If you’re still in the setting-up phase 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… what? There is?!
Advice 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.”
“Take any courses you can even if it’s to refresh your skills. Network, network, network. Be organised and be patient… they will come.”
“Start networking. A lot of my business comes that way. Don’t say you can do something if you can’t at 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 an invoice template 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.”
“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!”
“I set up a website first so I could direct potential new clients and ex-colleagues to it. I worked on updating my LinkedIn profile with Luan Wise and in-between messaged everyone I could possibly think of to tell them my plans on email and social media.
To help me gain experience I signed up with an agency part time so I’d have a small amount of initial income. I still do some work with them now even tho I now have six clients of my own.”
“Believe in yourself! Be confident! Everyone is scared, you just need to turn the fear into excitement and go for it.”
“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, 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.”
“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!”
“Use as many free systems as possible; you don’t have to spend a fortune on software to do a good job!”
“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.”
“Agree with all these great comments! 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!”
“I think I would start my business years earlier and go back and make my first website way better.”
“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.”
“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 let the fear of the unknown stop you. Always think “what’s the worse that can happen?”
“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.”
“Be STRONG Even when the going gets TOUGH!!”
“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.”
“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 a 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 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. Even though I work more 24/7 than 9 to 5, I love it. 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!”
As you can see there are a few clear themes in their advice. Themes which I very much agree with.
- Build relationships (it’s called networking and marketing!)
- Keep learning and investing in your professional development
- Don’t try to offer everything to everyone
- Be disciplined – both with yourself and clients
- Stay true to your business model. You call the shots so don’t compromise
- Charge what you’re worth. Don’t undervalue or undersell your skills
- Don’t wait for ‘perfect’ and don’t jump around all over the place. just focus on one thing at a time and take it step-by-step – but START!
- Don’t give up. It’s hard but it’s totally worth it