The fact that I turned up to a photography class last December with a camera that I had forgotten to charge and therefore wouldn’t switch on, just about summarises my skills when it comes to gadgets. It goes without saying that when it came to capturing the launch of The Midweek Mingle on film therefore, it was a job that went straight to the top of the ‘to outsource’ list.
Having connected with twenty-six year old Lizzie Bielicki on Instagram a few months back, her company, Blix Creative, seemed like an obvious choice.
With brands like Livia’s Kitchen, Women’s Health and Meridien on its portfolio to date, along with a number of high profile influencers and corporations too, it would be easy to assume that Lizzie’s company has been around for years. Truth of the matter is however, this time last year the business didn’t exist.
Over dreamy salads provided by Alex Head’s team at Social Pantry in All Bright, the two of us caught up a few weeks after my event, so that I could get to the bottom of how Lizzie has managed to achieve so much, so soon…
LB. So Blix Creative is a creative content… I want to say agency but it’s literally just me at the moment!
SC.SD. We can use the fancy word Lizzie, don’t worry!
LB. It’s going to be an agency when I hire more people (!) but I create video content for female entrepreneurs and small businesses. Whether that evolves, I don’t know yet but that’s where I’m currently at.
I’ve just been saying “yes” to everything that’s come my way – from simple, corporate pieces to working with antenatal classes – to understand what I really love doing and what is going to work for me going forward! I’m still so new in the grand scheme of things and I’ve had this influx of work in the past few months which I’m so grateful for, so now I’m starting to think about what I want to do going forward…
SC.SD. How new are we talking?
LB. So I started my company in September last year!
After graduating from The University of Southampton in 2014 with a degree in music, launching a videography company was hardly the obvious career choice for Lizzie. Rather, she joined the John Lewis team after completing her degree, working as an Editorial Assistant on the John Lewis magazine at a content marketing agency.
LB. I never really saw myself going into music because you either become a professional musician or you teach and I didn’t want to do either of those so I set out to find other things to do…
I started working on the John Lewis magazine where I was doing all the logistics. It was such great experience in terms of how shoots work, sourcing models and photographers, liaising with clients etc… and I have a lot to thank for that experience because I understand how it all works now that I’m on the other side of things but it just wasn’t creative enough for me. I did a shoot with Meridian and Women’s Health recently though and I was there like, I can’t believe I’m here?!’ Going from being the one organising everything behind the scenes to the one being organised – it’s weird!
SC.SD. Let’s talk about what led you to launch Blix Creative then because a degree in music and a career in magazines doesn’t lend itself directly to starting a videography business?!
LB. So I’ve always filmed videos as a hobby! I’d stay up until 3 or 4am editing them just because I loved it so much.
SC.SD. What kind of films are we talking?
LB. I used to play ice hockey at uni so I used to film the games or if there was a gig on I’d film that or if we went on ski holidays, I’d always do a little montage! It got to the point where people were saying, “why don’t you do this professionally?” but I’d always say, “I’m not good enough” or, “how would that even work?”
SC.SD. Were you making those videos public then?
LB. Yeh but I wasn’t promoting them heavily; it was just a bit of fun! In January last year though, I was getting so sick of my job and I really wanted to run my own business so I made a list on my phone of all these terrible ideas that might work that I tried!
SC.SD. Which included…?!
LB. Oh god! So I get really painful feet if I’m walking for too long so I thought, ‘ooo! Maybe you could get socks that have cushions in them?!’ but then I realised that they probably already exist!
SC.SD. I think they do..!
LB. Exactly, so that got crossed off the list! Then there was my drop shipping idea where you buy stuff from China and sell it… I just ended up watching loads of YouTube videos on it; I even joined a Facebook group on drop shipping! Then there was my make-up brush website… I think I sold one set and it’s so ridiculous because I’m not even into make-up that much! I bought two or three various domain names for different company ideas. It was just mad.
SC.SD. So it was very much that you were driven by the fact that you wanted your own business as opposed to what that business actually was?!
