I watched an incredible Facebook Live video yesterday, and I’m so excited to share this with you.

If you’re just getting started as a virtual assistant, this is a key piece of the puzzle right here. Scroll down if you’re keen to jump straight into the video, or keep reading for my preamble to go with it.

Let’s start here…

Beginning a virtual assistant career or reaching your monthly income target can be a really slow slog if you go about it by diligently ‘looking for work’ online.

Huh?!

Say what?!

You’d think that’s what you’re supposed to be doing, right? Taking those daily action steps to…

  • find the online work
  • find the VA job opening
  • find the subcontracting role on a virtual assistant or digital marketing team

It’s confusing, because that is how it works in the corporate world. Or in hospitality, or in retail, or in any type of building trade. Companies have a somewhat fixed structure of employee and management roles, and a certain number of people needed to meet the current level of demand.

They have an opening to fill.

They advertise that they’re hiring.

You go looking for those hiring announcements.

And you apply. Do that enough times and you land the job.

Show up on time and do what’s asked of you each day, and the paychecks start coming in.

In our old life as employees, whenever we needed income to pay the bills, it was this ‘looking for work’ motivation — so deeply ingrained in us from childhood while watching our parents do the same — that we drew on for success in landing a job.

When I’ve seen people unknowingly carry this same approach into the online business world — where entrepreneurs and freelancers collaborate as equal business owners — the result is often a frustrating struggle to find the work.

You see, there aren’t too many online entrepreneurs out there with an in-house HR department, ready and waiting to allocate the salary budget for onboarding new staff this quarter.

But there are a whole stack of profitable entrepreneurs with simple business problems they need help with right now, and will gladly pay for that help.

Here’s another way of putting it…

The number of business owners who are overtly ‘hiring’ in the online business world is a ridiculously small percentage of the volume of new client work that is actually being secured by proactive freelancers each and every day.

And while this may seem like a roadblock for getting your virtual assistant career off the ground as a newbie, I’ve just never observed that to be the case.

The way I see it…

An incredible opportunity to form win-win collaborations with fellow business owners (your future clients), where you’re getting rewarded with both income and personal fulfillment to help solve lots of little online biz problems, big and small.

And all that’s required to finally move out of the looking-for-work, no-clients + no-income struggle, is a subtle mindset shift in the way you research for and then reach out to potential clients.

Where once that unspoken dialogue in the back of your mind was:

Who is hiring? Where is the work?

… you proactively replace those subconscious questions to yourself with:

Who could I help? How could I help them?

This seems like such a tiny little nuance. I realize. Almost like it could be just something random for me to blah blah about in a blog post. 🙂

And, it’s made even more confusing by the fact that you can still start a VA career successfully before you’ve made this mindset shift. You will find ‘jobs’. Business owners will ‘hire’ you.

But what I’ve observed over these past 6 years… in myself, in VA colleagues, in team members, in people I’ve interviewed or considered contracting into my own business or into a client’s business on their behalf, in the people that have completed digital skills training with me… is that yes… this mindset shift is absolutely needed for long-term stability, reaching income targets and then continued income growth from there.

In the virtual world of work, the money really is in helping people — your clients and your potential clients and referrers. This is the future of work. And it’s awesome.

Now, despite my strong desire to pass on this nuance to aspiring freelancers right at the outset of their career transition, I often struggle to find just the right words to do so.

When people write to me asking something along the lines of:

“Is online work really possibly for me? Is it really as easy as you make it sound? Can I really replace my corporate salary working online? Please be honest.”

… depending on the tone of their request, I’ve replied with something to the effect of:

“If you’re just looking for a part-time job or to get paid while working at home, you might find this to be quite a challenge. But… if you feel any sense of excitement and inspiration bubble up inside at the thought of learning these software tools that I’ve mentioned, or at the thought of helping business owners with their websites and online presence, then yes! You can absolutely do this!”

And while that explanation is okay… sort of… it really doesn’t get right to the heart of matters.

This Facebook Live presentation below… does.

I was nodding along enthusiastically yesterday as I watched it! Click play on the video below to hear Troy Dean, of WP Elevation and Rockstar Empires, explain exactly what’s required to make money in any kind of business, including being an online service provider.

