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From Avocation To Vocation: How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career” With Maryna Shkvorets

Saying it out loud to others was the first big step. A few things had to happen for me to start a business. For years, people would ask me for presentation and public speaking advice from how to beat stage fright to how to engage the audience to how to look more confident. This is […]


Saying it out loud to others was the first big step. A few things had to happen for me to start a business. For years, people would ask me for presentation and public speaking advice from how to beat stage fright to how to engage the audience to how to look more confident. This is partly because people have seen a transformation in myself as well as knew about my love for teaching and breaking things down for others. At the same time, I’ve been dreaming of transforming my career. I wanted to see myself as a person who goes for it, who tries new things, and who isn’t afraid to fail. I knew I had something to offer, because my advice is so counterintuitive but it really works for people who get anxious, have stage fright, or are just plain uncomfortable speaking in front of people. It also works for taking presentations to the next level by making them engaging and persuasive. So one day, I decided to go for it. I started approaching people and telling them that this is what I do. Yes, I got a few rude responses, but I got so many more people saying that’s exactly what I’ve been looking for! Now I get to be the one who creates the “aha” moments and helps others reach their highest potential. I get to teach leaders how to show up as their most confident selves and make an impact while speaking. Nothing’s more powerful than that!


As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maryna Shkvorets. Maryna is a public speaking coach focusing on helping professionals show up as confident, engaging, and persuasive leaders. She offers counter-intuitive advice (none of this, “don’t use bullet points” crap) and teaches through a three-part framework: Detach from fear to be the speaker you truly want; Attention — grab it and keep it; and get in the zone to nail it! More about Maryna, including her counterintuitive advice and free workshops, can be found on her website and her Linkedin profile.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

You know that person who just freezes anytime they have to speak in front of a group? They could be prepared and capable, but the moment they they stand up to speak — everything goes out the window. That’s my favorite client.

I actually remember standing in those exact shoes and just wanting to hide. What’s worse is that if you seek advice from any other expert — you’ll hear tips like “just speak from the heart” and “use open body language.” Thanks, but that doesn’t work when you’re completely drawing a blank. I had to approach public speaking from a completely different perspective. I had to come to terms with the fact that I had to work a little harder at first. (I actually cover this in more detail in a new free online workshop — How to give a confident and engaging presentation — even if you’ve frozen in the past.)

In the end, putting in the work paid itself off many times over, and that’s what my clients say too. That’s why I coach public speaking — what you invest into it is nothing compared to what you get out.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

Saying it out loud to others was the first big step.

A few things had to happen for me to start a business. For years, people would ask me for presentation and public speaking advice from how to beat stage fright to how to engage the audience to how to look more confident. This is partly because people have seen a transformation in myself as well as knew about my love for teaching and breaking things down for others.

At the same time, I’ve been dreaming of transforming my career. I wanted to see myself as a person who goes for it, who tries new things, and who isn’t afraid to fail.

I knew I had something to offer, because my advice is so counterintuitive but it really works for people who get anxious, have stage fright, or are just plain uncomfortable speaking in front of people. It also works for taking presentations to the next level by making them engaging and persuasive. So one day, I decided to go for it. I started approaching people and telling them that this is what I do. Yes, I got a few rude responses, but I got so many more people saying that’s exactly what I’ve been looking for!

Now I get to be the one who creates the “aha” moments and helps others reach their highest potential. I get to teach leaders how to show up as their most confident selves and make an impact while speaking. Nothing’s more powerful than that!

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

Action leads to clarity. Most business ideas won’t require a whole overhaul of your entire life, so just start taking small steps to making your dream happen. Teach yourself to be okay with failing and just focusing on the learning process. If learning is your goal — there’s no such thing as failure.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

Not everything is meant to be done for a living, but deep down, you know if you’re sitting on a real business idea. If there’s a part of you that wants to do it, just start. Accept that there will be trial and error, that there will be good times and bad, and just stick with it. You might discover other ideas or opportunities you were never even aware of. Like I said — action leads to clarity.

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

Well, for me it’s kind of cheating because I’m obsessed with learning. It’s my true and real passion and I get to learn something completely new each and every day. The challenges that come with the game are all valuable lessons, and they only make me stronger.

Plus, when things truly get tedious, I tell myself that I’ll hire someone as soon as I get it nailed. (I know, I know, maybe that should be a higher priority.)

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I think that every single person who has ever had a job can say that what they thought their job was and what they actually do are quite different. Entrepreneurship is no exception.

