Work From Home: A Guide to Making Money & Landing Your Remote Dream Job
EPISODE: 53 | DATE: July 29, 2021
“I started working as a virtual assistant and within 3 months I had more than enough full time work and no one to refer it to…So I started mentoring some military spouses on my local base…And 7 years later I have over 5000 students!”
Can you tell us about your training program, Virtual Assistant Internship and why you created it?
- I’ve been running this company for 7 years.
- I myself was a corporate working mom. My son was 2 at the time. My husband was active duty military so he was gone all the time.
- Trying to sustain a corporate career as a solo parent was hard.
- The 2 days of sick leave per year was a joke when your kid is sick all the time.
- It was horrible. So I quit.
- I was depressed, overwhelmed and stressed and so much of my money was going to daycare. An entire paycheck went to daycare.
- And I thought, “this is stpuid. I bet I could figure out a way to make that money from home somehow.”
- My husband was very supportive. He said, “You’re just miserable. We will figure something out.”
- So I quit!
- I knew people were working from home, I just didn’t know how and I was determined to figure it out.
- So I started working as a virtual assistant and within 3 months – there were lots of jobs and I was booked out very quickly, which means I had more than enough full time work.
- I was working as much as I wanted – 40-60 hours a week if I wanted.
- I was able to put my son back into preschool. Part time at first and then more.
- I had so much work and I had nobody to refer it to.
- And all these military spouses and the moms were like, “I wish I could work from home!” but they were stuck in network marketing. They didn’t know any other stuff they could do.
- And there was no program I could send them to. And nobody even knew what a virtual assistant was.
- So I just started mentoring some moms that were military spouses on my local base.
- I met with them once a week, taught them what I knew and then I referred them to the clients that were asking to work with me but that I couldn’t take on because I didn’t have time.
- And then that grew into a Facebook group of a couple hundred people.
- That grew into more and more people who wanted to do the program, and 7 years later I have 5000 students!
That’s such a cool story!
- Thank you!
- I’m mostly proud of the work that we’ve been able to do to help all of these men and women and all these different kinds of people to be able to work from home.
- I get messages saying you changed my life!
- Because it’s not just about being able to work from the pool or while your kids are at soccer practice.
- It actually has a lot of deeper themes than just that and so being able to hear people’s stories of how it’s been able to help them has been so rewarding.
Can you tell us more about what it entails to be a virtual assistant? It’s not a blanket one size fits all, right? Do you need specific skills across an array of specialties?
- There are all these different kinds of business owners around the world that have online businesses or they have an in person business.
- Let’s say someone owns a small boutique, for example.
- Well it’s not like there is a big office in the back where somebody is helping them get the bills paid, managing their social media accounts, emailing people about the new products that came in, helping to take some new photos of the new products – all this admin stuff that needs to happen in order for that boutique to run.
- And if it’s an online business – say a podcast – all this stuff that has to get done that the owner doesn’t have time or doesn’t know how. Or just doesn’t want to do.
- But it all still needs to get done. That’s where a virtual assistant comes in.
- They can work for real estate agents, graphic designer agencies, in person businesses, etc.
- Sometimes we have people who work in the pet industry and they just work for dog walkers and trainers and sitters!
- So there are all different kinds of businesses out there and all of them need help with all this stuff.
- So yes, a virtual assistant can do all these kinds of things.
- But what I really focus on is the top skills that are being requested that we see jobs coming in for every single day.
- For example, my program teaches podcasting from start to finish: how to take an episode for somebody, edit it, write the pieces to it, edit them, get the show notes, make the social graphics to go with it, etc.
- I also teach people how to write a blog post in the client’s voice so it sounds like them.
- I teach them how to write with SEO in mind (search engine optimization).
- I teach people how to use pinterest, how to create social media posts, etc.
- I teach people how to write emails for newsletter, etc.
- My program teaches my students all this stuff that business owners are always asking for from most businesses.
How many courses do you offer?
- The 90 Day Virtual Assistant Internship is the primary course that we have.
- It takes people from 0 -100 in 90 days or less.
- And then we have a couple of other smaller products.
