A picture of a microphone in a studio

How to Embrace Your Identity & Overcome Challenges as an Entrepreneur

Updated April 3, 2021 . AmFam Team

How one millennial Latina overcame pandemic challenges and found success as an entrepreneur and voice actor — and her best tips for building your brand and becoming your own boss.

Sometimes life can throw us a curveball, and it’s bound to happen in the early stages of your career path. But when you embrace who you are and potential roadblocks in your way, you can find a unique opportunity to have your voice be heard. And in the case of Sheli Baez, her voice is heard both figuratively and literally!

Sheli is an accomplished voice actor featured in commercials, television shows and radio ads across the globe. As a bilingual voice actor, you can hear Sheli in both English- and Spanish-speaking roles. Here at American Family, we’re proud to have Sheli’s voice bring our brand to life as a voice-over actor for our animated explainer videos (you can check one out here).

a woman smiling for the camera

We asked Sheli to share her story and expertise with us so we could learn how she got to where she is today, how her identity as Latina millennial impacts her career, the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur and more. Let’s get started!

How Sheli Became an Entrepreneur

Some people know what their dream is from a young age, while others may find it later on in life. In Sheli’s case, she always dreamed of making her voice heard – she just didn’t know exactly how.

“I was born to perform — as my grandmother would tell me,” Sheli reminisced. “I was a very chatty, drama kid. I always liked performing and I went into college with the intention of performing in some aspect.

“But after college, I actually started working in the advertising sales department at a Spanish TV and radio station. There, they would sometimes ask me to read copy to clients for local commercials because they hadn't found the right voice. So, in a way, I stumbled into the field. I wasn’t paid extra to do it at the time, it was more like helping out the team. That’s where I got the bug for it.”

Sheli found a path to pursue, but that doesn’t mean she switched careers overnight. Instead, there was a slow buildup to her professional pivot. She said, “A couple years later, I went back to New York, and when I got back, I decided I wanted to start taking acting classes and ended up in an intro to voice-over class for animation.”

“That class really reawakened my desire [to do voice acting] and I decided that I’m going to take it seriously this time. So, I started training a lot and spent pretty much an entire year just taking classes and learning technique. I eventually cut my first demo reel, which is basically the resume of the performance world.”

She continued, “I slowly started to market myself, but it wasn't until I hit the ground running that I hit my stride and was able to start booking more consistently. It wasn’t until the pandemic that it really skyrocketed.”

How to take the leap into becoming an entrepreneur

Sometimes, life has a way of giving you the push you need to fully pursue your dream. In Sheli’s case, the coronavirus pandemic was what made her take the leap into the entertainment field.

“Up until January of last year I was doing voice-over roughly 75% of the time, but I also I had a survival job to keep me afloat,” she explained. “But that job was completely shut down as soon as COVID-19 hit and suddenly I became 100% a voice actor. That meant I had to ramp up my marketing, look out for opportunities and really put myself out there.”

Not only did Sheli put her voice out there, she utilized her home studio as a unique selling point to potential clients: “I’d reach out to people and say, ‘Hey, I have a home studio. I can work for you from home. People can’t come into the studio and I’m prepared already, just send me the script and I’ll get it recorded.’”

a woman wearing headphones

Sheli thought back and said how her home studio launched her career, “I think one of the greatest things that I did prior to the pandemic was getting the gear together for a home studio. I put the studio together originally for auditions, but it wasn't like I had the top-of-the-line equipment to begin with. I would upgrade things once I could afford to and I’m so glad I did because voice acting became my sole income. I’m so grateful I was lucky enough to be prepared for something like this. It definitely flipped over my career.”

How your identity can shape your small business

When you own your own business, who you are and what the business is are practically one and the same! Why? Well, as an entrepreneur, your business is a reflection of who you are and what you value. So how you identify greatly impacts the business’s identity, especially in Sheli’s case as a voice actor.

Sheli shared how being a Latina millennial woman impacts her business, saying, “When it comes to my business and identity, I’m in a really great position because not only am I available to speak Spanish, but I’m also bicultural. Sometimes people can be bilingual because they went to college for Spanish and got their masters in Spanish, and they are brilliant at it, but they speak it textbook. Or maybe their accent is pretty flawless, but they're not bicultural.

