So, you’ve been trawling the internet to find jobs you can do from home to work around your tiny humans. Something that you can fit around school, after-school clubs, nap times and Lego building. There, amongst the endless amounts of MLM opportunities, you see it, ‘work from home as a VA’. That’s it! You’ve got it! You’ve typed a few documents before, you know Facebook like the back of your hand and being a mum has made you super organised. Seems like the perfect money-making plan, right?
While being a VA is a perfect solution to flexible working, it really isn’t as simple as typing a few documents as a ‘side hustle’, its bloody hard work BUT is definitely doable around family life if, you approach it in the right way.
I’m Michelle, a mother of 3 small boys (8, 4 and 16 months) and fiancé of a bigger boy who works away Monday to Friday, a lot of the time overseas. I have spent the majority of my working life in Sales Administration since leaving college (many moons ago) after studying Business Administration. I have tried returning to office work part-time and working evenings and weekends to find that ‘going out to work’ just didn’t work for our family.
I started my VA journey back when I was pregnant with my third child knowing full well I didn’t want to return to my job after my maternity leave and that I wanted to work from home, on my own terms and most importantly around my family. I don’t claim to be an expert but here are my tips and things to think about if you’re serious about travelling on this road to entrepreneurship.
Do your research!
I spent 12 months, while I was pregnant and during my baby’s early days researching Virtual Assistants. I watched as many webinars, downloaded freebies and read as much as physically possible to get it straight in my head what was involved.
Preparation is key!
Write down your daily schedule, the times you’re doing the school run, baby’s nap time, feed times and realistically work out how many hours you can commit to work during the day. By that I don’t necessarily mean during daylight hours, you might find that you just can’t work during 9-5 but can work from when you put the beasts to bed. Don’t forget to factor in worst case scenarios because we all know just when you think you’ve got your shiz together, one of the life barnacles will no doubt come down with a sickness bug or the pox to put a spanner right in the works. Trust me, there’s no time for sitting at the computer when your youngest is vomming all over your brand-new sofa and you have to Dettol anything that’s not moving!
Not just with yourself and about the time you can commit to this but be honest with your clients. You will read comments from other VAs saying how it just isn’t possible to run a successful business while your children are at home but speaking from experience, (most) clients are understanding when it comes to working around families. As long as you meet your deadlines and deliver when you say you’re going to they don’t actually care how the work gets done just as long as it does get done. I’m not saying drop this little bit of info in during the first 30 seconds of your consultation, I’ve actually included it in my ‘about’ page on my site which clients get directed to if they would like to know a little bit about me. It usually comes up naturally in conversation when you start discussing hours.
Building a support network is vital and will be your lifeline. Before you start out, make sure family and friends are aware of what you’ll be doing. For instance, my mum has every Wednesday off work and my friend who runs a business from home has Thursday mornings off work, so I know if I need to book in a consultation with a client those days are the best for me to do so. No client wants your child squawking on in the background or a play date at costa when they’re discussing their ideas for outsourcing work to you.
This is my dance space.
Dedicate a space in your home for work. It doesn’t have to be one of those fancy garden offices (glorified shed, I need one in my life. Not for work, solely for gin drinking) or an entire room dedicated to everything VA. It could be a quiet corner of a room or space in your bedroom, just a dedicated and peaceful area that you can ignore the kids … I mean work from. Make everyone aware that this is YOUR space. It is not somewhere for them to showcase their latest cardboard creation, or somewhere to lay out their impressive Pokemon card collection. This is the space that mummy works from and it is NOT for children!
Although sometimes your office equipment can aide in your child’s development. My toddler learnt to walk by pushing around my little Ikea filing cabinet on wheels, win, win!
No matter whether you chose to go out to work or to work from home the mum guilt will always rear its ugly head. It’s just something that comes hand in hand with motherhood. I’ve felt at times that all I’ve said to my boys is ‘in a minute, mummy is just working’ ‘I’ll be with you in a sec, I’m just finishing some work’. I have to remind myself that at least I’m here, at home with them. Not rocking in from my office job at 7pm just in time to put them to bed.
While working from home presents its challenges, do it properly and it can most definitely be well worth it for you, and your family.
Aside from working out whether you can make this work around your family life also, remember that you are going to be running a business, this is not a hobby. Make sure you have insurances in place, registered with the ICO and have got contracts ready to send to any clients. Only offer services that you are competent in doing, don’t be a ‘have a go Jo’, this will only reflect badly on you and your business in the end.
Guest blog contributed by Michelle Freeman, owner of Michelle Freeman Virtual Assistant