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Episode 23 - Exploring a New Creative Path in Lockdown

With Vicki Nicolson

Woohoo, we are back this week with our 4th episode of the guest series. In this episode, I have the pleasure of chatting to the awesome Vicki, a Graphic Designer and Contemporary Romance Author:

Vicki Nicolson is graphic designer specialising in branding and creating card decks for women business owners. Vicki also recently wrote her first contemporary romance novel over lockdown and launched her romance author brand, VH Nicolson. She is now completely smitten with writing love stories with happily ever afters. Vicki was born and raised along the breathtaking coastline in North East Fife in Scotland. For more than two decades she’s worked throughout the UK and abroad within the creative marketing and design industry, as a branding strategist and stylist, editor of a magazine and sub-editor of a newspaper. Married to her soul mate, they have one son. She has a weakness for buying too many quirky sparkly jumpers, eating Belgium buns, and walking the endless beaches that surround her beautiful Scottish hometown she’s now moved back to where she runs both her graphic design business and author brand.

I absolutely loved hearing about how Vicki made her transition to becoming an author, whilst at the same time using her graphic design and marketing skills to her advantage as she navigated through this process! Her story inspired me so much to think bigger about my creative passions.

Episode Transcript

Right. Hello, everyone. So we have Dora Florence on the show and she is the mental millionaire. I'm so excited to have you on the show. Hello, Dora!

Hi, Charlotte, thank you for having me. It's an absolute pleasure to be here.

I'm so excited to hear more about your story. And so I guess we'll just kind of cut to the chase and get started. Why not? Okay, so my first question for you, Dora is like, tell me a bit about your creative background. And like, what what did it look like in the earliest stages?

Okay. I've always loved trying to be creative. Growing up, I tried many variations of what I thought was creativity, like traditional creativity, or shall we say, painting, drawing, being good at art school, but I was absolutely rubbish. Honestly, and even the more expressive creativity, things like drama and singing, I did try when my confidence allowed. But I was so self conscious that I couldn't put my all into it. And I was equally as shocking that if you ask my daughter or my angelic daughter, she'll probably tell you that I'm a lovely singer. But she is biassed, of course. I was quite studious child. And I loved that like science, maths, Spanish. And I was encouraged to take a much more corporate career path because of that. And I never questioned that all my creativity. So I was quite fortunate to have a successful corporate career in finance, which does require a little creativity if you want to plus to be five, but not the creativity that I felt was locked deep within me just kind of waiting for me to discover it. So I guess in answer the question, what I'm saying here is definitely not describe myself as a creative in my earlier years, I was viewing creativity through a fixed, predetermined perspective of what creativity was, which is a bit ironic, because creativity is about being unique and doing what makes you happy and expressing yourself. Right?

Exactly. Yeah, I just love what you say that about how you didn't actually view yourself as a creative person. And like, that is so huge, because I think a lot of us do think we're not creative, because we don't fit into that kind of box of painting, or, you know, very cliche ways of being creative. And for ages, I didn't think I was a creative person, either. So I started writing my blog, and you know, all of these other things. And it turns out, you can be creative in so many different ways. So I just love that you picked up on that point? Because that is so like, everyone needs to hear that. Basically, yeah. It's always

in within every one of us. I truly believe creativity is within you. You just have to find it.

Oh, yeah, definitely. Um, it's all about just connecting with yourself and kind of taking the time to stop and really just delve into what inspires you. What brings you joy. Like all these other things that you could associate with creativity, like, it's just about going on that journey, I think, you know, a lot of those things, you just kind of know straight away what your creative passion is. And I'm all about finding your creative passion, like inside the creative goddess club, but actually, it's a process and it's not something you're going to find out straight away, unfortunately. But it's actually a really fun journey, too. So, yeah, love that you said. Um, yeah. So, so he didn't consider yourself to be very creative. And you went on this kind of corporate journey that I know a lot of us can relate to. And, you know, I did the same I, pursued a profession that I thought was like, sort of sensible for me, and it would give me the stability that I needed. And I think that's that's a story for most would you say that was the the kind of the reasoning behind it.

