Day in the Life of a Virtual Assistant — Charla Finley
Curious what a day in the life of a Virtual Assistant is like?
Today in our Quit Your Day Job Series, we interview a very special guest, one of our own SavvySystem students (our signature VA e-course) that has done the virtual assistant thing since February 2020. Charla Finley is a hard-working Savvy, and you’ll find her story is absolutely inspiring.
Here’s our chat with Charla:
Charla, tell us about YOU!?
Hello! My name is Charla. I love my dog, Milo. He’s a gorgeous copper red poodle, he’s very ornery. I love music. I play several instruments, and I love sports cars, which some people find really shocking! I’m addicted to personality quizzes and self-help books and podcasts. And I live in an RV in Kentucky!
What’s your favorite business book or self-help book?
I’m pretty sure it’s been around forever, but I loved The 5:00 AM Club.
What did life look like for you specifically before you started virtual assistance?
As teenager I had an opportunity to work with a nonprofit organization doing graphic design for their newsletters, which I loved. And it was a great learning experience and they had lots of patience with my mistakes.
Soon after that, I actually fell into the nanny world very unintentionally!
Where I live, Louisville, Kentucky, nanny careers are really popular because of the influx of physicians coming in and out all the time in Louisville. So I kind of fell into that, but it was such a blessing in disguise because I loved it.
But I wasn’t just a babysitter — I really took over home management and supported them in all areas of their life. I stayed in that for several years, at one point I was working for nine different families at once, which was insane. And then I decided to go back to college because my dream was to be — get this — an accountant.
How hilarious is that?!
I knew the nanny career wasn’t something I wanted to do forever. And it had served me well, but I wanted something with more flexibility.
I was at a point in my personal life where I was feeling burnt out and I needed something that was gonna provide longevity.
So I went to college online (are you starting to see a pattern, I’m all about flexibility!), and I went for a business degree. Then on Pinterest I randomly came across The Virtual Savvy — I didn’t even know virtual work was a thing!
What were some of the frustrations you faced as you pursued your virtual assistant business?
I think so many times in everyone’s life we reach these points where we’re burned out. And whether that’s from personal issues that are going on or your job. In my case, I loved my job. I had a great income. But I was feeling a sense of burnout personally. And I needed flexibility and the option to create the life I wanted. I needed to be able to travel. I also needed to know that financially there wasn’t a cap on my income.
How long was it before you got your first client?
Where did you find your first client?
It was an online group, and it was hilarious cause it was such a small gig. But it was amazing. I was so excited. You would’ve thought I had won the lottery!
What did that do for you when that client said yes and started paying you money?
Well first of all, it made me so excited. I thought, I can officially call myself a VA! But also, I was so thrilled that it was a small job because I was able to do the onboarding process and the contract on a smaller client project that didn’t involve so much high-level experience. So it was kind of cool to be able to use what I already had to offer and do an amazing job. I got an awesome review from that client.
So you get your first client after four months of jumping into the SavvySystem. Walk us through to that 16 months later when you were able to quit your nanny job. What did that look like?
So we’re gonna go up a little bit on a rollercoaster here. It’s gonna be a little bit up and down. I started the SavvySystem in February. I, and again, I just wanna say really quick, this is why I said the nanny position was a blessing in disguise because it didn’t put pressure on me to gain all of this income. This is why I advocate for not quitting your day job immediately if you can help it.
Anyway, two months after that first client, so at the six month mark, was when I got my first high-level client. Now, by this time I was so ecstatic because a high-level client for me was amazing. Like this was my answer to prayer, right? And then nine months later I gained my second high-level client.
But know this — I am not a risk taker. So I had my two full-time high-end clients before I quit my nanny job. And here’s the second caveat to that— I went back to nannying. Yep.
I had those two clients. I quit nannying for the summer, but I was not finding that next client. Despite having my highest income month, that client didn’t serving me well, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons. And so I went back to nannying part-time and kept my ideal clients. It served me well, and then finally at 16 months, I was able to quit nannying for good.
Now when you say high-end client, draw us a picture. What does that mean to you?
Both. For me, a high-level client means someone who chooses my top-tier package. They pay a significantly higher amount for full-time support on all fronts. I started out handling general admin tasks when I first began. Back then, I did everything, even transcribing podcasts into blog form.
It was quite the experience!
But as I grew, I decided to specialize in executive assistant support, and that’s where I found my niche. So, that first high-level client I mentioned earlier sought executive virtual assistant support from me.
It’s okay to start with more general services. As you offer bits and pieces of different things, you figure out what you love and what you don’t love. Then you can niche down, and give yourself the grace and space to figure out who you are and what you love doing.
