This is a question I get asked from time to time, via email, and I thought I’d answer it here.
One of the very first things I notice when I get this request, is how the email is written. Some write the email well and professionally but others write to me like they might be writing to a family member or even similar to text speak on mobile phones.
I can say that not writing the email professionally instils little confidence for me that the person writing is going to be able to manage a VA business. Email is the first point of contact in many cases, so it’s important to project yourself in the best possible light. Your clients need to know that you are going to represent their business well, when acting on their behalf, so very important that you represent your own business well. If you were applying for a job you’d take great care in the letter and application, so the same should go when contacting someone about starting up a business – any type of business.
When I respond to these emails and ask a small number of important questions, the way you respond and the information you give is very important. It helps me to see that you can follow instruction and that you do read the emails properly. After all, if you decide you would like to join the VA Directory, then I need to know you’ll look after our clients well – as they will become your clients.
Apart from these two things, there are other things you can do.
- Join a VA forum (or more than one) to mix and mingle with other VAs and learn about your peers and the industry.
- Make sure you have a recent computer, good internet connection and at minimum, Microsoft Office. If you’re providing services that need other software programs, make sure you have the full copies and that you are conversant with them.
- Make sure you have a decent desk and chair to use, because you will be sitting at, and on, for long hours each day. Protecting your back and other parts of your body is very important, as your health is too.
- Phone service and also a good backup system. Dropbox is commonly used by VAs the world over and is a good program to use.
- Start telling people what you are planning to do. Build up the interest and expectations. Marketing is something that needs to start from the very beginning and should never stop. When you stop marketing, the work stops coming in not long after. So it needs to be constant.
- Plan what services you want to provide and do your homework to work out rates that are right for you. Copying someone else’s rates won’t work, especially if you don’t know what taxes, insurances and other expenses you need to be covering. Seek out an Accountant who can direct you accordingly. Remember that almost every service you provide will have a typing component to it, so being able to type properly is important.
- Seek a mentor, coach, or VA trainer to help you get things in order.
- Look for an industry based association to join. In Australia there is the Australian Virtual Assistants Association (AVAA), in the US there’s the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) and in the UK, the International Association of Virtual Assistants (IAVA). Each of these organisations are run by a board of practicing Virtual Assistants and have the VA industry at heart. In every industry there is always an industry association that is designed to guide members of their industry and provide support services and often education too. So it’s good to know that there are associations available for the VA industry too.
Apart from the above, all that’s needed is the skillset and experience to provide the services you want to offer and the decision to get started.
I’m also asked what type of income can be expected? A VA can earn a full-time income but it does take time to build that up. It can easily be between 6-24 months before you are earning what could be considered a full time income. It very much depends on what type of services you plan to offer and how much time you spend networking and marketing your business. And remember, that ‘full-time’ might not necessarily mean the same income you’re earning in your current job, but rather sufficient income to pay all your living expenses minus your additional expenses relating to being at a job, i.e. travel, uniforms, meals away from home, childcare, etc. It’s realistic that your expenses will change once working full time at home.