How to Become a Virtual Assistant- 9 Expert Interviews

How to Become a Virtual Assistant

Updated Nov 21st 18′- Two new interviews!

Want to become a virtual assistant? I mean, a real one that works full time, sets his/her own hours, and earns a living wage.

Anyone can sign up for an account on upwork, work a few hours a week and call themselves a virtual assistant. I assume you are here because you want more than that. Much much more.

What you want is to learn how to become a full time, successful virtual assistant. A job that finally breaks you free from the soul-less 9-5 job stuck working in a cubicle or behind the counter. You want a career as a VA.

Learn the Secrets Behind the Success Stories

Virtual Assistant Success SecretsWe’ve all heard that the best way to learn is through other people’s mistakes.

Well, the flip side is true as well: Learn through other people’s successes.

The goal of this post isn’t to provide you with a series of steps on becoming a full time VA. There are some excellent VA training courses that provide a good roadmap to success.

This post is much more valuable than that.

In this epic post I ask 9 successful full time virtual assistants to share their struggles, mindset, and best advice on how they succeeded when so many people before them failed. You will learn what it really takes to make it in this industry: what to focus on, the right mindset, who to connect with, and how to overcome common struggles. Prepare to be inspired, and hopefully take action!

Lets get straight to the good stuff.

Sharon Pegrum

Part Time VA Earning Full Time Income.

[Read Interview]

Madison Fichtl

Became a full time VA within 3 months.

[Read Interview]

Jaclyn Leo

Got her first start at a VA Agency.

[Read Interview]

Rachael Bush

Landed first customer using Facebook.

[Read Interview]

Janelle Bargar

Full time VA specializing in creating efficient business practices and systems.

[Read Interview]

Carolina Gutierrez

Started off on Kijiji before going all in.

[Read Interview]

Melissa Smith

Melissa’s advice to newcomers- “Skip Upwork”. New

[Read Interview]

Lisa Tanner

Teacher turned VA focuses mainly on gigs she loves doing. New

[Read Interview]

Alethea Tuitahi

From corporate job to full time VA in 8 months.

[Read Interview]

Jasmine Adams

Found clients via Facebook Groups, LinkedIn and Instagram.

[Read Interview]

Gabriella Mitteva

Hustled hard on various freelance sites before running her own VA Agency.

[Read Interview]

Sharon Pegrum

Web site: Sharon Pegrum
Social Media: Facebook

1) How did you get started as a VA (a little background about yourself, your motivation for being a VA etc).

I began as a bookkeeper and then one day I saw an ad for a VA. I decided that with my background in admin I could absolutely branch out to do that. My main motivation was being able to have a flexible lifestyle and stay at home with my kids. I had tried several other at home jobs including Family Day Care, but found nothing gave the flexibility it promised.

2) How did you land your first gig as a VA? Besides Upwork, where are some lesser known places to find VA jobs, especially high paying ones?

My first VA position was advertised on Gumtree. I have only used Upwork to secure one role and that one was a bit of a flop. I have found the best way to grow a successful business is in sound business principles – building a trusted brand and marketing it with a clear message. The majority of my clients now come from social media and client referrals. I have been consistently booked out since mid 2017.

3) What are the main services you currently provide to your clients as a VA (in point form)?

  • Content Creation
  • Social Media
  • General Admin
  • Copywriting

4) What services do you recommend new VAs focus on these days to gain a competitive edge?

They need to focus on what they are good at and what their ideal client needs. There is no point focusing on social media if you don’t enjoy it and it’s not high on your skill set. My best advice is to be yourself, don’t worry about keeping up with everyone else, just run your own race.

5) Are you currently working part time or full time as a VA? If the later, describe how you were able to transition to full time or running your own VA agency.

I work part time hours but I earn a full time wage. This evens out as I am working to capacity and I also spend time marketing my business and blogging. In order to transition to a business that supported me solely, I needed to just take the leap and stop my other business. There has to be room in your life for the growth you want to experience. I also got really clear on who I wanted to work with and started saying no to people who were not my ideal client even when I could have done with the income.

6) What is your most and least favorite part about being a VA?

My favourite part of my business is getting to do what I love. Writing is my jam so I get to do a lot of that, but it is nicely balanced with other less creative tasks. I also have the flexibility to be able to pursue my blogging passion and regularly get invited to review events that I otherwise wouldn’t have the time or funds to get to. My least favourite aspect is probably just how all encompassing it is running your own business, all the extras bits that pop up and how easy it is to be in business mode all the time.

7) Please share your best tip or experience as a VA that you think will benefit upcoming or struggling VAs.

Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, it takes time to solidify your position as an expert in what you do. Be proactive for your clients and spend time really caring about their business because their success is your success.

Madison Fichtl

Web site: Madison Fichtl
Social Media: Instagram

1) How did you get started as a VA (a little background about yourself, your motivation for being a VA etc).

I have a Bachelors degree in Agriculture Business and a Masters degree in International Human Resources Management – and I was pursuing a career in the corporate world until I found about about Virtual Assistance.

