Interview with a Virtual Assistant

What’s it like to be a Virtual Assistant? Even the title seems quite mysterious.  Where do they work and what’s it like to be one? I decided to ask Karen, a VA in my network group.

I know you’re virtual but do you have a real office?

Yes, my office is a dedicated room in my home. I know some people believe we virtual assistants work from our kitchen or dining room table but quite honestly, I don’t know of any who do that.

My office is entirely separate from the living areas in my home and has a great view of the Cheshire/Derbyshire hills.  My work requires concentration so I like a quiet, uncluttered space where I have all my important stuff around me but where I can close the door on it all at the end of my working day. That’s important.

Does it get a bit lonely working alone?

Usually, I’m that busy I haven’t got time to be lonely. What is important though, is taking a break. I’ve been known to be so engrossed in my work; I realise I haven’t surfaced for hours. Like me, if you spend lots of time, working in isolation, go and do some networking and get along to a local meeting. It’s not about selling, it’s just inspiring to meet other business owners, and because I like the early morning events, there’s great breakfast too.

How did you get started?

I knew I wanted to be a VA but having worked in the corporate world for such a long time, the first thing I did was find out how it feels to be a start-up business; all the challenges of a limited budget, no IT support, HR department, PR or Marketing teams. I spent six months with a new company, in an industry I’d never worked in before and got stuck in doing everything. Having a better understanding of small business challenges helped me get a plan together and start my VA business.

How many people do you work with?

I’ve got 23 customers in total. Obviously, I don’t work with them all of them at the same time. Some customers chose to buy a block of hours per week, on a retainer basis, and others to use my services on an ad hoc basis.

Do you have a specialist subject or niche?

Sounds like mastermind but yes, I do. My background is in PR and communications, so I specialise in writing content, creating images, researching and preparing presentations. The majority of customers come from the Science, Financial Services, Recruitment and learning and development sectors.

How did your customers find you?

Some already knew me and wanted to work with me, so that was a great start. Now, my clients come from a mix of referrals and networking. In the early days, I looked at some of the crowd-sourcing websites. It can be a great way to work, but it’s a fairly competitive environment so I’d say be mindful of how much time you could spend time pitching for work.

How do you manage multiple clients?

I’m always curious about technology and sharing it with others. I like finding out what’s new and the latest techniques which make work easier. I use Office 365 for Business which is great for information sharing, project tracking and managing multiple customer tasks. I also write a lot of lists but that’s just my thing, I love writing a list. That’s why planning, tracking and time management is such an important aspect of being a VA.

What do most of your customers say they need?

Time. That’s what it really boils down to and where I come in. Take blog writing, for example. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. One of my customers once spent nearly a whole day trying to write one blog article. He handed it over to me, and I had it done in an hour. That’s the value of using a specialist VA.

What’s the hardest part of being a VA

I wouldn’t say it’s hard, but it’s the same for every business owner. For me, as well as helping someone else run a business, I’m running a business too. It means I have to be just as organised with my own admin and set aside time for bookkeeping, managing my website, blog writing as well as learning, networking and self-development.

What are you most proud of?

It’s a great feeling to get a call or email from the people I work with, especially when they say how well their workshop or the presentation went or how much their blog article was shared. I don’t expect praise. It’s my job to make another person’s life easier. I always remember I work with busy people and if they have a better day because of me, that’s great.

Any advice for VAs just starting out in business?

The virtual assistant business is a growing industry so I would say, get your terms and conditions in place from day one.

Be business minded. Even if you’ve got years of experience under your belt, it’s very different when it comes to running your own business.

As with any new business, it takes a while to establish a steady cash flow so before you take on any work, be very clear about the expectations on both sides; yours and the customer. Ask for purchase orders, set out your terms of business, get your invoices right and you’ll get paid on time.

Know what you’re good at and what work you want to do. There’s no point in taking on anything and everything if you don’t enjoy it.

If you’re about to set up in business as a Virtual Assistant, why not have a chat with me? I care about cash flow and helping businesses get paid on time. I can advise you on contracts, terms and conditions and what you’ll need on your invoice.

Got a question?

If you have any enquiries about our services at Rachael Chiverton Ltd, please contact us on 07756 772950.

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