So yeah, it's the same. So I was I liked maths at school. I had a teacher that asked me one day what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I can't remember what I said, Now, maybe an air hostess, I think, and they said, Have you ever thought about becoming an accountant? And I said, What's that? And it went from there and never looked back. So I did a degree in accounting. I then went on and did sort of an extra three years of training and became satisfied accountant just never really asked their questions. Doing anything else.

Yeah, well, that's it. And there's nothing wrong with doing that at all. And, you know, obviously, like, you're very good at your job, you've been successful in that field. But I think sometimes we kind of tied ourselves down to that field, but we've become so involved in and we think that that is kind of almost our identity, we'll go around meeting people, and it's always like, so what do you do? And it's like, I read something. I'm actually a few months ago, where it was like, people always ask what you do, but they never asked you if you're happy. And I was like, so true. I was like, Oh, my God, that is so true.


It's definitely true. I mean, having a profession, it does become your identity in some way. And I know, for me, it definitely did. And I felt like if I stripped away that corporate identity, who was the real me, like, who was left? It's quite a scary thing to do, actually.

Oh, definitely. It's absolutely terrifying. Especially when people you know, in your circles, you know, those people that you've grown to know so well, even your friends, like, they've probably done something very similar. And that's all you know, really, that's, that's what you've done. And that's all you know. So to break away from that is a really scary thing to do. Because it's the unknown, it's completely out of our comfort zone, we're not going to be necessarily speaking to those people anymore. If you if you break away from that role, like I did, I lost a few contacts, you know, people don't really understand what you're doing. So they kind of don't really feel like they have anything in common with you anymore sometimes, because that was the thing you did have in common. And I think it's that mindset as well, like with my friends, you know, they still, some of them have the mindset of like having a profession. A career was like an identity. And to me, like, I don't believe in that anymore. So it's like having those different views. Yeah.

It's a freeing feeling when you don't have to be associated with that identity anymore. You can create your own identity.

Yeah, exactly. It's, yeah, it's all about creating your own identity. And the identity of yours doesn't have to just be one thing. That's what I love, you can actually be a whole different, like range of things. You can be whoever you want to be. I know it sounds cliche, but it's so true. And for years, I just thought, well, that's just a saying, you know, you can be whoever you want to be, I can't be who I want to be, I have to be this nine to five corporate worker, you know, and I don't feel like I really have any time time to be anything else. You know, I think a lot of us feel like that, too. And yeah, it's such a huge thing, like breaking away from the identity of like, the corporate wells. So yeah, such a brave thing to do. And so I know that you started doing business recently.

I did, yes, it was kind of a journey. So my corporate career has served me very well, as we've just said, you know, having having that sort of professional background has, has been hugely useful to me. But it's a very demanding industry, finance, and there was very little downtime for me. And over a year ago, now, I was dealing with some pretty awful life situations. And I started talking therapy. To help clear my mind. I took some time out from my career, which was a really difficult decision to focus on my own inner healing. And it was during that period of time, when my mind was allowed to slow down, and I started to explore my creativity. I really struggled at first to switch off from work mode, you know, I've been in the corporate world on like, all of my working life really like 20 years or so. And my analytical brain was just ticking. And I distracted myself at first with things just so I could keep busy. Which, of course did me no favours and I was putting off the inevitable which was emotional and physical exhaustion. Basically, I had nothing left in the tank to give I just needed to crash and burn to fully feel my pain in order to heal. And they do say that, you know, we need to feel to heal which is saying that and I love that it wasn't as if I had not heard all of the self healing talk and the help that people have offered me a it just kind of went over my head. It didn't apply to me, I thought, and then it was only when I was at my really lowest knew that only I could get my myself out of the hole, that I worked really hard to establish a positive self care routine a morning routine for me because I'm a morning person. And as part of that, I started writing, just to help me process my emotions. And I've really enjoyed it. I as you said, Charlotte, you started your blog in them. It's kind of where it came from. And it wasn't just for the healing aspects which I can 100% recommend if anyone is needing support with healing writing was was amazing for me, but also for the creative outlet it gave me It led to me writing a book, which I never thought I would ever do. And I designed a whole load of journals and planners, my own self healing process, I remember just ideas flowing out of me. I couldn't stop. I didn't want to stop. I loved it. I had an appendix at the back of my notebook, and I used to list out all of my ideas. And I tried every single one of them, I created all of these planners, until I found what works for me, that got me back on track. And looking back now I think it's clear to see that that is where my creativity came from. It came from having that time to kind of feel that energy, that creative energy within me and then letting it come out as it needed to. Yeah, it kind of makes sense though, come on massive stationary. tonnes of book planners that I've acquired over the years, and I just don't write in them because they're too pretty soon.

I'm the same. I'm the same. Oh, any stationery addicts out there. Like, please let me know like tag this episode on your stories because, like, I'm obsessed. I love highlighter pens. I love gel pens, like I love stickers. Paperchase. Actually my favourite shop, I was really upset with some shops closed down near me. But um, yeah, I love what you say about how, like you took that time out. And it actually really helps you to start healing. And, and you gradually kind of got that creative inspiration from that time. And I know you say you kind of look back on it. And that's how you see it happening throughout that time. But I think it's so true. But like, when I took time out, like from my job, like, close to when I ended up leaving, I realised that I just hadn't given myself the space and the time to actually, like, be inspired, like, allow myself to be inspired by what was around me, and by the opportunities in life, basically. And with that came the creativity as well. But I think a lot of us don't give ourselves the time and space to do we it's something that's quite hard to do, because because that would require slowing down. And we're not good at slowing down.

Is something we fight against. I know I did for a very long time. Yeah. But the thing is, I think if you fight it for too long, your body eventually will catch up with you and tell you that you have to slow down.

Yeah, that's the thing. It comes to a head sometimes isn't that way. It's like, like I was saying before I could relate to it so much where you said that the whole self love and self care thing. You didn't think it applies to you. And that's something that I had in my head as well. I didn't think that. That was for me. Like I didn't give myself the permission to give myself that for some reason. I thought it was just for other people. And I didn't know what it looked like either. And I thought it had to be a certain thing. Like, it has to be journaling or it has to be going on a walk or something. I didn't know what it was for me. And I think that's really hard. For some people. It's like what counts as self care what counts as self? Like, what does it look like for you? Was it the whole like pricing therapy? Is there anything else?

So true. So true. It took me an age to work out because I was the same I did not believe it was for me. And I think there's something in the corporate world that presents itself as a sign of weakness, perhaps, if you need time for self care, you know, it's a fast paced environment and we should be able to cope with it and we'll talk about resilience, but not really how to build that inner resilience and yeah, for me, it involved yoga, meditation, being in nature, I am a massive fan of the East Yorkshire coastline. So being on a beach taking in the sound of the waves, or fight trying to find a waterfall and going for a walk, you know, those sort of things are really just helped restore my balance with nurture, and writing of course writing.

Yeah, yeah, the writing Like sounds so transformative. And it's definitely something I feel like I really want to get into more because I've heard it can make such a huge difference. Just putting all your thoughts and feelings down on paper. I've heard that it just kind of it. It almost lifts all of that struggle kind of off you and you feel like do you feel lighter? When you do it?

Definitely. Yeah. They say like a problem shared is a problem haft. And I'd had, I don't know, maybe something like 30 counselling sessions over the course of, you know, a year and a half or so leading up to this point when I started writing. And they had been immensely helpful. But I still hadn't really got that final closure. And I just found for me that writing the ink, leaving the pen, and being left on that paper was like, the energy flowing out of me. All the all the past trauma, and whatever was in my head was now out, physically into the world. And with that comes a certain sense of relief. Yeah, and I did feel lighter. I mean, some people, I guess, would burn those pages. But I've kept them on I put them in a book.

Yeah, well, exactly. I mean, unless that's such a great thing to do. It's a very brave thing to do, actually. Because it must be really hard looking back on what you've written. Because if you're going through a period of trauma, that's almost like bringing it back, I guess, if you're, if you're reading back on those feelings that you had at that time.


But I'm so excited to hear about your book. Like it sounds. I mean, it sounds amazing. Can you reveal much about your book at this point?

