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.

Have you ever felt discontent in your job and considered branching out on your own? I think that thought has crossed a lot of our minds but with it comes fear about leaving a place of safety and security for something unknown.

Laura Gmeinder found herself in that place. She was a successful Human Resources director for a popular American brand for over fourteen years. Truthfully, she enjoyed her job, but the thought of quitting and going into business for herself as a consultant would not leave her. After coaching on the side for a few years she decided to take the leap and go full time.

In our interview, I asked Laura about leaving the safety of her corporate job and how she was able to venture into the unknown by starting her own business. She gives powerful insight on how to overcome self doubt, take a leap of faith, and even gain your first client.

Hi Laura! Would you tell our readers a little about you and your consulting business?

Professionally you can find me at the intersection of leadership development and business strategy. I lean on my degree in adult education from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, coach training from CTI, HR background and business savvy to provide leadership coaching and training, business consulting and motivational speaking. I’m always looking to one up my skill set. Currently, I am enrolled in a high level laser coach training program with Master Coach Marion Franklin.

I’m also a writer and filmmaker. My passion is female empowerment; I support emerging leaders and female entrepreneurs. In addition, I am the Vice President of Disrupt Madison and Disrupt Milwaukee. Disrupt’s signature event focuses on empowering thought leaders to change the world of work. I’m also in leadership for the Doyenne Group, a women’s entrepreneurial movement that started in Madison, Wisconsin.

I’m high energy and love variety. I’m a Libra so I am always searching for balance which can leave me feeling conflicted or just going with the flow so I have to reflect on my decision. In my free time I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling (I love the ocean), hiking with my poodle, baking, attending community events, trying new restaurants and volunteering.

I like vodka (which I refer to as Russian water). Quirky is interesting. I’m very spiritual and regularly focus on what I am grateful for to keep my perspective positive. I’m future focused. “Starting” excites me but I lose enthusiasm with routine. After years of trying to figure *it* out, I’m finally living the interesting life I always craved, in the spirit of “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I’ve given up my search for Prince Charming and look forward to meeting Mr .Right-for-me when the time comes. I wake up every day and for a second I’m pleasantly surprised to find this is the life I am leading. And that, more than anything, makes me feel like a success.

Your website states that you loved your job in human resources, but chose to pursue your own business as a consultant. What led you down that path?

At my company, growth opportunities were only available in Michigan at our parent company and I had no interest in moving to Detroit. That’s over simplifying it, but to make the impact I wanted to make in the corporate world I would have needed to relocate to our parent company. My situation is very typical. Women are leaving the corporate world in their mid 30s due to lack of advancement opportunities or because they are not offered enough flexibility to raise their family.

I looked for years at job postings while building my skill sets on the side (I started coaching about 7 1/2 years ago). After finishing my year as president of a women’s non profit I was challenged with the question, “What are you going to do next? That question combined with the fact that in my corporate role big changes were coming, a new President who had never held the role, I decided it was the perfect time to take my side gig to the main event. I gave notice to my employer and within a week had my first consulting client. And I never looked back.

How did you get your first consulting client? Do you have any advice on getting your “first” client?

A friend mentioned during a happy hour conversation that she had a meeting with someone who had a similar business to the one I was creating and then never heard back from her. I slept on that nugget and by the morning I realized if I can’t offer my services to my friend how am I ever going to be successful? If you can’t sell you don’t have a business.

I put together an email sharing how I could support her and courageously asked for a meeting to discuss it. She said yes. The one rule we had for working together was that our friendship would always come first. Since then, we have worked on several successful projects over the years.

My advice on how to get your first client is to believe in yourself and clearly communicate what value you provide. When you get started it’s so much about your passion and asking people to support you. I scored my first coaching client by sending an email to 100 friends/family/acquaintances sharing about my passion for coaching and who I wanted to help. A friend of my cousin’s immediately thought of his sister who was stuck personally and professionally and connected us.

What have you enjoyed about running your own business?

Everything! (Truth: I loathe the accounting piece). I’ve discovered that my sense of adventure, love of variety, and ability to handle risk make me well suited for the entrepreneur life. My blind spot is, I am so future focused I always think tomorrow, next month, or next year will be better (which typically is) but it leaves me vulnerable and often not pivoting fast enough.

What I love most is seeing my clients lives change. For example, I had lunch with one of my first clients the other day (who is now a dear friend). The lady in front of me was almost unrecognizable from the lady I met almost six years ago. She is confident, down 50+ pounds, and she speaks up for herself which has improved her relationships with her family and friends. She went back to school, wrote a thesis, got her masters degree, and started a business. I’m blown away by her courage, determination, and ambition.

