Putting the Art in Diskarte
I promise I will explain.

I promise I will explain.

Anyone can be a virtual assistant.

It’s a very low-threshold field to enter. All you need is a laptop, an internet connection, and the ability to (a) follow a list of step-by-step instructions, and/or (b) do something that people are too annoyed to do, don’t have time to do, or don’t want to figure out.

For example: Go to the online business side of Instagram and take a shot every time someone mentions that their inbox is in disarray and they’re super behind on emails. Then call me when the hangover’s gone so I can tell you that people will very much pay you so that they never have to log in to Gmail again.

Anyone can be a virtual assistant!

Which means —

Anyone can be a virtual assistant.

And

  • Anyone is replaceable.

  • There might be anyone willing to do the job for $10/hour cheaper.

  • Anyone is one of the 5,239,481,039 Upwork profiles vying for the same job or the 9,382,737,913 infuriatingly identical “PM me!” responses on a Facebook post asking for VAs.


So now what?

The job description for a regular virtual assistant is generally, “Here are the instructions. Now go do the task.”

But a task isn’t just a task.

Behind the scenes, the client would have probably first had to

  • Look at the big picture of their business

  • Set business goals

  • Figure out what needs to be done to reach those goals

  • Break that down into smaller to-dos

  • Figure out which tasks to assign to the VA

  • Translate their brain, break down the task into steps, and brief the VA with clear and detailed instructions

  • Learn to let go of their absolute need for control and allow other people to work on their business hehe

And then, while the va is working, the client may have to

  • Troubleshoot when the VA gets stuck, or they run into issues, or something doesn’t go as planned

  • Revise their instructions if the VA just isn’t getting it or they realize they forgot to explain a crucial step

And after the task has been completed, the client would then have to

  • Check if the task was done properly

  • Ask for edits and revisions

  • Edit the edits and revisions

  • Or end up just doing the edits and revisions themselves

  • Revise the task if the big picture, situation, or plans change

  • Double check to make sure the finished product is aligned with the big picture

  • Figure out what needs to be done next in the grand scheme of things


Even if your hands are doing the work, their brain is still doing a lot of gymnastics.

An ordinary VA would just do what they’re told and leave it at that. Anybody can do what they’re told and then leave it.

But.

What if you could lighten all that mental load for your clients, too? If your target is an online business owner who, in their exact words, is:

“an overwhelmed entrepreneur who needs a lot of things fixed but can’t afford to (emotionally, time-ly, or wallet-ly) hire five different people and help them all communicate with each other”

then there is a market for VAs who are, again, in their exact words:

“problem solvers that can think for their clients.”


Enter: Diskarte

Descartes 2.png

Diskarte, pronounced dis-kar-te, is the Filipino concept of creative problem solving (Morales, 2017). It can be loosely translated as a person’s own strategy or approach (Yacat, 2005) for “finding a way,” many times resourcefully and unconventionally.

Think: street smarts, but applicable to more than just the streets. 😄

It’s also used in the context of, “diskarte mo na ‘yan” or, roughly, “I’ll leave it to you to do whatever as long as the thing is accomplished idc.”

Diskarte is the difference between doing what you’re told and making sure the job gets done.

When I first ever dipped my toe into VA-ing, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I didn’t know anything about the industry.

Contrary to, lol, me, I didn’t research virtual assistanceship. I didn’t enroll in a “how to be a VA” course. I didn’t even go down the rabbit hole of stalking VAs’ blogs to see what it was like. I made the decision to be a virtual assistant in five minutes and started booking clients with the faith I was going to figure things out as I went.

I had no notion of what a VA was supposed to be like. I just came in thinking:

“My client is having a hard time and they brought me on because they don’t want to have a hard time anymore.”

So:

(A) I was surprised when my clients were surprised whenever I’d make the effort to do something, even if I wasn’t asked. I … thought it was a given?

An example:
It was a few days to go before the launch of my client’s summit. My client was still recording his sessions, when he sent out a quick Slack message that the speaker he was on a call with at the moment was changing the title of her talk, could I please update the social media graphics to reflect the new title.

So I did. And while I was at it, I updated the website, the downloadable summit calendar, and the speaker’s handouts because well, duh? they were going to have to be updated anyway? I didn’t need him to ask me to do them, because I already knew he was going to.

Then I got another Slack message from my client. The speaker freaked out because she had just told him about the title change. How was everything already updated, they were still on the phone!

Later, my PayPal dinged.

You have received $ from CLIENT.
“Greatness bonus”

Another example:
One of my proudest moments was accepting a Dyakelin into a client’s exclusive Facebook groups for paid students. I couldn’t find her in our records, so I was about to decline her request when I did a double take.

Wait a minute . . . .

Dyakelin LastName wasn’t in our student list, but Jacqueline LastName was. Found you!

And

(b) I was surprised that it turns out, this wasn’t the case for everyone.

There are some amazing VAs I’ve worked with or had the pleasure to meet. But there are also stories like these:

  • One of my clients complimented me on my email. Not just the document I submitted, but how I sent it over to her. She thanked me profusely because so many other people she’d worked with wouldn’t have thought to link the Google Doc they were referring to in the body of the email the way I did, and she’d usually end up needing to hunt for it.

  • A VA I worked with put her task on standby because our client linked them to the wrong document. Which was true, it was the wrong link. But you can do a search on Google Drive though??? I found the right doc in two seconds??? She gave you the title!!!

  • “Sorry, I didn’t send the email. I can’t find Susan’s email address.”
    “Did you try searching under ‘Sue’?”
    “Oh, there.” sadlkfasldkd


“““Soft””” skills

I’ve received recommendations and referrals not necessarily for my designs or tech — but more so for the way I think and the way I work.

Mandi Ellefson, in her podcast Hands-Off CEO, says:

“The mindset, the raw talent, the soft skills — those are the things that are the most important. The actual hard skills … all that can be trained, and someone who’s sharp can pick it up really quickly.”

So while many VA application forms ask for the software you know how to handle, I’m lucky to have clients who didn’t care what platforms I did or didn’t know how to use, because they trusted that I could figure it out.

So when one of them needed landing pages done, and she didn’t ask, “Do you know how to use LeadPages?” as a pre-requisite (phew, because I didn’t), she instead asked, “Can you learn how to do this for me?”

I said yes, of course!, even if I’d never touched the platform before, and, well, now … do you need landing pages done? 😄

The hard skills are easy to come by. You can learn them on the job.

But the soft skills — which are anything but soft — those are what make a difference.

A ma-diskarte VA is not your ordinary VA

So diskarte:

IS Being stubborn enough to insist on a solution and having the persistence, insistence, and resilience to keep going until you figure things out.

Sees problems AS opportunities to get creative. Maybe your solutions are weird. Maybe that’s totally okay. There’s no one way to solve a problem. Or rather, diskarte says: look at all. these. ways. to solve the problem!

Views Constraints are just puzzles to solve. My brain always “sees” constraints as venn diagrammatic. I picture each constraint as a circle (budget? features? time? schedule?), and my mission is to find the solution sitting in the intersection!

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 2.14.57 PM.png

Here are some (real) examples of it at play.

There are many ways diskarte can manifest in the way you work, but one of my favorite situations is when people

offer solutions instead of problems.

You will come across bumps in the road, guaranteed. Tech won’t work. Things won’t go as planned. You won’t have enough info to go on.

But instead of reporting, “Hey Client, the tech won’t work, things aren’t going as planned, and I don’t have enough info to go on,” brainstorm a little something. A bit of troubleshooting goes a long way. 

Maybe they’ll use your suggestions. Maybe they won’t. But the important thing here is that you saved them the trouble of having to think and problem-solve from scratch.

So when you come across a hiccup, ask:

I were my client, what would I do to fix this anyway?

Examples:


Task: Hey Mikli, can you edit XYZ form on TYPEFORM* and cut out the unnecessary parts?

Problem: "Hey Client, if I cut out parts of this form, you'll lose your existing data...

Solution: … but I can make a duplicate of it instead, and edit that! What do you think?"

* Referral link!


Task: Hey Mikli, here's an image of Influencer. Can you make this picture a circle?

Problem: "Hey Client, this picture is too low-res, and will look really pixellated on the site...

Solution: ... but I found this other picture of her that will work great, so I made a version using this, too, as an option!"


Task: Hey Mikli, can you schedule an appointment with Bigshot on my calendar for 11am on Friday?

Problem: "Hey Client, it turns out you have a flight leaving at 11:30 on Friday...

Solution: ... so I haven't set the appointment yet. I wanted to check with you first. I've reached out to Bigshot's assistant to ask if they have other open times available, and they can do X, Y, or Z, just in case you'd prefer to reschedule."


Task: Hey Mikli, can you install this widget on my site? Instructions should be on this page.

Problem: "Hey Client, I can't find anything in the instructions about the widget and I can't seem to figure this out...

Solution: ... so I've contacted their support team for help. Just waiting to hear back from them!"


Task: Hey Mikli, I need you to go into my CRM attach this PDF to the proposal I'm sending. Then make sure it gets sent in an hour. I'm going to bed, thanks!

Problem: "Hey Client, turns out, I'm not allowed to attach PDFs to emails from this CRM (and you're asleep so holy crap I can't ask you anything sadkfasl ?!!???) ...

Solution: ... so I've uploaded it onto Google Drive instead and inserted the link in the email so they can access and download it."



BUT. AND THERE ARE TWO BUTS.

1. Don't jump the gun. Clear everything with your client. 

Notice I say offer solutions. There's efficient, and there's too efficient. You'll want to offer solutions and clear them with your client, not go ahead and implement a game plan change without their knowledge.

(Maybe later, when you guys have some sort of synergy going on and you can read each other's minds or they say it's totally fine to do your thing but even then........ 'til you're sure, and to be safe, clear everything first!)

2. Know when to ask for help.

You'll have to read the situation here, but if you've brainstormed some solutions and hit a wall, or are spending way too much time on the problem — ask for help. Let your client know that you tried, what you tried, and that you're stuck.

^ That last bit is important. That info gives your client a jumpstart on brainstorming on their end. Even if you eventually had to defer to them, your efforts were not in vain: they no longer have to think from scratch, even if they have to think from scratch!


So. “Tamang diskarte lang.”

I promised I’d explain. “Tamang ________ lang" is the Filipino for “just the right ______.” Now, saying “just the right diskarte” hurts my lil Filipina sensibilities because … well, because it sounds weird translated 😄

But in essence:

“tamang diskarte lang”
= the diskarte sweet spot

And when you find that sweet spot? 👇🏼

 
I’m  this  close to framing this text message tbh.

I’m this close to framing this text message tbh.

 

And you won’t be just anyone.


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    MikliComment
    Tech-ing client inquiries on autopilot (for free!)
    Tech-ing inquiries on autopilot.gif

    In this post, I’ll walk you through client inquiry system I used when I first started offering services and was only making two digits a month — and still use today, with clients inquiring about services that cost no fewer than a thousand dollars.

    I couldn’t find one that I loved … so I built it myself!


    Context: Just so we’re on the same page.

    Not that wildly DM-ing back and forth and constantly replying to emails with “Sorry for the delay!” isn’t great, but sometimes in our service providing life, we just need a hands-off and stress-free way for interested people to reach out to us and say:

    I am Miles.

    I am Miles.

    to set the stage:

    I was building out my services page for the first time, and my very pervasive thought was, “Now what?” i.e. If someone were to see my page, think we’re a good fit and decide to hire me… now what? What do they do next? How do they inquire? How do we work together?

    I wanted to be booked and busy! So I (went down the rabbit hole of research and tweaking and testing and getting frustrated when something wouldn’t work and I couldn’t understand why ugh I hate coding ah no it works now yes I love coding and surfacing only to eat and nap before swiftly returning to my Cave of a Thousand Open Tabs and finally figured out how to) set something up.


    I had a few goals for my setup:

    Make it take as few steps as possible for a client to get on call with me. If they want to give me their money, let’s make it super easy for them to do, please!

    Automate majority of the process. I am horrible at emails or DMs or any sort of messaging in general. I need something that allows me to get back to people right away, make them feel taken care of, and does the heavy lifting of communicating and coordinating. Not getting back to someone could very well spell lost income, and —in this economy?

    Leave enough of the process un-automated so I can still screen people, skip the call if the client wasn’t a good fit, or reply with something a little more personal if I wanted to.

    And most importantly

    It had to be cheap. Like, $0 cheap. Is there software that can do all of this? Yes. Did I want to pay for anything? No.


    The pros of automated, but not too automated

    This process is a little longer and less automated than other lead or inquiry processes I’ve read about. For example: some don’t do sales calls anymore, and even take deposits right from the page.

    But I loved this set-up, especially when I was starting.

    Pro #1.
    Breaking news. I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t confident in my ability to articulate my offer on my sales page clear enough that I could take a client and their money palm out eyes closed. With a “not too automated” system, I could cancel the call if they were super-obviously not a good fit, or take the call and clarify.

    Pro #2.
    Speaking of calls… yes, they take time. And no, they’re not paid. But the fact that I got to meet and have real conversations with dozens of entrepreneurs when I was starting out meant I was growing a bank of insights. What were their pain points? At what point did they call for a VA? Oh, this is what people are actually looking for. Okay, they didn’t understand what I meant to say, so I can tweak this part of my sales page (what what callback to Pro#1!). The calls were invaluable, and I’m happy I chose to have them.


    Without further ado, here’s how tech-ing client inquiries on autopilot looks like.

    They’ve read your page. They love it. They’re interested. They’re ready. They —

    1. Click on the button

    Screen Shot 2019-02-24 at 8.40.22 AM.png

    It’s the button that starts the process and takes people to the inquiry form. I have it appear multiple times on my page so I’m not giving people a one-time big-time ultimatum, and also so people don’t have to scroll and scroll and scroll just to find it.


    Psst. What if you don’t have a services page yet?

    Since the button is (a) just a non-fancy link to a form, and (b) the gateway to this entire automated ecosystem, you don’t even need a services page to get started. The link to your form can live anywhere and everywhere else: your IG bio, Twitter profile, FB page… calling card?


