I recently had the honour of connecting with a powerful leader and an incredibly creative business owner and interior design expert, Allison Crawford.  Allison is an interior designer and founder of Hotelette, an award-winning collection of luxury short-term rentals in Austin, Nashville and Dallas.

In this interview Allison shares with us about a bachelorette trip that inspired her business, why we do not need to have a huge budget to be effective in our marketing, and why the interior design doesn’t have to be a “fussy experience”.

Continue reading →

So you want to start a podcast. However, you are worried because you do not know where to begin and may be concerned that you are not “techy enough” to pull it off.  Isn’t podcasting super complicated? Let’s dive into how to start a podcast. 

One of the biggest misconceptions about starting a podcast is that you have to have an audio engineering degree. Or that you have to have the latest and greatest equipment, and know all the technical lingo.

I am not a super techy person and I work in the podcasting space full time. Hopefully that encourages you that if I can do it…you can too.

The number one thing that you “need” to start a podcast is the resolve to start one. Everything is “figureoutable” including gear, tech, and RSS feeds. I promise.

I hope through this post, to demystify some of the technical blocks that keep people from hitting “publish” on their show. It will hopefully encourage you that if hosting a podcast is of interest to you, you should give it a shot. 

You never know, you might love it, and it might just change your life.

Forming your show’s concept

Looking back, one of the things that I wish I would have spent more time on was forming my show’s concept. I knew that I wanted to talk about leadership but how was I REALLY different from all the other shows on leadership?

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you want to start a marketing podcast. How will your show stand out from the rest? Can you explain in a few seconds the core philosophy of your show and what listeners will gain by listening to YOU?

When someone sees YOUR marketing podcast will they know immediately if it’s for them or not? Is it for women and men? Is it for beginner marketers or advanced? How is what you teach different from other marketing shows right next to it in iTunes?

Now when you start to dig in and research what is already being done do NOT become discouraged. The fact that there are other shows like the one you want to start is a great thing, it means that there is a market for it. Don’t allow fear to set in and think,  “There is nothing special about my podcast. My industry is oversaturated. I do not need to start a show.

This honestly is just a bad mindset. There are leaders who I ADORE (and follow all of their work) and I have friends who have NEVER heard of them. If leaders with HUGE audiences still have yet to reach everyone, there is surely plenty of listeners to go around.

If you struggle with separating yourself from other shows ask yourself, “What do I wish existed a few years ago that I did not have access to?” or “How can I add more of my story or personality into this show?”. We are all unique so do not be afraid to add more of YOU in your show to separate you from the crowd.

 

The break down when thinking about how to start a podcast

To simplify podcasting for you here are the most basic of steps. Of course, you can dig and learn/implement many more details to this process, but technically this is all you need to get started.

First, you need your audio, then you need to submit that audio to your “feed”, then that feed updates all the directories (iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, etc). That’s really it. Not as bad as you thought, huh!? 

Audio

Seriously, you honestly do not need to spend tons of money on audio equipment. There are actually many people who record a podcast simply from their phones. 

You technically only need a .mp3 recording of your voice (and that of your guest, if applicable).  As for equipment, you can always start small and build. Buy something to get you started and upgrade when you can.

Same goes with editing your show. You can download a free program like Audacity and watch tutorial on Youtube on how to perform basic editing techniques to your file (adding an intro/outro or taking out filler words like “um, ya know, etc”)

Hosting site

There are many, many, many sites that can host your podcast. You need these sites to actually “house’ your show and give your podcast an RSS feed that you can submit to directories like iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, etc.

These hosting sites range from free to only 30 or 40 bucks a month. Usually, they charge for more space (how big is your file?) and how detailed the analytics you receive are.

The simple idea behind hosting is that you only have to upload shows to one place and it does all the heavy lifting for you (hold your actual shows and distribute them to all the directories).

Submit to the directories

Once you have your audio, upload it to a hosting site, you take the RSS feed that the site creates for your show and submit it for (normally) free to a variety of major platforms. No, you do not have to continually update these platforms, they pull information from your RSS feed, so when your feed is updated (shows added, cover art changed, etc) your show will be updated too.

