Fully Booked VA Blog

Student Success Story: Hailey Thomas

We’ve got an awesome Student Success Story to share with you today!

We love celebrating our students, and here at Horkey HandBook we know how motivating it is to read about real people making big things happen in their lives by applying what they’ve learned.

In this post we’ll hear from Hailey Thomas – her drive to succeed makes her nothing short of amazing. She’s the co-author of two courses here at Horkey HandBook – Podcast Production School and Project Management for Virtual Assistants (one of the six skills courses including in our VA training program, The #FullyBookedVA System!) and went from a failed business to knocking it out of the park after taking 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success (now known as VA Foundations and also included in the #FBVA System).

Ready to be inspired? Let’s go!

Name: Hailey Thomas

Website: www.brainspaceoptimized.com

Program enrollment date: March 20, 2017

Business launch date: January 2017

Date hired by first client: February 2017

Hours worked per week: 25-30 hours/week

Top services/niches: project management and execution.

Hi, Hailey! Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m wife to a carpenter and mother to a wily two year old. I have an undergraduate degree in Communication from Illinois State University (Go, You Redbirds!) and played DI volleyball while there.

In 2011, I got married and moved to St. Louis, and I spent four years working for a wonderful technology and consulting firm. I branched out on my own about nine months after my son was born.

When I’m not working, I love spending time with friends, reading and learning, and going on backyard adventures with my toddler.

What about your business?

My business has been running officially since January 2017. I’m a virtual assistant and I offer project management, human resource support, and inbox/document management. I started with general administrative offerings because I didn’t know what people actually needed.

I just knew I needed to get the ball rolling.

I got my first customer right away, but was unsure of myself, so I offered to do around ten hours of free work for them. At the end of that stint, they decided they didn’t want a VA and didn’t use any of the marketing materials or documents I’d created. Ouch!

After that,  I decided to evolve my business to offerings that were more strategic in nature and that better suited my background and experiences.

Now I know that the work I do is going to produce an ROI for my clients and that I’ll enjoy doing it.

It’s a win-win!

How did you decide to start freelancing or working online?

As I was learning and developing the skills I’d need to lead my little one, a spark for leadership, creativity and adventure was lit in me.

So that same year, I started looking for options to build or grow something that was challenging and interesting but also would provide an income for my family.

While I loved the company I was working for, my role didn’t meet my need for adventure and growth in my work.  It also didn’t help that I was tied to my desk all day without being able to spend time with my sweet chubby baby!

In December 2015, I left my job to start a business focused on sports and athletic training. I was a college athlete and well connected in that world, so it seemed like this would be a great move. I took a leap of faith and quit my job.

And then that business COMPLETELY flopped.

I spent lots of time and money creating something I thought people wanted, but missed the mark. I hadn’t asked enough questions or reached out to my target audience enough in the beginning.

The whole thing was scary and embarrassing.

We had some savings to fall back on, but we were financially scrambling for a few months. In the summer of 2016, we chose to move back to Illinois to be closer to family. I took it as a fresh start and went back to the drawing board.

This is when I came across Horkey HandBook and LOVED everything I read about Gina’s evolution and her “take charge of your own success” attitude.

I spent the next several months absorbing everything I could and tried my hand at being virtual assistant that fall. I became interested in Gina’s VA training program because it wasn’t just about skills, but also about how to present yourself to customers and use your natural market to understand needs and find clients.

Editor’s note: In this short video, Hailey explains how the VA course helped her craft a career as a virtual assistant. “Just know that everything that you need to start is in this course,” says Hailey.

And how long did it take you to earn your program investment back?

I began the program on March 20th. My goal was to complete it and earn my first client in those first 30 days! I completed the VA course in ten days and didn’t allow myself to read the next section until I completed the action items for a specific lesson.

I spent the following 20 days pitching to my network and landed an interview (10 days after that) that resulted in my first project manager level gig!

After the interview, I pitched a roadmapping session and he paid the $1,200 invoice that Wednesday (with one day to spare)! So I hustled a ton, but I earned back the investment within those 30 days.

What was your biggest fear before you started your business?

Before starting my VA business, I was fearful of failing.

My ego (and our bank account) was bruised for several months after my first flop, but I’ve come to realize that failure is just part of an entrepreneur’s journey.

You have to take the time to understand what went wrong and then move on.

I really appreciate that Gina has mentioned several times that you should give yourself two years to really see your VA business flourish. That was a mindset shift for me: if I do “fail” again, it’s just an opportunity to pivot and keep pushing forward.

What was the most challenging part about getting started?

The most challenging part about getting started was trying to figure out what actions to take to start making money in this space and finding someone trustworthy and practical to help me get there.

If you’ve been in the online entrepreneur space for any amount of time, you’ll find there are lots of opinions and very little actionable advice. This is both daunting and frustrating.

How did you overcome that?

Obviously, I joined Gina’s VA training program. 🙂 In all honesty, I was looking for something that would list out all the to-dos for me, but was built by someone with character and a realistic perspective on what’s necessary to be successful.

It’s general knowledge that 20 percent of your effort creates 80 percent of your success. The VA course focuses most of the “marketing” part on just connecting with people and sharing how you can help (with consistency and persistence!). Super simple, but so important for success.

I don’t think I would have pitched nearly as much (or followed up) without the course pushing me to do so.

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

Before now, I’ve only ever been in positions where someone else was calling the shots. Now, I am the one laying out the plan, making changes and pushing for growth.

It’s like I’ve shattered a personal barrier. Now I know I can make my own way and be successful at it.

It’s incredibly liberating.

Can you tell us about your highest paying project?

My highest paying project is the one I’m working on now. I’m working with a mid-sized technology company to boost the ability of their support team. It’s a mixture of HR, process improvement and communication training.

Fun stuff for me!

I like that this work will make a lasting change on this business past the time that I’m working with them. The challenge is the project management part (keeping track of changes and making sure we’re pushing towards the right goals) and keeping everyone engaged.

Apparently, process improvement is kind of boring to most people – I don’t get it, but whatever. 🙂

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

Over the next 12 months, I’ll continue to suss out which businesses need my help and the best way to sell what I do.

I’m really looking forward to learning as much as I can! Working for myself has completely opened my eyes to the possibilities of how much I can achieve. I can’t wait to dig further in!

Hailey Thomas is a VA that helps business owners get more done every week. She is mother to a seriously awesome toddler and wife to a seriously talented carpenter. When she’s not helping her clients, she can be found reading, travelling, or trying entirely too hard to make her family laugh. You can learn more about her by visiting BrainSpace Optimized.

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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