“There’s still a specific culture and that’s where my specialty is. I’m Dominican American, both of my parents are Dominican immigrants. So having that heritage allows me to connect and communicate to my people, whether it be in Spanish or knowing different slang from the Caribbean that maybe someone from Spain doesn't really use.”

Sheli is also a millennial, and while being a young entrepreneur can be intimidating for some, Sheli embraces it and positions herself as an expert in the millennial voice.

“As a millennial, it’s about knowing the intonation of millennials. We are such a very specific generation where even the way that we speak is very unique. We have ‘vocal fry’ where you’re letting words kind of sizzle in your mouth. Or even ending a sentence that isn't a question, but millennials will put a question tone at the end of the sentence anyways. A lot of these little things only happen because you're in that community, and so I think both as a Latina bilingual and as a millennial I can reach that demographic, because I know how to speak their language — I mean that literally and figuratively.”

When starting your business, think about all facets of who you are and all the different communities you can represent. Your unique identity can be a huge boon that can empower your small business!

The Pros and Cons of Owning Your Own Business

Since Sheli left the corporate world to pursue her new dream of becoming an entrepreneur, she knows what it’s like to work in both worlds. If you’re contemplating leaving the nine to five to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams, we can help you weigh those pros and cons thanks to Sheli’s expertise!

“The best part is being able to set up your days any way you want,” said Sheli. “For example, at the beginning of the month I moved to a different apartment I didn’t have to ask anyone for time off. I just said, ‘Hey, the studio's closed from this day to this day. If you have any projects, I can get them in right before I move, but I need to set up the new studio.’ Having that flexibility is amazing and those are things that you can't do under nine to five.”

However, making your own schedule can have its downsides as well. Sheli warned that being an entrepreneur means risking burnout: “On the bad side of owning your own business is sometimes you do end up overworking yourself or feel pressured to always be working because, you wonder how else are you going to financially support yourself?”

“When you work a salary job for a company, it’s normal to get those little breaks during the day where you can chat with coworkers or grab some coffee. But as a business owner you end up feeling a little guilty sometimes if you're not always being productive.”

Another tough part of the job? Being the CEO of your own company can also mean you wear more than just one hat. Sheli explained, “One downside is doing all the financial things that you have to keep up with because you're the business owner. I do miss the days of just signing the papers and HR taking care of it. I was a communications major and I was never a big fan of math. To do all the finances is just the bane of my existence, so the admin stuff can be a downer. But the plus side is you get to be the master of your timing and of your company!”

Being your own boss means you call all the shots — even if sometimes you don’t want to! But overall, Sheli assured us that for her, the pros outweigh the cons.

“I pinch myself sometimes. I can't believe I’m doing this, not everyone gets to live out their dream. Not to say that it's not hard work — it's very hard work — but it's 100% worth it.”

Branding

When it comes to your company’s brand, it’s important to think who you want to market to and how you want them to feel or think when picturing your small business.

Sheli is still navigating her brand quest — which can take some time to get just right. And that’s okay! She shared her experience with us, saying:

“I’m still on the branding journey and working on trying to narrow down where I want to go. I did start voice-over with the intention of eventually doing animation, like most voice actors. I was always a drama kid and performer growing up, so I thought that’s where I would be. But as I got into the business, took classes and started booking jobs, I started realizing that actually the business industry within the voice-over community was where I fit in even more.

“So, I started doing a lot more commercials and explainer videos and industrial work. My brand has changed a little bit, so it started out very much like let me market myself being super bubbly, effervescent and whatever they want with hopes of getting into animation, and now it’s been leading into more of the fact that I’m just really flexible. I’m kind of like a jukebox in a way, like the mixtape of voice-overs.”

Remember, don’t be afraid to pivot and adapt as the market changes. As long as your brand is as authentic as you are, it’s great to be aware of your opportunities and what you’re drawn toward to decide how you want to make a change.

Marketing

Starting a business is one thing, it’s another thing to get business! Sheli’s advice? Try something new (or old) when it comes to marketing:

“So, there's traditional and there’s unorthodox marketing — which is really what I’ve done. The traditional being there are sites where you can post your demo reels and there's a casting site, so you'll see different auditions available.

“On my end, I have been very successful with networking and direct marketing. Most of my bigger clients and gigs, including American Family, have come from referrals. I’ve had friends or people introduce me to others and I tell them what I do and suddenly they put me in front of a client. So it's like a case-by-case scenario.”

