- From California, USA
Founder & CEO at Virtual Assistant Internship
- Business Model: Authority
- $50,000monthly revenue
- $12,500monthly profit
- All info self-reported by interviewee
- Published December 5, 2019
- Reviewed and edited by Rita Epps
Who are you and how do you make money online?
My name is Esther Inman. I am the CEO & Founder of Virtual Assistant Internship and the 90 DAY VA online program.
We teach Moms, military spouses, and anyone who wants to break free from a traditional 9-to-5, how to work online as a virtual assistant.
The 90 DAY VA program teaches the top online work skills, it provides daily online job postings and mentorship, so the women can build a portfolio and qualify for online work as VAs.
When I first started our 90 DAY VA program, each launch would make between $5,000-$10,000.
Which felt AMAZING to add on top of my virtual assistant work.
So far in 2019, we’ve hit over $430K in sales and about 25% of that is profit.
I also offer a group coaching program called Propel, for anyone who wants to build an online business with digital products or wants to scale their VA business.
And we have smaller products like the Work From Anywhere Virtual Summit or Remote Resume Building courses.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
We are now based in Bali (by choice), so it’s definitely not the same as the average online working Momma!
My husband or I take turns waking up to get my son out the door to his small international school (but he’s 9 years old so he can pretty much do it himself now).
Then I answer Slack, DMs, and messages from bed for about an hour and slowly wake up.
Three days a week I start taking calls between 8-10am due to the time difference between Bali and the US.
I’ll go between my home office, coworking spaces or cafes throughout the week to switch it up.
A couple of afternoons my husband and I sneak off around lunch time to go to the gym together and grab lunch.
Then I am usually done for the day – unless I have evening meetings – which is again, due to the time difference.
I am currently trying to only work 3-5 hours per day and have been successful!
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I quit my corporate job and started working as a virtual assistant about 6 years ago.
I was a military spouse and a Mother of a two-year-old and needed a way to make money from wherever my husband’s career took us.
I was quickly so overbooked that I was asking fellow Moms and military spouses on base if they wanted to take some referrals and be a VA too.
I knew they were desperate for a way to earn a real income from home, but none of them knew what I was talking about and how to do the simple online admin tasks I was doing.
So I took it upon myself to mentor a few women which continued to grow into the 1000+ course students we have now.
How did you prepare to launch the business?
My degree and background are in education. I have a teaching credential and developed curriculum as the primary part of my career for many years.
Then I moved into software product management and training for a few years, so I have A LOT of background in digital product development and online courses.
I merged those two when I became a VA and started to niche down to just working with online course creators.
I did all the behind-the-scenes work for their courses – like the research, scriptwriting, slide and workbook development, voice-overs – and would hire sub-contractors to help with building out the actual course site.
I took my VA agency in online course building to six figures, and then shifted to focus just on my own courses.
Building a course takes a long time but the time will go by anyway, right?
So spending it building something that will bring in revenue long term is a fantastic strategy if you can buckle down and do it!
I started by mentoring 3 women FOR FREE. We met one evening per week for a little class, and then they’d have homework.
Then I tweaked it based on areas they struggled with or things I thought needed to be added and recorded everything again and made corresponding worksheets.
Every time I get feedback from my students, or notice they are struggling with something, or the industry shifts and we need to add something – then the product gets tweaked again.
In 2019 we basically redid all the courses and added in 10+ hours of new content.
How much money did you have to spend to get started?
When I started as a VA, the only cost was a proper digital contract signing program + invoicing and payment system.
But VAs can use something like Hello Sign for 3 free contracts per month and just send a PDF invoice via email with their bank info in the very beginning until they make more money.
To build my course, it cost nothing extra.
To make my slides and mentor the 3 women only cost my time.
I hired an intern to build my course site and a basic purchase page (they did it for free for their portfolio).
I didn’t even invest in ads until 2019 (5 years later!).
We’ve since paid plenty of money to re-build the website, enrollment pages, on ads and a brand new course site – but that wasn’t until 2019 when the program was making a great profit.
Talk us through your first few months (or first year) in business.
As a VA, when I saw my clients with online courses making hundreds of thousands of dollars on the courses I built for them…
…I wanted a piece of the pie!
And I genuinely just wanted to help some military spouse Moms – I didn’t think it would turn into the massive program it is now.
The crazy hours and amount of work only happened during months we were open for enrollment. Since I wasn’t doing Ads and didn’t have anyone helping me, I did TONS of email writing, FB group management, answering DMs all day and night…it was nuts!
But I was happy to make $5,000-$10,000 per launch and it really helped boost my VA income in those early years.
The biggest mistake I had was within myself.
I had so much self-doubt and imposter syndrome that it took me 5 years to finally close my VA agency and just focus on my own courses.
I didn’t believe I could make a full-time income from them, didn’t think anyone would want my course that much, and didn’t believe I could do it at a larger scale.
I started working with mentors and a mastermind that really showed me by example and the hard facts of my business and expertise that YES I CAN do this and the world NEEDED my program to help more people live fulfilling lives.
In 2 years of doing just the courses, I’ve tripled my income each year.
It was the best decision I ever made.
But it took a lot of mindset work and practicing with launches and marketing to get to this point.
How did you make your first $100 online?
When I first started, I applied for VA jobs online and did networking in FB groups.
Within 6-8 weeks of quitting my corporate job, I had a 30 hours per week client at $20/hour and another 5 hours per week client at $15/hour.
I quickly went up to $30-$40/hour after one year of working as a virtual assistant.
Later, I started a FB group about how to work from home.
I’d post jobs and resources to help anyone interested in real online work.
I asked for 3 interns in that group and then put together a free online class I’d run live a few times via a platform like Zoom or Webinar Ninja about being a virtual assistant.
I’d pitch the course I made at the end of it for half off as a thank you to the founding members and sold about 13 spots at $97 each.
Editor’s note: you might also enjoy our interview with Morgan Overholt, who 2.5xed her salary after leaving the corporate job and is now freelancing at $95/hour.
How does the business make money today?
We do everything! But started with just a Facebook Group, Page and email list.
I had that up until about 2 years ago and now we’ve added a weekly blog, podcast and YouTube episode release.
I do Instagram stories every day.
We spend a few hours on Pinterest every week and refresh all our blog pins every few months on there.
I send out a highly valuable weekly newsletter with online job posts and our resources.
We do Facebook Chat resources and campaigns.
Just this year we started ads primarily using Instagram stories and boosted our affiliate program with current students.
They are so successful they become advocates for the program so we ensure they have sample posts, emails and unique links they can use to do this.
What are some of the challenges particular to this kind of online business?
The biggest issue I see is that those wanting to make an income from online programs don’t realize how much time goes into building an audience organically (or how much money it takes to do this with paid methods).
They build the course before they have an audience and then are frustrated when it’s not making six figures.
I wish I’d invested more money into building an audience early on but our family just didn’t have the funds.
I am proud that we were able to do it step by step, debt-free and without outside funding…but it did take a lot longer.
If you were starting the same business today, from scratch, how would you do it?
In my circumstances, I would do it the same way.
But if I had extra money or even credit, then I would invest in a great sales funnel plus marketing funds to kick things off with a bang.
What books, podcasts, courses or other resources would you recommend to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
- Expert Secrets by Russell Brunson explains sales funnels, building your brand and traffic really well.
- Amy Porterfield has great resources on building a fab online course and webinar funnel too.
What are your top 5 business tools?
- Asana for project management
- ConvertKit for email management
- Slack for team communication
- Lifter LMS is our course builder for WordPress
- Camtasia for video creation and editing