Work-At-Home Success Profile: Amma Marfo, Writer and Speaker
Amma is an education and writing professional that equips her audiences (on paper and in person alike) to understand creativity, their temperament, and the intersection of comedy and our daily lives. She is a dynamic and sought-after speaker on college and university campuses, and also writes in a freelance capacity for, among others, The Interrobang (a comedy news site), Hustle & Co, Women in Higher Education, and Pacific Standard.
1) How did you get started working from home?
After nearly a decade of working on college campuses with students, I was in need of a change of pace. Increasingly, the demands on my time were not of my own choosing, and scope creep meant that I was wearing far more hats than I was equipped to carry effectively. Somehow, I’d also been speaking and consulting part-time, while also writing for select outlets on a freelance basis. After taking some time to really examine my priorities, I elected to make my part-time endeavors full-time ones. I still wear many hats, and my work days are sometimes far longer than they would have been on campus, but the freedom to choose what fills my days has been immeasurably good for me.
2) How did you choose the work-at-home career you do?
I’ve always really liked writing, and after building my skills on my own site for a few years, I started seeking out new outlets to share my work. Separately, I always enjoyed the speaking and training function of my on-campus roles, but only got to do it formally once or twice a year. Speaking at conferences and other campuses really fulfilled me, and I wanted to do more of it. When it came time to make a choice, I made the decision that allowed me to pursue the things that really filled me up mentally and emotionally.
3) How did you get started (basic initial steps)?
First things first: I saved a lot of money. A LOT. Preparing to pay higher taxes and for my own insurance, obtaining my own office supplies and memberships, and creating a buffer in case of emergencies was my top priority. Learning about the tax implications of being on my own was similarly important, so I did that first.. I also connected with an agency I’d worked with in a customer capacity for years, and asked if they were interested in representing me. That leap proved essential, as they help me with many of the logistics of booking and marketing speaking services. I could not do this without that relationship being on solid ground- and it took me making an ask that was nerve-racking to make!
4) How did you get your first client or customer or job?
I had a wide network from years of speaking at conferences and participating in online communities to share and inform my work. When it came time to start bringing the content to new places, I started there: who do you work with that needs to hear this message? I was humbled to have friends and colleagues put me forward for opportunities, and my reputation was able to grow as each talk did well and helped students and staff I worked with.
For writing, I took leaps and pitched stories I had been wanting to tell to publications that looked to be supportive of it. Each time someone took a chance on me and my writing, I worked hard to learn the conventions of their publication and get things in on time, while building rapport with editors. Regardless of the nature of the actual work, I’m such a believer in relationships playing a big role in getting me work.
5) How do you market your business?
In addition to the mailings that my agency sends out on my behalf, I’m a big believer in content marketing. I try to build content around things that I want to share with people- videos, ebooks, blog posts, anything that people can use as a measure of if I can help them solve a problem or share an idea. From there, I encourage them to learn more through a workshop, lecture, training session, or written project. And again, all of those interactions are designed to build relationships.. Even if I can’t be of use in the moment, I try to stay in touch organically in hopes of it turning into business at a later date. I just worked with a school whose Dean I met at a conference three years ago; through staying in touch and being genuinely interested in what she and her staff were doing on campus, we were able to find an opportunity to team up so many years later!
6) What does your usual day look like?
On my ‘home’ days, I stay focused by working from a Big Three List that I make each day. Whether it’s a slide deck for a presentation I’ll be giving shortly, an article I have due, or an interview I have to conduct or transcribe, I commit myself to three tasks for the day. On paper- the act of writing it down makes it all seem real.
The cardinal rule I have set for myself: mornings are yours. I don’t take meetings, phone calls, or other ways by which others can use my time, until after 1pm Eastern. That way, I can ensure that I feel a little accomplished with some tasks crossed off before I share my time with colleagues and collaborators. Where I can, I take extended breaks midday and “come back to work” for a second shift between 3pm and 7pm.
This routine has gone through several iterations, but has been hard won as a result of honoring my biorhythms (when I work well and when I don’t), setting boundaries for others I work with, and being kind to myself about how much I “should” get done day to day.
7) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
To come back to the money point for just a moment- I knew that it’d be challenging to budget for myself when income was somewhat infrequent, but I’ve learned to adapt by embracing the idea of multiple income streams. In addition to writing and speaking, I seek out part-time work each summer and will periodically run promotions on my books to supplement slow periods. You will always, always, always need more money than you anticipate; learning to plan for that has been my greatest challenge, but maybe the most educational piece of the whole endeavor.
8) What advice would you give someone who wants to work from home?
Learn how to hustle. I don’t mean that in the gross, startup-y way of the word, but to learn to motivate yourself to get work done. This can mean deciding when you work best- I am NOT a morning person, but can get lots of things done after 7pm- but also how you’ll convey that to people you’re working with.
Related to that: find ways to stay social even if you work from the house. I attend Creative Mornings events in the area when I can, seek out collaborative projects with other solopreneurs, and host a podcast with three other women to ensure that I have an idea of life out in the world. I’m an introvert who relishes alone time and can go days without interacting with others, but have done some of my most fulfilling work alongside other people. Keeping relationships alive that allow for that is incredibly important.
Website: Amma Marfo | The Imposters Podcast
Fun Enterprises Speakers: Fun Enterprises Speakers
Amazon: Amma Marfo