So you’re thinking of setting up as a Virtual PA and you’ve read a lot of practical advice, but has anyone actually talked about becoming a successful Virtual PA?
There’s a world of difference between ticking the boxes (knowing your insurance, Data protection, HMRC and other requirements which I cover for my members) and actually making money. So let’s have a look at what you actually need to know in the real world!
If there’s one mistake that can really trip people up, it’s not spending enough time finding out who their target market is.
Get this one wrong and you’ll find yourself losing precious time and money. How do I know? I did exactly this when I was starting out 13 years ago!
I was so sure that every small business owner would be wowed by the idea of using a Virtual PA that I didn’t stop to think about some really important things such as whether they were open to the idea of virtual working.
So I put expensive ads in the wrong places, I got knock back after knock back and to be honest, I nearly gave up hope at one point.
How did I turn it around? I realised I needed to know exactly who to look for. I needed to get inside their head and work out which websites they hung out on, which networking groups they used, find out which social media they preferred, the lifestyle they led, even which car they drove.
Once I had this knowledge, my business took off – I was preaching to the converted and they wanted to work with me.
When I started out 13 years ago, just being a Virtual PA was niche enough. So many people hadn’t even heard about virtual working.
These days things are very different. In a world of Virtual PAs, the challenge is how to get seen and one way to do this is to consider specialising and targeting a niche market.
Now people might warn you that you’re going to be missing out on lots of business by doing this, but they’d be wrong.
There are so many ways to specialise as a Virtual PA – from bookkeeping to becoming an expert on specific software packages. Or why not use your previous work experience? We have members who specialise in areas as diverse as medical consultants, personal trainers and Church of England organisations.
Think about a potential client who has two options – a great all-rounder VA or a specialist VA who understands their specific line of work. It’s not hard to work out who most would pick!
So if you decide to pick a niche, go for that market with all your might. They are so much easier to find and far easier to connect with.
If you’re wondering what an accountability partner is, it’s someone who holds you to account on your business decisions and plans and challenges you to want more.
It’s all too easy to surround yourself with family or friends who tell you how brave you are for setting up a business or let you make excuses for why you haven’t got round to starting your marketing plan.
They mean well, but they’ll never help you with half truths and platitudes. Remember you don’t want nice, you want action and you want progress.
Someone who encourages you to do the things that scare you, to ask you why you didn’t do what you said you would and who really understands the challenges and excitement of running their own business.
Now you might not think it’s a great idea if you’re looking forward to escaping the idea of answering to a boss, but it really couldn’t be more different. You’re partnering with them for your own growth and to make sure that your business thrives.
So pick wisely – a business colleague, perhaps someone with a new business too. Just make sure it’s someone who won’t let you get away with not giving it your all.
If you’re new to setting up a business, the fact that you’re reading this suggests you have the good sense to realise that you’re going to need information and guidance to get it off the ground.
But let’s be honest, you’re probably thinking you don’t want to spend a huge amount of money.
I recently spoke to someone, let’s call her Tracy, who didn’t either. For £199, she signed up for an online course and was soon dreaming of all the things she’d improve about her life when she had her own business and could work flexibly.
Now initially, everything was fine – she found some useful advice and started to put it into action. Yet when Tracy had a lot of questions, she had to resort to using generic VA forums and groups and this often didn’t feel right when many of the questions she had were specific to her niche. Sometimes she craved an expert to speak to on a one-to-one basis, to keep her on track.
Tracy really struggled with building a website for herself (it was nowhere near as easy as they’d said!) and became increasingly exasperated and eventually gave up. A complete waste of £199! The old adage that you get what you pay for really is true.
One of the things that successful business owners all have in common is they know how to ask for help.
What sort of help?
Well, for starters, you’re going to need some help getting your name out there so don’t be frightened to ask.
Begin with your family and your friends. Then move to neighbours, friends of friends and importantly your colleagues and ex work colleagues. (A large percentage of our members got their first client through a contact, sometimes an ex-boss!)
First, you need to tell them that you’re setting up a Virtual PA business – explain exactly what that means and what the value is to your clients.
Secondly, tell them precisely what sort of clients you are looking for and ask them to forward your email to three people who may fit the bill.
Don’t expect that you will suddenly have an influx of new client enquiries but it’s often a slow burner – someone may need admin help in six months and remember your name. Sometimes the wins just take time.
So that’s my top five ways to actually set up a successful business that pays your bills and lets you work flexibly. To find out if you would make a good Virtual PA (Virtual Assistant) and to access some free training, take my two-minute quiz .
*Sarah Rugg is Co-Founder of My VA Business, which provides a fully supported, done-for-you ‘Virtual PA business in a box’. For more information contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org