Every once in a while you have to go in and manually update your show on some of these platforms however that is very rare. Normally hosting sites like Libsyn allows you to update your show in all the places right there on their platform.

Wait, no. Shouldn’t there be more?

There IS more you need to consider when starting and growing your show. We could go into things like branding, distribution, whether you should have a website or not, etc. etc. However, these things can be figured out and tested as you get more comfortable with podcasting. 

One of my favourite quotes is, “Action creates clarity.” and it’s true in podcasting too. Sometimes you don’t know “all the things” you should be doing until you simply START. When you have people listening, and you get more comfortable, it will become clear what you need to grow.

The real reason that’s holding you back isn’t that you don’t know how to start a podcast

I think what keeps people back more often than not from podcasting is the simple FEAR of starting. Often we make things more complicated than they are and allow perfection to keep us immobile from taking action.

No matter how much you plan, your podcast won’t be perfect. Even more, your podcast is probably going to change as you grow your show and “find your voice” podcasting. 

Planning is GREAT and you should be clear on what kind of show you want to create and who it’s for (remember what we talked about with your show concept) but the actual tech side of your show is fairly simple. Remember that there is a natural learning curve to just about anything worthwhile and if you hang in there, producing your show will get easier and easier, I promise.

Let us know what questions you have and maybe we can answer them in upcoming posts!

Heather Parady should I start a podcastAbout the Author – HeatherParady

Heather is the host of The Unconventional Leaders Podcast. She interviews successful entrepreneurs who have overcome great adversity and built something great.

I don’t know about you, but it seems as though every day someone announcing that they started a podcast. From big brands to small business and even those trying to build a personal brand. Podcasting seems to be becoming a more and more attractive means to deliver your message. Which leads many to ask, “Should I start a podcast?”.

Podcasting began to catch fire around 2004 and has only increased in production and consumption since then. According to Edison Research [1] there are more than half a million podcasts and more than half of Americans have listened to podcasts.

I am a huge fan of Gary Vee, who is a digital marketing guru and advocate for content marketing. He is constantly hypothesizing that content that is consumed passively (like audio) is more appealing to the general public. Why? Well, because we are busy.

As a culture, there are many things pressing for our time. Stopping to read a blog or watch a video is becoming a commodity. However, we can more readily tune in to a podcast on the go or while we are multitasking.

Considering that this is how many of your potential clients are consuming content it is probable that as a leader and small business owner the thought has crossed your mind, “Should I start a podcast?

Should I Start a Podcast?

Yes.

Well, no.

Okay, maybe.

See how much help I was there? Before we can address whether or not you should start a podcast, let’s first talk about what podcasting is and isn’t.

Without getting too technical (I am not the most techie lady) a podcast is simply an audio show that listeners can download a single or multiple episodes of.

Itunes, Spotify, Anchor, Google Play, Stitcher, are just a FEW of the major podcasting platforms which can stream your show for little (or sometimes) no cost. After your show is “aired” there are opportunities to repurpose content across your social channels. This provides valuable content even to non-podcast listeners.

What I have loved most about podcasting is its ability to connect with people from literally all over the world. It is also an incredible way to bring a more relational element to your brand. You are actually SPEAKING to your audience. It is a cool way for them to “get to know” the person behind the product or the brand.

You Should Not Start a Podcast.

Whoa. What?

I just spent several paragraphs raving about podcasts and now I am going to tell you not to start one? Well, no.

I like to end on a high note, and tell you all the benefits of YOU starting your show. However, it would be a disservice to you if I did not share the not-so-pretty side to podcasting. My goal here is to paint a broader picture and help manage expectations.

Okay, ready for the cold hard truth?

  1. You will not get immediate results.
  2. It is a lot of work.

Sounds like fun right?

The reality is that ALL content marketing doesn’t yield immediate results and is a lot of work. So this should not come as a surprise to you to hear podcasting is the same way. However, I am still surprised at how many people start shows and get discouraged when the download number is not as high. Like with anything else, content marketing or not, results take time.

