Pia Newman is a prime example of a successful Virtual Assistant with an international background.
Pia is German, and she used to work for a small car manufacturing company you might have heard of – Porsche.
It was a great job, but not really her ideal job. Find out how Pia moved from a full-time job to a full-time freelance business and the lucky break (and hustle!) that got her there.
Here is the tell-all from Pia Newman.
What do you do and how long have you been in business?
I took the typical German university-career route: from A-Levels to a university diploma in technical economics and my Masters in innovation management, straight to being a project assistant and later project manager at Porsche. (Yes, that Porsche.) A cool company, great colleagues, and all-in-all a great job. But just a few years in, I knew I didn’t want to be doing it or something similar to it for the rest of my life.
Many people envied my job, and it wasn’t a bad one, per se. It just wasn’t mine.
I’ve had many hobbies over the years, but one always stayed with me: writing. It was a hobby I practiced for my peace of mind for so long that it took a while for the idea of actually earning a living with it to take hold.
But getting a novel published isn’t easy, and making a living with novel-writing even less so. Building a lucrative career as an author takes luck and time – and I was no longer willing to rely on the former or wait for the latter.
I knew that all I’ve ever wanted to do was write.
So in late 2015 I enrolled in Gina’s 30DOL to Freelance Writing Success, and from then on stumbled upon a streak of good luck that *knock on wood* seems to be lasting until today.
What got you into VA work?
Through the course, Gina learned that I’m bilingual in English and German, and that I was serious about going full-time freelance as soon as possible.
One day she contacted me, asking if I’d be interested in VAing, too, since it could be a more regular source of income than copywriting, especially in the beginning. Of course I was interested.
So she hooked me up with a German friend of hers who was looking for a Virtual Assistant. I started freelancing as a Virtual Assistant for this web designer in February 2016. That was lucky break #1. Had Gina not known that I’m German, she might not have referred me to the web designer who has become my biggest client.
We hit it off professionally and he was delighted with my work, so he started referring me to his acquaintances and business partners – lucky break #2. I never had to advertise or cold pitch my services. People actually came to me.
I soon had three regular clients, for whom I was working up to eight hours per week next to my day job – the legal amount I was allowed for a side hustle by my day job employer. I even started copywriting for them. Yay!
When two more people came knocking, I would have had to turn them down because I was working to capacity – if I hadn’t decided to seize the moment and quit my day job.
So six months after starting the side-hustle, I went into full-time freelancing with two brand new clients and a running start – lucky break #3.
What has been the most challenging part of solopreneurship so far?
Building a routine. Now that I work from home, it’s tempting to sleep in every day, to take long lunch breaks, even to not get dressed in the morning. As disciplined as I am, my daily morning routine is necessary for me to be productive, and I’m still working out the kinks.
Another challenge is finding time for long-term projects that will hopefully earn me money in the not-too-distant future, while being swamped with tasks that make me money now. Not always an easy balance to strike.
(Gina’s Tip: This is such challenge for most people who work for themselves, myself included. I wrote about how I focus on my highest ROI activities.)
Did you ever want to quit or give up?
Before I quit my day job, I had a few moments of “this is too much”. Working freelance next to your full-time day job can be taxing, especially when things get really busy in both. I wasn’t getting enough sleep for several months in a row.
Honestly, hats off to you moms and dads out there, building your freelance side hustle next to a day job while taking care of your kids! I’m not sure I could do it.
What kept me going was the thought that the more I worked my butt off, the earlier I would be able to quit my day job – and I did, a mere six months after starting my side hustle.
Those months felt like a long time, but looking back I’m amazed at how fast everything fell into place so perfectly.
What do you do for your VA clients?
I do different things for different clients.
Email management, accounting and copywriting for one; supervising webinars, editing and making calls to clients for the second; database maintenance and copywriting again for the third. I also do a couple of things for all of them, like social media and blog management.
What are some big successes you’ve had recently?
Being able to quit my day job and going freelance full time in July was a big milestone for my fledgling business.
People keep asking me if I’m not terrified of taking this step, but so far it’s been only fun and exhilaration, coupled with maybe a smidgen of nervous excitement. That’s how I knew that taking this step was right for me.
What are some specific strategies that helped you grow?
Saying yes to everything, especially in the beginning.
I don’t mean underselling myself, or letting others exploit me (and neither should you, ever!), but rather that I wasn’t afraid to try new things. To take on new tasks and assignments my clients asked of me.
If I didn’t know how to do something, I figured it out. I asked my client, or asked an expert. I researched on Google. By figuring it out, I got things done and made my clients happy, which led to more new tasks. By saying yes to one thing, I got the chance to say yes to another, and another.
What are you most excited about for your business next?
I have two milestones coming up that I’m excited about.
First on the list is updating my website. I cobbled together my current one at the beginning of the year. It’s not terrible – I’ve actually gotten compliments from friends and former colleagues on it. But it’s got a ways to go before it meets my hopes and expectations. I have plans for it that I’m excited about, and which shall be implemented within the next two weeks.
Two, I’m planning a German online-course on VAing, set to go live by December of this year. Hopefully it’ll turn out to be a lucrative new product-line for me – and possibly another lucky break.
Thanks for chatting with us, Pia.
How about you, dear reader? Have you had any lucky breaks in your business?
Pia Newman is a Germany-based freelance virtual assistant. She has a Bachelor’s degree in technical economics and a Masters in innovation management. You can find more about Pia on her website (in German), or you can ask her questions in the comments section of this post.