Ep. 368: From Virtual Assistant to 7-Figure CEO with Abbey Ashley of the Virtual Savvy

abbey ashley

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I'm so excited to introduce you to this week's guest on Pep Talks for Side Hustlers, Abbey Ashley of the Virtual Savvy!

Abbey Ashley is the Founder of The Virtual Savvy. She helps aspiring virtual assistants launch and grow their own at-home businesses from scratch. Abbey started her own virtual assistant business in 2015 and was able to double the salary from her full-time corporate job, working only 20 hours a week… in just 30 days! She's since gone on to grow a multi-seven-figure business and retire her husband ALL from her at-home business. It's now her passion to help others start their own VA business so they can taste the freedom and flexibility of entrepreneurship as well.

Push play to listen to this week's episode, or read the full transcript below!

Connect with Abbey:

Shannon Mattern: Hey there. Shannon Mattern here and welcome to Pep Talks for Side Hustlers a podcast that brings you side hustle, success stories, motivation, and actionable advice to help you go from side hustle to self-employed without taking a pay cut. So I started side hustling back in 2014 as a web designer and after several months of undercharging and over-delivering, I decided to quit doing one-on-one web design work and started teaching people how to do it themselves instead. And what I didn't expect was all of the students who just wanted to hire me to build their websites for them. So I fixed my broken freelance web design business, got it profitable and sustainable. And then I was finally able to replace my six figure income and quit my day job. So on Pep Talks for Side Hustlers I not only share with you my ongoing business journey, but I also bring you stories of successful side hustlers who started from scratch just like you, and have gone on to replace their paycheck and create six and even seven figure online businesses.

Shannon Mattern: So if you're a do-it-yourselfer or a web designer, I have got tons of free resources to help you build a profitable, sustainable, and scalable business. So head on over to shannonmattern.com/free to get your hands on them. Okay. So let's go ahead and dive in to this week's episode. Welcome to episode 368 of Pep Talks for Side Hustlers. And I am so excited to introduce you to today's guest Abby, Ashley Abby is the founder of the The Virtual Savvy, where she helps. Let me start over. Sorry. I said Sabby, let me take a sip of this coffee to make a note, to tell my VA that I was like, there's a second 3, 2, 1 that you need to look for in this service. All right. So we will get started in 3, 2, 1,

Shannon Mattern: Welcome to episode 368 of Pep Talks for Side Hustlers. And I'm so excited to introduce you to today's guest Abby Ashley. Abby is the founder of the The Virtual Savvy, where she helps aspiring of virtual assistants launch and grow their own at-home businesses from scratch.

Shannon Mattern: She started her own VA business in 2015 and was able to double the salary from her full-time corporate job at working only 20 hours a week in just 30 days. And she's gone on to since grow a multiple seven figure business and retire her husband all from her at home business. And I have seen you around and all of the groups and all of the things, and I'm so excited to finally have you on the show. So thank you so much for being here. Can you share a little bit more with our listeners about you and what you do?

Abby Ashley: Of course. Well, thank you so much for having me here. I am super excited. And as you told in my backstory, I started this virtual assistant business, and around 2016, I had so many people asking me, Hey, what is it that you do? How did you do this? And I had grown a little bit of an email list as well, and was asking them, what do you want to learn from me? And essentially they said, teach us how you started a virtual assistant business. So I listened and created a course to teach people how to choose their services, set their rates, the legalities, marketing. Everything that I learned I basically put into this course. And essentially it's same course that I started in 2016. We just got our the 5,000th student that has gone through that course. And it's just been incredible.

Abby Ashley: And it's, it's awesome for me because this was so transformational when I discovered virtual assistants. I didn't know that it existed. And this whole online world of freelancing opened up to me in a way that I had never really thought of before. It was so life changing. And it's that life change is what we are all about at the The Virtual Savvy, like the actual stories of people coming out of our program and the successes that they have and the lives that they're able to live as a result of having that kind of freedom. So I love it. I love what we get to do.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. I'm so excited to dig into that. And I want to like take you back to the version of you before you started your virtual assistant business. What did your life look like and why did you decide to even pursue that in the first place?

Abby Ashley: Yeah, well, I've always had a little bit of an entrepreneurial mind. My dad was an entrepreneur and I remember even at a young age we would like spit ball business ideas back and forth to each other. So it's definitely in my blood. I was a stay-at-home mom at that time. I had to stop my corporate job to nanny and kind of be at home with my kid, but was really still needing income because I had kind of let go of that corporate salary. And I tried a couple of different businesses, you know, just like we all do. Right. And I think that a lot of us get discouraged because we start and stop so many different things. But I truly believe it's a sign of an entrepreneur. It's like, you just gotta find that right fit.

