The struggle is real…Starting out as a Virtual Assistant
Starting a career as a Virtual Assistant and continuing to work as one can be a struggle. I’ve answered some of the most common questions that most people keep asking me:
Where did you come across the idea to be a Virtual Assistant?
What are your working hours?
How did you come up with your rate?
….but the most frequently asked question is
What is a Virtual Assistant?
Let me answer this question first.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant is a person who provides support services to a business from a remote location. A virtual assistant makes a client’s work life or personal life easier by creating spare time to do what they do best in their respective fields.
For example, if a business owner is an electrical engineer with a home automation business, they may not want to spend hours sorting through receipts and balancing their books; this is where the VA comes in and completes the task thereby saving the business owner time.
Most VA’s can easily create a simplistic system to make it more productive for a client to free up time to focus on the business. Another example is assisting a business owner in the tourism industry. These business owners are normally extroverted people who want to engage with their guests once they arrive. A Virtual Assistant can easily take care of the back-office tasks such as administration, marketing, research and review, contact services, etc. whilst the business owner focuses on what matters: Guests and the Establishment.
Now, I’ll start with my first question …
Where did you come across the idea?
This was a concept that I started looking at while I lived in London, UK. It was already taking off there in 2010 or earlier and I thought that the idea of assisting several different businesses would be a great way of growing my skills and getting to know various aspects of a business. Virtual 24-7 was a seed planted already before 2010…
What are your hours?
Each day, week, or month is completely different depending on the amount of work and what my tasks are. I mostly tell people that my priority in business is to ensure that I can make my clients’ lives easier. Therefore, if they need me to work “out of office” hours – I’ll happily oblige. However, I mostly prefer early mornings to get the most work done, as no one interrupts. I also do not mind working late nights and it does help that sleep is not a priority for me 😊.
However, I’m also a big believer in having downtime. This is where managing your diary comes in extremely handy and booking slots for “focus time” is a must – at least once or twice a week.
How did you come up with your rate?
This was a difficult area for me and luckily had assistance from my previous employer and mentor. He told me to take the salary I was earning and used some calculations which worked out to the rate of R300 per hour. However, what does attract clients to my business is that I do not charge for the full hour, I round each task into 5 or 10-minute slots. This is where he also came up with my slogan for me: The “Uber” of Assistance. To find out more about my rates and please visit my website.
Why Virtual Assistance?
When I came back to South Africa, I did want to gain local experience and make new contacts and therefore fell into a job, where I was employed for four and a half years. However, with each yearly review, I would tell my boss that my long-term plan did not include working for him forever. He was very aware that I wanted to start my own business and did not want to continue in a corporate role as this was a cut-throat environment. One of the other reasons that I did not want to be tied to one job was that I wanted to explore different industries. Once you’ve been at a company for a certain period, the tasks become repetitious. I wanted variety and being a VA gives me that variation. I wanted to have the freedom to work from wherever and most importantly, being a woman – working in the office with makeup and high-heels, etc. was just not for me. I wanted to feel comfortable.
At the beginning of my VA journey, it was extremely difficult to answer these questions continuously whilst trying to get more clients. I was lucky that I had my first client before even starting (my ex-boss). He was part of an association – and they are still my client (even though he has stepped down). I have found that the biggest struggle is getting your name out there.
My advice to other Virtual Assistants
The only advice I can give is to not be shy, to tell people what you do, what you are capable of, and how you can help clients focus more on their business. Business owners, especially start-ups or entrepreneurs, tend to try and do everything themselves to save money, when in fact, they forget that the time they waste struggling with administrative tasks, is money that they lost when they didn’t focus on their specific skill or strength. VA’s are capable of saving a minimum of 5 – 10 hours a week on various tasks. It can range from diary management, booking appointments, research, and phone calls, you name it, the skill set of a VA is very broad.
Another downfall I saw with some of my acquaintances that have their own business, is that they don’t tend to tell you too much unless you ask.
I am fortunate that I am not shy, and I am very forthcoming about what I do, how my business is doing, and if I needed people to start getting the word out. Use the marketing platforms you have, mostly the people you know. Tell them about the business, services, and offer you have. Send them marketing information about your skills – share posts with them. They will let you know if it gets too much, and that is okay. You can’t regret what you haven’t tried…
The benefits of using Social Media
I’m not that big on social media, however, thankful to Facebook for reminding me of everyone’s birthdays every year 😊. But in the VA business – this can be a big bonus. If you try to keep your social media profiles such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn consistent and updated, it can draw in various clients. You do not need to pay for ads, just make your flyers or posts or info-graphics interesting and use the most relevant hashtags (try not to use 30 hashtags at a time, though). This can draw a lot of attention to your post.
Finally, I’ll end off by saying, do not give up. I’ve been at this for nearly six years. Each day, week, and month is different. That’s what keeps me on my toes, and I want to stay young (but who am I kidding). Enjoy what you are doing, so make this your passion.