Interview with Dorie Clarke: On becoming entrepreneurial

Vera: Congratulations on your book “Entrepreneurial you”, the 3rd in your trilogy. What is the main learning you want to get across to readers?

Dorie: My main message in Entrepreneurial You is this: in order to build financial security for ourselves, we need to diversify. That’s not just true of our investments; it’s also true of our income streams. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or work inside a company, developing at least one side income stream helps you mitigate risk, earn more money, and access new opportunities.


Vera: You kind of  rock the boat in terms of addressing long held beliefs about personal branding such as saying that being excellent and well known is not enough for success- what is required then from your experience?

Dorie: Being well known and well respected in your field is of course important in a competitive marketplace. But that’s a different skill than knowing how to make money at what you do. Especially as we enter a more entrepreneurial economy, you have to not just learn about your craft, but also how to make money at your craft. That’s why, in Entrepreneurial You, I profiled more than 50 top entrepreneurs who have built successful six, seven, and eight-figure businesses to show exactly what business models they’re using, so that regular professionals can get a sense of what’s working and how they might apply it in their own businesses.


Vera: You say that successful people aren’t always earning their worth. For those who want to do so what are the deliberate choices you recommend they make to achieve that?

Dorie: I have a chapter in Entrepreneurial You called “The Courage to Monetize” – and in the early days, it really is a matter of courage. Many times, people underprice themselves because they’re unsure of their worth, or feel awkward about asking for money for what they do. We have to become familiar with the marketplace so we can make informed choices about how to position our offerings, and develop confidence so that we can ask for fair prices.


Vera: As you rightly imply, many are earning well but have sold their soul in the process. How does one create freedom and flexibility that ensures that they have a life whilst running a business?

Dorie: I’m certainly a fan of living below one’s means, for as long as it’s feasible. People who desperately need to make money often make choices they otherwise wouldn’t, so taking some precautionary steps – for instance, not going full-time into an entrepreneurial venture until you have at least 6-12 months’ cash in the bank – can be enormously helpful in allowing you to preserve your integrity.


Vera: Sometimes the narrative around entrepreneurship is that it takes a special kind of person to do well but you want with this book to share what makes it more likely for everyone to succeed. What would you say are the tenets of this ‘everyone can do it’ formula?

Dorie: Of course everyone can be an entrepreneur! I find it so elitist when people say that only a certain type of person can succeed. Can anyone be an accountant? Well, some people may be more naturally talented with numbers, but if you’re willing to work hard and you’re committed to succeeding, then yes, you can make it happen. It’s the same thing for entrepreneurship. The key is your willingness to learn and grow.


Vera: You’ve discovered that online marketing doesn’t have to be exploitative and you’ve now diversified into 7 income streams. What’s the best way of building trust with potential customers and to stop trading time for money?

Dorie: The best way to build trust with potential customers is to let them try out your ideas for free. Very few people would want to shell out large sums of money for your products or services if they didn’t have a good sense of what you could offer them. But when you share your ideas for free via content creation (which could be anything from blogging to writing a book to podcasting to creating videos), you allow others to see how you think and ensure it lines up with what they’re looking for and how they view the world. Then, it’s far easier for them to make the choice to invest in working with you.


Vera: How can one get clear on the value they bring so as to attract the right market/clients with services at a premium price?

Dorie: It’s very tricky, at first, to understand our own value. Some of our best and most valuable skills may seem like nothing to us because they come easily. That’s why it’s so important to have a good group of friends around you – a ‘mentor board of directors.’ They can help you see your real talents that you may have trouble identifying.


Vera: You share a range of methods for building one’s brand and leveraging one’s expertise- speaking, consulting, vlogging, blogging, online courses etc. what lessons can you share from your experimentation of how to assess what works?

Dorie: The best way to share your expertise is, first, to determine what methods actually interest you. Some folks will be drawn to podcasts; others find them boring. Others love writing, so blogging appeals; for others, you couldn’t pay them to sit down and write. So start with your interest and aptitude. Then, the next filter (at first) is which methods require little investment upfront. It takes much more time, effort, and money to create an online course, and it likely won’t pay off unless you already have a following, whereas launching a side practice in coaching or consulting doesn’t have any startup costs at all.


Vera: For those working within organizations as employees, how can they bring their entrepreneurial self to life, thrive and build a portfolio career that develops a strong reputation and potentially enhances their income streams?

Dorie: In the past, many bosses considered outside entrepreneurial ventures threatening. But today’s most enlightened leaders recognize that if an employee has the drive and ambition to create an entrepreneurial sideline, that’s exactly the kind of thinker they want as part of their organization. If your boss falls into the latter category, it’s useful for you to think about the skills you’re developing in your entrepreneurial venture and make sure to point out to him/her what you’re learning and how it ultimately benefits the company. Being explicit about how your interests are aligned with the company’s can be extremely useful. Don’t make them connect the dots; help them see the through-line.


Vera: You personally took a leap of faith reinventing yourself and positioning yourself effectively. Any tips for transitioning through big changes successfully – whether that’s being fired from a job and needing to find another, taking a business to a new level or getting out of a rut in a job that’s going nowhere?

Dorie: One counterintuitive thing to keep in mind, which I talk about a bit in my first book, Reinventing You, is that you might assume your family and close friends will be your biggest supporters during your reinvention. Often, it’s the exact opposite. To “help you” and “protect you,” they’ll often play devil’s advocate, and may actively discourage you from your new direction. That can be painful, but it’s important to keep it in perspective and realize that they really are trying to look out for you – they just don’t see your vision yet. If you’re convinced your new path is the right one, it’s incumbent upon you to help them understand where you’re going, why you’ll succeed, and how it’s important for them to get onboard.


Dorie’s profile

Dorie Clark is an adjunct professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the author of Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You and Stand Out, which was named the #1 Leadership Book of 2015 by Inc. magazine. A former presidential campaign spokeswoman, the New York Times described Dorie as an “expert at self-reinvention and helping others make changes in their lives.” A frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Dorie consults and speaks for clients including Google, Microsoft, and the World Bank. You can download her free Entrepreneurial You self-assessment workbook and learn more at


For more information on Vera Ng’oma’s work and resources in leadership, personal and career development and excellence building visit and