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9 Questions For...Ellen Donnelly

Thursday 22nd February 2024

"9 Questions For…" is an interview series in which I ask founders and solo entrepreneurs to share their experiences of doing "their thing, their way". The questions might be the same but the insights certainly aren't! If you fit the bill and would like to share your learnings please get in touch.

In this edition of 9 Questions For… we hear from founder of The Ask and business coach Ellen Donnelly.

Ellen Donnelly

The Ask founder Ellen Donnelly

Q: Are you a founder, co-founder, solo entrepreneur, consultant or something else?

I am a solo entrepreneur with a small team of contractors.

Q: What type of business do you run?

I coach one-person business owners to step into their unique Authority and grow a service-based business around their expertise.

Predominantly, this is with private coaching in a one-to-one setting, but I've also run group programmes, and this year, I am launching a membership — Authority Club.

Over the last four years, I've also created weekly articles, playbooks and guides that have had over a million views — so I consider it very much a content-led coaching business.

Q: Why did you start your business?

The makings of it began in 2019 after I quit a job without anything lined up. I made a bet on myself by investing in my coach training and I started my business in 2020. The pandemic was weirdly good timing: lots of free time, not spending much money and lots of people online seeking career advice.

My initial vision was a coaching and content platform that helped ambitious professionals to navigate the ever evolving careers landscape.

Having worked with lots of startups, I knew how many people were deciding between entrepreneurship and traditional corporate ladders, and wanted to provide a safe place for decisions and career planning.

Over time, I moved to supporting entrepreneurs exclusively, who still have lots of decisions about their career to navigate!

Q: What's the biggest challenge you are facing in your business?

I'm at capacity with 1-1 clients most of the time and am not interested in just charging higher and higher fees. My ideal client is new in their one person business building journey or not where they want to be financially.

So, I am working out options for scaling, and that requires a different capacity, operational structure, and mindset. I feel like my foundations are never quite strong enough for that — but I am working on it and I am going to get some experts in this year to support me!

Q: What's going well in your business?

My reputation and client results feel strong; there are lots of happy customers and 5* reviews I feel really proud of.

I'm also pleased not to have missed a weekly email in over two years, except for an intended Christmas break.

Q: What skill do you excel at, and which one do you want to get better at?

I excel at finding the nub of a problem or clarifying someone else's thinking. I believe my best work is in those 1-1 conversations, distilling my client's big ideas and fears, into something that feels digestible and ultimately, achievable.

I would love to get better at organisation. It's not a weakness; I would say it's a strength, but I'm always looking for 1% improvements as I know my creative brain often makes my workflows messier than they should be.

Q: What will be different about your business this time next year?

By this time next year, I'd have run two cohorts of my membership: Authority Club.

As well as that, I'd love to have tested out different digital products and smaller coaching programmes so that 2025 is more about scaling what works and dropping what no longer serves me or my clients best.

Q: What's the one thing you wish you'd known before starting your entrepreneurial adventure?

I wish I'd known that the shiny successes you see online are 1% of the reality of entrepreneurship and not to compare my journey to those people! Often, it's not even their first business, or they have had some very fortunate advantages and help along the way!

Q: Where do you live, and what do you love about your city?

I live in East London, specifically right by Hackney Central station.

I love the amount of independent shops, coffee houses and top restaurants. The number of parks within walking distance. The small business owners I buy from on the regular. The diversity. The number of interesting people.

I know it has its challenges, but it's very much home for me right now.

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This is the web site of Keir Whitaker — I'm a UK-based marketing consultant, business coach and founder of Craft+Work working with creative, digital, and ecommerce businesses.

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