How a virtual assistant turned her side hustle into a $140,000-a-year business

Kayla Sloan.
Courtesy Kayla Sloan

Kayla Sloan, 28, turned her side hustle as a virtual assistant into a $140,000 full-time business by capitalizing on her ability to organize efficiently and communicate effectively.

In 2014, Sloan was working as an agricultural credit analyst for a bank. Her job entailed checking farmers' eligibility to borrow money. Her annual salary was $32,000, but that wasn't enough to make a dent in her debt, which totaled $150,000 and included student loans, car payments, credit card debt, and a mortgage.

In hopes of getting out of the red faster, Sloan reached out to a friend who had a side gig as a virtual assistant. She felt that what the job required — scheduling, managing social media accounts, answering emails, and arranging meetings — aligned with her skill set.

"I'm naturally organized and a good communicator, which are two of the most important assets for being a VA," she said.

How she started as a virtual assistant

Sloan took on the gig first as a side hustle, working nights and weekends for bloggers, coaches, and influencers in the personal finance industry across the U.S. and Canada, and charging $15 an hour. All she needed was a laptop and a good internet connection, so she didn't incur any start-up costs.

Though prospective virtual assistants can take courses online, Sloan didn't learn through a formal course. Instead, her clients provided her with instructions and training and she learned on the job. And to attract clients, Sloan networked and asked satisfied clients to recommend her. Sloan thrived at multitasking and managing complex workflow, which made her appealing to prospective clients.

I'm naturally organized and a good communicator, which are two of the most important assets for being a VA.
Kayla Sloan
virtual assistant coach

Her hard work paid off: Towards the end of her first year of side hustling, she raised her rates to $18 per hour. And within a year, Sloan had grossed $16,941.26 as a virtual assistant.

In 2015, Sloan quit her day job and pursued the gig full-time. By then, she'd secured long-term contracts with clients and fully replaced her monthly income. She felt ready to take the leap: "Worst case scenario, it didn't work out and I had to go get another job, which I felt I could definitely do in my community without much trouble."

How she took the gig from side hustle to full-time job

Sloan transitioned to 40-hour work weeks during typical office hours and, at first, increased her rates gradually, going up to $20-$25 per hour, depending on her client and the type of work she did. She took on more clients and, before long, she was pulling in more than $10,000 a month through a combination of virtual assisting and supplemental income from freelancing, ghost writing, and advertising. A small portion, less than 5%, of her earnings come from affiliate income, like display ads.

In 2016, she cleared $65,000 from a combination of virtual assisting, blogging, freelancing, and online advertisements. A year later, that jumped to $85,000.

The hardest part about being a VA, says Sloan, was finding that first client. But the full-time job does have its downsides: If you don't set firm boundaries with clients, she says, you may end up working well outside your ideal hours.

How she scaled her business

At the start of 2019, to find a "better work-life balance," Sloan shifted her business from virtual assisting to virtual project managing and coaching. As a project manager, Sloan now oversees a team of writers, editors, graphic designers, and assistants, managing their tasks and workflows. It's her responsibility to make sure everything is done correctly and on time.

And now, her side-gig-turned-full-time job has spawned another profitable side gig: She has become a virtual assistant coach, providing individual lessons and virtual courses to aspiring VAs. So far in 2019, earnings from her courses make up 50% of her gross income, which now comes to $140,000 a year.

How she stays motivated

Sloan's initial motivation for taking on a side hustle was to get out of the red. So far, Sloan has paid off $18,905.75 using the snowball method.

She never lost sight of why she started a side hustle in the first place, and is still using her earnings to pay down her mortgage. "If you're going it to pay off debt, don't forget to put that money towards debt, because that's the whole reason you're working your butt off," she says.

More from Grow: