Seems, these days, that if someone is between jobs, seeking to run a business but has no idea what, or has a job they hate and want to leave, the common cry is ‘Why not become a VA? Anyone can do it!’
Well, I’m here to say that’s not the case. Not everyone. It takes a special set of skills but also a mindset and I would go so far as to say, a certain personality as well.
Yes, most people can use a computer these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at it.
Yes, most people are on the internet these days, and are using social media, but that also doesn’t mean they’re good at it or know how to use it properly.
Not everyone has good keyboarding skills and I believe these are essential, no matter what program you’re using to provide a service.
I believe maturity plays a big part too, rather than age. We all know people who just don’t act their age, even when older.
Not everyone has the ability to get on with others and have the ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes – something good VAs often need to do when working with their clients.
Not everyone can cope with being home alone in their own office all day long, every day – it takes a certain kind of person (Read my past posts about the possible effects of depression when working at home).
And there is an increasing number of people worldwide (not just in this industry) who seem to lack ethics and a sense of propriety. Professionalism is an important part of running a successful business. Ultimately people need to realise that the buck stops with them – they can’t lay blame on others if something isn’t working right.
And even when you do have your act together, can handle your computer and software well, understand how to use social media (and know the difference between a profile and a page), and get along well with others, there’s still the need to be able to market your business and promote yourself, be prepared to go out and network (not just online) and be willing to constantly learn and improve your skillset – things do not stay still in this industry, or this world, for that matter.
Despite what many say out there, it’s not a get rich quick scheme, you won’t get lots of clients in a short space of time and while you can earn a full time income if you’re prepared to put in the foundations and build your business properly, it doesn’t happen in a short space of time. It can often take anywhere between 6 months to 3 years to build a full time income, depending on the services you provide and how proactive you are at building your business. If you’re fortunate to pick up 3-4 clients quickly then I agree it could be done in less time, but only few achieve this, not all. And if you only have one client but are earning a full time income – well I’m sorry, but that puts you in a virtual employee role, not a VA role. If you lost that ‘client’ you’d lose your business too.
There are so many who have barely been a VA, desperate to start taking others under their wings and teach them how to be a VA too and yet may have only handed in one, two or three tax returns themselves. There is something to be said for biding your time, waiting not only for opportunities, but also for experience to build upon so you can have solid foundations in place.
If you want to become a Virtual Assistant – that’s great! But be prepared to do your research, on what you need to do to set up, what kind of skills you may need to develop and even who you take your learning from. Make sure that whoever it is, they have walked their talk. Taking time to do things in the right way from the start should hopefully prevent a lot of heartache and frustration further down the track. Remember, not everyone is cut out to be a VA.
Kathie is the former 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.