Experienced VAs give advice to newbies

Advice for newbies from experienced VAs

If you’re still in the setting-up phase of your Virtual Assistant business wouldn’t it be great to receive some personal advice from established VAs who have walked the path before you? I mean, imagine how helpful it would be to hear some words of wisdom, get some pointers and find out what the best course of action would be? Oh wait… there is!

Advice for newbies from experienced Virtual Assistants

“I would say start networking as soon as you can. It helps with confidence, focusing on what support you’re offering and can get you work and referrals. It can be a slow burner so the sooner you get out there the better.

I have got 90% of my work through networking.”


Start networking. A lot of my business comes that way. Don’t say you can do something if you can’t in the hope of getting business. Be patient and use the time when you don’t have any work to work on you – look at all the online platforms and play around with them so you are confident if someone asks you to work on say, MailChimp. Read. Do courses.”


“Make sure you have the money to buy a proper contract to use with clients, make sure you have insurance in place if needed, make sure you are registered with the ICO (if in the UK) and make sure you register with HMRC if in the UK too. Get some method of tracking your business expenses and keep all your receipts.

Oh, and get a contract ready for that first client! I found it just easier to buy the brill stuff I needed from your website, Joanne. What I’m saying I guess, is get your own business admin and record-keeping in place right from the start because it makes your self-assessment easier if you don’t have an Accountant.”


“1. At some point you will have done as much learning and preparation that you can. The only thing left to do is to take the leap and dive right in.
2. You will always keep changing your business processes and refining them as you get more experienced. Some pieces of software or processes will no longer work and it’s okay to refresh them. And there is no “perfect” software solution!
3. Be brave and talk to your clients ask them stuff if they haven’t given you enough information to do a task.
4. Marketing is a job for life when you’re a VA (or any type of business that you run yourself). Invest and learn how to do it right.
5. Networking is scary if you haven’t done it before. But it will help you grow quicker. Don’t go with the intention of getting work from the people you’re meeting. Go with the desire to learn and listen. Be helpful and be memorable. You’ll soon start getting referrals. It’s not a quick win and it takes time to build a reputation.
6. Other VA’s will become your allies. Make friends with them, connect and share. No one will ever understand your business as another VA does.”


“Just get your ducks in something resembling a row and start doing client work! And my other piece of advice would be to nail a 30-second elevator pitch and use it to tell everyone that you already know, what you are doing.

Word of mouth referrals are like gold.”


“As a newbie who has just signed my first client, I found making connections with and meeting up with other local VAs really useful as you can ask questions you may not wish to ask online for fear of feeling stupid!

Spend time getting your head around GDPR regulations. Get your business cards and a networking sheet ready to take to events, and tell everyone you know what you’re doing.


“Don’t do any work for anyone until you’ve got a signed contract!”


“Good is good enough! Don’t wait for everything to be perfect or you’ll never get started. Someone wise told me about our Inner Critic. Have a serious talking with them because they are stopping you from achieving what you want! Finally, write down all the reasons why someone should hire you and what you can do to help them – and believe it.”


“Don’t give your time for free. Nobody expects this. Log your time, log what you do.

Backup constantly on a cloud running in the background always. Make another Pendrive backup daily (or more). Always tell your clients the time it took by rounding up. If 25 minutes then it’s 30.

Your time is a paid-for service. Keep that in mind.”


“Believe in yourself! Be confident! Everyone is scared, you just need to turn the fear into excitement and go for it.”


“Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing, remember to ask lots of questions, be prepared to make mistakes (make sure you learn from them) and know when to tweak something to make it work better.”


“Be patient it does take time and hard work. When you feel a bit despondent, don’t give up it really is worth it.”


“Like many others here, I advise you not to give up. If you give up, you will never get to appreciate the end result, which is you working for yourself. If things aren’t working then tweak what you’re doing or form/join an accountability group. Two heads are better than one and someone else might be able to help you see where you may be going wrong.”


“Take any courses you can even if it’s to refresh your skills. Network, network, network. Be organised and be patient… they will come.”


“Use as many free systems as possible; you don’t have to spend a fortune on software to do a good job!”


