One of the key reasons for starting your own business is to gain more freedom and escape the 9-5.
So what do you do when working with multiple clients takes up more and more of your time and you find yourself stuck back in the same routine you were trying to escape?
Business owner Judith Keys explains the dangers of a business turning into a job, the importance of defining the type of business you want to create and how to choose the right niche to focus on.
She also talks about how she learned to market herself, used LinkedIn to build up a client base and created a successful business in a foreign country.
Judith Keys of My Food in France and My Best Friend in France
Website: My Food in France
Facebook: My Food in France
Instagram: My Food in France
LinkedIn: Judith Keys
Judith Keys is originally from Ireland but has lived in Provence, France for the past ten years, moving there permanently in May 2013.
Judith left her corporate job in Scotland, sold her house, and decided she wanted a better dream than the standard 9-5.
In the past two years since the birth of her youngest son, she has also created two new businesses: My Food in France and My Best Friend in France.
The aim is to help people to get comfortable and learn about French food – through cookery classes and a paid online membership – as well as to help them with the social and emotional impact of moving and living in a different country.
Judith wants to help people thrive and love their lives – and her experience over the past ten years allows her to support them with their journeys.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [1:35] How to determine the need there is for a new business.
- [3:55] The business model for My Best Friend in France.
- [6:58] Judith’s career before starting her own business.
- [8:15] What it’s like being in a job with no prospects of progression.
- [11:46] What to do during a sabbatical.
- [13:22] Making plans for after you leave your job.
- [16:45] The process of finding what you’ll do in a new country.
- [18:30] Learning how to market yourself.
- [19:15] How to source clients on LinkedIn.
- [21:44] Ways to get your connection requests accepted on LinkedIn.
- [24:25] How to build an online content strategy.
- [25:52] How to consistently produce high-quality content.
- [30:20] How a business can turn into a job.
- [33:40] Choosing the type of business you want to create.
- [35:44] How to get the confidence to start a business in a saturated market.
- [37:35] The danger of turning your passion into a business.
- [39:45] The future for Judith’s businesses.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
Episode 159: Don’t let your business turn into a job - with Judith Keys of My Food in France
Jeremy Cline 0:00
If you're looking to escape the nine to five, how can you make sure that what you escape to isn't just the nine to five all over again? That's what we talk about in this week's episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:30
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. If you want to know how you can enjoy a more satisfying and fulfilling working life, you're in the right place. One of the perceived advantages of freelancing or starting your own business is that you can choose your own hours without being tied to the nine to five working day. But what happens if, even as a freelancer, you find that you're still doing the nine to five when that was what you were trying to escape in the first place. My guest this week is Judith Keys, who quit her job, moved to France and started her freelance business. She has recently started two new businesses, My Food in France and My Best Friend in France, through which she teaches people about French food and also helps them with the social and emotional impact of moving to and living in a different country. Judith, welcome to the show.
Judith Keys 1:24
Thanks so much, Jeremy.
Jeremy Cline 1:25
So, why don't you start by telling us a bit more about your two businesses. And in particular, I'm interested in finding out how you determined that they were needed and that there was demand for them.
Judith Keys 1:35
I think I'll start with My Best Friend and France, it was something that came about through speaking with other people in my position, so other expats who have been living in France, or who are thinking of making the move, and there are so many resources out there for anything to do with French Admin, Moving High, so looking for a job and brands, visa applications, all these things, there are so many resources. And I find that there is a real gap for social and emotional support, as you said in the intro there. It's such a massive move, it can be really exciting and really fun, and people are moving to live their dream and, but it can also be quite a culture shock, it depends where you're moving from, but you know, the French are very different, there are lots of things to get used to, especially if you're moving from a big city back home to a small village here, which is what I did. I found myself quite lonely when I first got here, and I would have loved to have had a group of people to speak to, just to talk about life in general, and not necessarily ask questions about practical things, I wanted something a little bit different. So, I wanted to create a space for that, and that's what I've done. I've created a an online space that people can come in and share their experiences and ask for help in a slightly different way. And the My Food in France really came about with my love of food and wanting to do something a bit more creative and having a creative release and seeing a real change after COVID In terms of how things were happening a lot more online. And I really wanted to bring the provençale food and the really amazing ingredients and the stuff that I use here and my day-to-day life to more people talk about good food and good ingredients and how to feed your family. So, yeah.
