Fully Booked VA Blog

Student Success Story: Erika Schanzenbach

Introducing Erika Schanzenbach! She’s pulled her love of design and writing together to build a thriving Virtual Assistant business. Erika crafted her business to support her ideal lifestyle – doing things that she finds fulfilling and worthwhile, and spending her time exactly how she wants to!

Read on to learn about Erika’s inspiring mindset and how she’s overcome any hurdles that were keeping her from pursuing the business, and lifestyle, that she’d set her mind to. 

**Be sure to catch Erika’s 2023 update, including how she became a fully booked VA!

Name: Erika Schanzenbach

Short bio: Graphic designer turned small-business sidekick.

Location: Abingdon, Virginia, USA

Website: gobizgo.pro

Date hired by first client: March 2018, three weeks after starting the course.

Return on investment: 48 days after enrolling in Gina’s course!

Average hours worked per week: 30(ish)

Services offered: Graphic design and typesetting, content management, admin assistance

Hi, Erika. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Currently my 40th birthday is staring me down and I don’t intend to flinch.

My next decade is going to be my best yet. Ha, take that big 4-0!

But seriously, I am a long time graphic designer with a love of the written word. I went to tech college to study electronic publishing and then I worked for many years doing layout design and typesetting for magazines and books along with managing blog content.

I never felt comfortable in the traditional career box.

I was homeschooled in the 80s when homeschooling was hardly a thing, by a stay-at-home mom and a dad who ran his own small business. My childhood taught me a lot about hard work and personal responsibility, as well as prioritizing things of lasting importance rather than seeking immediate gratification.

I have my parents to thank for ruining me for corporate life forever and laying the foundation for me to be a kick-ass VA.

How about your business?

I have major respect for small business owners and solopreneurs. Starting a business isn’t easy, and keeping one going is even harder, but I sincerely believe the world needs people with vision and a willingness to do the hard work to start things. They make our communities stronger.

Unfortunately, big ideas often get lost in the minutia of implementation. My business is to come alongside small business owners and help them redeem their time.

I not only take administrative tasks off their plate that are consuming their attention and keeping them from moving their business forward, but my design skill and writing ability also helps them present their businesses well.

Why did you decide to start a Virtual Assistant business?

This business was a lifestyle choice more than anything else.

I desire to use my time on this earth wisely, in a way that exercises my gifts and talents fruitfully, and serves other people well.

A VA business gives me the flexibility to structure my work life to serve my overall life goals and priorities. That means if I want to do volunteer work every Friday morning or take my work with me as I travel, I can. It means that if I want use my skills and business to meet needs in my community, I will have the agility and authority to do that.

I also love that it isn’t static. The only limit on my ability to grow my business into new areas is my willingness to learn how to do new things. I’ve been learning new things all my life, and don’t intend to quit anytime soon, so that’s an inspiring thought to me!

What was holding you back from starting your business?

Lack of a blueprint for getting started, and lack of high-speed internet access at home (rural mountainous area). The VA Foundations course (formerly known as 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success) solved my first problem, renting office space in town solved the second.

What was the most challenging part as you got started?

The most difficult thing was the overwhelm of seeing all that I needed to do to get started and overcoming my fear of failure.

I had to find an office space, decide what services to offer, build a website, learn how to pitch, figure out bookkeeping and taxes, business cards, logo, networking events, and on and on.

I didn’t start this business as a side-hustle like many do. I had lost a job of several years due to budget cutbacks and I had to take the leap and build my own business or go get a different job which was going to be difficult to do in the rural area in which I live. I chose to take the leap.

How did you overcome these challenges?

I had been thinking about starting my own business for a long time and attempted graphic design freelancing a few times, but between my tech problems with at-home internet access and just not knowing how to get started, I never got very far.

Gina’s course came along at just the right time to guide me through the minutia of business start-up, and gave me a zap of confidence to get my butt in gear and just do it already. These last six months have been a discovery journey fueled mostly by persistence and prayer. No regrets.

What has been your biggest success since you’ve started?

My biggest success is my mindset shift.

I spent many years of my adult life with a handicapped sort of tunnel vision about what I thought my life could or should be. It’s not that I had a terrible life, far from it – I have loads of blessings to be thankful for.

What I didn’t have was a concrete vision for what my calling in life was, and for the most part I wasn’t even looking. I wasn’t viewing the particular talents and skills that I had been given as something that should be developed and invested.

I certainly didn’t see myself as someone who had the chops to build a business of my own.

This entire process; from that initial leap of faith, through six months of of showing up day-after-day, to now reaping the first fruits of my labor, has been pivotal in building my confidence and opening my eyes to possibilities for the future.

Can you tell us about your favorite client or project?

I can tell you about my favorite moment of almost any project.

It’s that moment when a project I’ve been working on comes full circle and is complete. It is always gratifying to take something chaotic and bring order or to create something that didn’t exist before.

For me, my favorite project completions are design projects that are published in print. There is nothing like holding a physical book in your hand that you designed. It’s so concrete. I love it!

How are you working on growing your business currently?

My client roster so far has been populated from within my circle of friends and acquaintances (and referrals from those folks) as I have reached out to my network.

I have a number of things on my short list of business-building to-dos, such as blogging and developing a social media presence to establish my online business presence. I am still getting my feet under me a bit in all these things, and am trying to take things one day at a time.

What are you most looking forward to over the next 12 months?

I look forward to getting past the initial hustle of getting started and having a consistent base of good clients to work with. I’m getting there!

In the next twelve months, I look forward to evaluating my options for learning a new skill or two that will help me find a solid niche to focus on for business growth.

I have started out as a generalist since I actually know how to do a lot of things, and I’m no stranger to learning what I need to know to get the job done whatever that job might be. This approach helped me get this business going quickly, but as I look toward future growth I want to narrow the field.

Also, I know everyone says this, but I want to travel more. Who doesn’t want to travel more?

2023 Update

Note from Fully Booked VA founder Gina: Erika went from being one of my students to being my go-to graphic designer. With TONS of printable PDFs, checklists, templates and trackers for not only my flagship course, VA Foundations, but also seven skills courses and a mini-course, that’s meant a lot of work for Erika! Not to mention other projects she’s worked on for us, like our list of 275+ Services, rebrands and updates to our content.
I recently reached out to Erika to see if she could help me with a design project for my other brand, Kids vs. Bikinis and guess what? She couldn’t do it! Why? Because she’s… fully booked! I was SO excited about this news (even though I’m missing her mad design skills!), we just had to catch up and hear all about how her business is doing in 2023. Read on for the update!

What does your business look like 5 years after starting?

These days I work with a small number of clients that keep me busy in a full-time (for me, not 40 hours per week, though!) capacity. I’ve worked for these clients for a while, and over time our working relationships have expanded to include more aspects of their businesses and needs.

These clients pass on whatever they can to me, and I’ve moved into a lot of content creation and ghostwriting. Those kinds of services aren’t on my website or how I’ve marketed myself in the past, it’s just how my services have evolved over time.

When I got started as a VA, it was with services I’d taught myself and had experience with over the years through my work and ministry opportunities. The idea of “finding a niche” in the beginning was super stressful for me – I just didn’t know what my “thing” was yet!

Over time, though, I’ve gathered experience with my work as a VA and with various clients. I knew I could figure things out and learn on the fly, and it’s all culminated into the services I currently provide. Some of these include writing, posting website content and creating social media and website graphics, for example. These are all skills I’ve developed along the way, and I’ve found clients who consistently need these services and who I love working with. 

What are you enjoying most about your business these days?

I love that my work has variety to it and that I’m not doing the same things all day long. I’m not sure how I would “package” what I’m doing if I were to go out and look for new clients, but I love what I’m doing and that I’ve connected with clients who need and benefit from these services too.

