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 minuscule 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!!)
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 achievable now, doesn’t it? (correct at the time of writing… Obviously check the exchange rate!)
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.
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.
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?