle began her career as a photographer after getting her Graphic Design diploma. For 10-years, she pursued her passion, travelling the world to photograph weddings in exotic locations including Bali, Santorini, and Morocco. It wasn’t long before she became one of the UK’s most sought after wedding photographers and her sharp eye landed her pictures in several prestigious wedding magazines. Her retouching work was seen on billboards for brands like D&G, Versace and Chanel. Chanelle freelanced in the design departments of some of London’s top advertising agencies and she worked alongside world-renowned photographers, like Mario Testino and Corrine Day. After 12-years in London and a further two and a half years in the stunning Turks and Caicos Islands, Chanelle decided to return home to South Africa. Here, she shifted from strictly photography to running a highly successful social media marketing agency. It wasn’t long before she realised that she had more to give. She was an entrepreneur who was living the dream, having made a beautiful life of freedom for herself and her family. Chanelle not only figured out but excelled in creating, building and running profitable service-based businesses. She wanted to show others how to create that same freedom for themselves and Segerius-Bruce Business Coaching was born. Chanelle uses her 20+ years of experience in design, marketing, branding, and business to coach clients from around the world on how to create their freedom-based lifestyle through personal branding and building a business online. To Chanelle, a brand is more than just a logo, pretty pictures, and a functioning website. It’s how people feel when they think about a business — “a brand needs to evoke emotion,” she says. Offering a range of expert coaching services from how to build a brand online, marketing and launch strategies to tailored, bespoke 1:1 coaching, Chanelle takes her clients through the branding process step-by-step. Chanelle has a high-level team and is able to offer done-for-you services such as full personal brand creation including websites, photography and video for clients. Recently she’s travelled to exotic locations like The Seychelles and Bali to meet in-person and work in a highly bespoke way. To date, Chanelle has been a mentor for many independent business owners across the globe, and has helped all of them turn their business dream into a fantastic reality — dream it, believe it, create it, live it. Chanelle, takes her clients through the branding process step-by-step so they can successfully turn their business dreams into a reality.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in South Africa and always dreamed of becoming a professional photographer. Unfortunately my parents weren’t able to afford to send me to Uni so I went with my second option, which was to study graphic design and do a diploma. My mom was born in England so I was able to get my dual citizenship and move to London at the age of 18. My father was an architectural technician, so I always enjoyed his appreciation of good design. I moved around a lot as a child after my parent’s divorce and I ended up changing schools seven times! This theme of moving around has followed me into my adulthood and I’ve now visited 26 countries and counting.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah-ha” moment with us?
I distinctly remember being in a full-day session with a destination-wedding photographer at a big photography convention in London. I saw his pictures and lifestyle and thought to myself, that’s what I want. So I did it. At the age of 27 I started a photography business in the UK and grew it to be one of the most well known in the country. My work was published 75 times in glossy bridal magazines and my husband was able to leave his job and join me in shooting weddings all over the globe including Morocco, Santorini, Bali and Mauritius to name a few.
There is no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
I always focus on one thing at a time. I ran my successful photography business for eight years before making the switch to a social media agency. I used everything I’d learned marketing my own business and was able to serve the wedding industry very well. Once people started approaching me, asking me how to brand and market themselves I transitioned out of the social media agency world and created my business-coaching brand. It’s good to know when to let go of something that’s no longer lighting you up and to laser focus and move on. As a serial entrepreneur this is an essential skill to have. I now use my 20-years of photography, marketing and branding experience to help others create a personal brand from the inside out and the ground up. You can bring through your hobbies and skills to your new venture; however, I do not recommend doing more than one main thing at a time!
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
As a photographer I always continued to shoot for myself and for the pure love of it. It’s so exciting to get that first commission and realize that people will pay you for your talent. You do need to be careful of it becoming just a job. Having a business requires focus and the ability to outsource as much as you can as fast as you can, otherwise you’ll end up doing more admin, accounts and other things that you don’t love compared with the time you’ll spend doing the very thing you love and got you started with your own business in the first place.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
Over the years I’ve used my same hobby, photography, in my businesses but in various forms. I started as a wedding photographer, then did newborns for a while, family portraits and now I specialise in personal brand creation. As I type this I’m sitting in Bali, Indonesia. The reason I’m here is that I met a client in Lombok and Bali for two weeks of shooting. I do the photography and my husband does the video. We’ve been helping her develop her online program / course. I now combine my photography with business coaching and so I am definitely not bored! Be willing to adapt and see opportunities in the marketplace.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business?