Abby Ashley: Right? And so, I tried reselling jeans on eBay or buying textbooks and reselling them online. So I was trying to do some things at home, but none of them really stuck. And that's when a friend said, Hey, have you heard of being a virtual assistant? Which I hadn't. And that night I scoured the internet finding anything I could about virtual assistants. And this was back in 2015 so there definitely wasn't as much information as there is now. And the next day I said, I'm calling myself a virtual assistant, let's do this. I signed up for some local networking meetings. I built a simple website just using one of those free website tools. I mean, I was just all in from pretty much the day I found out about it. And I think it was the kind of that all-in attitude and that just, you know, go set ready, which is something that we say a lot over the The Virtual Savvy, that just enabled me to find clients quickly. Because I said, Hey, if this is going to happen, well, one, it needs to happen quick because I didn't mention I was also pregnant at the time. And I was like I want to make some money and have something sustainable by the time my son is born. So that was kind of my side motivation as well.

Shannon Mattern: I love that go set, ready mindset. So were you just like, I'll do whatever assisting you need and I'll figure it out as I go? Was that kind of like your mindset?

Abby Ashley: A hundred percent? And so the things I was finding out was as I just started talking to small business owners is that, especially local people, they didn't have these huge online businesses. You know, it was a State Farm agent or a massage therapist, right? And they said, oh, could you answer these customer service emails? Or do these appointments setting phone calls for me? I have this huge document that I just need typed, which now I know there are programs that can do that for you, but I didn't know at the time. So I'm like, okay, I'll just sit here and type for five hours and get paid $25 an hour for it. And so that's what I did. And so I just kind of said yes to whatever I either knew how to do, or I was honest with my clients. I don't know how to do this, but I I'm smart and I will figure it out. And I think just kind of that positive attitude made people say, Hey, here's more work. Here's more work. They referred me to other people. So the business continued to grow.

Shannon Mattern: And so you probably got to a point where you were maxed out on time, I would imagine as you're getting referrals.

Abby Ashley: For sure! That happened very quickly. I mean, I only had like 20 hours a week to work anyways. I'm a stay at home mom and pregnant and I didn't have a whole lot of free time. I was nannying a little bit still. And so for me, 20 hours was maxed out. I didn't have a community of other freelancers. So I literally just asked other mom friends that I had. I knew somebody that in college, she's a stay-at-home mom now, but in college she would kind of do graphics for our university. So I said, Hey, would you want to help me with social media posts? Or my sister was really good at writing. So I asked my sister, Hey, would you want to write some of these blog posts for me? So I literally just asked friends if they would kind of be my subcontractors without probably even knowing that's what I was doing.

Shannon Mattern: I love that. And so you said at some point people are asking how are you doing this? How are you doing this? How are you doing this? Right?

Abby Ashley: Yeah. So at the time I was I would follow this guy. We all have our people that we're obsessed with their podcasts or their blogs or whatever it was. And there was this guy named Brian Harris. He had a business called Videofruit. Do you know Brian? So Brian was like another, we were talking before we jumped on the podcast about like monumental people in our business.

Shannon Mattern: He was one of mine as well.

Abby Ashley: Okay, awesome. So way back in 2016, I read every email, every blog post. I was just obsessed with his work. And it was really the first I was learning about online marketing. So he did this blog post called the Santa Claus formula or something where it was basically just showing a ton of value up front in order to get a client's attention. And so I basically did that to him. I sent him this epic pitch and a week later he hired me. And so I began doing copywriting and some VA work for Brian Harris, who at the time was doing these multiple six figure course launches. So it was almost like a paid internship. I'm behind the scenes, seeing how these massive course launches operate, getting to fly to Nashville to do team retreats and all this stuff. And all of a sudden in this whirlwind of like, whoa! Course creation is amazing! And one of the things that I knew was build a list, build a list, build a list. So pretty much from the moment I discovered him, I started building a list. And so it was about the end of 2016 timeframe that I had gotten a list of a thousand subscribers. And I just asked them, what do you want to learn from me? And that's where the idea of teaching a virtual assistant course came along.

