In this week’s work-at-home spotlight, we interviewed Ashley Gainer, freelance writer extraordinaire, founder of ashleygainer.com, and mama of three. Ashley is an alumnus of Gina Horkey’s 30 Day or Less to Freelance Writing Success, and has since founded the Ink Well Guild which hosts her own writing courses.
In this interview, Ashley tells us how she got started in the freelancing world, the various projects she’s worked on over the years, and how she found her niche in ghostwriting books. She also sheds some light on the kind of challenges that come with being a freelancing mom and how she overcame them.
Curious about if freelance writing might be right for you or what it's like to be a book ghostwriter? You’ll love this interview!
1. Could you give us a little background of your work-from-home journey?
I started dabbling in freelance writing about 10 years ago when I was moving cross-country as a trailing spouse. I had a notion that people could “get paid to write on the internet” and I decided to give it a shot for myself. I never quite figured it out and eventually took a temp job that a friend of mine offered, but it remained on the back burner and something I did in my spare time.
Fast forward a couple of years, and my marriage fell apart shortly before the birth of my first child. I wanted to be able to stay home with my baby instead of spending the whole day away from him, and I knew freelancing was the way to make it happen. I dug deep, committed hard, and made it work!
2. Why did you choose writing for your work-from-home career and what type of writing do you like best?
Initially, I took anything I could find, but I thought I was a better editor than a writer so I focused on academic editing for a while. Eventually, I got tired of suffering the abuse that stressed-out grad students and PhD candidates doled out, and I walked away from editing. I also realized that the ceiling for editing was about $40/hr and that writers had a much, much higher earning potential. I made a hard pivot into writing in 2014 and never looked back!
Most of what I did for a long time was writing blog posts for businesses, bloggers, and other entrepreneurs. I really liked stretching into other forms of writing, though, like emails, courses, workbooks, and the like.
One of my favorite things to write is webinar scripts! I learned a really compelling style of webinars from Russell Brunson and I just love it. It’s storytelling, it breaks limiting beliefs, and it ushers people into exciting new possibilities.
But these days, I focus on ghostwriting books for entrepreneurs and experts who have a big message to get out but don’t have the time or wherewithal to write a whole book. I take their vision and their knowledge and I turn it into something that can change the world. It’s so cool!
3. How did you develop the skills needed to start working from home?
I was always “a writer” in the sense that I loved writing personal essays, working for the school paper, reading interesting magazines, and the like. I went to college for journalism and got a degree from one of the top j-schools in the country.
The writing piece was relatively easy for me. It’s the business piece that took me years and years to figure out. I started getting traction (finally) when I began reaching out and making connections with people who were doing the same thing I was, and who was a bit further along the path than I was. I started emulating what they were doing.
Bit by bit by bit, racking up hour after hour of study, I started to figure out how to market myself and land clients. And the rest, as they say, is history! I’ve been freelancing for 10 years now and I don’t know that I’ll ever stop this online entrepreneurship thing.
4. Has your business evolved since you first started it?
Totally and (very nearly) completely. I started off doing SEO writing for web design agencies. Eventually, I moved into editing for self-published authors and academic papers. Then I moved into writing exclusively, and a few years ago I started teaching what I knew. I now spend about half my time working on things for my students and half my time on client work.
5. What is your biggest challenge working from home as a mom?
All these kids running around! The logistics of running a family with 3 young kids are complex and daunting. Every single moment I’m asking myself if I should be working or if I should be doing family things. (Rarely am I asking myself what I need to do for ME, which is part of the problem.)
After my third baby proved himself to be anti-sleep, it became nearly impossible to work without bringing in some help, so we hired a nanny to look after the youngest for three mornings a week while the other two are in school and preschool. It’s still a challenge now, but I know it won’t be like this forever, so I’m showing up as best I can on all fronts and holding onto faith that it won’t always be this hard.
6. What do you love most about working from home?
The flexibility of being able to see my family. As a freelancer, I’m 100% in control of my time as long as I meet my deadlines. Life would be a lot tougher if I didn’t have that level of autonomy.
7. How do you balance family time and work time?
Scheduling my days is still a challenge for me. I don’t have it figured out yet, but I’m currently toying with a 4 pm quit time to spend the rest of the evening with my family, and then using the hours after the kids go to bed to finish up anything that needs finishing.
8. Have you ever regretted/questioned your decision to work from home?
There have been times when I’ve been really frustrated and wondered if I should quit, but all I had to do was think about the alternative for 5 seconds: get a job, put the kid(s) in daycare, drop them off at 7am, pick them up at 6pm, and hope for a nice weekend together because that’s all we’ll see each other…. That’s always enough for me to recommit to building my own business.
How Can You Become an In-Demand Freelance Writer like Ashley?
Freelance writing is skill that successful small (and not so small) businesses need.
They can't do it themselves (if they want to have a life and enjoy their success).
Which makes it a perfect skill to learn if you enjoy writing and want to become a virtual assistant (or specialize in writing only)!
And Gina Horkey the creator of 30 Days to Freelance Writing Success started out as a freelance writer (so she knows what she's talking about).
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Check out their $19 mini-course, Jump Start Your Virtual Assistant Business to see if it's a good fit for you.
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Do you have any comments about book ghostwriting or questions about how to become a freelance writer? Share your questions in the comments!