- From Burlington, NC, USA
Founder of Wild Pixel Marketing LLC
- Business Model: Freelance
- $7,000monthly revenue
- $4,500monthly profit
- All info self-reported by interviewee
- Published March 26, 2020
- Reviewed and edited by Rita Epps
Who are you and how do you make money online?
I’m Fiona and I’m the founder of Wild Pixel Marketing.
This started as a freelance virtual assistance business where I do a lot of behind the scenes work for several businesses. Imagine a business owner having a meltdown right before a big launch.
I’m the person that fixes everything and does preventative maintenance so they don’t fall apart.
When I first started as a virtual assistant, I didn’t take it seriously as saw it as pocket change. I bid on Upwork tasks and made a few hundred dollars here and there.
Even when I only made $20/hour, it eventually adds up.
I got serious about being a virtual assistant when I separated from my ex-husband.
He kicked me and the kids out.
I was very suddenly a single mom, living in a state where I didn’t know anyone…
…and dealing with my mental health disorders at the same time.
I’m clinically diagnosed with schizo-bipolar, BPD, and PTSD.
These days, I bring in roughly $6,000-$7,000 per month.
I spend about $2,000 per month on expenses (software and a coach). This includes my website, website host, newsletter service, Skillshare, and a course I’m taking.
I’m not sure what I want to do next, but I’m currently working on a group program for aspiring freelancers to help them bridge the gap between cheap clients and consistent $5k months.
Its first launch brought in $1,000 in revenue earlier this year. Otherwise, I’m taking it slow and exploring all the options available to me while I have consistent income.
I don’t want to rush and commit to something I might not love in a few years.
💻 Editor’s note: see our full list of ways to make money online.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
My workdays typically depend on how I’m feeling.
I mentioned having bipolar type schizoaffective disorder…
…which means that my moods and energy ebb and flow.
I can feel it in my bones when it’s going to be a slow day for me.
On the slow days, I take my time waking up, watch TV, hang out with my kids and dogs, and journal.
I’ll make breakfast, do some yoga, and spend time doing the things I love in business, such as blogging.
Then I’ll take my time with client work, reminding myself that it’s not a race.
The joy of having only three clients means that I’m rarely bogged down with work.
On the livelier days, I’m up at 6am, walking my dogs, eating breakfast, and hitting work time ASAP.
It’s also important for me to take care of my mind, body, and overall health because…
…when you’re self-employed, it’s difficult to make up sick days.
I stretch my hands, get monthly massages and float therapy – this prevents migraines and nerve pinches from sitting at my laptop all day – and try to do yoga daily.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I’ll be honest – for a long time, I truly believed that I was as worthless as a lot of people in my life told me.
I got kicked out of college…
… and the only job I ever had was being a professional dominatrix – which was fun until I got pregnant.
I also did a term in the Marine Corps but I didn’t care for it. The skills I learned there didn’t translate well to the workplace anyway.
My first virtual assistant gig was labeling porn for a company I found on Craigslist.
They paid $35/hour and a $250 bonus if you labeled over 800 videos that week.
This was my first introduction into the world of being a virtual assistant.
And I was hooked.
The opportunities were endless.
I started trying to do anything to make money online.
Eventually, I decided that virtual assistance was great because I was able to do so many different things, like blogging, social media management, community management.
And I decided to turn that into a small business.
People will pay you for just about anything.
For example, Redditors have told me there is no way people hire me for more than $50/hour to answer emails or $150 to write an 800-word blog post.
But, people do simply because they don’t want to do it themselves.
You won’t find these people in the slave labor subreddit but they definitely exist.
And as you’re reading this sentence, they’re looking for someone, right now, to do this exact job for that exact pay (or more!)
When my ex and I got separated, I knew that I needed to secure retainer clients so I always had my baseline covered.
I ended up renegotiating my contracts to have a flat fee retainer and a sales commission. That way, I can work with fewer clients and I never have to worry about an income cap.
How did you prepare to launch the business?
I don’t do big launches for myself. I mean, I was under the $2,000 per month bracket when I decided to hard launch my virtual assistance. It wasn’t in my budget to do anything grand.
I just put out content on Facebook every single day.
I made memes about marketing.
I talked about business.
I showed people what I knew and tried to make them feel like they could relate to me.
Being human is the best marketing strategy, in my opinion.
At the time of this interview, everyone and their mother is shoving a marketing campaign down your throat.
