Rhonda: Alright, so I am really, really excited about this week's interview because for me as a mom, one of the important things is I'm a stay at home mom, but still want to contribute to my household, but more importantly I want to carve out this little space of my week, of my day that is me, Rhonda. It's not Maggie's mom, Ander's mom. All of the mom. Daniel's wife. All of the sorts of things. I have with me a very special guest, Abby Ashley of the Virtual Savvy and she's gonna take us on a journey and I hope that she's gonna motivate you. I know she's gonna motivate you. She's gonna inspire you, but I just hope that she opens up an opportunity that maybe you haven't already considered or that you don't know about. Welcome, welcome, welcome Abby.
Abby: Hi, thanks so much for having me. I'm excited.
Rhonda: Now, you're a mom of two little kiddos, right?
Rhonda: Let's just hear your story.
Abby: Awesome. Well, yeah I was in 2012 working a full 9:00 to 5:00 job. I didn't have kids, yet and I actually got married in 2011 and on our one year anniversary, my daughter was due and time flies.
Abby: I was really, really done with my 9:00 to 5:00. I wanted to not leave my daughter at home to go to a job that I hated. I'm all for working moms. That's cool, but to go to a job that you hate and take your kid to a daycare, not cool. I just knew that that's not what I wanted to do, so I just started looking for options on how to work from home, so I could be at home with my daughter and I stumbled upon virtual assistants and scoured everything on the internet about that topic and decided to launch my own VA business, so I launched right before my daughter was born, actually. I was literally writing emails in the hospital, which I wouldn't recommend. Boundaries, people. I started my business and four months it had taken off. I had a group of subcontractors working under me at this point and I had replaced the income that I had been making full time, just working about 20 hours a week. It was a game changer for myself, for my family and really for me as a mom. It was huge. I was nannying at the same time.
As soon as I quit my job, which was literally the week before my daughter was born, I started nannying as I was building up and I absolutely hated that. It just was the perfect balance for me. I found what I really loved doing.
Rhonda: When you started back in 2011, there wasn't a whole bunch of stuff online. You really had to carve out your own path and try a lot of different things, right?
Rhonda: What was your experience? Were you taking things that you had used in your day to day job? Is that how you were marketing yourself?
Abby: There were a few blog posts and eBooks out there on how to get started, so the business building basics. I used that. There was an awesome blog from Reese [inaudible 00:03:57], which is now a friend of mine and she's promoting my course in a couple of weeks. It's cool how things have changed over the past couple of years. She had a blog and there were a couple of eBooks, but nobody had a course and there was nothing talking about marketing, so I have a bachelors in marketing and a masters in organizational management that I had gotten because I was working at a school actually before I started. I used the business building aspects from all these random blog posts that I got and just figuring it out. Then, I infused some of the marketing skills that I had from my degree and some past experience. I had done some PR type of things for my university. I infused those into what I found online and said let's figure this thing out.
Rhonda: You had to have been ... I mean, I'm thinking about ... If someone want's to start a business, there are all kinds of different opportunities. We can sell stuff out of our house, multilevel marketing. Here you are, number one, the journey of an entrepreneur is stressful in and of itself and you're taking a risk, but how did you feel about ... You're online, so for those folks who really haven't even thought about it or even known about it, how did you make that connection? What was that first client like?
Abby: Well, let me say this, one of the things I really loved when I discovered virtual assistants was that I felt like I was finally offering something that was real. I don't know if that makes sense. Even though it was online, it seemed like the most real business that I had found that you could do from home on your own time. I know plenty of people that do MLM type of stuff, but I couldn't contact my friends to try to sell them things that I didn't think they really needed. I couldn't do that and I've always had an entrepreneurial mind, so I had sold jeans on eBay before. I'd go to thrift stores and sell jeans. I sold textbooks online, so I'd buy textbooks off of Amazon and sell them to buyback companies. I did that for a while. Those made a little bit of money here and there, but they weren't a business that was scalable that seemed really legit, so when I discovered virtual assistants, I'm like oh, this is me. I could use some of the admin skills that I already have. I could do this, but offer a service that somebody actually needs.
