So You Wanna Be A…Virtual Assistant

so you wanna be a virtual assistant

so you wanna be a virtual assistant

You’re ready to start your solo business — you’re craving the freedom, the versatility, and the chance to put your passion into play — but you’re not quite sure where to start. You’ve come to the right place. In our So You Wanna Be a… series, we highlight entrepreneurs who’ve built successful businesses doing what they love.

This month, we’re chatting with five virtual assistants — Kelley Alexander-Kruger of Kelley and Co, Julienne DesJardins, Shay Orlena Brown of My Bliss Publishing, Billie Gardner of Desire to Done, and Christine Funke of Spark Virtual Assistance — to get their inside advice on how they got their virtual assistance careers started.

So you wanna be a VA? Here’s what you need to know…

Tell us exactly what a person in your role does.

Julienne: I support business owners by handling the details, often in recurring tasks like social media scheduling and email marketing. That means they’re able to check that item off their to-do list and free up brain space to focus on the big picture stuff.

Shay: My version of a VA might be a little different. I like to refer to myself as a Project Manager. When a client has a new product or service they need to develop, market, launch and run, they contact me. I break it down into step-by-step tasks that need to be completed. My clients create all of the content and I take that content and implement the payment, marketing and email funnels needed for launch. (In addition to my project management role, I also wear the website and branding hat for many of my clients.)

Billie: I’m a virtual assistant, specifically an online business manager. I help busy entrepreneurs get organized, automated, and running smoothly so that they can focus their “biz time” on tasks that make them happy and make more money. I also help with product launches and social media management. There are tons of different types of VAs. I chose to go the route of management because that’s something I enjoy and have experience with.

Christine: A virtual assistant provides all kinds of administrative, online marketing and/or design support to business owners, companies and freelancers. They take on tasks that their clients don’t have the time, interest or skills to do and are a cost-effective solution compared to a part-time or full-time employee. They usually work remotely and can provide as much or as little help as their clients need.

How did you get your start? What are other ways someone else can get started?

Kelley: I wanted to work for myself and have a flexible schedule. A friend shared with me the virtual assistant concept and I loved it. I determined what skills I had that could be used to do virtual work, purchased a domain name, built a simple website and started networking.
Joining IVAA (International Virtual Assistant Association) is great. They offer great information to help grow your skills as a VA.

Julienne: My freelancing start actually began with grant writing. (My background is nonprofit communications and management.) My first client as a VA, though, was through a VA placement company. This helped me get my feet under me — someone was with me to explain the industry as I got started.

Shay: I got started in the very, very beginning as a social media manager. This is a great way to get started as so many people are looking to outsource this. It also is a great foundation for getting to know how to craft content and automate items.

From there, my clients started asking me to help them in other areas of marketing and managing their business. I started to learn different automation softwares and took some online courses to beef up my knowledge base. When you’re looking to get started, think: social media management, email marketing, and copy editing. Those are some areas that people are looking for a VA for.

Billie: I first took on a few free clients for one month to make sure becoming a VA was something I wanted to do. It also helped me fine-tune the direction of my business and learn which tasks I enjoyed and which ones I didn’t. From there, the referrals started pouring in and I took on my first paying clients! To get started, I recommend listing your skills, talents and software knowledge to get a feel for what type of VA you’d like to be. Then, figure out the types of clients you want to work with and map out some service ideas you can offer.

Christine: My full-time job was coming to an end and I needed to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up. I handled all of the online communications for the American International Women’s Club in Cologne (Germany) and loved the work and one day came across the term “virtual assistant” and knew that was the name for what I wanted to do. Many VAs get started by doing pro-bono work and then transitioning over to getting paid.

Is there a certain kind of person that would thrive in your role?

Kelley: An introvert! I am not an introvert so often times I feel very isolated. I force myself to plan social events to get out with people.

Julienne: An organized, self-starting, and driven person. It’s a lot of independent work; producing deliverables for clients and living by deadlines.

Shay: You must be organized and detail-oriented. I know that sounds like cheesy things you put on a resume. But honestly ask yourself if the role you want to be in is something where you need to manage a lot of tiny pieces that fit together to make up the bigger picture. Your clients will be relying on you to be their second pair of eyes and to make sure the technical side of things work.

Billie: I feel that someone who is detail-oriented, takes initiative, and constantly builds upon his or her skills will have a leg up in the industry. As a VA you are taking over someone’s baby, their business, so you have to be mindful of how you treat it. Being detail-oriented means always looking at the little pieces to make sure it’s all going smoothly and that things are done correctly. Business owners appreciate someone who can take initiative and offer solutions or ways to improve things without them asking.

Christine: People who want the flexibility and independence to work for themselves, but have the discipline to work from home and on their own are well suited to be a virtual assistant. They should be detail-oriented, organized and creative when it comes to providing solutions to clients.

What do people need before they can get started in your industry?

Kelley: A good set of marketable skills, a great LinkedIn profile, a basic website, the desire to network and the ability to follow through on deadlines.

Julienne: Not much! It’s fairly easy to launch. I started as a sole proprietor, and operated my business under my personal name. That meant I did not have to file for a Fictitious Business Name, or DBA. I also used my own social security number in the beginning for tax forms. Now I’ve filed for an EIN with the IRS. It’s not necessary, but it is a bit of added peace of mind for me. Instead of sending my personal info through email, I have that number on the 1099s I receive from my clients.

