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How I Left My 9-to-5 to Be a Work-at-Home Virtual Assistant

I've always wanted to document the journey I took from being a "cubicle-dweller" to having my own business and working from home full-time as a virtual assistant. So on my 10th-year anniversary of becoming a virtual assistant, it seems like a great time. It's a long story and you certainly don't have to read all of it. But I hope that if you do, you find it encouraging. If I can do it, so can you! So here we go ....

My career story

First job

I started my first job at age 13; I was a papergirl. For you youngsters, that means I'd get up at 4am 7 days a week - at 3am on Sundays because the paper had comics and ads - to fold papers, load them on my bike, and deliver them to doorsteps in my neighborhood. Then one evening per week, I'd go around knocking on customers' doors to collect payment, hand them a written receipt, and hopefully collect a tip :)

Retail, clerical, managerial, analyst

After that, I worked in a video rental store, clothing store, insurance agency, and construction office for minimum wage as retail, clerical, or managerial help. I started college part-time while working full-time through a few more jobs, promoting my way up from police dispatcher to budget analyst to program analyst. I got married, lost my dad, relocated, bought a house, and graduated college after 13 years of going to school around my work shifts. 

This is what I worked so hard for?

I lived the American dream: marriage, house, college degree, great job. The plan was to do that job until I retired, THEN I'd get to spend time with my husband and family. I'd do my 40+ hours per week in my cubicle, keep my head down and out of office gossip, and spend the 6 hours a day I wasn't sleeping, working, or commuting to work on "the rest of life."

What's the rest of life? Cleaning, grocery shopping, running errands, social obligations, and once in a while, fun things like hobbies, reading, and watching TV. Looking back, I guess I was fine with this. It's what I'd seen my parents and all their friends do. It's just how you do #adulting, right?

Then something life-changing happened

We had children and they took over my mind and my heart 💗

Here's how my typical "working mommy" day went:

5:30 wake up, get ready, get kids ready, pack lunches
7:00 drop kids at daycare
8:00 to 5 or 6pm work, have lunch with co-workers or work through lunch
6:30pm pick up kids from daycare
7:30pm feed and bathe kids, put them to bed
7:30-9pm eat adults' dinner, pay bills, organize social calendar, etc.
9-11pm watch TV with hubby or read
11pm-5:30am sleep, so I could wake up and start it all over again

Honestly, it was exhausting, I was stressed, always felt behind, and snapped at my family for no reason. I loved the work I did but felt unappreciated and overworked by my bosses. I lived for the weekend when I could finally exhale a bit ... before doing the bigger chores, the bigger shopping trips, bigger house projects, and finally spending some quality time with my family.

Sorry, that's a dealbreaker

But again, I thought this was it. The only way it was done. The only choice. And you know what broke me finally? When my kids started calling me "Miss Lisa." Miss Lisa was their daycare provider. "BUT I AM YOUR MOM!" I shouted inside. "Why are they calling me that?!" Well, who could blame them? Five days a week, they spent 10+ waking hours a day with her and only 1 waking hour a day with me. Their mom.

I only knew two types of moms then: stay-at-home moms and working full-time moms. I didn't know any moms who worked from home or who even worked part-time. Every family I knew was in the same boat we were. We all needed 2 full-time incomes to live, hence this crazy hamster wheel we were all living on. 

Somewhere along the line, in following the American Dream path, we had almost unknowingly agreed to this mortgage and these possessions and lifestyle that shackled us to maintaining a career life that we hated and resented. (I started talking to my friends about this and they ALL felt the same way). It made us tired and cranky and miss our kids. Oh, I missed my kiddos like crazy!

But when your own flesh and blood starts calling you Miss Lisa, something's gotta' change. At least it did for me. Please note that this is NO way condemns moms who continue to work full-time outside the home. It just wasn't for me. I couldn't do it any more. Things HAD to change for me and my family.

What else is there?

That's when I started looking for other options and it wasn't very encouraging. I tried a job with an alternate schedule but it wasn't what it was cracked up to be. Then I took a part-time job that was closer to home. It was absolute paradise when it came to spending time with my kids. We did so many fun activities, day trips, errands TOGETHER instead of just me, etc. We ate a more healthy diet, which was important to me. Working part-time, I could take time to coupon, shop, and meal plan. Money was very tight but we made sacrifices. Then the company I worked for closed and I was looking for options again. Anything but going back to work in an office full-time!