I had started to write for a wedding blog, just for fun, and quickly realized that I could turn this fun hobby into a profitable business. When I decided to give this business a try, it was originally just supposed to be a nights and weekends gig. However, within three months of beginning to take on clients, I was able to completely replace my full time income (and then some) and take my business full time.

Being a VA has given me to opportunity to work from all over the world, fulfilling my need to travel. It also allows me to work from home, and have a flexible schedule.

I am a Nebraska native who loves traveling the world – in fact we just relocated back to the US from Germany! When I am not browsing Pinterest for outfit inspiration or searching for my next travel locale, you can find me attempting to conquer the German language with my two dogs and side-kicks Charlie + Leo!

2) How did you land your first gig as a VA? Besides Upwork, where are some lesser known places to find VA jobs, especially high paying ones?

My first job was landed through networking. I met an owner of a wedding blog, and through interacting with her, eventually started writing for their blog.

If you are just starting out, or maybe you don’t know anyone yet that needs a VA, I highly recommend joining Facebook Groups where your target market hangs out. Being active in these groups, answering questions and providing knowledge, is going to set you up for success. Then when the opportunity for a job arises, you will already be seen as a viable candidate.

3) What are the main services you currently provide to your clients as a VA (in point form)?

  • Instagram Management
  • Pinterest Management
  • Facebook Management
  • Newsletter Management
  • Lead Page Creation
  • WordPress Edits

4) What services do you recommend new VAs focus on these days to gain a competitive edge?

Learning more difficult tasks and programs such as lead magnets, email management systems (Active Campaign, Infusionsoft, etc.) and WordPress will really help give you an edge above the competition.

Choosing a niche and truly immersing yourself in those programs associated with the niche is going to make your services more marketable and sought after. And while it’s always great to know the free or inexpensive programs (MailerLite, MailChimp, etc.) the clients who are using the higher cost programs are probably going to have a bigger budget for a VA!

5) Are you currently working part time or full time as a VA? If the later, describe how you were able to transition to full time or running your own VA agency.

Full time. I started my business as a part time “hobby” and within three months of starting, I had to leave the corporate world because I had a full time client load. It was a natural transition since I was able to earn more working as a VA from home than I was working in my corporate office job.

6) What is your most and least favorite part about being a VA?

I LOVE the flexibility it offers me! Traveling to new places is my passion and being a VA allows me to travel anytime I want to and work from anywhere with an internet connection.

One of the most surprising things about my journey was that working from home, is lonely. In all of my previous jobs I had coworkers who would help pass time. Now, it is just me and my dogs all day, which can get lonely. I try to make one day a week a co-working day or I will go out and work from a coffee shop.

7) Please share your best tip or experience as a VA that you think will benefit upcoming or struggling VAs.

Set yourself apart. Don’t expect leads to come to you in the beginning. You will need to get out and make those connections in order to gain clients. If you are applying or showing interest in an open VA position, tell the person HOW you can help them. Show them that you will make their job easier (not harder!) and this all starts with the very first time you make contact with them.

Jaclyn Leo

Web site: Jaclyn Leo
Social Media: Instagram

1) How did you get started as a VA (a little background about yourself, your motivation for being a VA etc).

I graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art, with my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, minoring in Art History and concentrating in Curatorial Studies. My goal was to work in Museum Education. I was hired in what I thought was my dream job at a local museum. It was a perfect job until my husband and I had our first son. Working 6 days a week with a baby, and not making enough to justify the cost of daycare just wasn’t ideal. I stayed home for a year, and then one morning I had the TV on in the background which I never do, and it was some random morning TV show that had a segment about the top five jobs for stay at home moms. Being a virtual assistant was the second job they suggested. So I looked into how I could apply, and I was hired. Here I am five years later, three kids later and now know I am working my dream job.

2) How did you land your first gig as a VA? Besides Upwork, where are some lesser known places to find VA jobs, especially high paying ones?

I actually applied to an agency, which was a great way to start because I learned a lot, but their take was higher than I was okay with. It was a great jumping off point because I learned what I liked to do as a VA and the kind of clients I wanted to work for. You don’t want to accept work to just accept work from just anybody. Doing that is a sure fire way to end up burnt out.

I have not once applied (so I’ve never been hired) from Upwork. I’ve looked at the site FlexJobs before, and I follow Career Contessa’s weekly emails that have remote job leads. My biggest source of jobs has been word of mouth. I would do a good job for a client, and they would recommend me to a colleague. I’ve reached out to prospective clients directly, introducing myself and what I do and that has worked out well. Also, people you follow on social media – reach out to them. If they don’t need an assistant, they may know someone who does.

My latest client was actually referred to me by someone who didn’t hire me. I applied to work for this blogger and coach I have followed on Instagram for a few years now who had posted on her Instagram that she was looking for an assistant. She ended up hiring another candidate, but knew a friend was hiring and recommended me to her, and to be honest she is one of my most favorite clients I have worked for.