    Once they click, they’re off to —

    2. Fill out the form

    Screen Shot 2019-02-24 at 12.52.51 AM.png

    Aside from the usual name, email address, and website, I ask a few other questions to gauge if they’ll be a good fit, like:

    A quick overview of their business and business model.

    Which of my packages they’re interested in, with a reminder about how much each one costs (so they can’t all of a sudden tell me on the call that I’m too expensive ‘cause… you knew! You ticked the box!).

    What they need support with, which is especially useful if, like me, you’re not yet there with the articulation. It was on my virtual assistance inquiry form that someone asked me if I could help them design their course — as in, a curriculum with learning objectives. I really could not. (“I can make it look really nice, though, and hook up all the tech?”)

    Oh. Another nice question to ask is

    When they need it by. If someone just on the inquiry form is saying “This is an urgent matter!” and follows up with an email two minutes later on a Saturday yelling, “Why aren’t you replying to me!” Um .. . …. .. . . . . turns out my stress levels can’t handle this.

    (Or, if my stress levels can handle this, I know (now) to charge a rush fee!)


    Free tool I used:

    I STARTED OUT WITH TYPEFORM BECAUSE IT’S BOTH FREE AND PRETTY! Though you’re limited to 10 questions and 100 inquiries per month on the free plan, that’s plenty. I used it for a year and a half.


    When they click on “submit” it’s time to —

    3. Schedule the call

    Screen Shot 2019-02-24 at 9.26.08 AM.png

    When someone sends in a form, I get two things:

    1. All of the person’s responses sitting in my inbox, and

    2. This 👆🏼pre-written and pre-filled email sitting in my drafts folder, waiting for me to click send!

    Wait. First a quick walkthrough of how this email works, because it’s many things at once and honestly magic.

    The email template.

    I created an email template of what I would manually write someone if they inquired for my services: it has an invitation discovery call, what a discovery call is and how it works, a link to schedule the call, plus what to do when It’s Time.

    “Dear Person Who Inquired”

    I use Zapier to take the person’s name and email address from the form they just filled out and put that into the email template I wrote, and then take that now-personalized email and zap it into my drafts folder in GMail. ✨

    Make the email a draft or send it automatically?

    You have the option to do both on Zapier. The reason I set it to go to my drafts folder instead of send it to the client automatically is because:

    • If I like the client, it’s still super easy on my end. All I need to do is click send.

    • If I don’t think this is the right client for me, I can change the message to say we might not be a good fit, but here’s a referral.

    • If I want to edit the email to add something personal, I can. Do I super love what this client is working on? Do I want to add something specific about them in the email? Am I a fan of theirs and want to make my love known? Done!

    So it’s a little more hands-on than just sending out the message automatically, but it’s a flexible system that’s also a lot less hands-on than typing each message out from scratch.

    “Pick a date and time that works for you right here”

    This line links to my Acuity* scheduling page.

    When people visit it, they’ll see all my available slots to take a call, and all they have to do is choose one that works for them. No more: “Are you free on this date? Oh, how about this date? Hmm, only at that time? I’m out then. How about this other time?”

    (*Referral link!)

    Here’s how it looks like:

     
    Screen%2BShot%2B2019-02-24%2Bat%2B10.06.44%2BAM.jpg
     

    And and! When they schedule, I’ve set it up so the appointment automatically appears on my Google Calendar, and the client can click a link to make it appear on theirs! And when I’m busy, Acuity knows not to schedule anything for that slot. Amazing. An innovation.

    “When it’s time, meet me at thiszoomlink.com”

    I use Zoom as my video call platform. It’s great. All you both have to do is click the link and hello! You’re in a meeting!


    Free tools I used:

    Zapier has a free plan for up to five zaps. If you haven’t used it yet, it’s a platform that allows your apps to talk to one another! So in this case it’s: when “someone submits a form” → “grab that info from the form, stick it into a prepared template, and send that template to my GMail drafts folder”

    Acuity* is free if you have Squarespace, though it’s otherwise paid.

    • Calendly is similar to Acuity and allows you to get started for free! That’s what I used in the beginning!

    Zoom has a free plan, which I’m still on. The paid plan allows you to create unique links per meeting automatically but I just use my free “personal link” for everyone, hehe.

    • Or I mean, there’s also ol’ reliable Skype. Before I had Zoom, I would give people my Skype username and ask them to add me before our call.


    And that’s it!

    All that's left to do is show up to the call, get them to talk, and be charming enough to close!


    To recap:

    How it looks like on your client’s end:

    They see your page and are head over heels in love with you. Then they:

    1. Click the button

    2. Fill out the form

    3. Schedule a call

    4. Show up for the call

    How it looks like on your end:

    1. You get the email saying someone new filled out your form, here are their responses!

    2. Click “send” on the draft inviting them to schedule a call

    3. Show up for the call

    Beautiful.

    Also beautiful?

    Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 5.49.23 PM.png

    P.S. How I’ve tweaked the process

    The above was the basic system I implemented when I started out, but I enjoy tinkering and tweaking! Here are some changes I’ve made through the years.

    I swapped out Typeform for paperform*

    I wanted access to paid features. Having the ability to add more questions and do things like logic jumps would allow me to screen clients better (less work for me!), but on Typeform they cost $35/mo while on Paperform* they cost $15/mo. So . . . . .
    * That link gets us both 10% off forever!

    Q: Why didn’t I just go with Paperform from the get-go?
    They didn’t have a free plan and I like starting on free wherever possible. Also I didn’t know they existed back then. 😄

    I skip the email now (gasp).

    Instead, clients are automatically redirected to my scheduling page immediately after they submit the form. Nobody’s waiting around on anything anymore! All we both have to do is show up to the call when it’s time.

    Also, I figured, if I wanted to send a personal message (or reschedule / cancel the call) — I could always shoot them an email manually.

    But one thing that didn’t change?

    I still use this system. I love it. I have jumped on my friends’ laptops while they were in the middle of creating their services page to set it up for them. It’s so simple and flexible and scalable and did I mention free?

    (Wow attached? My baby?)


    And that’s it! Now you’re ready to start taking client inquiries on autopilot! It’s got a number of moving pieces, but after the relatively quick initial setup, it’s set and forget. (Or, if you’re like me, set and constantly tweak.)


    Untitled-3.png

    Ready to set up your own system?

    I’ve created an easy-to-follow tech walkthrough with everything you need (+ swipe files, a checklist, and GIFs!) to recreate all of the above!

    MikliComment
    Surf the Scared

    “But I’m scared.”

    I asked my son to go to the hallway closet to grab a towel, and he didn’t want to because it was dark outside. I gave him a flashlight, I told him I’d be right here watching, just turn left, it’s right there, so near!, but he was rooted to the spot.

    Vivid flashback to — oh, everything I do.

    90% of the online business job description is being scared.

    Creating content? Scary. Hitting publish? Scary. Promoting a new offer? Scary. Putting yourself out there but no one might notice? Scary. Putting yourself out there but people might notice? Scarier.

    Asking people to take a chance on me then making a fool of myself? Committing mistakes publicly? Not knowing what I’m doing at all ha ha ha?

    When something didn’t go my way, I used to go away. One bad comment about something I’d written? I’m a shit writer, bye, burn, draft, burn. No one signed up for my thing? I hate everything, I’m a failure, I can’t do anything right, I quit. Something I did wasn’t perfect on my first try? Why. Bother.

    But when I wrote my book in 2016, somebody asked me how I eventually finished it and launched it.

    Well … uh, I needed money.

    Though because I needed the money, I had no choice but to keep going until it was written and I eventually sold enough copies. I said this two years ago and hard same:

    I don't think making mistakes ever feels less uncomfortable, but after a few (a lot) of them, I got comfortable with the feeling of being uncomfortable.

    It’s letting myself feel asldkfjaldipek if I feel alkdsjfalksd, and riding that feeling out. Surfing the Scared instead of running away from it, or letting it paralyze me and keeping me stuck.

    I borrowed the name from Dr. Andrew Tatarsky, who does therapy for people with substance use problems using a harm reduction / compassionate pragmatism framework. His technique is called Surfing the Urge, i.e., the urge to use a substance. He explains it as “learning how to sit still and, over time, tolerate the associated distress or tension so we can bring more reflection and choice. This opens up the possibility of bringing a number of strategies to this moment that empower positive change.”

    It’s like putting stress and fear in my pocket. Allowing it to hang out with me, but also saying, don’t get in the way, okay?

    Sometimes I can breathe through it. Other times write down a list so it’s not all in my head. I’m still learning to not freak out, but it’s also something that gets much easier and much more automatic over time.

    Many times I see, ah, Old Mikli would totally panic over this. But! New Mikli! … is, okay, still panicking, but she’s no longer as panicky.

    And not being panicky allows me to think with a clear head, find solutions, experiment, make mistakes, and overall Do Things, even when I’m scared.

    I’m always scared. I’m still scared.

    But that’s okay, as long as I get to pay the bills.

    (And my son gets his towel.)

    musingsMikli Comment
    Writing every day for a week-ish.

    It began with stress.

    As you do.

    A month ago, I decided to transition from being a Virtual Assistant to being... I don't know, a something else. A whatever-it-was that allowed me more time to be with my son, do what I enjoyed and was good at, and tbh, have fewer meltdowns at the thought of my inbox.

    So I decided to write daily(ish) about the transition and my thought processes, and it lasted for a week(ish), until I felt clear enough to double down and work on something.


    Business model update: Project Takeoff is here!

    I'm still figuring out how to talk about it, but It This 👇🏼

    You + Me + 3 months to make your next online project happen.
    Check out the page for more details!

     
    Get Miklified.png
     

    Here are the entries. (Click through to read the originals on Medium.)

    Quitting to Begin.

    It was the best of plans, it was the worst of plans.

    What do bars and the online business world have in common?

    List down what you're good at. And a sneak peek.

    Stuck? Do the opposite of what you're doing.

    Doing nothing on purpose

    Not-exactly news flash: Consistency is hard

    Ready when you're ready.


    I don't have a freebie to offer you,
    but I do have more stories.

    I wrote the above because I see a lot of "before and after" stories — but rarely any durings.

    What are you thinking? Why are you making the decisions that you're making? What experiments are you up to and how are they working for you?

    If you'd like very informal, pressure-free (okay, that's more for me) stories of working in online business, may I have your email address so I can send them to you? HAHA.

    I promise I won't spam, as there's no way for me to write often enough to spam. I'll also share about some of my projects with you, yeah? :)

    MikliComment
    Service Springboard: Find Your Offer

    BIG MOOD: "I WANT TO DO SOMETHING, BUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT SOMETHING IS!"

    (Psst - if you want to read this later, you can click on the image to pin it!)

    Last year, I decided I wanted to earn more money on the side.

    But how, Mikli? 

    Good question. I didn’t know. Unless my very well-honed overthinking skills were capable of paying my son’s tuition bills, I was out of ideas. 

    If you will indulge me, here’s something I wrote more than a year ago:

    In the process [of trying to figure out what I can do], I started to question myself like I were a branding client. Unfortunately, asking myself “Why should people care?” “What makes you different?” “What value do you have to offer?” “And even then, would anyone even want what you have to give?” over and over has done a number on my self esteem.

    Twenty-five and a half years in, and I don’t have a thing.

    [And] assuming I do find what I want to do, assuming I do find my thing, assuming I do find what I can offer that no one else can, the question still is: will anyone need it? Will anyone want it? Pithily, will anyone pay me for it, because what’s a supply without a demand?

    Thank you, 2016 Mikli, for jumpstarting the process. 

    Because I was headed in the right direction with my questions. Good on me for trying to find the intersection between what I can do and what others need. I was just stuck. At some point, I had no answers. 

    What value do I have to offer? Well, I don’t know, that’s what I’m trying to figure out, okay!


    Welcome to the Service Springboard.

     

     

    You might also be asking yourself those same questions. You might also be just as stuck. 

    If you want to begin offering services — and, quick sidebar, this is a great way to start earning online. People will tell you you’re trading time for money, and that’s true. But you’re trading time… for money. And experience. And a whole lotta knowledge. Very worth the time, especially when you’re just starting — this is for you. 

    I want you to get on your feet a lot faster than I did. So. This is meant to be:

    • A springboard. Over the next few blog entries, we’ll be building a framework for your service-based business. We’ll talk specializing, pricing, systems, standing out online and booking your first clients — a jumpstart, if you will.

    • A toolbox. Play with these elements so you can create, experiment, evolve, and grow this business into something that works for you.

    • A quickstart guide. I’ll be asking you to put yourself out there because starting and following through is what will get you the furthest the fastest. (No overthinking. I did enough for the both of us already.) Will it be uncomfortable? Yes. Will it get easier? Also yes. Will it exponentially speed up your progress? Very very yes.


    Find Your Offer.

    The Quickest Start

    If you already have something in your head, some inkling of an, “actually, I’ve been thinking…” or a “well, this kind of sounds like fun…” or a “you know, people have asking me to…” 

    Offer it. 

    Offer to take somebody’s picture, call up five of your friends for an impromptu workshop at the nearby coffeehouse, or post something on Facebook

    Just get it out into the world. 

    The challenge: do it in 3 days and without spending more than $20. 

    Before you @ me perfectionists: It doesn’t have to perfect. It probably won’t be. And yeah, yeah, that’s what they all say, but — that’s what your 3-day deadline is for. Go before the doubt and fear creep in. You’re creating your first draft offer, and every first draft is perfect, because all it has to do is exist.

    Because then you’ll be able to see what happens when your thing meets the real world. And real world data > the 1,001 hypothetical scenarios and what ifs we cook up in our heads. Record and analyze your results. (Share what’s happening in the comments below.) See what worked and what you can improve on. Refine accordingly for the next round. Repeat!

    Now if you don’t have something in mind just yet and you have a bit of figuring out to do still, then read on. 


    Ready to find your offer and get started freelancing?

    The printable worksheet for this entry has all the prompts in one handy place + tons of space for all your notes and ideas. Get it here and follow along!


    You'll also receive occasional emails from me, and from time to time, I'll share new projects I'm working on. As always, you're free to opt out anytime. :)


    1. Long list

    In this section, write down everything that comes to mind without censoring your thoughts or erasing anything. Crazy ideas come to those who … allow them to come? That’s the saying, right? 

