To be a digital entrepreneur these days often means being someone who wears many creative hats, and Michelle Siman is a prime example. The Toronto-based multihyphenate is the mind behind Lemon Water, a visually delightful Instagram mood board of everything she loves, a wellness-focused podcast and more recently, a consulting agency as well.
On her show, Siman speaks to some of the most fascinating creatives in the health and wellness space – from likeminded peer and Hike Clerb founder, Evelynn Escobar; to one of social media’s favorite astrologers, Nadine Jane; to Museum of Peace and Quiet’s Ashley Lennon, a close friend and frequent collaborator of the host. When she isn’t behind the mic recording an episode, Siman lends her artistic touch and insight on engaging with online communities to lifestyle brands she personally enjoys, as she gets involved in shaping their direction and strategy.
Here, Hypebae talks to Siman about turning her passions into a career, and the lessons she’s learned along the way.
How would you summarize everything that you do for work in a few sentences?
It’s always so difficult trying to explain what I do to others. This used to bring out a huge rush of anxiety in me for a variety of different reasons – I think at the core of it being a form of imposter syndrome. I’ve been working as a freelance creative producer and content strategist for over two years now. My work varies between clients and projects, so sometimes I’m working on direction, production, strategy and strategic partnerships.
How did you get your start in the industry?
It all came together in a way that just made sense, but it also took a lot of work and frustrating moments. I got laid off from my 9-5 almost four years ago working in the wellness ecomm space. I was doing a little bit of freelance at the time, but nothing to really help sustain a living. I always knew that I wanted to help brands bring their creative and storytelling vision to life, but also did not know exactly how to transition into that. At the beginning, I started picking up clients to help support them with social: [media] strategy and always knew there were other areas I wanted to dip into, so I started voicing that in introductory meetings, and was able to pick up various projects and skills along the way. I think a big part of it for me was founders following the Lemon Water account and being able to see where my head was at.
[Lemon Water] is intersecting my interests in taking care of myself and just wanting to interview people. It’s going to evolve as a show the way I evolve as a person. “
How do your professional and personal interests intersect?
I love this question, because I think back to my childhood and realize there were so many things that I dreamed of doing then, or even did as hobbies that I actually do now for work. For one, as a kid, it was always a dream of mine to do radio – this is kind of why I started my podcast. Meeting new people and getting to know them both on a personal level and hearing about the work they do is always such a cool experience. Also Tumblr and Blogspot were a very prevalent focus of my early teen years. I was never really the active kid growing up, I spent a lot of time online – like a lot of time – online mainly on Tumblr looking at beautiful images and browsing magazines. I also used the internet as a tool to meet really amazing people. This is how I met a lot of my friends.
What initially inspired you to create your podcast, Lemon Water:?
I always wanted to do interviewing professionally, but never had the chance to study it. I think when podcasting became a thing, it gave more people the access to create their own shows. I know it’s kind of everywhere now, but I started in early 2017 when there weren’t many shows out there that spoke to me. It is intersecting my interests in taking care of myself and just wanting to interview people. It is going to evolve as a show the way I evolve as a person. I want to have more conversations about purpose and entrepreneurship, since this is what I’m finding my interests to be at the moment. I’ve started interviewing a lot of my friends who have served as huge inspirations to me.
And now Lemon Water has become a consulting agency. What prompted you to take this big leap, and what are you most excited about this next step?
I think it was time and that it made the most sense for me personally for this to be the next step. It’s totally been a natural transition, and I mean, I still do not know exactly where anything is going to take me. I kind of just go with the flow now – that’s what also makes things fun. Working with other likeminded brands that are focused on things that I’m passionate about has been a dream come true. My current focus is on strategy and direction, and it’s something I’m really enjoying at the moment. The agency comes to life when I’m partnering and bringing on other creatives to work on projects with me, or partnering them with other clients. I’ve always loved being the one to connect the dots and watching projects come together.
What exactly does a creative consultant do?
A consultant at times can be doing different things depending on who they’re working with and what they specialize in. I’m not doing the same thing every day, and I get to change it up. Juggling different projects at once is most likely a must, but also finding something you’re good at and also enjoy doing: [is an important quality of a creative consultant]. You could be supporting the client with their social media channels, campaign shoots (that would perhaps include producing, casting and directing), influencer gifting programs and even launch strategies. Really pick areas of focus that you specialize in and love, or even try a little bit of everything out to see what sticks.
“Everything good can and will take time. You need to set yourself up with a solid foundation, and that definitely does not happen overnight.”
Are there any things that you wish you knew before becoming a freelance creative?
[I wish I knew] That there were going to be lots of ups and downs. For me, there was a lot of hearing “no” at the beginning and just feeling depleted every time a project fell through. I think it is really important to truly understand that everything will take time and there is a process. You’re going to figure out a lot about yourself and your working style along the way, and it can feel isolating at times when you’re feeling stuck. There will often be times when jobs fall through and clients will ghost on you, and that can be the most frustrating part. Once I started accepting that my story was in the journey, I was able to feel a little more at ease through the uncertainty.
I also wish I sought more mentorship earlier on from those in similar industries. I believe that having mentorship to support in guiding you earlier, and even at any stage: [of one’s career]or to even just bounce ideas off of, really does help in a huge way.
Another thing is definitely surrounding rates and pay transparency, and not knowing how to price your services. It’s a topic that a lot of people actually do not like talking about, but when you’re starting out, it is very crucial in my opinion to know your worth, because there are unfortunately those who will try to convince you otherwise. Also, I urge more people within the industry to be transparent with their peers about rates.
Do you have a mantra that guides your work?
“The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.” Yes, we’ve been seeing that mantra go viral online, but it is so true. Everything good can and will take time. You need to set yourself up with a solid foundation, and that definitely does not happen overnight.
What are some of the most rewarding projects that you’ve worked on?
Last year was exciting because I got the opportunity to direct and produce a campaign for Reebok and also Rainbo’s latest product launch on my own, which was an incredible learning [experience] and rewarding moment for me. I started the new year with the team at Mackage, and I’m working with them on social media and special projects, which are so exciting.
Finally, tell us about something you’ve found inspiring lately.
I’ve actually gone back to re-reading some books that I’ve leaned on in the past. Last year during lockdown, I really struggled with my mental health, and was finding ways to cope with so much uncertainty that seems to be a never-ending cycle. I’m finding inspiration within and allowing myself to take more time to be present. Currently, I’m revisiting: The Power of Now: by Eckhart Tolle, which is an absolute must-read.