I really believe in being a VA as less of a “gig” and more of building a working relationship with my clients. If I show up and do good work for them, that gives me the insurance I need to maintain my contract and be fully booked. Working as less of a gig VA has also led me to find clients who are paying higher rates than those who are just looking for someone to do a one-off project.

3) What are the main services you currently provide to your clients as a VA (in point form)?

  • Customer service/community management
  • Email management
  • Project management
  • Calendar management/meeting management
  • Travel arrangements
  • Design, as needed
  • Social media management – primarily Instagram and Facebook

4) What services do you recommend new VAs focus on these days to gain a competitive edge?

Email management, calendar management/meeting scheduling and customer service are my big three that I have identified my current and past clients have the biggest struggles with. These are the tasks that should be given away. As an entrepreneur, if you are taking the time to go back and forth to set up a meeting with a colleague, you are losing money. If you are helping someone change their password to login into your site, you are losing money. An assistant can do that for you.

A lot of entrepreneurs have trouble letting go and delegating. But if you can take a step back and look at the appreciating value of an exceptional assistant, then you will hire someone to take on the tasks that do not require your genius. If an assistant can do those tasks, and do them well, while gaining trust from their client, then it is a win win for both people in the VA/entrepreneur relationship.

5) Are you currently working part time or full time as a VA? If the later, describe how you were able to transition to full time or running your own VA agency.

I’m currently working about 80 hours a month. From home, with three kids. I’m also launching a course for moms who want to be Virtual Assistants. I want to help women be exceptional assistants, build their own businesses and support entrepreneurs so they can delegate to elevate their businesses.

I want to grow a network of highly capable moms who have been through my course that can support entrepreneurs for the long term. My goal is to see more women in business for themselves, with the flexibility working from home provides, so they can be with their babies, and contribute to their families financially.

6) What is your most and least favorite part about being a VA?

Two things I struggle with most are the hiring process and the struggle clients have to delegate. The hiring process for VA positions can be way more intense than a traditional job. For my last interview, I had a round of written preliminary questions I had to answer, a video I had to record where I answered questions, a live video interview and then a sample work project and a proposal I put together.

For many clients, hiring me is their first foray into having someone work with them. It requires them to move into the role of CEO, not just solopreneur. Entrepreneurs are used to bootstrapping their businesses – doing the blog posting, the social media, responding to every email, managing their calendars, and the smarter the entrepreneur the harder it is for them to see the value in hiring someone to support them. They have a hard time justifying the cost when they have that “I can do it all myself” mentality. The thing is, handing off tasks to an assistant is the best investment you can make because you are getting your time back.

My favorite aspect of being a virtual assistant is getting to meet and work with people I never would have met otherwise. I also love getting to see the relief an entrepreneur feels when they see how much you can support them. It’s really rewarding.

7) Please share your best tip or experience as a VA that you think will benefit upcoming or struggling VAs.

For Virtual Assistants just starting out – you will find a client. Make sure your resume, proposal and contracts are all on point. Put a lot of thought into what you are proposing. Do not just take whatever work you can get, and you do not need a fancy, expensive website. Or an Instagram. Get your first client, do the best work you can from them, and more clients will come.

To help clients delegate to you, have them write down a list of all the things they do not like doing in their business. The list will be longer than they think it will be and you will have a list of tasks to take off their plate. And keep a list of tasks for when your client doesn’t know what to tell you to do. You can knock out a project that was out of sight, out of mind for them and they will be so happy you did.

Rachael Bush

Web site: Rachael Bush
Social Media: Facebook

1) How did you get started as a VA (a little background about yourself, your motivation for being a VA etc).

I was a VA before I found out it had a title. I always had friends and family that wanted me to help create a few documents for them. I was good at it and definitely had a passion for it. But I started to do some research about starting your own VA business and that’s when I decided to build a business from it. My motivation was simple- lots of business owners have tasks that they keep putting off and having someone who enjoys helping them, really helps them both!

2) How did you land your first gig as a VA? Besides Upwork, where are some lesser known places to find VA jobs, especially high paying ones?

I actually reached out to my network and volunteered a couple services just to build the relationship even more. And I landed my first client via a contact on Facebook who had a business partner that took forever to complete sharing documents. So she really sought me out because it would help them with their business needs and it paid off!

3) What are the main services you currently provide to your clients as a VA (in point form)?

  1. Administrative Support
  2. Documents, Email Automation (Mailchimp), Data Entry, Market Research
  3. Social Media Management
  4. Social engagemet
  5. Create and share content
  6. Strategic Planning/Organizing
  7. Calendar management
  8. Customer service support and engagement
  9. CRM

4) What services do you recommend new VAs focus on these days to gain a competitive edge?

I think a genuine, personal touch will help you get further than others. Show you clients that you are really there to help them grow. I think that’s what makes you stand out from the rest.

5) Are you currently working part time or full time as a VA? If the later, describe how you were able to transition to full time or running your own VA agency.

Technically, I am working part time as a VA but I run my business full time. I still have a 9-5 gig that I work three days a week, but I’m always connecting to my business. That includes scheduling posts, following up with new clients and current clients, and just being engaged. I have to make sure I always keep my “why” at the front of my activity. Eventually, I will be working as a VA full-time.

