Escape the rat race

How becoming a virtual assistant helped this nomad escape the rat race

Last updated on June 1st, 2024

Nomad virtual assistant Vanessa de Burgo of By Magic Solutions


Meet Vanessa de Burgo from By Magic Solutions. She’s a digital nomad virtual assistant currently living between Portugal and Mexico. Welcome to “Life by Design”. This Discovery Sessions interview series probes inspiring individuals who work online and travel, and people designing their lives around freedom to inspire readers just like you. 


Rosie Bell: Where are you from or where do you feel local to?

Vanessa de Burgo: I am Portuguese, from Lagos in the Algarve.


digital nomad swims in pool in Asia


RB: How did you start as a virtual assistant? 

VB: I started out as a nomad virtual assistant after a series of events and various factors. I was researching all the ways to make money working remotely, befriending digital nomads at a time of burnout in my corporate job, visiting said friends in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and starting to work with a business coach. 


After starting to work remotely back in August 2020 I understood how much better that made me feel than constantly going to the office and into meaningless meetings where everyone feels miserable. That’s when I started doing some research to understand how I could quit that job to start working remotely for myself. I knew I wanted to help people and be part of multiple projects at the same time, so virtual assistance was always on my radar. 


After meeting a VA in Playa del Carmen who had started her business one year before and was thriving, I realized that even though it is a saturated market, I could definitely invest in it. So I came back to Portugal, switched from full-time to part-time in my corporate events role, and hired a business coach to help me start this journey. It was honestly the best decision of my life.



RB: What advice would you give someone looking to start as a virtual assistant? 

VB: I would say start by understanding what a virtual assistant does and what kind of services you can offer — believe me, everyone has something to offer even if it is just answering calls or data entry. Then you should create a profile on Upwork and send proposals daily while you start working on your online presence so that people can find you and eventually work your way up. 


Getting the first client is always the hardest part. After that, you start getting more recognition on Upwork, hopefully, some referrals from said client to some of his friends, more visibility on your socials, and so on.



RB: What does a typical day in the life look like for you (if you have one)? 

VB: My days are never exactly the same, as consistency and productivity are still something I struggle with on a daily basis. My ideal routine is waking up around 8 a.m. and going to the gym, then spending the rest of the morning working on client projects. 


After lunch, I dedicate some time to meetings or finishing some client work, before having a break to go for a walk or just to the balcony to read for a bit. Finally, I’ll work on my own admin and side hustle, sending proposals on Upwork and reaching out to people on social media, and dedicating a few hours to my digital product project – a Virtual Assistant resource bundle to help those wanting to start their VA business. 


I try to stick to this schedule, and to some extent that does happen but sometimes I may have a bit of a slow morning or a coffee with a friend in the afternoon, so I always try to work around it to compensate for the time that I’m away from my desk.


Nomad virtual assistant Vanessa de Burgo of By Magic Solutions


RB: What’s the biggest challenge of life as a virtual assistant?

VB: My biggest challenge so far is finding a good structure to be consistent with work when most of the time I am traveling to different places and wanting to participate in activities all day long. That’s definitely something they don’t tell you when you start your freelance career. You have to be your own cheerleader at all times, learn to say no so you stick to your schedule, and, most importantly, learn to manage FOMO.



RB: What’s the biggest reward of life as a virtual assistant?

VB: 100%, it’s the flexibility of being able to travel and work online. Being a freelancer and nomad virtual assistant is not easy work, but having the opportunity to work from Southeast Asia or somewhere on the beaches of Mexico or anywhere in between is without a doubt the biggest reward I could ask for.



RB: How do you measure success? 

VB: I measure success by how well my client’s businesses are going. For example, I am doing outreach for a social media agency, I am thrilled when they send me a “company XYZ booked a call”. If my clients are happy, I’m happy.



RB: What habits, principles, or ideas have served you the most in your life? 

VB: The habit that has served me the most, which I learned over a decade ago is to write everything. Even in the tech age, I still write everything down. From a to-do list or a client’s instructions to notes from a tutorial, etc. When you write things down, that information is more memorable and it’s recorded, so you can go back to it at any point in the future. This should be a golden rule for any virtual assistant.



RB: What do you wish you did differently (in work or life)?

VB: I’m a big advocate of the “better late than never” mentality. I could say that I wish I started my freelance and travel life earlier for example, but then I wouldn’t have the experience that I have today. I’m happy that I had all the ups and downs along the way that led me to the life I am living at the moment, and can’t wait to see what the future will bring me.



RB: The stage is yours, tell our readers anything.

VB: Something that has haunted my thoughts for many years about digital nomads was the thought that I wish I was like them, traveling the world and working along the way. Oh, how I wish I could be like them one day. Then one of my nomad friends said something that changed my life forever: “The difference between you and me is that I stopped wishing and started working on it. If I can do it, anyone can.” 


There are so many online jobs you can do, it’s literally just a matter of starting to work on it. Study, learn new high-paying skills, create a profile on freelancer websites, apply to remote jobs, create a course, start a blog… the list is endless! If virtual assistance is something you’ve always wanted to do, feel free to drop me a message on Instagram (@ByMagicSolutions), I am happy to answer any questions and have many resources available for beginner VAs.




Want to escape the rat race?

If you wish to start your own location-independent business, find a remote job, learn about special digital nomad visas, or dive head-first into the world of digital nomads, book a 1:1 session with me here and ask me anything.


Where can I take courses about location independence?

On Discovery Sessions Learning, you can find on-demand courses to help you escape the rat race, travel, freelance, build or grow an online business, and maximize your freedom. Visit our course library here


What is the best travel insurance for digital nomads?

Safety Wing is the ultimate made-for-nomads-by-nomads travel insurance provider. Protect yourself anywhere in the world with their flexible nomad insurance.


How can I find accommodation as a digital nomad?

There are great deals to be found for short and longer stays (of up to 30 days) anywhere in the world on Agoda,, Expedia US, or where you can search for accommodations and filter according to criteria like desks, air conditioning, private bathrooms, and complimentary Wi-Fi.


How can I get an international SIM card when I’m traveling?

It’s quick and painless to get an eSIM (or digital SIM card) and data plan from Airalo that covers practically any country in the world before you get there so you never have to bother going into a phone shop. With the Airalo app, you can keep track of your data usage and top up easily.


Where can I find useful travel resources for digital nomads?

You can find all my nomad-friendly resources right here on this page. These will help you out whether you’re looking for the best flight search tools or digital sim cards. Also, sign up for Freedom Friday, our weekly newsletter that gives you five links with informational bites from the worlds of digital nomadism, remote work, travel, freedompreneurship, life design, and location independence. 

Hi, I'm Rosie Bell, a location-independent writer, editor and lifestyle entrepreneur. If you want inspiration and support to live, travel and work anywhere, look no further. Let's talk right here.