Amanda Berlin is a communications consultant who helps entrepreneurs position themselves as experts and create compelling content that serves their audience and sells their services. She’s the creator of the online course in writing copy, Create Content That Connects.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- Amanda gave up her dreams to take a low hourly wage job that was not maximizing her skills. She went into it with an open mind, and as a result had an AH-HA moment that will knock your socks off!
What has you FIRED up?
- Amanda is FIRED up about living her passion and helping others maximize theirs!
Small Business Resource
- Google Docs
Best Business Book
- Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
Amanda: I absolutely am. I have my strike anywhere match at the ready.
John: Yes. Amanda is a communications consultant who helps entrepreneurs position themselves as experts and creates compelling content that serves their audience and sells their services. She’s the creator of the online course and writing copy, Create Content That Connects. Amanda, say what’s up to Fire Nation and share what’s going on in your world right now.
Amanda: Thank you. Thanks for that intro. I’m super excited to be on the show. I’ve been listening forever. So I help people tell their stories, basically. I come from a PR background. I spent about 12 years in the corporate PR world. And from the very beginning, I was in this niche that specialized in getting our clients on television or on the radio. So it was kind of like the Holy Grail of PR. Everyone would come to us and be like can you get us on Good Morning, America or the Today Show or whatever? So that was what we did. And in the very beginning, I was working with awesome celebrities like Paul McCartney, and I worked with Kathy Lee Gifford who I didn’t like before I met her but I loved after I met her.
And I worked with a lot of really great people for whom it was actually really easy to get them television coverage. But then, as my career progressed, I got into the agency side where I was working more with products and companies that came to us with a message and a spokesperson. And they’d kind of like drop it in our laps and say, “Here, make a story out of this, and get us on TV,” or whatever.
Amanda: Right. So that was what I was tasked with doing. As I, in the latter years of my career, I was the editorial director at a firm where I was basically in charge of conceiving of those stories that would balance our client’s need to get their message out there with the media’s need for useful news. So I would have to take the message and the spokesperson and package it in a way that would be palatable to the media. So from there, I knew I wanted to do something that had a little bit more conscience. I didn’t know what that was.
But, ultimately, and I’m sure we’ll dive into this more, through a confluence of events and different paths and trajectories, I ended up putting that skill to use for entrepreneurs helping them take a message, take a spokesperson themselves and create a story that resonates with their audience.
John: Well, Amanda, I actually have my credit card out right now to jump into your writing copy course because you said the words for whom, and I was like she’s brilliant. How do you know when to say who or whom? I don’t want to dive into that now because I’m already confused. But it’s just like I want to learn how to say that correctly at some point.
Amanda: That’s hilarious.
John: For whom. So you had me at for whom. So Amanda, you are right. We are absolutely going to be getting into all of this jazz coming up here in the interview. But we like to start with a little something that I call the one minute mindset. So I’m going to ask you five questions, five insights, Amanda, into your mind. Take about a minute each to answer these questions. The first one being ideally what do the first 80 minutes of your day look like?
Amanda: In an ideal world, if I were to have the first 80 minutes of my day to myself, I’d probably have to wake up at 4:30. But as it is, I wake up at 5:30. I’m an early morning riser. I have a young baby. I have a daughter who is 16 months old. So I’ve got to get up before she gets up for my own sanity. So I wake up really early. I have a very distinct morning routine, which involves journaling and meditation. And I use a mantra that I learned at a meditation class that I took, which I’m probably not even saying right anymore. I’ve probably just butchered that –
John: You can say whatever you want because you say for whom. So just keep going.
Amanda: Right. So whatever language that mantra is in, I’m sure I’m not doing them any justice. But I still say it, and to me, it’s meaningful. And it kind of gets me centered. And I do my journaling exercise, which involves these four points that I journal on, which are it’s kind of like writing down my prayers, even though I’ve never really been a prayer or a very religious person. This is just my ritual I guess you would say. And part of what my morning routine used to be before I started working for myself was getting to the gym. That’s a huge, really important thing to me. So that would be my morning routine.
Getting up, meditating, journaling, really taking some time to just zone in and center.
John: And I love how you say that you wake up early to make sure that you regain control of or take control of your sanity because that’s what we need to do is we need, Fire Nation, to be in control. Not to be answering, to be on someone else’s agenda from the minute that we’re waking up. So make that stuff happen. And Amanda, what’s your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Amanda: So my biggest weakness as an entrepreneur I think was really epitomized in my early days as an entrepreneur. I think that, in the beginning, I was a bit of a combination between a people pleaser and a little bit desperate for work. So that really kind of came together in me saying yes to everything that came my way. All different projects that came my way, even when I was getting that strong, intuitive hit that was like maybe this isn’t really what I want to be doing or something that I’m really good at. So it really did kind of morph into relationships that didn’t work and work that I didn’t like doing.
And I think the takeaway from that is really that there’s a lot of power in acknowledging what you’re good at and really saying this is what I can do for you, and this is what I really think you’d be better off hiring someone else for.
John: And I’m not saying that this applies in every scenario, Fire Nation, but I will say that my life definitely took a turn for the better when that person that I was trying to please was myself. And I just really found that focus inward first. Like, you said with your morning ritual with the journaling and meditation and prayer. Make sure you’re doing those things, and the exercise. I was then able to do so much better for the world in general. So, just something to think about, Fire Nation. Are you focused on pleasing others first and foremost? Or are you really just turning it in and pleasing yourself first.
And you might want to give that a try. Amanda, what’s your biggest strength as an entrepreneur?
Amanda: Okay. So this is where my time in the corporate world really did me some good. I think a lot of good things came out of that, but this is one really good thing, especially being a writer in the corporate world. I developed a really thick skin. So I can have my work – and even to this day, working with my clients, it’s a real give and take. I need to be able to hear them, what they like about what we’ve created, what they don’t like, what works for them, what doesn’t work for them, and not being emotionally attached to doing things my way. Or having them see every reason why I did things a certain way. But really being able to take constructive criticism is a strength of mine.
And I’m totally open to anyone who knows a better way to do something than I do because that’s what’s really going to make us grow and make the work that were doing that much stronger.
John: Love that. So Amanda, you have a lot of great habits. We talked about those with your morning ritual and some other things. But what’s a habit that you wish that you did have?
Amanda: Okay. So a habit that I wish I had was I looked at the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steve Covey, and the one habit that I don’t really embody is begin with the end in mind. And the way I interpret that is like having a plan. And I’m just not a huge planner. I wish that I could look at my calendar and plot out all of these milestones and things that I want to accomplish by certain dates. But never in my life have I ever been like that in any area. And I think it would serve me to plan a little bit more.
John: So honestly, Amanda, if you were to be lacking in one of those habits, I personally think that that’s the one you want to be lacking in in this day and age right now in 2015. I mean, when Steven Covey wrote that, that was incredibly relevant. The plan, the three to five year business plan, was in stone. You had to have those horizons. We live in a different world, Fire Nation. Things are changing so quickly. The pivots that we need to make, being agile is really so critical.
So although absolutely having the end in mind is a good thing to have because you want to be moving towards that goal, you need to also realize that that end may change many, many times throughout your journey. So not being great at having that end in mind, to me in 2015, is not a game changer.
Amanda: Right. And I really like what you said about, and I know that you’ve used this word many times over, but the pivot. I think that’s so important because, when I first launched out of the corporate world and into my own business, I tried a lot of different things. And I knew I wasn’t going to go back into the corporate world, but I just did not have clarity on what I was going to do otherwise. And trying things and being willing to let go of those things that weren’t working instead of following the plan and just gunning forward no matter what, but really being willing to pivot I think is a huge thing.
John: Well said. So Amanda, we’ve kind of gotten to know you a little bit in these first 12 or so minutes of the interview. And I want to dive into something a little more personal now, a little more difficult for a lot of people to talk about. And that’s your worst entrepreneurial moment. So take us to that moment in time and really tell us that story.
Amanda: Yes, okay. So like I said, I had a lot of attempts at entrepreneurship. So I could look at each one of those things as kind of like I think that none of us in Fire Nation are really going to look at our attempts as failures ever. There are always ways to bounce back and learn from what we’ve tried.
John: That’s the goal.
Amanda: Right. So I’ll take us to a time about two years ago where I had been an entrepreneur for about a year at that point. And I just was not getting my footing. I really wanted to do something that, like I said, had more conscience and was making the world a better place instead of writing pitches for pharmaceutical companies or whatever. So I enrolled in a life coach training, and I was really trying to make that happen. And I was really into fitness, so I tried teaching fitness. And nothing was happening for me. I just felt like it just wasn’t going anywhere. And as you call it, the baby effect was taking hold.
I was going to have a baby. So I was like I’ve got to get on the horn here. So I went to the institution through which I did my coach training, and I talked to the director there who just by chance had been a student in my class. He was taking the class just on a lark for his own education. And so I was friendly with him. And this entity is an organization that’s a nonprofit here in New York. So I went to him, and I said – I put my application in just for like a part time job as a registrar at the open center, is what it was called. And I told him – registrar is like an hourly position at the front desk.
So I was like maybe I can do that until I get my footing in my entrepreneurial life. So I’m talking to him, and I just happen to say that this is actually what I did in my previous corporate life. And I told him all about my communications experience and my PR experience. And he was like, “Actually, we really need someone who can help us with list building.” And it was like a totally random thing that he just probably read about it somewhere like a couple hours earlier. He’s like, “Yeah, we need someone to help us with that.”
John: I saw this on the Huffington Post. Can we talk about this?
Amanda: Right. List building. So I was like I could probably help you with that. So he sent me this request for proposal for a communications consultant. And I kind of begrudgingly started filling it out and putting my ideas down. And it was almost like – and this is kind of turning into my ah-ha moment, too, because as I was filling that out, I was getting really excited about the work. And it was just this realization that I didn’t need to leave my whole communications life behind in order to do something with conscience. I could apply this skill and really something that I have a talent for to entities that I believe in.
And so that was how my business today was born was in that moment filling out that request for proposal for this nonprofit where I was really going to go in and completely revamp their communication strategy, bring them into the 21st century, and be really excited about it. So I think that, I mean, let me know if that made the point. But I think that was my worst moment where I was just kind of like at the bottom willing to take an hourly job just because I just didn’t know where I was going to this moment where I had crystal clarity that oh, actually, I really like this stuff. And I can use my powers for good.
John: First and foremost, let me just anoint you as an awesome Entrepreneur on Fire interview for being able to reference so many Entrepreneur on Fire mantras. I mean, the baby effect, you’re saying Fire Nation, you’re talking about all of this great stuff that we talk about over and over again on Entrepreneur on Fire. So that’s just super cool. I love when guests are able to do that. It just, to me, means they’re great fits for the show. And yes, I do think that that is a great share of a story because I was there with you like oh my goodness.
Like I’m really doing this? I’m really taking this hourly job where I’m going to be doing something that’s not bringing me closer to what I want to do, which is be able to do something for myself that I’m passionate about that’s going to allow me to be a mother and present but also being relevant in the world and impacting lives? And that’s tough, especially when you know that that’s there. You just can’t quite grasp it. And Amanda, straight up, there are a lot of people listening right now that resonate with that that have had to keep their current jobs or take side jobs or even full time jobs that are not allowing them to focus all of their time, energy, and bandwidth on that dream.
So I get it. And you also talked about that ah-ha moment. So take a second real quick and just share in one sentence what do you want Fire Nation to really walk away with from that low moment, that worst moment that you experienced?
Amanda: Yeah. Absolutely. So from that worst moment, I think that the takeaway is that just it’s basically like a keep going kind of moment. I would never have had that more exploratory conversation with the director of that nonprofit who ultimately brought me into my realization, into my ah-ha moment, if I wasn’t constantly just trying to search and figure out what’s my next step? What’s my next step? What’s my next step? And even if applying for that job as a registrar sort of felt like I’m throwing in the towel here. I’m going back into doing something that doesn’t utilize any of my talents; it was productive because it brought me closer, even though I didn’t realize it.
It brought me a little bit closer to getting where I needed to be.
John: And you were open now. If you weren’t open, and you had just remained closed and really kind of snarky about the whole thing, then you maybe never would have seen that silver lining when it did come. So talk about that in just about one sentence. Kind of sum it up for us again on that end conversely with the ah-ha moment. What do you really want to make sure that our listeners who are resonating with you so much right now are taking away from that moment in your life?
Amanda: Yeah. Absolutely. So that is really clear to me. When I realized that I was actually really good at my job as a PR person, as a spin doctor, as someone that could construct a story, I realized that just because I didn’t feel like I was doing something that was serving the world at large, it didn’t mean that that wasn’t an important function. It can be used for good, as I said, for me, if I put it in the right context. So what I like to say is that the thing that you’re really good at may not seem like a world changer. But the fact that you’re really good at it is.
So now that I use my talent as a storyteller and as a PR person and as a writer to help people, empower them to tell their own stories and construct their own narrative that supports their business, I feel so behind that skill that I have that no one will ever tell me that PR is you’re just a hack or whatever. It’s a really valuable skill to have, and we all need it.
John: Wow. I love that. And Fire Nation, I know you, and I know that so many of you that are listening are saying man, I am Amanda Berlin back then. Or I remember what it was like when I had to go do that. Or I am living that right now. So this is so critical, and this is why we go back and tell these stories because they are so powerful. And Amanda, what is the one thing above everything else that you are just most fired up about today?
Amanda: What I’m fired up about is this notion that I had just yesterday I think it was that getting to know ourselves is really the key to being a successful entrepreneur. So whether it’s like on a practical level in terms of like I re-listened to your interview yesterday with Sally Hogshead. And just knowing how you interact, knowing how you fascinate, discovering yourself and your attributes in that way really does serve you on a practical level in your business like who you want to work with or how you do your best work or how you best lead or whatever. But also, discovering more about yourself on a personal level like with what I do in terms of what was your upbringing like?
What was your professional and personal history? And uncovering what brings you to today that makes you perfect for what you’re doing right now. That is also self discovery, and that can position you as like the perfect person to be doing what you’re doing. Like your audience then, all of a sudden, sees so clearly that you are the person to be doing what you’re doing if you really are willing to look at yourself and look at where you’ve been and where you’re coming from and where you’re going.
John: And correct me if I’m wrong, but I would have to say or assume that journaling has a big part in your life to bring you to that level.
Amanda: Yeah, definitely. I mean, there’s a ton of personal work and personal growth work that I’ve done that I think is so beneficial to anyone that’s willing to do it. And I think it’s really an act of courage to look at that stuff and to look at where you’ve come from, look at where you’re going, look at what you’re fearful of because, also, as you continue in your business journey, I think that at our hearts, we’re all basically an amalgam of our ideal client.
So as you uncover those things within yourself, the things that challenge you, the things that light you up, the things that you experienced years ago, and the things that you’re conquering now, as you look at all of those things, you’re getting closer and closer to knowing who you’re talking to, which is also extremely important.
John: I love this. Fire Nation, I hope you’re digging this as much as I am because this is some great stuff. And Amanda, we are about to enter the lightening round. But before we do, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors. Amanda, welcome to the lightening round where you get to share incredible resources and mind blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Amanda: I’m ready.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Amanda: In my last job in the corporate world, I was there for six years. And I’d say for three of those years, primarily what was holding me back from leaving because I wanted to leave all those three years was just a lack of clarity. I had no clue what I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted to do something different. And I don’t know if I could have changed that, but I just was hanging on there because I was like looking for this clear sign from above, and it just wasn’t coming.
John: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Amanda: So the best advice I ever received was a couple of things about negotiating and getting what you want. And these gems came from my dad. I learned the power of the phrase can you help me. I think that that has always yielded good results. Whenever I’ve approached someone in that way, whether it’s customer service at Amazon or whatever, people always want to help. And then the other piece of advice is in negotiation. It’s knowing when to just shut up. And my dad used this phrase, and actually, I saw it pop up in the Wolf of Wall Street, so I guess he hadn’t invented it, but it’s basically when you’re putting something out there, say your peace, and then be quiet.
And say in your head over and over and over again until the other guy says something, the next person who talks loses. The next person who talks loses. And it works. We all want to fill up space.
John: Yeah. I remember that part well in the Wolf of Wall Street. And I’m pretty sure that somehow trickled from your father into the director’s lap. So let’s give your dad all the credit here.
John: Amanda, what’s a personal habit that you do have that you believe contributes to your success?
Amanda: This is hands down exercise. I know that you’re a runner. I love to work out. And I particularly love my group fitness classes. They’re just a place where I can be totally free, and I have my community there, and we dance. I mean, it’s like joy personified.
John: Joy personified. That’s a great name of a podcast. I feel like it needs to be created. Amanda, you have about a month and a half to jump on that if nobody else does. So do you have an internet resource like Ever Notes that you can share with our listeners?
Amanda: Yeah. I know that this one is probably in general use out there, but I love Google Docs. I do a lot of collaborative work with my clients in writing. And so we use these crazy. And we can look at them together, and you literally can see that you and your client are on the same page. And we leave comments. And it’s just a very seamless way of doing writing and editing work. And yeah, I think that Google, in general, is an excellent resource because you can really figure out how to do anything. There are a ton of resources out there. And that’s really the kind of entrepreneur I am. I’m going to figure it out.
I’m going to reverse engineer anything I can get my hands on to make it work for my business.
John: Google Docs and just Google Apps, in general, is how I run the entire Entrepreneur on Fire business. So it’s crazy how little you need as far as so many different moving parts to run a business. And with Google Apps, they do so much. It’s amazing. If you could recommend just one book for our listeners, Amanda, what would it be, and why?
Amanda: Sure. I recently finished Delivering Happiness by Tony Shea, the founder of Zappos. And I really liked that because, first of all, I love personal stories. And this was part personal story in the first half. And the second half was about how they created Zappos. But also, not just creating Zappos but really creating a company that puts customer service and customer experience and also culture before almost everything else. They kind of realized that they could be a great internet retailer. That was kind of like they did that. But then how did they sustain this? And this really was developing the culture and the company’s core values and the company’s customer service.
And so the concept of core values was really something I found really interesting. And another thing I found that was really kind of exciting about Tony Shea’s journey was that he became, or he is, kind of a scholar in what makes people happy. And studying these principles and applying it to his business is really what kind of created that culture of people who love working at Zappos and love serving their clients.
John: Well, Fire Nation, I know you love audio. So I teamed up with Audible. And if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book for free like Delivering Happiness at eofirebook.com. And Amanda, this next question is the last of the lightening round. But being a listener, you know it. And you know it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter, taken care of. But all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Amanda: Okay. So I totally racked my brain on this one. But then the phrase that really got me was but you knew no one. And that was what made me realize how important community is to me, which was kind of shocking because I’m kind of an introvert. I like to be alone some of the time. And having a family, it’s such coveted time. But community is so super important to me. So what I would do, in this brand new world, is I would go out there. Just like, I live in New York City. We don’t order pizza from Domino’s. We have the best pizza shop right across the street, and we know the owners.
So I would go out there and find all of the local businesses and see what they’re doing. And take people out for coffee. And get to know everyone there and cultivate my community. And from an entrepreneurial perspective, I think that would help me figure out what they’re struggling with, figure out what they need, and figure out how to bring my talents to bear for them so that I can serve that new community.
John: Wow. You did rack your brain, girl, and you came up with a doozy. So thank you for that. And Amanda, I want to end today on fire with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say good bye.
Amanda: I want to reiterate, again, the thing that you are really good at is that thing that people come to you and say, “Hey, can you help me with this? I know you’re really good at that.” Listen to the people around you for feedback and just keep going because you’re going to find your footing. And there’s always a way for you to serve, whether it’s in a conventional way, or it’s in a way that you never thought of. But just remember, there’s a talent that you have that someone needs. Someone needs to hear from you out there. So that’s my parting piece of advice is get your name out there because you just never know who really needs you, and you can make a really powerful connection.
And you can find me at amandaberlin.com. My name just like the city Berlin.
John: And Fire Nation, you know this. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And you’ve been hanging out with AB and JLD today. So keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com. Type Amanda in the search bar. Her show notes page will pop right up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. And Amanda, I want to thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Amanda: Hey, John, I have one more thing to say.
John: Oh, love it.
Amanda: I prepared a free giveaway for Fire Nation. I forgot to mention it.
John: Well, let’s bring it on up now. Fire Nation loves the gifts.
Amanda: So I have a tutorial on how to write your about page. So we were talking about taking your past and your personal and professional experience and making it into a story that really sells your business and your services. So at amandaberlin.com/fire, you can sign up to get that tutorial to write an amazing about page for your website.
John: Does it have anything about for whom and for who in there? That might have to be a late add.
Amanda: I’m not going to give you grammar advice. You need to write how you speak. That’s what I always say. It needs to sound like you.
John: That, by the way, is the priceless advice right then and there. So Fire Nation, amandaberlin.com/fire. Amanda, it has been awesome. We’ll catch you on the flipside.
Amanda: Thanks so much.
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