I get asked this question often and thought I’d share some hints and tips on things you can do if you would like to pursue this career.
First you must have good computer skills but not only that, a good knowledge of how to do things online as well. They’re not difficult things but if you don’t know how to do them, then they can complicate your working day. Things like knowing how to upload or download files, attach files to email, send a large file to a client when it’s too large to send via email or even how to use an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program for uploading/downloading files to and from a website. Of course, these things can be learnt relatively quickly, compared to the skillset you should already have in place, depending on the services you plan to provide. Contrary to many blogposts and articles out there that say ‘anyone can do it’, the reality is that not anyone can do it. Here are some tips that might assist you.
- You need to be prepared to work on your own in your own home office for long periods of time. If you’re used to connecting with other people every single day, face-to-face, this can be a difficult thing to do. Not everyone is comfortable with being in their own company day in and day out. But there are things you can do such as joining online networks to chat to others in your field, or join business networking groups that exist locally close to you. It’s a good thing to get out of the house regularly and mix and mingle with other people.
- If you have no business experience at all, you might want to consider doing a Virtual Assistant training course or get a VA mentor to help guide you along the way. However, it is not essential and many learn on the job – some pick up much quicker than others.
- There is no hard and fast way that you must operate your business. You can choose any or all of these options: operate on your own, join a VA forum, join a VA Network, join a VA Agency, become a member of a multi-VA team or sub-contract to an existing VA. And as you become famliar with the industry online you’ll find that there are several forums, networks and agencies to choose from and there is no reason why you only have to choose one.
- How to get clients? Speak to people, network with people, have business cards to give out, develop a signature block for your email and for discussion forums. You can’t afford to be a wallflower and shy. This is your business and you need to let people know about it, otherwise you won’t be in business for very long. Again, mixing and mingling with other business people, both online and offline at local business networking groups, will gain you much knowledge and experience in this regard. Spend time listening to others and learning about their challenges and needs and before long, you’ll hear about someone who needs your help. Step forward and make yourself known.
I can only speak from my own experience however I do feel I have a good knowledge of this industry, having seen it birth and grow since the mid 1990s. If you go it alone and not have contact with anyone else in your industry, you stand to miss out on things that will help you grow in your chosen profession. So, it makes sense to join VA forums and networks where you can mix and mingle with others, some new just like you, and others with varying degrees of experience in this field. Being mentored by an experienced VA or getting training, joining a class group and connecting with others who are working from their homes, just as you plan to, is a great way to learn on the job, learn quickly, make less mistakes and move forward faster. In fact, you don’t have to be operating as a VA to join some of the chat forums and it will give you an insight on how it works for others before you even begin. Have fun!