Student Income Report Series: Tara Avril

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We’ve got an incredible story to share in our Student Income Report Series here at Horkey HandBook! We love featuring students who are taking what they’ve learned in 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success and putting it into action – with amazing results.

In our Student Income Report Series posts we’ve featured VAs in various stages of their businesses over the course of several months. They’ve shared their goals, progress, successes and struggles with us.

We know how motivating it can be to read about how other virtual assistants are making things happen, and to “see the numbers” when it comes to income. Everyone’s journey is unique, and each student’s story bring its own inspiration and insight.

Today’s post is an introduction to virtual assistant and freelance writer Tara Avril. Tara is in the beginning stages of her business, and this go-getter has hit the ground running in a major way. We’re really excited to share her story with you!

Ready? Let’s do this!

Hi Tara! Tell us a bit about yourself:

Hi there! I’m a trained writer, musician and dancer. I thrive on supporting creative people by giving them the time and brain-space to nourish their practice, and by believing in them. You go, Glen Coco! 

Prior to finding 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success, I’d been working remotely as an administrative assistant for about nine months. I hadn’t even heard the term “virtual assistant” until I came across Horkey HandBook!

I’d been reading up on freelance writing – I knew I wanted to do something with writing, and somehow make money. After spending some time researching the course, I finally signed up on April 2, 2020.

On April 7th and 8th, before I finished the course, I sent my first pitches.

And guess what? By April 13th I’d landed my first two clients! That’s 11 days after I started 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success.

Both opportunities are freelance writing gigs – one a project and one ongoing, as well as the possibility of a project coming up the following month.

“In my first month as an “official” VA/freelance writer, I’m on track to make $1000. Woot woot!”

Now, at the end of my first month since signing up for the course, I am mainly focused on my clients’ work and building my business.

I’ve read through 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success, and I plan on going back and spending time on all the action steps – not just the early ones, which were the ones that really got me thinking about my business. 

Tell us about your goals:

Short term business goals

  1. Earn $1300 per month by summertime.
  2. Continue completing work for my current clients on time and staying in touch. 
  3. Keep pitching until my 30-hour per week schedule is full.

My plan to get there

  • Let all my friends know about my new business! (This is how I landed one of my new clients, just by telling one person!
  • Complete the action steps in 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success
  • Complete my business setup – registration, bank account, etc.
  • Set up a fool-proof bookkeeping system 
  • Build my website and update my LinkedIn page

Long term business goals

  1. Earn $5,000 per month working 30 hours per week within one year.
  2. Become a specialist in my niche (I still need to figure that part out! See below 😉)

My plan to get there

  • Figure out my niche by researching writing specialities to find the styles that I’m inspired to learn about. And whatever it is, budget money to take a course on it – and then complete the course!
  • Stay dedicated to my 30-hour per week schedule and as my experience grows, raise my rates!

I’m also a big believer in work-life balance, so I have some goals around this…

  1. For clients, don’t work past 5pm. 
  2. For other projects, don’t work past 9pm! Allow for real relaxation time so that I can return to work refreshed. 
  3. Work with intention – don’t binge on mindless tasks for hours at a time in a muddy puddle of self-loathing. Take a break to drink water, stretch, eat trail mix and check on the tomato plants!

What’s working well in your business?

Connecting with the VA Leads Community through Horkey HandBook really energized me. It gave me faith in myself that I could actually start my own business and create an income!

I’m also making friends with video pitching. After sending four video pitches, I’m finally feeling more comfortable on camera.

And finally, my relationships with my clients are a part of my business that I’m really enjoying. I like learning about their businesses, the types of writing they need and then actually doing the writing projects.

So far, my clients are pleased with the results I’ve given them, which feels amazing. I love that they have faith in me, and I want to keep that going.

My current clients are really nice people and are easy to communicate with – I’m so grateful for that! 

Any challenges?

In each pitch I send, I need to be specific about the work I actually want to do, not just filling whatever needs the client has. I’m such a pliable person I will try to do anything, but I usually end up regretting that.