She continued, “I mostly do direct marketing and will reach out to postproduction houses, agencies and creative agencies. I’ll cold email — like the good old days — and say ‘Hey, I’m a bilingual voice actor, and these are my reels if you would like to see my past work. If my voice is a good fit for your client, please reach out. I’m happy to help!’ I position myself as someone who is offering a service instead of an actor trying to catch their big break. I’m just a service provider and if you need my service, I’m here for you.”

a woman writing on a book

When looking for unique ways to market your small business, think about what will resonate with your target audience. Something as simple as emailing a company that could benefit from what you offer can help both you and the client!

Resources for entrepreneurs

As covered earlier, being an entrepreneur means you wear a lot of hats — you’re the head of marketing, accounting and everything in between. But Sheli shared some pro tips on how she and other entrepreneurs she knows mitigate the stress of managing it all.

She explained, “So for invoicing, you can use platforms like PayPal or Quickbooks. There’s also a company called Wave, which helps with bookkeeping as well. Me personally, I just use a good old-fashioned online spreadsheet to track what comes in, what and when something is supposed to be paid, statuses and so forth. There are also things like Wix where you can make your own website easily. That’s how I made my website. Overall, I think there are way more resources out there where you don’t need to be a webmaster to make a good website.”

While your small business is unlike any other, the challenge you face as an entrepreneur may not be so different from others! If you’re feeling stuck, see what’s out there online!

Reflecting on achieving your dream with gratitude

Pursuing a dream as an entrepreneur is one thing, but what happens after you achieve it? According to Sheli, the sky is the limit when it comes to her dreams!

“When you put your dreams out there and then you reach them, you just feel like, ‘Wait what? I already got there?’ So, then you just keep climbing and sometimes you don't even realize that things you accomplish along the way were dreams. Maybe they weren't a dream to you until it happens and then you realize that was something you would’ve really wanted.”

Sheli advised anyone who achieves their dream to keep gratitude in mind, “I try to remember that not everyone could be in my position. I’m very grateful and very aware to be grateful. Gratitude is absolutely number one on my list of priorities.”

Sheli says she owes a lot of her success to her grandmothers, sharing, “I’m really proud to represent the Latino community and I have a lot to thank my grandmothers for that. I was born learning English and Spanish simultaneously thanks to them, thanks to my grandparents. On my mom's side, my grandmother insisted I only speak Spanish with her. My grandparents moved to the United States in the 60s, and I think holding on to the language was a way to keep their culture alive. Spanish, or language rather, is such a big part of a culture that sometimes gets lost.”

5 lessons learned along the way

We can learn a lot from Sheli’s experience when it comes to making a change in careers. To summarize Sheli’s lessons:

Follow your passions. Do you have a certain hobby that you enjoy? You don’t have to separate what you love to do from your career — look for opportunities to bring them together to create something you’re inspired by!

Embrace your identity. As a millennial Latina woman, Sheli uses her identity as a way to create representation and diversity in her field. This also stands out to potential business!

Prepare for the unexpected. While it’s impossible to predict everything, it’s good to stay prepared for anything that may be an obstacle in your dream pursuit. Whether it’s saving files to cloud or backup storages or saving up money for a home studio, protecting yourself from the unexpected can save you big time.

Once you’ve found your dream, work for it! After Sheli caught the “bug” for voice acting, she didn’t just go right into it. She went to classes and worked at it continuously (and she still goes to classes to this day). Getting into a growth mindset and working on your skills can be the difference between having a dream and pursuing your dream.

Practice gratitude. No matter where you’re at in your dream journey, make sure to take the time to reflect and appreciate those that helped you along the way! Remember, who you are and who you represent matters. And when you embrace your identity and home in on who you are — that’s when you can truly become the dreamer you’re meant to be.

Support for Your Dream Career

Looking for more ways to carve your own path? Check out our professional development resources to learn how you can reach your career aspirations.

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    This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

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    No matter how you decide to organize the parts of your answer, what’s most important is to make sure everything you say relates to the job at hand and assures the interviewer you have the right background and qualifications to be a strong candidate.

    Mention Past Experience

    When reflecting on what to share from your past, remember it’s okay to cherry pick — especially if you’re a seasoned professional with an extensive work history. Interviewers don’t want to sit through a laundry list of your previous jobs; they want to hear about the past experiences in which you gained skills or key responsibilities that closely relate to their current opening.

