Sarah is a lover of travel, too much coffee, running, wine, and animals. She’s also a mother to an incredible kid, Lennon, who gets her sarcasm and humor from Sarah’s husband, Tim. A day doesn’t go by when she doesn’t trip over her fur baby, Lucy, a rescued boxer.
Sarah’s professional journey started in corporate marketing with a hefty goal of making it to the c-suite. But she quickly learned that perception is everything. By her late twenties she found herself donning a VP title, which sounded fancy but really meant sitting in a conference room surrounded by older men who didn’t value her input. So, she left.
Ready for anything different, she started working for an ecommerce startup where the budget was low and autonomy was high. Her main focus was to drive organic growth and that’s where the blog came in. Once she started writing regularly it sparked something–a long forgotten dream of becoming a writer. This set Em Dash Blogging in motion years before it would come to fruition.
Eager to improve her skill, Sarah began freelance writing and editing as much as she could. This led her to Axle Eight–a boutique digital marketing agency. She was hired as their part-time Blog Manager.
The team at Axle Eight was/is full of like minded, talented, innovative marketers who work hard and play even harder. It was a breath of fresh air. When Sarah started creating a content process for clients involving strategy, writer management, and reporting she was only met with encouragement. She was eventually made full-time and promoted to Editor. She fully credits her time there as the reason for Em Dash Blogging’s success.
The idea of Em Dash Blogging started as a side-hustle. Many small to mid-size businesses don’t have the time or budget for optimized content so it falls to the bottom of the list ultimately hurting them down the road. Sarah’s goal was to fill this gap by creating an end to end solution for content. This involves keyword research, strategy, writing, posting, and even reporting at an affordable price.
The business took off. Just over two years in, Sarah and her team help many clients create content and appear on search results. She’s living a dream.
What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?
On a typical day, I wake up at 4:30 am. This is a habit I started when my daughter was a baby and I didn’t yet have her in daycare. I could finish nearly half a day’s work before she woke up. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with this schedule. It’s quiet in the morning. No emails. No slacks.
After a few hours, I work out, shower, and take my daughter to pre-k. This is when I have some extra time to run errands. From 10 am-4pm, I’m either in meetings or working on projects for Em Dash.
I’ve recently learned that I need to take two days per week with no meetings. This gives me time to catch up, get organized, and make sure I can support my team. It’s also important for me to take at least 30 minutes a day to step away from my computer. Working from home can be all-encompassing. You have to remind yourself to take breaks.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When I have an idea it’s normally while running or randomly in my car. I think it through, thoroughly. How would it work? Does it make sense? Is it on brand? Who needs to be involved? Then I start talking it through with my team. If I don’t have their buy-in, it won’t work.
For example, we expanded to offering a web copy service line a few months ago. It sounds simple but meant that we needed to create a position, build out new onboarding decks, develop pricing, etc. It took months and several iterations before we settled in.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The call for quality content. Google’s algorithm is getting smarter and part of that means it’s parsing out long articles with no value or articles stuffed with a keyword in favor of accurate, comprehensive, quality written content. This is what Em Dash Blogging is all about–valuable, actionable, quality content.
What is one habit that helps you be productive?
Other than coffee? Because a steady stream of caffeine is a great motivator.
My planner. I know it sounds archaic, especially with so many project management platforms out there. But, I live and breathe by my planner. I have my weekly schedule laid out with daily tasks itemized. Everything on my list for the day must be complete. This allows me to quickly jot something down during a meeting too.
For the record, I also use ClickUp and Google calendar. You never can be too organized.
What advice would you give your younger self?
This is tricky because everything that happened led me to where I am and I’m so appreciative of that. But, if i must…
Value yourself. Stand up for yourself.
I spent a long time letting people make me feel unworthy or less than. I would tell my younger self that those people are small for many reasons. Take a stand. Don’t be afraid.
Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.
You can have a successful business without gouging people. My prices are below industry standard–much lower. That was on purpose. I want to work with people who are doing good things in this world. Startups, small businesses, and sometimes even companies in growth NEED content and SEO help, but these services can be costly. I wanted to provide a solution that’s quality AND affordable.
