I often get asked by others (usually other Stay at home Mums) what being a Virtual Assistant (VA) is all about and how I got started. As much I certainly don’t mind talking about it, I thought it was about time I put a few things down on paper. So if you’re interested in finding out what a VA is, what a VA does and how you become one, read on – this is the article for you.
What is a VA?
A VA can be many things, but in a nutshell, a VA is someone who’s there do to the IT work that a business owner a) doesn’t have time to do, b) doesn’t know how to do, or c) doesn’t want to do! Being a VA is a bit like being a secretary / personal assistant, except instead of being in the same office, you’re on the end of a phone / email.
What does a VA do?
VAs can set themselves up to do any number of tasks. Some (like us) are generalists and cover a wide range of functions from account processing to web development to social media to document creation & online software consulting. Others are more specialist and choose to offer services in a narrower band. Some work with a wide range of clients, whereas others will specialise in a specific industry (eg Real Estate, Tradies, Law, Marketing etc)
How do I become one?
There are many ways to get started as a VA, but the way I did it was I got to know a lady called Chris Crowe who runs the AVACOE (The Australian Virtual Assistants Centre of Excellence). Chris is a VA in her own right, but also runs the AVACOE as a training and support hub for VA’s. I met Chris at a ‘careers for women’ expo, got talking to her about what a VA was and that was my hallelujah moment – I was hooked! I went home, made a list of what I was good at and what I wanted to offer. I chose a business name, created my own website and business cards and that was it – I was ready to launch! But where was I going to get my clients? And how did I market myself as a VA? Well, that’s where Chris came back into the picture again. I found great resources for startup VA’s at her website www.avacoe.com.au and I then completed her Start Up Virtual Assistants (SUVA) workshop, which I highly recommend.
From there it was just a matter of getting the word out, by any means I could. I signed my first client (a children’s entertainer), by striking up a conversation with her after seeing her perform at a party I was at. My second client came via a Facebook conversation. My 3rd was a referral from the 1st. And my 4th was my aromatherapy consultant – who was perfectly happy to swap oils for admin in a deal that benefited us both.
Fast forward 2.5 years and HHVA has grown to include 1 casual employee, 2 contractors, and a very supportive hubby who jumps in when he needs to. We juggle just over 30 clients, who require our services at varying times & for varying needs. At times the growth has seemed almost overwhelming. The VA industry is growing by the year as more and more small businesses find their way into the Australian business landscape.
What’s it like juggling work and family?
Have you ever heard the phrase “I love being in business for myself – I can choose whatever 70 hours a week I want to work”, or “I always wanted to work for myself – now that I do it turns out my boss is a real slave driving bitch!” Sometimes both of those phrases are me. Was it as easy as I thought it would be? No. But being my own boss has been an interesting ride. Sometimes I’ve had to dig deep to find motivation to keep working on those days where I just don’t want to, and sometimes I think wistfully of the times when I could just escalate a problem up to someone else. I do my best to balance work and family life, but the kids don’t always get to come first. Sometimes my clients need to. Does it make me feel guilty when my kids don’t come first? Sure it does. Mummy guilt is a shocker.
But even with all that, would I give it up to return to a ‘normal’ job? Never. Being my own boss is great. I make the rules and set the standards that HHVA operates to. And when something about the way we work doesn’t work, I apply a fix. I organise my time my own way and as a result I can drop the kids off at school, I can do readers and be back to pick them up again in the afternoon. I also think it does my daughters a lot of good to see Mummy working and to understand that I have responsibilities that stretch beyond their needs. All in all, it’s been a good choice for me.
If you’re considering starting a VA business, I hope this article has helped a little. Please feel free to visit our website www.hhva.com.au to have a look around and a visit to the AVACOE site www.avacoe.com.au is, of course, a great step for any prospective VA.