- Erin Morris, 32, is a virtual assistant who’s worked in places like Northern Europe and Myanmar.
- She’s held various jobs but says becoming a virtual assistant gave her true location independence.
- Her advice to get started is to sign up for volunteer opportunities and proactively seek out clients.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Erin Morris, a 32-year-old virtual assistant from Jindabyne, Australia, about her job. Her income has been verified by Insider. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I’d been trying to find the perfect remote job for years while I was blogging and traveling full time from 2018 to 2020.
I quit my job as a paramedic in 2014 and worked as a ski instructor during ski seasons in Switzerland and did stints as a deckhand and medic on superyachts. Then I tried teaching English online for Whales English as other travel blogs suggested, but I didn’t enjoy it and wasn’t getting enough hours to make ends meet.
I came across the 90-Day VA course in an ad online
I knew nothing about being a virtual assistant. I thought it meant I’d have to be a personal assistant, but it’s such an umbrella term. It can mean many different things, depending on whom you work for.
I did a bit of research into it, watched the free hour-long intro and thought, This is what I want to do. On top of teaching 11 modules of new skills, the course dives into creating a portfolio, finding and applying for jobs, and topics like accounting, taxes, how to get paid virtually, and sending contracts — it’s the full deal.
My portfolio is on Google Drive. Any of the documents that I made for homework and assessments during the course — like social media or Canva templates — I host there to show potential clients.
You can specialize as a virtual assistant. There were four of us in my training-course accountability group and a network of fellow classmates, and we all went down different routes. One of us has become a web developer, another is doing business coaching, there’s a social-media manager, and I mainly do copywriting.
In January 2021, I was making $1,500 (around R25,000) a month, but now I’m making $6,000 (around R100,000) a month.
I got my first client before I’d even finished the course
I paid $500 to take the course, and my first client, a bookkeeper for online businesses, hired me when I was just two months in. I created content for Pinterest, wrote captions for her social media, and made graphics in Canva. It was very basic graphic design. Some other early clients wanted me to repurpose their content and write captions for social media.
I got some of my first clients through Funnel Gorgeous, a company that runs courses and posts about building funnels, marketing yourself and your services, doing copywriting, and funnel design. My early clients found me through this platform, and I built funnels for them. I’m also part of a couple of online directories — HerHQ and Hire a Marketer — plus potential clients reach out to me through Instagram and referrals.
A funnel is how you present your offer, from the point when people discover your service or product and then go to your web page, read your copy, love the design, and purchase your product or even jump to your mailing list and become a customer. I had a bunch of clients who kept hiring me to do copywriting, and I realized this is what I like to do the most, so I specialize in funnels and sales copywriting now. I focus on doing the copy for a sales page or email sequences, which are a string of five or six emails people receive after signing up to a mailing list.
Being a virtual assistant is the best role for me because I love traveling
I was always that person who would work, save up, quit the job, travel, run out of money, and then start again. I was in that cycle, even though I knew it wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle.
I love to work abroad because I like the freedom of my lifestyle. I’ve worked in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and Myanmar. Ninety percent of the time I stay in Airbnbs, unless the role included accommodation, and I’m looking into house-sitting moving forward. I’m a solo traveler but do sometimes meet up with friends along the way.
I’m currently back in Australia and preparing to move to Portugal soon. I can choose when to work during the day and mostly stick to regular work hours, as my work is deadline-driven, but if there’s a morning yoga class I want to go to or if I want to hike and explore in the afternoon, I have that flexibility. I feel like I’m living my life more fully when I’m abroad rather than at home in Australia full time, but it’s great because now that I have a steady income, I can visit home whenever I want also.
At first, I charged clients an hourly rate and worked with two to four clients at a time
Most online coaches recommend charging for packages, as you stop trading time for money and are valued for your skills, but without having the experience to know how long something was going to take me, I didn’t know how to package my services when I was starting out.
I began by charging $20 per hour, and for overtime, I worked my way up to $28 per hour. I’m sure I could’ve gotten a little more, but at the same time, I had a bit of a limiting belief. Now it’s much easier for me to package my services, which are custom-designed for my clients’ needs.
Most of my clients are overseas, and in the last three months my business has been growing significantly. Three months ago, I was charging $600 for a sales page, and now I charge $1,500.
This month I have one client who’s asked me to do three sales pages and three email sequences. I quoted her $6,500. I’m potentially writing a sales page for another client for $1,500. It did take me two years to get to the point where I’m actually making good money, but it’s been worth it.
A good way to make starting out as a VA affordable is to sign up for volunteer opportunities through sites like Worldpackers, where you work a few hours a day in exchange for free accommodation. You still have time in your day to build up your virtual-assistant work.
My advice to people starting out is don’t wait for clients to come to you. Apply for all the roles you’re interested in, because it’s great practice. You don’t need years of experience; soft skills like having a “figure-it-out” attitude and being reliable and proactive are actually more important