How to Become a Virtual Assistant


A Virtual Assistant Article by Irene Boston

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.

We can all relate to those days when your office seems to have declared a state of war! Your desk is hidden beneath piles of paper, there are several "to-do" lists of varying degrees of urgency and the phone doesn't stop ringing.

After hours of struggling through all this, you may think you've spent a long, productive day and achieved a great deal. But did you actually get paid for any of it? Did you make any profit? Was any of this work actually for a client?

There's a tremendous difference between the time you spend chained to the keyboard and the hours which actually generate income. At first there'll be far more of the former and not nearly enough of the latter! The trick is to balance the two but starting a new Virtual Assistant business can mean long hours and Herculean effort for very little reward.

One aspect of working from home which I can't imagine anyone misses is commuting. Both in terms of cost and time wasted, no longer having to travel to work releases you to put in far more productive hours. However, it can also lead to a tendency to work incredibly long hours, not all of which turn out to be revenue producing.

Don't get me wrong - no hour spent marketing and networking your VA business is a wasted one. Far from it. We should all earmark a number of hours each week for marketing, but make sure it's a structured effort. List a set of goals each week and be disciplined about it.

One of the first things you must do in any business is aim to achieve a certain number of billable hours each month. Put crudely, you must work out how much income you need. Then work out your overheads - in other words, just how much your business costs you to run each month. Calculate everything from electricity and stationery costs to advertising and insurance. Once you have that figure, anything over and above that amount is profit and it's up to you to work out how much profit you need in order to make a living. But don't forget the tax man will come calling for a chunk of that profit as well!

Having calculated your income needs, you'll soon realise just how many billable hours are needed for your Virtual Assistance business to succeed. To achieve that, the temptation is to work every single hour of the day. Some people are workaholics and can do this quite easily but there will come a point for everyone when you're no longer being productive. Try to strike a balance between your home life, your business and your health.

Planning is essential to maintain some kind of sanity and flexibility in your life. Prioritise tasks so you can manage your time more effectively. Work for clients must obviously come first. No client will thank you or return with more business if you miss an all-important deadline. Allocate yourself "office" hours - these can vary day by day or week by week. They can be dictated by the hours you want to work or by the needs of your clients.

However, it's essential that at the end of the day, you leave your desk and close your office door. This discipline of switching off, not only the computer but your mind, can be very difficult. Look upon the walk to the kitchen or the lounge as your commuting for the day!

It's important to strike a balance between the hours you spend marketing, dealing with paperwork, "housekeeping" your computer files, or learning new software, ("fiddling" as my husband calls it!) and the hours you spend working for clients in your VA business. After all, it's only the latter who will actually pay your bills.

Irene Boston
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Once again, Irene points out to us the facts that many forget as their business gathers speed. I quite often swap mails with other Virtual Assistants at 11:00pm at night. I am normally updating one of my websites to add more articles, they are probably working after the children have gone to bed, you need to remember to set boundaries.

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