You too could have a 6-figure income…

We’ve all had these emails in our inbox.  The ones promising financial freedom, a Ferrari in the garage of your mansion, days spent playing on your private beach with the children…  All yours for the miniscule investment of $999/month!

Now most of us hit the delete button – but what if what the virtual assistant is saying is true?  What if you really could be a 6 figure income virtual assistant?

I am deeply skeptical about these schemes.  I have always been very proud of the fact that my income comes mainly from the virtual assistant business that I run and that I don’t need to write books, join affiliate schemes or run networking events to make a living.  I don’t have any affiliation with any of the training companies or authors or coaches, so I can recommend exactly what I like.

And that has always been at the cornerstone of SVA – it’s independent and good advice.  I felt very strongly that the advice should be given freely and not protected behind membership fees.  Sadly time and money does not grow on trees so we compiled a few guides which we sell to support hosting, admin, newsletter subscriptions, web updates etc.  And by and large, it just about covers the cost of running SVA (as long as my time is a free resource) – thank you to everyone who has purchased the SVA Guides or made donations!

But there are a couple of VAs promoting courses at the moment which make 6 figures as a virtual assistant and they are being rubbished by others, saying it’s impossible to make that much money.  So I thought that for once, I would be less than skeptical and instead of playing smoke and mirrors in order to get you to sign up to a course, I would just explain it (and kiss goodbye to my own Ferrari in the process – doh!!)

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Myth 1: 6-figure incomes

A lot of these incomes are measured in $dollars.  “6 figures” invariably means around $100,000 = £66,000 approx so your target earnings each month are £5,500.  Seems a bit more achieveable now, doesn’t it?

I’ve had to reorganise my business to avoid hitting the VAT threshold so that kind of income is altogether possible.

Myth 2: It’s all for spending

In order to earn £5,500 per month at an average £25/hour you would need to bill 220 hours’ work, which is 55 billable hours a week.  Plus on top of those 55 hours you’ll have your own admin, marketing, invoicing etc to do which brings the hours you would need to work up to around 65 hours…. Hard work, but do-able with a bit of effort and no other commitments.

Except realistically, your clients aren’t going to sit around for you to complete their work when it suits you.  They’ll want it done when they want it done, and you won’t reach 55 billable hours a week unless you can fulfill that, so the people earning 6-figure incomes, MUST be using outsourcers to complete some of the work.

And then I would go further and say that in order to make sure that the outsourcers are working to the same standards you do, you would need to increase the amount of non-billable admin hours you spend on your business in order to check their work, thus reducing the amount of hours you have for paid client work.  Meaning even less of your time will be available for billable hours.

So a big chunk of that 6-figure income is coming in the door and straight back out again to outsourcers.  I’d estimate that probably something between 65%-80% is going in pure outsourcing costs.  Then add on the money you have to spend in order to market the business effectively (updating your website, SEO, newsletters, mail outs, finance costs etc.) which you need to spend in order to get enough clients to achieve your 6-figure income.  Those costs are probably something like 10-20% of the turnover.  So we’re looking at you taking home, at best, 25% of your 6-figure income, which is £16,500/year.  At worst, you may only just be breaking even.   A lot will depend on you being able to keep costs low and client-spend high, which isn’t always the easiest thing when dealing with freelance contracts.

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From my own business I know I now take home more pay than when I had a much higher turnover.  As VA Sarah Bradley says: “Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity”.  I wholeheartedly agree.

Your Ferrari is looking rather unlikely now, don’t you agree?

Myth 3: Anyone can do it

Based on the above, you’ll still be working a 60 hour week.  I know, I’ve done it long enough!  You probably won’t have enough cash to hire someone to manage the business, so you’ll be very much tied to your desk Mon-Fri 9am-5pm.  That precludes school runs, popping to the shops or going to networking meetings.  Whilst Blackberrys are brilliant, you shouldn’t be using them whilst driving or talking to people!

You also need to be quite tough.  I know I get called an incredibly anal battleaxe who exploits other people in my role as a MultiVA owner.  There would be something seriously wrong if I didn’t.  My role is to make sure the clients get their work back on time and perfect.  As much as I would like to sympathise about your dog being sick or your child throwing juice all over your laptop, my first commitment is to the clients.  That sort of brutality is often difficult for multiVAs to master.  You need to divorce your personal feelings from the situation.  I love all my VAs on a personal level – they are truly skilled, remarkable people (otherwise I wouldn’t have hired them!).  But I’m not going to let them kill my business by handing in late, shoddy work.  Fortunately, much as they gripe, they also realise that their income relies on my delighting clients, so there are usually very few problems.

