Full disclosure here. Not only did this virtual assistant earn more than $20,000 in less than 2 months, she earned that from a single client.
And that client was me.
Wanna know what I paid her for? Keep reading!
I was at my wits’ end.
So much to do. So much to manage. And so many incredible students to take care of. Yet it still felt like so little was actually getting done. I spent my entire day doing all the little things that had to be done, which left very little time for the big things — the things that make a business grow. Blogs don’t grow on their own, y’know!
I was exhausted, frustrated, and paralyzed by what I should do first, whether or not I should spend time learning to do those big things myself or whether I should find someone to do it — someone who already had the skill and finesse to get it done — and who didn’t need me to hold their hand every step of the way.
So I got desperate one day last November and posted an ad online where I listed out lots of items that were on my monstrous to-do list.
Julie was the first one to answer — and she blew me away!
After bringing on Julie, I paid her and her team, Pipe & Lime, more than $20,000 in less than three months.
Don’t believe me? Here’s an invoice marked paid for more than $17k of it! #boom
I’m going to keep paying Julie more and more, too, because she continues to add unbelievable value. Like, I pinch myself sometimes to remind myself this is reality. Because of her, I have a life again. Because of her, my business can grow without me pulling every single string to make every single thing happen. She makes my business her business — and she doesn’t do it just for the money.
Why Julie’s NOT a Run-of-the-Mill VA
So what the heck does Julie do to get me to pay her so much money?
Well, here’s the thing: Julie isn’t your run-of-the-mill “VA.” She’s really taken the “learn to earn” thing to heart and, since 2012, has been adding skill after skill to her repertoire — skills I don’t have; skills I don’t have time to learn… and skills that are necessary to do the things I need done!
Instead of sticking with only what she already knew — and trying to bill $40/hour for basic administrative work (not a fan of that at ALL! More later.) — she branched out in a big way. Julie got smart and learned what skills online businesses actually need:
- Traffic to our websites
- High-quality web copy
- Intelligent email sequencing that delivers incredible value to our readers
- Websites that look good
And we need time to do the things in our businesses only we can do. For me, that’s writing posts and providing support to my students.
Thanks to Julie, I have a lot more time to do that now.
I brought Julie onto the blog to ask her some questions about her life and work. Pretty sure it’s going to blow your mind and break the mold of everything you thought you knew about what virtual assistants can do.
Hey, Julie!! Thanks for taking the time to visit my nerdy little blog today. So… you have a pretty incredible background story — mind giving us the scoop on that?
JULIE: Yeah, so I had a pretty typical story — mom of three, stayed at home, and went bonkers. Started a blog in 2007. Branched out into VA work and writing and in 2012, officially opened up a business doing tech and WordPress design for other bloggers.
In 2014, my life went nuts. I ended up divorced and pregnant (not a pretty scene), and I applied to work for Automattic (the company that owns WordPress). I didn’t get the job, and I remember being absolutely devastated. This was going to be my virtual work, my ticket to health insurance, everything. And when it didn’t happen, I thought the end was near. It was so scary.
I miraculously found a temporary full-time job at a local college doing marketing, and I used that job for health insurance and to get me to my due date. In the evenings, I moonlighted my VA business because a voice inside my head told me this was STILL my ticket to a flexible career. It was hard. Scratch that… it was brutal.
Wow, that sounds crazy! What did a normal day look like for you?
JULIE: I would get up, go to work from 8am-3pm, come home, nap, and start a new workday at 5pm and go till 11 or 12 at night.
I saw my older three kids every weekend, all vacations, and summer, but I couldn’t sustain them on my income, so they lived with their dad during the week. When I look back at that time in my life, I can’t even believe I pulled it off. The baby came in June 2015, and I left my temporary job and used my $10k in savings from my freelance business to take a maternity leave over the summer.
Something happened to me at the end of that summer. I was still scared to go it on my own, so I asked the college if I could come back part-time. They said yes, but guess what? I lasted six weeks, and then I walked out. I was done.
From then on, my freelance side gig became my full-time one, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to seriously hustle. But here I am. It’s 2017, and last year’s sales and revenue topped out at $350k. About $180k of that came directly from client work.
HOLY COW. That has got to be the most insane background story I’ve ever heard. I’m serious; the next time someone writes me a sob story about how they can’t do X or Y because blabbity blah, I’m going to send them to this post. No joke.
One thing I’ve noticed in the “virtual assistant” world is that most virtual assistants don’t offer what you offer. So let me ask this first: What’s a VA?
JULIE: The title “virtual assistant” simply means the “mode” of work. That you work virtually. VAs can do anything — design, copy, ads, etc. The problem is that the term “VA” most often describes either administrative work or simple execution of tasks. It isn’t often used to describe higher-level strategy or advanced skills like technology, design, and marketing. That’s why most VAs I coach, I recommend using an alternate title once you want to bust through $30 an hour.
Okay… so what’s a digital marketing specialist? How are they different from an administrative VA?
JULIE: A digital marketing specialist is technically a VA because it’s a remote job, but the term denotes someone who helps a business owner make money online. Through web design, strategy, and implementation, a digital marketer seeks to help a business owner leverage the Internet for more sales. This could be for a traditional business or an online one. It commands much higher rates because it assumes you know what the heck you’re doing!
