When I started my virtual assistant business, I earned less than $25 per week!

Now that our family is on a debt-free journey, Shadley and I are conscious about getting on top of our food budget. Sadly, this is something we have yet to master as a married couple, and our latest solution is for me to shop alone.

This is so that I can take my time and find a good combination of food items that will last until our next shop, and keep us under budget.  I can spend upwards of an hour in our local grocery store shopping for simple ingredients, and this is typically something that Shad does not enjoy – especially when stores are packed! 

As we look for ways to get creative with our money and live within our means, I am often reminded of my first year as a virtual assistant. I earned less than $25 per week! And even so, at the end of each shopping trip, I was happy and able to account for food (including a snack, lol) and other living expenses. 

Knowing that we used to live on $100 – $200 per month gives me a lot of hope and courage for our future. Not only because we’ve increased our income, but because if we could get by then, we can get by now! 

debt free journey self employed virtual assistant

Are you currently on a debt-free journey? Follow my journey over on Instagram at @curlsonabudget, my hobby account.

Want to become a virtual assistant? Read more blog posts here.

Personal Branding: Adding value, for free

Personal branding can be a long and arduous journey. Like getting to know yourself, the work is never done. Personal branding is not just in the photoshoots, and in the branding colours and in the font choices. It is everywhere, in your choices and how you show up for yourself and your community every day.

In this process, I constantly ask myself how best I can add value at every level of my life. Using your talents and skills to improve the world around you can only be good, and it’s necessary. But let’s face it, most of us must make a living by doing the things we are good at or trained in.

In the world of online business, adding value is often synonymous with providing free information – it is a way in which we can build community, nurture relationships and capture leads. So how then, do we continue to add value, for free, and earn an income?

I know entrepreneurs who are generous with the expertise, and I also know entrepreneurs who are more tight-lipped. I am at a crossroads in my career and I must decide where I fit.

This is especially true because I operate a service-based business within which I am the only service provider. I don’t have a team, and I am part of many teams. While I would love to spend 99.9% of my life creating free content, that’s not how this works.

So, I need to compartmentalize. To figure out where I give, how I give and how much I give. So I can be an agent of change and progress for all, and also represent my personal brand well. It’s good business.

In this personal branding journey, as it relates to adding value, for free, I’ve learned a couple of things.

To add value, especially the free kind, you must know your audience and the type of work you desire to do and be paid for. This ah-ha moment comes hot on the heels of me embracing the fact that I am not yet at a place in my career where l desire to teach people how to write. I want to write for them! I bring this up because, it might seem appropriate for me, in my capacity as a writer, to add value, for free, by sharing writing tips. But besides this not being something I am interested in doing, it’s not something my ideal client needs. My ideal client wants to know how to provide a clear brief to her content writer(s). If she does not have a content writer, she wants tips on how to choose one. My ideal client wants to know which types of written content will work for her brand. My ideal client wants to know if I can get the job done.

Sometimes adding value, for free, is not doing the obvious. While you think you MUST add value, for free, in a very particular way, there are ways in which to provide your expertise for free or for a nominal fee, in a contextualized environment. And by contextualized I mean an environment which is conducive to you still having enough time, resources and energy to generate revenue from your skills.

As an entrepreneur, it’s also worth remembering that some of your skills and passions may afford you some flexibility. For example, as I am no longer a performing and recording artist, I teach poetry and songwriting workshops for little to no cost. As a VA, I am also moving up the ranks and teaching some of my previous workflows to prospective VAs.

Where my personal brand is concerned, and as we round up yet another year, I am taking a moment to write up the where, what, how, when and why of value-adding content in my business. This includes deciding which (free) information will be disseminated on my social media, on my mailing list, in the groups I am part of and on this website. I think it’s important to make this clear very early on in your journey so that you can stay on top of your giving, and also enjoy a guilt-less experience when it is time to make that money! Lol.

What do you think about sharing your intellectual property for free?

Photo Credit: Photograph by Wilma Towell Photography under the creative direction of The Ashley Knight Company for Hello Boss Community. Makeup by Accentuate Hair & Makeup.