6) What is your most and least favorite part about being a VA?

Favorite part are my clients! I feel like we feed off each other’s energy and a win for them is a win for me!
Least favorite part probably my lack of sleep to make sure projects get done and I am continuously building my business. I know it will pay off in the end when I have a team working for me and I can really focus my attention on training other VAs to be great!

7) Please share your best tip or experience as a VA that you think will benefit upcoming or struggling VAs.

Watch how you empower yourself. Negative talk will get you nowhere but in a lull that you feel like you cannot get out of. Self doubt needs to not be present for your growth. If you really believe in yourself, client or no client, the business will come. The hustle is the magic of your success!

Janelle Bargar

Web site: SOS Virtual Assistance
Social Media: Facebook

1) How did you get started as a VA (a little background about yourself, your motivation for being a VA etc).

I started as a VA when we were transferred for my spouse’s job across country. We had a little one and my remote position with an engineering firm was becoming part-time. We were in a small town and finding a position in my field would have meant commuting over an hour each way and I couldn’t imagine doing that with a small child at home.

My spouse is in the US Army and we move every 2-3 years. I have a M.S. in Organization Development and Knowledge Management, and finding a position is tough when you are in smaller towns. I love that I am able to use my skills and my degree while being available to my children and husband. Since beginning my business in 2013 we have lived in 3 different homes. I love that I am able to pick up and work from anywhere. I’m home when the kids get off the bus, when a repair needs to be made at home or when someone gets sick.

I currently work 75% of the time in a coworking space and love that I am able to work in an office without having to work FOR someone else.

2) How did you land your first gig as a VA? Besides Upwork, where are some lesser known places to find VA jobs, especially high paying ones?

I found my first VA gig through eland (now upwork). I worked with a VA in Australia who was starting to transition out of her business. She referred me to 2 clients that she was unable to take on. Over 5 years later those two clients are still with me along with a number of other ones.

I meet 90% of my clients through referrals from current clients or through my co-working space.

3) What are the main services you currently provide to your clients as a VA (in point form)?

I offer 3 main services:

  • Administration and organization development
  • Website design
  • Social media creation and management.

My main focus is creating efficient business practices and systems. That includes designing email funnels, newsletters, and ecourses. I enjoy working with a client to create programs from start to finish.

I design websites from the ground up as well as maintain and update most of my client sites.

I offer a select number of clients social media services – primarily those who are life coaches or therapists.

4) What services do you recommend new VAs focus on these days to gain a competitive edge?

I recommend that VAs focus on the skills they are most able to complete confidently and those they enjoy. For example if you love working in travel and making one-on-one connections, then working with an executive who needs meeting planning, calendar management and travel bookings would be a great area to focus on.

Another area I see a lot of need for is working in documents and program development. From creating newsletters and opt-ins to managing weekly communications. Learning programs like MailChimp, ConvertKit, and the like are very important.

5) Are you currently working part time or full time as a VA? If the later, describe how you were able to transition to full time or running your own VA agency.

I currently work full-time as a VA. I started part-time while I had another position with an engineering firm, and as my project came to an end and my hours decreased,I slowly grew my VA business. I never had plans to go back to working outside of my home full-time, so having and working my business has been my main focus for the last 5 years.

For me running my business is not about money, but it is about fulfilling my desire to work and help other women in their businesses. I grew slowly, I’m picky about the clients I take on as I want to ensure that I understand and want to be part of their business. I don’t take every job that comes to me, but I really evaluate and make sure that we are a good fit for one another.

6) What is your most and least favorite part about being a VA?

My least favorite part of being a VA is planning vacations and time off. I have a hard time “letting go” and enjoying my time. It has taken a number of years for me to take time off and really enjoy it! But I’ve learned that planning time off is something that HAS to be done to be a prosperous business owner — we all need time to unwind.

7) Please share your best tip or experience as a VA that you think will benefit upcoming or struggling VAs.

Set boundaries with clients and create a schedule. Whether you are full-time or part-time, having a schedule and setting work times is vital. It is hard to work from home and have a schedule, but having that focus helps you become more efficient which in turn allows you to increase your revenue.

With clients I have found it challenging for clients to understand that I’m not available all day 24/7. I don’t answer emails after 5pm or on the weekend (even if I read them or I’m working), because I have found if clients know you are working they think it is ok to make weekend requests without paying extra fees. I had a client once who thought it was ok to call me at 3am and leave voicemails or expected me to be on calls at 9pm, but that didn’t work with my timeline and my life. Set boundaries early and stick to them.

Carolina Gutierrez

Web site: Go 2 Girl
Social Media: LinkedIn

1) How did you get started as a VA (a little background about yourself, your motivation for being a VA etc).

I started with a random job off kijiji when i was going back to school. I loved the idea of making my own hours and wanted a flexible opportunity that I could maintain when i started a family. And it just grew from there. I know run an agency with 5 contractors and still growing.

