Glad to be back in the Land of Oz and stopping by and chatting about issues facing the VA industry. I look forward to sharing my thoughts about the questions you’ve asked and reading comments from your readers. I’ll come back and respond, if anyone has additional thoughts on these insightful topics. So, what’s first —
Why should I attend the Online International Virtual Assistance Convention (OIVAC)?
There are so many reasons to attend; and this year’s lineup of timely, relevant, business-growth and development topics is just one.
If you are interested in “techie” topics, we’ve everything from video marketing, creating membership sites, and Facebook, to managing affiliate programs, and creating WordPress Blogs, Shopping Carts and Camtasia Screencasts.
Looking for smart business topics – check out Charge What You Deserve, Marketing Plans Made Easy, Getting and Keep Clients (Part 1 and 2), VA and Client Relationships – Interview of a VA Client, Get Productive: How to Reduce Distractions and Interruptions, and much more.
But also check out some of our newest open sessions this year, such as:
International Virtual Assistants Day Celebration – our annual industry-wide celebration and awarding of the Thomas Leonard Virtual Assistant of Distinction and Janet Jordan Achievement awards.
VA Hot Seats Panel – a panel responds to specific issues in a VA’s business that are impacting their growth and development. Panel members will digest the issue and offer solutions. The VA may want to take their business in a new direction and seek advice/insight. Panel members will discuss pros/cons and offer new ideas to help the business owner achieve their goals.
Seasoned VA Panel Discussion – Panel of VAs who walk the walk, sharing their stories of success and responding to questions from attendees.
VA Trainers/Coaches/Mentors Panel – Opportunity for trainers, coaches, mentors to describe their programs and explain why a VA should enroll in their program. Floor will be open to questions from attendees.
UK VA Panel – Led by a panel of UK-based VAs, a general discussion will be conducted about issues they face and recommendations on how to increase the VA base and exposure in the UK.
Even with all of the above, a major reason to attend is because participants have an opportunity to network with VAs from around the globe, and participate in open discussion on topics unique to our industry. In addition to having the ability to pick and choose from cost-effective training taught by industry-specific experts, it’s the once-a-year opportunity where individuals from continent to continent can celebrate our contributions to small business growth and development, including our own.
There’s a lot on the web these days about being a Virtual Assistant and about training. How do I know if the training I want to do is recognised or is being provided by someone who really does know the industry?
This is a tough question, and one I am asked all the time. Yes, there are VA training programs springing up all over the globe, conducted by individuals purporting to be experienced VAs and/or coaches. In reality, many have chosen to become a trainer or coach because they ran a mediocre or even failed practice. Others are offering get rich quick scams, and aren’t qualified to offer training because of their lack of knowledge and experience. They talk the talk but haven’t walked the walk.
My recommendation is to perform your due diligence and train with VAs who have “been there-done that”, and offer training from a base of knowledge, skills and industry experience. Compare their experience and subject knowledge. Make sure they have achieved success as a VA. Do they offer a comprehensive and/or niche-specific program that will challenge you and provide hands-on learning opportunities? Is the trainer internet savvy – and utilizes tools the student should be familiar and comfortable with that can be adaptable eventually in their own businesses?
Below are additional questions to ask potential trainers/coaches:
- How long have you been a VA?
- Why are you offering a training program?
- What is your background and experience, both as a VA and an instructor?
- Ask for references, and check them out.
- Ascertain how involved the trainer is in the industry – what other contributions have they made or are they ONLY promoting/marketing their business/service?
- Do they hold any certifications?
- What is their curriculum and why are they “personally” qualified to offer the course?
You see mention of odesk, elance, etc for supplying VA jobs but all I see is that mainly overseas (Asian) VAs get the work because they charge so little? Is there room for other VAs to compete?
As in any industry, there is and will always be the spectrum/range of low to high rates. Traditionally, low rate providers compete against low rate providers and higher against high.
For some, price point may be the deciding factor in determining the amount a client is willing to pay. In other instances, price is not the the determining factor or even a major consideration. Locale, availability, quality of work, language and ability to communicate, need for high level knowledge, training and experience, etc. are more important.
The key is to differentiate you from the pack.
One way to do this is to identify tasks that are in demand and become a “Specialist VA”, becoming proficient, even expert, in those tasks and as a result able to demand a higher rate for your knowledge, skills and training.
In any case, conduct research and identify clients who appreciate what you offer and are willing to pay what you are worth and deserve! Develop innovative marketing strategies that maximize your business exposure and set you part from the competition.
Customers needing what you offer and willing to pay your rates are out there. It’s up to you to identify them, hang out where they hang out, and then differentiate yourself from the pack!
Do I need to register a business name?
Positively, at least on a local level!
Registering your name is an important step in the “becoming official” process. You want to treat your business AS A BUSINESS, and not a hobby – therefore it is makes sense to register. In addition, many governments (state/local/country) require that you register your business, for tax and liability protection purposes.
There is also another important but probably not often considered reason to register your business – to breathe life into your company – and treat it as a commitment – not only as something to do during your spare time. By registering, you announce to your family, friends and associates that “I am legit and I want my company recognized as same.” Often by registering you take a step in gaining the respect and admiration of your family and friends.
Finally and most importantly, by registering your business name, you are protecting it from being assumed by others. After you have spent time, money and effort in establishing the name and its reputation, and are ready to “officially file” for the name, you may be surprised to find it is already owned by someone else. To protect yourself and the reputation you have built, research in advance to determine if the name is already allocated and if not, spend the funds required to protect it. You won’t regret doing so.
What about saturation? There seems to be a lot of VAs out there. Can I really make my mark?
Most definitely! The Alliance for Virtual Businesses (A4VB) reports that there are at least 20,000 VAs, worldwide. Many run part-time practices. However, there are more than 20 million small and mid-size businesses with a web presence. Based on these estimates alone, there will NEVER be enough VAs to handle the demand for virtual assistants to manage client businesses and online presence. So VAs can definitely “make their mark”.
Okay Kathie, time to scoot over to the next stop. Ah, Crystal Coleman’s The Northern Edge blog is a Canadian-based VA practice. So I’ll just jump a couple of continents and trek over the border for a short stay. Everyone, come by Crystal’s and see what’s going on in Canada.
Sharon Williams is President of The 24 Hour Secretary and chair of the Online International Virtual Assistants Convention. Don’t forget to stop by OIVAC and checkout our lineup of savvy business owners. Visit the schedule and register for the Technology or Business/Marketing Tracks to propel your business to its next plateau.