First check out my 27 Tips for getting started as and maintaining your virtual assistant business at http://bit.ly/VAtips
After reading this, please feel free to ask me a question through my website that helps VAs at http://www.2minuteswithava.com
—- Original Message —-
Sure, I can take some time to talk to you. The first thing you need to know that being a VA takes time. Time to organize yourself and, most of all, time to gather clients. It takes some people months to see their first client, and a year to see the second one. I tell you this so you have realistic expectations. I was lucky, I knew people that knew people that knew people. The vast majority of my work is referral business now, and always has been. However, my largest client came me through a VA Association (IVAA) – they were just browsing and found me there.
The first thing I would tell you to do is try to find an IVAA VA Connection in you area. It’s basically a group of VAs in an area that get together to talk, network and share ideas. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to see if there’s one in your area. There you can speak with VAs who are just starting out, those that have been doing it for a while, as well as people that are looking for more information, such as yourself. There’s no cost to come, except the cost of your meal (and there’s no selling of IVAA either, they sometimes hand out pens and stuff, but no pressure at all)
The other important thing is read everything you can get your hands on. IVAA.org is one of the best organizations out there (I may be biased, I am a past president). The also are the only non-profit one out there. I would encourage you to join as an emerging member and gain as much information as you can from seasoned veterans, if you know you are starting up quickly, go ahead and pay for the regular membership so you have access to the RFPs and get listed in the directory.
Another wonderful resource is VAnetworking.com – Take time to read through the posts, there is a wealth of information out there. Join the VAinsider Club as soon as you can. This one is run by Tawnya Sutherland out of Vancouver and Tawnya has been one of the most amazing influences of my career. She gives so much to the industry and is such an amazing resource. I will say I’m biased here too because I am an administrator and I truly believe in what Tawnya has built. Check it out.
If you are in Texas, we have a state-based organization called Texas Virtual Assistance League (TexVAL for short). You can find more information at http://www.texval.com. Again, I admit to being biased because I run this one.
There are other VA organizations and message boards, of course, but these are the two that I have gained the most information from and find to be the friendliest. You can find a list of 25 things to do there at http://www.vanetworking.com/images/pdfs/VANAinfo.pdf– it’s all FREE.
Look into the book Entrepreneurial Freedom – even though I read it 4 years after I started my business I still came away with a lot of good info. It really is a great book!
Look into the Virtual Business Startup System – I’ve heard great things about it! You can get a free 48 page sample by going to http://www.vanetworking.com/media-kit/pdfs/VBSS-sample.pdf
If you are just looking at becoming a VA or are starting to take those first steps, a must-read book is Virtual Assistant: The Series by Diana Ennen and Kelly Poelker. It has some very basic information about VAs – and it has numerous quotes from the leading VAs in the world.
As far as how feasible it is… it depends on if you can afford to just chuck the job and go for it. I would go on the assumption that you will have no cash flow (in fact, negative cash flow) from your business for the first 6 to 12 months AT LEAST, you can probably say 1-2 years even. It takes time to grow a business. Figure out what you spend on daycare, work clothing, gas, lunches out, all that good stuff and see if you can do it. If not, consider looking into a part time position elsewhere, if you can swing it.
Kids: Both of my kids are now in school and it can be bliss. I get so much more done during the day – but before that I will tell you, it’s hard working from a home office sometimes. There were days when it seemed like I never got anything done. I have an 9 and 6 year old now and my husband recently stopped working for me full time to pursue his career in teaching. He works with me part time as my in-house tech support guy for our servers and various moving parts. He was full time while he’s was going to back to school. I am extremely proud that my business not only allowed him to return to school and quit his job, but also we managed to get financing for two cars and a house. Be prepared to work around your kid’s schedule and to take clients that can accommodate your schedule. For instance, because I could never guarantee that Sesame Street wouldn’t be on or there won’t be a kid screaming for a cookie, I don’t take telephone answering clients (plus it’s not my bag). In the past, we also had a personal assistant that comes in part-time to help with the filing, errands, etc. The good news is that you are the boss and you get to make the rules.
As for getting clients, that’s the hard part! Talk to everyone you know and meet about your business, have some really good, quality business cards printed up (shout out to 48hourprint.com and overnightprints.com) and hand them out generously. Attend local networking events. There is, of course the Chamber of Commerce and BNI (bni.com) but there are other ones too if you look. When you get a client and they like your work, get a testimonial and ask for referrals. Referral/word-of-mouth marketing is the absolute best marketing there is. I also look on craigslist.org and other “job boards” from time to time and email the poster about my services. Don’t be shy… get out there!
Having said that, it’s the best move I’ve ever made in my life. Actually, I didn’t even know I was a VA. After my first child was born I knew I didn’t want to work anymore so I started paving the way to open my own bookkeeping firm. What I found was that a lot of those clients also needed help from time to time with clerical stuff, so I called myself a “bookkeeper that also does admin stuff sometimes” 😉 I actually found out about the VA industry from a VA in Dallas when she held a VA Connection here in Austin.
There is absolutely nothing better than being able to take a long lunch and have a picnic with the kids at the park. Or cut out early and go to the pool. Or just take a break and do a craft project with the kids. Or head to lunch with a friend on the spur of the moment. I love it. It’s hard work balancing it all, a real challenge, but it’s worth every single minute.
I hope that helps…