Carrie Sanderson grew up in The Netherlands with a UK passport and British parents, she now lives in Scotland and has started up a business as an artist, writer and coach.
Name: Carrie Sanderson
Title: Artist, writer and coach
Business/Company: Carrie Sanderson
Country/countries of origin: The Netherlands
Expat country/countries: UK, New Zealand, USA
Current country: Scotland
Carrie’s story in a nutshell:
I am an Adult Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK), born and brought up in The Netherlands to long-term expat parents, both from the UK. To date I have lived most of my life in The Netherlands, but I have also lived in the UK, New Zealand and USA.
Since 2006 I have been on a ‘quest’ to figure out what kind of work I wanted to do and how I wanted to contribute. I was working in marketing/project management in corporate companies and agencies when I started suffering from a chronic condition, which led to a turning point in my life. My body was telling me something wasn’t right and I decided to start following my heart, rather than my head.
So, at age 26 I made a career change and that was the start of my entrepreneurship journey. I trained to be a personal trainer, sports massage therapist and hypnotherapist. For a few years I enjoyed it, though it was challenging because I knew nothing about running my own business! I had to learn by doing. I kept at it because I wanted to create something that could be portable and travel with me wherever I decided to go next.
Just after my 30th I was still feeling like something was missing, so I made a decision to move back ‘home’ to The Netherlands (I’d been living in the UK) and it was there that I discovered the missing piece: creativity, and specifically, my own creativity.
When I was a teenager I’d never spoken up about wanting to be an artist, and I didn’t tell my parents my deepest wish had been to attend art school. When I was back in The Netherlands I discovered it had always been my dream to be an artist, and I decided it was time to dig up this buried dream and remember my creative voice. I started drawing, writing, using Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” book, and taking painting lessons where I felt more alive than ever. I also enlisted the help of Colleen Reichrath-Smith from “Career In Your Suitcase” to figure out my next steps (who is also featured on expatsinbiz.com!).
Even though I haven’t been to art school, I have found other ways to develop my artistic skills – demonstrating that there is always a way to live your dream, it just might not be the way you imagined it.
Four years after my 30th I had closed down my old business, moved to Scotland and started up my new one as an artist, writer and creativity coach. I now create nature-inspired art work that brings my customers much love and joy, as well as helping my clients remember their creative voice so they can create a life they love.
Biggest start up / expat challenge:
Recently, that has been moving country on my own and setting up a new business in a new city where I only knew two people. Talk about diving in at the deep end! I had to spend a lot of time researching, building and expanding my network and setting up the foundation of my business. It takes time, effort and perseverance to do the groundwork but it does pay off. At the time of writing this (May 2015) I am officially only six months in and already I am seeing rewards for my efforts.
Who are your cheerleaders?:
My parents, my brother, a lot of my friends, my (business) coaches and an online group of heart-centred entrepreneurs I am a part of, to name a few – I feel very blessed and fortunate to have fantastic support around me. I also made a point of creating that support for myself.
What are your words of Wisdom?:
Create a support group for yourself (especially if you’re single/on your own). If family and friends don’t/can’t support you, find (business) mentors/coaches to help you. There are free resources through the local councils in the UK and you may be able to find a mentor through the Chamber of Commerce.
Do research – the Internet is a good way to find information. Ask around, too. Talk to people when networking and ask them how and where they have found support. People are willing to help and/or point you in the right direction
In lots of ways The Netherlands and the UK are very similar. Yet, there are subtle differences that I have had to be aware of. When I am in The Netherlands, for example, I am aware the people can be very direct and ask very personal questions especially in terms of your financial situation. In the UK people tend to be more reserved so sometimes I have to watch what and how I say things.
Growing up in The Netherlands we had quite a lot of American influences, through TV programmes for example, or because of some of the international companies that reside in and around The Hague where I’m from. I feel I have adopted a North American/New World attitude, ie very positive and upbeat, which can be in stark contrast with the reserved, slightly pessimistic attitude in the UK. I am generalizing and stereoptyping here of course, as not everyone is like this. In terms of business, my marketing and my messaging have to be tailored in such a way that my customers/clients can relate to it – it’s a little challenging because I have customers in the UK, The Netherlands and the US!
