FROM WAGE SLAVE TO HOME ALONE
A Virtual Assistant Article
Beginning her career in advertising and then managing a business management college in London, Irene escaped the rat race in the early 90s and now lives in Norfolk. As well as her VA business, Irene wears other hats as a writer and as an established landscape photographer.
Many people find working from home either distracting or they feel isolated - hence the many forums on the net. Make sure that people understand that when you are in your 'office' (even if it is a corner of the main living room) you are at work. I have had problems with visitors staying for a week with us who regarded my 'work' as less than theirs because I worked at home - the fact that they ran a good sized company partly from home was somehow 'different'. Irene's comments are very true for many of us who work as a Virtual Assistant.
Making the transition from employee to running a self employed business is a difficult one. As well as learning a host of new skills, you have to change the whole approach to the way you work. Among a myriad of other tasks, there is the considerable expense of equipping a home office with all the paraphernalia necessary to function efficiently.
However, it's the mental and physical transition to working alone at home, possibly for the first time without the safety net of a corporate environment, which is often the hardest adaptation of all.
Some VAs tackle the logistics of this transition in completely different ways, all dictated by their personal circumstances. If yours is the only salary in the household, it's unlikely you will be able to quit your full time job completely and launch yourself as a fully fledged VA immediately. As we've all discovered, clients don't materialise out of thin air. It takes sheer persistence, hard slog and a fair slice of luck to even land your first client.
My own experience was governed by the need to contribute to our household budget and by the necessity of earning a living. So I continued in full time employment, working at my VA practice in the evenings and at weekends. Once I began to win clients, I was able to reduce the number of days I worked at my "normal" job and I was very lucky to have a cooperative employer. Not everyone is so fortunate.
I was also lucky in that I had another string to my bow, as a writer and photographer - but that's another story! However, it obviously helps enormously if you have multiple sources of income, not least in proving to the Inland Revenue that you are self employed.
Colleagues in the UK have branched out into the VA world from other related businesses, such as training and design. Or by running their husband's small business. They have an advantage in that they are used to the perils and plus points of self employment.
Other VAs here managed by working for temp agencies, where the freedom from a long term contract and the ability to choose the amount of hours worked is ideal. This flexibility helps you build towards your real goal - that of a self sufficient, thriving business.