Of course, there are new tactics you can learn, and ways that you can improve your show, but more often than not it comes back to good old fashion grit. Another difficult aspect of podcasting is getting feedback from your audience. Unlike blogging or social media posts, it is harder to interact with listeners because they are consuming your podcast a variety of different ways through different apps, most of which do not give the option to comment on individual episodes.

The investment of podcasting

One more thing worth mentioning is the potential investment of podcasting. Before you spend hundreds of dollars on equipment, make SURE this is something you are committed to for at least a year before you quit.

Besides the investment in a good microphone and potentially recording and editing software (you can edit your shows for free using audacityteam.org)  you may decide to hire an editor, someone to design your show’s artwork and outsource promo material for your show.

You can, of course, do it yourself. I recommend doing it yourself at first just to learn the basics even if your long term plan is to hire out. Reason being, in the event that your assistant quits suddenly or is unable to produce your show, you are not left hanging and can still deliver your show on time.

Not to be discouraging, but realistically these are things you need to consider before taking the leap!

You Should Start a Podcast

Okay, here is the fun part, the reasons why you should start a show.

As mentioned before this is an INCREDIBLE way to connect with your current audience and be discovered by new audiences. Again, it is a long-term marketing strategy but has the potential to add SO much to your brand and reach.

If you decide to host solo episodes it can position you as an expert in your field. You can also share about your services (not too much because no one likes feeling sold to!) and even grow your email list by mentioning any free opt-ins that you have.

Interviews are also very popular among hosts for a couple of reasons. One, it is another resource to provide incredible value to your listeners. Second, it gives you an excuse to talk to really cool people in your industry and ask them any question you want. Let’s just be real here, that is pretty cool.

Lastly, it is A LOT of fun. I know I went on about how much work it is, but if you enjoy listening to podcasts you will likely really like hosting one. It feels really good to put together something that you are passionate about and have people actually listening to YOUR show.

No, really? Is podcasting right for me?

All in all, I am an advocate for podcasting. To say it has changed my life is an understatement. It has connected me with amazing people from all over the world and helped me build a platform where I can share my message which I am passionate about.

There have been times, especially at the beginning when I felt discouraged and wanted to quit, but I think anything you do that is worthwhile will have those moments where you question yourself and wonder if it is worth the effort for you.

Not everyone is going to enjoy podcasting or would necessarily benefit from it. I think all in all it is a personal decision and ultimately needs to be something you would enjoy. If the idea of starting a podcast sounds daunting and you already struggle with being overwhelmed, and time restraints, it may not be the best idea right now.

However, if the thought excites you and you are willing to keep a big-picture perspective and have reasonable expectations with starting one, I encourage you to try. You never know what might come from your show.

Heather Parady should I start a podcastAbout the author

Heather is a regular Leaders in Heels contributor and host of The Unconventional Leaders Podcast. She interviews successful entrepreneurs who have overcome great adversity and built something great. Read more about Heather Parady

 

[1] https://www.edisonresearch.com/infinite-dial-2019/


Are you thinking about starting a business as an artist and unsure of how you can make it in the creative industry? Camilla D’Errico (successful urban contemporary painter, illustrator, character creator and comic book artist) shares her journey of pursuing art, learning the business and building a loyal fan base. She details the first steps she took in starting a business as an artist and how she was able to work with brands like Disney, Hasbro and Wiz Kids.

Whether you are an artist or not this interview is full of tips, tricks, and overall encouragement for any woman looking to dominate her industry and make an impact through her work.

How long have you been an artist and how did you start?

I’ve been an artist all my life. My mother told me that I was born with an artist’s hands, so from an early age I was always drawing. My art journey started in high school by taking every art elective I could and continued my education at Okanagan University and Capilano University. I built my skills with years of learning various techniques and different styles.

I had to struggle with prejudice against anime and manga as a serious art style. Luckily, I’m pretty obstinate, so when someone tells me I can’t do something, I tend to stubbornly prove them wrong. I started in comic books in 1998 when I went to San Diego Comic-Con and showed my portfolio to various publishers. From there, everything began to take shape and eventually, I became a painter in 2004. 