And, I’m a perfectionist. It’s been challenging to guard my time and force myself to do tasks quickly before they eat up several hours. I have to have faith that the quality of work will still be sufficient, maybe even great. 😉

I’m excited about the opportunity to share my progress here. It’s been awesome to reflect on these important aspects of my journey so far – and to look ahead!

Update: One Month In

We wanted to keep up with Tara and hear how things are going now that she’s officially had her first month in as a VA and freelance writerAnd things are going great! Let’s hear about it, ready?

Catch us up on your business:

Last month was my first “full” month as a VA/freelance writer, and it went better than I expected! I met my income goal of $1300, which feels great.

I did work for three clients. On the freelance writing side, I had my first blog post and my first article published (both of which were paid projects)! 

I also received more work from two existing clients, both for extra writing projects. Because writing is something I want to do more of, it was awesome and affirming to receive these opportunities. 

One was a short writing project – a lead magnet for a book, and the other was a trial chapter for an eBook the client later hired me to write! 

I also took a step towards my long-term goal of finding my writing niche. I started taking an Advanced SEO Writing course by Laura Pennington Briggs to specialize further with my writing. 

What’s working well in your business?

It feels great to invest my time doing quality work for my clients, and that they want more of my work! 

I’m thrilled that I’ve found a really great fit in one of my clients – the skills I naturally excel at (e.g. detail-oriented writing work) are the things they want most. The scope of the work with this client is moving towards what I secretly (or not so secretly) actually want to spend my time on and it’s an emphasis that feels great for both of us. 

Any challenges?

As someone without any budgeting or accounting experience, I find it challenging to do the books regularly for my two businesses (I have another freelancing business that’s less active but still important to me).

How am I managing it? By taking an afternoon to figure out how a bookkeeper could help me, and whether I should hire one!

I’m also researching how to organize my budget when half of my income is project fees or commissions (i.e., non-recurring payments)? #freelancerstruggle 

And, I’m struggling with actually spending time on my website! I keep putting it off because I’m scared that what I put on there won’t represent who I am and what I actually want. 

I’m trying to change my mindset about this, and it (sometimes) helps to look at a bunch of different virtual service provider websites. These entrepreneurs do not all do the same thing, or look the same, or act the same, so I really don’t have to feel like I need to fit any particular mold in order to create a website.

It’s a personal statement – I should feel comfortable presenting myself as I am!

Catch us up on your goals:

Goal #1: Earn $1300 per month by summertime

I met my income goal of $1300 for last month, which feels great! 

Goal #2: Continue completing work with current clients

This turned out to be fruitful, since more projects came from two of them!

Goal #3: Keep pitching till my 30-hour per week schedule is full

I did keep pitching, but I realized I wanted to focus my energy more on increasing my skills (e.g. taking the advanced SEO writing course) rather than doing as much generalized work as I could fit in my schedule.

It felt more empowering (and also a better long-term investment) to spend my time that way! Looking back, I reached a point where 20 hours per week became my new “maximum” for hours spent on my VA business. This is my new balance point. 

What are your goals for the coming month?

Goal #1: Keep it up with my current clients!

How: Keep a regular schedule and deliver work on time

Goal #2: Get my first SEO Writing client

How: Finish the SEO Writing course, brainstorm and research the type of clients (and blogs) I connect with and pitch these twice per week after finishing the course.

Goal #3: Increase my current income goal to $1500/month

How: Keep up with my current clients and get that SEO writing gig! 

Goal #4: Get my VA website up and running!

How: Set aside two hours per week to actually sit, brainstorm, plan it out, gather testimonials, write some copy, take a video and build.it. 

Ready to kick off your virtual assistant journey like Tara did? Get started here!

Tara Avril is a writer and musician who has recently relocated from Texas to Southern California. She provides virtual assistance for individuals and small businesses through content creation, email management and general administration, and also supports low vision clients. Previously, Tara worked as a freelance composer and performer and arts administrator. She also offers administrative support for composers in client liaison and career development. Tara is enjoying building her newly flexible work schedule around her passion for writing and music.