What Is Keeping Your VA Business Stuck?

What Is Keeping Your VA Business Stuck?

If your VA business is not where you want it to be, what is making you struggle? Figure that out by reading below.

How do you feel when you think about your VA business?

Do you feel like a success? Are you proud to talk about how it’s going?

A lot of Virtual Assistants – no matter what stage of their business they are in –  are not happy. In fact, they are struggling, and they don’t know why.

Or they just fly by the seat of their pants, and then they wonder why they are not successful.

I hear from VAs like that every day. Is that you?

When I ask them how their business is going, I get a lot of the same responses:

  • It’s hard.
  • I don’t know where to find clients.
  • I am not making enough money.
  • I’m stuck on a business name.
  • I can’t start marketing until my website is ready.
  • I’m still working on my logo.
  • I’m no good at networking in person.

Some of these problems are just excuses to not start (that happens very often with new VAs!)

Some of them are simply decisions you have to make – you must learn to be brave!

And some of them are valid issues that you need to get help with, if you can’t move forward yourself.

I often challenge the excuses that VAs use to not start or grow their business.

It’s my job as a coach to help push you through the fear that you have around being a business owner and experiencing success.

I had to have someone push me through my fears and insecurities too. It’s not fun, but it does work.

So I ask these VAs what their plan is. Often they don’t have a plan, and that’s the whole problem.

Are you making excuses? or do you just need a little push?

If any of those protests above sound like you, here is my advice:

It’s hard.

Yep, it is. Being a VA means being a business owner, and that’s not always easy. Usually the reason it’s so hard is that you don’t have a strategy in place to market your business, to find clients, and to manage the work with them. That’s really all you need to do. Treat your VA business like a business, act like a business owner and you will find it much easier.

I don’t know where to find clients.

Who are your clients? If you have not chosen a target market or industry yet, that’s your first step. Once you decide who you are looking for, you can figure out where to find them. Ask your colleagues if you don’t know. Getting clients means getting in front of the people who need your services, so they can see you. Reach out. Connect.

I am not making enough money.

How much money are you making? Where is it coming from? Do you need to raise your rates? Or do you need more clients? Get specific about what the issue is, so you can put the right plan in place to fix it. If you need to raise your rates, figure out how to tell your current clients. And any new clients you bring in, start them at the new rate. If you need to find new clients, make a plan to do that.

I’m stuck on a business name.

You have a name. Your personal name. Don’t let branding or a business name stop you from starting your business. It’s an excuse, and a bad one at that. If you are ready to serve clients – you have your services chosen, your rates set, a contract to have them fill in, and a means for them to pay you, you can get going. Don’t hang yourself up on this. Get moving.

I can’t start marketing until my website is ready.

This is the same as your business name. You don’t need a website to start having conversations with people. Your website will always be a work in progress. You do need an online presence when you get started but not necessarily a website. Update your LinkedIn profile so it’s current and describes what you do. Start a Facebook page for your business. There you go. You’re online and visible.

I’m still working on my logo.

Most clients will never even notice your logo. I know that’s probably upsetting if that’s your main focus right now but it is so true. Clients want to know two things: what you can do for them, and how much it will cost them. Branding is important, sure, but it should not be a stopping point to getting your business off the ground. Bring in some clients and revenue, and then you can brand to your heart’s content!

I’m no good at networking in person.

Many VAs are introverts. It’s part of our nature, being support professionals. But networking is really just about asking questions and assessing whether you can help someone. That’s not as hard as you think. If you really get paralyzed by networking, you might need to seek help to get better at it. If you really can’t connect with people, you will have difficulty getting clients. Maybe being a subcontractor is a better plan for you.

If you are using any of these reasons (excuses!) to stay stuck in your business, start moving through the issue. Check out the links in this article to get more info.

Success takes planning, and consistent efforts to implement those plans. And it’s great when you can crush those excuses!!

If you just need a little help to push you through what you are stuck on, reach out for a complimentary Cut to the Chase call with me. We will talk about where you are now, where you want to go, and I'll give you my best advice for what your next step should be. Book yours here: www.yourvamentor.com/15-min.

6 Ways to Manage Your Time Better Every Day as a VA

If you are a Virtual Assistant who is working early mornings, late nights, or both trying to get it all done, it’s time to look at how you manage your time every day.

As a VA, we preach to our clients the importance of not working all hours of the day. But are we taking our own advice?

