Balancing the Grind With Joanne Eleanor, Calligrapher at Calligraphy en Vogue

Joanne Eleanor is the Founder & Calligrapher at Calligraphy en Vogue, a company she started which focuses on creating personalised event experiences through calligraphy for luxury brands and creating calligraphy digital designs.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

My path to a creative job has definitely not been a typical one. I came from a background in working as a podiatrist and running a podiatry clinic for 10 years before stepping out of my medical career to have children.

I then found my passion with calligraphy and decided to pursue it as a business rather than returning to my previous role.

My core business focuses on creating personalised event experiences through calligraphy for luxury brands and creating calligraphy digital designs for invitation designers, branding clients and brides.

2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

May days really do vary depending on my week. I divide my time between in studio calligraphy work for clients and being at live events for brand experiences and custom live calligraphy.

My typical day usually starts out with herding my 3 young girls off to school (and lots of coffee!). If i’m working in the studio this will usually consist of returning emails in the morning to get any pressing matters out of the way and clear my head.

I try to block out at least several hours a day to get into my creative space and focus on studio work I need to complete. I spend at least one hour one day in the week focusing on content creation whether that be creating flat lays or images of my recent work, blog posts for my site, content for Instagram and marketing.

Keeping content consistent is really important for my business to continue to book work and clients but I try to batch my efforts so it doesn’t become an overwhelming focus.

My routine can be somewhat all over the place when attending live events on site so this can look a bit more like a busy day out of the studio and then spending evenings catching up on in studio client work and returning emails.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes it does to some degree. I love that I have the flexibility to work from home (my studio is in my house), especially with having 3 children it allows to me to work the hours that work best for my family.

I have periods where live events are my focus (usually around Christmas and times such as mother’s day and valentine’s day), but i’m lucky that my business is now in a position to only take on clients that truly reflect my brand and work within my busy family schedule.

A lot of my in studio work can be done at any time so I am so fortunate I can time time during the day to care for my children and family life and can do work around when I have moments.

Sometimes there’s nothing better than sitting in my studio doing calligraphy late at night when it’s quiet and I can truly focus on creating some magic.

Some of my regular clients are PR and media which often requires quick turn around so I actually enjoy not having to be on a location to create something in a short turn around. I’ve been known to stay in my PJ’s when on a tight deadline!

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I think as a creative business it is so important to have systems in place to reduce the amount of time certain processes take. I love my Dubsado system where I can quickly and easily send invoices and contracts over to clients, scheduling apps such as Asana so I can quickly and clearly see what projects are in the pipeline and what I need to focus on for the day.

I think a big trap that a lot creatives find themselves in can be in content creation. It is a lifeblood for businesses like mine, but can be a huge time suck vortex. I have found that having a clear marketing strategy in place has really helped to streamline the process.

Having clear goals around how I add value to my audience, what funnels I use to create and inspire my target audience and batching the work is extremely important.

I try to dedicate one day a week to either creating photographic content for the month, creating blog posts for the month, scheduling email list send outs and Instagram posts has really helped me to avoid doing these last minute and creating content that doesn’t serve my audience in an optimal way.

5) What does work life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I think work life balance to me is about creating a life where I can be flexible with last minute things that pop up. I think to say that we will always have boundaries in business surrounding our working hours is unrealistic when you are the creative behind your business and especially in the early phases of business there is a lot of sacrifice and hard work that goes into it.

But the effort is worth the outcome to create a business where I am now in a position to choice which projects I take on and where I give myself the time to enjoy family life.

During busy periods there might not be much work life balance but it’s always balanced out with quieter periods where I can dedicate a day to playing with my girls and going on adventures.

Having the flexibility of being at home at least 50% of the time means I can do mundane tasks during the day like putting a load of washing on without it interrupting my workflow which doesn’t make it feel like I have a huge mammoth of tasks piling up if I was to be at an office all day.

My husband also runs his own construction company, so being able to balance our lives between both businesses is a bonus because I can be more available to our girls when he is busy and working long hours.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

I think having a job from the age of 14 has really shaped me into being a hard worker and valuing the importance of being a reliable and “get it done” type of attitude for my clients.

I’ve learnt that I can’t be my best self for everybody if i’m taking on too many projects at once so I’ve learnt to be very selective about who I work with and what will help drive the business forward.

Learning to say no to projects that don’t light me up or serve the focus that I want to move the business forward in has been the best decision I’ve made to ensure i’m not overworked or limiting myself in what I can say yes to!

I think another key area that has really served me in developing balance in my business is to reduce the amount of services I offer.

I believe that having a niche/ core audience and not trying to be everything for everybody has really helped to reduce pressure and having too many differing projects and clients can be a real distraction and led me to being overworked in the past.

There was so many different projects and areas of focus in the beginning that made it really difficult to have a nice work life balance.

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Coming from a medical background when I started Calligraphy en Vogue I literally knew nothing about social media and marketing a creative business. So educating myself on how to create a personal brand, how to market myself to my ideal audience and creating a sustainable business in the arts, were really my focus.

My favourite books I read that really helped my journey was;

  1. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action by Simon Sinek
  2. The Transformational Consumer by Tara-Nicholle Nelson
  3. Brand Against the Machine: How to Build Your Brand, Cut Through the Marketing Noise, and Stand Out from the Competition by John Michael Morgan
  4. Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence—and How You Can, Too by Gary Vaynerchuk

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Giving myself space to get into my creative zone so i’m always on top of innovating and creating new concepts.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I believe that giving yourself the space to sometimes not have balance in each and every week but to create the environment to be OK with this.

You need to appreciate that life in business won’t always be balanced, and to enjoy the moments in when they are and know that sometimes the hard work has to come first and the reward is work life balance as the goal and to strive to evolve towards this goal.

Forgiving yourself for not always having the answers and sometimes making choices that don’t always serve you in the end but learning from it and moving forward is the key.

Photo credit: George John Photography

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.