A portrait photo of writer Ashley Hefnawy

Ashley Hefnawy

Multidisciplinary Creative Writer

A portrait photo of writer Ashley Hefnawy

Ashley Hefnawy

Multidisciplinary Creative Writer

Ashley Hefnawy is an Egyptian American creative writer who works in tech. She is one talented lady and works as a copywriter, journalist, UX writer, and content strategist. And she DJs in her spare time! We first discovered Ashley's insightful work through Shine, a wellness app (one of our new favs) that sends daily wellness reminders. She has worked with clients like Snapchat, Google, Nanit, Furry Puppets, Food52, and Audible. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Ashley!

What do you do?

I’m a multidisciplinary creative writer. I work with companies to help them craft meaningful product, UX, and marketing copy and communications. My niche is writing in a conversational tone. I’m also a journalist, non-fiction, and fiction writer. I write poetry from time to time as well. Lately, my nights have been dedicated to playing DJ sets around New York, which feels like another mode of storytelling for me.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I think I wanted to be a famous violinist for a period of time. I also wanted to be a fine artist. I don’t think I landed too far from those dreams. 🙂

Tell us about your journey to becoming a freelancer.

Working at larger companies in the past provided me with invaluable experience that I’m so grateful for. After some time of jumping around from job to job, not feeling like I was satisfied or fitting in anywhere, I decided to give freelance a shot. It’s been a challenging journey, but it really pays off. I’ve become so much more aware of my mental health, my skills, confidence levels, and ability to communicate. If anything feels off, my work suffers. So it’s really held me remain accountable to myself, which I’m forever grateful for.

When you first started, how did you find clients?

I was unashamed in asking for favors and asking people for help. I wrote posts on social media asking for leads, met any and everyone for coffee, and talked a lot about how I saw myself evolving. Eventually, the conversations became reality for me. Over time, I’ve become embedded in different creative communities, which have been a tremendous resource for finding work and helping others find work.

Do you have a motto that you work by?

I’ve heard folks in the creative freelance world idolize clients in a godlike way. I think I remember someone telling me early on that “The client is God” which I found to be strange, because… yeah they are responsible for you getting paid, but to imply that one party in a relationship is a God, is to suggest that there’s an unequal power dynamic. I try to approach the clients I work with as collaborators, so the power dynamic feels fairly distributed. We both have something to provide each other, and are both benefiting from the relationship. My motto is: “Let’s be good to each other.”

How do you stay productive?

I try to maintain healthy boundaries with my work and my play. If I’m not on the clock with a client, I’m looking for ways to stay inspired. Going to museums, leaving town to travel, hiking, discovering new music to play at DJ sets, drawing. I find that my productivity is hinged on what I do when I’m not trying to be productive.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a re-brand with a toy company that is very dear to my heart, a healthcare company on some of their UX communications, a wellness app that I write articles for, and short piece of fiction loosely tied to my last name.

What is your dream project?

I want to write a book, so a lot of the work I’m doing with my personal writing is building up to that. I’ve dreamt of writing a book for some time now. It feels like the right thing for a writer to do—to highlight all of my favorite words and favorite stories, and have them all live in one place, for anyone to have and to hold.

What one piece of advice would you give to a freelancer just starting out?

Assess your values. They can change, and will change but especially when you’re just starting out, remember what you value, and allow that to dictate how and who you work with. Getting in the habit of keeping that in mind from the beginning is great—I did this, and still do to this day.

“Assess your values. They can change, and will change but especially when you’re just starting out, remember what you value, and allow that to dictate how and who you work with.”

What is the best piece of advice you've been given?

Someone early on in my career told me to make friends with the people I work with and I thought that was pretty awesome advice. Some of my best friends are people I used to work with, and we continue to look out for each other both personally and professionally, to this day. I don’t think this belief goes both ways necessarily, I’m not saying to start businesses with all your best friends (though that may work for some!)—I’m saying that there’s a special bond that can be created in understanding a person as a co-worker first, which can provide a solid foundation for friendship.

Tell us about a time in your career when you struggled.

I’m going to be honest and talk about failure. I was fired from 2 jobs in a 2 year span, and it really made me re-evaluate what the heck I was doing. It’s not always fun to look at where you’re at and where you could be, but it helped me set some intention in my work and understand what I needed to do better in order to truly thrive in my craft. I’d say I’m thriving today but still on a journey of growth, and I don’t think that journey will ever end at one particular spot, where I’ll say “Okay, I’ve made it now.” It’s ongoing, and I’m proud of that. If I wasn’t fired from those jobs, I don’t think I’d feel as confident in my craft as I do today. I was very anxious at both jobs, constantly worried I would be fired, and constantly second-guessing myself. That anxiety manifested itself in ultimate failure, for me, to help me understand that whatever path I was on at the time, was not the one I needed to be on.

What are you listening to, reading or watching that is inspiring to you lately?

Whenever I wake up lately, and I don’t know if this is a year-round thing, I’ve heard these sweet little birds that hang out in the shaft outside my bathroom window. They’re so cute and remind me of what it means to wake up every day. It’s a little cheesy I guess, but I find so much inspiration to start my day in those moments.

I am also really inspired by the moments I get to have without my phone in hand. It’s attached to me so often, and it’s really nice to have rituals, particularly in the mornings, where I exclude my phone. I tend to check it when I wake up only for important communications, but then I leave it in its charger and do my morning skin/meditation/prayer routine, have breakfast without it and usually try to read either the New Yorker or whatever book I’m currently reading. Those moments help root me in the present, and provide a lot of inspiration, at the start of each day.

I’m constantly listening to new music because I like to change up my sets everytime I DJ, so Soundcloud has been a fun resource for inspiration. I like this remix of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Move on Up.’

What is your favourite piece of clothing?

I have this bright blue Big Bud jumpsuit that is I think my favorite item of clothing. It makes me feel like the artist I envisioned myself as from a young age, especially when I throw on a couple of pins I’ve made or wear it with my silk green curl cap. I like clothing that is either loud or very soft (like velvet or fur).

What is the strangest thing about you?

I think my path to becoming a writer was pretty strange. I discovered a love for writing because I used to write for my dad when I was a kid—I helped him write business letters, proposals, etc. and never would have imagined what seemed like a chore at the time that I didn’t really love doing, evolving into something that would play a major role in my life today.

Who would you like most to answer these questions next?

My friend who also happens to be a writer, Claire Luchette. She’s brilliant and has a novel coming out pretty soon.

How can we find out more about your work?

My website: ashleyhefnawy.com is a good place to start. I have an instagram that I use to promote my DJ gigs → @sweatybynature. Also feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn!