How to Become a Virtual Assistant

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A Virtual Assistant article by Irene Boston

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff
- Julius Caesar

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.

Throughout our industry, a great many people are starting their VA careers. As we all know, it can be a daunting task and it's not always obvious where to begin. Many newcomers seem to have the right attitude and realise developing a business is not going to be easy.

You've decided to work from home because you've always wanted to or your job or personal circumstances have changed. Or perhaps for health reasons you find yourself re-evaluating your career. You've worked in an office for many years and your computer skills are first rate. Success should automatically follow, shouldn't it? Wrong! The initial decision to be a homeworker and Virtual Assistant is merely the first, small step on a long and difficult road to becoming a successful business owner. Just because you've made that decision doesn't mean success is yours by right.

However, I've noticed an increasing number of people on some US lists who seem to think there's some magic formula they can use and voilà, they'll have a successful business instantly. They seek a simple ABC guide which will reveal step by step instructions on how to miraculously become a Virtual Assistant or Virtual PA. But there is no quick route to success. If there were, we'd all be rich by now!

That's not to say there isn't plenty of help available. There are various support organisations and various publications covering all aspects of the VA world, both for the newcomer and the experienced VA. Think of a subject, whether it's how to start your business, marketing, public relations or financial planning and you can guarantee you'll be able to find a book or article full of useful advice.

What disturbs me greatly about the attitude of some VAs is that they seem to think they can be successful with hardly any effort on their part. They're looking for guidance. They're looking for easy answers and advice. They study articles, books and website resources but they refuse to acknowledge that half the battle must be waged by them. Once they've heard all the advice, it's almost as if they expect another step in the process. They want to be led by the hand down the path to success.
They don't appear to want to do very much for themselves. I'm not sure whether they expect clients to fall into their laps.

Having bought their PC, printed headed paper and business cards, posted flyers, placed adverts, many of them think the money is going to start rolling in. When it doesn't, their attitude seems almost petulant. The reaction is, "Well I've done my bit, why is nothing happening? Surely I've expended enough effort and money now on marketing, so where are my clients?" Or, "Yes, I've listened to your advice, but it's not working and I want more!" Well, I'm afraid it doesn't work that way.

Along with colleagues, I receive many emails and phone calls asking for free advice. Usually I send a standard, informative reply, or I refer them to a page on my website which recommends various organisations and publications, specifically for Virtual Assistants and home workers. Most enquirers are very polite and seem genuinely keen. However, what astounds me is the attitude of a minority and thankfully it is still a minority. They're extremely demanding and almost downright rude. It's almost as if they believe they have a right to free advice and whatever time of the day (or night) they call, I should be willing to reveal all. It also begs the question - if this is their attitude to colleagues, how do they behave towards clients?

The article continues with good advice on how to proceed in getting the right mental attitude to allow you to work alone on your own business and make it a success.

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