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ABOUT DENISE RENEE
…in my own words!
Remember, I’m a writer… so grab your cup of coffee or tea and prepare to finish it! 😉
But first, a little bit of house keeping…
“Denise Renee” is a double first name (like Mary Margaret). It’s not my first and last… so you gotta say it all together!
With that established, let me share a bit about myself…
I like to joke that I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a crayon!
Writing was actually my first creative love.
In junior high school, I constantly wrote short stories. But in high school, poems were my main outlet. I’d write at least 5 – 10 every day in the middle of my classes. I still actively participated in class discussions so I guess it looked like I was fervently taking notes to my teachers. Ultimately, I graduated in the top 10 percentile of my class so no harm, no foul!
While in high school, though, I discovered a curiosity and nack for learning music.
It all started because I just wanted to play some of my favorite songs I was hearing on the piano.
I had a “toy” keyboard and I ultimately used it to train myself to play by ear. I also harassed all the organists in my church to get them to teach me what they knew.
With all that creativity flowing through me, it’s no wonder for my undergrad experience, I double-majored in English and Music, with concentrations in Creative Writing and Composition, respectively.
College afforded me access and opportunity to music like I never had before. So I tried my hand at everything I could.
I played saxophone, plus African and Latin percussion during my four years before ultimately focusing on piano.
Creating music dominated my free time, while writing was relegated to the requirements for my classes.
After college, music remained my main creative outlet and even became a secondary career path and source of income. I’ve played keyboards and have lead music teams in Black and Multicultural churches since 1995.
I used my English degree, however, to build my career upon.
After completing an intensive 11-month Masters degree in Secondary Education, I started my career as a high school English teacher in New York City public schools in 1996.
Before I could get wooed by the false security of tenure and be permanently pissed off for the next 30 years of my life, I bailed in 1999. I went up the educational food chain by transitioning into an admissions role at a private Christian college.
While there, I had my first venture into marketing. I conceived and produced a wildly popular promotional CD project. I also created and promoted an associated sold-out concert series to increase the school’s brand awareness.
In the background, I independently wrote and produced my own inspirational R&B CD in 2001.
Simultaneously, my growing personal connections within the Independent Gospel music scene up and down the East Coast earned me opportunities to write entertainment pieces for a few regional newspapers and local music blogs throughout the early 2000s.
After bringing much desperately needed attention to the school and helping to increase overall applications via my branding projects, I was surprised when my boss pulled me into the conference room in the Fall of 2002 to let me go.
Devastated and angry, I was fed up with the traditional working world. And I wasn’t even 30 years old yet! At that moment, I knew I wanted to pursue a creative path full time, so I determined to do so.
The next 15 months was an adventure in hustling!
Once my severance package ran out, I started collecting unemployment checks. Meanwhile, I tried several things in hopes it would turn into regular income. For one thing, I sporadically worked as a background singer for other independent artists.
As a direct result of those gigs, I stumbled into launching my first freelance business: producing jingles, writing copy, and recording voice-overs for radio commercials. I loved doing the work but it wasn’t frequent.
While I was still working at the Christian college, I had built relationships with the youth departments at many churches throughout the New York/New Jersey metro area. Now that I was unemployed, I called everyone in my contact list and lined up as many unpaid performances as I could. I sang and rapped my heart out to apathetic teenagers in hopes of selling a few CDs.
During this time, I was also attending a school to learn audio production. My plan was to land a job as a recording engineer so I could start a formal career in music.
A few situations presented themselves which gave me hope that my various artistic endeavors would soon pay off. A music publishing company expressed an interest in signing me to a contract. Several promoters were excited about my music and artistry and promised to help me secure regular performance gigs. I was even asked to work as an engineer at a new record label’s recording studio.
Sadly, none of these opportunities worked out. I was devastated by more rejection. It was time for me to face facts: I needed to do something different because I was flying by the seat of my pants and barely surviving.
2003 was one of the hardest years of my life. The country was in an economic depression and THAT was when I decided to be the quintessential struggling artist?!
Talk about bad timing… and poor planning.
My marketing plan was to pray for more radio commercial work and performance gigs to miraculously find me!
At that time, I didn’t really understand how to grow my musical hustles into consistent cash flow, or into a sustainable business. I didn’t even know who to ask or where I could get help.
I worried about money every single day.
I cried tears of relief the three times President Bush extended unemployment benefits. But I knew it couldn’t last forever.
How was I going to make this “music thing” work? I racked my brain for the keys to my previous success as a marketer at the college.
