PART 3 of 4

The Low-Key Obvious & High-Key Magical Solution to All My Problems

All at once — it became clear as day.

So the solution is not piling on more work, booking more discovery calls, applying to more VA gigs, hoarding more clients, or “charging your worth”— whatever that means.

The magical lightbulb solution came hand-delivered to me when I was talking to a friend…

The Story of Me & My Self-Labelled Box

My friend was curious & asking me about what I do as a freelancer.

I explained, “I organize things for my clients basically. I make sure projects get organized in Trello or Asana and everyone knows what’s going on. I just make sure things run smoothly on the backend.”

And she said, “oh, so you’re like a Project Manager?”

And I immediately went to correct her: “Oh no… I’m a Virtu–”


“Project Manager”?

A rush went through me. I sat up straighter. THAT sounded so cool, but… I mean, I couldn’t possibly, right?

I was a VA, right?


Double pause – but where did that Virtual Assistant title come from?

From me.

I made myself a little VA box and sat myself in it, then told myself I wasn’t allowed to get out of the VA box that I made.

A box that I had probably outgrown at this point. A box that was too small. A box that was limiting my growth.

So…. theoretically: Could I change it?

Could I change my box? Could I change my title? Could I… promote myself to higher level work?

Fun fact: That little question prompted me down the road that led to all the good stuff: the dream clients, the mad $$$, slow traveling southeast Asia with my partner, buying an apartment, getting to order takeout 2x a week instead of 1x a month, etc.

It was that little question: “Could I change the label on my box?”

The solution wasn’t more work or to raise my rates endlessly for the same exact set of services.

The kind-of-obvious solution to the problem was:

Give yourself a well-deserved promotion.

Girl, oh, girl — do you deserve a promotion(!!!!)

Before your mind gets racing with all the reasons why you do NOT deserve a promotion… 

Here are 3 really good reasons why you deserve a promotion, like ASAP:

Reason #1: Corporate rules don’t apply.

Corporate rules dictate:

  • Promotions are given on average every 2-3 years.
  • Someone will conduct a performance review and if applicable, give you a promotion, a new raise and a new title.

Changing your salary, title, and trajectory in corporate all starts with an external force (them) working on their own timetable.

But those rules do not apply in our freelancing and online business world; it took me a long time to unlearn it.

Normally, in corporate, your growth and promotions go more-or-less hand in hand because it’s someone’s job to make sure it’s happening.

In my experience: growth when freelancing and in online business happens MUCH faster than in corporate.

And I see you!

I know all about…

  • everything you’re googling, everything you’re figuring out on a daily basis,
  • all the courses and freebies you’re downloading and consuming,
  • how fast things move online and how you watch new tool tutorials every month,
  • how you roll with the punches because you don’t really have a set job description like in corporate, and
  • how you’re constantly adapting yourself to fit different clients and their different needs.

You are not afraid of getting better.

You are growing and have grown so much.

So… 3 quick questions for you:

  1. Where is the promotion to match your growth?
  2. Where is the new title to match your growth?
  3. Where is the salary raise to match your growth?

Growth + promotions are natural AND you’re growing faster than you realize.

All of this starts with an internal force. You can change your title, salary, and trajectory. You can choose when to grow.

Reason #2: Perceived value ≠ actual value.

Here’s a quick image that illustrates the difference between perceived value vs actual value. Which box of cookies are you going to pick up at the supermarket?

Probably the left one, right?

Even if the cookies on the right taste a million times better than the cookies on the left; most people will still buy the one on the left because of perceived value.

Just like how both Louis Vuitton and Walmart sell bags, but LV can charge 100x the price. It’s about the value that the end client perceives about your product.

You could be (and chances are) giving your client a bombastic amount of value and offering them everything under the sun… 

but if they perceive your packaging to be ‘Virtual Assistant’ — they will always keep you in that VA box.

