This is a question I see from time to time in VA forums from new VAs struggling to work out what they should be offering and how to attract clients. Personally, sometimes I think the focus on ‘niches’ gets in the way of people starting up their businesses and here are my thoughts.
Can I tell you I never had a niche when I started over 23 years ago? I just did whatever was needed, typing, data entry, minutes of meetings, bookkeeping, phone answering. Whatever I could do. It was three years before a niche came to me. Yes, it came to me.
A lady contacted me to find out if I would be interested in running the Secretariat for their not-for-profit organisation as the person doing it was leaving them. They’d heard about me from someone else. I went for an interview with the committee and they took me on board.
I was doing something like 10-15 hours a week for them. That was the start of something new for me but utilised all the things I had been doing – typing, taking minutes of meetings, data entry and managing membership databases, promoting events via email and so on. Today that also includes maintaining websites, social media and broadcast emails through Mailchimp. I no longer work with that group but was with them for 3 years and have since worked with several NFP groups in the past 20 years. I have 20 years’ experience as a Secretariat operator! Who would have thought that when I started? Not me! The NFPs have been in the medical industry (pedorthists and palliative care), o/seas business councils (South Africa and Malaysia), an organisation dedicated to arborists, another I provide social media support to a group for independent contractors in our country, and so on. Some I provide 15 hours a month service, and others less. In fact, before I started my business full time, I was operating the office for the Institute of Professional Secretaries Australia (IPSA) not even guessing that is what I would end up providing as a professional service operator.
I know people promote ‘get a niche, get a niche’ but sometimes you just have to start with what you know. And that’s what I did. Today I have a couple of niches – NFPs and also Professional Speakers/Business Coaches because they all need the same type of service offering.
A niche can be a set of services OR can be a particular industry. For me it’s about industries that need what I have been doing all along. What is it you know best and can offer as a service? There may just be an industry out there waiting for you.
Kathie is the owner of VA Directory and is former past President of the Australian VA Association. She founded the Virtual Assistant industry in Australia in the mid 90s, having already been operating a home-based secretarial service. Today the VA industry covers a multitude of office-based services for clients worldwide.