Back when I used to offer 1-2-1 training, I mentioned to a friend that a couple of trainees had confidence issues. I’d given them the practical steps they needed to become a VA, but I wasn’t sure how to move them forward when it came to building confidence. He reminded me that I wasn’t a therapist and asked if they’d completed a SWOT analysis.
I’d heard the term but I wasn’t really sure what it involved so he gave me a brief outline along with a couple of examples.
I then realised that a SWOT analysis was not only a great way to help my trainees overcome their confidence issues, but it would also be a useful way for existing Virtual Assistants to identify potential threats to their business.
As the subject can be a bit of a rabbit hole, here is a bare-bones outline explaining the principles of a SWOT analysis so you can apply it to any situation you’re struggling with.
What is a SWOT analysis?
A SWOT analysis basically involves specifying the objective of a project or goal and then identifying the internal and external factors that are favourable and unfavourable so you can overcome anything in the way of reaching it.
It can be carried out for pretty much anything but I’ll give you some examples further down the post so you can see how to use a SWOT analysis for business challenges.
How to conduct a SWOT analysis
SWOT stands for:
These are things you do well and also beneficial resources in your possession such as knowledge, education, credentials, location, network, contacts, qualifications, reputation or skills.
You’re also evaluating tangible assets such as capital, savings, technology, advantages you may have over your competition and any other positive aspects that add value or offer you an advantage.
These are things that detract from your ability to achieve the goal or task at hand and areas that need improvement.
So it may be that you currently lack the resources, time, technology or skills (personal and/or business) to overcome the obstacle at this point.
These are things that are available to you and that you can benefit from using such as people or groups that can provide practical advice and/or training.
These are external factors beyond your control that could place your goal. You have no control over these things but will benefit by having contingency plans in case they occur.
These are things like competitors, rising supplier prices, shifts in consumer behaviour, the economy or a new product or technology that might make your product or services obsolete.
Strengths and weaknesses are classed as “internal” things which means you can change them. Opportunities and threats are “external” – they may happen whether you like it or not – and they are things you can’t change.
The Coronavirus pandemic (and subsequent lockdowns) was an external threat as many businesses in specific sectors were impacted through no fault of their own.
An example of a SWOT analysis:
Okay, so let’s get going with some real-life examples so you can get a better idea of how a SWOT analysis works.
A hat company is thinking about setting up a shop on Etsy and is looking to assess the viability of its business. Here is what the results of their SWOT analysis might look like:
Expertise – the founder has 15 years of experience making hats.
Low overheads – it’s cheap to open an Etsy store.
Exposure – the customer reach through Etsy is high.
Stock – the founder has a number of vintage hats they can replicate.
Time – the founder is doing everything themselves.
Marketing – the founder has no marketing experience.
Fear – the founder is afraid to fail.
Partnership – the founder could co-promote with other Etsy vintage fashion sellers.
Business training – the founder could take some sales or marketing training provided by Etsy. They could take external courses. They could do a skills swap with another business owner. They could learn from Etsy partnership stores.
Personal development – the founder could take a workshop or course on how to overcome their fear of failure. They could ask other business owners how they overcame their fears. They could read as much as they could about overcoming fear.
Interns – they could hire an apprentice or intern to help with sewing or marketing.
Server errors – the Etsy store could crash.
Supplier problems – vintage fabric comes from a unique supplier who could go out of business.
Competition – a new competitor could knock them out of the market.
* The example above was adapted from one I found online.
Virtual Assistant examples of a SWOT analysis:
– I can’t network because I work full-time or have childcare issues.
– I don’t have any confidence to market myself and I’m scared I might fail.
– I don’t know if I can earn enough money.
– I don’t know if my niche is viable.
– I have clients but I need more income.
- I have a strong skill set.
- There are lots of businesses and network groups in my town.
- I’m virtual so it doesn’t matter if there are no businesses or groups where I live.
- I have a good reputation with my existing clients.
- I’m still working for an employer so I am not desperate for money at this point.
- I have access to a wide variety of contacts through my past and present employers.
- I’ve overcome many challenges throughout my life and I am resilient and resourceful.
- I have a lot of friends and family and know a lot of other Mums. All of which are useful contacts.
