Virtual assistant

How I Created a Virtual Assistant Business That Made $500,000 This Year

  • Jeff J. Hunter, 40, is the founder of VA employeea 171-person virtual assistant company.
  • Hunter believes a down economy creates opportunities for savvy business owners.
  • Here is the story of how he built his business, told to writer Kimanzi Constable.

While taking night classes in college, I worked full time as an IT coordinator for a school district. After graduating in 2012, I got a job as an IT project manager for Philips, a Fortune 500 company, with a salary of $93,000. As IT Manager, my responsibilities included creating plans for all projects assigned by the Operations Manager. I developed plans with clients and internal teams, as well as managed internal and external communication for projects.

Two years after working at Philips, I realized that I needed better documentation processes. As a project manager, 50% of your time is not spent managing projects. It went to do documentation. I had heard of a service called Fiverr, so I searched and found an assistant on Pakistan platform. I hired him as a contractor to do documentation and paid for his services out of my own pocket. I didn’t tell Philips I was doing this – using my own assistant wasn’t against the rules, but I wasn’t sure my bosses would understand.

Delegating my work to an assistant opened my eyes to the world of remote teams. Other people started asking me what my secret was, and I told them that I had hired someone to help me with all my documentation.

A few colleagues contacted me and asked if I could help them hire someone to do their documentation and other administrative tasks, and I started finding assistants and placing them with colleagues for free.

When describing what my entrepreneur Fiverr did, my colleague pointed out that he was my virtual assistant. He asked me if I could get him one, and when I said yes, he said I could be his “VA employee”. He unknowingly found the name of my company.

I immediately went to GoDaddy.com and purchased the domain. At the end of 2014, I turned this experience into a real business by registering VA Staffer as a company.

This year my virtual assistant business made over $500,000 in revenue.

I had my first major client shortly after formalizing the business

A company called DOMO.com saw a review someone left on a website called virtualassistantassistant.com. They contacted me to ask if I could help build a remote team to do lead generation and prospecting for their sales department.

Previously, their sales and account development managers would do prospecting by going to Google and LinkedIn and trying to find clients, but it wasn’t working. They tasked me and my team of assistants with creating a prospect list of Fortune 500 companies that they could target.

This side hustle didn’t take much of my time, so my bosses at Philips were unaware that I was working there.

The initial contract with DOMO was for four assistants. DOMO hired four assistants through my company for 692 hours, working eight hours a day, five days a week, and paid me $3,800 per month for my services.

In 2015 my dad was diagnosed with cancer and my job refused my request to work remotely to be with him

I had just been promoted, but I wanted to be closer to my father during his cancer treatment. I could have easily done my job, but the company rejected my request. Ironically, he felt he couldn’t find anyone to replace me.

My grandfather caught valley fever and was bedridden in November 2015. Then my wife had a miscarriage and I asked for time off to take care of her. I was told there was no one to replace. I went through these traumatic events because I thought I still needed the salary to survive.

Shortly after, I had a performance review and I suspect the company realized that my side hustle was a threat to their business.

On February 29, 2016, I sent my two weeks notice

A family taking a selfie on a plane

Hunter and his wife and child.

Jeff J. Hunter


It was humiliating. I left a six figure career where my company paid for my car, my computer, my cell phone, my printer – everything. He even gave me a company credit card. I realized when I quit that I didn’t have much savings.

My wife and I negotiated the early termination of our lease and moved to the Philippines to reduce our expenses and build the VA Staffer team in person, as all the assistants were based in the Philippines. I first funded the business with my savings and asked clients to pay me in advance. In May 2016, I had a full-time office manager and 11 virtual assistants who were dedicated to sales prospecting for the companies that hired me.

At first, I thought it made sense to hire virtual assistants based on their skills and experience, but I was wrong. What I discovered was that people’s ability to learn and adapt was more important than what they already knew. As I grew the business, I found it was best to hire based on adaptability and work ethic.

We focused on finding clients on LinkedIn who might need assistants and offered recruitment services for individual entrepreneurs.

A group of people taking a selfie in a bowling alley

Hunter and the VA Staffer team.

Jeff J. Hunter


We also built a content strategy, where I trained consumers on how to use a virtual assistant, redesigned our website, and added a blog section with educational content. I asked for referrals from current customers and focused on customer retention by doing surveys to ensure we were providing quality service, and the business grew.

Since the pandemic, we have grown from a team of 47 employees to 171 full-time employees – and have hired 21 team members this year. Of the 171 full-time employees, we have 25 employees in the creative team, 11 project managers and 135 virtual assistants assigned to clients. I will continue to hire team members in a down economy because I see an opportunity.

Many businesses are trying to be thrifty and more profitable in a down economy. One of the best ways to do this is to hire remotely and hire contractors. Businesses can get efficient assistants and tax savings with the Ben W-8 rule for the use of foreign contractors. This reduces payroll taxes compared to hiring people in the United States.

There is also a shift in the United States towards more secondary activities and entrepreneurship

We have 20 corporate clients, but around 100 individual entrepreneurs and small businesses use my team. Changing our model of working primarily with corporate clients to offering assistants to individual entrepreneurs has helped us win new customers and increase our revenue.

The average turnover rate in technology is 1.8 years. Retaining your team is one of the hardest things to do. I have made it my job to find stable assistants for my clients that will last for the long haul. We conduct experimental interviews, giving each potential new hire tests related to what they would do in the job. Our process helps us filter out those who would not be suitable.

My best advice for business owners is to work on customer retention. It is easier to sell additional services to current customers than to obtain new ones.

I used my experience in project management to set up growth systems. I am confident that our business will continue to grow despite changes in the economy.