“No one can do this for you – you HAVE to put the work in, yourself. It can be a bit overwhelming and scary, learning how to think and act like a business owner, especially if you spent years in an employee mindset, but it’s so rewarding to look back on how far you’ve come.”


“Stay calm, stop procrastinating and don’t wait for “perfect”. Do Jo’s DIY VA course and network (for this you have to take the bull by the horns and just do it because it works!)”


“Just provide top-class service and you will always be busy! Follow-up and never take no for an answer. Ask for help and advice from fellow VAs.”


This Facebook group and Jo’s website is invaluable for learning (and free if you can’t afford the courses!) so make the most of it as I did! And most of all, have confidence in yourself that you CAN do it because if you do, everyone else will!”


“You can read and read and read and spend lots of time preparing, but at some point, you just have to take that leap. Yep, it’s scary as hell but you have to bite the bullet because you cannot cover every possible scenario.”


“Buy Jo’s initial client consultation document. I used this a lot at the start and I still do. And if you don’t know how to handle something a client is asking, you don’t have to give an answer straight away. Say “yes that’s great I’ll take that away and get back to you on that one”. Don’t feel like you have to answer on the spot.”


“I would have charged more and been a bit more ruthless with my initial clients as I gave them more of a service than they were actually paying for.

It took me about two years to really focus on my business rather than building up other people’s.”


“If I knew then what I know now I’d have been more selective with the type of work I offered and would have narrowed my niche in order to target those I really want to work with a lot sooner.”


“I would have had more confidence in general – I’ve learned that it’s ok to turn down work you don’t want or say no to potential clients who you think would be a nightmare. And that I do know my stuff, I just have to believe I myself!”


“Don’t be afraid to suggest ways that clients can change/improve their business. A lot of people who use VAs do so because they are lacking in the tech skills needed to streamline their business. It’s often a welcome suggestion and can lead to more work for you (and you become invaluable to their business along the way!).”


“Get into the mindset of talking to yourself as you would a best friend. Be supportive, give yourself compassion even make yourself laugh if you have to! Mental resilience will be your strongest weapon because it’s not an easy road but the rewards are priceless!

If you want to be the best at what you do, you absolutely have to invest in yourself.

I’m by no means the most successful freelancer I know but I wouldn’t be even close to where I am now if I didn’t invest in books, courses, training and time to commit to learning and growth.”


“Don’t try to learn everything because you may never need it. Start to get clients and learn as you go. Things may seem to be moving slowly or not at all but keep putting in the work because they are moving in the right direction.”


“Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you. Always think “what’s the worse that can happen?”


“Remember you CHOSE to be your own boss. So don’t let anyone boss you around. That’s probably why you went freelance in the first place so stick to your guns and don’t do anything you don’t want to or that makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s fine to say no (and it gets easier!).


“Never quit, keep going and it will all come together! Oh and network like mad the first year!”


“Discipline yourself – that applies to staying focused on tasks, setting goals each day/week, setting boundaries and sticking to them, keeping true to yourself and your skills.”


“My best piece of advice looking back is not to try and do everything at once when setting up. Take one thing at a time and do it well. For months I jumped around from one task to the next and not really getting anything done as I had so many ideas and questions in my head. As soon as I focused and had a plan (thanks to Jo’s DIY VA Course) I was set up and at capacity in weeks!

Basically, have a plan, stick to it and don’t overthink it.”


“Don’t stop believing! (Now there’s a song!!) Sometimes you feel like you’re getting nowhere or going round in circles but actually, when you take time to look back, it’s amazing how far you’ll have come and lessons learned along the way.”


“Discipline and the ability to work in isolation. I am more than happy in my own company but some have said to me they would miss the colleague banter and office environment.”


Set boundaries and manage expectations in terms of availability and turnaround right from the beginning and don’t be tempted to break those rules as your clients will soon expect you to flex to their every need/whim/demand.”


“I was terrified to take the leap. I had been contemplating it for months and didn’t think my husband would support my decision, but he knew how miserable I was at my job, and he told me to go for it. Actually, terrifying doesn’t even begin to describe it. I was losing hair and sleep over this decision, and for a couple of months afterwards! I was always thinking about it, and even though I was thrilled to not have to go to “work” anymore, it was just such a huge adjustment.

