Discussion 2: I hit my first $5k/month. Here's every mistake I made on the way
I hit my first $5,000+/month. Here's every mistake I made on the way. The headline is more to grab your attention than to brag because the rest of this post is not going to be nearly as sexy. I wanted to write this post for people who are struggling to make their first $1,000 or $5,000 – I want to give you an inside look to how I did this, not overnight, but what the ugly, drawn-out process looked like for me.
There's no get-rich-quick tips here. There's no "hacks." No "shortcuts." I'm a very unlucky person who feels very lucky to be able to make this amount from my laptop at home while dealing with my endless medical issues.
Background information about the business:
• Name/URL: It's my username. I probably don't even show up on Google – also, I don't have social media outside of Reddit so there isn't much to look at. P.S. Not a self-promo, I'm booked out and not looking for more work.
• Type of business: "Virtual assistance" – basically, if someone needs an extra hand to do it in their business, I probably do it. My limitations are code/development and design. I am horrendous in those areas.
• Business model: People pay me a flat fee of $1000/month to be their virtual assistant for a flat fee of $600/month to write 4 pieces of content for them (email or blog only). Note: I don't do hourly fees because I work quickly. I am not going to work for $15 because I did it in 1 hour when someone would do the same work in 2 hours and make $30? When I break it down (I track my hours using Toggl) it's roughly $45-$100/hour per client, monthly.
• Open since: Officially? August < year >. When I started virtual assistance? < year > – which leads me to the rest of this post.
Tidbit about me for context:
• I'm in my super late 20's.
• Single mom, 2 young kids – one isn't in school yet.
• Clinically diagnosed schizo-bipolar, BPD, and PTSD – this is important because I believe this is why it took me so long to get here.
• College dropout with 1.4 GPA. (Criminal Justice)
• Only "legitimate" job was USMC, of which I only did 1 term as a glorified dispatcher.
• Based in the USA. I don't live in a huge city and rent for 3 bedrooms is $900 where I live, to give you context about my choices for pricing.
• MacBook Air: $800 (bought it on Black Friday in < year >, returned by original buyer)
• Mouse: $20
• iPhone 6s: $650 (bought it in < year >, completely paid off)
• Squarespace Domain: $20/year
• Squarespace Business hosting + Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate: $216
• Logo: $29 (hired a friend to do it)
• Canva for Business: $12.95/month
• Limited Liability Company (LLC) set-up + misc. legal stuff: $150 (used ZenBusiness – no affiliation)
• Upwork: $5? Maybe? (You have to pay to bid on jobs)
How I Hit $5,000/Month + All The Mistakes Made:
I didn't really know what a virtual assistant was or how long I had been doing it. I was roughly 18-19 years old, homeless (couch surfing), and needed money fast.
I looked at Craigslist's "odd jobs." Found a job from a now popular p0rn site that paid people $35/hour with a $250 bonus, to label like 800 p0rn videos in 1 week. I was making about $1,000/week doing this but being young and naive, spent it all at once thinking that this money would always be there.
Then they outsourced to India and every American lost their job.
Mistake #1: I put all my eggs in one basket.
From here, I continued to make this mistake. I made a good amount off of Fiverr, only to get my account closed because a client complained about something I don't recall doing (I rather not call her a liar). If it's on
r/WorkOnline and doesn't require a degree, I've probably been there, done that, and continued to put all my eggs in one basket until I burned myself out.
Mistake #2: Lack of self-care/sleep because I wanted to "grind/hustle" = Burn out = Declining mental health = Poor sleep habits = Poor eating habits = Poor hygiene habits = Health problems = etc.
This phase of my life was a blur, but a very important blur because here, I was trial and error-ing different things I could do. I was blogging. I was messing around on Twitter with tools like HootSuite and MeetEdgar. I made websites on WordPress and Wix and Blogger. I took $5/hour
r/slavelabour-style jobs because it's all I was qualified to do.
If I didn't know how to do it, I didn't let the client know. I Googled and spent hours on the forgotten corners of internet forums and Reddit, hoping to find the answer to a hopeless problem.
I didn't sleep much or slept too much. My mental health went ignored. I literally started hallucinating and having meltdowns, which eventually led to my divorce, which will be more relevant later on.
