Alisa Bonsignore of Clarifying Complex Ideas is a Philadelphia native who has been living in California since 1999. She’s been married for nearly 15 years and has an insatiably curious first grader. She has an incredible appreciation for designers who make her words look good [editor's note: love that!], and letterpress, which makes everything look good. She’s a sports fan, a recreational cook, and a Captain for Team in Training.
By day, you can find her clarifying complex ideas, helping multinational medical device, high tech and healthcare IT companies translate complicated technical and clinical concepts into understandable English.
Her moonlighting project is a blog called What Would Betty Do: Health & Fitness Tips for 365 Fresh Starts Each Year.
Alisa and I met at the Creative Freelancer Conference a few years back and we keep in touch via twitter. Being a more experienced mama than I, she was my go-to gal for recent questions about traveling with a toddler!
Alisa Bonsignore of Clarifying Complex Ideas
Tell us a little about your business/job responsibilities.
I’m a writer and strategist working primarily with large corporate clients. The industries range from healthcare and high tech, to healthcare IT, which is the intersection of the two. I fill a unique niche: I’m not the tech writer who creates your manuals and documentation, but I have more of a technical/clinical understanding than many marketing communicators. Most of the time I work as a sort of translator, taking the Big Technical Ideas from the engineering department and explaining them in “real English” for less technical audiences.
What are the ages/genders of your children?
My son is 6, going on 40. As I type this, at 6:30 AM, he’s sitting on my lap and asking me questions about the listings on my project board. (“Wait, I thought you closed out that one…”)
Did you start your business before or after having children?
Both! I’d been a freelancer years ago, back when we lived on the east coast. But then we moved to California for what was supposed to be a 6-9 month “temporary” assignment for my husband and never went back. So here I was, in an unfamiliar state where I knew no one but my husband, and I spent all day in the house interacting only with clients on the east coast. The isolation was killing me. I stopped freelancing and went back to corporate specifically because I needed to get out of the house and meet people. I still dabbled in some side projects while I was working full time.
At the time my son was born, I had a good corporate job with an excellent commute, a wonderful boss and a great team. I had no plans to leave… until I came back from maternity leave to the announcement that the company was shutting its doors in California and moving to Colorado. It gave me the push that I needed to really give the business a solid start.
How did your business life change after having children?
Everything changes in your life after kids, not just work. Trying to pretend otherwise will just make you crazy. No amount of planning will prepare you for juggling a rapidly approaching deadline and a toddler with a stomach flu.
I’ve tried to learn to work as far ahead of deadlines as possible, not just because it gives me an extra opportunity to read through things with clear eyes, but because you just never know when a sick kid is going to wreak havoc with your deadline.
Describe a typical workday.
I’m up around 5:30 or 6:00 to get some work done before the little man wakes up. It gives me a head start with my European and east coast clients, and gives me a sense of what’s coming my way throughout the day. He gets my undivided attention during breakfast and the walk to school, but it’s not uncommon to see me walking home while answering emails or dialing in to a conference call.
I try to hit the gym or run immediately after dropoff. Not only does it keep me healthy, but it clears my head and gives me a chance to sort through projects or brainstorm ideas. After that, it’s pretty much me and my laptop until it’s time to pick him up from after-school care around 4:30 or 5:00, depending on the day’s schedule.
What is one tip you can share with other Biz Mamas?
Day care, day care, day care. I’m always shocked by how many people think that they can focus on their work with a kid competing for their attention. Mine is extraordinarily well behaved, and even I can’t do it.
Day care gives me uninterrupted work time to give my clients my undivided attention, but it also works both ways: my work isn’t encroaching on my son’s time, either.