- We have the remote resume blueprint which helps you if you already have some skills and just aren’t getting job responses.
- It helps you to make a remote resume that’s really attractive and amazing.
- It also helps you to do a great cover letter and it has an application checklist.
- Because we see a lot of people that send things with typos or they didn’t attach the right documents so it’s a really nice checklist for them.
- I’m actually hiring for 2 positions right now and the resumes I’ve gotten – I want to reply to people and say, “By this masterclass!”
- Because people don’t know what they’re doing and they don’t realize how quickly they get taken out of the game with these very modern remote companies and what they are looking for.
- It’s not the same as traditional business and corporations.
- And then we also have a smaller product called the work from anywhere virtual summit.
- So for those people who aren’t sure what to do online- they don’t know what the options are – it talks about 15 different online jobs and how you can get started in each of them.
- All of those are on my website https://virtualassistantinternship.com/
- My passion is helping people learn what they can do online, fill in the gap if there is more stuff they don’t know how to do and then get them a job.
- That’s what my brand is about and what I want to help people do.
I’m assuming there is a range of pay for virtual assistant positions?
- For a lot of the stuff I just said and for getting started – it goes from $15-$25/ hr.
- But the cool thing about it is if you take a class on how to be a business manager and you practice that with a business owner, maybe after 3-6 months you can bump yourself up to $40 or even $50 /hr.
- Maybe you decide you want to do more digital marketing stuff. You take a class.
- I’m not saying you have to go to college! Just take a class and say hey person I’m working for, I’d love to be able to move more into a marketing role. Can I take on some of this for you?
- And then you slowly move into the $60-$100/hr depending on what you’re doing.
- So there is a lot of room for growth.
- And you don’t have to just stay at the virtual assistant. You can move on from there if that’s something you want to do.
Let’s talk about any tips for resumes, with a specific focus on advice for any stay at home moms who want to know how to bolster their resume if they’ve been out of the traditional workforce for a while.
- A lot of people really worry about this kind of thing.
- The first thing I would say is that having gaps of employment isn’t that big of a deal.
- Obviously multiple years isn’t great, but having some months and gaps isn’t as big of a deal as you think it is.
- I hire all the time and I’ve never cared.
- I don’t look at the dates. I’ve hired tons of people and I’ve placed hundreds of remote workers with remote companies as well.
- So nobody really cares about these little bits where you took a few months to do whatever.
- But if you’re talking about the years of unemployment, you definitely don’t want to put stay at home mom on your resume.
- But what I feel like people don’t realize is you actually probably did a lot of stuff as a stay at home mom.
- You most likely volunteered. Maybe at your local church or school or online or something. That all counts.
- Did you do any freelance work? Because you can put “self employed” and list what you did.
- You don’t need to share that you had 1 client for 5 hours a week for only a few months. Just list all the things you did for that job.
- And the other thing that I always like to ask is, “Did you write a book? Launch a course? Launch a business?” Put that on your resume.
- Even putting “sabbatical” on your resume is going to be better than nothing.
- And then write the kinds of things that you did that make you look like you weren’t just sitting around watching tv with your kids for 3 years because I know that most of us weren’t!
- In our heads we think, “I haven’t done anything!” And it’s not true. You just haven’t done anything sitting in an office somewhere.
Yes. There is an organization called Hey Mama and they actually have a campaign to put motherhood on the resume and to list the skills: conflict resolutions, negotiations, scheduling, planning – all the things you have to do as a parent.
- I love that. But you’re only going to be able to use that if you’re applying for female led companies that are really modern and are going to be like, “You’re a mom, we get you.”
- Literally most companies don’t fall into that. And most of the companies are led by men that are old so they’re not going to value that.
- So unfortunately it’s not going to be helpful for you if you try to do that.
- No one is going to be like oh cool, she’s a mom! So that part is hard.
- I also would say if nothing else take some classes and keep your skills up. Take some online classes.
- Because yes maybe you were a mom for 3-4 years but the industry moves so quickly.
- So if you were a social media manager 4 years ago, virtually none of your skills will be applicable anymore.