I'm promoting to business owners, not just my friends and family. I really liked that. Yeah, my very first client, I think I made some business cards and I went to just a local meetup group and I passed them out and talked with people and a massage therapist hired me to do some data entry for her and that was my very first client. It was nice. It felt like I was doing a real task and I remember receiving that first payment on the invoice and I'm like, I made money doing something that was really easy at home while my kid was sleeping. This is amazing.
Rhonda: Was it hard for you as you ... You built your business really, really quickly. She's talking about in four months she was booked out and she had sub contractors, meaning other people like her that were now working for her. Was it difficult for you to ... I mean that just is like, whoa. It's exciting, but it's a little bit overwhelming. Was there a hard time to that work life balance or did you feel you were working all the time? Were you working less?
Abby: During that time, my husband had a terrible job. He was working for the government, actually in DC and he had an hour and a half commute each way, plus was working a nine hour day because they had a mandatory hour lunch break, so he was gone for what? Nine, 10. He was gone for 12 hours a day and that sucked. That absolutely sucked, but it was just what we were doing at the moment. Honestly, I worked a lot. Newborns are awesome, but they don't do a whole lot. I'd hold him for a while and be like, okay I'm gonna put you down and do some work, now. For me, as the business grew, mom guilt is a very real thing, so navigating how much time do I spend with my kid and how much time do I sit him in their bouncy chair and how much do I ... Pretty early on, I had someone come into my house one day a week, once I had made enough money and I felt like it was really a good choice for me. I liked having, and I think every person just has to make this decision for themselves.
There's no right or wrong answer, but for me, I knew that I needed ... Once I had made enough money to bring someone in once a week into my home, I would go into a back room or go to a coffee shop and I had someone I trusted that was there babysitting for a day and I got one solid day just to work on my business, make sure my client stuff was good, do interviews, those kinds of things. That one day turned into two days a week where someone would come. It eventually progressed where now, my kids actually do go to daycare now and this is years into the business. They're two and four now and I think it's actually a really good ... I feel good about it. They just started that pretty recently. I think you just have to do what's right for you in the time of life that you're in. There's no way in 2012 I would have been like, I'm gonna send my kids to daycare full time because it wasn't right for me at the time and now it's right for me. For some people, they end up running a business from home and they never end up having somebody else come and help. They do it just in the mornings and in the afternoons during nap time or whatever and you do have to have the realization, okay my business may not grow as fast, but that's okay.
I think that it's all just navigating, really what's right for you. I like to have people, when they think of where they want their business to be, I like to start with what do you want your lifestyle to look like? If we're building a lifestyle business, then not where you want your business to be. "Oh, I want to be making this much money and doing all this stuff." How many hours do you want to work? "Well, I don't want to send my kids to daycare and I don't want to do this and I don't want to do that." Well, then your business may not look like that. Let's be realistic. What do you want your life to look like? Well, I'd like to be out of the house two days a week and work mornings and evenings and maybe do like a babysitting swap one day. Okay, cool. If that's what you want your life to be like, then what business could we build to make your life look like that six months from now?
Rhonda: I love that. I love how ... Here's the thing. You were in a situation where you hated where you worked and you knew that you wanted to change. You knew you wanted to be at home, but you also knew that you wanted to be Abby and your husband was in a situation where he didn't like. Obviously, if he's commuting an hour and a half there and back everyday, so it is ... I have four children and my season of life is very, very different now than when I started my business over 14 years ago and babies and diapers and three at one time in diapers and it's just really, really different. Even my need as a mother. I appreciate that mom guild. That never goes away. Am I doing the right thing. We homeschool, so are they getting what they need? Should I be homeschooling? Do I feel like I know it all? Am I giving my child the best opportunity? I don't think that's every gonna go away from us. I think that's always gonna be there, but what I want to circle back around to is those folks that are like, okay.