It’s refreshing to have someone just talk to you or teach you something without asking for anything in return. It makes them feel safe.
I had my website readily available at WildPixelMarketing.com in case someone wanted to hire me.
I also made sure it was easy to hire me.
My social media posts led to my website which led to a booking page. I used Acuity Scheduling for that at the time but now switched to Calendly.
Then they got to sit on a call with me, talk about how I can help, and I send them their first invoice and contract.
The only thing is that I had to do it consistently.
I showed up every single frickin day and talked my ass off about virtual assistance.
Above all, I think copywriting is the most important skill of any online business owner.
Copywriting is how you communicate, whether you’re pitching, writing a sales page, writing an Upwork proposal, writing your Fiverr profile, or managing your social media.
If you can’t effectively communicate who you are, what you do, or who you do it for, nothing else you do will translate.
I invested in Neville Medhora’s Copywriting Course. It is perfect for beginners and people who love something simple and straightforward.
A client of mine told me to do StoryBrand training as well, and their framework has made it so easy for me to write things like my website.
When I was ready to launch, I made a Squarespace website, wrote a long-form sales page, and slapped a contact page on it.
I found my audience through Facebook and I put a cap on 3 clients.
People reached out to me and I interviewed them through Zoom calls.
How much money did you have to spend to get started?
My startup costs were minimal because…well, I was broke.
- I spent a little less than $200 using ZenBusiness to get my legal stuff together.
- My Macbook was $800 and a few years old (it was returned so I got it for cheaper than retail).
- I have a $20 gaming mouse that I double for work.
- My Squarespace website, SSL certificate, G suite email and domain came to about $300 for the year.
Otherwise, I didn’t really have that many expenses.
I made a good chunk of money working on Upwork because I didn’t need a website to find jobs there. I reinvested everything I made on Upwork to make my website and launch independently.
Talk us through your first few months (or first year) in business.
With Wild Pixel Marketing, it was kind of ‘do or die’ for me.
Now that I was a single mom of two kids…I couldn’t afford to lose.
It was either make money or get on the street with the kids.
Nothing in between.
So I spent all of my time networking, talking to people on Facebook, talking about virtual assistance, and making memes about marketing.
I connected with people, got on back-to-back calls to get clients, and didn’t take cheap work or a “Hm, can you give me a discount?” for an answer.
I basically sat through rejection after rejection until 3 people said, “Send me your invoice.”
You really have to get back up after so many people tell you no because the next one might be a yes.
This was one of the most emotionally taxing times of my life.
I think that I moonlighted as a virtual assistant for so many years but never truly saw consistent income until now because I never really believed I could do it until now.
Em Ducharme, a business coach, had me do a few journaling prompts where I wrote out my ideal life and what I wanted my business to look like.
It sounds so “woo-woo” and new age but…
…when I finally was able to visualize what I wanted to do and where I wanted the business to come from, it was like something clicked.
A lot of people, myself included, focus so hard on marketing and strategy.
Above all, you need to get your mind right because if you can’t make your $1 turn into $10 and your $10 turn into $100, you’ll struggle to see your first $1,000, let alone $5,000.
Now that I’m aiming for $10,000/month, I’m finding myself working through even more mindset issues, but that’s a conversation for another day.
How did you make your first $100 online?
Ever? I found an ad on Craigslist looking for people to label porn. I made $850 that week.
All it took was me looking for someone tired and exhausted enough to pay top dollar so they wouldn’t have to do it themselves.
And no, clients like these aren’t rare or a unicorn.
It wasn’t pure luck.
A lot of his other assistants were working full-time jobs or unable to meet his demands. I had nothing better to do with my time and I was churning out these labels for hours a day.
He was more than happy to pay me extra and give me bonuses simply because I made his life easier.
These days, my clients do the same.
I am paid a commission and sales bonus for putting in extra effort and giving a quick turnaround to what they need.
People who value their assistants will pay more and give bonuses.
People who don’t will always ask you to work for $5/hour. You have to learn to ignore the people who don’t value you.
How does the business make money today?
I have 3 retainer clients. They pay me $1,000/month each and two of them pay me with commission bonuses.
I also do ghostwriting on the side, though I don’t openly advertise it. Usually, people who enjoy my writing style reach out to me privately about writing and if I have the time, I take it.
I have a group program that I’m refining after its beta round earlier this year.
