“Tina, the printer has run out of paper!“
As a Personal Assistant to the Marketing and Communications Manager for a large corporation, this is what my career had become. My working day offered no challenges. A mere robot, I arrived at 8:30 AM each morning, automatically performing the same tasks over and over again, and left right on the dot of 5 PM. I could no longer endure being at work. Disappointed and disheartened, I watched my extensive skills rust away through a lack of use. I knew I had so much more to offer!
Of course, I approached my manager and begged her to give me something challenging and exciting to do – something I could sink my teeth into. But everyone in the team had their own particular responsibilities and anyone who crossed the boundaries entered a minefield of internal office politics.
I needed a change!
Moving to the same job in another company was not the solution – I had lived and relived the above scenario too many times. Life is short, way too short to be this unhappy and unsatisfied every day. Surely earning a living didn’t need to be like this?
After researching online and talking to various people, I discovered the phenomenon of the Virtual Assistant (new to me at the time!). This was the answer! I knew it straight away. So, I signed up with A Clayton’s Secretary and completed Kathie Thomas’s course on how to start up your own VA business.
Getting my first client
At first, I kept my full-time job, however, it got to a point where I was trying to get back to clients in my lunch break and it was just too hard. So I took a big leap of faith and quit my job!
In the first 12 months of my business, I learned more than I did in 10 years as an employee in the corporate world. I did have to temp a few times for a few weeks here and there, just to get a chunk of money, but I did get work straight away. Only little jobs at first, such as a bit of data entry or typing, etc. Within 3 months, however, I had my first ‘real’ client where I could look after a few ongoing tasks and suggest other tasks I could help complete.
Starting my business wasn’t expensive
I didn’t have any bulk funds to start my business, so I built it slowly with only a small budget. I started with my home computer, a desk, and a Vistaprint website. I got job leads after doing my course and did a heap of networking. My custom website was my biggest investment, but I didn’t have it for the first three years! That cost me about $3500. The beauty of this type of business is there are not many costs to get started. It’s more an investment of your time.
I haven’t looked back!
Today I am treated as an equal, a specialist in my field. My days are filled with variety and challenge, working with the most amazing and hard-working people. I choose whom I work with and I choose to have lunch when, where and with whom. I decide! I am passionate about my work and put in 100% simply because I want to, not because I have to!
Advice for anyone wanting to start their own VA business
To be a VA you certainly need administration skills. All VAs have their specialities though, so I suggest you write down a list of tasks you know you can offer confidently, from Word processing to social media, some VAs even do web design. You will learn skills as you go. You need to know how to work efficiently, organize and prioritize your responsibilities, as well as multitasking (to deal with multiple projects at the same time), and how to communicate with different personalities. You also need to be a quick learner! I found that I needed to learn how to run a business because I had always been an employee, not a business owner.
Life is to be enjoyed. So why not earn your living by doing what you enjoy and are passionate about? It’s a win-win situation for you and the client. Take the plunge! You have to make it happen because it won’t come to you. Yes, it can be scary and full of financial uncertainty. For example, during the first 12 months, I networked endlessly, gradually building more business contacts and a growing client list. At times I felt it would be easier to give up and go back to the security of a regular income. However, as soon as I remembered how miserable I was, I focused back on the job at hand and that was enough to motivate me to continue. It’s very rewarding now to look back over that time and see how far I have come!
Future goals for my business
I often think about how I see my business in the future. I would like to help other VAs get started or even help small businesses who are starting out. The possibilities are endless! I might even have a team of VAs and just manage the process – more about working ON my business than IN my business. I think it will naturally evolve into something bigger and better as time moves on. At the moment, however, I just love the variety my business gives me. I am so glad I made the move. I guess you can call me an entrepreneur now!