Picture the scene. I’m 17 years old, it’s around 8.45 in the morning and I’m on a bus on my way to work. It’s one of my very first jobs out of school, I work from 9 to 5.30 every day in a huge airless room at a faceless call centre in a massive building with hundreds of other people. As I look out of the window, the bus passes a tree in the park… and it suddenly hits me.
At a quarter to nine tomorrow morning, I’ll be on this bus, with these people, passing this tree in this park. And it will be the same the day after that, and the week after that, and the month after that.
I see it stretched out ahead of me in one horrifying, stomach-churning vision.
I’d love to be able to tell you that I walked into my manager’s office and slapped down my letter of resignation that very same day, but I didn’t.
I stayed in that boring job which turned into another boring job and then another and another for over 20 years.
Because I’d been brought up with the same view of working as you have, and it goes like this:
You work like a dog Monday to Friday, take your holiday when someone says you can, prop up lazy and incompetent colleagues, the management doesn’t appreciate your hard work and loyalty, and you try to fit your ‘real life’ into the gaps even though you’re shattered and have 1000 other things to do.
This continues until your mid-sixties when you’re ‘rewarded’ with a meagre financial payment as compensation for giving up the best part of your life for something that brought you no personal satisfaction… and that’s if you even make it to retirement.
But there are no rules anymore and it doesn’t have to be this way.
There’s a saying I love: “The days are long but the years are short” and as long as you can pay your rent and eat, you can use your skills to work however you like, wherever you like and for whoever you like.
Millions of people work this way so there is absolutely no reason why you can’t too – and I think you know that or you wouldn’t be reading this.
Some of the reasons people become Virtual Assistants
I often ask members of my VA Handbookers Facebook group why they want to be Virtual Assistants or why they decided to set up their own businesses. Here are just a few of their answers:
“I’m starting my own business for a few reasons the main one being so I don’t have to find childcare for my son during the school holidays. I also want to work for myself and to achieve my full potential, which I felt I wasn’t doing in my current office job.
If I continue in the job I’m in, then I will be reliant on others for childcare, which stresses me out. I will also be unhappy working in an office environment with office politics driving me mad. I also want to do it for me, to be a success and to disprove all the naysayers!”
“I want to be able to be the mum and wife I’d like to be but still challenge my brain while earning a bit of money. I would like to learn new skills and meet new people all while being in charge of my own time and destiny.”
“I snapped a long time before I actually began my business, but in a nutshell, I was sick of office politics, working my ass off when the next person did the bare minimum, constant changes to the way I did my job, lack of support, God I could probably go on and on, but I won’t.
I Googled work-from-home options and kept coming across Jo’s stuff about becoming a VA. Five months after the final straw at work, I was on my own. It was terrifying and exciting at the same time.
There will always be ups and downs in any business, but I am especially thankful that during these uncertain times, my business has flourished, and the consultation calls keep coming. If you’re on the fence about going for it, I gotta tell you – no one can do it for you. You either jump or you kick yourself later on down the road for not jumping (or not jumping earlier!).”
“I want to be able to be flexible for my children; one of whom has additional needs and is struggling as he gets older. I’ve always wanted to be my own boss and what better way to do it than running a company providing the services I love and excel at.”
“I want more flexibility. I have a 2-year-old and I want to make sure I don’t miss out on him growing up. I also want to be able to achieve something that’s mine and I want to be able to build my self-worth back up while doing it.”
“I worked 60+ hours a week in my past work life, which hugely affected my overall health all just for the sake of making someone else rich. Now I work around 70 hours a month – I look back and don’t know how I did it for so long, to be honest. I also wanted to choose where in the world I want to live without worrying about how I was going to make a living.”
“I want to have a feeling of control and freedom. I actually love work but I don’t want to be boxed into a narrow skillset. I am quickly bored and easily demotivated in an office job because there is no consistent challenge and it is increasingly demoralising for me. Plus, I don’t love the office environment and politics. Additionally, I would love to help my family out financially.”