Freedom, hands down. I am not a very good employee — I have to admit that now! Sure, I work hard, but I hate having to ask permission to go on holiday or go through a bunch of red tape to get one of my ideas out into the world. I love the fact that I can travel for two months in Bali with my husband and 6-year old child. It’s a dream come true to be able to give her this kind of experience. I love that when we’re home and she goes to school that either her mom or dad can pick her up and be at home with her every afternoon.
What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
There’s no guaranteed income at the end of each month. Business can be a bit of a roller coaster at times and you have to grow thick skin. You can’t let a lack mentality rule the roost. You have to do personal development work, which includes working on your mindset to keep you in the right frame to take the action required for results aka bringing in sales!
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
All the admin involved in running a business. I hate spreadsheets and doing things like accounts. Bookkeeping and accounting was the first thing I outsourced. I then built a team over time and these days I have two virtual assistants, a social media manager, a web developer, graphic designer, publicist and I send my RAW photography files to a company in the USA for editing. I like to stay in my “zone of genius” and work with my private coaching clients, shoot personal branding pictures and host retreats for female entrepreneurs.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
Yes, sometimes I have moments when I think “Why am I doing this to myself!” I soon get over it though, because, let’s face it, I never want to go back to working in an office with fixed hours, minimal annual leave and no flexibility.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Not taking a payment upfront for a pre-wedding shoot around London. The couple turned out to be “confidence tricksters” and had been staying at a 5-Star Hotel in London, charging everything to a card and using the concierge to buy expensive items from brands like Chanel. They skipped the country and never paid their bill! They even duped a private security guard and chauffeur. Needless to say we didn’t deliver them their high-res images as they never paid us either! Very bizarre.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars in coaching, mentoring and courses. I absolutely love learning and soak up everything I can about a given topic that interests me at the time. I’ve been on workshops and attended seminars online and offline on topics ranging from photography to branding, Facebook ads, branding and marketing. I’m always learning!
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Whilst in Bali we visited Ubud and volunteered at a school that was being built for disabled children in a remote village. My husband toiled the fields and helped plant veggies. My daughter and I helped paint one of the walls with a beautiful mural. That was a fantastic experience for all of us and I hope to do more of this kind of thing going forward.
I’ve also gifted my online program, Build Your Brand Online, to women who I feel really need it. One lady lost her 8-month old baby so I gifted it to her privately at the beginning of this year. It feels good to be able to give away places on my program to those who have gone through a difficult time personally but still want to build a business.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Mindset is everything! You have to work on your mindset and surround yourself with other entrepreneurs who get it. Don’t let naysayers (even if they’re family) stop you from going for your dreams. They’ll come around eventually when they see your success.
- You can’t do everything yourself. In my late 20’s I almost burned out in my photography business. I was working 7-Days a week and often up until midnight editing images. I wish I’d started outsourcing sooner.
- Don’t talk business 24/7 with your husband / wife. This can be difficult, especially at the start when you’re super excited about your new endeavor. Find a business BFF, business coach or a group of business people you can hang out with and chat shop. Don’t bore your spouse with all the details all the time.
- You don’t need to reply to that email within seconds. Seriously, step away from your phone! Stop training your clients to expect a reply on a Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. If you do it once or twice they’ll expect it every time. Do reply within 24 to 48 hours Monday to Friday.
- Keep marketing, even when you’re busy. It’s so easy to take your foot of the gas, so to speak, when you get busy with client work. Do not stop your marketing efforts just because work is coming in now. When you stop marketing the inflow of clients will stop and you’ll end up in deep water.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love? You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’d like to inspire more women around the world to really go for their dreams. I see so many women holding back because of the fear of getting visible or worrying about what they look like, sound like or what other people might think. I say go for it. If I can inspire one women a day to take action and make it happen I’d know that I’ve done what I came here to do. I love the ripple effect it has on a family when I empower a woman to create her own personal brand and go out and make some serious money.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life’s not short, it’s the longest thing you’ll ever do” — Make the most of it. When you’re gone it’s too late. My father had a heart attack running on the beach at the age of 54. It was such a shock to me to lose him and at the time I was only 27. This was a huge pivot point in my life and to this day it’s the catalyst to keep going and make something of my life and help others do the same.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Mel Robbins. I love how real, raw and unapologetic she is. Her book, the 5-Second Rule, was hugely helpful to me in overcoming anxiety and having success in my business by putting myself out there.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.