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How Abbey Ashley grew a multi-million dollar online course without ever working 40 hours a week


  • Course Instructor:  Abbey Ashley
  • Website:
  • Course Topic: Starting a Virtual Assistant Business
  • Interesting Stats: 
    • Stay at home mom turned 7 figure course creator.
    • Our business doubled during Covid!
    • In 2019 we had our first $1M year. In 2020 we did $2M and we are on track to do $4M in 2021. 
    • My team is mostly made up of moms!
    • We are a bootstrapped business and run at nearly 40% profit margins.
    • My team is entirely remote!
Abbey Ashley

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The World’s Economy Has Already Shifted Into The Virtual Space More And Faster Than Ever Before & It’s Time To Catch Up Right Now… Or Else You’ll Risk Getting Left Behind.

The Most “Future Proof” Way To Get Ahead And Run A Sustainable Online Business Is By Entering The Exploding Digital Knowledge Industry With The Guidance Of Tina and 30+ Experts Through Online Course Talks. 

how to create an online course

1. Who are you?

My name is Abbey Ashley and I’m a stay-at-home mom turned multi-seven figure business owner. If I’m being honest, I never planned on running a huge company. I started my online business offering virtual assistant services, simply as a way to make money from home. I didn’t want to return to the corporate world after the birth of my first child, so I started picking up side jobs (I was a nanny, I sold jeans on eBay… You name it – I tried it!).

Nothing I attempted truly utilized my skills or made any significant money for my family (who was living in a basement apartment at the time). By the time I was pregnant with my second child, I knew I had to figure this “work-from-home thing” out.

That’s when a friend suggested that I look into being a virtual assistant. I honestly didn’t even know what a virtual assistant was – but I scoured the internet that night and the next day started calling myself a “VA”.

It was crazy. I had my first client within a week. Within 30 days I had sold out my services completely. I eventually grew a team of other stay-at-home moms to help me with the extra work. I was running a mini-agency in between diaper changes.

Two years passed in my business and I was making three times the income I had at my previous corporate job, working less than 20 hours a week.

I had so many people asking me, “Abbey – how did you do this!?” that I created an online course to teach others how to build their own VA businesses. 

2. What’s your course all about?

My online course teaches aspiring virtual assistants how to launch, grow and scale their businesses from start to finish. For those wondering, “What is a virtual assistant?” – here’s a simple definition:

“A Virtual Assistant is any type of remote assistant who provides administrative, creative, or technical support services for online or brick and mortar business owners.”

My course takes the student from discovering their services, to learning how to price and package their services, to setting up their business structure and legalities and learning how to market their new business. 


3. What makes you an expert in this field?

I’ve learned that one of the best ways to learn a new topic is to take an online course from someone who has been there, done that. I’m a remote work expert both from starting and scaling my own virtual assistant business and from hiring many VAs over the years. I have the unique perspective of teaching my students both from the VA and the client side. 


4. What is the transformation your course offers to the students?

Our students are changing their lives by starting low-barrier to entry businesses with the skills they already have. They are bringing in $2k, $5k, even $10k+ per month in their businesses while also having the flexibility to enjoy their life. They are quitting their corporate jobs or traveling the world, all while living the “laptop life”. 


5. Which market does your online course serve and how did you get into it?

While we are inclusive to anyone who wants to join our course, the majority of our audience are moms. The majority of our students are in their 30’s or 40’s and many have college degrees. I think part of the reason I know this audience is because I AM this audience. Just by simply speaking about my life and struggles – I am speaking to my ideal client. 


6. Why is it important to you to serve this market?

My mom was a working mom. She didn’t have a choice not to be. But if there’s something I remember strongly about my childhood, it was that my mom was there for me when I needed her. She worked as a school cafeteria worker. Maybe not the most glamorous job, but she worked that position because she could have similar hours to our school schedule. 