2) How did you land your first gig as a VA? Besides Upwork, where are some lesser known places to find VA jobs, especially high paying ones?

I started off a job on kijiji, but grew my business through networking, as I found the internet was just too saturated.

3) What are the main services you currently provide to your clients as a VA (in point form)?

  • General admin
  • Website creation & updates
  • Research
  • Graphic design
  • CRM selection and setup
  • Bookkeeping
  • Office Setups

4) What services do you recommend new VAs focus on these days to gain a competitive edge?

I recommend they try a variety of stuff and find out what they really like; play with software, immerse themselves in the vast variety of stuff that VA’s offer.

5) Are you currently working part time or full time as a VA? If the later, describe how you were able to transition to full time or running your own VA agency.

I am working fulltime as a VA agency owner. I started as the VA but as it go busier and I kept getting similar requests for services that I couldn’t provide, I started to build my team. It took me about 2 years to move to full time. I was not holding down another job as at the time, as we were living in a small town without alot of opportunities. As such I threw myself into my business. Ate slept and breathed looking for clients, building my skills set, testing ideas on existing clients and overall just improving how I ran my business. I was also going into a market that was not used to VA’s so there was alot of educating, which makes the sales cycle longer.

6) What is your most and least favorite part about being a VA?

My favorite part is all the different businesses I work with, and how I get a peak into the back end of how people run them so differently. This has been GOLD for my own business as I can apply it to my own business.

7) Please share your best tip or experience as a VA that you think will benefit upcoming or struggling VAs.

Being a VA means you are a business owner first! Just because you’re good at admin or enjoy it is not enough. If you are not ready to hustle, get out there, put yourself in front of others, then you will suffer. This needs to be treated with the same devotion and dedication as any other business, even if you get to run it from the comfort of your home and alot of times in your pj’s.

Melissa Smith

Melissa Smith
Web site: The PVA
Social Media: Facebook

1) How did you get started as a VA (a little background about yourself, your motivation for being a VA etc).

I always knew I wanted to be an assistant. My mom was an assistant and when I grew up I wanted to be just like her. I went to secretary school (back when that is what we were called) and began my career as an assistant over 20 years.

My life turned upside down when my husband committed suicide six years ago. A year after that I moved my family across the country, back to my hometown in California. We were only there for a year. The decision to move was great for me. I got back on my emotional feet and had a job I absolutely loved. However, it wasn’t as good for my daughter who at this time was about to enter into her senior year in high school. I made the decision to move us back across the country which meant I had to leave my job.

When I gave my employer notice he asked what they could do to keep me. I told him I don’t have to be in the office to do my job. I could do it from anywhere. He said, “Okay, let’s do that.” After a few months of working remotely new contracts came out for the next year. All of sudden I did something that I said I would never do. I decided to start my own business as a VA and sent the contract back unsigned.

2) How did you land your first gig as a VA? Besides Upwork, where are some lesser known places to find VA jobs, especially high paying ones?

I’ve never used Upwork or any sites like that. I feel like they are a race to the bottom. People and clients who will truly value you and your work already know you. I have yet to meet a VA who didn’t already know their first client even if it was just a casual acquaintance. My first clients were all past employers who reached out to me once they found out they could hire me without employing me.

When you are looking for high paying clients you have to follow the money trail which isn’t on bidding sites. The clients who hired me next were from LinkedIn. The main tips when looking for high-paying clients is to look expensive, know your worth, and what you can offer clients. You should know their return on investment before they ask. Looking expensive online means projecting a clear, professional image. If that means you have to pay for someone to help you, do it! I invested a lot of money in my business when I first started. Money I didn’t have. However, when the contracts starting rolling in they were for $7,500, $21k, and even $60k. You can’t charge Ritz prices when you come across as the Holiday Inn.

3) What are the main services you currently provide to your clients as a VA (in point form)?

  • VA Matchmaking
  • VA Consulting/Training (1:1 consulting and online classes)
  • VA Personal / Executive Assistant

4) What services do you recommend new VAs focus on these days to gain a competitive edge?

The services a VA offers will depend on what their ideal client values and what the VA loves doing. I would tell any VA to focus on a very specific niche and be the go to person in that area. Most of the time this advice, although proven highly effective, is met with great resistance. Whether the VA is thinking they are going to lose potential clients or they think they are going to get bored they don’t want to niche down. In both cases I have to remind them, niching is for now. Not forever. If you first go narrow and deep then you can grow deep and wide.

In the beginning, most VAs can only service up to five clients or so. It doesn’t matter that not everyone will need your services since you can’t support everyone. Niching also meets the client at their pain – the point at which they want to throw money at the problem. Think of it this way. How hard would it be for you to sell a gym membership? You could probably do it but there would be a lot selling on your part to do so. Now think, how hard would it be for you to sell painkillers to someone with a broken leg? It’s no contest. People pay money for their pain to go away. Once you do that you can begin to offer more services to that same client.

Being competitive means when the person needs the Pinterest expert, Facebook ad expert, Infusionsoft expert you are the person who comes to mind because that didn’t get buried in the 1001 services you are offering. The services you offer take their pain away.