Shannon Mattern: I love that. We are very aligned in following our mentors because I started following him probably around the same time, 2016, and he puts out such incredible free content. I'll link up to him in this post. And I implemented every single free piece of anything that he ever did and used his own strategies on him as well, like the poster boy strategy or whatever. So I used that to get featured a few different times on the blog and different things. And then when he came out with Growth University and the Accelerator Series, I signed up for Partnership Accelerator, which rolled into Growth University. And that was one of the pivotal moments in my business because it was one of the really big investments that I made. Although when I looked back and I'm like, it wasn't that much. But it felt so stretchy, but also it was just like the stretchiness of going all in on myself and working with someone whose strategies were next level for me at the time. It was like a game changer in my business. My revenue doubled, and that was really the first time I actually paid for mentorship. As a scrappy techie entrepreneur who can figure out anything,

Shannon Mattern: I don't need help. I can figure it out on my own. I'll just read all the free stuff. And, I can tell you, there's so much more available to you when you pay for the help and the course and the mentorship. If someone's giving away that much good stuff for free, imagine what you're getting when you pay for it.

Abby Ashley: 100% yes.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. I love it.

Abby Ashley: We've had such a similar journey. That's so cool.

Shannon Mattern: I know! I love it. So you started working for Brian Harris and meanwhile, you're building your email list on the side and people want to learn about virtual assistants. So what happens next?

Abby Ashley: Yeah. So, like I said, I had that list of about a thousand people, asked them, what do you want to learn from me? They said virtual assistant. So I didn't create a course. I validated before I created. And you're laughing because it's one of his strategies for sure. And so I pre-validated by saying, Hey, I'm going to be creating this course. And eventually it's going to be $997. I'm going to sell it now for $497. And you know, my husband thinks I'm crazy at this point too, by the way. He's been so supportive, but I'm like, yeah, I'm going to sell a course that I haven't created. And he's like, okay, sounds good. And literally within a week I had 16 people that purchased, which was eight grand in the bank. That was a game changer for me.

Abby Ashley: Right? That was just a, oh my gosh, this works! And so I basically reinvested that money. I was creating content at the time blogging. So my very first hire was a Pinterest manager. I'm like, I want to go all in on Pinterest. I think that's where my audience is hanging out. And organic Pinterest back then was just like the bomb. And so we went all in on kind of Pinterest and blogging, and then started a Facebook group. And honestly, those two methods of traffic have, and still are, the two methods that we use the most. We've dipped our toes in some paid advertising and some partnerships, which I think are both important, but that organic growth from day one, I think, has been huge in scaling the company as well. So, I just continued to build this list and launch two times a year. And, you know, our launches have just gotten bigger and bigger. The bigger we got, we hired more team members. So we have 20 full-time employees now and it's kinda just been the stacking effect. Right? So it's been a wild journey for sure.

Shannon Mattern: Did you ever imagine that this is where you would be?

Abby Ashley: Oh my gosh, no! I literally was like, oh, I can make some money in my pajamas! Sounds awesome! Obviously as I found mentors, my benchmark would move. Oh, that would be cool. That would be cool. And I think the deeper you get into this... are you into Enneagram at all? I'm an Enneagram seven. So I'm like, this would be fun. This would be fun. I'll try this. This would be fun. And so that's kind of been my mentality. If I don't like it, I mean, obviously sometimes you have to do things you don't like, but I try to just focus on the things that I'm really good at and outsource the rest, which is good since I'm in the virtual assistant realm.

Shannon Mattern: So you just kept growing with every launch. What were some of the challenges along the way that you encountered as you were growing to where you are today?

Abby Ashley: Yeah, that's a great question. There's been several road bumps along the way. We've personally gone through some. We've moved across across the country a few times. My husband had a job loss, which that was actually when he got fired from his job. We were like, just come work for our company. So that was actually a blessing in disguise. But, I think some of the biggest hurdles for me have definitely been maintaining that action over perfection kind of mentality. I think that I can just get stuck there really often. And I'm constantly, even now, I feel like this should get easier, but it's still difficult to just be like, Nope, it's okay. It's okay. Like even 80% is okay sometimes. And so getting it out there, even if you don't feel like it's 100% yet, whatever that is, a course, a service, a blog, a video, whatever.

Abby Ashley: And then the other part has definitely been kind of the delegation piece. As we've grown, I obviously can't do everything on my own anymore, nor should I. And so just learning what are my swim lanes? What are the things that I do really well? I should have two or three of those. And at this point, try to delegate everything else. And that has been probably a two-year long transition for me to where I finally am like, oh my gosh, I'm CEO, and only CEO. When did this happen? So I think that comes with friction. Obviously that's not been an easy process, but man, the end result is so, so, so worth it.