The owner of Ayden Gallery in Vancouver loved my art and encouraged me to create a series of paintings on canvas, which I had previously never done before. From there, I went down the “painter’s rabbit hole”. I think my biggest take away in life has been to expect the unexpected and jump on opportunities when they present themselves. I may not have intended to be a painter but I’m incredibly happy that I risked it.

 

How did you turn your artwork into a thriving business?

It took time and lots of hard work. It all started with going to local comic book shows and building up an audience. Then I collaborated with local clothing businesses to merge my art with their lines. From there I started to work with my sister, who was a businesswoman, and she helped me with the contracts, business model and expanding my reach. After my sister left to work on her own business, I built a team that helped with fulfillments, contracts, and keeping things organised.

When starting a business as an artist, you have to work with people that you trust and that believe in the product, in this case, my artwork. I love working hard and making sure I stay on top of marketing, licenses, ordering, and building out my five-year plan. Keeping the business going means working hard, finding ways to budget and build, and always pushing forward and overcoming challenges.

 

What challenges did you face in starting a business as an artist?

There were so many challenges and there still are. I think the hardest thing about starting a business as an artist is how the world evolves and how you have to stay ahead of the game. When I first started there was no such thing as social media and then, of course, Facebook changed everything.

After that came Instagram and now we have curated algorithms which at times make it frustrating trying to stay ahead. I’ve been doing art for twenty years and I’ve seen industries fall (the paper industry), I’ve seen industries rise (online selling) and it has never been easy.

There were also the times when people didn’t follow through on their deals so now I know from experience to always have a contract even with friends or people you’ve worked with for years. At any time things can change and the saying “it’s not personal it’s just business” will eventually bite you in the butt if you don’t protect yourself.

 

How did you connect with high profile companies like Disney for partnerships and catch celebrity attention?

I go to so many conventions and get my art in front of thousands of people. Having a booth with my art is like a beacon in the ocean. There are scouts from companies that go to cons and seek out talent. That’s how I got my chance to work with Disney, Hasbro, and Wiz Kids, to name a few. The celebrities? Well, that I can’t tell you. I think along the way people noticed my art and some of it went viral online, which may be how I got on their radar.

 

What are effective tools or methods you use to market yourself?

Going to conventions, trade shows, markets, etc. is an excellent way to market yourself. Being physically in front of a targeted audience that appreciates art and what I do is a great way to gain exposure as well.

I also do a lot of social media which keeps me in touch with my fans, and I love connecting with them, so we have a very personal relationship. I read and reply to comments and messages, and never take them for granted. Every single person has the ability to change the world so I will do my best to connect with people positively.

 

I see that you self-published your own series, Tanpopo. Can you tell us more about what it was like and how you did that? 

I self-published Tanpopo many years ago until Boom! Studios picked it up and published it as a graphic novel series. It was an interesting process and I learnt a lot about working with print companies. I recently released my newest collection of art, “The Beehive: A Collection of Fuzzbutts Vol. 1.” which is the first book I’ve published since Tanpopo. 

Book printing requires a lot of technical aspects, knowledge of paper, various printing techniques and marketing is also a considerable part of the publication process. I would say that self-publishing is one of the hardest projects that I’ve done.

 

What advice can you give to anyone else who is thinking of starting a business as an artist? 

Work hard, sacrifice, celebrate the successes, and learn from your mistakes. If you’re thinking of starting a business as an artist, you need to realise that being your boss and other people’s boss is extremely hard. You are in control of your destiny, so do not wait for others to find you or for success to fall out of the sky. 

I gave up a lot to build what I have, every day I give it my all and I still sacrifice. To be honest, it would be so much easier if I had a day job as I wouldn’t have the responsibility of an entire business resting on my shoulders. However, I wouldn’t be as fulfilled as I am now. I love my business and career, and for me, the hard work pays off. If you want to follow your passion, then be prepared to work your butt off for it.

 

Follow Camillia’s work

Facebook @camilladerricoart
Twitter @Helmetgirl
Instagram @camilladerrico

Camilla D’Errico is an urban contemporary painter, illustrator, character creator and comic artist residing in Vancouver BC, Canada. With roots in comics, Camilla’s beautiful work is seen on toys, clothes, accessories and more. Camilla is published by Random House/Watson Guptill books, Boom! Studios, Image Comics, IDW, Dark Horse Comics and more, with self-publishing roots for her literature-inspired series, Tanpopo. Camilla has distinguished herself as one of the breakthrough artists in Pop Surrealism.


