Meet Quinn: A Part-Time Virtual Assistant on the Road to Full-Time Self-Employment & Location-Independence

by | Mar 6, 2024 | 0 comments

Image description: Quinn sitting at a table outside, smiling into the camera.

In this student spotlight series, we are highlighting some of our wonderful Virtual Excellence Academy (VEA) members to share their journeys.

All the ups, downs and surprises on the way to building their dream business. Giving you a realistic insight into where this career path can take you and how it can impact multiple areas of your life! Today, we’re interviewing Quinn Edwards, a multi-skilled Virtual Assistant who joined in the VEA in February of 2023.

Working full-time as a traditional employee, Quinn started her VA business with the intention of transitioning into working full-time as a VA. Dedicated to her goal, she often works 10+ hours a day as she navigates the pros and cons of the part-time approach. Brimming with positivity and her eyes on the prize of location-independence, she’s here to share her progress and offer inspiration to those on a similar path. Let’s dive in to learn more about her story!

All About Quinn

Hi Quinn! Let’s start with an introduction: who are you, and what do you do?

Hello! My name is Quinn Edwards and I am a virtual assistant. I LOVE helping socially and environmentally conscious businesses in the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities by taking care of the tedious tasks so you can flourish and grow your business to have maximum impact. What do I mean by tedious? The stuff you don’t have the time for or dread doing. Organizing and replying to emails, data entry, creating graphics in Canva, and social media management are just a snippet of what I offer. If you have a business task that needs getting done, you’ve found the right person for the job!

Tell us more about yourself – where you are in the world, and what has you excited about life right now?

I am currently located in New Jersey. But not for much longer! I look forward to traveling soon as I create my location-independent lifestyle as a VA. Building my virtual assistant business has got me excited about life right now! I have met a lot of really wonderful people and learned so much in the short time since I opened my business. Working with people from all walks of life and with different-sized businesses has been an eye-opener to how much work can be done online.

What was your work and lifestyle like prior to joining the VEA? What sparked you to make a shift and start this venture as a VA?

My work life has changed a lot over the years! I started out as a marine science researcher as an undergraduate student. I worked in several different university laboratories across the country doing genetic and ecology research on fish and shellfish. Then, I worked in an industrial hazards testing facility performing experiments on explosive materials. Then, I entered the classroom and I’ve been a middle school science teacher for the past 12 years. After being in the classroom for all those years I became severely burned out and I was looking for more location independence and time freedom. Teachers are held to a rigid schedule and I knew I didn’t want to do that long-term anymore. That is when I found the VEA. And I am so glad I did! The skills I picked up from all of those different jobs and careers has really helped me transition to virtual assistant work pretty seamlessly.

In what ways has your life/lifestyle changed and improved through your continued work as a VA?

My lifestyle has definitely changed now that I am a business owner! I was applying for jobs for months and then realized I didn’t want to be stuck in another position where I wouldn’t be in control of my time. So, I decided it would be a better lifestyle fit to become an entrepreneur. So far I am loving it! I’m still working full-time so currently I am often working 10+ hour days but I know that is only temporary and it will get me to my final goal of being a VA full-time.

What are three values that you hold onto both in business and in your personal life?

  • Honesty and Integrity. This is really important to me because building a business is all about trust. If you start off lying to your clients, they aren’t going to trust you and that is a recipe for disaster! This holds true for interpersonal relationships outside of business too. It is really easy to tell the truth so why not do it all the time?  
  • Open Communication. This one is huge when working virtually! You need to be honest with your clients about your capacity. If you are not going to meet deadlines you need to let them know ASAP! It goes both ways too. If your client is not responding in a timely manner or not addressing concerns then that could develop into a bigger issue. It can be uncomfortable to have difficult conversations but if you take a mature and open approach, you should be able to resolve any conflicts that arise. Don’t bottle up your emotions because you will eventually pop like a soda bottle and we don’t want that! 
  • Creativity. I value creativity so much in my personal life and that naturally flows into my business. When I’m not working I am usually doing some sort of craft. Knitting, crocheting, spinning yarn, sewing, painting, all the crafts! I definitely have enough yarn to open a small store LOL! I often see the world as art and I use that in the Canva designs I create for my clients. I actually studied art history in college so I have a bit of a historical perspective too which helps me to work within different brand designs. I try to visit different art museums when I have time. There are quite a few smaller galleries that have some amazing artwork!

