Welcome back to Heartrepreneur Radio with Terry Levine chief heartpreneur. I’m really glad you are tuning in and hopefully you are listening on a regular basis and you have subscribed so you never miss an episode.
So today my guest is Laura Pennington and Laura left her career as an inner city geography teacher after burning out. And I know many of you have burned out as well. Not knowing what was next, she Googled how to become a freelance writer. And she landed her first paid gig soon after. How about that? From there she built a six figure freelance writing business and that allows her to travel the globe and do what she loves and isn’t that we we are about here at Heartrepreneur Radio right? She now teaches others to start their own careers as a virtual assistance or a freelance writer and she also teaches on-line entrepreneurs how to use digital teams to scale their businesses. Laura has been featured on writer’s weekly, the Huffington Post and Business Insider and she has worked with many of the most successful personal injury lawfirms in the US as well as companies like Microsoft and True Car since she got started as a writer. So, let’s get going.
Terri: Welcome to the show Laura.
Laura: Thank you for having me.
Terri: I’m really excited to have you. I just find this so interesting. I mean I went throughout burn out which is what led me to be in the career that I’m in which I now love and enjoy and I find it fascinating. What made you even Google “how to become a freelance writer.” Was writing something that was in your heart? What was going on?
Laura: I was in the mix of a PhD program at the time. My whole adult life had been working toward a career in education, so to come to terms with the fact that it just wasn’t going to work for me while I was working as a teacher kind of led me to go “alright what skills do I already have.” I’d never been paid to be a writer. Wasn’t on the school newspaper, none of that. But I had had some professors in college and in graduate school who had encouraged me with my writing ability and I tutored quite a few college students when I was teaching in the Political Science department at Virginia Tech getting my Masters. So I thought alright the learning curve with writing is going to be a little bit easier for me than say teaching myself Graphic Design or Web Development so I thought all I need to do is teach myself how to write for the Web or how to write for magazines and that’s the only reason that I Googled it. Never intended it to be a career. I thought it would be a great way to make some extra money. But it grew very quickly.
Terri: So how did it grow? I’m always curious when somebody’s business takes off, how that happens for them. If you wouldn’t mind sharing, I think the audience would love to hear it.
Laura: Sure. So for me I focused on giving my first couple of clients and amazing experience. So they were taking a risk on me and a total stranger on the Internet. Don’t even have a degree in English or anything like that. So for me I focused on delivering early. I focused on churning out content that was above and beyond what they expected. I made things easy for them. You know I took things off their plate, didn’t require a whole lot of hand holding or instruction and that made those first couple of clients want to not just give me one project, but keep working with me, refer me to others, give me testimonials that would allow me to earn other business. And I think it’s so easy to do those little tweaks like that where you are just focusing on giving people a positive experience and once someone finds a good writer, they are much more likely to stick with you. There’s no need for them to go back out to the marketplace. And when they are calling from a law school and asks hey I really need a good blog writer, I’m going to be the first name that comes to their mind because they have already had a positive experience with me.
Terri: That is brilliant and I know that that’s helpful for many many of the listeners. So I’m glad that you shared that. How did the virtual assisting come to be because I find that interesting as well?
Laura: So I was kind of all over the place doing different projects and alot of it was writing, but occasionally I’d have people reach out to me and ask if I could help them with what I at the time considered random projects. So a real estate developer in Florida said I don’t really have time to run this newsletter campaign. It involves sending things physically through the mail. And he goes, I’ll buy your toner, I’ll buy your paper, I’ll buy the stamps and envelopes, will you just take this information and run it through mail merge and print it for me and take it to the post office and I thought OK. You are going to pay me to do that and give me all the supplies, I can’t really argue with that. So I took on quite a few jobs in that virtual assistant capacity as well. Sort of running things behind the scenes for business owners and I use virtual assistants today to run my businesses so I know both sides of that opportunity, both being one and hiring one.
Terri: I think that is so cool when sometimes the market chooses and sometimes we choose the market and you paid attention when it showed up. You know virtual assistants have been a part of my company for the 2 decades that I’ve been running this company. I started my business and the very first thing I did 3 days later was I hired a virtual assistant when those people would be like what did you need one for t hen? And I just had the vision in mind. The end in mind and knew that a team member could help me and now I have a team of 3 virtual assistants and my goodness they literally are why I’m successful. I mean I couldn’t do what I do without them. It’s so important. You also say that you teach on-line entrepreneurs how to use digital teams so I’d love to hear more about what is the digital team? What does that mean? And how do they really help the business owner scale their business? I know that I’m an on line entrepreneur, I know a lot of our listeners are so I’m very intrigued with that Laura.
