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Mediavine has been in business since 2004, and needless to say, a great deal has changed after almost two decades. We’ve gone from four founders running a publishing company to …
What do you know about virtual assistants?
Hiring one can be a vital resource for an overworked content creator, and becoming one can be an untapped revenue stream for another.
For the season finale of Teal Talk S3, we welcome Kayla Sloan, expert VA and creator of the well-known course $10K VA. She is on hand to talk “Everything VA”, whether you’re interesting in hiring or becoming one.
Make sure to tune into our 28th episode of Mediavine On Air below, or scroll down to watch the original video and read the transcript!
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[MUSIC PLAYING] JENNY GUY: Hi, y’all. It is Thursday, May 21st. And believe it or not, we are heading into Memorial Day weekend. What does a holiday weekend look like during coronavirus? Well, buckle up, buttercups, because we are about to find out. Welcome to Teal Talk. I’m Jenny Guy, your host and the director of marketing for Mediavine.
And I asked this right as we were getting started, but for those that are trickling in and joining us now, hello. Post in the comments and tell us what you’re doing for this holiday weekend during the pandemic. How is it different from what you’d usually be doing for the official kickoff this summer? If it’s changed at all, let us know in the comments.
And then in news of other hard to believe milestones, today’s episode of Teal Talk is the 17th in our second season, as well as our season 2 finale. What? That’s crazy. We have had almost 80 lives since we started producing these a little over two years ago, on every topic under the sun that’s relevant to content creators.
I get to talk with super smart experts about SEO and beanie babies and learn, and it’s honestly, it’s the best job. And we wouldn’t be here without the support of my team, and you guys are awesome audience. So thank you from the bottom of my black little heart for watching. I appreciate it.
And enough with the feelings now because my boss hates sappy stuff. So let’s get onto the topic du jour. What do you know about virtual assistants? Have you been one? Are you trying to hire one? What is your experience in this area? My guest here today is here to help us with everything VA. She knows all the things, and it’s past time to meet her.
Kayla Sloan is a business coach for virtual assistants and a business systems and outsourcing expert. Kayla has been working with successful entrepreneurs since 2014. Her one-on-one consulting program Six Figure Systems helps online business owners scale with systems and building a virtual team. She’s also the founder of 10K VA, her flagship program where she teaches virtual assistants how to earn up to $10,000 per month working online. Welcome. Thank you for joining us, Kayla.
KAYLA SLOAN: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.
JENNY GUY: We’re excited, too, to have you. We chose this topic because we were looking for things that we hadn’t covered and that might be interesting to people during this very strange time that we’re in.
So starting out, everyone in the comments, post in the comments. Tell us about your experience as a VA or hiring a VA or anything VA. And if you’ve got questions for Kayla, shoot us a comment, and we will make sure to get you taken care of immediately, or as quickly as we can.
So as I said in the intro, VAs are kind of your thing. So let’s just say, why do you love them so much? How did you get into the VA life? Tell us a little bit about your experience.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, so my experience was that I kind of got into the VA thing, so to speak, a little bit on accident, actually. I started blogging back in, I think it was 2013, and started blogging about paying off my debt because I had graduated college recently. I had student loans, credit card debt. All of those things was trying to figure out how to navigate the world of personal finance as a young adult.
And through that experience, I actually found out first about freelance writing and tried that out. And through that experience, found out that maybe I’m not a great writer. Maybe I’m only an OK writer. But that’s all right because everybody has their thing.
So maybe my thing wasn’t writing, but through that experience and working with my clients, and just being very detail oriented and making sure that all the little things they asked of me were done, they started to notice that and say, hey, are you available to help us with other things instead of writing, since maybe that wasn’t my thing. And so kind of fell into the world of becoming a virtual assistant through that pathway.
But since then, have really grown it first to become a full-time job for me and was able to replace my full-time job’s income. And then since then, have actually created my own training program to teach other people how to become a virtual assistant as well. Because so many people were coming to me asking for advice on how to get started. After I had kind of built up my business and reputation within my online community.
JENNY GUY: That’s a great story, and like so many of, I think, the best things I’ve ever heard are by accident, that you find out that you kind of have a superpower in something that you weren’t aware of and it wasn’t how you started out, but you just ended up doing it. And here you are.
We’ve got people waiting. And Michelle James says, I am a VA and I love it. And Sarah Auerswald–
KAYLA SLOAN: Awesome.
JENNY GUY: –says I know VAs are great. They are great, and we’re very excited to be talking about them today and get kind of into the nitty gritty of how to become one or to find one. So I think the first question– and let’s talk to our business owners out here who might be looking for one– how do you know when you need one? Are there the ear mark things happening that you should go, I might need one?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, for sure. So just to bridge that gap a little bit, business owners, just so you know, when I’m speaking to you, too, that after my experience working as a virtual assistant, I also got the privilege to grow in my capacity and learn how to help business owners grow their virtual teams and hire VAs, and really got to grow into project management and team management and hiring in that capacity.
So that’s where I started teaching– or not teaching, but consulting with business owners to help them grow their virtual teams, which is where some of these questions come from. So yeah, back to that question, how do you know when you need a virtual assistant, that is a great question to have. Because most of the time when people come to me, they’re already extremely overwhelmed, which means they needed a virtual assistant far before they’ve actually found me, which is really unfortunate.
But if you’re sitting here right now and you’re not in that place of overwhelmed yet, you probably need to look for a virtual assistant now before you’re in the place of overwhelm. If you’re already in the place of overwhelmed, though, don’t worry. We can still help you. There is a solution for it. Virtual assistants can definitely help you with that overwhelm.
But as far as exactly when, I know people are often looking at the dollars and cents of virtual assistants, too. And one thing I always encourage business owners to look at is not only the hourly rate of what you’re paying and thinking, oh, gosh, is that in my budget, but look at what it frees up your time to do, right? So it frees up your time to go after those ROI opportunities for your business as a whole, while outsourcing some of those things that are low–
JENNY GUY: Oh, no. She went away. That is not good. Oh, she’s back. Hold on a second. I’m putting her back in. Welcome back.
KAYLA SLOAN: Thank you. Can you see me?
JENNY GUY: Yep.
KAYLA SLOAN: OK.
JENNY GUY: We can see you, and we can hear you. So you were saying that you were looking at ways to outsource things and then go after the larger ROI opportunities.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yes, exactly, so that way, you can make sure that you’re earning back more than you’re paying your virtual assistant.
JENNY GUY: Yes, perfect. Makes a lot of sense.
KAYLA SLOAN: It makes the budget for itself.
JENNY GUY: And so, that’s great. So tell me a little bit more about that. How would you– if you were going to write yourself a proposal to hire a VA, if you were going to sit there and say dollars and cents, does this make sense for me, what would you be recording? Time value–
KAYLA SLOAN: Yes, so–
JENNY GUY: Yeah, please.
KAYLA SLOAN: Exactly. So as a business owner, the first thing you need to do, if you haven’t already figured out what you need to outsource and what you need to take off your plate, is you do need to do a time and task audit, which I know sounds kind of boring or tedious. Like, ugh, do I really need to write down everything I do? Yes, you do.
Because we need to figure out how much time it’s taking, and then by turning some of those things that can be outsourced into tasks for your virtual assistant and passing those off by knowing exactly how much time you’re freeing up to then pursue things that are able to generate a higher ROI.
So that would then obviously mean that you need to be tracking your income and how much time it’s taking. And so then can use your time audit compared to where your revenue’s coming from to see exactly what your ROI is. Not that I wanted to get into–
JENNY GUY: That makes a lot of sense.
KAYLA SLOAN: –every number, but yeah.
JENNY GUY: No, but and so what types of things in terms of categories, if you were making that spreadsheet or that Excel spreadsheet, yeah, what types of categories would you put out?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, so some of the things that I often look at first would be administrative tasks. A lot of administrative tasks that business owners are doing are very low ROI, right? They don’t generate a lot of revenue, but they need to be done.
That could be responding to emails, responding to comments on Facebook, things like that are that just kind of administrative maintenance type things that are all in the background, and they are still important, but they’re not generating revenue. So those things can be passed off to a virtual assistant at a lower pay rate, right, while you yourself as the CEO can then focus your attention on something else.
JENNY GUY: Very helpful. OK, so seguing into that, what are the kinds of things that you’ve seen VAs do from the more common tasks to some of the more unusual would also be fun.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, so some of the common ones to start out with, business owners often look at things like, again, email management, calendar management, and scheduling. Those are a lot of the first things that business owners want to outsource because they can be a pain to deal with. And I know that they can seem really overwhelming when your inbox is just pinging all day long, right? So that’s something where a lot of business owners start with.
Some more unusual things, I’ve actually seen virtual assistants stepping into some interesting niches, such as event planning specifically, even wedding planning. There is actually virtual assistants working directly with brides or even working with wedding planners to make some of those phone calls and set up events and things like that. So that’s actually a fairly unique way that some virtual assistants are working with other types of businesses, too.
JENNY GUY: That’s great, and a great segue with those organizational skills and ability to problem solve and pull people together. That’s great. OK, Natalie Bardwell says, I so need a VA, but scared to make the transition financial wise. Is that a common thing that you hear? What would you say to Natalie?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yes, that is something I hear commonly. And again, coming back to that time and task audit, if you’re outsourcing those things and then focusing your attention on things that generate more revenue, then you’ve basically created enough budget. The VA has created the budget themselves by taking those things off your plate, right? So that really solves the financial issue, as long as you can get those things taken off your plate and divert that attention to making more money.
JENNY GUY: Fantastic. What are some of the things then that you would recommend people throwing their attention into once they have a VA? Where do you see people spending that valuable time that they freed up?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, a lot of my clients use that freed up time to launch new products, whether that be new content mediums, such as YouTube channels or podcasts or things like that that they haven’t dove into yet if they’re already blogging. Some of my other clients that have freed up time with virtual assistants will then turn around and use that time to improve old content on the site and oversee content audits, especially if your blog started out as a personal blog.
I know that’s something where a lot of us started out as personal bloggers, telling our personal stories. I know there’s tons of that on my own site from way back when, that, at some point, will probably need to be cleaned up during a content audit. And that’s stuff very personal. So maybe it’s even that. Even if that’s not a huge ROI thing, there are still some things that are very personal that you want to handle yourself. And you’ve created time now for yourself to do that.
JENNY GUY: Definitely. Love that. So back to an important question that always comes down to this, is, how much does a VA cost or should it cost?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, so speaking about virtual assistants that are United States based, you’re going to be looking to pay anywhere probably between about $20 an hour to as much as $50 an hour, if you’re hiring someone who is serving more in a management type role or highly technical services.
JENNY GUY: $20 to $50, OK, that’s reasonable. Natalie said, yes, I’d love to never respond to an email again. Michelle Feuerborn says, totally agree. I outsourced Pinterest last year– best decision ever. It saved me hours. Pinterest traffic is now 380% higher this year than last year.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yes, that’s another great one. Social media and Pinterest for sure.
JENNY GUY: Proof is in the pudding. OK, so where can you find a VA? Where can you look for a good one?
KAYLA SLOAN: There are some places you can look for a great virtual assistant. One great place to look is always at your own audience. Again, if you’re coming from a blogging background and you have an email list, your own audience actually can be a great place to find a virtual assistant if you don’t know any within your own network.
The other place to look is just to ask your fellow blogger friends and business owner friends who already have virtual assistants who they work with. If those virtual assistants are still available, then that could be a really great opportunity for you to find someone who’s experienced.
And the other place to the look is people who have courses and have created places where you can hire virtual assistants, which is something that I do help with my course graduates to connect with business owners, too.
JENNY GUY: And that’s awesome. And there’s actually, you have a system that you employ yourself, right? Isn’t it Six Figure Systems? Yeah, tell us a little about that.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yes, so Six Figure Systems is where I work one-on-one with business owners in a consulting capacity to help you figure out exactly what you need to outsource, how to turn that into a system so you can hand it off to your virtual assistant, and it’s completely ready to go, so that you don’t have to do all of that tedious onboarding and training after they get there. You have kind of a system all set up and ready to go.
