Susan Weeks of Podcast Progress is our 8th Blogfest blogger and she writes about her biz her way and her solopreneur story:
September 2008 What Shall I Do?
It’s September 2008, I am living in Northern France and I’m at a massive personal and professional crossroads. Do I apply for a job at the local supermarket? Or do I apply for a job at the chicken factory? Surely there must be another way? Can I be a ‘solopreneur’? My way?
Why I Am Writing My Story – My Biz My Way
Before I continue with my story, I think it makes sense to share with you why I am writing it. My good friend Judith Morgan has invited me to take part in her Blogfest during February & March 2018. Judith recently published her first proper book, Your Biz Your Way. And to continue with that theme, in response, me and 51 other solopreneurs and small business bloggers are writing about how we run Our Biz Our Way.
What a great idea, Judith, and it’s going to be fascinating reading those stories.
But it doesn’t stop there – this is no share, read and forget activity so prevalent on social media. The conversation will continue as Judith will respond to each of us via her blog with her emotions, ideas and thoughts around what we have shared. She will also pick out nuggets of value to herself and her clients. It is my hope you enjoy my contribution.
Who Is Susan Weeks?
Oh – who am I? Susan Weeks, a Yorkshire lass, currently living in a small seaside town on the East Yorkshire coast. I make it easy for successful, female service professionals to build their reputation as an expert and market their business by harnessing the power of their own podcast. Having a podcast is a great strategy for doing that – it is also exciting and fun. I am so happy I host my own podcast, Stitchery Stories, which combines my love of textile art and podcasting. My third hat is that of content marketing mentor and technical trainer for VAClassroom.com the premier global virtual assistant training university. I love these three hats!
From Rat Race 2003 to France 2006
I would love to share with you the unexpected and often hilarious story of feeling free at leaving the rat race in 2003, feeling surprised at being pregnant, and feeling adventurous living in Ireland, travelling around Europe, and settling in France in 2006. Suffice to say, that story is too long for a blog post but gives you a glimpse of that journey and that crossroads of decision I started my story with today. Solopreneur wasn’t part of the original plan!
France 2008 – Get My Brain Cells Working Again
So, let’s go back to those crossroads. Back to France 2008. With my only child now fulltime at nursery school, as is the way in France, it is time for me to get my brain cells back into gear. I have no regrets at leaving my successful corporate IT and Training career behind me in late 2003. Burnt out, disillusioned and newly divorced, that decision had given me the time and resources to take stock, make plans and I knew all would be golden again without a doubt.
I Choose My Way
I look at those local employment options. I consider getting a proper job again, but the weekly commute, to Jersey or England, is unappealing. I choose my way. I know I can take my valuable career experience and find some way of making it work on a remote basis. I already have extensive experience of working remotely so I know it will work. It can only get better and easier as the tools and technology are improving rapidly. Broadband internet will make my vision possible, and I can see opportunities for me to earn a decent living once again without the stress, and commuting. I can stay at home to spend time with my lovely boy.
Excitement Of Building My Business
Can you feel my excitement when I discover the opportunity of building a business as a Virtual Assistant? Can you feel my relief as I find a new virtual assistant training company called VA Classroom and take their first course on building a business around Social Media marketing? We are still in 2008, and I realise I have found my thing. Friends and family don’t really have a clue what I am doing and find it mysterious that I am working with clients around the world. Fascinating but mysterious. I keep on learning new skills and provide mainly video marketing and content marketing. Lots of interesting subjects and clients. Yet more stories are unfolding.
Embracing My Difference
It doesn’t take me long to realise that my way of working with clients isn’t the typical way most virtual assistants work with their clients. Everyone always remarks on how different I am. I lead my clients, providing strategy and direction, providing confidence and reassurance for them, as well as very well rounded and very robust IT and project planning skills. I note that many VAs work their way into being a VA via being an admin person, or a personal assistant in a company then go out on their own. I am doing it differently. Instead of carrying on with the career ladder and chasing directorships like my friends, I find enjoyment and peace developing my own solopreneur business and helping clients to develop theirs.
Moving Through The Years, Moving Back To England
Moving forward through the years, I leave France, come back to Yorkshire, and set up home with my son, by the seaside. Another story waiting to be told.