How was that process of changing those services for you?
Well, it was truly amazing because during the first 16 months of my business, I was trying to figure everything out.
To be honest, I didn’t have a clear direction, even though I acted like I did. With a background in graphic design, I was uncertain about my career path. However, two years later, I finally decided that being a virtual assistant was my true calling. Those initial jobs, where I had no clue what I was doing, taught me valuable lessons in structure and curiosity. They pushed me to create my own processes and systems instead of just copying others.
Don’t get me wrong, learning from courses can sometimes feel like copying, but it’s essential to adapt and develop your methods.
This journey allowed me to master mundane tasks, and you know what? I still love them to this day!
Some might find it strange, but give me those boring tasks, and I’ll excel at them because they provide clarity and structure. Those first 16 months of my virtual assistant journey were truly memorable and formative.
Not only has your business and your offers evolved, but what about your why? Your reason for becoming a virtual assistant, has that changed at all?
I’m so glad you asked me this because it’s something I never thought about, to be honest.
You know, at the beginning of taking the Virtual Savvy course, they always talk about finding your “why.” I struggled with this because I’m not a mom, I’m not a wife, and I’m not out here living the solo life in my RV.
Many people in the group had inspiring reasons like quitting for their child, which is amazing, but that’s not my story. I didn’t want to come across as selfish by saying my “why” is to get rich. I’m out here to do more for myself. So I really struggle with that. I also just want flexibility. I wanna do something where I don’t feel burned out. And because of personal circumstances, I need something where I can help specific people in my life that needed it at the time.
But now my why is very different. It’s more about longevity.
What am I building for the future?
What if I do have children?
Is this gonna serve me in five or 10 years?
I don’t shy away from saying this is a financial decision cause this is such an incredible financial decision. I want to make sure that I’m not just working, I’m actually fueling my passion. So my income fuels my calling and my purpose in life. And I think being a VA is just amazing for that.
What are some of the ways that you’ve grown as an individual throughout this process as a business owner, as a virtual assistant?
I am such a yes person. I’m a loyalist, I’m a 6 on the Enneagram! I just wanna make everything better. I wanna fix the plan. But then I burn myself out because I say yes to everything. And then I get upset because I’m the one doing it all. But I can’t get upset at anybody, I’m the one who chose it. So it’s this ongoing struggle within myself, and I have really had to learn boundaries.
So what does your life look like now?
Monetarily, I was able to buy myself a sports car, which I was so excited about!
I bought a Mercedes. It was something that I wanted and it was like this amazing opportunity that I never would’ve had as a nanny. But even more than that, I think now, honestly, I’ve had so many conversations because of what I do. I think now my life looks different because it’s not always about the course that you’re taking, it’s not always about the new system. You’re learning how to build. A lot of times it’s about the lessons of just pushing away shiny object syndrome.
And I know I just said I got a Mercedes, ha! But in the everyday, it’s not always about having the best of the best. The lessons I learned when going through the SavvySystem, like being able to properly communicate with a client, handling the bad client that had, learning to stand up for myself in a professional manner, understanding how to really bring calm to the chaos when a client is freaking out. All of those lessons were just as valuable as learning how to go through apps and tools.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to those are just now exploring virtual assistance as a career?
Well I wanna be clear, this is something I’m still learning. But here it is — stop taking shortcuts for a client. Stop trying to make yourself fit the client. Make the client fit you. Positioning yourself that way is a total game changer when it comes to scaling your business. So if you can learn that lesson sooner rather than later, you will save yourself so much anxiety and so much back and forth and possibly a really bad client.
Take yourself back to February, 2020. You said yes to yourself. You decided to invest in yourself in the SavvySystem. What is one piece of advice that you would give yourself in that moment?
Advice I would give to someone joining the SavvySystem is to be intentional. Work on purpose. What I mean by that is like when you feel that this is it, or you’ve reached the top and it’s not what you thought it would be, go back to the basics. Figure out why you’re not being chosen for that interview. And a lot of times I have found, to my embarrassment, it was just simply me being desperate. I rushed the process. I didn’t speak confidently enough. I still struggle with that. These things that can feel like they are just massive. They’re really not so massive. If you just break them into small pieces, be intentional about what you’re doing. Take your time. And don’t freak out when you don’t get chosen. There’s a reason for it.
Ok, let’s get into some questions from fellow and aspiring VA’s!
What is the difference between general virtual assistants and executive virtual assistants?