I finally realized I was missing a critical ingredient that had helped me achieve my results… a budget! I didn’t have the monetary resources like the school had to invest in properly promoting myself. Being independent meant I had to pay for everything and at that time, I was barely making anything!
Twelve months of being a “starving artist” was more than enough for me. I started taking on temporary administrative jobs. After a few months, I landed a position at a company in January of 2004. In less than 90 days, they expressed a desire to hire me full-time. I accepted without hesitation.
Lulled by the illusion of a stable income, I put my creativity on hiatus. On the outside, I worked hard so I could impress my new employer. But internally, I was sulking over my “failure” as a Creative Entrepreneur. I had racked up a year and a half worth of disappointing experiences; I needed time to heal.
My dedication to my job paid off because I was quickly stolen away by the Executive Vice President of the company to become her Executive Assistant… and was given an $18,000 raise to do so. In my new role, I was exposed to sales and marketing at a level where the financial profits and risks were much greater. I started taking notes.
I didn’t completely close the door to my creative ventures. During my 5-year tenure at this job, I continued to freelance. I took on the random jingle clients and performing gigs that happened to find me. Plus, I was still leading the music team at my church.
But during this time, I started finding information and coaches who were teaching others about being independent musicians and home-based entrepreneurs. It laid the foundation for the next phase of my life.
Several years later, in 2008, I got married!
Six short months after our nuptials, we decided to move from New York City to Atlanta. We had no clue that the economy was in the process of taking a nose dive off the proverbial cliff!
When we moved, both of us had great bosses who offered to allow us to work from home. It made the transition seamless. But within a few months, the failing economy caught up with us and we were both let go.
Once again, the timing was off!
Jobs in Atlanta were scarce to non-existant in 2009. And what was available was $20K – $40K LESS than what we made in New York City.
Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. With just a few months’ worth of unemployment checks, we had to do something. So we decided to dive headfirst into creating our own economy.
My then-husband had his own side-hustle offering bookkeeping services which he had started in New York. He was still working with a few clients so we decided to begin there. He was a very good business strategist, so we worked on transforming that venture into one that focused on him coaching start-up entrepreneurs.
I became the marketing and branding brains of the operation.
I took the information I had been slowly gathering since my 2003 crash and burn as my starting point for generating buzz and clients.
I started studying and applying copywriting principles to our website, blog, and event promotion pages.
I drew from my experiences planning campus-wide events during my undergrad years, as well as from my most recent job. I quickly got the hang of attracting attendees and filling up registration to our events by leveraging social media.
I had finally become the marketing practitioner I should have been years earlier!
Fast forward a few years.
When it became clear that our marriage was over, I was too hurt, angry, and frustrated to continue working on that business with my soon to be ex-husband. Since our finances were shared, separating meant I needed my own income source. So for fast and consistent money, I returned to the corporate world in 2014.
During my three years at that job, I was able to dive even deeper into digital marketing and professional writing. I became the lead copy editor of the company’s quarterly magazine. I was also responsible for creating daily content for the blog, and for growing the company’s social media presence.
To keep up with the blogging demands, I often interviewed many of the company’s in-house experts. I ghostwrote articles and attributed the credit to them so that it didn’t look like I was the only subject matter expert in the company.
While I really loved all the writing and marketing assignments, my role was also loaded down with a bunch more administrative tasks. I ultimately realized administrative work was not my strength or preference.
More importantly, I knew when I accepted the job that I really wanted to be my own boss. So the same year I started this job, I also started a new business.
Even though I previously failed as a solo freelancer, I mustered up the courage to believe I could do it and be successful.
Because since my disastrous debut into entrepreneurship in 2003, I had learned so much about marketing and business ownership from other coaches, courses, and 5-years worth of “boots-on-the-ground” experience with my ex-husband.
Before I could start, I had to decide what kind of business to build. I wasn’t going to pitch myself as a general business coach. Even though I knew a lot about business, it wasn’t my specialty.
I am a creative person. Music and writing are my “jams!”
Music was too personal for me to roll the dice on it again. I didn’t want to hear a lot of empty promises from industry insiders again. Besides, launching a music career required capital I didn’t have at the time.
I had estimated that producing my long-overdue sophomore project would require at least $30K in my pocket in order to upgrade my home studio, invest in proper mixing and mastering services and, most importantly, to market myself.
So I turned my attention to my “back-up” talent: writing.
I had rediscovered my love for writing when I started studying direct response copywriting as a part of my self-education on digital marketing. Plus, I had become quite the article writer during my time working with my ex-husband, ghostwriting all of his content.
