Even the most passionate solopreneurs among us can get to a point where our energy is depleted and we need a break from it all. Today’s guest admits to being the Queen of Burnout, working so hard for her clients that she forgets to give herself a break.

Based in beautiful Knysna, South Africa, Carol Hampshire is a brand designer and business strategist with twenty years of experience running her own studio, Red Hot Designs. She added business mentoring to her resume ten years ago, with the intention of helping female entrepreneurs who are coaches, creatives and wellness consultants work smarter and play harder.

Two years ago, Carol hit a wall. She had taken on too much, she was losing her joy, and she could no longer deliver her best work. After a week away from her desk on a sailing trip to Turkey, Carol realized that she needed to create a business around her life, not vice versa. Today she shares her best advice on avoiding burnout, connecting with clients in the onboarding process, and allocating time away from the computer. Listen to understand why Carol makes it a point to learn what drives her clients and how to shift your business model as the need arises.

Key Takeaways

Carol’s key to consistent success

  • Shift business model as environment, personal needs change

Signs of burnout

  • Up early, finish late
  • Race against clock
  • Loss of joy
  • Compromise quality of work

Carol’s tips to avoid burnout

  • Enlist accountability partner
  • Schedule time away from computer (e.g.: yoga class, walk dog, tea with friend)

Carol’s guidance around working with clients

  • Take time to get to know them as people
  • Connection eliminates confusion, brings out best work
  • ‘Take on clients you would spend the weekend with’

The questions Carol asks new clients in onboarding process

  • What is your core essence?
  • What is your message?
  • What motivated you to create the business?
  • What are your unique talents?
  • What makes you an authority in your field?
  • What drives you?

Carol’s biggest challenges as an entrepreneur

  • Allocating time to work on own business (update website, nurture Facebook group, ongoing marketing efforts)
  • Devoting time to professional development

Carol’s shift to working as coach/mentor

  • Came from within, passion to work with people
  • Desire to offer insight to emerging entrepreneurs




The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks PhD

Connect with Carol Hampshire

I am Carol Hampshire, a web designer + business mentor.

I am passionate about working with boss ladies who are coaches, creatives or wellness consultants who are ready to work smarter, grow quickly and play harder.

I’ve been running my own design business for 20 years and a coach for the last 10 years.

I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, in Knysna, South Africa.

In 2015 I experienced burnout after driving myself so hard, taking on too much and having no focus. It took a week away from my desk on a sailing trip to Turkey to make me realize how much life I’m missing out and how I needed to create a business around my lifestyle, not the other way around. This is my passion and I want to share it with the world.

I love all things ocean related. I am also a cold water open water swimmer and last year I completed the gruelling 8km swim from Robben Island in Cape Town South Africa. Yes there are sharks and millions of jellyfish in this area – this event is rated the 3rd hardest swim in the southern hemisphere.

I completed this because of this inspiring quote: “It always seems impossible until it is done” by Nelson Mandela


Full Transcript:

Laura Pennington (Host): Welcome back everybody to the Better Biz Academy Podcast. My guest today has a tremendous amount of experience as a freelancer and as a coach and she’s also done some really amazing things that we’re going to dig into. I’m talking today to Carol Hampshire, a web designer and business mentor. She is passionate about working with boss ladies who are coaches, creatives or wellness consultants who are ready to work smarter, grow quickly and play harder. She has been running her own design business for 20 years, she’s been a coach for the last 10 years and she lives in one of the most beautiful parts of the world in South Africa. In 2015, she experienced burnout after driving herself so hard, taking on too much and having no focus. It took a week away from her desk on a sailing trip to Turkey to help her realize how much she was missing out on and how she needed to create a business around her lifestyle, not the other way around, and that’s her passion and what she hopes to share with the world. She loves all things ocean related. She is a cold water, open water swimmer and last year, completed a gruelling 8 kilometers’ swim in South Africa with sharks and millions of jellyfish in the area. This event is rated the third hardest swim in the southern hemisphere and she said she completed it because of this inspiring quote by Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” Welcome to the show, Carol.

Carol Hampshire (Guest): Laura, thank you so much for having me.

Laura: I’m so excited to talk to you because, as you know, a lot of my audience are beginners or people who are in like the first year or two of their freelance business. So, I’d love to hear how you got started? How did you fall into this industry?

