Are you ready to be a Virtual Assistant?
The world of work has changed and continues to, fast! More and more employees are seeking a better work life balance and choosing to take control of their lives by becoming their own boss, and with success!
Access to knowledge, resources and online learning with a simple Google search opens up a whole new world for everyone, enabling anyone to pursue their dream of being in total control of their life.
Successful Virtual Assistant Jo-Anna Francis (Maidstone Virtual Assistant) and I, Delegate VA, had a little Q&A virtually, of course, to share what it’s like since taking the leap from employee to business owner.
Like me you were an employee, with a background in marketing and admin, what was the catalyst for going it alone?
My story is one of taking a bad situation, making it a whole lot worse and then having a total lightbulb moment and making it better! I was made redundant after nearly ten years as Head of Corporate Sales at a Kent venue, and only a few months after returning to work from maternity leave. I was horrified. I felt institutionalised like I didn’t know how to do anything other than the role I’d been doing. But, pulling myself together I applied for (and landed) a bigger, higher salary role with a football club. I even negotiated myself out of my paid gardening leave in order to start this seemingly fantastic job. Very long story short, it was hell on earth! I hated every second and it was a toxic, high staff turnover, chauvinistic environment. I stuck it out for eight weeks…
And the upside? The upside was that I came away from there knowing that I never again wanted to be an employee but also having seen the extent of the changes I could make to a business in a very small amount of time. I had finally found my “thing” and that was my lightbulb moment and gave me the confidence to set up my own business.
What was the biggest hurdle in starting your own business?
For me, the biggest hurdle was finding the right balance. I have always worked full time and anticipated continuing in the same manner, but with a young baby, a teenager and a self-employed husband, I knew that setting up my own business would have to take account of all these factors. The hurdle for me really was holding back my own drive and enthusiasm and not allowing my business to become all consuming too soon!
What changes have being your own boss had on your life?
The changes in my life have been immense, from setting my own hours and managing my own time through to being able to have complete control over my income. I still work quite a “corporate” day, as the 9-5 mentality is ingrained in me, but I’m able to incorporate going to the gym and running (still at 7:30am but I don’t tell myself off if I’m late to the office due to an extended shower!). I haven’t missed a sports day or a nativity play, and I have the pleasure of walking my son to school / collecting him from school on the days that he is with me (I now share custody 50:50 with my ex-husband – not everything survived the transition to self-employment!).
Who was your first client?
My first client was someone I already knew on Facebook, who needed some help with marketing and new business development. And that leads me to a piece of invaluable advice – don’t be afraid to use your network of friends and family to get off the starting blocks. I set up my business Facebook page on the day I set up my business and shared it with all my friends, asking them to like and share it. You really don’t know who has a need for your services until you ask!
How long until you were earning enough to be full time in your business?
My startup plan was simple – I had my redundancy package as a fall back but was reluctant to touch that so I needed to make enough money to pay my contribution to the household costs, pay for the two days of family/friends childcare and pay for a cleaner (my luxury I will not live without!).
I was incredibly fortunate to land clients straight away that enabled me to do this, and I have never had to touch my redundancy. And as my financial requirements have changed and my availability increased (from paid for childcare, through to pre-school and now school, and a 50% custody arrangement) I have been able to scale up my business accordingly.
Have you ever thought about giving it all up?
Not once! I really have never looked back.
What one piece of advice would you give to anyone thinking about becoming a virtual assistant?
Find your niche. I was given this advice early on and to be honest I didn’t take it. I thought that by niching down, I’d be closing the door on potential clients and turning away money.
It took me a couple of years to realise that you cannot be all things to all people, and nor should you try to be. It is far better to become an expert in one or two areas and have people come to you as the “go to” person for those skill sets. You can still leave the door open for other areas of work, but build up a team of associates who can take this work on for you. I now specialise in Infusionsoft and marketing automation, but if clients approach me with work outside of these areas, then I’m able to quickly connect with other VA’s, like yourself Catherine, and we find the most suitable person to undertake the client’s project.