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 don’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 whomever 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 want to become a Virtual Assistant
As part of a 5-day business Kickstarter challenge, I asked members of my VA Handbookers Facebook group why they wanted to run their own business. These are just some of the 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.”
“Being a VA will allow me to travel with my family without having to sacrifice my own ambitions. I also have a 2 year old son and the flexibility it will give me will be invaluable.”
“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 want to have the feeling of control and freedom. I actually love work but I don’t want to be boxed into a narrow skill set. 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 the politics. Additionally, I would love to help my family out financially.”
“I don’t want to have to work until I’m 63 and then retire. There’s a fire inside me to do my own thing, to put all those hours in every day for ME and not for someone else. This is MY time to take those skills that I’ve acquired, pick the ones I love doing, and start doing it for myself.”
“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 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.”
“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 want to make the rules. I want to choose who I work for and with, I want to choose my hours, days and schedule to suit me and my family. I want to do the school runs and be around for the holidays.”
“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 then 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.”
“I have two boys and feel so restricted with my time in the week for them. Working 9.30-5.30 all week is frustrating. It would be nice to collect them from school and have the flexibility to do my work whenever I please.”
“I feel very under used 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 worrying 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’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.”
It was absolutely wonderful to tell my Handbookers that ALL of their desires are well within their reach.
Some of the reasons being a VA is freakin’ awesome:
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 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.
Many VAs 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 an education.
Well, I’m happy to tell you that working for yourself is a constantly evolving journey that requires you to think for yourself 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.
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.
Oh, and office politics are also a thing of the past!
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 in employment. But it’s worth it because you’re the one in control. And even though that’s a little scary at first, it feels like you’re finally living a full life.
Because you only get one life and it’s speeding by.
Freelancing is not for everyone and should not be seen as easy money for doing a bit of admin now and then. It is a serious career choice and you need to be fully committed to it.
However, it is well and truly worth it.
My goal is to not only help you set up and run a successful Virtual Assistant business but to also think and act like a business owner. Because once you can do that, you can do anything.
* If you think being a VA might be for you, then read my blog post on HOW to become a Virtual Assistant.
* If you know it’s for you and just want to get started, my extremely popular online DIY VA course walks you through the entire set-up process. I even have payment plans to help spread the load.
* Watch some existing VAs tell you what it’s like to work for yourself and what they love about being their own boss.
* Join a supportive community of like-minded people from all over the world by joining the VA Handbookers Facebook group.
* Grab your post-it notes and marker pens – we ride at dawn!