LB. Exactly! It was nothing to do with, “I love make up!” I also tried a domain called houseofscandi.com where I was going to sell Scandi furniture but it turns out that that’s pretty hard! Anyway, once I put those to rest (!) I found a coach through Twitter actually and I brainstormed with her for a bit about what I could do…
It was so cheap because she was starting out but she was amazing and the funny thing is, she ended up being one of my first clients! She’s also the Head of Marketing at a big London co-working space so she hired me to do a load of video work for them and that’s all because I started following her on Twitter which is amazing.
We’re interrupted briefly as our lunch arrives…
LB. The mic’s going to pick up all the slurping isn’t it!?
SC.SD. We definitely didn’t think this through!
SC.SD. I’m interested to hear how the idea for Blix Creative emerged from those sessions…
LB. See, 2017 was very much the year of Girl Boss and millennial women wasn’t it? It was a massive trend online and our conversations just pushed me in that direction I suppose. I knew I wanted to do something creative and I quickly established the name which is basically a play on my surname; it’s actually something an ex-boyfriend used to call me!
LB. Yeh! I don’t really like it but I don’t like my actual surname being out there too much. Because it’s so unique it’s so easy to find me online and you can’t always monitor what’s out there… not that I’ve done anything dodgy!
SC.SD. You realise we’re all going to Google you later and check now!?
LB. I know! Basically though, through talking to my coach we established that this is what I was good at, I enjoyed it and she reassured me that there is a need for creative content for women so that’s where I started. Initially, I focused on video and photography because I love doing both but she suggested it’d be better if I focus on one. A few sessions with her and a few Pinterest boards later, a brand was born I suppose.
She helped me to work out who my ideal client was and work out a business plan. Honestly, she was so instrumental in the start. It wasn’t until September that I left my job but as soon as I started seeing her, I wanted to quit.
SC.SD. What made you realise you were ready to hand your notice in?
LB. I’d been there a year and in that role, there wasn’t an immediate role to progress to so I felt a bit trapped. Because I was in a creative agency and they have lots of different brands, when I had spare time, I’d ask to edit other projects to get more experience too. During the photoshoots, I’d film the behind the scenes videos and the Creative Director would say, “yeh, this is good” or, “this is what you need to change” which was so helpful and that helped to set me in the right direction too.
In July 2017, Lizzie handed her notice in and two months later, her brand was born.
SC.SD. What steps did you take initially to turn your idea into a reality?
LB. I started by filming a friend’s wedding video actually which wasn’t what I wanted to do long term but it meant I had some money coming in! Fortunately, it wasn’t too long before my coach asked me to make videos for her company but then it was all about building the brand and my Instagram and reaching out to people in the first few months. I didn’t really have a proper plan, I just threw myself in, you know?
SC.SD. It’s the best way to start in my opinion! You obviously once upon a time wanted an online Skandi shop (!) so did that idea shape your approach to the branding?
LB. Yeh, I wanted it to be very minimal. Although saying that, everything was millenial pink at the start! It kind of worked but I just felt like I didn’t want to box myself in to a very specific audience so just yet so kept it neutral. Because I did all my branding and the website myself, I always knew I’d want to change it at some point…
SC.SD. What about reaching out to people… Did you formalise that process at all?
LB. Not so much! I’ve now learnt the beauty of cold emailing but before I’d actively seek out opportunities. I’d go on Twitter for instance and search ‘videographer London’ and see who was looking for one rather than reach out and say, “do you need one?” One of the first jobs I did was for one of the cast from Made In Chelsea because they were looking for a videographer. I got in touch, they said, “yes” and asked if I’d do it for free in return for exposure…
SC.SD. Did it work?
LB. Sort of… I mean, it’s on my portfolio and it wasn’t particularly laborious so I didn’t mind doing it for free. You learn so much as you go along though and you just don’t get those opportunities when you work in a big company. That’s what I love about being my own boss; I feel like you learn a hundred times faster.
I could never go back now. Don’t get me wrong, it would be lovely to have that security of being paid each month back but you just lose out on so much freedom and opportunity!
SC.SD. Given that you’re not yet a year in, let’s talk about the expectation vs the reality of running your own business… What has taken you by surprise so far and did you have any preconceived ideas about what running a business would be like that have differed in reality?