Jeremy Cline 3:36
I'm curious, what's the business model for My Best Friend in France? Is it a paid community, or does it generate income another way? Or is it something that you've started and you're still looking into the ways that it can become a business, rather than just a hobby?
Judith Keys 3:55
Well, there are a few different things in the pipeline. One thing at the moment is the free group. So, there's a free Facebook group that everybody can come and join. And what I'm offering at the minute, which I love, is having a best friend in France in your pocket. So, BFF in your pocket, and it's monthly Voxer support, so people can join me, it's like a walkie talkie, it's like having a walkie talkie on your phone. That's what Voxer is, if you haven't heard about it. So, it's an app on your phone, and it acts just like a walkie talkie. You can send messages, voice messages or text messages via that, and I've had a few clients through that so far, and it is fantastic. It's a place to share highs and lows, I think, with me, so that's what's been really fun about this project is people want to talk to me and moan about what's happening and say, 'Oh, you know, I'm having such a hard time, or I'm missing this or I'm finding life difficult in a certain way', but they're also sharing lots of really good wins, they've finally spoken to someone at the cafe, and they spoke in really good French, and the person understood them, or little everyday wins. And it means they get one-to-one contact with me at any time, basically, that they would like. So, I love that. And I've also released some courses as well. I did a really fun Christmas countdown before the end of last year, where I talked about Christmas in France and food in France and that sort of thing. That was a really fun little project. And at the moment, what I'm running is a course called Well Woman in France. And that was a really important one for me to do. It focuses on women's health and giving people who live here, expats, giving them a bit more control over their health and well-being here in France. When you come to a different country, not only do you have the language barrier, but you just have the general head in sand thing that we all have a little bit with not dealing with particular health issues. So, I wanted to talk and teach people about how things work here, and lots of different ways, so not just go into your GP, but getting a dental appointment, going to a particular check-up that you might need to have, breast screening, all that type of stuff, and also talk about fitness and health and well-being and lots of different areas, and do that, give them lots of language stuff, but also give them, you know, here's how it actually works, here's what you can expect, and take them through the course. So, we're just in the middle of running that at the minute. I'm running it out with another business owner, Francesca Fleming. She's fantastic. She does a lot of the language teaching on the course, and we have found it really fantastic. The feedback we're getting so far is really, really good. So, yeah, just fantastic, Jeremy, I'm loving it.
Jeremy Cline 6:51
Tell us a little bit about your early career, where did you start out, what were you working on, what did that look like?
Judith Keys 6:58
My first job was straight out of university, and it was a necessity job. I started as a secretary in a law firm in Edinburgh. I did my degree there. And I suppose the French part of my life has always been a thread that's run through it, because I did a degree, I did my masters in French, Edinburgh. But I wanted to get a job as soon as I finished, so I ended up getting a temp job in this law firm. And I stayed there for eight years. I moved up through the ranks and became a manager in that law firm. And I loved it. It was great. I enjoyed it, I have worked with a really great team of people. It wasn't what I had dreamed of doing, obviously, I did it because it was what you were supposed to do. I had a really good full-time permanent job, and I was able to buy my first house, and I was doing all the right things, according to what society tells us anyway. But I just found myself in the end realising, yeah, that it wasn't for me, and I wanted a change.
Jeremy Cline 8:03
And what did career progression look like? You mentioned that you became a manager, did it reach a plateau, or was there more opportunity, if you'd wanted it?
Judith Keys 8:16
There was no more opportunity. So, I reached a point where I couldn't move any further, so I watched all the lawyers around me go from trainee to solicitor to associate partner and move up and up and up and up, and I reached a point that I couldn't move any further. And I think that was one of the big reasons I wanted to move, because my job became easy, and it became a bit run of the mill, and I knew that I couldn't move any further I'd gone through all the opportunities for development, I'd done different training courses to help me move into that role, and then once I was in the role, I did training courses on perfecting the role, and then, it just was nowhere to have to go. So, I think that was a big catalyst in my decision to leave.
Jeremy Cline 9:01
What was your employer saying to you, assuming that they were saying anything to you at this stage, about personal development, professional development?
Judith Keys 9:10
Well, this was around 2008. So, not long after that, in the years following 2008, after the crash, we didn't get any salary increases there, and there's no real money for development, they weren't investing in people as much as they had done before. So, I think it was pretty much, you know, you should be happy with having a job and then being in the position that you're in. That was very much what I felt anyway, I know I was respected and that people were happy with my work. It wasn't that. They just didn't need me to be doing anything else. They had people in other rules fulfilling that, and they had the lawyers doing the lawyering. So, in a way, they didn't need me to develop anymore. So, I just sort of had to keep going and just get on with it really, so that wasn't enough for me.