Shay: Not a whole lot! I would recommend taking some online classes and getting to know the different software people will want you to manage, such as MailChimp, AWeber, YouCanBook.Me, ScheduleOnce, Asana, Canva, PicMonkey, ConvertKit, and more. Really you only need your laptop, an internet connection and some knowledge of setting up business process funnels.

Billie: Insurance and certificates are not necessary. What I recommend is getting clear on who you want to work with, what you want to offer, and what your niche is. Building a solid foundation with these three things will help you thrive and keep you focused. You can always change these, but knowing them before taking on your first clients is uber important!

Christine: There are no official certifications or degrees; VAs come from all backgrounds. You should establish yourself as a freelancer or a small business, and get all the official paperwork that comes with that status. Having contracts and insurance is a good idea (for all business owners) but isn’t required to get started.

How do you currently seek out clients or customers? What are some ways you’ve considered seeking out clients or customers that you haven’t tried yet?

Kelley: Most of my clients come from referrals. I also reply to RFPs (requests for proposal) on IVAA, find clients on Craigslist, or through other electronic job posting sites.

Julienne: My client base is just about an even split of connections I make in Facebook groups and referrals from past clients. Just a few are contacts local to me in my community.

Shay: Almost all of my clients come from referrals because I’ve carved out a niche for myself with online coaches. They are all a part of the same Facebook groups and take each other’s recommendations. A couple of times, I’ve done some cold messaging to potential clients through contact forms on their website. That’s produced an 80% conversion rate for me and only takes 20 mins a day for a couple days to book me out for six months. Another way I’ve considered seeking out clients is through partnering with a client of mine who has access to my client base. She would like to add my services as an add-on service to one of her packages.

Billie: I’ve been blessed that I’ve never had to seek out paying clients! They’ve either been referred to me, have come from my website, or have seen my info in the B-School community (B-School is an online business course I took a few years ago). I also see a lot of people referring me in Facebook groups when someone asks for a VA referral. (Joining Facebook groups is a great way to get your name out there.)

Christine: Most of my clients come from my association with local American women’s clubs or women’s networking groups here in Germany. I am American so mostly work with English-speaking women. I also network in VA Facebook groups or other groups of women like me. In the beginning, I did a survey letting contacts and friends know I was getting started, which helped build interest for my first clients. In addition, I am planning to do some workshops and webinars with American women’s clubs all over the world to help them with social media, and I hope to get some new clients from those activities.

How do you normally work with clients or customers?

Kelley: I work with my clients via email or Google Hangout. Sometimes, if they are local, I will meet with them in person.

Julienne: For my direct clients, I tend to organize most of their work on a weekly basis. We have quick, weekly chats where we set a game plan for the coming week. We organize and assign tasks in our project management system. And then I’m able to work on those tasks on my own schedule — using our next meeting as my deadline.

Shay: All of my clients are online and I use a project management system called Asana. On big contracts, I meet with my client once a week for an hour to discuss project timelines, deadlines, deliverables and future projects. I use Skype or Google Hangouts for our calls.

Billie: I generally work with clients online. Some prefer weekly calls to touch base on what’s going on that week. One of my clients and her team communicate through a phone app called Voxer (it’s like a walkie-talkie), where we Vox each other when we have questions or just to say hi. Other than that, I communicate through email and/or Basecamp.

Christine: I work with all of my clients 1-on-1. Most of them are in ongoing monthly support packages, where I do regular tasks for them. Others come to me with short projects, like website or print flyer design, or just tweaking their websites.

How did you decide how to set your pricing when you were starting out?

Kelley: This was the most difficult part of the process. When researching “how to be a VA” there were people suggesting really high hourly rates but most of my connections couldn’t handle those rates. I had to consider my value and what the market could bear based on the connections I have. You may have to start out lower than you’d like but increase as your business increases. One caveat: If you totally depend on referrals, you may find yourself stuck to that pay range because the referrer will mention your rate.

Julienne: When I first started out, my pricing was determined by the VA company I was working with. Because these companies take a percentage, you tend to earn less than if you booked the client directly. Now I book all of my own clients, and have raised my rates as I’ve added more skills. (I raised my rates twice in 2015, in fact.) As an aside, a typical range for a North American-based VA is usually between $15-$30/hour. There are, of course, outliers — but you can use this is as a good rule-of-thumb.

Shay: When I started out as a VA, I took a look around to gauge the average of what other VAs were offering. I compared that with my university background, experience, confidence and value of my services to choose my rate.

Billie: I decided to go with the mid-range of what other VAs charge. I didn’t want to charge too much because I was new to the industry and wanted to get some experience first. This rate worked out for me beautifully and I recently raised my prices to reflect my experience. I also decided to go with a retainer rate so that I would have consistent income (a retainer rate is when a client pays a monthly rate for a set amount of hours each month).

Christine: I did some research in some virtual assistant resources (ebooks, blogs, FB groups) and asked around here in Europe since it’s a bit different than in the US. I started with a range, got feedback from clients, and adjusted from there.

What is an industry-specific tool that you couldn’t live without?

