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How Sarah built a grant writing consulting business right out of college.

Sarah Mueller

After graduating with her communications degree and pursuing a marketing internship, Sarah realized she wanted to work with nonprofits. She wanted to combine her love for marketing and journalism into a way that could benefit and help others, while also working remotely. She found freelance grant writing to be exactly that!

Madison, Wisconsin
Funding Area
Environment, Social Services, Community Engagement
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Looking for a Job After College

Sarah was first introduced to grant writing in college when she switched to a Professional Communication major and a Professional Technical Writing minor. Through a college grant writing course coupled with her dad’s prompting to pursue grant writing, Sarah became more curious about the field.

“I wanted to do something a little bit different and to work with nonprofits,” Sarah said. “When I found the Collective, I thought it would be a great way to advance my education. I knew it was a great skill to have as someone involved in nonprofits. And, I ended up loving it."

As Sarah considered how to go after a grant writing career, she liked the idea of gaining additional professional grant writing experience. She landed a local part-time grant writing job alongside freelancing as a grant writer with the training taught in the Collective.

Grant Writing = Perfect Communications Degree Career

For Sarah, grant writing is the perfect blend of technical and creative writing. Even better is that grant writing allows her to combine her love for marketing and journalism with the overarching goal of helping others. Other perks include living anywhere she wants as she works remotely and the freedom to change her lifestyle and routines at her discretion.

From working part-time at her local Salvation Army to freelancing for a botanical garden nonprofit and a nonprofit journalism organization, Sarah has deeply appreciated the challenge and excitement of learning about different fields. It has definitely proven to be a great option for those looking for jobs with a communications degree.
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Becoming a Grant Writing Consultant

Due to the divergence from the typical young college graduate experience and not having much experience initially, Sarah has experienced her fair share of imposter syndrome. Most of her peers are pursuing full-time jobs as she builds a grant writing business. Pushing through imposter syndrome has become a bit easier since Sarah first started her grant writing journey. Having the Collective to rely on as a support system has been essential in her increased confidence.

While getting her first client was filled with shaky nerves and buckets of second-guessing, Sarah soon had her second client lined up, then another, and has continued to build upon that momentum. Sarah got her first client through word of mouth, much to her pleasant surprise. Her second client came from an informational interview (the process we teach in the Collective!), and the third client was developed through LinkedIn. For Sarah, reaching out to people, through LinkedIn and email, has been an amazing way of finding clients.

Thus far, Sarah has had 15-20 informational interviews in the process of building up her client base. “I've learned something from each of them and I think it's good to talk to people. I know that later on down the road they could lead to something. They could pass the word onto someone else or something like that. So, I love informational interviews,” Sarah said.

Writing and Winning a $100,000 Grant

Sarah is most proud of the steady, consistent progress she’s made in her grant writing journey. It has proven to be a great career for her communications degree. She also celebrated a huge win as a $100,000 grant she wrote was awarded to one of her clients!

“The whole thing has been an accomplishment. I just graduated with my undergraduate degree in communications and I was able to start a business like this. It's slowly growing—nothing crazy can happen overnight,” Sarah said. “Putting myself out of my comfort zone and doing those informational interviews when they can be kind of tricky has led to great things. Doing those also helps with imposter syndrome and confidence.”

Takeaways From the Collective

While Sarah is grateful for the hands-on experience she received through her college grant writing course, the Learn Grant Writing Unicorn Collective has provided her with a more comprehensive exposure to the technical and business aspects of grant writing.

“I've learned so much more through the Unicorn Collective with all the topics that you cover like how to find clients, how to write a grant, and doing a budget. It has been so useful, especially as a freelance grant writer. If I run into something that I can't solve, I can go to the Collective and get those questions answered. I also learn from everyone else too. The return on investment is so big. It's all one learning experience that never ends really,” Sarah said.

We love the bravery Sarah has cultivated throughout her grant writing journey and can’t wait to see where her business takes her next! “I am so happy I did it and my life has changed so much in the past year too. I don't know where I would be if I didn't learn grant writing through the Collective,” Sarah said.

If you’d like to become a grant writing unicorn, check out our free training on how to build a career in grant writing.

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Unicorn spotlight sarah mueller
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