If you’re still in the setting-up phase of your VA business wouldn’t it be great to receive some personal advice from established Virtual Assistants 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 new Virtual Assistants from experienced VAs
When you first discover that Virtual Assistants exist you’re filled with excitement.
“OMG – this is actually something I can do… I’d be AWESOME at this. Let me start researching to find out how I can become one.”
Then you start reading and your head explodes.
There is so much information out there. You kinda understand how it works and what you need to do but some honest pointers would be really handy.
You could just invest in my DIY VA course and have me hold your hand throughout the entire setup process, but if you’re not quite ready to do that, advice from some established Virtual Assistants who have been there and done that is the next best thing.
My VA Handbookers Facebook group is full of successful Virtual Assistants from around the world and this is their advice for those just starting out on their freelance journey:
“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 and register with the ICO and HMRC if you live in the UK. Track your business expenses and keep 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.”
“My advice for new Virtual Assistants is:
1. At some point you will have done as much learning and preparation as 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 VAs will become your allies. Make friends with them, connect and share. No one will ever understand your business like 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 Virtual Assistants 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 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 talk 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. Back up constantly to the cloud. 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 as 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.”
“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 are invaluable for learning 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’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!”
“My advice for new Virtual Assistants is don’t be afraid to suggest ways that clients can change or 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.”
“My advice for new VAs is 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 for new Virtual Assistants 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 didn’t really get 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.”
“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 Virtual Assistant 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, or you have grumpy clients who want the moon and are irritated when you don’t deliver.
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.
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 hands-down 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!”
As you can see, there are some clear themes in the established VAs advice for new Virtual Assistants:
- Keep learning and be sure to invest in your professional development. However, I always recommend you earn and then learn. Just start your VA business then learn more about things that interest you as you go along. Here are a ton of free or low-cost learning resources to help you.
- Don’t try to offer everything to everyone. My post on how to decide what VA services to offer will give you some pointers.
- Set boundaries and be disciplined – both with yourself and your clients.
- Don’t work without a contract. My legal docs were created specifically for VAs by an international contracts lawyer and are updated and resent to buyers free of charge any time the law changes.
- Stay true to your business model. You call the shots so don’t compromise what you want or else you may as well just remain employed.
- Charge what you’re worth. Don’t undervalue your skills and experience. Check out my post on how to set your Virtual Assistant rates if you’re not sure what to charge.
- Don’t wait for ‘perfect’. Just focus on one thing at a time, take it step-by-step – and START!
- It’s not an easy journey but it’s incredibly rewarding. It’s worth the effort because you’re the one who reaps the rewards of your hard work.
- No one can do it for you. If you want to work for yourself then you have to take action. You need to stop talking about it and actually get on and do it!
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!