Spotlight on - Annelies James
Updated: Jun 15, 2020
We got the opportunity to talk to Annelies James, director/Owner of Expertly Personal.
Life is a journey, not a destination.
Starting my career
I knew I wanted to be self-employed for about four years before I took the leap. I just need the balls to do it, which is why I ended up launching myself without much preparation. It was one of those moments where you are like “if I don’t just do this, I will never do it.’ I chose personal brand and video because, after the first six months of business living in total chaos offering everything to everyone, I decided to take the reins and cherry-pick the things I liked the most. Personal branding because people and their motivators are fascinating, video because I have an eye for it and technical skill.
I have been running my own business since 2018, after leaving the best-paid job I’d ever had, with no savings. Hairy! But it couldn’t have worked out more brilliantly. Since taking the leap I have discovered a lot about myself, my own limits and creativity, but have also been able to enjoy some mega experiences and opportunities which only come with the flexibility of being able to say yes. I love what I do, it is totally varied and very empowering. I help people define themselves, be noticed and build connections in business and life with personal branding and videography.
My typical day starts with no alarm clock, or commute which is already a major win. Thereafter it is a chat with my husband in the hot tub as we plan our commitments and then a quick shower, some gratitude journaling and then getting productive. The rest of the day is a mix of projects, client requirements, editing, design, planning … All sorts really.
I suppose I wandered through my life sort of doing what other people expected, get a husband, house, have a baby etc. It was only when this all fell apart and my first marriage collapsed that I realised I had spent my existence living for other people and it had just made me really unhappy and I also felt like I had no idea who I was or what happiness was. Since then it has been a process of self-discovery, accepting the good and bad. Setting up the business was the last stepping stone into total autonomy but also comes with its own challenges, crazy hours, huge pressures, a bit of chaos. It has been quite a beast to master.
In the first year of business, I developed anxiety, apparently, 72% of entrepreneurs develop some form of mental health issue. I needed to be kind and adopt calm. The business was extremely successful but to my own detriment and that is no way to live. I adopted mindfulness, practised yoga and got really honest with people. It eventually subsided. Now with more reflection, I am much better at managing my commitments and keeping my life-work (the right way around) balance in order.
Drive and determination
I have always been surrounded by good female role-models. Those gritty, tenacious, unapologetic women who are fierce and bloody fabulous. While I am not always in the same space as them, I try to channel this and as such adopt the mindset that I just cannot fail. Success is anything you want it to be after all, so one day it might be a small feat and the next a huge project. I just always commit myself 100% and listen to those good influences around me.
The biggest lesson is probably that you have to complete the course to get the lesson. In my experience, I can tell you that having all the materialistic stuff or money you desire will make you unhappy. I can tell you that having a ridiculously well-paying job won’t fulfil you, but in real life you have to discover it yourself. I have. You get to the top of the mountain of your life and you look around scratch your head and think “oh, is this it?” We spend too much time running around “miswanting” in our lives, but we never learn this is true until we have reached our own precipice with it.
I am thankful I get to use my initiative every day. For me this looks like collaborative projects with others, for example, Colleagues Getting Coffee, a Business Give Back YouTube show I run. I organise co-authored books, The Female Edge and more recently Being a BADASS B*tch in Business and Life. I am able to adopt new projects; I have just won the license for TEDxSouthampton and am working with a small team to make this a huge success. I think the passion through all of these is finding great people and extracting and sharing their greatness.
We become what we envisage has been a particular favourite of mine for quite some years now. I believe we can literally do ANYTHING we want if we have the vision and the drive. I quite often consider that we typically have around 30,000 days on the planet and I use this to drive me to make today the day I achieve X or Z.
Being a woman in business
What isn’t great!? It is marvellous being a woman, although some of that ridiculousness still exists for me, sometimes mansplaining, sometimes being patronised and sometimes outwardly sexual advances. But not dwelling on that is key. It is people, not the whole category of “men” who choose to be that way. More now than ever I am able to be myself and tap into that female energy I have, being open about love, informality and openness. I also get to help others achieve the same.
To anyone starting their career be yourself – spend some time figuring out who you are and what drives you outside of other people’s expectations and the “role”, you have been conditioned to play. Decide what you stand for and stand for it all the time. Be defiant and unapologetically yourself. If people don’t like you, good. We only want those people like us anyway.
Stop saying sorry. Don’t make excuses for yourself, don’t start a sentence with an apology, anything that pops into your mind has a space in the world. It is about ownership and self-belief.
I had a teacher called Betsan Williams in high school, she was a total inspiration, I wanted to be just like her. It was this adoration that directed my life and focused me into a teacher, doing my A Levels, Degree, Masters and then PGCE. All of which gave me a bunch of skills and training, even though I don’t teach anymore.
I think any form of prominence comes with strategic thinking, looking for influential people and association, and consistency in your values and the delivery of commitments. You have to play the game, figure out the lay of the land and get strategic, getting in front of the right people for the right reasons.
The Alison Rose review of entrepreneurship focuses on the gender imbalance in the business world. I wanted to support this movement so organised my first co-authored book on her findings. I think there will always be inequality but it is changing, slowly.
Love, contentment, beauty, perspective, humour. I like to think my life is a balance of these things. Being open and meaningful with people, taking the time to recognise the beauty and appreciate the positives in our world. I like to keep it lighthearted too. These values are echoed in my business and life, they are not consumeristic and they lead to great relationships.
“we rise by lifting others.” Leadership is not just one person, it is teamwork. Empowering others and winning hearts and minds is the biggest lesson I have learned. Not only because it improves the overall environment and delivers better experience but also because if there are mistakes made, people are more forgiving and able to work together to overcome challenges.
Life is a journey not a destination. Even if you think it is the end, it is often not the case. Whether personal development or business and relationships, it is all moving, changing, evolving. I think this approach lets you off the hook and takes the pressure off. Success is not a competition; everything takes its sweet time. Enjoy the journey.
I am a firm believer that everything you need you already have inside you. Just untapping that is the struggle but once you do it is magical and transformational. I feel so privileged to be able to support others with this in my own small way and would thoroughly encourage others to look at how they support others because, for me, this has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life.