How is your VA business running? Are you finding you have enough time in your day to do your client work and your business admin?

Or are you struggling every day to get it all done?

If you constantly run to keep up, or get to the end of your day and your task list is not complete, it’s time to look at a few ways you can better manage your time.

Being in business doesn’t mean you have to work all hours – we tell our clients all the time that they shouldn’t, and yet we sometimes don’t take that advice to our own hearts.

Here are 6 tips to help you become more productive (or figure out where your time is going!):

Assess your To Do List

When you start your work day, look at what it is you need to get done. How does it look? Do you immediately know that this will be a very busy day – that you might not get it all done? That’s okay if that happens occasionally, but if it’s happening every day, you need to assess what you are putting into your calendar and how you can adjust it.  What you plan for the day needs to be manageable.

Work During Business Hours

When you are running a business, you have to pick and choose what to do – and your billable work should come before everything else. With no client revenue, your business will not survive. Working during business hours instead of doing the groceries or going to Johnny’s school is important. You don’t have to work 9-5 every day, but you do need to set business hours that work for you and work during them as much as possible.  Trying to work around family needs will lead to burnout faster than if you just hold certain periods of time for you to be working on business.

Block Out Your Schedule

Blocking out your schedule helps you to identify what you should be doing at what time. That doesn’t mean rigid and boring routines – but it does help you stay focused and let others know when you will get to things. Put start times and stop times in your calendar, so you know when it’s time to move on to the next task. Advise you clients what your turnaround time is for their projects. Block out personal time like meals and breaks – no eating at your desk! You will get more done, and still be able to do everything you want – business and personal.

Limit Distractions

One of the biggest issues with working from home is distractions. Sometimes it’s because there are others home with us during the day, and sometimes it’s just that no one else is watching us. We can do whatever we want! If you are not being as productive as you need to be, try switching off all distractions – notifications, social media, Netflix (!) – and see just how much you can get done in a short period of time. It’s really effective – trust me!

Get Support When You Need It

If you are working all hours of every day, look at why that is. What is taking up your time? If it is billable work, it may be time to hire a sub or two to lighten your load. It’s a great to build your business and bring in even more clients, when you get a couple of people to help you with the client work. When you are working alone, you will eventually max out the amount of work you can produce for clients. If you are underwater with bookkeeping or marketing tasks, consider getting help with those. Support is something we tell our clients is essential to grow their business, and the same is true for our own.

Use Checklists

Even if you think you know what you need to do, a checklist is an indispensable tool in our businesses. When you have a a repeatable task, set up a checklist for it so you don’t have to think about what to do next. You will free up very valuable brain space when you just need to consult a checklist to complete your tasks. And you can use a checklist when you bring in other support to help you.

When you work alone, no one is there to make sure you get everything done and don’t fall off track. You need to do it yourself.

By implementing simple things like scheduling, focus and checklists, you can help yourself get more done in a shorter period of time.

When you are starting your VA business, time management seems less important because you don’t have a full client load. As you get busier, you will need to manage many more tasks every day.

I always find myself dropping balls when I have less to do, not more. When I have lots of things to get done,  I manage my time much better.

Setting up good practices now is a good habit to get into, so when you get really busy you already have great habits!

If you want more lessons on time management, check out my Productivity videos on my YouTube channel. There are more than 50 free training videos for Virtual Assistants there! 

7 Tips to Get the Most Out of a Live Virtual Assistant Conference

Attending a Virtual Assistant conference often come with expenses – registration, of course, and sometimes travel costs. So many VAs shy away from going to them when they see them.

I recently attended the IVAA Live Summit in San Antonio, Texas with 40 other VAs. Getting together in person with your fellow VAs is not just fun, but it helps you grow as a business owner.

Attending a Virtual Assistant conference is different than any other business conference you will attend because all of the content and event activities are focused around our industry – VAs. The attendees are all VAs, and the whole theme is how to help you make your VA business better.

Here are 7 tips to help you get the most out of attending a live VA conference:

1. Deepen Relationships

Just like you build more know, like and trust with your potential clients when you meet them at in person events, the same is true for VAs. But at a VA conference, the relationships you are building are with your colleagues. They GET what you do. You can be relaxed and connect with others, ask questions about problems you are dealing with in your business, and just make friends!

