I regularly get people contacting me through LinkedIn to ask how I started being a virtual assistant (VA). In fact, the frequency and number of enquiries prompted me to write this blog post – after all, I’m all about boosting productivity and efficiency, which is why it made sense to write an informative post and direct wannabe VAs towards it.
First and foremost, before I started my VA business, I did huge amounts of research. I spent a lot of time online digesting as many free resources as I could and absorbing all the advice and tips I was finding – there was a lot!
Google is your friend
A quick Google search for ‘how to become a virtual assistant’ yields a whopping 8.4 million results (at time of writing). Even if you just take the time to go through the first page of results alone, you’ll glean a huge amount of relevant info (as I did more than six years ago).
Next, I looked to satisfy the avid reader in me and checked what books relating to becoming a virtual assistant were available on Amazon. There wasn’t actually that many (at the time), but one did stick out, so I placed an order. It was “The Virtual Assistant Handbook: Insider Secrets for Starting and Running Your Own Profitable VA Business” by Nadine Hill. It’s a great resource because it’s so easy to read. I couldn’t put it down once I’d started and read it from cover to cover in no time. It was definitely worth the cost as it contained information about things I hadn’t thought about.
Another great book written by an acquaintance of mine is How to be a Virtual Assistant: Start and run your own successful VA business by Catherine Gladwyn.
With my interest seriously piqued and my passion to learn more in overdrive, I joined the Virtual Assistant Forums. Like most Internet-based forums, this one allows you to post questions and discuss topics with people who are virtual assistants already or working towards becoming one.
A great way to gain some exposure in such forums is by linking your blog and Twitter accounts, then adding real value to the conversations that are going on. People will naturally look at your profile if they see you as someone who knows what they’re talking about and may click through to your website/social media accounts as a result.
I then joined the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA). It’s a non-profit organisation dedicated to VA development, education and raising public awareness of what VAs do. There are several different membership categories, all of which boast a number of benefits. Check out the IVAA website for more information.
There are two VA directory sites that I’d recommend to anyone looking to start out in this industry: Virtual Assistantville and BeMyVA. They are great places to advertise your services and potentially secure your first clients. Be sure to check out the membership benefits of BeMyVA, as there’s a chance you could feature on their social media accounts and have your articles featured in their newsletter.
Twitter lists featuring virtual assistants are great; all you’ve got to do is find some. The easiest way to do this is by using the Twitter search feature to find out profiles relating to virtual assistance, VAs, etc. One you’ve started following some of the profiles you’ve found, go through their accounts and look at any lists they’ve created and been added to. Chances are there will be some relating solely to virtual assistance, which can join or retrieve more useful contacts from.
Hashtags like #VA and #virtualassistant are also a great way to find tweets and profiles relating to the industry.
Last, but certainly not least, are all the virtual assistant Facebook groups out there. There are so many, each with their own benefits, that I would never be able to review each one separately. However, I have compiled this list of groups to get you started:
Two other Facebook groups I highly recommend are Freelance Heroes (great for general freelancing discussions and lead generation) and my own Online Productivity Tools & Applications group (great for insights into all the best tools and apps designed to boost productivity).
Over to you…
Are there any resources you use/have used that I haven’t mentioned? I’d love to hear about them. Drop a note in the comments or tweet me @JoHarris0n.
I wanted to write a blog post today on something that people were interested in. I looked at my Google Analytics to see what the most popular posts were so I could find a topic to cover again, or in more detail, or from a different perspective but it didn’t work. I asked myself some questions, what time period should I base the stats on, should I check to see what the bounce rate was rather than just the page views… it wasn’t very helpful. I then decided to check out which of my posts received the most comments, easily done in WordPress by just sorting them into comment order (descending of course).
So rather than write about a recurring topic, I decided to use this post as an overview of the last couple of years and let you look back over the most popular posts on my blog. Those posts which received the most comments, which I am assuming are my most popular.
In descending order of course…
Do you Check your Spam for Ham? – 23 Comments
Guest Blogging – is it all it’s cracked up to be? – 23 Comments
Self Publishing your eBook the DIY Way! – 24 Comments
Five Useful WordPress Plugins – 24 Comments
Facebook: Should I Stay or Should I Go? – 24 Comments
Do I Break up with my Books for a Kindle? – 25 Comments
Help Family and Friends Understand you ARE Working! – 26 Comments
Promote Your Business Here! – 28 Comments
Plugins Your Blog Readers Will Love – 30 Comments
Spread the Luv on your Blog! – 37 Comments
I was actually surprised that these were the posts which received the most comments. I feel I have written some much better posts in the last year, but I suppose these are the ones that people felt most inclined to comment on.
I’m always looking for new blog topics, so if you have a problem I can help with please do let me know in the comments.
Tips: Working with a Virtual Assistant… from the viewpoint of a Virtual Assistant
© kharlamova_lv – Fotolia.com
How many of you have a virtual assistant?
I don’t think many of you will have, because when I started out 18 months ago I had never even heard of virtual assistants. I fell into this job, utilising my experience and skills from the workplace and transferring them over to my own business. Obviously when I finally realised what I was I found lots of information online about virtual assistants, and now, well for me I feel as though we’re over-run with them, maybe because I have come across so many lovely VA’s on social media.
I’m not going to talk about the benefits of using a virtual assistant in this post, but if you’d like to check out my eBook here is the link: 3 Key Benefits of Using a Virtual Assistant
When you’re working with a virtual assistant it’s very easy to come up against some issues which you wouldn’t necessarily find in the workplace. For example, you think of a task you want to delegate to the office administrator so you wander through to their office and pass on the task. You can’t do that with a VA, you have to physically write out an email or give them a quick call – it doesn’t take any longer than walking into another office, but I bet it feels like more work and that it would be easier just to do the task yourself.
But why employ a VA at all if you’re not going to delegate tasks so you can get on with more important things?
Here are some tips on how you can work effectively with a virtual assistant:
- Organisation – When you hire a VA, write down exactly what tasks you would like to delegate to them so when these tasks pop up you can easily delegate it without thinking. Eventually some regular tasks your VA will be able to keep track of without your input, which saves you even more time.
- Quirks – Everyone has different quirks in work and life, it might be useful when you get started to go over the necessary ones with your VA. Explain how you like things done, even if it’s something small, it will save extra explanation later on.
- Instructions and Deadlines – These are really important, any new task you want your VA to complete you need to provide clear, concise instructions and the deadline. A VA will have other clients to deal with, so having deadlines means they are able to prioritise their work and get things back to you when you require them, rather than them second guessing when you need it done by.
- Communication – At the beginning of your working relationship with your VA ensure you agree on the forms of communication you’ll use. If it’s mainly via email, a small tip would be to send all instructions in 1 email rather than 10! Your VA could well become overwhelmed with the amount of email they are receiving with every little task, and times that by say 6 clients and you can easily see how this isn’t effective communication. Make sure when communicating that you have given clear expectations, specific instructions and you respond to any enquiries from your VA in a timely way.
- Slow Down – Don’t run before you can walk. When you first start working with a VA it may take some time before you are in a regular routine and they are knowledgeable about your procedures and tasks. As in any new job it takes time to learn new things. Don’t expect your VA to know everything at the start.
- Be Aware of Time – Many VA’s work office hours, so when you send over an urgent email ensure you’ve thought about what the time is and whether your VA will be able to take care of it right that second. You also have to consider time zones, your VA could be sleeping so won’t receive your email until a few hours after you’ve sent it.
I work with a handful of clients providing them with virtual assistance and each one is very different. I have some which are not willing to let go of things and don’t email me often with tasks, I am forever chasing them up to see if they have anything for me to do. Other clients email me everyday, sometimes more than once (see point 4). Each client is different, they have their quirks, their different ways of working which means a VA has to adapt to many situations.
Above all, be nice to your VA and I am sure you will have a very successful working relationship!
Some of the articles I referred to for this post:
Five tips for working with a Virtual Assistant
5 Things to Consider When Working with a new Virtual Assistant
How to Work With a Virtual Assistant Successfully
Being self-employed can be very empowering, no strict working hours, you can sit at your desk in your PJ’s if you like, you don’t have to answer to a ‘boss’ and many other benefits.
All these things are good, but what if you end up working more hours than when you were an employee? You can’t just walk away from work and forget about it until 9am the next morning.
I have been working for myself for nearly 18 months, when I sat down and looked at my bottom line a few weeks ago while writing down my 2013 goals, I realised that I am working more hours but earning quite a bit less than in my last job! I’ve managed, I had savings and living in France isn’t as expensive as England, but it’s got to the point where I need to think about how I am going to earn a reasonable income but not work so many hours.
As my business has progressed I have been doing more and more one-off jobs, mainly eBook formatting. This makes me a reasonable amount of money, if I added up all the hours I spend on formatting and divide it by the income it produces I’d be getting my hourly rate or more, which is great. But having one-off jobs is ok, if you have regular clients to keep the money flowing in when you don’t have any one-off jobs. You end up in a vicious circle of one-off job, looking for work, another one-off job, looking for more work… In fact many self-employed people are looking for work for as many hours as they’re working, and it soon adds up!
Being a virtual assistant I do have a few regular clients, but certainly not as many as I’d like. Ideally I would be happy with 2 or 3 regular clients who pay me a regular retainer package each month, at least then I would know my bills were covered. I don’t want to be rich, I just want to be able to live within my means and not have to worry where the next job is coming from.
So, in search of others ways I can work less hours and earn enough money to live on I decided I would go down the route of passive income. It’s something I have been thinking about for some time, and 2013 is going to be the year I put all my ideas in to practice.
Just last Friday I spent the whole day working on my first product which I am selling on my eBook formatting website. It’s a Microsoft Word template and it’s set-up so people can use it to type their manuscripts and use the various styles I have created to hopefully create an eBook which is suitable for uploading to Amazon Kindle and Smashwords. I have kept the price low, and there are some extra incentives which go with the template itself, which I hope will appeal to the authors/writers that would like to have a go at formatting their own eBook.
Some of the other products I hope to be launching this year are:
- an eCourse for authors (on eBook formatting website)
- an eBook of blog posts
- an eBook (and possibly a paperback) – topic yet to be finalised
- possibly a paid eBook review service
So I have been pretty busy thinking of ways I can earn some money while I sleep, which means I won’t have to work all hours just to pay the rent.
I love being self-employed and I love the feeling when another client pays an invoice, I know that the money is all mine and I’ve earn’t it. What I don’t like are the times when there is no work and my hours are spent looking for work, it’s a very precarious situation to be in when you’re self-employed, but I wouldn’t change it now.
How many blogs do you subscribe to?
Do you manage to read all the blog posts you subscribe to each day?
Are you constantly reading blog posts and not doing any other work?
This used to be me, it was a struggle to keep up with the amount of online reading I needed to do, what with everything going on in the social media world and trying to find relevant content to share with my social media fans/followers. It felt like a really tough slog most days until I found ways to streamline my reading.
I wrote Reading List Overwhelming You? 6 Tips That Will Help! (here’s a spooky fact, I wrote this on 17 January 2012, exactly a year to the day!) which provided some tips to help you with your ever growing reading list. I also wrote How to Save Time with RSS! which explains how I went about setting up RSS feed subscriptions for all the blogs I follow.
I use two main tools, one I have mentioned many times before, Flipboard. I use it everyday, I would never be able to keep up with all the articles online without it. I have tried others but they don’t come close to the Flipboard interface as far as I am concerned. You can download the app on both iOS and Android, so you will need a smartphone to use it. Click here for all my articles mentioning Flipboard.
The other tool, which I don’t think I have mentioned on my blog before is Pocket. I have the app on my iPhone and on my iMac, and I think you can get this as a Google Chrome add-on (please correct me if I’m wrong someone?).
Pocket used to be called Read It Later. When I am going through Flipboard in the evenings and I find a really interesting article, instead of reading it all the way through there and then, I will click ‘read later’ on my iPhone and it will be added to Pocket. As I have the app on my iMac, if I get a spare 10 minutes during the day I can quickly find all the articles I want to take another look at, it’s synced between devices which is great!
This is how it looks on my iMac:
As you can see I have quite a few articles still in Pocket to go through, but it’s a safe place to keep them if I want to refer back to them at any stage. I can even add articles to Buffer (yes, mentioning it again) directly from the Pocket app, which is very handy.
Typically on a daily basis I only use these two tools to keep up with the blogs and social media network articles I come across. If I stumble upon a new blog that looks interesting (like I did yesterday, see the article in my Pocket image above) then I add it to my Google Reader account which automatically syncs it through to Flipboard. Simple!
What tools do you use to keep up with blogs you’re subscribed to, or the latest news online?