Become a Virtual Assistant (with no experience!)
We’ve got a huge demand for remote work in our She Hit Refresh Facebook group and one of the quickest ways to break free from the office and into the online world is to become a virtual assistant, a.k.a, a VA. Whether you already have a strong skillset or want to learn something new, becoming a VA is definitely something to consider.
This interview with VA guru, Hannah Dixon from Digital Nomad Kit, will shed light on everything you need to know so you can get started today! Hannah shares how she went from serial “job hopper” (like me) to virtual assistant to business owner, and shares her tips and tricks on how you too can become a VA. To learn more about Hannah and her VA journey check our recent podcast interview on the She Hit Refresh podcast.
Interview with Hannah Dixon
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m 31 and grew up in London, UK. I’ve been travelling non-stop for 11 years and working online for 6 of those. I never imagined myself in a traditional job, nor lifestyle for that matter. When I was young this worried me a lot because I had no idea what other options were out there and I felt there was something wrong with me. The first time I travelled independently I realized how much bigger the world was, bigger than my school, my area, my ideas of what was possible and I began to view the world differently. Since then, I made travel my priority, regardless of any ‘job’. I now work training virtual assistants and freelancers remotely, and travel with my partner Kyrie, chasing cute cats and eating burritos all over the world!
Can you share a bit about your work background before you became a VA?
My work background is so varied it’d be hard to make a start. I’ve worked in high fashion, with husky dogs and even held the title of head chef once! I’ve always had the desire to keep learning and trying new things. I’ve never taken a traditional work path and I think that has helped me adjust to working online and the digital nomad lifestyle. Much like Cepee, I was a serial ‘job hopper’. Working online became a great option for me, as someone who is always looking for new opportunities and challenges!
Do you remember the exact moment when you decided to give the VA life a try?
It wasn’t so much of eureka moment as it was something I stumbled upon. I was in a relationship at the time with someone who was working online at home and I thought to myself, well that’s pretty awesome, I bet I could do this too and do it from anywhere! I devoured as much information on working online as I could, I learned from my partner at the time, and from the greats in the industry. We started an SEO and web development company where I did all the general admin, customer management and, over time, doing this for our clients too. My itchy feet took us abroad once again to Hungary and the business began to grow. I didn’t know that being a ‘virtual assistant’ was even a thing until someone referred to me as one, in the same way I had not heard the term ‘Digital Nomad’ until I realized that this is what I was doing. Sadly, that business in particular didn’t work out, but this VA thing was working well for me so I put all my energies into it.
When did you start Digital Nomad Kit (DNK) and how did it start? How did you know what to do?
I started DNK while I was in Sardinia a couple of years after being a VA. It was really born out of a need to find a community of people that I resonated with. Every time I tried to connect with digital nomads and entrepreneurs, I felt like I was hitting a wall of white males who were ‘crushing it’ and ‘killing it’ and those, essentially, were just not people I could relate to. Where were the queers? The awkward people? THE WOMEN?! My little group attracted some awesome people and I suddenly felt truly plugged into a community I could grow with.
My little Facebook community grew large quickly and while I managed the group, I interacted with the members in a very candid way. I shared my VA career journey with them – which was growing at an insane rate. It turned out I was very good at landing high-profile clients and turning this into a 5-8k a month business. The community began asking me how I did this and this is when everything began to change for me.
I created a course showing people how to become highly paid virtual assistants and this is where DNK was truly born. I switched my focus on providing services as a VA to serving new VAs with knowledge and information on how to make this career profitable and fun! A lot has happened since then, but more core focus has been, and will always be, on providing a career choice that is secure, legit and, not only can help the more privileged of us find more freedom in the form of travel or time, but can provide a means for those living in less-than-ideal situations the tools to life themselves – out of poverty.
You’ve had over 8000 students from over 75 countries! When did your business really pick up and what prompted the growth?
I can’t help but smile looking at the growth of this amazing community. I’m so proud of every one of my students who have made big steps to change their life and feel humbled to be a part of that journey. I think the growth of DNK has really picked up in the past year. I think a lot of that is due to me stepping up over the year as well. I’ve faced a lot of fears, like speaking on stage and asking people for support, hiring a team and actually – seeing a therapist! I had a lot of emotional baggage that came along for my entrepreneurial ride, and I could only take it so far before it began presenting itself in ugly, self-sabotaging ways. All of these things have been instrumental in the growth of DNK.
Are you a digital nomad or do you have a home base?
I’m a digital nomad. I change locations every 2-3 months. However, I’ve been craving a bit more of a “home base” lately so my partner and I are staying in Bangkok for year. We’ll still be bouncing around the world a lot this year, but it is nice to have a place to leave your stuff and come back to! I haven’t been this ‘settled’ in 11 years! I’m hoping to buy some property in Hungary (yes, where my VA journey started!) in the next year and use that as a home base.
How do you juggle running a business, travel, and making time for loved ones?
It’s a constant juggle but as you start to gain more confidence and stability in one aspect of life then you can focus on other parts. I’ve definitely struggled with this, but as DNK grows and I am able to outsource more tasks, then I can focus more on travel and spending time with loved ones. I try to be aware of my work/life balance and shut off after 7pm each evening. My partner and I make sure we have a date night each week and we also plan our year to include family and friend visits and ensure we budget for those expenses. On a day-to-day basis, voice messages are a really good way of staying in touch with people. It’s more personal than text but still not as time demanding as a call, which can be tricky with timezones sometimes!
