How one mother masters self-confidence to live her ultimate start-up life

It’s clear Fiona Killackey LOVES running her own consultancy business. Who wouldn’t love the freedom to work flexibly, on projects that inspire you, not to mention the luxury to take extra time off with your family? But this dedicated and super successful mum of one still feels the pressure of having to prove herself in the consultancy realm, despite an impressive track record working with some huge brands in Australia and abroad.

Fiona talks to us about the ups and downs (mostly ups!) of entrepreneurship, rewards of good planning and hard work, and the things in life she’s grateful for.

Can you tell us about your career journey so far?
I’ve worked in content and marketing since 2002. I started off as a journalist and magazine editor, before moving into book editing and publishing and, finally, over to the ‘dark side’ of marketing and advertising, specialising in eCommerce and digital marketing. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some massive brands like Amazon, Audible, Country Road Group, Australia Post, David Jones and Etsy, and have written for a bunch of publications including Monocle, Cool Hunting, The Design Files, Russh, Nylon and The Age. Starting off as a writer and editor has helped my marketing enormously as I understand the power of storytelling and capturing audiences.

You launched My Daily Business Coach two years ago. How have you found this journey of starting up your own business?
I started consulting under Fiona Killackey Consulting in January 2016, but decided to launch as My Daily Business Coach in 2017 as I was growing the business to include freelance staff and broaden the range of services offered to include 1:1 coaching, workshops and consulting.

Between 2007 and 2009 I ran my own business, offering copywriting, ghostwriting and branded content, so I knew what to expect in terms of keeping motivated, pitching to clients and working from home. This time I had a young son, a husband and a mortgage so there was A LOT more initial planning involved (while still employed) to ensure I didn’t create stress for my family. I lined up four months’ work for my business before resigning.

I absolutely LOVE having my own business; the freedom to choose how to spend your time and with whom is amazing. I’ve been able to meet and work with some incredible folk and no two days are ever the same. Even on the off days, I feel like it’s 10,000 times better than working for someone else.

What has been your biggest challenge in running your own business? What have you loved the most?
I think the biggest challenge is confidence. When you’re in a senior role within a company, there are expectations from your colleagues that you’re qualified to be in that role. When you’re a consultant or coach, often people don’t know your career history and you need to have that inner confidence to walk into a room of c-suites and immediately prove you know what you’re doing.

The thing I love most is the freedom you have around how you spend your time. If I want to take a week off with my family, I don’t have to run it by anyone. If I want to go for a long walk in the middle of the day, I can. Or, if I finish client work early I can go and collect my son and spend the afternoon in the playground or hunting for treasure in the backyard. I work hard, but I also have more time to do things outside of work. The last two years I’ve taken most of January off to set goals, spend time with family and prep for the year ahead. It’s a total luxury I’d never get working in-house full-time.

Congratulations on being the proud mother of a gorgeous boy. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve found about being a mum?
Thank you! I think the biggest thing is how much becoming a parent teaches you about yourself—the good and the bad. You’re forced to be more patient and to consider what sort of example you’re setting. You also have to think carefully about what values to instil in your children. I’ve really had to show up as the person I want my son to respect for the rest of his life.

You also moved back to Australia from London after your son was born. What was that experience like with a young child and family?
We moved back to Melbourne in late 2013 after four years away. My son was eight months old at the time and my husband and I, both being from Melbourne, realised how much we missed having family around. For my in-laws, my son is their only grandchild, so it was really important to ensure they had that time with him. Plus, Melbourne is an incredible city and the quality of life is so much greater here. From October to March, London can be so grey, dreary and damn cold. Even on cold days in Australia, it’s often still bright and you can head outside for a walk. I was fortunate to have an incredible mother’s group in London and lived near a park so we had plenty of play dates and picnics. I still keep in touch with all those mums weekly via a Facebook group and we have plans to meet up in London in 2020. They were all from UK and EU and most have now moved out of London. It’s an incredible city and I miss being able to jump on a train to Paris, but it’s also a tough place to live with young children and no family support.

How do you share the load of parenthood with your partner?
My husband always wanted to be a dad and is an incredible one. From the start, he was up in the middle of the night feeding while I pumped breastmilk. He’s also been the one to teach our son to swim and ride a bike. My husband drops our son to kinder three times a week and will collect him if I’m held up late with a client. He is also the one who gets up in the middle of the night now if our son wakes (I somehow sleep through!) and will put our son to bed each night with stories. I currently have two days a week off with my son, but in my last full-time job (Head of Marketing at MIMCO) my husband worked part-time to look after our son. In raising our son we have balanced the load, and I know I’m REALLY lucky to have that. I have many friends who shoulder 90% of the parenting duties.

Where do you see your career going next? What is one dream you have that you have yet to accomplish?
I’d like to take a few of the public workshops I run and put them online as a course. I’ve had a lot of people in the US contact me about doing it, so that’s the plan this year. I’ve written stories since I could hold a pencil, so I’d also like to publish a book of fiction. I wrote around 65,000 words in 2009, so hope to finally get that book finished and published before I turn 40. Other than that, I’m loving what I’m doing now—running workshops and consulting to clients on marketing, content and biz strategy, and coaching small business owners to be the best they can be. I honestly, hand on heart, love what I do.

How do you stay sane with the juggle? What is your way of coping when you find yourself frustrated, overwhelmed or burned out? How do you look after yourself?
I’ve had to really make an effort to stop working at times. I love what I do so it can be easy to jump on the laptop in the evening or on weekends. The sudden passing of my mum, who was my best friend, in 2017 forced me to stop and take stock and realise that work isn’t the be all and end all. Her death came at the end of 18 months of loss, including a horrible miscarriage and the passing of a very close aunt. Since then, I’ve made a real effort to go for a walk by the Yarra River often. I’ve also made more of an effort to switch off screens and sit and chat with my husband in the evenings. We both gave up coffee and alcohol for 2018, so we sit with our cups of tea and chat about life. It’s become a regular thing and I love it. If I’m frustrated or annoyed, I have a Spotify playlist called ‘uplifting’ and I’ll play those (often daggy!) songs loud and dance around the kitchen, or I’ll go outside and lie in the hammock for ten minutes. On really bad days, I’ll log on to Global Rich List and it ALWAYS puts things into perspective and reminds me how bloody lucky I am. We are so very fortunate to live in Australia, and sometimes it’s just a case of checking myself, taking a breath and getting on with things.

Favourite time of the day is … early morning when I have time to go for a walk and watch the sun come up over the Yarra River.

Instagram sites that inspire you … oh, too many to list! @ericlafforgue for global and incredible photography; @thedesignfiles for homes and creative people; @juliaostro for food I wish I could make; @hellokateberry and @natasha_morgan_ for amazing imagery and dreamy country scapes;, and @mumswithhustle for working mum inspo.

I’m happiest when … I’m in nature with my son and husband, and don’t have anywhere to be.

I’m addicted to … the hammock my husband bought me last Christmas—ten minutes in it feels like a holiday.

Favourite wardrobe staple for work … loud-print dresses.

Favourite wardrobe staple for weekends … jeans and Birkenstocks.

My role model is … my late mum. She worked incredibly hard, but also went back to university in her late 40s while raising four teenagers. She lived and worked all over the world and, regardless of how much she had on her plate, always made time for the opera, theatre, ballet, reading and golf. She lived a full life and, at the end, left a wonderful legacy.

Heels or flats? Flats.

Discover more Real Stories from our Circle In community HERE.

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