JENNY GUY: That’s awesome. And we can post the links to that, too. So Kimberly Roseman Stevenson said, I’m one and I enjoy the work. That’s good to hear that you enjoy it. And I think it seems to be a pretty natural transition from somebody who is doing a content creation or a career on the internet to slide over into becoming a VA. Do you have a lot of VAs that are content creators, bloggers, website owners, things like that?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, I actually have a lot of bloggers who become virtual assistants. But I’ve also seen a lot of people who find out about virtual assisting and then also start a blog. So I think it can kind of go both ways. I think they’re very relatable skills. And I think the other huge, huge benefit of that kind of cross– whatever you want to call it.
JENNY GUY: Pollination, whatever.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, is that having a blog and a website as a virtual assistant can serve as a portfolio for your own work to showcase your own skills and what you know how to do.
JENNY GUY: Fantastic. OK, we’ve got some questions coming in. Larisha Bernard says, I’d love to hear your thoughts on hiring VAs in the US versus outside of the country. Great question.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, I haven’t actually hired an international virtual assistant myself, so I can’t speak specifically to the hiring process for international virtual assistants. But I have worked with a few with some of my clients who already had them on the team when I came on board. And working with international virtual assistants was still a very pleasant experience. I didn’t really have any issues.
There is some additional, sometimes, communication barrier. And I know sometimes time zone can be a little bit of an issue if you’re trying to have a team meeting or something like that on Zoom. But other than that, it really was great still, in my experience, working with international virtual assistants.
That said, they do need more training, more guidance, more editing if you’re having them doing anything with written communication typically. So that’s something to consider in your budget, is that although they may seem cheaper per hour than a United States virtual assistant, they are going to require more oversight.
JENNY GUY: That’s a great tip to have in mind when you’re looking at how much you’re wanting to invest. They might be potentially less expensive financially, but more expensive in terms of the time you’re investing on the frontend to get them all set up and ready to go and to execute your will.
Natalie said, any tips on finding a VA? We’re going to talk about that more in a little bit. And then she also said, do you recommend starting with a certain amount of hours to test a VA? And she said, can you tell I’m nervous and overthinking it? We understand. It’s a big decision.
KAYLA SLOAN: It is. That is so common. Overthinking it happens all the time, but I promise everything’s going to work out, although hiring is a big decision. I get that, too.
So when it comes to kind of testing your virtual assistant, one thing I always recommend to business owners is that you start with either a trial period, so say I’m going to bring you on for 30 days. We want to make sure this is a great fit, however long that is. It doesn’t necessarily have to be 30 days. Make sure it’s a fit for them and for you.
But the other option, if you don’t want to do a set time period, is you could do a test or trial project. So maybe you have them work on a specific– I don’t know– maybe if you’re a blogger, maybe you have them work on a specific blog post and prepare that for publication if that’s something you’re hiring for. Test them out. See how they do following your instructions, right? See how it goes as a test project.
JENNY GUY: That’s fantastic advice and very helpful. Also just to see it’s not– I mean, I think part of what can happen is that it’s not a value judgment about someone being good or bad if it doesn’t necessarily work in terms of style with you and your work style and the way you like to communicate. Those are very specific personal things that I think are important when you’re looking for somebody that could potentially become your right hand person, so.
KAYLA SLOAN: Exactly. Yeah, it’s not even necessarily always about the specific skills. Sometimes it’s just about the fit.
JENNY GUY: That makes a lot of sense. That makes a whole lot of sense, the fit between the two of you. So Dani Klein asks, how expensive are VAs? You had mentioned, if you’re using US dollars, a $20 to $50 per hour rate. Is there a typical amount of time that you see people hiring a VA for, or does that just basically run the gamut and up to the person?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, it’s all over the board. It really depends on what you’re needing and can really vary so much from business owner to business owner. So yeah, as far as hours go.
JENNY GUY: It can totally vary. Guys, if you’re out there and you are a VA or you are a business owner that has used a VA, are you still, with all the craziness happening with the ‘rona, are you still hiring your VA? Are you still giving them hours as a VA?
Is it something you’ve thought about picking up? Talk about how this pandemic has impacted you if you are a VA. Kayla and I were talking about it before we went live, and we’re interested to hear what feedback you guys have.
And in the meantime while we wait on those responses, what questions should you ask when you’re hiring a VA? I know that it will probably have to do with what specific tasks you’re having outsourced, but are there some general questions that people can ask, just to kind of get a sense of who this person is?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, some great questions to ask when you’re interviewing a virtual assistant, a couple of things. First, you’re always going to want to ask where they’re located. Maybe not where, but always time zone at least, because they’re virtual so you want to make sure that they’re on a time zone that you can kind of communicate well with here. If you’re going to have team meetings or anything like that, that could be really important, and depending on timeliness for your business, depending on how big of a deal that is for you.
The other thing you’re going to want to ask is just some questions about– sorry, I was just reading the comments. I can actually see them coming in on the side now. This is really exciting. I know. I got distracted. Anyway, some other great questions to ask when you’re hiring a virtual assistant, make sure that you ask them for specific examples of relatable work.
I know that sometimes when people hire virtual assistants, they don’t take the process quite as seriously as if you’re hiring an employee. And I think you should still go through an interview process and collect a portfolio or collect samples or collect kind of a resume in a sense. Because if you don’t go through that kind of due diligence, how can you expect to get a good result?
JENNY GUY: Very important and very true. Yeah, it’s the more detailed you can get, the more conversations you have with that person, the more samples of work you can get, definitely, for sure.
OK, here are some of the feedback we’re getting. So Michelle James says, I’m busier than ever. She had said earlier that she was a VA and works as a VA. Because most of my clients are now homeschooling on top of their business– true. We actually had a live about that.
Lynn April says, I have kept my VA through all of this. I pay her hourly, but I also give her a percentage of my quarterly earnings from Mediavine because she helps me with all of my socials and my emails. Michelle says, yes, still using VA, at least for Pinterest. The increased traffic and increased ad revenue generated, even with today’s lower RPM, more than covered the cost of the VA.
OK, got a question from Larisha. So much happening in our group right now. They’re buzzing. What about benefits of literally a virtual person versus someone that is local?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, so literal benefits of having someone virtual versus in person, one, you’re not going to have the overhead of having to pay for an office space. So that is a huge benefit. If you have an in-person office space, your virtual assistant wouldn’t be taking any up. So that is a great benefit.
As far as– I don’t know if you’re looking at employee versus freelancer at all or just in-person versus virtual. Virtual, one nice thing, if someone is on a different time zone than you, that could actually be helpful for your business, too. I know in my experience, I’ve actually worked with a virtual assistant who is in the UK.
And it was kind of nice in the morning. I’d wake up and all these things were done. And they were just sitting there, waiting for me to review them. So in that capacity, it was kind of nice because work was just happening 24 hours a day.
JENNY GUY: Yeah, and also, I think another thing to check might be when people are logging on with your social and wanting that interaction. If you’ve got a great big European audience and you’re not in Europe, and you don’t want to be awake at 4 o’clock in the morning, maybe having somebody who’s in that time zone help you offset some of that traffic would be great. I think that’s a great idea.
OK, we’ve got more feedback from our audience. OK, Michelle says, I’m more interested in picking up work as a VA. 12 years blogging experience and wanting to know where to start. Michelle, we’ve got your back– two seconds.
Rebecca Johnston says, even though obvious ad revenue has decreased significantly, which affects business income overall, I’ve tried to keep my VAs busy and not cut back. She looks at it as just her small part to hopefully keep the economy just a little bit better. That’s good to hear.
KAYLA SLOAN: So in addition to working as a VA, I also have my own team. And I am actually a Mediavine member as well. So I totally hear you, Rebecca. I mean, that hasn’t impacted business budgets. But I think that this also has created other opportunities for us as online business owners to be creative. And I’m so excited that you’ve taken this opportunity to try and keep your VA busy and not cut back hours.
JENNY GUY: It’s very, very appreciated. And we know that the RPMs are down, but we’ve been sharing as much as we can, seeing all the incredible pivots that people are doing and adjustments in the way that people are listening to their audience, taking in their needs and taking those into consideration, and creating content specifically around this time. Sourdough starters unite. It’s everywhere, and we love it. And that’s just a joke because I have a sourdough starter and talk about it all the time.
But let’s pivot into the other side of this process. Let’s throw some bones to Michelle Whittaker. Talking about becoming a VA, what skills make someone a good candidate for that type of work?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, so when it comes to becoming a virtual assistant or being a successful virtual assistant, there’s a few things that are important. And some of them are not even necessarily hard skills, so to speak. They’re really just traits, more so, like being able to be very self-motivated, especially because you’re working virtually from home, right? So you’re going to need to make sure that you get your work done and that you’re disciplined enough to do all of those things.
I would also say being a good problem solver because, again, working virtually, sometimes you just have to figure things out. There’s not always someone there that you can ask questions to. Of course, online resources are great, but also just knowing how to use those. Because you may be surprised, but I’ve actually– I have worked with virtual assistants where I’ve had to kind of be like, well, did you google it? So, going through that.
JENNY GUY: Did you ask Dr. Google?
KAYLA SLOAN: Google is your friend. But then in terms of hard skills, I would say just overall organization, being a very good written and verbal communicator is going to be really important as a virtual assistant.
Again, coming back to that problem solving, but also just being willing to kind of go a little bit above and beyond people’s expectations, right? Really have a heart, I think, for your business and have a heart for the people that you’re working with, your clients, because that’s really what this is all about.
And as a virtual assistant, we have the luxury to work with clients whose businesses we admire and support and respect. And so why not do that, right? Why not work with people that bring us joy and make us feel great about what we’re doing every day? I mean, that’s not the skills. I kind of segued into something else, but–
JENNY GUY: No, but I love that. That’s great. I didn’t have a question that would have brought that up, I don’t think. And I love that, having the luxury to be able to choose to work with people whose work you stand behind and you believe in, I love that Starla Hill said, I’m a VA.
KAYLA SLOAN: Time management, yeah.
JENNY GUY: Best job ever. I love this work. Yeah, time management, problem solving, good communication, work hard for your clients. Love that. Huge fan of underpromising, over delivering. Love that, too.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah. Exactly.
JENNY GUY: OK. So how can someone start? If someone is wanting– if you’re sitting there, going, this sounds amazing, I want to do it, what do you do?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah. How can you start? That is definitely always the question on people’s minds. So the first thing you need to do is figure out what you want to offer in your business. So what skills do you have already? What services make sense for you? What services are available out there? Do a little research on that. Kind of figure those type of things out.
Then you really just need to find clients. I know that sounds super simple. And there is a little bit more to it than that, I know. But really, after you find the first client, that’s when you officially have a business, right? That’s when you can actually move forward and say I’m a business owner, and then you can start doing all these other things.
I encourage my students personally to get started right away and not let some of those logistical things hold them back. Because I think sometimes people get too hung up in the logistics and get kind of scared, and they get kind of that overwhelmed, like we were talking about earlier with hiring. But just in that same sense, people feel that same feeling with starting their virtual assistant business, too.
So just get started. You can always change. You don’t have to do the same thing forever. So even if you start with social media, but then you decide you hate it, you can do something else. It’s OK. You don’t have to do that forever.
JENNY GUY: So that’s an excellent way to start. Don’t let analysis paralysis overcome you. Where do you find clients? How do you go about it? How do you learn?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, and I think one huge benefit that everyone who’s watching this in the Mediavine group has already as an advantage is that you all have connections. All of you are already in this group. You all have connections to each other. And we know there’s plenty of opportunities within our community to support each other, whether that be through hiring each other or offering support to each other when needed.
So I mean, I think this is a great place to do that– not that we should be soliciting all the time our services. By any means, we don’t want to do that. But I think that these networking groups are great places to start making those friendships and connections that can lead to those clients, right? And all of you already have some sort of online presence if you’re in this group, so.
JENNY GUY: Absolutely. And everyone is in at least one Facebook group, probably three, I would say, conservatively, three blogging Facebook groups. Use the search function in those groups and see where people talked about VA and looking for VA and what kind of VA and search. You can find it. Not hard.
So money is on everyone’s minds all the time. We know this, but especially now. So in terms of setting up pricing as a VA, what is a reasonable expectation for earnings starting out? And your course is called 10K VA, which implies a very high paycheck coming towards you. So talk to us a little bit about how you came up with that name and about pricing for people getting started in this business.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, so for me personally, when I started as a virtual assistant, having told my story earlier, I kind of fell into it accidentally. And I started out probably under charging a little bit. I was about $15 an hour getting started as a virtual assistant in all transparency and honesty. And since then, obviously, my rates have increased over time.
