I’m a firm believer in having multiple streams of income, or “Side Hustles,” so I’m very excited for this episode! Nick Loper runs sidehustlenation.com and hosts the award winning Side Hustle Show podcast, which features new part-time business ideas each week.

Leader Assistant Episode 43 - Nick Loper

One of Nick’s many side hustles is his reviews website virtualassistantassistant.com where he gathers reviews for the top VA firms. He’s also author of Virtual Assistant Assistant: The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Hiring, and Working with Virtual Assistants.

Nick shares ways you can find clients for your Virtual Assistant business, how to validate your side hustle idea, and tips for launching a side hustle. Now go turn your skills and passions into a side hustle!

P.S. – Join the Leader Assistant Slack Community to connect with hundreds of assistants from around the world!


We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.

– Thomas Edison

Nick Loper Leader Assistant Podcast
About Nick Loper

Nick Loper helps people earn money outside of their day job. He’s an author, online entrepreneur, and host of the award winning Side Hustle Show podcast, which features new part-time business ideas each week. As Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com, he loves deconstructing the tactics and strategies behind building extra income streams.


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Nick Loper 0:00
Hey, this is Nick Loper from sidehustlenation.com and virtual assistantassistant.com. And today’s leadership quote is from Thomas Edison. He said, We don’t know a millionth of 1% about anything.

Podcast Intro 0:17
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants

Jeremy Burrows 0:28
in Episode 43, in use to host my data. Hey leader assistants. Thanks for tuning in to Episode 43. Today we’re gonna talk with Nick Loper from side hustle nation. We’re going to talk about side hustles. We’re also going to talk about virtual assistants and how to find clients. But I want to say a quick note about side hustles. Do not work on your side hustle during your day job. Also, if you can find a side hustle that benefits your day job. That’s even better. For example, maybe you decide to run social media for some other small businesses. And in turn, you’re able to take what you’ve learned about managing social media for other people, and apply it at your day job and help your current organization succeed and excel in social media. So anyway, just a couple things to consider. Hope you enjoy the episode, check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/43. And I hope you enjoy the show. Hey, everyone. Thanks for tuning in to The Leader Assistant Podcast. Today. I have Nick Loper from side hustlenation.com and virtual assistantassistant.com Hey Nick, how you doing?

Nick Loper 1:42
I’m doing well Jeremy, thanks for having me.

Jeremy Burrows 1:45
Yeah, thanks for being here. So tell us a little bit about what you are up to our side hustle nation and virtual assistant assistant. But also, maybe a little bit about your story, your transition from corporate America to side hustle world,

Nick Loper 2:04
I will do my best to be brief. So side hustle nation.com and the accompanying side hustle Show podcast started in 2013 as a side project to the business that I was running at the time, which was my original side hustle that was a footwear comparison shopping site that played in the affiliate marketing world. It earned commissions from Zappos and Amazon and, and some other online footwear retailers. When customers would find shoes through the site. I built that three years nights and weekends while working in corporate. That was the vehicle that let me quit my job. And it was while working that started the podcast as kind of a side project to to that. And actually the virtual assistant Assistant State started as a side project to the shoe business as well. And that stemmed from my own experience of trying to find somebody to hire trying to figure out like, Okay, I need some help here. I work from home, I thought about like posting a job down at the local community college like, but I didn’t think like I didn’t want to deal with all of like California’s you know, hiring and firing employment regulations and payroll tax. Like I didn’t know how any of that worked. And more than that, I’d like you know, I don’t want to I don’t really want somebody coming over to like hang out at the kitchen table. That’s when I dove into the world of virtual assistants and figured out okay, you can hire somebody remotely. It’s kind of like a line item expense, a service expense for your business, and was off to the races in creating a directory kind of like a Yelp and a TripAdvisor for the virtual assistant industry to help other people try and figure out what to do these companies are legit.

Jeremy Burrows 3:49
That’s awesome. So what was kind of the what are some learnings from jumping from the corporate world into doing your own deal? That maybe people listening who are considering starting something on the side or kind of risking and quitting their job and doing what they wanted? You know, their their dream job or their dream side hustle?