I love teaching and coaching and helping people. I wish that I could spend 100% of my day doing that. But the biggest part of my job is networking, reaching out, conducting interviews, and gaining traction in my business. And there’s no rulebook for this part. It’s all learn as you go!

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?

I’ve absolutely had those thoughts, and the thing is, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I would still be so proud of myself for what I managed to accomplish by just putting myself out there and going for it.

At the same time, if I truly pay attention, I know that I feel this way when I’m overwhelmed by things that are out of my control. (Usually weird tech issues actually.) When that happens, I take some time to focus on what I’m grateful for, remind myself of my mission, go for a long walk and come back to start again.

I always see solutions through a fresh set of eyes when I allow myself a little reset!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The thing that has surprised me most is how much I have to coach myself.

A huge focus of my work is addressing fear. I help people reframe it in a way that makes it energizing rather than paralyzing. But one thing I didn’t expect was how much I have to use my own tactics on myself.

I remember being invited to speak at an event for startups. As I got there, I realized that I’ve never actually been to a networking event — I didn’t quite understand how to navigate myself. Truth is, I was pretty nervous and uncomfortable. Couple that with the fact that I’m supposed to coach confidence and communication, I actually felt like a bit of a fraud.

Then I thought, wait a minute, I do this all the time for other people. I did a few quick exercises on myself and instantly felt totally at ease. Who knew networking was so much fun?

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Boundaries. It’s a lesson I’m still learning. I had a client who had to take a call from a friend during our session. When she mentioned that she was working on an important presentation her friend tried to “coach her” by telling her “What are you so afraid of? You think they’re going to fire you or something? You’ll be fine, don’t worry so much!”

While some people resonate with this tough love approach, mine is totally different. I acknowledge my client’s inner pains and the ways they manifest themselves. This is a huge part of actual coaching.

Needless to say, I have a new rule that you can’t answer your phone while we’re working together.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

Sounds corny but… my family. My husband is a source of strength and inspiration. Whenever I find myself playing small or backing down, I ask what would he do? He inspires me to go for it every single time.

On top of that, my kids inspire me to be the best version of myself each and every day. I don’t want to tell them that they can do anything they want while playing it small myself. I want to set an example that inspires them.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1 — Don’t compare yourself to others

This is probably the most important piece of advice for anyone and everyone. We make judgments about how good or how easy someone has it without knowing their full backstory, and then we want our outcomes to be the same.

If you find yourself comparing yourself to people who are way more successful — maybe just call yourself inspired. Tell yourself to be inspired by what’s possible, not demoralized by where you are now.

2 — Don’t take advice from someone who’s not going where you’re going

As soon as you share your business idea, people will tell you left, right, and center about how you should run it. Thing is, it’s so easy to give this hypothetical advice when you have no skin in the game. Just say thanks and move on.

3 — Don’t play it small

This goes with the advice piece, but you may notice people coming out of the woodwork telling you that you’re being “too much” and you should tone it down. (These will never be other business owners, mind you.)

Unfortunately, when you’re starting out, this “who do you think you are” comment can really resonate with your insecurities and hit you right where it hurts. If this happens, give yourself a moment to recover, but remind yourself that you’re not here to play small.

4 — Don’t wait (too long)

Action leads to clarity. Your business may not work out exactly how you thought it would, but if you keep waiting you’ll end up with nothing. What’s worse, is seeing people achieving your dreams because they made the decision to put themselves out there and go for it.

Nothing’s more painful than being stuck.

5 — Don’t be afraid of NO.

Let me tell you something. You’re going to get a lot of no’s. Treat them as your path to a “yes” and just be persistent. What do you have to lose?

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Get comfortable with failing.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Failure is a stepping stone to success”

Sometimes I wish that everything I did was an instant success. But that would only mean that I am not trying anything challenging. I do have mentors and it does help to stand on their shoulders, but there is no rulebook for anything that’s truly important. I learned that I have to go for it, I have to give it my all, and I have to be okay with what happens next.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Right now, I get a lot of inspiration from Marie Forleo. I try to be that same source of strength and inspiration for my clients and audience. I would absolutely love to meet her to just to experience a little bit of her sunny energy. (And figure out how she does it!)

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

— — — — — —

About the author:

Phil La Duke is a popular speaker & writer with more than 400 works in print. He has contributed to Entrepreneur, Monster, Thrust Global and is published on all inhabited continents. His most recent book is Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention listed as #16 on Pretty Progressive magazine’s list of 49 books that powerful women study in detail. Follow Phil on Twitter @philladuke

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