Well, it’s here! I’ve been developing an education and coaching program for virtual assistants over the past few months, well, since before Christmas. It’s been on the drawing board for around 3-4 years and has been one of those projects that just kept being put aside. But time moves on and I get many requests seeking advice, help, support, mentoring, coaching, etc these days so I decided it was time I did something about it. Whilst there are a number of VA education and coaching programs available today, there were none yet based in the southern hemisphere and so this is the first! But the geographic location of the trainer has no bearing whatsoever on who can apply for the course and full details can be seen at VA Trainer.
There is lots written about the benefits of being a Virtual Assistant and particularly of working at home. You read articles, see photos of healthy looking people running on the beach, playing ball with their kids, driving a flashy car, or sitting under a tree with their laptop.
The reality is very different – not unenjoyable, otherwise I wouldn’t still be in a home office over 12 years down the track. But, I don’t get the time to run on the beach, my kids grew up with mum at home, usually in the office, I don’t drive a flashy car and I don’t usually sit under a tree with my laptop – nice thought though!
I love what I do with a passion, and I love that technology has allowed me to combine home and family life with having a very worthwhile career, and one that has been very rewarding. But the reality is that I spend a lot of time in my office – not outdoors. It takes a certain type of person to commit to doing this. You need to be comfortable with your own company and not having lots of people around you. You need to be comfortable with the quiet of the household (I always have a radio on but love that I’m totally alone). You need to be comfortable with your ability to troubleshoot when the computer and printer don’t want to talk to one another and you have to get that job finished before the post office closes. But there is something else… you need to watch your shadow – because it grows!
I’m sure my shadow used to be a lot thinner than it is, in fact I know it was 10 years ago. But it gradually grew wider and one day I looked in the mirror and found that I had too. It’s that constant sitting down in front of the computer, just a few more minutes, just one more email, just one more job. A lack of going out for a walk – even though it’s nice outside. A quick trip to the fridge or cupboard to grab something that just needs a wrapper pulled off it as I don’t want to spend the time preparing something.
When I first began my business I had good intentions. I even walked down to the train station sometimes to meet my husband and walk back with him. But somewhere along the line it just got easier to hop in the car to meet him – think it may have been when he injured his achilles tendon a few years ago and we just never got back to doing the other. He works in the city in the office and although he moves from meeting room to meeting room, and building to building, he also has discovered how his shadow has grown. So, together, we are now encouraging one another with exercise, watching what each other eats and generally ‘buddy’ one another into a healthier lifestyle. But there is more that can be done and I’ve told you previously about a group that has been developed for that reason. So, if you struggle to look after yourself and need some encouragement, why not check out DiVAs, join in the virtual walks and swims and plan to get healthy again! KMT
When first starting out, one of the things a new VA needs to know is how much to charge for the services they will provide? And it’s not always easy trying to work this out. Will they charge too much, will they charge not enough? What are others charging?
And so, it’s not uncommon to see this question being asked via VA forums. But it’s not an easy one to answer either, because there are some things to consider, for example:
- What typing speed do they have, if the bulk of their work will involve typing?
- How much experience in their service provision have they had?
- How efficient are they at carrying out their job?
- What is the cost of living like in their geographic location?
And there will be other considerations too, but let’s start with these. In planning to adopt the rates that someone else has established, it means you could be under- or over-charging, depending on your own capabilities, and your geographic location. There are areas considered to be ‘low class’ and would therefore not attract high rates for services provided and then there are the ‘high class’ areas that would command much higher rates due to the cost of living.Â Not to mention all the places in between – which is probably where most of us are. Someone who works slowly would take much longer to complete a job than another who is much faster. It would be unfair to charge the client the same rate – the client would be penalised by paying a larger sum for a slower job.
And so how do VAs choose rates that are right for them? You could look around at similar services to your’s in localities close by to get a general idea – some of these you may find online, or you may need to ring up and ask for a copy of their rates. Not all will willingly give it – especially if they know you are competition. But there are formulas that can be used to help establish the rates and these can be found in books about the industry or perhaps a sheet that can be purchased.
I work with a formula that was adopted from an engineering consultant’s magazine many years ago and it basically begins with the going corporate annual income for your level of expertise in your area, and dividing the number of your work hours into that. There is a lot more that needs to be considered, for example, how many working hours are there (total year minus public holidays, leave break, etc) and then you need to consider sick leave, superannuation and so on – the formula works through these items in detail.
