Name: Amy-Lynn Denham
Business Name: Amy-Lynn Denham
Established: I started freelancing in 2015 but have been a coach since 2018.
WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS?
I am a business coach for new freelancers, especially those struggling with chronic illness or injury. To put it plainly, I help new freelancers get a grip on their careers without getting discouraged, losing faith in themselves, or being taken advantage of. I work one-on-one, in group settings, and through e-courses and books to help new freelancers learn the ropes of the industry. I also help them identify unhelpful and unhealthy mindsets that are hurting their careers and assist them in unlocking their inner entrepreneur potential.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
When I answer this question I usually give details about how, after graduating university, moving to a new city, not finding work, and settling for a retail job I found myself too sick to work on my feet all day. Then, ta-da, there's the story about how I became a freelancer in the first place.
But what I think really inspired me to start my own business was watching my parents. They ran their own business for a while, even when my mom was really sick. I knew that if they could do it I could do it. When I was young, my mom wasn't able to find full-time work and I remember her working outside of the home part-time and inside the home part-time. If she hadn't worked as a telecommunications person for a local used goods donations store I probably wouldn't have even thought of looking for work I could do from home.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR INDUSTRY OR NICHE?
When I first began in freelancing the idea of writing seemed natural to me. I love to write anything from fiction to term papers and always got a rush out of completing a project. As my career unfolded I found that the jobs I tended to get were either in psychology and business blogging or affiliate marketing. So, seeing this trend, I decided to pour my efforts into learning more about those industries and niched myself into those areas.
When I became too sick to even keep up with that work I discovered coaching. It came naturally, yet again, to help people. When I was well enough, I blogged and connected on social media with other freelancers and shared my advice and experience. I quickly realized that, as someone with a unique story, who'd put in the overtime hours to learn a ton about the industry, I was in a unique position to help new freelancers, especially those who also found themselves in the freelance world because they, too, were sick or injured. Coaching also offered me an awesome degree of flexibility. I am now able to pursue my career and take care of the 3-5 hours of health-related work I have each day.
DO YOU DO THIS FULL TIME? IF YES, WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE THIS? IF NO, WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO?
I do not work full time as a business coach, right now. That being said, it is my only gig. I also work part-time at maintaining my health. For me, that usually looks like 2 to 3 hours of physiotherapy and cardio work every day, meditation, taking time to create healthy meals, lots of rest, appointments, trips to the hospital, etc.
DID YOU GO TO COLLEGE? IF SO, WHAT DID YOU STUDY?
Yes. I went to Athabasca University (all online, except exams) and studied psychology.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR? WHY OR WHY NOT?
I think there's a small part of me that always liked the idea of working for myself. Mostly, it's because I like the freedom to be creative and, kind of, go where the flow takes me. Sometimes I take big risks because I feel in my gut or my soul that it's the way to go. I'm not sure that mindset would really fly in a lot of typical work settings. But, it wasn't my first choice. I wanted to work in research and clinical psychology. Interestingly, I can still apply a lot of those skills to this career.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST LESSONS YOU’VE LEARNED SINCE STARTING YOUR BUSINESS?
It's OK to take your time. When I first started out I saw a LOT of ads for workshops and courses that promised to get me making upwards of $100 000 a year in my first year. I received a lot of bad advice, too. For example, I was told that I should charge $100 an hour for my writing or $1000 for 1000 words. It was outlandish. There are still a lot of people out there saying that this is the way to go and I get upset when I see new freelancers fall into that trap.
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST ABOUT ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
The community. I didn't realize that there were so many wonderful people out there (especially women) who support each other in the world of online entrepreneurship. I actually spent my first two years of freelancing completely unaware that this online community even existed.
WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’D GIVE TO ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS?
Growing a business takes time. Growing a portfolio takes time. Learning new skills takes time. Learning how to market yourself takes time. Comparing ourselves to the few outliers who created multi-million dollar companies in the blink of an eye only serves to make us feel small. And the smaller we feel the more we are likely to let negative thoughts and feeling interrupt our work or sabotage our interview processes. It's a self-perpetuating cycle that only hurts us in the end. So, if it's taking a while to get things going and you're worried that you aren't being successful enough, give yourself a break. Remember all of the other extenuating circumstances in your life and that those few outliers had very different forces at work in their lives.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH SETBACKS AND IMPOSTER SYNDROME?
As I've already discussed, there are many people out there trying to define FOR US where we should be and when we should be there; what we need to achieve and by when. I see a lot of coaches out there with more training or who get clients at a faster rate than me and my imposter flags start going up.
But then, I remind myself that they may have different life circumstances. They may have more money for advertisements, they may have more training in being a coach, or in marketing themselves as coaches (let's remember, my expertise is in marketing oneself as a freelancer, so I'm in new territory here), they may not have illnesses or families, the list goes on and on. I meditate and remind myself of what I have accomplished despite many things that could have pulled me down if I'd let them. Then I take a deep breath and remember that my experience is valuable and sharing what I've learned is a beautiful thing.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT BEING A CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR AND DOING WHAT YOU DO?
It's pretty cool to watch the things I create in my mind turn into real, tangible or readable things. But, I think the best part is watching the careers of my coaching clients flourish. I love when they tell me about a big client they landed or a fear they overcame. It makes me feel so warm in my soul.
IF YOU WEREN’T A CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
I think I would probably be an advocate for self-acceptance, awareness, and non-hostile alternative approaches in the chronic illness community.
WHAT DOES SUCCESS MEAN TO YOU?
I love this question. I ask my clients this question all the time. Success in my business is defined as continually providing support to new freelancers in a way that empowers them to ask questions, find answers, break through personal barriers, and create the work-life balance they dream of. I won't say that it's to make millions of dollars or even for my clients to make millions of dollars, because there is a lot more to life than that and a lot of my clients have other big priorities to focus on.
