What You Need To Get Started As A VA

What You Need To Get Started As A VA

One of the great things about a VA business is that it’s easy to start. You really don’t need much to launch a successful business. That being said, there are some steps you’ll want to take before you hang up your “open for business” sign.

Office Equipment

You’re a virtual assistant which means you’ll need equipment to help you work virtually. This means a:

• Computer

• Backup storage or system – you can backup files online so an external drive isn’t necessary.

• Copier/scanner/fax

• Internet connection

• Desk and chair

• File cabinet/file system

• Transcription software and equipment, if you’re offering transcription

• Telephone and related equipment like a headset so you can talk hands free

You likely already have much of that equipment. If not, you don’t have to spend a fortune. Take a look at flea markets and resale stores for some of the furniture. If you don’t have a computer, most experts recommend buying the best you can afford. Your business will be based on your computer so a good one helps.

Business Equipment

You’re going to want a few basics to help you market and manage your business. These include but are not limited to:

• Business Plan – this is most important! It should include your budget, goals, marketing strategy, operations, policies and procedures and so on. Create a plan so you succeed!

• Website and/or blog

• Social networking profile/pages

• Email account for business

• Telephone number for business

• Invoicing system

• Bookkeeping software

• Project or task management system

• Services agreement/Contractor agreement

• Personal insurance: health, dental, life etc. When you’re self-employed insurance is your responsibility.

• Bank account for business

• Organization tools: calendar, notebooks, whatever helps you get and stay organized

• Business services software. What software do you need to provide your services? For example, if you offer transcription you’ll need transcription software. If you provide graphics, you'll need a graphics program, etc.

Again, you may have much of this already. And most of these basics don’t cost much. You can spend a lot on software so be careful. Only buy what you really need.

Personal Equipment

Okay, so your home office is set and you have a solid business plan. What else do you need to get started?

• Enthusiasm

• Motivation

• Positive Mindset

• Perseverance

• Administrative skills

• Marketing knowledge (Read a few good books on marketing your business, you’ll be set.)

Not bad, right? If you already have a computer you can likely start your VA business for just a few hundred dollars. Many have started with nothing at all and made a huge success of their VA skills. Create a checklist. Create a plan. Create the success you desire.

How to Know If Being A VA Is Right for You

If you’re considering starting your own business then being a VA is a good choice. It’s a service that is in demand. And the demand seems to be growing. More and more people are realizing the value of outsourcing their administrative needs. It’s a career choice that promises variety, daily challenges and the freedom of being your own boss. However, it’s not the right choice for everyone.

Here are a few questions to help you determine if being a VA is right for you.

Are You Good at Managing Your Time?

As a virtual assistant you’re going to have to balance a lot of tasks. You’ll balance client work. You’ll balance managing your business. You’ll also want to market and grow your business. And of course the day to day responsibilities like laundry don’t go away either. There will be a lot of demands on your time, energy, and attention.

If you’re good at managing your time, then great. If you can focus and be productive you have what it takes to be a VA. If time management isn’t your strength, there’s still hope. Start adopting habits right now to better manage your time. Learn to schedule and prioritize. Learn how to focus and be productive.

Are You Motivated and Enthusiastic?

Being a VA takes a lot of positive energy. You’ll want to be able to get up every morning and be able to focus on your business. Of course there will be low energy days. Everyone has them. However, in order to succeed as a VA, you’ll want to be brimming with energy and enthusiasm to start, grow, and manage your business.

Are You Organized?

In addition to organizing your own business needs, tasks and information you’ll need to organize your client’s. That’s part of your job. Your clients need your help getting and keeping them organized. And the more organized you are, the more productive you’ll be. Not organized? Start creating systems right now. You can still be successful. However, you’ll have to pay careful attention to your systems and practices. Make yourself be organized.

Are You Social?

Okay, so you don’t have to be a social butterfly to succeed as a VA. However, you will want to be easy to communicate with. Clients and prospects will communicate with you via email and the telephone. Make sure you’re comfortable talking with strangers. Also, the more social you are, the more clients you’re likely to meet online and off. It’s easier to build your business when you’re delighted to talk about it with others.

If you don’t have all of these skills or personality traits, it’s okay. Most of them can be learned. You can even learn to be motivated and enthusiastic. If you want to start a VA business that desire is the first step. The rest will fall into place. To your success!

Being Your Own Boss is So Great!

