In this solo episode, I’m answering reader questions that focused on the same topic: How did you get to where you are—and how can I get there too?
If you want to hear my long, windy story of entrepreneurship, from my first job as a high school language arts teacher in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, all the way to the location independent life I lead today in Portugal, listen in. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed recording this!
Transcripts for Episode 112
These transcripts were generated by robots, not writers.
Stacy: Welcome. Welcome. I’m coming to you from a very moody rainy day here in southern Portugal.
I got a message on my phone yesterday from the government warning of heavy winds and rain, which has never happened before. And sure enough, it is very windy today, very rainy, and it’s just the perfect weather to record a podcast episode for you today. I’m going to answer a listener question, one question, because I actually saw another question that was very similar to this question, and I’m going to do a little bit of a shorter episode. So I would love to hear from you to know if you like these shorter format episodes. I’m kind of trying to balance between longer format with guests, sometimes longer deep dives with just myself and then some of these shorter episodes where they’re a little bit more targeted, a little bit more of a quick listen.
So curious to know your thoughts and if you like it, feel free to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or leave me a five star review and tell me what you think about these shorter episodes. Also, if you have a name suggestion for them, I was like trying to think of something fun to call these shorter episodes. I would love your ideas. So let me give you the question that I am going to be answering today. This question is from Jeff. Jeff asks, I would love to know more about how you went from starting out on Ghostwriting to the level you are at today. I’m a few years into Ghostwriting right now and looking to get to that next level with customers. I’m finding it hard to get at the level of best selling authors without having that bestseller yet. Seems like a catch 22.
Thanks so much. I really like this question partially because this was exactly my struggle when I was early on in my business. And to answer this question, I thought maybe I would just tell a little bit about my journey, actually tell my trajectory of my career. And in doing so, I am going to answer your question in kind of a roundabout way, but I truly get a similar question like this so often of like, how did you go from being a teacher, being a classroom teacher, to having a location, independent business, living in Portugal, working with these amazing clients? And so what I’d like to do today is tell that a little bit of that story.
I’m not going to go as deep as I could, but give it at a high level and then I’ll try touch on some points that were really mindset shifters and helped open me up to big opportunities. So, as I said, I started right out of college as a high school language arts teacher. I should say a couple of things. One, I was not qualified to be a teacher. I had a bachelor’s in writing, but I had never taught before. I did not have any formal training as a teacher. Thankfully, I am enterprising. And so I read, I studied, I learned, and I was able to come in and teach not only to be a teacher, but to actually be the head of the high school language arts program during an accreditation process, which meant I had to create curriculum maps.
I didn’t even know what that was when I got that job, so it was a lot of work. But before that, I should say a couple of things that I think are really important to know about me and I think are kind of surprising to people when they learn about my background. So before college, I was a very bad student, but not because I wasn’t smart, not because I wasn’t capable. Looking back, I think I had a lot of anxiety and I didn’t recognize what that was. And so I was the kid that would do the homework, but I would never turn it in. So I would have completed or partially completed homework in a notebook, but I would never hand it into the teacher. And so as a result of that, the first couple of years of high school, I was failing classes.
I had a very low GPA. I got benched from my varsity team. No, I didn’t actually get benched, but I almost got benched because of grades and was essentially on academic probation for my varsity volleyball team. And I eventually had something that caused me to turn all of that around. And I became a very diligent student, ended up graduating high school early. I had a full time job while a lot of my friends were still in high school. I ended up working in some different professional settings to pay for college, I worked at a bank which gave tuition reimbursement. During college, I did an internship with a beloved now it was a beloved mentor at the time. She was my boss, became a mentor, and is now a dear friend.
So I had a lot of experience in the professional world before I ever went into a full time job as a teacher. So I learned pretty quickly as a teacher that I loved the people, the kids, but I really struggled with the fact that all this extra work that I put in, I would never see anything more out of the job other than, of course, the results of the students. And that was very motivating for me. It was the only real motivating thing for me in that job. But I wanted to have a life that was freer, that I had more choice, and that I had more control financially. So that when I did put in those extra hours or work really hard, that I was going to get to see the financial reward of that.
And so while I was a teacher, I started my business. And in the beginning I had this idea of being a travel writer. Actually, I had this idea of translating English for businesses. I don’t know, it’s kind of silly now that I think about it, but at the time I thought it was this brilliant idea. I called my business freelance expat. And so, as businesses do, I failed at things. I evolved. I grew my business. We moved to Vietnam. I decided to go to graduate school while were in Vietnam, still growing my business on the side. And I set a goal for myself to alongside applying to graduate school, which is like a massive effort. I set a goal of sending out 30 query letters in 30 days. Now, if anybody has ever written a query letter, it takes several hours to write one.
So this is a massive effort. It was a huge effort, and 29 of those got no response. But one of them did get a response and I was invited to ghost write part of a book for a university class. And it was just like I think it was a chapter or two chapters of this book. And of course I’m leaving out a lot of little details that kind of enabled me to get there. I was at a writing internship in my writing program, so I did have a background in writing and that opportunity was very encouraging for me. That relationship eventually led to writing my first book many years later. They were the ones that came to me and offered me a I’m going to give quote unquote book deal because it wasn’t like a bunch of money or like a very fancy offer.
But I did get an opportunity to write a book and have somebody do pay for the production, pay me a small amount and really help with promotion and selling of the book. So I got this opportunity and I got into graduate school around the same time. In graduate school I got an assistantship. So if anyone listening is not familiar with how this works in graduate school, when you get an assistantship, typically that means you get a small stipend, not really even a salary. It’s like a stipend plus very cheap health insurance. I think I paid like $900 a semester and then you get your tuition paid for. So I had some time between my job in Vietnam and graduate school starting. So we left our jobs, we came back to the US.
We had about five months and I told my husband, who was my fiance at the time, I don’t want to go find a job right now. I lived with my parents at the time. I moved in with my parents for that five month period. And I said, let me just try, let me just give this a good go. Let me see if I can make this business work. And so I threw everything I had into the business and really leaned into that business. And by the time I went to grad school, five ish months later, we also got married along the way and all kinds of fun life things. My business was pretty successful already. I was getting new clients, I wasn’t having to look for work, I was busy.
And it was just a matter of managing that alongside graduate school, which was a lot of work, but very rewarding for me along the way. I think one of the things that I’ll pull out of this because this is like the early time of building my business, which I think does relate to this question pretty well. The thing that I leaned into early was like I said yes to nearly everything. Now I do not do that. I am really mindful about projects that I best align with, projects that are really connected to my values. I didn’t take anything out of alignment with my values back then, but now I have such clarity around the kind of people I want to work with, the kind of books I want to work on. Back then, I just took everything.
And around that time, I was presented with an opportunity to help start a regional magazine, and I was offered the position of managing editor of this magazine, which, when I got that offer, I remember I was not happy. I was panicked. I remember thinking, like, what does a managing editor even do? How do I do this job? And the reason I even got that offer is that I put myself out there. I was looking for opportunities. I reached out to this person that was starting a publication, and I asked, like, I put my name in the hat. And that’s what I did so often in those earliers. I still actually do that a lot. All the time. I put my name in, I apply for things, I put in for things.
It’s been a theme all along the way of, like, if I see something I want to do, I’m going to put my name in, I’m going to reach out to the person, I’m going to try. And so, long story short, I ended up helping Co found that magazine and run it as managing editor. There’s a whole story there I will not get into right now. I was able to leverage that portfolio and this publication where I had my picture, my letter from the editor front of the magazine, beautifully produced magazine later on with individual that I started working with. I worked with this really wonderful naturopathic doctor and his business partner who was a Nobel Prize winner in medicine and did a bunch of work with them, really loved working with them, and eventually got an opportunity to work on the Sam’s Club magazine.
