But I’m not a graphic designer …

Colorful Graphic Design Images by hal gatewood for Emily Reagan PR

Lessons from a Digital Marketing Virtual Assistant Who Actually Does the Work:

Not a professional graphic design person? Don’t let this hold you back, because long story short… neither am I. But I still pull it off every day and I get success for my clients!

All of the time, I hear women in the business say …

I can’t do that! I’m not a graphic designer. There are people out there who can design better than me! I’ll never be able to do that.

All of those are limiting beliefs… Because you can and you should offer basic graphic design service!!!

I’m going to let you in on a secret… not every small business owner wants a high priced graphic designer! They need things done quickly and are happy with “good enough”… they just need help getting the task off their plate, and PROGRESSION towards their business goals.

Colorful Graphic Design Images by hal gatewood for Emily Reagan PR

How I Stopped Being Scared of Graphic Design…

…and started making it one of my daily VA business tasks. I am by no means a graphic designer. About 15 years ago I only knew how to use QuarkExpress for newspaper layout. I struggled to make simple bar graphics or info graphics when we needed it to accompany an article and my graphics guy was out of the office.

Later, I tried to teach myself Adobe Illustrator when we were stationed in Quantico for 9 months. This time, I failed to be disciplined at it and it was difficult to be proficient with it.

Then in another full-time job, I REALLY struggled to help my Development Director at the Arts Council of Oklahoma City even make last-minute simple signs for our New Year’s Eve event. Just because I was a Communications Director didn’t mean I had design skills! I didn’t consider it part of my job description and I remember being super stressed about it.

Silly, I know. But I didn’t think a Word doc would be good enough! In that position, I was fortunate to work with a top design firm in Oklahoma City. It was a dream job, helping to develop and communicate the creative ideas of our co-chairs, and then have the talented graphic designer do the work. I didn’t have to design! No, thank you! Leave me to just writing and fussing with html code in email blasts!!!

But graphic design tasks were inevitable in my future!

Soon my second freelance client needed help with pins, and by then I was willing to try it. Now I totally cringe telling you that I used Google’s Picasa to do these first graphics and watermarking. But five years ago I didn’t have anything else, and I was afraid to use my pirated copy of Photoshop!

Of course, now there are so many free apps and software programs, that part of my daily job as unicorn VA is to whip out graphics. It’s a basic part of digital media that I talk about a lot in my VA course. But it was pretty intimidating for me at the beginning.

So if I can do it… I know you can!!! Just look at where I came from…

My Early, Crappy Pinterest Pins

These are some of my first pins I created in 2013-2014. They are just awful. Take a look and laugh: the meme fonts … the inability to put a transparent logos over a photo… the text overlay you can’t even read … and the prefab design elements that just don’t go … AT ALL!!!!!

My Viral Pinterest Pins

I created all of these pins between 2014-2018 using Canva. The Pinterest sizes have changed over the years but every one of these has gone viral and helped my client grow her email list, get web traffic and build her 7-figure business.

Some of them are very outdated in size but you can see how much I improved with experience! I got way better from actually doing the work and paying attention to designs and discovering graphic design programs. Every time Canva updated and improved its platform, I evolved too!!! My basic newspaper layout and design has helped, but a lot of this I learned “on the job” while getting paid by my clients. Honestly these pins are so easy to do that now I can whip them out in less than 10 minutes depending on how organized the client and I are with the photos.

The Graphic Design Takeaway

The business owner should not be doing their own graphic design. Instead they should be mindful of their time and hire this out … so as their unicorn VA, you should be able to do it!! It’s just simple layout and design. There are so many easy apps and tools to fake being a graphic designer. You just need an eye for composition, figuring out what looks good, and making the text overlay readable. And in your own VA business if you come across a need for a true logo designer and vector graphic design, you can always hire or refer out. (But this is rare, so you should take full advantage of any opportunities that come your way.)

Action Steps for Graphic Designers

1. You know how to do it…you just need to get up to date on best designs and speed up your design process so you are efficient!

2. Offer designs and sizes that clients actually need… square memes, Facebook ads, and pin-able images. Get well versed in what your industry is needing and UPSELL!

3. I really think the age of paying $100+/hr for a graphic designer is over. If you don’t have enough clients and want to grow your business, consider broadening your skill set. There are trending skills that clients need right now that you can learn – knowing SEO and how to work Pinterest, how to post to Instagram and more about Facebook Ads. Pick one thing and learn more.

Of course, if you want to evolve into a unicorn VA who successfully does graphic design plus offers a whole lot more, get on the waitlist for my Digital Media VA Crash Course. Check out the success story of one of my course graduates, who used her own graphic design background to begin a successful, multi-dimensional VA business. It may be time to up your game!

Action Steps for Unicorn VA Wanna-bes

1. Take a deep breath and dive in. Start playing with Canva, PicMonkey and phone design apps. You don’t need to know InDesign or take a $$$ design course on design theory. Just start playing on the apps and websites that offer free access and online tutorials!

2. Follow bigwigs on social media, especially Instagram and Facebook, to see what their top level designers are doing. Pay attention to what they’re putting out there – their top memes, info graphics and ads. Learn what is trending and what design styles are working.

3. Start volunteering to make graphics for your local groups, organizations, clubs and non-profits. Think about the opportunities you come across everyday – your kids’ school PTA or sports teams. Your best friend’s local business startup. Your church’s new outreach program. If you’re like me, being accountable with an actual assignment (and deadline!) will be motivating to sit down and DO IT! Make a business card for a friend. Design an invitation for a local charity event. Create a meme or original design for a Facebook page. Hands-on experience will give you the confidence to charge!!!

My Fave Design Text Overlay Apps & Programs for the Unicorn VA:

  • Canva
  • PicMonkey
  • Word Swag
  • Typecast
  • Pixlr
  • Rhonna
  • Marksta

Where to Go Next Online

I started my own “design job” with basic watermarking and photo resizing. Once you’ve conquered the easy basics like these, keep practicing and adding more to your toolkit, like design for IGTV thumbnails or facebook ad design.

If you want to grow even more from there, I have a list of 10 virtual job tasks for you here to let you in what should be your next step to becoming a unicorn VA. These are exactly what clients are always coming to me about, asking for help with and willing to pay a VA for… take a look! This will help you get started in the online space.

Have fun playing!

-Emily, Digital Media Consultant (and Virtual Assistant …)

How to Get Started as a Virtual Assistant - Emily Reagan's VA Crash Course


I have a Facebook community for digital media VAs. Come join us! –> https://www.facebook.com/groups/1651635074935415/

Want to learn the skills to become an in-demand Digital Media VA?

For anyone who is thinking about taking my Digital Media VA Crash Course, please get on the waitlist. You’ll be among the first to know when doors are open again. (which will be soon! )

Further Reading

4 Things You Need to Start a Digital Marketing VA Biz

5 Retargeted Facebook Ads Ideas: The Good, The Bad and the Popular

The One Thing I Should Have Done to NOT GET FIRED

How I became a VA {Virtual Assistant & Social Media Sidekick}

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Meet Emily

Emily Reagan is a jill-of-all trades when it comes to digital marketing and techie skills. She’s worked as a behind-the-scenes digital marketing implementor and strategist for a decade for online biz owner clients.

She’s a mom of four, Air Force wife, and founder of the Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School, where she teaches smart women the in-demand, highly-coveted digital marketing skills to get flexible, online work.

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