But as I did that, I was able to grow my business to where I was earning over $10,000 per month consistently from my virtual assistant clients. So just from my virtual assistant services, not from other streams of revenue.
JENNY GUY: Amazing.
KAYLA SLOAN: $10,000 per month consistently. So in order to do that, I mean, there are several things you need to do as a virtual assistant. I mean, you can start out hourly. A lot of virtual assistants do because they simply aren’t sure how to set up package pricing.
But over time, as you figure out what you’re good at, what you love doing, what you’re really, really efficient at, you get those systems set up, you have it all up on a repeatable process so it’s super efficient, then when you create those package pricings, that’s when you can start to really start scaling your business. Right? And start to really grow that revenue, so that you’re no longer charging hourly for your services.
Now business owners I hear– you hear me saying this, thinking, oh gosh, my VA is making all this money off of me. Don’t worry. The reason that they’re doing this is because they’re so efficient at this point, that something that used to take two hours now only takes 20 minutes. But they shouldn’t be penalized because it no longer takes two hours, right?
JENNY GUY: Very true.
KAYLA SLOAN: It’s the value of what they’re providing you, not necessarily that it took two hours or 20 minutes.
JENNY GUY: And talk to us a little bit about the packages that you’re referring to. You don’t have to– obviously, we don’t want you to give any secret sauce recipes out right now, but some of the things that you’ve seen that might be a little more common that might get people’s minds going.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, so a lot of people will work on package pricing as a virtual assistant. So it may include things like– I’ve seen people create blog management packages, for instance. I know, again, we have a lot of bloggers in the audience.
So a virtual assistant may put together a blog management package that, lets say, it’s $1,000 a month. That gets you x number of blog posts that the virtual assistant will upload into WordPress, add all the photos, make sure all the links are working, formatted, all of those type of things, and published.
And so you know that all of those things are taken care of, and you pay one flat rate per month. So that may be one way that a virtual assistant could market a package rate to a client.
JENNY GUY: Very helpful. Love that. OK, we have comments from Michelle. She said from a customer perspective, I love that my VA has excellent communication. She is proactive. I don’t have to ask. And she has a Pinterest strategy that works. And she’s saying she found this VA based on other blogger recommendations in our Facebook group, so that’s exciting–
KAYLA SLOAN: Perfect.
JENNY GUY: –and great to hear.
KAYLA SLOAN: That’s awesome.
JENNY GUY: Love that. And Starla Hill said, always be learning, growing and honing in on your skills and to enjoy the journey. Very helpful. So in terms of specific certifications or degrees or any of those things, is there anything you would recommend? I know that you don’t have to have anything, obviously. There’s not a degree requirement, but are there things you would recommend?
KAYLA SLOAN: So it’s really interesting that a lot of colleges are actually starting to offer certificate programs in virtual assisting.
JENNY GUY: Awesome.
KAYLA SLOAN: I’ve actually seen that popping up all across the country, which is really interesting, but certainly not required. In terms of recommended certifications, no, I really don’t think there’s any needed.
In fact, a lot of times, things that you’ve earned outside of specifically online business or virtual assisting can still be transferable. I know a lot of people who have experience and may have certifications in bookkeeping or accounting, and they may then go offer those as virtual services as a portion of their business or something like that, too. So I know that those can be value adds, but they are certainly not required. No certifications required at all, which is great.
JENNY GUY: So outside of required, are there any places that you see that you would recommend going, other than your own? Tell us a little bit about your own and then maybe some recommendations that you’d make.
KAYLA SLOAN: Sure, yeah. So I do have my own training program. Of course, it’s called 10K VA, as we mentioned earlier. So within that program, I teach all of the aspects of starting your business, all the way to scaling to earn as much as $10,000 per month. I can’t guarantee it, of course. But you can earn as much as, right? I’ve seen it work for me and students, which is great.
But the other places you can go for training, I would look at skills trainings programs. Those can be a little bit more difficult to find specifically for virtual assistant, which is why we actually created that as an add-on for students as well.
So we do have those that are ongoing trainings to keep you up to date on the latest on all of the social media tools. Not just social media, but that is one that’s in demand all the time because the algorithms are changing, but all of the virtual assistant tools and services and skills. So those are coming out regularly.
And then as far as other places to look, honestly, I look at a lot of free resources or just blogs, tutorials, things like that that are going to be really, really helpful. And I know there’s a lot of resources within the Mediavine community as well that can help you get started with all of those services and skills that you need to learn.
JENNY GUY: 100%, and I think things like HubSpot, they have– or Hoot Suite. Some of those social media tools that you use have really great resources for social media that you can go in and look at and become, with free training, easily certified in Pinterest, certified in whatever it is. So I think those are–
KAYLA SLOAN: Even Facebook has its own certification course now. Pinterest has its own certification course. Asana has its own certification course. So there are those available out there, if you do want to get those certifications. You certainly don’t have to have them, but it could be a nice value add. And maybe that is the way that the industry is moving. If it is, then you’ll be ahead of the curve ball if you’ve already gotten some of those taken care of when you’re trying to learn those skills in the beginning of your business.
Another place that I would recommend, too, is Grayson Bell, a good friend of mine from iMarkInteractive.com. He has a free WordPress course that’s available. And it is phenomenal if you’re not already familiar with WordPress specifically or need to brush up on that or feel like you, even as a blogger, need to brush up a little bit more on WordPress, so that you can fix some of your own things if they break on your site. His course is phenomenal. It’s a really, really great resource.
JENNY GUY: Love all of that, and very easy. I always find courses, even if they’re not required, help me feel more confident in my own knowledge. And also, it’s never bad to have something to put on a resume, like officially certified in X, Y, Z.
KAYLA SLOAN: Exactly.
JENNY GUY: So let’s talk about potential pitfalls for both sides of this equation. What are some of the– what’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen VAs make starting out? And then what is the biggest mistake you’ve seen bloggers make, or what should be avoided when they’re working with a VA?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, so from the VA side first, what’s the biggest mistake that I see new VAs making? I think a lot of them just don’t have the confidence to put themselves fully out there. That’s the biggest thing I see. In working with my students, when I have one-on-one coaching calls with them, a lot of times, their questions boil down to confidence.