Let's say for example, they work in an office. What are some of the skillsets or some of the things that you can take and then translate online for them to get started part time. I like how you crafted that, what do you want your life to look like, because we don't want to go from one hot mess to another. What can we craft that's going to fulfill us and do all of the things, but where do I get started and what do I have to offer? People are gonna pay me to do that?
Abby: Right, yeah you'd be amazed what people will pay you to do. It's crazy, but really two things. One, I would take an honest look at really the skills that you do have. Whether you think that someone would pay you for them or not, do an honest evaluation. Sit down with a notepad for half an hour and just write, okay what are the things I can do and break it down. Go through your entire day. Well, I answer emails. Okay. Answer emails. Write that on there. I'm a good proofreader. My husband asks me to read stuff for him all the time. I can do that. Go through and list out the things you're currently doing in your job, things that you've done in previous jobs, maybe volunteer stuff that you've done. Just all of the skills that you've done. The next thing that I would recommend doing is, because I'm guaranteed that there's things that you didn't think of, is to ask some of the people around you. Ask your friends, ask your spouse, ask people, your coworkers. Ask people around you. I'm kind of thinking about doing this. Get people involved as you're building this thing.
You might not want to involve your boss right away, but everybody else, you can involve in the process. I'm sure there'll be some blind spots or like, oh well you didn't think of this. You were incredible at this. You were the go to person for this thing. You plan an incredible parties. Event planning has to be some kind of something in there, too. Then, what I would recommend, I would have that list in the background and what the last thing I would do, and this is still while you're choosing just what kind of services, this isn't necessarily marketing yet, but you could end up getting a client out of it is think do I know a business owner. I'm sure you sitting there know one business owner and just like you know one business owner, somebody else knows. Your husband, your friend, your coworker, they know one business owner. See if you can get few, even if they're just 15, 20 minute phone calls with a couple of real life small business owners and just sit down and say, hey. I'm launching this new business. I'm discovering what kind of services I want to offer in that business. What things would be helpful?
If you were to hire somebody, I'm not asking you to hire me necessarily, but just ask them, what skills would you want to hand off. Once people realize, especially brick and mortar or local business owners, virtual assistant is still really new to a lot of people, but when they hear what it is, they're like, "Oh my gosh. I spend five hours a week just calling people and doing appointments. Not even cold calls, just calling my current clients and just doing appointment reminders. Could you do that?" Well, maybe you could. Maybe you couldn't, but I think that once you just get out there and actually start talking to people, those services will surface.
Rhonda: I really want to emphasize one of the things that she said; answering emails. My very first virtual assistant job was working an inbox. I answered emails and while you may think well, that doesn't sound very sexy. It doesn't, but I had been a business owner, but I was still making that transition online and when I did that, it was so motivating, so exhilarating, so exciting. Then, I'm like all right. Well, I need to be doing this and I need to be doing this. I think you just need to take that first step and never discount your skillset. I met someone New Year's Eve in design. She knows [inaudible 00:16:35] design. Adobe. Those are highly sought after skills. She's working in the non profit sector. Those are highly sought after skills where people are $30, $45 and above an hour and now, I'm hoping that you're starting to see those things turn. You don't have to have a goal of making $5,00, $10,000, $100,000 a month. When you're coming from a traditional standpoint of working a brick and mortar, working 9:00 to 5:00, those numbers seem just out of this world.
You may just be looking to pay for dance lessons, pay for soccer, pay for those additional, the family vacation. Set your sights there first. Get your feet wet. Get your confidence and then truly because ... The story behind the story is this is how Abby started. Now, in 2018, what does your business look like, Abby?