Are you ready…

… for BIG change?

A Journey in Progress

Tell us the story behind your business name, Smiling Squirrel Virtual Solutions. The bespeckled blue squirrel is often seen in your social posts and really adds a layer of fun and creativity to your branding.

Yes, that fun-loving squirrel is very recognizable! I was thinking of business names and Quinn Edwards is a fairly common name and I wanted something that would be memorable. So, I thought about what I like to do and what shows my personality. I enjoy hiking and being outdoors and squirrels are usually around me so I figured they were trying to tell me something LOL. Plus, squirrels are fast-moving, playful, and they get the job done and I’m a bit like that too. Who doesn’t have a smile on their face when they are watching squirrels? Thus, the name was born. I have a ton of fun creating those “squirrel quotes” on Instagram!

Currently, you’re running your VA business alongside your traditional job. This can be a big advantage in building a strong career, but it can have its downsides as well. In your experience, what have been the pros and cons of balancing both?

Pros: Building my business is a fairly low-risk endeavor since I still have a full-time job that is supporting me. I can take my time finding clients that align with my values and not feel pressure from having to achieve a certain income each month. The added income is helping me save money for my transition into full-time freelance work. I feel more comfortable with a monetary cushion before I make the leap full-time into freelancing.

Cons: I often work 10+ hour days during the week. I still want to maintain some free time on the weekends so I am able to spend time with my friends and family so I try to complete most of my work Monday through Friday. Plus, some client work is time sensitive so it can’t wait until the weekend. It is definitely exhausting! But, I don’t mind the extra work hours as I know it is only temporary and it will get me closer to my freelancing goals. Plus, my clients are fun to work with and I enjoy what I’m doing so it doesn’t feel like work!

Image description: Quin sitting behind her laptop smiling. A big sticker with the text “Brake for Moose. It could save your life” as well as a blue squirrell are  visible on the back of the laptop.

From webinar moderation to podcast management and more, you offer a hearty list of services. How did you decide on your current service stack, and which ‘offline’ work experiences did you find yourself transferring to the online space?

A lot of what I offer was generated from one of the tasks in the 5 Day VA Challenge. In the task, it said to list out what your current skill set is and what you like to do and see the overlap. I actually really like doing all the tasks I offer, even inbox clean up! If I didn’t like doing it, I wouldn’t offer it.

A good portion of the tasks are things that I do as a teacher, such as responding to emails, managing calendars, and creating Google slideshows. Also, I taught during the pandemic so I became a Zoom expert and that actually landed me a client who was looking for help with their monthly group meetings! I also help another client with Zoom webinars by managing the chat and helping to compile questions while they are presenting. I’ve managed Zoom calls with 100+ students at one time so I can handle a lot when it comes to working as a Zoom moderator!

Working in the various science labs has given me a lot of experience researching and doing technical writing. I am really looking forward to working with clients who need those types of tasks completed. As a science teacher, my main work lies in taking technical, scientific information and relaying it to children in a way that they understand. I would love to do that on a larger scale for children and adults someday.

Having a varied work experience has definitely given me a lot of skills that are transferable to my VA business!

As you continue on the path to being #FullyBooked as a VA, tell us what you envision for that future. What lifestyle changes will you make with full freedom and flexibility?

I am very much looking forward to the days where I do NOT have to wake up at 5 AM or have a daily commute! Becoming location-independent is going to be such a relief. Rents are increasing everywhere and it would be nice to be able to choose a location based on my desire to be there and not because it is a convenient location to an office or school.

Having the freedom to take a morning yoga class or go for a hike during the day and then I can still get work done outside of the traditional 9-5 is what I look forward to the most. My productivity fluctuates throughout the day, like most people, and being able to honor that will really improve the work that I do for my clients. I want to be able to focus on my physical and mental health and having time freedom will allow me to do that. Time freedom will also give me more time to spend with friends and family.

I also want time to take some art classes. I’ve always been creative and I look forward to being able to explore that some more. I was also a musician when I was younger, mainly playing guitar but I also dabbled in piano and ukulele. I would love to get back into making music! In addition to art and music, I am also on a quest to explore all 30 botanical gardens in the surrounding Philadelphia area! I enjoy walking through botanical gardens and I can’t wait to have time to explore more of them in Philly and beyond!

Behind the Scenes

As you’ve brilliantly displayed in your portfolio, you’ve mastered many different tools of the trade, but which ones are your go-to for running your business?

