Esther, Virtual Agency Owner

Esther Guavabean

Hi, I'm Esther and I’m originally from San Diego, California.

I've also lived in Slovakia, Maine, and now Bali for one and a half years. Plus, I’ve always traveled for months at a time!

What do you say when people ask "What do you do?"

I teach women how to work as Virtual Assistants and I run my own virtual agency creating online courses for public figures.

How many years have you been freelancing?

6 years.

Why did you get started with online/freelance work?

I was a military wife and Mom. I loved my corporate job, but the lack of flexibility, long hours, not seeing my family, and how all my money went toward taxes, childcare, insurance, bills and paying to make things easier due to my working schedule just didn't make sense to me.

I knew there had to be other options and that "this just isn't it...this cannot be the 'dream'".

Where did you find your first paid freelancing job?

Craigslist! It was a $20/hr full-time virtual assistant position.

How did you price your services when you were just starting out?

I have a degree and years of experience so I didn't have to start from the bottom. I charged $20/hr but should have been charging more for all I had to offer.

Most freelancers try several jobs before settling down. What jobs did you try before choosing your current occupation?

Blog Writing and Social Media Management.

What are your favorite things about freelancing/working from home?

The FREEDOM!!! I love being able to work at a cafe one day, at a pool the next day, from a co-working space, or from my business besties’ houses surrounded by our dogs.

I love being able to live somewhere inexpensive so we can work hard and then REST and REFRESH and live our lives doing things we enjoy.

I’m no longer working just to pay the bills then do chores/errands and DIE. I have a life now.

What's your LEAST favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?

It gets lonely and isolating. Even if you have a husband and child like I do, they don't know (or care much) about the epic things you are doing.

So you must find your tribe both locally and online so you always have people to connect with that get you, can toss around ideas with you, work together, collab, etc.

How long did it take for you to feel like a "successful" freelancer. Until you were able to pay your bills regularly without worrying?

To be clear, there’s never going to be a time where you feel like, 'Oh I made it! I am successful now!' There's always going to be more you want and cracks you can see in what you've created that need fixing.

Also, you can be set for a while and then all of a sudden lose a big client and be back down to pennies again. However, I would say that for the last 2 years I've really been able to get sorted (so that'd be year four).

Looking back to when you were just getting started... what tool, tip, or resource do you wish was available to you back then? What would've made your journey into freelancing MUCH easier?

Loom! Being able to screen capture quick videos and send to prospects, send edits to my team, etc... has been a game changer in our efficiency and helps me to close deals!

What's your favorite way to find new clients and job opportunities? What worked the best for you?

I work with high-end clients, so live events where I know they attend & referrals are the best ways for me to find work.

I try to attend events I know they'll be at, speak at them if I can, and even spend money on things like masterminds or business clubs where I know they'll be.

If you do it right, one event can lead to MONTHS of work. One mastermind can mean you’re the go-to person for your skillset in a large group of business owners.

What are the top 5 tools you use most often in your daily work?

In your opinion, what's the most important quality or trait for a freelancer to have?

Persistence. Never give up. The only reason someone else is ahead of you is because they didn't give up. That's IT. So you can't either.

Everyone has stuff come up, issues, big problems, etc. The only difference is some people find a way to go on and others choose to throw in the towel early.

What does your average Monday look like?

7:30 am: wake up, get the kiddo out the door. 8 am: meetings or Facebook Live/Group Calls for my program. 9 am - 11 am: break to do morning pages, shower, eat, go to a cafe/friends house/co-working space.

Then 11 am - 5 pm: work. 5 pm - 8 pm: time with my son. 8 pm - 9 pm: respond to teams in other time zones and do any creative tasks I didn't get to that day that don't require a bunch of brain power but that I enjoy and can do while I watch TV. ;) 

On average, how many hours do you work on a regular weekday?

40? No idea, it all blends together! I usually work 11 am - 9 pm but take a bunch of breaks to spend time with my son, swim, go to a friends house, get lunch, etc...