“I wanted to work for myself so I can be around for my kids during holidays and when they’re sick. Also, I’m fed up working in an office – all the silly office politics and companies changing things. I want to succeed and show my kids that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.”
“I want to have the freedom to choose where I work, who I work with, what hours I work, the type of task I do and to be able to focus on one task at a time without continuous interruptions. Also, being paid at a rate that reflects my skills and worth.”
“I always wanted my own business but I did get comfortable in the corporate world until I wanted to start a family and that did not go down well with my employer – we parted ways and I launched my VA business while on maternity leave. Best decision ever!”
“I want to be able to work around my young family and be there for sports days etc. Most of all I want something for me. Something to make me feel like I am contributing to our family financially, something to make me feel like Michelle and not Mum.”
“My eldest son was diagnosed with autism and when he started school I realised he needed me more than the corporate world did. He has various medical and therapy appointments and setting up by myself has meant I can attend every single one WITHOUT ASKING PERMISSION! Game changer.”
“I would like more time to catch up with friends and family and for my boys to have my undivided attention instead of trying to tackle all the jobs and run around like a headless chicken at 100 miles an hour.
I came back to work a month after my husband died and was left to get on with it with no support. I want the freedom to make the most out of life and enjoy it, most of all I want the flexibility to do what I want when I want!”
“I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur but it really clicked when I started to surround myself with other entrepreneurs. Exposure expands expansion. I started to desire freedom with my life. No 9-5. No asking permission for days off. More time with family.”
“I want to work for myself as I am fed up being overworked and underpaid. It’s time I take charge and build the life of my dreams rather than doing it for someone else.”
“I would like to become a VA so I can say “I’m happy”. I hate being managed and hate feeling trapped in a routine that I can’t change. I have two tiny tots and would love to be able to give them the best possible start in life. I feel I would be much happier working for myself and in turn, this will make me a happier person to be around.”
“My dream was always to run my own business. It took losing both my parents within 12 months (including travelling abroad every month for 17 months to visit my very ill Dad), to really realise I have to do it now because life is precious – and I don’t want to look back one day and say “what if….?”
“I feel very underused and am becoming deskilled in my current job. The idea to become a VA came from a desire to be able to have more autonomy over what I do and train myself in lots of new areas. I’m hoping to work with lots of interesting people and companies in a variety of fields. Plus I want more flexibility over my life and not have to worry about how I fit that thing called life around the 9-5.”
“I want the flexibility I need around my two young children, especially as I have recently separated from my husband so am now sole carer and breadwinner. Aside from the logistical needs of my family, I’m also fed up of working for large corporates and helping make lots of money for other people.”
“I knew I wanted to run my own business when I got made redundant from a fantastic job thinking I was completely safe. My husband became self-employed and loves every minute of it. He spurred me on but it took me two years after setting up my VA business to take the leap of faith full-time.”
“I’m not going anywhere in my current job and I don’t see much opportunity for growth. I want to challenge myself and see where it takes me. Also, my husband and I want to travel full-time around the country in our RV and this would be a good way for us to be able to do that and have an income coming in at the same time.”
Some of the reasons why it’s great to be a Virtual Assistant
You can work when you want
From being able to spend more time with your kids to caring for elderly family members, working for yourself as a Virtual Assistant means you can organise your day to fit around the life you have or the type of life you want to create.
You still need to make time to do the work (you are running a business after all), but you’re the one who gets to decide what your day looks like.
You only want to work evenings because you don’t have childcare during the day? Great – then go find clients who fit the bill.
Or maybe you’re fed up paying through the nose for expensive childcare and want to spend that time with your kids. Awesome – then market yourself to clients whose work you can do during the school day.
Plenty of Virtual Assistants have a working life exactly like this.
You can work where you want
The key here is in the word ‘virtual’. I’ve worked from locations all around the world because all I need is my laptop and an Internet connection.
So if you’re looking for a location-independent or digital nomad lifestyle, virtual assistance fits the bill perfectly.
You get to use your brain
Spending all day in an office and not getting to think for yourself is incredibly boring, and it’s particularly galling (not to mention wasteful) if you’ve spent a lot of time and money getting a good education.