- And it’s not on your future employer that they aren’t valuing that you were a stay at home mom for 4 years. It’s just that you actually don’t know how to do this job anymore!
- One more thing that people don’t think about is a lot of the time you do work for your family members. A lot of people have family members that are like oh I’ve been doing bookkeeping for my uncle’s auto shop for 3 years! Put that on your resume!
You seem so skilled in all these areas. How did you learn all of this stuff?
- I feel like when I first started there was no training for virtual assistants so I learned a lot of things on the job.
- And I would take classes and go to conferences. I did the same things I told everyone else to do.
- I would pay attention. There are resources but at a certain point you also have to invest in classes and coaches and mentors and conferences.
- It’s just kind of a constant thing. Everything is always going to be changing. So just as you’re getting used to Facebook and Instagram, then Tik Tok comes out!
- I tell my students – this is now your job. Part of your job is to just be immersed in what is going on in the industry that you’re working in.
- Let’s say just doing podcast stuff: you should be attending the podcast conferences.
- You should be consuming podcast stuff: what are the trends, what’s working well, what’s not working well? That is your world now.
- That’s part of your job. And so I think that’s part of what my job has become.
- You spend time every week and a couple times a year just kind of reinvesting in your skills.
- If you’ve worked for a corporation before, the thing is that they tell you when you’ll go to a training.
- But when you’re staying home or are online and you want advice, there are so many podcasts you can just play.
- I did that all the time! I was a nanny before too. I would play things so I could always be learning.
- I would also listen to audiobooks in the car. There is a lot that you can still be able to feed your brain that’s not, “oh I have to go to this class and sit down.” You don’t have to! There are so many options!
Let’s go back to the resume for a moment. What are some of the most common mistakes people make?
- So many! I actually just wrote a post about it that I’ll post after my hiring closes.
- So my first problem that I see a lot of is – you can use the word document template resume, but I would really encourage you to go onto Canva or something and come up with something different that is going to have a little bit more color and space.
- And maybe when you’re putting what your personality interests are you use some icons instead of just more words.
- Anything that’s going to make your resume stand out more.
- I always say this with a caveat, because if you’re applying to a much more traditional company with older managers, it won’t play as well for them.
- So I always have two versions of my resume.
- But for most companies – especially remote companies – that’s what they expect.
- You’re a mass of resumes. I get 50 resumes per job at minimum.
- Most companies get more.
- So you want to stand out a little bit.
- Also another issues is font size. I can’t even read some of these resumes I’m getting! The font is like 11 because they’re trying to cram everything on it. And I’m just not going to read it.
- I’m just like nope, there is too much on here, I can’t read it all and I’m out.
- So at least do a font size of 12, if not even a little bit bigger.
- But then you’re like, “But then I can’t fit everything!”
- First of all, it’s ok if you need to go onto 2 pages.
- That said, though, another issue I find is that people are throwing crap on their resume that’s not even applicable to the job they’re applying for.
- For example, I had someone apply for a job recently, and not only was the resume terrible, but the position was for an operations coordinator. They had their photography and bartending experience on their. Their title was photographer & writer!
- The skills were an entire page of just words of their skills and I would say 75% of the skills weren’t applicable to the job I was hiring for.
- So you have to really tailor the jobs and the duties you did for that job should be very applicable to what you would be doing in the job that you’re applying for.
- You want to be showing them what you did in that job that you can also now do in this job. And remove anything that doesn’t’ need to be there.
- This is where I see the employment gaps thing.
- Because people think I have to put my waitressing job in there so they can see that I didn’t take 3 months off and it’s like no.
- I don’t want to read about that job unless you’ll put stuff in there that’s applicable to the job you’re applying for, which you can do.
- You can make – we were talking about how you do that with motherhood. Apply that to those other jobs that you had. Did you do anything to do with management, operations – however it would apply to the job.
- Otherwise, take it out because nobody wants to read about that. I’m not even going to look at it.
- So those are my biggest things I see mistakes people make.
- And I cannot express enough how many resumes that people get even if they’re not using one of those HR systems that looks for key words and automatically rolls people out.