Launching a freelance writing outfit required very little start-up dollars. I was already helping women entrepreneurs in my network with writing tasks related to their marketing and branding. I had even discovered a knack for sprucing up people’s resumes and helping them land jobs. To promote myself, I had launched a now-defunct website called ResumesByDeniseRenee.com.
So it was settled: I was going to start a writing business.
In 2014, I launched The Derenco Agency as a boutique content and copywriting firm. My first few paid client projects trickled in. After working all day at my job, I would go home in the evenings and focus on my projects.
At first, I offered a wide variety of writing services. They ranged from resume writing for professionals to crafting bios for entrepreneurs. I also wrote web, marketing, and sales copy.
I even consulted with business owners on their social media marketing. I was the “Jackie” of all writing trades, just hustling my little heart out!
About three years in, it was time for me to assess both my professional and side-hustle trajectories.
My business wasn’t growing as I wanted it too. One reason I gave myself was that I felt my full-time job was hindering how many projects I could hunt down and complete. But the real reason was that I was unfocused. I was a generalist so there was no way for me to saturate any particular market. I didn’t have a clear target audience or a clear message to share.
Meanwhile, back at the office, my job’s environment had become unbearable for me and I knew I couldn’t stay there.
I dreamed of running my business full-time. However, my current business model (specializing in nothing and continually chasing down low-paying assignments) wasn’t sustainable. Worse than that, I felt like I wasn’t doing what I was truly passionate about. If I was going to write full-time, I would have to make some major changes.
I was at a crossroads. One option was to get another job. But I felt it would leave me unhappy and unfulfilled. The alternative was to bank on me. I would be forced to make changes designed to help me grow a full-time writing business that generated a full-time income.
I had a “Come-To-Jesus” moment concerning my passions and my career. Burning in my heart was a desire to help people connect with their God-given purpose by living out my own.
I had a very large network of entrepreneurs. Many of them were interested in writing and self-publishing books. Of those who completed their projects, I noticed there was much room for improving the quality of the content and presentation of their self-published book projects. The audience and the market need were identified!
Writing comes easily to me. I’ve been writing in professional environments since 2000. I have studied different aspects of the craft as a college student and throughout my career. But, most importantly, I just love writing.
I realized that I could help people for whom writing doesn’t come easily, but who still want to share their personal and business stories. I knew my passion for producing excellent writing would keep me engaged in building this venture.
So in 2017, I made a series of bold decisions.
First, I decided I was going to quit my corporate job so I could play full-out in my business.
Next, I decided to shift my business to focus on writing what I enjoyed the most: books and blogs.
(Flash forward: In 2019, I narrowed my focus further by deciding to work exclusively on book projects.)
Finally, I set out to change my branding, my marketing messages, and my services so that I could start attracting the types of clients and projects that were right for me.
With a whole lot of faith (and not a lot of financial cushion), I made the leap from full-time employee to full-time entrepreneur.
Since I left my last corporate job in June of 2017, I’ve been on one big, bodacious, business rollercoaster ride!
On it, I’ve experienced:
- intellectual stimulation
- boring projects
- awesome clients whom I’ve become friends with
- clients I no longer speak to
- steady contractual work
- pop-up projects
- producing amazing work for clients
- making huge mistakes with clients
- an overflowing bank account
- side-eying my bank account
- having 0 followers on a brand new Facebook page
- having a growing audience who looks forward to my content
- and so much more!
Even though the ride hasn’t been perfect, and there were some similarities to my first rodeo back in 2003, I’ve been riding high during this season of my career and with a lot more grace and maturity than previously.
These last few years have been simultaneously the wildest and most fulfilling time of my life… and I wouldn’t change a single thing!
Because now I truly love what I do in my career like I never have before!
I feel “dialed in” because I’m helping amazing entrepreneurs and professionals realize their dreams of becoming a published author and a trusted authority!
I get so much joy when my clients tell me about the positive reactions they’re getting to their blog posts, or when they tell me about the amazing opportunities their book is attracting.
My hope is that I have the opportunity to hear YOUR amazing testimonials as a result of working with me.
So that’s my professional story!
It’s everything that has influenced me to become the ghostwriter, editor, and book writing coach I am today.
If you’ve made it to the end and feel like some things have resonated for you, awesome!
Did you check out my background because you’d like to get my help with your book project? Then feel free to explore this site further for the different ways I can help you bring your story to life.
Thanks for reading!