I belong to a number of VA groups, as I’m sure many of VAs do too. One of the things that saddens me is seeing (desperate) posts from some almost begging for work from other VAs. Usually it means something has happened in their life and now suddenly it’s become urgent. Often they’ve been a VA for awhile but have just been coasting along.
As most of you know I’ve been doing this line of business for over 20 years and I have to tell you that yes, I’ve had desperate times, especially in my earlier days. I lost a major client after 2 years of working with them (new committee came on board and they had different ideas in how they wanted to operate). They were a (very) large part of my income and I’d become complacent in continuing to seek other clients. Another time my husband had a heart attack and I just dropped everything – literally everything – as I spent time going back and forth to the hospital twice a day for a few weeks and having to manage a family of 5 school children too. A crazy time. When I went to get back into activity again my clients had moved on and I had to start over again (honestly, what did I expect?).
I learnt that it’s important to ALWAYS be ‘filling the funnel’, always be out there networking (yes, it is necessary to be mixing and mingling with other business people), always be promoting and marketing your business. You can never depend on your current client base to always be there with you. Clients die (yep, have had that happen), move on (yep, have had that happen), retire (ditto), lose their businesses (ditto) and so it goes on. You never know what’s around the corner and while it would be nice to think you can depend on your fellow VAs to help you fill the gap with extra work, the reality is that isn’t going to happen very often.
However, they will fill the gap when you have to step back, when there’s illness, trauma, a holiday or something else happening that means you can’t work in your business for awhile, you can always depend on those you’ve gotten to know to help look after your clients for you.
If you know that stopping in your business for a few weeks, or if your partner loses their job you’re going to be struggling financially, then you must always be working at building your business more and more. Today, not tomorrow, not next week but every day.
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.