One of the more popular topics I get asked about is what it takes to be a virtual assistant. Since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted and lockdowns were initiated all over the country, assistants and admins are more enticed than ever by the prospect of virtual assistant work.
So let’s start by demystifying a few things and getting clarity on what it means to start a business.
What you think it is?
Freedom A lot of people get interested in becoming a virtual assistant, because they think it means freedom. Freedom from their tyrannical bosses, freedom to work for themselves, freedom of their time (to decide their own hours), freedom to make more money.
Balance You’ll be able to take vacations whenever you want, go to the gym, make yourself a healthy lunch, etc. Yes! But also note that there is a LOT of hard work that needs to happen in the beginning
It’s the ultimate job No role is perfect but being an entrepreneur can be extremely fulfilling.
What is it really?
It is a business. You are not working for a larger company who covers your healthcare, taxes, benefits and more.
A risk You are now responsible for all your supplies, applications and resources such as yourself. When you are sick, you might not be making any money. So you need to try to mitigate risk as much as possible.
An investment It is an investment of your time, your money and your ego. In the beginning, a VA business actually takes up quite a lot of time. Because you have to build the foundations of a business. If you were looking for a quick business, or a quick win, this likely will not be it.
It is hard work. If you are a hard worker, fabulous. The best part now is that you can do the hard work that you’ve been doing your whole life. Your whole working life for yourself. If you are a hard worker you’re already working hard. Anyway, now you get to work hard for yourself and your dreams.
It is a long game. I had a conversation this year that went like this: Potential VA: So I set up my website and clients come to me and just send an enquiry and hire me, right? ME: No no no. If it were that easy everyone would do it.
You have to think about your customer’s journey. You have to drive them to your website. And once they get there, their path must make logical sense, or they will bounce off of your website and find someone else. So you need to make sure that once they’re on your site, your page is as sticky as can be.
Fulfilling You may take 100% of the risks but you also get 100% of the profit, recognition and pride in your work.
Because you are no longer waiting for someone to tell you what to do. You’re no longer beholden to another company, and their success for your success. You are calling the shots. You are in control. You are steering the ship.
You also have control over who you work with. If a client is being difficult, you can decide not to work with them anymore. You don’t have to wait to be fired. You don’t have to be beholden to them. You can choose to terminate that contract.
What it is not.
It is not a hobby. It is by no means a hobby. You may have started out by helping someone here or there. But if you really want to become a VA, an assistant who helps others grow their business, then it can’t be a hobby. You have to invest yourself and your time.
Easy I’ve met a few viewers along this journey, who have fallen into clients. Someone knew what they did and offered them something to do. And, bing bang boom. They have a fabulous client. Really good wage, and they’re off and running. Before they’ve even started.
Now either they want to grow their clientele. Or perhaps they realise that their work with that client is coming to a close, they suddenly realise they don’t know how to acquire a client. So, even if you’ve started off on Easy Street. Easy Street has to come to an end at some time. At some point, you have to put the work in.
Balanced It can be. But in the beginning, unless you are a very very very very very very strict and regimented person, which is not the majority of people, then you will be doing a lot of work in the first couple of years. Yes, I said years because you have to build the foundations, you have to get the testimonials.
You have to claim the referrals, you have to build the partnerships. You have to learn as you go, which, as assistants, we know what that’s like and we understand the learning curve.
Do you have to own your own business to be a VA? In this course we will covering the essentials of starting a VA business. You can become a virtual assistant without owning your own business. There are VA agencies out there like Fyxer and placement agencies like Priority VA (which is owned by Trivinia Barber my co-moderator at The State of The Executive Assistant FB group) who hire assistants after a battery of tests.
Do your research before determining what is right for you.
Can you be a VA and a stay at home parent? Yes though it isn’t perfect, but what is?! Both the roles of parenting and assistantship can be demanding so doing both at once is not for the faint of heart.
If you are about to be a new parent for the first time my advice is that you will need at least 12 weeks…AT LEAST…to find your footing as a parent. With my first child I wasn’t ready to go back to work for 9 months, with my second it was about 3 months. Everyone is different and it will depend on your childcare options.
Imagine taking your child/children to your last or current office role every day. What would that have looked like? I know I had to do it for a few days once. My employer was great about it but it was impossible. My productivity dropped to at least 50% as I realized just how much I had to keep an eye on her. Yes she is eating a pen and my keys in the photo below. Sigh.
However, I believe that creativity and ingenuity will get you very far especially when you have to make things work. My suggestions for parents are below:
Gather your team Determine who is in your support system and let them know what you are thinking and make sure they are onboard to support you.
Make a schedule What hours are you available to work? Get strict about it and block out time. This will help you determine what type of work you can do and when.
Make a plan for your business Start with your life and money goals and then look at the schedule you’ve made and determine what types of services you can provide in those windows of time.
If you have a new baby and must make ends meet than customer support calls may not be the best service to provide, considering a crying baby may be in the background of all of your calls. However, you may be able to do non-time sensitive data entry or meeting scheduling and inbox management for a specific window of time.
Define your Ideal Customer We will get into this later in the course, but make sure your ideal customer is one that understands you are a stay at home parent. Can you tailor what you do to be something that is not time specific?
Manage Expectations If you are a stay at home parent, don’t keep that from your client. They won’t be pleased if they find out you said yes to a bunch of projects that you can’t complete on time because the time demands of having young children.
Your client may be completely okay with your lifestyle choice, but if you don’t tell them ahead of time you aren’t managing expectations and that can breed mistrust and concern.
Evaluate + Iterate This is all an experiment. Life is an experiment. We can make new educated choices each day. Treat your business the same. There is no failure.
Just Keep Going On hard days, remember that forward motion, no matter how small, is still forward motion.
See the rest of the FAQs in the video.
Starting your own business requires resilience and is made easier if you have an abundant mindset. So let me help you get there.
The type of person you need to be
The What Ifs
It’s worth it
The type of person you need to be In a word, you need to be resilient. Luckily, most assistants are resilient.
Just keep going.
Lauren Bradley, Founder of The Officials
Starting a business is one thing, but continuing is another. You need to have a core belief that your business has every right to be a success. Instead of “Why should it be me?” it needs to be, “Why shouldn’t it be me?”
Furthermore, you have to have an abundant mindset, and believe there is always room for you. And I’m going to tell you why. Here’s a little secret. Most VAs can’t handle more than four to five clients. So there is room for you.
The What Ifs You need to change your negative What Ifs for positive ones. See the next section for more on this.
It’s worth it I know I am trying to drive home that starting your own business is not to be taken lightly but please know it is worth it.