And so that’s something that’s really unfortunate, and it’s something that I am trying to empower all of my students in my community on. But I know that’s something that we want to spread the message on even more, is that just be confident in yourself and your message as a virtual assistant. I think that’s one of the biggest things.
And then the second– or the biggest mistake, I guess, on the other side that I see bloggers making when working with a virtual assistant, is that they haven’t already thought out exactly what they need to pass off to the virtual assistant. They’re just like, I need help, and I don’t know what I need help with, but something.
And then when they get ready to pass something off, they don’t have clear instructions, which just kind of sets both people up for failure. Either the blogger gets frustrated because the VA is asking questions, or maybe the VA doesn’t feel like they can ask questions. And so the blogger’s like, why isn’t this done the way I wanted, and you didn’t ask? So there’s just some communication issues there sometimes, I think, in preparedness before hiring. I think that’s important.
JENNY GUY: I think that’s a great idea. So would you recommend then before a blogger, before a content creator goes out to hire a virtual assistant, having, like you said, you’ve made the list of what your time is, what you’re doing, what you’re investing, and what could you outsource.
Would you recommend having them, like you said, a specific project, so having a very specific this. I need you to do emails. I need you to do Pinterest– having a specific and finite area to start, and then potentially adding on other areas?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah. Definitely. I think you don’t want to overwhelm your virtual assistant with, like, 15 things at once either. So maybe you pass up just email, and then you add Pinterest, and then you add Facebook, and then you add whatever else you need, right? But you don’t want to just say, here is all 20 things, go.
Especially if you’re not used to hiring or if you have a new VA, either way, if either side, either person is new to this situation, that can be kind of difficult. So you want to kind of ease into that. And even if they’re not new, again, coming back to test projects and making sure it’s a good fit, that’s always important, too, so.
JENNY GUY: Is it something you would see, as a VA, having one VA that does all of the things, or having a VA that is really great at this, a VA that is really great at this? What’s a better way? What’s a more common way?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, I think bloggers, a lot of times when they’re hiring their first virtual assistant, they will hire one person that’s good at a lot of things, but maybe not great at any one thing, if that makes sense.
JENNY GUY: Mhm, it does.
KAYLA SLOAN: Their first hire is just, again, that, ah, I need help. Here is all the things. And then I think from there, they kind of refine and learn. And maybe that’s them, and hopefully, that VA, if they work together long term, kind of refining that role and figuring out what the VA does best and what else they need to hire for. So that can be a part of it, too.
JENNY GUY: That definitely helps in a new relationship that you can grow and evolve with each other, for sure. I think that a lot of what I always love when I see VAs are people that come in that are really helpful. They have a calm but positive presence that the person you’re coming in to help is feeling, ah, I have so many things. And you can come in and say, I can do those things. I can take those things and make them feel confident, which is always such a blessing.
KAYLA SLOAN: Exactly.
JENNY GUY: How can a blogger or a content creator, the person hiring, help a VA do their best work? And you said having a clear, defined– that starts out with having a clear, defined task or a clear, defined project. But how can you delegate better and avoid micromanaging and make it the most efficient working relationship that you can get your money’s worth?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, exactly. You definitely want to make sure you get your money’s worth. So I think a few things to make sure that you set your virtual assistant up for success is having a clear communication channel, so making sure that that’s open, but that you’re not pestering, right? So just making sure that it’s clear that they can come to you at any point with questions and that they’re not going to be dumb questions. Because there’s no such thing as a dumb question, right? You want to make sure that everything is done correctly.
So just making sure that your virtual assistant feels heard and respected, I think, is huge, and knowing that they can come to you with questions and that you want them to come to you with questions, even, and that you want them to think about these big picture things, and kind of encourage that and foster that within your virtual assistant.
And honestly, I think, too, giving your virtual assistant, after the test project, of course, once you’ve grown and worked together a little bit, too, but giving them more responsibility, giving them the opportunity to grow and learn with you, giving them a little bit of a sense of ownership, sometimes, of a piece of your business. Although that sounds scary, the more buy-in you have from them by giving them that ownership, the better results you’re going to get from them, too. Because they’re going to be invested in the success of your business just as much as you are.
JENNY GUY: Definitely. And do you recommend– you talked about an open communication. Do you recommend setting up a weekly meeting with the VA? As a VA, do you want to advocate for that, say, a 15 minute check-in with actual voices? Is email better? How do you– what are you– I know and I’m sure that this area is based on personal preference, but.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, I think it does. And sometimes, I’ve even had it vary from client to client. There are some clients where communication via our task management system is enough. There’s some clients where a call every week is definitely needed because things are just moving so fast. And there’s others where, hey, we’ll just check in once a month or so randomly if we need to. We’ll talk tomorrow or whatever.
But I want to keep that open and communicate with the client in the way that they want to communicate, but also as long as I make sure that I get what I need to do my job.
JENNY GUY: Excellent answer. That makes a lot of sense. OK, when you’re a VA and you have a lot of clients, how are you juggling and prioritizing and keeping that workflow? Are there any great tools that you would recommend? Anything that would help people juggle?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yes, juggling multiple clients and multiple deadlines can be a challenge for sure, especially if you’re just getting started kind of doing that, and you’re not used to that. If you’re coming from being an employee where maybe you only have one boss or kind of one area, and now all of a sudden, you have five clients, and you kind of feel like you have five bosses, that can be a little bit of a scary feeling at first.
So my recommendation, if you’re not already on a task management system, is to start using one as soon as possible. So that could be something like– I personally love Asana. But there’s also Trello, Monday, ClickUp. I think maybe Monday became ClickUp. I’m not sure. They keep changing names. But there are several of them out there. I know for sure Basecamp is another one, too.
So yeah, definitely look into one of those tools and use whichever one works best for your brain. That’s what I say. Because all these tools are very similar. They have similar features. But they work slightly differently. So if one method works better for your brain, if a checklist or a– I don’t know– the card ones or whatever, the calendar, whatever works best for you to make sure you get everything done, do that, right? Do what works best for your brain.
