This week, I’m bringing you something extra-extra special. It’s one of the interviews I’m the proudest of because I had to put in a few more hours than usual to get it done (I’ll explain in a sec). This week, Jakolien Sok from The Fempreneur Collective is my guest. This is one BUSY lady. She’s got clients booked halfway through next year already, and she’s got huge plans for her side-project.
The side-project I’m talking about is The Fempreneur Collective. I chatted about that on the blog last week, where I tell you all about what’s going down in one of the fastest-growing communities I’ve seen. I’m involved in the crew, so #humblebrag.
More about this interview: I asked Jakolien a while back if I could feature her. She said yes, and proceeded to answer my questions in voice notes sent via Voxer. I downloaded and transcribed these messages to complete this interview and write the blog post. That’s how keen I am to share this lady’s brilliance with you. In case this information is not impressive enough, I’ll share some more context: transcription takes hours. And hours, and then more hours. I sat down for a few sessions of transcription amongst the client work that’s on my schedule. Jakolien is sharing gold here, and I didn’t want to exclude any of it, so I was a bit extra and transcribed more than necessary. You’re welcome.
I joke with Jakolien that she’s a diva. She knows that this is true, and she’s unapologetic about it. And I love that about her.
I’ll hand you over to Jakolien.
Q: Briefly tell us about your business journey. (What helped you decide to start your own business? What did you do before working for yourself?)
A: I’ve always wanted to become an entrepreneur ever since I can remember. I think that the main reason for this has always been my independence and my need for freedom. And although I have worked in corporate jobs for international businesses, I always felt that I was an entrepreneur within the jobs I had.
I graduated with a degree in organisational change management and I went on to hold jobs in that field in large international companies. Along the way marketing, PR and branding kind of found me in both companies as side projects and that is where the flame ignited. Another thing that was the same in both companies is that I had very independent positions and kinda was doing my own thing, successfully but with dwindling interest from my side. I have always been Miss Independent and that become even more important to me as I got a bit older.
So after 2 years at my last company, which was a Fortune 500, I decided to give up my promising career and ditto salary and quit my job. The funny part was that my manager Serge (yes he was French lol) who was one of the VP’s had talked about me leaving in the not too distant future with his girlfriend over dinner just the night before. Go figure! He really got me and what I wanted to do, as he had been an entrepreneur before he joined the company. And the really cool thing is that now, 9 years after I left for my entrepreneurial adventure, he has started his own consulting firm again #GoSerge and we’re still in touch. #EntrepreneursStickTogether
So basically, my reasons come down to my needing independence and freedom, I wanted to decide things for myself, and I need constant change and challenges and to keep learning. Being an entrepreneur gives me all of that and so much more!
Q: What was the process you followed when starting to set up your brand?
A: There wasn’t really a formal process. My credo is everything is figureoutable and even though I didn’t have a degree marketing or branding back when I started, I did have ample on-the-job experience during my previous positions. The focus of my business is on branding and marketing and I just jumped in feet first! I did, however, have a really big advantage right here at home… I happen to live with someone who is a marketing guru, and believe me I don’t use the word guru ever! He truly knows everything there is to know about marketing, #whichdrivesmebonkerssometimes 😉 he does have all the degrees and more and has held top-level marketing positions at large agencies and at the Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM). So I got on-the-job training again! He taught me a lot and I had – and still have – an insatiable hunger for learning and more knowledge, so I learned by doing.
Q: How do you manage your branding and make sure everything you do (from business cards, to packaging, to branding collateral) keeps in line with your brand?
A: As a marketing and branding expert, after 10 years of doing it every single day with success for ourselves and our clients, I have that pretty much down to the smallest details. I’ve learned exactly who I want to attract, what I want my visual identity to portray, which colours I like, the colours my clients or prospects resonate with and all.the.things.
I do however still do this exercise for new offerings or projects and then put it all in a brand board. You want to make sure that you always use the same brand colours. I always advise that you stick with 2 main brand colours and one accent colour. The same goes for typefaces. I see so many people having way too much fun with their fonts. They use 4 fonts in an image on social media, 6 fonts on their website. Choose 2, 3 max.
But the main reason that making these choices and being consistent is massively important is something that a lot of people do not seem to realise. When it comes to your brand identity, predictability and repetition are your friends! Because you want people to be able to recognise you in their feed wherever that feed might be. You want people to recognise the colour schemes that you use, the look and feel that you have in your visuals. Try and be unique. Branding is portraying your unique voice in the market – the special something that sets you apart – and your visual brand identity is part of that.
So if you’re using what everybody is using – the same photos and the same fonts – chances are that you’re not going to stand out in social media newsfeeds. Try to get your own signature look and feel. How you manage that is to just choose babe! Choose your colours. Choose your fonts. Choose a specific tone of voice for your visuals and your copy. Think about what you want to portray – do you want to be motivational, relaxed, energised? All these choices depend solely on your business. So make a decision and stick with it!
