I’ve known Heather for over a year now. We met when she took my freelance writing course and engaged in a coaching relationship. I also introduced her to her first VA client.
What do you do and how long have you been in business?
What got you into VA work? Was it what you expected?
I had been reading a lot about VA work in the months I was preparing to leave my job, and I decided I wanted to go for it.
I thought I would do about half of my business in freelance writing and the other half in virtual assisting to help break up the writing and provide regular income.
I worked as a marketing assistant and project manager at previous jobs, so it seemed like a good fit. And so far, it has been!
What’s been most challenging part of solopreneurship so far?
There are two things over the past year that stick out in my mind.
First, I was used to salaried work.
So if there was a slow day at the office, I was still getting paid. I found I was really only doing three to four hours of work on a typical day!
But now, until I build up passive income, I am only getting paid for the hours I’m actually working. I charge by the hour, but you can also charge a flat fee for the month or week, which is more like a salary. The hourly model is just how I’ve worked it out so far.
The second challenge, which has actually been an asset, is having to wear every hat of my business.
I have to be the writer, the editor, assistant, accountant and so on. But I have learned more in the past year than I did at any other job, so all that work has paid off.
Over time, I plan to hire on a few people to help out in those areas, but for now I’m grateful for the baptism by fire that this past year has been.
Did you ever want to quit or give up?
I was terrified to head out on my own. I remember when I was putting in my two week notice, my boss told me, “I really do hope this works out for you, but if it falls apart a year from now, you have a position here.”
I thanked him, but told him confidently that it wouldn’t fall apart. I didn’t fully believe that at the time.
But here I am, one year later, and I’ve never been happier in a job! For me, it completely suits my personality. I love setting my schedule and knowing that the only cap on my income is me.
What do you do for your VA clients?
I have a handful of VA clients, and they are all over the country.
One is a web designer, and the rest are all financial advisors or bloggers. So I schedule social media for them, or put together spreadsheets they need, or update their client CRM systems. It varies from week to week.
At my 9-to-5, those kinds of tasks were incredibly boring to me. But now I have such great relationships with my clients that I love helping them and their businesses.
How did you find your VA clients?
Gina actually introduced me to my very first client, and that client is still working with me today! The others I found from the Careful Cents job listings, and a couple I’ve been referred to.
What are some big successes you’ve had recently?
I decided I wanted to grow my business and income, so I started requesting additional work or throwing ideas at my clients about extra tasks I could take on for them.
I also work as a freelance writer for some of them, so I pitched my writing as well. My next hurdle will be raising my prices, which I have really dragged my feet on. But I can feel that it’s time.
What are some specific strategies, tactics or pieces of advice that helped you grow?
Starting out, I didn’t have a niche.
I also didn’t have much confidence in my VA abilities, so I second-guessed applying for a lot of positions. What I found was that many people hadn’t hired a VA before, so we worked together to create the ideal position.
I tried to say “yes” frequently early on until I got in my groove and knew what to look for in a client. Now I have a much better idea of who I want to work with and how much time I have to offer.
When it comes to pricing, don’t be shy about setting the bar high. You don’t have to offer bottom of the barrel prices to get business. People are happy to pay for quality work, so don’t sell yourself short.
Also, like I mentioned earlier, look for opportunities to offer additional help or suggest solutions.
What are you most excited about for your business next?
I’m starting to get into creating courses and finishing up my third novel.
Up until a couple months ago, I still felt like I was pretending – like I wasn’t running a real business. I finally shook that feeling and totally embraced my work and my business, so I’m excited to get into more branding.
And I’m planning a major overhaul of my website, so I can’t wait to see how that goes! My current site is the basic one I put up when I got started, so one of my goals for this year is to give it a huge makeover.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone trying to break into VA work?
Tap into your network.
You would be amazed how many people – small business owners especially – would hire someone for a little extra help each week. If I notice that friends or business acquaintances seem overwhelmed, I let them know that I’m a VA and I could help them with the overflow work.
And be confident!
I have seen a lot of opportunity in this field over the past year, so there’s plenty to go around. Join some Facebook groups, apply to positions and get to know other VAs. You never know when you’ll run into the perfect client for you.
Heather is a freelance writer, author and virtual assistant. She left 9-to-5 work behind in the summer of 2015 and hasn’t looked back since. She has a degree in journalism from Bradley University, and lives in Illinois with her husband, cat and Boxer puppy. You can visit her site at hmswick.com.