But get on something that keeps it organized because you can’t just do it in your email inbox. It’s going to get way too messy, and you’re going to forget to do something. And then in terms of prioritizing, just make sure you always– I guess, for me, what I do is I set high priority, medium priority, and low priority for every single thing I put on my to-do list so that I know what’s important when it becomes due on the day that it becomes due.
JENNY GUY: Very, very helpful. OK, this is a little bit– this is going to get into some drama, maybe some feelings. Have you ever experienced having to break up with a VA? And what goes into that? How do you know it’s time to let someone go? How do you do that, handle that with grace?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah. So I have had to hire on behalf of my clients. But I’ve also had to fire on behalf of my clients. I’ve also fired my clients. As a VA, I’ve let go of the client, right? But I’ve also let go of VAs for my team. So I’ve definitely done this in kind of all aspects.
And it can be very hard at times. It can be very emotional, especially if you do end up forming a personal relationship with this person, too, outside of work, because you do become invested in each other, right? But that said, sometimes it just has to happen.
And how do you know if it’s time to let them go or get a new virtual assistant? I would say if you start to feel frustrated, if you’ve addressed the issue multiple times, you do need to give your virtual assistant a chance. You can’t just– I mean, you shouldn’t. I guess you can. You shouldn’t just get frustrated once and then let them go without a warning or explanation or anything like that.
Give them feedback and the opportunity to improve. But if it’s a repeated thing, then you do need to let them go and find someone that can do the job. Because you as a business owner can’t afford to not have the job done properly either.
JENNY GUY: Very true. Very true and difficult. OK, Michelle said, my Pinterest VA Nicole sends out a great monthly newsletter to her customers. Lots of great info in there keeping us up to date on all of Pinterest’s changes. That’s pretty cool. Have you heard of other things like that like a monthly newsletter to different VA clients or anything you’d recommend to kind of help with the marketing aspect, the retention aspect, things like that?
KAYLA SLOAN: You know, I think one of the other great resources that I’ve come across lately was the Facebook marketing newsletter, too, is another great one, if you’re looking for ways to stay up to date on all the algorithm changes that they’ve come out with. They put together one, I believe it’s on the Business Support page.
JENNY GUY: Facebook has algorithm changes?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, surprise, surprise.
JENNY GUY: That’s crazy. I’ve never heard of anyone–
KAYLA SLOAN: I know, right?
JENNY GUY: –in the blogging world talk about it. So in terms of contracting, because that can be a real sticky thing on both ends, do you recommend, as a person going out and starting with VA– I am friends with Jamie Lieberman, who is Hashtag Legal, and her words are, everything must be in a contract when you’re working with a brand, when product is exchanging hands.
I would imagine that VA work is the same way. It’s a contract. It’s not a, well, yeah, I’ll do some Pinterest stuff for you, and then we’ll see what happens down the line. Talk to us about the contract.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, you definitely need to have a contract. 100% need to have a contract, and it needs to be signed by both you and your client before you do any work. So even if they come to you and are desperate and say, I need you to start tomorrow, ah, no. If you have not signed the contract, I can not start work. I know that sounds a little harsh maybe, but no, you really can’t do it, because you have to protect yourself. That’s really, really important.
And the contract is there to protect the virtual assistant and the business owner both. So it’s really important for both people to have a contract. Now I am definitely not a lawyer, so I don’t want to give any kind of legal advice at all.
But when it comes to contracts, a few things just to keep in mind– make sure you have in there listed a general scope of work. I know that can be hard for virtual assistants because it can vary so much.
So that may be a piece that needs to be amended from time to time and revisited regularly, maybe every 6 to 12 months as your role changes, maybe more often if it’s a small startup maybe or something like that, and it’s moving really, really quickly. But that’s something that you may need to revisit.
Obviously, have in there your pay rate and frequency, when you expect that, what your invoicing practices are, but also your working hours. If you have specific hours that you are available or not available, you need to have that specified so your clients know what to expect for your communications.
JENNY GUY: Very helpful. You don’t have a Devil Wears Prada Miranda Priestly situation where your boss is invading your life.
KAYLA SLOAN: Oh my gosh, that would be awful.
JENNY GUY: So in terms of that, any fun stories from the past as a VA where anything unusual has happened or unusual requests or crazy boss stories, like I said, Devil Wears Prada scenarios?
KAYLA SLOAN: I made the mistake as a brand new virtual assistant. So this maybe is a little bit of a warning story.
JENNY GUY: Love that.
KAYLA SLOAN: I made the mistake as a brand new virtual assistant of not really knowing what I was doing and thus didn’t really think about it being a concern if one of my clients had my personal phone number. Now I have a separate business phone number for the record. But didn’t think about it.
But received phone calls from this client on Sunday afternoons, Saturdays, weekends, evenings, after multiple requests of this person to only con– this was only supposed to be used for emergencies, right? So yeah, we don’t do that anymore.
JENNY GUY: I mean, I would get what someone considers an emergency obviously varies a lot, so.
KAYLA SLOAN: This is true.
JENNY GUY: So yeah.
KAYLA SLOAN: We’ll just say it was probably not an emergency, but sure.
JENNY GUY: I mean, I think that that’s fair. Or they need to maybe find a different line of work if there are that many emergencies occurring on a weekly basis. Potentially you need to look into something else. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. And so you would definitely recommend a business line. Or I mean, I can’t– is there any circumstances where you would give a client a personal phone number again?
KAYLA SLOAN: No. I don’t think so.
JENNY GUY: Fair enough.
KAYLA SLOAN: The only other option I would look at is one– the phone number I did look into was getting a Google Voice number. You could do that if you wanted to give a phone number to a client. That way, they could call or text that number. But it doesn’t have to be connected to your phone.
JENNY GUY: That is a very good idea. OK–
KAYLA SLOAN: And they are free.
JENNY GUY: Free and you don’t have to worry about getting texts at 4 o’clock in the morning about that Pinterest pin. Larisha said that I’m pretty sure that Jamie from last week has a contract on her site that’s available to purchase for VAs, a boilerplate contract that has–
KAYLA SLOAN: Perfect.
JENNY GUY: –the basic things covered. And then you can fill it in with scope of work and your specific payment preferences and details. OK. How many clients should a VA take on? How much is too much?
