Figure Out What's Next

#31: Entrepreneurship -- Do You Have the Spirit? Ask this Question First!

with Samantha Pilling
June 8, 2023 | 50 Minutes



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On "Inside-Out Career Design" this week, hosts Nicola Vetter & Peter Axtell speak with Samantha Pilling

Do you have the spirit to be an entrepreneur? That's the first question because entrepreneurship is not for everyone. In our conversation, we dive into Samantha’s world, who is a marketer focusing only on Facebook Ads.

Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, she knows the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial life. It's not easy but very rewarding if you have a thick skin, tenacity, and the willingness to learn.

Samantha describes losing all her clients during the pandemic and then coming back stronger than ever. This is a story of courage, passion, skill, and resilience.

In our conversation, we talk about…

  • how one of her entrepreneurial efforts nearly burned her out,
  • how her business evaporated during the pandemic and what she did to bounce back,
  • what it takes to be an entrepreneur,
  • the ups and downs and mostly the joy and satisfaction of being your own boss,
  • why lifelong learning is essential to being a successful entrepreneur,
  • why having a loving supportive family helped her pivot and keep going.

About Samantha Pilling

Samantha is a Facebook Advertising Expert and Agency Owner with over 26 years’ Advertising & Marketing experience. 

She was an early Digital Media evangelist – surfing the dot-com boom & crash of the late 90s and has been helping brands with their Social Media Strategy since 2002 (2 years before Facebook was born).

In 2014, Sam ditched her corporate marketing job (and soul-destroying London commute) for career freedom (and a commute down the garden via the kettle).

She now runs Bite Me Marketing (an intentional Ads agency) helping coaches and course creators leverage the power of Facebook and Instagram to reach new customers, get more attention and supercharge sales.

Sam lives in Hertfordshire, UK, with her dog, husband, and her three PlayStation-hermit sons.

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About the Inside-Out Career Design Podcast

This podcast is obsessed with answering a single question: Is it possible to create an authentic, meaningful, and fulfilling life you love while building a successful and rewarding career?

Join Nicola Vetter and Peter Axtell, co-founders of the Career Insights platform and creators of the groundbreaking MotivationFinder assessment, as they follow their obsession with answering this question by sharing their insights, discoveries, and life lessons and talking with career experts, leaders, spiritual guides, psychologists, data scientists, coaches -- anyone and everyone who might hold a strategy or answer to the age-old questions of “what’s next for me?” and “what should I do with my life?”

They seek to transform suffering into joy for millions of people stuck and confused in their lives and careers.

Get ready to be inspired, motivated, and above all, to connect deeply with who you are and what you are meant to do with the time you’ve been given.


Samantha Pilling  00:00

Maybe just allowing ourselves to be open to opportunities. And I think a lot of, you know, a lot of times we're under, we put ourselves under so much pressure that I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this career, I'm going to set up this business. This is going to be my niche. This is going to be who I'm working with. These things change and they change organically over time.


Peter Axtell  00:19

Before this episode starts. I have a small favorite to ask from you. If you've ever liked any of our video podcasts, we've posted on our YouTube channel, would you just hit the subscribe button? It helps the channel more than you may know. And the bigger the channel gets, the easier it is to find great guests. Thanks a lot and enjoy.


Nicola Vetter  00:42

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Inside-Out Career Design podcast. My name is Nicola Vetter, and I'm here with my co-host and husband, Peter Axtell, and our guest today is Samantha Pilling. Samantha was an early digital media evangelist, surfing the .com boom and crash of the late 90s. And today, specializing in Facebook ads, she did it both, working as an employee and as a serial entrepreneur in two very different industries. If you have ever contemplated becoming an entrepreneur, we talk with her about the reality of what being an entrepreneur means. Let's tune in and listen and learn from Samantha.


Peter Axtell  01:44

Okay, welcome, Sam, we're happy to have you with us today. And as you may or may not know, I'm an anglophile. I lived in England from 1970 to 1976, as a professional musician, toured around all over the UK and stuff. So England is kind of my second home, and actually our band got signed to Chrysalis Records at Oxford University in 1970. So I have great love of the UK. And it's kind of my second home. So we're really happy to see you.


Nicola Vetter  02:19

And so do I, because I went to boarding school in York, as a teen long, long ago. Okay, welcome. We are really happy to have you here with us. Now, you are a digital media evangelist helping businesses since 2000, with their social media and digital marketing strategy, and the implementation. But you also stepped into the bakery business for over three years in between. And you have an interesting mix of having been employed and being an entrepreneur. We would love to dive into all of your adventures, of course. But before we do, tell us, what were those moments in your life and career where you really had to sit down and had no choice but to figure out what's next for you? We call them the what's next moments, and you can just begin as far back as you want.