Jeremy Cline 10:01
And what was the point at which you decided I can't carry on doing this?
Judith Keys 10:06
I was really lucky in that I worked very closely with one particular woman, who I love and still get on with very well, she was my boss at the time, and she was going on mat leave. And she was going to be away for six months, and I thought this could be a really good opportunity for me, and I'm going to ask if I can take some time off. Because I knew I would be probably at quite a loose end when she wasn't there. And I asked, and they let me take six months off as well. So, I was able to have a sabbatical and really assess my options, and I thought the best thing to do in those six months was to go to France. So, the background of that is that my family had already moved here, my parents had taken early retirement to France, and my sister had moved here, in fact, before my mom and dad got here. She had already moved and was living the dream, and I always felt a little bit left out, like I was the only one left back in the UK. And I had missed out on the birth of my nieces, and I'd missed out on big birthdays and things like this. And I thought, I'll go and spend some time in France. So, I had those six months to explore what it was like to be in a completely new place. And I loved it, Jeremy, so that was the point that I decided to leave.
Jeremy Cline 11:30
So, apart from going to live in France for those six months, what other plans did you have at the start of those six months in terms of what you were going to do with that time? I presume that you thought at the end of it you'd be going back into your old job?
Judith Keys 11:48
Well, I did think that, but I also knew it was going to be an opportunity to have time away and to really think about what I wanted to do. And I think I knew somewhere deep down that there was no going back. I knew there was a reason, but I knew it was the start of a change, let's put it that way. And I didn't quite know what that was going to look like. I don't think I thought I would move to France permanently. I don't think that was ever in my mind. I thought I would come back after the six months and find a different job maybe, or maybe try and get into, my degree is in languages with interpreting and translating, so I thought I'm going to try and really push to do more of that. I did not see myself moving here permanently. And I did go back to my job, I fulfilled what I was meant to do. After the six months, I did the right thing, and I came back to Edinburgh, and I restarted my work. But that was such a good thing to do, in fact, because I could really see the contrast in being back in the office again at my desk after six months. So, you know, just this amazing life and France, I knew that it was the right choice to leave. So, not long after that, I handed in my notice.
Jeremy Cline 13:06
Out of interest, how long was that?
Judith Keys 13:08
I came back in January 2013, and I handed my notice in April, in the beginning of April, that year.
Jeremy Cline 13:16
And when you handed in your notice, what were your plans at that point? What were you going to do?
Judith Keys 13:23
I was moving back to France. By that point, I had made my mind up. So, during the time I was in France, and once I got back, I mean, I probably didn't have to go back, but I wanted to do the right thing. I probably could have stayed on in France, but I had unfinished business, I had to go back and get my house sold and see people and have the last few months there. And then, I finally left. In fact, it just came up in my memories the other day, that it was 10 years to the day that I was driving all the way down through Scotland, England and getting there, getting the tunnel across in my little Clio, absolutely packed full of stuff and leaving for good this time in May 2013.
Jeremy Cline 14:09
Okay, so you've made the decision, I'm going to move to France. Was there at that point a decision, I'm going to move to France, and this is what I'm going to do when I get there?
Judith Keys 14:18
Absolutely none. Absolutely no idea. But I've talked about this a few times, because most people cannot believe that I made that choice with no idea about what I was going to do. But I have always worked, and I've always turned my hands to pretty much anything. I knew I had a good level of French, my master's is in French, and I knew I would find something, so I wasn't too worried. And I have to say, I was in a privileged position. I had a buffer, my parents were in France, my sister was there, I wasn't completely on my own. So, I had that buffer, so that was very, very lucky, and I recognise that, but also, I'm an independent person, and I knew I would find something quickly, whatever that may be. So, I wasn't too worried about that. Which may seem crazy, but yeah.
Jeremy Cline 15:12
So, how much runway did you have, did you set yourself a time limit from the point that you arrived in France by which you were going to have made a decision what you were going to do next and started making moves in that direction?