Q: How do you manage your social media commitments?
A: I’ve set up a system that works for me. Mind you, this is still evolving! I’m always making sure that I check if I need to fine-tune or change my processes for optimal results.
I have a content schedule, and I chose the social media platforms where my ideal client hangs out and where I like to be as well. To fill your content schedule, you need to know what you’re selling at any given time. You need to know who you’re talking to and what promotions you’re running. You need to know whether you have blog content to promote, videos, or any specific pieces of content that are being published on a regular basis. Then you need to schedule. Scheduling is what’s going to save your life. For social media, if you’re not consistent, then it is easy for people to forget about you because you’ll disappear and no longer be top of mind.
If you disappear for a few weeks, people will move on – it really is that harsh. That doesn’t mean that you have to publish everywhere every day. I scaled back on a few platforms, and haven’t seen any indication that it’s hurting my brand. I’ve upped the value of my content even more, and decreased the amount of posts. I’d rather have people post 3 times a week with something that’s really of value to their ideal clients and prospects, than just going through the motions of posting just to publish content 7 times a week. Going through the motions won’t express your unique voice, and people just really don’t care then about what you’re posting at all.
Make a selection on where you feel your ideal client is spending time online. Choose 1 platform, and get very good at that platform. Then if you need a bigger audience, then expand to another platform where your ideal clients are also hanging out.
How I manage my social content is by using a specific set of tools that I use to plan all my content. I do that with my project management tool, Trello. I have a project board in Trello where I plan all the things that I’m going to be doing. I don’t schedule in the whole year, although you certainly can and I know a lot of people who do that, that’s just not me. I schedule my main topics every quarter. So, for example, in The Fempreneur Collective, we have an expert class every month. In the week leading up to the class, I will heavily promote that on most of my social platforms. That means that one week out of the 4 weeks (in a month) is covered, so that’s a great start! Then you have to think about the repetition of topics that you cover: if you have a blog post that is published weekly, then you include that in your schedule. Think about themes that you’d like to cover, and whether you’d like inspirational content. Use that to guide your content creation process.
Figure out what your audience needs and where your strengths lie, and then give them high-quality content. If that’s 3 times a week, then that’s fine. It doesn’t have to be every day.
To summarise, plan your month’s content in advance, decide how many times you want to post, which platform(s) you’re posting on, which recurring topic or themes you post about, and make sure that you’re creating content in batches.
My tools of choice: I schedule Facebook posts natively (for both my page and my group), for Pinterest, I use Tailwind, and for Instagram, I use Later and Grum.
Q: How do you motivate yourself to keep going when your inner critic’s voice gets a bit too loud?
A: I am lucky enough that I don’t have a very loud inner critic. Never have. I’ve been blessed with a healthy dose of confidence and as such I don’t doubt myself that often. I’m a person who says “let’s go”, and I see where the chips fall. I totally resonate with that popular quote that an entrepreneur is someone who jumps of a cliff and then figures out how to build wings. That is SO me!
So, to answer your question, I don’t have to keep myself motivated because of doubts creeping in. It will however come up sometimes when I do something really bold and completely new, like start a new business, which I have done 4 times in the last 10 years. But it’s quickly put to rest because I have confidence in my abilities and in my vision and mission and feel that it will all be fine, and probably won’t work out as I plan it but that’s fine. I am a big believer in laissez-faire. What will be will be. I’ve had so many experiences that something turned out completely different and that turned out to be even better!
I do encounter motivation issues when I get bored #lol. Because I’m a multi-passionate entrepreneur, I need to have a lot of variety in my work. I’m not even kidding, I truly need to learn a lot of new things all.the.freaking.time. Also a main driver of my motivation is the bigger picture of what I’m doing which is to help other female entrepreneurs really thrive in their business and get to be happy in their lives because of it.
Q: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned since you started your business?
A: I’ve learned a few big lessons. The biggest one I would say is that change is good. That would be the overarching biggest thing. I love change, need change, adore change! When you’re an entrepreneur, everything is changing all the time, you need to innovate, you need to pivot, you need to go where your strengths are, you need to go where the market goes. You need to be changing, moving, evolving, getting better, doing things differently if things are not working, so change is a good thing. So my advice to fellow fempreneurs would be; don’t resist change, embrace it, have fun with it and enjoy the journey.
Chatting to Jakolien is always such fun, she’s wonderfully bubbly and goofy, and we get on really well because we’re both such nerds. I’m a huge fan of hers. I’m so proud to call her my friend.
Melissa De Klerk
Writer, Web Designer, Digital Media Strategist, Typophile, Inspiration Junkie, Yogi
Melissa is the owner and creative brain behind Fox & Owl Media. She loves creating content strategies and has considerable experience with Website Design and Brand Management.
You can contact her here, and find her on social media by clicking the links below.