I became aware of discussion about an article regarding Moonlighting as a VA. I haven’t seen the original article but did see the comments and hope that the writers will see my post as I’m unable to leave a comment on the site where I saw them.
I’ve been running a Virtual Assistant practice for over 18 years now. It wasn’t called that when I started, we were known as home-based secretaries in those days. The challenges in those days may have been more difficult as we didn’t have the Internet to let people know about our services and we had to depend very much on word-of-mouth marketing and paid advertising. While the ‘competition’ may be greater today I do believe that people starting up new businesses really do have it much easier in many, many ways. Why? Because so many have trodden the path before them and have laid the tracks and written about what is required to run a VA business. Me, included, I have many posts at this blog alone (almost 800) as well as published articles elsewhere.
When people start a business, whether it’s ‘on the side’ or straight out, there is homework to be done and preparations to put into place. It is important you know what kind of services you are going to offer so you can confidently talk about them to anyone you meet but you also need to have some idea of what you’ll charge, and even the type of client you would like to service. Knowing the type of client will often give you a clue where to go find them.
The first writer indicated she spent more money than was coming in to set up her business, but the reality is that it takes a good 2-3 years of being in business before you actually begin to make a profit. You are going to have to spend money setting up your business with business cards, a website, flyers if you wish to use them, and if you choose a business name you might also want a logo. Neither are necessary but many prefer to do this to develop their identity or ‘brand’ as a business operator. Not to mention registering a business, securing a tax accountant and if you live in an area that requires it, a business licence. Plus insurances and so it goes on. This is not something to enter into blindly or lightly.
She also mentioned she marketed heavily but doesn’t actually say what methods she used. It’s possible she was doing things that really weren’t going to help her in business but I really can’t tell.
The second writer reads like she has got access to good information and is learning from those who can help educate her to run a business.
The last writer mentioned a newspaper article that talked about outsourcing to VAs in developing countries at a very cheap rate. This can indeed be discouraging news to read if you aren’t confident in your own abilities, including setting up a business.
I do believe it’s important to believe in yourself and have confidence in your own abilities. There will always be clients who shop on price only but then there will be others who prefer to work with those they’ve met personally, or those they feel the connect with, or those who are in the location of where they wish to do business. Or perhaps they’ve been referred to the VA. It is worrying when someone reads an article and then doesn’t go do some research for themselves to check the facts. Google searches for ‘Virtual Assistant’ bring up over 13million results. And on that first page of Google is one of the industry’s most prominent NFP organisations, IVAA.org. Other organisations show up as well as links to very well read articles about the industry.
It seems to me that if you want to become a Virtual Assistant, getting advice from those who are already successfully doing it is the way to go. Learn from them via VA chat forums, mix and mingle with those who have been operating as a VA for several years, get some VA training if you feel you need it, even get an accreditation. Finding clients is always a challenge but once you’re learned where and how to find them, it gets much easier and after that it’s up to you, to keep them.
You can also get training from many sources to provide a number of services. In celebration of VAClassroom turning 4 years old they are throwing an Anniversary Special – save 25% on their course selection.