We love a great story here at Horkey HandBook – and we love it even more when it’s about one of our students!
In this post we’ll be hearing about six months in the life of advanced VA Julie Fleischhacker. We followed along with Julie in our Student Income Report Series where we heard monthly from three super-motivated VAs in various stages of their businesses.
We compiled this case study so you can catch all the action in one place!
We’ve loved sharing Julie’s story because it’s such a great example of what building a VA business has to offer – the flexibility and freedom to work anywhere in the world.
Julie is also an awesome example of what happens when you not only set goals, but track your progress so that you can keep moving in the right direction. Read on to hear about how she’s making strides toward her short-term goal of $5,000 per month with a 268% increase in her income!
Let’s hear about Julie’s journey over the six months we tagged along with her, including where she ended up and what’s next for this go-getter. Ready?
Table of Contents
Digital Asset Librarian Turned Digital Nomad
When we first met Julie, she had recently said adios to Corporate America. Aware that she wasn’t living the life she truly wanted, she decided to take her background as a digital asset librarian and experience working with Fortune 500 companies and strike out on her own to build a thriving VA business.
After taking 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success (now known as VA Foundations and included in The #FullyBookedVA System), Julie packed her bags and moved to sunny Mexico where she started her business and built it from the ground up!
Julie shared with us that this freedom and flexibility were among her biggest motivators when it came to starting a business.
In fact, during the months that we followed along with her, Julie packed her bags yet again and moved back state-side. She set a goal of moving to Minneapolis where her friends and family are and made it happen – in the middle of winter no less!
“Being able to do this – pick up, move and head on to the next adventure – is one of my big ‘whys’ for my VA business! I love that I have this freedom and flexibility, and I’m excited to see where my travels will take me next.”
A Steady Climb
One of the very fun things about following along with Julie has been seeing her steady climb when it comes to her business and income…
“I increased my income by 268% over the course of 12 months!”
When we first started checking in with her about eight months into her business, Julie was working with five clients and making $2,000 per month working around 20 hours per week.
We noticed right away that Julie is really great with numbers. That includes setting projections for the months ahead, tracking her progress and pivoting when she needs to.
“My projection for the first month of the new decade is $3200 – that’s a 10% increase from the previous month and if I keep it up, I should hit my short-term goal of $5,000 per month by October.”
When her income increased by 220% from the month prior, Julie had a great success story to share…
“I landed a new client in late August and we started at ten hours a week for a trial period. I was able to get so much organized and off her plate that she increased my hours to ‘unlimited’ for a while. She saw a great ROI for my services right away and she’s really happy!”
We also got to see Julie’s client roster grow by four clients over the course of the six months that we tagged along with her.
Julie has great boundaries around connecting with the right clients, not just any clients…
“I’m also being very picky about who I send proposals to. I need – it is a need –to work with people I respect, who respect me and are willing to invest in their company. In my opinion, this really makes a difference for myself and my clients…
“I’m finding that it’s so worth it to wait for the right client and not take on anyone and everyone. Having a connection, big or small, really helps get the working relationship moving in the right direction…
“The result is that both parties enjoy the work that much more, and I can feel more confident about the quality of the services I’m delivering.”
And after she landed two new clients back-to-back, Julie had this to share about how she made it happen:
- I sent five pitches (including my first video pitch!).
- I received two referrals – I did one consultation and sent a proposal, and have a second consultation scheduled.
- I had four invitations to interview via a freelance platform – I declined three of them because they weren’t a good fit for my skill set.
From the get-go, Julie has been crystal clear about her income goals. Her short-term goal is $5,000 per month within 6-12 months, and her long-term goal is $10,000 per month.
Her plans to get there?
After her first year in business and experiencing the “learning curve” that goes along with that, Julie realized that there were a few adjustments she could make:
- Create SOPs (standard operating procedures) for her clients so that another VA could step in if needed and free her up to take on higher-level tasks.
- Create an onboarding workbook to cut down on the time it takes to gather access to accounts, etc.
- Move to package/retainer rates versus hourly.
Julie also shared with us that she was giving serious thought to niching down, and even wondered if being a “Jill of all trades” was effective for her business’ growth.
“I currently provide email and calendar management, digital file management (similar to my digital librarian days – organizing files, images with keywords and file structure on Google Drive), basic bookkeeping and accounts receivable, research and project management (two of my clients are writing books right now), social media marketing and light website management.”
And when it comes to that $10,000 per month long-term income goal?
Julie’s got plans for that too. 😉
Part of those plans involves… you guessed it! Niching down.
“I plan to continue refining my offerings and niching down a bit to better serve my clients. I thought doing everything for everybody was a good strategy, and for a time it was working great. But, I’m realizing over the long term that this isn’t a good strategy for me.”