    If you’re a recent graduate, you won’t have to par down a lengthy career story, but you will have the challenge of sharing what led to your interest in this field without getting too bogged down in personal information. Feel free to mention previous volunteer work or other transferrable experiences, but again, be mindful that the interviewer’s priority is to find a capable candidate with qualities that fit the job description.

    State How Your Present Role Relates to the Job You’re Applying For

    If you had a job until recently or are currently employed, briefly describe the scope of your work, zeroing in on (and here’s the kicker!) the responsibilities that are relevant to the job you’re seeking. This is also the perfect time to mention an award you won, a leadership role you took on, or any other significant accomplishment that might underscore the relevance of your most recent work experience.

    If you’re back in the job market after a significant lapse of time, briefly note the gap without diving into the details. For example, you might say you took a break to start a family, get another degree or pursue other interests. Then seamlessly turn your focus to why you’re there today.

    And if you’re a new graduate, think creatively! Were you involved in an academic organization or extracurricular club? Did you study abroad? Play sports? It’s worth noting anything that provided opportunities to gain skills and experiences that you could connect to the job description.

    Highlight What You’re Looking for in Your Next Role

    Whether you started your career story by talking about your past experiences or the present, you’ll conclude your answer by talking about your future goals. This is where you tie a bow on your answer by clearly showing the interviewers how your professional aspirations align with the company mission as well as the role you are pursuing. role you are pursuing.

    When you finish your answer to the “tell me about yourself” interview question, there should be no mistake as to why you are there. You’ve shown how your previous positions make you a qualified candidate, and now you’ll cap off your response by describing where you see yourself headed.

    Pro tip:

    By framing your discussion of future goals in light of the job description and company objectives, you’ll prove you’ve done your research and reinforce why you are a great fit for this opportunity!

    Tell Me About Yourself: Tips

    Even with a solid understanding of the three-part formula above, there are still some aspects to consider before creating your own. Here are a few tips that can give your response to “tell me about yourself” a polished finish.

    Focus on strengths that you can quantify

    When talking about your earlier roles, try to spotlight strengths or accomplishments you can support with concrete examples and measurable data. Even if you don’t have exact percentages or numbers, you could estimate or give anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of your work. Think about it — who would you rather hire, the candidate who says, “I helped with patient in-take” or the one who reports, “I helped with patient in-take and worked with a cross-functional team to increase efficiency by roughly 25%?”

    Use your personality to your advantage

    While you’ll want to avoid topics like politics and religion, you can still give glimpses of your personality and interests — as long as you tie them back to the position and maintain a professional tone. For instance, if the job description says it’s a fast-paced role that requires a lot of focus and stamina, you might weave in how you’ve leveraged your fitness hobby to stay mentally disciplined for the demands of your career.

    Tailor the answer to the role you’re applying for

    If there’s one thing hiring managers can spot instantly, it’s a candidate who uses the same generic response to this question, no matter what position they’re interviewing for or who they’re talking to. Make no mistake — what you’re really being asked to do is clearly and succinctly identify those aspects of your career journey that qualify you for this job. So be sure to adapt your answer to show you understand the job’s specific requirements.

    Know your audience

    Equally important is remembering who you’re speaking with and adjusting your response to address their priorities. You might focus on a high-level view of your professional background with a recruiter but shift to highlighting specific responsibilities and qualifications when interviewing with a potential manager.

    It would also be a good idea to find out what you can about the person interviewing you. If you have their name, do a little research online to learn about their background, experience or interests — anything you might be able to use in your response to establish common ground. For example, maybe you discover that the hiring manager went to the same college as you. This would be a great opportunity to make a memorable connection.

    Avoid summarizing your resume word for word

    Since it’s likely your interviewer will have already read your resume, you can skip the chronological replay of your work history. Instead, key in on those experiences, skills and accomplishments that will make them think, “Wow, this is just the person we’re looking for!” Remember, this is your elevator pitch, and a long-winded response won’t set the stage for a dynamic, engaging interview.

    Rehearse, don’t memorize

    As you prepare for the “tell me about yourself” interview question, it will help to rehearse at home. Think of the pieces you want to include and keep a basic structure in mind so you don’t ramble. Then, practice — but don’t memorize your answer. You’ll run the risk of sounding overly scripted.

    Pro tip:

    Rehearse your response to this question aloud, in front of a friend or family member, and ask for their feedback. If you prefer to practice alone, consider recording yourself and play it back to see if it sounds natural and sincere.