Judith Keys 15:28
I didn't give myself a timeline really. I mean, the other part of the story is, there was a love story in the middle of all this. So, I met my now husband at the very end of that six-month period when I was in France. So, when I came back, I mean, he wasn't the reason I came back to France to live, but he was one of the reasons. And he was in work, and I sort of knew that we were going to move in together, and that there was that buffer as well, that I wasn't stressing about finding something straight away. But what I will say is that I was desperate to work, because I knew I didn't want to be twiddling my thumbs either. So, I didn't feel pressure from the outside, it was more of an internal thing of I want to be independent myself and find something. So, when you're talking about a runway, it was a sort of self-imposed thing really, that I knew would find something, and I was confident that I would do so. So, yeah, I wasn't really worried.
Jeremy Cline 16:36
So, talk to me about the process there, finding what you were going to do next and starting it.
Judith Keys 16:45
So, I met lots of different expats when I moved here, and still do, and one of my very close friends now, Tracy, she is an executive coach, and she asked me to support her with some admin and various things with her business. And I thought, 'Oh, yeah, I could do that.' You know, with my experience, secretarial experience and that type of thing, that would be something I could do. The whole virtual assistant thing was just starting, it was becoming a much bigger thing, so I learned a little bit about that and said yeah, I mean, I can do that remotely, that's no problem. So, that is where it really began, because I started to support her, in a small way, but it was so valuable to her, she had been running her business on her own, I was able to book all her travel and work on reports and presentations and things for her. And that was really the start of a light bulb moment for me, because I realised that I could support more people, this could be a thing. And that's when the virtual assistant business was born.
Jeremy Cline 17:58
So, the work you did for Tracy wasn't sufficient to support full-time work, she didn't need that much, it was just few hours here and there a week sort of thing.
Judith Keys 18:07
Exactly. It was very piecemeal. And again, that was about me learning how to run a business, so when I did take on more clients, I set up retainers and things like that, so that I knew I would have a more steady income every month. And I learned so much about running my own business by doing that. So, a lot to thank Tracy for.
Jeremy Cline 18:29
And where were your other clients coming from?
Judith Keys 18:31
I had no clue how to market myself to begin with, Jeremy. So, I did a short course in marketing via LinkedIn. So, I talked about my experience, and I think that having a secretarial background helped with the virtual assistants stuff, because I know quite a lot of people set up as virtual assistants and don't have any background, they think it's easy, it's just admin, they can do it. And actually, I'm not saying it's rocket science, but there's a lot more to it. So, I think the fact that I had a really good background in admin helped, and I filled my client list within a couple of weeks. That's very, very lucky.
Jeremy Cline 19:13
What was the source or the sources of these clients?
Judith Keys 19:17
All through LinkedIn, and all because I chose a very specific niche, because I was working with Tracy, who was an executive coach, I really loved the work that she did, and it really inspired me, and I enjoyed helping her because I learned by the work that she did, and so I was very specific in my LinkedIn marketing, talking to a specific person I wanted to work with, female executive coaches. So, I wasn't speaking to everybody, I was just speaking to one particular person, and I was very clear about that. So, I was getting leads every other day. I couldn't believe it. I learned these few tricks about how to talk about your business, and it worked. It didn't work straightaway, because I didn't know really about how to do that. Before I did that little course, I was telling everybody I could do everything, and I wasn't really on LinkedIn, I was trying to do it on Facebook. And it's just all a bit of a muddle. So, the course really helped me to learn how to speak to one particular ideal client, and tell them how you can help them. And once I did that, it just changed everything.
Jeremy Cline 20:26
So, was this about increasing your presence generally on LinkedIn, posting about yourself, putting stuff about the sorts of services you offered, or was it more proactive in the sense of finding prospective, ideal clients and making direct contact with them?
Judith Keys 20:48
I made no direct contact with anybody. The only thing I did was, I added connections, people who looked interesting to me and people who were in my ideal client base. So, I added those people, but I didn't message them directly or anything, I just asked to connect with them. And then, I put out content about the type of people I help, about how I help them, I was really specific about the services that I offered as well and how much it was, and that it was a retainer, and that it was X amount. And I was just really, really specific. And that really helps, I think, sort the wheat from the chaff as well, because you only get really specific leads then, people who come to you and say, 'I've seen your post, I know how much it is? Can I have it?' You know, so I think the more specific you can be on LinkedIn, it's really important.
Jeremy Cline 21:39
When you were sending your connection requests, were you personalising them so that people had some context about why they would connect with this otherwise apparently random person? Because I mean, speaking for myself, I'll get LinkedIn requests sometimes from people I don't know, and it's the standard, 'Hello, I'd like to join your LinkedIn network', you know, it's the stock email you get when it's not been tailored. And I usually look at that, and I go delete. So, what were you doing to tell people that it was in their interest to make the connection with you?