Mistake #3: I widely underestimated what people were willing to throw money at.
Eventually, I learned what a "virtual assistant" was and called myself that. I also learned that a lot of people will pay you to do simple things they can't be arsed to do themselves – like upload a blog post, write an email, or do customer support. Or label p0rn.
Think of a virtual assistant as a virtual "nanny" or "nurse" who does everything for the business/entrepreneur so the business/entrepreneur can focus on making money.
(You're probably wondering where I found my clients. Upwork. Craigslist. Seriously.)
By this time, I was making about $1,000/month – which is barely enough to live on. I apply for food stamps to eat, at this point.
I slogged like this for a few more years, until my ex-husband had a mid-life crisis. He kicked me and the kids out.
Mistake #4: Being comfortable. Not having a savings/emergency fund.
My credit score sucks due to poor money decisions (don't worry, I'm subscribed to
r/leanfire now to learn money handling skills) so I couldn't take out a loan to move. My Discord friends and 3 IRL friends (I don't have family, it's just me) loaned me about $500 altogether. I told all of my clients what was happening – partially so they could find a replacement or expect me to go MIA.
To my surprise, ALL OF THEM, immediately asked, "How can I help?" One of my clients gave me a $500 advance on our retainer and contracted me to set up a Squarespace website for another $500. Another client put together a PDF of resources for single mothers and government assistance.
I spent every penny I made as a virtual assistant, on this move.
There is something life shaking about being homeless and alone (which I was when I started this journey). There's something terrifying about the idea of being homeless and alone – especially when children are involved.
This is the turning point that lit a fire under my ass.
I set a goal to hit $5,000/month by December < year > – 3 virtual assistance clients at $1,000/month a pop and 4 writing clients at $600/month. I also take side projects that are non-retainer.
Problem? I was very f*cking alone.
Mistake #5: Underestimating the power of people. Being a dick. Thinking I knew better. Shitting on coaches and guru's that I've never met.
Here was my strategy, since I don't have friends, ad spend money, or time:
• Think of all current clients and clients from the last 6 months who have money and never had issues paying me. Pitch them the $1000/month idea. (Only one, of 10, converted, BUT THAT'S 1/3 SECURED).
• Make Facebook account
• Join 20 Facebook groups per day. Filter them. Add the top 10 (engagement and where my potential clients are) pinned to shortcuts.
• Add 500 friends/day who are potential leads.
• Make a website with a landing page for my business.
• Make people laugh. (Yeah, seriously. Entrepreneurship is so stuffy and stuck up sometimes, I needed a way to catch people's attention).
• Help people and don't pitch. (Because it's < year > and everyone is pitching and when you don't pitch, people wonder who the hell you are and look at your profile, where you can conveniently leave your URL)
• My flat fee is $1,000/month. I will not take a dollar less. It's $500 upfront to secure me and I do not work until the next 2 weeks ($500/biweekly) is paid in full. I cannot chase non-paying clients.
I don't have a "page" by the way. This is all my personal account. I did this religiously for 2 weeks and posted a lot of business-related memes. I shared stories about labeling p0rn. People laughed and told me they really liked my "energy." They felt safe.
I went into Facebook groups and answered peoples questions and calmed them down when they had business issues. "My email marketing tool is not sending out my broadcasts" "I am not reaching over 10% open rate in my emails." All those years of Googling and slogging away paid off.
Where do coaches and gurus come in? They have an audience. I learned that they are not necessarily going to make you rich but they are a pay to play model. I joined some girl-power group led by a guru ($15/month) and bought myself into her audience. I told her straight up, "Look, I'm trying to book out and this is what I do. Here's my website." She blasted my info to her audience. I ate a slice of humble pie and stopped doing the shit-on-coaches crap.
My funny memes? People shared them.
Every time someone offered "free coaching calls" I took them up on it. I wrote glowing reviews, which they SHARED. For the last month, people in these circles constantly saw my name and face. If these coaches and gurus with thousands of followers were vouching for me, I am trustworthy, and if I am trustworthy, my website is worth looking at.
The rest was a waiting game. If people emailed me, I emailed back within 6 hours. If they inquired about me on Facebook messenger, I messaged back the same day.
People booked calls with me and talked to me. I had to talk to a lot of people before someone finally said yes, but who the f*ck cares. THEY SAID YES.
This weekend, I booked out. I had to decline two people this morning because I just don't have time for more clients. I put them on a waitlist. But now I've secured $5,000/month minimum on retainer clients and I'm building my waitlist.
Also, paid all my friends back.
But, this brings me to my latest mistake:
Mistake #6: No source of passive income and capping income.
I've capped myself at $5,000/month :( So… what the hell do I do now?
I'm going to create a source of passive income which I won't talk about here so it doesn't become a pitch. I'll attempt to scale it to $5,000/month. After that, I'm going to convert my virtual assistance clients to digital marketing clients and work on commission so my income ceiling is higher. I've never made more than $5,000/month so I don't know what I don't know and I intend to continue making mistakes along the way.
Also, this subreddit hates coaches, but the majority of my clients are coaches. Best part? They have money. I plan on hiring one who offered me a very valuable free coaching call a few weeks ago.
I spent a lot of time learning random skill sets and then learned people will hire me for the skill set. Spent years doubting myself and undercharging. Ex kicked me and the kids out. I panicked. Set up a website. Mass networked on Facebook. Did a shit-ton of free calls to get free business tips from guru's. Bought into low-entry groups for more visibility. Made people laugh. Did even more shit-tons of "discovery calls" for potential clients. Answered a lot of emails and inquiries. Asked. For. Help.
And there you have it. None of this was glamorous or sexy, and I took almost a decade to get to $5,000/month but every journey starts somewhere, right?
Hope this was helpful to someone out there. Have a good one.
Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) Edit:
Hey, wow, thanks for the response. My email, Direct Message (DM)'s, inbox, and the comment thread here is pretty flooded but I'll try to answer as many questions as possible in between my breaks.
The best way to get ahold of me is through email or commenting, I can't quite figure out how to thread Reddit messages to maintain context :/ (If someone has a better system for organizing the inbox stuff, let me know)
To make your lives easier, let me answer some FAQ. Please note that I am not an affiliate or endorsing any of the links I post – it's just stuff I found useful. Hire/buy at your own risk.
How do you manage the kids while being a single mom?
I work with them instead of against them. My kids are monsters after 12pm (as most kids are due to being overstimulated and tired). I get up at 5am and get the bulk of my work done before 11am. My 1st grader is in school, 3 year old watches tv and eats breakfast (which I cook in bulk so I can microwave it quickly). By noon, I'm tired, my kids want my attention, and I can't slog through work if they need me so I do household chores, cook, spend time with them, during this time. They're in bed at 6:30pm and I spend the evening doing self-care, taking courses on Skillshare, reading, etc.
Are you hiring/subcontracting? Are you taking mentees?
Yes and no. First off, I only work with USA-based subcontractors and mentees because I can't begin to understand the cultural impact and obstacles that comes with being an overseas contractor. Second, I'm looking for a very specific type of subcontractor – they've already Virtual Assistant (VA)'d for several businesses and have an interest in problem-solving (a core skill every contractor needs). I'm currently not mentoring but would highly recommend:
• Check out your local SCORE for free mentors:
• Getting an accountability buddy in
• Work exchange with a coach. I did this a few times. I offered unpaid Virtual Assistant (VA) work in exchange for a coaching call. This also lead to paid clients in the past because coaches = big network/influence.
Are you saying we should use your strategy "shotgun" method on Facebook?
Absolutely not. You should determine where your audience is, figure out how they respond, and design your marketing strategy to put yourself on their radar. The Facebook strategy worked for me because it's specific to my target audience. You have to reverse engineer a strategy for your audience. This requires a lot of trial by fire, by the way. You probably won't figure it out the first dozen times you try. Remember, you're reading my TLDR. I didn't get into all the different crap I tried that didn't work (like trying to run a Facebook ad and paid $60 for a lead.)
Do you have any recommended resources/books/guides?
r/Stoicism subreddit. Getting my mind right was a huge stepping stone for me. Stop whining. Stop complaining. Stop making excuses. Stop keeling over when things suck. Stop idolizing people. Stop caring when people talk shit or praise you. Be in the moment, work, help other people succeed, rinse, repeat.