- I have a positive perception of my business, skills and abilities.
- I have undertaken training in various subjects plus, I can research most other things.
- I have savings and/or my partner can support us both for a while if necessary.
- I can work from home so I don’t need an office.
- There are minimal start-up costs with becoming a VA compared to many other businesses.
- I am a resourceful person and I can seek out any resources, advice or help I may need.
- I don’t have the money for a website yet.
- I lack confidence.
- I’m concerned my skills might be outdated.
- I don’t have any clients or a reputation yet.
- I don’t know much about marketing.
- My website is outdated and doesn’t convert well.
- I live in a remote location.
Be aware that many of your strengths and weaknesses may be reversed when applied to different situations.
So living in a remote location might work to your advantage in another analysis because you’d like to work with rural enterprises.
- Look for early morning, lunchtime, evening or weekend networking events.
- Look at free marketing avenues such as LinkedIn.
- Ask local and industry-specific LinkedIn groups and other VAs to ascertain if my niche is viable.
- Share childcare and/or costs with other parents or tap family members for babysitting whilst I work on building my business.
- Ask other business owners how they manage networking whilst working full-time or with kids.
- Offer existing clients a free hour for every referral who becomes a paying client.
- Learn how to build the website myself or skill-swap with a web developer.
- Use LinkedIn, an About.me page or a Canva website to attract clients and then pay for a website when they pay me.
- Get a quote for a website and then save up. It’s unrealistic to think I can set up a professional business without spending any money.
- Get testimonials from past employers and colleagues so I can prove my expertise, reliability and value.
- Speak to other business owners and specialist freelancers so I know what to expect.
- Do one of Jo’s VA training courses.
- Work out how much money I need to live on each month so I know what I need to earn.
- Watch a VA video interview to see what life is really like as a freelancer and if it’s for me.
- Read the VA interviews to see how they got started and what services they offer.
- Talk to wannabe and existing VAs in the VA Handbookers Facebook group about my fears and ask for practical advice.
- Differentiate myself by having a unique voice and brand and by proactively contacting my target market.
- Learn a new skill to add to my existing services.
- Learn everything I can about pricing so I can break through the hourly rate ceiling.
- I could get made redundant from my job before I get enough clients.
- My computer might break.
- My website could be hacked.
- My niche could be impacted by a naturally-occurring event such as a pandemic (!).
- There are quite a few VAs in my area.
- I could break my wrist and not be able to type.
AI-generated Virtual Assistant SWOT Analysis
Out of interest, I asked the AI platform Claude to provide me with a SWOT analysis for a Virtual Assistant. Here’s what it said:
– Flexible schedule and ability to work from anywhere
– Low overhead costs compared to brick-and-mortar business
– Variety of services to offer clients
– Ability to set own rates and choose projects
– Constantly expanding market for virtual assistance
– Irregular income and lack of steady paycheck
– Need to spend time marketing and finding new clients
– Can be isolated without co-workers or office community
– Self-motivation and time management skills required
– Reliant on technology and internet connection
– Growing remote work trend and need for virtual support
– New tools and technologies to improve efficiency
– Expansion into related services like social media, web design
– Building niche expertise in high demand fields
– Partnerships with other freelancers and agencies
– Competition from low cost virtual assistants abroad
– Market saturation as more people become virtual assistants
– Fluctuations in demand during economic downturns
– Lack of employee benefits like insurance and retirement plans
– Risk of burnout from workload and lack of boundaries
As I’ve said a number of times, freelancing isn’t for everyone. There’s no guaranteed income, you have to learn how to manage people and their expectations and you have to constantly market yourself.
People should not become Virtual Assistants because they need the money and think it’s an easy side gig.
But if you’ve done your research and know that you really want to set up your own Virtual Assistant business, undertaking a SWOT analysis will help you build a strong business model based on reality and facts.
A SWOT analysis will enable you to take the steps required to achieve your objectives and manage the numerous personal and professional challenges you will encounter along the way.
Is it time to set up your business?
If you’re done reading and ready to start doing then consider enrolling in my flagship DIY VA course.
With lifetime access and an incredible trainee-only support group, I guide you through the entire process and do my utmost to help you succeed.