It is so exciting. It's not released yet. At the present time of recording this podcast, it is with the publishers. I am hoping to have a book cover released to me next week. I've called it I don't know if I'm allowed to swear on this podcast. You can go for it. But this is perfect. So my book is titled losing my shit to find myself. My burn after writing morning journal to healing. I'm awful actually that isn't it?

Yeah, but so like, just so energetic, like the words that you've used there? I really like that. It's got a lot of feeling in it. Um, yeah, I really like him. So excited. You gonna be such a good read. I just know.

I'll be sure to send you a signed copy.

Oh, fantastic. I feel so privileged, published author. Wow.

I know, scary.


Yes. I'm sure it's scary. And I'm sure, like a lot of feelings kind of came up when you were writing it when you were kind of going through the whole publishing process. But, you know, it's such a huge, huge achievement, and it's gonna impact a lot of people, I'm sure, including myself when I get around to reading it. So yeah, I'll be including the link to the book in the show notes, of course. So the lovely, lovely listeners can access it as easily as possible. And, you know, just get all of that goodness that you've included in it. So yeah, so. Um, yeah. So I just wanted to also like, turn to, like, Do you have any, like actionable steps for new business women who feel kind of overwhelmed by the financial side of business, and don't know where to start? Is there a way that they can tackle it in a more manageable way? Basically, because I know that I was definitely one of those women in my business.

Yes, for sure. I mean, in the early stages of my business, if you could even call it a business at all. I designed spreadsheets to support entrepreneurs with their finances, it was part of my distraction process, I was clinging on to my analytical side, and putting it to use for the people. And I knew I wanted to help people who were going through a difficult time or a transition, not necessarily the same difficulties that I was dealing with as recovering from childhood trauma, because that's not my speciality. But I knew I wanted to help people. And it gave me a focus. And it helped me to have a sense of purpose. So I loved the connection I felt when I was speaking to others about their troubles and being able to offer up my experience, both in terms of self care and wealth creation. So I didn't know it then. But that was the start of my entrepreneurial journey, basically. And it's pivoted so much since then. If I start to think about entrepreneurship differently, what if there was a better away, what if you could have more time for self care whilst investing your money more wisely. And so my mission was born like to show other people how to live a life that's not dependent on a paycheck, but instead rests on sustainable passive income streams that will allow you to take care of yourself mentally and physically, without having to endure the corporate rat race or without having to work all the hours that God sends, just to make a living. And I think having my own mental health struggles made me realise that your health really is your true wealth. And that has now become sort of my business slogan. And I feel as though it's like I've been reborn. And I know we've said the word cliche a few times today, but I feel like I am here to tell my story and empower others who find themselves at a crossroad in life, shall we say, and they need to just take stock of their financial and mental situation. And I want to support them to make positive changes in their life. So that they can build passive income streams and have more, more time for self care and ultimately, freedom. So for me, if you've tips for new entrepreneurs would be to try and get that work life balance and not put, you know too much into chasing after the dollars, so to speak, because ultimately, you did this to come to a better point in life? And the question you shall what's really good about finances, for new entrepreneurs, and how we can help ourselves not be so overwhelmed. I've met a lot of people doing what I do, and it is overwhelming. And let's be honest, intimidating finance, and there's so many hats to wear. As an entrepreneur, that it's, it's really quite daunting. And I've found it daunting. But it doesn't really matter if if you're just starting out, or if you've been in business for years, having that good financial education is necessary to speak sharp. But it doesn't really matter if you're just starting out or have been in business. For years, having a good financial foundation is a necessity for survival. And it doesn't mean you need to have an MBA or a maths degree. There's a saying that says cash is king. And it's so true. Like cash is the lifeblood of your business. And without it, your business can't live. They also say where focus goes money flows, which is a big a big say. Proud of I would say cashflow management is one of the most important things for any business owner to focus on. And it should always be at the front of your mind. So I do have a few simple steps I can talk you through if you like that. I would encourage people to follow in early entrepreneurship.


Yeah, I'd love to hear hear more about that. Yeah.