Judith Keys 22:21
That's so interesting, Jeremy, so you're definitely not my ideal client. In the nicest possible way. So, the reason I'm saying that is because, generally, if you get a message from someone, it will be a copy and paste, or it will be something that somebody has written to try and eventually sell you something, that is what I think LinkedIn is for, really, what it's becoming more and more. And what I do is specifically tailor my headline to be obvious that I would be somebody somebody would want to connect with, if that makes sense. So, I made my headline very clear, in that I helped female executive coaches, so that when I went to connect with them, and they saw who the connection request is coming from, they thought, 'Oh, that's someone who could maybe help me', and the majority of people hit accept. And the people who didn't are people that I suppose, how can I justify this, I don't know if I need to justify it, but I got a full client list within two weeks via LinkedIn. So, people were obviously accepting my connection requests with no message, with absolutely no idea who I was. But then, they connected with me, and they got to see my content, they got to see that I was genuine. I posted a lot of video content, a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff, and it's about building up trust and rapport in that way, connecting with people and then talking to them maybe about something that they have posted, so that it becomes more of an actual conversation, rather than starting out with a generic message that doesn't always ring true, I don't feel. So, I do feel that, although maybe it's just a connection requests for someone, most people who accept will then get to see who I really am, if that makes sense. And it worked. It worked.
Jeremy Cline 22:21
How did you come up with your content strategy, so what to post, what sort of things to post, whether it was text, whether it was video, frequency, cadence, that kind of thing?
Judith Keys 23:38
That was, again, thanks to the training that I did, something that I learned through that. So, the cadence, I think, was four times a day, so video, story post, a call-to-action post, and there was one other one which I can't remember now. But I was pretty much posting at least twice a day with some sort of a variation on all those types of content. So, a call-to-action would be just basically saying, here's who I am, here's what I do, here's how much it is, here's how to contact me. A story post would be more a little bit about showing who I am via a story or a case study, or I would maybe talk about my past experience or about my current clients and what I'm doing to help them. And then, just peppering in different things, like behind the scenes, sometimes I would take a video of me down by the river here in my little village in France, and people got to know me that way, which I think is just a lot more genuine than a sort of cold connection request with a text that does bind to be sort of salesy, I think, It helps people to take the time to get to know you on their own terms, so they have a chance to watch in the background. And I still sometimes get messages from people saying, 'Oh, I saw your content, I really liked it. Can we have a call?'
Jeremy Cline 25:50
Even if I wasn't working at all, the idea of producing that amount of content to post four times a day just sounds quite overwhelming. I mean, was this always original content every day? Or did you recycle stuff? I mean, how did you just produce that amount that you could post that many times a day?
Judith Keys 26:17
I think when you're starting off, you have time, and you also have an impetus of I will work, I need work, whatever that may be, what is your reason for being on there, and that can very much help for sure to create content. There are so many resources online to help you think about what you can write in your content, if you have experience, if you're working on a day-to-day basis, you've got plenty of content there already, you have content all around you all the time, it's quite easy. And if you're very disciplined about it, and spend half an hour every day, write four posts or take a quick video, and call-to-action posts are simple, it's just three or four lines, you can definitely recycle those. But I think in the beginning, because I wanted the work so much, and because I didn't have a full client list immediately, it was easy, I had the time to do it. Fast forward into having a full client list, and you don't need to keep up that rhythm whatsoever, you can just keep maybe posting one thing a day or once every other day, just to keep your LinkedIn a little bit alive. I definitely didn't need to keep that up for a very long time.
Jeremy Cline 27:29
Once you had a client, were they essentially like, in many circumstances, a client for life, so you would make sure to keep on working for them?
Judith Keys 27:38
So, the very first person that contacted me via LinkedIn was on day three of that training course. I couldn't believe it. Jeremy. I thought it was a hoax. I thought it was the person who was running the training course who planted somebody to make you think the training course would work, because I just couldn't believe that this would even happen. I remember talking to my husband and him saying, ' What!? No, it can't be real.' It was just so crazy to me that this could work. And this person is still one of my clients to this day. So, six years later, we still have a call every two weeks, I still help her with the running of her business, and now her second business. And it's been very much the same with all those clients to begin with. I pretty much have a handful of them that are still here to this day, which is just fantastic.
Jeremy Cline 28:33
Do you remember the name of the course, do you know if it still exists?
