Written by JJ Barnes
I am so happy to share my interview with business woman, and author, Rebecca Newenham. She explains her motivation behind her book, Virtually Yours, discusses her career so far, and her advice for other writers.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
After a career in corporate buying for retail giants Superdrug and Sainsburys, I founded the award-winning virtual outsourcing agency Get Ahead in 2010. Inspired by my self-employed mother, I knew it was possible to run a business and be there for the family. Creating Get Ahead allowed me to put my love of networking and business to good use and work flexibly around my three daughters as they were growing up.
Now in 2021, I run a team of over 40 virtual assistants and 10 international franchisees, delivering expert administration, marketing services and business support services to help businesses of all sizes and from all sectors get ahead. I love mentoring my franchisees, helping them to achieve their dreams of running their own businesses. I am passionate about flexible working and the role of women in business and regularly speak at events and on podcasts about flexible working, the value of outsourcing and my business success.
In 2020 I published my first book, ‘Virtually Yours’.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
Writing a book first came on my radar around three years ago. I put it on my vision board during one of my coaching sessions. I’m not one for standing still and I do Iove a new project to get my teeth into. I had been developing my business for eight years and had launched my franchise model in 2017. Writing a book felt like a good next step. I thought I would find it quite stimulating and that it would also help raise my business profile.
When did you take a step to start writing?
The concept of a book coach was the real driver for me. I have always responded well to coaching and worked with a business coach for years. But I had no idea book coaches existed. One day I saw that a Virtual Assistant I was connected to had worked with a book coach to write her book and suddenly I could see a way of turning my idea into reality. I got in touch with the book coach and we started working together in March 2019.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
The actual writing process took 18 months, from my first meeting with Alexa my book coach in March 2019 to receiving the first copies in September 2020. It was such an exciting day to finally feel all those months of hard work in my hands.
Writing a book in the middle of a global pandemic was a challenge, but in a way, I think it actually helped. As I wasn’t sending so much time travelling to client meetings and events, I had more time to work on the book. It was also a nice release to focus on, away from some of the stresses of the COVID situation.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write this book?
I was keen to share my story and show that there is an alternative to the traditional 9 to 5 working structure. A way to take your career into your own hands and think about what you really want. An opportunity to work flexibly around your personal commitments and not just be tied to a desk. I feel so privileged to have been able to do that myself and grow a successful business around my family. But I still meet so many people that are struggling to find the right balance. I wanted to be able to give them the handbook and empower them towards a different, more rewarding and more fulfilling future.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Virtually Yours?
Making the time to write was the biggest challenge. I never struggled with what to say, just with making the time to commit all those thoughts to paper. I scheduled time in my diary to make sure it got done and went out to the library when possible, to avoid any distractions from being at home.
What was your research process for Virtually Yours?
As the book is mainly about my personal journey it didn’t need a significant amount of research. The most important aspect was the initial work with my book coach to ensure that what I wanted to write would be suitable for the book market. She was really good at challenging me to make sure I wrote in a way that was suitable for a wider audience, avoiding jargon wherever possible.
How did you plan the structure of Virtually Yours?
Alexa and I worked closely together to outline the layout of the book, the number of chapters and then the content of those chapters. We had a call each month where we would talk through my progress, and she would give her feedback on the sections I had already completed. We never actually met in person. Alexa supported me through the entire process virtually.
We worked through the book in a fairly linear format from start to finish but did cut and paste and slot a few things in as we went along. Together we discovered a rhythm for each chapter, with bullet points at the beginning, a case study, and then key takeaways at the end of each chapter. I was keen to make the book as accessible and easy to read as possible so that people could dip in and out of it, yet still take something away every time they got a chance to engage with it.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Virtually Yours need?
Alexa did some editing as we worked through the writing process and then once it was complete, we used one of her editors to proofread the whole book. The editor gave me some lovely feedback, saying that she said she learnt a lot from reading it. I also used an illustrator to create some of the icons and imagery throughout the book and worked with Alexa to actually publish it.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Just because you think you have a good idea for a book, doesn’t mean that it is. Make sure before you commit too much time (and hope) to it, that it really is a great idea. Talk to people you respect in your industry, publishers or book coaches to focus your ideas on something that works for both you and your audience. And if you work well when getting support from someone else, get a book coach! I know we all work differently, but for me, finding a book coach was definitely a game-changer. I don’t think my book would be here (not yet anyway) if it wasn’t for Alexa’s guidance.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Though at times it was tough, I did enjoy the writing process and I would like to write more books in the future. I think any future books will be about general business advice and the power of positive thinking and mental resilience for achieving your goals. I am a big fan of having clear objectives for the future, as it keeps me focused and productive. Vision boards are great for keeping me on track and energised about what the future holds.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes, I am hugely proud of it. It’s a shame that because of COVID restrictions I haven’t been able to go to events and exhibitions to promote the book in the way I had planned. But I am so proud of myself for actually doing it, particularly alongside running a business and all the COVID challenges that we’ve all had to deal with. It has also proved to be a good profile-raiser, with a wide range of my connections and family members. I think they now realise how serious I am about my business and about sharing my experience with others and inspire and motivate them.