7 Things I Wished I Knew When I Started My VA Business

From the start of my virtual assistant business, there’s a rap sheet filled with “things I wish I would have known”.  Had I known and accepted the things listed below from the beginning things would have been much easier for me as a virtual assistant.  Hopefully, this list will help you get your business in order so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

 

1. Learn how to say no. When I was just getting my virtual assistant business started, I didn’t feel I could say no to a prospect. There are several reasons to say no to a prospect. It may not feel right to you or you’re at full capacity and by taking on more work you’ll do a shit job. Another reason to say no is the budget just isn’t right. If a prospect wants to pay you less than you’re worth say no! Say no to the wrong prospects so you can make room for the right prospects!

2. You’re not a secretary. You’re a business owner! Start treating your virtual assistant business like one from day 1 because sooner, or later you wish you had.

3. You’re target market is not “every small-business owner”.  You don’t “do” everything. Pick a list of services by honing in on what you’re really good at. If you really think that every single small business needs you, you’re wrong. You need to stand out, niche down and find your target market. By figuring what your skills are you can figure who your ideal clients are and you’ll have an easier time closing the deal with a prospect.

4. You don’t put in face time. If your client expects you to sit in front of your computer and answer their email immediately as it comes in, then it’s time to get your act in order! Have a well laid-out business plan that states exactly what you do, when you do it, and how you’ll do it. Period.

5. Bartering is bad business. You cannot and should not trade your services for another service. If you’re trying to build your business it’s better to work for less in the beginning and slowly raise your rates than give your services away for something unequal in value.

6. Focus on your strengths and hire your weaknesses. Stop trying to do everything. I get that you don’t have a budget to create your website but let’s face it unless you know WordPress inside and out, or you know how to code websites you’re going to need to hire a web designer. If you don’t it’s going to take you months to get your site even close to where you think you need it. This is time you’re spending away from building your business and brand. Time is money baby.

7. Your time is worth a lot!  Put a time limit on your prospective client conference calls. I allot 30 minutes for introductory conference calls. This makes both parties cut the social niceties and get straight to business discussing the important stuff. If I choose to speak longer, that’s totally up to me but I let my prospects know ahead of time that they have me for a set amount of time. If a prospect is serious about working together they’ll move forward with you and pay you for the next call.

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So what are some of the things you would have done differently had you known when you first got started as a virtual assistant?   What can you teach our community of readers so they don’t make the same mistakes as you?   Please leave a comment below and let us learn from one another!

Warmest regards,

Reese

39 Responses to 7 Things I Wished I Knew When I Started My VA Business

  1. Kim says:

    Hi Reese,

    Loved this blog! I have to agree with Janine G. you are my favorite VA blogger, I can’t wait to read what your wrote! It’s very exciting and helpful.

    The one thing that I wished I had known in the beginning is that you don’t have to know everything, I thought I did so I spent a year trying to learn everything…ugh…boo…hiss :<

    Admin is what I love and know(15 plus years experience)so that what I have decided to stick with!

    • Reese says:

      Thank you so much, Kim! I’m flattered and honored you’re here with me. Congrats on figuring out that you don’t need to know everything. You’re on the right track, girl.

  2. I am so glad I glanced Twitter before I started working today, Reese. Otherwise, I would not have seen your article. This is very relevant to me now because I have been debating with myself whether I should continue to work with a client. I could do away with the income but I do have a hard time saying NO and it feels to me that too much is expected for what the client is willing to pay. Now, I know the answer to my question.

    By the way, do you have any advice for a VA who does all kinds of stuff? Do you have a blog post on finding your niche? I am one of those people who likes to do all different kinds of thing, WordPress now, spreadsheets later, graphics tomorrow. I find the variety stimulating… If you have any advice for me, I would appreciate it. Thanks, Reese!

