Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.
Would you like to work from home? Becoming a virtual assistant can be a great way to make money online. My guest this week, Kayla Sloan, has been earning a living as a virtual assistant, and now helps others start their own virtual assistant business.
Kayla started working as a virtual assistant as a way to earn extra income. As her business grew, she realized that she was making as much money as a VA, as she was in her full-time job. Eventually, Kayla left her job to devote 100% of her energy to her business, and she’s never looked back.
In this episode, Kayla shares some of what she’s learned as a virtual assistant, including the key skills a VA must possess, as well as ways that you can get started as a virtual assistant. It’s an episode you don’t want to miss!
Our sponsor this week, Wealthsimple, has a new offering called Wealthsimple Trade. Trade will let you buy and sell over 8000 stocks and ETFs, commission free. Get all the details right here.
- What exactly is a virtual assistant (VA)?
- There are over 100 services that businesses can outsource to a virtual assistant.
- The benefits of using a virtual assistant in a traditional business.
- The key skills that a virtual assistant should possess.
- How does a virtual assistant get paid?
- Ways to get started as a VA.
- The most common mistake a VA can make.
Would you like to work from home? Becoming a virtual assistant is a great way to make money online. To find out more about this career choice I’ve brought on Kayla Sloan who has been earning a great living as a virtual assistant and now she helps others start their own virtual assistant business.
Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom.
I wanted to let you know about Wealthsimple Trade, a new offering from our sponsor, Wealthsimple. Trade will let you buy and sell over 8,000 stocks and ETFs commission free. You can find out more about this at wealthsimple.com/trade. Now, let’s get to Kayla.
Tom: Kayla thanks for being on the Maple Money Show.
Kayla: Thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be here.
Tom: I want to get right into this. First of all, you’re a VA (virtual assistant) and you’re training other people to be VAs. Can you explain what that is?
Kayla: A lot of people, when they hear VA, the first thing they think of in the US are veteran’s assistance and things like that. So I always say, to me a VA is a virtual assistant. If you’re familiar with the online business space, a virtual assistant is basically somebody who works behind the scenes to help online business owners complete tasks, get more organized and more efficient with their business. And, business owners can use a VA for outsourcing.
Tom: Okay, what are some of the jobs that someone could outsource?
Kayla: Oh, there’s so many. I actually put together a really cool kit because there are over 100 services that business owners can outsource to a virtual assistant. Some of them are as simple as managing a Facebook page; posting on there, replying to comments, checking email inboxes. They’re really simple things but they’re all things that go into running an online business that can be outsourced to a virtual assistant so you don’t have to do them yourself as a business owner. As a virtual assistant you can get paid well to do these things that you already know how to do. Most of us already know how to use social media so it’s easy to step in and take on that role.
Tom: We’ll make sure to link to that list in the show notes as well, by the way. You mentioned that something like this would work with an online business but will it work with a traditional business? Maybe it’s just a small business with literally just you or with one or two people as well.
Kayla: Yes, it can actually be a really good way to outsource things on a budget because, as a business owner you can hire a virtual assistant part-time and you don’t have to pay for things like full-time hours or benefits because a virtual assistant is going to be a contractor, not an employee. So it can come at a lower cost for you. Plus, you won’t have the overhead of having to provide them with an office space since they work virtually.
Tom: Okay. If you’re small enough business and you don’t have the money to hire a full-time secretary or executive assistant, is there a certain skill-set needed? One of the things I like about working with a virtual assistant is just helping me get organized. Is there something like that that is just built into the person or do you have to have a certain mindset?
Kayla: I think the most successful virtual assistants have a few things in common. First of all, they are really good at communication. They’re very good at following up on things, being diligent with their work, communicating with their clients when they have questions or if a problem arises or something like that. I would say they also have a really service-oriented mindset. They want to help people. They want to help their clients be more successful and that means finding other ways to help too. One of the things that I do with my clients (that I always suggest to other VAs too) is to take that initiative. And, if you see something else you can help with in that person’s business, make that suggestion. Take on that role and really feel connected and part of the team by having a service-oriented mindset.
Tom: Yeah, because sometimes people don’t know what they’re missing out on that a VA can help them out with.
Kayla: Yeah. All the time I say, “Okay, I’m done with X, Y and Z you asked me to do. Is there anything else you need help with?” or, “I see you’re getting behind on this project. Is there something else that I can take on?” It’s just coming at it as someone who wants to help rather than just looking at it like just a job or doing it for a paycheck. I think that makes a big difference.