It’s inspiring and it energizes me to know that in a small way I was able to support her during a period of significant growth. It’s beautiful to see what happens when someone believes in themselves and takes action to go from dreaming to doing.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

The hardest thing was the inconsistent income. My self worth felt tied to my income and moving past that mental block is hard. For example, I had one month where I made nothing, NOTHING. It was so frustrating. I was working so hard. When business wasn’t working out the way I thought it would I was so stressed and down on myself.

Because money was a hot topic in my relationship I hid it from my (now ex) boyfriend which made it worse. However I am very future-focused, so I always was optimistic that I was planting seeds even if nothing was growing. Often after a month like that, I would have one of my biggest months. It was just how the money came in. I had to learn to chase opportunity without attachment and separate effort from results. As an entrepreneur, there are so many things out of my control. While I set monthly goals, I really focus on my annual goal and strategies along the way that will help me reach it. That big picture focus has empowered me to double year over year in 2017 and set a goal to do that again in 2018.

What is the best leadership advice that you have ever been given?

Make sure you are running towards something, not away from something (my last and favorite boss challenged me to reflect on that). I appreciate that she gave me that advice as I was transitioning from the corporate environment into my business full time. It challenged me to pause and think about it. Truthfully I was doing a little of both and am grateful I found everything I needed and more in my entrepreneurial journey.

How can we best empower this next generation of women?

By setting an example, you never know who is watching. Encouraging women to discover their potential and then lean into it. When you take action and build on small wins you quickly gain confidence which empowers you to take bigger risks.

This is my calling and why I am proud to share that I am co-producing a short documentary, “If You Don’t, Who Will? Empowered Women Empowering Women” on this subject with Coreyne Woodman-Holoubek. It’s such an important focus! It’s hard to lead and it’s something we need to focus on every day. I always ask myself, “how do I want to show up?”. And it’s one of the reasons I was named one of 2018’s Woman to Watch by BRAVA Magazine.

If a reader feels stuck in her current employment, what advice would you give her?

Get to know yourself. What do you like? What do you dislike? Try something new. Also, reflecting on what is holding you back will give you some insights as to why you feel stuck. My challenge was that I hadn’t processed my emotions, which kept me stuck because it was safe. If you can figure out what you are good at and what you like to do, and find a job or start a business at the intersection you will be fulfilled.

You went to university, picked a course, got the degree and now you’ve been working for a while… but for some reason, your job isn’t quite satisfying. You want to do something more, something different, but it all seems so overwhelming.

Or perhaps you’ve taken some time off from work—time for yourself, or time for children. Now you’re ready to return, but it’s nerve-wracking given all the time away. Is that job you used to do still what you want to do? Does it accommodate the changes in your life?

It won’t be easy, and it will require dedication and determination, but you can start working towards the career you want today.

Know what you want

What is it that excites you? Would it make you jump out of bed in the morning? We all have a big list of things we enjoy doing, but not all of those will inspire you enough to keep at them when things get tough.

Whatever it is you choose to you, it must align with your core values, and be something you would still want to do—even if you never had to work another day in your life. If you need some guidance, download our free Passion Discovery printables for exercises to find what gives your life its spark!

Decide what to sacrifice

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Time is limited, and so is your energy. What will you choose to stop doing, so that you have time to start doing whatever it is that will get you to the career you want?

This could be anything from cutting down on weekly breakfast out with friends, foregoing movie night, taking one less fitness class a week, or even pushing dinner duties to your significant other. The important thing is that you set aside time to work on creating your future.

Skill up

It seems obvious, and there’s no getting around it—you’ll need to gain or develop the skills you need to pursue your passion. Not only do you need the technical skills in the field, as well as leadership skills, but if you’re planning on running your own side-hustle, you also need the business skills.

Thankfully, in this day and age, there are lots of options available. For example, Southern Cross University offers many 100% online courses, which enable you to study at your own time and pace, even while you continue to work. They also provide a dedicated Student Success Advisor, who is there to support you from start to finish.

An MBA online course is perfect for those looking to grow as leaders and managers, and understand business fundamentals. It’s one of the most affordable MBAs in Australia and has flexible entry and exit options. This means you can stop your studies at certain points throughout the degree, yet still earn a postgraduate certificate or diploma.

Network even before you begin

Don’t wait until you’ve started to network. Go to relevant industry events while you’re still in the planning or dreaming stage, and get chatting! There are people at these events who’ve already walked the path you’re about to embark on, so there are opportunities to glean some great advice. If you’re truly passionate about what you want to do, these people will be able to see that–and respond.

You might also come across others in the same place as you, who are starting out and are as new and unsure as you. Don’t dismiss them, because it’s invaluable to have others to share the journey with. They’re amazing support; they’ll be going through similar highs and lows, and will be as hungry as you to make it.

