How did I get here?
Recently I seem to have had an increasing number of new VA’s getting in touch with me to ask if I can meet up with them to have a chat about how I became a VA and set my business up. Although I don’t mind sharing my experiences, the very fact that I have built up, what I would class as a successful business, since starting out two years ago, means that I have limited free time available to catch up for coffee with people.
I decided it might be useful to write a short blog with some of those tips or things I have found really beneficial to me in my journey from starting out to where I am now. However after starting to write this “short blog” it turned in to quite a long one, so I have decided to maybe do a series of shorter ones over the coming weeks to avoid people nodding off before they get to the end!
How did I decide to be a VA?
When I had my second little boy (who scarily is very nearly 3 now) I wanted to return to work but living where we live meant that I would be doing quite a bit of travelling and that, with the cost of childcare added to the mix, meant I wouldn’t be covering costs by working part-time. I had worked as a PA to a very busy Company Director for 8 years previously and before that, I was a Personal Banker with Barclays so I had a lot of skills and experience I really didn’t want to go to waste. Friends of ours suggested becoming a VA and sent me some information on the Smart PA franchise. At that point in time, there was absolutely no way that I could afford or justify spending anywhere near the amount that was required to invest in Smart PA, but it did set a few things in motion which I otherwise would never have thought about. I was quite skeptical about starting up my own business as I had never been Self Employed before, although you do shoulder some responsibility as an Employee, you always have a team around you when things go wrong – whether that be an IT issue or something more significant. One major concern I had was about the contracts and legal paperwork I would need to ensure I was covered if things went wrong. I didn’t know where to start on writing up contracts and had no idea what kind of insurance policies I might need or whether I needed to be registered anywhere for potentially storing client data. It’s all a bit of a minefield and if you get those things wrong then it can be a disaster.
What did I do first?
I spent quite a bit of time investigating my options. I knew of a couple of people fairly locally who had set up similar businesses, so I got in touch with one of those people and asked them how busy they were, after all, there is no point starting a new business up if there isn’t the demand in our area. They came back and said that they definitely didn’t have any trouble finding clients – so that was a good start! I did lots of online research and looked at things such as Upwork and time etc see what kind of things people were looking for from a Virtual Assistant. As well as showing me what kind of skills I would need to move across to the virtual world, this also helped me get an idea of how much income I could generate.
The lightbulb moment…
During my online research, I came across a quick questionnaire which asked various questions to see whether I would be suitable as a VA. At the end of that short quiz was a link to a webinar which just happened to be the following evening at 7 pm. I managed to get children to bed and sit in front of my old battered laptop the next night to listen to that webinar and from them on everything went at lightning speed!
The Pilot Scheme
Somehow things seemed to all happen at the right time for me and the webinar I took part in was talking about the launch of a pilot scheme which My VA business was setting up ahead of launching their full business in a box package. The lady behind that package was Sarah Rugg, Sarah had established a very successful VA business of her own and wanted to help others do the same thing. The My VA Business in a box scheme was fantastic for me, they helped me with my website, branding, legal paperwork and contracts and most importantly gave a huge amount of information to help guide me through the process of establishing your own business – everything from choosing a business bank account to setting up social media pages and creating press releases. All of those worries I had about knowing what insurance I should be asking for or what I should be sending out to a potential client were covered off in the information I received as part of the package.
The My VA business package was meant to guide you through the process of setting up a new VA business in a set timeframe. I am sure I frustrated Sarah no end by constantly jumping ahead to get through things as quickly as I could. I have never been very good at being patient if there is something I want to do. Part of the pack also included some life coaching to help you get into the right mindset for being your own boss, this is really important when you are moving from being an Employee to Self Employed and although I was wary at the start, I did find it beneficial.
The ongoing support I still get from the My VA team is fantastic and I often ask questions within their closed Facebook group to help me overcome issues or queries I may be having with clients. A fellow member helped me with a really frustrating problem I was having with Excel late one evening, so those concerns I had about not having anyone to turn to when I had a problem, were no longer an issue for me. Although that pilot scheme has now ended, Sarah has a range of packages available to new VA’s to ensure you are on the right track when you start out, all of which prevents you making those costly mistakes that most new business owners make in the early days.
If you’d like to find out more about the My VA packages you can do so via this link which will take you to some free training. My top tip is to get as much training and information on board as you can in the early days as once you start taking on new clients your focus will completely change to the clients and generating an income.
Keep a look out for future posts which so far I have decided will cover ... getting my first clients, useful tools and apps, further training, the dreaded networking(!), expansion and juggling...