Samantha Pilling  03:26

I think there are probably three big ones. The first being when I do say I've been in the digital space for oh my goodness, but 23 years, I've been doing digital marketing and had been working in corporate and some big corporate names, and kind of was really tired of doing that London commute, working for someone else. And being quite had some amazing roles and great positions. So don't get me wrong. I really loved what they did. But I kind of kind of felt a little bit hemmed in and I got to the point where do you know what I just need to change I need to get out of this industry. I'm tired of marketing. I'm tired of advertising. I'm tired of London agencies, I need to do something different. And I was pregnant with my third child. And so without a job to go to I am having spoken to my husband, he was in total agreement with me to do this. I handed my notice in and was going to work out what I was going to do. And that's when I kind of just fell into baking. I literally just started making some cakes, started enjoying it couple of feet people noticed and bought cakes from me. I then realized I wasn't going to be a living while I was just kind of selling cakes to mums at the school gate and then started to supply local shops and then realized okay, no, that's never going to make me an income and then started sort of specialize in top end wedding cakes. So it wasn't anything that I purposely did. I fell into it and then kind of got I suppose carried away with it, shall we say? So that was probably the big the first big one.


Nicola Vetter  05:06

How do you fall into cakes?


Samantha Pilling  05:12

But probably isn't really the wrong way of saying it. But I think it was just, I've now got in my head me literally falling into kicks. But I think is that just sometimes in our lives? Don't we find ourselves just having a fork in the road? And going do you not? Let's just see what happens if I follow this path. And let's see where it leads me. To cut long story short, I actually ended up leaving the cake industry because it wasn't right for me. But we can talk about that in a sec. But yes, I've now got images of me falling in cakes.


Nicola Vetter  05:47

See, there we go. What I really am curious about because it is, for me so counterintuitive, you work in advertising, marketing for so long, ever since your college years, I guess, and then all of the sudden, this shift can't be because you were pregnant...a shift into cakes, out of all things that would have been possible.


Samantha Pilling  06:22

I know. I know. I think I think it was that kind of craving to do something a little bit more creative. So even though I was in advertising or marketing before, it wasn't really the kind of creative end of it. And so I had this kind of yearning to do something. And I think as well it was a little bit me kind of like throwing my toys out of the pram that I'd had enough. I didn't want to do this anymore. I just wanted to get out of the industry. And it just kind of presented itself to me. And so I kind of through whenever I do anything, I don't do it by house I throw myself into every single course I can possibly buy. So I sort of like to call sorts of courses would catch on sort of like traveling around the country going to different cake decorators to learn from them. And do you know in the early days of it, absolutely loved it. But I do think there was also this element of the London commute was keeping me away from home and I was kind of getting up at half six in the morning not getting home from work until eight o'clock at night. I had two children already. And I think the cakes was also partly something that I misguidedly thought was actually gonna fit around the family. The reality was, it was the polar opposite.


Nicola Vetter  07:35

Okay, so you had to get up at four o'clock in the morning now, right? Now just draw the picture a little bit for us and we won't spend too much time on the cakes, I promise.


Samantha Pilling  07:47

Okay, that's okay. So yeah, so something that you think is going to fit around your family. And I think a lot of people are attracted to industries where they think it's gonna, they can work the hours, they want to work, and they can pick the hours that they want to choose. But in the reality was something like cakes, if you're doing consultations with clients, if you're delivering cakes, those people are likely to be working themselves. And they're likely to be working Monday to Friday, nine to six jobs. So the only time they can speak to you is in the evening, at the weekends. The deliveries were weddings were birthdays, those parties tended to be in the evenings, and at weekends. So what went from this kind of career job business that was going to fit around family quickly turned into a job that was it was like 80 hour weeks, I was working all hours I was working evenings, I was working weekends. And there is literally two years of my kid's life. Like literally photos from two years where I am noticeably absent. Because I would have been in London, you know that a building in London, called the gherkin. And you know, driving into central London, going having to go through security going up and delivering a wedding cake to the Gherkin coming back down again, driving back out of London, it would be about a four hour turnaround just to deliver a cake. So there were quite a few photos of without me in the pictures.


Peter Axtell  09:16

You know, I think we're going to talk about this a little bit later in this conversation about what it's like to be an entrepreneur. But I think what you're pointing out here is you have this, this image, I'm gonna make these cakes, and then all the little details that maybe you just didn't realize what the reality is. We're going to cover that in a little bit. But you also drew some, there were some parallels between marketing and between cake baking, there were some elements of both. Talk about that.