It’s not always easy to juggle all of this, but it’s important to know you’re not alone and it’s ok to reach out! I recently was complaining about how little friend contact I was having, to which my friend replied ‘life is shit’. I then spoke to another friend, they too had feelings of loneliness – so I started a group chat with them both called ‘Life isn’t shit and you have friends club’ and we will be having our first ‘Wine and Chat’ call this week 🙂
How different is your life now from where you thought you’d be at your age?
Well, I think everyone thinks that they’ll have their life together at 30. But the thing is that the goal post is always shifting, so it’s hard to define whether I’m at where I thought I would be at this point. Honestly, as I said before, I was a worried teen as I had no idea what was possible for me. But one thing that comes to mind: I remember telling a teacher of mine at around 17 years old that I wanted to spend my days selling bananas and playing bongos on the beaches of Bora Bora (a lot of alliteration there haha). I feel like I achieved a metaphorical version of this, perhaps? 😉
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my resilience. I have come up against things in my life that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So first, I am proud that I made it and second, I am even more proud to say that I used all of my experiences to create beautiful things and moments in my life and work. You could say I did a 360 from where things COULD have headed.
What’s a big scary goal that you have for yourself in 2019?
Only one? I have a handful of big scary goals lined up for 2019. I’m investing a lot more financially into DNK and also starting to branch out into live events (keep an eye out!). Personally, I want to get into better shape. I quit smoking 1.5 years ago and we all know what that means… ALL THE FOOD HAPPENED.
How to Become a Virtual Assistant (VA)
What is a virtual assistant?
At its most basic, it’s a person who assists a person or company, much like an office assistant, only remotely and often with the use of more innovative and technical tools.
What does a virtual assistant do?
Virtual assistants can do SO many things. The scope is very wide. The general areas a VA can cover are admin, creative and tech. However, I’ve had times as a VA where I’ve be in charge of managing someone’s babysitter schedule, I’ve been ordering supplies for events, and so much more. I’ve included an image below which details many of the avenues a VA could take and then expand upon. This list is NOT exhaustive. You have to think about everything an online business has to do, almost any moving part could be outsourced to a VA. This is one of the main reasons that I say this is a perfect entry into remote work IF you want to be self-employed, as you really can offer a vast array of skills and services.
What does it take to become a virtual assistant (what qualities should someone have)?
Here’s a short list of qualities I believe to be the most important in this career:
- A natural desire to be of service. This is super important, as a VA you are helping and assisting and if helping people isn’t your jam – then this won’t be a fit. Marie Kondo yourself next time you do something for another, did that spark joy or resent?
- The ability to get the hang of new things quickly. As a VA you’ll be faced with learning new tools on a regular basis. The internet moves fast and to stay in the game, you’ll have to move with it!
- An understanding that it takes an investment to make this a profitable career. An investment of time, money, effort or any combination of those. And a willingness to do this!
- Self-motivation and discipline. As a VA, you generally don’t have someone telling you what to do or to remind you of deadlines. You’re in control for the most part, so practicing the art of self-discipline and staying motivated is key.
- Clear communicator! I cannot stress enough how important it is to be a stellar communicator. Working remotely already means that you’ll need to be able to effectively communicate ideas, projects and explanations digitally – but working with clients who have hired you to do things they don’t understand and who may have limited technical knowledge means you’ll also have to be able to clearly, and patiently, explain things often!
- At least a basic idea of how to navigate a laptop computer and smartphone. The rest can be learned while you’re already earning!
If someone wants to become a virtual assistant, how can they start and where can they find work?
A really big benefit to becoming a Virtual Assistant is just how easy the process of setting up is. You don’t need any qualifications (however a little vocational training and support goes a long way if you’re brand new to this), and you only really need a laptop, good wifi connection and some of those traits I mentioned above.
Here’s the formula I get people to use when figuring out where to start as a VA:
Offline to online transferable skill you’re good at (refer to the image with VA categories as inspiration)
Networking with other people who share your interests and telling them what you’re good at
Here’s an example of this in action:
- You love yoga and you’re a customer service pro. Customer service is transferable in so many ways.
- Presumably if you love yoga, you know others in the industry. Tell your yoga friends, your yoga teacher and studio owners that you’re starting out as a freelancer doing customer service for yoga studios – Facebook pages and client emails etc.
- Do they need help with that? Do they have feedback for you? Have easy and comfortable conversations with people you know.
- Your immediate network is usually the easiest place to find your first online gigs. These people already know and trust you and are willing to support your new venture. Get those first testimonials in!
You don’t have to start blind. And you don’t have to stick to what you started with. Get in the game, learn and evolve as you go. Otherwise you’re going to procrastinate and overthink. There’s no magic strategy – just use what you have, paired with some common sense, and then keep going!
If the formula scares you or you’re just unsure on how to make it work for you, I encourage you to join my free 5 Day VA Challenge program. It runs every 3 or 4 months and goes into all this in much more detail. A lot of She Hit Refresh people have taken it and love it!
What did you love most about being a virtual assistant? What were the challenging parts of the job?
The thing I loved most was the ability to connect and collaborate with so many awesome people all over the world. Second to that would be the freedom to travel and see things that most never get to!
The most challenging parts were dealing with my own self-limiting beliefs. This led to things like not charging enough, overworking, not taking opportunities, taking the wrong opportunities, etc. These were all challenges that needed to happen though. If I hadn’t had them, I wouldn’t have learned the lessons I needed to learn to grow to where I am now. I like to think there’s no such thing as failure, only opportunities to learn.
Where can we find you?
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