We all have big ideas. There are things that we want to do to positively influence others and make a difference in the world. When it is time to “take the leap”, however, we are often left a little overwhelmed with all the details that go into making our business or organisation thrive.

That’s where experts like Jessica Kinsey come in. Jessica is the founder of Prodigy and Co, a consulting company dedicated to helping impact-driven organisations build strategy behind their mission. She understands that most leaders are “big picture” dreamers and have the courage to start things, but sometimes need guidance on how to establish and grow their ventures.

In our interview, Jessica shares with us some basic fundamentals behind thinking through the structure of your organisation and how to move past times when you feel stuck.

Jessica, I am so excited to connect with you and share more of your story with our readers. To begin with, would you tell us why you started your business?

I started Prodigy & Co to help small businesses and nonprofits be more creative in their strategies for products, services, programs, marketing—pretty much everything. I’m a huge believer that we can’t solve problems or make a difference by doing the same thing we have always done, and I saw too many people just “rinse and repeat” the same old thing, or something someone else had done, hoping it would work, but not making progress.

What is the meaning (or backstory) behind your name “Prodigy & Co.”?

When you think of a prodigy, you think of a young kid who is exceptionally gifted but needs guidance and direction. That’s how I think of my clients. They excel at what they do. They have a heart and a passion for the work or the people or the craft, but they need guidance and direction. Most of them don’t have business backgrounds. They are the makers and doers who need help creating a sustainable organisation for their work.

You obviously have a passion for working with entrepreneurs and leaders who are “impact” and “mission” focused. Where did this desire to help these specific people come from?

There are a lot of big challenges we are facing today and I want to work with the people who are trying to make progress, trying to make a difference. Whether you are a for-profit or non-profit, if your goal is to make a positive impact on people’s lives, I want to help you do that. I also think that businesses and organisations that are built out of a passion to make an impact are more likely to last. Money is not enough to keep you going when things get tough. Money matters, a lot. You have to pay your bills and support your family. But when things get hard, and they absolutely will, most people can go get money elsewhere. They can go back to a “real job” and have stability and safety. Mission-driven people do the work because they can’t not do the work. That kind of passion is contagious and exciting.

Do you provide a variety of services, which one are you most excited about?

The work I enjoy most is helping non-profits bring a social enterprise aspect to their organisation. I see too many non-profits rely solely on donors and they are fundraising their entire budget each year. It wears them down. They are working hard enough to do good work in the community and make a difference. If I can help bring something to the organisation that can earn revenue so they can have a more sustainable, regular source of funding, that’s an incredible feeling. It can also be a real challenge to balance revenue generation with program impact and outcomes, and that’s a fun thing to take on.

What is the main difference between a non-profit and a social enterprise?

This is such a tough question to break down, because everyone has a different opinion. There’s the difference between a non-profit and for-profit which is based on tax status with the IRS, and what the goal is related to money. Are you putting it all back to the mission, or do you want to take earnings out for the owners?

More broadly speaking, the term social enterprise (to me) means an organisation that was founded based on a sense of mission and making a positive impact in the world, and all or most of their revenue comes from the creation and sale of a product or service. I believe that kind of organisation can be a for-profit or non-profit. Not everyone agrees, but I think for-profit businesses can exist for social good. That the owners can “do good and do well”, as it’s sometimes said. Some non-profits are social enterprises because they create a product or service that they sell. Some non-profits are 100% donation based—I don’t consider those social enterprise.

It’s about the combination of social and enterprise. You have to be mission-driven and focused on making a positive social change. The social part. And you have to be selling something. The enterprise part. I don’t think the tax status matters.