    • Reese says:

      Hi Nica! If you’re happy with your decision of saying “no” to that prospect, than I’m happy for you. I wrote a blog post a few months ago that might help you. Let me know what you think. xo

  3. Connie Cannon says:

    Hi Reese,
    I agree with ALL that has been said here. You ROCK and certainly tell it like it is!! I have made all of these mistakes. Fortunately, I have over 200 connections on LinkedIn and so I think that will be a great place for me to start and just learn from you.
    Again, thank you so much for all of your offerings. You’re prices for resources are so reasonable too.

    Happy holidays to everyone!
    Connie

  4. Julie says:

    You answered my questions! You are a wealth of knowledge!

  5. Hi Reese,
    Your post and blog have helped me tremendously in getting my business up and running. I’m a part time VA working a full time job, and any advice on avoiding mistakes is a big help in my success! Thanks for your honesty and knowledge, it’s nice to know where to find help when I need it! I’m looking forward to learning more from you.

    Thanks again,
    Christine

  6. Denise says:

    Very helpful tips, Reese. I’m just trying to get started and I need all the assistance you can give me. I really look up to you as a great mentor in this Virtual Assistant business. Looking forward to more!

  7. Jan says:

    F’ing awesome Reese. I’ve made many of the same mistakes that you mention. You know the old saying “If I had to do it all over again, I would do (fill in the blank) oh so differently. I can see it now – I’m going to be telling EVERYONE about you and what you are doing here – in the checkout at Walmart, the grocery store, the unfortunate individual on the street corner holding up a “Will work for food” sign. Uh oh… I’m in trouble.

  8. Christina says:

    Hi Reese! Thank you for the tips. It really helps. Every morning when I check my email I always have to look at the one that’s coming from you.

    • Reese says:

      Christina, that is so touching! I’m so happy to hear that you’re always looking out for my emails. Sending you love and health for a wonderful 2014!!!

  9. Traci says:

    Hi Reese! I have been lurking around and reading many of the posts and want to say thank you for all the great information – it is honest and real. I am starting my own business and have been doing tons of internet research to get advice and ideas from others who have already made the transition from a “real job”. It has been disheartening as many of the sites state that they are here to help a newbie, but in fact all the information introduced is just another way of promoting themselves. So thank you for taking the time to deliver truly important and useful information that is honest, timely and applicable to all of us.

  10. Nicky says:

    Hi Reese, thanks for your helpful insights!! Do you have any advice for how to market o?n Linkedin?

  11. LaToya Haynes says:

    Thanks Reese for this article. I am printing this article as I am typing to you. I really don’t find it hard to say no because I have worked in business since 2006 for my family but my virtual professional business I can actually call my own. The thing I will have to work on is taking rejection from others. When I was working in the family business, my mother mainly handled going to speak to case workers because the business is in the mental health field and she runs a group home. I mainly created brochures, flyers, business cards and would speak to case workers at minimal. Now, I have a brand and service that I have to make sure gets out to my target market and audience. I do get scared but I won’t let fear stop me from achieving my goals. Love your blogs!

  12. Hi Reese, as always … so good … I knew I had to get it right from the beginning and had spent two years researching but my biggest thing is “saying no”. I am one of those people that struggle with that and it is not so difficult to do as I have found out. Also, raising rates is an adrenaline rush but it wasn’t that bad and at the end of the day, more money in the bank is a good thing. Enjoy the rest of your holiday with your kids!

  13. Dawn Washington says:

    I just signed up a few days ago and I am enjoying what I am reading. After 8 years of procrastination I think I am ready to move forward. I have been doing doing small jobs here and there and right now I am working on a project for a friend but I need more clients. I am stuck between doing cold calling or face to face. Which one would be better and basically what should I generally say?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Reese says:

      Dawn, I grew my VA business while networking on LinkedIn. I never left my house once to network. Not because I don’t like face-to-face networking, simply because I live in Israel and I run my business in English, not Hebrew so the networking events weren’t relevant. Lastly because I have small kids I am not able to join various networking events because most of them are in the evenings when I am with family and quite frankly EXHAUSTED. The good news is I got nearly all of my clients from LinkedIn and I have never met any of them face-to-face, so I am living proof that social networking works!

