Setting up your own Virtual Assistant business may seem like hard work, but I’m sorry to tell you that it’s actually the easy part. Being a good VA isn’t simply about helping someone with their admin, a large number of personal qualities are required to be a successful business owner and you should be aware of what they are before you start.
I’ve been shocked by many of the stories I’ve heard from clients, new enquiries and VAs who are looking to hire associates and can’t find one who passes muster.
I’ve heard stories of VAs who fail to deliver on time (or at all), who don’t keep their clients updated on the status of tasks and who constantly keep checking back with their clients when their job is to get on with a task they say they can do and are being paid a lot of money to do.
Here are some of the most important qualities required of every top-notch Virtual Assistant.
A good Virtual Assistant is:
Being unreliable seems to be the most common of all the problems. A number of clients have told me they’ve been let down by flaky VAs who messed them about, didn’t report back on their progress, or simply didn’t deliver it at all. Sometimes they’d given their new VA a brief and then… nothing.
The VA just disappeared. Sometimes the VA had even taken a retainer payment upfront and then vanished. This kind of behaviour not only gives the Virtual Assistance industry a bad name but the next VA the client hires will face suspicion and doubt.
I even know people who say they will never hire a VA again because they’ve had such a bad experience.
Professionalism is paramount in our industry, so if a client sends you an email or leaves a voice message, they should receive a reply. It doesn’t have to be immediately, but it needs to be the same day.
Virtual Assistants are not cheap and, even though mistakes will inevitably be made, a VA sells themselves on their ability to provide reliable and accurate business support.
This is why I always suggest that VAs offer what they know how to do – at least when they first start out. If you offer the things you already know how to do, you will be confident about doing them and will do a good job.
Clients always need to know the status of their tasks. Both you and your clients should always be clear on deadlines, each other’s availability, the frequency of updates, and when and how the updates are to be delivered.
Some clients may want weekly updates, some are happy to just let you get on with a task and others may want daily feedback. Some may prefer these updates by email and others may use a specific app or platform.
Using Trello or Asana is a great way to keep track of tasks as the client can see the status at any time even if it’s out of working hours.
A client should never, ever have to chase their VA for updates.
Can manage their time
VAs work with multiple clients but each one will think (and needs to think) they’re your only client – or at least, the most important one!
You will have countless things to do each day so it’s important to diarise everything and plan ahead. It’s also a good idea to schedule tasks that require more focus for when you’re at your most efficient or have an uninterrupted period of time.
I have a free productivity course with a calendar exercise to help with this. This is actually the exact same calendar and method I use to run my entire life.
This sounds a bit mean, but people often send me emails or ask questions in my Facebook group about things they could easily find using Google, using the group’s search box or by reading my website.
Virtual Assistants are professional problem-solvers and you will be asked to find or sort numerous things.
You’re not Yoda so you’re not going to know how to do everything – and clients won’t expect you to either. A VAs job is to ‘sort stuff”, so if your client needs a plumber, you just find one – you’re not going to learn how to plumb in a sink!
Keep learning and try to keep on top of developments in technology, the VA industry and your client’s industries as well.
Can managing expectations and instil confidence
If you appear hesitant about your abilities or look like you don’t know what you’re doing, your clients will doubt your ability to help them – they will also question whether you’re worth the money.
They are paying for a professional.
Think about how you would feel if you hired an electrician, a hairdresser or an accountant. You wouldn’t want to see any of these people look doubtful of their abilities!
So, although you may have to ‘fake it until you make it’ confidence-wise, anyone who runs a business should be confident in their abilities.
Many VAs lack self-confidence when they first start out and they even want to charge a lower fee ‘because they’re new’. But even if you’re new to freelancing, you will have years of experience behind you. You may be a new business owner, but you’re not new to the world of work.
I have a free mini-confidence course that you may want to take a look at.
Many VAs will often just wait to be given work and they aren’t proactive in making work for themselves.
If you’re invested in the success of your clients business and you know why they set up their business, how they get clients/customers, what their follow-up processes are, what their challenges are or what they hope to achieve each year, they will see you as a valued resource and will never want you to leave.
So, think for your clients, introduce them to new tools or ways of working, anticipate their needs, find ways they can improve their processes, help them set annual goals (and then review them), and help them find opportunities.
If your clients have more work and money, you will have more work and money.
Is self-directed, disciplined and can work alone
It’s quite common for freelancers to feel lonely. I was surprised when I first discovered this because I’m very happy working by myself and had never considered that some people might miss the company of others.
While you can use co-working spaces and occasionally work from coffee shops (get headphones!), you will spend most of the day by yourself.
Co-working spaces are great actually, as you will often pick up clients there and being around other business owners means you can stay on top of developments and be exposed to other types of businesses and ways of working/thinking.
It can also be hard to focus and not be distracted by social media, emails, the Internet, cat videos, the doorbell, and domestic distractions (“oh, I’ll just do the washing/run the hoover around/dust”) when you work from home.
Self-discipline and the ability to get on with your work is vital. No work done = no money!
What other VAs say:
I have a Facebook group with thousands of members from all over the world. When I asked them what qualities they thought were essential in a good Virtual Assistant they said:
- Good communicator
- Resilient/thick-skinned (being thick-skinned is a big one!)
It might not be for you
I sometimes used to write CVs for freelancers who wanted to return to full-time employment.
Their reasons included disliking: the solitude, having to constantly motivate themselves, unreliable income, late payers, marketing, awkward clients and the responsibility that comes with being a business owner.
So think hard about the qualities needed to be a successful VA and whether you have them.
Running your own business is really hard work and it is not for everyone, but if you do possess these qualities you could be a fantastic, stand-out Virtual Assistant who does our industry proud.
- Read all of my posts with the tag ‘freelance truths’ because I have even more bad news about what it’s like to work for yourself. Not that I’m trying to put you off, you understand!
- Read the most FAQs about becoming a Virtual Assistant to see what else you’re letting yourself in for.