Samantha Pilling  09:44

Yeah, absolutely. So and it kind of brings me I suppose to my next pivotal moment in my career, and that was I sat down I'd been doing the cake business for two or three years. And I sat down with my business coach and just said Take a look, you know, on the surface, this cake business is really, really successful because of my marketing background, because of my, you know, advertising etc. I, I'd actually grown the business to the point where I was in Hello magazine, I had a cake in there for a celebrity wedding, I was being asked to write for cake magazines around the world, I was interviewing cake decorators from around the world. And so although, you know, I'm not saying my cakes, my cakes were nice, but I certainly wasn't the best cake design or cake decorator in the world. by a longshot, I mean, some of the artistry that you see was phenomenal. But what I did have was that marketing and advertising and PR background, where I kind of knew how to get the cakes in front of people how to get exposure. And to get into magazines, I'm gonna give you a simple one is I just got chatting to an editorial team on one of the cake magazines, and would ask them in advance what features they would have each month. And they would have blue cakes one month, and they would have floral cakes another month. And they would have hand painting and other you know, another month, and I would just literally tee up all the cakes I'd made that were in that space. Or even if I hadn't, I'd go away and make someone dummy cakes. And then I would bombard them with photos. And it was helping the editors out because they had to fill pages. And so you would literally open my open these magazines and my cakes would be on. There was one magazine had some like 26 cakes in one magazine. Because I had that marketing background I knew to how to help the editorial team. And so that's what I did. However, so as I was saying, I sat down with my business coach and said, Hey, look, you know, this, this business is looking really, really successful on the surface. However, it's not working for me with my family. I'm surprised my husband is still even talking to me, let alone hasn't walked out because I've number one I've not been around. And when I am around, I'm distracted. Or I'm stressed. I am falling into bed at three o'clock in the morning covered in icing sugar and not in a sexy way I'm shattered. I was just horrible to live with. And I said to her, but not only am I not there, and I'm really stressed. But I've actually not making any money either. So I can't turn around to my husband and say, hey, look, I'm making a fortune. Let's kind of suck it up for five years, and we'll pay off the mortgage and all set us up honey and we can retire to the Caribbean. I wasn't even making the money. So she said to me, okay, well, what is it about your business that you really love? But it's ironic, I really love the marketing and the PR, and I love getting my name out there and I love growing the business. And she said, Well, why don't you do more of that? Well, I can't I'm always in the kitchen, or I'm always in the cake studio baking. She said, so stop baking. Oh, what a revelation.


Peter Axtell  13:05

A blinding flash of the obvious.


Samantha Pilling  13:08

Another thing was my whole family, my family's really supportive, they're lovely. And they tried to be saying that to me and tried to say kind of, maybe you should go back to marketing. You don't want to listen to your family do. You don't want advice from your family as much as you love them. So it took that.


Peter Axtell  13:26

Well, you know what this makes me think of, Samantha, when you talk about how you like the marketing and getting your name out there. So, you know, our audience is trying to figure out what's next. That may be that they're maybe thinking about being an entrepreneur, again, we're going to talk about that later. Or they're going to go back to some job where they're going to get a paycheck. But they're trying to figure out internally, what makes them tick and what their purpose is, what they care about. And then they're going to go out and start doing testing to see what possible careers that they might like to do. So that's interesting when you say about how you went out and did some PR and you did some marketing. This makes me think how would a person apply some of the principles that you're talking about? So with over 2.9 billion people using Facebook every day, would you consider, for example, Facebook be an ideal place to go on a job hunt? Or is LinkedIn more for professionals?


Samantha Pilling  14:30

So it depends on what you mean by trying to find a job if you are literally trying to find a job then of course LinkedIn is the platform to go to this is the platform where people are doing business and they're connecting for business. Now that isn't to say that business isn't done on Facebook, there's b2b, there's b2c Essentially it's people to people, so it's building connections. So it depends on what kind of like what you mean by that. That said I get clients from Facebook. So...


Peter Axtell  15:04

That's interesting. So do you have some tips or tricks about how to connect with someone via Facebook? What is the protocol? Or what is the proper way to do that?