LB. I think it’s easy to assume that clients will flock to you; that you’d put your work out there and be inundated with amazing feedback but it’s just so not like that! I think it’s also easy to totally underestimate the emotional rollercoaster it is. So many of the positives that come with the Girl Boss/ freelance lifestyle are put out there but not the negatives and it’s easy to forget that when you’re having a bad day…
SC.SD. Which is why I set She can. She did. up because I was so fed up with how glamourous starting and running a business was made out to be..!
LB. Absolutely. You don’t have a boss to check in if you’re looking sad that day and it’s so hard not having a team around you sometimes. You’re sat there by yourself and you have to be your own cheerleader and when you’re having a bad day that can be really hard. Things like mind-set are so important for that reason and I’ve got into a routine now, at least I try to, where I meditate and do my affirmations for the day.
On the plus side, I’ve been so surprised by how much support is provided by the online community. I’m in quite a few groups and I love them; you learn so much through speaking to other women and having a coach has been so valuable for me but it can be quite expensive. It’s difficult isn’t it because I want to be valued and earn money but then you have to value other people and pay them money!
With industry heavyweights like Women’s Health, Meridian and Livia’s Kitchen on her client list already, conversation moves on to how Lizzie has managed her time so far…
LB. I haven’t really had to reach out to anyone over the past few months which has been great but at the same time, I can’t see the wood from the trees. I’m literally taking it a week at a time and right now I can’t see the bigger picture. The past few weeks have been so ridiculously busy and again, this is where people underestimate what being your own boss will look like. I don’t have a 9 to 5, I have an 8 to 11 but I love doing it. The difficulty right now is when your hobby becomes your work, where do you draw the line?
I read somewhere that you should only read your emails once in the morning and once in the evening, otherwise you’re working on someone else’s schedule but right now, I’m in the habit of answering them then and there which I know I need to stop!
SC.SD. You mentioned that you weren’t prepared for how much of an emotional rollercoaster this would be… Talk to me about the challenges and low points that you’ve faced along the way and have you had any days where you’ve wanted to walk away?
LB. I mean, I think I’m yet to find a female business owner that doesn’t have days like that! I probably have those days a minimum of two or three times a month, maybe even once a week where I just think, ‘what am I actually doing?! This isn’t fun!’
A real low point for me though was in February. I made zero money that month and it was just so stressful. I remember thinking, ‘why am I doing this?’ but then I made more in March than I ever had before so it’s swings and roundabouts. One week you can make nothing, the next you can make more than you have in the whole year so far.
SC.SD. And at the beginning at least, you’re still figuring out that cycle aren’t you? It’s a case of learning to trust that process…
LB. Exactly. I was all over the place at the time but as hard as it is though, you have to pick yourself up and think of new ways to do things. It’s not always easy and I’m still learning so much about how to deal with those times because I know full well that it’s going to happen again! Getting paid on time is also seriously hard work… you don’t expect it but the big companies are the worst.
SC.SD. How have you managed that then because you obviously need to get paid?
LB. So there are two things. I’ve started asking for 50% upfront as a deposit. My coach said I should ask for it all upfront but it’s not always that easy and I’ve put contracts in place now. I’m a people pleaser so it’s so hard because my natural reaction is to say, ‘oh, it’s fine’. One brand was three months late and I ended up having to send an email saying, ‘this is ridiculous, what’s going on?’ etc… and that’s so hard to do because you don’t want to sound confrontational.
SC.SD. Did it work?
LB. Eventually yes but it’s such a waste of my time. Another good tip is to set up some accounting software. I use Xero now and that sends out reminders and chases for you automatically. You can use another name so it doesn’t sound like it’s you chasing all the time, I can blame it on the company instead!
SC.SD. You’re obviously a service-based business so how did you approach putting a value on what you offer?
LB. I’m very bad at valuing myself! I’ve done a few jobs for reduced rates and it doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve listened to a lot of Gary Vee podcasts and something he said was, “you’re only in control when you do something at your price or for free” and he’s right. I don’t mind doing things for free because I don’t feel like I’m devaluing myself; psychologically you don’t resent it. When someone’s giving you cash, even if it’s just a small amount, you still have to put the work in because they’re giving you money. I will do just as good a job on a £100 job compared to £1000 job because I’m a perfectionist.
I also need to get better at explaining the value of the videos I make to people because there is a lot of value in them. My mind-set is terrible. In the grand scheme of things, I’m a fairly reasonable price and there are hardly any women doing this so I have a real USP but I’m not exploiting it. That’s something I need to get my head around.
My difficulty is that I love working with female founders but they’re generally at the early stages of the process and don’t have the budget for the pretty video with all the bells and whistles on. The reality is that style of video is going to take me a day to film, several days of prep beforehand and two or three days to edit it and that’s a lot of work. If you went to a commercial videographer with the same proposal, it’d be £1000, no questions asked.
SC.SD. So it’s a case of shifting expectations then?
LB. Yes. I try and find a balance between higher paying clients and then jobs that I do for free like yours because I love doing them! At the end of the day though, free jobs aren’t going to pay my bills. There’s a limit to how many I can do!
SC.SD. Well I’m honoured I made the cut, thank you!
LB. You’re welcome! I genuinely loved working on yours though! It’s funny because I went to the Cosmopolitan ‘Self-Made Summit’ a few days ago and met a lady from Enterprise Nation there. She was an advocate for skill sharing and it really resonated with me so I’m going to Brighton this weekend to film a girl in her jewellery shop and she’s making me jewellery in return! Apparently it’s really popular in Australia but I’d never heard of it. No money is exchanged, it’s all services.
It’s blown my mind because in theory you could get your hair done, you could get your nails done etc… At the event, I happened to get my nails done by the Founder of the nail company and she mentioned that she needed some video, I said how much it would cost, she said, “no, no, no” and so I said, “have you ever thought about skill sharing?” I followed up via email the other day and it could potentially mean having a year’s worth of nails done in exchange for a video!
SC.SD. Oh my gosh! The dream!
LB. I know! I was thinking it’s what, £30? I could go along at least 10 times!
SC.SD. Let’s talk highs… What makes the chasing payments and the lows in February all worth it?
LB. I mean, the main one is having my own schedule. It’s just the best! I love that I don’t have to commute anymore, I love that if I want to do something in the middle of the day I can, I love the feeling when I finally get paid..! In terms of actual achievements though, I was asked to shoot the video for Women’s Health’s June cover star which was just ridiculous!
I worked with Patricia Bright too – she’s genuinely so nice – but that was amazing! Meridien was really cool, Livia’s Kitchen was amazing… I mean I’m six months in and I’m so proud of my portfolio.
SC.SD. I genuinely had no idea you were such a new business because I presumed from your portfolio you’d been doing this for ages! Do you ever remind yourself of how much you’ve achieved when you’re in those low moments?
LB. No but I need to! At the time, it’s hard but it’s just another day’s work and like I said, I need to get better at looking at the bigger picture. This time last year, even contemplating being a videographer on shoots like that would have been ridiculous! Having brands like that approach me feels genuinely amazing.
SC.SD. Let’s talk personal life…. How did those closest to you react when you announced that you were going to launch your own business and have you noticed any changes in relationships along the way?
LB. Surprisingly, it’s been overwhelmingly positive!
SC.SD. Why surprisingly?!
LB. Because you always read about people saying, “don’t do it” but I genuinely haven’t experienced that. All my friends think it’s cool; they’re all in 9-5’s and yet they’ve been so supportive. If anything, it’s the new relationships that I’m building through doing this that I didn’t expect! Meeting my coach, meeting you, it’s crazy! I mean, it’s my parents’ job to worry but they’ve also been so supportive.
SC.SD. What were their main concerns initially?
LB. How I’d make a living from it, totally. They’ve been great though. I was living at home when I first started and paying them rent but as I was starting out Mum said, “look, you’re not making any money at the moment so forget the rent this month.” That meant a lot.
I’d really recommend this audio book called, ‘You’re a badass at making money’ by Jen Sincero. It’s all about mind-set. My coach said her business really changed when she shifted her money mind-set because it’s all about knowing your worth. If someone says, “no”, someone else will say “yes”.
SC.SD. You need to take that advice on board then!
LB. I know, I know! I just get into this tunnel vision!
SC.SD. You’ve mentioned the online community you’ve discovered since launching and a few business groups that you’re in… how have those networks shaped your business?
LB. So I’m in The Societe which has been amazing! I went to see Natalie (Ellis, Founder of The Societe and bossbabe.inc) speak and she was so inspirational! I’m also in a few smaller Facebook groups which I’d highly recommend when you want some advice and then Instagram is just incredible. You always see the same people liking your posts each week which is lovely and I’ve got a large majority of my clients through there.
SC.SD. I’m not surprised…
LB. I was!
SC.SD. Really?! I thought that would be the obvious marketing tool for you?
LB. When I have time to focus on it! I did a March #meetthemaker which was great because you get prompts every day but it’s hard to find the time to keep on top of it!
SC.SD. Do you have a favourite quote?
LB. I have so many! I loved what Natalie said when I went to see her and that was, “if she can do it, why can’t I?” I’m 100% held back by my own limiting beliefs but I remember hearing that and feeling so inspired. The power of face to face interaction is always amazing.
SC.SD. Agreed and I couldn’t agree with that quote more! Now I know you’ve mentioned that you haven’t had time to think long-term but I’m going to put you on the spot now! What do you want to achieve in the next few years and what is your end goal with this?
LB. I keep meaning to have a day where I look at the bigger picture and plan but I just haven’t had time! That switch from freelancer to Founder with my own agency is really important for me though and it’s something that I want to achieve going forward.
Really the dream is to employ other female creatives who can all work remotely because I think that’s the way society is going at the moment. If I employ someone, I don’t care where they get it done so long as they do. At the moment, I’m tied to jobs here there and everywhere so I also want to get to the stage where I can be filming in locations but I get to decide when and where…
SC.SD. Time scale?
LB. So in December last year, I wrote a letter to myself that I will open this December and I wrote about all the things I’d achieved so far and want to achieve going forward. I’m hoping I open it at the end of this year and realise that I’ve achieved all of those things. Things like having a team of 3 or 4 by then, grow an income, work out my income streams, make more entrepreneurially minded friends because I learn more through other people’s experiences… I have a lot of goals this year!
SC.SD. I feel like I need to write one of these! Last question then… What does success mean to you and do you consider yourself to be successful?
LB. Not yet! For me, success is loving Mondays more than Fridays…
SC.SD. Ooo that’s cute! Is that a Lizzie B original!?
LB. It is, yes! For me it’s why I started though. I think it’s also about having no money worries, being able to pay for a holiday for my family, having a clear, defined path, a team around me… and just loving what I do every day! But yes, I want to get to a point where I have this Friday feeling every Monday!
I knew that I would warm to Lizzie’s story because we’re at similar places in our business journey so unsurprisingly this chat spoke to me in more ways than one.
It’s one thing agreeing that working ‘smart not long hours’ makes sense when running a business but taking on board that advice and actually adopting it in practice, can be seriously tough when you’re trying to get your business off of the ground.
From Lizzie’s honesty about how saying “yes” to every opportunity that comes her way, is because she’s still figuring out what type of clients and jobs work for her; her ongoing battle when trying to improve her business mind-set when it comes to valuing her time, her work and herself as a business owner too; to her frank admission that her schedule means that it’s hard to see wood from the trees; in my opinion she’s the perfect example of what a first year in business looks like in reality, as a constant battle between working on as opposed to in your business can emerge.
I also admired how determined she was to be her own boss.
Even if it meant dabbling with the idea of becoming the next drop shipping pro, as well as launching a make-up brush empire when she didn’t love make-up to get there..!
Having reached out for guidance from a business coach and sought advice from female founders she has met through networking groups along the way; ultimately in returning to a hobby that she has always been passionate about, she is in the process of building a business that puts her talent to good use and as a result, is on her way to creating a lifestyle that she loves.
Proving the age old saying that a lot can happen in a year to be true, I’m left in no doubt that Lizzie will have achieved everything that she set out to do, when she opens the letter she wrote to herself later this year.