You’ve Got To Cut Your Teeth Before You Make It

There is a saying about cutting your teeth in business. You’ve got to go through the struggle and put in your time in order to get what you want in your career.

Have you ever wondered how I built my virtual assistant business and became successful in the first year?

I cut my teeth working as a receptionist in my early 20’s. Within a few years I was working as an administrative assistant and by the time I was 22 I was rubbing shoulders with C-level executives at Fortune 500 companies as their executive administrative assistant.

I just didn’t wake up one day and have a successful virtual assistant business. I worked my tail off to get it. I put in my time. I cut my teeth.

Here’s a rundown on how I got started. It’s important to know so you can gauge if you’ve got the guts to do this for yourself.

My first two years as a virtual assistant started while working for a virtual assistant search firm that matched me with clients.  The great part was that I still had my day job and worked as a VA for a few hours at night.  This was an easy entry into the VA industry and I’d recommend it to anyone that can handle it on top of their existing commitments and responsibilities.

Working with this VA firm meant that I didn’t need to market myself, I just needed to show up to the conference call (with the prospect) and sell myself as the right choice.

Truth be told, I was really good at selling myself. I brought a whole lot of confidence to the (virtual) table and practiced all the possible questions that could come up. Because back when I had a day job I used to review things like this and this.  I always showed up prepared.

I got the job 9 times out of 10. Sure, there was always someone that I just didn’t jive with, but that’s a chemistry thing and has nothing to do with experience.

My clients gave me a lot of work and that’s not because they had an abundance of work for me. It’s because I found ways to increase my billable hours (super important if you’re trading hours for $ which I encourage you NOT to do).  I found problems and suggested action plans to solve them. I didn’t just sit back and wait to be told what to do.  I took initiative and thought one step ahead.

Clients love this.

I was only making 18 bucks an hour back then (2007) as a VA (my day job paid me more, thankfully) and because I’m ambitious I wanted to make more. The way I saw it, If the VA company I was working for charged $35 an hour for my services I should charge $35 an hour for my services.

So in 2009 I opened my virtual assistant business and was hit with some hard realizations. I became acutely aware that I needed to learn how to run an online business..and quickly.

I started reading books about:

MarketingSalesFinance (as it relates to taxes and all that sexy stuff we do as business owners)and Project Management.

Running a business means you’re a one (wo)man show (at least in the beginning). You’ve got to market your business (posting on your Facebook page and Tweeting everyday just isn’t going to cut it) how to sell your services (hint: this means getting a YES from prospects every. single. time), how to manage your finances and how to stay on top of every project you’ve got in the pipeline.

I’ve always known that to be successful in life you have got to hustle.  You have to be proactive and make choices to create the life you want to live.

I hustled day in and day out doing whatever needed to be done in order to get clients (I know what you’re thinking. She’s from Vegas…but I’m talking legit marketing tactics people!).

I never sat around and waited for clients to come to me. Who does that?!

I shouted it out from the roof tops that I was open for business. I told my mother-in-law, my cousin, my old boss, my neighbour, the lady standing next to me at the grocery store.  Hell, I even told my dog (just kidding, I don’t have a dog). I even wore this shirt (don’t laugh, it’s one powerful conversation starter at networking events).

I invested in my business.

I signed up for training courses that cost me hundreds of dollars.  I invested in a website and worked with a coach. All of these things cost me money. Money that I made back and then some. Sure I was sweating at times over the investment because every single penny mattered. But I knew that old saying “it takes money to make money” was a cliche for a reason.

If you’re not ready to cut your teeth and put in the time and effort to expand your skill set and experience and you’re not able to invest in yourself, do you really think you can get clients to pay you and believe in you?

Think about it. When you go on a job interview, don’t you dress for success and try to impress? You wouldn’t just wing it and throw together just any outfit. Why would you wing it with your business? Your biz needs a professional appearance online and off and you’re going to have to invest time and money into that.  Remember, it takes money to make money.

A part of me wrote this blog post to discourage you OR encourage you (depends on the kind of person you are).  You see, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. It requires dedication, hustle, investment and perseverance.  So if you thinking of becoming a VA you’ve got to be ready for the road ahead.

Part of what I do is work with women who are ready to do the work and create the kind of business that will change your life forever but creating a virtual assistant business and creating a successful virtual assistant business are two different things.

So, are you ready?  Leave me a comment below and let me know.

Rock on,


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0 thoughts on “You’ve Got To Cut Your Teeth Before You Make It”

  1. Amen to that – great post Reese. I hustled like a pro to get clients when I was a VA and it worked. I always say, If you’re not prepared to invest in yourself and your business how can you expect your potential clients to invest and trust you?

  2. I absolutely love this article Reese! You hit the nail on the head with this… Even though I am uber experienced in the ‘physical’ world… I am just cutting my teeth in the virtual world. It ain’t easy… but if it was easy it wouldn’t be worth it!
    You are an inspiration….
    Thank you for telling it like it is!

  3. Motivating post! I’ve decided to start this business and I want to make it work, and the truth is my friend. Marketing advice right now is super welcome.Thank you Reese for keeping it real.

  4. Very excellent and very true. You are completely correct that “Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone.” I have recently established my business and am currently feeling the pains of owning my own business. However, I am not one to give up. It might sound odd, but thank you for pointing out that this a difficult adventure but with the right attitude, dedication and encouragement, this will dream will be my success.

  5. Thank you Reese for sharing your story of how you became successful and for the words of wisdom you offer to us! I knew when I decided that I wanted to start my own business that it was not going to be easy (even though a part of me wants it to be!). I am doing the things I I need to get started (improving my skill set, reading books on small business and entrepreneurship, etc. I sometimes feel though I stay in the thinking of starting up phase, instead of just going for it.
    Thank you also for being honest and reminding us that if you want to be successful, you need to put in the work. Whether it is starting a virtual assistant business or maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we need to do the work. When we do that, we can really appreciate the success more.

  6. Yes, I am ready. Now I am just trying to pull it all together and figure out what my business name will be…….So I can work on getting a presence…Reese, do you recommend people having a VA business and using their name as the URL (as you have)?

  7. Great read! I will tell anyone, education is an investment. It may not seem like it while you’re acquiring the eduation but the return a person gets later is worth it. Same with business.

  8. You go, Reese! Tell it like it is!
    I’ve been building my business for nearly 6 years now. I’ve learned a lot and by the way, I did invest in VA training (AssistU) to learn how to create a business out of my skills and experience as an executive assistant in the corporate world.

    And… I have your shirt (2 of them, actually) and have a lot of fun wearing it to networking events!

  9. Thank you for taking the time to write such an informative post Reese. I apologize if I missed this information in a previous post, but would you be able to recommend some virtual assistant search firms that I could register with? Thank you in advance for your response.

  10. Great article Reese! I worked a full time administrative job for 2 1/2 years while building my VA business whenever I could: early mornings before work, late nights after putting in a full day and weekends. It was tough, very tough at times, but I was not happy doing what I was doing whereas I LOVED the client work I was doing and wanted to do that full time! My mantra those 2 1/2 years was this quote: “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” And that was exactly what I did! With the security of that steady paycheck, I built my VA business by taking on more and more clients, all from referrals. When I had more business than I could handle in those little nooks and crannies of time plus a client waiting list, I finally walked away from the day job and haven’t looked back! This business isn’t for anyone, but if you are determined and work hard, good things will happen!

  11. Thanks for the helpful post Reese. I’m still getting started, struggling with confidence and trying to keep up with all the learning that goes along with this!

  12. Powerful post Reese. Thank you for being so detailed and opened on how you worked hard and invested in yourself to build a successful VA business. Extremely helpful.

  13. Reese, thank you. Your website is exactly what I’ve been looking for, for nearly a year now. No nonsense, straight down the line, well written and sensible advice. I have swung from ‘I can do this’ to ‘it’s too scary’ so many times in the past year, but am now at a point in my career where I need to make a decision, and reading your blogs and articles has spurred me on to make the jump. Thank you for the inspiration!

  14. I am a VA who’s just starting out and I have been reading your articles. Great! Thank you so much

  15. I must say this is amazing that even years later, your information is very useful. It is hard to build that confidence when starting a business especially virtually. I myself have just started and find your information to be of very great help.

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