Investing in coaching and working with experts in a similar field will make you successful quicker — It was scary investing in my first coach. It cost me 6000 dollars and this was massive considering I hadn’t made that in my business yet, in fact I’d already spent thousands out on the website build so had a lot to make before I was in profit. This however was the best decision I had made as it gave me the confidence and the tools I needed to coach, run courses and be the best mentor I could be. I made my money back in a week.
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 Jennifer Claire. Jennifer is a Destination Wedding Celebrant, Success Coach, travel blogger and Founder of The Celebrant Directory. Jennifer Claire is a best-selling author (Mums in Business Association, Mumprenuer on Fire Series), award winning wedding and travel blogger, multi-entrepreneur and a very sought-after wedding officiant, officiating beautiful weddings across the UK and Europe. Jennifer runs her company ‘JenniferClaire.com’, her success coaching and creative digital agency and lives a nomadic lifestyle, free from the 9–5. After quitting the rat race in December 2016, she left the UK with her 1-year-old and husband in tow. She set up three businesses while travelling Europe in a motor-home. In libraries across Europe, she started her first business the global directory site The Celebrant Directory, promoting and supporting hundreds of Wedding and Funeral Celebrants & Officiants worldwide whilst being an influencer in the industry. Jennifer has since traveled to 20 countries with her young son and husband whilst continuing to build her businesses. She believes that everyone has the power to step outside of their comfort zone and live their dream life.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Ever since I graduated, travel has been a big part of my life. Within weeks of receiving my scroll, my now husband and I took off on our first ten-month backpacking trip. First stop, Johannesburg! I was a mere 21-year-old with no idea what adventures lay ahead! Our thirst for new beginnings and inspiration began there.
We knew from the beginning; our life would never be conventional. Unable to sit still any longer than a few months in a country, we found it difficult to settle anywhere. But after meeting some awesome Kiwi’s along the way, we decided to try and spend a year in New Zealand. This is where my love for charity work and in particular fundraising began, as I started working for the largest charity in NZ, World Vision.
Fourteen years later and we are still on the hunt for new adventures! We became parents to Ethan in 2015 and after six years of mortgages and high-flying careers, we decided to give it all up to travel again. We didn’t want to be stuck with nursery and utility bills, and so we swapped successful careers for a six-meter motor-home and travel.
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’ve always had a passion for weddings and planning my own became an obsession. When planning my wedding, I discovered that there was more than just a registrar or church option for the ceremony and I thoroughly researched the potential alternatives. I discovered Celebrancy and thought I’d love to do this myself! After we had a Celebrant for our own wedding, I began writing and officiating wedding ceremonies for couples who wanted something more unique and in alternative venues too. Starting this business as just a hobby, I quickly identified the potential in the industry.
My business soared, far quicker than I imagined it would, and soon enough I had enough work to quit my full-time job. This then turned from one business into four.
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’d answer that with, a combination of identifying a market or industry opportunity, with a huge amount of perseverance and commitment, plus the added necessity to innovate and be entrepreneurial (in my life situation), with a huge sprinkle of relevant transferable skills and experience.
After twelve years building a career in fundraising, and a life-changing journey, it was only a matter of time before I knew I I’d be back in the business world. For myself this time. In a totally new, entrepreneurial way, where I was my own boss. To me, it was about finding a niche and actually going for it with an idea, rather than just sitting back thinking it wouldn’t work from the outset.
I also didn’t just dive into investing in my business, I took the time to really look deep into whether it would be something that was needed in the industry. I’d become recognized for my success as a celebrant and was starting to get requests for support in helping to grow other celebrant businesses. This was my light-bulb moment that I could actually make a potentially sustainable living by combining my corporate job in marketing and raising multi-six figures for charities with my passion for the wedding industry.
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?
Life is a risk and there are never any true guarantees. You don’t know where you will end up tomorrow so why waste today. If you feel there is a market for it, start to map out the potential and gauge an idea of how much it would cost to set it up. But in the early stages, keep asking yourself is there a genuine opportunity to create a business. And keep coming back to that question all the time, what am I doing this for? Ultimately, doing anything for a living, requires money to sustain said living; i.e to be able to live. This may hugely vary dependent on the individual and their circumstances, or their aspirations. Which is a massive variable to consider. But a business is just that, something that ‘’should’’ make money. Unless you’re someone like Uber and can afford to lose the odd billion.
Then make a calculated decision. Don’t just think about budgets too, think about your quality of life and how much it would be improved if you did what you love day in and day out.
It is also hard to share your vision, to translate it into tangibility to others around you. Having your nearest and dearest support you, listen to you, even share your vision and passion for a particular industry, can also makes a huge difference to your effectiveness and drive.
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?
This to me is about knowing your limits and not forgetting why you are doing this. Sometimes work and the drive to earn money from what you love can take over the reality of why you are doing it. I genuinely love what I do and love having a real impact on the lives of my clients and their businesses. That is what motivates me on a daily basis and makes me smile and makes it enjoyable. Every single client, across all four of my businesses, has a different business or life situation and every one of them keeps me on my toes and focused to deliver the intended goal.
Celebrating your successes along the way and spending some of your profit also keeps it fresh! It’s important to treat yourself, and I often reward myself with something small every once in a while, as a self-pat-on-the-back.
I’ve always been a big fan of vision boarding too. Actually visualizing the life I want to have and the next steps I want to take in order to ultimately achieve it. My husband and I are highly motivated to keep making new plans for upcoming adventures, as we love to travel so much. The more excited I am about plans, the more this comes across to my clients and potential clients. You can’t coach others when you are in the wrong mindset.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I love that I set my own timetable. I decide when I want to sit at my computer and where. We’ve traveled to twenty countries in the last two years, and in that time, I’ve worked from the beach, atop mountains, from sand dunes and even at sea. The laptop lifestyle offers the freedom I always desired. This also gives me the chance to close my laptop down whenever I choose and spend time with my son and husband.
