by Lisa Taliga
I opened the newspaper and there it was. The article that would change my life.
It was called ‘How to stay at home and earn a full-time income as a Virtual Assistant.’
Quit the day job and freelance from home? Yes, please!
At that time, I was feeling stifled, unfulfilled and unmotivated in my corporate office job. I had been an Executive Assistant for years, and life had become one predictable 9-to-5 day after another. I had always wanted to run my own show and be my own boss. Working from home would be the icing on the cake!
Soon, my evenings and weekends were devoted to finding out more about this exciting new opportunity. I transitioned gradually into working full-time from home as a Virtual Assistant and achieved this within a year.
I have never looked back and finally feel rewarded, challenged and satisfied in my virtual career.
Thanks to the internet, it has never been easier to work from home. People all over the world are setting up home based businesses out of a desire for independence, flexibility and control over their destiny.
All of these new business owners could potentially use the services of a Virtual Assistant, without having to take on an employee.
The future of Virtual Assistance is certainly looking bright. It’s one of the fastest growing industries on the internet and is expected to be a $130 billion industry by 2008 (Source: George Washington University).
So, how do you become a Virtual Assistant? Here are five steps to help you on your way:
The first step to becoming a Virtual Assistant is to truly understand what one is and does. The industry is still quite new and many people don’t quite understand what the concept is. The best way to describe the Virtual Assistant role is to briefly explain what I did this week.
Working from my home office with several different clients, I:
- typed some reports for a consultant and emailed them back
- designed a Powerpoint presentation for a speaker who was presenting at a conference overseas the following day, emailed it to him and uploaded it to his website
- designed and organized the printing of a flyer for a singer who has a performance coming up
- set up and sent out a newsletter for a finance broker
I did all this without seeing or meeting any of the clients: we spoke on the phone and/or emailed each other. Some of my clients are local, some are long distance.
Think of the Virtual Assistant as a freelance administrator, designer, organizer, desktop publisher, researcher, editor, typist, secretary, co-ordinator, all rolled into one!
Rather than being an employee, a Virtual Assistant is an independent contractor. Clients enjoy the flexibility of using Virtual Assistant services as and when they require, without having to pay a regular wage and employee benefits.
The beauty of being a Virtual Assistant is that you get to decide what work you want to do. You can create your own unique business, based on your skills and experience.
Analyze your current and previous work experience. Write everything down, no matter how ‘minor’ you think it is.
Are you a good typist? Are you a natural at organizing events? Can you design flyers and brochures? Do you write letters on behalf of your boss? How about research – are you good at digging around for information?
These are all skills that you can translate into services for your clients. You may feel that you need to take further training in certain skills, and that’s fine too.
This is the step that many people shrink back from. However, it doesn’t have to be a lengthy or formal business plan. At the very least, you need to outline a plan on paper covering aspects such as your goals, business name ideas, hourly rates, licences/permits, services you’re going to offer, what equipment you need to buy, and so on. The main thing is not to get too caught up on getting it perfect. Your business plan will change and evolve as your business grows. Think of it as a roadmap that will keep you on the right track for your freelance business.
One of the first questions you’ll be asking yourself is ‘How am I going to get clients?’
There are several ways you can market your Virtual Assistant business and get your name out there:
- Networking: go along to your local Chamber of Commerce meetings and get talking to fellow business owners. I have found that this is one of the best ways to meet clients. Don’t forget your business cards!
- Word of mouth: tell everyone what you’re doing. Sooner or later, your friends, relatives, and first clients will recommend you to others.
- Get a website: one of my largest ongoing clients found me through my website. As you’re working virtually, you’ll be expected to have an online presence.
- Participate in online discussion forums: there are forums on the internet where small business owners ‘meet’ to discuss challenges, offer advice and so on.
- Register with online business directories and Virtual Assistant networks.
- Write articles that your target market would be interested in. Submit them to online article directories to establish credibility and get valuable exposure.
Once you’ve got your first clients and business is starting to take off, the key is not to become complacent. Keep your existing clients happy by providing outstanding customer service, establish good systems to keep a healthy cash flow coming in, and look after your health and well-being!
These are the steps that I followed to become a successful Virtual Assistant and work from home full-time. If you would love to gain control of your life and skip that daily commute, why not take your first step today?
(c) Copyright by Lisa Taliga
Lisa Taliga is a Virtual Assistant and author of ‘Freelance from Home! The 5 Key Steps to Your Successful Virtual Assistant Business’ and ‘The 7 Things You Must Know Before Starting Your Successful Virtual Assistant Business’.