Ep #20 From Journalist to Freelancer to CEO: Interview with Erin Laviola

Christina: [00:00:00] Some solopreneurs start businesses because they have an idea or interest that they want to put into the world. And some start businesses out of a necessity. In today’s episode, meet Erin Laviola, a journalist, writer, and solopreneur. Erin was working for CBS news in New York City when she realized the lifestyle there was not sustainable.

She moved back to her home state of Ohio for a new job, which ultimately did not work out. She began freelancing out of necessity, and found that being her own boss gives her the freedom and flexibility she loves. while using her passion for journalism and writing. Erin produces high quality content for healthcare organizations.

She regularly interviews physicians and other specialists about complex topics and then crafts their information into easy to understand articles. She channels her love of journalism and storytelling into her work and loves to write inspiring [00:01:00] feature stories on patients. Listen to the full episode at richlysuccessful.com/20.

You’re listening to Richly Successful Solopreneur with host Christina Renzelli, helping you learn to trust your gut and follow your heart so you can set your business up for success. Podcast episodes will help you build better business relationships. network in an authentic way and learn to love selling as you grow your business beyond the time for money model.

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Hey Erin, thanks for joining us today.

Erin: Hi Christina. Thanks for having me.

Christina: So tell us a little bit about what you do with your business.

Erin: Yeah. So I am a freelance writer primarily for healthcare [00:02:00] organizations. Um, I write Informational articles, um, articles about, um, patient stories. Uh, those are primarily for medical centers.

Um, I also write about the, uh, the business side of healthcare, um, primarily about, uh, private equity investment in healthcare and also some healthcare technology. Um, and then I also produce a weekly Q and a episode for a news podcast called the newsworthy.

Christina: Oh, fun. So what’s your story? What led you to your business?

Erin: Yeah. So my background is in broadcast journalism. Um, I really wanted to be a news producer. I worked in, uh, local news, uh, here in Columbus, Ohio, and then I went and worked for, uh, CBS, um, in New York city for three years. I helped launch the, um, streaming news channel actually for the network, which was, which was really [00:03:00] exciting at the time.

Um, But as much as I loved my job and I was excited about different opportunities there, um, I ultimately decided that the lifestyle wasn’t, well, wasn’t what I wanted for the long term because of the long hours, the weekend hours, um, not to mention it’s just so expensive to live out there. Yeah. Plus I didn’t have any family out there either.

So ultimately decided I wanted to move back to Ohio, which I did. Um, I very briefly worked for a Uh, it was meant to be a local news website. Um, that startup quickly failed. So then I was trying to find jobs in digital communications or PR marketing, but no one was biting because I didn’t have a marketing background and I ended up freelancing.

Out of necessity and it was never it was never the game [00:04:00] plan, you know I had no idea that freelancing was something that you could actually Do for a living right? um, but then I I got my first couple of clients because of My network. Mm-hmm. , um, people I went to, uh, college with, um, at Ohio University. Um, you know, they knew someone who knew someone who needed somebody who needed help running a social media account or needed help writing articles for a website.

And it just kind of snowballed from there. And, you know, at the very beginning, I definitely had no clue what I was doing from a business side of things. I could write. But, but, you know, I didn’t have contracts back then, I didn’t know how to negotiate for pay. So things have definitely changed a lot, um, since then.

Back then it was more of a, okay, I’m a writer for hire, please pay me. Now it’s more of a business minded, [00:05:00] um, you know, focus to it where I have contracts and, you know, we talk about, um, The scope of work and it’s just, it feels a lot more secure now. And, and I really credit a lot of that to learning from other freelancers.

Uh, you know, the freelancing community, um, is, is pretty phenomenal. And, uh, I definitely learned a lot from them.

Christina: Yeah. It’s kind of like you went into business with necessity versus having a dream of going into business.

Erin: Yeah, that’s right, because a lot of other, uh, freelancers and solopreneurs, they will tell you, and this is very smart. Uh, advice to give they tell you line up a couple of clients before you branch out on your own Save x amount of dollars in a savings account. That’s great if you can do it

Christina: Right if you have

Erin: a [00:06:00] job, but if you can’t because you got to remember coming from new york I didn’t have a hefty savings account So and I was also You know single so I didn’t have a spouse paying for my health insurance either right, um, so I was very much, you know, on my own as I got started.

And, you know, in that, uh, time in between the, that startup failing and then my freelancing really kicking off, you know, I was also waiting tables too, because, you know, I mean, I was still, I mean, I was still making student loan payments and everything back then too. So, um. You know, it’s, it’s a scary spot to be in, but I, I do want to stress that it is possible, especially if you leverage your network, you know, that’s why a lot of freelancers will say when you’re getting started, tell everybody, you know, you know, what kind of work you’re looking to do and that you’re available because you never know where a [00:07:00] lead is going to.

Christina: Right. You think it comes from out of the blue, but really it’s from networking and having those relationships.

Erin: Correct. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I mean, my, my very first client was, uh, uh, like, like I said, a friend of mine from OU, his girlfriend went to law school with somebody who was, who needed a freelancer.

Christina: Wow. So it’s like that invisible connection is what I like to call it.

Erin: Yeah. And I, I’ve, I’ve really loved, um, I love that right now I’ve got the podcast, the newsworthy that I work on, which keeps me in the news business. Um, but then I’m really, I was really glad that I niched down into writing about health care.

Mm. Because. You can’t get bored writing about healthcare because there’s so many different topics, you know, so that keeps things exciting for [00:08:00] me. But then also, and I guess this kind of gets into my motivation for why I love to do this. It’s because, you know, being a journalist, that’s, that’s where my heart is, you know, that’s where my soul is in writing people’s stories.

So I write about a lot of different topics in healthcare. You know, I mentioned the, the business side of things, tech, that kind of thing, but I love it. When I get to write a story about a patient, I love being able to interview that person and talk to them about their journey and their challenges and what they were scared of when they were going through treatments.

And then you talk to the doc, you know, the doctor, and let me tell you, there are some that. You can just tell what their bedside manner is. Mm-hmm. , um, you know, I interview a lot of them over, um, over video chat and you, you can tell who really the ones that truly, truly care about their patients. Right. It just, it makes me tear up sometimes , [00:09:00] when I’m talking to them because they’re just, their, their passion is so evident.

But, um, You know, I love, I just, I love the opportunity to be able to tell these people’s

Christina: stories. Yeah. So it’s like you use your passion for journalism to create your own business out of it. Yeah. So what does it look like to work with you for your

Erin: clients? What I like to tell my clients is that they can hand me a project and you don’t have to check up on me.

Um, I’ve been doing this long enough that. I, I know how to get, I know how to get these projects done, not just on time, but well done. You’re gonna, you’re gonna have a polished piece ready for you in your inbox. Um, I’m not someone you have to hold my hand. Yeah, you’re a journalist. Yeah, exactly. And, and, you know, Um, When I was working in local news, for example, um, I [00:10:00] was the weekend morning producer.

So that meant that I worked Wednesday through Sunday. Um, third shift. I used to go into work at Lake. If I remember correctly. I think usually about 11 PM. Oh, wow.

Usually me and an associate and an associate producer, um, um, that’s specifically on the weekends, I should say. During the week, there’s, you know, other producers around, but you’re still in a situation where your boss is not there,

Christina: right? You have to be able to do things on your own.

Erin: Right, exactly. You know, if something, you know, if there was breaking news that happened, I had no one else really, I mean…

Yeah, of course. I mean, yes, my associate producers, their editors there. So I don’t, I don’t want to make it sound like I’m doing everything completely on my own, but you know, I was. You know, 24 year old kid that had a lot of response, had a lot of [00:11:00] responsibilities without a boss right there. So I think that’s why I was able to, um, make this freelancing thing work because that’s just already been in my DNA.

Christina: Right. And I love how you still call yourself a freelancer. But you have your own LLC, your own business, right? I do. I do.

Erin: Although, you know, it’s funny. I actually didn’t even, uh, I didn’t register the LLC until last year. Um, because you have to, so Being in Ohio, um, you have to have an LLC in order to work with clients in California because of how the laws are over there.

So that’s actually what prompted me to even form the LLC in the first place. Looking back, I wish I had done that from the get go. Cause it just would have made things a little simpler. Um, but, uh, but yeah, I mean, as a, as a, um, one person business, your, your taxes don’t really. Aren’t [00:12:00] impacted. Right? So I never, I never had much of a motivation to, to start an LLC.

But, uh, But, but yeah, but now I definitely am glad I have it. So for any other brand new freelancers listening, please go register, you know, and I’ll see, it’ll save you ahead. It’ll save you some headaches later.

Christina: Yeah. And now you’re the CEO, right? Uh, it sounds different saying you’re the CEO versus a freelancer, right?

Yeah. So what do you love most about being a solopreneur?

Erin: The flexibility, a hundred percent. Um, I was saying today is a good example because I, I just, I woke up really tired and today I have some, the stuff on my to do list are for, West coast clients. So I have more flexibility today where I’m like, well, okay, I can do my work in the afternoon and it’s no big deal.

Yeah. So I like [00:13:00] that. I love that I can walk my dog whenever I want. Um, I like that. I can, I don’t have to ask somebody for permission to take a trip or

Christina: even a lunch break or even

Erin: a lunch break. I was going to say for the trip part, you know, uh, I can always take my laptop if I absolutely needed to do some work while I was gone.

But, um, you know, I mean, it’s, I, Um, I’m not that I take trips all the time, but like when I went on, I went to the UK last year and I told my clients ahead of time, Hey, here’s when I’ll be gone. Um, there were a few clients where I did extra work before I left, make up for it. Um, you know, so I didn’t lose out on any work.

I just did it sooner, but it’s not like in a. You know, regular W 2 job where you have to submit your request to have certain days off and they have, they can hypothetically tell, [00:14:00] you

Christina: know, Yeah. You have to ask permission. Right. So

Erin: yeah, I don’t, I don’t miss that part. That’s for sure. Um, I also like that when it comes to how much money I can make, it is mostly on me.

I mean, yes, the, the market flux, the market fluctuates like this, this summer Rather slow, but now that it’s, now that we’re getting into the fall, things are starting to pick up and I’m getting more, um, Getting a little bit more, more interest in more work from existing clients. Um, but so, so, so that, that aside, you know, I can choose to, to pick up more work and I can make more money.

Yeah. It’s like in

Christina: your complete control.

Erin: Right. Because you know, the other thing that motivates me through this is that I don’t want to have to worry about money because throughout my.

Christina: Right. And you probably had a paycheck back then. So [00:15:00] right. Take away the worry.

Erin: Well, exactly. I mean, even though I had a regular paycheck, um, you know, no one goes into journalism expecting to make a lot of money.

Um, but when you’re living by yourself in New York, in New York city, paying your student loans. And for a time there, I was also paying for health insurance premiums before I became a, you know, Before I received benefits, there were several months there where I was technically, technically freelance, funny enough, um, even working for the network, but you know, it’s, it’s hard to save money in that situation.

And so, you know. I, yeah, I, I like that I have the opportunity to have a bigger income that is based off of the projects that I choose to take on. Right. As opposed to, as opposed to having a boss saying, well, hey, you need to take on more work, but oh, we’re not going to pay you more for it. [00:16:00] Exactly. So no, it’s, it’s, I like that it’s all on me.

Christina: Yeah. That’s a huge reason I think a lot of people go into their own business. So luckily you fell into it and it’s working out. So how can listeners reach you if they want to work with you and have your services?

Erin: Yeah, I think the easiest way is just to visit my website, which is ErinLaviola. com. Um, it’s just a, uh, one page website because designer, I am not.

Hey, keep it simple. Right. Well, leave, leave the designing to actually, you know, people who actually know what they’re doing on that. Um, but, uh, my website has, uh, a box where you can, um, you can email me, uh, directly through that.

Christina: Great. Thank you. So what has been your… Biggest challenge as a solopreneur.

Erin: My biggest challenge is definitely procrastination.

Christina: Is that what you want to have coaching on [00:17:00] for this episode?

Erin: Okay. And I want to, I just want to explain that for a minute, which is, you know, I mentioned earlier that. Uh, clients do not need to babysit me, you know, I, I pride myself on this. I always hit my deadlines always, you know, that is not something that any client has to worry about.

My issue is that I am so motivated by those deadlines that if I don’t have one or if the deadline is weeks away, I don’t always, you know, I could do, I could work ahead far more often than I do. Right. And that is, that is all about. You know me because if I could work ahead a little bit more then maybe I wouldn’t feel stressed out

Christina: Okay.

Yeah. So does the procrastination make you feel stressed out?

Erin: It does You know, sometimes I [00:18:00] wonder if it’s Okay. Do I secretly get, get a kick out of this because of the adrenaline

Christina: rush? Yeah. I was going to ask you, what benefit are you getting from the procrastination? Right.

Erin: Because you know, if we’re getting close to a deadline, it, it lights a fire.

It really does. It really, it lights a fire. I’m suddenly more creative and I just get it done.

Christina: So it kind of ignites the creativity inside you.

Erin: Yeah, and I think, I think when I think back to my broadcast days, you know, after working all night, I could be dead tired, but the second the show starts and I walk into that control room, my energy levels would, would just shoot back up.

Christina: So you kind of like the, the adrenaline, that energy. Yeah. [00:19:00] Okay. So what’s the problem with procrastination then?

Erin: I end up losing, I end up losing sleep as we get closer to it. And then I’ve also wondered too, is this holding me back a little bit because I end up feeling, you know, some of these, some of these projects, they’re, they’re taking up space in my head even if I’m not actively working on it.

So I’ve thought about, Hey, could I be. Um, could I also be taking on more projects and making more money if I was able to work ahead?

Christina: Mm hmm. If you took on more projects, would you just have more deadlines?

Erin: Probably.

Christina: So then you would still get your procrastination, jolt of adrenaline. Yeah, probably would. But also less sleep. Right. Sounds like there’s a competing Help me, help me, please.[00:20:00]

Sounds like you have a little bit of a competing commitment. You like the adrenaline, but you don’t really want to miss sleep. Right.

Erin: Because it’s like I also know that it’s not the healthiest way to

Christina: be. Okay, so that’s what I was going to ask. Is this a long term, sustainable way to, to be in your

Erin: business?

Um, I feel like if I stayed at the exact level that I’m at now, Yeah, because I’m figure, because I’ve figured out how to get all this, you know, work done. But I do worry that it perhaps will stagnate

Christina: me. Mm hmm. How much downtime do you give yourself?

Erin: I try not to work on the weekends. Um, if I have, I mean, if I [00:21:00] have a deadline coming up, then sometimes I will do some weekend work. Um, but if I do, I, I will usually make up for that by taking, you know, the following Wednesday off, for example, to try to make up for it. Um, I,

Um, usually just work during the day, um, again, since, since things change so much, you know, there are some evenings where I end up working, but that’s, I’d say that that’s not a, that’s not a regular thing. Mm

Christina: hmm. So what do you think needs to change, if anything?

Erin: I think how to maintain, maintain that motivation, um, or maybe change the motivation a little bit so that if I have a deadline on a Friday. I’m not [00:22:00] sitting there on Monday thinking, well, it’s fine. I’ve got till Friday, I can handle it tomorrow. And then the next day turns into Wednesday and then suddenly it’s Thursday and I’m going, oh, I really need to finish this.

Christina: Yeah. Have you ever tried, let’s say it’s a Friday deadline, to set yourself a goal of finishing it by the end of the day on Monday?


Erin: tried. I’ll tell myself that, but I have been pretty bad about enforcing that. Mm

Christina: hmm. Do you want to enforce it with yourself? I

Erin: do. I just don’t know how. Because there’s always, I feel like whenever I set, try to set my own internal deadline, um, I’ve never been able to sort of trick myself into believing that’s the true deadline.

Because in the, in my mind, I know that I have till Friday.

Christina: Right. So, what if there was something else you wanted to do [00:23:00] you know, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and you had to finish that project Monday and now let’s do Friday. What if there was something fun you could add to your schedule?

Erin: I would get it done.


Christina: I don’t know if that would help. But maybe, maybe give that a try.

