Interview with Amna Hasan

Tracey - Today, I'm joined by the very beautiful Amna Hassan of Write It Up. 

In our usual style today, we're going to do four things. Number one, I'm going to give Amna a bit of time to tell you who she is and what she does. We're then going to talk about Amna's biggest success. After that, we’re going to go into her biggest challenge. And then we're going to give you the one piece of advice that Amna would give business owners right now. So Amna, who are you?  

 Amna - Hello, hi there, thanks for having me, I'm really looking forward to this. 

I'm Amna Hassan. I'm from Write It Up and I am a brand journalist. And I suppose the best way to describe that is that I'm your brand storyteller.  

So, depending on what medium you're using, whether it's your socials or your proposals or your pitch decks, it's a case of me to showcase your brand and get your messaging right and your tone of voice right. And really get your personality flowing through your words. And I tend to mainly work with consultants and coaches in that regard because it's so important for them to have that kind of clear brand identity and presence out there as well. 

Tracey - I love that. And I love the term, brand journalist. It's not something I've heard before, but I get it. It makes sense.  

I think, in the current world that we're in, brand is so important. People are looking for something that they can get hold of and understand, and that gives them certainty.  

We're going through a big rebrand, which has been an amazing exercise, but obviously that's then got to continue to be consistent moving forward so that people feel certain about the brand and the messaging you're putting out.  

So, I think what you're doing for those people is really important. 

 Amna - Absolutely, and I think it did take me a while to get here because I went down the route of being a copywriter and a content creator, which are huge aspects of that brand journalism piece. But I think the main thing is that a lot of people do struggle with the term ‘brand’.  

For them, it's very visual. I think it kind of resonates more with the colours and the logos that they're putting out there rather than actually what they're saying.  

An exercise that I tend to do with my clients is to understand; does your audience actually know what you do, and how you say that?  

And a lot of them really struggle with that piece because they can talk 'till the cows come home. But putting that into words, or putting that into their socials or their profiles, or even explaining how they do it, is very tricky. And, I suppose, having that objectivity when it comes to that comes in quite handy because I can just go in and rip it all apart and then put it back together, which is quite nice. 

Tracey - You really hit that on the head.  

We've been running our business for 11 years now, and we know what we do, but being able to articulate that in a way that people understand without actually coming in and experiencing it has been one of our biggest challenges over that period. We never quite got it right.  

So, that whole brand is not your logo. The brand is what you stand for and how you communicate that and the consistency of that. That really makes sense to me.  

And given the market is one of competition right now, it's never been more important to be crystal clear on who you are and then, obviously, crystal clear in how you communicate that to your potential market. 

So let's jump into it, then. What has been your biggest success? 

Amna - Gosh, I think my biggest success has been that I'm still here!  

I know it sounds like one of those things, but I set up my business over a year ago and, at the time, I didn't really know what to expect.  

I set this up as a freelancer, to do in between school runs, and it'll be all be okay, and it didn't really have a purpose; it didn't have any strategy. And then, by the time it had some sort of strategy, COVID hit and I was left with about four months of having zero work and just crying myself to sleep at night.  

But I think, for me, the biggest success has been that, you know what, despite all of that I'm here.  

And I'm now to the point where I'm very clear on what I want to do, in some ways. And I'm not sure whether I'm saying the right thing - I probably will look back at this period quite fondly and go, right, you know what? It allowed me to have that breathing space and actually forced me to commit to what I wanted to do.  

And being a brand journalist was a huge part of that. It was my why, and my purpose came out from all of that. And now, I'm very clear on where I need to be.  

Obviously, there've been challenges along the way, but it'll be a case of me going forwards and saying, right, this is exactly who I wanted to be all along but it just took me a long time to get there.  

I think this year really affirmed that for me. 

Tracey - Do you know what? I think you said exactly the right thing.  

You and I have been on a bit of a journey together. It's very hard to convince a business owner that the crap that they're going through right now, today, is going to end up being the highlight of their biography, when they finally write it.  

And it solidifies who you are - and it's your entrepreneurial conditioning. And it's all the juicy stuff that is really hard to stomach when you're in it. But, absolutely, it's what sets apart the successful and not so successful business owners. So, I love that you're in a place right now where you're already saying, I'm going to look back on that fondly. I think that's absolutely the right attitude.  

Amna - No, it's been a hell of a year for a lot of people, I know that, and I suppose I can call myself fortunate that I am in a place where I can still be creative with the way that I can just rebrand or rethink it, because I know a lot people have been established for a while and have really struggled with their model.  

And, I suppose that's where the support of a community like BBB comes in, as well, where I've just been able bounce off so many ideas and have those meltdowns where I don't know what I'm doing. “Pick up the phone, Tracey!” 

Tracey - I think everyone's had at least one meltdown at some point in their journey. 

Amna - Absolutely, and I think we did it in one of our masterminds, didn't we, where it was said it's part of the process. If you don't have a meltdown, you're clearly not doing something right.  

Tracey - It’s not hard enough if you're not having one, maybe weekly, complete falling apart, then you need to look at whether you're pushing yourself and challenging yourself enough, because that's where the growth is.  

I love that, thanks Amna. So, biggest challenge, what's that then? 

Amna - I think for me, obviously the year has been tough, but I think the biggest thing for me is that expectation that I'd set for myself.  

Initially, when I started it wasn't going to be much of anything, but then, I've not really got anybody in my family who runs a business. They're all either economists or accountants or, you know, people in stable jobs that are doing well for themselves. And for me, I think I'd put loads of expectation on myself that I needed to be a certain way or perform a certain way and hit my goals a certain way.  

And with that, when you're not performing or at the level that you think, you get quite frustrated with that. And as a person, you know, you feel like, gosh, this isn't really who I need to be. And then obviously that has an impact in your personal and other relationships that you have brewing around that.  

And for me, that was the biggest thing - that I felt like I was letting myself down, letting other people down and then not having that clear vision of where I wanted to be for a while.  

But I feel like I've slightly come out the other side of that, to put a positive spin. I mean, there are still wobbles, like you said, you know, there's always a meltdown moment. But I think now, I'm kind of like, you know what, that expectation I set for myself is because I wanted to be the best version of this, like whatever I have right now.  

I don't know what that looks like, say, 12 months down the line, but those challenges have kind of forced me to reckon with whether I wanted to pack it all up or keep going. And I've wanted to keep going, which tells me that I'm in the right place and exactly where I need to be. 

Tracey - I really love that. And, you know, high expectations are both a blessing and a curse. They are absolutely what sets people apart - having those high expectations and continually striving to live up to those expectations. But, obviously, the curse is when we berate ourselves, when we feel like we're constantly falling short. What we have to remember in those times is, even if we're not visibly, or even if we feel like we're not quite hitting that standard, the fact that we have set that standard and we are continually striving towards it is achieving a standard in its own right.  

And I think it's so easy to forget that. We're trying to always hit that mark, that holy grail, and just get there. If I just bring this deal in, if I just hit that number, - if I just, if I just, if I just - without realising that this is all entrepreneurial conditioning.  

And the fact that you are here fighting, and the fact that you've had those days where you want to give in and you don't, is hitting that standard in itself.  

For me, that fight, that grit is what really makes business owners succeed. Not everybody has it. I think you should be really proud of yourself. 

Amna - And this is where a shout out to that community comes in. I didn't even realise how many small business owners there are. Until you're actually a small business owner - the power of everybody coming together - and when we have our BBB events or even just networking with lots of different business owners; it's made me realize that we are so many.  

And sometimes we get overlooked in that process and it's hard for everyone, but it's also really rewarding in that process. And I love that - I love that there are so many of us. It's like a club that once you're part of, you don't want to really go back from and you kind of go, do you know what? I've had a taste of this.  

And I was saying this to somebody the other day. I feel like I'm not really employable anymore. My CV sucks now, no one will hire me. But now, actually, I'm in a place where I can't think of anything else I'd rather do than this. And yeah, it's that whole conditioning piece, it's taken a while to get there, but then, the further you get in your aspirations, it definitely helps to keep pushing you forward as well. And having that community behind you is absolutely key. 

Tracey - What I love about your story, I guess, which people wouldn't know, was it was a real leap of faith for you.  

In those early days as a business owner, there's not spare cash just sitting around. It's hard to make those decisions to really invest in yourself in the early days where you don't have enough data to even know if you're going to make a success of this.  

It was a real leap of faith for you to do it. And you've just not looked back. You've embraced everything. You've shown up for everything. You show up for your goal setting and it's paid off. You honestly deserve the success you're having now. 

 Amna - Oh, thank you. And I guess this segues nicely into, ‘What would you advise other people to do?’  

For me, it's invest in yourself, and it is a leap of faith. With everything I've done, I've always been a big believer in trusting my gut. When it hasn't felt right, I've moved away from it. And initially, I think I came to you last September when we did a Discovery Day and I didn't even have a name for my company.  

Tracey - You were a little bit like rabbit in the headlights. 

Amna - I was, and I was looking around and I was so completely overwhelmed by all these people who had it all together.  

I remember thinking, gosh, I don't know if I'm destined to be a business owner or this, that, and the other. It was a complete leap of faith to go, right, you know what? I need a coach, I need that community, I need somebody I can go to and ask the stupid questions and they will tell me they're stupid questions and then tell me to get on with it. Or, you know, just snap of it, just get on with it. 

And I've really, really had that from BBB. And I think you're right, it's hard to explain how that community can help you, but it's just that case of when you're low, when you need something, or even like the other day when I talked about my branding with you guys. That feedback is so crucial because, as a small business owner, you're very alone. And it can feel like it's just you with the weight of the world on your shoulders and it helps take some of that burden away.  

And for me, the biggest takeaway has been invest in yourself, whether it's through a coaching community, or rebranding, or networking.  

I've got a brilliant network with BNI and lots of other places that I've just really heavily invested in during lockdown - one and two. So, it's a case of just trying, I think - don't give up on that. And if it feels like, after you've tried all of that, and it's not working, then I can kind of get it. But I tried it and it worked and it was kind of like, the rest is history, as they say, and for me, I'm really not looking back from that. 

Tracey - I love it.  

Amna, it's been an absolute pleasure, as I knew it would. It's just a joy to talk to you. I cannot wait to see what the next 12 months brings, but thank you for today, it's been an absolute joy. 

Amna - Thank you for having me, and it's been so exciting and, yeah, I'm really looking forward to the next 12 months as well. 

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