Nick Loper 4:12
Yeah, the that’s the benefit of the side hustle brand of entrepreneurship is that it’s lower risk. You’ve probably heard the definition of an entrepreneur is somebody who jumps off the cliff and figures out how to build their parachute on the way down. That terrifies me. I was like, no, no, no, build something on the side in your spare time. And as you have some traction and some track record of revenue, like then and only then, you know, hopefully you have it built to the point where it’s covering your expenses, then it makes sense to take the leap. But as far as learnings, I mean, the grass is always greener. So for me, the biggest thing that I’ve had to come to terms with is you know, something is going to sit on my to do list, and it’s going to sit there and it’s gonna sit there it’s gonna sit there I’m gonna ask like why Is that not moving? Why is it not getting done? And then it’s a look in the mirror and say, Oh, wait, it’s on Udemy, like you’re in charge here until you take action on it, nothing is ever going to happen. So really learning to Captain your own ship in that way, has been probably the biggest, the biggest realization. And, you know, I’m still, you know, 10 years deep into this and still learning more every day on what it takes to run and grow a business.

Jeremy Burrows 5:26
What was maybe the point where when you’re working in the corporate job, what was the point where you’re like, you know, what, I need to, I need to do something else, I need to start something else.

Nick Loper 5:38
We’ll start at around, they actually started before even taking that job, you know, dabbling in the online world, and affiliate marketing. And so it became apparent pretty quickly after starting, and maybe even before starting, that I didn’t have a ton of desire to climb the corporate ladder, and make a career out of that, like the thought of 30 or 40 years, you know, punching the clock for somebody else just didn’t appeal to me. And I think the biggest fear that I had, or the biggest frustration was not being in control of my own schedule, for whatever reason. That was really, like, I don’t know, if humiliating is the word of emasculating is the word, like he just felt, you know, powerless to have to ask somebody else, like, Oh, can I take vacation? And it’s like, well, you know, you’re a smart guy, you got to be able to figure a way out of this. And so that was one of the big driving factors in, you know, really putting in the hours to get the thing off the ground and, and make it sustainable. That was that was that it was able to support me in in super early retirement.

Jeremy Burrows 6:47
Can you talk briefly about maybe how, if there somebody listening right now that’s had an idea and wants to test it out on the side? What’s kind of a quick tip for validating that idea?

Nick Loper 7:06
Well, this is important. And this is actually a big business, business idea myth that you need to come up with something, you know, never before seen curve, jumping, you know, innovative, that is actually a huge risk and a huge red flag, where there’s safety in numbers, if somebody else is paying for a service, that’s the same or similar to yours. That’s kind of what I call phase one validation. And you could frame it this way, like, think about how many dry cleaners or sushi restaurants, you know, are in your town, right? If they’ve been in business for more than a year, they’re probably profitable. They don’t have the most innovative business model in the world. But there’s serving an audience and they’re serving an audience well enough to be profitable, and to stay in business and to keep customers happy. So that’s kind of phase one validation, like, are people paying to solve this problem? Phase two validation is where it gets a little more interesting. And that’s where you ask, okay, would people pay me to solve this problem? And that’s where you kind of have to stick your neck out? A little bit? That’s a little bit more. Not necessarily risky? Because you don’t have a ton of upfront investment. Ask the question, Hey, would you pay me for this? Yes, here, okay, great. Here’s my pay, pal, you know, you kind of can see firsthand if people are like, Oh, well hold on there, you know, and any kind of go from there?

Jeremy Burrows 8:23
What would be the kind of step one, and maybe, maybe even just how to find people to ask or how to ask people if they would pay for that service or skill that you have.

Nick Loper 8:39
So the easiest way to start is probably with your own personal network, and there’s always some hesitation over selling directly to your network. I think we’ve kind of witnessed people getting involved with network marketing. And you know, that the friend you haven’t heard from in years is like, Hey, what’s going on, you might if I tell you about this exciting new business opportunity, and you’re like, oh, you know, you’re come, here comes the pitch. But what you can do is frame it more as a conversation around, because everybody knows, a business owner or everyone knows someone who knows the business owner. So one of the things you can do is just, you know, post this, Hey, I’m starting this type of business, I help this type of customer solve this type of problem, right? Even if the people in your immediate network, and I forget what the status is like, the average person has 230 Facebook fans and 150 LinkedIn connections or whatever it is, like those are people who at least care something about what you’re up to. And if they’re not your target market, maybe they know somebody who does. So there’s value in kind of putting that out into the world to see what kind of response I get. Because now, hey, I’m a website designer for math tutors like fantastic. You know, if I know a math tutor who needs a website, I know exactly who to refer them to now, but the other thing is, is to start that conversation and it just, Hey, can I meet you for coffee or hey, do you have time for a 15 minute phone chat? I know you’re busy. But as a leader in your industry, I’m curious to pick your brain on what you see as the biggest challenges facing your business business in the next five years. If you had a magic wand, you know, what problems in your business today would you make go away? Where are you finding yourself or your team spending an inordinate amount of time? Like, what are the biggest pains that you’re facing? Because remember, you know, revenue or, or income really only follows value and value often comes from making a problem go away making a pain go away. There’s a business model framework that it always asks like, Are you selling pain pills? Are you selling aspirin? Are you selling vitamins, it’s so much easier to sell the pain pills, because it’s like, okay, this hurts, I will gladly pay someone to make it stop. Versus like vitamin. Yeah, I know, I should take it. But it’s not super urgent.

Jeremy Burrows 10:50
That’s great. So and I would even say, this could also happen if you’re an EA, for example, in a big organization, or even a smaller one, this could even these kinds of things could even happen within your organization, they don’t have to be an outside, or a side deal that you this could even just help you become a better leader in your organization by going to other executives going to your CEO going to other departments and saying, Hey, what’s the biggest pain point you’ve had and, and helping them solve those problems? So great tips. So let’s, let’s transition a little bit into the virtual assistant world. What one of the biggest, one of the biggest questions that I get in biggest pain points that I hear from virtual assistants, or even those considering becoming a virtual assistant, is how do I get clients? Or how would I get clients? And that’s kind of the biggest red flag for people that are thinking I might do this way? Or maybe not, because I don’t know if I can find clients? What are some tips you might have? Or that you’ve seen? Others do? Well, to get more clients as a virtual assistant?

Nick Loper 12:06
You bet, well, we can dive into several different ways to get more clients. But the exciting thing here is that the demand for this type of service is growing and I believe will continue to grow as more companies can embrace virtual team members remote work, you know, kind of getting rid or minimizing the importance of their offices, they’re seeing the value in being able to cast a wide net in terms of talent pool, like, Oh, if somebody, maybe the best qualified person isn’t in my hometown, you know, now, I don’t have to limit myself to those types of hire. So that’s really exciting stuff. And we think, you know, companies like our mutual friend Brian miles with with belay solutions, like they’ve been on the Inc 5000 list for four or five years in a row. Like they’re growing so fast, because there’s huge demand for this type of stuff. But you dive into some ways to get clients friend of mine, Abby, Ashley runs a site called the Virtual savvy. And she started out as a virtual assistant several years ago, actually, while she was pregnant with her first child, on maternity leave. And her goal was to book enough work that she didn’t have to go back to work to this job that she didn’t love after her maternity leave was up. And she ended up accomplishing that goal, primarily through connecting with clients, first at local meetup events, like networking events, and then through word of mouth. And her pitch would go like this, you know, hey, what do you do? Oh, I’m a virtual assistant. Oh, tell me more about like, without, and she’s, you know, it was a natural conversation starter, because not everyone knew exactly what that was. And that gave her an opportunity to kind of explain, you know, what she could do? And it was a open gateway to begin asking those questions like, well, you know, what are you spending time with on your business that, you know, you probably shouldn’t be doing, I can take that off your plate for you. So she recommended meetup.com to look for different events nearby you if you’re in a big city, these are happening nightly, if you’re in a smaller town, maybe you know, once or twice a month, for different kind of entrepreneur, type of meetup events where you can go and meet real people. Like if you don’t have those types of business owners in your immediate network, there’s an easy way to to connect with them. Virtually. So that would be you know, client case study number one. The second way is to connect with those people virtually through online communities like Facebook groups. I’m a member of your probably a dozen different entrepreneurship, Facebook groups. And I see posts like this all day long, hey, I’m looking for some help in my business on topic area XYZ, who do you know, who should I reach out to? Are you this person, right? And people can’t rush to tag their friends fast enough like to say, okay, I can do that. Or here. I know somebody let me recommend them. So that’s a really powerful way. And on top of that, there are groups dedicated to virtual becoming a virtual assistant and you’ll see job posts in those types of groups. all the time. So I was recently going through and actually still am going through a hiring process on my own. And it was through a couple of these groups that my job listing got syndicated. And people mentioned that in their cover letter, hey, so and so shared your post in this Facebook group, I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring. So I really like that as a way to connect with potential customers as well. The other interesting ways is from Chet Holmes, the Ultimate Sales Machine ultimate selling machine. It’s a little red book awesome book about salesmanship and how to land clients. But in that book, he recommends coming up with a list of your dream 100. And when you’re just starting out, this requires a little bit of kind of self niche selection, like, Hey, these are the clients that I really admire the work of their business, maybe I’m a customer of their product already, like for what you have some sort of connection or in or you feel like you could help that business in some way. So you’re creating this list your dream 50 To 100 clients, and then you’re trying to figure out how to get their attention. And Abby recommended this as well. One thing you can do is like, give away your service to the extent that you can. And so one of the roles that she mentioned is like, Okay, I need help managing my social media, or I need help managing my Pinterest account or something. She’s like, you could do a video audit of like, Hey, here’s what you doing wrong today. For one, like, here’s, here’s what similar people in your space are doing. By the way, I can do that for you, if that’s a conversation that you want to have. And I went out of my way to make, you know, Pinterest, Pinterest friendly graphics on your last five blog posts or something since people are pinning content from your site anyways, we might as well give them a vertical, nicely shaped image that is going to perform better on that site for you anyway, so you’re giving value first, it makes it a lot harder to ignore, then like a random cold email that says, Hey, are you hiring like that comes across as begging or needy, whereas the other one comes off as a position of authority. Hey, I know what I’m talking about. I love your work. Let me give you some value from the one. I love to start so we can go as deep as you want. Another friend of mine has done really well. And this is less than the EAA space and more on like the authoritative software consulting space like, Hey, if you need help with a specific software, I am your go to person. And it started out like you said at his day job where he was really excited about Asana, which he was playing around with for some side projects. So he takes this project management system to his boss, and their company size was he 4050 people and says, Hey, this is amazing. We need to get on board with this. So he runs the in house training, onboarding everybody getting some people set up, his boss loves it so much gives them a bonus for for doing they were so much more efficient. Now this is cool. So he’s like the light bulb goes off and say, hey, you know, there might be other companies who could benefit from my newfound expertise in this software as well. He starts creating YouTube videos, starts beating on Google AdWords for keywords like Asana expert, Asana consultant, and ends up within just a couple of months, booking enough of these remote consulting gigs. He’s in New Zealand, most of his clients are, are in the States or in Europe. And, you know, he ended up quitting his job to like, you know, travel and do this part time. And so that was a really powerful example of, you know, going after, in search and YouTube search and Google search, kind of these keywords that people were already searching for, like software, name plus expert, right. And it’s like, there was surprisingly little competition in that space. So that was really exciting. And then the final one that I’ll share is more for hire, or more for finding gigs locally. And you can consider it kind of an offline webinar example where you’re kind of delivering this value packed workshop to, to a small group of people. And at the end, there’s an invitation or not to to come and work to you. But the applied assumption there is like, Hey, I’m the go to expert for this type of work. And by the way, I’m available for hire. So how this worked for another friend of mine or another podcast guest for mine on the side hustle show, he had a business that was doing, like web design or conversion rate, copywriting for local businesses. And so he went out and tried to find other local businesses that were already serving his target customer like that’s marketing 101, right. How can I get in front of my target customer in their natural habitat? In his case, he approached accounting firms that had local small business clients. He said, I’ve got a proposal for you. I’d like to borrow your borrow your conference room for a lunchtime kind of power hour seminar. I’ll bring the sandwiches you invite your client role. I’ll even write out the email invitation for you. Here’s what you’re going to learn in exchange for your hour. And he gives this presentation like the Seven Deadly Sins of, you know, website, small business websites or something like that. And he’s getting people nodding along like, Oh, crap, we’re totally doing that. We’re totally guilty of that. And by the end of it, you know, these, these attendees are rushing up to, you know, get his business card we A, we got to set up a call after this, we definitely need your help.

