Virtual Assistant Business


Part of the allure of having a Virtual Assistant business is the fact that we can work at home. But as most VA’s will tell you (I’m guessing…) working at home has its pitfalls as well. The myriad distractions of working in a home office can not be ignored, but some smart time-wise strategies can help. Here are my top 5.

(1) Give yourself a work schedule.

When I first started in 1999, I had absolutely no formal work schedule and often felt like I was driving the bus from Speed – 100 mph and about to crash. So I created a very loose schedule that allowed for flexibility to meet the needs of my clients and my family. I check my email first thing in the morning, before the kids get up, and make up a task list from any projects that have come in over night. I then leave the desk and get the kids ready for, and off to, school. Once home again, I grab a coffee and settle in for a few hours of solid work time. I get my ongoing projects finished up, get a start on new ones, and schedule the activities needed for work in my Outlook calendar and task bar. Breaking projects down into steps is a tremendous help and putting deadlines on them keeps me in line. I break for lunch and play with my 5 year old (who has an office with mine) and the dogs. We do some household chores, run errands, etc. over the lunch hour and get ourselves ready for the afternoon. Tailor your schedule to how you like to get things done. Be mindful of your body rhythm – are you an early riser or a night owl? Schedule your hardest tasks for the time of day you feel most alert.

(2) Be selective about answering the phone.

If you are in the middle of a project that requires your undivided attention, let the answering machine get the phone. Schedule a phone call time, where you can return calls to clients or prospective clients once or twice a day, so you are not constantly interrupting your work flow.

(3) Set your email program to pick up mail every 30 minutes or so.

You are getting your email in a timely manner, but are not so tempted to check it every 10 minutes (classic newbie thing – been there, done that). No one is expecting a response within 5 minutes of sending their email, and if they are see number 4.

(4) make sure your clients know your turnaround times.

Clients who are not familiar with the way a Virtual Assistant works may sometimes think that you are at their beck and call 24/7. For your own sanity, and theirs, make sure they know that emails are answered within XX hours, and your normal turnaround is XX days or XX hours. Try to discourage them from making everything “URGENT” by having a clause in your contract that sets a higher rate for urgent turnaround times (often less than 24 hours).

(5) Schedule down time.

Go for a walk. Sit on the deck. Getting out of the office/house for even a short time can recharge your batteries and give you the energy you need to grow your Virtual Assistant business.
Here are some more steps that help you get started.

1) Begin bidding on freelance projects. There are many sites online that allow employers to post freelance projects they need completed. You are then able to bid on those projects. Some sites offer this service free to those bidding and others charge a nominal fee. A few of my favorite sites are Elance.com and Guru.com. Your best bet is to bid on as many projects as you feel you are qualified to complete. This is an important step because it will allow you to see what it’s like to work on a project to project basis. It can also give you a clearer idea of what people are really looking for freelancers to work on and what services you might want to offer.

2) Once you start looking around the freelance sites and are getting an idea of what services you want to perform, you need to take an inventory of your work space. Your home office must have everything a typical administrative assistant’s desk would. You also need to make sure that you have a work area that is separate from all distractions. Just because you’re working at home doesn’t mean that you aren’t working just as hard, in fact you’ll be working twice as hard for awhile.

3) At this point, the best thing you can do for yourself is spend as much time as possible exploring other virtual assistants’ sites. This will allow you to see what you like and don’t like on their sites. You’ll also get a much better idea of what services you’d like to offer and what prices you can reasonably charge for your time. Note, I’m not advocating copying, stealing or plagiarizing in any manner, just look around a lot to see what you’re getting yourself into.

4) You’ll notice when you’re looking around all of these virtual assistant sites that many of these professionals have different certifications and belong to all sorts of different organizations. I would recommend looking into all of them that you run across. It’s really your decision on which ones you’d like to join or whether you want to spend the money on those at all. However, many of these organizations will help you with site development, marketing and promotion. Plus, some potential clients will be more comfortable working with you simply because you have their seal on your site.

5) Now, you’re ready to start getting to work on your website. You’ve got to be realistic with this. It is essential that your website look very professional and express your mission and services in a very straightforward manner. If you have web design experience and feel confident in your abilities, then by all means get to work on your site. If you’re not an HTML wiz, it can be very overwhelming. However, based on what web hosting service you use and/or software you have or choose to purchase, it can be fairly easy. Look for software that doesn’t require you to know HTML. Also, look for templates that will help you get started very quickly. I could go on forever about all the ins and outs of web design for those new to this arena, but I’ll leave at this…your website is your portal for customer communication, marketing and sales, it must be professional, so if that means you must throw a little money in for some web design help, it’s probably worth it!

Being a virtual assistant can give you all the benefits of working at home and being your own boss, but you must be aware of what you’re getting into ahead of time. Be as prepared as possible and you’ll be a success!

3 comments:

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  2. hey guys! :) (admin i hope its okay to share this) if you or a friend is interested in learning how to become a work-at-home mom or an online entrepreneur as a virtual assistant, dont miss out on the upcoming VA Seminar this Jan 29. Click the link for more details >>http://www.bit.ly/manilava

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  3. Hi,

    Virtual business assistants who takes care of all your administrative requirements seems quite a logical one considering the above mentioned issues from an employer’s perspective. These are real issues which pain every employer and takes the focus away from the core areas of operation. Thanks a lot...

    Ecommerce Accounting Support

    ReplyDelete

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