I would like to see more people start for-profit social enterprises. I believe there is this dichotomy in the way people think about doing good versus making money. That it is either/or. You either go into business and make a lot of money and then give it to charity, or you go to work for a nonprofit and you make next to nothing and kill yourself for the greater good. I think we need to re-think that. You can do both. You can start a for-profit organisation that is built to do good and earn a lot of money at the same time. It’s about staying mission-focused, taking great care of all of your resources (people, environment, etc.), and doing what is right. I ultimately believe if you do that, profits will follow, because people want to buy from and support companies that do good.

What are a few tangible pieces of advice you would give someone looking to grow their business or organisation but currently feels stuck?

Find a support system of like-minded leaders in a similar place as you, and learn from and lean on each other. Especially for solo entrepreneurs or non-profit founders, it can be so incredibly difficult to go it alone. When you have someone to bounce ideas off of and ask for advice and support, it can be a game changer.

Don’t spread yourself too thin. I’d like to say focus on one thing, but I know that isn’t possible, especially in the early stages. But be mindful of the work and projects you do take on. Protect your energy and time, and put it into the things that will move the needle the most. We often feel stuck because we don’t know the right next step because there are a thousand things we could do. The more you focus in, the less that happens.

For non-profits, be extra strategic about donors, board members, and partners who share your values and want to do things the right way. Don’t just take money because you need it, and try to find donors who believe in the importance of “overhead” or “administration”. It’s not a bad thing. You can’t run an organisation that is understaffed with underpaid people, or reach your audience with no marketing budget. It’s such a hard thing to do, but it makes an incredible difference.

What is your vision moving forward? Where would you like to take the company from here?

I’m looking to hire my first (part-time) staff member to help keep me organised and on target. I have a lot of big ideas and I need some reining in, sometimes. That’s a really exciting step for me and will allow me to do more of what I truly love, which is strategising with organisations on how to grow their impact.

I just kicked off an 8-week intensive with small non-profits locally to help them set a solid foundation to maximise and grow their impact, and maintain financial sustainability. My goal is to adapt that intensive into an online program early next year, so I can increase my own impact in the non-profit space.

I would like to start working with more for-profits that want to add or increase social impact through their businesses, whether that is through their internal processes or partnering with non-profits. It comes back to my comment about “doing good and doing well”. I’d like to see more businesses put an intentional focus on that.   

My ultimate vision is about expanding my impact as much as possible. I have a finance degree, so the power of compound interest was practically beat into me in school. I want to create a compound impact. I want to look back at the organisations I’ve worked with and see how my work has helped them create massive positive impact with their beneficiaries and then see how those people whose lives were changed have gone on to create massive positive impact as well.

 

About Jessica

Whether Jessica was performing at Clown College, or calling women in nursing homes via a “phone-pal” program, or volunteering at the YMCA, she has always been a dedicated servicewoman. But even more than serving, Jessica wants to serve strategically. Jessica can be easily influenced toward your passion, and she wants to hear what you’ve got up your sleeve. She holds a degree in finance and an MBA from the University of Tulsa. She has worked as an adjunct professor at the TU, teaching Creativity and Innovation to some of the brightest entrepreneurs in town. She still can’t decide if coffee or wine brings better ideas. But who wants to choose? You can connect with her at prodigyandco.com

 


Have you ever considered a career in writing? You may or may not have formal training and wonder if you have what it takes to make a full-time career from something that you love. Whether it is through monetizing a personal blog or landing a job with a magazine, if the idea of writing excites you, you will love this interview with Rachel Werner.

Rachel is the digital editor of Brava Magazine a Wisconsin-based publication and a freelance writer, and the social media manager of “The Celebration Society, another subsidiary of Nei Turner Media Group. Not only that’s she’s also a fitness instructor, health coach and a 2016-17 national WomenRide4Change Ambassador! Her passionate commitment to holistic wellness and sustainable agriculture keeps her a Midwestern girl at heart.

In this interview, she shares how she went from blogging to becoming a published writer in both regional and national publications. As she mentions in this interview, it is “okay to struggle” while pursuing your craft, but it is possible to follow your dream of becoming a writer.

Hi Rachel! Would you tell our readers a little about you and your role with BRAVA Magazine?