Carol: That’s a good question. I always wanted to work for myself so that was my plan from when I was very little. I had no idea how that came to me but it was kind of lodged in my brain that I wanted my own business and it had to be a graphic design business. So, what I did was I obviously worked a little bit – I’m sure that some of your audience are working now getting experience – and after a while, I think it was four years of working in various advertising agencies, I just knew that I couldn’t handle it anymore. I just wasn’t cut out for this kind of business. I’d learnt all I could and I kind of just jumped into working for myself. I had managed to find one client and on that basis, I just made the plunge. Now I just want to remind you that this was a long time ago. I was single, young, I didn’t have any kind of overheads and it was pretty easy for me to make that plunge. I really didn’t think of the consequences and I’m lucky that it worked out for me. Obviously, I worked hard at it, but I didn’t think too much. It was just a drive. I don’t know how to explain that. It really came from my heart and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.

Laura: Yeah that makes a lot of sense and it really resonates with me too because I know there’s a lot of people out there who have families, they have other obligations so it’s a little bit more difficult to make that jump into a freelance career or something that’s calling to you passionately when you have those other obligations. But there are so many opportunities available within and obviously, you’ve been able to replicate that success over so many different years, both as a designer as well as a coach. What do you think has been the key to being consistent with that success?

Carol: I think the key to that success has been the ability to kind of change your business model as well as times progress. Now it’s not easy to predict that but it’s important that your business needs to go through different stages and be aware of that. And also, at different times you might be changing your business model to suit different needs. So, for example, when I started out, I was literally taking on any kind of project I could just to get some income, obviously, and to get some experience. I would even get in my car and drive an hour to visit a client for some very very small job just because I was kind of pretty desperate – there’s no other word for it. And as I progressed in years, I obviously changed my model so that I would be taking on projects that were a little bit more – bigger projects. So, it could be a logo design or a brochure design and I stopped doing the smaller projects – if that makes sense. And that is the key, I think, to success is that you’ve got to keep on moving and changing with your environment and with your growing needs as well. Because as the older you get, the more you’re in business, your overheads are going to increase as well. It’s just part of life. So, you want to shift your mindset and your clients and your business model to fit around that.

Laura: And that’s really so hard to do because I feel like a lot of freelancers get in this mode of “hey I’m doing something, it’s working, I’m generating income even with all the problems that may be with it”. You’re working on those lower paying projects or you’re really going out of your way for a client who isn’t giving much ROI to you. How do you break free of that chain when you’re thinking, oh do I really want to stop doing something that is working even if it’s not 100% working or completely in alignment with me to do something else? Because I feel like being adaptable is so important as a business owner but how do you break through that when you’re in the midst of it?

Carol: I think you’ll find that what happens is that people will – there’ll be situations in your career when it’s not that easy. In other words, you go through tough times. So, what would that look like. So, for example, I’ve been through some of that in my life and in my career. There was one time about 10 years ago, when literally all of my clients dried out for some reason. So, again, I had to, I was forced to shift my business into looking for a new business model like almost adapt and die. So, I found in those moments that you really get clear on what you want to do and get an alignment, even more so than what you had been doing in the past. So, for example, you mentioned earlier when I went through that kind of burnout when I went to Turkey, I really had a chance to really think about what it is that I wanted to do. Is this how I wanted to carry on? Did I want something different in my life? And how could I do that? How could I make that possible?

Laura: Yeah, let’s dig into this whole idea of burnout because I think even with the best of intentions, it can happen to anyone and I don’t know if this has been your experience but it feels like it comes on like a freight train. You might know in the back of your mind, oh I’m doing too much, I’m tired, I’m not feeling that well anymore. But what are some of the other signs of burnout that you could recognize a little bit earlier before you hit that full-on experience of, wow I need to take a break and step away completely.

Carol: Laura, I think I am the burnout queen. I really think I can talk about this subject a lot because the thing is, I love what I do so much that it becomes – I’m completely focused with my work and I have a net of attracting clients, my ideal clients to me in abundance, which is fantastic, I’m not complaining. And at the same time, I don’t give myself the amount of balance between, life-work balance that I need to. I kind of just push ahead. And so, some of those symptoms would be just getting up really early in the morning, finishing late at night. Some other options would be, I’m just not feeling that joy anymore with the clients. I know I should be, the quality of the work kind of goes down a little bit as well. That’s also another sign that there’s burnout because I’m not giving my best. I literally can’t give my best because my best is just not good enough for what the project is needed versus if I had taken a holiday before or if I was having a life that’s more balanced, I would be able to give a lot better in my design work.

