How is it possible for one woman to build a six-figure virtual assistant business from a tiny house in the middle of the Ozarks? Unless you’ve been living in a cave for most of 2020, you would probably know this to be plausible. Since COVID-19 hit, the virtual assistant industry has been on fire – growing from a billion-dollar to a trillion-dollar industry in a matter of a few months. Kathy Goughenour was an early adopter of this business back when it wasn’t that cool. A virtual assistant since 2001, she has been helping women build successful VA careers for themselves since 2008 through Expert VA Training. In this fun conversation with Juliet Clark, Kathy explains why it is possible for someone at home to achieve freedom, flexibility, and financial security by working as a VA. She even makes the argument that VAs have a greater chance of earning more than coaches. Interested? Listen in and pick up useful nuggets of information interspersed throughout a lively chat that’s full of laughs and amusing TMIs.
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Building A Profitable Virtual Assistant Business From Home With Kathy Goughenour
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Our guest is Kathy Goughenour. After finding the courage to say bye to her corporate marketing career, she has built a six-figure virtual assistant business from her tiny little house in the middle of the forest. She teaches professional women how to create their own at–home VA businesses, so they can enjoy freedom, flexibility, and the financial security they desire and deserve. Kathy also offers VA matchmaking sessions to business owners interested in working with expert VAs and virtual experts. Kathy and her Expert VA and Virtual Expert Training Program have been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, All You and The Wealthy Freelancer. Welcome, Kathy.Top three reasons why you should consider a VA career – freedom, flexibility, and financial security. Click To Tweet
Juliet, thank you so much. I hope everybody can tell how much fun we have together.
Tell us about your little house in the forest. Readers, you are not going to believe how sparingly she lives. It’s amazing.
I don’t know what it about me. I don’t know where this comes from. I was born with it, but I always wanted to live tiny. It was always my fantasy. I grew up in a normal–sized house when I was married the first two times. I’m on my third marriage. You can get more info than you want it. I lived in normal–sized houses, but I still always had this fantasy about living in a tiny house. This was before tiny was a thing. All I thought about was I’d see somebody’s pool house, and I’d be like, “I could live there.” That’s where I want to live. That was my fantasy. I’m not kidding you. I never wanted a big house. When I met my husband number three, his family owned what they call the fishing cabin in the Mark Twain National Forest, which is in the Missouri Ozark. It’s gorgeous. It is a 24x24 foot home. After we got married, we decided to buy it from his family because we loved it. I’m like, “My tiny house, finally.”
All the events happen that caused me to quit my job. When the time came that Tom didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a job. I decided to start my VA business. I said, “Let’s move to that house. We want to live there in our retirement years, anyway. Let’s go ahead and move there now. I can build my business from there. It’ll be amazing.” My husband said, “There is no I am living in that tiny house.” I said, “Give us six months.” About three months in, he goes, “I’ll never leave. Spread my ashes here.” That was in 2001 when we moved here, and we will never leave. Twenty-six years later, we are still married and live in this tiny house.
We came to talk about VAs. COVID hit and suddenly everybody had to go online. They didn’t know what a VA was. There were people out of work that could become a VA and there were people who desperately needed VAs. Tell us all about that and how it’s all working out.
Before COVID hit, the VA industry was a $1 billion industry and growing. After COVID hit, it skyrocketed to $1 trillion, and it is continuing to grow because everybody needed to get online. Once people started getting online and realizing that they could turn their brick-and-mortar business into a profitable online business, then they turned to virtual assistants, virtual experts, service professionals that work online. The people who have graduated from my program saw an increase of about 130% in 2020 in their revenue.
Kathy, tell us how you got into this because you had a great job. You gave it up and were told that you’d never make it here.
I worked for AT&T for almost twenty. I was a marketing manager there. I stopped getting promotions at about eighteen years in. I went to my boss and asked, “Why am I not getting promoted?” He said, “Do you want to know the truth?” I’m like, “Yes, I wouldn’t ask otherwise.” He said, “You laugh and smile too much. Until you change that about yourself, you’re never going anywhere else.” I did not wear tiaras or crowns or anything like that at the office. I wore suits like I was supposed to, like a good girl.
I love to be silly, but that doesn’t mean I’m not smart. It’s everybody’s opinion that they look at you and think you’re something that you’re not, or can’t see past happiness. I couldn’t figure out why he felt that way, but I knew it was reality because I hadn’t gotten promoted for several years. I knew I wasn’t going to get promoted again. I put together a plan and decided to quit. When I took my resignation letter in, he said, “You cannot quit. You’ll never make this kind of money anywhere.” This was 1996. I was making $55,000 annually and had amazing benefits. Back then, that was a lot of money. I decided right then, “I’m not ever going to make this kind of money again. I’ll make double that.” That’s what I thought, and that’s what I did with my VA business. I doubled that and have gone on to many more times with that.