    Okay. Moving forward.

     

     

    On your area or domain or target market

     

    1. What things are you really interested in? 

    What do you find yourself Googling or researching all day, going down the rabbit hole, and clicking link after link?

    2. What kind advice do you find yourself giving often?

    3. What questions do you get asked a lot?

    Or, what kind of questions — even if they aren’t asking you specifically — do you enjoy jumping in on and offering answers to? 

    4. Who asks these questions?

    What kind of people are they, and what do they have in common? What do they want? And what problems, frustrations, or annoyances do they have that are getting in the way of what they want?

    5. What do you enjoy figuring out?

    Which problems do you enjoy solving? Which problems do you want to solve? When faced with something, where would you be, ah, wait, I got this!

    6. Who were you, once upon a time?

    Think back to a transformation you’ve undergone. Could present-you help past-you?

    7. Who do you identify with? Who are your people? 

    I used to blog about parenting, because I love raising my son and felt I had no other “thing” I could blog about. But I always found it weird that I didn’t identify with other parents or parenting bloggers; I wasn’t even hanging out in parenting Facebook groups. Where I did find myself enjoying and engaging though, were online business groups. I found my vibe- and wavelength-mates there; I got them and they got me. I decided not to fight it. I reveled and thrived in the online business community, and, here I am!

     

     

    On the skills and services you can offer

     

    Psst. You don’t have to be the only person in the world who does this. You don’t have to be the best person in the world who does this. You just need to be able to help someone out. The right offer, for the right person, at the right time. 

    1. What skills do you currently have? 

    Include things you might have gone to school for or taken trainings on or that you taught yourself. Also include soft skills, like being able to learn fast, or tell stories, or resolve conflicts easily, or be confident in front of an audience. Here’s a nice list of soft skills!

    2. What are your strengths?

    What are you naturally good at? What do people compliment you on a lot? Or you can ask other people: what do they find complex and complicated, but comes pretty easily to you?

    3. What do you want to be known for?

    “Oh, you need[thing]? You should totally go to [your name]!”

    4. What do you do when you procrastinate? 

    I found that I tinkered with my website a lot, even if I didn’t have any reason to. It was false busy work. And then I figured, you know what: what if I offer this tinkering to people who actually need it instead? Instead of it being a waste of time, let me just earn from it! 

    5. List very, very specific tasks that you can do. Then make that even specific-er.

    For example. When I began, I asked if anyone needed help “seting up Convertkit and embedding [the form] on your Squarespace site in a not-boring way.” I had to name the platforms, and what I could do within said platforms, instead of saying, “I know some tech.” 

    Original VA Post.png

    (Not for anything, but right after posting that ^ people commented and messaged me saying those were the exact skillsets they were looking for. First post ever, 0 client work experience. Specific just makes you really easy to find.) 


    2. Narrow it down

    Hopefully, your long list is giving you ideas. If anything immediately jumps out at you, go and test it! But if you’re going, “Okay, but which of these do I do though,” then it’s time to shrink that list into something doable. 

    Go through the prompts below. Encircle things on your list that are looking good, and strike through the ones that are… eh.

     

     

    1. Have any patterns emerged?

    What’s consistently showing up in your answers?

    2. Mix and match.

    Take an interest (or domain or target market) and pair it with a random skill, or vice versa. (Cats x Photography. Video Games x Video Editing. Parenting x Writing. Social Justice x Digital Art.) 

    Some things will come out weird. Some things will come out weirder. And some of those weird things might come out, “but hey wait a minute…” 

    3. What can you follow through on? 

    They say starting is the hardest part. It is not. It’s so much harder to finish the darn thing. Resistance rises. Motivation drops. But what are you passionate enough to build and see through ’til it’s done?

    4. What excites you? What’s worth the stress?

    Soul sucking work really is soul sucking. Today you can choose to say no to Dementors.

    5. What do you see yourself overdelivering on? 

    Think: Andy from the Devil Wears Prada after she bloomed. Miranda Priestly, her boss, asked her for the unpublished manuscript of the latest Harry Potter novel for her twin daughters. Not only did she find an impossible-to-get one, she had them copied, bound, sent to the twins (one each!), and plonked down a file copy in front of a stunned Miranda.

    I wanted to evolve to be Andy when I took on my first ever project management client. My goal was to read his mind. To be able to say I’m already done with the thing before I was even asked to do the thing. I got to the point where I’d receive one instruction and do the 10 other things he meant for me to do. It’s super satisfying. You won’t be able to stop.

    6. Low hanging fruit: what’s something you can already do?

    Like, right now. If I asked you. No need to study extra things. I mean. Learning is great and so, so key, and tbf we’re all learning on the job — it’s just, is this something you won’t have an “oh, I need to study this, oh, I need to learn this” procrastination shield to hide behind? 

    7. Most importantly: is it useful?

    Is it something that is important to other people, but they aren’t satisfied with how they’re currently dealing with it? Is it something they’re annoyed to have to do? Might someone somewhere be saying, “I wish someone could totally just ______”? 

    Here’s a handy table from page 7 of the workbook to help you determine where the potential might be. High scores = worth checking out.

    Figure out what services to offer as a freelancer!

    Know that none of these choices are final.

    Don’t think this has to be The One or anything. You can unchoose, you can choose again. You can tweak. You can remix and match. You can find some way to innovate! You can — yeah. You get it. Business is fun! You’re allowed to play.


    3. Test

    Ah, yes. The putting yourself out there part. 

    By this point, you may have an idea of what you’d like to do moving forward. Now we want to know: does anyone need it? More importantly: will they pay for it? 

    I’ll reiterate what I said in the Quickest Start section: the important thing is to get your (imperfect! minimum viable!*) offer out there into the real world asap, so you learn from it asap. That’s what will get your business moving the furthest, the fastest. 

    Remember: our challenge is to test your offer within 3 days for less than $20.

    * By minimum viable, I mean, test your idea in the smallest possible way before spending a ton of time and energy and money behind something that turns out to Not Be The Thing. (I’ve done this. Spent months and months creating an entire website for services from scratch ’til I realized too late that… nah I don’t even like doing these things! Please don’t go through that.)

    Now let’s find out if your offer has legs to stand on. 

     

     

    1. Interview people. Ask them about their lives (instead of about your service).

    Get on the phone or Skype, hop on Messenger, treat a friend to coffee — then make sure to take notes. Write their answers down because a) you will forget! and b) their exact words will make for some fantastic “how did you read my mind?” copy later on.

    Some tips: 

    • Don’t ask about the future. The future is hypothetical and foggy. “Would you…?” questions will probably get you answers from people who don’t want to hurt your feelings. 

    • Ask about past and current behavior. 

      • How are they currently dealing with the thing you’re offering? 

      • Why do they bother? (Or do they bother? Because maybe it’s annoying, but not annoying enough.) 

      • How long does it take them to do? 

      • How do they feel about the way they’re currently dealing with it (if that solution exists)? 

      • How much do they currently pay / have allotted in their budget to do it or have it done? 

      • What else have they tried? What did they think about those other solutions?

    • What do they want, and why is that important to them? And what’s keeping them from getting what they want? <— can you bridge that gap?

