Vanessa Soto is a digital marketing exec, life coach and founder of The Side Passion Project. By weekday she produces advertising campaigns for a Fortune 500 company, and by weekend she coaches, blogs for The Huffington Post and Medium and produces the Doing It On the Side podcast. Vanessa founded The Side Passion Project to start a conversation that she wasn’t finding anywhere else.
Can you tell us a little about the Side Passion Project? What was your inspiration for starting it?
About 3 years ago I started taking some evening classes at a local college, and through that I got interested in becoming a life coach. Initially I wanted to pursue it as a new career, but I was totally surprised when I found that as I built my coaching practice on the side, I actually started to feel better about my full-time job. I started to enjoy it again, and felt my old confidence and even some ambition start to come back…. It was really surprising because I was sure I was done with advertising which is what I’ve been doing my entire career.
All you ever hear is about the people who want to quit their job (or have already done it) so they can follow their passion…. but when I thought about it, I acknowledged to myself that I didn’t actually want to try and make coaching my sole support. I liked having a steady paycheck, co-workers to chat with during the day, and I recognize that I am good at what I do and it uses a lot of my strengths.
I started to wonder if other people felt like this… and The Side Passion Project and the Doing It On the Side podcast were born.
What is the thing you dislike the most in running your business? What is the best thing? What are the biggest challenges?
But there are still many challenges to working full-time, raising my teenage daughter as a single mom, and running my side projects …one of the biggest challenges is that everything seems to come at once. Right now I’m in the midst of a big project at work, and it ramped up just as I was launching my podcast AND my daughter became assistant instructor at her karate school which has shaken up my entire schedule and still hasn’t quite settled down.
The best thing about my side projects is that they give me somewhere to channel interests and ideas that are important to me, versus at work where I am always responding to what is ultimately most important to someone else.
How has becoming a mom changed how you work?
My daughter is 15 now, so if anything, what’s happened over the last few years is that I actually have more time for myself. When she was little, side projects never even crossed my mind, but now she is very independent and pretty self sufficient so I have a lot more freedom. This said, being a mom is a huge part of my life and while teenagers may not need the same type of non-stop caregiving as say, a baby, they still need their mom and in new and different ways which is a never-ending, but very rewarding challenge.
Do you have any tips, resources, or tools for managing work/life balance?
I ask people on my podcast this same question and I love to hear the wide variety of answers that I get because they are so unique to the individual. But what I’ve found for me is that I need separation between my full-time job and my side projects. When I’m at work I’m at work, and when I’m at home, my time is my own. I try to maintain this as much as I can. As an introvert, I also really need my downtime. I will often look at my weekend schedule and block off entire days with no podcast activities and no social functions and just leave the day wide open. This allows me to spend a Saturday going to a movie, or out to lunch and shopping all by myself. Then I can face the following day of podcast editing or interviews or coaching sessions before the “regular” work week comes again.
What creative activities do you like to do with your kid(s)?
When my daughter was younger we went to the kids museums. We live near San Francisco and a favorite was Zeum, now called The Childrens Creativity Museum and also the Museum of Childrens Arts (MOCHA) in Oakland. But to be totally honest, my daughter liked most to be creative on her own. She could spend hours on intricate drawing or sculpture projects before I was even up and out of bed on a weekend morning. Sometimes I think you just need to roll with the kid and the way they need to be creative.
Do you have any advice for moms thinking about taking the plunge?
From my own experience, there is no downside to taking something up as a side project first. You can play around and see what speaks to you. See what you like and what you don’t. See where the business opportunity is and what you might need to get help with. But what I would say to everyone, is that if something is calling your name, find a way to do it even if it’s just a few hours a week at first. Do you recommend any resources (websites, organizations, books, etc) for people interested in pursuing their own side project? I have to recommend my own podcast because honestly, I learn so much from listening to the stories of how people came upon their projects and how they make it work. I also have a blog where I curate perspectives from others related to creativity and side projects.
How did you manage the day-to-day process of keeping your project going with children?
One of the biggest challenges of being a single mom is there is not someone else to drive the kid to the friends house, or someone else there to back you up when you need to make a decision that’s in your kids’ best interest, but your kids hates you for it.
It can be in these times when I feel like I’m crazy to also try and pursue my side projects, but I find that if I’m willing to just pause and acknowledge that I’m frustrated with a wrench being thrown in my schedule, or wiped out from a challenging parenting situation, I can recover pretty fast and get back to doing what I want to be doing. Resisting my real feelings gets me nowhere fast.
Which of your work are you most proud of and why?
Over the last few years I’ve done a lot of things I’ve been proud of–writing for The Huffington Post, developing coaching programs, and also coaching clients through some big life changes. But the podcast is what I am most proud of. I wanted to start a conversation about the benefits of pursuing your passions on top of a full time life, and I wanted to show what that looks like in many shapes and forms…. and I have. Every week when I launch a new show, and know that hundreds of people are getting something from the story of someone’s side passion journey, I try to let myself be proud of the contribution I’m making to the world at large.
Fill in the Blank:
If I could have a super power, it would be seeing into the future
A famous person I would love to meet __Elizabeth Gilbert
My daughter inspires me.
If I weren’t a runner who is lazy about stretching and always injures herself, I’d be running half marathons for fun.
If I had an extra 2 hours in the day, I’d read a good book.