The Biggest Obstacle for Women Renovators

The podcast for women who want to create income and a life they love through renovating

Join serial renovator Bernadette Janson as she explores the ins and outs of renovating for profit!

Bernadette has over 30 years of experience in the renovating for profit business. She’s a registered nurse, a renovator, a mum, and a teacher.

100 – The Biggest Challenge To Your Reno Success And What To Do About It

On today’s episode,

This is our 100th episode and I couldn’t be more happier. Thank you to everyone who supports this podcast, you make us going. In this episode, I am going to talk about the biggest challenge that our renovators usually encounter and what to do about it. I will share the advantages and disadvantages of a renovator especially women and some things that could help you become more remarkable with your projects. Also, I will share some tips on how to be more confident and how to ignite them fully for you to be more powerful with your renovating journey.

Listen to Episode 100: The Biggest Challenge To Your Reno Success And What To Do About It


Episode Highlights

  • [00:00:34] Thank you message
  • [00:03:11] Biggest challenge to your renovation’s success and what to do about it.
  • [00:03:52] You are made to be a fantastic renovator
  • [00:04:44] Renovating is all about relationships
  • [00:05:53] The happiest moment of my renovating journey
  • [00:06:22] Homemaking is built into women’s psyche
  • [00:07:56] The one that is standing in the way
  • [00:09:50] Every level, women would second guess themselves
  • [00:11:47] You need to forgive yourself for your mistakes
  • [00:14:44] You need to have critical skills but don’t wait to tick all the boxes
  • [00:16:00] Confidence can be acquired
  • [00:18:04] The first step to build your confidence
  • [00:19:34] Leverage your strength
  • [00:21:07] Build a strong support team
  • [00:23:16] Learn the lingo
  • [00:25:59] Updates on my reno projects
  • [00:27:46] The most exciting news


“As women, we do tend to understate our achievements, play them down, credit them to someone else or to luck, so I’m really going to own it today.”


Well, hello, renovators, it’s Bernadette back with another episode of She Renovates. Today, we’re recording our 100th episode. What I would like to do firstly is to express my gratitude to you for being a guest, or a listener or a subscriber, or reviewer, or one of those people who sent me through a little message saying what a difference that She Renovates podcast has made to your renovating and your life. Your words of appreciation are what gives me the motivation to go on so, thank you.

To be honest with you, I didn’t think I’d get here. I was concerned that I wouldn’t get past where most people get stopped. I think the average for new podcasts is around seven episodes before they give up. So I feel immensely proud that I have made it this far. The topic today, I really want to, I guess, acknowledge what I’ve done well, because as women, we do tend to understate our achievements, play them down, credit them to someone else or to luck, so I’m really going to own it today.

The episode is sponsored by our Wonder Women programme, which is a training and mentoring programme for women who want to harness their passion for beautiful home making, to impact their life and their income with renovating. Now, if you’d like to know more, I have a brand new freebie that you can download at

I’m changing this format slightly. Normally I will do a bit of a rundown of what I’ve been up to, but I’m going to move that to the end of the episode. We’re going to get into the guts of the episode right now. I recorded this initially at She Renovates live event last week, however, I don’t have the recordings back yet. The editors are still working on them and I decided it’s probably a better experience for you if I record it. I created a dedicated recording for the podcast. So, here we go.

Bernadette: What I’m talking about is the single Biggest Challenge to your Renovation’s Success and What to do about it. I’ve been doing what I’m doing for quite a few years now and I have worked with a lot of women. What I have found is that they are quite competent, but they don’t see it and that’s what holds them up. That’s what I’m going to be working through today. I’m going to be talking about the fact that you are perfectly equipped to improve your life and your income through renovating. What that biggest challenge is and what to do about it.

You are absolutely made to be a fantastic renovator. The fact that you are listening to this podcast indicates that you are dedicated to honing your skill. The thing about renovating is people think it’s about painting and tiling, but the reality is it’s far from that. It’s a juggling game. So you are constantly juggling his schedule, juggling your budget to actually bring in a quality product on time and on budget. I know that most of you have juggled families, have juggled your work life coach sports teams, manage a social life, and that’s all incredible grounding for being able to manage a renovation project.

To add to that, the fact that renovating and getting people to do what you want them to do is all about relationships. As women in the main hormonal driver is estrogen. Estrogen supports the part of the brain involved in social skills and observations, and it encourages bonding and connection that is perfect to be able to manage a team, to be able to bring in quality work, to be able to manage risk. These are really good foundations for being an awesome renovation project manager.

As a woman, you have a really strong sense of how a home should run and how it should be established. The reality is that for most terms. The purchasing decision or the decision to rent is made by the woman in a relationship. It’s an incredible advantage to have a connection with your end user, be that a buyer or a tenant at such an instinctive level.