Well, I’m happy to tell you that working for yourself is a constantly evolving journey that requires you to think for yourself and your clients in many creative ways.
There’s a reason it’s called ‘working for yourself’. When you break down that sentence, you can see it means that all the work you put in is ultimately for YOU.
You work for you.
Putting in a hard day’s graft and not being appreciated can be completely demoralising. I’ve had many jobs where my loyalty and commitment have gone completely unrewarded and I’ve had neither a pay rise nor a thank you. I don’t have to deal with that sh*t anymore.
Oh, and talking of bullsh*t, office politics are a thing of the past, too.
You feel like you’re really living
Yes, it’s hard work – of COURSE, it’s hard work and you’ll probably work more hours than you did when you worked in a “regular” job.
If it was easy then everyone would do it. Nothing worth having comes easily, but it’s worth it because you’re the one in control of your own life.
You only get one life and every day is a day you will never get back.
You get to earn the same as a man
Okay, brace yourself because I’m about to enrage you with some statistics.
> Women work an average of 63 unpaid days as a result of the gender pay gap.
> While education roles are dominated by women, with three-quarters of teachers female, the gender pay gap in that sector is 25.4%. The average woman in education works for free for more than a quarter of the year (93 days) before she starts getting paid on 2nd April. Source.
> The gender pension gap is 17% at the beginning of women’s careers and reaches 56% at retirement compared to men. The average pension pot of a woman at retirement is found to be less than half that of a man and there is a stark pension gap even in female-dominated industries. Source.
> Women working full time in the U.S. are still paid just 83 cents to every dollar earned by men. As a result of lower lifetime earnings, they receive less in Social Security and pensions. In terms of overall retirement income, women have only 70% of what men do. Source.
> Because women tend to work fewer hours to accommodate caregiving and other unpaid obligations, they are also more likely to work part-time, which means lower hourly wages and fewer benefits compared with a full-time worker.
> A woman working full time, year-round earned $10,194 less than her male counterpart, on average, in 2018. If this wage gap were to remain unchanged, she would earn about $407,760 less than a man over the course of a 40-year career. Source.
> Women in Canada’s workforce earn approximately 89 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the federal government. Women also suffered more severe and longer-lasting economic losses than men during the pandemic. Source.
> People looking to get ahead in their jobs must often work long hours, but the gendered allocation of family responsibilities prevents women from being able to do this, especially since women are more likely to be single parents than men. As a result, jobs requiring employees to work long hours produce some of the largest wage gaps. Source.
The European Union
> Women have more work hours per week than men but they spend more hours on unpaid work.
> Fewer than 8% of top companies’ CEOs are women. Nevertheless, the profession with the largest differences in hourly earnings in the EU were managers: 23 % lower earnings for women than for men.
> In some cases, women earn less than men for doing equal work or work of equal value even if the principle of equal pay is enshrined in the European Treaties (Article 157 TFEU) since 1957. Source.
> Data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows women typically earn about $25,000 less than men. The overall gender pay gap continued its downward trend for the 2020-21 financial year, pegged at 22.8%, meaning that for every $10 a man earned a woman made about $7.72.
“No matter how the gender pay gap is calculated, there is a consistent gap in favour of men,” the report states. Source.
So, yeah, if you’re reading this and you’re a woman in full-time employment and you think your hard work is being rewarded, I’m sorry to tell you that it isn’t.
You’re being financially shafted.
However, there ‘ain’t no gender pay gap when YOU’RE the one who sets your rates though!
Freelancing is not for everyone and Virtual Assistance should not be seen as easy money for doing a bit of admin.
Being a Virtual Assistant is a serious career choice and you need to be fully committed to it or else you won’t succeed.
However, it is well and truly worth it.
Ready to set up your VA business?
If you’re ready to stop reading and start doing, my DIY VA course covers everything you need from setting up, services and niches to branding, pricing and finding work.
You get lifetime access and I guide you through the entire process. There has never been a better time to be a VA than now.