Moms are incredible self-sacrificing and I think that this market has been underserved in many ways. Women often feel like they have to choose between having a successful career or having a family. My goal is to show these women that they can have both – and be successful at both. We don’t have to sacrifice our family life for the sake of business success.


7. Describe the moment when you decided to create your own course. Where were you, what happened and why did you decide to do it?

I don’t remember the exact moment that I discovered online courses however, I do remember when I first saw course creation done well. 

I was working as a virtual assistant when I first discovered online courses. I was hired by Bryan Harris of GrowthTools (formerly Videofruit). It was an incredible experience. At the time, Bryan was teaching about how to build an email list.

I followed his tips to begin building a list. I knew once I reached 1000 subscribers, I would ask my list what they wanted for me to teach them. It was a very tangible goal that I could keep my sights on and it kept me incredibly motivated. 

Why did I decide to be a course creator? After seeing how a course creator business worked “from the inside” – I loved every element of it. I love teaching. I love leading a community. I love motivating people to change their lives with the resources they already have. I love leading an internal team and love creating a place to work that people truly enjoy. 


8. How did you overcome doubtful moments during your course creation journey?

There were many many moments that I doubted if course creation was for me. A part of my journey that I didn’t share yet is that I actually launched a course before my Virtual Assistant training program. And yes – I did it the exact opposite way that I now tell others how to create a course. I didn’t have an audience. I didn’t have any validation that someone would pay me for my idea. 

I launched a course called “Passion to Profit”. It was a super vague course about how to start a business. Any business, really. I spent three months creating the content before I even told a soul about what I was making. 

I launched and THOUSANDS JOINED. Nope. Not at all. One. One person bought. I later felt so bad for that guy that I refunded his money.

To top it off, I got a cease and desist letter in the mail. Did I really think that “Passion to Profit” wouldn’t be trademarked already? 

I could have quit at that moment. Lord knows, I was discouraged. But I took it all as a lesson learned and kept trying (luckily, i still had my VA business during this time, so I wasn’t completely broke while learning my lesson!). 


9. What are some of your tricks to deal with imposter syndrome?

I’m a natural born realist and I feel like I’m pretty straight forward about what I know and don’t know. I’ve always stuck to teaching what I know. There’s no imposter syndrome when it comes to teaching your own experience. 

If there’s something I don’t know – I go out and learn it or I ask someone who does know that topic to speak to my audience. I don’t pretend to know anything about complex legal questions. That’s why I ask an attorney friend to talk to my audience when my students have legal questions for their business. 


10. How long did it take you to create your course?

Once I had a list of 1,000 email subscribers, I simply emailed them and asked them, “What do you want to learn from me?”.

I had been emailing them for the past 8 months about everything under the sun. Blogging. Branding. Time Management. But they told me – they wanted to learn how to become a virtual assistant!

I decided to sell my virtual assistant training course before I even created it. This is the idea of validating before you create. I didn’t validate with a “free beta”. Validating with a free beta is just validating that people will spend $0 for your course! I validated my idea by giving students an opportunity to create it with me.

They did get a discount (half-price of what the course would eventually cost) and I set a schedule for how the lessons would be released over the next 12 weeks. This was a great way to drip out the content to my new customers and kept me accountable to a strict timeline.


11. How did your first launch go?

Remember, I had already asked my list what they wanted to learn from me, so the chances of them purchasing were much higher. 

Catch this tip because it is HUGE for course creators. Build a list and then ASK your list what they want to learn from you! 

I ended up launching to my list of 1000 email subscribers (before I even BUILT the course). This is the best way to validate your idea before you create it! I made a quick sales page, explaining the content I was going to release over the next 12 weeks. Guess what!? It was a success – I had 16 people purchase it! 

I would definitely recommend launching this way to anyone interested in creating an online course. I’ve seen too many people have a brilliant idea for a course, spend months building it and then try to go out and find people to buy- only to have no one interested. This is backward thinking. When it comes to course creation, the best way to grow quickly is by focusing on building an audience first!