I am currently the digital editor of BRAVA, a Wisconsin-based magazine created by women for women and subsidiary of Nei-Turner Media Group. I’m also the social media manager of another Nei-Turner publication and brand, The Celebration Society, for which I curate trending wedding content and engaging event images aimed at increasing the visibility of The Celebration Society’s brand.

In particular, I enjoy overseeing the culinary, arts, fashion and beauty coverage in my current roles and has previously contributed print, photography and video content for other media outlets around the country such as Madison Magazine, Big Life, Entrepreneurial Chef and Hobby Farms Magazine—all while maintaining side gigs as a fitness pro, a 2016-2017 national cycling WomenRide4Change Ambassador and a 2017 World Food Championships Top Ten Finalist judge.

You have been a freelance writer for several years, can you tell us a little about that?

A precarious mix of passion and life circumstance served as the impetus for the career arc I am currently on. In hindsight, writing seems to have continuously intersected with my academic, professional and/or personal pursuits on some level even when it wasn’t necessarily the primary focus. I also do not have a degree in journalism or English (I common question I am asked).

But seven years ago, I found myself grappling with a significant number of life shifts: a divorce, single parenting, transitioning from a social work position at a nonprofit into the fitness industry. As a coping mechanism, I began to daily transfer my concerns, emotions and observations “onto the page” as a way of processing life. What began as mere journaling evolved into blogging, which then sparked a curiosity to see if I could further hone my writing skills and perhaps supplement my income via this blossoming delight.

I decided to take a writing working through University of Wisconsin-Madison’s continuing education studies department. I did not know it at the time, but that one decision would serve as the biggest catalyst for launching my freelance career. People often ask how I “did it.” And the honest truth is I literally followed almost verbatim the tips and seasoned advice the instructor shared on how to determine a writing niche, pitch articles and connect with editors. And it worked! Within three years, I went from being virtually unknown as a blogger to becoming a published writer in numerous regional and national publications and the assistant editor at BRAVA.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before pursuing a career in writing?

The one thing that I wish I had known before I started to seriously consider writing as an occupation is that it really is okay to struggle for a stretch in pursuit of your craft. And that writing can have tremendous VALUE on a personal and professional level, filled with objectives for both that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Also, the power of networking. DO NOT EVER underestimate the potential impact of foraging connections within and outside of your current sector or industry and where that could potentially lead.

What tactics do you use when writing? Do you outline or do you simply sit down and start writing?

Probably my most “signature” hallmark as a writer is that I almost always take notes by hand. I also never audio record subjects when I interview them or “google” them before we meet or speak via phone. I prefer my impressions and interactions to be as organic as possible. I think it helps me retain details more clearly once I am ready to compose the piece. I have a myriad of journals I make notations in, which merely serve as a reference point if needed once the actual writing begins. I also rarely delete an email, preferring instead to file most correspondence away in digital folders, rendering it easily accessible if early communications could potentially shed light on an event, person and/or topic down the road.

Do you have tips on how we could become better writers?

If you want to become a better writer, seek out ways to receive regular feedback on your work. Join a writing group or enroll in a workshop or an intensive like The Fifth Semester or Upod Academy. Public libraries, colleges, writer associations and book festivals can also all be useful resources for finding this sort of info. By no means does one need to pursue a MFA degree, but if that resonates with you on some level, GO FOR IT! The most important thing is to connect with others just as invested in this art form—and to carve out time to write on a consistent basis.

How do you stay inspired?

I stay inspired by reading: classics, memoirs, picture books…I love it all! I almost never watch TV unless it’s a sports event or I am at the gym working out so books are my primary way to “disconnect” or wind down at day’s end. Also, a long-term goal of mine is to become a published author. I currently have two first drafts of contemporary fiction that I am plugging along on and three children’s books I am revising and pitching to editors.

What words of encouragement or wisdom would you like to share with a woman just starting off in this industry?

The best advice I have to share is the same wisdom which was imparted to me early on: “Get comfortable with rejection because you’re going to hear a lot of ‘NO’s’. But as long as you keep refining your ideas and pitches, eventually someone IS going to like one of your ideas enough to give you a shot.”

You can follow Rachel’s adventures around the country on Instagram: @therealscript.