Tell us, why would people want to become a VA? I know a lot of people have lost jobs, and your business is cranking because people are realizing, especially school teachers. They don’t want to deal with the bureaucracy and the unions anymore. Why are people getting into the VA business?
There’s the 3Fs. It’s freedom, flexibility and financial security. Those are the three reasons. Most people don’t even know about financial security. Most people think that this is a less secure thing to get into, but the reality is when you know, and everyone can learn this, this is not something you’re born with, but you can learn how to find, get, and keep clients. That’s what I teach. Once you learn how to do that, and everybody can learn how to do that that wants to learn, you’ll never be without work again. You’ll never be without a client. That’s the financial security piece because as an independent contractor, 1099 contractor is what virtual assistants are. If you want to work part-time, you’re going to have about three clients. If you want to work full-time, you’re going to have 7 to 10 clients. If you want to build a team, you’re going to have an unlimited number of clients that you can work with. If you even work part-time with three clients, when you lose one, you know how to get a replacement.
If you let one go because they’re not treating you well, you can get a replacement. That’s why it’s financial security. Flexibility, you can work anywhere instead of calling it work–at–home, but I’m calling it work–anywhere because that’s the other thing that shifted with COVID. It’s shifting very quickly. I see it happening everywhere that nobody cares where you live anymore. If they do, they need to figure out what’s holding them back that they have that limitation. Freedom, when you’re your own boss, you get to set your hours and decide when you want to work and what you want to earn, when you’re going to get a raise, and all of that good stuff. The 3Fs are the reasons that people are moving towards becoming a virtual assistant.
That was one of my big lessons. When I got out of the real estate and started the publishing business, my goal was to be able to work from anywhere. I realized until my mother passed away in 2016, and I worked on the road for the next six months that I had been building towards that goal and achieved it. That’s when I could test it. People want the financial freedom of this. Not even the financial, but for the most part, the freedom of working own hours, but talk about financial freedom because there is a downside to having your own business. You do have to pay your own payroll taxes. You have to do some planning around this.
A lot of people let that hold them back. More than anything else, it’s the fear of the unknown. If you have not ever worked for yourself, dive in, and start learning about it because a lot of people think, “I don’t know how to do taxes. I don’t know what that means. I don’t know how to do my own bookkeeping. I don’t know how to get clients.” They let that hold them back. I am not a numbers person. I am not a techie on any level at all, yet I have built a million–dollar business online. If I can do it, anybody can do it. That is the reality.
There’s a lot of pieces that you can outsource safely. I still do my own accounting, but I don’t build my own websites. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t do. From the standpoint of somebody who’s looking to go online, what kinds of things do VAs do that they would need from them?
VA’s do everything except delivering coffee. Now I don’t even say that because you can have coffee delivered virtually. They can order the coffee to be delivered. What I teach is to earn the most money and to be the happiest. You want to specialize because being the general admin, you’re not going to make nearly as much money. You’re going to be capped at about $25 per hour. The type of people that I like to work with is professional women. By that, I mean they are former teachers, former office managers, or they’ve been stay-at-home moms who have been homeschooling. That’s also very professional. You have to manage your own home. You have to teach. You’re a teacher teaching children. If you have that kind of background, I love working with women like that because you have a work ethic and skills already.
The general admin isn’t something I recommend sticking around in for any length of time at all. When you specialize, then you can decide, do you want to do something creative? For example, do you want to write or blog? Do you want to go straight? Do you write emails or Facebook ads? Do you want to create imagery? All those social media posts that you see out there, somebody’s creating those. You can do that or do you want to do the opposite end? Do you like technology? If you like technology, there are thousands of platforms out there that people need to log in to the backend of and be able to manipulate. You don’t need to know coding. That is not needed these days. Most people think, “I did have to code to do that.”
All you have to do is learn how to manipulate the software. We’re talking about like when you open a Word document and at the top, you see bold, underline, that’s how the software programs look on the back end now. All you have to do is learn how to do that. There are bookkeeping, calendar and email management, social media management, whatever it is that you might enjoy. I know there’s a lot of times that people are thinking, “I have no idea what I would enjoy doing.” That’s why you come and attend an event that I have because I can help you identify that. I am very good at identifying what you would enjoy specializing in and what skills you already have that can easily transition into your virtual assistant career.
Complete transparency, I mentored in 2020 for Kathy’s higher end group. A lot of those guys are marketing. They’re doing either video marketing, specializing in it, real estate blog writing. Jennifer does about everything. She’s an agency unto herself now.
She has a digital marketing agency.
There are other things that you can morph into as well. Let’s answer a question you asked me. You have people come in occasionally who say, “I’d rather be a coach.” You and I talked about the benefit of starting as a VA from a management standpoint. Do you want to talk about that?
