Two years ago I had lunch with my good friend and former roommate, Amanda Grazioli. As we devoured some really killer pizza, she let me know that she was leaving her job at a nonprofit and starting her own company.
At the time I was completely dumbfounded. Wait a gosh darn second… we can do that?
We Can Work From Home? For Ourselves?
It’s not that I didn’t know entrepreneurship or working from home was a career choice, or that people owned their own businesses, but I was stuck in this mindset that people our age were equal parts too old and too young to strike it out on our own.
My early 30s were been characterized by babies on babies and a real need for stability. I had lots of responsibilities, most of whom were drooling, and I needed a steady income for bibs. At the same time, I felt like there was still so much to learn in the world of work and parenting. In the grand scheme of life, I felt like a baby raising babies.
But this too old/too young feeling I had simply wasn’t true. And Amanda Grazioli showed me that neither one of us were babies and that our voices had incredible value. She also is proof that it’s not too late to change your career path, really ever. Not if you lean on your transferable skills and are willing to put in the work.
Amanda is now the proud mom of a beautiful one year old daughter and the founder of her solopreneur venture as a writer and brand messaging consultant.
For anyone out there picturing what a life could look like as a work from home mom, take note. Amanda lays it all out there in this Q&A. The awesome and the challenging, and I love her all the more for it.
Q&A with Entrepreneur Amanda Grazioli
Starting A Business
Becca: What inspired you to start your own business?
Amanda: Despite never having earned my MBA or watched an episode of Shark Tank, I’ve always wanted to start a business or nonprofit. There is a steep learning curve when launching your first business, but I have a nerdy love of learning so that part really appealed to me. Some people might be overwhelmed by the idea of creating a system to track my deductible work expenses or identifying networking opportunities to reach target markets. Instead, I say, “Learn how to build client workflows in a customer relationship management system? Bring. It. On.”
I knew that I could bring unique value to small businesses in the area by helping them talk about their brands in consistent, memorable ways. As a solopreneur, I’ve created a process that ensures every client gets incredibly personalized service and a high-quality end product.
Starting my own business has also given me a better work-life balance and more direct control over how I work and what projects I take on. I love being able to make a meaningful impact, all while devoting more time to my growing family.
Telling Their Stories
Becca: What is your favorite part about working with small businesses on their writing and brand messaging?
Amanda: My favorite part is helping my clients unlock the most powerful way to communicate the passion that they have for their work. There are so many amazing small businesses and solopreneurs who care so deeply about what they do—whether that be selling cake pops, organizing homes, or using acupuncture to promote wellness. These professionals have so much to say, but it can be hard for them to find the right way words.
I learn about their business, their customers, and their competitors and then help them uncover the most important messages they need to be sharing and how to best share them. We get to the essence of their brand. The best compliment I get from clients about my writing is when they say, “I don’t know how you did it, but it sounds like me!”
Work from Home Advice
Becca: Work from home, be your own boss – you’re living the dream! BUT, I know there is more behind the curtain and it’s not always easy. What advice would you give to work from home moms (or dads)?
Amanda: This is such an important thing to talk about! I honestly think of you as the queen of finding this balance, so I should be taking notes from you.
It does seem too good to be true to have a twelve-step commute, be able to throw in a load of laundry while I write, or wear sweatpants while Skyping because no one except for my cat will know.
But there are definitely challenges, especially now that I have my daughter home with me three of the five weekdays. Distractions abound when you work down the hall from a mountain of dirty dishes or your super inviting bed, especially when you are running on less sleep as a parent of a little. Here are some of the things that help me make it work.
CONSIDER YOUR WORK STYLE
Make sure that you have the sort of work style that allows you to work from home successfully. I am really task-oriented, so working from home without distractions is great for me most of the time. Some people need more structure and left to their own devices might be lured into Netflix binging or napping, despite good intentions. If that sounds like you, you may want to consider a coworking space or other out-of-home arrangement.
SET YOUR OFFICE HOURS
Before my daughter, I worked a full Monday through Friday 9am–5pm week, plus some evening networking events. Now, I have full workdays on Monday and Friday and then a few hours the rest of the weekdays during her naps or after she goes to sleep. Keeping “work time” and “mom time” separate helps me be more present and successful in both of those roles.
SET UP SYSTEMS
When balancing your business and family life, every moment counts. I have found systems that streamline everything from email management to proposal preparation and they are lifesavers. Setting things up requires an initial time investment, but it pays off big time. Some of my favorite tools include Asana (task management), Canva (basic design for non-designers), Dubsado (client management), Boomerang (email management), and Unsplash (gorgeous, free stock photography).
Even if you work from home, make sure to get out of the house when you can to network, learn, and gain some fresh perspective. One of the things I miss the most about working a normal full-time job is collaborating with colleagues and being part of a team. I fulfill this need by presenting at and attending workshops, setting coffee dates with other business owners, and taking occasional field trips to write in inspiring settings like a local botanic garden.
Amanda’s Career Sweet Spot
Becca: Tell us how you found your “sweet spot” as a writer and brand messaging consultant? My career coach mind defines “sweet spot” as the overlap between your skills, your interests, and the value you bring to others.
Amanda: I love this framework (skills, interests, and value) for finding your sweet spot. For me it breaks down like this:
Skills: My background looks pretty varied on the surface—I’ve worked as a theater artist, a fundraiser, and a marketing professional. But despite the different titles, I’ve spent my entire career listening deeply and then telling stories that inspire people.
Interests: I am fascinated by people and their stories and how our brains connect and process the messages we encounter.
Value: It turns out that a lot of small business owners and solopreneurs have trouble honing their message, whether due to lack of time, challenges with writing, or being so darn close to their business. Helping them unlock the right words to connect to their customers can make a huge difference for their brands.
That being said, I can’t promise that I won’t swivel down the line at some point and evolve my current business, start a second venture, or try something new altogether! The great things is that once you make the sometimes-scary leap to owning your own career path as an entrepreneur, anything seems possible!
Parenting Advice from Amanda
Becca: Alright, lady – last question. Any parenting nuggets to share as you wrap up year one in the mamahood? My go to answer to this question is “none of us have any idea what we are doing” so the bar is incredibly
Amanda: Ha! I’m not certain that one year of experience gives me any business sharing wisdom, but I will say this has been a year in which I’ve learned and grown so, so, SO much.
Parenting is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done and despite being a super-organized planner, I have never been so unprepared for anything in my life. I am really fortunate to have a supportive partner and amazing friends (you included) who answered my panic texts, helped me latch my baby, and made sure I ate.
While it’s been hard it has also been completely amazing watching my little girl discover the world and grow into her personality. She is so much fun to hang out with! If I could go back in time and tell myself something right after she was born, it would probably be, “Breathe, laugh, and don’t let fear keep you from the fun.” If I could tell other new moms something, I’d say, “There are no silly questions and don’t forget to lean on your people.
And for any work from home moms or work from home dads out there rocking the solopreneur life, what else would you add to the conversation?
Wondering where your career sweet spot is? Let me help you figure it out. Sign up for the Sweet Spot Cheat Sheet!