Samantha Pilling  15:17

So what the first thing I'd say is, I've got a vested interest in in terms of the agency that I run, we only do paid advertising, on Facebook and on Instagram. So I can talk about those platforms. However, what I would say is, I know a lot of people that absolutely hate Facebook with a passion, if that's how you feel, don't spend your time on Facebook, go and find a platform that you're happy and comfortable on. Yes, you can expand span to other platforms later. And I know, that's kind of probably contradictory. And probably quite controversial, because most marketers will say, find out where your audience is, and then go up there first. If your audience is on a platform that you absolutely hate, that's going to come across and you're not going to enjoy it, and you're not going to get very far of your business. So, Twitter, I'm sorry, I know there's a ton of people that do really, really well on Twitter. I personally hate it, it feels like I'm opening the back door and shouting out into the garden. I just don't like the platform. And so I haven't, I've got an account on Twitter, I've probably haven't used it for about five years. So don't try and connect with me on Twitter, by the way, you won't hear back from me, but I don't even think I've got the app on my phone anymore. So I don't hang around on Twitter, because it would suck the lifeblood out of me. So that's the first thing I'd say is, if Facebook isn't for you go somewhere else. I mean, I know a lot of people who are absolutely smashing it on Tik Tok at the moment. So pick the platform where you're really comfortable. I personally am on Facebook, more than Instagram, I think because I'm probably a little bit older, and therefore I've just used Facebook longer, but I'm on Facebook and Instagram, and I'm on LinkedIn as well. And I, you know, I'm not going to pretend that in terms of outreach, I can give you the magic wand or the silver bullet and tell you if you go out and do this. This is how you're going to make connections. And this is how you're going to meet people. And you're going to get business really, really quickly. I think the big things for me is first of all, is there is no, there is no formula to connecting with people. And it's just a case of being consistent and just being human. And not too spammy. I mean, we none of us like as soon as you connect with someone on LinkedIn, it's like a spam fest, you kind of feel it coming, can't you. So no major secret, I'm afraid. But just be consistent on these platforms. And just be human. Just be yourself and just treat other people the way you'd like to be treated as well. One last thing before we move on, I've got a client that we've just started working with about three weeks ago, we've been connected on Facebook for 10 years, we've been in, not very, very closely. But we've been in each other's spheres. We've been in some Facebook groups together, we've been on some challenges together. And she literally contacted me about four weeks ago and said, times, right? I'm ready to work with you now. So don't ever underestimate just the consistency of turning up and being visible and putting out value and connecting with people. It can just sometimes be waiting until the time is right for people.


Nicola Vetter  18:22

That's really great advice. Yes. Because there are so many ways how you can actually connect with people on different platforms. And it's always said that LinkedIn is the professional platform. And that's why I wanted to or we wanted to have your take on Facebook and career. I mean, if you're looking for a job, not as an entrepreneur, which I know there's a lot out there. But if you're looking for a job, or if you're looking to connect with people, we say, we do the life and career design conversations. And if you're having those conversations, then to do that on different platforms, you might need to use different ways of approaching people.


Samantha Pilling  19:19

Facebook is definitely less formal than LinkedIn is. So I would approach with that in mind, I would approach I would still make the connections on Facebook. In fact, I probably make the connections on LinkedIn and on Facebook, or Instagram, if that's where you're happier and have it's almost like picking out who would you love to go and work for? Who would you love to go and work with? Get yourself a listen, I do this with clients. I'll have a list of 100 people 20 People 30 People, it depends you know how big a market is that you want to get into? And I'll have a list of people that I would love to work with. Now I'm not going to jump on them and be pushy, but I'll make sure that I'm adding value I'm commenting on being visible with them. And then when the time's right, the conversation will happen. Also, bear in mind that people are busy. And it's not that they're purposely not thinking of you. It hasn't even crossed their mind that you might be able to help them in some way. So while I'm saying don't be, don't be pushy. Also, don't be afraid of just saying to someone, hey, look, this is what I do. I'd love to work with you one day timing might not be right, but can we stay connected? So I would, I would do it across as many platforms as they are on the people that you want to work with.


Peter Axtell  20:39

And not be afraid to just speak up. Because people know, they know anyway. So just to speak up and take a chance and just say, This is what I do.


Samantha Pilling  20:48

You never know. What's that saying about you miss all of the hits you don't try? I don't know, it's a baseball saying or something like that.


Peter Axtell  20:55

Alan Weiss, the famous consultant says, if you don't blow your horn, there is no music.


Samantha Pilling  20:58

I like that one.


Nicola Vetter  20:59

Especially as a Facebook ads expert, I bet you like that one. So, you are helping course creators and coaches, generate leads and fill events and sell programs. How did you learn to be a Facebook ads expert? I mean, is there a college degree? Well, you know...