12. How do you structure your launches in general now?

Our launches have evolved over the years but the general structure stays the same. I don’t reinvent the wheel with each launch. I use the same set of emails, normally just tweaking and testing new subject lines and swapping out newer testimonials. We launch twice a year (in January and July) and launch it with a free 5 day teaching series. The cart opens on a Friday and stays open for two weeks. Our last few launches have brought in over $700,000 each. 

I will note that we also have a very effective evergreen funnel that is running in the background throughout the year. We use the tool Deadline Funnel to give every person that joins our email list their own personal “mini launch” with a deadline to join our course.


13. Where does your traffic come from?

List building wasn’t just a one-time strategy to sell my course. It’s an ongoing process and is my continual goal.

After that first course launch, I went all-in with two key strategies: Content Marketing and a Facebook group.

Take note of this – it wasn’t until our company reached over $2M ARR that we even started experimenting with paid advertising!

There are three types of traffic you can get: Paid, Partner, and Organic. I recommend starting with organic traffic first. It’s slower to build but the payoff is immense!

My content marketing strategy has varied over the years but for the most part, it equates to one long-form blog post that my team and I promote heavily with an Organic Pinterest strategy. We’ve since added a YouTube channel, but we didn’t start that until we had our blog streamlined and working well.

The other traffic source that I almost stumbled upon in the early days is a Facebook group. Simply by having my keyword (for me, “virtual assistant”) in the title of the group – it grew organically and very quickly! We’re about to hit 60,000 members in that group. This also grows my email list, as I ask every member if they want our opt-in freebie as a pre-entrance question when they join!


14. Which content do you like producing the most?

I really like YouTube. Video content gives people the opportunity to really see your personality shine. I love how YouTube content lives on forever and that YouTube essentially acts as a search engine. We base our content off of specific keywords that we know our ideal client is searching for.


15. What online course platform are you using?

We recently made the switch to Kajabi and have been incredibly pleased with it!


16. What is amazing about this platform?

Kajabi is very user friendly for both us and our students. We also like that it integrates well with the payment system we were using and with our CRM. 


17. Which features do you wish this platform would have?

Right now we are completely pleased with the platform and don’t have any complaints! 


18. Why did you choose this platform over other platforms?

We really like our payment platform ( and our CRM ( so we were looking for a course platform that would integrate well with these two platforms. Before, we were using a course platform that really wanted us to use their internal payment system.

That didn’t work for us. Because our old course platform didn’t want people using other payment systems, many of the things we needed to do with student accounts had to be manual. With Kajabi, we can automate almost everything – which has saved our team a lot of time! 


19. Which other tools do you use to keep your online business running?

Here’s a list of the tools that we use and love:

  • Kajabi for our course platform
  • Samcart for our payment platform
  • Convertkit for our CRM
  • Slack for communication
  • Zoom for video meetings
  • Canva for simple Graphics
  • Leadpages for landing pages and sales pages
  • Deadline Funnel for creating urgency
  • UseProof for creating social proof
  • Bonjoro for sending personal video welcomes to each new student
  • Clickup for Project management


20. How many students have you served so far?

To date, we have served over 9,000 students with our courses and templates.

21. How much revenue have you created during your first launch, and ongoing?

Our very first launch was to my list of only 1,000 students – I had 16 people buy at $497, so we made almost $8,000. Here is the revenue we have made in each launch following:

2017 – $58,402 & $142,927

2018 – $184,112 & $211,704

2019 – $441,994 & $446,905

2020 – $444,234 & $768,674

2021 – We just completed our first 2021 launch with our total ending at $779,534

Note that the way these launches increased each time was by continually growing my email list. Never neglect list growth!


22. What are you running costs to keep the online course business going?

My business typically runs between 30-40% profit margins. That is divided between paying my staff (I have 16 full time remote employees), coaching and courses, and software.