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Share

Many conference hosts and speakers will have ice breakers in their talks or events that help you to share some information about your business that you might not have otherwise put up your hand to share. Don’t be afraid to share when asked to. You are always in a safe space at a conference with your colleagues – and you might just get the advice you need from VAs who really understand.

3. Don’t Sell Yourself Short

You know more than you think you do. Many VAs struggle with their own value, or focus on what others are doing instead of what they should be doing. When you gather with a group of VAs – many of us have been in your shoes – trying to find a way to make money and not feeling like what we already know how to do is adequate. Successful VAs will show you that you have special skills right now, and that should be what you focus on right now to get clients.

4. Focus on One Takeway

We have all gotten conference brain-freeze at one time or another. There is so much information that comes at us in a short period of time, it can often be overwhelming. To manage what you are taking in, at the end of each session, focus on just one thing that you can implement in your business moving forward. Virtual Assistants often think we have to do it all to be successful, but it’s better to find one nugget from each speaker that you can use – and then build a plan to implement the other stuff at a later date.

5. Social is Essential

One of the biggest reasons to attend a live VA conference is to socialize with your peers. Usually there are breaks so that you can network – but don’t forget to also change seats after each speaker or break – so that you can connect with new people throughout the event.  If there are meal breaks, get together with others to deepen your relationships with them. And if there are after-hours social events, be sure to take part. Many VAs are introverts but the social aspect is an essential way to help you realize what an amazing camaraderie Virtual Assistants have.

6. Ask Questions

Never be afraid to ask questions when you are at a VA conference.  Sometimes the speakers or the hosts are trying to fit their information into a box of time – and they can leave out details you need to process their advice or information. If something is unclear or you need further explanation, ask. You are probably not the only wondering – and you will get more out of the session when you completely understand what is being taught. And – by standing up to ask a question, you introduce yourself and your business – and the others will remember you when the event ends.

7. Take Pictures

Long after you are back home, you will have memories of your time with your VA colleagues. But pictures are worth a thousand words. Be sure to take some photos of the event. Not only can you savour your memories of time well spent, but you can also use them on social media and in your blog, and help you remain excited about the connections you made and the learning you received.

If you have not yet attended a VA conference, consider doing so.

You will grow relationships with Virtual Assistants that can turned into accountability partners, strategic partners, trusted colleagues, and even some of your best friends.

You will learn how to make your business better – topics vary from event to event, but often cover things like business foundations, mindset, marketing, skills, and so much more… the same things that you learn at other business events, but they are all tailored to Virtual Assistants at our conferences.

The VA Conference Live in Ottawa

I invite you to check out our upcoming live VA conference in Ottawa on June 7-8, 2019. This is our third annual VA conference in Ottawa, and every year we make it better for you! This year we have introduced a theme of Confidence - and will have expert speakers teaching you how to improve your mindset, branding, value, message, content, marketing strategies, and more. For more details and to register, visit:  www.TheVAConference.com

Building A Business Plan For Your Virtual Assistant Business

I wanted to do a quick video for you today about  building a business plan for your Virtual Assistant business. 

If you do not have a business plan, and this is something that a lot of Virtual Assistants are starting out or who are having a little bit of difficulty growing their business really often don't have in place.

When you write anything down it really helps to reinforce it in your brain.

So when VAs ask me if they need a business plan, my short answer is always: yes.

Because if you want to have any success in your business, you have to have a plan.

You have to know certain things and doing your business plan is what is going to be one of the easiest things for you to do.

One of the reasons that people don't like to do them is they get really scared of massive documents and that kind of thing. So I've got a business plan template that for my clients that I think just fits enough stuff into it.

It's not overwhelming. Well, it is overwhelming if you don't know the answers to things, but it helps you to look at what you don't know yet, what you need to figure out.

It helps you to put strategies in place but it also helps you to make decisions and that's the big thing.

If you have a big gaping hole in your business plan because you haven't figured out what your rate is, or who your ideal clients are, or  what services you're actually going to offer, or how your money's going to look, then that's a really key thing that you need to look into.

So the components of your business plan that I provide to my students are:

Your Business Model

How is your business going to be structured? Are you going to work by the hour?  By the project? By package of services? 

When you look at your business model, you can bring revenue into your business in a lot of different ways.

Are you going to work on retainer?

Are you going to work with a team?

Do you plan to have subcontractors?

Do you have part-time work?