Laura: Yeah, that’s a good way to be able to identify some of those early symptoms where things are struggling. I noticed for me especially for me when I’m approaching burnout, it feels like you’re constantly racing against the clock. No matter what project you’re working on, it always seems like you’re brushing up against the deadline even if you didn’t intend to. It’s like you finish one thing and now this other thing needs your attention. And that can be really exhausting. So, one of things I’ve experienced and I know some other freelancers struggle with is we ebb and flow in this burnout, right? Like we approach it, we go through it, we take some time off, or we totally recalibrate and then we come back to business and ideally with a fresh perspective. But do you have any tips for not going back to the old bad habits that got you in the burnout situation in the first place?  

Carol: A good tip would be to get a coach. Or not even a coach, even it could be even a friend or someone who is an accountability partner. Someone who can check on you as well. It could be your partner at home. Because sometimes I know that I just get tunnel vision and I completely just become like, as you mentioned, like a freight train. It kind of starts and it just gains momentum and gains momentum but if there’s someone that you check in with – it could be a coach or mentor, your partner, a mastermind group, a small focused Facebook group, who can really check on and see what you are doing and make sure that you aren’t burning out. Another thing would be to schedule in time away from your computer. So, you’ve scheduled in how many holidays, how many breaks, you can schedule in the yoga class or the meditation class so that you have to go somewhere, someone is relying on you. Or if it’s gym or something or walk the dog. Just to get away from your desk and away from work so you want to – it’s not enough to get away from the desk, you want to completely empty your mind. And this is important because the fresher you are, the better quality work you can deliver to your clients.

Laura: I love that advice because sometimes we have to get around our own brain and find a way to make things happen so that we don’t slip back into the bad habits or the bad structure that we built up. I love the idea of stepping away from your computer. I’ve had a couple of other people talk about the value of having these appointments in your calendar which we are so much more likely to honor the time and that commitment to others than ourselves. But if you sign up for that yoga class that requires you to leave your house or you’re in a hiking group or it’s tea with a friend or whatever, that’s actually forcing you to leave the house, your work will expand to fill the time available. So, if you give yourself those self-imposed deadlines, it kind of forces you, okay I’m leaving the house at this time, I’m not going to be in front of my computer. But I imagine you have a lot of responsibilities, you’re managing a business – what are the time management tricks or boundaries that you’re making use of to ensure that you have enough time to get things done, that it’s done in a high quality way but so that you also have down time away from your computer and your job.

Carol: It’s a tough question because I’m still struggling with that, 20 years on, to be very honest with you. I use a lot of kind of – so for example, for time management or just project management, I use Trello which really is fantastic for me. There are so many other options you can use online but basically, it’s a way that I can manage my projects and see how long they’ll take and actually allocate times and dates for them. It’s important that if people are doing that and allocating – okay Wednesday you’re working on John’s project, Tuesday is Ruth’s project, for example – it’s important to make sure that you’ve actually allocated time as well. Like you said, schedule that yoga class, that hiking group so that those are almost structured first and then you can place your projects around that.

Laura: Yeah, absolutely. Make sure that you are planning things out and using some type of project management tool or software. I’d love to dig into your experience working with clients, whether it’s as a designer or as a coach, what do you think have been some of the obstacles that you’ve had to overcome or lessons that you’ve learned working with clients?

