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Shannon McFarland

Shannon McFarland

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

I LOVE getting the chance to amplify women's voices and expertise. I work for myself, consulting for my clients on marketing strategies and creating content to reach their goals. My story is that I’m a former journalist, turned marketer. At heart, I'm a writer obsessed with asking questions. Beyond all that, I love my partner, adorable dog, the outdoors, and rock climbing.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

For me, it’s the local community! The one-on-one coffees I’ve had with other women in Boston are so valuable to me. I’ve learned much from their generous advice. That support is indispensable to me, since running a business can be a stressful or even lonely endeavor. I also appreciate that I can pay it forward to other women who are starting or reinventing their own careers.

How would you define your professional mission?

My mission is telling true stories about good ideas.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

It’s been a bumpy ride! And it’s a long story! In short, I wanted to be a journalist from the time I was a teen. Through college, internships, a master’s degree, and my first two jobs as a reporter… until I burnt out. Hard. I made a tough choice to quit, pick up, and move to be near my family, even if that meant I have to take a job outside of journalism.

I fell into the financial industry and spent the next several years getting amazing on-the-job experience learning about business, client relationships, and building up my marketing skills. Eventually, I started exploring the idea of consulting for my own clients. During a networking event, I met a woman who needed help with her website content. She volunteered to be my first paying client.

Later, I landed in a Techstars startup accelerator helping ten companies with their marketing, messaging, and content. The whole time, I was working on building my own business and soaking up advice from everyone who would talk to me. In total, I had a built a runway that gave me at least six months to make my business work (or figure out another path). With tons of support from my network, plus the love-of-my-life, I’m now in my second year as my own boss.

Who are your role models?

Maya Angelou, Brene Brown, Seth Godin, and Michael Lewis. They're all writers I go back to again and again. Such different styles, great thinkers, and all of them make me feel braver. They make me feel like I can take on things that feel complicated, scary, and ambitious.

What is your morning ritual?

I’m a morning person, though it usually takes about a half-hour for me to feel fully awake. My fantastic partner makes coffee and hands me a mug. We sit down together, chat, and sip coffee every morning. I take our dog out for a short walk or run then, and in the summer we stop to check on my garden on the back patio. As best I can, I try to stay away from screens for the first hour that I’m awake. It helps center me and mentally prioritize for the day.

What is your favorite social media site? Why?

Twitter! I’ve met friends, made great connections, and found incredible resources through Twitter. Since I work remotely, it functions like my digital “watercooler.” I can go there to giggle about memes with colleagues, poke fun at a new tech thing, or commiserate about some world event. However, sometimes I find I’m opening it on my phone habitually. Then I’ll delete the app from my phone for a couple of days and use it to desktop-only (or take a few days off). Find me, I'm @shanmcf.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

I like to think my superpower is asking good questions and listening. I have a great imagination, which helps me to see the big-picture vision. I always want to ask questions to break that vision down and reverse-engineer the actions needed to reach those goals.

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

Balance is tough when you work for yourself! I’ll work right through lunch on accident sometimes. When I get intensely focused at my computer, I forget to blink and my eyes get dry. My most significant no-fail tactic I cannot take any credit for - at the end of the day, my partner tells me it’s time to shut down and quit for the day. He holds me to it. I also don’t check email after I’ve checked out for the day or on the weekends. My dog also breaks me out of my work-like trances, pestering me to take him out for a walk.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

Don’t undervalue your work. Especially the intangible things you provide. Things like prioritizing or encouragement can be far more important than the tangible deliverables you hand over. In my work, strategy, planning, the smoothness of the customer experience, and the way my clients feel after a call are highly valuable. My clients can find someone else to write them a whitepaper or a blog post - but they choose to work with me because of the ideas, empathy, and clarity I bring to the table. I love it when I can make my client’s day! You can't put a price tag on that.

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