The happiest moment I have had so far with my renovations was when my agent told me that he had one of the people looking at one of our properties, step into the laundry and say, “Is there nothing that this woman hasn’t thought through?” and so she got it. That’s the advantage of sharing the same chromosome makeup as your buyer. I know it’s a bit metal, but I’m sticking with it.

The fourth thing that you should consider is the fact that homemaking is so built into our psyche. Well, I noticed that especially when I was pregnant with our children, I got that really strong nesting instinct. To have that instinctively has it come naturally to you. So you have this natural inclination to create homes that are filled with comfort and love and beauty. That’s what drives us.

For most, well, I would say the majority of the listeners to this podcast have a burning desire to turn that natural instinct into something that actually drives and impacts their life. When Napoleon Hill interviewed a plethora of successful people to try and figure out what the secret to their success was, he discovered 17 different aspects. But the first one was to have a burning desire to succeed at what they were attempting to do. I have worked with enough women who fit your demographic to know that that is a commonality amongst all of us. We have this burning desire to harness our beautiful homemaking skills, to turn it into a way of life. It’s for those reasons that I believe that women are really well placed to make epic renovators.

However, there is a slight problem, something standing in the way. Of all the women that I have worked with, I have noticed that there is a consistent lack of confidence. So it’s not skills that they lack, but it’s that confidence to know that they can achieve it. And so I want to give you some really practical tips to help you with building your confidence, to be able to really live your truth.

To do this, I actually did some background research and I came across the work of Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, who were both journalists, US journalists. One works for the American Broadcasting Commission, the other is an anchor for BBC World News America.

Together they wrote a book called Womenomics in 2009. In it, they talked about how women were becoming better recognised in the corporate world for their qualities. So they are actually making headway in terms of climbing the success ladder. However, they noticed that there was a thread amongst everyone that they talked with and interviewed that suggested that there was a shadow hanging over what they’d achieved.

To explore that more, I went back over the interviews they had done over the two previous decades where they’d interviewed the most successful and influential women in the nation, where you would think they would be brimming with confidence. What they realised is that every one of those women was troubled by self-doubt.

They found that every level that women would second guess themselves. They would underestimate their ability, they would take the blame for things that go wrong and they attributed their successes to circumstances like luck and others. I want you to think about that for a minute. I don’t know about you, but I can recount multiple times where I’ve done that, where I have succeeded at something and then started to look for a reason outside myself why that should be so successful. I’ll bet that you have got numerous examples of that.

They went through the findings of numerous research projects and surveys, and they found some studies using MRI showed that women tend to activate the amygdala more easily in response to negative emotional stimuli. The amygdala is basically too little acorn shaped organs in the primitive part of the brain called the limbic system that stimulates the fight or flight response. So when something bad happens that gets stimulated and encourages you to fight or to run for it. And they found that this was more active than in men.

The findings from the study showed that women are more likely to form strong emotional memories of negative events. They are more likely to ruminate over things that go wrong. I personally can confirm that that’s definitely the case, more so when I was struggling with my mental health. Obviously, it’s a fairly common occurrence that when we make a mistake or things go wrong, we really stoop over it.

I see this in women who have made a mistake in property. To be honest with you, anyone that is serious about impacting their life with property will have made a mistake and a reasonably significant mistake somewhere along the line. To beat yourself up for that just does not make sense. The message is that you need to forgive yourself for your mistakes, put them down to experience, which is exactly what they are, and then move on to learn from it and grow from it.

The other thing that we suffer from is perfectionism, and that’s a huge confidence killer. We fixate on our performance. We obsess as mothers, as partners, as cooks, as renovators, and we avoid risking getting it wrong. Some of the research showed that there’s a small part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex, which helps us recognise errors and weighs options. It’s sometimes referred to as a worry ward centre. In women, this appears to be more enlarged, suggesting that it works harder.

Having your mechanism for weighing up options and recognising errors is a plus. But if it impacts on your confidence and if it, I guess, supports navel gazing, you can’t get past issues, then it has a very detrimental effect on your path to success. Now, earlier in this episode, I talked about the fact that estrogen is really good for building bonds and that social interaction, but it also causes you to discourage conflict and risk taking, and that may well hinder confidence in some contexts as well. Now, we’re not in favour of massive risk taking, but to be honest with you, being alive is a risk. So you need to weigh up the risks and manage them. Decide what is acceptable to move forward with and what’s not.

Testosterone, on the other hand, helps fuel what often looks like the classic male confidence. Men have 10 times more testosterone coursing around their veins than women, and it encourages a focus on winning and demonstrating power. So you can see when as a woman with this hormone coursing through your veins, that causes you to be incredibly social and looking to create a relationship and wanting to avoid conflict and risk taking. Then you come up against your testosterone driven trader who’s focused on winning and demonstrating power. You can see that there can be a slight misfit and that situation needs to be managed.