Julienne: I love Asana. I use it to organize my own business tasks, and I use it with my clients. You can upload huge files, create an unlimited number of workspaces, set deadlines and assign tasks — and it’s completely free! I really like that it integrates with Google Apps, too.

Billie: I couldn’t live without Google Drive. I have my own business docs and spreadsheets organized there, plus my clients’. It automatically saves my work and I can share docs with anyone. Love it!

Christine: We use everything, but Freshbooks has been my most important investment for tracking time, sending invoices and logging expenses.

What are some great resources for people looking to learn more about your industry?

Kelley: and The Technie Mentor.

Julienne: The Freelance to Freedom Project will give you a lot of support if you’re looking to go full-time. Freelancer’s Union has a lot of practical support, like a sample contract and discounts on tools for your biz. And, of course, the One Woman Shop blog has a ton of content about running a successful small business. I also offer an e-course for new VAs who want to have someone explain the basics of small biz ownership and the VA industry. It was really born out of my philosophy that you can launch a business pretty quickly.

Shay: Skillshare, SkillCrush, and Girls Who Code (if web design is part of your services).

Billie: I have a few resources on my site. I have a checklist of all the basic tools needed to get your business up and running called Tools of the Trade. I also have an ebook Start Your Virtual Assistant Business that goes through the basics like mapping out your services, pricing your offerings and registering your business. You can find articles on my blog, as well, that cover various topics on being a VA.

Christine: I used The Bootstrap VA ebook by Lisa Morosky the most. It walks you through everything you need to get set up. The accompanying Facebook group has been a lifesaver for asking “newbie” questions and networking. Amy Lynn Andrews’ blog and Useletter are really helpful for general online marketing know-how.

What is something that someone getting started in your type of business would be surprised to hear?

Kelley: It’s hard to be held accountable to yourself. This is why I love OWS! It can be isolating if you don’t put practices in place to keep isolation from happening. (Editor’s note: Espresso level members receive access to a monthly accountability group.)

Julienne: I truly believe it’s simple to launch your business. You can perfect things like your pricing and website later. Just identify what value you can bring to people and find prospects who need what you have. You’ll gain more confidence the more you engage.

Shay: Everyone who runs an online business will hire a VA at some point. It’s a never-ending pool of potential clients. (Unless the internet breaks! Haha.)

Billie: I’ve created a few businesses over the years and I’ve struggled to make enough money to justify quitting my job. That is, until I became a VA. I was able to quit my job three months after landing my first paying client. It went fast! There are so many business owners out there looking for honest, hard-working VAs that once you make it known that you’re a VA, you can have a full-blown business in no time!

Christine: You really don’t want to work with everybody! As you get started, really hone in on the industry or type of business or professionals you’d like to work with and target them. It’ll make finding clients easier and you’ll become the expert VA for that industry or niche.

Thanks, ladies! Your turn: What questions do you still have for our fantastic contributors?

This post contains affiliate links for resources mentioned by those we interviewed. Anything you purchase will net us a bit of money, which helps us further our mission of supporting One Woman Shops across the world. Thank you!

Member Spotlight: Julienne DesJardins

Julienne DesJardinsWelcome to our One Woman Shop Member Spotlight series, where we highlight what’s going on in the businesses and lives of One Woman Shop members. Interested in joining this ambitious group of go-getters? Apply today!

Today’s Spotlight is on Julienne DesJardins, a virtual assistant for entrepreneurs ready for major biz growth.

Tell us about yourself and your business – what do you do + who do you serve?

I offer digital marketing and virtual assistant services to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Most of my clients are women business owners who are passionate about what they do but need support. I usually spend my days doing email marketing and social media management.

What is the #1 lesson you’ve learned since being in business on your own?

I need to be the CEO I’d want to hire. In practice, that means that I need to investigate everything. I can’t wait for accountants or attorneys or business coaches to prompt me. I need to be clear on things like state and federal guidelines for businesses, and when taxes are due. At the end of the day, the responsibility lies with me. So I’ve focused on being really diligent in my business.

Give us a shameless plug for your latest project/product/freebie!

I’m often asked how to get started in business by aspiring virtual assistants, so I compiled all of my best tips into a brand new e-course! Launch Now is organized into eight lessons that share crucial small business info, like: how to price yourself; where to find clients; and what to do about taxes. (My favorite part was adding in audio recordings to each module where I share some biz lessons I’ve learned the hard way.)

And since I’m a lover of a good bargain, how about a discount?! Enter code ows30 to get 30% off the course!

What’s your favorite social media platform and why?

I’ve really fallen in love with Twitter, although I was not an early adopter, for sure. (Confession: I’ve created profiles twice that I deleted after only a few days!) I just love how accessible it makes me to other people. Plus, Twitter parties with other entrepreneurs are super fun!

Are there any things commonly accepted as truths in the business world that you flat out disagree with?

There are so many shoulds in business:

  • “You have to build your website on this platform.”
  • “You can’t make it without this tool.”
  • “Your launch will fail without this strategy.”

Those rules can become so exhausting. I’ve tried my best to build my business with a mix of best practices (not shoulds) and other strategies that feel true to me.