Shannon Mattern: You said doing the things that only I do really well. And I think that's one of the things that I've also struggled with. Because I'm like, oh, I grew this business. I did everything. I'm techie. I can do all of that. I can write. In my mind-think I'm like I can do all of it really well. So, as a control freak, Enneagram three,

Shannon Mattern: how do I let go? And it really is like, okay, well, what are the things that literally only I can do, that requires my body to physically be the one? And then questioning, is that really true that it has to be me? And really whittling it down because otherwise I'm like this weird hybrid of control freak. It has to be me, and also I don't want to ask someone else to do that for me. Elevating myself out of team player into CEO. Because they don't need me to be their team player. They need me to be their CEO. That has been a journey for sure.

Abby Ashley: It's not easy! Oh my gosh. And like I said, and I'm still still embracing it for sure, but it's probably been like a two year process of just letting go, letting go, letting go. So some of the things that helped me was defining those two or three swim lanes, and really figuring out what do I love to do, can't live without doing. And not only am I good at it because, I mean, I can list a lot of things I'm pretty good at. I've been doing this a long time. I'm pretty good at most of it. But, not just what can I do and but what should I do? And what do I want to do too?

Abby Ashley: And so I narrowed those down to basically three things. And so even when I have my to-do list or whatever project management software you use, I create little labels and so everything that's on my to-do list I have to give it a label of one of those three swim lanes. And if it's not in those swim lanes, I have to delegate it to somebody else. And that's been huge for me because I'm very good with a to-do list. I'm good with a checklist. But so often I come up with my checklist or my to-do list or my time block or whatever for the day. And then it's like, I really shouldn't even be doing that. Why am I doing this? And then obviously passing it on.

Shannon Mattern: What are those swim lanes for you?

Abby Ashley: So for me it is high level strategy. Brainstorming is so fun for me. I love vision casting. I'm very futuristic. So vision casting and strategic planning. And then the next thing is face of the company. So being on this podcast! I batch record YouTube videos six months at a time. And so it's this huge three day ordeal. But I'm out there, it's done. And the third area is high-level partnerships. So just kind of like relationship building and getting to know people. And part of that comes through face of the company. I'm meeting people on a podcast or going out to a conference or something like that.

Abby Ashley: But that's it! Which left a lot of other things to be passed on. Like a lot. There were so many things. And it took time, right? One of the last things I handed off was writing just because that's what kind of started it all right? And I love to write and I'm pretty good at writing and that's what I really enjoy doing. But once I handed it off to somebody who's amazing, we have an amazing copywriter on our team now, and she's even taken it to levels that I never even thought of. Like she's digging into market research and taking audience polls and digging into our audience and stuff. I can just write stuff that's kind of quippy and funny.

Abby Ashley: Like she's like actually getting to the heart of what our audience wants and going so beyond what I ever could have even done. And so that's a cool feeling too where you let go and sometimes you let go thinking, oh, this is only going to be 80% as good as I could do, which sounds so cocky, but it's just true. It's what we say in our heads, right? This is only going to be done 80% as good as I could do. And then you look back and you're like, oh man, I was so wrong. Like they're doing such a better job than I ever could have.

Shannon Mattern: Well, I think it's the shift too. It's not even necessarily them doing as good of a job as us, as much as it doesn't need to be you talking about your perspective and your ideas to them. The thing that you said, it was like, she's digging into what they want, what they need to hear. But as the person who founded and ran the business, at some point you know that you're not the only one that knows that anymore. Right? And it's not like, oh, I do a better job than they would do. Or I've got to hold on to this because I'll do the best. It's someone can come in and serve these people at a higher level than I can.

Shannon Mattern: And it's not about my thought leadership anymore or, or whatever, because I'm doing that in different ways. And I think that was kind of a little bit of an aha moment for me to hear you say that when I'm like, I want to be the one connecting with my audience in this way. But is that best serving them for it to be me? And there's a scenario when it's not. It's not the best thing because maybe that's not what they need on this particular day. They need something different.

Abby Ashley: Yeah. And I think there's always a good grounding place to come back to. If I fly to a new city, which I haven't done post COVID, but I'm almost ready to do this again. I really miss these. But anytime I'd fly to a new city, I would literally just announce in my Facebook group, Hey, I'm going to be in San Diego. Whoever wants to come meet at this coffee shop. And so not a formal thing, but literally I would just get to sit and in real life, talk to my audience. Best thing ever. And I enjoyed it. They enjoyed it. But it wasn't like 'every month I have to do an interview to connect with them and stay in touch'. No, my team can do a lot of that. And I can do some more of the organic relationship, which I enjoy.

Shannon Mattern: So with the transition of you staying in your three lanes and really putting those guardrails in place, what do your days look like?