    • Ask them to talk you through the last time they did The Thing. (Write copy for their website, take a picture of their kids, create their own logo, etc.)

    Need a place to jot down your interview notes?

    Grab the Find Your Offer workbook here!


    You'll also receive occasional emails from me, and from time to time, I'll share new projects I'm working on. As always, you're free to opt out anytime. :)

    2. Offer a beta test to a few people for free or at a reduced price.

    It won’t tell you if anyone is willing to pay for it in full, but it’s a great way to have some leeway to work out the kinks, figure out if you actually like doing it, know what’s working and not working, and make it better for when you offer the paid version.

    Quick story. I offered to live-code people’s Convertkit email templates for free. As in, we’d be on Skype together, they’ll tell me the look and feel they’re going for, and I’m sharing my screen and editing in real time. “Could you change the font to…?” takes two seconds to do. In 30 minutes, boom. Done. They have a customized template. My beta slots “sold” out super fast and I ended up overbooking! It was great!

    But. I didn’t realize that — heh — coding is pretty much quiet work and I had to small talk for 30 minutes while figuring out wait no why didn’t this color change no my code is correct this should work agggghhhh stupid missing semicolon! 

    So now I offer templates in the shop. You can fill up a form and tell me what changes you’d like to make, and away I go. It’s a much more silent endeavor. 

    But.

    No one’s buying.

    But.

    That’s data. People were all over the customized live-coded templates, but not the ones they can buy off my store. Now I know. So maybe it was the live thing! Maybe it’s the cost? But hey! Now I can figure out my next move, tweaking and adjusting based on this real-life info.

    3. Write a blog entry on it — or a series of blog entries on it — and feel for the response.

    I mean. 

    ^ Pictured is the draft of this entry, which almost did not get written thanks to Smol Keht.

    ^ Pictured is the draft of this entry, which almost did not get written thanks to Smol Keht.

    4. Phrase your offer into something people would Google. Google it. Are there hits?

    Getting hits means there’s a market for it! People are looking for you!

    5. Scout Facebook groups.

    Go into a few where your target market might hang out and scope the questions. What are people frustrated with in there? What questions come up often? Are they wishing you exist?

    6. Create a sales or interest page, and see if people sign up.

    Lil warning, because a sales page is Your Marketing Skills on a a Stick, it might be a challenge to distinguish if people are interested / not interested in your offer, or in your messaging / positioning / sales techniques.

    7. The most concrete way to know if people will pay for it? Ask people to pay for it. Not hypothetically. For real for real. You’ll know it’s worth the money if they pay you the money.

    Nothing fancy; it can be as simple as posting on social media. That is A Thing I Did.


    And then record your data and learnings, analyze them, and refine! Repeat.


    To recap, your mission. 

    Download the workbook 👇🏼  if you haven’t yet. It’s a version of this entry — minus my ramblings — that you can print out and scribble on.

    (the aforementioned workbook)

    You'll also receive occasional emails from me, and from time to time, I'll share new projects I'm working on. As always, you're free to opt out anytime. :)

    Go through the exercises and come up with some ideas to test.

    Test your offer. And again, the challenge is to do it in 3 days with less than $20! Refine as necessary. 

    Final output: your offer!

    Sooooo? What are you gonna dooooo? 

    Report back here. I want to hear all about it please! Let me know how it goes in the comments. If you’ve got any questions, let me know too. (Alternatively, you can yell at me on Twitter or Instagram!)

    Yes? Yes! 

    I’ll see you over at the next entry to price and package that beautiful offer of yours!

    Mikli Comments
    On Not Being an Expert

    IF YOU CAN'T HONESTLY SAY YOU'RE AN EXPERT,

     

    A. THAT'S OKAY, AND

     

    B. YOU DON'T HAVE TO

     

    (Psst - if you want to read this later, you can click on the image to pin it!)

    You’ve been told to position yourself as an expert, yes or… yes? 

    Quick snag: what if you’re not an expert?

    I’m not talking about impostor syndrome, I’m talking about — we all have to start somewhere, no? And sometimes that somewhere is not automatically expert status, yes? 

    I mean, I’m just a girl. Sitting in front of her computer. Trying things out.

    Which, I think, is pretty much business in general, no? Starting with what we’ve got, learning along the way, and getting better while we’re at it. 

    And while I am a forever fan of lifelong learning, I also believe we can always start wherever we are. There’s always something in there we can package and offer to someone who might be looking for just that!

    For example: I’m not a developer; I learned my HTML and CSS by messing around with my Xanga and Livejournal in computer class. But a decade of tweaking blogs later, I’m able to take that stock knowledge and turn them into Convertkit email templates!

    Can I make you an entire website from code alone? Prooobably definitely not. But I can offer you this ^ , if you want not-so-plain text emails. It’s a little thing, but if it’s a little thing that you’ll find delightful and useful, I’m happy!


    The thinking behind positioning yourself as an expert is usually: get people to see you as The Authority On The Thing, so that they’ll trust you, so that they’ll buy from you, so that dollah dollah bills. 

    If you’ve got the skills, experience, or credentials to back yourself up, then that’s legitimately great! 

    But if you don’t? I for one would feel a little icky claiming to be an expert if I genuinely weren’t. If you can’t or don’t want to position yourself as an expert, my argument is: that’s totally okay


    1. Be honest about it.

    Crazy thing: people totally understand if you’re just starting out. 

    Everyone at one point or another began as a beginner. The this-doesn’t-feel-right thing about expert culture is, it’s almost as if you’re not allowed to be.

    This bullet point — being honest — is not about apologizing, or being self-deprecating, or devaluing yourself. It’s about being transparent and communicating with integrity. 

    You know how in your thesis, there’s a Scope and Limitations section — My study covers a, b, and c, but excludes x, y, and z — so that people know how to correctly apply what you’re saying? So there are no misinterpretations and misunderstandings?

    Sames.

    Honesty takes the pressure off of you to do everything and be everything, and gives your clients clear expectations so they know what they can come to you with. 

    Honesty without apologies can come in the form of being ultra-specific. So instead of saying something like, “I do web design,” you can say, “I can layout a simple landing page for you using Squarespace, and then hook up your sign-up sheet to Convertkit.”

    You get to do the work you’re good at. Your clients get receive the good work you’re able to do. Nobody’s frustrated, nobody’s or disappointed or guilty. 

    Total win-win.


    2. Be yourself.

    Wow, okay, very Miss Universe, but humor me for a sec.

    If there really were only space for people who were “the best” at what they did, then that means the world only gets one ever business coach, or personal trainer, or neurosurgeon, or author.

    Which is totally not the case. 

    Many times, we decide to work with people not just because of their technical knowledge and skills. We might say, hey, yeah, I like this person, because of:

     

    Their — and our — situation and circumstances

    I received an inquiry from a potential client for my virtual assistant services. She told me she was so glad she found me in one of the Facebook groups we were both a member of, as she’d been looking to hire a VA for a while but couldn’t afford one. “I saw your reply on Facebook and thought, this is someone who knows what she’s doing! So I checked out your site, looked at your rates … and decided to reach out!” 