23. What are some of the biggest mistakes you made along the way?

Always have good contracts in place for what you do. I had a partnership on a product go sour once and if I had a better contract in place, it wouldn’t have been such a drawn out ordeal. 

Never forget to listen to your audience. Sometimes I’ll think I know what my customer wants but when I ask them – they actually want something entirely different. Poll your audience. Talk to your customers. Listen to what they want and then create that thing! 


24. How has your business changed since implementing an online course into the business model?

My business started out offering services – which is night and day different than an online course. I’m grateful for my time as a virtual assistant. It introduced me to how big the online business world really is and showed me how much potential lied in it.

But the difference? The difference is instead of one to one, we service one to many. We cast our message out to a broader audience. We are constantly focused on our content marketing, which I didn’t do at all as a service provider. I love online courses because the ability to scale them is just enormous.


25. How has your personal life changed?

Life has changed so much since I started my business in that tiny basement apartment with no windows! We moved to Missouri. We bought our first home. My husband quit his job and now works for my company. We have employees all across the country that we interact with on a daily basis. I love this new life and I’ll never take it for granted how blessed I am that I am able to live it. 


26. What’s the greatest transformational story you can tell about one (or more) of your students?

When I think of the lives that have been changed because of our course, it’s what brings me the most joy. It’s literally why we do what we do.

I think of Sarah. She had worked in a very demanding job prior to starting her business. When she suffered a miscarriage and the doctor told her that stress was likely a contributing factor, she knew enough was enough. She quit her job and started her business – knowing that she was never going to have a terrible boss demanding unrealistic results to her again. Sarah got pregnant again and, this time – had a completely healthy pregnancy with no complications. She’s grateful for the business she built that’s on her own terms.

I think of Kastle. Kastle started our course in 2018 while undergoing cancer treatment. Once treatments started, she was fired from her full time job. But Kastle was a student with great optimism and drive. She even stated that getting fired was “the best thing that happened to her”. She took her drive and went out and got multiple clients. She used virtual assistance as a way to earn money in a flexible way during her treatment process.

I think of Melanie. A single mom who’s only daughter is her world. She wanted a job where she could be there for her daughter when she needed her – but, she needed to make real money, being the sole provider for her family. She started off doing general administrative VA work, but quickly realized that she loved all things Pinterest. Once she became a Pinterest Manager – her business took off. She was able to quit her full time job and completely replace her income.


27. If you could use a time machine and send yourself back to the time before you started out, what advice would you give yourself, knowing what you know now?

Be patient. Good things come to those who are diligent. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t yield results. 

Stay focused on one thing at a time. Do it really well. Get results from that one effort. Systematize it and hand it off for someone else to do. Move on to the next effort. Mostly – don’t give up!


28. What is your million dollar piece of advice to those who are just getting started in their online course journey OR for those who are looking to scale?

Grow a list. Ask your list what they want. Build it. Never neglect listening to the pain points of your followers and students. 

The best way to scale your business is to hire well. We always hire for culture over skill. Skill can be taught. Culture is innate. Set good KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for yourself and your team. 

Also, really get to know the numbers of your business. Set projections. Even if your projections are a guess the first time – you have to start somewhere. It wasn’t until we truly understood metrics in our business (how much traffic we needed, what our conversion rates were, how many email subscribers our goal should be set at, etc.) that we could make a solid plan for how to grow the business year after year.


Would you like to learn exactly how to create, sell, market & scale your online course?

Join Our Free Event:

The Ultimate Online Course Conference

March 29th - April 4th

Registration Closes In








The World’s Economy Has Already Shifted Into The Virtual Space More And Faster Than Ever Before & It’s Time To Catch Up Right Now… Or Else You’ll Risk Getting Left Behind.

The Most “Future Proof” Way To Get Ahead And Run A Sustainable Online Business Is By Entering The Exploding Digital Knowledge Industry With The Guidance Of Tina and 30+ Experts Through Online Course Talks. 

how to create an online course