I recently hosted a free information session for Virtual Assistants.

One of the first things I ask anyone when they are thinking of starting out: why they want to start their own business.

I have heard a variety of answers to this question, but many times the answer is ‘to be my own boss’.

in-chargeWhen I start to work with someone as their coach, I ask them to look deeper into that statement. Why do you want to be your own boss?

There are always more underlying reasons that simply because you want to.

And we often talk about needed to understand WHY you want to be in business for yourself. Because some days are hard, and some decisions are hard.

Some days you will find yourself wondering if it’s worth it.

So why not start your whole business by considering that WHY, and building on it?

Why do you want to be your own boss? Think of the actual reasons.

Because it’s GREAT to be your own boss – for lots of reasons!

Here are some I have heard through discussions with other VAs:

1. I get to make my own decisions (good or bad!)
2. I can manage my own schedule.
3. I can manage my own workload.
4. I can choose the people who I want to work with.
5. I can decide which services I want to offer.
6. I can make time to fit in the other things I want to do in my life: kids’ field trips, travel, holidays, etc.

These are the normal responses that I hear.

Here are a few additional ones that you may not have thought of.

7. I get to decide what I charge, and how much money I make.
8. I get to claim some of my expenses on my taxes.
9. I don’t have to answer to anyone.
10. I can hire my own staff!
11. I can take a vacation any time I want!
12. I can make as much or as little money as I want to, anytime.

Being your own boss is a huge responsibility, but when you look at the advantages, it sure makes it easier to handle those tough days.

When you approach your business with a CEO mindset (you are not an employee, you are the owner and Chief Executive Officer of your own business), you will work better with your clients.

You will set boundaries and procedures to make things clear for everyone who works with you. Everything just becomes … easier.

Being the boss is great, as long as you act like one!

For more information about getting your VA business started, visit www.canadianava.org/va-training/

How to Find Great Clients

newcustomers

 

Being self-employed is extremely rewarding. It can also be a challenge.

Often the difference is the type of client you have.

The better your clients are, the more rewarding your business feels and the happier you are.

So, doesn't it makes sense to create a strategy to find great clients?

Of course it does!

Here are a few tactics to consider.

Network

One of the best ways to find people you enjoy working with is to meet them by networking - either local or online.

Sometimes you click right away with another business owner.

A simple, “I’d love to see how we can work together” may end up producing profitable results for years to come.

Networking both online and off is a fantastic way to find great clients.

In fact, you will likely find that networking is the best source of ideal clients for your VA business.

Spread the Word

Put the word out about your business.

Let your friends, family and associates know that you’re looking to add two or three quality clients to your schedule. (make sure they know what you do!)

You might be surprised at what you find.

You may end up with more quality clients than you have time for.

Referrals

When you find clients that you enjoy working with, ask them for referrals.

People tend to be attracted to like-minded individuals and clients referred from existing clients tend to be of the same caliber. In short, good clients refer good clients.

And often if you are working with a client you love, you learn quickly about their industry - and where more great clients are not far behind.

Consider offering a referral program for your business. Reward customers for their referrals by giving them a credit towards their own work, or even a gift card or a small gift. (I love Send Out Cards brownies!). Let them know you appreciate their referrals.

Partnerships

Consider forging partnerships with other business owners that you enjoy working with.

For example, if you’re a virtual assistant who provides social networking management you might partner with someone who creates social networking graphics.

Together you could offer a complete social networking package.

Before You Begin Searching For More Great Clients

There are a few steps to take before you begin searching for more VA clients. Taking these steps will ensure you’re attracting the type of client you want. It’ll also make sure you can accommodate their needs.

1. Make sure you have room in your schedule for them. If not, consider eliminating some of clients or tasks from your calendar. You want to make sure you can meet the needs of your new clients.

2. Identify exactly what you want in a client. What makes a client great to work with? What are you looking for? Are they easy to communicate with? Do they provide minimum instruction? Do they pay well? Define what makes a good client.

3. Take steps to make sure that your existing clients and any new clients know how much you appreciate them. Create a customer appreciation strategy. Finding those great clients is only the first step. You want to make sure to keep them too.

Finding great clients isn’t difficult.

Know what you’re looking for.

Don’t hesitate to ask for new clients.

Pay attention to the service you provide.

A good VA client can stick with you for years.

It’s worth the time and effort to show your appreciation.

Fear Is Good ... Here's Why.