    The going rates for the VAs she’d come across were too far out of her budget. This client is doing such wonderful advocacy work, and I felt… thankful? That she could afford me? Like, I’m glad this amazing lady now has access to the support she needs.

    On my end, I’m happy with what I’m charging; I don’t currently feel like I need to raise my rates. I know what I can do and do well. At the same time, I acknowledge that I’m still learning, and finding my footing when it comes to working with clients.

    So my rates are what feels fair for me at this point in time and in my career. 

    And it just so happens to be something that’s fair for her and her point in her career.

    And that’s how we got to talking!

     

    Relating to their story on a personal level

    In my quest to Not Be a Potato, I know I need to be a little more upright than my present position of lying in bed. I don’t want to, it doesn’t sound appealing, and watching CrossFit videos online scares me from beginning.

    But. If you’re a busy mom? Who can tell me how you snuck in micro-workouts in between PTA meetings and client calls? With tips like sitting your kid on on your shoulders to use as squat weights? 

    Hit me up, would you please. (No seriously, here’s my contact form.)

     

    Getting along with them

    There really are just some people who are, Hey, you and me? We vibes.

    Right? Your personalities mesh well together, or think in the same weird ways, or you value the same things. Whenever you guys interact, you’re on the same wavelength.

    If there’s anything doing group projects in high school taught me: 

    1. I hate group projects
    2. Things just progress so much better when you get along with the people you’re working with, because you actually get to, you know, work together. (A-hem)

    Don’t underestimate the bigness of the deal it is to simply be someone people like being with.


    3. It’s not about being the best — but about being the best fit.

    I truly and honestly believe there’s room for everyone. 

    Like: it only takes one clothes shopping trip to know that one-size-fits-all is mankind’s greatest practical joke. You don’t know me! You don’t know my life! You don’t know my butt circumference! Would you just please make things in my size instead of pretending this one thing works for everyone? 

    Just the same. 

    Expert or not, there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to people you naturally fit with and gravitate toward.

    I’ve totally been intimidated when I’d see, oh, this person is doing what I wanted to do, except a gazillion times better oh well I’m done bye.

    But then I flip the scenario and realize, wait a minute, I myself gravitate toward some online businesspeople more than others. And if you were to ask me why, it’d be because of things like, 

    • “I love the way her brain works, ‘cause she’s able to see and connect things in a way people usually don’t”, or, 
    • His blog entries are so short and easy to read, but after each one, I’m like oh right,” or, 
    • “I really admire her approach to business, because I totally feel the same way!” 

    Psst. None of these reasons were necessarily: Because they’re The Best and The Most Successful and The Expertest. I mean, they could be, but I promise I don’t know — I didn’t think of crunching the numbers before I decided that these are people I liked and looked up to.

    No one else is going to have your exact life experiences + your exact POV + your exact thinking process + your exact way of relating people + your exact way of expressing yourself + your exact skillset + your exact knowledge base + the exact things you’ve learned along the way.

    And all of these + all the things I forgot to mention make you a very specific person, who will be relatable to also very specific people. Put this out into the world, and you’ll find your audience, and your audience will find you, and you’ll both be all the happier for it ‘cause you guys are each other's people!

    There's room for you.

    Share what you do know, in the way that only you can, and I promise someone out there will appreciate that you did. 


    4. Enjoy it.

    Ever feel scared? Of getting something wrong, or failing publicly, or not knowing something? Or, of not being ready and not having things all figured out just yet? 

    I’ve found that a lot of my own clarity has come from just getting down and dirty — I end up figuring things out after doing something, not before.

    Sure, easier said than done. But admittedly much easier done when you’re just beginning and there are no expectations and no pressure to perform to Expert Status.

    It’s the most wonderful time of the entrepreneurial journey!

    Now is the time to learn all the things! Try all the things! Experiment all the things! 

    So says the incomparable Miss Frizzle:

    “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

    MikliComment
    How I got started as a virtual assistant for $0

    OR: AN OVERNIGHT SUCCESS, ONE YEAR IN THE MAKING 

    (Psst - if you want to read this later, you can click on the image to pin it!)

    My start as a virtual assistant wasn't so much carefully studied and strategized as it was, "Do I post this? Do I post this? Do I ... okay it's posted." 

    It was a post in one of my favorite Facebook groups: 

    + a few more images of my work that wouldn't fit in this screenshot

    + a few more images of my work that wouldn't fit in this screenshot

    I wrote this post at 1:41am, then promptly shut my computer, shoved it, and went straight to sleep.

    When I woke up the next day, I had inquiries. 

    Inquiries!

    Mikli, hey, looks like I could use your help, are you a native English speaker? Mikli, these are the exact skill sets I was looking for, DM-ing you. Hey Mikli, I saw that you also use this particular software on your site, do you think you could help me with that? 

    Whaa -- 

    From this post alone, I ended up with my first 5 paying clients. 

    One tiny Facebook post was my minimum viable beginning to becoming a VA, and it cost me nothing but courage and $0.

    Things have changed a lot since then. I've worked with amazing clients who taught me so much, refined my services, fixed my pricing (someone messaged me, "Hey, I could be shooting myself in the foot here because I want to hire you, but that's too low!"), and created this website. And it all began with that one little Facebook post.

    Technically, I could end this entry here. I mean, that is how I got started as a virtual assistant for $0.


    But my journey to get there, to the point where I was able to post something and earn from it overnight, started much earlier.


    1. It started with an acceptance letter.

    More specifically, my son's.

    He got into his first real Big Boy (aka private) school. And while I already knew that, okay, my savings aren't going to last forever. I need to do something -- this was the kick in the butt to actually get me to do something, instead of just saying I needed to.

    And so began my quest for Finding Something To Earn Money From. 


    2. AND a first draft.

    At that point in my life, it had just been school -> first job -> law school -> second job. I didn't feel like I had any marketable freelance skills. "I can... read?"

    So after thinking of anything I could do, I began Mikli Likes to Raket*: Raket Like a Hurricane, which later became Candid. I offered nine different services in three areas: makeup, photography, and writing. 

    I felt my way through building a website, first on Tumblr, then on Wordpress.com, then on Wordpress.org. I took the plunge and began a list on ConvertKit, where I had five people on it, including me. 

    I emailed my teeny-weeny list, and one person replied! We were going to have a makeup day + a photoshoot.

    Which I bombed.

    Which was good.

    Because that made me realize -- I don't want to be teaching people how to put on makeup, I don't want to shoot people who aren't my son or siblings. I probably could, with practice, but I realized this wasn't something I wanted to pursue.

    That was when I learned what I didn't want to do. And also, that not all interests need to be monetized.

    These were all things I wanted to do for me, for fun, and for free.

    I just wish I knew that before wasting time creating an entire website that I was going to end up killing.

    *raket: side-hustle, little moneymaking gigs


    3. And a second draft, and third draft, and fourth, and...

    Then came Iskwelahow*, where I wanted to create a hub for skills school didn't teach us. I asked my friends for things they wished they learned in school, I got a flood of responses, then realized, haha, I can't run this blog. I don't know any of those things, too!