Abby: Yeah, so I actually a little over a year ago decided to transition from doing one on one work with clients to teaching other people how to become virtual assistants. This is my full time job, now is doing an online course and coaching program where I teach other people how to do what I did and it's awesome and super rewarding. Virtual assistants was definitely the gateway into that and I think that like you said, answering emails might not seem super glamorous, but if you think of answering emails for $30 an hour sitting at home in your pajamas at 6:00 AM while your kids are still sleeping, that sounds a little better.
Rhonda: It does.
Abby: Trust me, there's plenty of non glamorous parts to owning your own business, but it was definitely what got me into this whole world that you don't even realize exists once you get into this online business world. I realize that with my personality and my skillsets and my teaching and my marketing background that creating courses and coaching was really what I wanted to do, so that's what I launched a year and a half ago and the business, now makes about $30,000 a month, which is crazy. I have a team. I have people to help me. I'm not personally pulling that in, yet, but that's the goal within the next couple of years.
Rhonda: Here you go. Abby went from really disliking her job, she was having a baby, she had her own clients in that she built the confidence. She had subcontractors working for her in a very short period of time and now she has evolved to impacting other women's lives. You can choose whatever you want as far as your end goal is, what your day to day is. If it is to get out of that really just sucky job and be able to be home at 3:00 when the kids get off the bus or there are a lot of moms thinking about home schooling and how can you do that? That cuts off 50% of your income coming into the doors. Yeah, sitting in yoga pants of pajama pants answering emails is a great, great alternative and it is just definitely doable. That's what I wanted to share. I wanted to share what that opportunity looked like and what you can do. I know we're gonna have some people that are go getters that want to be in your shoes as well and producing what you produce each and every month, but also you just have to know that the heart that Abby comes from ...
Abby and I have known each other for about a year now and she is impacting lives, women's lives, family's lives in such a profound way. She doesn't take the credit that she needs to take. She's very humble, but what she does and the opportunities she provides are tremendous. Abby, for those folks who you've piqued their interest, now they can answer emails, they may know some graphic design, they may like Pinterest a lot. Tell us how we can get started.
Abby: Well, I actually have a free masterclass that's coming up. It will be on January 15th, but you can go ahead and sign up for it now and you can get that at thevirtualsavvy.com/bizin5; B-I-Z, I-N, and then the number five. I'm sure Rhonda will link to that, but that's gonna be a five day little masterclass that every single day I'm gonna lead you through a new lesson that shows you how to get started as a virtual assistant. That's gonna be really fun. It starts on January 15th and I'd love to have you guys join me for it.
Rhonda: Awesome and I'm also gonna put a link. Here's something else that you might not know about Abby, is that she has a ... We all like private Facebook groups and she has a private Facebook group with almost, what? 19,000 of her closest friends are also in that group, so if you're looking, if you've got questions, that's a great place. It's a great resource to get started. Also, I'm gonna also link in the show notes here, thevirtualsavvy.com. She has got a to of great checklists and great content, if this is a path that you want to get started with. Before we end, one of the things ... Several years ago, trying to make that transition from offline to online. Yeah, I'm gonna start a blog. I think that a lot of us have these ideas that I'm gonna start a blog and people are gonna pay me to blog and I'm gonna make money off of that. I would really highly, highly recommend that you start as a service provider. If you start as a service provider, you are going to understand so much more. It's almost like someone is paying you to get business experience.
If you're making that transition from working in an office to going online, to see behind the scenes of someone else's business both the good, the bad and the ugly, then you're gonna be able to pick and choose and then be in that position. Maybe it's six months, maybe it's a year, where you do launch a blog and you do go off and do other things.the other thing that I want to end with is to do it. Don't think about it. Do it. Doing is better than perfect and to have a pretty website and to have a pretty font and have pretty colors and all that stuff is great. That's not bringing money into your house. It's not getting in your yoga pants and your jammy pants doing things on the side while you're at home. Take action. Never ever compare your beginning to someone else's middle because if you get with the right folks, like with Abby, she's gonna take you along that journey and she's gonna help you grow in the way that you need to.