I am the queen of color-coding everything! My inbox is labeled and sorted with a rainbow of colors. The inboxes I manage for my clients are labeled and color-coded too. My Google Drive folders are labeled, color-coded, and numbered as well. I even color-coded my clients with the same colors across my drive and inbox! I use Toggl daily to keep track of the different projects I am working on for different clients. Canva is my go-to for a lot of different things. I really enjoy the creative process of taking my client’s ideas and making them into tangible products using Canva. To keep track of the different projects I have with my clients I use Trello. I also use a notebook and calendar to create daily checklists of tasks to complete each day.

What does an average week at Smiling Squirrel Virtual Solutions look like for you? How do you balance your client work with your current job to keep things in motion?

My teaching day runs from 7:30 AM to 2:45 PM. I don’t have a lot of time during the school day to work on VA tasks. I am able to answer urgent emails if they come up but so far I haven’t had any issues. I usually log on to work on my VA task around 3:30-4 PM. Then, I work until around 8 or 9 PM, with a break in there for dinner. I try to sign off by 9 PM so I have about an hour of downtime before bed but sometimes I work until 10 PM. It depends on the different projects I am working on but I do about 2-4 hours of VA work each weekday. Maybe a few hours on Saturday morning or Sunday night as well. It seems like a lot of work, and it is, but I LOVE the work I do as a VA so the time goes by quickly. Plus, I can work in my pajamas and I have a snack-filled kitchen close by so that helps too!

Since you started this journey, what was your biggest “failure” or something you wish you had done differently in hindsight? How did you overcome it?

I don’t consider this a failure but starting out, I accepted anyone who would come my way. I ended up working with some challenging people. We didn’t part ways on bad terms but interacting with them was stressful. In hindsight, I should have trusted my gut when I didn’t think someone was a good fit. It would have saved me a lot of headaches and hassle. I overcame it by doing the work that I was hired to do. I knew that it would only be temporary and after I finished the introductory 5 hour package, we parted ways. Now, I am more selective with who I work with and I currently work with some amazing women!

From landing clients to collaborating with fellow VEA members, if you had to name a highlighting moment in your online career that you’re proud of, what would that moment be?

That’s a tricky one! I’ve had a lot of fun interactions in the short time that I’ve been a VA. One highlight for me was being a guest on Marissa Price’s YouTube channel to discuss our journeys as VAs. It was a live session so I was able to answer some questions from the chat and interact with people who were interested in becoming VAs. That was really fun and I enjoy sharing my VA journey with anyone who asks. Also, one client watched it and they increased my workload based on what I said in the video! I was nervous to be on camera but I am glad I did it. It was an awesome experience!

What’s one snippet of wisdom you’d share with someone looking to pursue a VA career part-time with the goal of transitioning away from their job?

I would say do it! But, prepare yourself for the overlap and working two jobs at once. It isn’t easy. You have to be really good at self-discipline and time management. Make sure you block off the time to work on your VA business. Put it on the calendar if you need to. Having a dedicated workstation helps too. A good pair of noise-canceling headphones will become your best friend! On the days where the exhaustion hits extra hard, always remember to keep your end goal in mind. The exhaustion will end and you will finally have the lifestyle you have been working towards! Go for it and have fun!

Thank you Quinn for sharing your story with us, your experiences provide inspiration for VAs at every stage of their journey. We look forward to celebrating your future achievements on your path to location-independance, and we’re proud to see you striving and lifting other up in the VEA community.


Quinn is currently accepting new clients so if you’re interesting in working together, don’t hesitate to reach out and connect with this DNK-certified Virtual Assistant!

Connect with Quinn

Where can people follow you?

Instagram: @SmilingSquirrelVirtual 
Linktree: Quinn’s Links
Quinn Edwards

Author: Hannah Dixon
Hannah Dixon is a Business Coach, Recruiter, and Founder of Digital Nomad Kit and The Virtual Excellence Academy (VEA). The VEA is a leading educational program and diverse global community that has honed the skills and confidence of over 30,000+ virtual assistants and freelancers. Committed to ethical hiring practices, she also provides VIP recruitment services. Hannah views freelancing and self-leadership as potent tools for social change, empowering anyone, anywhere, to unlock potential and create life-changing opportunities. As a 16-year digital nomad, she speaks internationally, demonstrating progressive business and lifestyle approaches, and powerfully compelling audiences to action.

But, how?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *