Nicole Belanger is a writer, speaker, and media maker with a deep love for women's stories. She is the creator of Conversations With Her, an interview series profiling women from various walks of life sharing their powerful stories in an effort to make the rest of us feel a little less alone. She is at work on some new projects this summer, you can find her at nicole-belanger.com.
Tell me more about what you do?
I’ve always struggled with “what do I call myself?” For a long time, I called myself a writer because a lot of the content I produce just happens to be using written word as the medium of choice. I don’t think that sums it up fully though, and I’m also really tired of just freelancing and writing when other people want me to. So the title that I settled on for myself is Media Maker, which I feel is a lot more spacious and open and allows for a lot more different things. I don’t necessarily just want to write forever.
I produce women-centered content. I believe that when a woman tells her story she becomes possibility in it’s purest form for other women taking in that story. It can illuminate new ways of thinking, new ways of being in the world, and possibilities that we never knew existed for ourselves. For example, it wasn’t until recently when I heard friends telling me their stories of raising money for their projects and their companies that I thought, “oh you know what? I could do that too.” It just makes it seem a little bit more possible for you. I focus on collecting and telling women’s stories and I have to say that I’m not totally sure what that’s going to look like in the end. Right now I’m in this phase of playing around and just creating the content that resonates with me, seeing how other people pick up on that and pivoting and changing course as need be.
Currently, my biggest focus is an interview series called ‘Conversations With Her’, which profiles women from different walks of life talking about the different things that matter to them. We’ve touched on things from invisible disability, entrepreneurship, anxiety as an entrepreneur, miscarriage - all sorts of different topics that matter to women. That’s what I’m working on right now and this summer I’m going to be publishing a themed collection of stories, right now I’m working on finding women and pulling that together and also considering expanding into doing a podcast as well. We will see how all that progresses, but that’s sort of the plan for the next few months.
When did you decide to turn your writing and speaking abilities into a business?
That all started about a year ago in May 2014 when I left my role at a non-profit called Ladies Learning Code, I had been working remotely and not quite full-time. I’ve always written, and published on little websites here and there or on my own blog, just because I love doing it and chronicling my experiences. From that, I got an invitation to speak at a local TEDx event in March of 2014. That was the first real major speaking engagement I had, and I realized not only how much I loved it but how much other people loved it. All of the sudden I was getting calls from people asking me to come speak at their events or to write for them. That was sort of the moment of, “oh, I can actually make some money doing this, and this is what’s really interesting to me.”
So in May I left my job and the past year to be totally frank has been a process of figuring out less of what I want to do and instead all of the things I don’t want to do. When I left full-time employment, I had to find a way to replace that income. I didn't want to rely solely on writing, partly because making a living doing that is tough, and also because I had other interests and skills that I wanted to explore. So I looked to a lot of the female entrepreneurs who have these content-heavy businesses that I really admired. People like Danielle Lapore, Marie Forleo and Gabby Bernstein and a lot of them started with coaching and I thought “well that works with my personality, that works with my skill set, people have told me that that’s something they want from me so I guess I’ll do that.” Fast forward a couple months and realize that - oh my goodness I did not want to do that at all. It was really just what I thought I had to do, the model I had to follow in order to be a successful content creator. I was basically just performing other women’s experiences in business and not carving out my own path.
So for the last few months I’ve been experimenting with different things, I did some consulting work - it was fun but I didn’t really love it, I was doing some pure freelance writing work - ehh it was fun but I didn’t really like it and it wasn’t until this past Spring where I realized , "you know what I quit my job to be independent and I’ve ended up kind of doing it half way for the last year, doing a lot of contract work for companies." I thought it was time to just dive into it. So, I started doing ‘Conversations With Her’ and I was responding to it in a way I hadn’t responded to anything I’d done before and other people were responding to it in a way that they hadn’t responded to anything I've done over the last year and I knew that this was what I needed to focus on, this was what I needed to spend all my time and energy and focus on.