Jeremy Burrows 20:21
Yeah, so I think in, you know, in general, even just the most EAS are pretty, pretty good at figuring things out and coming up with, you know, solutions to different problems and different skill sets, using their different skill sets. But I also think that most of us have that one or two or three areas where we really excel, and we really have become an expert, whether it’s in PowerPoint, or Asana, or maybe it’s in OKRs, and KPIs, maybe it’s in project management, whatever it is, I think what you’re sharing is very practical, in how to take that and see that as something that you can add more value to your organization. But also, potentially, a side hustle option, something that you could do for extra income with people outside your organization,

Nick Loper 21:31
or ahead of it kind of starts with that skills inventory, like you’re talking about, and if you’re too close to it, or if you’re if you’re neck deep into it, like for your your PowerPoint template example, it might have been hard for her to see that. This is this something that other people might be interested in where it’s like, you know, it can be hard to imagine not knowing it, if that makes sense. So you kind of have to peel that back, really from the the total beginners eyes and say, Okay, what I actually probably know more than I give myself credit for.

Jeremy Burrows 22:04
Yeah, exactly. Awesome, Nick, well, let’s kind of wrap things up with a couple of questions about maybe, how you, you said, you’re currently looking to hire an assistant? And in the process of hiring an assistant? What are some things that you’ve looked for? Maybe what are some interview questions, or even test tasks that you’ve kind of used throughout the process? And how’s that going?

