In our VA Success Stories series, we interview successful virtual assistants to go behind the scenes of their business, find out how they got started, why they love their work, and more. Kellie Daab started as a VA and has ended up carving out her own niche becoming an industry leader and sought-after Wedding Business Architect.
Kellie walks us through her previous VA business and provides tips and advice on how to morph your business into something that is uniquely yours with a lot of hard work and vision.
LAID OFF EMPLOYEE TO BLOGGER TO VA
Kelly’s road to becoming a VA was anything but smooth. On the day she returned to her full-time job after vacation (and a bit bumped up after a car accident), with Disney souvenirs for colleagues in hand, she was told that she would be laid off.
In her own words, she was reeling and spent weeks of rolling around in the mud, but shortly after, Kellie started her blog, “So Not Together” and quickly learned the ins and outs of generating traffic and the necessity of community. She joined other bloggers to network and with a stroke of luck, her blog was picked up by The Huffington Post.
I realized that I was great at blogging and thought why not use this skill and do it for other people.
Kelly set up a her website and began offering blogging services and marketing it to everyone, in particular using Facebook groups. Her unemployment insurance was running out and she needed to provide for her family. Kellie began to expand her services and offered pretty much anything. “I was wild and all over the place, I would pretty much do anything so that I could put food on my kids’ table.”
With that driving force, Kellie wrote copy and content, did email admin for wedding planners and took one-off projects like creating social media graphics for clients on Saturday afternoons from the comfort of her bed.
I was going to do whatever I had to do to make my business grow.
As time went on and her business began to grow, Kellie, like most new VAs, started to understand the things she liked and didn’t like to do and what she WANTED to do.
FOCUSING ON A NICHE—KNOWING THE PEOPLE AND THE LANGUAGE
What lit Kellie up the most was working with people in the wedding industry. She had after all fourteen years experience in lighting and event planning and knew this was where she wanted to focus.
Other wedding professionals were my people. I spoke the language and knew the market making it easier to convert clients.
Kellie attributes Facebook groups as her launching pad to her VA business. She learned more about what a VA does and began connecting with other wedding industry professionals—responding to requests and ad posts, offering help and advice and even started her own Facebook community.
There was a point when Kellie was worried about becoming too niched. However, she has seen for herself that there is much power (and success) to be known for ONE thing. Yet she warns us to be careful of what that thing is that you want to be known for.
Don’t be known for the things that you don’t like doing.
AN IDENTIY CRISIS AND PRODUCTIVE BRAINSTORM TO A BRILLIANT NEW BIZ
As Kellie and her business evolved, she realized she was much more than a VA and loved the higher-level offerings like strategy and thinking-activities rather than the admin side to being a VA. She took time to brainstorm all of her skills, answering the question “What Am I”. Once she filled an entire page, she used google to search words and phrases. She discovered “Business Architecture” and identified with it so much, she now uses that as part of her brand identity. She is now able to be part of the entire client conversation by creating the strategy and carrying out the implementation of it, which seems to be much more rewarding for Kellie—professionally and financially.
A COUPLE OF HUNDRED TO A COUPLE OF THOUSAND DOLLARS DOES NOT HAPPEN OVER NIGHT
When Kellie first started out as a VA, she gauged the pricing trends of other VAs but was also willing to experiment to first understand her clients’ needs and what they could pay. She started out around $20/hour and priced some packages for only a few hundred dollars.
Kellie has certainly come a long way since then as she just recently sent out a proposal valued over $10,000.
However, Kellie is quick to reiterate that as a new VA you must start some where and it is ridiculous to think that as a new VA that you can wake up tomorrow and make a thousand dollars.
Your credibility and your visibility have to grow in order to garner a larger dollar amount. Start at $20 (per hour) but don’t stay there.
Kellie has successfully been able to raise her rates through time, credibility, reputation and having confidence in herself and knowing that the skill, experience, service and value she is providing her clients are in alignment with her fees. At this point in her business, Kellie is also able to be strategic about the businesses and clients she works with.
HAVE THE COURAGE (ERR, BALLS) TO SPEAK + LIVE YOUR MESSAGE
Virtual Assistance is such a big industry and it only continues to grow and be more competitive.
Now more than ever, it is so important for VAs to find their unique brand, message, niche and service and claim that space.
Part of that clarity and message is what Kellie contributes to her success. She had been in the wedding industry long enough to know what was working, what was broken which was all very natural for her to talk about. She developed her messaging and built authority in her niche market.
Create your message--something that people can get behind and remember; something that they can attach your name to--and then have the balls to speak that message.
BE THE BEST CHOICE AND BE VISIBLE TO POTENTIAL CLIENTS
When starting out Kellie advises to be intentional with prospective clients. While there is an urge to do everything and respond to every VA posting to make a living and make ends meets, you want to differentiate yourself and be the best choice in the several dozen other VAs that you are up against.
Just don’t drop a link and run away. Do some research (on the potential client), see if they are a good fit and provide value in your response.
While most of Kellie’s current clients are repeat clients or referrals, she still gains a lot of traction from her blog posts and engagement with her community that serves over 6000 people, in addition to speaking engagements.
Creating a “presence” through unplanned and organic social media is a great way to becoming more visible as is writing blog posts for her website and for others. One of Kellie’s tricks while participating in different Facebook pages to create visibility and traction, is to share links to her blog posts that answer a person’s question.
DON’T GET FOOLED BY THE OVERNIGHT SUCCESS STORIES
Kellie points out that her path to success was NOT from some magic formula many online “gurus” will sell with seductive headlines, but consistent hard work and pushing forward with her own professional and personal growth. Her words of reality:
You gotta work your butt off.
SOME FINAL TIPS AND WORDS OF WISDOM FROM KELLIE
Don’t get stuck. When you are stuck and you stay there. Push to grow and learn. Never stop growing, learning and changing.
Don’t get stuck in the idea “this is what a VA looks like” Make your own path, decide what you look like
Go the extra mile because nobody else will. Go way out of your way to impress your next client.
Do simple things when prospecting – read the post, really read it and then provide solutions and ideas when responding to potential clients. People will notice when you go the extra mile.
Prospect for the people you want to work for – connect and make contact.
Build in time NOW in the beginning stages to set up systems and processes, because when your business grows, and you focused on clients, you won’t have the time.
In the beginning and starting phases, do what you have to do to make it work and provide for yourself / your family.
Be patient with yourself as you discover your strengths, skills, likes and dislikes in the VA space. Keep pushing to what you want to be.
Be realistic with rates when starting out – start at $20/hour, but don’t stay there. Continue to grow and learn new skills.
What you charge should be in alignment with the value you bring and skills + services you are providing.
Be known for ONE thing but make sure that one thing is what you enjoy and/or want to be known for.
Have a compelling message behind your brand and courage to speak that message even if that turns some people off or away.
Dominate your space—you don’t have to the loudest or biggest—just be the most visible and the most valuable.
Go the extra mile – research and learn about potential clients and offer solutions and insights, not just your website link.
Invest in yourself as you go – learn new skills, network, join Mastermind groups… do what you need to do grow your business (and yourself)
CONNECT WITH KELLIE
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/kelliedaab