Sam’s Club at the time had a Healthy Living magazine that was distributed to 11 million readers at the time. And I started as a proofreader and eventually worked my way up to executive editor of that publication. Along the way, I also ghost wrote a book for that Nobel Prize winner, wrote a ton of content, helped produce videos, helped launch an international campaign for a product. I did so many things that were so new to me and that I’d never done it. I didn’t have the experience going in, but I’ve always had this innate belief in my ability to figure things out. I am, at my core, a problem solver, and I think most entrepreneurs are. I think most of us, when we go into being business owners, we are inherently disciplined problem solvers.
And I think that also that inherent belief in my own personal ability to achieve what I set out to do. I’ve always held that firmly. Doesn’t mean I haven’t had a lot of negative self talk and self doubt that’s come up along the way. But at the end of the day, if you ask me, do I believe in my ability to do hard things. I would say unequivocally, yes. And so those opportunities came up and I think they’re really important to point to. Again, I put my name in, I reached out, I networked, I went for opportunities. I said yes to different opportunities that felt so big and so crazy. I wrote my first book around this time. I ghost wrote my first book.
I worked with this other book that I mentioned with this Nobel Prize winner in medicine, and I had all these really big and exciting things happening. It was terrifying in a lot of ways. But what I learned from that is that I have to give myself the opportunity to be given, not given the I don’t love that word to meet the opportunity. Like I have to make my own opportunity, essentially, I have to put my name in. I have to be in the room. I need to meet the people.
And then when I do get those opportunities and I do have those projects that lend themselves as like I call them, big rocks, big rock things, they’re things that I can now hold up and say, look, this is a proof point of my work that then I could leverage those to open up many other opportunities that came my way from there. And I am going to loop back to that question of how do you build into this space of bestselling work when you don’t have it? It just feels so tricky. I’m going to finish this little trajectory. I’m going to do it a little quicker than the first part because I think some of the latter part is a little bit less interesting, at least to me, because to me it’s kind of business as usual.
It’s like businesses evolve and change after those opportunities. I did a lot of book editing. I did that for like seven or eight years. The book that I wrote, that I published in 2013 was on book editing. I ghost wrote a bunch of books. I started coaching because I was able to learn systems, not learn systems, develop systems with the work that I was doing. So I was able to start teaching other people how to write and how to write books. And so that’s what I do today. I coach authors. I have a team that ghost writes. And I really come in on those ghost writing projects as a strategic advisor, as an expert, not only on books, but in book positioning and alignment with your big vision and marketing goals and all of that.
And then I really interestingly kind of lean into my roots as a teacher through the coaching work that I do. So I still get to teach and guide people, often in cohort, almost like classroom style online, but also one one. And that’s like fast forwarding another set of years because it’s been 14 years now since I first started my business. In the Dominican Republic to that question of how do I build up that portfolio, I think it’s a lot of what I think leads to success is really that discipline and consistency of continuing to show up and do the work. That’s kind of a baseline. The other piece of it is really about leveraging your successes that you have, those projects that are proof points that do demonstrate what you’re great at and what you can be great at.
Like, it’s those things that you’ve done that demonstrate your future possibility, like really leveraging those. Well, the other piece is really good networking. I am a relationships person. I care about people, I love nurturing relationships. And so along all of these different periods of my life, I have really focused on not relationship building, like networking for personal gain per se, but really forming relationships with people where we can mutually support each other, where we can help each other achieve the goals that the other person has. And sometimes that’s very directly and very connected in a close friendship. Sometimes that’s looser in like a secondary or tertiary connection I have with somebody. But we kind of touch base every so often. But I think that piece has been incredibly important.