That VA box comes with an associated price range, an associated level of responsibility, an associated level of perceived value. 

I didn’t understand the difference between perceived value and actual value for a long time, and it really held me back.

Perceived value is based on the packaging, the messaging, the outside; for you as a VA, that is your title, your rates, your services, your portfolio.

But it starts with your title because that is what you lead a conversation with.

You’ve pigeonholed yourself. What got you here isn’t what will get you there. 

When you call yourself an “Assistant”, your client won’t see your true potential for leadership, for strategy, for growth.

And that’s why you need a new title via your new promotion — to change and level up the perceived value of your skills.

Change up your packaging and change up your box via a promotion.

But of course, all of this is not as simple as just swapping out your title; more on that in a bit.

Finally, reason 3 — arguably the most important reason.

Reason #3: Your time is not scalable. Your value generation is, so focus on generating value.

When you price based on your time (aka via hourly rates) or when you only offer manual hours-based tasks, your potential will always be capped.

When you focus on time, you think things like:

  • “How many more hours can I work this week?”
  • “If I work 40 hours a week, I can make this much… but if I work 50 hours, I could make THIS much.”
  • “If I work through the weekend, I’ll make more money.”

But when you shift to focusing on value, you think things like:

  • “What generates the most impact for my clients’ businesses AND doesn’t take up too much energy or time on my end?”
  • “Which of the 9,433 services I’m offering is the MOST valuable to my clients?”
  • “How can I make my ROI undeniable to my clients?”

And those are the best questions to be asking yourself if you want to actually grow.

Why? Because your client is yearning for, desperate for, people in their inner circle who care deeply about their business and the big, value-add activities.

We talk a lot about value-based pricing in business, but we rarely get into the specifics.

What is value to a business owner?

Value to a business owner is solving their problems.

The bigger the problem you can solve for a business owner = the more value you generate for them = the more money you can charge.

Because here’s the messy behind-the-scenes:

Behind-the-Scenes of a Business Owner’s Life

A day in the life for most business owners is chaotic.

At any point in time, a business owner has way too much going on.

They may have:

  • 39 unread notifications in Slack from their team members sending questions and updates
  • 492 unread emails piling up in their inbox from customers and clients requesting and demanding things
  • 12 ongoing projects in their project management tool with a litter of red overdue statuses and unread comments
  • No systems in place aka they can never take a break or a vacation to recharge
    And to top it off… a jam-packed schedule packed to the brim with back-to-back calls
  • Almost zero time to devote to income-generating activities

A CEO’s energy is pulled into a million directions all the time. They are “needed” in too many places at once to achieve their mission.

Even if/as they hire people to help, they still deal with limitations and bottlenecks around their time, their teams’ time and capabilities, or their systems.

  • Their to-do list is never-ending.
  • They need to put out unexpected fires and problems nonstop.
  • They work 25/8, yet the work they do somehow never ends.

Like I said, chaos.

And as they scale, the chaos only compounds.

So value to a business owner is solving any problem off their mega-list of problems.

The more problems you can solve for them and take off their plate, the better.

And more importantly: 

The bigger the problems you can solve and take off their plate, the better.

The bigger the problem you fix in their business, the more value you generate for them by deleting it, and the more money you can charge.

And there is a HUGE difference between solving small problems and big problems.

Small Problems are like:

  • not knowing how to upload something to Wordpress
  • not having time to write a blog post
  • not being skilled enough to create attractive graphics
  • not knowing how to best set up a project management tool

When I was starting out as a virtual assistant, I was solving small problems like a business owner’s lack of time to make graphics for a podcast episode or lack of time to format a blog post.

Here are examples of the small problems I solved for clients back in 2016:

You may notice that small problems = small value generation = small money.

That’s why I could only charge $10 – $15/hr. That’s why I felt resistance and a ‘ceiling’ trying to go past a certain hourly rate.

Because the problems I was solving were small problems.

There’s a limit to how much a business owner will pay for those problems.