- Even if they’re not using that kind of system, we look for how can I get rid of these resumes as quickly as possible so I can pare down my list.
- So you want to make yourself stand out, be applicable to the job you applied for and only have stuff on there that’s relevant. That’s how you’re going to get to the next stage.
- Also don’t try and just mass get your job application pack out to 10 jobs a day or 40 jobs a week.
- Just do a really really good job with 5-8 a week!
- Just really put a lot of time into it and make it killer! Because your goal is just to get to the next stage, which is the interview.
- Your goal isn’t necessarily to get the job.
- The interview is when you’ll focus on getting the job, and where you’ll determine if the job is right for you or not. Because the interview goes two ways. Do you even really know you want to work for them yet?
- Also another thing I would say is helpful is if you can just pare down how many jobs you’re applying for and really take your time and show the company that you took your time.
- Show them that you care about their brand and write about it in your cover letter.
- Otherwise you’re wasting your time and it’s better if you didn’t even apply at all.
Let’s talk about online skills that businesses are looking for. You’ve got a free course coming out about that. Can you give us some examples of some of those skills?
- Yes! I have a free class called The Top 10 Online Skills Businesses Are Looking for in 2021 – it’s available now.
- But some of the ones I talked about:
- Podcasting from start to finish.
- Writing – blog writing.
- Social media.
- Video editing.
- Blogs are just never going to go out of style and I love blog writing because once you learn how to do it, you can literally write about any topic even if you’re not familiar with it.
- And you can do it in the business owner’s voice.
- And then you can apply to work with businesses or brands that align with your interests.
- So yes I can write about plants even if it’s not my passion.
- You can align it with things you’re passionate about – like pets and animals. People are like, “What you’re going to pay me to write about dogs – yay!”
- Also social media never goes out of style.
- So how to make little tik tok videos and reels, IGTV and YouTube videos – and just simple editing.
- It’s not simple that anybody off the street can do it. But it’s simple in that video editing isn’t just for people in Hollywood and we’re hiring these expensive editors.
- No no no. There is all this video editing stuff that comes free in your computer or phone and it’s very inexpensive.
- You can learn how to make high quality videos that are short, easy, quick, strategic and you can churn out a bunch of those videos every week for different brands.
- And that makes them money because they’re promoting their brand and they are getting new followers so they’re getting highly desired skills.
- So podcasting, writing, social media, video editing will always be really hot, at least for this year.
So now how would somebody go about finding a job like this? Because I think of things like Fivver and people hour…is that where people go to find these jobs?
- You can. I don’t like those sites very much.
- Some people do have success on Fiverr. I do know a handful of students that do.
- I don’t like upwork type sites and they tend to attract people trying to find the lowest people they can pay for tasks.
- They’re not looking for a long term relationship.
- And a lot of my students get screwed and they don’t get paid.
- Upwork – they will always side with the business owner.
- So you can write 10 articles for them and then not get paid and upwork will say you didn’t do a good job, sorry!
- And then there are people that say oh well, let’s not do it on Upwork. Let’s just do it through skype and then you don’t get paid.
- This has happened to so many of my students that I don’t recommend those sites.
- For every one person who has had success there, 20 say it was bad.
- There are some great remote work focused job sites.
- You can also just go to companies that are remote and follow their careers pages and then when they post new jobs, apply for them.
- There are also great Facebook groups.
- Go on Facebook and search remote work or work from home and you’ll find some. You have to be a little picky and choosy.
- There is a great community called Digital Nomad Girls – they post jobs.
- Also I have a Facebook group called Work from Home Jobs Plus Remote Work Resources. And it’s free and we post 10 jobs a week.
- We work remotely is another all remote job site.
- I think most freelancers don’t want to do these random gigs here and there.
- You’d really love to have longer term people to work with so that every month you’re getting paid. But you can still work on flexible time. So you’ll find those jobs there.
In our communication before this recording, you mentioned 5 mindset shifts moms can make in order to feel comfortable getting support at home. Can you tell us about those?
- It’s a lot of mindset stuff more than it is what we think it is.
- We think, “Oh I can’t afford that or I can’t do that.”