Samantha Pilling  21:33

I, again, kind of is kind of going back to my theme of falling into things in a way in that are maybe not falling, but maybe just allowing ourselves to be open to opportunities. And I think a lot of, you know, a lot of times we're under, we put ourselves under so much pressure that I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this career, I'm going to set up this business, this is going to be my niche. This is going to be who I'm working with, these things change, and they change organically over time. And so when I closed down, I mean, it took me a year to close down the cake business because I had followed orders. And in that time I set up my well I set up my business. But thinking okay, well, what do I want to do next? I know I want to go back into marketing. But what does that mean? Well, I'd like to go into social media. Again, I don't know which platform. So when I started out, I offered organic social media. So I was posting for small businesses. And I was posting on Facebook. Actually, I don't think Instagram, I think it was Facebook, Twitter, which I hate is LinkedIn and Pinterest. back then. So I was posting for people and I was working with small businesses. So I was trying to work out which platforms I liked, and who I liked working with. And I did that for quite a while. And that then kind of migrated and changed. And I also my husband at the time had a big events company. So I was helping him with the marketing on that as well. So I think for a long time I wasn't, I wasn't really focusing on growing my business, until this date will probably be familiar with pretty much everyone around the world. But March 2020, when the world closed down, and I lost all of my clients, and my husband didn't have his events business anymore. And we both needed to earn money, and neither of us had a job. We were both working for ourselves and I lost all of my clients. And it that also forced my hand in a way to decide what I wanted to do. So I sat down, one of my friends is a very senior marketer at Coca Cola. And I said to her look, can you help me out? I haven't had a CV for a long time. A resume. Is it CV or resume with you guys? It's a CV over here. Resume. Okay, so I haven't had a resume for years. And even the last couple of corporate jobs I'd had I'd been headhunted. So I'd had a resume, but it wasn't really that good or polished. I hadn't really put any effort into it. And so I said, I'm gonna have to get a job. I know, it's the worst time ever to go and get a job, but I'm gonna need to get a job. We got bills to pay, we've got a mortgage. You know, we've got three kids going to need to bring some money in. And it took us three weeks. And she was just wonderfully brutally honest. You know, that person that you need. That is not going to sit you know, Softsoap you they tell you, they're not going to say Oh, that's lovely. Oh, that's great. And then you come out with a dreadful resume. She was brutal with me. mazing women absolutely amazing. And it took us three weeks. And I have this beautifully polished CV which interestingly I couldn't find. So this is telling you something will happen next. So this CV has never seen the light of day. I have never sent it to a single business. Because when I put that last, like dots on an eye the law is cross have a tea on it, I realized that I didn't want to go work for someone else. I didn't want to go back into corporate. And I would have to turn this around. And I would have to pull my finger out and turn this business around and start bringing some money in. So I'm, I'm actually very, very grateful. I appreciate him all PARC, some horrible personal experiences that some people had through COVID. But for me and my business, it was actually probably the best thing that ever happened to it, because it was that circuit break in the business that made me think, yes, I do want to do this. But okay, let's take the opportunity to think, who do I want to work with? And how do I want to work with them? And what kind of service do I want to offer? What does that look like? And then, because I had no clients, I didn't have to sell it to anyone. And I started again, and it's, it's been fantastic. It's been really good. I'm, I'm working with the people that I want to work with.


Peter Axtell  25:59

That's a fantastic story, Samantha. I want to make sure I have this correct. So you said you worked for three weeks, with this wonderful woman, on the perfect CV...that you never sent, but you know, we're joking. But it's kind of profound that you get to the end of the CV, and there's something about that, that gives you this insight, something goes off in your head and you say, Oh, this is a message, and you were paying attention. And it gives you this, I can't do this.


Samantha Pilling  26:12

Yeah. But I'd speak to her about it now. And I didn't realize this at the time because it wasn't conscious. She said, working with me on it was like pulling teeth. She said I just couldn't get the information out of you. And I did not purposefully do that at all. But obviously it was something kind of subconscious, I mean, deep down inside that was saying to me, this isn't the direction you want to go in. Don't do this. So but as I say, I did try to find the CV, but the fact that I don't even I can't even find it on my computer now tells you how little regard I have for it and how I don't ever plan to use it.


Peter Axtell  27:06

And we were going to show it on the screen here for anybody who's watching this on YouTube. We're gonna go to the next place. I'm very interested about this, it's that a certain amount of our audience might be wondering, should I try to be an entrepreneur? So we are entrepreneurs, we actually know what it's like. But I want to hear what your take is on the actual reality of being an entrepreneur, what you thought it would be like and what it is actually like, for people who are considering not going back and getting a regular paycheck. But being an entrepreneur, what's your take on it, please?


Samantha Pilling  27:48

How long have you got?


Peter Axtell  27:49

We can spend some time here because I think this is something that people really, really need to know.


