“My project management role offers me structure, intellectual challenge, colleagues and security while running Chic by Charlotte gives me freedom, a creative outlet, excitement and real fulfilment.”
- Charlotte Ralph, Part time project manager and business owner.
Do you dream of having your own business but just don’t know how you could ever make the shift from day job to budding business owner? Or perhaps you have your own business, but there’s a little part of you craving for something else and a part-time job/consulting gig could just be that magic ingredient that would spice things up a bit? Gone are the days of having to stick to one rigid 9-5 job and career path that can sometimes feel as uncomfortable as an ill fitting pair of high heels (and we all know how uncomfortable that can be )
Times are changing, a new 21st century career is emerging where we can have BOTH a business and a job- if that’s what we choose (and yes- the part time job market is on the rise).
Meet one lady, Charlotte Ralph, who is embracing styling a career and business she loves that fits her just beautifully….
Charlotte- I LOVE that you’re embracing a 21st century ‘portfolio career’ and styling a career that works for you on your terms. Tell us more about what you do for a living?
I have two very different roles – one is at The Royal Marsden with the Gastrointestinal and Nutrition Team, which offers a service for patients suffering long-term side effects of cancer treatment. As a part-time project manager I’m responsible for a number of initiatives to enable the team to work more efficiently and share their expertise in what is a relatively new field. One of my current projects is organising a conference on the subject for international medical professionals.
I also run an image consultancy, Chic by Charlotte, which is all about helping people to look good and feel confident! My services include colour analysis (assessing someone’s hair colour, eye colour and skin tone and recommending colours that flatter them), style consultations (looking at someone’s personality, lifestyle and physical attributes and advising on the styles that will work for them), make-up lessons, wardrobe weeding personal shopping and parties. My clients vary from high-flying business executives to mums looking to return to work, from people in need of a boost to those looking for a light hearted pampering experience and from 13 year olds to 80 year olds!
What inspired you to start your own style consultancy business, Chic by Charlotte?
Before I started my business I always felt I hadn’t quite found my ‘thing’. I stumbled upon the idea of training to be an image consultant while searching for a birthday present for my Mum. It seemed to tally with my passions – working closely with people, my love of colour, clothes and accessories and my obsession with television makeover shows – to such an extent that I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before! For me it was about pursuing a career I thought I’d love, and the only way I could find to do this was to start my own business – which terrified me. Little did I know that this in itself would become an integral part of why I love what I do.
Initially you had a full time job and built your style consultancy business on the side, how did you manage to do both?
It was a case of nose to the grindstone for a couple of years, working full-time as an event organiser and seeing people for image consultations in the evenings and weekends. While it was tiring physically, the consultations themselves are feel-good and uplifting which energised me, and I found it exciting to watch my business take off.
Work eventually agreed to me condensing my hours leaving me with one afternoon off to work on my business, which made the world of difference at the time. I was also lucky to be able to draw on skills I used in my job, such as managing my time and customer service to help me make a success of my business.
How does it feel now you’ve gone part time in your day job and what does that mean for you?
It feels fantastic! It was great to have a couple of years to ‘dip my toe in’ while having the security of a full time job before taking the plunge. While I still often work evenings and weekends to be as flexible as possible for my clients, I have two extra days in the week to dedicate to my business. This means that I have a larger and more varied client-base – I’m seeing a lot more full-time mums, who prefer to come mid-week when their children are at school. It also means I am able to be more proactive with building and marketing my business. Plus I have a better work/life balance!
Your business and ‘job’ are in very different fields- how easy is it to switch between both?
Yes – on one occasion when I’d just started my new job I spent a morning in the hospital observing patients undergoing endoscopies and the afternoon doing a bridal consultation! Fortunately both roles are absorbing and interesting in their own ways, and the working environments are so different that I can usually compartmentalise. If I’m under pressure with deadlines in my project manager role I sometimes find it difficult to switch off , though only when I’m working on the more administrative side of my business – once I’m with a client I step into their world and forget about anything outside!
There is also the occasional crossover – I recently ran a colour workshop for a few of the hospital’s Marketing team!
How do you ensure a steady pipeline of clients for your style consultancy business?
I trained with the world’s leading image consultants, Colour Me Beautiful, meaning I’m listed on their directory – lots of clients find me this way. I regularly blog about my life as a consultant, which helps potential clients get to know me before deciding to book, and I make sure I’m in regular contact with my Twitter and Facebook followers. The best way of generating interest about what I do is by doing talks and demonstrations, for example to NCT groups, which I do throughout the year. I find my most sure-fire way of keeping busy is to make sure all of my clients enjoy their experience – there’s nothing like word of mouth and it’s amazing how things can snowball from just one client!
What is the biggest challenge of managing your job and a business?
Even though I now work part time and have plenty more time to spend on my business, I often suffer from that nagging feeling that I should be doing more. But I try to remember that one of the reasons I worked so hard these past few years was to get to the point where my business could be partly my job rather than something on the side, so it’s time to enjoy the spare time I didn’t used to have.
What is the best thing about having a dynamic career where you have more than one string to your ‘income’ bow?
I’ve always thrived on being busy so this way of working really suits me. My project management role offers me structure, intellectual challenge, colleagues and security while running Chic by Charlotte gives me freedom, a creative outlet, excitement and real fulfilment. If I was only doing one, I would miss the other.
What advice would you give to women who want to have a dynamic portfolio career but don’t know where to start?
I hate to say it but the words that spring to mind are ‘think outside the box’. Your new career could be inspired by a favourite television show, just like mine, or something else that you’ve never considered could be a way to earn a living. Continuing with one career while you begin another is challenging but offers great security from a practical and emotional point of view while you’re starting out – and can offer a fulfilling and varied way to live your working life.
I like ‘She Believed She Could So She Did’ – I don’t know who said it but I keep seeing it. It reminds me of a little card my Mum gave me years ago that sits in my purse reminding me to believe in myself.
You can check out Charlotte’s business, Chic by Charlotte here
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