- It’s usually not that. It’s usually more of a mindset thing.
- So the biggest thing I like to tell people is painted illustration. In our culture, particularly American culture but a lot of western culture, it’s not normal for us to have help.
- That’s for rich people and we have issues identifying with being rich people.
- It doesn’t work for us. We have this whole American dream thing about working hard and doing it yourself.
- I lived in Bali for 3 years before the pandemic.
- People hire help! We had a full time family assistant in Bali.
- They were our best friend. I still talk to them all the time.
- They loved our family and did everything. They didn’t just clean. They took care of my son and ran errands and did groceries and meal prep, took my son to school, to the doctor, to birthday parties.
- It was great and culturally normal.
- You would go to a birthday party and it would be all of these nannies and you’d have all of them there. It was normal.
- That was a huge cultural awakening for me. It’s not normal in America but it should be.
- So no we don’t need someone full time necessarily. But even just 10-20 hours a week is good.
- And that’s not just someone coming in once a week to clean and the house is trashed again by Tuesday.
- You can have someone who does tidying and light cleaning and laundry every time they come.
- So first of all, we need a cultural shift. It was eye opening for me to see that this was quite normal in other cultures and parts of the world. So you first have to normalize it for yourself.
- Other things I would say is we have that American dream of I can do it all by myself. Also not at all true.
- You don’t need to. There is no need to.
- You’re not proving anything to anyone by doing it all by yourself.
- If anything what example are you showing your kids?
- This is all mommy does! She just cooks and cleans. There is value in showing them that mommy has other interests in things.
- My son is so thankful that I work. He’s said we’re so lucky you work so we can travel and do fun stuff!
- And I spend time with him but then I’m like ok mom has to go work now and he’s like ok! It’s fine! So it’s just different.
- And another one I notice goes much deeper and one I’ve worked on for the last couple of years is that we don’t feel valuable unless we are doing, unless we are productive, unless we are in motion and doing something.
- So it’s very hard for us to justify not doing any chores and housework when I’m done with the work and just sitting with our family or reading. We can’t do that.
- We don’t value our worth in that so we have a lot of issues wrapped up in that.
- I read a really good book called Do Less and that talked a lot about what we’ve wrapped up in our value.
- Because the truth is your value never changes from the day you were born.
- It was always the same – whether you have someone do your laundry or not – doesn’t’ matter.
- Whether you want to be done with work and just read a book and sit around with your kids and hang out is ok.
- You don’t have to be running around doing all the things- because why? This is a made up standard that you’ve made up or that you think you have to be doing it all.
- If I stop moving, what does that say about me?
- There is a lot that’s buried in there that you kind of have to pull apart for yourself.
As more and more offices are beginning to open up and require their employees to come back into the office, do you have any advice for parents who are wanting to continue to work remotely? How can they make that a permanent change?
- Before I answer that, I do want to also talk to the people who think they hated working from home during the pandemic. Because it wasn’t a normal circumstance.
- Normally when you’re working from home your kids aren’t climbing all over you.
- Also you can go to cafe or co working space.
- When I lived in Bali before the pandemic – we left because of that.
- I was rarely home all day. I was there only if I had meetings and podcasts to record.
- Otherwise I was going to cafes or meeting up with a friend or going to their house and working for the day. So working from home is much more social than you think it is.
- As for pitching to your company to let you continue working remotely, there are a few things you can do.
- Your company was already letting you work remotely so the fact that they are saying everyone needs to come back – do they really?
- They’re probably just being very old school and they think that’s what they are supposed to do. So I would challenge it a bit in a way that’s strategic.
- So I would look up legally if there is anything that needs to be done differently that might cost them money.
- Some people don’t realize this but when you hire employees from different states, you have to set up a whole entity in that state.
- So if your company is located in Arizona and they hire you in Oregon, it’s a lot of work for them.
- So maybe they didn’t do that in the pandemic and now if they want to keep you remotely it’s a bit of some hoops they have to jump through.
- Or maybe they have half the team that are coming back and they’re like you just can’ be the only one.
- And you need to prove to them that yes, you can and here is why it would work and how other teams do it.