Guest Post by Tina Forsyth
www.OnlineBusinessManager.com

Fear is getting a bad rap.

Fear is often the reason a virtual support professional does NOT do something … versus the reason for them TO DO something.

Would you agree? As a Virtual Assistant, freelancer or other virtual support professional, you likely experienced some fear when you decided to officially open your business doors.

For me, fear is a big indicator that I need to do something. If I’m scared, it means I most likely need to go in that direction.

My personal believe is, that as human beings, we are meant to grow. We are meant to take on new stuff. Learning new things, supporting clients in new roles and new challenges – it’s natural to feel fear when you step into these areas – especially when you haven’t explored them before.

Fear itself can take many different forms, and will vary by individual and situation. Here are a few fears that many virtual support professionals face”: 

  • fear of looking like a fool 
  • fear of losing money 
  • fear of not making money 
  • fear of upsetting people close to you 
  • fear of not knowing if you can do what you want to do… etc.

Which of these can you relate to?

My previous mentor David Neagle calls this the “terror barrier”. The “terror barrier” is a natural part of life and growth.

We all come up against our own terror barriers – especially in business. And we have to decide whether we want to work through them or run away.

A word of caution - even if you run away from those terror barriers, they will follow you. And the longer they follow you, the bigger they get – darn them!

So, you may as well face the fear … right?

I’ve done my fair share of having to ‘stare fear in the eye’ and put plainly, it can suck at times.

For example, a few years ago when I decided to sign up to work with a mentor, that was a HUGE fear moment for me. I was terrified to take that step, as I knew it was a commitment to me and my business to play a bigger game. Quite honestly I didn’t know if I could do it.

Want to know what thoughts crossed my mind? You might be able to relate

  • Who am I to create a super cool and thriving biz?
  • What if I fail and lose oodles of money?
  • What if I suck at it and people point and laugh at me?
  • And many more other crazy thoughts

Here’s what I believe: Fear is an invitation. It’s an invitation for us to learn a lesson.

Whatever it is that we fear, there’s a gift waiting for you on the other side … but only if you’re willing to step into it. If you don’t step into it, you don’t get the gift. It’s as simple as that.

Facing fear is like building a muscle, the more we do it the more we are able to do it.

Fear doesn’t always get easier as there is always a s-t-r-e-t-c-h required when facing fear (and it can be uncomfortable!). However, I do believe that half the battle is actually resisting our fear – running away takes a lot of energy! If you stop resisting fear and instead step into it then the entire process could be much less painful in the long run.

Fear acronym positiveNow, when I reach that that “eek!” moment – that nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach – I know it’s something that I need to do. This is the main indicator for me of what I need to do next in my business.

When was the last time you did something that scared the pants off of you?

What is it that you are most afraid of doing right now, in this moment, for you and your business? Please share your comments … I really would love to know.

Breaks Increase Productivity

take a break

Are you working and working but just can't seem to focus and get stuff done?  You might even be considering seeing a doctor, but the solution may be much more simple than that - just take a break.  Taking short ten minute breaks throughout the day can help you refocus and re-energize so you're more productive once you get back to work.  

Scientists and psychologists have actually done many studies that show how effective breaks can be.  In fact, many large businesses have now started adopting break times into the course of the regular day.  Employees are actually paid to sit at their desk and read, research topics they enjoy on the Internet, and do other things that interest them.  It's been shown that allowing these breaks actually increases productivity and employee satisfaction enough to compensate for the lost time plus some.  

To get the most good out of your breaks, try making your activities something that will help increase production when you return to work, rather than something that simply distracts you.  Some great options include aerobic activity or relaxation exercises.  They'll clear your mind, while producing chemicals in your body that will boost concentration when you get back to work.

If physical exercise isn't your thing, or you just don't have the chance to do it at work, there are other things you can do to relax and clear your mind so you can get back to work.  Meditation or other breathing exercises only take a few minutes, but can help you feel better mentally and physically.  Not only does it help you focus, it can also lower your blood pressure and help reduce the physical signs of stress.

The biggest danger in taking breaks is not getting back to work when the break is done.  A lot of people will try to skip breaks because they're afraid they won't get back to work and the work won't get done.  But when you skip breaks, you can significantly decrease productivity and actually end up getting less work done.  The key is setting a time limit to your breaks and sticking to them.  If you have trouble, try setting a timer when you take a break, or having someone back you up by making sure you get back to work.

