Giving Yourself Permission… with Denise Duffield-Thomas

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I was talking with a friend about the wide-ranging 60-minute conversation I had with Denise, and she said, “Maggie, you didn’t ask her a single question about email.”

Well, that’s true. BUT. I did ask her a lot of questions about the things having an email marketing strategy allows mothers who are business owners like her to do, like:

  • Quit juggling everything at once and free up time

  • Exercise your right to get help, say no, and ask for more

  • Build a business that is a separate entity from you, even if you’re the face of it

  • Embrace entrepreneurship to build something that is just for you

But let’s back up. Who is Denise? Denise Duffield-Thomas is an online entrepreneur, author, and mother of 3 in Newcastle, Australia. She helps women create wealth through her mindset courses and practical wisdom on releasing money blocks. She also shares a lot online about how she runs her business, including her $750,000 product launch, and how she earned over $1 million in profit in 2018, (the same year she had her third baby).

I interviewed Denise for my mom entrepreneur interview series (past interviews available here), and she was so generous with her time.

I’d known of Denise as “The Lucky Bitch” for a while, but over the past few months her advice and example, shared on her blog, social media, and through her manifesting course, have offered practical ways for me to get out of my own way. She understands that it’s scary to fail, but it can feel even scarier for some personalities (hello!) to succeed.

She’s been at this online entrepreneurship thing for a while, and she shared so much wisdom! Enjoy these excerpts from our conversation.

Quit overcomplicating. Success without struggling every moment doesn’t mean you’re cheating.

My husband asked me to record an audio of me saying, “2019!” for a voiceover on a video. He was just going to edit that “2019” into an existing audio, and I was just like, “It’s so much easier just to re-record the whole thing than to record snippets and try to splice them in. It’s a 2-minute audio. … In fact, let’s just not say 2019 so I can use the same audio every year!”

I’m always thinking, “How can we make this one-and-done?” I’m super lazy. It’s tricky working with him because I think sometimes he feels like that’s cheating.

He wants to overcomplicate, almost to prove that we did work. It’s like it’s not OK for us to make money using the same video we used last year. We have to put some effort into it.

That’s kind of the subject of my next book, Chillpreneur. There’s so much story ingrained in our culture around hard work. “You don’t get something for nothing.” “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

I really struggled with this at the start of my business because I had my e-book for sale for $10. Every time someone bought it, I was like, “Should I call them and read it to them over the phone? I already wrote that—how am I still getting paid for this?”  But it’s OK to make money out of something you already did.

Exercise your right to ask for (and pay for) help

(In November, Denise wrote a post about exactly how much help she has at home so she can run her business smoothly. It went viral. I asked her what she hoped would happen as a result.)

I think simple permission. I know many people can’t afford help. But a lot of people can afford some help, and they don’t get it. I want women to honor their experiences. It’s OK for them to want to be a businesswoman and not take care of the home. And for those who want to take care of the home, that’s totally cool, too.

Here’s an example. In the first episode of that Marie Kondo show on Netflix, it’s a cute couple. But the husband’s really on his wife about the fact that she has someone come to do the laundry. He’s says, ‘but WE should do the laundry. WE should set an example.’ It’s so maddening because in the next sentence he says he’s never home because he works so much. So ‘WE should do the laundry’ means ‘YOU’ should do it. It pissed me off so much. Who cares if someone’s doing her laundry for her? She’s created a job for someone!

That’s the kind of woman that I wanted to read that article. I want her to know it’s OK to want to do her business and not have to come home and do the laundry.

I think the thing that comes up is if not every woman can afford to have it, then nobody can have it. Or people think that hiring someone to clean is exploitative. But sometimes people just need a job, even a cleaning job. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve done it myself. I had to clean toilets because I didn’t have money and I didn’t have a degree.

Yes, there are many mums who can’t afford help. So what do mums do who can’t afford it? Focus on your business as much as you can, so then you can afford it. It’s sounds harsh saying that because it sounds like I don’t understand. And I don’t anymore. There are people who teach frugality and who have systems for getting cleaning done faster. I don’t speak for all women in that piece, and I know that. When I wrote the article, I really tried to rein in the impulse to come up with all the different potentialities for every woman in every situation.

Build a business that is a separate entity from you, even if you’re the face of it

My work is its own entity now. Hiro Boga, a business coach, really helped me with this. A couple of years ago I felt, “I can’t do this work anymore because all my own energy is in it.” And she said, No, it’s not, Denise. It’s its own entity. If it’s connected to your veins, it will feel too hard. You’re going to stunt the growth of the business. It’s really draining. You can’t be attached to your business like that.”

So, I’ve improved at thinking to myself, “If people don’t like ‘Lucky Bitch Denise,’ that’s OK because that’s not me. That’s not me, the real person. That’s a construct in a lot of ways.

So sometimes I’ll see a friend, for example, who is not a business person, who will comment on a social media post or something, and I’ll say, “You know that this is my business. This isn’t just me and you talking over lunch!” It’s authentic but it’s also curated.

“So, for the recent post I wrote that went viral, I haven’t read any of the comments. It’s not my job. I gave it to Medium, in a way.”

Embrace entrepreneurship to build something that is just for you

I see a lot of people trying to start their businesses after kids. I don’t have all the answers around that. But I hope they recognize that that’s just really fucking hard, and it’s OK for them to not “do all the things” in this season of life.

I’m always of two minds about it because on the one hand it is a season. But I see people use this “season” as an excuse. They don’t do anything until their kid is 20. Then they have no job skills, no economic power in their relationship. There’s a balance to be struck. Yes, it’s a season. But time marches on, and no one is going to build your business for you. Making your own money is crucial; you need that skill.

My nan got married at 18 because she was pregnant, and they didn’t have a great relationship. My nan would tell me, “I hope your granddad dies this year.” I just think, what she would have done with some economic independence! They would have split up.

So every time I think about fear. I imagine sitting and saying to my nan, “I’ve got all these opportunities in front of me, but I’m really scared someone’s gonna disagree with me on Twitter.” She would just go, “What the fuck? Use the opportunity in front of you and don’t squander it!”

Did you love that? I loved it. If you want to hear more including:

  • the pros and cons of working with your husband on the business

  • what our children learn as they watch build our businesses

  • some stuff about poop. Why do kids produce so much of it?

then you can get the full audio by clicking here:

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