KAYLA SLOAN: Ooh, that is a very interesting question and probably one I haven’t thought too much about. Because I think it can vary quite a bit. It depends on if you’re taking on a client who needs 30 hours a week or a client who needs five hours a week, you know? And what your personal availability is, too– are you doing this on top of a full-time job or on top of home schooling your kids right now or on top of other responsibilities? So it really can depend on just what your own availability is, so.
JENNY GUY: That is a lawyer answer.
KAYLA SLOAN: No magic there.
JENNY GUY: I love lawyer answers. It depends. Always my favorite. How do you personally communicate with– how do you advocate communicating with VAs? Is there– do you think email is the best way to do it? You said it can depend by style, but what is your standard advice that you give?
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, so for me personally, I communicate with my virtual assistants and still communicate with any long-term clients that I’m working with, too, via our task management system, which, again, we use Asana. We typically don’t email each other because we do leave all of our comments and kind of communications within our task management system.
And then we do use Google Docs for sharing files and things like that. So we use Google Drive. And then we do also have a meeting on Zoom regularly or semi-regularly for client work. So we do, do that as well for communication, so.
JENNY GUY: Fantastic. Lots of different tools there to learn. OK, what does your day look like? What’s a standard day as a VA look like?
KAYLA SLOAN: Oh, gosh. I wish I could answer that one, too, but again, it just really depends so much on what you do. But for me personally, when I was working with multiple clients at once, which I don’t work with as many now. But when I did, my day looked a lot like– I would try to batch by type, not by clients.
So for me personally, I liked to do all of the social media work– oh, let’s see the camera. There we go. All of the social media work at the beginning of the day, and then I would do something else for the middle and then something else in the afternoon.
And I actually tried to batch by energy level. So for me, I actually probably wouldn’t do social media first. I probably tried to do something that requires more energy. Because for me, I’m a morning person. So I have more energy in the mornings typically. So I try to do that as much as possible.
And then after lunch, actually, right about now, I’m about to hit that 3 o’clock slump, so then I typically try to do some of those easier things in the afternoon when I start to get a little bit more tired.
JENNY GUY: Oh my gosh, we are like– we are the same. If I’m going to do something that requires a lot of brain activity, write something original, things like that, I need to do that in the beginning of the day when I’m fresh, and I haven’t been– had all the people ask me all the questions and all that. So that makes sense to me, and learning that about yourself is so helpful.
OK, so we are about out of time right now, which is crazy. It’s been a crazy hour, but lots of comments, lots of great feedback from our audience today. Thank you guys for that. So I wanted to ask you one more question and give you kind of a quick second while I make an announcement and then come back and have you ask it.
So for somebody who is looking to dip their toe in the water after Memorial Day, let’s say– after the holiday weekend, I want to get started as a VA– what are three things you would have them do? And then for somebody who– or you don’t even have to have three things. What is the first thing you would have them do?
And then for somebody who desperately needs– has realized desperately needs help immediately, what is the first thing you would have them do on the Tuesday after Memorial Day? And while–
KAYLA SLOAN: Yeah, so–
JENNY GUY: If you’ll think about that for one second and I’ll quickly make my announcement. OK, guys, I usually announce the next episode of Teal Talk at this time, and I’m not going to, because the next episode of Teal Talk won’t be till September because we have the Summer of Live starting in two weeks.
I can’t believe that we have the schedule has come out. It’s been– it’s on our Facebook page. It’s a great summer. We’ve taken all of our amazing speakers that we can fit in from Baltimore. Pour out one for Baltimore, but our sad conference that we canceled, we’ve taken those amazing speakers and we’ve put them into the Summer of Live.
So we’re going to have action-packed 12 weeks of solid content there. And we’re really excited on everything, from Google Analytics to working with a mastermind group to Gutenberg to– there’s just– we’re covering so many things. And we’re really excited about it. We’re starting in two weeks, as I said– Thursday, June 4th at 2:00 PM.
It is with our keynote from Baltimore, who’s Beth Santos, the founder and CEO of Wanderful and WITS, the Women In Travel Summit. And she’s going to be talking about from me to we, transforming your blog into a business that is bigger than yourself, which is an awesome topic. She’s great, and we’re super excited to have her.
And then there might be– we were going to have a week off, but there might be some fun Mediavine product to show you between now and then. And I would hate to go too many weeks without having Eric Hochberger, our CEO, on. So we might be announcing that, so keep your eyes on our Facebook page.
But for now, before we end our Teal Talk season 2, Kayla, I couldn’t think of a better way to end. And I would love to have your answers on things people can get started on right now.
KAYLA SLOAN: OK, let’s do it. So virtual assistants, when you come back on Tuesday after the Memorial Day weekend of refreshing, right, the first thing you need to do is check out my free workshop. I know the link was put in the chat earlier. Because it goes over five specific steps to get started immediately with your business.
JENNY GUY: Yay.
KAYLA SLOAN: We also have a free download to help you figure out exactly what those services are that you want to offer. So I mentioned earlier that that was step one before you start looking for clients, right? So that is actually a free download that comes with that as well. So you can literally get started with that immediately.
JENNY GUY: I love that. And it’s free. Love that so much. So exciting. And then, OK, if you are– and that is for both. That is for people looking to become a VA and–
KAYLA SLOAN: Looking to become a VA.
JENNY GUY: OK, now those that want to hire.
KAYLA SLOAN: Yes, if you want to hire a virtual assistant and you haven’t yet done it, the first thing you need to do is your time and task audit, so you can figure out what you need to outsource, OK? And then after you’re done with that, then you need to go fill out the Find a VA form on kaylasloan.com. And we will help you get the perfect VA from our course graduates.
JENNY GUY: Love it, and you know they’ll be trained and ready to go, ready to go with all the systems. OK, we’re posting all those links in the comments. Kayla, thank you so much for being here. It’s been a delight.
KAYLA SLOAN: Thank you so much for having me. I hope it was really helpful. Happy to answer questions afterwards, too, because I am in the group, so.
JENNY GUY: She’ll be around, everybody. And guys, have a happy Memorial Day. Thanks for a great season of Teal Talk. And we’ll talk to you, everybody, soon for the Summer of Live. Bye, everyone.
KAYLA SLOAN: All right, thank you.
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