15 minutes with Amanda Vanelderen
While it isn’t all dips in the pool between dashing off columns, Amanda Vanelderen has created a writing business she’s truly passionate about.
Describe your “aha” moment; when did your business idea first come to you?
On maternity leave after my second baby, having made it through some tough times with PND. I was a born writer and had worked in communications and marketing for almost two decades. One of the last projects I did in my corporate role was to develop and deliver writing training across my organisation. I loved it. Helping others understand that everyone can be a writer was magic to me. I thought about a writing training business, which quickly became copywriting and comms. I just didn’t think I could be a freelancer, freelancing seemed frivolous. It never really occurred to me that starting as a freelancer was starting my own business. I thought I’d test the water, and I haven’t taken a breath in over a year.
Describe the “why” of your business
My why is a genuine love for words and communicating – I get such a buzz from getting the message across for a brand or business. Selling a product is great, but telling a story and selling an idea or solving a problem is the best… my true love is content with meaning, with the customer at the heart.
In a personal sense, my why is that I’m a word nerd through and through, and if I do what makes me happy, that’s good for my family, too. Happy wife and mum, happy days in Vanelderen town.
List your three biggest business goals. Which of them scare you the most and why?
- To find a balance between growing and staying hands on… I’m a control freak, so it’s a challenge to think about growing by delegating.
- To branch out into teaching more writing – I’m determined to help people ‘cut the crap’ – that’s my writing mantra (and name of my Facebook group). This is the scariest one for me as it means finishing a Cut the Crap book currently in draft for 2018 release! (Oh man, if I write that down here, I have to finish it… right? Where’s that Delete button?)
- The book. See above. I snuck it in there at the end.
Has anything surprised you about working for yourself?
At the risk of massive wankery, success surprised me. Some days I think struggle or mediocrity would be easier. Poor little me. I just didn’t know the demand that existed in the field, and that I could build a business.
"It never really occurred to me that starting as a freelancer was starting my own business."
The other surprise, especially being in a creative field, is that even being a ‘freelancer’, you are running a small business and taking care of all the business finances, admin, invoices etc that come with that. It isn’t all writing in cafes and dashing off a column between dips in the pool.
Once you became a soloist, what about your life changed almost immediately; and what changes have been slower to come?
Immediately I realised I’d need to stay out in front of mental health and make a conscious effort to leave the house aside from daycare runs!
Don’t hate me for admitting it, but I don’t really get imposter syndrome. I’ve worked hard for a lot of years to build the skills that have made my business a success. I trust what I know, and I’m a lifelong learner.
You have a wonderfully engaging and witty writing style; how do you come up with your column ideas?
Every month I think I have nothing to say, and then an idea pops into my head. I look for things that are real life and relatable, and solo and small business people love to laugh! It’s important for our wellbeing. I think my humour resonates because it’s self-deprecating. The person I make fun of is myself. And I’m good with that.
What’s the best part of the life you’re living now you’re a soloist?
Buying back time that goes towards my family. I do work long hours to build my business, but I’m not sitting on a bus for two hours a day. My kids still go to daycare, but not every day and for shorter days. And, at the risk of being a cliché, some days I get to take a break and watch The Mindy Project in the middle of the day. I’m a stone cold rebel.
Got a tip you’d like to share with our community about soloism?
If you know in your heart there’s something you’re good at, or you’re interested in and want to get good at it and make it your business… don’t run from it. It’s not frivolous. You’re allowed. Be as practical as you need to be, but take the risk. Learn the thing. Follow the dream.