Episode #56

With Natalie Pinnell

How Natalie Quit Her Job at Virgin Atlantic and Retired Her Husband with Vida Virtual Support

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56 – Becoming an Online Business Manager With Natalie Pinnell

Natalie Pinnell started her working career for a company most people would dream of, Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic. She quickly moved up the corporate ranks to become an Executive Assistant for the company and realized that the room for growth was limited after that.

Natalie loves being an integral part of people’s success and enjoys being the integrator for her fellow co-workers. As her family started to grow, she needed a better way to live life on her own terms, and that is when she started Vida Virtual Support.

If you need help with systems, automation, and everything in between, this is the episode for you!

Difference between VA vs OBM?

  • Virtual assistants usually implement the tasks, create the content, and manage the client care whereas an Online Business Manager usually manages the tasks.

How to scale as a Virtual Assistant?

You can either scale a Virtual Assistant business by:

  • Niching down and being able to charge a premium price
  • Upgrading your services to go into more of a management aspect
  • Growing an agency!

What does it take to be a Virtual Assistant?

  • Almost anyone can be a virtual assistant! There are tons of videos on YouTube that allow you to learn certain skills that you may need.
  • As a virtual assistant, you don’t need to know every skill and task, which is one of the biggest factors people don’t become a virtual assistant.

Pricing your services as a Virtual Assistant?

  • $29/hour was Natalie’s starting price! That is average, not high!
  • Natalie recommends that you should never charge less than $20/hour
  • If you are a subcontractor, $20/hour is reasonable because you do not have the overhead costs and the responsibility of dealing with the client.

How do I get started as a virtual assistant?

  • One of the best ways is to go work for another virtual assistant. You will not have the drama or headache of trying to figure everything out all at once.
  • You can learn the tasks you enjoy the most and figure out what you want to do.
  • Once you are comfortable, you can branch-off and start offering your own services.

Pro-tip: make sure to look at the contract you are signing with your employer. Be sure there is no “non-compete” clause or something that says you cannot go into the VA world for X amount of time.

Unbillable time?

Unbillable time was an interesting concept that we know of, but don’t talk about often. In fact, there was tons of unbillable time that I had in my marketing agency, which probably contributed to my burnout greatly.

How do you know your employees won’t undercut you and work with your clients directly?

  • This does not even concern Natalie.
  • What impresses me with Natalie is that she knows who she wants to work with and sticks to that. She wants to work with people of integrity, first and foremost. If a client is willing to undercut her and go work with one of her VA’s directly, she does not mind losing them, because they are not her target client anyways!

Where do I get to get clients as a new virtual assistant?

First of all, congratulations on getting started! This is the hardest part.

One of the best places to find work is entrepreneurial Facebook Groups like this one for Side Hustlers.

LinkedIn is another great place to get started! She posted on LinkedIn telling her network what she is doing now and asking for people who know anyone that may need the service.

Natalie got her first client from her own network, which is the most overlooked spot to find work.

Do you believe in job boards like Fiverr or Upwork for finding Virtual Assistant work?

Not really! Although Natalie has hired people for one-off, small tasks on these job boards, she does not recommend you get started on them.

If you are not extremely niche or do not have a really big differentiation factor, you will be competing with people who are very low cost and your hourly rate will suffer. If you have extra time, sure, the exposure will not hurt, but it is not going to be your best bet to start with.

Do not be in a race to the bottom, show your value and charge top dollar with it!

What is the automation that you use for Virtual Assistants?

When you are getting started as a virtual assistant, you do not need to focus too much on automation, but it is good to keep it in mind.

Natalie automates her reporting so that she can see how much time is spent on each client.

For clients, there are notifications that go to support requests from client to notification in slack, which is automatically assigned to a VA on her team.

A lot of the automation that is available in the space is direct, meaning that the platforms work together. For the integrations that are not automation, Natalie uses Zapier to connect them.

What are the biggest mistakes a Virtual Assistant can avoid when starting out?

The biggest one is to not try and learn everything before doing anything. When you starting out, it can be tempting to binge-watch YouTube on all the different types of platforms and systems, which leads to overwhelm, and then they don’t make any progress with any.

You cannot learn systems any more efficiently without being on the job!

Systems can be used in so many ways and they are most likely customized to each business, so instead of binge-watching videos, spend more time with your client and add your extra time there.

Startup costs associated with being a virtual assistant?

All you need to get started is:

Internet, computer, and a way to get paid!

You may want to look into a way to track your time to, toggl.com is the one Natalie uses!

You do not need a business model, business plan, or anything like that to get started as a virtual assistant. It isn’t until you get going that you will get clear on what you want anyways.

Should you have a business name or a personal name for your virtual assistant company?

If you know that you want to be behind the scenes and take the “agency” approach, then take the corporate business name approach. This is what Natalie did with “Vida Virtual Support”.

If you know that you want to be front-facing, do more of the work yourself and maybe make it a “consultancy” rather than “agency”, then you can fancy your name in the business name.

There are pros and cons to both of them, and it really comes down to what you want and do not want.

Natalie will still get clients due to her name and people knowing she is the one behind Vida Virtual.

What is your #1 tip for a virtual assistant starting out?


Natalie sees so many people who are still deciding about being a VA, and then half decide, and then just procrastinate and do not do the work that it takes.

If you are going to become a virtual assistant or online business manager, then decide that and go all in.

If you are having trouble deciding, it is probably because you do not have a why. Figure out your why and write that down somewhere near your desk.

Without your why, you will diddly-dawdle on the fence when tough decisions come.

What is next for you?

Natalie has retired her husband from the day job and couldn’t be happier about that! This was one of her biggest goals and now she is looking to continue to grow, hire, and acquire!

Natalie is very involved in her clients still and this year she wants to shift her role more as the CEO of the company rather than the COO.

Hosts & Guest

Matthew Alexander

Natalie Pinnell

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