• Don't buy a course. Get Skillshare and learn what you need to learn for much cheaper:
• Read. Get a subscription on Scribd:
• Learn copywriting. It'll help you write emails, websites, content, sales pitches – it is the most crucial skill to being able to sell, in my opinion. My favorite resource for copywriting (if you're a designer, warning, you WILL throw up at the design):
https://kopywritingkourse.com/blog/ (You don't need to buy his course but if you do, he does "tear downs" which was really valuable to me.)
Can you help me? Can you refer clients to me? Can you help me make money?
Well, tell me what you've done to help yourself, first. If you message me but you don't know what type of work you want to do, what kind of clients you want to work with, or made a lot of attempts and failures already, you have to get your feet wet. I'm not saying that to be a dick, you only know what works and what doesn't by doing it. You also have to be able to define a measurable way to track your success/lack of. If you've already jumped in the trenches and it's not working, sure, we can shoot some ideas back and forth. If you're hoping I just hand you a strategy or trust a random Redditor with my referrals, I'm sorry, but that won't help you. There is a difference between being handed the answer key to a test and working hard to understand the material for an exam. One will build you a solid foundation, the other will sustain you for a week and then you'll be back to square one because you didn't learn anything.
Discussion 1: The 7 Fatal Mistakes an Entrepreneur Will Face
The 7 Fatal Mistakes a New Entrepreneur will Face My name is Franco Shaw and I own and operate a business with a rather interesting reputation. On one hand, our product kicks ass and we've been featured on Huffington Post, New York Times, The Today Show, Celebrities Worldwide and have even been in Drakes "KIKI" Video (Product placement).
The interesting reputation comes from inventory fulfillment and terrible warehouse management. (Since of-shot this to a third party distributor to handle fulfillment)
I thought I would write the 7 Fatal Mistakes that have tarnished my brands reputation over the years and help some new Entrepreneurs with situations that will arise for any new growing business.
1. Being a WANT-repreneur
• We all have that family member or friend who is constantly talking about their business idea or how they're going to invent something. I've heard it from relatives countless times (especially after the financial success of my own invention). Once you "make it" everybody wants to hop on board and think of their own ideas/concepts that will take them from zero to hero, like they saw you go through. The fix to this is to stop talking about your ideas. There was a study published some time ago where they took 100 individuals and made 50 actually work on their project and 50 write down the ideas regarding their project. At the end of the 3 hour work period, the 50 individuals who wrote the ideas felt more accomplished then the 50 who actually worked on their idea. What does this mean? The mind can be tricky, dopamine and feeling accomplished can be obtained from procrastinating about your grand idea. The individuals who actually worked on their projects felt terrible afterwards, they realized just how much more work they had to accomplish in order to attain their goal within their business/idea. The takeaway from this is to stop talking to people about your ideas/business. Sit down, grab some coffee and start. I wish I did this way earlier.
2. Plan Ahead… but not too far Ahead
• New Entrepreneurs like to plan for sales that haven't yet been attained. Take Kickstarter for instance. When I launched Frank Anthony Shorts, my initial goal was $10,000. I was 18 years old at the time and I thought $10,000 was insane money. We ended up raising 10X that amount in 30 days and I was so excited but petrified at the same time. I knew just how much order fulfillment that would require. Not to mention customer support or inventory management. I had no mentors, (Nobody in my family is business savvy) so I had to learn the old fashioned way. Through failing and failing over and over again. If I could give some advice to new Entrepreneurs it would be to plan for tomorrow, not next year. Think about small goals first, scale to your first 10-100 clients/customers. Dreams are great, but stay focused with current events within the business. If you've yet to achieve a single customer, focus on attaining that single sale. It will help keep you focused on daily tasks and keep you grounded.