    Then came niching down of my old blog, Stesha, from a life/beauty/parenting/photography/writing blog to one about raising my son. People were responding really strongly to those posts, so I decided to go for it! I moved from Tumblr (the old site still exists here) to its current home in Squarespace.

    Then everyone kept telling me to "write a book!"

    So I created an email course that was going to be Chapter 2 of the book, to test the waters.

    The email course had 2 sign ups. That was after I'd run it as an ad on Facebook, and in juxtaposition to my no-freebie-at-all general sign up for "lessons from my 5-year-old" on my blog that got 40+ sign ups without my trying. I was so sad. I didn't do anything for a week except eat. What was I going to write a book on now? 

    I interviewed people. The ones who were responding to my posts. My posts were working, but I didn't know why. If I didn't know why, I couldn't replicate it. So I asked things like: Why do you like my blog? Why do you read about my parenting stuff even if you don't have kids? What are you getting from it? Why y'all be commenting for more?

    I decided, again, to write a book.

    *iskwelahan: school, so iskwelahow was a Taglish pun


    3. And a book.

    I threw myself into writing. For four months, I concentrated my efforts on this little baby.

    (Title is a real-life conversation I had with my son,&nbsp; sigh sigh sigh )

    (Title is a real-life conversation I had with my son, sigh sigh sigh)

    I had a day job, so I'd write all night and into the morning, sleep from 5:30am to 8:30am, lose the will to write for another few days because I was just so spent, take a 3-day nap, and stay up again.

    And then aside from writing itself, I learned the tech, I got cross-eyed integrating systems, I built my own landing page, I ... okay, I asked my sister for help with social media strategy because I don't know how to do that.

    I launched the book for presales on my birthday. Facebook would kindly be giving me the spotlight, and with my small network, I really needed that.

    And after months of freaking out while simultaneously trying not to freak out so I can get things done, my book was finally released into the world! 

    It was a pretty good launch. I set a goal to reach P20,000 (~$400) by December, enough for that year's quarterly tuition payment. I made more than P30,000 (~$600) from eBook and print book sales, and it felt so good to pay for my son's tuition with my own money from something I created. It was such a super-empowering single mom moment! Like, yeah, private school. Whaddup. I did that.

    I don't think anybody talks about 3-digit launches .... at all, but oh my goodness. Those first few sales? Refreshing my Gumroad dashboard all day? Withdrawing from my bank account without blinking? Being able to say I made you! while cradling that book like a baby and having people message me saying they loved it?

    Best.


    4. And by making friends

    I didn't go through the entire journey alone. Aside from bugging my family and friends for help (who were really just fantastic bug-ees), I found myself in the world of e-learning and online communities. 

    I enrolled in Arriane Serafico's Braver Goals course. That's not an affiliate link; I really believe it was the kick in the butt I needed to get started in online business! Girl's got systems and tough love and will make you act instead of just think. It's a 90-day program, and I enrolled in the version with the small community so it really built up a habit of showing up and getting things done. No time for second-guessing and being scared when there's work to do.

    She's the type of person who would say -- and just last week! -- you should make a course about becoming a VA, from someone who's just 2-3 steps ahead. Does that sound like something you'd be interested in? Yeah? Cool! Send me your outline in 3 days. Bam, done.

    (So, you know, watch out for that!)

    She taught me how to go for small wins (and ergo, small failures, if things didn't work out) and just iterate, iterate, iterate. Experiment, experiment, experiment.

    I was also active in online groups. It was great to be learning with and from other people who were in the same online business industry. And as I learned, I shared.

    I think it was Maya Elious who said, if you don't have the money, you better have the time. Well, I didn't have the money. So all my time and effort was put into figuring out how to be a one-woman show. Turns out there's a lot that goes into it, and I was just so happy to answer any questions people had about anything I'd picked up along the way.

    VA-ing was still out of my radar at this point; I was just gladly replying to posts as someone whose niche was in the faraway land of parenting. AKA, I was helping with genuinely no strings attached.

    I also shared my small wins, like this one:

    Regina is Regina Anaejionu of byRegina.com: queen of infoproducts + silly accents + generosity. This was posted in her group, Humans of Online Business, where I would later post my VA screenshot, the very first one in this post.

    This impulse share was, I kid you not, life changing. 

    One: Regina shared this and my story with her followers and doubled my book sales overnight. I was subscribed to her email list so imagine my surprise when I woke up the next morning reading an email about myself. Surreal is not a strong enough word, friend.

    Two (and this is fast forwarding a bit to months and months after this particular screenshot): Regina didn't catch my post about looking for clients. Someone else who did just happened to mention to her that I was offering services. And she was like, "Mikli? Mikli, the one with the book Mikli?" 

    And she ended up messaging me. 

    Did my heart skip a beat? No, 'cause it skipped like 7. 


    5. By asking myself: Is there a better way? 

    I made a bit of money with my book in the beginning, but to a girl with a tiny list and network who gets physically drained after doing any kind of promotion? Sustaining sales was definitely not passive. I couldn't keep it up.

    Each book is only P511 (~$10.22). I keep most of it for eBook sales, but only make P326.50 (~$6.53) for every print sale. That meant I needed to sell a hundred print books to make the kind of money I made during my launch. If I consigned the books to a bookstore, I'd have to sell even more.

    Effort to ROI ratio was not looking good.

    I'm going to humor Simon Sinek here and go back to my Why. I didn't necessarily dream of becoming an author. My passion wasn't parenting (at least, in general; I just wanted to parent my own kid, thanks), and felt it was too personal to teach (I have drafts of courses that have never the light of day because I feel so weird about it). 

    Your girl just needed money to give her son a good education.

    My Why was money, it was.

    So I asked myself: is there a better, smarter, way to get this money? A more sustainable way? Without sacrificing my creativity and problem solving-ness? That allows me to both earn and learn?


    AND HERE WE ARE.

    In a pretty big nutshell.

     

    In a weird series of turns and events, I found myself becoming a virtual assistant. Overnight took only a year or so.


    In a smaller nutshell, here are my takeaways: 

     

     

    1. Your drafts all count.

    I didn't make money from Candid, except for when my one client insisted she pay for my son's chicken nuggets because I refused her money. (I was that bad.) I have a whole Graveyard of Mistakes, with dead opt-ins and websites. I wasn't making much from Stesha, or the tips and tricks I was sharing in groups.

    But in a way, I'm currently earning from all of them. 

    If I didn't do any of that, I wouldn't have the skills I have now to figure out how the pieces of online business work together, I wouldn't have people telling me they booked me because they already knew who I was and what my work was like. 

    I ended up using everything. My first draft, my second, my third. There were no wasted efforts. I just needed the bravery to begin, and the resilience to keep pushing. 

     

     

    2. And it's so okay to begin small.

    Big can be paralyzing; small is doable.

    It's just a matter of stacking the little doables on top of one another, and pretty soon, what's doable becomes done.

     

     

    3. Be helpful without an agenda, be generous where you can.

    (Also, side note: you can totally tell if someone's being smarmy and helping just to pitch though, right? Right? I mean, we all gotta make money. But sometimes it just comes across icky and like they're trying to take advantage, y'feel?)

     

     

    4. Turns out business is one gigantic figuring-things-out after another.

    And everybody is still figuring things out.

    Mikli