Setting up a virtual assistant business – 5 top tips if you are considering VA work alongside raising your family
Juggling work around a family is hard, whether you are employed or self-employed. It’s easy to imagine that setting up a virtual assistant business and working from home whilst also looking after children is a simple compromise if childcare costs, lack of flexibility and changing priorities prevent you from returning to employment after you have had children. However, even though it is possible to successfully juggle working from home and raising a family, it isn’t simple, and it can be particularly difficult to establish a work-life balance to help manage stress and reduce the risk of burnout. So here are our top 5 tips for working effectively and productively from home around your family.
1.) Seriously consider childcare – It’s easy to think you’ll be able to work around nap times or in the evenings, but whilst this may be possible with very young children, it does get harder! If you have children younger than pre-school age, I would strongly recommend trying to find a childcare option for a few hours per week, whether that is a friend or family member, a nanny or child-minder, or a day nursery. Having a solid block of hours where you can focus 100% on your VA tasks can definitely help you to work more efficiently and productively. Knowing that your children are well looked after can also make business telephone calls or video calls easier, as you don’t have to worry what your children are up to when it goes mysteriously quiet in the next room….
2.) Be realistic – set a cap on how much work you can carry out based on the number of hours that you can physically work. It’s so easy to say ‘yes’ to work when you are starting out or experiencing a quiet spell, but if that work cannot be completed to your usual high standard in the hours you have available, let your client know. They may be able to alter their deadline, or they may need to find someone else who has capacity. You could always try to find an associate to assist you with the work, just make sure that you don’t let your standards slip simply because you are trying to cram too much work into your schedule. Even if the work is top quality, it’s likely that you will have had to eat into precious evenings and weekends to complete it, increasing your risk of burnout. It’s fine every now and then, but it’s so simple to say ‘yes’ to everything and worry about the consequence later – just be aware of your own limitations, you’re already a wonder-woman (or superman, for the self-employed stay-at-home dads out there!).
3.) Be honest, but don’t overshare – in the majority of cases, your clients don’t need (or want) to know about your personal circumstances; they are primarily concerned with your professional skills and abilities. Many people prefer to keep a professional distance between their personal lives and their work, though there are a few clients you may want to share with! However, when you have children and work from home there are instances when the boundary between home and work life can become blurred, for example, if your children are unwell or your childcare falls through. In these unexpected circumstances, it may be worth mentioning to clients that you have a call or skype scheduled with that your circumstances have changed, and asking to reschedule. If a customer is unable to reschedule, you could advise them that it is possible to still talk/video call, though there may be a little noise from your children in the background; the choice is yours. You will have an idea of which of your clients will be comfortable with this situation. I’ve known VAs who have pre-warned customers in situations like this and who have been interrupted by shouts of ‘Mummy, I’ve done a poo!’ mid-skype, but because this was an incredibly rare occurrence that the understanding customer had been advised of, it was not an issue.
4.) Set aside some time for you – yes, you may think that you can spend all day looking after your children and all evening carrying out work, but when will you get a moment to just sit, relax and be ‘you’? Even if you’d rather be out jogging or torturing yourself at a spinning class than just sitting down and enjoying a cup of tea and some trash telly, it is essential that you set aside some time every week to do the things that you enjoy, and that help keep you sane! I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again – burnout should be a real concern that you take steps to avoid; if you start feeling tired, stressed, over-emotional or consistently ‘under the weather’, listen to your body’s warning signs and take a step back before the issue becomes more serious. Talk to trusted family members, friends or peers too and share the load – you are not an island, and you aren’t alone; there is always someone out there who can help share the load, whether it is emotional or a physical load of work!
5.) Make sure you have a good support network – This doesn’t just refer to family, friends and neighbours who you can call upon to help you with childcare and physical/emotional support, though they are invaluable! This refers to a tribe of people in the same boat as you, who understand the highs and the lows of running a business from home alongside raising a family. When it feels like every waking hour is dedicated either to the care and support of your children, or to growing a sustainable and successful VA business, there isn’t a huge amount of time for socialising. Even if there is, there is always that one person who has had to return to employment post-children and wholeheartedly believes that working from home is THE easiest option going for parents. Let’s get this straight – there’s nothing simple about being a parent, whether you are employed, work from home or are a stay-at-home parent. Running a VA business is no simple feat either, whether you are raising a family alongside your business or building your brand around your other commitments. Life isn’t a competition, it’s about camaraderie, collaboration and support, and the VIP VA Hub is the perfect forum whenever you need advice or a virtual hug. Some of our members are in exactly the same boat as you, some aren’t, but they are all there to help shape the VA industry in the UK (and internationally) and drive it forwards towards bigger and better things! Just remember to ask for help when you need it – there’s always someone listening.