3. Know Your Industry
• Getting into Business is a lot of fun when done correctly. Especially when tackling a solution to a problem you've found. It's your job as the founder to familiarize yourself with everything you can within that niche. If you're in the landscaping business for instance, research the top landscaping companies in the area. Read customer reviews for those businesses. What are they doing right/wrong. Why are they the best landscaping business? What can you do better? This goes for every industry. We're in an era unlike any other for business ventures, a small change within an industry can make you a multi-millionaire in no time. My advice would be to know the industry inside and out so you're prepared for changes, new advancements within the niche and your competition's strongpoints/weaknesses. For instance, Landscaping is an old-fashioned telephone/Google Ads business. Create an app in your area where people can input their addresses and pay a monthly fee/one-time fee for landscaping services without having to speak to somebody on the phone to schedule the appointment. Just an idea, but if I researched landscaping I'm sure I could find some flaws that can be profitable to fix.
4. Love What You Do
• This one is a tough pill to swallow for me. I don't love swimwear nor do I love my job realistically. I find small pockets within my job that I enjoy (designing, product development, meeting suppliers, traveling) However if you we're to tell me in high school that I would become a millionaire from Swimwear I would have never believed you. You have to be passionate about what you're going to get involved with, because at the end of the day when you're tired and don't feel like working anymore, it's the passion that will carry you through. If you truly love your business you will never work a day in your life (corny but true). So get involved with something you will like to do. I'm not saying make your hobbies your business, I mean if you're a people person and love meeting new people and traveling, find a niche business where your passions are met. My personal favorite thing to do is to find solutions to problems and develop products/businesses around them. Pretty broad, which is why I am constantly finding new things to work on. You'll make more money this way too, trust me.
5. Stop comparing yourself to other Entrepreneurs
• Another big mistake I see new Entrepreneurs making is giving up early because we're currently living in a world where social media consumes the masses into believing bulls***. We're so full of gurus and Entrepreneurs who claim things that can't be proven to sell you a "course" or an "e-book" that will put all the puzzle pieces together to make you rich! …. Right, complete bullshit. Stop comparing yourself to the 18 year old Dropshipping Expert in his Dads Maserati. Start small and build your business/brand from the ground up. Comparison is the thief of joy, so keep your head up and away from accounts/people who make you feel less valuable. You have your own strong-suits that they don't. Just. Keep. Grinding.
6. Pursue a Healthy Lifestyle
• It seems cliche, but I know so many Entrepreneurs who are super successful but have terrible eating/exercise habits. Lets face it, when you're looking at the cream of the crop Entrepreneurs little to none are physically fit/taking their health as a priority (Aside from Tim Ferris and many more) I'm talking about those 9-5 Execs who are pounding back 3-4 Whiskeys a night due to stress/meeting Quarterly earnings. Start small, drink more water, start running/jogging, hit the gym. The best clothing you can wear is your own body. I never worked out because I wanted to "workout my wallet" instead. (Grant Cardone said that all the time… yikes) Here's the deal, when you're physically fit, It showcases dedication, discipline, hard-work and commitment without saying a word. Now that's somebody who has the fundamentals to become successful in life. It's all balance, those gym bros who spend 4 hours a day working out have the wrong idea. Just start a daily exercise routine, you'll appreciate it in your 50's.
7. Make time for Family and Friends
• Mental health is so important for Entrepreneurs to truly succeed. When I was making Frank Anthony I was so depressed because I cornered myself in my room all day and worked non-stop. In reality I could have done the exact same whilst maintaining a balanced mental state. Depression can be a scary thing and it will play into your work 100%. Set time aside in the week to unwind from your project/business. I find when I'm out with friends or family I may have sparks of inspiration that play into business ideas that end up making me more money then if I was to just work that entire day. Sparks of inspiration can come from anywhere, so get out there. Afterall, I came up with the idea for Hydrophobic Nanotechnology Swimwear at a Prom "After Party". I jumped into the pool and came out soaking wet for the rest of the night, I thought "there's gotta be a fabric out there that will dry fast…" Here I am 6 years later.
Overall, the messages written above are guides that I find to be helpful/would have been if I had read them earlier. As a first time Entrepreneur in my family I've had to fall flat on my face to learn how to build a business (and I'm still failing today). But one thing is for certain, and that is everyday I try to be better than I was yesterday. In business, in life, and in figuring out why the hell we're here in the first place. Entrepreneurship is a rocky road, but with the right shoes you'll be fine and will have the adventure of a lifetime. So buckle up and get riding!
Thanks and I hope this helps.