And then the other piece, again, not to be repetitive, but just like going for things, I mean, there’s so many different ways. Let’s look at Ghostwriting in particular. There are ghost writing marketplaces that you can join. Readsy is a good example where you can have a profile on there and people can reach out to you for opportunities. There are ghost writing council is not the right word. What am I? Like association type things where you can sign up for lists to be on. An example is Gotham ghostwriters. Now, that’s not a list you can just freely join. They have an application process. You have to be a qualified, demonstrated ghostwriter. But I went through that application process. I met with them, I didn’t interview. I’m now on their list. Same with readsy. I went through all their vetting process.
I have a profile on readsy recently in my own work. I am working on book number 18. So the other ones that I’ve either ghost written or co authored 17 of those. And I’m working on book 18. I reached out to agents. I put the book proposal together. I made an effort to meet with the agent that I want to work with when I was in New York. I’m talking about it right? Like those efforts, when you have that clarity of vision, you know, where you want to like, look for where you can create your own opportunity. I talked about this in a recent solo episode. So this is a little bit of a touch back on the Live from New York episode I did recently.
But I think it’s so easy to be a passive entrepreneur, a passive ghostwriter, a passive solopreneur, but to truly reach that meaningful success. To achieve those big things you want to do, you have to be so active and you have to create your own opportunity. You cannot rely on other people to bestow opportunity upon you. To give you the opportunity, you have to go for it, you have to apply for it, you have to connect for it, you have to write it, you have to do those things. The other last very tangible, specific point I’m going to give that I do think has been a major game changer for me is that I have my own books out as well. So I have my own book with my singular name on it. I have a co authored book out as well.
And then even if you look me up on Amazon, I’m in a couple of other books as a contributor. And even my name is found in some books because I’m so blessed to work with beautiful, amazing people that will sometimes write about me in their books as they’re working on them. So that producing your own work, whether it’s a book or a social media account, or a newsletter or blogs, some kind of content creation out into the world, if you want to be successful as a writer, as somebody that will be seen at a certain level, you have to show up. You have to show up in all of your fullness. And that means showing up at that level that you want to be seen as.
And that could mean, again, getting a little more specific, that could mean updating your website, LinkedIn profiles, getting new headshots, and it could mean creating content. That has been a huge business evolution for me. So back to my story. A major evolution for me was going from solopreneur to solopreneur with an assistant to entrepreneur with a team. That’s been a massive mindset shift. It’s been very meaningful. It’s been hard sometimes because it’s totally new and different. But that piece has been a big part of my own personal transformation and growth. What allowed me to get here where I am today is continually pushing myself to show up the way I want to be. Not just how I am, of course I want to do that authentically, but also the way that I guess as the person that I’m aspiring to be.
So really stepping into that future self and embodying her confidence, her success, and showing up that way in all the different ways that I show up online, whether it’s on this podcast, on my website, in my newsletter. On social in a client interaction, in an in person interaction, all of that. I really try to embody my belief in myself and the future that I’m creating for myself and for my family. And I really believe for the world because of the work that I get to do, it’s not me, it’s the people I get to serve and support that are truly changing the world. So to me, there’s this big, beautiful mission behind it that was a little longer than I planned, but still a little bit shorter than our typical episode. I love that question.
I think you could tell I could keep talking, probably for a full hour today. I hope that was helpful. If you have a question, you’re listening to this and you’re like, oh, I’m so curious about this. Maybe about something book related, writing related, location, independence, travel, any of these things. Business, solopreneurship, any of the items that I talked about today, or something totally different. You can send your question in to email@example.com. I really love hearing from you. I love answering your questions. And if you are still here today, I would like to ask you a favor, a really important favor. If you like this podcast, which I hope you do. If you’re still listening, would you please take a moment to leave a five star rating and a positive review of this podcast.
It makes a massive difference in my ability to reach more people with the message of living a life that is beyond better. Thank you, as always, this week. To Rita Dominguez for her amazing production support. She makes this show possible, enables me to get this out every single week to you, and thank you to Catherine Fishman for project support. I will be back with you before you know it.