The importance of building self worth
‘Just’ a Virtual Assistant? I don’t think so…
On a daily basis, I talk to incredible Virtual Assistants, Online Business Managers and Freelance Business Support Professionals and am struck by the fact that so many of them don’t see the huge value that they bring to the businesses that they work with. I’ve been in networking events and heard people utter the phrase ‘Oh, I’m just a VA’ or ‘I’m just a writer’ and it makes me scream internally! There is no ‘just’ about it, but the mindset that we somehow have a lower value than other small business owners is pervasive in our community, and it’s something that I’m keen to tackle – not just to help people build their perceived self-worth, but to continue to elevate this amazing community of freelance professionals that APVA has brought together, as well as the wider freelance community.
A trusted business associate has a phrase that he often uses when talking to his wife, who is ‘just’ a writer – and he has even used the phrase in relation to APVA on occasion: “You don’t have to blow your own trumpet, but you need to show people that you actually have a trumpet”. The truth is, that APVA and his partner have both been successful in their respective fields, but both take a quiet and unassuming stance when it comes to publicly acknowledging that success and can therefore ‘fade into the background’ whilst other organisations make a song and dance about their offerings. Unfortunately, it seems that that characteristic is a common trait with so many of those within our community. It needs to stop. Today APVA are taking a stand, and we want you to join us!
Let’s start by acknowledging what great work you are all doing…
Are you a self–employed VA? Do you run a limited business? There are 2 million freelancers in the UK (1), and we have a working population of over 32 million people. That means that only 6.25% of the working population have made the decision to start (and maintain) a self-employed business. 93.75% of the UK workforce are not self-employed – you have already achieved something that many will not in their lifetime!
Have you got long term clients, repeat customers or a handful of glowing testimonials? You are the reason for that, as even if you outsource the work to associates, it is you that won that client and has nurtured the relationship by managing their expectations and ensuring that they have a positive experience of your business. You should take pride in your ability to deliver a professional and high-quality service to your customers.
Have you learned new skills or studied for professional or academic qualifications to expand on and improve the products and services that you offer? In a world where so many people are happy to ‘stand still’ despite the incredible speed at which our world is changing, you are in the minority. In the EU in 2011, An estimated 40.3 % of working age (25–64) adults took part in formal or non-formal education or training (the majority of these people undertaking training that was job related rather than for personal fulfilment) (2). In many employed roles, continuing professional development training is a cost covered by the employer, so in self-employed positions where we must fund training ourselves, it can be even harder to justify investing in yourself when there are always more pressing bills to pay.
Are you running a business alongside managing a long-term health condition, raising a family, caring for relatives or other commitments? For many people, remaining in employed roles can become challenging after having children or if relatives suddenly require additional home-based care and support; It can be hard if someone has a long-term health condition that is difficult to manage in the formality of an employed 9-5, or if unexpected redundancy means that an individual has to ‘think on their feet’ and take immediate steps to fill the income void that a sudden lack of employment brings. In each of these cases it is always the simpler action to take a step back and allow someone else to shoulder the financial burden that a huge change of personal circumstances can have. It takes bravery, commitment and perseverance to plan, launch and maintain any self-employed business, and to make it a financial success.
So why do we agree to do things that fall outside of our comfort zone, to be talked down to and patronised, or to reduce our hourly rate to fit in with the unreasonable expectations of others? Why do we agree to work for free, or to regularly work weekends or evenings when we had tried to impose our own work/life boundaries to prevent this? Why do we accept responsibility for things that weren’t our fault to ‘keep the peace’? Why do we utter the words ‘just a VA’ or ‘just an administrative professional’ (or a variation of these)? Obviously, these aren’t actions that every VA or Freelancer takes, but in the various online VA communities that I am a part of, I see these comments every single day from numerous highly skilled, extensively experienced and professional individuals. And the thing is… the work that we do on a daily basis makes the lives of business owners all over the UK (and beyond) simpler and easier. We help numerous business owners maintain, develop and grow their businesses, alongside running our own successful business. In uncertain economic times, we are helping small businesses to thrive.
There is nothing ‘lowly’ about administrative support, about marketing, or copywriting, or book-keeping, or web-design, or any other of the huge variety of skills and specialisms that can be found within our community. However, the more we publicly acknowledge that what we do is somehow ‘less’, the larger this seed of self-doubt grows – we enter into a self-fulfilling prophecy, where we ultimately end up becoming truly ‘less’ as we have been held back by our limiting beliefs.
Positive affirmations, an optimistic and hopeful outlook and the acknowledgement that we are effective and useful human beings really can have a positive impact on our physical, psychological, social and financial wellbeing – we’re not talking hocus pocus here! The idea of ‘Psychological Capital’ (consisting of the psychological resources of hope, efficacy, resilience and optimism) has been seen to correspond with job satisfaction, commitment and social and physical wellbeing (3).
There’s a reason that elite sports teams hire sports psychologists nowadays; even the most down to earth sports superstar has worked hard to develop a positive mindset that helps them on their quest to become the very best that they can be. Imagine where world-record setter Paula Radcliffe would be if she considered herself to be ‘just a runner’; Imagine Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson – winner of 16 Paralympic Games medals – being ‘just’ anything! And neither are you.
Join APVA as we take a step forward, out of the shadows, and celebrate everything that this amazing community has achieved over the last decade. We are an incredible and inspiring workforce, and APVA are ready to help British, European and International Freelancers get the spotlight they deserve. Will you step into the spotlight with us?