For instance, my website is built on Squarespace. Of course, a lot of people would say that you need to be on WordPress. I don’t have a problem with WordPress, but that should was stopping me from launching my business. I finally decided I was more interested in getting started than I was in waiting until I could afford all the “right” things – like the best web designer and hosting service. It was the right decision for me, for sure.

What does community mean to you?

Community is like-minded people with the same goal. I think having a sense of community and connection is crucial to feeling like you belong anywhere, and the business world is no exception. The connection I have with the other One Woman Shop ladies is so important to my business. This community, specifically, gives me a place to go for asking questions, sharing wins and busting through rough days. I definitely feel stronger with them beside me.

Thanks for taking the time to share with us, Julienne!

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One Woman Shop Chats with…Live: The EventChic + All Things Event Planning

one woman shop chats with liveThough we run our business almost solely online, we think that live events — conferences, networking events, workshops, etc — have a place in the lives of solo business owners. So when we got a pitch from sisters Pauline + Clara that read “…just started a new programme called EventChic for female business owners who are looking to learn how to organise their own events (both virtual and live) to build their brands and connect with their customers,” we knew we had to chat with them. (It didn’t hurt that their website catered to our love of all things sleek and feminine.)

In this 45-minute video, we chat about:

  • Why in-person events are important to running an online business
  • What types of events you can considering hosting as a solopreneur
  • Kicking assumptions to the side when planning an event
  • The hurdles of creating an e-course
  • The beauty of living by design, not default (yes!)

After you’ve listened, tell us one event that you’d like to host in the near future — and then hop on over to check out The EventChic and the Bliss Lifestyle Collection.

The Prior to the Hire Ebook is Here!

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For more than two years now, we’ve been talking to industry professionals from photographers to social media managers, virtual assistants to graphic designers, lawyers to accountants, and other specialists that you might one day need in your corner. Here’s what they shared: expert knowledge of what you need to know and do before hiring them. Because, fellow solopreneur, as we always preach: going it alone shouldn’t feel lonely, and you simply cannot do it all (as much as we might try!).

When you’re ready to get a specialist on your side, Prior to the Hire will give you what you need to build a successful working relationship.

Fun facts about the ebook:

  • 51 professionals featured
  • 11 categories: photographers, virtual assistants, copywriters, SEO experts, lawyers, accountants, designers, developers, event planners, social media managers, business coaches
  • 34 pages

And, of course, one easy way to download!

PS — When it comes time to hire, might we suggest any one of the pros in our One Woman Shop Directory?

By downloading this ebook, you understand that you will be added to the One Woman Shop email list.You can unsubscribe at any time.

Business Myth: Always Be Pitching to Grow Your List + Business

One Woman Shop business myths

One Woman Shop Business Myths

Welcome to Business Myths. Here’s the deal: we often hear business “truths” and accept them as true without stopping to question them. We’re chatting with solopreneurs and freelancers who have learned the hard way that these commonly accepted facts may not, in fact, always be true. In this case, Amanda Berlin shares her (expert) take on why “always be pitching” isn’t exactly the right advice — and how to effectively pitch yourself for the most impact, instead.

You’ve got the training. You’ve developed the programs. You’ve got a great website with excellent content. And you’re working with clients. You just need more of them. Now what?

Get your name out there. Start pitching yourself for interviews and guest blog opportunities. You’ve heard it before, and that’s why we’re here.

Here’s your myth:

You need to constantly be pitching yourself for guest blogs and interviews to grow your list, get your name out there and convert like-minded audiences into fans and clients.

Here’s the truth:

You need to be pitching. But instead of constantly pitching willy-nilly and saying yes to every opportunity, you need to be courting the right kinds of outlets, describing yourself in the right way, delivering the right kind of content, and following up in the right manner so it reflects positively on you and your business.

Let’s back up. First, what do we even mean by pitching in this context?

The best pitches sell an idea for a story or interview that’s really valuable to the reading, listening, or viewing audience. Great pitches also incorporate your expertise to showcase the value you can bring to people you work with and to the ongoing conversation on a particular topic in your industry.

Mini-Myth: Cast a wide net.

Quantity over quality. Pitching is a numbers game, right? False. You don’t need to cast a wide net when you’re pitching. You need to find outlets that are strategically aligned and offer the biggest bang for your pitching buck.

Sites that syndicate their content will enable your article to have the biggest impact and offer you the greatest return on your time investment. To figure out if a site syndicates its content, look for bylines that indicate the content came from a different site. For example, if you’re on The Muse, you’ll see there are pieces that offer the author’s name and a different site that he’d written this piece for, often Inc. or Mashable. You can even see an examples of a syndicated One Woman Shop article, here on Levo. When you see this telltale sign, this means the site you’re on has a content sharing relationship with the site mentioned in the byline.

When you place an article on a site that syndicates its content, your article has the potential for expanded reach to more like-minded audiences.

Other sites that will have a big impact for you are sites with very specific demographics that you can uniquely speak to.

To find outlets that serve very specific demographics, look within yourself to where you’ve been, what you’ve done in the past, professionally or personally, where you are now in your life, your interests and passion, and figure out to which of these audiences you might be able to tailor your message. Then go after them. For example, if you teach people about how to better organize their closets, and you have a passion for fitness, you could take your expertise to a website that speaks to health and wellness and talk about keeping all your workout wear organized and in good condition. Your content will resonate because it’s been developed specifically to serve this very precise audience.