How do you stay motivated and focused when you don't feel like working?

Morning pages (doing three pages of free flow writing everyday), self care and getting outside.

I definitely lose my mojo sometimes and have to dig into why I am feeling this way. Usually it’s because I’ve been working too much and not balancing it with other things I also enjoy, so I try to fix that.

It can also be because I am trying to take on too much and it’s uncomfortable or I need to adjust something I’m currently offering because it’s no longer enjoyable.  

What was one of the biggest challenges or roadblocks that you had to overcome in your journey to be a successful freelancer?

Realizing that success is a long game and it looks different to everyone. It’s hard work and I can't compare where I am to other people that are years ahead of me.

Also, my version of success doesn't have to look like anyone else's. Owning that and dismissing the comparison game was a big one.

What would you say to someone who asks "How can I find freelance jobs if I don't have much experience yet?"

Get experience. This is why I have my VA Internship program. We wanted to give everyone skills AND experience AND referrals.

Offer to do a small set of work for free for your ideal clients and watch what happens! Referrals upon referrals!

Now that you've experienced all the ups and downs of being a freelancer, would you go back to a regular 9-5 job?

HELL NO. But I do believe in either having 1 retainer client/task every month or another digital product/source of income.

You need a minimum every month you can count on for when work is slow, otherwise it's too stressful.

If you could work from anywhere, what would be your dream work location?

I'm living in it! We've been in Bali for 1.5 years and LOVE it!

Do you have any work routines or habits that boost your productivity?

I already mentioned morning pages, but besides getting anxiety out and helping to sort out the personal side of my virtual work life, it also boosts my productivity. My brain is cleared out and then has more space for all the work I do thereafter.

Also, engaging in a weekly or daily creative practice is good. Coloring, watercolor class, drawing, writing, whatever you enjoy (you don't have to be good at it!) really serves you and your business.

Being creative all day in your business drains your creative energy well, but engaging in these practices helps refill it so you can come back refreshed and working at your peak capacity.

Finally, I have a chef prepare healthy Ketogenic meals for me and my family! It's been a game changer. I literally get about 10hrs/week back into my life to use to make more $$$$$ ;)

Your best interview tip?

Be excited about how you can help THEM. Don't talk about yourself as if you’re so awesome, always relate it to what they are looking for in their job posting + company values.

Also, remember as a freelancer, this is a collaboration. It's not an interview with you, you are interviewing each other. Ensure they are a good fit for you too!

What do you wish other people knew about freelancing?

How much more money you can make by working less and on your own terms, using skills you already have or can easily learn for free (or at least way cheaper than a university degree)!

What advice would you give other people who are just getting started, but are still unsure about freelancing?

Make a 'backup plan' -- like I said before -- about having a retainer client, retainer tasks or other sources of income. This allows you to not stress about getting clients or work as much. You know your bases are covered.

Our business makes loads of money but it's project-based; I still have bills when we don't have as much work! So even I, the owner of an agency, take on retainer projects and have other sources of income just so I know I'm covered every month should anything not pan out.

This can also look like rental income, an eCommerce business that's doing well, bartending two nights a week, teaching English a few hours a week, etc.

The reason this is important is because you never want to be desperate. Being desperate means you take work you don't want to do or clients that suck, and then end up worse off than if you just bartended two nights a week and had a blast doing it. You can't grow if you’re working with crappy people.

If you could go back to your early days as a freelancer and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

To niche down into online courses and high-end clients sooner and to have that 'retainer' source of income, even just 5 hours a week or whatever to relieve the ups and downs of my family's finances.

Anything else? Last words of advice or suggestions?

Surround yourself with people who get you and are working toward FREEDOM too. Work with clients and projects you LOVE. Listen to your gut.

Don't forget to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually because it greatly impacts your work and progress toward success.

Define success for yourself. Never compare yourself to anyone else or listen to naysayers that have no idea about your niche or industry.

Connect with Esther at the links below:

Read more Freelancer Stories 💪

Want to share your freelancer story?

👇 #sharingiscaring 👇