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Myth 4: It’s for bog standard VA work

Here’s the sneaky bit – and this is where I think the VAs claiming a 6-figure income really need to ‘fess up:

The 6-figures is not earned solely from being a VA or standard VA services

These VAs have done fantastically well for themselves and I applaud them for that – rather than being jealous, we should thank them for raising the profile of what we do above someone working from home for a bit of pin money.

But looking at some of their VA businesses, there’s no way they are earning those incomes from it – google their names and see what else comes up.  I guarantee you that at least some of the income will be from coaching, selling books or selling VA services which demand a premium, like web design.

Food for thought – yes this sort of income is possible, but would you really want to do it?

  1. Caroline Daniels on 14 August, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Hi Caroline, I liked your article, it puts everything into perspective! As a rule I generally ignore money earning schemes, but occasionaly I like to see what others are doing to keep up to date with the latest trends.

  2. Celina Lucas on 15 August, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Really interesting post. It does seem as if a lot of successful VAs earn more money by actually selling their experience in the shape of e-books (or actual books), training courses and various affiliate schemes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but I have wondered how they actually have time to do any client work!

  3. Steph Middleton on 15 August, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    what a great article Caroline! This really hits the nail on the head and should be food for thought for any exisiting and potential VAs who think their business is going to reach the 6-figure mark easily!

  4. Sarah Bradley on 16 August, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Ta for the mention 🙂

    Fantastic article which also reminds me on another ‘gem’ of mine that applies ‘Caveat Emptor’… Don’t bother Googling it – it simply means ‘Buyer Beware’ and is as relevant to purchasing training material/Get-Rich-Quick-Schemes as it is for buying a car/house/pair of shoes.

    Don’t check your common-sense at the door when you’re tempted by such schemes. That funny feeling you have is there for a reason – so listen to it.

  5. Rachel Brett on 16 August, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    What I love about SVA, and have always loved about it, is that the forums tell the situation as it is. Anyone with an ounce of common sense, can see that the good business is built on honest and honourable practices and not these schemes. SVA forums have always made that clear from day one which has funnily enough made sure that I don’t see the VA world through rose tinted glasses, and fall for such schemes. Highlighting these “get rich schemes” as Caroline has, only underpins the ethos of why SVA should be one of the main planks in a VA’s arsenal of not reinventing the wheel and getting things right first time.

  6. Ann Murphy on 16 August, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Hi Caroline,

    Thoroughly enjoyed this article. Great for a newbie like myself.

    The VA web seems to be cluttered with books, coaching and 6 fig sums. Thank you for setting the record straight on this issue.

    Regards, Ann

  7. Gina on 25 August, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    hitting home as this is a new adventure for me setting out in the VA world and hoping that it will all work around my kids and family. Just wondering whats the most income that can be earned being a VA at home? is it worth to give up now and go out to work? always battling with myself

    • Caroline on 26 August, 2011 at 1:14 pm

      It depends a lot on how many hours you have to work and what skills you have – I know VAs who work full-time who earn £40-£50k/year and I know VAs who only take home £5k/year because they have restricted working hours…

  8. Bernadette Jones on 28 August, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    A truly brilliant article, Caroline, which opens wide the many myths surrounding the VA industry. As usual, your post is based on sound, common sense.

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  10. Bernadette Jones on 5 October, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Another brilliant article, Caroline. I have always been sceptical about these “get rich quick” emails hitting my in box, and now I know why! The Ferrari will just have to wait!

    I have just been talking to a newbie VA, so I will direct her to this article which spells out perfectly the myths.

    Thanks once again, Caroline.

  11. Patty on 10 January, 2012 at 12:39 am

    I love the authenticity in this post, it’s eye-opening and refreshing!

    – Patty

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    […] The mind-blowing fact I’ve learned from Caroline: Reaching 6 figure is all about the currency! 100,000 US$ equals about 66,000£ and is a much more realistic profitability goal. Click here to read more about it. […]

  13. Helen king on 16 November, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Hi There
    As circumstances these days as you can appreciate are at an all time low what with Jobs and income.
    When I saw the adverts for becoming a VA I knew it is what I aim to achieve . Everywhere I turn i get rejected. What I need is to have a chance and chance to shine with hard work in know i can. Please can you point me in the right direction
    Kind regards Helen

    • Caroline on 5 December, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      Hi Helen

      If you have a look under the START UP VA section on here you will find lots of advice for new VAs.

      Caroline

  14. Wilfred Arasaratnam on 19 February, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    “Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity and cashflow is king!”
    I’d imagine also having effective admin to chase invoices is also an important skill in being self-employed, it’s not like when you are employed and the money mysteriously turns up in your bank account each month.

    • Caroline on 19 February, 2014 at 10:51 pm

      Yup – no 6-figure incomes without proper credit control! Good to see you Wilf!

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