Change. It’s as exciting as it is terrifying. It’s human nature to resist it, but usually change is never as bad as we think it will be. I’d even go so far as to say that once we embrace it, change feels life-giving and exhilarating. Stay with me—the story I’m about to share backs me up.
When I look back on the two biggest changes in my life, I realize that HUGE personal and professional growth came on the heels of both. Each time, I felt like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes. The ashes part felt crappy, but the outcomes made the challenges worth it.
I’d like to introduce you to one of my clients, Nancy Weltchek. Nancy is a writer, editor, and workshop leader. When we started working together, she had just left corporate America to strike out on her own. My role was to help her make that happen. I hope you enjoy her story of change, hard work, and faith that everything would be OK.
How would you describe yourself as a creative professional?
I feel as if I’m a newborn creative. For years, I was an account person in a PR firm, but as I carved out my niche as a writer, I became more of a creative—though one with a strong business sense.
So, I’m a business-minded creative. I read the Business section of The New York Times first, and the Marketplace section of The Wall Street Journal. I guess that’s because I write for corporate America. I think about words all the time. In my head, I’m always editing people.
When did you go freelance?
I went freelance in 2012.
What motivated that decision?
I was laid off, but I also had a hankering to focus on what I was really good at, and I knew there was a market for what I was good at.
What has been your biggest achievement since striking out on your own?
My biggest achievement thus far—and thus far is important because I’m still in building mode—has been creating The Weltchek Weekly: Your Bulletin for Better Business Writing and turning some my readers into clients or people who recommend me to clients. The group of people who actually read it is still small, but the feedback is positive and gives me confidence to keep on keeping on. The bulletin gives me credibility as well as content for my workshops.
You also lead workshops? Tell me more about those.
I’ve developed a five-step approach to writing called POWER: Prepare, Organize, Write, Edit, and Review. I’m working on getting a registered trademark. The process helps businesspeople write more clearly and precisely so their communication serves its purpose. I customize the workshops by illustrating each step with the material my clients are writing every day. I’m going to the West Coast next month to lead a session for the communications team at a consumer tech company. They struggle with how to write clearly and concisely, and in the company’s brand voice.
What has been the biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is overcoming self-doubt and keeping my momentum going when things are slow. But every time I leave your office, I feel hopeful and confident. You’ve helped me recognize progress in every step, no matter its size. Staying on people’s radar is also a challenge, but the Weltchek Weekly gives me the opportunity to be heard—which is something you want as a freelancer, because out of sight is out of mind.
What do you do to distinguish yourself from other writers and build your presence?
So far, it’s been through the Weltchek Weekly. Having a good website is also critical. People have praised my website for being clear and having a strong point of view. I have two people to thank for that: you for helping me define who I am and what I offer in a fresh, distinctive voice, and Cody McBurnett at Loki Loki for her beautiful, strong design.
What do you have to offer that comes only with age and experience?
The confidence that what you’re counseling is correct.
Do you think others perceive you differently since you’ve gotten older?
I’m not sure, but I know I feel more confident because of all my experience. That confidence must be appealing to others.
I love your Weltchek Weekly bulletins. They’re witty, fast reads and I always learn something (reader, if you’re not on the list, do yourself a favor and sign up here). Where do you get your ideas for content?
Everywhere. I scour the business pages. I pay particular attention to the quotes. It’s astonishing how poorly executives talk when they’re being quoted for attribution. Most are working from prepared messages, so I’m routinely dismayed. I get a lot of ideas from marketing emails. Walking around New York gives me ideas, too. I did a post about not starting sentences with “There is” or “There are” based on a Tiffany ad on a bus shelter.
Whom do you admire (over 50)?
Meryl Streep because she is so damn good at what she does. Arianna Huffington, in part because I love the way she sounds, but also because she has achieved so much from a pretty humble background. And I like her new message about the importance of sleep, including afternoon naps. I admire Hillary Clinton for her analytical mind and composure, and Gail Collins because she writes such good copy—it’s smart and funny.
What 3 words best describe how you feel about your work and life?
Hopeful, excited, and nervous—I’d be lying if I didn’t say nervous.
Thank you Nancy. I know that your story will inspire other creative professionals on the brink of change to embrace the new and go for glory.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about change and new beginnings. Regardless of age, I’d love to know, what ONE thing would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Post your answer on my facebook page and I’ll share my favorites next time!