Note: you’ll hear Troy using the words ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘business owner’ in the video above. If that doesn’t resonate for you as an online service provider starting out, just mentally replace those words with ‘freelancer’ or ‘virtual assistant’. The exact same concept applies.

At the 3:30 min. mark, you’ll hear Troy share that after 8 years of trying to figure out how to make money online, he finally realized that:

“It was my mindset that was the thing that was holding me back. It was the fact that…

I was desperate to make money.

I needed money.

I need clients.

I need to pay the bills.

I need this… me! me! me! me! me!

His advice to get unstuck with your earning potential:

“Get out of your own head and go and talk to your customers. Ask your customers how you can be more helpful. Solve that problem and the money will come.”

Now, when you actually really need the work and need the money, how exactly can you keep the balance of your focus split 80% (or more) on “How can I help?” and 20% (or less) on “I need money”. Here are a few ideas that I’ve used at various stages:

1. Use the dig-into-it-deeper technique. In the 1959 success classic, The Magic of Thinking Big, author David J. Schwartz explains this simple little technique to develop interest and enthusiasm where before there was none. The basic premise: the more nitty gritty details you can find out about a person, thing or place, the more your interest and enthusiasm naturally expands. Things we know more about become more exciting to us!

The more you go digging up details about your potential client’s business, about online software tools and about online marketing processes, the more your enthusiasm will naturally extend beyond ‘making money from home’ and into specific ways you could offer to help.

2. Know your backup plan. Get rid of that underlying fear for your own financial security and it’s just a whole lot easier to get out of your own head and get the focus off yourself. Read this post for backup plan ideas shared by Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferriss, Dale Partidge, Laura Roeder and… Dan and I!

3. Get comfortable with the fact that you CAN offer valuable help to online business owners, even before you have experience. I recorded a video class where I explain exactly how you can help a business owner before you have experience. Click here to subscribe and watch it. The part you’ll need is the first 25 minutes of the video.

4. Get a financial buffer in place, any way you possibly can. If you need money to pay for your rent and groceries like… yesterday… yes, it’s totally possible to get a well-paying client in a matter of days. I’ve done it — when I’d just lost a full-time client while working as a solo VA. I’ve watched other freelancers do it, newbies and veterans alike.

But there’s a catch.

And that is that you’ll need your mind to be working like a well-oiled, self-belief producing machine. For a huge variety of reasons, we’re not always starting from that point when we begin an online career transition. And that’s why a financial buffer is so helpful. With just a little bit of breathing room, you can free up that survival-focused mental space and get down to the business of brainstorming how you can help.

In 2011, we sold up all the new home furnishings, appliances and home gym equipment that we’d dropped a small fortune on in our attempt to ‘settle down’ in the city suburbs when we first became parents. It was all listed on eBay and sold within 9 days. That was our financial buffer now in place and with it, a fixed window of time in which to make something happen.

Not the most conservative plan, I’ll be the first to admit, but it was the final bold move that got us over the finish line — moving abroad and then getting full-time work online.

In this video over on YouTube, you’ll hear Dan share how we finally came to that decision to sell up, after a natural disaster in our home city.

What will your financial buffer be…

  • Your current day job?
  • A new part-time, evening or weekend job that’s less brain-taxing so you’ve got the capacity to side hustle?
  • Savings?
  • A credit card or line of credit?
  • Your partner being the primary income earner for the time being?
  • Selling up like we did? (yep, big move, but we’ve met many, many families since then who’ve taken this same route, amazingly!)
  • Your first monthly retainer VA client? (one of the best types of financial buffers there is! —  your initial VA income that provides both the financial comfort and the industry awareness to confidently keep reaching out with an offer to help other business owners.)

5. Start by helping business owners who sell a product or service that you already know something about. If you’re always reading cooking and recipes blogs, start researching profitable food bloggers or eCommerce store owners to put on your potential client shortlist. The more enthusiasm you have for the content a business owner is publishing and/or the product or service they’re selling, the easier it can be to let the “I need a paycheck” fear slide into the background, and the “how could I help more?” inspiration move into the foreground.