Tell us your name and a little about yourself.
Wanda Thibodeaux, 36. I’ve been professionally freelancing as a writer since 2006. Double music major, married with two awesome kids.
What exactly does your company do?
Through Takingdictation.com, I focus primarily on providing timely, engaging and personalized website content and articles. However, I offer a full range of writing and editing services, such as putting ebooks together, creating business letters or even producing product descriptions. No matter the project, my goal has always been to help clients become better communicators themselves. So I take a lot of pride in a truly collaborative process where I’m as much a teacher as I am a service provider. I want every client I work with to understand why I’ve written as I have or made the modifications I chose.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
My main challenge was (and still is) time management. I’m able to schedule and focus relatively well and I know what I can handle. When you account for administrative hours plus all the usual home responsibilities, though, finding a full 40 hours a week for actual writing/editing takes real finesse. Finding that balance is one of the most common issues any entrepreneur is going to have. I generally make it work by getting up at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. and going back and forth between work and home tasks until around 7:00 p.m. I’ve established good routines for the week, as well, so I can schedule around predictable task blocks. At the end of the day and on weekends, I put up an OOO message that clearly states I cannot respond after 6:00 p.m. or on Saturday or Sunday. If there’s a lot in my inbox, I also usually wait to send email drafts until the end of the day so that I prevent responses I’ll feel compelled to stay late and answer.
But another big challenge is helping clients have a more realistic perception of service. I’ve had many individuals, for example, send me unsolicited work requests with a due date of fewer than 24 hours. That doesn’t surprise me, given the pace of the corporate world, but the assumption that I always will be able to prioritize them can be frustrating. I try to accommodate if it’s possible, but if it’s not, I simply explain that my hours already are accounted for. I usually ask if a later due date will work, and if it doesn’t, then I simply have to pass on the project and politely invite the client to keep me in mind for future work. If clients are making an inquiry for the first time, then I try to clarify what my general turnaround times are right away, and I request that they send me a quick message ahead of time to see if I have availability to work.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
Take the risk and don’t be intimidated! Early on, I wasn’t confident enough in my work to submit or promote a lot. But once I got some good feedback from a few higher-profile clients and started really connecting with a lot of other professionals across industries, the lightbulb went off in my brain. I realized I was doing OK letting them hear my real voice, that I didn’t have to try to fit into some preconceived shape for their approval. And I learned they’re no better or worse than me–we’re all just people trying to do our best every day. So now I say, whatever you have as a goal, just go for it. You might surprise yourself, and others might deconstruct your fears for you. The worst anybody ever can tell you is no, in which case you just cross them off your list and move on to someone who’s going to say yes.
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?
For me, it’s not about how much a person has made or invented or put together. It’s about their ability to hold integrity and be consistently compassionate, to be reasonable and empathetic simultaneously. So while people like Elon Musk certainly deserve attention for their accomplishments, I look to people like Warren Buffet, the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bill Gates, President Barack Obama–these individuals all believe(d) that they could have a positive influence and that this world can be better than it is. They work for others as much as they do for themselves and give back, and they are clear about what they think.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Too many to count. Multiple professors back in college took chances on me and taught me tons about discipline and how to block out life’s yuck. I’ve had so many professionals give me breaks by introducing me to others, too! And the editors I currently work with at Inc.com constantly are helping me improve. All of those small gestures add up to a lot of steps I’ve been able to climb.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
I have two–my kids. That might seem a little cliche, but when you are completely responsible for another person, you cannot let yourself give up. Every time I see them do the right thing when no one else but me is looking, every time I see them step into something with confidence, I feel amazing. It’s not about my own legacy. It’s about just knowing that now there are two more people in this world who have the character to make this place better.
How can people contact you?
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