After feeling unfulfilled in her corporate career, Danielle Demi started a freelancing writing career. After growing her service-based business and doubling her corporate income, Danielle ditched the 9 to 5 life, her childhood dream. When she met her business partner, Liz Illg, they founded GrowthFocus to help others escape the corporate world and start a passion-fueled freelancing business.
GrowthFocus provides education, training, and mentorship to first-time freelancers and emerging entrepreneurs. With years of experience in freelancing career building, Danielle’s gifts lie in career strategy, service-based business development, and personal branding.
Danielle is an advocate for self-employment, work-life balance, mentorship, and passion-fueled work.
Where did the idea for GrowthFocus come from?
When Liz, my business partner and co-founder, and I talked about who we wanted to serve, the answer was always growth-minded individuals. We both share a strong drive and work ethic and we’ve never been people that operate on auto-pilot, we’re always moving up. So we said, “let’s make that our brand.” Let’s teach freelancers that want to grow and let’s use that as our focal point.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I usually have slow and relaxing mornings. I’m a night-owl and I get all of my work done in the later hours, so I soak in my morning relaxation. My early afternoons are spent preparing my meals so that I can stay focused when I get to my computer and not have to cook all day. I also use the early part of the day to journal and list out my top priorities for the week.
After lunchtime, I head upstairs to my home office and begin working through my to-do list and daily duties. This is when I’m working on our marketing projects, showing up on social media, working with our students, and doing business planning.
Our team uses a project management tool, Asana, to stay on track of goals, projects, and productivity. I also love using my Google calendar to manage my time and keep meetings organized in one place.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Whenever I have an idea, I usually like to vocalize it. I like to hear my idea out loud because it helps me decide whether or not it’s a good idea. I can always count on Liz to be a listening ear for the ideas I have and hearing her thoughts also helps me see the idea from a new perspective and identify other opportunities.
When I’ve decided to move forward with my idea, I take action. With whatever it is, whether I’m learning something new, tagging in a team member, or pulling the trigger on something, I’ll act. That’s how I bring my ideas to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m really excited about video content on social media. With more social media platforms pushing video content, it’s forcing users to step out of their comfort zone and get familiar with recording themselves. Creating videos can improve self-confidence and it’s a great way to reflect on how you’re showing up on camera, and I love that people are gaining confidence and skills.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m particularly proud of my rest habits. Growing up in a household of two corporate, 9-5 working parents, I always saw my parents coming home tired and burnt out. I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to do work that excited me, allowed me to rest, and that fueled me with energy.
I’ve learned from my mentors that rest is so important and it’s key to accelerating in business. When you rest, you’re charging your battery, and on a full battery, nothing can stand in your way.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If I could give my younger self a word of advice, it’d be “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” In different chapters of my life, I felt like I’d reached my peak. In what felt like my peak moments, I’d almost settle for that accomplishment (whatever it was). But as I’ve evolved, I keep unlocking new levels in my personal development, career, and every area of life.
I’ve learned now that I’m capable of much more than I could ever dream of. And when I feel like I’ve reached a new height, I’m going to keep looking up. There is so much more to unveil.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Using social media for business. If you’d have told me when I was a teenager that people can create full-on careers from having a social media presence, I would’ve thought you were kidding.
I know so many people that don’t want to use social media as a business but would rather use it for their “personal life.” And I think, if you’re strategic about it, you can turn your personal life-sharing into money. It’s pretty epic that we live in a world where it’s possible so I try to squeeze out every drop of opportunity there is.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I pray. And when I feel like I’ve prayed enough, I pray more. I’m a faith-based entrepreneur and without my faith and prayer, I’d most certainly fail. I’d recommend that any entrepreneur root themselves in faith and watch incredible things happen in their business.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We’ve used storytelling to grow our business and it’s worked like a charm. Liz and I both believe that people work with people they know and trust. When we open up about our entrepreneurial journey, it gives our audience the courage to ask questions or share their own story.
My story of ditching the 9-5 and wanting to break the cycle of a corporate lifestyle has connected me to people that experience the same thing. Creating a connection with our audience is such a rewarding feeling to me.
When I was going through hardship in my career, I just wanted someone that understood me, and now I’m able to be that person for someone else. It’s an even greater feeling that we’ve created a business that not only allows people to feel understood, but we help them find solutions to their problems.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
It’s a failure that I experience regularly, and it’s comparing myself to others. I’m human! Even when everything is going great in my world, I find myself looking at what someone else is doing. It’s a horrible habit and it isn’t something I can just stop doing. So instead of trying to rewire my brain and not compare myself to others, I celebrate their victories. Even when I don’t benefit from their accomplishments, I cheer for them. This practice has taught me so much about humility and gratitude.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A sustainability progress tracker! I’ve been trying to live more environmentally conscious and more sustainably in the last few years. It would be awesome if you could measure your environmental impact routinely. If I could see how my efforts were impacting the environment, I’d feel even more compelled to keep going or to do more. It feels good to do good and to get that progress report would be a cherry on top.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best money I recently spent was a professional photography session for business headshots. Professional photos are an excellent way to enhance your personality online, boost your credibility, and stand out on social media. Liz and I both advocate for self-investment and one way that I invest in myself is by maintaining a professional look and personal brand with photography.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I love Google products. I live in Google Chrome, Google Docs, Sheets, Gmail, and Google Calendar. Having all of my work in one place is a game-changer. I’m usually working on several things at once and I can seamlessly work through a few browser tabs. Working in Google shared drives allows me to organize my projects, collaborate with team members, and sort my work by priority.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I just read “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini and it’s great! I wanted to understand some of the thought processes that people experience when buying something, and the author covers a few different theories, research examples, and more in the book.
As an entrepreneur and a salesperson, it’s good to know your client’s buying behavior and the factors that go into making a buying decision. I found it very insightful and helped me think of sales from a new perspective.
What is your favorite quote?
“You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.” ~Dolly Parton
I’m a huge Dolly Parton fan. She’s a go against the grain type of person and I definitely resonate with that every day. I also agree with this quote wholeheartedly and would argue that bravery is the second step to achieving success. (With the first step being belief; in yourself, in your idea, in your business, etc.)
- When you rest, you’re charging your battery, and on a full battery, nothing can stand in your way.
- Storytelling is a powerful business strategy that creates connection and trust with your audience.
- Even when it isn’t beneficial to you, celebrate other people’s accomplishments.
- If you’re strategic about it, you can turn your personal life-sharing on social media into money.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.