We had the good fortune of connecting with Emily Reagan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emily, can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
You cannot do it alone.
Over the last decade of my freelance business, I’ve worked with many solopreneurs who were just starting out with the goal of bringing their talents and services into the digital world with online offerings. Each one of them had the raw talent, the great ideas and the vision to make it happen but not everyone succeeded. Why is that? Especially when most of them had a successful business owner they were modeling their business after or smart business mentor handing over a solid strategy? Shouldn’t it be easy?
Not if you don’t treat your business like a legit business.
Here’s the thing: starting an online business has a low start-up cost and very little barrier to entry. Anyone can do it. It’s very attractive to the dreamers. But in my experience, what distinguishes those who succeed vs those whose don’t is the willingness to invest in PEOPLE… aka the human capital RESOURCES … to build their business in the long-term.
Hiring an assistant for 3 short months is not going to make you successful. You’ve got to have the perseverance to build your team over the long haul. You also have to have the income to pay your team while you “get there”.
That’s the biggest mistake.
There’s this ugly beginning stage when money is tight. Biz coaches remind you to “pay yourself” but it can be an extremely lean beginning to online business. And that’s what no one is talking about.
Too many biz coaches aren’t honest about the upfront teamwork and wages paid that went into building their empire years ago before they got successful. There’s a big obvious omission, letting you think they did it on their own in their early stages.
It’s completely deceiving when you see someone who is already achieving success in the online space. Yes it’s the highlight reel problem, but you’re also missing their lean start-up stage. You’re not seeing the countless coaches, strategists, contractors, assistants and teammates who helped them get to this level.
It truly takes a village…. of online specialists to build a great business. You can’t possibly know everything and implement it alone.
The collapse comes when new business owners don’t bat an eye at paying for a course or joining an expensive coaching program… but then when it comes to hiring help and paying a team member consistently, they go cheap, they go short-term and try to cut corners but doing as much as possible on their own.
There’s many reasons for wanting to do it on your own. Usually I witness the biz owner evaluating the ROI of a new hire as an immediate payoff. A very unrealistic expectation because you don’t earn your moneyback right away for every position you hire.
When I got the idea to scale my business with a course, I immediately hired help. I could barely afford it, but I knew this was a difference maker. I couldn’t afford NOT to. I’m treating my business as a real business not a one-man band. A successful online business requires a human capital investment, not just investing in the tech stack or the coach.
The truth is if you’re doing it all yourself you are probably keeping your business stunted. You’ve got to hire help. You cannot do it alone.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
When I got my broadcast journalism degree and thought I would be the one behind the camera telling everyone what to do. I pictured myself as a producer or news editor writing the stories, making the story decisions and calling the shots. I had zero desire to be the on-screen reporter.
Then there’s reality. As a military spouse I had a slue of jobs, I took whatever I could get moving every 1-3 years. It was painful starting over every move, but I gained so much experience doing a variety of jobs mainly related to journalism, public relations and communications.
I fell into freelance work about 10 years ago. My wide-ranging skillset and over-all adaptability opened doors to helping clients build and grow their online businesses as a digital media virtual assistant. I’m an implementor. I create their funnels, implement their digital marketing strategies and do the work behind-the-scenes so they can forge their dream business.
For years, I was completely happy behind the curtain making the magic happen and getting paid to do the work I love. As a mom and military spouse it was my dream job! I had a flexible schedule, the work was challenging and paid well, I really enjoyed helping business owners and being a part of a team again. Best of all the job moved with me every time we PCSed (that’s a military jargon for packing up the house and moving in the military).
Another perk: I didn’t have to promote myself at all.
I quickly booked out and had a bleeding heart for the business owners who wanted to hire me but I just didn’t have the time to help everyone. (Enneagram 2 here). There was so much work opportunity and a complete a lack of qualified digital marketing assistants who could help them implement their online business. So I started teaching my friends, a few fellow military spouses and a couple of long-time friends, how to do the digital marketing work. I witnessed the power of their transformation: being able to work again, contribute to their family financially, and blossom with a renewed sense of self and purpose.
It was the best feeling ever because I helped two groups of people connect for a common goal. Business owners wanted tech, back-end business help. I had smart friends looking for work.
My online course The Digital Media VA Crash Course was born. With this digital course, I’m able to teach the foundational digital marketing skills so that my students can start working online. They can say use to a multitude of jobs and not have to start from scratch with no network, no working knowledge. Their learning is really a gateway to working in the digital economy and getting out of the 9-5.
Building the course came easy, I put my decade of experience into a product that will give them the most knowledge and empowerment to start a digital service business. The roadmap was crystal clear. I had the tech skills to implement it and the confidence that it works and got results.
But the hard part was selling it!
It’s finding the right students who have the drive and the growth mindset to own their own digital service business. I attract mostly women: a mix of stay-at-home moms wanting to ease back into work, teachers looking to supplement their teacher salary, over-educated military spouses who have trouble finding meaningful and relevant work at their current duty stations, and women starting second careers from their kitchens or travel spots.
In the process of trying to help these women and give them the tools to be successful, I have learned to step out from behind the scenes and put myself out there…. in front of the camera. It’s totally nerve-wracking, terrifying and made me feel so vulnerable. But it’s worth it when I witness just one student get her first client and change her own life.
As a intrepreneur, I had to step into the limelight to be able to help others. It’s journey I took my own clients through. I had to show up on live video, social media, webinars and podcasts. All the things, we’re supposed to be doing to get visible. I have to put myself out there, I have to talk about myself! It’s awkward!
So really I’m just a lady who is trying to help her friends bust into the online work and make their lives happier, richer and more fulfilled.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live just outside Washington, D.C., so we’d definitely drop the kids off with the sitter and head into the city.
Brunch at Ted’s Bulletin for some homemade, flaky pop-tarts and mimosas.
From there we’d have to do a museum, I recommend the National Portrait Gallery to set eyes on Michelle Obama. But if we’re feeling more fun, the Spy Museum is a little more playful.
I’d love to do the segway tour… it’s been on my t0-do list and walking the mall is fun, but it’s pretty dang far. We could check out all the monuments and go around the Tidal Basin.
We’d have at least one coffee stop – hopefully Tryst in Adams Morgan
We’d end the night with tapas and drinks at Jaleo.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wanna shoutout my client Wendy Batten, a creative retail coach and paintpreneur who I’ve worked with for a few years now. She took me as her plus one to a live event as her teammate/assistant in 2018. It changed my life. I got a new business idea while at this conference. Because of this, Wendy set me on a new career trajectory. She didn’t have to invite me. She didn’t have to cheer me on … especially knowing I would eventually need to stop doing her client work to focus on my own business. She’s been one of my biggest supporters ever since. She’s such a kind, generous and heart-centered business owner and I’m so lucky to have met her and worked for her!