Abby Ashley: So I started a second company. Now I'm back to doing all the things in my new company and trying to carry over the principles, although we don't have a huge budget, so I have to still be the copywriter and I'm tweaking sales pages. So there's three of us over there right now. So I brought my COO over, and then we hired one VA. And so it's the three of us kind of bootstrapping this new company. And so it' been really, really good and it's kind of been fun for me. But I also am like, okay, if I can just do what I did, but in hyper-speed. It's like relearning all this stuff again Don't hold on to this.

Abby Ashley: There's someone who can do this better. There's someone who can do this better. Building a business is different than scaling a business. Like sometimes you have to get in there and you have to do the grunt work and have all those things. Scaling a business is basically just constantly trying to get yourself out of the thing in order to scale it in a way that's really sustainable and truly still helps people and runs the best. And so even now, I'm still just kind of like, okay, let me put people in the right place instead of just trying to do it all myself.

Shannon Mattern: Oh, that's so interesting. Is it too early to ask? What is the new company? What do you guys do?

Abby Ashley: So my business is the The Virtual Savvy. We train virtual assistants to launch, grow or scale their businesses from scratch. And then, Hello Savvy is our new freelance marketplace that'll be launching in April, 2022. And it's a place for clients to hire vetted mission-minded freelancers. And so we're really doing a huge push on hiring for culture, hiring for attitude. You're going to be able to search for freelancers by personality types, and there's going to be a lot of video integrated into the platform. Every freelancer on the platform is going to be pre-vetted. There's some skill element to it as well, but really we're trying to vet for different cultural and attitude kind of mindsets. It's like, are you a problem solver or a problem bringer? Right? And so that's kind of where we're rating the top tier people on the site. And then through the platform also trying to kind of teach clients how to hire well just by natively using the site. So it's a huge endeavor. It's totally different. We're building something that we haven't really, I mean, we validated in the sense that we asked people a ton of questions, but it's just such a different ball game and it's been crazy, but it's really fun as well. So April 20 22, that should launch.

Shannon Mattern: That's amazing and genius. And as a business owner, hiring freelancers, I think it is just going to be, I don't know, next level for people like me to go and find the right person. And I love how you said skill is a part of it, but it's not everything. Because to me, like you said earlier, I'm smart, I can learn. That's the kind of person that I love having on my team. And I'm so fortunate that I have that with my team right now. They're just like, okay, you want this done? You're going to show me the SOPs and everything, but let me take it from here and figure it out and roll with it and run with it. And to me, that personality trait is just gold. And I will teach you or pay for you to learn the things I need you to learn if you are the right fit for my company and my culture.

Abby Ashley: A hundred percent. And so we're going to add into the client side of it, whoever's hiring, we're adding a lot of mission, vision, values, cultural questions into the job post. And then on the flip side too, we're really trying to focus in on assessments that will have that figured out in it. Because same with me, any time that we have hired in our company we've chosen to hire culture over skill. That doesn't mean our people aren't skilled. But when it is neck and neck, and we've had this happen with two people. One had more talent. They had degrees in this thing, they'd been doing it longer. All of the big list.

Abby Ashley: If we just looked at them on paper, this person's obvious fit. But then when you just put them up together and you actually talk with them and have conversations and hear their own values and the things they believe in and their attitude, this other individual is a slam dunk. And he's now been promoted five times in the company. He's one of our senior directors. And so, whenever you have that culture versus skill, obviously skill is important, but 75% of hires that don't work out, that get fired in the first six months... This is an employee stat. It comes from this book Hiring for Attitude that I'm reading right now. And, 75% of the hires that don't work out, it's because of an attitude problem, not because of a skill problem. And so I'm really excited for the platform. It's going to be awesome.

Shannon Mattern: It's fascinating. I think it's just something that is necessary. I love how you're also training clients to hire well, because you want your matches that you make on Hello Savvy to last, right? It's like little matchmaking service.

Abby Ashley: For sure.

Shannon Mattern: I love it. So, I want to kind of circle back to the The Virtual Savvy because I know a lot of my listeners are side hustlers. We have a lot of virtual assistants and aspiring virtual assistants in our audience and people who are just also kind of exploring all of the different opportunities to be self-employed and own their own business and have the freedom and the flexibility and all the things that we love as business owners. So how does your program help them go from, I'm not a virtual assistant to I'm hiring people because I'm maxed out, if that's what they want?

Abby Ashley: A hundred percent. Great question. So one of the things that I love about virtual assistants is that, honestly, I truly believe it's the fastest way to make money online. So we've been talking a lot about creating a course or creating this product, or even like an e-commerce store. And the whole goal is to get hundreds, maybe thousands, of people to your website so that someone will download, even being a blogger. If I can get tons of traffic to my site, some people will click on these ads or whatever. And what's so amazing about virtual assistants is one, you can start with the skills that you already have. Most of us have some experience. We post to our own social media. So maybe you could schedule somebody else's social media. You know how to write decently, you have to answer emails.