So, as you can see, there is some thought that needs to be put in, to ensure that you are charging rates that are right for you, based on your experience, skill and location. Not only that, you need to be sure you are covering your expenses: computer, software, printing costs, internet connection, insurances, taxation – all of these are tax deductible expenses. KMT
I recently became a board member for a new group for Virtual Assistants. This group was developed for a very different reason to the existing forums. It is recognised that there is a downside to working at home – and that is the lack of exercise and increased tendency to just snack through the day. If you have been a Virtual Assistant for more than 6 months you’ll know what I’m talking about.
I love being at home and wouldn’t swap it for anything but I have to admit that I have definitely put weight on and the lack of exercise has been because I’m reluctant to go out – I love it in my home and my office very much. Just over a year ago I joined Weight Watchers and my husband and I invested in a treadmill and exercise bike at Christmas time – both of these things have assisted in my losing 2/3 of the weight I’d put on in a 10 year period. But it is important to have ‘buddies’ to check in with regularly to help you keep on track with your weight loss, healthy eating, exercise and generally healthy lifestyle. So, enter DiVAs.
Virtual DiVAs was formed to help female professionals and entrepreneurs who work online to adopt a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. It is their mission to help each other achieve great success in life without sacrificing the things that really count: health, happiness and family.
Virtual DiVAs is hosting its first “Open House” event, a free Skypecast/”Girl’s Night Out” on Wednesday, June 28th at 7:00PM EST. The Virtual DiVAs and Gillian Hood-Gabrielson, an Intuitive Eating Coach and President of Healthier Outcomes, have collaborated to stage this special event to impact the lives and health of virtual women professionals. Gillian specializes in helping women entrepreneurs overcome emotional eating in order to achieve their natural weight.
The Open House event, our Group H.U.G., features Gillian’s teleclass, “5 Steps to Break Out of Diet Prison”. Connect with other women professionals and learn how to gain better control of your health during this exciting, complimentary event. Why not register at: http://www.virtualdivas.org/EventRegistration.html? You are also welcome to refer additional guests to this event, while space is available.
As probably happens to many VAs (or for that matter, any business operator) whose websites are easily located, I get requests asking me if I would promote something, refer someone, or give work to someone. This morning’s request was of the middle agenda and here is what was sent to me:
My name is Joe (withheld) I am with a company called (withheld).
We would like to do some business with your Consulting firm.
Let me explain the help we need.
1. Your company and my company are always looking for new business clients.
2. We need help with business referral assistance.
2. Help us with business referrals and we will pay you a Monthly Fee of $195.00.
5. All we ask is that you write us a ONE-TIME Reference Letter, so we can use this letter to solicit new business It’s that simple.
If you’re interested please let me know and I’ll send you the remaining details.
I eagerly look forward to your reply.
With Kind Regards,
It didn’t take me long to decide to decline his request and this was my answer:
Sorry Joe, but we can’t do this. A number of reasons:
1. We get lots of requests from lots of people – I would spend more time doing this than actually getting work done.
2. You’re sending from an aol address – why aren’t you using your company address?
3. When we do referrals we only do them for people we already have established a working relationship with and therefore, have some experience and knowledge of. How can we possibly refer someone we don’t know anything about? It means putting our reputation on the line.
Hope you understand.
Whilst I could have researched the company name he gave me I’m not sure I want to spend the time doing that. His signature block told me nothing but his name and that his role is ‘vice president’. No website, no contact details other than the aol email address in the message and that was all. It will be interesting to see if he responds.
What his email was telling me was that he didn’t want to reveal who he really is, hence the aol address, or his business is not yet up and running and he’s not yet invested in his own domain. He wants to build his business quickly, without putting in the foundations required, and is looking for others who have already developed an online presence so he can use their reputation for building his business. Or perhaps he’s looking for something else that I may not want to know anything about.
In a day and age of being able to get things done quickly people seem to have forgotten the need to learn things properly, for putting in the groundwork and establishing oneself, especially in business. No-one develops a good reputation overnight, it has to be built over time, step-by-step. Knowing good people in business helps – in spending time with them you can learn from them and emulate them (mentoring is one such way for this to happen) but it still means putting in the hard work and laying the foundations yourself. When people see the evidence of that they are more likely to accept a request for help – from someone they already have some knowledge of or can get that information fairly quickly.
One of the best ways to do that is to find business networks in your industry or target client base industry (perhaps both!) and spend time getting to know people, attending meetings (either physically or virtually), assisting where needed and generally getting people to notice you exist. KMT