Carol: I think one of the biggest things with working with clients is really getting the time to actually get to know who they are. So, it was a big game change in my business when I decided that I’m not taking on any projects again until I speak to the client over Skype. I live in South Africa; a lot of my clients are all over the world and you’ll find that a lot of your listeners will also have that so it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re working for people locally. Your clients could be international. But ultimately, the biggest suggestion I can make is speak to your client; get to know why are they needing you? What is their dream? And really connect to that. So why are they creating this business? What is their motive? And I think as soon as you really get into that, their headspace, that project almost becomes a part of you. You take on their dream as well, and if you connect to that, it really brings out the best in you as well. And they wanted the kind of work that you produce for them. So also, have a less chance of kind of missing their brief. I think it’s every designer has had that experience where you’ve been given a brief by a client and sometimes you completely miss the mark and you haven’t done what they’ve wanted. Just because you haven’t been able to connect to them. So, this minimizes that completely. You can really have a good chat with them, go over the project requirements, and get to know them as people, not just clients but real people. And another big tip that I can give you is that someone mentioned a while ago – I can’t remember where I got this from – but they said, take home clients that you would spend the weekend with. Now, in other words, do you like this client enough to actually spend time with them away from your project? And that’s a big one. So, I found that the kind of – as soon as I shifted that in my head, I really was attracting clients that I would hang out with. There’s no other – I would hang out with them as people because they are such – we’re such an alignment on who we are as people. Doesn’t mean that you have to become best friends with them but certainly you like them very much as people. And that helps the process and the project run very smoothly and it becomes an amazing success.  

Laura: Yeah, I love that and it’s been really important to me as well to get my clients on the phone wherever possible, even if it’s just for 5 to 10 minutes. We live in a digital society where we’re kind of heading towards acting like everything can be done over email and online messengers but really getting to hear somebody’s voice, ask questions upfront at the beginning of the project, it helps show the client that you care about what you’re building or creating for them but it also eliminates confusion because nobody wants to be in that position of doing all this work and then having the client come back to you and say, yeah this wasn’t what I was looking for at all. And then everybody is frustrated and the trust is kind of broken. So, I’d love to know your process of onboarding clients. What kind of information do you like to get to know from your clients before you even begin working on the scope of the project?

Carol: So, I ask them questions like – I sent through a questionnaire before I hop on Skype with them and the question is pretty standard. I think a lot of freelancers use the same ones. I ask questions along the lines of what is your core essence of – I do a lot of postal brands at the moment. So, what is your core essence? What kind of message do you want to send out to your potential clients? I ask questions like what motivated you to create this business? What special or unique talents do you have that gives you the authority to be able to be an expert in your field that clients will come to you and to use you? So, they’re slightly deeper question and you can really play with these. It’s a matter of just getting into what they are really – like I said, what really drives them. And it’s extremely beautiful to see people’s responses. And that I get a real kick out of doing this. I love seeing how people respond to those kinds of questions. Not just the “okay what is the name of the logo? What colors do you want? What fonts do you like?” That you have to do but there’s a little bit more personal – people get a sense that I really want to know who they are as people as well. Like I care about their business.

Laura: Right. You’re really going one step beyond that basic information that you need in order to be able to complete the job as the designer but also, you’re trying to learn more about their mission and who they are and why they created this company and continue to do it, and that sometimes even encourages your clients to take a step back and reconsider why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s sort of a good reminder of that messaging and branding that helped them start the business in the first place. So, what has been like the biggest obstacle that you have faced in your business so far? Aside from the burnout.

Carol: That’s a good question. I’m trying to think for a second. Yes, there is one that I do struggle with. And as business owners there are different facts that we have to, different roles we have to play. So, for example, we have to create designs and work with clients and create projects and designs for them. But my biggest obstacle is that I haven’t allocated enough time to actually work on my business. So, this is a huge lesson is that we always – like you mentioned earlier – put our clients before our own needs. And it’s very important to keep on working on your business. So, look at your website. Is your website up to date? Is it looking absolutely – when someone comes on there, are they excited to work with you? Have you got your latest work online? Are you nurturing – if you have a Facebook group, are you nurturing these people? How are you marketing, continuity marketing, your business? Even if you do have clients. So, that is the biggest obstacle. I just feel that I’ve given a lot of my time as allocated to client work but not so much being the entrepreneur and figuring out what are the next steps. Wat is my big dream? Maybe I want to create my own e-course, for example; busy creating retreat at the moment with four entrepreneurs. So, when you’re starting out, I think, allocate time to work on your own business so that you can keep on being the best that you can be. And also, another thing is learning. Allocate time to take those courses, keep on learning your skill, keep on polishing up your knowledge because things are always changing and you want to give your clients the absolute best that you can. 

Laura: Yeah, completely. You have to be able to adapt and change in your business whether it’s skills in particular that you’re going to be passing on as you do work for your clients or if you need to make changes in your individual business. So, you made a pretty big shift of going from primarily being a designer to working as a coach. What was kind of behind that shift and how did that transition work for you?