Okay. Um, so the first thing I would have to say is to pay attention to your cash and acknowledge your present situation. So it doesn't need to be a fancy spreadsheet, you can use a notepad if you wish. But the key is to document in your current situation. And you must learn to track your income and your outgoing over a period of time, in order to spot cycles and trends are times when cash is particularly tight. So the first step I would say is acknowledge. All right, thank you. Second step, the second step would be using that knowledge. So you need to make a plan. And accountants will use fancy words. So we would probably call that a cash flow forecast. But really all it is, is you learning on what you've done in step one, and you build out a future projection of when you think he cash will come in. And when you think cash will go out and look at the shortfalls, you know, is there any timing differences here. So if you're still receiving a corporate salary, for example, or if you have a membership style subscription service, trying to line your income, so it all comes in at the beginning of the month, and then line upon your payments so they come out just after and that can really help you get visibility over what you've got left in the bank for the rest of the month. It's kind of it kind of is very important to understand your minimum cash flow requirement at any one time as well. So if you know how much you need on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to stay afloat, you can use that to your advantage to make sure you don't end up in a negative cash flow situation or to help drive you forward in terms of building up business and creating income and Lastly, I would say try and make it easy for money to flow to you. So send invoices up from, don't have protracted payment terms, automate as much of your sales process as you possibly can. And try and encourage people to have regular payment plans with you where possible. So if you have a high ticket coaching programme, offer a three month staged payment plan and get them signed up, it helps you have that predictability in your income as well. So plan, review, take action, in summary,

I do love a good three step process for sure. And it's it's something I just, it just makes a lot of sense to me to have like a good a good, you know, easy process to follow. And, yeah, I love what you say there about putting your your like income, kind of a big beginning of the month and then having like all the outgoings after that because I think sometimes we're all like, oh, which day does this this expense go out? And this you know, and it's it can get confusing. So I think like, it's good to just have it all kind of mapped out. So it's easy for you to understand and easy to read. And you're not kind of getting confused. And then like you say, with the payment plans, I think that's huge as well, because I think sometimes like Payment plans are seen as like, maybe more of a negative thing, because it's like, oh, you know, you're not being paid all the money up front. But really, it's actually good to have that consistent income coming into the business, and just ensuring you have that cash flow to like keep afloat in the long term as well. So yeah, some really, really good advice. Thank you so much. And welcome. I'm sure you know, everyone be paying attention, like because I think it's all well and good. Like on this podcast, I talk a lot about creativity, like intuition, and all of these things. But it's also very good to have these practical steps. You know, at the end of the day, business is business. And you know, there are finances involved and things that we kind of need to keep on top of. So this isn't a topic I've really talked about so far. And it's something that is obviously like, huge in any kind of business. But obviously in a creative business. We're busy creating, you know, behind the scenes a lot. And I guess sometimes it can be hard to keep on top of the financial side, or maybe it doesn't really appeal to us. Because it's not seen as very, you know, exciting or like, you know,

it's not sexy or exciting. To talk about boring statistics, it's like more than 50% of UK businesses go bust every year just due to cashflow problems, right. So if it's something that as a creative, you know, we're probably less inclined to be interested in, then you can always outsource it, you know, you know, you've done your thing, you can get a bookkeeper or you know, come speak to me, I can give you some hints and tips as to where you can go to help with that software and things to make it easier. But just making sure that you've got a plan of sorts, I'm not saying you have to do it yourself. But just make sure you're mindful of it. Otherwise, it soon catches up with you. Yeah. Yeah.

Great advice. Great advice. Are there any particular like services like products, you're offering your business that you want to like, just tell the listeners about how they can kind of

Yeah, you can work with me in a couple of ways at the moment, actually. So I have mental health and financial mentorship, coaching. I currently offer three months or six months packages, and a bi annual mastermind. So we would cover a one to one session in which was kind of deep dive into your business and what your goals are, what you find difficult with finance, where you need to help basically and then we'll we'll tailor everything to you. So it's not a one product fits all kind of thing because finance is unique to your situation. And we cover everything from understanding the basics of bookkeeping to working out which ones of your products or services are the most profitable way should focus your time. For service based businesses. I also offer a service where I will be like the in house finance guru so I can do coaching within your business to help your members understand their finances better. And cash flow management is a massive, massive piece. So anything sort of business finance related.

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