The downsides can be that you don’t have a solid schedule and it can be hard to get a proper work structure in place. You have to be so disciplined and when you work, you work. Any distractions have to be shut off, so your time is spent constructively and efficiently.
One of the big downsides of the travel and work lifestyle is battling the time zones. This can sometimes be tricky when my clients are in Australia and I’m not sure where I will be for that meeting! More planning is needed and basically being switched on, all the time, to all factors; ready to anticipate complications and maneuver around them.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Running a successful coaching business is more than just getting clients on board and doing calls. That’s my absolute favourite part but it takes a lot of back-work to get there. You have to build an audience, a brand, a voice, your values and make connections everywhere. You also have to do a lot of work for free in order to build relationships. It can be a lot of fun. Just before this interview, I was on a group coaching call with six celebrants all talking about their latest wedding and funeral ceremony mishaps and I always come off the call with such a buzz.
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?
In all honesty, I haven’t reached that moment. My businesses offer me the freedom I’ve always desired. I get to travel, spend time with my family and run businesses in the niche I love. My businesses also afford for my husband to do the things he loves and not work the grind of an office job. Sometimes I have to pinch myself for the life we’ve created.
I cannot even imagine going back to a 9–5 now after all of this hard work and freedom.
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?
Trusting that my laptop charger would last forever! I was due to launch The Celebrant Directory in just a few days and we were in the middle of rural, mountainous Spain when my laptop stopped dead! Unable to find anywhere to buy a new, expensive Apple charger, that wasn’t a 5 hour drive, I had to rely on the help of strangers to get a new cable in my hands. Needless to say, I never ever take battery power for granted!
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
The people I work with and for. My clients. The celebrants and wedding professionals that struggle to get their businesses off the ground or build their confidence. The funeral celebrants that train to do one of the hardest jobs around to find most doors to work are closed. It’s not always easy and I have come across some tough audiences, but I know I make a difference to their lives and this keeps me going and working hard at new ideas and plans to give them even more value.
Also my son. Watching him take his first steps in Portugal, say his first word in France and touch his first piece of snow in Spain, has been worth every late night and bit of stress. He drives me and motivates me to work hard.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I’ve worked in fundraising and for some of the most amazing charities in my corporate career. This has meant speaking in front of hundreds raising multi six figures for some important causes. Now that I work for myself, I put my all into helping small businesses grow from unconfident, inexperienced solo owners to making profit and living their dream lives.
I’m also still a practicing Celebrant, or Officiant and love being involved in every single special part of my client’s lives, be it for their wedding day or for some, saying goodbye to a loved one at a funeral. It’s such a privilege each and every time facilitating that significant part of their lives and being remembered as that person at the front of the room who made it special.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- WiFi becomes your best friend and your enemy — On the road, it’s that 21st century daily battle between staying somewhere completely idyllic versus having a good enough internet connection. I’ve become best friends with AirBnb or Co working spaces in countries across Europe to ensure I have solid connections for my coaching sessions.
- Investing in coaching and working with experts in a similar field will make you successful quicker — It was scary investing in my first coach. It cost me 6000 dollars and this was massive considering I hadn’t made that in my business yet, in fact I’d already spent thousands out on the website build so had a lot to make before I was in profit. This however was the best decision I had made as it gave me the confidence and the tools I needed to coach, run courses and be the best mentor I could be. I made my money back in a week. Six figures in less than a year. It was the direction I needed.
- There will be late nights — If you are travelling and building an empire with a 1 year old, sleep doesn’t come that easy. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get distracted by ideas and they usually wake you up in the middle of the night! Always have a pen and paper or charge on your phone to jot them down.
- You don’t need a website straight away, start by building your audience first — After 18 months of coaching and building my creative agency, I’ve only just launched my website. You don’t need one straight away, start by building your audience on social media first.
- Don’t bother comparing yourself to others — This is a total waste of time. There is no one else like you out there so don’t worry yourself about what others are doing, they aren’t your competition. Yes, do your research and be aware, of course. As you’ll need this to qualify and quantify a market opportunity. But don’t be disheartened if a direct competitor seems to be doing really well when you feel you aren’t. Behind closed doors, they could be struggling as much as you might be at that precise moment in time. Be the confident person you know you can be.
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 started a Facebook group named Build a Freedom Life, focused on building a movement of mums and dads to start businesses that offer them exactly this. This is a slightly different angle to working within the Wedding and Funeral industry, however something I am really passionate about too. In fact, whilst writing this, I received a message from a dad who is looking for advice on starting up a business after being made redundant. I want the world to know it is possible to follow your dreams and build a freedom life away from the 9–5. Even with children.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This pretty much sums It up. “And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” — Randy Komisar.
I remember standing in a motor-home park in Italy, chatting to a man who was very sadly dying of cancer. He was spending his last few months travelling Europe in the motor-home he loved. He said he’d worked his whole life, so he could retire and travel and was now struck by cancer. So this part of his live would be short lived. He took my hand and said, live your life dear for now, not tomorrow. This is something that will always live with me.
When we left the UK in Jan 2017, after having sold our house and without an income, it was a big risk. Everyone thought we were crazy, totally mad. After all, we had a 1 year old and were giving up so much. But something told me it was the right thing to do. We’ve certainly not looked back and now have a wonderful, confident, adventurous three and half year old.
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.
Right now, I am totally inspired by Carrie Green and her female entrepreneur association. She has taken her own idea from a seed to a massive empire and I am just in ore of how easy she makes being an entrepreneur look, especially now she has just had her own baby. I’d love to chat business with Carrie and look behind the scenes at how she grew her empire.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.