I truly love working with freelancers because I remember what it was like the first time I started freelancing.
There’s this rush of joy the first time you see $100 or $500 deposited in your bank account while you worked remotely.
I took The Uncaged Life program by Rebecca Tracey – which teaches how to do group coaching. I’m hoping that my new group program, 5K Freelancer, takes off so it can be something fun I do without compromising my income.
In 2020, I want to specialize in a skill and grow Wild Pixel Marketing beyond virtual assistance. People have told me to start an agency but that’s not something I’m interested in.
What are some of the challenges particular to this kind of online business?
Oh gosh, where should I begin?
I remember trying to find clients by looking for job ads and saying, “ME! HIRE ME!”
What a mistake.
A lot of beginners are doing this, as well.
Instead of clamoring for jobs that 50 other freelancers are trying to get, it was so much easier to just create my own content and let people come to me.
Clients should be fighting over the freelancer, not the other way around.
It took me forever to realize this.
Another issue I had is that when I listened to marketing gurus and coaches…they told me to pick a niche.
To be honest, before you hit the $5,000 mark, you don’t really need a niche unless you want one.
I would advise all beginner freelancers to take their time, find out what they really love to do, and explore different options.
If I niched, I would’ve been stuck labeling random things forever. Instead, I learned about email marketing, copywriting, automation, and more, which has allowed me to branch out.
I also struggled with scaling.
Once I hit $5,000/month, I was like…now what?
I ended up renegotiating my contracts to be a flat fee and commission-based, which helped a lot.
Today, my biggest challenge is probably figuring out what that one thing I want to commit to is. Do I want to be a copywriter? Do I want to be an online business manager? A project manager? Do I want to start my own eCommerce store?
I don’t know, but I know that I won’t break the next income milestone ($10,000) until I commit to something and go all in. (Note: this is the time to niche, not when you’re starting out).
Editor’s note: you might also enjoy our interview with Esther Inman, who started as a VA while raising a two-year-old. She later niched down to helping online course creators and grew her business to $50,000/month.
If you were starting the same business today, from scratch, how would you do it?
I’d put up a sales page and paint a picture of how I can help you make your life easier, especially if you’re an established business owner.
I wouldn’t work with beginners again because they’re often the cheapest, most difficult…
…and their testimonials are useless because they usually quit.
Then I’d write a blog post per week and repurpose it into social media content. I’d post on social media with that content at least once a day.
I’d keep doing that consistently and let people come to me to book a call.
I’d probably make all of that $5k again in 90 days because…
…all it takes is consistently showing up.
I know this is something Gary Vaynerchuk talks about a lot.
Granted, I wouldn’t put out 50 pieces of content a day, but I’d definitely put out consistent content so when potential clients scope me out on social media, they’re like, “Oh this person knows what she’s talking about and she’s consistent on social media.”
So many of my competitors post like 3 things and give up which shows that they’re flakey and will give up on their clients too. If you can’t show up for your own business, how can you show up for someone else’s.
What books, podcasts, courses or other resources would you recommend to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
- I love HAMYAW by Margo Aaron and Hillary Weiss, who both got their starts in writing.
- All of Ryan Holiday’s books.
- Copywriting Course by Neville Medhora.
I wish I had more resources, but I’m pretty minimalistic in how many people I follow or listen to, because in the past…
…I’d get so overwhelmed with all the different advice that I’d just give up.
📚 Editor’s note: see our ultimate list of the best books for online entrepreneurs.
What are your top 5 business tools?
- Sunsama for organizing my day-to-day tasks and seeing where I spend a lot of my hours. I also love that it allows me to journal my weekly review.
- ConvertKit for newsletters. I’ve migrated every client I have to ConvertKit. It’s minimalistic but runs heavy automation campaigns.
- Ghost for my blog/website host. Until I decide I want something fancier, Ghost it is. (It used to be Squarespace).
- Calendly so people can book calls with me quickly.
- Alfred 3 for Mac for shortcuts, an amazing clipboard, and quick searches.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Feel free to send me an email at email@example.com. I check my email every day and love communicating with other freelancers and business owners.
- You can also check out my website at WildPixelMarketing.com.
Fair warning: I live a really simple and humble life, and I don’t have plans to travel the world or sip margaritas on the beach.
At the end of the day…
…I work from home so I can be pantsless and play video games at 3pm without worry about my bills. This brings me so much joy.