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As a Virtual Assistant, Which Comes First? Learning Or Earning?

earning while learning finding and getting clients freelancer virtual assistant virtual expert training Jul 12, 2023

Ask ten successful people to share what they credit their sense of self-worth and confidence to, and nine will likely respond with “my accomplishments or my success.” While that is, no doubt, true, it begs the question: how does someone build confidence in the first place? 

Confidence is a tricky emotion. It’s built on many different things. However, most psychological analysis suggests that it comes from choices and accomplishments that feed our passion, and that make us feel happy and proud of who we are. Confidence is built by DOING, not by thinking about DOING.

Kathy Goughenour, is a very confident and successful business leader. However, she wasn’t always that way. One of her secrets to success has been to make that leap of faith, take the skills that she has picked up in life and start DOING the work for clients. This little bit of confidence grew into more and more confidence because the work fed her passion. This led her to start her company Virtual Expert ® Training.

Because of her experience, Kathy is an excellent source of advice for those thinking about becoming a virtual assistant, freelancer, or even a Virtual Expert but worried that they do not have the expertise yet. It’s one of those classic conundrums. Which comes first, learning or earning?

Learning by Doing

In her free workshops, Kathy often asks, “How do most people learn the fastest? From reading and watching video, or from DOING? It's from doing! Freelancers and virtual assistants learn while they are DOING the work and earning! 

“Working (and earning) while you learn, focuses on practical, hands-on experience to learn how to work with clients and enhance your skills along the way,” she notes. “Freelancers can learn faster and build trust between their team members while gaining experience. The thing most people fail to realize is that they already have marketable skills. What they DON'T have is the skill set necessary to find, get and keep clients

“I set our training and coaching up to teach our associates how to get three clients in the first 90 days of the program. Why? Because until they have at least one client, they don't feel like they're really in business -- and they are correct on many levels. You can learn all day long, but until you put what you've learned into practice, you don't know what you don't know. When you get 1, 2, or 3 clients in your first 90 days in business, you grow much faster than you would otherwise. This is because you're learning while you're earning.  You’re practicing what you've learned, asking questions of your coach, and trying things again and again. 

“Even if you don't get high-paying clients in the beginning, it's worth your time because of what you learn, and you're still earning fees!  For example, you learn valuable skills, such as talking with prospects to get them to hire you. You draft and send contracts to get them signed. You begin managing your time and interacting with clients. 

“Everything shifts when you have a real-life client! I've been training and coaching freelancers and VAs for over 15 years, and the key to moving their business forward rapidly is to forget about learning new skills or "updating" current skills. When you have clients and you're performing those tasks daily, you get better and better and become an expert. You don't become an expert by simply getting more training. You become an expert through your experience and practical knowledge. Knowledge alone is not enough. I strongly feel that "on the job training" is always the best way to learn, and you can earn while you're learning!”

The #1 Question

Rather than asking whether one needs more skills before starting a business, most new virtual business owners quickly realize the #1 question is: 

How do I get clients when I have no experience? 

“This is a valid question,” Kathy said. “Here are a few quick tips,”

  • You already have experience! What jobs have you already held? What volunteer work have you performed? What have you done to manage and run your family and your home? 
  • Choose a service to specialize in -- something you already know how to do well enough to start right away. Then offer a reduced price. I call this a "Charter Client" price, and it’s good for the first 3 to 6 months for your first three clients. Then research and identify the going rate for that service when you are up to speed on it. 
  • Begin to promote yourself (find clients) and talk with them (get clients). During your "Get Clients Discovery Session,” the prospective client is told, “Because you'd be one of my first 3 clients, I'm willing to give you a 50%, 60%, 80% (whatever percentage you decide best suits your level of skill at this time) off the full price” A contract is written that states -- “My full price is $X for this service. To thank you for being a Charter client, you get a Y% discount off that rate. To lock in that Charter Client rate, sign the contract and pay a 50% deposit of $X no later than Month, Date, Year.  

Congratulations! You are now earning while you're learning. 

Confidence Is Contagious

As sure as the sun rises every day, confidence builds more confidence, and success leads to more success. Kathy concludes, “The confidence shift that happens after someone has a client is AMAZING. They suddenly feel like they really have a business. They realize they can really do this!” 


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