    On the day of the interview, remember to sound conversational and personable. You are, after all, talking about you!

    While this may seem like a lot of information for just one interview question, keep in mind the entire answer should take a maximum of about two minutes. Keep it short, sweet and, yes, strategic.

    Tell Me About Yourself Sample Responses

    Now it’s time to put theory into practice and write your own response. But first, let’s look at “tell me about yourself” examples representing three different levels of experience within three different industries.

    Example #1: Education, new graduate seeking entry-level position

    “I just graduated with honors from XYZ University with my Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education. I’ve always had a passion for learning and have wanted to be a teacher from the time I used to gather all the neighborhood kids at our backyard picnic table to ‘play school’ over summer break. While at university, I was a proud member of the International Club, completed a study abroad semester in Spain and developed a strong interest in the relationship between culture and education. I’m very excited to apply for the K-6 opening in your district because I am aware that your schools are very culturally and linguistically diverse which aligns closely with my professional passion and training.”

    Example #2: Healthcare, mid-level professional seeking lateral position

    “After receiving my RN, I got a job as a floor nurse at Research Medical Center, and that is where I have been for the past four years. This was a wonderful place to start my career in nursing because I immediately had the chance to apply all that I’d learned in nursing school and acquire hands-on experience with all kinds of illnesses, injuries, treatment plans and patients. It could be a bit overwhelming at times, but I worked hard to increase my efficiency. I even volunteered to be part of a test group on my unit to implement new software that enabled us to manage patients and complete documentation about 30 percent faster. I believe my ability to be productive, along with my collaborative skills and medical-surgical experience, make me a strong candidate for the OR surgical team at your clinic.”

    Example #3: Technology, senior-level professional seeking management position

    “I’m currently the lead software developer at 123 Tech Systems, where I’ve spent more than seven years designing, testing and launching new applications. Prior to this role, I spent five years on a cross-functional team of developers at ABC Technologies. Throughout my journey, I have not only broadened the scope of my project contributions, but I’ve also assumed increasing responsibility for directing and inspiring the work of others. Last year, I led a team of software engineers to complete multiple projects on time and under budget. We were later recognized at our year-end conference for achieving a client satisfaction rating of 98%. I believe the skills I’ve cultivated and the successes I’ve achieved have prepared me for the challenges of the Director of Engineering position at your firm."

    Practice Makes Perfect!

    Using the tips above, you’ll be able to develop a successful response to the “tell me about yourself” interview question and lay the groundwork for a winning interview. Remember the dos and don’ts:

    DO

    • Rely on your three-part outline
    • Align your response to the role
    • Include measurable supportive data when possible

    DON’T

    • Get too personal
    • Recite your resume
    • Memorize your response

    With that covered, there’s just one step left ... practice, practice, practice, practice! The more thought, time and effort you put into practicing your response, the more confident you’ll feel and the easier it will be for your true self to shine through. Always remember, skills can be learned, and tools can be mastered. What a hiring manager is really looking for are the unique dreams and perspectives you’ll bring to the table. Want more tips like this to help build your career? Whether you’re new to the job market, changing careers or considering starting your own business, our professional development resources offer practical tips to guide you on the path to your dream job.

    This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

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    Follow-Up Email After an Interview

    Your job search is moving right on track! Your application caught a potential employer’s attention, and you just aced the interview. Now, you’re feeling confident, energized and ready to move forward toward your dream job.

    But wait! While the interview finished well, it’s not quite over. Keep the good vibes going by taking the next, sometimes underestimated, step in the interview process — sending an interview thank you email. This is your opportunity to express your gratitude for the interviewers’ time, remind them of what makes you a great fit for the position, and invite them to contact you for further information that would assist in their hiring decision.

    Not quite sure how to write a follow-up email after an interview? Use these tips to quickly get your message in the hiring manager’s inbox and keep your name top of mind!

    How to Write a Follow-Up Email After an Interview

    Follow-up emails should always be concise, but the specifics of what to include depend on the kind of message you want to send. There are three different types of follow-up emails:

    • Thank you email — sent within 24 hours of your interview
    • Checking-in email — sent about a week later if you haven’t heard anything
    • Staying-in-touch email — sent if at least two weeks have passed since your interview with no contact from the potential employer

    For this article, we’ll focus on the first type — the interview thank you email. These tips can help you create the ideal follow-up email immediately after an interview.