Abby Ashley: So you could do customer service emails for a client, right? There's a lot of transferable skills that could be used in the virtual assistant realm. So it's a really low barrier to entry. There's not a lot of tools or extensive tech training. Now you will have to become more comfortable with tech, which is something that we do teach as well. But, there's a really not a huge learning curve for getting started. And the most amazing thing, like I mentioned, if you're doing this huge e-commerce store or whatever, or a big blog, you have to get hundreds, maybe thousands, of people to your site. Most virtual assistants can replace their income with four to seven clients. So instead of getting hundreds of people to say yes, or thousands of people that say yes, you need four people to say yes.

Abby Ashley: Right. Like it just so much less overwhelming. And that's what I love about it. In that short amount of time, so many of our students have been able to literally transform their lives, make money at home, money while they're homeschooling, or quit their jobs or retire their husbands, some of them, right? It's a snowball effect. And it happens without needing a lot up front, which is unlike most businesses, right? Again, an e-commerce store, you've got to have all this inventory or a restaurant. Right? I mean, the overhead is so low. So I love that. I'm obsessed with virtual assistants. I tell everybody about it. Cause I just think everyone should do this. Right? It's just a really, really great career path. And I'll say this to people who maybe you have a dream of doing something else, right?

Abby Ashley: Maybe you want to learn a higher level skill and be a really advanced web designer. Or maybe you want to eventually have that huge blog or have that huge podcast. Well, those things all take time, right? It takes the time and education or, like we were talking about, building an audience, building an email list. You don't just start a podcast and then have 170,000 downloads. It doesn't just flip like that. And so I love virtual assistants because so many people say, Hey, I want to do XYZ, but why don't I start making money now while I'm building the other thing, the thing that's going to be my long-term thing, why don't I start with services now? Because it helps you obviously make money, but it also helps you build relationships. If I wasn't a VA, I never would have met Brian Harris, and gotten the opportunities and the relationships there. So, it helps you build a reputation for yourself before you're even selling anything like huge packages. You can start learning from people in the industry and building a good reputation for yourself. So, I could keep going like forever.

Shannon Mattern: I totally agree with you in terms of, if you want to generate income quickly offering a service is the fastest way. I tell people, it takes just the same amount of effort to get one client as it does to sell one $7 digital product. Right? Sometimes it may be less to sell one $7 digital products and set up the ecosystem and everything to do that. And so if your goal is to make money now, services are the way to go. And then, like you said, you build off the back end of that if you want to do an online course or a digital product, or create another stream of revenue in a more scalable way or whatever that looks like. I mean, I think back to myself, back in 2014 when I started and I was like, well, I don't want to work at this day job anymore, but I got to keep working here because I need a paycheck, but I'm going to offer freelance web design services on the side. I probably could have called myself a virtual assistant back then if I would have even known it because I was just doing random web design projects and services and kind of maintenance and different things.

Shannon Mattern: And that's what spring-boarded me into being able to invest in the business and grow it to where it is today. It Was literally having nothing but my work laptop (sorry work) but my work computer and building websites for clients after hours on my work computer. I invested nothing but my skills that I had already learned from somebody else to get started and it was a tough road, let me tell you, going it alone. If I could go back in time, I would have been like, oh, someone's going to teach me how to do this properly? Sign me up!

Abby Ashley: Yeah. Oh my God. And I will say that anytime that I have really wanted to do something and do something well, there has not been a time in my journey that I haven't just invested in something. I invested in an e-book, that $7 product, a course, a coaching program, whatever it is, and then just do it. And that's hard for me to finish the thing, but if I can just stick to it and just do the thing and just focus on, okay, what's my next area growth, who's teaching how to do that really, really well, right? I need to scale my business. I need to hire employees. I want to start a podcast. Who's teaching that thing really, really well? Let me do that. Invest in whatever blueprint of somebody who's done it before, do the thing. And I think that's what has amplified my growth. Anytime that I just need to learn the next thing, I just find who's teaching it really, really well, who has good recommendations, and I take the course and then just do the thing. And their systems really do work if you work their system, you know?

Shannon Mattern: Yes, absolutely. And so that takes me back to scaling the The Virtual Savvy, going from, I don't know how many team members when you really started, to having 20 there now. Was that part of your vision or did that happen out of necessity or what? What did that look like?

Abby Ashley: I feel like my vision has been very like, I always have a really clear next step and then kind of a fuzzy, wouldn't it be cool if.... and I don't really know how I'm going to get to the really, wouldn't it be cool if? But I always know what my next step is and I just go at it 100%. So, for me at the very beginning it was I'm going to sell out my services. Right? I'm going to sell out my virtual assistant services. And once I did that and built this little team and discovered building a list. I'm like, I'm going to get a thousand email subscribers. Once I got a thousand, I'm going to get 10,000. So that was like my next benchmark. Right? And then a lot of my goals became financial. At that point we were making some like considerable money.

Abby Ashley: So it was like, wouldn't it be amazing to have a million dollar year? And so that one took me a little while and 2019 was our first million dollar a year. And, so once we did that, it was like, well, what if we could double that? And so 2020, we did 2 million. And now we're like, what if we could do five? We're not going to hit five this year. In a year or two will hit five. But that's our next set. And for me what's cool is that I've passed that vision onto a lot of my senior leaders over at that company. So they're striving towards that. And we want 10,000 students to go through our program. So we're halfway there. That's kind of like our big vision over at that company. And so now I'm like, all right, what if I could get this new company to a million dollars a year? And so that's kind of like our new goal. So I always have like a really clear front focus and then there's probably some cool stuff behind that. But I'm not going to really pay attention to that because I'm just going to focus on what's right in front of me.

Shannon Mattern: I love that. What have you had to let go of along the way to create those results?

Abby Ashley: That's such a good question. So honestly, a lot of it has just been my own personal comfort. I think that can be the hardest thing for me because that I am a people pleaser. I hate uncomfortable situations, uncomfortable conversations. We've only had to let go of two employees ever. And one of them cried and thanked me and she was like, I know it's not a good fit. And the other one didn't go so well. I hate tough conversations. And, I'm like you, I hate asking for things. I'm just like 'everything is nice and everybody likes me', right? And then you realize people don't all like you and that's okay. And so it was a few years back that I was going through kind of a difficult season in business.

Abby Ashley: And I heard this in my head, 'Abby, if you're going to do big things, you have to develop tough skin'. And I was like, 'ugh, I don't wanna! I don't wanna develop tough skin'. Right? Because that's means I'm going to have to go through painful stuff. And that's true. And so now when we have a tough situation, all my feels want to come out where I'm just like, oh, this person, what are they going to think about it? And so what we do is we say, all right, here's the situation, here's the decision we need to make, whatever it is, and I'm going to take emotion completely out of it. This is just what has to happen. If I was looking at this as a cold hearted, just logical person. Not all logic is cold-hearted, I know.

Abby Ashley: If I was just looking at this as like, I don't care who it hurts or who it affects. I mean, obviously what's the right thing to do, what's the logical decision. Okay. So we come up with what's the logical thing, what really has to be done. And we decide on it. And then I take all that emotion that we put to the side and I put it back in the situation and say, okay, now that we know this is what has to be done, especially if it's something that has to be dealing with people, how do I put the people element back into it and how do I do this in the best way possible? And so that could be something like a freelancer that you hired that doesn't work out. It could also be something that's like, right now, I'm trying to like get on a bunch of podcasts and try to get out there.

Abby Ashley: And that's not really comfortable for me to ask those things. I don't like it, but this is what has to be done. I've decided that this is the way we're gonna grow the business, by getting visible, even if it's uncomfortable for me. And so it's the thing that needs to be done. So we take out the emotion. What's the system, how are we going to get podcasts, da da da da? Now I put emotion back on it. Well, the emotion back on it means I probably just need to do some journaling and self-searching of why it bothers me so much. So, yeah, that's kind of how I get through the difficult parts of the business. Just kind of looking at it super logically what has to be done and then putting the motion in as a secondary thought.

Shannon Mattern: I love that. And I definitely can use that strategy with those decisions. I will make a decision and then unmake them and make them and make them and make them and unmake them. And I think that's probably the missing layer of taking the emotion out of it. Really intentionally taking the emotion out of what needs to happen. Okay. This is what needs to happen. Let's work on the emotion piece on the backend. Let's do it, like you said, and I would totally journal on that. I would do some Life Coach School modeling on it and figure it out. But making those decisions in my mind and then executing them and seeing them through are two totally different things. Let me ruminate on that for three months over here, you know? And I think that's really my next level of what I need to let go of. Making decisions take forever, making them and unmaking them.

