Siobhan Gallagher
Northern Ireland & Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Language & Communications Consultant, Coach, Editor at Iguana Talk

Tell us a bit about the business that you are creating?
I founded Iguana Talk because I became frustrated and concerned seeing so many individuals and businesses waste hundreds of opportunities, on a daily basis, to make an impact or send greater messages about themselves, and I wanted to help. All too often I witness people sabotage themselves, their businesses and reputations with poor language use. It has become my mission to transform everyday communication into “high­ potential communication” and teach others how to do the same. I provide personal and professional language training and business communication consulting, as well as copy/web ­editing, proof reading and translation services.

What are your three core values in your working life right now?
Quality, freedom, satisfaction.

What’s the hardest part of running a business from home?
– Remaining disciplined enough to stay focused and work within set hours and tasks.
– Not succumbing to loneliness or becoming an anti­social hermit.
– Keeping work life and home life separate, and resisting distractions.

What’s the most rewarding part of running a business from home?
Working on my own terms, in my own surroundings, in my own time. It is both comforting and empowering at the same time.

What fears did you have about starting your business?
I feared that I was making a huge, silly mistake; that it wouldn’t be a success; that I’d end up bankrupt, dissatisfied, humiliated and regretting it all. Of course, they are just fears and if you approach your business with a considered plan, a level head, patience, and take it one step at a time, you can manage most risks and fears. In the end, I knew I’d regret not taking the risk even more. I definitely believe it’s better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t done.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running your home­ based business?
Day­-to­-day it’s really not that different from a regular 9­ to 5 job. The skills and habits that served me well in my former career are the same ones that I rely on now. I still have to be professional and turn up for work every day, and create an environment that’s conducive to work. Don’t be fooled by images of long lunches, working from the beach, and making money while you sleep. That may be the end goal, but it’s certainly not the reality, especially at the beginning. I have also learned to get comfortable with discomfort.

On a scale of 1­-10 how much does your business light you up?
Generally a 10 – it has its highs and lows, of course. I think having your own business is like having a baby. Every day you need to do certain basic things to keep it alive and healthy. You also have to do additional things to help it develop, grow and secure its future. It needs a lot of attention and it’s a huge responsibility. You keep your eyes and ears open to satisfy its needs and desires all the time, and you do all this because you love it.

In moments of doubt, how do you overcome it and lift yourself back up?
Moments of doubt only creep in when I start comparing myself to others or worrying about the opinions of others, which is silly. At the end of the day, no­ one really knows or cares about my business as much as me. I know I can walk away from this decision and this life at any time, but I don’t want to and I don’t need to. Once I remind myself of that, I remember that I’m doing this out of choice. What a wonderful thing to have that choice and the freedom to do this. I’m so fortunate to be able to do this.

Who is your support crew if you have one?
My partner has been unfalteringly supportive. He has given me time, space and encouragement to follow my dreams. It helps that he’s an engineer and assists me with my techy stuff. He’s well experienced in running his own business too, so his advice is always relevant.
I’m also part of a local “Lean In” circle, the aim of which is peer­-to-­peer support for women in achieving their goals.

Siobhan Gallagher - www.carmendarwin.com

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?
“Remember that you are providing a service that helps others. No ­one can judge you for that.”
Wise words from my partner. This was a great boost to my confidence and perspective when I was holding myself back with “Who am I to do this?” and “I’m not good enough” thoughts.

What’s a brief summary of the pathway it took to get to where you are now?
– Born and raised in Northern Ireland
– Language graduate, University College Dublin, Ireland
– European Parliament official, Brussels, Belgium
– Master of Arts in Philosophy, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
– Official at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy
– CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), Mexico
– Founder of Iguana Talk, Language and Communication Consultancy ­online, location-­independent business

How important is grit, determination and persistence to you in growing your business?
They’re not just important, but fundamental. You must be able to keep trying despite setbacks, rejections and failures. In order to do that you need one other thing ­ a true belief in what you’re doing and that you’re the right person to do it.

Which of your personal traits are you most proud of?
My eternal optimism and my ability to change and adapt to new circumstances. I’ve always enjoyed change and that’s a useful trait, especially at the beginning of an independent career, because you need to be flexible. I look at my optimism like being in love, blind to the faults of my lover/business and simply happy to be together every day.

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss?
When starting out, being your own boss also means being your own secretary, your own tech support, your own researcher, your own accountant and your own expense account. It is difficult, slow, scary and exhausting, which is why you really need to want it in order to survive all that.

What sacrifices have you made starting a business?
I sacrificed the security of a very comfortable career and life in the beautiful city of Florence in Italy. I’ve taken a cut in income and consequently, in luxuries I was once used to. I work more hours and my future is less certain, but ultimately I can say that it’s all worth it. I’m gaining personal and professional freedom and independence, an income with no ceilings, confidence, endless experience and variety, and an unknown but always exciting future.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Everywhere. I work with language – oral, written and body language. We are communicating all the time. Even when we’re silent, when we’re sleeping, we’re still sending out a message about ourselves. My mission is for us to become aware enough to make more of those messages count, to make our communication ‘high ­potential’. Why wouldn’t we make the most of this beautiful gift of language that we use all day, every day? We don’t, but I want to change that. That’s my inspiration.

Siobhan Gallagher - www.carmendarwin.com

Who’s a woman you deeply admire?
Louise Hay – a lady who suffered terrible abuse in her childhood, who had all the odds stacked against her, yet went on to cure herself of cancer and start a movement for positive thought, language use and much more. She’s 90 years old now and still going strong. What she teaches about the language we use to speak about ourselves is very important for my own work.

What do you still want to achieve on a personal level?
One of the reasons I embarked on this journey was to have the freedom to travel more, so I’m planning to visit or even live in some new destinations soon. I also want to master public speaking to the point where I really enjoy it. Eventually, I’d like to open a centre for instruction in communication. This sounds like a professional goal, but it actually comes from a deep personal desire to spend my days, with others, immersed in language, in the same way an artist, a musician or a dancer would spend their days in the studio.

Name one thing you can’t live without each day.
Sunshine – my path over the past 12 years has led me to increasingly warmer and sunnier locations. My current location in the Mexican Caribbean meets this requirement 100% and having an online, location­-independent business allows for it. Result!

See Siobhan’s work at iguanatalkinternational.com

Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful story Siobhan as there are so many pieces of wisdom here. Wishing you the best in your work.

Carmen x