There are a growing number of people wanting to start up as Virtual Assistants often in the hope of creating the ideal work life balance. But what does establishing yourself as a VA mean? Before you start you need to be focussed on the belief that you are a business owner and as such you need to be something of an entrepreneur.
Having said that some of us start our VA career quite by accident and that is what happened to me. In 2001 my husband and I began running a village pub and we started a family at the same time (no small challenge I can tell you). Having worked in HM Diplomatic Service – both at home and abroad as well as in the City of London for many years I had a lot of business skills and I was keen to learn new skills.
After a few tough years I acquired a local community website www.heacham-on-line.co.uk and began “blogging” as well as redevelopment of the site to more proactively promote our village. I knew nothing about websites and learned as I went absorbing more and more knowledge and from there things grew. From www.heacham-on-line.co.uk (2005) sprang www.hunstanton-on-line.co.uk (2006) both as leading local websites promoting tourism and the local area.
By the end of 2009 having sold the pub (after transforming it to a guesthouse and restaurant) I was unsure what I wanted to do next. By early 2010 I began to redevelop both sites and on relaunch I introduced sites for two other villages but collectively the sites came under www.norfolk-on-line.co.uk. From just one website receiving 84,000 hits in 2005 the suite of local sites achieved 1.5 million hits in 2011 and collectively continue to support the local area. Although I worked a great deal on my sites myself, I out-sourced where necessary to move my project along and funded my work/expenses by selling advertising on the sites. From 2011 (I stepped down in 2015) I also became the web administrator for a local tourism trade group called Discover West Norfolk and the Hunstanton Chamber of Trade where I was involved in site development as well as day to day web site administration.
The revamp of the local websites saw the introduction of WordPress into my sites and this made blogging much simpler and faster. Over time I found WordPress as a means of web design rather than html and php made life so much easier and I enjoyed it far more.
During recent years I became interested in social media platforms and learned how to use them to direct traffic and engage audiences and began to help friends learn to use Facebook and then Twitter. I had heard the term “Virtual Assistant” somewhere a few years ago but cannot recall where and it kept playing on my mind. Eventually, I decided that I was not the web designer I had intended to be but was a highly knowledgeable Virtual Assistant who had a great deal to offer to small business operators and in summer 2012 I officially launched myself as such.
Having a passion for promoting West Norfolk and considerable experience of the hospitality and tourism sector in Norfolk my natural niche is tourism businesses but I am also comfortable in the corporate world of banking and the oil & gas industry.
No matter how you start your Virtual Assistant career, all VAs need to tick many of the same boxes in order to establish a sustainable well run business.
Here are some of the points that all new VAs should aim to cover:
- Decide on a suitable business name but keep it meaningful.
- Develop a logo and corporate brand for your business.
- Get business cards designed and printed.
- Ensure you sign up with a reputable accountant.
- Evaluate your skill set and decide on your key business focus early on .
- Do not try and do it all yourself – remember you can outsource to Associate VAs who you will meet when you network within the VA community.
- Register an appropriate domain name and get a website built – ensure it allows you to blog.
- Promote yourself both on-line and off-line and attend networking events.
- Create a current profile on LinkedIn.
- Join VA groups and networks. There are many free groups to join but on the paid for front I strongly recommend Be My VA. Join in the discussion groups, ask questions and learn from experienced VAs.
- Register for the Data Protection Act (applies to UK VAs).
- Be discerning when you sign up for free this and free that. You will soon get bombarded with too much information.
- To encourage a happier, less stressful work-life balance, write down and share business expectations with prospective clients.
- The ‘people’ side of the business can get overlooked with so many other startup activities to do, but this is time & energy well spent to avoid trouble later on:
- Decide which client personality types you like and those you work best with as well as those to avoid.
- Consider how your clients can support you in doing your best work and how to deal with problem-solving (ie how to resolve issues, when to fire a client).
- Save yourself a lot of heartache – take appropriate training such as the VA Mastery Course (or a similar course).
Good luck in your VA journey. I hope some of this helps you find your way. It will undoubtedly be a different journey as each VA journey is truly individual.