Transforming your Personal Brand: Meet Nicola

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In our next interview for our Brand Transformation campaign, we meet Nicola Cairncross. Nicola rebranded herself after losing her life partner suddenly to a heart attack. She is now a speaker, writer, podcaster and mentor who now spends most of her time in Greece.

Tell us a bit about who you were before the change? What was your personal brand (i.e. how other people perceived you)?

I recently had to change my personal brand once again, after moving to Greece, starting from scratch to create and promote a new direction for my business.

Before the age of 40 I didn’t have a personal brand – I was just an employee like many others, albeit with aspirations to become an entrepreneur.  Then I stumbled into the world of personal development via an article in the Evening Standard and hired my first life-coach.

Things changed dramatically for me over the next 3 years.  I launched a successful online business, I bought (and renovated in 6 weeks) a half-million pound hotel “no money down” and I trained as a coach myself.

However, I specialised in learning about and teaching financial intelligence, calling myself a Wealth Coach, as that is what I was personally most fascinated in – the psychology of money and why some do well with it and some (including myself in my first 40 years) did not.  While writing a 101 day email follow up series, I realised I’d actually written a book and called it “The Money Gym” and it’s still selling well today.

I launched a coaching programme of the same name and hosted weekend workshops at my boutique hotel in Worthing, was featured in many newspapers and magazines and built a multi six-figure business, taking on two partners and five other coaches, all ex-students.

Then the global recession hit along with a global credit crunch, a double whammy!  People simply couldn’t get mortgages or re-finance to free up funds for investing, so they tightened their belts and stopped thinking about becoming wealthier, they just wanted to survive.  We sadly closed The Money Gym as a business in January 2010 (but thankfully I kept the book and domain name).

Tell us where you are now and how your brand has changed?

I’ve had to rebrand myself as a writer, podcaster and mentor, rather than being a “consultant” or “gun for hire” and that’s taken time and a lot of willpower on my part, to say no to lucrative “done for you” work.

What made you think you needed to change? Was it a bolt of lightning moment or did it happen over time?

I had no choice, I simply couldn’t carry on with highly stressful workloads, after a bereavement.

My podcast partner, Judith Morgan, has a theory that it takes two years for people who know you, or subscribe to your newsletter for example, to catch up on any changes you make to your brand or core offer.  It takes that long for your new persona to permeate their consciousness.  People are busy and are usually paying more attention to their own lives, so you have to find a way to break through while offering great value.

How did you set things in motion? Did you leap in or make the change in increments?

I dropped out of sight for a while, then after a year or so, I created a video newsletter, that I called a Vzine and started sharing it on Facebook and boosting it to new prospects.

What was the reaction of others? Did they support you or did they resist the change?

One of the good things about being an entrepreneur is that there are no “others”.  It’s lonely sometimes, but you march to the beat of your own drum.  In the early days, after The Money Gym closed, I did seek advice from a couple of my mentors, but they both said the same thing, which was that I had to find my own way.  That was frustrating at the time as I just wanted to be told what to do, to become successful again, but it’s true.  They could only tell me what they would do in my situation, not what I should do.  However, once I made my mind up, they supported me all the way with good ideas and introductions.

What was your most valuable resource? What kept you going?

I had a major setback just as, the agency, really started to become successful.  My partner Steve died suddenly of a heart attack at 49.  This really knocked the stuffing out of me again, and prompted a lot of soul-searching about what work would really have meaning for me, that I could do for the rest of my life, however long that was.

After six months of thinking and trying things out, I pivoted the agency into a training & mentoring school – ClicksAndLeads.Academy – for business owners who wanted to learn how to market themselves better online.

In those very dark days after Steve died, while I wondered what I wanted to do next, there were three things that kept me going.

The first was journaling.  On the advice of one of my mentors, I’d kept a daily journal since the one year anniversary of The Money Gym closing and I found it invaluable to pour out my feelings, especially negative feelings and limiting beliefs, into a private place.  It got it all out of my head and enabled me to move forwards on taking action.

The second was listening to guided meditations.  I started with Paul McKenna and now I’m listening to Vishen Lakhani’s “Six Phase Meditation” from the free Mindvalley app.  I try and do that daily, as it starts my day off right, with gratitude and love.

The third was building a strong personal brand, to differentiate me from all the other internet marketing trainers and mentors out there.  I built a small team of outsourcers.  I’m a Creator / Star in Wealth Dynamics terms (created by Roger Hamilton).  Creativity means chaos and an inability to follow through unless supported by and made accountable by my team.

Take my Vzine for example.  I take 20 minutes to record and upload the video content each week, then my video editor turns it into something coherent and fun, adding music, credits and visual elements.  Then my tech VA takes the final version and shares it on YouTube, my Facebook Page and Profile, LinkedIn, my blog and Instagram.  She takes the audio and turns both video and audio into two separate podcasts that go out onto over 10 platforms including iTunes, of course.

The video then goes into a Facebook Ads campaign to boost views to thousands of new prospects for pennies, while a follow-up campaign offers a series of free gifts to those who have watched the Vzine more than 50% of the way through.   It’s a powerful branding and lead generation process that’s easy, quick, fun and cheap to make.

How do you feel now that you’ve made the change?

Happy, peaceful and confident.  I am doing something I absolutely love (mentoring other small business owners to be more successful online).  I have an effortless, fun, automated way of building my personal brand and bringing prospects to my business.

A massive bonus is that, now my kids are grown up, I have a house somewhere I’ve loved for 25 years, Stoupa in The Mani, Greece.  I dreamed of retiring here, now I don’t have to wait, I spend most of my time here while working remotely.

What’s your advice to anyone contemplating something similar?

Go for it.  There has never been a better time to build your brand or change your brand.  Video is so powerful in making the human connection.

You have to get over yourself, especially if you don’t like your voice, the way you look or if you are shy in front of a camera.  I do my Vzine recordings from Greece, or wherever I happen to be at the time, often with no makeup on and not dressed up at all.  As long as I’m clean, I’ll create content.

PS: Whenever you are ready, here are three ways I can help you:

  • I can teach you my “Be Everywhere Online” system and mentor you while you put it into action. Find out more about that here.
  • I can work with you 1:2:1 while you learn how to put it into action and/or outsource it. Find out more about Clicks & Leads Academy Mastermind here.
  • Our team can take care of it all for you. Find out more here.

Fantastic! Thanks for the inspiring interview, Nicola!


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