Nick Loper 22:35
This has been kind of a challenging role to hire for, and I’m still not even sure what to, you know what to call it. So, you know, I’ve worked with tons of remote team members in the past, but usually either for one off projects, or for a really well defined task, like, hey, follow this recipe and do this every week. And, you know, it’s not rocket science, for this type of role. It’s more of kind of a right hand person, like a true executive assistant, you know, email management, content management across the different websites. And I’m kind of leaning towards that, you know, Executive Editor, producer, Content Manager, type of title. And the way that I kind of sourced candidates for it was through my own community, first and foremost, my own like, Facebook group for side hustle nation. I sent out initially an email, where I just put it like the PS like at the at the very bottom of the regular newsletter, PS, I’m hiring. Are you this person? Or do you know this person and linked to the, the job posting on Google Doc? And in that you kind of describe a little bit what I kind of envisioned for the role and it said, hey, if you’d like to apply, send your cover letter and your desired rate, to this email with the subject line, you know, meet your new assistant, I think was the one that I use. So immediately, you know, it’s a detail oriented test, like are you able to follow those directions, and see what comes back, but ended up getting probably 50 Something applicants and then I was like, Man, I need an assistant to help me hire an assistant and go through all these I was. It’s been a challenge so far. And I’ve had a handful of interviews feel really strongly about a couple and so moving forward with test tasks for those when it’s going on as we speak. And it is kind of taking a raw article from a ghostwriter or freelance writer for the website. And, you know, polishing that up and making sure it’s ready to publish, which is something that I found was taken me a lot of time to, you know, make sure it’s keyword optimized and has images and you know, all the subheads kind of look right and the paragraphs aren’t too dense and all this stuff. There was really kind of being a bottleneck in the content production for me, but it was important to the business as as SEO tends to do I have a lot of traffic for me.

Jeremy Burrows 25:02
So what did you or when? And maybe what what was it that kind of triggered you to say, You know what I really just I really need an a right hand person, I really need an executive assistant

Nick Loper 25:16
from my mastermind groups and actually a coaching call, both were really surprised how lean I was operating. So I was running so far this year, close to a 90% profit margin, which is awesome. But their argument was, think of what more you could do like you could make that pie bigger if you weren’t spending your hours on on some of this stuff. So I did a time tracking exercise, which I recommend anybody go through if you’re thinking about hiring to take an honest look at where your hours are really going like, Hey, do I need to do that? Could that be systemized, delegated? You know, to focus my energy on some potentially higher value tasks and more strategic thinking tasks. And that’s the direction that all go, you know, probably starting out pretty small, kind of in the five to 10 hour a week range, but hopeful that that can be a really integral part of the team.

Jeremy Burrows 26:17
Awesome. What was the Was there a specific tool or any tips on the time tracking exercise,

Nick Loper 26:26
I typically just do it in Excel, like pretty old school, like start time, stop time, you know, here’s what I’m working on. And then, you know, if you get fancy later, you can do some categorization to that. I’ve played around a little bit with toggle in the past to GG l it’s like a glorified online stopwatch, you know, just a, press the button, and you’ll find that you’re, you’re more productive in that moment, too. Because now like, Oh, crap, the clock is ticking, like I better get to work. So that’s the double effect. And you know, at the end of the week, or the end of the two weeks, you have kind of this itemized list of everything that you did. And you can be honest with yourself and say, Okay, what do I really need to be doing? I can’t believe I spent that much time on that. So those are probably the two ways that I would recommend getting started.

Jeremy Burrows 27:14
That’s great. Well, thanks, Nick, for chatting with us. How, how can we support you? You know, obviously, side hustle, side hustle nation.com and virtual assistant assistant.com? Are there any maybe call to action or ways that we can support you, of course,

Speaker 1 27:35
would love to have you tune in to the side hustle show available in Apple podcasts, Google Play podcasts, Spotify, wherever, wherever find podcasts are sold. And if you’re kind of on the fence, you know, the virtual assistant game or the executive assistant game, of course, is one side hustle. But if you’re in the market for more saying, hey, I want to see what else is out there. Of course, I invite you to check out sidehustlenation.com/ideas That’s my constantly updated laundry list of part time business ideas that you can start today with no opt in required.

Jeremy Burrows 28:11
That’s great. Well, I’ll share all those links in the show notes so people can find them easily. And yeah, thanks again for joining us, and good luck with everything you’re up to all your side. hustles and we’ll talk soon.

Nick Loper 28:24
You bet man, thanks for having me.

Jeremy Burrows 28:26
Thanks again to Nick Loper for being on the show. Be sure to check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/43 And happy side hustlin.

Podcast Intro 28:49
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