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.
As a Virtual Assistant, a considerable portion of my work is in managing my clients’ websites. When it comes to website administration, some types of website are easier than others. Inspired by a recent client’s clunky old custom Content Management System (the bit that allows me to make changes, upload new content, and add new features etc.), I thought I would delve into some of the most popular, modern CMSs and give a quick-guide on their pros and cons.
Choosing the system best for your purposes can be difficult, but it is an important choice to make. Most people will not want to change systems after they’ve started with one, so let’s take a look at these top five content management systems to see which one is right for you.
Best for beginners and small to medium sized websites, WordPress is the platform serving up most blogs and brochure style websites you see these days. An automated install on most hosting platforms makes setup a breeze and you can easily be up and running the same day you do the installation. Released in 2003 and now with over 68 million websites, WordPress boasts a huge and helpful community to turn to for support when help is needed and really is the world’s most loved blogging platform.
Easy to customise, user-friendly & SEO capable, WordPress loses some appeal due to its vulnerability to hackers, limited design options and plugins often becoming incompatible with platform updates, meaning if you’re going to update your WordPress installation you’d better be sure your installed plug-ins are compatible first.
A stable, no frills CMS for consumers and small to mid-sized e-commerce sites and education websites; Joomla, like WordPress has been around for a while (released in 2005) and boasts a robust developers community around it’s free and open-source platform meaning if you have questions or are stuck implementing it, you’ll be likely to find an answer before long.
Joomla falls behind in the areas of SEO capability, granular access control and it’s less intuitive than WordPress but nevertheless has over 30 million downloads and is in use on sites such as Linux.com and Cloud.com
Launched in 2001, the most difficult but the most powerful CMS, Drupal can fulfill the needs of high security, enterprise level websites such as whitehouse.gov and data.gov.uk where it’s currently in use. It’s very flexible but has a steep learning curve, few theme choices and lacks good free plugins. Like WordPress and Joomla, Drupal is open-source, free and developer friendly – if you’re already a capable php developer – while also boasting superior stability, scalability and capacity for proper SEO.
You’ll have to budget a lot more time setting up your site with Drupal than with WordPress or Joomla. Stay away unless you or your team are already capable with PHP… but if you are, this one is the best for when you’re asking a lot out of your website solution.
While ExpressionEngine differs from the open-source free CMS described so far, it can be compared to, and has a leg up on WordPress by including ecommerce and membership without needing 3rd party plug-ins. A paid-application which includes support in the purchase price, you can structure your EE the way you want, as well as allowing for unlimited content types. WordPress design is essentially limited to themes available, and installs with 3 content types (posts, pages, media) while with EE you can define as many as you need without knowing anything about coding PHP.
With excellent scalability and a noteworthy security record (cough cough @wordpress), ExpressionEngine touts a number of partners on their website like Adobe, Apple, Disney, Ford, Nike, and more showing it is a CMS that can not only give you more power and flexibility with your blog, but is trusted among huge corporations.
Built by a company that got started making high quality plug-ins for ExpressionEngine, Craft similarly starts as a blank slate allowing you to structure your site as you want it to be while offering a few advancements like more advanced functionality when it comes to entry creation and editing in the control panel.
Craft offers several pricing options to fit your needs and support comes with your purchase price. Like each of these CMS there is a supportive community but Craft, being the “new kid on the block”, doesn’t have quite the robust add-on library, yet.
In my experience, all of these are good systems. The most important thing is to choose the platform that best suits your business, your customers and your own internal structure. Not all businesses are blessed with the scope for an in-house webmaster, if it falls to you, be sure you have researched, and chosen, a CMS that you feel comfortable working with. If you end up hating the process of updating your website, you will likely find yourself leaving it to languish. Fresh, relevant content and a good user experience is king. If you have that covered, managing your website will be a piece of cake.