One more point to make, when Hewlett and Packard went over the H.R. records to look at whether women were applying for promotions in their company, they found that when women applied for a promotion, only if they met 100 percent of the qualifications and men applied for them when they met 50 percent. So women won’t even attempt it unless they’ve got every single box ticked, whereas men will think that they’ve got half the qualifications, that’s good enough. They’re going to give it a go.

This is not a criticism of men, to be honest with you. I would like to be more like that because you need to have the critical skills, but waiting until you have every single box ticked will mean that you miss way too many opportunities. Life will pass you by before you get to where you want to go. Being less of a perfectionist and less demanding of yourself is definitely something that you will and I need to look at. The outcome is that success requires competence and confidence.

The good news is that with work, confidence can be acquired, but you might be asking “Why?”. I guess the main reason is that as a gender, women are still significantly socially disadvantaged. 400000 women over the age of 45 are at risk of homelessness in Australia. This was as of August the 4th, 2020. Now, there are a few reasons for that. So the first one is that women tend to focus more on raising the family. When a woman has a baby, her priorities change completely. Now, men also get the bit of that maternal or paternal instinct. However, it’s nowhere near as fierce. So when a woman becomes a mother, she basically sacrifices everything for her child. And as a result, her financial security usually suffers.

When I’m talking about focusing on family, they also overrepresented at the other end of the spectrum. When parents are ageing, it is often the woman who is the main caregiver. I should jump in and qualify that, that’s absolutely not the case in my family. My youngest brother would have to be the main person caring for my mother. I’d like to be more involved, but I live 800 kilometres away, so I just want to, I guess, put some perspective into it.

The second point is that many women have little to no support as a result of the way the life has gone. Some have been unlucky in love and come out of that financially disadvantaged. Some are just in uninspiring or poorly paid job and need to really impact that. As I said earlier, that you need to build on competence and confidence.

So the first step to building your confidence is to actually build your competence. You feel much more able to own your result if you can demonstrate your competence. So that’s the first thing. That’s something that we do really well. We train women in our boot camp and in the skill of harnessing that flair that I have and turning it into a profit. Something that many, a mistake that many women make is that they think that the first step is to do an interior design degree or something down that path. While I am fully in favour of building on your design skills, you need to be able to make money first, ok? You do not need an interior design qualifications to be able to make a profit from renovating. You need to build that skill first and that’s why we recommend doing the boot camp first and then building your muscles. Once you have started doing renovations and building that skill, then going off and honing your craft by doing those other courses so that you can refine your process and build pride in your projects.

The second point or way to build your confidence is to leverage your strengths. Now, as I said, you are really great at organising, which is, I have to say, organising and relationship management are the two key skills in any business, but particularly in renovating. We often make the mistake of thinking that it’s about technical stuff. How tiles should be light or plumbing should be done. That all helps but you can renovate without having those skills but you cannot renovate without being able to build relationships and being able to manage a project or a schedule. So, really harnessing your strengths.

When I first started renovating, I used to bake my trades scones every morning for morning tea, which is, probably a bit over the top, but it was my superpower, hospitality was my thing. I used to love baking for people or to anyone. That was me leveraging my natural flare to help build that relationship and make my trades feel valued. Clearly, I don’t do that now, but I do it in other ways. So really, looking at what your natural flares are and leveraging them. I guess what I’m saying is don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The next thing you can do to really help build your confidence is build a strong support team. I often talk about the fact that, when Stephen and I go away, particularly when we go to Europe, while other people are probably sipping red wine and eating baguette and taking in the countryside, for me, it’s a study tour. So Steven basically trains me on building techniques. When we went to Venice, I learnt about how they built cofferdams.

 I was very glad when our children could actually take over for me and I was relieved of the task of being trained in building techniques. But really, he was my support team. Even just this week, I was having problems with a handyman who was basically wanting to pull some corners down in order to do a mounted corner because one part was already in situ and he thought that he had to take that down to create a corner. Stephen took it upon himself to train me using YouTube videos and diagrams on how that corner should be done and I got sent to work armed with a coping saw to demonstrate to the handyman how to do it.

Don’t think you have to do this. It’s completely over the top, but that’s just the way we operate. Your support team needs to include things like are really on the ball property accountant, a buyer’s agent or property strategist who can source your properties for you so you’re not going to spend months second guessing yourself on which is the right property to buy. And, of course, a support team in terms of a community such as the She Renovates or School of Renovating Community and also a mentor. That’s why we have a mentoring programme called Wonder Women in order to be a support team for the women in our renovation programme.

The last one and this is where we’re going to get a bit practical. The last one is to learn the lingo. It’s said that if you learn 20 to 30 terms in a field or an area, that it will boost your confidence significantly. And like every other industry, renovating has its own lingo or trades in particular. I’m just going to teach you a few now, just two or three, just to give you an idea of how you can speak in a way where the trades will relate to you more as an equal.