5) Are you currently working part time or full time as a VA? If the later, describe how you were able to transition to full time or running your own VA agency.

I work full-time as a VA. I’m an all or nothing kind of person so I took the leap and ended landing flat on my face. I don’t necessarily think my way was the right way, but it was right for me. I was bound and determined to make this work and I did. There were a lot of tears and at times I questioned everything about myself. It was the right decision because I’ll celebrate four years in business this December 2018. In four years, I have written two bestsellers, traveled around the world (16 countries in 12 months in 2017) and have far exceeded what I ever thought was possible.

For any VA who wants to build up their business while keeping their full-time job I totally get it. There is no right or wrong way to start your VA business. One piece of advice – don’t work by the hour. You’ll never get ahead that way. Take on projects only. This way it doesn’t matter if you work five hours or five minutes you’ll still get paid the same amount. If you work by the hour, in the best case scenario you’re working 80 hours a week before you can go full-time as a VA.

6) What is your most and least favorite part about being a VA?

My favorite part is the freedom and flexibility to travel. Travel to see my family. Travel to see new countries. Travel for the sake of traveling. Freedom is the new wealth and I consider myself extremely wealthy. I would never go back to working in an office.

The least favorite part is constantly having to explain what I do for a living is not artificial intelligence. I wrote two books and over 130 articles on the topic and I often want to simply point people to them. Having said that, I have to be patient and I’m glad that I’m in a growing field and most days really do love sharing what I do. I like teaching it more, but sharing is good.

7) Please share your best tip or experience as a VA that you think will benefit upcoming or struggling VAs.

The best tip I can give to struggling and upcoming VAs is to work as hard at keeping your spirits up as you would any duty or task assigned to you. You can do this. It’s not rocket science or luck. It’s also probably not like anything that you’ve ever done before. The steps to reach your place of success are not linear. Opportunity will not coming knocking on your door in neon green lights. You have to take chances and calculated risks when you see opportunity and you can only do so when you have the right frame of mind.

Once you get to a certain place in your business you’ll want to stretch yourself even further. You’re being stretched now just by thinking starting a VA business is something you want to do or do better. I’m constantly feeling the pains of stretching myself, but these are much better than defeat and giving up on your dreams. I can promise you that kind of pain and regret never goes away.

Lisa Tanner

Lisa Tanning
Web site: Lisa Tanning Writing
Social Media: Facebook

1) How did you get started as a VA (a little background about yourself, your motivation for being a VA etc).

I’m a teacher by trade, who left the classroom after seven years to homeschool my own kids. I love being home with all my kids, and being their teacher. But, going from a two-income house to a one-income house always affects the budget. This was especially true with our large family.

To help cover some of the non-essentials, I wanted a way to boost the household income from home. I discovered freelance writing, and launched my online business as a writer.

After I’d been working for several months, the term Virtual Assistant made it into my vocabulary. I wasn’t exactly sure what a VA was at first, so I started learning. I discovered I had many skills that people needed, and a knack for providing behind-the-scenes support that allows business owners to shine.

I took a course, and learned even more. For me, providing VA services added some nice variety and consistent income to my writing business.

2) How did you land your first gig as a VA? Besides Upwork, where are some lesser known places to find VA jobs, especially high paying ones?

My first gig actually came from Gina Horkey’s VA Matchmaker service back when she first launched it. I’ve been working with that client for almost three years now!

But, connections are my ideal way to find VA jobs. If you can take time to build a relationship with the people you want to work for, it pays off greatly.

This means you have to be where your clients are. It means showing up and offering help in niche Facebook Groups, instead of just dropping a promo and running. It means subscribing to email lists for ideal clients, and taking time to nurture relationships.

Yes, this method takes more time. So if you’re in desperate need of money right now, it can’t be the ONLY method you use. But, it will serve you well.

3) What are the main services you currently provide to your clients as a VA (in point form)?

My main services as a virtual assistant are:

  • Content creation (blog posts, graphics, worksheets, etc.)
  • Process creation (identifying bottlenecks and finding solutions to streamline them)
  • Blog management (everything from formatting posts to brainstorming ideas for the content calendar)

4) What services do you recommend new VAs focus on these days to gain a competitive edge?

I actually think picking a service based solely on the competitive edge it’ll bring is the wrong tactic for new Virtual Assistants. Doing something just because “everyone else is doing it” has never been a good idea for life or business.

The true edge comes from offering services that you enjoy, and do well. Your clients will see your passion and commitment in what you offer, and the experience will be much better for both of you.

So take some time to brainstorm what you love doing. Make a list of skills and services you have, and then take some time to think through questions like these:

  • How can others benefit from this particular skill?
  • Would people be willing to pay for this service?
  • Who would benefit the most from utilizing you?

By nailing your services and your ideal client, you will have a competitive edge over people who are willing to anything for anyone.

5) Are you currently working part time or full time as a VA? If the later, describe how you were able to transition to full time or running your own VA agency.

