Well, hi! Welcome to my first blog post (of all time 👀).
Don’t get me wrong, in the last 3+ years, I’ve penned my fair share of these for other people, but writing my own is a first.
It’s something that’s been on my to-do list for years, but I have expertly managed to put it off until now. Do I have a wise, strategic reason for that? Nope. Just a generous dose of procrastination, a smidge of nerves and (drum roll please…) a busy schedule (mmm, how unique 😮).
Does this mean I’ve conquered procrastination and fear and now have all the time in the world? Of course not. The only thing that’s changed is an urge to prioritize some personal creativity and share a little more of what’s going on in my business. Oh, and I’m also now in possession of this beautiful new website and blog! (Thanks, Sarah!)
So, if you’re wondering what you’ll find here, it’ll look a lot like that — a mix of some posts that scratch my own creative itch and others that touch on storytelling and entrepreneurship.
To kick things off, I thought I’d share a little about myself and my business, as it’s developed thus far over the last three (blog-less) years.
Andrea Matilda* Van Essen. Writer. Reader. Wife. Movie lover. Dog mom. Amateur gardener. Professional overthinker.
*Here’s my fun fact for the post: I love to ask people about their middle names. They’re often overlooked, but there’s usually a fun story or something sentimental behind them (mine, for instance, is in honor of my great grandma, Tillie). If you haven’t learned this about me yet, I’m very sentimental (read: cries a lot), and I love a good story. Plus, I was so obsessed with names as a kid that my dream job was “baby name consultant.” Long story short, if I know you well at all, I’ve probably asked about your middle name, and I can pretty much guarantee I still remember it. Go ahead, try me!
I grew up about 30 minutes straight west of Minneapolis, Minnesota — right where the suburban sprawl starts to turn into more distinct little towns — and I ended up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for college (almost 10 years ago 😵💫). This state has had my heart for much longer than that though. As a kid, I would spend a few weeks every summer staying with my aunt and uncle in the Black Hills — Hot Springs, to be exact — and it quickly became a second home. It’s a special place, and my husband and I still try to get out there as often as we can for long weekends.
Currently, we rent the upstairs half of the most charming historic home a few blocks from downtown Sioux Falls. We’ve lived in a few different downtown apartments since getting married in 2018, but this particular spot has really carved out a piece of my heart. I’ve always loved interior design, architecture and historic homes, so I’ve treasured getting to call this place ours for awhile.
On the husband side of things, Mason is a gem and my very best friend. We met during our first week at Augustana University, started dating soon after and got engaged and married in the year following graduation. He works in advertising at a local agency, hosts and produces a theological podcast on the side and is one of the most curious people I know. 💛
Last but not least, we also have a sweet and silly pup, Nessie. She’s the best (and the sassiest).
I graduated from Augustana in 2017 with degrees in journalism, English and German, but I had writing on the brain long before college.
I’ve loved good storytelling since I was a little girl making weekly trips to the library with my mom, saving my allowance for used books from our local Goodwill and finding creative ways to store clothes so I could line my closet with stacks of said books. Today, not much has changed — thrift shops are still my favorite place to browse for new novels (who are all these people getting rid of books?!), and I still have a teetering stack or two on my bedroom floor.
What has changed is that, these days, I have the privilege of not just reading stories but telling them, too. No novels have been penned yet, but I’m wildly grateful for the opportunities I have to tell the stories of business owners, nonprofits and individuals who are making a difference here in Sioux Falls and further afield.
There’s something very special about a vocation where you get to sit down with new people on a regular basis and simply listen to them. When it comes to interviewing, I aim to curate both mindful questions and a settling presence to keep the conversation rolling as long as it needs to — or longer, if we’re really having fun.
Mason can attest to the many times I’ve returned home just buzzing from a particularly rich interview. It’s a truly energizing experience, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do for a “job” (well, except baby name consulting).
A little balance in life is key, right?
It’s not all writing over here (thankfully so, because my wrists have already been through a round of physical therapy thanks to keyboard-induced stress 🙃).
If I’m not interviewing, writing or elbows-deep in Quickbooks, I’m probably snuggling my dog or spending time with friends.
Despite the stereotype of the quiet, moody, creative personality type (which definitely applies at times, just ask Mason… 😅), I’m not huge on solitary hobbies. I spend enough time alone at my desk during the day as a solopreneur that when the clock strikes free time, I want to be with people.
Antiquing adventures with the husband? Check. Walking dogs with friends? Check. Regular movie nights and dinner parties with other friends? Also check. Oh, and tending to our plot at the community garden? Check check. 👩🏻🌾
Reading that back, I kinda sound like an old lady, but I promise they’re cool antiques. 😬 Let’s move on.
I started mentally winding this post down and remembered that my title was “A few takeaways from 3 years of freelance writing,” which I have thus far not addressed. (Writing fun fact: I always begin with my titles or headlines, which I think is a bit of a no-no if you’d ask my old journalism professors. Alas, for me, they usually act as the North Star guiding my brain through the story.)
So, if you’re here for the takeaways, they actually are hiding out here beneath the get-to-know-me fluff.
Three years of being a full-time, self-employed writer has taught me a lot about what I value most in life: mindful listening and conversation, quality storytelling, a flexible lifestyle and being surrounded by a loving, caring community.
Without this career, there are hundreds of wonderful people I wouldn’t have met yet, whose stories I wouldn’t have heard or had the privilege of telling.
The freedom and flexibility I have on a day-to-day basis has been nurturing for my relationships (more ability to support my family and friends), for my health (flexibility to visit my favorite Barre3 Sioux Falls studio when it works best in my schedule, or to rest when need be) and my ability to pursue new experiences and hobbies (shout-out to midday garden visits and dog walks!).
Working for myself has also instilled a deeper sense of confidence than I’ve ever had before, both through the amount and variety of people I get to communicate with on a daily basis (I was not born outgoing), and the faith that it takes to bet on yourself as an entrepreneur. Also, I’ve figured out how to handle bookkeeping and taxes, and if you saw my high school math grades you’d be impressed, too. 😅
From the transition to self-employment to making it through 3+ years of entrepreneurial ups and downs, I’ve learned that regardless of what happens in life or business, there will always be another way. There’s no shame in discovering that something’s not working for you or bringing you joy, as long as you’re willing to figure out a new solution.
Most of all though, it comes back to community. I know I wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for a lineup of people who have supported me throughout the years.
I’m grateful for all of them. All of you.
I hope this can be a fun and relaxed space for sharing snippets of entrepreneurship and writing, lifestyle topics that I find enriching and stories of the wonderful people in my community in the form of personal profiles and Q&As.
Thanks for reading this far! I’m so glad you’re here! 💛
In the meantime, while you wait with bated breath for more blog posts, feel free to bop around my new website.
The lovely Sarah Klongerbo created it for me. She is patient, kind and talented in so many ways, and you should absolutely reach out to her if you, too, would like a new website.
And for one final fun fact, it was Sarah’s husband, Troy, who hired me for my very first marketing job out in the real world. He provided a stellar example of entrepreneurship as it should be — putting people first. So, if you’re also in need of digital marketing services, definitely check out his agency, Fisheye Marketing.
Okay, that is all. Chat later!
What do you love? For me, it's hearing a good story, working in my garden (during the few warm months we get here in South Dakota), cozying up to watch a movie, and hanging out with my husband, my friends, and my cuddly pup, Nessie.
Oh, and I'd love to meet you, too!