Yep. That’s the stuff I’m willing to pay a lot of money for. So much goes into running an online business!! I don’t have time to learn all the strategy myself, and hiring someone like you who loves doing that kind of thing really makes my life easier. I also enjoy my life more because I’m no longer buried in an endless to-do list.
K, next question: What are some major mistakes new virtual assistants make?
JULIE: I see so many. Spending too much time setting up their business. Perfectionism. Shiny Object Syndrome. Taking advice from “seasoned” VAs who have never made more than $1k a month. Charging too little. Using only sites like Fiverr and Upwork and then feeling like crap when they can’t compete with people from other countries. Not understanding that they need to eventually branch out beyond the term “VA” if they want to make a full-time, sustainable living.
I agree. The term “VA” can mean so many things. Is there an income ceiling for VAs?
JULIE: Yes. Administrative work can’t really command more than $25 an hour. Graphics, tech, and sales funnels start to bump up your income to the $5k+/month mark. Then, if you want to go bigger, you have to scale. This is what we teach. We teach you how to get to $5k+, and our higher level mastermind shows you how to scale through one of three means: consulting, recurring revenue with digital products (like you’ve done, Caitlin!), or through building out a digital agency.
Yeah… when I see brand-new, super green VAs whose skills are outdated or limited to administrative work like answering email trying to charge $25/hour — some even more than that!! — I run in the opposite direction.
While I’m not willing to pay lots of money for low-skill work, I never hesitate to pay freelancers with higher-level skills a LOT of money! For freelancers on my team whom I really like, I even pay for training so I can pay them more eventually.
My readers are probably dying to know what counts as a “high-level skill.” So tell us: What are the most in-demand, high-level skills virtual assistants can learn and offer?
JULIE: Funnels. Sales funnel design. Facebook ads. Marketing. Copywriting. Web design. These reign supreme. Coming in under that are social media managers and online business managers who deal with the daily operations of a business online.
Yep! Those are exactly the skills I need most to keep things “going and growing” here at Proofread Anywhere. And — no coincidence — those are exactly the skills I paid you $20,000 for!
What frustrates me with run-of-the-mill VAs is that there are so many who just want to make easy money — but they aren’t willing to invest in improving or expanding their skills. There’s a fixed “take it or leave it” mentality that drives me crazy. They want lots of money but aren’t willing to work for it OR, even worse, will only do a little bit of work but want a LOT of money for it. I’m big on value. If I don’t feel the value you provide lines up with what you charge me, then I won’t keep you.
What are some other things you’ve seen that really frustrate clients?
JULIE: Clients get SUPER frustrated when VAs don’t clearly lay out expectations for hours worked, communication channels, and how much to take initiative or just simply execute. There is so much that can be avoided by the client lining up clear expectations and project scope up front and for the VA to explain clearly her work process and style of communication.
So true. Everybody in the PA community knows how annoyed I get when people don’t answer emails. That’s why I always do (or very nearly always, anyway :-)). Communication is so critical to a good working relationship. It’s how you can show your client they’re important to you. That doesn’t mean you have to be at their beck and call 24/7, but keep the communication lines open, clear, and accessible. Don’t leave clients wondering.
What’s your WHY, Julie? Why do you do what you do?
So I never have to be separated from my children ever again. I spent 547 days getting back on my feet after my divorce, and I was unable to live in a place that provided them a good education. I was so far behind career-wise because I’d spent a decade at home. Never again.
Summing It Up…
This was hands down the most intense interview I’ve ever done on the blog. Probably even controversial — I know there are VAs out there who’ve been taught to “do the math” on how much money they want to make. “Just divide $10,000 (or other relatively large amount) by the number of hours you want to work every month,” they say, and that number is your hourly rate — no matter what skills you have to offer.
I’m NOT a fan of this “math” or the mentality. I’m a fan of SKILL and VALUE. The people with skills who provide value are the people I will gladly pay thousands of dollars — even tens of thousands — year after year!
In short, skills are where the money is! Not willing to learn any skills? Don’t expect to earn money. It really is as simple as that.
You don’t have to jump immediately into high-level skills, by the way. In fact, I recommend all VAs start in a basic administrative role! If you don’t know how the administrative part of a business runs, how can you expect to ever manage a business for someone down the line, y’know?
A super-relevant example? If I hadn’t spent six years doing freelance proofreading, I never would’ve been able to start blogging about it, much less create an online course to teach others.
I think that’s a mistake a lot of newbies make — they want to immediately jump to the highest possible earning potential regardless of their present skill level. So they do, and they’re so overwhelmed they almost immediately admit defeat. It’s okay — and even recommended! — to start small and grow. This prevents overwhelm instead of causing it.
Want to learn skills like Julie and earn more as a virtual assistant?
Julie created an incredible high-level learning system for virtual assistants who want to go beyond basic administrative work and add in-demand skills like funnels, ads, and web design to their arsenal.
I’m so impressed with Julie’s skill set and passion for her clients (like me!), my own team members have gone through many of Julie's skills courses so they could learn higher-level skills. I want to pay my team members more money, and they know I will when they learn more skills!
Did this post challenge you? What skills are you most interested in offering future clients as you grow your virtual business? (Besides proofreading, that is!!) Questions for Julie? Share below!