How “The Happy WAHM” Became a Successful Work-at-Home Mom and Virtual Assistant Biz Owner

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Marge Aberasturi, a.k.a, “The Happy WAHM”, our expert speaker and mentor this February 28 for the #SuccessfulWAHM WAHMderful Workshop. Want to learn her success secrets? Register here.

As momentum builds up for our WAHMderful Workshop this February, we’d like for you to get to know your WAHM mentor and instructor for the #SuccessfulWAHM event on the 28th! Meet Marge Aberasturi, an established owner of a virtual assistance business, VA Support Pro, a full-time work-at-home mom and homeschooler. What’s more, she has been able to build up her brand in the work-at-home niche and really capture a market that values her skills and expertise. Get to know more about our #SuccessfulWAHM, in this exclusive interview!

Who is Marge Aberasturi, the virtual assistant and entrepreneur? Please let our WAHMs get to know you better.

Everytime an interview questionnaire is sent my way, the most difficult to answer is always this question. Who am I? However much I want to give a profound answer, I simply can’t. Because I’m a Lotus123. Plain WYSIWYG.

My online brand, however, aptly describes me. I’m The Happy WAHM. I’m living my brand. I have built a career on my chosen niche, which is virtual assistance, and I have fully embraced the WAHM lifestyle, with homeschooling thrown in, too. This is my happiness. This is the niche that I want to build my tribe in.

Marge, the Virtual Assistant, is best described here. That’s who I am. That’s what I do.

Please tell me briefly about your VA business, VA Support Pro? What prompted you to start it and make it a WAH biz? 

VASupportPro is a product of my diligent research when I first decided that I need a domain name to create my online resume. From the early days, I have understood right on the need to have an online presence, so I wanted to get a domain name that 1) will successfully encompass who I am and what I do, and 2) can compete in the searches.

VASupportPro means Virtual Administrative Support Professional. Virtual assistant and virtual assistance keywords were already returning millions of result, so I wanted a keyword that would have a chance to compete, and at the same time, be totally descriptive of my niche. So after a long study, I bought this domain name.

Then in 2009, three years into WAHMing, I felt that I wanted to make it a legitimate business so I could hire people, or subcontract my spillover projects, so I went ahead and registered the business. My WAHM venture was supposed to be just for two years, the period that my son would be declared out of the woods, but I immensely enjoyed the new-found career, so on the third year, my husband and I decided that I would register the business and start to take on project management gigs, on top of my regular retainer account.

What kind of character qualities must a WAHM have, if she wants to move on from being a hired service provider to being her own boss, like you have done?

The can-do attitude for one. Acting on ideas. Acting on your passion. You have to find the source of your happiness. Your purpose. I’m admittedly ambitious. When I was in corporate, my goal was to be Vice President for Credit Management. But that was cut short when I had to resign in favor of motherhood. Did my dream end there? No. I moved on. I started a new career that welcomes hands-on mothering. I started out as a transcriptionist. I trained for it. I got certification for medical transcription. But I did not sense growth in that niche. I could think of a dozen ways I could have made it grow, but I didn’t see myself being happy with any one of them. So I explored some more, finding my core. Discovering possibilities. Creating opportunities.

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I tried out to be a virtual assistant. And I set out to learn new skills. I enjoyed learning, and I enjoyed being exposed to the nuances of foreign businesses. So I studied other online businesses. What do they do? How do they grow? Where do they go? I learned that growth can stretch my processes, my time and my resources. So I decided to just expand my reach without having to add anything to what I already have. So I re-assessed myself. Realizing my strengths, acknowledging my weaknesses. That’s important. The willingness to acknowledge that you don’t have it all, don’t know it all. And I found me a partner, who has my weaknesses, and lacks my strengths. Collaboration. It’s a gem to be in. It allows you to do what you are great at, and let others do what you don’t know

Virtual assistance has one of the broadest job descriptions in the WAH marketplace. How can a WAHM make her offerings stand out in such a big pool of service providers?

Your value proposition, which in my case is the entrepreneurial mindset. Because you work alone, and you work unsupervised, there is always that danger of being complacent and lazy. And that will mean lower productivity and sloppy output, which can result to loss of credibility and loss of projects. Client feedback is king. Regardless of your skills and credentials, if one unsatisfied client decides to spread a bad feedback, you’re done. You can only hope that you can recover.

Another thing about being entrepreneurial is when you put yourself in your client’s position, think of the client’s business as your own, then you start to think outside the box. You start to think from the business owner’s perspective, not from the VA’s. So you examine the processes, you examine the effects of your productivity to expense and revenue, you think about growth. You don’t sit in front of your computer thinking about accomplishing your tasks. You sit there and work thinking of how your tasks affect your client’s business. And with that in mind, you do your best, you deliver more than what is expected. You are asked to create a document, and you add relevant images, or add clickable links, without being told. That is showing initiative, and that is your value proposition.

In our upcoming WAHMderful Workshop, you will be sharing your own “blueprint” for work at home success. Could give us some teasers on what we can look forward to?