Samantha Pilling  27:58

Okay, well, first of all, I will say there is, I suppose some context in my background. So I grew up in a family of what would now be classed as entrepreneurs. But you know, I'm a child of the 70s. And I don't even think that term was used back in the 70s. So my granddad had his own business. Then my dad and my uncle joined the business. It was the family business, although that sounds like the mafia, doesn't it, but it was the family business. It wasn't the mafia brother. And then my auntie, and my mom joined the business. And then my brother did, and then like cousins and uncles, and so there were a lot of the family, a lot of the family were working in, in this business. And I, when I was at school, I would work there and Saturdays, and I would in the summer holidays and university, I would work there as well, and et cetera. So I never wanted to work for the family business. But it was always there. And on top of that, I mean, my mum was born 50 years to too early. She has set up multiple businesses, she's had a catering business, that, I mean, she's done, she's set up for about four or five businesses. But one of them the best one, before I come into the seriousness of being an entrepreneur, was she bought an old, I'm gonna say it was like a 1970s 1980s, maybe even 60s or 70s, one of the old ambulances that had been decommissioned and wasn't being used by our health service anymore. Now, she completely stripped it. And she's a very, very good artist, and she hand painted all these fish in an octopus all over the outside of this octopus. And then her and her friend, her friend's husband was a fishmonger. And so they went into a deal with him that they would buy fresh fish from him. And they had it all stacked out with ice in the back of it and they would literally drive around local towns selling fish out off the back of, you know, an old ambulance. So when kind of people asked me about entrepreneurship, it's just not a strange thing for me because My parents, it's kind of like what I grew up with, it was more odd for me to go away and get a real job than set up a business myself. So I did you know, I did go away to university. And I did go into I went into TV, straight out of university and digital media then then soon afterwards. So it just wasn't a crazy idea when I had that gap of, of setting up my own business now to the realities of entrepreneurship. It's your best days of your life, and it's the worst days of your life. In short, it would I change it, would I not do it anymore? Well, you've heard my story about my resume. So you know the answer to that. But there are, there are days where very recently, I'm being mentored by a woman in the United States who has set up two very, very successful Facebook ads agencies, you know, turning over seven, eight figures. I mean, she's very, very successful. And she's mentoring me. And she was talking about her team. And she was talking about that had some issues with recruitment. And they've just, they've just managed, where they, they realize that two roles, they needed to merge into one role. So they got rid of one person, they kept the other. And then Justice had made that decision and made the offer and that person had left the person they kept handed their notice in, they'd been offered a bet, or they've been offered a job for more money. So she was telling me about how much they'd had to up her wage by and I sat there thinking, they're paying their members of staff more than I'm paying me, what am I doing? I could go work for her and get paid more. But then the second thought straight after that is, but do I want to do that? Is that what lights me on fire? Is that what gets me up every morning? Is that why I've got a big smile on my face most of the time now. So in answer to your question, I would recommend it and I do wholeheartedly recommend it, but go in with your eyes open. It's tough. And it's a challenge every single day. And you've got to brush yourself down and there are hard knocks, and you lose clients, and then you win clients. And it's for me, it's about making sure that roller coaster, I'm leveling the roller coaster so that it isn't the massive highs and the massive lows. And so that I just keep it on a nice happy, even keel rather than Yeah, highs and lows.


Nicola Vetter  32:38

What inner struggles did you have to overcome to do the work you do today?


Samantha Pilling  32:45

Oh, you, you name them, and I've gone through them. So the whole imposter syndrome, the whole self-sabotage in terms of what I felt I could earn or what I felt I could bring into the business and I still struggle with these, you know, still every single day I struggle with them. And I have to tell myself off, you know, the before COVID If you compare my businesses turnover, I'm turning over five, six times what I was turning over before COVID. If you'd have told me then what I'm turning over now, I just wouldn't have believed you. I just would have said That's a load of rubbish. But then I went away. And I did a lot of mindset work with a coach. I love coaching, by the way, I love being coached. And it's still, you know, it's still my new norm. Now, I look at my new targets. And I still have that that thought, Oh, really? Can I do that? I cannot Can I do that? So I don't think those things ever fully go away? I think you just become more aware of them. And you know, when you're triggered for them, and you just have to acknowledge it and say, Come on. You thought five years ago, you couldn't make what you're making now. So what how are you going to feel in another five years’ time?


Peter Axtell  34:05

So what do you think are the key skills and personality traits a person needs to be a successful entrepreneur?


Samantha Pilling  34:12

Very thick skin. You've got to be able to take the knocks. You've got to say here's the difficult thing as well. And I'm not sure I'm going to explain this properly. So I am very close to the clients that I work with. I absolutely love my clients to bits and I get very, very involved in their businesses and I care as much about their success as they do about their so for me it is personal. However, there are times in your business where you have to take the personnel out of it and you have to go, that person decided not to work with me and it wasn't personal. And I can't take that as a reflection on me or on my skills or on what I said. It just didn't work out here and then you have to brush yourself down You have to move on. I think something else as well, that's in the same kind of vein is allowing yourself to make mistakes. I mean, we hear a lot about failing forward and things like this, but it really is about, none of us are perfect. We'll all make mistakes. I made some big mistakes in my business last year. And you have to look back and say, Okay, well, what can I learn from that? What was I'm what lesson was I meant to learn? Okay, so that mistake cost me $10,000. Last year, well, at least it's not going to cost me $100,000 next year. So is that for, you know, allowing yourself to make mistakes, forgiving yourself brushing yourself down and learning, learning from the mistakes you make?


Peter Axtell  35:45

How have you escaped the typical entrepreneur thing where you're doing everything? How do you feel about delegation, virtual assistants and all that? I'd love to know about that.