Judith Keys 28:36
I know the name of the lady who ran the course, and I'm not quite sure if her course still runs in the same way. It was a challenge. So, her name is Helen Pritchard, and she runs a LinkedIn challenge. I think she stopped it for a while, but it's back on again. If you look her up, she's definitely on LinkedIn. She is the LinkedIn lady. She will say this herself, she is very much marmite, so you either love her methods, or you don't. And she, I will credit all of this, that first business, the success I had initially was via Helen, because she taught me those methods and taught me how to be genuine. And I was actually going to be going for an ad, had an application for a job here, because when I first decided I would run my virtual assistant business, and I was working with Tracy, I was trying to market myself, and it was not working. And I had actually gone for a full-time job. I'd put in an application, and the interview was the Friday of that week, so the week that I did the LinkedIn challenge with Helen. And as I said earlier, the first person who contacted me was on the third day of that LinkedIn training, on the Wednesday, and by Friday, I had had another two calls with another two executive coaches. So, I didn't go to the job interview on the Friday.
Jeremy Cline 29:58
Judith Keys 29:59
It was crazy, absolutely crazy and fantastic and exhilarating and wonderful, and all those things, it just all came together.
Jeremy Cline 30:10
Let's fast forward to the time where you've now got this full book of clients, but you're starting to think about starting new businesses. What's causing those thoughts to bubble up?
Judith Keys 30:23
I had my youngest little boy September 2021. And just before I went off on mat leave with him, I think I finished up four days before I gave birth, because that's the way it is when you run your own business, you're just in it all the time, and I was so busy, and the handover and all these things. And then, he was born four or five days later, and I had time, Jeremy, for the first time in a long time. My clients knew that I was going to be away for at least four months, and I had the headspace to think, albeit with a new-born baby, there were many nights where I was awake for a long time, so I had plenty time to think, and I wasn't thinking about anybody else's tasks or business or anything. And that was fantastic for me, because it's not that I don't love my VA work, I still have clients for that business, and I love it, but as you said in the intro, it became very much like my nine-to-five, back at my desk every day, working for other people and their businesses, and not really finding room for growth. I didn't ever want to run an agency model, I didn't want to have that type of business model for my VA business, I wanted me to be the person in contact with my clients. That was really important to me. So, this time off allowed me to think about how I could maybe scale on that other business slightly and work on doing something new, and the new businesses were born during that time after my youngest baby was born.
Jeremy Cline 32:11
So, aside from the time aspect, what was it that you were looking for your new businesses to do for you that your VA business wasn't?
Judith Keys 32:23
I was watching lots of other business owners that I was working with be creative in their ideas. And I couldn't do that because I was basically recreating what they wanted me to create for them, if that makes sense. They had an idea for the business, and I had to maybe create some content or help them with marketing. And over the years, the VA business has changed from doing very basic admin, I do a lot more marketing and helping with content creation and that type of thing. Although I was having a creative outlet in that way, it was for other people, and I really had a bug in me, this thing in me that wanted to create and do something a little bit different. So, I think that was it, I had a creative release, had to get it out some way and find the time to do that. And that's what I struggled with before, because I've always loved food, and I've always loved creating and doing different things, but when you run a business, it's hard to find the time. So, I wanted to create space to do that, to actually make it a thing that I had to do. And I thought, 'Well, if I make it into a business, I'll have to do it.'
Jeremy Cline 33:39
And why specifically two businesses, because that seems like quite a lot to start with, and why specifically these two businesses?
Judith Keys 33:48
So, the foodie thing was the first idea, and that has been thread all through my life as well. So, the French side of things has been there, I've always loved the French language, and I've always loved France, we came on holiday here ever since I was tiny. And food has played a massive role, because my mom was a great cook, my gran especially, I spent a lot of time with her as a child, and she taught me the magic of putting a few simple ingredients together and getting cake. You know, what's more magical than that for a small child? She was a massive influence, and I've just always loved food and cooking, and I mean, I have memories of me standing in my kitchen pretending to front my own cookery programme as a kid. So, it's always been there, and I have wanted to do it for a long time. And I think COVID really showed me the power of doing stuff online. I always thought that, if I was going to do something foodie, I would have to do it in person, I'd have to run my own cafe or, you know, I didn't realise, until COVID, I haven't thought that I could do something with food online. So, in one sense, COVID was a great thing for me, amongst all the awfulness of it, it allowed me to see the possibilities, and I decided to start My Food in France thanks to that in one part.
Jeremy Cline 35:16
It strikes me that you're teaching other people to cook. It's not a particularly new idea, doing it remotely is not a particularly new idea, I mean, leaving aside the internet, there's been cookery shows on TV for goodness knows how long, probably almost as long as there's been TV for. What stopped you from kind of thinking, 'Oh, no, this is already a saturated market, I don't have anything new which I can offer here'?
Judith Keys 35:45
Because it's the same, you could apply that to any business, Jeremy. You could say, 'Oh, well, there's thousands, tens of thousands of hairdressers in the UK, why would I be a hairdresser?' Well, because, A, there's need for it, and B, you're going to be different from all the other hairdressers, you're unique. So, I don't want to sound too cheesy, but yes, I knew also I had something a little bit different because of where I am. I'm in Provence, I'm in a country that's known for its gastronomy and amazing, gorgeous food and restaurants. So, I knew I had that, which set me apart a little bit. I've got the language, and I've got two kids, so I knew I could talk to people about feeding small children, and there's just so many things that I knew that I could add to it, I wanted to talk to local producers here and do little interviews with people. And I knew it wasn't just going to be a cookery programme, there was going to be much more to it. And the membership aspect of it fascinated me, because I thought, 'Well, I can get people in, and we can add to that.' So, people joined the My Food in France membership, and there's a cookery class once a month, but also, there's a whole vault of recipes and cookery content and recorded content in there, of interviews and just lots of fun stuff. And there's the community aspect of us just chatting in the group in general as well, which adds to it. So, it's definitely not just one thing, there's much more to it, it becomes a sort of more rounded offering, I think.
Jeremy Cline 37:22
Another aspect which has come up on this podcast a couple of times is the dangers of following your passion. So, people often say, 'Oh, yes, you know, follow your passion, do what you love', that kind of thing. But there's a difference between doing something which you love doing and doing it as a hobby, and then it becoming a business and people losing the passion of doing something when it becomes something on which livelihood depends. So, is that something that you've had to navigate, and if so, how have you done so?
Judith Keys 38:00
Very much so, and that's a great question and a great thing to think about, if you are wanting to start your own business. I am lucky because I did have the VA business there. So, it wasn't such a gamble for me to start this new thing. So, I would say to anybody who's thinking of following their passion to make sure you have that buffer in place, try it out, if you're already in a full-time position, try and do this little extra thing on the side and see how it goes. And if you love it, then think about exploring it full time. But if it becomes something that's difficult or that sucks any joy out of it for you, because you hate the marketing aspect, or you hate the actual, you know, I remember someone saying to me, 'Oh, this is a great idea, but have you actually tried to do a class over Zoom yet? Have you tried to do it?' And I was like, oh my goodness, no, I better try that. And I did my first Zoom class, and I was so, so full of excitement, and so exhilarated when it finished. I was like, 'Wow, that was amazing!' And everybody who did the class loved it, it was fantastic, and I just thought, 'Right, no, I'm so glad I tried it, because it just has shown me that I do love it.' But just, yes, be very careful about that, because whenever it's your business, it's all consuming, and try it out. Try it before you buy it.
Jeremy Cline 39:29
So, if you compare your businesses as they are now with what you'd like them to be in five years, 10 years' time, whatever it might be, I mean, what does it look like at the moment, and what would you like it to look like?
Judith Keys 39:46
For the My Best Friend in France, I can't wait until more people find out about this, because I see huge expats groups online. So, you know, 30K people in the one group, and as I said earlier, it's very much all to do with admin, which is very useful, and it's really important, there's lots of practical stuff you have to find out when you move country. But I can't wait for the point when my group has 30K, and I can do lots more to support people with the move, and with life here in general, and become known a little bit more as the person who helps English speaking expats in France. And for the My Food in France side of things, I mean, the dream is to have hundreds of people on a cookery class, Jeremy, from all over the world. That would be my ideal thing. I'd love to do a cookbook someday, all the classic things that you see online chefs doing, that would be the ideal. But for the time being, I love how it is. I have a small family, so a young family, I mean, I've got two small children, and for the time being, it's just great to have two businesses, well, three, really, because I still have my VA clients that I can give time to nurture, and have them as quite small groups at the moment to spend lots of time in there and learn what works, what doesn't work, what I need to do more of, what I want to do more of, and watch them grow and grow and grow. So, just really exciting. So exciting doing the thing that I love.
Jeremy Cline 41:24
And if you'd known then, and you can choose when then is, what you know now, what might have you done differently?