I’ll be talking about the steps I took to get to where I am now. From a transcriptionist queueing for a project, to operations manager of a limited liability company thousands of miles away, and an entrepreneur. I’ve been a VA for almost nine years. I’ll be celebrating my 9th WAHM anniversary on May 26. And in all those years, I only had three major clients. So I’ll be talking about how in my almost nine years, I only had to apply for a position twice. Yes, that’s three clients, two applications. The one in the middle found my site, and inquired for my services. This is a funny experience, one that I will talk about lengthily during the workshop. It’s a good example of value proposition and at the same time creating opportunities.

You can sign up for Marge’s #SuccessfulWAHM Workshop on February 28: Real Ways to Be a WAHM: Set Up Your Virtual Assistance for Success!

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Marge’s workspace and “work-at-home central” in her home office.

I’ll talk about my source for long term engagements; how I managed to invest in a school just from my WAHM salary; how I stayed sane with all the pressure of online work and homeschooling; how to survive nine years without househelp. It’s going to be a long day, I believe. I’ll also do a demo of some of the tools I use daily as a VA. WordPress, Trello, Hootsuite, IFTTT, all things Google. How to set up your home office and manage to keep it separate from your household. How to create other income streams from your chosen niche. I’ve mentioned that I invested in a Science high school, so I think I’m also going to share how to invest your hard-earned money. Or how to manage your finances to have some left for investment.

Our vision for 2015 in the WAHMderful Life Community is #SuccessfulWAHM. Please tell us, in your own words, what this “success” means for you?

Success is being able to truly enjoy WAHM life, and when I say truly enjoy, it means not having to rant about how difficult WAHMing is, because in truth, it IS difficult. When you are spiritually at peace with where you are, emotionally stable to openly and warmly embrace all the difficulties and celebrate the small things, financially comfortable that you go to bed at night without worrying where the next rent money will be coming from, professionally confident that you can survive the stiff competition, and be completely present for your family, that’s when I say, I have succeeded.

To know more about Marge, visit www.thehappywahm.com and margeaberasturi.com. “Like” her updates on Facebook at Facebook.com/HelpforWAHMs. Sign up for the #SuccessfulWAHM Workshop on February 28, 2015: Real Ways to Be a WAHM: Set Up Your Virtual Assistance for Success!

We all need to keep on working to be better moms!

I’m an insatiable learner. People who know me well know it. If I’m not reading books related to the business I’m in, I’m taking premium online courses, or being mentored by someone I look up to. I get fresh new insights each day, to be honest!

Over the next few months, my partners in learning Manila Workshops, will be having workshops that are geared towards helping us become better moms. These two workshops will be spearheaded by some of the most passionate parents I’ve ever met, who all have valuable insights on child-rearing and parenting.

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You don’t have to be supermom

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Photo Credit: ashley rose, via Compfight cc

This post previously appeared on the Mom Renewal Project, by Martine de Luna. Thanks, Stacey!

There are so many web sites out there dedicated to moms nowadays. In fact, you’re reading this article on a mom self-care site! Look online, do a Google search and you’ll see: The Net is brimming over with web sites dedicated to moms who are “supermoms” who are able to juggle work, family and homemaking seamlessly, stay-at-home moms, moms who work from home, and moms who  multi-task. In each site, there’s always advice or tips on being a better mom, a better wife, a better somebody.

It seems people have solutions for other people. Other moms give their opinion, their two cents worth on how to cope with so-and-so situation, or with so-and-so person. It gets baffling sometimes when you read through so many opinions. Why?

Because, at the end of the day, none of us have it all together. None of us are super moms. [Read more...]

Sayonara, Steady Income! (Part 1) – WAHM Survival Tips

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Photo Credit: ahans via Compfight cc

The following is a post by WAHMderful contributor, Patricia of Mrs. C’s Sugarcoated Life.

Being a WAHM is something that I do by choice. Becoming a WAHM, meaning leaving my job and actually taking the plunge, was something that I had to do by chance. Let me explain.

A few days before my son turned a year old, back on 2007, I started working for a top telecommunications company here in Manila. Four years after starting that job, I moved on to work in a shopping mall that was close to home, but followed a 6-day work week. I was beyond burned out, and seriously missing important moments with my kid. His well-being was never something that I needed to worry about, because I had my mom at home caring for him, taking him to school, making sure he was clean, fed and happy. At that point, I wanted to focus on motherhood, and maybe find something that I could do from home, more for myself than for him. I wanted the opportunity to be a mom.

I was lucky because my husband was all for it. He saw the value in one of us being at home to help mold our son into the kind of person we know he has the potential to be. And he agreed that it was gonna be me. Thing is, I was scared about so many things – losing my steady income, not being a good enough hands-on mom, making mistakes, getting bored at home. I knew I had to try before I would know for sure, but just the thought of trying scared me. Then one day, I was forced to do it. [Read more...]

Working with your Kids in Mind, Part 2: Help is Good!