These weren’t painful, agitating, big-money-on-the-line, keeping-them-up-till-3am, Big Problems.

As the business grows, the small problems start to change, evolve, pile up and become larger, more intimidating and more dangerous.

Bigger Problems include things like:

  • Not having time to respond to your team questions or review items → the team is stalled → they’re paying for team members that have no work → no progress is made → the business makes no money
  • Not knowing or not having time to hire people → not able to sign new clients nor projects because they don’t have team capacity → losing money
  • Not having the time or energy to manage projects → nothing gets done → the business makes no money
  • No systems → they can never take time off → they burn out → business makes no money

The bigger the problem, the more directly tied to the business’s income and the business owner’s freedom, the more a business is willing to pay to solve it.

And to take that line of logic further:

Business owners are actually excited to pay you money when they’re getting strategic, organized, unique, and effective fixes for their problems.

Again, they’re longing for someone to understand what they truly need, and care about the big things as much as they do.

When I came to this realization, that’s when I began carefully looking at what the Big Problems for my clients were.

Here are examples of the bigger and bigger problems I began focusing on:

Look at the rates on the small problems vs big problems.

I even made myself a little scale of how to discern between small and big problems that clients have. Here it is:

So yes, making money is about solving problems, but making great money is about solving big problems.

Time for an honest self-assessment: Which types of problems does your current role help the business with? Big problems or small problems?

(P.S. if you’ve made it this far in my letter… we both know you’re meant for more than the small problems. I hope you’re realizing something powerful right about now: that you have way more untapped potential and a promotion with your name all over it.)

So my biggest tip is: solve big problems for your clients and get from the red ocean to the blue ocean as soon as you can because this will make a huge difference to profitability and your happiness.

Again, signing more clients & landing more work wasn’t the problem.

The real problem was:

I was overdue for a promotion that I wasn’t giving myself.

A promotion that would elevate my perceived value, that would allow me to shift into higher value generation via solving bigger problems for clients, and reward myself for my growth.

A promotion that would get me OUT of the hyper-competitive freelancer red ocean into the blue ocean.


Are you waaaaaay overdue for a promotion?

If you’ve ticked at least 3 of the boxes above, it’s time for a promotion.


So at this point, I figured out a promotion is what I likely needed.

Now, please. PLEASE…

Do not make the mistake that I made and think, “Cool. I’ll just wait for someone to promote me.”

Unless you’ve got a wonderful, magical, future-oriented unicorn client, chances are: your clients will never offer up a promotion to you.

It’s not their responsibility to promote you.

It’s not their responsibility to tell you what is next for you.

This is still a corporate mindset.

You’re a freelancer. You run your own business. You’re a CEO.

  • It’s YOUR job to promote yourself.
  • It’s YOUR job to figure out what could be potentially interesting next for you.
  • It’s YOUR job to expect imposter syndrome to say ‘Yoohoo… it’s me, again!’ yet still find a way to take small steps forward anyway.

So, after a lot more waffling about, I begrudgingly accepted that:

I needed a promotion, and nobody else was going to give it to me.

P.S. To all the women reading this specifically, it’s been proven in studies (linklinklink) that women are promoted less, that women self-promote less, that women will only apply to jobs when they match 100% of the job description…

As the McKinsey’s study says: “As a result, men significantly outnumber women at the manager level, and women can never catch up.”

We have a choice as freelancers, as owners of small businesses – we can and should and need to promote ourselves.

I had to give it to myself.

YOU have to give it to yourself.

If you’re waiting for permission, here it is:

You deserve to give yourself a promotion to match your new skillset, to match the bigger and bigger tasks you’re being given by the client, to match your newfound confidence, to match the 239,023 new things you learned last week for your client.

You are so beyond worthy of a promotion.

Up Next: I’ll share all the deets on how exactly to promote yourself, what to be mindful of PLUS what I promoted myself to.

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