I’m currently working very part-time as a writer and virtual assistant. I split my work time pretty evenly between the two sides of my business.

6) What is your most and least favorite part about being a VA?

My favorite part of being a VA is the variety. While I truly enjoy writing, the VA services help keep all of my work from feeling mundane. These tasks utilize my creative side in a way that differs from writing. It’s a nice change of pace!

My least favorite part is the initial onboard of a new client. I love working with new people, but there’s always a learning curve. The first few tasks always take a lot longer as I learn new systems and expectations. At this point I always begin to wonder if I undercharged a client. But, by the time we have our processes figured out, it goes much more quickly.

7) Please share your best tip or experience as a VA that you think will benefit upcoming or struggling VAs.

You have to believe in the value of what you do, or no one else will. Know why what you do is valuable, and focus on that instead of the price tag when talking to clients.

There will be people constantly asking you to work for free (or for a discount…). Remember that your services are taking a task off of someone elses’ to-do list. You’re saving them time in exchange for money – so charge an amount you’re comfortable with and don’t be afraid to raise your rates over time.

Alethea Tuitahi

Web site: CloudXs
Social Media: Facebook

1) How did you get started as a VA (a little background about yourself, your motivation for being a VA etc).

I was working in a corporate job and I found myself stuck at a ceiling where I couldn’t move up in my current position. Plus I really wanted to have a flexible working environment. Due to this I started researching about working online. I had some failed small business attempts before this one – event management and stationary design – so I had some knowledge about running a business but hadn’t been able to turn a profit with those. So I decided to jump in and start my VA business while still working at my day job. I set up a website, joined Facebook groups and starting networking online.

2) How did you land your first gig as a VA? Besides Upwork, where are some lesser known places to find VA jobs, especially high paying ones?

I landed my first client through a Facebook business group. There are a lot of groups that allow promotions, so I would advertise on those days, help where I could with people’s questions and then apply to any leads people were posting.

3) What are the main services you currently provide to your clients as a VA (in point form)?

  • Website Design
  • Digital Marketing
  • Online course design and support

4) What services do you recommend new VAs focus on these days to gain a competitive edge?

Personally I’d recommend focusing on services that match the skills that you are good at and love doing. There is no point specializing in say social media services if you hate social media – even though it is a popular service. Focus on what you love and build your business around that. Digital marketing, tech skills and design skills are always popular.

5) Are you currently working part time or full time as a VA? If the later, describe how you were able to transition to full time or running your own VA agency.

I work in my business full time. I started my business while working my corporate job, so I worked early mornings and late nights until I built my business up. It took 8 months to replace my corporate salary. At that time I transitioned to working full time in my business. I have been in business just over 3 years and now have a small team that support me. I also teach new VAs the business foundations and tech skills they need to succeed.

6) What is your most and least favorite part about being a VA?

The best part is being able to work when and where you want! The least favourite part is that it can be really hard to switch off from your business. So it’s important to put boundaries in place with clients, otherwise you can end up working 24/7.

7) Please share your best tip or experience as a VA that you think will benefit upcoming or struggling VAs.

Be consistent. Be consistent in your marketing, showing up, networking and business. By doing small things consistently, it leads you to success in your business. Building relationships is another key thing- build online and offline relationships, so you can then leverage your networks and get referrals for clients.

Jasmine Adams

Web site: Jasmine and Co
Social Media: Facebook

1) How did you get started as a VA (a little background about yourself, your motivation for being a VA etc).

I’ve been a VA for many years, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I did some research and discovered what a VA really was and that I was already doing it and had the skill set for it! I have my Bachelor’s in Business Management and my Master’s in Business Administration, and when I had my oldest daughter I decided that I wanted financial freedom while being able to spend more time with my family and work for myself.

2) How did you land your first gig as a VA? Besides Upwork, where are some lesser known places to find VA jobs, especially high paying ones?

I hustled from day one. I joined all of the possible groups that I could on Facebook and reached out to job ads and was always responding to people needing VA’s. I have gotten all of my clients from word of mouth or on social media. LinkedIn is a underestimated place to find gigs and so is Instagram. Upwork is a good start as well as long as your profile gets accepted.

3) What are the main services you currently provide to your clients as a VA (in point form)?

  • General Administration
  • Project management
  • Data entry
  • Email and client management
  • Online Marketing and Advertising
  • Lead generation
  • Blogging and Content Creation
  • Research guest blogging opportunities

4) What services do you recommend new VAs focus on these days to gain a competitive edge?

I recommend New VAs focus on what their strengths are and what service they will be dedicated to.

5) Are you currently working part time or full time as a VA? If the later, describe how you were able to transition to full time or running your own VA agency.

I am working part-time building my business and foundation. I was full time for awhile but clients slowed down and of course bills have to get paid. I’ve had up to 4-5 subcontractors working with me at a time. I am slowly bulking it back up. The transition is hard from solopreneur to entrepreneur, but to be honest, once you have a system in place and are ready to take the next step and bring in someone to help, then you know you’re heading in the right direction.

6) What is your most and least favorite part about being a VA?

