Alexis Grant left her full-time journalism job to travel West Africa. Through this experience, she learned about traveling alone as a woman, and even more importantly, why it’s worth dropping everything to follow a dream.
Nowadays she's an entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist, inspiring others to make the switch to go after what they want to do. We caught up with her for an interview to share a bit of her story and some secrets of her success.
1. You were a full-time journalist when you decided to take a lone backpacking journey through West Africa. Where did this dream come from? Why backpacking alone through a foreign country?
It was a pretty simply dream -- I wanted an adventure. A travel adventure. And I wanted it before I had other responsibilities in life, mainly a family. I’d spent some time in Central Africa during college, and the culture there fascinated me! And I chose mostly French-speaking countries to improve my language skills.
Going alone was part challenge, part consequence. I wanted to be on my own to make my own choices, and I knew I’d meet more people if I traveled on my own, too. But I also knew chances were low of me finding anyone else to go with me. I was 27, and most of my friends were knee-deep in their careers or getting married and having kids, not dropping everything to travel through the Dark Continent. If I wanted to do the trip, I’d have to get up the guts to go on my own. And I did!
2. Your website is filled with helpful advice for people wanting to use the online world to further their career, make a new career, or create a side job or “hustle” as you call it. What prompted you to offer the services that you do and create this site and your e-guides?
I write about what people tell me they want to read. Lots of people ask how I manage to make a living with my online business, how my blog has helped me succeed, and how I use social media to build my brand -- so that’s what I write about. My eguides and courses are really an extension of the blog, a way for readers to learn the practicalities behind making your own luck.
My first eguide, How to Build a Part-Time Social Media Business, came about because readers and friends kept asking me how I was making $2K each month on the side of my day job. That guide shows you how. And once people started downloading that guide, I got a lot of requests for help creating a social media strategy, so I wrote a blueprint for that, too.
It’s really about figuring out what you’re good at and how you can share that expertise with others -- and then following your community’s cues on what they want to learn.
3. You mention that your e-guides bring in a good source of income for you. As you have a lot of advice for writers pursuing making money with their craft, what would you say the real benefits of e-guides are for a writer?
So many benefits! To start, eguides are a great way to supplement your income, so long as you offer something people want and have a way to get the word out -- so you actually make sales. This is a great way to fund your writing pursuits.
Writing ebooks also builds your brand. It shows you have value to offer, and essentially turns you into an expert on the topic you write about. It gives you credibility and authority -- so long as you create an awesome product.
Ebooks can also drive traffic to your blog and help support your other goals (especially if you’ve found a way to make money through blog leads, for example, by consulting).
And, of course, if you enjoy writing, it’s pure FUN to create eguides. I love writing them!
4. How do people interested in using your social media expertise find you?
Potential clients generally find me through word of mouth, aka referrals. And most of those referrals are in-person referrals. By that, I mean someone I’ve met in person referred me to a friend.
But my online presence does play a huge part here. Because once someone has heard about what I do, they go to my website to check me out. And that’s where I smack them with a ton of valuable, helpful content that shows I know what I’m talking about. My blog is my resume and my cover letter and even my endorsements. Networking gets me halfway there, but proving my worth online brings those new contracts home.
5. On your website, you use a lot of your own experiences to inspire others to make the “leap” to following their own dreams as you have. Can you briefly explain how your leap has made your life better, happier, etc?
We all make little leaps every day, and those are often the ones that really count. But I consider my big leaps to be 1. leaving my job as a newspaper reporter in 2008 to travel solo through Africa and 2. leaving my subsequent reporting job to focus on my own business.
Both of these moves felt risky and scary, but following through made me a happier person. While I truly love my work, life is about MORE than work, and too often we bother to fit the other stuff in. We think it’s impossible, too expensive, too difficult -- but it’s all about choosing priorities.
And the best part is, once you make one leap, it’s easier to make others going forward. Partly because you see just how much you’ve GAINED from that risk, and partly because you realize it really IS possible to live the life YOU want, even if that’s different from what you’re told you should want.
6. What is the number one, first thing a person should do to start actualizing his or her dream?
Surround yourself with go-getters. If you hang out with other people who are doing great things, you’re that much more likely to follow their lead. Because if they’re doing it, following your dream will seem normal. In fact, you might even seem like the outsider by NOT following your dream.
Then start putting the pieces in place, little by little. Even if you’re not ready to take that leap now, there are so many things you can do to prepare, like saving money (which will give you freedom later), building your network and getting rid of any stuff, either physical belongings or psychological barriers, that are holding you down. Baby steps will move you that much closer to where you want to be.
7. Do you have specific plans for your website or business in the future? Maybe there is a new e-guide you’ve been thinking about?
Yes! I’ve got a few big things in the works for 2013, including a website redesign (fun!) and a guide on all the financial stuff you need to know to work for yourself. I’m writing that guide with my dad, an accountant who, along with my accountant mom, has helped me wade through all sorts of financial red tape.
I’m also focusing on running my Twitter networking course, Become a Twitter Power User, several more times in 2013. This one has been really popular, so I want to keep up the momentum!
8. If you could give someone just one simple piece of advice about following one’s dreams, what would that be?
Do it! Seriously. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s impossible, and don’t let yourself get bogged down with all the details. Most of your obligations are actually choices. It’s up to you to pick your priorities, and act on them.
Alexis Grant is a writer and digital strategist, with a focus on careers. She left her day job as a journalist in mid-2011 to build her own business. Now she makes her living by offering eguides and courses, as well as helping small businesses with blogging, email marketing and social media. She took her first career break in 2008 to backpack solo through Africa. Alexis blogs at http://alexisgrant.com. You can also find her on Twitter at @alexisgrant