Erin: You know, that’s a good point because Sometimes, uh, like I’ll say, okay, I, I want to go take this boxing class or something. Mm hmm. And if I get busy, I just don’t go.

Christina: Right. That’s what I was about to ask. What are you missing out on because of this procrastination?

So maybe try scheduling something like the boxing class that you can only go to if you get your work done.

Yeah. Although I’m sure you would find a way to do both [00:24:00] as a expert procrastinator, I would try.

Yeah. So I think it ultimately comes down to you can’t trick yourself. Um, And do you want to do things that you’re missing out on more, or do you want to

Erin: thrive on that adrenaline? Because I guess I’m also curious, like, what, what do you usually say to people who maybe tell you that staying on task without a boss right there, like, how do

Christina: you?

So for me, I believe internal motivation is really the only thing that works because We can’t depend on others to keep us accountable. Um, however, I do help people become accountable, and then we kind of, we practice it for a while, and then later I help them become more accountable to themselves. [00:25:00] So it’s kind of, maybe you could have someone help you for a while.

Hold you accountable and then you can see if you like it better getting things done before a deadline.


Erin: I have had, I have had some mornings where I’ve had my boyfriend call me early because he gets up before I do. I mean, sometimes he’s up at 5 a. m. Yeah. Call me, please make sure I’m up.

Christina: Yeah, just get an accountability partner. Um. If there’s someone that can hold you to it, because I don’t know, for me example, external accountability partners don’t work.

It has to come from within myself. Mm-hmm. . Otherwise I feel like they’re just being bossy. . So it depends on what kind of personality you have and how, how you work best.

Erin: No, I liked, I liked your idea about, uh, telling myself. [00:26:00] Okay. I have this boxing class to go to, so let’s get it done before then.

Christina: Exactly. I really think it comes down to making a list of what you’re missing out on by spending your time procrastinating.

Because really the time you’re procrastinating is time… That you’re thinking about something, it’s weighing on you, it’s taking up your energy and you can’t focus that energy on other more fun things.

Erin: Okay, that’s a really good point. Yeah. Cause you’re right, I mean as I told you just a few minutes ago that these projects are in my head.

Mm hmm. Even if I’m not actively working on them, I feel it, I’m thinking about that deadline. You’re

Christina: being held hostage by them.

Erin: Yeah. Never thought about it like that.

Christina: Yeah. So. If you get it done quicker, then you can do the fun stuff. When I was a kid, we always had to [00:27:00] help my parents with different projects and work things. And I knew I had to get the work done before I could go to the pool. So now I don’t really procrastinate that much anymore.

So yeah. Go, go boxing, do whatever, all the fun things you want to do.

Play with your dog.

Erin: Oh, it’s just, I apologize if you can hear him right now.

Christina: Oh no, that’s okay. Yeah. But I mean, think of all the things you can do with your dog instead of procrastinating.

Erin: Yeah. He loves the dog

Christina: park. Yeah. Take

Erin: him to the dog park. I have to write this down on a post it note, the whole idea of, I don’t want to be held

Christina: hostage.

Yes. I think that’s the key. The adrenaline is something you’re getting. It’s used as a fuel, but it’s also, you’re being held hostage. And I think if you try thinking about all the things you can get out on for a while, you’ll eventually [00:28:00] get accustomed to doing things early, because that reward will be stronger than the fuel of adrenaline.

Erin: That is a really good point. Thank you. Yeah.

Christina: Thank you. Do you feel complete? Do I feel complete? Yeah, with your procrastination questions.

Erin: I think, I think you gave me some really great advice and I’m going to give all that a try.

Christina: All right. And if, if you need more help, let me know, uh, well, thanks for joining us today. I’m excited to, um, actually check back in with you, you know, In a few months and see how the procrastinating.

Erin: I hope, I hope I have, uh, some positive things to tell you.

Christina: Well, thanks Erin for being our guest.

Erin: Thank you.

Christina: Thanks for listening to Richly Successful Solopreneur. Remember, you can trust yourself and follow your heart. If [00:29:00] you’re ready to find your flow and grow your business, I want to invite you to head over to richlysuccessful.com where you’ll find more valuable resources. If you’re getting value from this podcast, Please leave a review and share it with a fellow solopreneur.