What helps me is to align with what I really want, believe it’s possible, then to take inspired action and gain momentum. Fear is present at first, but usually dissipates as you face it and take action. The more I face my fear and take action, the easier it does get. It’s still a challenge but even the smallest of steps make a difference. Sometimes having an accountability buddy – someone who can hold you accountable like a friend or a coach – can help.
Also know that everyone has fear – even those who are successful and at the top of their field!
Growing up in a culture that was different to my parents’ was challenging and it took me a long time to accept and embrace my ‘blendedness’.
As a consequence, I’ve had to cultivate my ability to stand in my power with faith and belief in myself. I am a self-confessed introvert and sensitive soul so finding a way to use my introversion and sensitivity as a strength has been a challenge. I highly recommend “Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain if you recognize yourself in this. The Internet has actually provided a lot of freedom in terms of expressing myself and not shying away from people. Now at 34 I am more confident than I have ever been, and a lot of that has to do with making self-care a priority and learning to love myself.
Working practices and benefits in your adopted country:
It is quite easy and straightforward to set up a business in the UK. There are many resources and free help that you can access, such as start up support from the local council, and online videos/webinars from HMRC.
More and more co-working spaces are popping up in the UK and I currently use one of them in Edinburgh. It’s great to get out of my flat where I do most of my work but can be quite isolating. I’ve found the co-working space a place where I have been able to network, make new friends and collaborate on projects. It has far exceeded my expectations and was the one of the best decisions I’ve made since moving to Edinburgh.
An article published online with the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT) UK titled “Weight issues? Fix your head first”.
Story published in “Forced To Fly: An anthologyof writings that will make you see the funny side of living abroad” by Jo Parfitt.
Contributed to Linda Janssen’s book “The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures”.
Where you find inspiration from:
I find inspiration in a lot of places: nature, meditation, other artists in a variety of media, reading books by my favourite non-fiction authors in the personal development world, watching inspirational videos online, etc. Anything that brings me joy!
How you stay motivated:
I stay motivated by focusing on what inspires me (see above list) as well as making sure I look after myself, get enough rest and ‘play’. Also, I am on a business coaching programme run by Christine Kane (www.christinekane.com) and the support and teaching I get from that is invaluable.
I also keep learning, growing and expanding by taking classes, workshops or reading books and applying what I learn. I’m an eternal student!
Useful tools for expats in business:
- Capture contacts you make all over the world – I use a spreadsheet at the moment, but I plan to create a better system for this – and keep in touch with them as they may be potential customers/clients.
- Useful books/resources: Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs, Career In Your Suitcase, The Suitcase Entrepreneur
- Learn the basics of social media and use it for business purposes, connecting with people and for getting your message out into the world
- Join (networking) groups – online and offline – for support, advice, friendship
- Meditation or something that relaxes you and takes your mind off work (that is healthy!) – rest and play is vital to keep yourself and your business going
- Hire a business coach/mentor – that has been the best investment ever because it helps me stay on track and I’ve learnt about how to run my business more efficiently and effectively
Networking is very important and something I have grown to love. I have found a way to make it work for me. If you’re nervous/anxious about it, start with small intentions, like “ At tonight’s event, I set the intention to connect with one person.” The way I do business and which works really well for me is to connect with people and build relationships first.
Also I find it valuable to listen more than talk – I ask the other person questions to get to know them. Some questions are business-related and some are more personal like “what is your favourite movie/book?”.
Plans for the future:
Expand my business to include a team of people who can help me (and do the jobs that aren’t my genius work!).
Write and publish a book.
Have my own studio/workshop space and adjacent gallery in the countryside.
“What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Goethe
You don’t need to know every step to make your dream come true – start with the first couple of (small) steps, keep your heart and mind open, and it’ll start to happen. And make sure you enjoy the journey rather than focus too much on the destination as you may miss wonderful things on the way.
Photo credit: Suzanne R Livingstone