Mini-Myth: You need to sell yourself.

It actually doesn’t matter to your pitch how awesome you are. Your idea is really what you need to sell. And then you need to sell yourself in the context of that idea. Answer the question: Why are you perfect to be delivering this information? This will help you dive into your past personal and professional expertise and pull out only the details that are relevant to explaining why you’re a valuable resource for this information.

Mini-Myth: Once you’ve delivered great content, you’re done. Watch the results pour in.

Great exposure can do great things for the size of your list. Hit a well-trafficked site with excellent content and, BAM!, you’ll have them streaming in and signing up for the list. Sure — it can work that way.

But, you can make it even more attractive for people to sign up by offering a free giveaway or something unique and useful to that particular reading, viewing or listening audience.

For example, I did a training for jewelry designers on how to develop their brand voice and implement it on their websites and social media. To make the most of my opportunity in front of that audience, I created a free giveaway on how to write product descriptions (in their new-found voice). I knew from my partnership with the team leading the training that product descriptions were something their audience has been requesting. With that insider information, I could easily fulfill their need and provide something useful. As a result, I received about 60 new sign-ups for my list.

Deliver great content, but figure out a way to engage the audience to the point where they want to come back to your site and see what else you’ve got, either in the way of more informational articles or in the way of giveaways that are perfectly relevant to their unique challenges.

The more “pro” you become at pitching, the more you realize it’s about more than just coming up with ideas and selling yourself. Pitching successfully is about finding outlets that will maximize your efforts and connect you with the right people who will truly appreciate what you are putting down.

So tell me in the comments below: What’s your biggest challenge in putting yourself out there?

PS (from the editor) — Want more on pitching yourself with the greatest impact? Check out our One Woman Shop Chats With… Live episode with Amanda!

One Woman Shop Chats With… Live: Amanda Berlin + All Things Pitching

one woman shop chats with live

It’s something we talk a lot about in Building Your Online Community: pitching yourself. It also happens to be what Amanda Berlin, a communications consultant “for coaches and mindful entrepreneurs” is an expert at. She even put it to the test as she pitched us to be a guest on our One Woman Shop Chats With… Live series, and we’re so glad she did!

If you’ve been wondering how to put yourself out there, make more connections, and land more guest posting opportunities, this one’s for you. Get a preview of what we cover below, and dive right in!

In this 45-minute video, we chat about:

  • how to become more comfortable pitching yourself
  • what makes for a great pitch
  • finding niches specific to who you are + what you do
  • what to pitch when you’re afraid of being “boring”
  • how to write your article as you write your pitch

Amanda’s even created a bonus exclusively for One Woman Shop members: a step-by-step guide to telling your story and writing your about page. Get it here!

Pop in those headphones and listen and/or watch at your own leisure!

After you’ve listened, tell us in the comments: where are you going to pitch yourself next?


Member Spotlight: Kerstin Auer

Member Spotlight Kerstin AuerWelcome to our One Woman Shop Member Spotlight series, where we highlight what’s going on in the businesses and lives of One Woman Shop members. Interested in joining this ambitious group of go-getters? Apply today!

Today’s Spotlight is on Kerstin Auer, a freelancer writer, coach, and creator of the coach-yourself workbooks, tools for better.

Tell us about yourself and your business – what do you do + who do you serve?

My name is Kerstin Auer, I’m a freelance writer and coach, and I create coach-yourself workbooks called tools for better. I believe that being a life coach is not about telling others how to live their life, but rather providing the tools so they can make their life better.

The workbooks I create are for people who are willing to do the work to get to better — and it’s hard work! — and who want to opt into their best self.

What’s your favorite social media platform and why?

I love Instagram, because pictures tell a story — and storytelling is one of my favourite things. A close second is Twitter, because it provides a wealth of information and a chance to connect — and seems to be a lot less filled with trolls than Facebook.

If you had to describe yourself or your business in one word, what would it be?

Badass. No doubt about it! For me, badass means to live a life that’s true to yourself and your values, and to be “all in.”

What is the #1 lesson you’ve learned since being in business on your own?

It’s great to be able to access many different opinions and pieces of advice — but in the end, you have to be the biggest cheerleader for your business, and be comfortable with that. It does not matter if other people “get” it, but it really matters that you are wholeheartedly on board with your business.

What’s your one piece of advice for new solo business owners?

Be prepared and have a solid business plan. There are always unexpected expenses when starting up, and operating costs tend to add up, as well. It always costs more than you think! You might, for example, subscribe to an app that saves you time, or an awesome community like One Woman Shop, and while I think those expenses are essential to grow your business, they are often not budgeted for. Investing in yourself and your business starts on Day 1!

How has running a business changed you?

I have simultaneously become more and less willing to compromise: more willing to compromise on the things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things (and that may be caused by the fear of missing out), and a lot less willing to compromise on the things that matter, like my core values.

What is the #1 lesson you’ve learned since being in business on your own?

Cheesy as it may sound – I can do anything I put my mind to… if I want it badly enough! 😉

Give us a shameless plug for your latest project/product/freebie!

I recently opened my online shop, and I’m adding a new tools for better workbook each month. You can sign up to be notified when a new workbook is available, and receive a sweet freebie!

Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us, Kerstin!

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So You Wanna Be a…Life Coach

So You Wanna Be a Life Coach

You’re ready to start your solo business — you’re craving the freedom, the versatility, and the chance to put your passion into play — but you’re not quite sure where to start. You’ve come to the right place. In our So You Wanna Be a… series, we highlight entrepreneurs who’ve built successful businesses doing what they love.

This month, we’re chatting with four coaches — Rachel East of Clarity on Fire, Danielle Dowling, Lindsay Smith, and Mira Joleigh — to get their inside advice on how they got their life coaching careers started.

So you wanna be a life coach? Here’s what you need to know…

Tell us exactly what a person in your role does.

Rachel: The best way I’ve ever heard coaching described is something I totally did not come up with, but that I’ll gladly repeat for you now: Coaching is about removing everything in your life that’s NOT you so that what remains is purely, authentically who you are. Most people tend to think life coaching is about addition — strategies for succeeding, action plans, and doing more — but at its core it’s about subtraction. First and foremost, a coach helps their client remove all of the beliefs, falsehoods, and fears that have accumulated over time and that prevent someone from living and working as themselves.

Danielle: I specialize in helping intelligent, self-aware yet often “stuck” clients attain personal freedom and more fully realized potential. What that means varies from client to client – love, work, family, finance – there are a wide range of critical aspects of modern life that can cause us to stumble, or leave us standing still. I believe my special gift is the ability to know my clients, help uncover those blockages, identify why they are there and then apply actual steps to overcome them.

Lindsay: I meet with clients individually, in groups and over the internet and walk them through my proven program Seven Steps to Rock Your Twenties.

Mira: As a life coach, I partner with you to overcome the challenges that have you feeling stuck. Together, we clarify your passions, increase your confidence, build your social network and give your personal brand a makeover. Coaching involves taking personality and career assessments, completing personal growth exercises (as needed) and engaging in deep reflection. The most powerful element, though? It’s the accountability. You can SAY you want something but easily let yourself down. When you have a full time cheerleader in your corner – you’ll be shocked how much more you can accomplish. As your coach, I will match the energy YOU put into the process. Coaching pays for itself as long as you’re committed to the work.

How did you get your start? What are other ways someone else can get started?

Rachel: I thought I wanted to be a therapist, and got *this close* to enrolling in grad school before I discovered coaching. I decided I was more interested in helping people move forward than in exploring their past. I enrolled in coaching school without EVER having experienced coaching for myself (something I wouldn’t recommend, if I had it to do over). The absolute best way to know if coaching is something you’re seriously interested in is to work with a coach, yourself.

Danielle: I have been the informal therapist and coach for family, friends and co-workers my whole life. I formally got my start when I went back to graduate school about eight years ago to earn my masters and doctorate in psychology. I launched my blog and online business after the completion of my masters and partially into earning my doctorate.

There are many amazing coaching programs out there; some of my favorites are iPEC Coaching (The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching), Coach U, and CTI. As far as programs regarding how to build a successful online business, I like Marie Forleo’s B School and Gala Darling’s Blog Academy.

Lindsay: I have a Bachelor’s in Psychology and wanted to find unique ways to apply it to help high potentials grow quickly and efficiently. I continued my schooling at iPEC and built a program based on what I learned there.

Mira: I got started by earning my coaching certification with Coach Training Alliance and becoming a member of the International Coach Federation. These two organizations offer the education and ongoing support needed to be an excellent coach. (I’ve also heard great things about iPEC and CTI coaching schools). Beyond the formal certifications, being a coach involves mastering sales and marketing to get clients. I’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars in my ongoing education in order to master the entrepreneurial element.

Is there a certain kind of person that would thrive in your role?

Rachel: Naturally intuitive people make for the best coaches. Maybe you’re the person your friends always come to for wisdom. Or maybe you’ve always felt like an old soul who’s “known things” without knowing *how* you know them. Or maybe you’ve been perpetually dissatisfied with “the way things are,” and feel like you’ve been seeking “more” out of life. All of these qualities make for a great coach. Above anything else, I think the BEST quality in a coach is open-mindedness. Coaching isn’t something you learn as a skill; it’s someone you BECOME, as a person.

Danielle: Someone that has a natural propensity towards high levels of compassion and empathy. Also someone that is really comfortable with their own baggage and past. Working with clients will often trigger some of your own insecurities and fears and having a fairly good knowledge of what those fears are and the patience for working through them can help one be a more present coach. I recommend hiring your own coach to address irking pain points before beginning to work with private clients. I am not suggesting that you have to be fearless or have all your pains perfectly squared away, because this isn’t possible, but rather give yourself the opportunity to become more familiar and compassionate with your own “stuff.”

Lindsay: Someone with an entrepreneurial spirit. A strong communicator who loves watching people grow.

Mira: I recommend taking the Myers-Briggs assessment. In my experience, the best coaches fall somewhere on the “NF” spectrum. This means that they lead with their intuition and are excellent at relating with other people. If you’ve always been the person that your friends come to when they need to talk through a challenge, you’re likely a good fit for coaching. Another valuable character trait is being naturally organized and goal oriented. Being a coach is very much a “lead by example” profession.

What do people need before they can get started in your industry?

Rachel: While I imagine this will change in the near future, there are currently very few restrictions on the coaching industry. Anyone can sell themselves as a “coach,” and no one’s going to police you for not having a certification. However, I strongly advise going through a program that’s been accredited through the International Coach Federation. It’s the governing body of the coaching industry, and you can trust any program that has their stamp of approval.

How do you currently seek out clients or customers? What are some ways you’ve considered seeking out clients or customers that you haven’t tried yet?

Rachel: Most of our clients work with us after having become dedicated readers of our weekly blog, or after having taken our free quiz (The Passion Profile Quiz). We also write occasionally for bigger-name online outlets, which is a great way to gain visibility. At this stage in the game, we’re less about seeking and more about allowing the right people to find US. My best advice is to have a message that you strongly believe in, and transmit it in a way that works for YOU. Maybe you’re not a writer. That’s fine! There are plenty of other ways to have a consistent presence (be it speaking, videos, Instagram, or whatever!) where people can find you and start to know, like, and trust you. As far as other ways we haven’t tried, I might be open to doing sponsored Facebook posts in the future, if I can find a way to do it strategically, in a way I’m comfortable with.

Danielle: I currently post to my blog 2-3x a week to engage with clients. I share these posts across many social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. My favorite right now is Instagram as there is a real community feeling and lots of engagement. Facebook has lost that intimate feeling since they began curbing organic reach and charging for posts to show up in news feeds. (Editor’s note: Instagram is our favorite these days, too.)

Lindsay: I do a lot of public speaking events. I am involved in young professional networking groups here in Indianapolis. I partner with other coaches. (Yet another editor’s note: Want to make speaking part of your coaching business? Be sure to check out So You Wanna Be a…Professional Speaker.)

How do you normally work with clients or customers?

Rachel: All of our one-on-one personal coaching is done over the phone, which is very normal for the coaching industry. This allows us to work with clients all over the world. We also have a couple of online programs, which are more cost-effective and time-consuming than traditional 1-on-1 coaching. As a coach, you can have a business model that suits your needs and desires. A lot of coaches do in-person workshops or seminars, which is awesome and effective, just not something we’re personally interested in doing at this time.

Danielle: I work with my clients one-on-one via phone, Skype or in person. I also launched a book last November called Soul Sessions: A 5-Week Guide to Crafting Greater Joy & Making Big Things Happen which I think is a really affordable way to work together!

Lindsay: Half in person and half online. Ecourses are my next venture!

How did you decide how to set your pricing when you were starting out?

Rachel: We started out relatively low, and have consistently raised our prices over time, as we gained more experience and had more years in the game. The best advice I’ve been given about how to price yourself is to start out *slightly* higher than you feel comfortable about. Nothing exorbitant or way higher than your comfort zone; just something to stretch you and challenge you to play a bigger game.

Lindsay: I looked at industry standards and charged at a reduced rate for the first six months.

Mira: When I was starting out, I offered a free initial coaching session and based my monthly rates on the industry averages. Over the years, I’ve begun charging for that initial session and increased my rates to match demand.

What are some great resources for people looking to learn more about your industry?

Rachel: I’d recommend checking out the International Coach Federation’s website. And if you’re looking to work with a life coach yourself, I’d recommend reading the website or blog of whatever coach(es) you’re interested in working with. If you enjoy their tone on their site and can easily relate to them without ever having spoken over the phone, there’s a good chance you’re also going to jive with them one-on-one. Definitely don’t settle for a coach who you can’t relate to, or who you don’t feel VERY aligned with. I’d also advise focusing less on price, and more on experience. The best coaches tend to charge more for a reason, and I’ve never seen anyone regret their investment.

Lindsay: Feel free to email me. I love to connect with people who are interested in the coaching industry!

Mira: If you’re interested in becoming a coach, I recommend reading Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives and The Prosperous Coach: Increase Income and Impact for You and Your Clients.

What is something that someone getting started in your type of business would be surprised to hear?

Rachel: I am SO passionate about this point… Coaching is NOT a business. A lot of new, energetic coaches enroll in a coaching program and think they’re going to come out the other side capable of finding clients and easily making high five or six figures as a coach. Coaching skills are NOT the same as business skills. They are two completely different subjects, and if you want to be a coach who runs their own coaching business, you’re going to have to ALSO become a business person. Quitting your job too soon and having to scramble to make money kind of puts a damper on the coaching experience. It’ll be challenging, but building a business while you have some sort of stable income is the best advice I never got, and what I feel compelled to emphasize to ANY new coach.

Danielle: I suggest keeping a day job for the first 2-3 years of your business. It takes time to build up a pipeline of leads and credibility in the marketplace. Also, having that regular paycheck coming in will remove financial pressure from your passion project and allow it to grow organically with less pressure.

Lindsay: There are two skill sets you need. Coaching skills but also business building skills. This surprises a lot of coaches because we get out of school and expect clients to appear.

This post contains affiliate links for resources mentioned by those we interviewed. Anything you purchase will net us a bit of money, which helps us further our mission of supporting One Woman Shops across the world.

