I am often asked by people how to become a Virtual Assistant. Other questions that come up include…How do I get clients? Is the industry saturated as there seems to be so many VAs?, Can I earn a good income from being a Virtual Assistant?
I have been in the industry myself for over 11 years and during two economic downturns and especially at a time when people never heard of a VA, I was still able to become a Virtual Assistant and a profitable one at that. I have in my time set up and run two successful VA businesses, I recently passed on my VA business, partly for personal reasons, in order to focus more time on my VA training delegates.
I have seen many changes in the VA industry over the years, and one thing is for sure, if you want to know how to become a virtual assistant, first think about your experience. I tend to stipulate before I accept anyone onto the VA Mastery Course, that one has at least 6 years experience in a secretarial or PA environment. This means you will have a greater level of understanding of providing a service and support to one or more managers.
Some ladies whom I have met have been concerned that they have nothing much to offer, but it is reassuring for them to know that actually their experience is invaluable. If you are worried about what you have to offer, just remind yourself of how far you’ve come in your journey and the amazing skills you’ve development. Give yourself more credit.
What services to offer when you become a Virtual Assistant?
When I set up, I had over 15 years experience as a PA and Marketing Assistant, and I was stuck what I could offer and to whom. However, it soon came to light that a new industry was growing in the UK, the coaching industry, and so I focussed my services around supporting coaches. This meant that within three months I was working full time as a VA.
PAs and secretaries will come from different industry backgrounds, the public or private sector, some with additional skills. What you offer often depends on who your clients will be…your niche market. A Virtual Assistant, in the traditional sense, will offer the type of services you would expect a PA or secretary to offer in the office environment. However, if you are very creative or great at anything operational, then you can focus on developing skills or services based on your strengths. Anything which you are unable to carry out yourself or dislike doing such as minute taking (this comes up quite a bit), then this is where you would sub-contract to other VAs who are specialists in these tasks.
One must be very cautious about listing everything as a service for fear of being perceived as a ‘Jack of all Trades’…many people who have come to me asking for a VA have noted that seeing a long list is very off putting.
This is nothing to be afraid of. Much of the technology and software used in the VA world is not always used in the employed world, therefore, have faith that this is something that is something you can adapt to and learn. When I started as a VA there was no such thing as broadband for goodness sake, let alone file sharing sites. Now it is all second nature to me. Some VAs will let others know about what they have discovered and give reviews, some will come from introductions via social media i.e. Facebook or Twitter, as well as hearing from IT specialists what’s on the market. Indeed some of my clients have used technology which I have not been aware of and so I have learnt from them.
How do you get clients?
This comes from having a solid marketing strategy which has arisen from a strong focus on your business strategy. Without a focus and vision how can you possibly create a marketing strategy? Where you get your clients will be dependent on who you want to work with and of course how they will find out about you or you find them.
When I started out, I knew that I wanted to match my corporate salary; I charged £15 an hour and was told I was expensive!! However, I still managed to get a full time business onboard and train up two associate VAs. How was this achieved? Well I just ensured that I got to know people and built up relationships as well as the fact that I clearly educated people about using a VA and the outcomes they could achieve. I got many referrals also which already built up my reputation in the prospects mind.
The first important lesson is to ensure that you have the ability to stand out from the crowd and walk away from being like everyone else. People like unique VAs. If your website starts of telling people what a Virtual Assistant is, it’s not going to have the same impact as someone that has focussed and powerful content on their front page aimed at their prospective clients. Being a generalist is not going to have the same impact as being a specialist.
I help VAs focus on their niche market and to know the message (powerful content) to attract people to their site and keep them interested. People will only stay on a site for 3-6 seconds unless something grabs their attention.
Marketing is about building a relationship through direct and distant communication. Why would you want to do business with someone you don’t know, like or trust?
Marketing is also about educating people and ensuring that they understand the real benefits of using a VA for their own business and what YOU individually can support them with. The feature benefits are the fact that clients will only pay for the time you do the work, no salary or overheads etc…but as this comes as standard with every VA it’s not the ultimate benefit. The ultimate benefit is about the changes that are made in the way your clients work, what they focus on and the results they achieve.
When you’ve hurt you back, you’re not going to be thinking ‘I need a Pilates Instructor’, but what you are thinking is that you need someone to sort out your back pain so you can walk straight again and sit without agony. So when you see a leaflet or hear someone tell you that you can help them to walk and sit pain free, you’re going to take notice.
Marketing is also about the different online and offline forms of communication, which all work in conjunction with one another. You wouldn’t just read a business card and then sign a contract. You’d want to speak to the business person first and build the relationship further.
Is the industry saturated?
John Palmer of bemyva.com (an online directory for VAs), stated that there are only £3000 VAs in the UK which are running a serious VA business and 12,000 globally. Therefore, I do believe there is plenty of room for more professional and serious VAs.
I do also believe very strongly that, if you are going to stand out, you need to ensure your whole marketing and branding strategy enables you to do just that.
What had becoming a Virtual Assistant meant to me?
Well a culmination of things really. To be honest I never really thought I could do this and I was so scared that I was making the right decision. I had so many doubts and concerns mostly around paying the mortgage and, as I was pregnant, how I was going to earn an income with a small baby.
But you know what? With my support and focus and a great strategy, I did it. Now, OK, I have had many a time when I wanted to throw the towel in and had some challenging times with associates or clients…BUT…it has all been a great learning tool and I have developed amazing friendships with many of my clients and networking colleagues too. I have developed a certain insight as well which only really comes from experience.
Since my first daughter I have had two more children, the youngest is 10.5 months and I have had to care for a husband with a brain tumour, but I have still done it…how…because I have a passion for what I do, I have great support, I have a model that I use and know that works and I have faith and focus.
Nobody can set up a business all alone; you need support around you…if anything to keep you sane. But the benefits far outweigh being employed in my book.
Is this for you…well if you want to be independent, reach your full potential, earn a good income even with family, be in control of who you work with, develop a large network of likeminded individuals, and have a profitable enterprise that is in demand…ten yes.
Are you scared?
Yes…that’s normal of course as you now know what you want to do but also aware that you need to have the knowledge to get the clients, get the business up and running, get your website etc etc…
Confidence and knowledge comes from experience and just getting on with it as well as having the mentoring support from someone who has achieved what you want to achieve.
Food for thought!
- If the VA Mastery Course does not fit in with your needs and budget, then we offer a One Day Live Event which includes 11 modules for home study. This is a great event which will give you a perfect insight into how to get clients!
- However, if you want to have a TASTE of the VA industry…then why not attend our half day Taster Day in Leeds or London…click here for details…