If you've been pushing too hard and have reached burnout, a ten minute break just isn't going to be enough.  If you are finding yourself feeling sick, tired, and only ever in a negative mood, especially about work, you are probably burnt out by work.  In this case, you not only need to incorporate short breaks into your day, you also need to alter your how and when you work and may even need an extended vacation.

Breaks are an easy and effective way to increase your results and become more successful with very little effort.

Ten Ways to Balance Work and Family

stressedBalancing a work life and a home life can be difficult, but with a little knowledge and planning, you can make it work for you.  Here are ten tips that will help you balance your work life and home life.

1.  Set realistic goals.  It's pretty much a given fact that if you want to achieve something big, you have to make some sacrifices.  While the select few can manage, most people can't become a CEO and run a successful household.  When setting your goals, be realistic and don't stretch yourself too thin.

2.  Make schedules.  Keeping track of work and your family can be difficult to plan.  Try to keep a set schedule from day to day and week to week if you can.  Always remember to make a written schedule and give everyone a copy.

3.  Take time for yourself.  It's a natural instinct of mothers to sacrifice themselves for the good of their family.  However, it's important to remember that if you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else.  Try to schedule in at least a few minutes of "you time", whether it be going for a run, watching your favorite TV show, or just sitting in a room by yourself to relax for a few minutes.   

4.  Work from home.  If you can do your work over the Internet or phone, you may be able to swing working at least part of the time from home, giving you more time to spend with your family.  Just remember that there are a lot more things at home to distract you from getting your work done.

5.  Get some exercise.  Working out is not only a great way to stay healthy and gain energy, it's also a great way to spend time with your kids.  Instead of hitting the gym, go play ball in the park or take them for a walk.

6.  Take advantage of leave.  Most jobs allow you a certain amount of leave, but a lot of us end up not using it.  Make sure you know how much time you have and take it, whether you go on a vacation with your family or just use it to take a well-deserved rest day every so often.  

7.  Prioritize.  When making your to-do lists, figure out the things that are most important for you to do and get them done first.  If there isn't enough time to do everything, you won't feel as bad about what you have to cut.

8.  Take classes.  As many people will tell you, there's no manual on how to be a good parent and have a successful career.  But if you search around your community, you can find classes and seminars from people that have been where you are and managed to do well.  They can give you inspiration along with helpful tips and tidbits to get through your day.

9.  Watch for burn out.  Even if you schedule everything, take breaks, and do everything else above, what you're doing may just be too much for you.  Watch yourself for changes in mood or physical problems.  They could be a sign that you're burnt out and need to make some changes to your plans.  Remember, your health is important too.

10.  Learn to say no.  If you want to have a successful career and family life, you will have to learn to say no occasionally.  If you try to do everything, you're going to burn yourself out and not be able to take care of anyone.  Being a good employee and a good parent doesn't mean you need to do everything you're asked.

Do You Need Special Certification Or Training To Become A VA?

Virtual Assistants or VAs are in high demand. They provide administrative help to people around the world. It’s a growing field and a great opportunity. If you’re considering becoming a virtual assistant, congratulations. Being self employed offers a number of benefits.

Before you get started there are a few things you’ll want to have. One of those things may be a certification or specialized training. While you don’t have to have any formal training to succeed as a VA, it can certainly help.

The Benefits of Certification and/or Training

While VA certification and training isn’t required to start your own successful business it can help. Certification can:

Help set you apart from your competition. Some potential clients may choose you over your competition because you’re certified. You can use your certification as a marketing tool.

Help you establish a profitable business. Many virtual assistant training programs walk their students through the entire process of starting your own business. You’ll cover the skills and trainings clients want you to know. You’ll also learn how to market and grow your VA business. Your certification and training can help justify higher hourly rates.

Broaden your skills and knowledge. You may already have a few marketable skills. You can, of course use these to build your VA business. A certification or training program can help you add more skills and knowledge to your portfolio of services. Many training programs offer technical skills and training. You’ll be able to offer more.

Specialized knowledge means higher fees. Some VA training programs offer very specialized knowledge. This knowledge can mean you are able to demand a higher hourly rate.

Confidence booster. There’s just something helpful about going through a training program. When you pass your certification test you may feel more prepared to start your business. Confidence does matter when dealing with clients. If you’re confident in your skills, your clients will be too.