Samantha Pilling  35:57

Okay, that's a really, really good question. And something again, I still struggle with. However, I do have a small team now. So I've taken the first steps. There's, especially when you build especially like an expert business that you build around you and you are fate, the face of that business, it's very difficult to kind of step, take a step away from that, because you'll, I've built this business around me, I'm the face, people come to work with us because they want to work with me. How I got over it was, I literally looked at my business and said, Well, there's no way that I can grow, I could never get any bigger unless I start to get help. So the first thing I did was, oh, the first hire, I would recommend this to anyone, I have a VA that her only job is to read my emails, and to give me a digest of what I need to respond to the best money I have spent in my business. I've been working with her for about three years. And she is going nowhere, because she just reads them, and I just get list every day. So that was the first step. I then took on, I then took her actually it was quite a big jump, I then took on two people in the business to run Facebook ads alongside me. And that was a real, I have to say that was a real challenge. But you, but you have to kind of remember, and I've certainly found this is that I have my strengths. And there's some good things that I'm good at. There are a bit of time, there are better places for me to spend my time. And actually the bits that my clients appreciate is it's not actually the pressing of the buttons on the Facebook ads. That's important. And that's what gets them results. But the bits the client clients really love working with me is the strategy calls. So when we sit down and we look at their business, and we unravel what they do, and we find out what that you know, what is it they do that is solving lots of people's problems? And how do we turn that into a language into a message into an image. And there's so many of my clients who are either solopreneurs, or they've got small teams. Even when they've got a small team, a lot of them feel quite either. Not sure if it's lonely in their business, but they don't feel like they've got someone to really talk about the strategy and the ideas and where they're heading. Their partners. Probably I know, my husband does this. I'll walk into the room, and I'll start talking about Facebook ads, and he'll just haze over, you know, he literally, he's dead behind the eyes, because it's not what he finds exciting in life. And I have to remember that. And then he also tells me about his job. And I equally looked dead behind the eyes as well as I find some kind of interest. But I think what the clients really love is this, having someone else to talk to having someone else, they're not always the ones that are having to come up with the ideas mean that's the other thing. Entrepreneurs, you feel so much pressure, you're the one that's always got to think of this strategy, what's next and say they love that. And going back to your question about outsourcing. So then when I brought two people in to do the Facebook ads alongside me, it freed up my time to spend more of it with my clients doing the strategy. And actually, as it turns out, one of the ladies that I brought on is really creative. She's got such an amazing eye creatively and visually, she's fantastic. So I've really strengthened that side of the business. And the other one is an amazing strategist, she just love geeking out on the conversion science behind it. And she'll come to me and she'll say, Hey, I've read this today, and how's this going to impact ads? So I think once you once you can kind of focus on what is it really in your business that you're really good at and that you love and that your clients cherish? And then what are the other bits that you can probably find somebody better than you at doing and then bring them in? Long answer to a short question.


Peter Axtell  40:00

Oh no, fantastic. Yeah. What do you think about the courses that are being taught today about how to become an entrepreneur, that you know, be an entrepreneur and click your heels and come up with something and everybody buys it, and you're on the beach in Jamaica, and Bob's your uncle? So do you think, what I'm curious about is, do you think that if somebody finds a reputable course, and does exactly what is being taught that it will work? Or what else might be needed in your opinion?


Samantha Pilling  40:34

Look, when I changed back, when I left the cake business, I'd been out of media for a couple of years, okay, I've been doing it for that business. But I've been out for it five years, and social media changes in a heartbeat. And so I did a, you know, I went and studied, first of all, I did my research, and I started with some really reputable people around the world. So I did my, I did my research, and I found out and I did my due diligence and found some really, really good courses. Then through doing, you make mistakes, and you learn, and actually, that's where the biggest, I suppose the bell curve in terms of learning comes when you're actually doing it. So I'm not anti courses, and all of my clients are coaches and course creators. So I buy I personally buy courses every single day, I'm totally obsessed with them. So I have nothing against courses. What. So what I would say is, do your due diligence, go away and find someone that is, is actually teaching what they're doing. So it's not just someone that pops up and is promises you the world promises your business in a box, and may wave a magic wand and you've got this amazing business, do your due diligence, and just have a little bit of common sense. So this is a really timely question. I go down people's funnels all the time, all the time, because, you know, I want to see how people are selling. I want to see how people are getting people onto webinars, how are they recruited me? How are they getting me to turn up? What are they saying on the webinar. So I've constantly got a webinar or something or a course on in the background, and I've always got podcasts and et cetera on. I went on one this week, that was actually quite a big name in marketing. And he was selling a business in a box that was setting up a marketing agency. And I have to say, I have no issues. I would recommend to people, if you love marketing, go away, learn how to do it, set up your business. So I have no issue with other people setting up businesses, I have no issue with competition, because I think we're all different. I think we all bring something different to the table and what's right for you might not be right for the next person. I also think there's a ton of business out there. So I have no issue whatsoever with other people in this industry. And I welcome connecting with other people in this industry. But the whole premise of this business idea was that you don't even need to learn marketing. And that's what really kind of got my backup with it was set up something that you have no experience or interest in, and you can make a fortune and you could be making a million within a year. And this is a big name. So yeah, I've got I've got, I've got mixed feelings, it depends on the course. They don't tell you that. There's this kind of Field of Dreams, build it, and they will come that you only need to set this business up and finding clients will be really easy. It's not really easy. I'm sorry, but it isn't. It can be enjoyable. You know, it can be a challenge. You can do it. I'm not saying you can't find clients. But there is especially in the coaching world. I see a lot of people qualifying to become coaches. And yet there isn't any. Okay, you've now qualified. How are you going to attract people into your world? And so we go, I don't know whether you've seen this as well.