- People have been working from home and remotely for a long term, not just recently. So prove to them that it will work.
- And just always present in a way that’s in their best interest of why you should stay working from home.
- And then as a last resort you can just be open to how about I just try coming back 2 days a week and then being home the other 3 and if that’s still not working, have a backup plan.
- Because companies want to keep you, and if you can say alright this isn’t going to work for me anymore there are lots of remote companies that are hiring and I’ll go and work for them, they will probably try and make it work for you.
- But also be ready for them to say ok bye.
- I don’t know that that would happen – in the current climate, companies are struggling to get employees right now.
- But you do need to present it in a way that’s in their best interest.
- How is it going to help your productivity? How is it going to make them more money? How are you going to stay connected to your coworkers?
- You have to be very proactive in how you present it. Think about a presentation and have a backup plan.
When it comes to someone launching an online business like you did, what advice do you have for when it’s time to hire a team, even if you don’t necessarily have the money to do so?
- I didn’t pay myself this huge amazing salary until recently, and even then it’s not what people think it is.
- There are going to be seasons and times of hustle of course in the very beginning and maybe when you’re doing a launch. Of course.
- But otherwise – do you really want to be doing 5 people’s jobs forever? What’s your exit strategy here?
- Is it ok that you make a little bit less money for a few months while you bring somebody up to speed and then make more money? Yes. It’s an investment.
- The things you’re giving them – give them things that will move your business ahead so you can do other things that will also move your business ahead.
- So you can do this in two ways: One, give the person you hire PR stuff, social media, emails – things that will make you money and that need to be done.
- These things aren’t necessarily going to make you money directly and right away It’s not going to be as obvious as that. So you do need to trust that is working.
- In these cases, it’s going to take some months before you see the return on investment.
- But now you don’t have to do it and you’re freed up to do other things.
- Then let’s address the, “Oh I can’t afford it.” Ok fine. But can you try to change your life for a few months so that you can?
- You can start with someone $200 a month and see how many things they can alleviate. Maybe they launch your podcast. There are different ways you can do it but I always recommend starting as soon as you possibly can because you’ll get that ROI more quickly.
Do you have any parting words of wisdom?
- I would say come up with the vision of what you would like this to ideally look like.
- How much money would it be to not be stressed or hire help?
- How much time would you like to work?
- What kinds of things do you enjoy doing?
- When I first did this 7 years ago, my dream was to be able to travel the world and bring someone with me to watch my kid.
- And I did it. It took 4 years but I did it.
- Now my dream is I want to work part time and have someone else work for me part time and travel when I want to.
- When you write out your vision then you can make steps on how to get there.
- A lot of the time we get stuck in our day to day and we get really overwhelmed and we get almost too idyllic and then we get frustrated that we can’t make that happen.
- So it might take some years to get to the final destination, but it might not.
- It might just take a year or two.
- And it’ll help you to see what the next steps are that you should take to get there.
- So is it just: I’m just going to start a side hustle and hearn an extra $1000/month?
- Great. Start taking steps and have that vision in your mind of what you want it to look like and keep taking steps.
- And that vision might change. You might get pregnant again or want to homeschool your kids or hate something you tried and decide you want to go back to a normal job. That’s ok.
- Just have something in mind so you can start to take steps towards it. I find that helps a lot when we’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed, unappreciated, etc.
Esther Inman is the CEO and founder of Virtual Assistant Internship and the host of Help Me Work Online, Esther. Over the years, Esther has helped thousands of women from all walks of life across the world work online as virtual assistants, creating virtual careers they love. Esther has been a guest on Her Life by Design and featured on Future Sharks, Career Shifters and Growth Lab among other outlets. Connect with her on Instagram @esther_inman.
You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC0swJfIqsnwtaUn4p_dPIg?view_as=subscriber
Resources mentioned in this episode
Remote work website: Digital Nomad Girls
Remote work website: We Work Remotely
Esther’s Facebook Group: Work From Home Jobs Plus Remote Work Resources
Book: Do Less by Kate Northrup
Online membership for moms: Hey Mama
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