Carol: I’m still transitioning. So, I certainly do client work at the moment and I’m doing coaching and mentoring as well. And I feel that shift came from within. I feel that I have enough experience and knowledge in certain areas of my business and being a designer, that I want to share with people. Because the truth is that when I was starting out, I didn’t know there was such a thing as coaches or mentors and if they were, they were so expensive. So, I didn’t do that and I’m thinking, imagine if I could be – if I can help other people, me 10 years ago, and help them get to where I am, quicker. It took me 20 years to get here, what if it took me 3 years with the right mentor? And it’s very very possible. So, it came from, like I said, absolute passion of mine to work with people. I love it. It’s certainly where I want to see my business in the next couple of years.

Laura: That’s so exciting because I’m with you. I know when I got started, there really just wasn’t enough information out there and like you said, what was there was just so expensive and when you’re first starting your business, you just don’t have the money to pay somebody four figures to help you learn the ropes, especially if you’re not even sure yet whether it’s a fit for you. You’re not even sure if this is something you really want to do and you need that additional practice. But having the insight from somebody who’s done it for so long – my first writing mentor had been in the business for 20 years – and that’s why it seems like such a great transition and opportunity for you as well as for the people working with you as a coach because you have all that experience and it’s been over years and years and you know the highs and lows of owning a business and dealing with clients and delivering projects on time. So, I’m so excited for you because it just seems like it’s so needed, like I wish there were more people out there who were saying, hey, I’ve been there, I can help you navigate this, I can help you do it in less time and hopefully with less headaches than what I cost myself. That’s my same mentality too. I’m always telling writers like yes, you can absolutely go learn this on your own, however, it took me 3 years before I really had a rhythm in my business and I don’t want you to have to go through that or deal with the wrong clients. So, that’s just so interesting. As we wrap up, I’m wondering if there’s one resource like a book or a piece of advice someone gave you or something like that that’s really inspired you and helped you stay on track with your business.

Carol: I think it was a book called The Big Leap by Guy Hendrix.

Laura: Yes, that’s a great book.

Carol: And basically, the book is about finding your genius. And I thought I was a great designer – that’s my genius. And I’m sure a lot of your listeners are photographers, all sorts of designers, but the thing is this is that maybe your genius is slightly different to what you are supplying. So, I would think that my genius, for example, has really been able to intuitively know what a client is needing and be able to give that to them. Whether it’s design or whether it’s mentoring, whether I feel that they’re needing clarity, they know they’re feeling confused, I can support them that way and shifting my mindset to know that that is my zone of genius. That’s what I’m really good at and really utilizing that in my business. So, that book was really pivot in how I shifted my own business.

Laura: It’s such a great book and the other piece in that book that I really love – and I feel so many freelancers and solopreneurs are guilty of this – is how often we sabotage ourselves when we’ve achieved something that would otherwise be a measure of success but we kind of feel that we’re not worthy of it and so we come up with every reason why it’s not going to work or it’s not going to last or why you don’t deserve that. Whether it’s that big client you just landed or you had a banner year in terms of your revenue and profit and kind of busting through that, in order to actually appreciate those moments rather than like shutting them down and becoming focused on a problem. So, really luxuriating in that goal achievement. So, I strongly recommend that book. I’ve read it as well. Someone recommended it to me, she was in a coaching position and she said, you’ve got to read this book. She said, Laura you have this problem, you need to read this book and kind of confront those demons. Well, Carol, thank you so much for coming on the show. I know that other people can benefit a great deal from the years of experience you have and how successful you’ve been pivoting with different businesses and making them really work for you. So where can people go to learn more information about you?

Carol: My website is being developed at the moment. It’s carolhampshire.com and there, you can connect with me and learn about my mentoring package and see some of the designs I’ve done. Maybe think about that’s probably where you could be in a little while if you consider your listeners at the moment. And yeah, I appreciate you having me on this podcast to chat.

Laura: Absolutely. Again, thank you listeners for tuning in for another episode of Better Biz Academy. Remember, we have episodes coming out every week. Interviews with amazing and inspiring freelancers and entrepreneurs just like Carol, and be sure to check us out on iTunes or Stitcher Radio.

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