Nicola Vetter  44:02

Yeah, absolutely.


Peter Axtell  44:05

A lot. Yeah.


Nicola Vetter  44:08

You might be a good coach, but you might not be a good salesperson. Right? And so what good does it do if you're a good coach, and nobody knows about you? You're the best kept secret so to speak.


Samantha Pilling  44:22

Yeah. Which is the word that always makes me cringe when people have that on their sales pages.


Peter Axtell  44:29

Have what?


Samantha Pilling  44:30

Have we are the best kept secret. I'm like, No, you don't want to be the best kept secrets. Last thing.


Peter Axtell  44:37

I want to be the worst kept secret.


Samantha Pilling  44:40

Don't be a secret at all. Let everyone know what you do. And then tell them again and then let them know again what you see.


Peter Axtell  44:48

Now, I'm really curious, Samantha. What teachers did you have? Who inspires you? Who do you look up to?


Samantha Pilling  44:55

Probably the main one when I started out with Facebook ads was Rick Mulready. He was the one that I read. really kind of cut my teeth on ads, but then I also learnt different things. There's Veronica Perrin. I went and learned about, I mean, she's more of a copywriter now, but it was about kind of strategy for your agency. And more about Yeah, probably more. It's kind of like business strategy. It's more of a copywriter. Now. Blimey, it'd be more like who haven't I learned from them? I've bought everybody's courses. But the biggie for me was Rick Mulready. What back when I first started doing Facebook ads. But Jon, well, Jon Loomer now is phenomenal, but he's a little bit more advanced. So I would not recommend him to a beginner because you'll just blow your head. He's very, very advanced.


Nicola Vetter  45:47

And we'll put all those names in the show notes as well. But you'll have to give them to us because I don't know a single person of those.


Samantha Pilling  45:57

There's Emma Van Heusen as well, there's quite I can give you lots of names, some good people or some really good people.


Nicola Vetter  46:03

For those out there that are interested in turning entrepreneurs. Okay, so Samantha, we are at the end of our wonderful conversation.


Samantha Pilling  46:16

Wow, that went quick.


Nicola Vetter  46:19

It really did. But I would love to give you of course, the opportunity if there's anything that we didn't touch on, that you really want our audience to know.


Samantha Pilling  46:31

I think it does go back to the allowing yourself to find out what you want to do, and not expecting to know right now and have the answers right now that it's okay to launch a business and to and to work out as you go along. Now, I'm not kind of saying fake it till you make it. I also don't like that saying as well. I think when you're learning you, you should be honest with people and tell them that you're learning. But I don't think we should put ourselves under pressure that we'll have the answers from day one, give something a go see if there's a demand for see if you can get some clients and have a look, just have a listen to the marketplace. I when I was unreconciled at readies course, everyone that I was in a very small kind of Splinter Facebook group was telling me don't work with coaches, they're really high maintenance, they're a pain in the bum, you really don't want to work with them. So I didn't for years, until I accidentally got my first coach client. And that's it. I completely fell in love with the industry. And I've never looked back. And that's the people I want to, you know, want to work with. So you will change your mind, you will, you know your business will change organically and just be open to that and not kind of stubborn to say no, I've made this decision just kind of like be open to the journey it's gonna take you on, because it is a great journey. It's a tough journey. But I honestly wouldn't do anything different. I heard it, I can't remember whether it was a bit of crap TV or where I heard this. But my last thought on my last bit of wisdom I give to you is that every part of our life is a chapter. And our book, you know, our life is a book, our book is not made up of one chapter. It's made up of multiple chapters, and we just have to accept that, you know, now each one's going to be a different adventure. Let's enjoy it.


Peter Axtell  48:19

We hope you enjoyed this interview. To learn more about Samantha head to, where we share links and more. Again, that's


Nicola Vetter  48:36

And if you've gotten to the end of our conversation, I feel like I owe you a debt of gratitude. Because that means you listened to the whole thing, which suggests you've enjoyed it. And if you did, could you do us a quick favor and hit that subscribe button? Also, if you're trying to figure out what's next for you join us for one of our live and completely free online workshops where we teach how to successfully reinvent your career in midlife. To save your spot in our next live workshop go to Thanks for joining us today. We'll see you next week for another episode. Same time, same place.