My business grew out of a desire to be more in control of my time and who I work with and being able to prioritize what I valued in life. The clients I currently work with are working with causes that are really important to me. My work and “ministry and outreach life” have really come together in a lot of ways, which wasn’t something I expected. That’s not something I would have been able to achieve with a regular job.

I’m also still working in an office space, which really works for me. I like having the separation of home and work.

What does fully booked look like for you?

I have three clients that take up the majority of my time and a couple that I do project-based work with from time to time. This was a big shift in my business. In the beginning, I was doing mostly project-based work. I had several clients, but I didn’t do that much work for any of them consistently. Over time, I developed relationships with a few of them that went from a couple hours per week to more hours over time.

Once you build that trust, as in show up, do the work you say you’re going to do and do good work, people are so glad they found you. 

What were some other big shifts for you in your VA business?

I remember back when I took VA Foundations initially that Gina talked about treating this like a job – even if you don’t have clients yet. And, that’s exactly what I did. I decided that I was going to go all in and show up for it every day. It was go or bust!

There was also a point in my business, about three years in, that it felt like I made that shift from constantly looking for more project-based work to increased stability and consistency in my business and income. 

It was challenging, in the beginning, to have inconsistent months. But, by developing my services and staying consistent with my business things really settled in. It was never a matter of “is this going to work or isn’t it,” but rather how could I improve things to make it work. 

There was a point where I landed a client who worked with a nonprofit that I really wanted to work with. That’s when I realized that I could be doing work I was invested in personally and could find meaning in. It was very encouraging to me. I’ve never been someone who was motivated by a huge dollar amount, and doing work that has meaning and an impact is more important to me.

Did your business naturally evolve or did you have a plan?

I didn’t have a “point A to point B” plan. For me, it was more of a matter of showing up consistently, every day, doing the work, pitching people, following up… it was the day to day to day consistency. When you keep showing up like that over time, people notice that and want to work with you.

The people I work with know I’m going to show up and we have good relationships. I don’t wake up and wonder if I’m going to have enough clients or work, and that’s because of the consistency I’ve put in.

The work I do comes from these relationships I’ve developed and referrals from those relationships. And again, this is because of the time I’ve put in and the consistency and quality of my working relationships. 

What does the future of your business look like? 

I can see developing the writing side of my business further and specializing with copywriting. I’d be able to charge more for my services this way. It’s a challenge to find the time to develop this skillset, but this is a direction I can see taking my services in the future. 

Reflecting back, what have been the most important and helpful things in building your business?

Initially, it was having the course as a guidepost and the support of the community. As I developed my business, consistency was the most valuable aspect of growing it. If I were starting from scratch all over again, I might pursue some other services like copywriting as I mentioned, but other than that there’s not much I’d change.

If you had to go out and find new clients tomorrow, what would you do?

The first thing I would do would be to contact people in my natural network. Over these five years, that has been a source of my best clients. I’d be sending emails and reaching out to people to let them know I have availability, what I can offer them, etc. 

This is also a place where consistency really makes a difference. When you reach back out to people for referrals and they see that you’ve been showing up over the years, it really matters. 

A lot of people want to help you succeed if they can. If you have good relationships, it’s really not a huge ask to inquire whether they know anyone who could use your help. Aside from the VA Leads program [the leads we share with our students] my best and longest-standing clients have come from my network. It’s just a matter of having conversations – don’t underestimate your network! 

Ready to start YOUR journey to becoming fully booked, owning your time and doing work that you love showing up for like Erika has? Enroll in VA Foundations and let’s do it – together! 

I’m a former Midwestern Minnesota girl who now lives and works in hills of southwest Virginia. For fifteen years I have worked with and for small businesses and ministries in a variety of roles that often started with print design (magazines/books) and grew outward to include things like blog management, writing, and email list management. When I’m not in front of my laptop, I enjoy hiking and road tripping. You can find me on LinkedIn and at gobizgo.pro

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey


Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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