One of the things that I’ve really come to appreciate about building a virtual assistant career is the way you’re able to match your level of involvement — your level of proactivity as a VA — with ever-changing income, lifestyle and family priorities.
Let me give you an example of what I mean by that…
In 2011, when I’d set a goal to increase my rate from $25/hr to $35/hr, the first client who contracted me at the new higher rate was also the first client who had asked me to take the lead in our collaboration.
Of course, they didn’t state the request that directly (“Can you take the lead here please?”) but what they did say, in the context of trying to figure out a social media plan-of-action for their new business, was something along the lines of…
“If I book in a time with you, would you be happy to explain how this works?”
And then, when we were on that initial paid call…
“Right, I think I was just getting stuck before but this all makes sense now. Thank you so much. Well the budget I have for your support at the moment is $x per month. Which parts of this plan do you think we’d be able to get started with?”
Yep, I was nervous and yep, I probably spent about 3 unpaid hours preparing for that 1-hour call.
But wow, I was hooked!
Someone had just happily paid me help them figure out what tasks they could keep on paying me for, every month. I was in effect… delegating work to myself.
If you’re already well-established as a VA, it sounds kinda obvious right? That’s how the VA-client relationship often works.
But from my newbie perspective back then, it was a bit of a revelation.
I didn’t feel confident to officially put myself out there as a collaborative advisor for my clients for at least another year and a half. But from there on my day-to-day virtual assistant work became a blend of implementation and consulting. Getting stuff done and… helping my clients to figure out what and how it should be done in the first place.
About a year into leveling up my proactivity in this way, I needed to make a pretty sudden decision to drop back into more of a supporting role as VA again. We were expecting our third child, and my energy and brainpower had been hijacked by severe morning sickness for several months. (You can read more about that here if you want to.) Thankfully, I had my skills to fall back on. I had that initial intense learning phase squared away.
I kept going with my task-based work, simple ongoing things that clients had already handed over to me, and I dropped the more proactive client collaborations and consulting calls. Although my overall income dropped because of the reduced work schedule, my hourly rate remained the same, even with less initiative now required on my part (try that in the corporate world! 😉 ).
Once I was well and truly back to my normal self in mid pregnancy, I enjoyed a little cruising time before picking back up in late pregnancy, right where I’d left off — ready to take on new challenges, ready to take another step out of my comfort zone to grow my income.
I share that with you because… even though you might be focused on a general direction of growth as you build your virtual assistant career, I think there’s just so much freedom in knowing:
- You can expand and retract and expand again as and when life calls for it.
- You can continue increasing your income as you learn new ways to proactively add value to your clients’ businesses.
- There is demand for your skills, attentiveness and reliable availability as an online business support person, whether or not you decide to also provide your clients with input and advice. In other words, there is demand for people who will competently follow someone else’s instructions, and sometimes that’s exactly what we’d like to do!
Let’s consider what this variation in your level of involvement might look for a specific VA client service — email newsletters and email marketing automation. In order for me to be able to paint a clear picture here, I’ll divide it up into 3 distinct levels and give them a catch-all role title:
- Supporting Virtual Assistant
- Online Business Manager
- Email Marketing Consultant
In practice however, there is no fixed hierarchy, career progression, definitive role titles or relative pay scale. Think of it more like a buffet of component services that you can pick and choose from as you gain experience, or say…
… a continuum of proactivity that you can slide yourself along one way or the other as your life situation or business goals change, just like I did in that little story I shared above.
So let’s get into the examples of some specific email marketing services…
1. Supporting Virtual Assistant
Using your skills and attention to detail to complete work that was delegated with instruction.
As a virtual assistant in a supporting role, you might be:
- Logging into a project management space to access some draft newsletter text from your client each week.
- Proofreading the text and making corrections.
- Duplicating a previously sent email newsletter inside a system like MailChimp, Infusionsoft, ConvertKit, Drip etc.
- Adding the text into the newsletter template, adjusting the formatting to make sure everything looks right (bold, italics, bullets, headings, dividers, spacing etc.) and sourcing any website links or images that need to be included within the text.
- Asking your client or another virtual team member if there’s any particular product, service or event promotion to be included, and collecting the details from them.
- Sending yourself a test to check that everything looks as expected, and then scheduling the email newsletter to send on the specific day/date and time your client requested.
- Formatting and scheduling an automated series of emails using the text, subject lines, timing and recipient details that your client (or leading team member) instructed when handing it over to you.
2. Online Business Manager
Using your more in-depth understanding of your client’s email marketing software and your client’s business goals to proactively improve processes, plan content, integrate systems, make decisions.
As a virtual assistant taking a leading role, you might be doing all of the regular email marketing support tasks above, as well as:
- Creating new sign-up forms inside an email marketing system like MailChimp, Infusionsoft, ConvertKit, Drip and embedding/integrating those forms on a page of your client’s website.
- Making sure that all new email subscribers coming in through those forms are tagged or organized in a logical way, so that the information can be used to communicate with the right groups of people via email later on.
- Preparing and updating an editorial calendar that may combine upcoming blog content with corresponding email broadcasts.
- Planning out the full sequence of emails required for an upcoming product launch, writing the copy for each email and/or writing the outlines for the content and briefing a professional copywriter.
- Reviewing reports inside the email marketing software and helping your client to test and improve things based on what you discover. Which emails in a particular sequence are opened and clicked the most? How many new people are signing up each day/week/month? Where are they signing up from? Which subscribers haven’t opened emails in quite some time?
3. Email Marketing Consultant
Using your expert level understanding of your client’s email marketing software and your client’s business goals to proactively provide advice and improve results.
As a virtual assistant offering your email marketing experience and expertise, you might be doing all of the management style tasks above, and:
- Possibly calling yourself an Email Marketing Consultant…
or Digital Marketing Consultant
or Marketing Automation Manager
or MailChimp Expert
or Funnel Ninja
… and so the list goes on.
- Setting specific results-based targets for, or with, your clients and planning out the steps required to meet those targets.
- Creating new email list segments, email sequences and automation rules that get the right email messages to the right people in co-ordinated email ‘funnels’.
- Collaborating with virtual assistants to get the right copy, links and images into all those email sequences.
- A/B testing emails with different subject lines or send times, reviewing the results and communicating changes through to team members.
- Investigating and testing alternate or additional software systems as the business grows.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but I think it gives a good indication as to how you might want to break things down as you start learning new skills, one email system and service at a time.
How did you feel reading through those tasks?
Champing at the bit to get out and find a new client who will let you do some of the fancy stuff?!
Whatever the feeling is, know this…
The next level of challenge, skill development, income, fulfillment, creativity is always there for you whenever you’re up for it.
Six years in I still feel like I want to/need to up my game. And from what I hear from veteran VAs and freelancers, that feeling is probably not going to go away any time soon. 🙂
Also, just having a general awareness of the overall scope in any particular client service set, even before you’ve learned many of the technical how-tos, can dramatically increase your confidence and capabilities in a supporting VA role when you’re starting out. It can also increase the likelihood that you’ll be ‘taken under the wing’ by one or more experienced freelancers or business owners when you’re getting started as a newbie — free skills development and mentoring is a huge bonus in my experience!
And finally, I think it’s helpful to be aware that moving into more complex services and becoming an expert consultant is certainly not the only way to increase your your hourly rate as a virtual assistant. That’s just one way.
You can also be increasing your rates and total income over time, whilst continuing to work only on supporting-style VA tasks, by refining the way in which you collaborate with clients — providing the type of client service experience that larger clients are often looking for. I teach the practical aspects of creating that type of client service experience within unit 7 of The Online Biz Skills course right here.