  14. Joan Stalker says:

    Just love your blog posts, Reese! You are always right on the money. I’m just starting my VA business so hopefully I can avoid some of the pitfalls by learning from your insights. You rock!

  15. Sue says:

    In order to stay in business I must charge a good rate.
    The customer is not always right.
    Business IS personal.
    I AM an expert.
    Just because I like someone does not make them a good client.
    Not all business owners are a fit for Virtual Assistance.

  16. Susan says:

    Reese – You’re the bomb!! This was very helpful, as is everything I’ve learned from reading your blogs so far.

  17. Michelle says:

    Hi Reese

    Really helpful post. I’ve just taken the leap of reducing my -on site hours for one of my clients to 3 days a week so that the other 2 days I can focus on building my virtual business. I’m really scared as I’ve never done anything like this before and am pretty worried that I won’t know how to do what my first few clients require due to lack of experience working virtually. I’ve worked in administration and secretarial roles for over 10 years but taking the leap from the standard office environment and going it alone is really scary, I just hope I can pull it off :/

  18. Anna says:

    Brilliant tips as always, Reese! I’ve learned a lot of those lessons the hard way also, and it’s very easy to forget some of the rules that you created for yourself so long ago. Thanks for the reminders and the wonderful advice! 🙂

  19. Hi Reese,

    Great post! Thank you.

    2 things I wish I had known:

    1) Setting business hours and sticking to them would have saved me a lot of heartache. In the beginning, while I had business hours in my contract, I would allow a client to email me after hours (and I’d answer them!). So I implemented and stuck to my office hours which meant that clients will just need to abide by my time if they wanted to work with me.

    2) Raising rates is not as painful as I thought it would be. I decided to update my contracts at the beginning of my second year of business which included an addendum to raising rates giving 30 days notice to the client. I also learned that i did not have justify raising my rates to a client either.

    Janine

  20. Alisa Parmer says:

    Just getting started and working with my first client. I wish I would of identified in my contract the key contact in the organization that I would work with from the business and a clear philosophy and/or ethical statement. Not doing this clearly back fired on me, example, I made the agreement for a small business owned by a husband and wife team, with the wife and we had a clear understanding of the services and the hours I could provide to the organization. However, the husband clearly thought my services were available at all times and I took care of all administrative duties and contacted my service to schedule things for his personal use under his business account agreement that was very much against my ethical principles..ugh. Learned that when I do finally get my website up and running and finish the final business plan I will include a clear mission, value, and ethical statement.

    • Reese says:

      Alisa, your business plan is a living entity. As virtual assistants we are always adjusting our business goals and plans. You are not stuck. I suggest that you have a conference call with your client and work out an arrangement that suits your lifestyle and business goals. You don’t need to wait until your website is up and running. Act now otherwise you’ll get yourself deeper into a rut with this client and it will be harder to work your way out. Good luck!

  21. Shey says:

    Hi Reese!

    Great insight. I think it is common mistake to treat yourself like a secretary or an employee rather than a business owner and independent contractor. It took me about seven years to realize that the main reason I shifted career (from Journalist to VA) was because I wanted to be my own boss.
    I especially like #3. Some clients expect their VA to know everything, from article writing to graphics designing. I always had to tell them that I am an administrative assistant and not a graphics designer. Some are sad to realize that I am not “that talented and skilled” but most of them do understand that we are either left-brained or right-brained.
    Thanks for the tips!

    • Reese says:

      Well thank you, Shey! I just loved reading your comment. It’s so true about clients. They think they are often working with a virtual assistant magician and get disappointed when we’re not. It’s our responsibility to bring the best of us to the table and never take on tasks of projects that we cannot perform at 100%.

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