Tom: Yeah, that works the same in the so-called, real world. You want to hire someone that takes those extra steps and doesn’t just punch the clock.
Kayla: And one of my favorite things too is, since you are typically working with smaller businesses, you really get to see that your work makes an impact. Even if it’s small things that you do behind the scenes every day, you get to see the business growing and you get to see who you’re helping and what kind of an impact you’re making. So that’s always fun.
Tom: Is this something that’s often hired out as an hourly rate or a flat rate?
Kayla: A lot of new virtual assistants will start out hourly. If you’re starting a new relationship with a virtual assistant, hourly can be one of the better ways to go because neither of you may know exactly how long something will take if it’s new to them (as a VA) and new to you as a business owner to outsource. So, that can be a great way to start. You can always look at switching to flat-rate later to help you with monthly budgeting as a business owner and things like that.
Tom: Yeah, I could see that a traditional business or online too, I guess. If you want a certain amount of hours it’s better to pay them flat out then have them fill those hours. How much can someone make doing this?
Kayla: Virtual assistants—new ones who are just starting out in the business typically charge around $15 to $20 an hour. If you’re working with a really experienced virtual assistant they may charge as much as $50 an hour if it’s really, really technical, high-level projects that they’re working on.
Yeah, that’s a good point to bring up too. A VA does just a little bit more than just admin tasks all the time. Sometimes there is a skill-set that you’re paying more for?
Kayla: Yeah, for sure. As a virtual assistant, if you do want to earn more, up-leveling your skills and learning some of those more specialized skills can be a great way to start charging more for your work.
Tom: Is there somewhere you can go to learn these skills? I know you have a course. I’m not sure if that’s fully covered or if there’s also other places? I’ve seen some online-school kind of sites.
Kayla: Yeah. My course actually covers a little bit more of the business side. It goes over things like invoicing, finding clients, contracts and all that fun stuff but we don’t teach a lot of the technical skills. I think there are a lot of places you can go online where you can learn them for free by trial and error yourself, or you can invest in other courses and products to learn some of those. I think there’s a lot of good courses on “Teachable, ” where a lot of my friends actually teach, that I recommend to my students if they’re looking to learn some of those skills. And, there are courses I’ve taken myself that have helped a lot too.
Tom: In some past episodes we’ve talked about making money online as a bit of a side-gig. Is this something that someone could do part-time where they don’t just have to hop in and do 40 hours of work?
Kayla: Correct. I started as a part-time virtual assistant. I was working a full-time job and needed some extra money to help pay off debt and things like that so I started doing this in the evening and a little bit on the weekends here and there to make extra money. Before I knew it, I had a lot of demand for more clients who wanted to work with me. And, I was earning the same amount that I was at my day job so I actually quit my day job so that I could put those hours toward my business. It’s really increased my revenue overall and my income.
Tom: That’s my favorite way for people to earn money online. It’s something you could almost decide to do the next day if you’re prepared.
Kayla: Exactly. All you really need is a computer and an internet connection. I mean, truthfully, it’s one of the lowest cost businesses to start because you don’t need a ton of equipment. And, if you already feel fairly comfortable with social media and emails and the online world in general then you can really step in and do some of those basic things without a lot of training.
Tom: Okay, if someone decides that they want to be a VA tomorrow, how do you go about finding clients?
Finding clients is one of the first questions because, until you find your first client, you don’t really have a business. What I did was, I basically reached out to friends and family as well as friends I had made online through blogging. I was already blogging for fun before I started working as VA so I basically just put it out there saying, “Hey, I’m interested in starting this business. Do you know anyone who could use some help?” The other thing that I did was, if I noticed bloggers I was following were getting behind— they weren’t posting as regularly as they used to. Or they said, “I’m so overwhelmed,” or something like that, I just took the initiative to reach out to them and say,” Hey, I’ve followed your blog for years and I noticed that you are not posting as often anymore. Is there something in your business that I can help you with?” Again, it comes back to that service-oriented mindset on how you can help people. Of course, it’s going to benefit you as you’ll be working with them but just being genuine, I think, in your approach.
Tom: I like that idea that you can sense when someone needs help just by seeing what they’re up to, at least online. With a traditional business I think it might be a little harder. I don’t know—
Kayla: I think when you approach traditional businesses, if you’re looking at local businesses in your area or something like that; maybe start with people you already have a connection with. Are there any business owners that you know of, or maybe a friend-of-a-friend that can help you get your foot in the door a little bit? Or just coming in and saying, “Hey, I know you’re a small business. I noticed you don’t have an admin assistant at your front desk. Maybe you don’t have the ability to do that with your business but have you thought about using a virtual assistant instead? You know, it can be lower costs for you.” Lay out those benefits.
Tom: Are there other ways that people can grow this business or do you just keep pushing this word of mouth?
Kayla: I did. I got almost all of my clients by word of mouth and referrals. However, I know a lot of people who use job boards. I’m personally not a fan of job boards because their rate of pay is typically lower and it’s a lot harder to find clients who really value you for a long-term business relationship, in my opinion. There’s always going to be a diamond-in-the-rough you come across that works out great. But in general, the competition level is higher with overseas VAs who can charge $5 an hour so if you’re trying to charge $15 or $20 it’s going to be harder to get those jobs on job boards.
Tom: That’s a good point. I guess it’s always a bit of a race to the bottom because whoever is cheapest may get the job.
Kayla: Yeah, but then again, as a business owner you get what you pay for.
Tom: Yeah, exactly. If it’s something that involves any written work or anything like that I’d certainly want someone that is here in Canada. I’ve done this in the past, actually. If it’s something technical like server work with my web site then I don’t mind hiring anywhere in the world. So you’ve worked with a few VAs and you’ve been one. You have VAs and you’re sort of working both sides of it. What are some of the biggest mistakes you think VA’s might make? Is there something that sticks out? Maybe there is a common mistake?
Kayla: Yeah, I think one of the most common mistakes VAs make is they don’t think about who their ideal client is and that can lead to a couple of different things. First, it can lead to them not getting paid what they want to be paid. And it can also lead to problems where, if they don’t have a solid contract in place, sometimes they find themselves having to chase payment which is never a fun situation to be in. That is something I talk to a lot of new VAs about; how to protect yourself and how to protect your business to make sure that you do get paid for your work, and that who you’re working with is someone that respects, where it works well for both you and the client.
Tom: What’s the common way to pay people? Not only on what website do they pay people, but how often?
Kayla: I get paid mostly through PayPal. I have a few clients who pay through direct deposit or credit card but PayPal is my main way of getting paid. And I think that’s true for most VAs. And as far as how often they get paid— I think most VAs get paid every two weeks or once a month.
Tom: Again, it’s kind of like a normal job. Just to go back to the beginning, can you walk us through how your course helps people? I know it covers a lot of beginning-to-end on getting started but can you just hit on some of the big points there?
Kayla: My course takes you from the very beginning. If you’ve never heard of a virtual assistant before that’s absolutely fine because we’re going to walk you through exactly what a virtual assistant is, what services you can offer and get paid for and also what virtual assistants don’t do— things outside of the normal scope of work for a virtual assistant. We go through all of those kinds of things and then we start getting into how to find clients, how much to charge, what should be in your contract to protect you and your clients. Then my favorite module (the one I get a lot of really great feedback on) is how to run your business on day-to-day so you know how to keep your business organized, stay on top your projects— all the different moving pieces of your business. It’s really fun as students work through that, to see them post in the Facebook group when they start their websites and start marketing their business, getting their first client. It’s fun.
Tom: Can you let people know where they can find you?
Kayla: Absolutely. My website is Kaylasloan.com. That’s where I have my blog and my information. You can contact me anytime through there. Then I have my course, as you mentioned with is at tenkva.com. That’s where I train people how to become a virtual assistant. We not only go through the very beginning stages but also how to up-level your virtual assist in business so you can continue growing. The name of the course Tenkva is because I have cracked the code I guess and have found a way to earn a consistent $10,000 per month as a virtual assistant working from home which I think is possible for anybody to do. I just think they need the right tools and know-how to get to that level. And so if that’s your goal, we go through all of that as well.
Tom: That’s great. So it’s something that someone can start on just a few hours where they can eventually completely replace their income?
Tom: Great. Thank you for being on the show.
Kayla: Well, thanks for having me.
Thanks Kayla, for the advice on becoming a VA. You can find show notes on this episode at maplemoney.com/kaylasloan. If you want to look into setting up a virtual assistant business check out Kayla’s course. You’ll find it through my affiliate link at maplemoney.com/tenkva. Thanks for listening. I look forward to having you back next week.