You guys are going to LOVE Ally Berthiaume – she dubs herself as a ghostwriter, writing guide, and girlfriend all rolled into one. She really connects with her clients and helps them write the book they were born to write. She’s approachable, relatable, and I want her to be my new best friend (probably everyone who meets her feels this way).
First things first – what would your walk-on-stage music be?
Oh gosh, so many songs come to mind but I guess I’ll go with “This Is Me” which is from the musical/movie The Greatest Showman. I think it speaks beautifully about our individual scars, uniqueness, and the perseverance to be true to ourselves. Bravery and vulnerability and what we’ve been through in our lives are kind of big things for me so I relate to this song.
When did you start your business, and why did you create it?
Truthfully, my entrepreneurial origin story was more about a series of unfortunate events that guided me to this path. I had always hoped to find a way to make my passion for writing my living, but even with an M.F.A. in creative writing, I didn’t know how to do that.
It was 2017, and I was on my fifth job in seven years. Every one of them was an entry-level thing with a promise of advancements or room to grow and no two jobs were ever the same. It felt like I was constantly throwing myself at jobs and seeing what might stick, what might feel satisfying just enough to make it work. That was a futile effort as I always got to some period of time where two things seemed to occur: one, I would discover I likely wasn’t going anywhere and the advancement or upward movement was not what it had originally seemed and two, I just wanted to write.
In that fifth job, I was hopeful that I was wrong about the advancement and I was also a mom with new perspectives and hopes. But within the first year of this role, a few things happened simultaneously. My marriage began to fall apart, I miscarried my second child, and the promotion I was promised was taken away. This was not what #adulting was supposed to look like. This wasn’t the life I had imagined for myself. It felt like my reality had actually been made of straw and a huge lightning storm came and burned everything down.
With my world turned to ashes, there was only one way to go and that was up. I threw my hands up in the air and told the Universe I gave up. I wasn’t going to follow whatever rules or expectations society had; I was open to being guided. Relinquishing control over having a traditional job or doing anything ‘by the book’ was just the ticket. The right conversation, people, podcasts, books, etc. all led me in one direction – going out on my own and finally pursuing writing as my living.
One of the conversations I had at the time I was exploring alternative career paths was with my own writing coach. She suggested I consider becoming a Virtual Assistant. I had never heard of that, but I was open to anything. She pointed me in the direction of a woman with a training program. So I got in touch with her and knew instantly that it was the right move for me at that time.
I joined the program and established my business entity in the fall of 2018. Just shy of six months later, I walked out of my day job with two months of living expenses in the bank and a promise to myself I would make it work. Business took off for the moon. Everyone needed a writer, it seemed.
It didn’t take long before I realized I wasn’t really a VA. I was more specialized and skilled in writing than I had given myself credit for. So I changed my title, refocused my services to particular types of writing, and kept building off my own momentum as I went, tweaking, changing, evolving as I grew and expanded and as I built up my own portfolio and reputation with clients. Then in 2020 I wrote and published my own book and ghostwrote a client’s and it was a HUGE game changer. I finally realized EXACTLY what I should be doing.
In 2021, I turned the corner to stand in my own power and claim what I want to do and KNOW I’m capable of with my business and for my clients – coach womxn to write their books or ghostwrite their books for them. And that’s where I still am now and I love every second.
Tell us about your business and what makes you unique in your field.
I have a few superpowers that I employ when I work with folx. One, I “hear between the lines.” So when people come to me and they feel they are going on and on and on without clarity, I can laser-focus on something, repeat it back to them, and they go, “YES! THAT! How did you get there?”
I ask a LOT of questions and am genuinely interested and curious about people. This makes me an excellent collaborator on writing projects because I’m not going to leave any stone unturned. We are going to get everything we need to make a delicious book.
I’m a totally open, safe, and welcoming space, so people have the ability to come as they are. They can show up with bedhead, they can show up needing to cry, they can come ready to laugh. Whatever is going on for them, it’s all okay. We are human. The work I do touches that humanness and we operate as old friends in addition to business partners. My clients Voxer me in between calls and tell me if they’re stuck, if they’re triggered, if they need emotional support because the work is getting difficult or painful. We have a deep relationship built on trust and a level of companionship I’m not sure most always feel with their writing coach or ghostwriter and it all works to serve the story and book because the more comfortable they are with me, the more comfortable they are in doing this huge thing of telling heir story. This is why I say I’m a ghostwriting, writing guide, and girlfriend all rolled into one.
Lastly, I’m not the person who is going to promote going after Amazon bestseller status or saying traditional publishing is the only way to go. I’m not going to guarantee someone will get foreign rights, or a movie deal, or even an agent. I won’t promise how many books they’ll sell. And I won’t tell them to cut corners or that we can get a whole book done in a few months. I’m methodical and deliberate in my approach to how we work, and I’m committed to writing a great book, telling a compelling story, and ensuring it’s authentic to my client’s experience. There are plenty of great books that didn’t make it to Amazon bestseller or that didn’t get traditionally published or get a movie deal. (In fact, that’s most books.) There are plenty of great books that didn’t sell thousands but still impacted people. So I’m not going to promise ideas of grandeur for reasons that aren’t necessary. I believe in the story and in the person more than anything else.
What do you feel makes your audience special?
My audience has been through some sh*t and yet they still want to make the world a better place. That is to say, most of my clientele come to me having a deeply personal story to share and it’s traumatic and painful, yet they want to tell it, not only because it will be liberating for them but because they can see how it can impact the world. They aren’t holding onto resentment of what wrongs were committed against them, but still have empathy, compassion, love, hope, and even forgiveness, in their hearts. And they want to let at least one person know they’re not alone. That they’ve been where they are and they can survive. My audience has the stories that most of us don’t want to say out loud but that so many of us have lived. I believe their stories have the power to change the world if we have enough people ready and willing to listen (or read them).
If you could magically give all of your community members one thing in this world, what would it be, and why?
Bravery to be themselves.
Did you create your own website or hire it out? Do you use WordPress?
Every website I’ve had has been a joint effort between myself and my partner. I write the copy and decide generally what I want it to look like. Then, we look at other websites that have a similar look and feel and he sees what kind of site they are or what template and we try to imitate them. He does all the development/tech work. I get to make it look and sound nice. All my websites have been WordPress sites.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own business?
You don’t have to have everything figured out to get going or take action; like everything else, the entrepreneurial journey is an evolution. Where you start doesn’t have to be where you end, but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t at least begin.
Do you have an email list? If so, did you start it when you launched?
I do have an email list. I didn’t start growing it until one year after I got started. Business took off with a bunch of word-of-mouth referrals and so I buried myself in client work and did very little by way of building a website or an email list in those first 12 months. A year in and my business coach at the time finally told me I needed to have at least a simple landing page and an email capture. I’ve been growing my list since 2019 and I still get excited when new people come onto the list and we reach a new number. I’m just shy of 500 emails and will be celebrating that day because it’s finally halfway to a thousand. It’s a small list right now, but I love knowing it will grow and be even mightier than it is now.
How do you promote your site?
Lead magnets, new blog posts that traffic people over to the blog, social media posts that point people back to the website, etc.
Who are your favorite bloggers or podcasts right now? Or what is an influential book that you’ve read lately?
I have so many podcasts I’d like to have the time to listen to, haha, but the one I tend to tune into when I have the time is We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I wrote and published my first memoir, Dear Universe, I Get it Now: Letters on the Art and Journey of Being Brave and Being Me in November of 2020. I love this book of mine and so have many others. So, if you’re someone who needs a reminder to be true to yourself or is interested in exploring your life’s lessons or pursuing your passions, this book is for you. I’d love for you to check it out. And if you buy direct from me, I’ll sign it and throw in a bookmark. I’d love to share my story with you in hopes you see some part of yourself inside mine.