4 Helpful tips on how to communicate with traders:


The first one is in measurements. Trades measure in millimetres. If you are measuring the height of the bench instead of 89 centimetres, you would say it’s eight nineteen millimetres. Once you get over the metre, then often it’s referred to as metres as in one point two metres. However, you will notice on architectural drawings they are still referred to in millimetres. You’ll see a wall that’s 4079 long and that’s four thousand seventy nine millimetres or four metres and seventy nine millimetres. So measure in millimetres because it will help you to relate to your trades in a way that they listen to you more as an equal.

Proud and Flush

The second one is if you want something to be flat, say you’ve got a knob of filler protruding from a crack that you feel to crack and there’s some of the filler protruding. You wouldn’t see it sticking out or it’s protruding. You would say it’s “proud” and that you want it “flush”, not flat. Sticking out is proud and flat is flush.


The third one is, let’s say your tradesman is doing stud work and wants to know how far apart the studs should be. Instead of saying, I want them for fifty millimetres apart, you would say I want them at 450 centres. So that means you measure from the centre of one start to the centre of the next, and that distance is 450 or 600 or whatever you want it to be, so it’s centre.


The last one which is really important because it will single you out as an amateur or a pro however you choose to go is that, “wood grows in trees and timber builds buildings”. So when you are talking about renovating, you do not talk about a stick of wood, you talk about a stick of timber and that will serve you well.

So that’s today’s episode. I hope you get value out of that. Now we’re going to start working on our second hundred episodes. Before I go, I just want to share with you what I’m up to this week. I am really pushing to get our Chalmers Street project completed. I have to say, I have found the last week or so extremely challenging. I had a big weekend, the weekend of the She Renovates live conference, and I had another big weekend last weekend because I ran another event and then every day has been full on. I am seriously looking forward to this project being on the market, but I have the photos booked for next Wednesday and so we are going to be finished, “do or die” on Wednesday.

We have started the Lane Cove Project. It had a demo done on Monday and today the main wall between the kitchen and the living room is being removed. Odette is managing that project and she’s doing quite well. I’m going over today to check it out and to give her a little bit of moral support. It’s been hard for her and I to really spend a lot of time together in the last two weeks. We badly need to do some planning to get that project finished.

The third project is Darlinghurst, and I’ve put that on hold just a little bit at the moment because I’ve just found that my plate’s too full and I need to back off a bit. And because we don’t have a loan on that, I can do that. We’ve done demolition and we’re just waiting for the plumber to come in for the first fix.

The most exciting news is that the Victorian border opens up on the 23rd of November. I rang my mum’s aged care facility, firstly to see what difference that’s going to make to the visiting arrangements, but secondly, to see if I was able to fly down. For the past year, I’ve only seen her twice.  This year when I normally go most months I’ve had to drive down because if I got on a plane, I would have to quarantine, however, the answer was no, I can fly. So I am incredibly excited about that. So we’re off to Melbourne as soon as we can get flights booked and I’m going to see my darling mum, which I’m really happy about. Sadly, in the lockdown, she’s forgotten about us, not by choice, but her memory has been negatively impacted. But that’s just the way things roll. We just have to love just the same and make life as good as possible for as we can.

So that’s it for me. I hope you’re having an awesome week. I hope this episode makes a difference to you and I’ll see you next week. In the meantime, if you get a chance to listen over and write a review, we read them all and really they are what keeps us going. So we really love them.

Thank you for listening and I’ll see you next week.

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    “I've been binge-listening to this podcast for the past week and it's absolutely brilliant. Bernadette has amassed so much knowledge and wisdom about renovating and she shares it generously and in a really easy to understand way that's inspired me to give it a go. Her advice is practical and I love that she approaches renovating in a really ethical and open-hearted way. Every episode honestly is gold. I also love that each episode is quite short and addresses a specific topic without any waffle. Thank you so much for this podcast!”
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    “Hands down best renovation podcast there is. There’s no scams or tricks here and Bernadette provides honest and practical advice that you can actually apply to your life. There’s also great insights into the property industry (not just renovating) and Bernadette’s simple approach gives you tools to mitigate risk and fuels confidence to start your own projects.”
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    “Bernadette is an inspiration. Warm, open and a fountain of wisdom and advice. I’ve learned so much about everything from renovating to selling to creating an independent future from this podcast. Look forward to every episode!”
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    “If you need to break through any of your limitations to find the joy and success in renovation, Bernadette is your inspiration and advisor with decades of experience. Her down to earth, practical style of sharing what works and how to keep control of any renovating project is worth tuning in for - week after week. I have done a few renovations in the (distant) past and now feel motivated to go again, this time for a change of pace and new horizons. This podcast shows the way. Thanks Bernadette, James Burgin”
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