When Gina Horkey launched a simple website to display a few writing samples, she was contemplating shifting careers.

She had almost 10 years of experience in the financial services industry, but by 2014 she wondered if freelance writing would better accommodate her life as a mom of three small children. She began taking assignments on the side to test her earning potential.

Her side hustle turned into more than a few freelance gigs. She went on to create an online business in a lucrative niche: training virtual assistants, known as VAs, and helping them grow and scale their own ventures.

Horkey created courses about launching freelance writing and virtual assistant businesses for Horkey HandBook, later known as Fully Booked VA. Over the years, she added courses for podcast production and advanced training for virtual assistants.

By the time she sold the business in August 2023, she had worked with more than 10,000 customers.

How Horkey prepared to sell Fully Booked VA

Horkey’s team consisted of herself, a full-time contractor focusing on writing and community management, and part-time contractors working on social media and customer service. Horkey points to a few key events that helped prepare her for success and eventual sale.

One of those key moves was deciding to hire marketing help in 2015. That marketer helped Horkey develop and launch an affiliate program for the business.

Another big moment? Changing the name of her company. While working with business coach Stephanie Hayes, Horkey started considering moving on from the virtual assistant niche she had built. She renamed Horkey HandBook to Fully Booked VA in 2022 to distance her name from her brand.

By the time her name change was complete, Horkey knew she was ready for a new challenge.

Her business coach, Stephanie Hayes, turned out to be the ideal buyer for the business. She had an intimate knowledge of the company’s history and its potential.

The deal closed in August 2023, with Hayes purchasing the business for $180,000. But that cash didn’t come in all at once; rather, it was a seller financing arrangement. Hayes agreed to make 36 payments of $5,000 each, spreading the cost over three years, with a balloon interest payment at the end of the term.

While the company averaged $30,000 in monthly revenue at its high point, Horkey said revenue was about half that, around $15,000, at the time of the sale.

“In some ways, selling not at its height makes me feel a bit like a failure, but in other ways, it’s amazing I grew this company to what it was,” Horkey said. “One could say I accidentally started an online education company.”

Though Horkey and her buyer had a strong relationship, unexpected revenue fluctuation added stress to the sale process, she said. “Our revenue numbers had been declining and took a further unexpected dip just as we were finalizing the purchase agreement,” Horkey explained. “We looked into things and there wasn’t an apparent reason why.”

Since the sale, Horkey has enjoyed “unwinding herself from the company” by competing as a natural bodybuilder, getting certified as a life coach and personal trainer, and spending time with her family. “I learned so much in the last decade and have no regrets about moving on,” she said.