Thinking ahead

Back before I'd left my full-time career, I'd answered an ad on Craigslist and started doing transcription for a client on nights and weekends. I got even less sleep than before but I hoped it would someday build toward something. It wasn't enough money to survive on at that point so I took ANOTHER full-time job. It was a lot less money than I'd made in my analyst career but .... after an in-house training period, it allowed me to work from home!

Until it didn't :( New manager + new rules = in-office work required. The pay wasn't enough to sacrifice my family again so I spent lots of late-night hours when my house was asleep on getting more transcription, research, and admin clients for my home biz. I didn't call myself a VA then but that's what I was doing - admin work and transcription from home. 

Starting a new way of life

The in-house transcription job was 40 hours per week and I was doing about 20 hours/week of VA work at home. Over time, I was able to reduce my hours in-house and pump up my hours at home. Then I landed The Client Who Made It All Possible, a transcription client that provided about 30 hours/week. It wasn't a steady amount but that was about the average. 

But I couldn't quit my "day job" yet because I hadn't replaced my income with the at-home stuff. In the meantime, I also started blogging, learning about Wordpress, mailing lists, and online business. My eyes were starting to be opened. I discovered Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income and listened to his podcasts while driving to and from my day job. At lunch, I worked my iPhone, trying to book more transcription and VA gigs. 

My life was starting to look more like I wanted it to. My day job had a shorter commute and I was there 30 hrs/week instead of 40. My kids were at day care a lot less, I was less stressed, and I had a glimpse of what our family life could be long-term if I could build up enough VA work to quit my day job. 

The question was ... how to make the leap?

How was I to make the transition from day job + at home nights/weekends job to JUST at-home job full-time? For me, there was no grace period, not even one month where I could slack on income while I quit one job and secured clients for the other. My only option was to work 30 hrs/week at the day job + 30-40 hours a week on at-home VA work, transcription, networking, finding clients, invoicing, and all the "unpaid" stuff that goes with running your own business.

I know why sleep deprivation is a legit torture tactic

There was no extra time available in my daily life so I sacrificed sleep. For a period of 6 months, I worked 60 to 70 hours per week before I felt completely comfortable that I could replace my day job income with VA income. And it was THE most miserable 6 months of my life. I didn't sleep in my own bed because I was at the computer working every night while my family slept. 

I would get so tired, I'd literally fall asleep sitting at my computer with my fingers on the keyboard. I'd allow myself 1-hour naps on the couch in my office, setting an alarm on my phone. Then I'd drink more coffee and work again for as long as I could keep my eyes open. Nap, work, repeat. Have you ever been forced to stay awake - not only stay awake but working and productive? I can tell you, it's literal torture. I'd have to slap my own face to stay awake. Man, it was bad. {I do not wish this for you. Please find another option if you can!}.

You need a WHY to get through it

My endless, driving motivation was my kids. They deserved a mom who was present, happy, energetic, and not irritable all the time. Secondly, I deserved to be happy - and being home made me happy. I'd done my time working for other people, making them look good while I did all the hard work. I'd worked my rear off to get my college degree (oh, another fine period of sleep deprivation!) and had my ego served by working up to the highest admin position in my office. But the ego-boost and bigger paycheck were no longer important to me.

One day I checked in with my husband for his thoughts. I said, "I've been doing this for 6 months, I'm making the same or better money than my day job, I'm loving what I do, and I'm home a bunch more. We're all happier. What would you think if I gave my notice to the day job soon?" He said he supported that and was ready. Well, little did he know, that very day at work, I gave my notice, LOL (He probably thought I'd meant within the next month or so. Silly rabbit!). 

And that's how I became a work-at-home virtual assistant

This has been my long, convoluted path to a VA career. I'm sure it's very different from your path overall but maybe you see some of yourself in me. Are you unappreciated at your current job? Do you want to be more present with your family? Do you wish you could work from home and run your own business? Yes? Then we're sisters :)

Becoming an at-home virtual assistant is the BEST thing I've ever done for my career and for my family. I could write a whole 'nother mega blog post about the reasons I love being a virtual assistant. For now, I'll just close with this: If you want to quit your day job and become a virtual assistant, you can do it. You got this, girl! My mission is to help you accomplish your goal.

YOUR CALL TO ACTION:

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️  Please tell me how my story compares to yours and how I can serve in YOUR journey to becoming a virtual assistant.⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

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