Name: Erika Schanzenbach
Short bio: Graphic designer turned small-business sidekick.
Location: Abingdon, Virginia, USA
Date hired by first client: March 2018, three weeks after starting the course.
Return on investment: 48 days after enrolling in Gina’s course!
Average hours worked per week: 30(ish)
Average monthly income: $2000- $3000
Services offered: Graphic design and typesetting, content management, admin assistance
Hi, Erika. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Currently my 40th birthday is staring me down and I don’t intend to flinch.
My next decade is going to be my best yet. Ha, take that big 4-0!
But seriously, I am a long time graphic designer with a love of the written word. I went to tech college to study electronic publishing and then I worked for many years doing layout design and typesetting for magazines and books along with managing blog content.
I never felt comfortable in the traditional career box.
I was homeschooled in the 80s when homeschooling was hardly a thing, by a stay-at-home mom and a dad who ran his own small business. My childhood taught me a lot about hard work and personal responsibility, as well as prioritizing things of lasting importance rather than seeking immediate gratification.
I have my parents to thank for ruining me for corporate life forever and laying the foundation for me to be a kick-ass VA.
How about your business?
I have major respect for small business owners and solopreneurs. Starting a business isn’t easy, and keeping one going is even harder, but I sincerely believe the world needs people with vision and a willingness to do the hard work to start things. They make our communities stronger.
Unfortunately, big ideas often get lost in the minutia of implementation. My business is to come alongside small business owners and help them redeem their time.
I not only take administrative tasks off their plate that are consuming their attention and keeping them from moving their business forward, but my design skill and writing ability also helps them present their businesses well.
Why did you decide to start a virtual assistant business?
This business was a lifestyle choice more than anything else.
I desire to use my time on this earth wisely, in a way that exercises my gifts and talents fruitfully, and serves other people well.
A VA business gives me the flexibility to structure my work life to serve my overall life goals and priorities. That means if I want to do volunteer work every Friday morning or take my work with me as I travel, I can. It means that if I want use my skills and business to meet needs in my community, I will have the agility and authority to do that.
I also love that it isn’t static. The only limit on my ability to grow my business into new areas is my willingness to learn how to do new things. I’ve been learning new things all my life, and don’t intend to quit anytime soon, so that’s an inspiring thought to me!
What was holding you back from starting your business?
Lack of a blueprint for getting started, and lack of high-speed internet access at home (rural mountainous area). The 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success course solved my first problem, renting office space in town solved the second.
What was the most challenging part as you got started?
The most difficult thing was the overwhelm of seeing all that I needed to do to get started and overcoming my fear of failure.
I had to find an office space, decide what services to offer, build a website, learn how to pitch, figure out bookkeeping and taxes, business cards, logo, networking events, and on and on.
I didn’t start this business as a side-hustle like many do. I had lost a job of several years due to budget cutbacks and I had to take the leap and build my own business or go get a different job which was going to be difficult to do in the rural area in which I live. I chose to take the leap.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I had been thinking about starting my own business for a long time and attempted graphic design freelancing a few times, but between my tech problems with at-home internet access and just not knowing how to get started, I never got very far.
Gina’s course came along at just the right time to guide me through the minutia of business start-up, and gave me a zap of confidence to get my butt in gear and just do it already. These last six months have been a discovery journey fueled mostly by persistence and prayer. No regrets.
What has been your biggest success since you’ve started?
My biggest success is my mindset shift.
I spent many years of my adult life with a handicapped sort of tunnel vision about what I thought my life could or should be. It’s not that I had a terrible life, far from it – I have loads of blessings to be thankful for.
What I didn’t have was a concrete vision for what my calling in life was, and for the most part I wasn’t even looking. I wasn’t viewing the particular talents and skills that I had been given as something that should be developed and invested.
I certainly didn’t see myself as someone who had the chops to build a business of my own.
This entire process; from that initial leap of faith, through six months of of showing up day-after-day, to now reaping the first fruits of my labor, has been pivotal in building my confidence and opening my eyes to possibilities for the future.
Can you tell us about your favorite client or project?
I can tell you about my favorite moment of almost any project.
It’s that moment when a project I’ve been working on comes full circle and is complete. It is always gratifying to take something chaotic and bring order or to create something that didn’t exist before.
For me, my favorite project completions are design projects that are published in print. There is nothing like holding a physical book in your hand that you designed. It’s so concrete. I love it!
How are you working on growing your business currently?
My client roster so far has been populated from within my circle of friends and acquaintances (and referrals from those folks) as I have reached out to my network.
I have a number of things on my short list of business-building to-dos, such as blogging and developing a social media presence to establish my online business presence. I am still getting my feet under me a bit in all these things, and am trying to take things one day at a time.
What are you most looking forward to over the next 12 months?
I look forward to getting past the initial hustle of getting started and having a consistent base of good clients to work with. I’m getting there!
In the next twelve months, I look forward to evaluating my options for learning a new skill or two that will help me find a solid niche to focus on for business growth.
I have started out as a generalist since I actually know how to do a lot of things, and I’m no stranger to learning what I need to know to get the job done whatever that job might be. This approach helped me get this business going quickly, but as I look toward future growth I want to narrow the field.
Also, I know everyone says this, but I want to travel more. Who doesn’t want to travel more?
Thank you for sharing your story, Erika!
I’m a former Midwestern Minnesota girl who now lives and works in hills of southwest Virginia. For fifteen years I have worked with and for small businesses and ministries in a variety of roles that often started with print design (magazines/books) and grew outward to include things like blog management, writing, and email list management. When I’m not in front of my laptop, I enjoy hiking and road tripping. You can find me on LinkedIn and at gobizgo.pro