Are you earning commissions?

How is your business going to work? There are lots of different ways.

You don't just have to work one-to-one with clients. That's obviously going to be the main way that you earn income, particularly in the first few years of your business, but there are lots of ways that you can supplement that income.

So you want to look at that and figure out how you can really make the amount of money you want to make. And the business model is a really big piece of that.

Finance and Revenue Forecasting

Because this is a really challenging area for a lot of people, I often suggest to just get help with it. Learn what you don't know.

So if you don't know how to do the finance part of it to figure out what your startup costs are, what you're going to have to pay on a regular basis, what you need to earn pre-tax, and and what you're going to bring into your household, what you need to earn in any particular month, that's what you need to look at.

You need to figure it out.

If I need to bring in $2,000 a month, and my billable rate is going to be around here ("$XX"), how does that actually convert -  how does that make sense for you in terms of client number of clients, or what those clients need to pay you?

Do you need to have two big clients at $1,000 a month? Or can you have eight smaller clients  who pay you $250 a month (is my math right?). So less commitment - it is a lot easier to get clients at a lower level, but you need more of them, obviously.

And then how does that work into how your business is going to be set up? 

So finance and revenue forecasting is really important to learn how to do.

That's something I teach, so I can definitely help!

Services and Rates

When you know what your revenue levels are going to be, then you can break that out into services.

If you need to make $500 per client (or whatever that looks like for you), how does that look and what services can you provide for clients to get them to that level? Determine what your rate is and and how much you'll do.

Services and rates always go hand in hand, so I quite often teach them together.

Clients

Big question! Who are your clients going to be?

A lot of VAs think they can serve anybody - that they can work with anybody - and although that's not false (it's actually quite true!), it really makes it hard to run a business, whenever you are sort of 'everything to everybody'.

If you target a particular industry for your marketing, in any given time you can determine the markets that you would like to work with.

I settled quite early on, on business coaches because they were often solopreneurs. There weren't a ton of people around. They were the decision-maker in their business. We could develop a one-to-one relationship. They wanted somebody long-term. They needed someone to do the things that I could do, like client care. There was always ongoing business. They did launches every few months, so I could take my marketing stuff and work into that.

So there are lots of different things that you can look at in terms of who your clients will be, and where they'll be.

Sometimes you want local clients. Sometimes you don't want local clients. That's a really big piece of your business plan as well.

Competitive Analysis

A competitive analysis is not about looking at your competitors or other VAs as competition to you. In fact, the VA industry is really really collaborative, and people who are in the industry and doing well, know there's more than enough work for everybody - really good clients!

There are tons of really good clients right now that simply don't have any help, because we're just still a growing industry ourselves.

So doing a competitive analysis (I really hate that word!),  is what it is you need. To look and see what the market will bear for the services that you want to offer.

You can't just sort of fix a price to it and go. I wouldn't suggest it, anyway.

You want to make sure that that the industry that you are going to be working with is able to support the rate that you want to charge. You want to know that you're somewhere in line with what other people are doing.

You can also get some really good ideas about how to package your services, or maybe who to market to, by doing a little bit of kind of competitive analysis for your clients.

Research is always going to be your friend here, but you have to use that research then to make some decisions.

Marketing Plan

You need to really put things down on paper. 

Set your end goal - this is always the way I do goal setting - set your end goal, and then you break it down into the steps that will take you to get there.

You break things down into actionable pieces, and then you can take those action steps and you can break those down into smaller daily activities, so that you can actually get things done.

Looking at marketing in terms of that perspective, what do you want to get? It's probably clients, right?

How do you do that? You need to write it all down. You need to  make sure that you do what you need to do.

When you put these things into your business plan, you can look at them.

You can see where the gaps are, and you can see what it is that you need to get support with, or you just need to make some decisions around.

If it's your rate, you know sometimes it's just set a rate and get going. It's not about looking around, and asking a million other people.

If you don't know how to do some pieces of the marketing, maybe that's where you need to get some support or some training.

So ... it's really important to get your business plan written down.

You can see exactly what it is that you need to work on, and then you can just get working.

There's a really great quote that I love:

Benjamin Franklin says "Failing to plan is planning to fail "

When you put things in place you can see what you need to work on.

You can see what needs to happen next, and it's really going to help your business.

For more Virtual Assistant training, visit our YouTube channel here or click the image below!