In life, I define success a lot differently. For me, success is finding a way to enjoy my experiences, good or bad, for what they are and what they offer my learning journey. And, trust me, that isn't always easy.
WHAT IS YOUR WHY?
When I first started coaching I thought I did it because I wanted to help new freelancers navigate the confusing world of freelancing a lot faster than I did and with a lot less effort (without having to do hours and hours of research into marketing, for example). But I'm finding more and more that I'm doing it because I see a huge gap in the business coaching industry for freelancers. They deserve coaching from someone who will empower them to make their own decisions, who will understand that they have a lot of other things going on in their lives, and who will help them find the right balance between life and work without letting one interfere with the other.
IMAGINE IT’S A YEAR FROM NOW AND YOU’RE CELEBRATING WHAT A GREAT YEAR IT WAS FOR YOUR BUSINESS. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE ACHIEVED?
I think there are the obvious goals – that I will have made enough money to supplement the income I had in freelancing before my illness took over, that I will have sold a certain number of books, reached a certain number of minds or hearts. The less obvious goals, though, are usually the most important and the hardest to measure. I think a great year for me will be a year I can look back on and say, “I didn't give up. In fact, I thrived.” It would be really easy to give up and just succumb to the effects of my illness, but I won't. I know that I'll look back and see that I achieved success in helping others but also in life by making the most of what I have.
WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL/WHO DO YOU LOOK TO FOR INSPIRATION AND WHY?
Wow, that's a tough question! I think, to a point, it's everyone. I usually give an answer to say that it's my mom or my dad or some other entrepreneur I look up to. But the more that I'm opening my awareness to everything around me the more that I see inspiration everywhere. Inspiration can come from seeing random strangers do nice things or the way they react when I do nice things for them. It can come from watching a small child's determination to learn something new and that they aren't ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help.
It comes from all the nice, loving, determined things I see in other people. But, it also comes from all the bad things I see, interestingly. When I see people do terrible things, hurtful things, I am reminded of how easy it is to break a mind or a soul and how hard it can be to repair one. When I, then, see my clients or other people working hard to repair those things to or avoid becoming that broken I remember just how important each of us is and how much potential we all have.
Now, I know that I'm sounding a little “hippy-dippy” here, but this all really does feed into what I do each day as a coach.
WHO HAVE BEEN THREE OF THE BIGGEST SUPPORTERS ON YOUR BUSINESS JOURNEY?
My husband, for sure, takes the number one place in supporting my journey. He has taken risks with me without batting an eye. He has dealt with me at my lowest point of imposter syndrome during my freelancing career, helplessly watching me as I overworked myself trying to figure it all out. He celebrates my accomplishments with me and gives me some empathy mixed with a lot of those hard questions that get me moving toward better things whenever things don't work out as planned.
My clients. I know that's more than three people but I wouldn't have a business without any clients, so they definitely rank right up there!
WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?
As I'm sure the rest of this interview has shown, I spend a lot of my time taking care of my health. But, setting that aside and assuming that it's a good day for me health-wise I love getting out and exploring the world. Whether it's hiking, bike riding or rollerblading (the latter two haven't been possible the last couple of years), I enjoy getting close to nature, animals, and just observing our world. I also like to get lost in other worlds through books (reading and writing), video games (especially the Legend of Zelda series), and board games. Mixing any of those hobbies with family time makes it all that much more enjoyable.
WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS AN INTROVERT OR AN EXTROVERT? HOW DO YOU THINK THAT IMPACTS YOUR BUSINESS?
Hmm… I used to be a major introvert. I hated public speaking or being the center of attention. I forced myself to do plays and stuff in high school to try to break out of it, but it was to no avail. It wasn't until I worked as a group facilitator that I really had to get over it. That broke me through the ice and now I love speaking to groups, leading workshops, and going live on my Facebook group. That being said, I'm still an introvert at heart and need a certain amount of time to myself to relax and meditate, lest I get overwhelmed.
WHEN DO YOU FEEL THE MOST PRODUCTIVE? ARE YOU AN EARLY BIRD OR A NIGHT OWL?
I used to love staying up late and still do on occasion. My illness tends to rob me of energy halfway through the day, though, and I generally stay tired right through until bed now. So, I've become an early bird since that's where the best energy is.
DO YOU HAVE TIPS FOR STAYING PRODUCTIVE WHILE WORKING FROM HOME?
Carve out a little space that's YOURS. Even if it has to be inside another room (you don't have an office), face your desk to the wall or, preferably, a window so that you aren't distracted by everything else in your house.
Schedule breaks for yourself so that you don't stay sitting too long. It's not good for your health and it certainly won't be good for productivity. Take breaks, talk to people (on the phone or in person), go for walks, get out of the house from time to time.
A FEW OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS
WHAT IS A BUSINESS TOOL YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT?
OneNote. I track so many things and keep so much organized in that program it's almost ridiculous. I also love Microsoft's new To-Do app. It has helped me ditch my pen and paper planner (something I thought I would never do) and saves me a ton of time when it comes to planning or adjusting my plans.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE OR AFFIRMATION?
“Everything in its own time.”
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PODCAST?
Right now I am LOVING Rhonda Britton's Master Coach Mindset series.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS OR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT BOOK?
Boundaries by Anne Katherine. It helped me tremendously in my life and in my business.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE BLOG?
I do not. I try not to get too pinned down into reading things based on who wrote them. Instead, I love Pinterest and I just go based on what looks interesting to me. It's funny, though, because I often end up on a lot of the same websites as a result.
Read Amy-Lynn's guest post, The Importance of Self-Empowerment for Shy Creative Entrepreneurs.