When I first began my virtual assistant business in 2006, I jumped in with both feet and applied my corporate mindset to my virtual assistant business model. If I could change anything, I would have spent more time reading, networking, and listening in on what virtual assistants were saying through International Virtual Assistant Association (IVAA.org), VANetworking and Virtual Assistant Chamber of Commerce (VACOC). You could observe their interactions and get a good feel about the work, clients, issues, and suggesting training. Most of VA’s are extremely helpful and willing to help you. It’s an online family, but it does take time to transition your mind-set from corporate to virtual.
In addition to online research, I would have searched for books on Amazon related to Virtual Assistance. Most of the books would prepare your mind-set, ask the right questions to get you thinking about your brand, messaging, and service offerings. There are suggestions on setting up your web-site, how to optimize it, and market them to your target audience. They have been at it longer than me, so they would know the pitfalls, how to spot a nightmare client, and even provide suggested forms, contracts, and vendors to help you get started on the journey of being a VA professional. I have a list of suggested books on my website http://cyberqueen.net/eStore.aspx.
I had the right idea, but I think I would have been spared a few experiences had I read some of those books, and carefully considered my options before jumping in with both feet. As an optimist, I saw it as an opportunity to carve out my career path and start over. I had nothing to lose.
There is another aspect to consider: the mindset from corporate work to working as a virtual assistant is very different. I made the mistake of approaching my VA business with the same mindset as I did in a corporate environment. It worked well for me in that environment, and I naturally assumed it would work as a virtual assistant. Even though I did win a few clients here and there, I felt limited and stuck in certain ways and it was quite frustrating. I couldn’t take the client to another level: having the on-going, collaborative partnership and help grow their business. I had the wrong types of clients. Mind you, no mistake or failure is ever wasted. I saw it as growing pains, and it helped me stop what I was doing and evaluate my approach to my business and to ask important “why” questions.
I came to realize that even though I had 20 years of excellent work history and exceptional skills, I wasn’t conveying to my prospects what I do, who my target audience is, and what sets me apart from other virtual assistants. When I would interview with a company in person, I always was selected for the final round. But when you work on-line, they can’t “see, hear or experience you ” in a real and personal way. So when prospects came to visit me and my website, even though they were impressed with my experience and skills set, they walked away unsure of what I “really did”. Part of my message was that I worked on-site and virtual. For corporations who were looking for someone like me, they didn’t want to share me with any other clients virtually, so I lost out on on-site projects. For clients who were willing to hire me as a virtual assistant, they had concerns that being on-site would interfere with being available virtually. So I had to analyze and ask the “who, what, why and how” questions to help me narrow my specialities down to a specific set of skills (what I love to do and have passion for) and to consider what types of people I wanted to work for (coaches, authors, online business owners who sold products or services that excited me and would motivate me to right actions for their success).
This information didn’t come to me immediately. I honestly didn’t even know where to start, but when I signed up for various mailing lists written by virtual assistants for virtual assistants, I discovered a new world of opportunities! When I assessed my background and skills set, I realized that early on in my career, I was always assigned to sales and marketing departments, and that I had alot of energy around the programs and projects that were related to events, tele-seminars, webinars, off-sites, speaking engagements – anything that was sales and marketing, I had energy and passion for it! I also realize how stifling I felt as a basic administrative assistant.
In addition to taking training classes, I am a firm believer in having a coach who can assist your transition from corporate to virtual. For instance, Patty Benton of JERPAT Training and Coaching, http://www.virtualvacoach.com/ offers affordable coaching classes that can assists you with the basic step by step plan on starting out as a VA. I also suggest that you look into the Internet Marketing and Social Media Marketing Certification courses through VAClassroom.com. These particular classes are self-directed, so you are able to participate at your convenience. Most of your clients are “online” business owners who are selling products and services so it is important to know the various resources and tools (and there are many) to offer up to your clients. My final suggestion is to purchase Tina Forsyth’s book, “Becoming an Online Business Manager” http://www.onlinebusinessmanager.com/blog/.
IVAA.org and VANetworking also hosts several training courses related to virtual assistants, so it wouldn’t hurt to become acquainted with those options.
While you are working in corporate, utilize this time frame to take training classes, write your business plan out, visualize the type of clients you want to work for, write it all down; decide how much money you want to make per year; put some money into savings to invest in a new computer, printer, phone, software applications, memberships, training, and semnars and decide when you want to quit your job and actually start working as a VA. Most VA’s usually quit their full time jobs when they have active clients on an ongoing basis. Others have signed up with other VA’s to subcontract for them, and have enough work to sustain them. The bottom line is, if you do what you love, you will have passion and energy behind all your actions, and will do it well. It may take time in the beginning to win over clients, but you want the right kind of clients, so it’s important to start out on the right foot and have your ducks lined up in a row.
Between these three suggestions, you will embark on an exciting journey of becoming a professional Virtual Assistant.
101 Ways to Use a VA (Cindy Greenway)