Virtual Assistants (VAs) are highly skilled professionals who provide administrative support and specialized services to businesses, entrepreneurs, executives, and others who have more work to do than time to do it. Examples of services a VA can do include web design and maintenance, word processing, meeting and event planning, desktop publishing, internet research, e-mail coordination, business start-up consultations and so much more. This can be the perfect work-at-home opportunity for many with good computer and Internet skills. Following are several Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind for starting and operating your Virtual Assisting business.
DO -- Decide on a targeted market and initially focus your marketing efforts in that area. By developing a “niche” in your field, your reputation spreads quickly and soon you become a recognized expert. Several specialties include: medical, legal or business transcription, resume consulting, transaction coordination -- real estate industry, desktop publishing, manuscript preparing, academic typing, e-mail support, internet research, etc.
DO -- Be creative about where you can find business. The Internet offers a large variety of potential for clients just waiting for you to contact them. Actively network and don’t limit your marketing to simply placing a few ads in newspapers or the Yellow Pages. You want to find where there might be a need—and go fill it!
DO -- Write a complete business plan and marketing plan. Too many leave out this vital step and waste valuable time unorganized and without a clear-cut goal and direction for their business. When starting a business you will have tons of ideas floating around. You need to materialize all these and put them into a workable plan of action.
DO -- Develop a website that looks sensational! Your website is often the first connection a potential client has with your services. It must immediately let them know that they are dealing with a professional. Your site must then have the POWER to draw them to you and contact you. Let them see that you value quality by the look and feel of it. Additional tips include letting them know what services you offer and why you are qualified to offer those services by mentioning your experience and education. Be sure to include points on why you stand out among the rest and are the BEST! For example, if you have been featured in articles, radio shows, etc., have them listed with the dates. (See my example on www.virtualwordpublishing.com)
DO -- Learn everything you can about starting a business. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the greater your chances for success. Look to online services and message boards and chats to talk with other Virtual Assistants operating a business. Remember these are often run by pros who have been in business for years and are willing to share their experience. For example, I mentor and manage virtual assisting boards on HBWM.com, Bizymoms.com, Momspreneursonline.com and VAnetworking.com. With 20 year’s experience, I often know what works and what doesn’t in starting a business and staying successful, so my experience can prove beneficial.
DO -- Join associations that are targeted for our Industry. A few of the more popular ones are IAVOA.com and IVAA.com, but there are many others. By connecting with these associations and being active, you learn from them what works and what doesn’t and you are able to post your questions to associate members via list serves often getting answers to your questions within minutes.
DO -- Read, read, read. By frequently continuing to increase your skills and your knowledge of your profession, the end result is a more confident satisfied you. Every tip you get from a book can be a new tool in your business. I recommend highlighting areas from several books and adding them to your library. Keep in mind that you might not use that idea today, but it might apply to specialties you might add down the road.
DO -- Enjoy!! There’s no greater feeling than landing that first client or finishing your first big project. Plus, wait until you get the opportunity to tell someone you own and operate your own virtual assisting business. It sure beats I’m a secretary at .... Plus, when you enjoy your business it shows. Your clients will sense your positive attitude and want to be a part of your team.
DON'T – Under price your services. The average virtual assistant today makes $25 to $70 an hour, depending on their skills, services offered, location, and years of experience. Don’t make the mistake of assuming if you charge the lowest prices, you’ll get the most work. You won’t. Instead, you’ll end up working outrageous hours for peanuts! Clients will pay more for professional services. When a potential client discovers you’re charging a lower rate than standard, they often feel they will receive a quality of services that is also lower.
DON'T -- Overextend yourself. One of the common mistakes many virtual assistants make is to accept too much work and then not be able to accurately complete it. Learn to say no or have a back-up helper who can assist you with any overflow work. Remember one of the most important ingredients for success is keeping your clients satisfied. If you overextend yourself and make a lot of errors, it will jeopardize your business.
DON'T -- Get discouraged. It takes time to get a business going. Plan ahead and have money saved in reserve. Don’t buy items until you have found the best possible price and there is an absolute need. This advance planning takes the pressure off of having to make money NOW. If things are slow and the phone just isn’t ringing ... MAKE IT RING!! There’s plenty of work out there, you just need to aggressively pursue it.
Finally, the most important ingredient for success is your belief in yourself. If you believe that with your skills and experience, you can own your own business, then there’s nothing stopping you. DREAMS DO COME TRUE. SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED TO MAKE THEM HAPPEN.