Michelle Ainslie – Business Advice from a South African Creative Business

Regular visitors to the Jamtin blog will recognize Michelle’s name from recent guest blogs she has done for us… Her latest blog post for us is contributing to our blogging series “Hearing from successful South African handmade businesses and why we should listen to them.”

Hope you enjoy and find much value in what Michelle has to share…

Michelle Ainslie is a creative entrepreneur coach, in the business of celebrating YOU!  Discover your unique purpose, create a meaningful life, use your ideas to make a difference in the world, and make a living by doing what you love.  Get connected and live your creative dream at www.michelleainslie.com

The makings of a soul biz 

I love my life.  I spend my days creating products, motivating my clients, writing, learning, walking the dogs, and having lunch under my big oak tree.

This is quite a different picture to the life I had just 6 months ago.  I was trapped in a job that I hated and literally had to drag myself to work every day.  I had to take lunch at a specific time in a little dark office kitchen and I only got to see my dogs in the evenings.  I had no time or inspiration to create, write or dream.  So I’d go to bed, depressed.  Only to wake up to the same day, all over again.

In March 2012 I’d had enough.  I was constantly sick, was an emotional wreck and knew that I couldn’t continue the way I was.  I had no money saved, had huge amounts of debt and was recently divorced.  In other words, I was very unprepared for the big leap into entrepreneurship.  But I knew I had no choice.  It was take the risk or forever live a life I hated.

So I quit my job and started my creative business from home in April 2012.

Initially I thought that starting a blog and creating a few online products would keep me afloat.  I soon realised that it took way more than determination and a dream to make a business work.  I had to think outside the box.

I needed to find creative ways of making an income.  I made the commitment to only do work that I loved, so saying yes to every freelance contract or opportunity wasn’t an option.  In retrospect, it would have made my life much easier financially, but I wasn’t about to create another J-O-B.  I wanted to create a lifestyle and source of income that I was passionate about.

I started asking my clients what they needed and wanted, as opposed to what I thought would sell.  I then tailor-made products based on what the market was looking for and what I enjoyed creating.  My sales picked up and I started making a profit.

Within just a few weeks I found that other creative entrepreneurs were seeking my advice.  They wanted to know how they too could break out of the 9-to-5 rut and make money doing what they loved.  That is when the coaching side of my business was born.

 The biggest challenges I’ve had to face are:

  • Making enough income to pay all my bills at the end of the month (I don’t have a rich hubby supporting me on the side)
  • Discipline.  It’s easy to justify giving myself a day off or waking up later in the mornings.  But running a business is hard work and putting in the long hours now will pay off in the long run.
  • Putting systems in place.  My weeks are planned in advance, my studio is organised and my filing is up to date.  This wasn’t always the case :)
  • Knowing when to let go.  Sometimes I have a really great idea that I think will sell like hot cakes.  When nobody bites, I need to accept that it isn’t working and move onto something else.  As an entrepreneur you have to continually be coming up with new ideas and be on the cutting edge of innovation in your field to stay ahead.


I’ve learnt that the number one non-negotiable when running a creative business is believing in yourself.  You need to know that you have everything that you need and that you can do it.  The moment I let self-doubt creep in my business would hit a hiccup.

Christopher Robin said it in a nutshell to Pooh:

Promise me you’ll always remember:

You’re braver than you believe,

and stronger than you seem,

and smarter than you think.”


I have found that connecting with others has been the lifeblood of my business.  I love meeting other creative entrepreneurs and sharing ideas, collaborating and inspiring one another.  Through my blog I have worked with the most amazing people and this has been the number one reason for my success.  My subscribers are the reason I am able to do what I do – so my number one piece of advice would be to get an email sign-up form on your website.

I market my products and services through my newsletter and by attending business breakfasts.  I also speak at events, write articles for magazines and guest blog for other websites.

My products are primarily digital and I sell them on my website.  I’ve tried to automate as much of the process as possible. Even my coaching is done via Skype, and I’m busy creating a self-coaching program that can bring in an income even when I’m asleep.

3 things to focus on when you start out:

  1. Know your customer.  Figure out who your ideal customer is (i.e. have a niche market in mind) and tailor-make your products for those specific needs.
  2. Marketing.  Your products can’t sell if nobody knows about you.  You need to get out there and tell the world about what you do.  Have an online and offline presence.
  3. Innovate, innovate, innovate.  The more different and unique you are the more you will stand out.  Don’t create what everybody else is creating.  Make it all YOU.  Give it your unique touch and twist.

And finally, don’t ever give up.  Things won’t always go like you expected and there will be tough times.  Use those moments to grow and improve.  There are also so many beautiful days – the big sales, the heart-booming feedback from customers, your first showcase in a magazine.  Never stop creating and never give up on your dream.  You can do it!

Get in touch

Website: www.michelleainslie.com

Tel: 082 449 2358

Email: michelle@michelleainslie.com


Twitter: /michelleainslie

Pinterest: /michelleainslie


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