I still have days where I doubt myself (don’t we all?), but things have improved, and here we are, almost a year later, sans “job” and we haven’t gone bankrupt. I’m not quite where I want to be yet, but it’s starting to happen – my latest client is trying to hook me up with other clients, without my even asking! I’m getting there though and I couldn’t be happier.

The best piece of advice I got was from Jo, “put your big girl pants on and get on with it.” No one can do it for you, and yes it’s scary as hell, but it’s so worth it.

One of my favourite quotes is, “If it was meant to be easy, everyone would be doing it.” Scary or not, it’s extremely rewarding to be your own boss.”


“It takes time and perseverance. Going to just one networking event will not bring in the hoards, you have to work at it. NETWORK, but be choosy about which ones you go to – try a few out and remember that you don’t have to go to everything!

Don’t work for free because you are “new”. You have the skills so charge for it. Ask questions and finally… buy those big girl/boy pants in a multi-pack because you will need them!”


“Theoretically, being a VA should be perfect. Work from wherever you want, with the people you want, when you want, doing what you want. Awesome! And it really IS great a lot of the days.

But there are days when you are stumped with a request, need more money, don’t have enough time, the internet is wonky, have grumpy clients who want the moon and are irritated when you don’t deliver.

Those days suck but at VERY least, you can take five minutes to pet your cat, take a walk, or take two hours to see a movie, get some perspective and dig in.

Remember that everything is balance. I have about a hundred more tips but here’s one that always bears repeating – keep growing and refining your skills, don’t assume that 2 or 10 or 20 years in an office will give you all you need to be a VA. Tech is never-ending so stay on top of it.

And don’t undercharge. Really. Don’t.”


“Don’t offer every skill under the sun (this is something Jo mentions in one of her articles) because people get confused. Cut it down to a few services, try your hand at a few things, you may be surprised at what you actually can do and take joy in doing too.

Try to go into a shared office hub once a week, and ideally one with a lot of female entrepreneurs (lucky here in Melbourne I go to one which is solely for female entrepreneurs). It is great to get you out of isolation and more than likely you will pick up a few clients as we all love to support one another.

Don’t get hung up on having the latest equipment. I still work on my laptop which is now five years old. It is on its last legs, but it’s gotten me this far and I am so grateful I didn’t have to fork anything out equipment-wise when I started. Whatever you have to start with, will do just fine.

I won’t lie, it gets extremely tough sometimes, mentally and financially but don’t give up. Reach out to people, and be honest about it. I received so much support from people I never expected because they loved what I was doing and wanted to help me on my way.

It’s the best thing I ever did. EVER.

I wouldn’t change it for the world. To hear my clients say I have made their lives run so much smoother, how I bring joy to their days and they couldn’t have grown their businesses without me is the biggest satisfaction!”

Takeaways

As you can see there are a few clear themes in their advice:

  • Build relationships (it’s called marketing and it’s not as scary as you think!)
  • Keep learning and investing in your professional development – but always earn and then learn.
  • Don’t try to offer everything to everyone.
  • Set boundaries and be disciplined – both with yourself and your clients.
  • Stay true to your business model. You call the shots so don’t compromise what you want.
  • Charge what you’re worth. Don’t undervalue your skills and experience.
  • Don’t wait for ‘perfect’. Just focus on one thing at a time and take it step-by-step – but START!
  • It’s not an easy journey but it’s incredibly rewarding and it’s worth it because you’re the one who reaps the rewards.
  • No one can do it for you. If you want to work for yourself then you have to take action and actually do it or it will never happen.

Looking to become a VA?

If this post has motivated you to set up your own VA business then check out my DIY VA course and get started today!

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5 Comments

NANCY N. LOPEZ

Please advise what are the legit companies that offer on-line courses on Virtual Assistance

Reply
Mary Joy Brozas

Wow! I am so thankful for this post. I have only started working as a VA since May this year and most of the time I overthink. Thanks again for helping me get clarity!

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Katrina

This is my second week in my job as a new virtual assistant and this is helpful. Thank you.

Reply
John Obi

I am highly encouraged and motivated with the above testimonials. Certainly, I can do it!!!

Reply

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