Julie also jumped into the Pinterest VA course to level up her business…
“It had been my long-term goal to purchase the course next year, but I couldn’t wait! I’ve got time scheduled on my calendar to work on the Pinterest VA course and I’m really looking forward to expanding my service offerings with something that has so much potential for growth.”
We’re also super excited to see what else Julie has up her sleeve for reaching this income goal. She shared that she’s been looking at other revenue streams and ways to create passive income.
“I’ve learned so much this year about marketing, blogging, earning from affiliate marketing, passive income and subscription-based products – and I know I need to get in the game!..
“At this point, I’m figuring out what to start with and how to implement my ideas. I know I have something to say, but will people pay to hear it? We’ll find out!”
We’ll definitely be circling back around with Julie to see where her plans take her! Based on what we saw from her in the six months that we tagged along, we’re confident that she’ll achieve this goal. Stay tuned!
Keep Moving Forward
Julie shared some great insight about starting a virtual assistant biz…
“All you have to do is start. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, you don’t have to have every little piece in place. You have you – your skills, your knowledge and you can find your way!“
“I encourage anyone seriously considering starting their own virtual assistant business to take a look at 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success. Gina and her team know their stuff and provide you with everything you need – including confidence – to make this happen.”
We also really enjoyed following along with Julie because of her awesome style of seeing a need in her business and making a solid plan to address it.
For example, Julie shared with us that she built her business – without a website!
“Since my focus during this last year has been completely on building out my client roster, this one got put on the back burner so to speak.”
That’s right – Julie successfully got her business up and running using her LinkedIn profile. She also set the goal of finishing her site, including what pages she would complete and by when, and made it happen.
Julie’s plans to grow her client roster included increasing her pitching consistency – she even set calendar reminders to get her pitches done. She also shared that it works well for her to set time blocks strictly for sourcing and pitching clients.
During the months that we followed along with her, Julie also became a believer in video pitching, even though she finds it challenging at times…
“…my goal is to continue honing my video pitching skills. Sometimes I nail it and other times I feel very shy. Good grief, it’s like being on stage in grade school all over again!”
Good things do happen outside your comfort zone!
What Works Well
We always like to hear about the different strategies VAs use to rock their businesses. Oftentimes that includes balancing a personal life too!
In Julie’s case, she found that she was struggling to balance taking care of herself with hustling in her business. Her solution was to create a daily schedule for eating (yep, it’s easy to miss this one when you’re making things happen in a big way like Julie!), studying and exercise. She also found that creating reminders in her calendar worked well for this.
Julie also shared that setting boundaries around her work helped to achieve more of that “work-life balance” we all strive for. For Julie, this involves not responding to emails during “off” hours, or scheduling her responses to send in the morning. Pretty clever!
And lastly – this one is huge in our opinion – Julie shared with us that valuing her time was a big ‘win’ for her.
“…valuing my time and not being shy about asking for what I’m worth is working well for me. Really well!”
Challenges and Moving Through
Has it all been easy for Julie?
Not necessarily. Like many of us, she shared that she struggles with managing her time, at times feeling like she’s constantly running behind and grinding away at her computer without a “life.”
Julie also shared that, again, like many of us, she’s experienced times of worry about her business – even when things are going well.
“I’ve found clients when I needed them, established and nurtured great relationships with my long-standing clients, learned a ton and have supported myself for over a year doing what I love…
“But I’ve also let fear (of not having enough money) get the better of me. I know that this is a normal part of everyone’s journey at some time – to go through times of doubt and worry even when things have been going well.”
Julie’s plan to move through these inevitable times?
“I’m reaching out to my support system, pushing myself to show up every day, pitching like crazy and trying to be gentle with myself…
“The only ones who fail are those who quit, right? So, even on the days when it’s hard to show up, I’m going to keep on keeping on and see this venture through.”
Julie also told us that one of her goals was to commit time daily to personal development by reading. We’re big believers in growing your mind to grow your business here at Horkey HandBook, so we’re confident that this will be a powerful strategy for her!
On the Horizon
During the time that we tagged along with Julie, her income almost tripled and her client roster grew at a steady rate. She jumped into a new course to level up her business and has her sights set hard on her income goals.
We can’t wait to see what’s next for Julie. She’s got a winning combination of determination, clarity and the ability to set actionable goals, monitor them and adjust accordingly. Over the course of one year she built a thriving VA business, and now that she’s through the “learning curve” we know that there are big things on the horizon for her!
Ready to kick off your virtual assistant journey as Julie did? Get started here!
Julie is a Digital Librarian turned Digital Nomad (originally from Minnesota – Go Vikes!!!) who provides Virtual Assistant services to micro/small business owners. Services include email and calendar management, project management, research, digital file management, bookkeeping and general business management. Previously, she has worked for multiple Fortune 500 companies as a digital asset librarian managing global databases of images and videos and providing training and technical troubleshooting. She recently returned to Minnesota after living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for a year and is enjoying the freedom and opportunities her new career provides.