I’ve been a virtual assistant ever since I moved to France 2 years ago. When I started, I wasn’t really sure what that meant. I thought I was going to just offer secretarial type services remotely. What I actually found was that are thousands, maybe even millions of VA’s out there, and they offer lots of different types of services from general secretarial, event management, social media management, customer services and so on.
So, I tried offering everything I knew how to do, to potential clients, but ended up not being able to stand out in the crowd, so I took a step back and did my research, ending up with a niche in strategy, systems and social media.
These are 10 of the tips I’ve learnt along the way:
1. Having a mentor helps keep you accountable
When you have a 9-5 job, you usually have someone that has set the deadline for the work you are doing, or someone more experienced to ask for help. When you are working for yourself, your clients will want their work finished at a certain time, but growing your business, is all down to you. Its easy to think that you can catch up with stuff, do it tomorrow, or to get bogged down in having to learn lots of new things! Having a mentor gives you someone to ask you the difficult questions. They can help if you are procrastinating over something, or not sure which direction to take next. They can also help make entrepreneur life a little less lonely! They don’t necessarily need to be a formal mentor, although this can help guide you in certain areas of your business. They can be someone else in your industry, who has been there a couple of years, and gives you someone to bounce ideas off and give a bit of advice from a position of knowledge.
2. You need to find your supporters
Even though it is the digital era, a good number of new clients come from referrals. Someone who have been happy with your work and is happy to recommend you as someone who knows what they’re doing. Prospective clients are much happier working with someone that has been recommended to them from someone they trust. They have already been ‘warmed up’ to you, so are easier to land. So, don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials, from clients. If they don’t know what to say, then why not give them a generic form, which you can frame the testimonial from. The other type of supporters are cheerleaders. When someone else is looking for a VA, they are the one that sings your praises, that says that you could do it with your eyes closed!
3. No one knows what a VA does
If you ask lots of people what a VA does, you will get lots of different answers. I was the same when I started working as a VA. I had worked from home in my corporate job, so knew that wasn’t an issue, but didn’t really know what the role entailed. It wasn’t until I did a bit more research, spoke to some other VAs and realised that I wasn’t alone. No one really understands that being a VA is an industry not a job. So, when you set up as a VA, you need to be clear on the services you offer, and the cost of those services.
4. Don’t be afraid of saying NO
There is a temptation when you are working for yourself, just to take on every job that comes across your desk. Why would you want to do that telesales job, when you hate being on the phone, or that Facebook administration job, when you find social media boring! Stick with what you enjoy, after all that’s why you started working for yourself!
5. You need to be honest with your clients
Sometimes, one of your clients might ask you to do something that you don’t know how to do. Don’t be tempted to just wing it, if you don’t know…. ASK. Some of the time, it will be because they haven’t given you all of the information and you can waste hours, trying to find a solution for something that isn’t solvable, without that additional stuff. If you don’t feel you can ask them, then why not use your network, ask around, does anyone else have experience that they could share with you.
6. The client is always right
This is true for all service based businesses, even if you main offering is a product! But remember, they’re not always the right client for you! That’s the beauty of running your own business. If you don’t get on with a client, you can stop working for them. Obviously, you act professionally, finish the job that you started (unless it becomes untenable), and then move on. If they ask again, tell them they’re not a good fit for your business, or if you really don’t feel comfortable doing this, tell them your busy!
7. You can’t be a jack of all trades
If you are really going to be successful, and charge a competitive rate, you need to be clear about the services you offer. If you offer general admin, event planning and web design, your rates are going to be all over the place and that will confuse your clients. Plus, if you are trying to be all things to all people, you will be average at everything and an expert in none. So, think about your skills, what you enjoy doing and where the market needs those skills and then get good at it.
8. There are peaks and troughs of work
Although being a VA isn’t seasonal as such, some of the clients we work for are. Also, there are generally times, when your clients go quieter, such as the Christmas holidays, or during the summer months, when they aren’t so busy. Make sure you have some money in the bank from those peaks to tide you over until you come to that next bow wave of work, cos I promise you it will!
9. You need to decide on your niche
This is tied in with number 7. You don’t want to offer everything to everyone. You will end up either being a busy fool, trying to get lots of stuff done and having no time to strategize, or you won’t attract clients, because they aren’t clear on what you offer. Have a look around at what other VAs’ are offering. Does it appeal to you? Look at the market you would like to be in, is there a gap that you might be able to fill? Is there a particular type of client you would like to work with? Choose your niche and then become the expert. Then you can promote your services, confident that you can handle anything that gets thrown at you.
10. Not everyone will appreciate your worth
As I’ve said, not everyone understands what a VA is. They will question your costs, they will ask why they should pay your rates, when they could get a VA from the Philippines for half the amount. You will need to stand your ground. Explain what they get for their money and the results they will see from using you. If they aren’t happy after that, wish them on their merry way and find someone who is prepared to pay for the value you’re giving!
Being a VA is hard work, but it is also fun and challenging (in a good way)! If you want to work for yourself, choose your own hours and be able to do it in your PJs, not every day, I promise ;), then this is definitely something for you to consider. I love the fact that every day is different and you never know what tomorrow may bring… but if you prefer more of a routine, then thats your choice. Being a VA means that you get to choose.
If you’d like to read more on setting up my business, then you might like this article
And if you need support or are feeling a bit demotivated and want to join a facebook group that offers advice and will be there for you if you need it, then why not join up below