I’ve been told many times that I need to increase pricing substantially. I have increased a bit but my goals for my business have not changed. It’s possible to support myself, and my employees, and not alienate businesses that need us.
What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?
Reconsider your processes. We’ve spent a lot of time iterating our processes to find the most efficient setup. My husband always says, “9 times out of 10 there is a better way.” He’s right. Rather than getting stuck, we’re constantly reevaluating and refining our workflows.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
I do anything else. Watch TikTok for 10 minutes, do house chores, or I’ll change my location completely. Working from a coffee shop can do wonders. When you come back to it make a priority list or break the task down into smaller subtasks.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?
Connecting with people. My business really started taking off after I joined HeyMama and Entreprenista League. They are women-only platforms that help you to connect and network.
But, I didn’t just join and wait. I participated in nearly everything I could. I set up a lot of coffee dates with no intent to sell, necessarily, I just wanted to truly connect. That led to a lot of business, and if it didn’t lead to direct business it led to referrals.
I’ve since joined Dreamers and Doers which has really helped my PR efforts.
What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?
A year into freelance writing and just before joining the digital marketing agency, I was asked to interview for a job at Booking.com. This job was my dream. To own content for a division of a travel company? I still remember getting the email. I couldn’t believe it.
I made it through two rounds of interviews and was told it was myself and one other person. If I made it through the next round I’d be invited to Amsterdam to tour the city and my potential office.
I’m a preparer. I studied. I practiced. I was polished.
I got the call at 5:30 am (11:30 in Europe). I was not being asked to move forward. The recruiter asked if I’d like feedback. Always eager for a good grade, I said “please.”
First, I was given the things they really liked about me. It was a good boost before hearing–”They are looking for someone a little more humble. Someone who knows their weaknesses and is looking for guidance.” I could have melted. I was unbelievably embarrassed. I wanted the recruiter and everyone in Amsterdam to know that I am easily the most humble person you’ll meet. I barely have confidence, let alone so much I don’t know my own weaknesses.
It took a few days but I realized exactly what he was saying and why. Coming from a VERY traditional corporate environment, I was accustomed to VERY traditional interview questions where admitting weakness was a bad thing. The answer to the question, what areas can you improve upon was always, “I’m a perfectionist. I care too much about my job” In hindsight, this is vomit-worthy.
Companies that truly value their employees expect you to have weaknesses. Everyone does. It’s what you do about it that sets you apart. If I could go back, my answer would be, “I know a little SEO but I’d really love to become an expert in that space. I would love to have a great mentor or colleague to help teach me.”
Even in an interview, acknowledge your weaknesses and answer honestly how you feel you can address them.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My husband’s idea when I could come up with nothing:
Take a packet of macaroni and cheese, repackage it, and call it deconstructed Mac and Cheese with a fancy label. You’ll attract adults rather than kids.
Full disclosure: my kid is currently eating mac and cheese.
What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
It’s a tie. Slack vs ClickUp. Slack is how communicate with my team and several clients. I take it a step further and integrated Google so that I can see previews of any docs I share.
ClickUp is amazing because each member of our team can have individual lists but we can see all of our tasks at one time. Moreover, we can break a task into subtasks with different assignees. It’s been great for organization.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
Personal. My daughter and I went shopping for summer clothes. We spent over 30 minutes in the dressing room showing each other our outfits. She’s nearly 5 and it was the best time.
Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?
Yes! Neither of them are for professional purposes. I respect people who choose to read marketing books in their spare time but I work a lot so instead I listen to a murder podcast (shout out to Morbid) or read a thriller.
What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?
Handmaid’s Tale is incredible. So real. So scary. So powerful. I’m also watching The West Wing for the third time. I have no shame. Also, any documentary about a cult. I find the psychology fascinating.
- Schedule 1-2 days per week with no meetings. It gives you a chance to catch a breath, recharge, and focus on internal tasks.
- Be agile. Keep iterating–your workflows, strategy, and outreach. 9/10 times there is a better way. Don’t settle.
- Be humble and honest. Acknowledge areas where you might not have experience or that you’d like to work on. This doesn’t hurt you but rather shows you will be transparent.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.