Business Myth: Investing In Yourself Is Always a Good Idea

One Woman Shop business myths

Business Myth: Investing In Your Business is Always a Good Idea

Welcome to Business Myths. Here’s the deal: we often hear business “truths” and accept them as true without stopping to question them. We’re chatting with solopreneurs and freelancers who have learned the hard way that these commonly accepted facts may not, in fact, always be true. In this case, Ashley shares her take on why “investing in yourself” isn’t always a no-brainer.

It’s commonly stated, and widely believed, that “investing in yourself” (aka buying a course, program, membership, etc.) is the best thing you can do for your business.

There’s a lot of wisdom in that advice. After all, you are your business, and the more you improve your skills and abilities, the better you’ll be able to run the show and the better your bottom line will look.

While I do agree that the right training can allow you to leapfrog ahead of where you’d be if you figured everything out on your own, I don’t necessarily agree that plinking down money for the program or course dancing in front of you is a no-brainer.

The value of learning

I don’t for one second want to give the impression that there isn’t value in identifying an area of weakness (or finding a new entrepreneurial front to move into) and then strengthening your skills in that area. In fact, there’s a lot of value in courses, coaching and programs, and I’ve taken advantage of quite a few myself.

Here’s the beef: “investing in yourself” this way is only going to pay off (making it a successful “investment”) if it’s the right education at the right time:

  • when you’ve hit a roadblock and this will get you through it;
  • when you need a new skill and taking a course will enable you to leap-frog;
  • when you’re just starting out and totally green and lost;
  • when it makes strategic sense and you can afford it.

Basically, investments need to pay off. That’s pretty much the definition of a good investment. And when you sign up for every new opportunity without really looking at how it supports your long-term strategy, you aren’t necessarily making good investments.

A justified distraction?

Often, a new course or program can be a dressed-up form of distraction, also known as procrastination.

As an entrepreneur, there comes a time when you need to stop learning and start doing. When you don’t feel confident landing new clients, for example, it’s easier to take a course on landing new clients than it is to start digging, marketing, pitching, and bracing for rejection. So instead of doing the hard and scary work that leads to actual dollars in your pocket, you sign up for one more webinar, join one more program, or study one more blogger’s advice.

In my experience? Not a winning strategy. You’d likely be better served by pitching and asking for peer reviews.

Pretend-productive procrastination?

Fear — of failure, of rejection, of success. Boredom. Intimidation or inadequacy. Shiny Object Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome. Habit. Envy. Lack of vision or strategy. These are just some of the reasons so many of us reach for our wallets when a new opportunity to learn something comes up.

If you’re considering a new personal development program, take a hard look at why you want it in the first place. If it’s to fill an actual knowledge gap you’ve identified, have at it. It’s another thing entirely if you’re telling yourself this is “the thing” that will “get you there” — wherever “there” is.

Know what your goals are, be clear on exactly how this new investment will serve you and your business, and commit to following through. That’s the only way it’s going to pay off. (See definition of investment, above.) Anything less is just procrastination… potentially expensive procrastination.

Rationalized overspending?

There’s also the case where you may sign up for the next big thing without really considering the financial impact. Tune into your business for a minute, first.

Taking advantage of these opportunities indicates that we expect them to lead to a lot more money down the road. But before we get to the “down the road” part, they cost money now.

Money going out has a direct impact on profitability. Too much money going out could mean that you lose your profitability, and that’s obviously not good for business.

Learning how to run your business well and level up in your craft is important, yes, but so is operating without burying your financial future under the crushing weight of your friends Visa and MasterCard. Staying right-side-up matters! Possibly more than that $997 membership with $4,000 in bonuses! Know your business, and whether or not you can handle it.

Just be smart

There are many times when paying for personal development products is exactly what you need for your business — but with so many of these opportunities cropping up all the time, it’s easy to get swept away. Pay attention to how you’re putting these investments to work, keep an eye on your bottom line, and don’t let the idea of “investing in yourself” become such a no-brainer that it ends up getting in the way of real growth and development.

Ultimately, when you’re the boss you’ve got to manage all your resources — including money, time, strategy, and yes, your personal and business growth and development.

Tell me: how do you make the decision on what to invest in for your biz?

One Woman Shop Chats With… Live: Coach Jennie + All Things Motivation

one woman shop chats with live
When we chose Motivation & Inspiration as our March theme for our 2015 editorial calendar, we have to admit: we were struggling to think of anything completely revolutionary.

Then, we received a guest post pitch from Jennie Mustafa-Julock aka Coach Jennie aka The Audacity Coach. The title? Motivation is a Solopreneur’s Worst Enemy. Yeah. Since we know business isn’t one-size-fits-all — and we like to mix things up here at OWS — we published Jennie’s post ASAP, then invited her to join us for a Google Hangout so she could tell us about her unconventional approach to motivation.

In this 45-minute video, we chat about:

  • What Jennie believes you need instead of motivation or inspiration
  • Why she believes the Law of Attraction is pure crock
  • Who “Hilda” is and how to tell her to get the hell out (hint: we all know her and we apologize to anyone named Hilda)
  • The top things that hold us back from getting our shit done
  • Why business isn’t one-size-fits-all (and why that’s okay)

Pop in those headphones and listen and/or watch at your own leisure! You don’t want to miss this one.

After you’ve listened, tell us in the comments: What are you going to tell Hilda next time she rears her ugly head?


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