We’re starting off a brand new series here at Horkey HandBook!
We’ll be following along with three super-motivated VAs in different stages of their businesses – beginner, intermediate and advanced – who are willing to share their journeys and income with us.
Why share their income you ask? Great question! Gina shared her income reports for the first two and a half years of her VA journey – she stopped as her business model changed and they were no longer relatable to newer virtual assistants.
We know that income reports are still super motivating and encouraging to read though, so we’re bringing them back! In this series, we’ll learn about where each of our VAs are at in their business journey and their plans for getting results in the coming months.
We looked for candidates SERIOUS about kicking butt and taking names as virtual assistants. That includes everything from landing just a few clients, to making an extra $500+ per month and running a full-time VA business, possibly scaling to an agency model over time.
Success comes in all shapes and sizes, and everyone’s journey is unique! This week we’ll hear from Julie Fleischhacker… get ready!
Hi Julie! Tell us a bit about yourself:
Hello! I’m Julie, and this is my story…
After years of working in corporate offices, dreading Monday mornings (Sunday nights were the worst), working for someone else and feeling stuck, I started dreaming of a different life. I wanted a life that would allow me to live and/or travel anywhere, be less stressed, get healthy, expand my life and world experiences… and allow me to continue working since I was only 48 at the time (I just turned the big 5-0 – Eek!).
Does this type of life even exist? Heck ya!
I started researching and found out that this is a thing, who knew?! I’m a single woman with no children or pets, so I had the flexibility to easily move anywhere in the world (I’ve met families that do this too, btw).
I chose Mexico because I could start with a six-month tourist visa before I applied for a permanent one (had to make sure I really liked it right?), it’s close enough to fly home when I need to and completely walkable so I wouldn’t need a car – I’ve lost over 70 pounds since I arrived, amazing!
I’m still not sure if this is my forever home, but for now I’m enjoying the sun, inexpensive lifestyle, fresh food and the people I meet every day.
So, I had the place picked out, but how was I going to support myself? I had been looking into many different ways to make money on the road like proofreading, teaching English and online research, for example. I took several online courses – they were all great, but the work just wasn’t for me.
The best part is, there is something out there for all of us, so I kept looking.
What made you decide to start a VA business?
I knew I loved to help people get organized – this is my Master’s in Library and Information Science talking. I’d been a part-time bookkeeper for over 20 years assisting my mom with her accounting business, and I also love solving problems, training and making things more efficient.
I began my journey by creating a profile on a freelance platform to at least see what jobs I would qualify for, what other skills I needed and to keep searching for my niche. I finally found Gina’s 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success course right before I was leaving for Mexico and the puzzle pieces started to fall in place.
It was a HUGE leap of faith that I could figure all this out after I moved abroad, but I did it anyway! I could always come back, right?
Being a VA, or business manager, consultant – whatever you want to call yourself – pulled all the work I enjoyed doing into one career. I can be picky when it comes to clients and the services I perform, and I spend little to no time on tasks that don’t bring me joy.
“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.“
Tell us how you got your business started:
I was fortunate to be able to make my move abroad in October 2018 before I was earning as a freelancer. I landed in Mexico on October 21, 2018 and made my way up to San Miguel de Allende on November 1, 2019, the Day of the Dead weekend!
That same month, I landed my first job on that freelance platform doing research and posting for event websites. I wasn’t making the big bucks, but I had to start somewhere and I was learning how to post, edit and format in WordPress, which of course I’ve added to my resume.
In December, I landed my first true VA job! We spent a few months on the freelance platform and eventually moved to a retainer agreement to save us both extra fees. I organized the client’s Gmail account, added labels, filters and basically got her inbox down to zero – hooray!
I was gaining client trust and increasing my billable hours as we added bookkeeping, calendaring and research projects to my list of tasks.
In the last eight months I’ve helped my client launch a website for the association she heads up in Chicago, researched podcasting and creating online courses and have started working heavily with Google Ads and Analytics.
“That’s right, more skills added to my resume!“
Tell us a bit about your business now:
Fast forward eight months and I now have three more clients from the freelance platform and another hourly client on contract for a total of five clients. I could have done this much faster, but I’m very picky about the jobs I apply for. I have to feel a real connection to the work the client does and to the services I’ll be providing! My goal – 100% satisfaction or more.
Guess what? I’m STILL working on my website, so when you ask if it’s possible to get started without having all the pieces in place… absolutely!
The most important thing is to get started. I’m still trying to decide on my service offerings, if I need to niche down, what I enjoy doing the most and what I’m best at.
What services do you provide?
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. That’s a lot of different services, but for now, it’s working for my clients and I.
My clients work in different industries including digital and social media marketing, architecture, food blogging and corporate gifting. They each use a variety of my services and I am always open to learning something new when they need it. I’m coming up on the one-year anniversary of my first client and that’s pretty exciting! We’re thinking of doing a “corporate retreat” in San Miguel.
Tell us about your business’s income:
Ok, so now is when I pull the curtain back. How much am I making?
Here are my earnings since I started this journey and I am proud to say that this month I’ll earn over $2,000. Now granted, you may be thinking that’s peanuts, but where I live that is plenty of money, plus I never work more than a 20-hour week. Consider this – $1.50 for a dozen roses, $10 for dinner out including a margarita (or two) and first-run movies for $6 – and that includes a small popcorn and cocktail!
What are your goals?
My goals for the next 30 days:
Goal #1 – While yes, you can get started without a website, I realize it’s time I commit and get this thing up and running. Remember – it doesn’t need to be perfect and all websites evolve (I think I’m sort of quoting Gina here)!
I need a place to direct people, and while my LinkedIn profile has been working, it’s time to buckle down. I’ve purchased my domain and am working through Horkey HandBook’s, 7 Days or Less to Branded Website Success.
One hurdle is coming up with a logo… OMG the website URL was bad enough, but now this? Fortunately, I know a whole team of graphic designers in Chicago who have offered to help.
I’m a Virgo and we like things to be just right, first time out, but I know it’s not going to happen and I just need to get over myself! So, Goal “#1-A” is to get a logo created.
Goal #2 – To “hire” another client. I need to keep the momentum going and I need another European vacation! With all five of my current clients, I’m averaging about 15-20 hours per week, so I have plenty of time for a new client.
I subscribe to the VA Leads Community Facebook group and I really need to take better advantage of the client leads posted there. I hope you definitely consider taking advantage of the amazing opportunity that community provides for us!
Goal #3 – Get my earnings and expenses organized for the end of 2019. I know, crazy to start now but since I have some time, it’s probably best to get everything organized now and then add in each month as I go instead of diving into crisis mode in January. One of the nice things about living abroad is that there are some tax breaks I get to take advantage of and I’m anxious to see how those benefit me.
My long-term goals:
First, I need to get clear on a couple of things:
- What my maximum client load can and will be (this is tough when some of my clients don’t need me for the same amount of work each month).
- Do I need to niche down my services? Am I beginning to be a Jill of all trades? Is that a bad thing?
As far as a long-term income goal, within the next twelve months, I’d like to get to $5,000 per month and have all my clients on retainers.
Any final words of wisdom to share?
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.
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’m so grateful to be able to share my story and I wish you all the best in your journey. If by some small chance I’ve offered hope or guidance, I am honored. Go make it happen!
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 including email and calendar management, project management, research, digital file management, bookkeeping and general business management. Previously, she’s 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 currently resides in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and is enjoying the freedom and opportunities her new career provides.