My Podcast Niche
So, in 2016 I niche further into podcasting after deciding that it is not sustainable to keep offering a wider and wider range of skills and services. Confusing for clients and exhausting for me. When I look around at who is working in the podcasting space there are a lot of men, talking about being veteran audio engineers. I think of them as the boxes and wires crew. There are an increasing number of people who are offering low-cost audio editing, and who know little else. There are plenty of DIY How To Podcast online courses. There are teams offering a production line approach to getting a podcast launched who are clearly using low-cost overseas resources to do so but not admitting to it. There are plenty of folks who have DIY-ed their way to creating their own podcast, but they have no background or experience in anything relevant to online marketing, delivering remote services, and so on.
Podcast Services My Way
I spot an opportunity to do it my way. Provide a high-quality podcast launch service. Follow a strong process for success. Ensure that the client will get a podcast that is aligned with their business, that is helping to grow their business and that is easy for them. My vision is they just have to turn up and talk. I do everything else. This way of working is based on a model I have developed very successfully over several years with a client, working on his podcast.
Come Out Of Hiding
Anyway, I decided to be me. I also realise I was a very well-kept secret! That had to change. With Judith’s encouragement, I came out of hiding. With my friend Winnie Anderson‘s encouragement, I came further out of hiding. Thank you, both of you.
This Is What I Do Now
I pushed myself out of my comfort zone ‘rut’.
- appear as a guest on audio and video podcasts
- blog regularly around podcasting
- write about Podcasting, on IRIS.xyz (a North American web portal for financial advisors)
- do Facebook Live video and audio to position and promote myself
- speak at meetings and events, including at the Online International Virtual Assistants Conference
- mentor and train virtual assistants through VAClassroom.com
- host and produce my own podcast, Stitchery Stories, which is growing nicely and regularly appears in the Top 200 Visual Arts podcasts in iTunes Apple Podcasts
- build a strategic network around me, which gives me resources to refer work to and call on for help as needed
I work steadily to build my platform and to position myself from service provider to what people frequently describe me as – an expert. So what, Sue, I hear you mutter.
These Are The Ways I Do It My Way
Well, these are the ways I do it my way. These are the ways I show my difference. These are the ways I continue to develop expertise to benefit my clients. I love what I do, and it gives me time and space in my life to do other things I love too. I often say I could be three times as busy if I charged a third of the price – but what is the point of that. Busy fool? No thanks!
Build a Team?
The received wisdom I continue to resist is to build my team. I don’t want to. I did that years ago at work – a lovely team spread across five offices across the North of England. Online tools for virtual connectivity were not so great back in the early noughties but we managed great. That’s no reason why I want to do it again. I just want to do my own thing, my way. And I do. My time is spent doing a proper job (as we say in Yorkshire) for my clients. That’s what I love to do.
The Lesson From The Moon
This blog invitation has come at the perfect time. I feel like I spent 2017 parked in the car park of opportunity – looking for my next move. I have spent January 2018 thinking. Thinking. Wondering. The Blue Moon this week has been so beautiful, bright and strong. The hats and jigsaw pieces I have been juggling and wondering about came together this week in a glorious download into my head when I was supposed to be asleep. As the moon reflected light, I learned how to shine mine.
Excitement for 2018
I am excited. I am creating a deeper niche, I have a crystal-clear focus and I can look at my services and clients in a different light. I will be more different. I will stand out more. From the crossroads, through the car park, the road ahead is clear. I continue my journey. My Biz. My Way.
Well, Susan! It’s a MONSTER!! The longest one yet at 1749 words. Thank you for taking the time. These stories are turning out to be quite fascinating reading and yours is no exception.
The thing about you is – and this is very rare in my world – I feel totally comfortable about you doing so many things, not only because they all chime beautifully, but because you are so organised and competent. You are very rare. You are a consummate professional in your work and dedicated to having a whole life too. I would trust you with anything and anyone I passed in your direction and never hesitate to recommend your expertise, for expert indeed you are. You’ve earned that. You’ve put in the 10,000 hours and more.
You know I am an honorary Northerner in that I speak as I find, as do you. We have that in common. I appreciate it about you and it saves so much time for us and our clients in busy lives, doesn’t it? You are reliable, you were always my 8 a.m. client with her breakfast, remember? I could rely on you. This is such a great quality in a human being, and you have it in spades.
It is interesting, the choice to follow our own way, and I wonder if we really had all that much of a choice? Your options looked considerably less attractive than employing yourself, didn’t they? Embracing your difference, finding your niche and nailing your colours firmly to it, taking lessons from the moon (one of my very fave things about your story above) and all the vibe words you use, especially in that moony paragraph, demonstrate to me that you are poised for podcast perfection and profits. I can’t wait for the day when we can work together again, this time with me as your client.