My favorite part is being able to help business owners reach their maximum potential in their business! My least favorite part is consistency and there are times when I don’t have the client workload that I want and it gets tough.

7) Please share your best tip or experience as a VA that you think will benefit upcoming or struggling VAs.

Never stop looking for clients and network like crazy! You never know where your next client will come from 🙂

Gabriella Mitteva

Web site: Smart Office Solutions
Social Media: Facebook

1) How did you get started as a VA (a little background about yourself, your motivation for being a VA etc).

I’ve been a VA since the end of 2003, with my first gig being on Get a Freelancer (now Freelancer.com). In the beginning I sent proposals for various projects that were unfortunately not taken seriously. I continued to register on similar sites with the full confidence that the results will be achieved sooner or later. And it happened in 2004 when, through GAF, I won a link building project for a Spanish customer – travel site.

We worked 2-3 months, through which I placed 2650 links to the client site, but they never wrote me a review. The following month, as a result of my registration at one VA site, I got a new client and things were slowly getting started.

After winning 1-2 projects, my attitude towards freelancing grew stronger, giving me more confidence in my own abilities. I already knew I wanted to go on with it and strive for business success, attracting new customers, acquiring new skills, and learning whatever it took to become a successful VA.

2) How did you land your first gig as a VA? Besides Upwork, where are some lesser known places to find VA jobs, especially high paying ones?

For me, winning projects at Freelancer.com was a good start as during these years the competition was not so high. However, during the years trends in the VA industry are changing very fast. I have not used Upwork for VA projects. Except via registrations at relevant Facebook and LinkedIn Groups, I have acquired clients via PeoplePerHour, Guru, Craigslist and various portals for remote work.

3) What are the main services you currently provide to your clients as a VA (in point form)?

  • General Administration
  • Project management
  • Data entry
  • Calendar management
  • Travel logistics
  • Email and client management
  • LinkedIn Lead generation
  • Data mining & research
  • Research new and interesting blog topics
  • Research guest blogging opportunities
  • Translations – English <> Bulgarian; Russian > English

4) What services do you recommend new VAs focus on these days to gain a competitive edge?

New VAs should focus on those services in which they feel are great performers based on their experience and skillset. And most important: in order to be successful VAs, they need to love what they do.

5) Are you currently working part time or full time as a VA? If the later, describe how you were able to transition to full time or running your own VA agency.

When I established my own company in the summer of 2014, I started working full-time. Moving to running your own brand and business is one of the biggest challenges I have faced. Another challenge when focusing on working with foreign clients was overcoming their prejudices that the location of the Virtual Assistant is decisive for the quality of the services they will receive.

6) What is your most and least favorite part about being a VA?

While I have held management and supervisory positions, I believed that one of my best roles is that of the “right-hand woman” or VA. I enjoy working behind the scenes to enable others to prosper, and it’s my favorite part about being a VA. I also love the flexibility and freedom to choose my working time and projects. I like the variety of projects I face daily and the knowledge they bring me. The least favorite part of being VA is finding enough clients who have ongoing projects and are willing to pay retainer fees.

7) Please share your best tip or experience as a VA that you think will benefit upcoming or struggling VAs.

I would say that developing your own business is not for everyone. In order to succeed, VAs must have the necessary skills and abilities, namely: perseverance, organization, discipline, self-improvement, flexibility, timing, administrative skills, and knowledge of modern technologies such as social media networks.

The secret to becoming a successful VA in my opinion is the combination of prompt service, quality work, being able to meet deadlines, flexible & having a loyal attitude and reasonable prices. To me, that is the successful formula that has brought me regular & ongoing clients while working as a freelance Virtual Assistant for 11 years. And I keep on using the same formula as a company owner.

Back to List of Interviewees ^

Important Takeaways from the Experts

  • VA related Facebook groups are a great source of potential leads for clients.
  • Working for an agency can be a great way to gain experience and credentials before venturing out on your own.
  • Less is more- focus on making yourself indispensable to one or two high paying clients.
  • Focus on skills that are in high demand, which are currently social media management, email marketing, and project management.

Ready to Become a Real Virtual Assistant?

The thing to realize about being a real VA is that they do exist. In fact, every one of the 9 virtual assistants I interviewed below is living proof of this, earning a full time income that bests even a respectable corporate job. In fact, many of them are no longer just VAs, but owners of their own successful VA agencies where they now oversee a team of VAs working for them.

That is the potential that exists when you embark on becoming a virtual assistant with the right blueprint and altitude.

Being a full time VA is possible. You just need to focus on the right things.

According to statistics on virtual assistants, in the US, virtual assistants make an average of $4,000/mon. I hope these virtual assistants interviews have inspired you to look at VA as a work at home job in a whole new light. With hard work and the right approach, it is more than possible to turn it into a flourishing career that gives you the freedom to work at home, grow, and travel while being financially independent. Yes it is possible, and you can do it!

Want to become a REAL virtual assistant working full time? In this post I interview 9 successful VAs to show you just what it takes, and what you need to do NOW.

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