It’s interesting to watch the commentary in various VA forums. There are those who have been in the industry a long time (like me), those who have been around between 3-5 years and those who are just learning what the industry is really about.
They come from many different avenues of life and discover the industry in many different ways. Ultimately many have had the dream of working at home for a long, long time and eventually discover that what they have been doing, or thinking of doing, is in fact a live and active industry.
So why do people still refer to the corporate world as a ‘real job’ when comparing working at home versus working in the corporate world?
I’ve been working at/from home for well over 16 years now. I know when I first started it felt a bit like I was home on a long holiday and playing on my computer, but earning money for what I enjoyed doing – wordprocessing, data entry, and other things (sick, hey?).
However, it’s not been all playtime and fun and the building of a business, any business, is a long slow haul and there are often thankless times. I, like many others, have often wondered if it’s worth it when things aren’t going the way we hoped or expected, but there have been other times when I’ve been elated and know I’m in the place I’m meant to be.
Despite articles published by those who really do have no idea about our industry, the Virtual Assistant Industry is a real profession and as such, those conducting VA practices are, in most cases, real professionals.
I’m sorry, but if you have basic typing or keyboarding skills and are fresh out of college, you really do not have the experience to become a professional Virtual Assistant. I’ve always maintained that to be a VA you should have at least 5 years working experience in the workforce before you are suitably experienced or qualified to consider setting up your own VA practice. After all, when you look at the other industries out there, how many people set up business straight after leaving uni or college? Not many, most will go and pay their dues, put in the time working in a business or practice that will let them hone their skills and learn how to manage the day-to-day complexities of running a business and servicing clients.
I believe that anyone who joins my VA Network must have that as part of the criteria for joining and I know that most other VA networks have adopted a similar criteria. This was criteria I set late 1996 after having established a membership based network earlier in the year. I could see that if I didn’t set criteria my business and network could be compromised by accepting members who really did not have the skills or experience to fit in with the rest of the team. Our clients needed to have the confidence that if they selected a member to work with, that that member was able to carry out the work required.
If you are not used to working with the public, or with teams of people, meeting deadlines and working out how to achieve certain things on your computer, then you really do need to get that experience first. Your client is your client is your client. You are not their employee and clients often get that idea because of the way some VAs have worded their websites and marketing material or even in the way they themselves speak to others and think of the work they do.
There are many leaders in the VA industry today and if you are new to the industry, then I encourage you to watch the leaders* and learn from them. Do a VA training course if you need to. Definitely join a forum, but better still 2 or 3, as you will learn something different from each one. And remember to put on that mindset that you are now a business owner in the business world, and no longer an employee of the workforce. A very different mindset and one that will serve you well.
* I define a leader as someone who has been in the industry for several years and probably provides mentoring or training or even runs a forum or network – which allows them to pass on their knowledge and experience to other VAs.