For me, it was really the difference between one-off tasks or just being like their assistant and kind of having a seat at the table. As a virtual executive assistant, I get to actually make some decisions. It’s not just delegation. I felt like I was actually handed more responsibility, which was also more of an investment in me. I was more invested in their company, which made me better at my job. And you’re also charging at a higher price point for that level of service. You still may be managing your client’s calendar or managing the inbox, but you have kind of decision making power. Your fingers are in lots of the inner workings of the business. Like, you might even have their personal credit card and, and you’re responsible for that. Or you have access to client information, and supporting their clients. So it’s a big responsibility.
Do you think social media marketing or the market is dying soon?
I definitely don’t think social media market is dying. I think it’s just evolving. I’ve noticed with clients that it’s changing a little bit. Life five years ago was all about Facebook and Instagram. Now I’m seeing a lot of clients move towards other forms of social media, like Circle and some others. I think it’s changing, but I definitely don’t think it’s dying.
How did you best manage your time when you had your first few clients while still working your full-time nanny job?
Great question. I think this can be kind of for any job that you have a little bit of flexibility with during the day. For me it was really great because the children I was nannying at that point were able to go to school. So that’s when home management kicked in. So if I was going to get in their vehicle’s oil changed, I could work from the car dealership. If I was just hanging out at their house doing dishes, I could work at the table. Sometimes it was working in the car line. I was just making it work for me, and that looks different for everybody.
What would be an average good salary for a beginner?
Well, I’m kind of different. I didn’t do hourly. I chose not to do hourly. I’ve never chose to do that because it just, it stresses me out. I did it with one client and I regret it. But I started out at a $200 package. How crazy is that? And my first high-end client was about $1,500 a month. And now of course that’s changed. But I really think if you can try to stop the hourly, it works in your benefit.
What type of packages do you currently offer? What do those look like for your clients?
For my executive assistance packages, I mainly stayed with the first tasks that I offered, which are inbox and email management. But how I leveled those up was I do travel accommodations. I added all of these extra things to it. So I don’t necessarily advertise that I do graphic design, but once I have a client, if they need graphic design, I’ll do that. It’s just not something I wanna do solely. So it’s important to kind of keep different tasks in your back pocket like that.
What are some of your package rates? What are some of your clients currently paying?
I do wanna point out really quick, it’s important to look at the business maturity of your prospective client, because I had a client who paid me $3,000 per month, but they were a nightmare to work with because they did not see the value. They wanted to nickel and dime everything, and that’s why I don’t do hourly. So to answer your question, my clients are in the healthcare industry or the health coaching industry primarily. So you’re gonna find a health coach that is bringing in $3,000 themselves, they’re not gonna pay you even a thousand. But if you find a healthcare coach that is bringing in six and seven figures, then they’re gonna have no problem seeing the value of what you’re taking off their plate and that you’re worth it. My base package starts at $2,000 per month. I tailor every contract or relationship to match the client’s needs, ensuring there is always flexibility built in. My clientele caps at around 5-6 clients per month, with 1 team member for support. I plan to bring on another team member to try and hit my goal of 10k months! I’m at $8-9k months right now, so I’m almost there!
How many hours a day do you spend working for one client?
So what I did, since I don’t charge hourly, it’s gonna sound a little bit crazy, but I took in account what they’re asking. So let’s say that you need to manage one inbox and you need to manage one calendar, and you need to have two hours a week to create reservations and just be there to do those menial tasks, you really wanna look at how many hours it’s gonna take you and yes, you do base your salary off of that. But you add in a cushion, so if they need you to do a little more, it’s okay. And if you’re doing a little less, you’re probably gonna make it up next month and who cares. So that was how I did it. I do look at the hours. It’s not that I just discount hours altogether, but it’s that I don’t track my hours. I kind of guesstimate and go off of that. And I’ve proven with every single client I’ve done it with, they’ve never asked me about it. So it ebbs and flows each week, but on average I work about 20 hours per week.
Ummm… can we just pause and give a huge shoutout to Charla for earning $8-9k per month and working only 20 hours a week?! Way to go!
Big thanks to Charla for the great insight into running your virtual executive assistant business — this will be so helpful to so many VA’s!
To learn more about Charla’s business and follow her RV adventures, check her out on Instagram — @managezydesigns.
To watch Charla’s full interview with Rachel Dorsey, our head VA coach, check out the video below.
Abbey Ashley is the Founder of The Virtual Savvy. She helps aspiring virtual assistants launch and grow their own at-home business from scratch. She's since gone on to grow a multi-six figure business and retire her husband ALL from her at-home business. It's now her passion to help others start their own VA business so they can taste the freedom and flexibility of entrepreneurship as well.
This free one-hour training combines thousands of hours of research, years of experience in growing a virtual assistant business!
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