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This is the second of three posts I’m doing each week of June, on “Working with Your Kids in Mind”. Read part 1 below:

Part 1: The First Truth — Family comes first when you’re WAHMing.

I am truly grateful for the “helpers” I have in my life who make my “WAHMing” possible. First credit goes to my husband, of course, with whom I “tag team” on this lifestyle. (Thanks, babe!) Credit is also due to the other people — hired help and services — who make it possible for our household to enjoy the flexibility of work and activities that best suits us as a family. This brings me to my next point about working with our kids in mind as WAHMs, which has to do with help. 

Truth #2: Help is good. Invest in it.

Often, one of the first things we have to let go of as WAHMs is the belief that “we can do it all.” We can’t. The truth is: We cannot be one-woman shows as WAHMs. We can try our best to do everything around the house and for our clients; we can allow ourselves to get sucked into the belief that we are “rocking it all,” but it’s usually all just an illusion.

I made the mistake of trying to be superwoman, early into my work-at-home life. I tried to do everything: make all the meals from scratch; do the cleaning, the laundry, the grocery shopping; take my son to play dates, even attempt to homeschool him. In short, I got burned out.

To combat this habit of “super-coping,” my husband and I then factored in a “helper’s budget” immediately. We set aside funds specifically for tasks that we could delegate or outsource, most of which had to do with managing the home more effectively so that we could enjoy our home, not feel trapped by it. [Read more...]

Working with Kids in Mind, Part 1: Family First

This is the first of three posts I’m doing, on “Working with Your Kids in Mind”

I mentioned over on Facebook and in the WAHMs Facebook Group that I gave a talk about WAHM-hood, at a recent idea-share event in a co-working space here in Manila. I talked about five truths that family women need to embrace if they want to work from home with their kids as their highest priority. It’s basically what we all talk about whenever we have our WAHMderful Life workshops, but I truly believe that these truths — when imbibed — can help make our lives as WAHMs more purposeful, more meaningful.

Disclaimer: This is not meant to be expert advice! I will say this, though:

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Let’s begin, shall we, with Truth #1?

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How to Get Clients When You’re Just Starting Out Working from Home

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This is a guest post by Bridget Sanderford. Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You finally decided to take the plunge and start working for yourself from home. You are going to get the flexibility you crave and can finally start getting all the financial rewards from your own hard work. There’s just one problem: You don’t have any clients.

It can be difficult to get your first clients when you start out working from home. After all, you don’t have an established reputation or clients that can refer you for more business. However, there are plenty of things you can do to get your business start right and start getting the clients you need from day one. Here are a few tips for how to get clients when you’re just starting out working from home: [Read more...]

The Difference Between a Niche and a Tribe for the Work at Home Mom

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Have you ever thought about why you wanted to be a work-at-homemaker, whether you’re married or a mother? Have you reflected about this work-at-home life that you’re living today? If you haven’t ask yourself: Why did I want to work from home? Why did I want this lifestyle, which (if I were to be completely honest) is not glamorous, not exactly groundbreaking. Why am I doing the work I am doing? And so on.

Your answers to these questions can reveal much about how you view the work-at-home life. In fact, they can help you see the deeper meaning into why the work-at-home life means so much to you.

I started to realize this for myself, when I began reading Seth Godin’s book, Tribes. [Read more...]

How to Tell Your Boss You Want to Work from Home

Working from home isn’t a new concept; it’s just become more of a buzz phrase this day and age. Whether you call it telecommuting, WAHM-ing (if you are a mother, for instance), working from home can mean keeping your regular day job at the office, without having to actually goto the office.

These days, more and more companies are seeing the value in work from home arrangements, especially for employees who are mothers. If you are one of those considering a telecommuting or work at home option, here are some approaches you can take before pitching the idea to your superiors.

Create a telecommuting proposal.
Zig Ziglar said, “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” If you want your boss to approve your plan to work from home, make sure you have a solid proposal. This plan should include the following elements:

  • The days of the week you would like to work from home;
  • The duties and commitments that you can work on, on a remote capacity;
  • Your technical specs, including the kind of hardware you have, Internet connectivity, cellular data (if there will be a need for you to work on-the-go)
  • Methods and processes for communicating with clients, if your job requires it.

Your telecommuting proposal will be unique to your situation, [Read more...]

Thoughtful Thursday: Who’s Your Baby?

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Just think about this for a minute, because it sounds funny the first time you read it. However, as you start thinking about it, the concept is absolutely true! When you’re a work at home mom, in particular, your work is like a baby. You have to take care of it; you pour out your time and efforts into making your business or career grow. Then, when you see it taking shape and maturing into a thriving enterprise, you are happy. Yes?

As a work at home mom, your intention is to make a living while staying at home with your children. You wanted this lifestyle, because you believed in a philosophy, in a particular way of thinking. That’s absolutely fine. However, remember that — like any other woman — being a work at home mom often means more work. You will naturally have more on your plate because you are living and working in the same place all the time. Your work, in essence, becomes your other “child,” and you’ve got to give it love, care and concern, just like any child. Of course, [Read more...]