Judith Keys 41:32
That's such a good question. I don't want to say that I have no regrets. But I am going to say it, because everything that I've done in the path, that I've taken, has led to this moment. So, I would love to say that I'd never had to run the VA business, and I could have just done the cookery stuff straightaway. But I needed to do that, to learn how to run my own business, and needed to have a viable learning curve and a successful business to know how it works, so that I could go on. I needed to help other people with their marketing, so that I could learn how to do it for myself for these new businesses. I think, I really do think everything happens for a reason, and I was taken on this path to help me get to this point. And oh, my goodness, I hate what I'm saying, but it's just true. You know, it sounds so cheesy, but I do think it's happened for a reason, and I'm glad. I would have liked to have gotten to this point sooner, maybe exploring the creative side of things and had the guts to try it out a little bit sooner, but in the grand scheme of things, you know, what's a few years?
Jeremy Cline 42:48
I love that attitude. It's something that I sometimes catch myself thinking, you know, like, oh, I should have started down this journey 10 years ago, rather than three or four years ago, and then you just get to, well, you know, you are where you are, and you move forward from there, and that's literally all you can do about it. Along the way, have there been any particular tools, resources, books, people, you mentioned the LinkedIn course, but anything else, which has particularly helped you on your journey and which you'd like to recommend to people?
Judith Keys 43:20
So, yeah, definitely check out Helen Pritchard and her LinkedIn challenge. I do often credit her as changing my life and helping me with the marketing. I have a client who does a lot of work on mindset and personal development, she's a coach called Alison Smith. She talks about a process that she created, called Landscaping Your Life. If you look up the hashtag #landscapingyourlife on LinkedIn, she's on YouTube, and she also has a Landscaping Your Life podcast, and it's very much all about using nature as a coach, and that's really helped me a lot of different things over the years and in my personal life and in business. And I think, I mean, I'm sure probably lots of people say this, but the James Clear book, The Atomic Habits book is something that's helped me in business. So, if you haven't checked that out and you're a business owner, it's something that's helped me just order my day, not just for business priorities, but family and health and everything, it is probably one of the best business books out there.
Jeremy Cline 44:23
It is a cracking book. It's one I read quite a few years ago, and I think I need to dust it off and revisit it, just to remind myself of some of the concepts in there. Where would you like people to go if they want to find you, connect with you, find out more about what you're about?
Judith Keys 44:41
You can come and join the foodie group. There's a free version of the My Food in France group over on Facebook, just look up My Food in France with Judith Keys. And there's the My Best Friend and France group as well, just check that out, you'll find me over on Facebook. I'm on LinkedIn, too, so that's another place you can come and find me, and don't worry, you don't need to send me a message with your connection request.
Jeremy Cline 45:04
As always, links to those in the show notes. Judith, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story.
Judith Keys 45:10
Thanks for having me, Jeremy. That was great.
Jeremy Cline 45:13
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Judith Keys. I'm often struck by how many people think that their life is going to get better if they have an easy life. They just want a job where they can go through the motions and not really have to think about it. And yes, I'm not ruling that out, I'm not saying that that isn't necessarily right for some people. But it's quite interesting in Judith's case that she said that that was a signal to her that she needed to make a change, that the job had become too easy. She'd done all the development that she could, and there was just no way for her to progress or move forwards. And I think it partly comes down to interest, what is it about a job which is keeping it interesting for you, that's keeping you motivated. Different people are motivated by lots of different things. The question is, what is it that's going to motivate you? Also, for those of you who either have started a business or who are thinking about doing so, I hope that conversation about LinkedIn was quite useful. It was certainly very interesting for me. Judith clearly has found considerable success finding new clients through LinkedIn, using a method which she found in a free online challenge. As always, you'll find a full set of show notes and the transcript, a summary of what we've talked about and links to the resources Judith mentioned, all at the changeworklife.com/159, that's changeworklife.com/159. Now, if you're listening to this episode on Apple podcasts, you've really got no excuse not to leave a review. Reviews are a great way of letting people know that the show is worth listening to. So, please take your phone out your pocket, leave a quick review, five stars would be brilliant if you feel it's worth it, and let other people know that there's some content here which they're really going to find worthwhile. In two weeks' time we've got a great interview with someone who, when their business nearly fell apart, they seriously considered going back to employed life. So, what did they do? You will have to subscribe to the show if you haven't already, so you don't miss that episode, and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.
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