Abby Ashley: Yeah, I get it. I know so much of your audience maybe is still in that startup phase. And business is not easy. It's not for the faint of heart. It's fine if you're not tough skinned. I was not tough skinned when I first got in, but I promise, you're going to get tougher skin as you go along and it's going to happen through those uncomfortable situations. So it's not for everyone. And that was hard for me. The reality is, not everyone is fit to be an entrepreneur because it's not easy, but it is so, so, so, so worth it.

Shannon Mattern: I could not agree more and not even just the life that I've created for myself. The personal growth and who I am today versus who I was the day before I decided to do this thing. I don't even know who that person was. I do not recognize her. And it's a beautiful, beautiful thing and worth every doubt and every scared moment or uncomfortable conversation or scary decision that I've ever made. I would not change any of it. Such a good conversation. I could talk to you forever. Good thing we're in some programs together, we can continue the conversation. Another thing, be in the room where the people who are where you want to be are. And I think that that's a really important thing that I've done for myself in the past couple of years. Finding the right mentors and having it be like, oh, I get to be with people who are going to challenge me and stretch me and break me out of my normal way of thinking.

Abby Ashley: Yep. And I'll say this too. My husband is one of those people that he can just find himself in the room with those people. He's like, 'oh, I was having lunch with the CEO of this billion dollar company that lives here in Missouri'. I'm like, how do you even find these people? We live in Missouri! And he just finds himself with them with these amazing leaders and just friends them. And I always look at those people and I'm like, how are you just friends with all of these people? I will just say this and whatever. I literally have always paid to be in those rooms. Find yourself in the rooms of those people. For some of us that comes super naturally. For some of us, it is investing in a program or a paid training or whatever. And I don't regret it at all.

Shannon Mattern: I'm paying for friends!

Abby Ashley: It's not the like that, but it kind of is. Finding mentors. I think that's a big thing. I've never regretted paying for mentorship. Do your research. Obviously there are people out there that aren't doing great things. Don't be wooed by a really fancy sales page. Really talk to people who have been mentored by somebody. And if they have raving reviews, then do it. I've never regretted that.

Shannon Mattern: Same, same. So I have just one more question for you before we wrap up. And that is what belief about yourself did you have to change to get to where you are today?

Abby Ashley: I think that for me, I am a really great starter naturally, but not a really great finisher. I'm a person who just starts things and gives them up so I'll never be able to make this work. That was huge. And I think that that was exemplified in all the million businesses I started before I did this. And I think there's an element of true in the lies we tell ourselves. There's probably 10% truth to it. That's why it seems so much. My strengths Finders? I have zero strengths in actual execution. I'm all just like visions and relationships. I don't actually naturally finish things very well. That is a fact.

Abby Ashley: So I think it's finding the 10% truth and being like, okay, there is a little bit of truth in this thing that I've been telling myself. How do I just change the narrative? Right? And so for me, it's been finding people. I think accountability has been huge. Mentorship has been huge. Finding my why and really like, okay, I'm going to stick to this because this other thing is so important to me. And then just kind of truly believing in myself. I can be a different person, or I at least can have some different actions that can make this lie I've been telling myself a non-truth.

Shannon Mattern: Wow. That is so powerful coming from someone who is a multimillion dollar company. 'I am not a great finisher'. But look at all that you have done once you changed that belief about yourself. And look at where that has led you. And I think that's so powerful and so amazing. We can be the only ones in our own way at times. Oh my gosh, this has been so awesome connecting with you. Where can everyone connect with you, find you, learn more about you getting into your world?

Abby Ashley: Yeah, so definitely two different areas. One would be if you are interested in virtual assistants, interested in making money with the skills you already have, thevirtualsavvy.com. That has my blog. It has links to our communities, has links to our YouTube channel. There's tons of free content on the site. We over deliver in free content. So you'll have plenty to do for hours if you go to the site. And then, Hello Savvy is this new marketplace that we're launching, hellosavvy.com. It's a wait list right now but you'll be the first to know when we do launch the new site. So whether you want to be featured as a freelancer or whether you want to come and hire mission-minded freelancers, creative virtual assistants, then definitely go sign up for the waitlist.

Shannon Mattern: Awesome. Well, I will link all of that stuff up in the show notes. So you guys can go to shannonmattern.com/368 to get all of those links. Abby, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate our conversation and everything that you shared. It was amazing.

Abby Ashley: Thank you for having me

Shannon Mattern: To get all the links to the resources we mentioned in today's show, head on over to shannonmattern.com/podcast. And if you're a non-techie do it yourselfer, or if you're a web designer who wants to turn your side hustle into a full-time income, head on over to shannonmattern.com/free, where I've got loads of resources for you to create a profitable, sustainable, scalable business. Thanks so much for listening and we'll see you next week. Bye.

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