Name of Business: Jessica Killingley Consulting – a publishing consultancy that helps coaches and consultants write game-changing books that turn readers into clients
The bks Agency – a literary agency I run with two business partners.
Your Name and Age: Jessica Killingley, 46
Tell us about your family (partner, children, ages, where you live etc: whatever you feel happy sharing)
I live in North London with my husband Ben, a medical consultant, my 7-year-old son Tom and a 5-month-old miniature dachshund called Elvis. I am from West London originally but spent my teenage years in Oxford, before coming back to the City – and a Londoner through and through!
What did you do before coming up with your business idea (previous career, stay at home mum etc) and how was it making the transition?
I spent 20 years working in the UK publishing industry, for a number of the ‘big name’ publishing houses. When I left I was a board-level marketing director. I’d got to a crossroads in both my personal and professional life. My son was due to start school and I was looking for what my next challenge was going to be at work, so I took that moment to think ‘what if I could work in a way that meant I had a better work/life balance and could be more available for my son’. At the time, the idea of launching a business just didn’t occur to me. It was something that ‘other people’ did. So, when I started, I thought I would help small businesses with their marketing. I’ve always believed in the power of coaching, so naturally I sought one out to help me work out how to get started. She was the one that said, ‘why don’t you help people write books?’ I was very resistant at first – after 20 years, I needed a break! But then after a couple of months, I realised that books are one of the constant joys of my life, and that this would allow me to bring in my other skills around marketing, coaching and business. So, the rest is history! And that coach? She became my first client when I started my Literary Agency and it was an incredibly proud day for both of us when her book was publishing in July of this year. (Noor Hibbert Just F*cking Do It, John Murray Press). Making the transition was – is – HARD. After a career in corporate, you literally have to unlearn everything and rebuild what you know on your entrepreneurial journey. Working on your personal development is key. You can have all the strategy in the world, but if you don’t have the right mindset, it’s very very hard to keep going, be successful and most importantly to enjoy it!
When did you launch?
I earned the first bit of money that didn’t come from a corporate paycheck in September 2017, so just over two years ago. It felt like a minor miracle.
How did you get started?
I started thinking that I was going to help small businesses with their marketing, and so my first entrepreneurial steps were in this direction. But as I got started, building my website, writing copy, showing up online, something just felt out of alignment for me. When I took the time to stop and think about what I *wanted* to be doing, not just what I thought I *should* be doing, I allowed myself to start to build something that was around books. There’s a massive amount of imposter syndrome when you start out, but the key is to just focus on the people you are helping. Shift the focus from you to them, and things get a lot easier. Coming from a place of service helped me get out of my own way. I started by doing 1:1 work, helping authors with marketing around launching their books, then I created an online course around planning your book, which has morphed into my big passion – my Rockstar Writers Academy, that takes people through the whole process from idea to publication – over the course of a year.
What research did you do before launching?
Weirdly lots and none. I’m a big believer (now) in getting help. I think women have a tendency to think they have to do everything on their own, that somehow having help is cheating. But I have had a number of brilliant business coaches along my journey. Getting help is an act of self-belief. If you think you can’t afford it, what you’re actually saying is that you don’t believe that you’re good enough to make it work. So, I did a lot of research into finding help, and I’m constantly being inspired by my unofficial mentors (who don’t know I exist). And of course, the most valuable research comes from talking to and most importantly listening to your clients. But in terms of discovering what other people like me were doing out there? Not really. Maybe just enough to know that there isn’t really anyone like me out there. There are lots of writing coaches -which is great – but I’m pretty unique to have had the experience that I’ve had in the publishing industry and combine that with business, marketing and coaching experience. I’ve come to realise that the Academy is a pretty unique proposition because it’s so much more than just writing a book.
How have you funded the business?
For my first coach, I took money out of savings. It’s scary, but you have to think of it as an investment in yourself, in your future. Since then, I’ve grown by making strategic decisions about how and where to reinvest into my business. From the outside it might look like I’ve grown quite quickly, but I’m very type A and want to do ALL the things, yesterday, so sometimes it feels frustratingly slow. The things that I’ve learned about money – it’s the elephant in the room. The intellectual, practical side of building a business is the most challenging fun you can have. What makes it stressful is when you have the pressure to be bringing in money. So, learning to manage that has been key, and it doesn’t every really go away because as the saying goes, new levels, new devils. But I’ve learned that making decisions based on money and having a scarcity mindset is a disaster. But it’s a constant work in progress to check myself on that.
How do you promote your business? What has worked best?
Predominantly Facebook and Instagram. I need to get on board with linked in more, but I always think I’m a bit to sweary and shambolic for that audience! Essentially with marketing you can either spend time or money and I think the best approach is a combination of the two, so in addition to paid advertising on Facebook, it’s about showing up regularly with great content and delivering great value to your audience so you grow organically. Word of mouth has probably been my biggest driver. I feel like most of the people in my Academy are my friends, but then I remember they became a friend after about 5 minutes of us chatting on a call. That feels like a pretty cool way to grow a business. Working with people who are writing a book is quite high-touch and I want to be able to provide people with the support and advice they need. I like to think I balance tough love with actual love. One of my Rockstars described my method as like having a whip in one hand and a chocolate bar in the other!
What has worked well about your business?
Being able to make more money than I even dared believe was possible when I first started whilst being able to do 90% of the school runs
What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?
Definitely the self-belief. Knowing that you are good enough, that you are able to help people, that you have a right to show up and help people and that the voices in your head that say, ‘who do you think you are?’ are entirely imaginary. I’ve dealt with it by tackling it head on, getting help, working with a brilliant mindset coach and being really intentional about working on my personal growth. I qualified as an NLP practitioner earlier this year and that’s taken things to another level. Going through Timeline Therapy as part of my training was game-changing.
How do you fit in work with the family?
Easily. I literally only work during school hours. I have become increasingly better at being disciplined and productive. I used to work in the evenings but rarely need to do that anymore. This summer I spent two and a half weeks in the US and didn’t need to work at all whilst I was away. But in the early days, I did work when I was away – just a little bit of time each day. My coach instilled in me the importance of momentum. When you’re just starting out, downing tools for two weeks can be a killer.
Have you got an exit strategy?
No! This IS my exit strategy! This and my literary agency are an absolute joy and I’m so grateful that this is what I do now. They both give me rewarding work and a flexible lifestyle, so I can’t imagine doing anything else!
What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?
Work out what brings you joy and then how you can align it with a really deep problem to solve for the people you enjoy working with the most. That sweet spot is your zone of genius and when you can get paid for working in that area, you are golden.
Your website link: www.JessicaKillingley.com
My Academy next opens in May 2020 and you can join the waitlist at bit.ly/RockstarWritersWaitlist