Stay determined

No one ever said it was going to be easy. Changing direction, learning new skills and pushing your mind to work in new and different ways will always be challenging. There’ll be days where you wonder what possessed you to take this journey, and days where you want to give up. But the important thing is to keep pushing. Every time you fail, get up and keep going. That’s how wars are won—and there’s no more important war than the one for your future!


This article was created in partnership with Southern Cross University.

I spend a lot of time speaking to early career professionals who are looking for advice or wanting to further their development. And one of the pieces of advice I find myself giving all the time is “Don’t ask permission”. But taking ownership of your own career path is easier said than done. Here are five steps you can take today to start making progress.

1. Write Your Future Resume

What do you see yourself doing in the future? Write it down. I find it useful to write it in the format of a resume or a bio. Something that walks back through your experience from the fictional and aspirational future (written in present tense), backing all the way to the current job and role that you are in today.

Write the final job first and then think about what experiences you might need to get that job and make that your second-to-the-last role. Repeat that until you have walked back through a progression of roles or companies that take you where you want to go. Don’t forget to add in education, training, non-profit involvement, or anything else that will be a part of your future, idealized career. There is something powerful about writing it down.

2. Invent Your Path

One of the things you will notice about your resume activity is that you might struggle naming some of the roles that you might want to have. Sometimes getting experience and being seen as ready for promotion isn’t a matter of title (marketing specialist leads to marketing manager leads to marketing director), but rather of actual job contents.

And of course in the future, the contents of the job are going to be different. 30 years ago, who have thought we’d pay to take rides with strangers or spend a significant part of our marketing budget on pay-per-click advertising? So, you have an opportunity to invent a job or two along the way. Take advantage of the blank sheet of paper to design a job or role that would give you that experience.

Take advantage of the blank sheet of paper to design a job or role that would give you that experience.

And remember, some of that experience might come from volunteer work or even entrepreneurial efforts. Don’t limit yourself. You are writing fiction, so make it worthy of a New York Times best seller award.

3. Research and Network

Look at that fictional resume you wrote for your future self. What questions arose when writing it? Did you wonder what people had done before they became a Chief Marketing Officer? Did you invent a position, but now you wonder if that role exists in some companies today? Are you curious how much education a financial analyst needs to work on a big merger and acquisition agreement?

When asked for their expertise, most people will be generous.

These things are knowable and worth researching. Look up people on LinkedIn in the roles to which you aspire and look at their career progression. Contact people in your network who might know the answers or have ideas of where to look. They could be people that work at your company (check out the leadership page on your company website, if you don’t know people outside your own team or group), or people in the community at large. When asked for their expertise, most people will be generous.

4. Tell Someone

Just like there is power in writing something down, it is amplified in the sharing. This is why sites like BucketList.org exist. They figure you are more likely to do things, even crazy things like climbing mountains or learning Mandarin, if you share your dreams with others. Find people who will be supportive and share some of your ideas with them.

If you don’t have people in your immediate circle of friends and family who are likely to empathize, find a group like HeartSpark, or a professional coach to help you listen and refine your ideas. Or join a networking group, like the Leaders in Heels community, BizWomen or your local rotary to find a group of like-minded folks to help you grow.

5. Believe

At the heart of all of this is believing in your potential and what you have to offer a potential employer or entrepreneurial opportunity. I’m a big believer in positive affirmations and visualization. By affirming yourself and visualizing where you will go, you breathe belief into yourself. This starts the wheels of destiny in motion.

Believe that your career is something you get to build.

So let your imagination run wild and see where it takes you. Be deliberate and bold. Don’t settle for the next rung on your chain of jobs or tasks. Take ownership of your professional story. It can be refined by experiences and reshaped when you want it to be. It may have imperfections, but at the end it will be yours.


Jennifer Davis is a senior executive, industry presenter, business leader, mentor and volunteer. She is the vice president of marketing and product strategy for Planar Systems, a global leader in display and digital signage technology. More information about Jennifer is available at her website: http://atjenniferdavis.com/#homeinfo

So, you want to lead your world. You’re ambitious. You’re passionate. But there’s one hitch. One question that nags at you. WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE and where do I direct all this ambition and passion?

I know you. You’re hungry for impact and influence but you also crave meaning and purpose. You want to know with that quiet certainty, “This is what I’m called to do.”

You want success to mean you’ve found your ‘wow’ and you are living it. Making an income from it. Influencing.

But how do you know with certainty what your calling is?

I’m so like you. On the outside I had the big corporate, successful life and career. A long degree in Architecture meant I was already a professional at the outpost, but was this what I really wanted? 25 years later I’ve had an eclectic career in creative and business fields, in both Australia and Europe. I’ve had the fancy titles – Strategic Director, Brand Architect, International Training & Development Manager, Change Leader. I even worked remotely for 6 years for a European brand whilst I was based in Sydney – now that’s an effective long distance relationship! I also pioneered a hugely successful leadership development college in the heart of London.