Networking. Some training programs offer you the ability to connect with other VAs. This can be extremely helpful. It’s nice to be able to connect with others who are going through the same challenges.

Choosing a Training Program

Because VAs are in such high demand, there are a number of programs to choose from. Make sure the program you choose:

* Fits your budget.
* Offers the training and information you want or need to learn.
* Is well-reviewed by other virtual assistants.

Do you need to be certified to own a successful VA business? No, absolutely not. VAs around the globe are making a good living without certification. Can certification help you achieve success? Yes. VA certification and training offers a number of business-building benefits.

How to Find Legitimate VA Opportunities

So you’ve just started a VA business and you need clients. Not to worry. You’re in a high demand business. The clients are there. You just have to know where to look. True, there are some scams out there. However, the legitimate opportunities far outweigh the scams. Here are three great ways to find legitimate VA opportunities.

Ask

In the beginning, there are a few key places to find legitimate VA opportunities. The first and often best resource is your connections. Ask your friends. Ask your family. And ask your business associates for referrals. Often, the best clients come from known sources.

Consider creating an email and sending it to the connections in your rolodex. Introduce your services. Stress the benefits you offer. And ask for referrals. You might even offer a referral bonus. For example, for each new client you receive the person earns a credit toward your services. You could really motivate people by offering cash. Just make sure that you can afford it!

Network

Another way to build your business and find legitimate VA opportunities is through networking. If you have a social networking profile, consider connecting with a few people you’d like to work with. Send them an email or a message introducing yourself. The worst thing that can happen is nothing. The best…you get a new client.

Don’t forget to promote yourself on social networking sites too. Offer promotions. Link to your blog and online content. Become a valuable contributor and help others as well. They’ll remember you and turn to you for assistance in the future.
Networking offline is great too. Join your local business organizations. Attend networking events. Bring a business card, confidence and a smile. You’re sure to meet a few new clients.

Job Sites

Finally, there are the freelance job sites and the job boards. These are full of legitimate opportunities. They’re also full of scams. Use them wisely. Make sure you research each potential opportunity thoroughly. Speak to a live person if you can.

And sites like Elance that control the payment, communication and delivery process are good. They can help you if there’s ever a dispute. And they require providers and employers to leave feedback. If the employer doesn’t have good feedback, don’t work with them.

There are legitimate VA opportunities everywhere. Market your services. Get out and meet people. And don’t be afraid to use the job boards. They do provide excellent experience, connections and profit potential. To your success!

Why Every VA Needs an Online Presence

Building a VA business? Great! Congratulations! Being self-employed is a fulfilling and rewarding lifestyle. Before you get too far into that business plan, are you planning on having a website? If you’re going to be a virtual assistant, you need one. Here’s why:

Your Clients are Online

You’re a virtual assistant. Emphasis on virtual. That means your business operates online. Via the internet, email and perhaps instant messaging and conferencing. If you’re without an online presence, you’re missing out on clients. The majority of your clients will be online business owners. That means they’re very Internet focused. They’ll turn to the internet first to search for a provider.

Now that’s not to say that you won’t have local clients. You might. However, they’ll still likely search for you online. It’s how our society buys products and services.

Your Website Establishes Your Credibility

Many VA tasks are focused on the Internet. You might be managing a blog or forum. You might be proofreading and uploading articles into article directories. You might be managing affiliates for a business. All of those tasks require a good degree of comfort using online technology. Your website helps demonstrate your ability to use the internet. It demonstrates that you’re comfortable online and skilled with using technology.

If you don’t have a website, many of your clients may wonder why not. They may simply disregard you because you’re not online.

Your Website Markets Your Services

Your website accomplishes a number of marketing tactics. It communicates your services and fees. It answers any questions a prospect might have about your services, practices and policies. It also showcases your personality. You’ll likely have an “About Me” page. This is useful for telling your story. However, the word choice, design and feel of your site also helps communicate your personality and brand your business.

Your website can also broadcast your successes. You can list your testimonials. You can cite awards you’ve earned. You can communicate organizations you’re a part of. You can also list the companies you’ve worked with. All of this helps establish you as a credible service provider. Your website can be used to build trust with your prospects.

Finally, you can use your website to facilitate many of your business functions. Communications, payments and even inquiries can be managed through your website. You can also use your website to generate more income by affiliating with products or services and by selling advertisement space.

In short, if you’re going to be a Virtual Assistant, do it the right way. Create a website that helps you build and grow your dream business.