Today's post is an interview between me and Gina Horkey, a successful freelance writer and virtual assistant. Some of you may remember the interview earlier this year where I asked Gina several questions about her career as a freelance writer.
Today, Gina is talking about her career as a virtual assistant, how much she's managed to earn, who is cut out to do it, finding clients, and more. And if you're interested in starting your own business as a virtual assistant, you might want to check out Gina's new eCourse “30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success.”
Her freelance writing course has been very well received by many of my readers, so I was excited to learn she's created a virtual assisting course since it's a booming industry and a fantastic way to earn an income from home.
Below is our Q & A:
Is VA work something that just about anyone can do or is there a specific skill set you need?
I think nearly anyone can learn to do it in this day and age, but not everyone will be right for VA work.
If I had to describe the “ideal candidate,” it would be someone highly organized, a bit Type-A and super responsive (but that doesn’t have to mean always available). You should have a go-getter personality and be excited to learn and take on new challenges.
It doesn’t hurt to have an administrative background (i.e. customer service or have been in a support role), but it’s not required. You don’t have to be fluent in every software or program out there, but you should want to learn new skills and have the capacity to do so quickly and many times on the fly.
The one main pre-requisite I can think of, is that you should know your way around the internet, or again be a quick learner. If you have a hard time using Google, you might have a hard time being a virtual assistant, hence the whole “virtual” component.
What types of small business owners typically need help?
I think prime candidates for clients are those that also work virtually or have a web-based business. BUT, that doesn’t exclude the millions of small business owners that have a physical office or brick and mortar business.
The reason I say “webpreneurs” are great candidates, is that they already “get it.” Often they’re used to working virtually with clients themselves and have probably worked with freelancers or subcontractors in that capacity already as well. So it’s a natural move for them and probably pretty comfortable.
Like I said though, it doesn’t exclude all of the other small business owners that don’t conduct the majority of their business online. Any entrepreneur or small business owner that needs help, but doesn’t need or want to hire someone onsite part or full-time is a great candidate for working with a VA.
What types of tasks do small business owners typically need taken care of?
Personally, I’ve found that email management is a huge one for many small business owners (but not all of them). They have more email coming in then they can deal with on their own (many also serve as the customer support area in their businesses for some time) or aren’t great at keeping up with email as they’d rather be selling, marketing or growing their businesses in other ways.
But email management is just one thing. As a part of my course, I’ve outlined 125 tasks that a VA could do in support of a small business owner – and that list isn’t all-inclusive! Here are the 13 categories we came up with to give you a better idea:
Email (Inbox) Management
Please share with us a little about how you got started working as a virtual assistant.
As you may remember, I started my freelance career as a writer for the web, which is still a large part of my business. I knew that VA work could be a great way to build some consistency and stability into my income, so I was open to it. I also knew that if I found the right client, I could learn a lot while getting paid, which has held true.
A prominent webpreneur and I were in the midst of an email exchange while I was taking his course and I noticed he was having trouble getting back to me, but he seemed to genuinely want to. So I bluntly and boldly told him that I could manage his email, free up time and stress and that he should hire me.
And he said yes! We’ve now been working together ever since (more than a year) and he referred me to my second VA client.
Can you give us some ballpark figures on how much you have been able to earn through virtual assistant work?
I consider myself a “high-end” VA. Meaning I have some business skills and know-how already, an ability to learn quickly and believe I’m worth more than minimum wage. I started out charging $34/hour and have since moved to a weekly or monthly rate, depending on the client.
I no longer have to time track (which is great!) and instead focus on certain tasks on a daily or weekly basis. For a long time, my VA income from two clients made up around half of my gross monthly income. Due to an increase in income sources overall, it’s now closer to a third (i.e. my VA rates remained unchanged, but other income sources of mine have grown).
Oh and I support our family financially and have been freelancing full-time since just after Christmas, 2014. So it’s enough to feed the family!
On average, how much does it cost to get a VA business up and running?
You could literally start your business for nothing, as long as you have a phone, computer and internet connection.
Over time, or right away depending on your budget, you might want to invest in your business by setting up a legitimate website and maybe adding a blog, getting business cards, a decent head shot and furthering your education.
I had a Chromebook, internet connection and “dumb” phone when I got started. I did have a website from starting my freelance writing business and have always been open to furthering my learning through books and courses.
How difficult is it to find clients who need VAs?
That’s a loaded question. 😉 I wouldn’t recommend going the route of Elance (now UpWork) or Craigslist personally, although it could work out for you. Many times, it seems that clients looking for VAs on those type of forums or job boards are fixated on price. And I think for a relationship to work well, you need to be compensated enough to make your work enjoyable and not be looking to trade up clients due to agreeing to too low of a rate.
Instead, I’d focus on tapping into your existing network or hustling to build a stronger one and gain introductions. So, I guess it depends. I lucked out in finding my first client without really looking for him (although I kept my eyes/ears open and stepped out and asked when the opportunity arose). It’s like any type of marketing though, the more work you put into prospecting, the better your odds are of landing a gig.
Please tell us a little about your course and how it can help someone just getting started in VA work.
I’d love to. I decided to write 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success after my other course on freelance writing was received so favorably.
I’m also a natural encourager and since VA work had been so lucrative (and fun!) for me, I wanted to pass on what I learned by trial and error over the past 8+ years. I was in a support position for over six years prior to going full-time freelance. My goal was to make it easier for others to launch a successful VA business.
The course is delivered through email (although there are a few video modules coming soon) and self-paced, so you can take it in as little as a few days or spread it out as long as you’d like. It focuses on what VAs do (or can do), where to find and how to pitch clients, how to set your rates and invoice accordingly, tips to an effective relationship and highlights a few tools that you should learn if you’re not familiar with them already.
There’s more to it of course and you can find the full table of contents on the course sales page. One of my favorite parts that I included are the case studies from myself and a few peers that are currently working as VAs. It highlights how unique each relationship can look.
And today is the first day that it’s available to the public! You can read more about it and purchase it here. If you’re interested in VA work, I hope you join the 30 Days or Less family (the private Facebook group rocks!).
Gina Horkey is a professional writer and online business marketing consultant. She enjoys teaching others through her 30 Days or Less courses and helping other freelancers gear up to quit their day jobs and take their side hustles full-time. Please stop by Horkey HandBook and download a free copy of 8 Tips to Start Your Freelance Career off on the Right Foot!