How This Freelance Virtual Assistant Built A Thriving Business

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Sanja Veletanlic quit her full-time job after only making $10 as a freelance virtual assistant. After applying for a couple small business grants to help her through year one, her virtual assistant business Go2Human started to take off. Now it’s her full-time job, and she’s got clients all over the world. In this interview, Sanja shares more about her journey into freelancing and the experiences she hopes help other people considering becoming a freelance virtual assistant.

How did you get into freelancing?

I always dreamed about it – no, not really. After I moved to Split, Croatia and started working as a Systems Analyst, all the SQL queries, bugs and testing weren’t what I hoped for. I didn’t like it. And I was bad at it. Every day I felt like a failure. The learning curve didn’t seem like a curve to me – I felt stuck. So, I started looking for a way out. 

Split is a very nice place to visit for your summer holiday, but it is not (or was not) a very nice place to look for a job. At least, not for people who don’t feel like working in tourism. What I realised then, some 2 years ago, is that 99% of work I do can be done from anywhere. It doesn’t matter where my office is. 

And I remembered I’ve created an Upwork account years ago, although I never used it. I logged in, updated my profile and started browsing jobs. I wasn’t sure that was the way to go, but I said to myself if I can get one job there, no matter how small, that will be it. And I got it. For $10 I have rewritten one long text that was originally written by Gugl Transleit. I added a little extra there – I marked all the bad translations on the client’s website that needed to be fixed. Spent a whole day doing that. Client left a very nice review of my work on Upwork and asked for more. I said OK, but this time for $60. Client said no. I said OK, thank you, it was nice working with you. That was the moment I decided to quit my job and dive into freelancing full time. 

How did you become a freelance virtual assistant? 

Tech savvy virtual assistant is what describes me best. 

At the same time, that’s the worst description. It doesn’t say much about what I actually do and how I do it. I love technology, finding ways to optimize dull tasks, always looking for better ways to do just about anything, starting and running projects, coordinating, organising… Now you kind of get the picture. 

Clients who hire me as a virtual assistant are usually tech start-up’s and I mostly work with CTO’s. Those who hire me for Notion setups are much more diverse. From Alaskan Construction Builders, Canadian Creative Agencies, Australian Business Analysts, to Norwegian e-commerce. I do have one local client too, website consultant & website copywriter for B2B IT companies.

What’s your favorite thing about being a freelance virtual assistant?

It changed me. I get so many ideas now – and I get to try them out. My brain is high on everything I feel I could still do. And it all seems possible. That’s what freedom feels like. And people – you get to choose who you work with. Sure, some people can choose in their regular jobs too, but it’s so much easier to do just that when you are a freelancer. And I can now speak my mind and do the work in a way I feel is right. And learning – wow! I learn so much every day! And making a change – now I can see how my work impacts others, in a good way. Sorry, don’t have one favourite thing, I am hooked on freelancing all together.

What do you hate about freelancing? Why?

Hate is a strong word, but I am sad that many people still don’t have a good idea about freelancing. They see it as a threat – I see it as an opportunity. I understand those people – I was one of them. Having dental is important. Having a good team is important too. Freelancing doesn’t necessarily mean you get to lose that and other nice things – they simply change. Now I earn more than at my last regular job, and I can afford to pay for my dental. And the team part – I can now choose my team, and they can choose me.

What’s your freelancer tech stack?

Platforms I use every day:

Platforms I use often:

Client-specific platforms:

Not a week passes that I don’t install at least one new app. I am curious and always looking for some new cool tools, but above are tools that stayed.

What’s one pitfall of freelancing that every freelancer should be aware of? How can they avoid it?

Thinking too much about competition. Especially if you are a virtual assistant. Just forget about competition. Yes, there are virtual assistants that work for $4 per hour. I believe you can even find VA’s for $1 per hour. That is not work. That is slavery.

Lowering your prices because there are other people who will work for less is a bad thing. Don’t do that. Look for clients who respect you – and clients paying you less than 1 litre of milk per hour do not respect you. Learn things, everything is online now – and ask for a fair pay. It is possible. It won’t happen if you say yes to slavery.  

What’s your advice for freelancers having trouble closing clients?

Be clear and specific in what you are offering. Saying ‘I am a virtual assistant and I will help you’ is too vague. Explain how exactly you will help. What will you really do? What do you know? Let your clients learn that about you even before you are in the ‘we are closing a deal now’. Show them examples. Write articles about topics that interest you to have them in your portfolio when applying for content creation jobs. Create presentations about your pets to show your presentation skills. Write about pivot tables and vlookups if you are looking for an Excel / Sheets job. Show them what you could do.

What’s your top growth tip for freelancers?

I work every day on client related projects, and then I also do something for my own business every single day. Small things like writing a post on LinkedIn. Going to a meetup. Talking to people about what troubles them. Giving support where I can. All that won’t produce high growth, but will make you stronger.

What’s your favorite quote?

“No one can feel as helpless as the owner of a sick goldfish.”  — Kin Hubbard

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Header image courtesy Sanja Veletanlic