Artemis has been writing for newspapers since she was 15 years old. With an Associate’s Degree in writing, a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a Master’s Degree in English, she’s no slouch. She now offers services as a virtual assistant, creative coach, writer and editor. She specializes in website design and social media management.
What is a virtual assistant?
A virtual assistant helps entrepreneurs and businesses with their online needs, including branding, social media management, video editing, administration, web design, and copy writing. It can be a consultant role. For example, if a client doesn’t know much about Instagram, and they need someone to set theirs up or to discuss what to post, a social media expert—a specific kind of virtual assistant—can help.
How did you get into this line of work?
A couple of years ago, I started creative coaching, which I’ve since realized dovetails neatly with virtual assisting. I became passionate about helping entrepreneurial women—I love working with start-ups which have reached the point when they need more people to help. The client wants to focus on the part of the business that is most important to them, while I concentrate on building their brand and online presence. It doesn’t have to be a major commitment; they can start small with a minimum of five hours a month.
As an example, how might you help a new author?
It’s important to recognize their goal—if we don’t define what they mean by success, how can we know when we’ve reached it? After all, measuring achievement is vital in every business. But making a living from writing requires a different approach than promoting a single book. Authors struggle with Amazon because we know that the more reviews we get, the more visible our books become. While there are ways to get reviews—by paying a reviewer, offering free copies, and more—we don’t have control over what those reviews say, or whether they’re ever written. That’s why it’s important to identify additional actionable goals that we can control. Some suggestions are: connecting with a certain number of followers each week, offering giveaways, and interviewing those we admire to share what we’ve learned with our followers.
I always ask what authors are already doing. Maybe they have 50 followers on Instagram and don’t post often. Then we find where their people are—their target audience. Many writers are on Twitter, Facebook groups are a great way to build connections, and Goodreads is valuable for selling books. They can also use podcasts and interviews to further build an author platform.
What is an author platform?
It’s how writers let their audience know how to find them, connect with them, and see what they’re working on. Authors need to put themselves out there, not just promote their book. It’s about culture, community and sharing knowledge. They will get more followers by engaging with other people’s posts on social media—making comments, not just liking posts. If all they do is write their own posts, they might get nowhere. To become visible, it should be about their followers, not just about themselves. People like people who listen; they want to speak, not listen to an author’s lectures. For example, on Twitter, if an author comments on other people’s posts, then others will connect with them and eventually look at their website and see what they write.
Along the same lines, many Facebook groups don’t allow self-promotion, but if people ask questions that your book can answer, you can post in the responses. I’ve bought books that way because the writers have answered my questions in a way that positioned themselves as experts.
How important is a website?
You shouldn’t rely on a website to bring business to your door. I use mine as my business card and online resume. I direct people to it in conversations or through social media. There’s a lot to understand about SEO to attract more traffic.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is about online visibility. I’m not an SEO expert, but I know it works differently for each platform.
Google doesn’t like you to use the same word over again to get higher in the listings. If you overdo it, they can penalize you. The most popular links end up at the top, regardless of accuracy. When researching, I skip the first 10 pages, but most people don’t do that.
YouTube is completely different as it doesn’t mind if words are repeated—in the title, the video description and so on.
If you find your people through social media and direct them organically to your website, then the site may get closer to the top in search results. Dedication and repetition are key. My Dad has a website to sell cars, which he’s been updating every week for 15 years. If you type trucks and Massachusetts, it comes up because the site has been running for so long.
Do you have any other advice for writers?
I highly recommend several valuable books and podcasts that discuss making a living as a writer. I suggest reading Jane Friedman’s book The Business of Being a Writer, Marion Roach Smith’s book The Memoir Project, and Jeff Goins’s book Real Artists Don’t Starve. I highly suggest listening to The Writers’ Co-op with Jenny Gritters and Wudan Yan, and First Drafts with Sarah Enni. Many authors don’t want to think about marketing and sales, which is why they hire a virtual assistant in the first place.
Please tell us a bit about your own writing.
I’ve been writing freelance for newspapers since I was 15, and I’ve published a few fiction stories since then. Recently, I’ve gotten more into creative nonfiction, and I’ve had a number of essays published.
I had a great time in 2018, when I did 50 interviews and turned them into blog posts. I then put together a book proposal, which I pitched to 20 agents, but it didn’t get picked up. I realized I needed a very specific slant if I wanted an agent and publication. I could have continued pitching but decided to direct my energies elsewhere.
In the 1970s, American journalist Studs Terkel published Working, a book of interviews about what people did for work. He focused on the theme of racism. His interviews were hours long. He recorded, typed and edited them so that each one is in that person’s voice. The book is amazing, and every chapter discusses a different job. I’d love to do what he did, but I don’t have the funds to do so.
For my book, I don’t think I had the right slant. I thought that I could write the next Working book for our generation and it would just work. (The blog is no longer up, as I recently changed my website hosting, and I haven’t transferred my blog posts across yet.)
The other issue was that I wanted to write, but these interviews didn’t feel like writing. The worst part was feeling it wasn’t seen or read or appreciated by anyone beyond the interviewees. I’ve thought about trying to get my interviews into colleges for their job research sections, but my energy has wound down for this project. Maybe I could bind them into a pdf on my website—I haven’t tried to self-publish for money yet.
I’m now working on a long-form memoir based on my travels in Europe, where I had a powerful awakening around feminine power. My elevator pitch is: a young woman searches for her home and tribe in Europe and arrives home to the United States during Covid to no place to stay and a family too terrified to take her in.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my tribe these days. My tribe are travellers, because I explore ideas about being constantly on the move and feeling homeless, like my family doesn’t want me. I don’t have my own nuclear family, so my friends are my family now. I think this will appeal to my generation.
My goal is to publish a book a year. I have a lot of ideas, and sometimes start but don’t finish a piece.
On a personal level, I’m working towards van life.
What does van life look like?
I just bought a wheelchair van, which has a high top. I can stand in it and am installing an ergonomically friendly desk. I want to experience long term travel, spending a week or two, or even a month or two in various places around the country. I have friends around the US, so I can just hang out in their driveways, and in between I’ll live in campgrounds and national forests which offer cell reception so that I can continue running my virtual assistant business uninterrupted.
Next time: an interview with photographer Sandra Lording on the Mansfield Farm Project.