When you haven’t been any of these things yet, you don’t know what you don’t know. That’s where I was. Please don’t feel like, “I feel upset that I don’t know this.” How would you possibly know how to run an online business if you haven’t run an online business? There’s no way to know that. I had an ego coming out of the corporate world. I had an MBA, been there twenty years. I was 40 years old. I’m like, “I know everything.” I started working. I realized very quickly that I know nothing.Many people think that a coach’s job is easier and that they make more money than successful VAs do. That is the exact opposite of what its true. Click To Tweet
This is where your big money wasters are. There’s an awful lot of shiny objects out there, and you’re going to spend a lot of money on things you don’t need. Where people waste money in digital marketing is, first of all, they don’t understand their funnels, their process, and they pay people too much. You and I have talked about this before that you can pay VAs too much. When I first started, I had an $80 an hour VA, and for everything. There are certain tasks that you would never pay somebody for that. It’s super important even starting out for them to work in that VA space so that they can better manage their team and cashflow.
When people look at what does a VA do versus what does a coach do, if you haven’t done either one of those jobs, you look at them, number one, and think, a coach’s job is a lot easier, and they make a lot more money. That is exactly the opposite of what is true. The bottom line, we’re talking profit here. Most coaches make less than successful VAs do. I’m getting ready to have a blast email that goes out to my list come out. The title is, “I gave my husband an enema.”
First of all, does your VA approve? Second of all, would you open that because it intrigued you, or would you open it because it’s TMI?
I didn’t write it. My virtual expert, who does my email writing, wrote it. I gave her the story, but she came up with a fabulous moral behind all this. I loved the story. My husband trusted me enough to allow me to do this. I loved my husband enough to do this for him. Part of who I am, I’m TMI, almost all the time. You might as well know it now and opt out of my email sequence if you don’t want to. Virtual assistants profited about 80% of everything of the work that they do when they work as a solo VA. The average coach has just the flip if they have a profit at all. It’s 20% profit, 80% expenses.
You have to love being a coach in order to take on that role. What I learned going through this industry was that I was lucky to even begin in this because I was able to learn everything that I needed to know about running an online business while I earned money as a virtual assistant. For example, anybody that works with you are going to get a tremendous education working with you using the software programs that you use, learning how you run your business as they’re earning money working with you. It’s a brilliant way to earn money while you learn more about what all is available out there online, what else you might want to do, and then you can grow into that. For example, you mentioned Jennifer Timborski doing a digital marketing agency. She didn’t start out there at all. She grew into it.
We were talking about this because somebody wanted to be a coach that was coming to the program. The biggest difference here is as a coach, if you want to make money, you have to learn what to let go, and strictly play in your zone of genius. If that’s coaching, that’s where you have to be. If you’re the rainmaker, which most coaches are, you have to be able to attract and close deals. That’s your gig. Everything else can go off to a VA to handle for the most part. That’s the way I run my business is I have my consulting time, closing time, partner time where I talk to power partners. Kathy’s one of them and figure out what’s going on, how we can help each other.
I’m lucky to have Juliet as my power partner. When you were talking about full disclosure that you were working with my highest level, I want to give you another testimonial here. I am happy that I hired you to come in and train that mastermind group because we have all learned so much from you. You have a unique way of looking at things, a very direct way of looking at things, “Here’s what you do. No BS,” which I love. Thank you for all the value that you’ve brought to my group. It has been well worth it.
I learned a lot from them too though. We have a lot of discussion on those calls. Especially, Jennifer, we are like sisters from another mister. She’s very direct and super smart.
All of them are super smart.
Kathy, I know you have some stuff coming up. Where can we find you and your trainings?
You can go to VirtualExpertTraining.com. You’ll find everything there, including the information about the VA matchmaking sessions.
Thank you so much for being on. I appreciate you taking time out of your cabin in the woods. I’m sure you’d be out, rather than hunting deer or whatever you do in the forest.
Number one, I don’t like the outdoors.
You live in the forest.
When I met this husband, I was living in the City of St. Louis. I was surrounded by concrete, which I loved. I am not an outdoor person. I don’t care for the grass or any of that kind of stuff unless I’m inside looking out.
Now you know what happened to her first two husbands.
All my girlfriends were like, “Run. This man lives in the woods. He loves fishing and hunting.” I was like, “Yes, but I like him. He’s awesome and smart. I can get to know the woods and grass.” I married him. He realized I don’t care for grass where I have to touch it. If I’m inside in air conditioning, that I can look out the windows and see the beauty of the outdoors, I love it, but have to be in it with bugs? No, thank you.
On that note, we will end. Thank you.
- Super Brand Publishing
- Expert VA and Virtual Expert Training Program
About Kathy Goughenour
After finding the courage to say “bye-bye” to her corporate marketing career, Kathy Goughenour built a 6-figure virtual assistant business from her tiny house in the middle of a forest. Today, she teaches professional women how to create their own work-at-home VA businesses so they can enjoy the freedom, flexibility, and financial security they desire and deserve. Kathy also offers VA Matchmaking sessions to business owners interested in working with Expert VAs®️ and Virtual Experts®️. Kathy and her Expert VA®️ and Virtual Expert®️ Training program have been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, All You, and The Wealthy Freelancer.
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