Laura: So it sounds like you already have what I would consider a digital team which is basically more than one individual that is working for you. They don’t all need to be working on the same projects, but there are definitely multiple people involved in the equation. Now some of them may be involved at a deeper level like you might have an online business manager who is sort of your second in command, but then you might have people that you work for on a contract basis. Like I use a VA once a month to create all my images for my social media, or I have a podcast guy who is dealing with all my podcast audio editing, so working with digital teams is a great way to replicate yourself. Alot of entrepreneurs say I wish I had more of me right? I only have 24 hours in a day. And every entrepreneur is going to hit this point where there is literally no more that you can do in a given day or if you are doing too many things they are not as effective or as high quality because you are tired and you are burned out. So digital teams making use of whatever type of professional you need to leverage your business and to scale it is really really important for any entrepreneur and business owner – even brick and mortar businesses can benefit from having digital team members. And one of the things I learned from managing my own team and then I’ve also worked with companies like Trucorn, Microsoft, I was involved on a project last year where I was managing a team of 20 writers, producing more than 400 blogs a month. We did that for 9 months. I learned a lot of trial by fire lessons about hiring, training, retaining, effectively managing the administrative parts of running digital teams and I think a lot of people get hung up on this idea of outsourcing because they will hit a snag early on in the process and then they will just get flustered and think you know what I should just do this all myself anyways. Forget it. Forget working with a VA, forget working with a digital team and just quit entirely when the truth is there is some small tweaks and some systems and processes that you can put into place to help everybody be effective.
Terri: I love that and yeah I do have a digital team. I’ve got someone that manages my infusion and someone that manages my website and newsletter delivery and helps with social media and I’ve got someone managing my radio show. So I don’t know how I would be successful in business without that and whenever I talk to someone who is trying to get from six figures to seven, you cannot do it alone. You can’t and even if you think well I’m better at something or I need to do that, learn to give it up and to delegate and learn to train people and allow them to make mistakes. That’s been my experience in my 30 something years in business. So I’m just going to say amen to what Laura said. I think that’s absolutely brilliant. So what are you most passionate about right now? What is really on your radar?
Laura: Well, I’m kind of making a little bit of a shift in my business in 2017 and I’m a little bit terrified about it. I’ve spent 4 years writing words for other people and I know I’m good at it. It’s something I’ve been able to replicate every single month in 2012 and pay my bills and all that. But I kind of feel like I’ve gone as far as I can go with freelance writing. I have some amazing clients, I love what I do, but I’ve been feeling the call to go into fiction and nonfiction writing of my own for a while now. And even though you know I have all this experience as a writer and I’ve got the academic background to do all the research and everything, I’m a little bit scared, I feel like I’m visualizing me standing on the edge of a bungee jumping thing you know where they tell you to lean a little bit? I’m leaning right now but I’m not jumping. So that’s what I’m passionate about, trying to talk myself into having the guts to do this basically.
Terri: I love it, I love it. I think that’s when we make the biggest shift in our life. When we are standing on the edge like that. And the biggest transformations happen. So I’m excited for you, very excited for you. How can the listeners stay in touch with you, get in touch with you, be connected with you What’s the next action they can take to get to know more about you and maybe even hire you and get some help? I think you offer some really tips and tools.
Laura: Absolutely. So all my writing advice is housed on sixfigurewritingsecrets.com, that’s all spelled out, and I sort of separated my advice for busy entrepreneurs, about all things business, digital teams and things like that, on betterbizacademy.com and if you visit betterbizacademy.com you can get a list of 70 tasks to get you started thinking about outsourcing. So 70 tasks that you can give to your first virtual assistant that usually helps people get the juices flowing. And thinking and realizing all the things they’ve got on their plate that they don’t need to be doing.
Terri: Fabulous. Excellent. Great. And is there anything else that you want to say that a listener would really need to hear? Any words of advice or Laura Pennington words of wisdom?
Laura: One of the consistent themes in my life and one I need to highlight for myself right now is this idea of just go ahead and do it and try because my only real regret with my freelance writing business is that I didn’t start sooner. I had no idea that I had such a sellable skill, that it would be something that I would wake up and love doing everyday, so if you have a passion for something and you feel as though you are being called to do it and have that drive to push through, don’t wait any longer, because there is that chance that down the road you are going to look back and go oh man I wish I would have done that a year earlier.
Terri: Wow! That is great advice and I always really believe that. No matter where you are look at what if. What if I do? What if I did? versus sitting there and coming up with the human brain is so good at coming up with excuses and no not now, this isn’t a good time, and blah blah blah. We can all do that and Laura wouldn’t be where she is, I wouldn’t be where I am and many of you wouldn’t be where you are and some of you, I’m talking to you, you might be stuck right now. What did you hear in Laura’s interview? And just listen how she just Googled, she just Googled something and changed her entire career and probably Laura changed your life in many ways. Is that true?
Laura: Oh yeah, absolutely. I was on the fast track to burnout before and never imagined that this would be a career, but at this point it’s also the job that I’ve held down the longest and even though there are difficult days, I mean even the worst day in my freelance writing business does not even come to come close to a day in the life of a 7th grade teacher. So, it’s definitely been worth it and a major change for me.
Terri:Well thank you so much for being our guest and one more time if you just want to tell people your websites that would be awesome.
Laura: Sure. sixfigurewritingsecrets.com and then betterbizacademy.com.
Terri: Awesome! Thank you so much f or joining us here on Heartrepreneur Radio and for my listeners, make sure that you tune into each and every episode and we love when you comment and when you give us a great review and also when you share us on social media. So make sure that you are subscribed and you don’t miss an upcoming episode. I will continue to bring you more stellar people like Laura Pennington so tune in next time and I look forward to seeing you back here at Heartrepreneur Radio.