Jill L. Ferguson is a Jill of many trades and a master of some. :) Jill has been a serial entrepreneur since age 18.
She is the author of eight published books and she is an award-winner writer who has crafted thousands of newspaper, magazine and website articles.
She is an artist whose paintings show in Japan and in the United States. And she's a recovering full-time academic and academic administrator, who now does higher education consulting.
Her businesses include Women's Wellness Weekends, Creating The Freelance Career, and Assessment in Creative Disciplines.
Jill derives the most joy from collaborating with creative people, especially women, and helping them tell their stories. Her most recent book, Creating a Freelance Career (Routledge) is available at Amazon and booksellers everywhere. In it, she showcases 25 entrepreneurs and their business lessons as well as takes readers through the journey of how to set up self-employment and how to market oneself and then expand one's business with the time comes.
Where is your business located?
Long Beach, California (though I own part of a publishing company in Arizona)
Where did the idea for your business come from?
For each of my businesses, I saw what I thought was a need that wasn't being fulfilled and thought of creative ways to fill that need or serve those people.
For example, I co-authored two books on how to assess artistic disciplines (fine and performing arts, design, music, etc.) because at the time there was nothing on that subject and yet professors worldwide were being asked to do assessment activities and to explain the results to their colleagues, parents, accreditors, etc. That is also how I built my consulting business in that area: no one else was doing it at the time so I developed ways to make it easier and friendlier for overworked arts professors and professionals.
For Women's Wellness Weekends, I looked at my own life and the hours I put in and the self-care I didn't do enough of. I looked at my friends' lives and they looked similar. I realized we all needed time for ourselves to rest, reboot, and have fun in a positive, encouraging sisterhood...and that's how the company was born.
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Greet the day and declare a blessing over it and say thanksgivings for the all of the opportunities that will come my way that day. Then, I read e-mail on my phone before I even get out of bed.
What does your work day look like and how do you maximize your productivity?
My work day is rarely set beyond a meeting or two, as I want to leave plenty of space for opportunities that present themselves. The things that are static: walk the dog in the morning, after lunch, and after supper, which gives us both exercise and gets me off the chair and away from the computer.
Some days, when I have writing deadlines, I may be sitting and typing for an hour or four at a time. Other days I may be on Skype, FaceTime or the phone (and occasionally in person) with a client whom I am coaching through the book writing process or discussing a marketing strategy with, or inviting to speak at an event.
And once per week, I take at least an hour out of a day to work on a painting. I sell some products (t-shirts, mugs, phone covers, etc.) developed from my artwork and photography on RedBubble, and I believe the key to success there and on Shutterstock, which also sells my photos, is to add new merchandise once per week so I try to do that consistently, even if it is only one new piece that week.
To maximize productivity, especially if I'm writing or coaching a client, I keep my phone either face down or away from me so I am not tempted to respond to every text and message as they come in. (It's so easy to get sidetracked by them.) I also schedule the things I need the most brain power for in the morning since I am morning person and mornings in our household often start early (like 4-5 a.m.) I save things like reading business books, listening to business related podcasts, and things that don't take as much creative mental energy for later in the afternoon.
How do you bring your great business ideas to the world to serve your clients?
Updating websites with frequent blogging and wins. And sharing those to social media channels.
Posting on LinkedIn. I used to write weekly for LinkedIn Pulse but now I write posts only when I have something important to say or announce.
Women's Wellness Weekends has a FB page that gets updates with all of our news.
What is one trend in business that excites you?
I see women coming together in more solidarity right now and that really excites me. In the business books for women I co-authored more than a decade ago, research showed that women saw each other as competition and threats, but I believe now as part of the metoo movement and strides we've made in business, we are now realizing the power of supporting one another, cheering each other on and that there's plenty for everyone (abundance vs. scarcity mindsets). And these things excite me as we need lots of love in the world, even in business.
What is one strategy that helped you grow your business?
Being open to, expecting and reaching out for opportunities is maybe a mindset more than a strategy but it has helped me work with all kinds of people and companies, from nonprofits who help survivors of sexual assault to equine-assisted therapists to new entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry to women in tech. I actively look at ways to collaborate with people, and because of that I'm also members of many online, seemingly disparate groups (women, writers, females in tech or health, design education, etc.) on LinkedIn and FB.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure I had was related to a business that originally my parents invested in and I saw it was headed south and got involved to try to save my parents' investment. I ended up with the title of CEO and an investment of my own in the six-figures trying to get the company straightened out, but the company's founder ended up swindling everyone.
The lessons I learned through that were:
1) don't make business decisions, especially at that cost, based on emotional decisions;
2) really know the people you are in business with;
3) never just take people's words for it when you're dealing with patents and lawyers.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to this community?
One thing I will give anyone in this community is a free 30-minute consultation to anyone thinking of writing a book.
One business idea I'd love to see someone implement, or I'd love to partner with someone on: I recently listened to a homeless man who was in a laundromat say that someone stole a few of his items from the dryer. Why hasn't someone yet created laundromat washers and dryers that work like hotel room safes, where you can input your own four digit code and it locks until you enter the code again? I've done a web search and couldn't find any like this.
What is the best $100 you have recently spent? on What? Why?
My housekeeper charges $100 to come clean the house once per week, and that is the best $100 I spend every week. My grandmother taught me from the time I was young that if you don't care for doing something and someone else wants to do it and does it better, then pay that someone and spend your time on what you're passionate about.
My grandmother was an entrepreneur like I am. I'd rather spend my time working, writing, walking the dog, connecting with others, gardening, creating art, and traveling.
Reina is a rare person who is passionate about find crevices that need to be cleaned, windows to wash, and she loves to redecorate so she does a lot of that too. She takes such pride in her work and we take such pride in her and consider her a very valued member in the functioning of our household and family.
What is one piece of software or app that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
In the productivity apps on my phone I have Momento, which is a kind of timeline notepad. Every day I write down the blessings I encounter and I have them dating back years. They remind me to be grateful for every moment. Also, every check I receive or payment of any invoice goes in there as a blessing too before it gets put into my accounting software.
I'm also a big fan of Google Drive and DropBox. Google Drive because I can send articles to my editors through it and photos too. DropBox because it is easy to transfer book files that way. But I do not like DropBox for photos since it compresses images.
What is the best business book you have read? Why?
I'm currently reading Michael Port's Book Yourself Solid...but the verdict is still out on if it is the best business book.
I loved The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John D. Mann. It isn't very long and is a parable, but it taught me what over giving is and why it isn't good (I used to over-give constantly and wasn't so open to receiving) and encouraged me to think of little ways I could set my businesses apart from others and show gratitude and so I incorporated those into all of my businesses.
For example, I now send a yearly gift to the tenants in my rental properties to let them I appreciate them living in my houses, even though I have never met them.
What is your favorite quote?
"When you do things from your soul, you feel a river of joy within you"--Rumi
Who inspires you in business and why?
Sir Richard Branson. He's a visionary, passionate about work and life, creative and full of charisma. He's been willing to take risks and to learn from others and still puts his own spin on things.
What are your thoughts on work-life balance?
Work-Life Balance is not a metric that should be prescribed from the outside, it should be determined by the work you are doing, with whom you are doing it, and how you feel about it.
If you're doing only work that feeds and fuels your soul, energy, and passions that it doesn't feel like work at all; it feels like living a full life.
But if you have even one client or customer or employee that drains your energy, then you really need to time away to recharge, come to a Women's Wellness Weekends event, take a walk in the woods or in some fresh air, visit the ocean or get pampered at a spa.
What are the 3 business lessons you’ve learned so far?
1) Don't work for free unless it is one or two temporary pro bono cases per year. (Goes back to that yin and yang of giving and receiving comment earlier)
2) Everything is a learning experience, regardless if it is a success, a failure or somewhere in between. Every encounter, every activity can be approached with this mindset.
3) Opportunities for our next idea, next project, next partner are everywhere. We only notice them when we stay open and are willing to be curious.
What is your workspace like?
In our home office, I have a teal blue desk and a Tiffany style peacock lamp on it where my teeny (11 inch laptop) sits (The colors make me happy). One pile of papers, folders for each chapter of a new book I'm working on, sit to my right. Huge floor to ceiling windows are in front of me and those look to the side yard fence where there is a copper verdigris Thai buddha against a bamboo backdrop and a royal blue ceramic birdbath/fountain and three hydrangea plants. Bookshelves are to my left and printers are on the far right way. My husband's desk and desktop computer is behind me and it has a big monitor, so sometimes I work on it instead.
All that said, I also take phone calls and meetings in our backyard and I write from there too, as it is full of growing veggies and grape vines and singing birds and chirping squirrels.
Last thing you do at the end of your work day?
Make sure all e-mails that arrived overnight and throughout the day have been answered, even if it's just a "I have received this and will get back to by X date/time."
I also look at my calendar to see what might be on the next day's agenda.
What is the one thing you can't leave home without?
And if the dog has his way, I'd never leave home without him. (He does come to many offsite meetings with me.)
What superpower would you love to have to use for good?
To be able to understand and speak every language. Wouldn't that be awesome?
Number of unread emails right now?
Anything else you want to add?
I'm grateful for this opportunity to connect with your network, Debbie.
How can other entrepreneurs connect with you?
If you are reading this and are interested in being featured in the Truth Telling from the Trenches series - apply here.