But I was always asking, ‘What shall I do when I grow up?’ Even after I turned 40!

Now I know.

Now I know with full certainty.

And it was easier, way easier than I thought.

Why hadn’t someone told me this before?

Well, I never had that mentor to help me, but I know that pain well. So, here’s 7 secrets that I wished someone had told me years ago.

1. It’s not necessarily about finding your passion

I get this advice. It’s well meaning. But not every personality feels intense passion. Some personalities have multiple passions, others don’t feel they are passionate about much at all (so, is there something wrong with me, becomes the next question).

Firstly, to the second group of people, there is nothing wrong with you. Drop the need to find your missing passion and instead, find what brings you the most peace. It’s a more helpful emotional guide for your personality type. Not everyone feels deep ‘passion’.

2. I have too many passions – what do I do?

So, to the ones who have multiple passions, many ideas, many options… I know that feeling well. You find it hard to choose and focus. I get it. Well, firstly, being ‘jack of all trades’ is not the enemy it used to be 20 years ago. Well-meaning advice to niche down isn’t necessarily correct anymore – it’s helpful in targeting customers, but not good life advice.

You can do multiple things, but you only have NOW to do it, so you must decide what you will do first. The best trick for doing this is to write each idea down on separate pieces of paper, toss them in a hat (a bowl or empty coffee mug will also do) and then draw one out. If your heart feels energised, then that’s the one thing to focus on next. If your heart energy drops a little, then draw another idea out of the hat until you feel that little ‘yes’ inside you. Then devote the next 3 months to making that idea happen. And park the other ideas – they are all part of your vision, just not your ‘next thing’.

3. It’s a blend of WHO you are and WHAT lights you up

Personality tests, SWOT analyses, updating your CV – all these things are great. But they only scratch the surface. They tell you who you are and what you’ve done, but unless you marry it with what lights you up you are left still asking the question, “What’s my calling?”

And if you are a doer, you’ve been good at getting stuff done, but you know your heart isn’t in it anymore. So, get in touch with what lights you up. What brings you joy. What brings you peace and that general good feeling. It doesn’t have to be ‘oh-my-goodness, turn on the spotlight’ passion. Look for that little lift in energy you feel – and that feeling right there can act like powerful breadcrumbs to your calling.

4. It’s not about a job or a new career

Imagine a pyramid sliced into three layers. At the bottom is ‘job’ – the work you do. In the middle is ‘career’ – it’s seen as an evolution from just having a job. ‘I’ve got a career’ feels good to say, but if you are reading this post then I know you no longer really believe that. The top part of the pyramid is your calling. This goes beyond a job or career. It’s not an identity. It’s a lifestyle. So, if you are frustrated right now and looking for a new direction, consider – is it a new job you seek, a new career or is it something bigger?

5. You are already in your calling

This secret is the biggest and yet often the most frustrating. You think, If I’m already in my calling, why do I feel this way? It’s because you are seeing your calling as something you do!

To know what you are called to do is to know who you are called to be! I was looking for decades for the holy grail of a defined calling, as if it would be the perfect career. Then I suddenly saw that my whole life was my calling and I was already living it.

I was called to be inspirational, I was called to be a leader… a teacher, a mother, a partner and, most importantly, I was called to my own wellness. This thinking changed everything. I set a one word intention for each area of my life and I within days I had peace. Finally. My whole life was my calling.

6. It’s not about one big calling but about the next assignment

This point is my favourite, and probably gave me the biggest personal breakthrough of all. It ties together all the other points above. My calling is my whole life and involved who I am plus what lights me up and then it’s about what my next assignment will be! That took a whole lot of pressure off.

All I needed to figure out was what I wanted my next assignment to be. After that I could choose another assignment and so on. Look at your life as a series of assignments. Some are long term (e.g. being a parent is a long term assignment), some are short term (the jobs, or careers, or projects we are involved in). All combine to be our calling.

7. Stop waiting for a voice from ‘out there’.

Finally, stop looking or waiting for someone or something out there to give you clarity over your life. It can only come from within you. If you dig deep in your heart you might find that you’ve been waiting for permission from someone else to tell you to ‘go for it’. Or you’ve been trying to please your partner, or your parents (yes, we still do this long after we’ve left home) or someone else that has influence in your life. Only you can find and confirm your calling.

Your calling is whatever you want it to be!

Merilyn is an inspirational leadership & life-direction mentor who has worked internationally for over 25 years helping businesses and their owners grow. Now she’s helping women find their ‘wow’ and lead their own worlds – using her decades of professional experience in branding, strategic direction and leadership development flavoured by her down-to-earth and creative personality. You can find her at www.merilynberetta.com and take her wow-archetype quiz to discover more about what you are called to be.