Virtual Assistant Life. We’ve all seen the newspaper articles that make it seem like a straightforward job that anyone, regardless of skills and/or experience, can do as long as they have some kind of internet connection, and make thousands of pounds a month from! The reality is that it’s rarely like that, especially as a new VA coming into the industry and establishing your place in the market.
As with all self-employed roles, there are benefits from being your own boss, as well as unique challenges that it’s difficult to even imagine if you are coming from an employed role. There are peaks and troughs in terms of both income and happiness, and sometimes you can feel isolated when your only colleague is a bad-tempered cat (or the Amazon delivery driver).
Here are some of the realities of life as a VA.
– Customers can be rude and aren’t always right, but it’s difficult to address that when you rely on their fees! Though it can be a problem at any time in your VA life, it’s particularly difficult when you’re first starting out and relying on the income from a handful of clients, and one (or more) become challenging and quite frankly, rude. If you are providing a high quality service, are being professional and are working to the contract that both parties agreed on, then you are doing all you can to support them. Ask them for feedback, and acknowledge if there is any constructive advice that they have provided that can help you to enhance the services that you are providing, but if they are just being rude and unprofessional, try not to take it to heart. We’re all human, and therefore not infallible, so if you do find yourself in this position take a step back, speak to a peer and focus on your own wellbeing so that you aren’t dragged down by their negativity.
– Finding the perfect work-life balance is tricky – When you work from home and at times convenient to you (which can be non-conventional if you’ve got family at home or other commitments), it’s sometimes hard to find the balance between work life and home life. I’ve found myself thinking about work at 2AM and getting up to address the issue – not something that would be an issue if I had to travel to get to my workplace! I know it’s hard but try to set boundaries; be honest with customers about timescales and don’t feel bad about not answering enquiries out of hours (as some customers feel compelled to email at 10PM at night), but also don’t been too hard on yourself if you do decide to get up at 4AM one morning to clear your to-do list.
– Finding the right associate can be hard – unfortunately, not everyone has the same work ethic as you. Not everyone completes work to the same high standard as you either, so if you need someone to support you with a client project, make sure that you have spoken to them beforehand and that your expectations are clear and in-writing – you don’t want to end up having to pay them AND do the work yourself.
– Income isn’t always guaranteed – Every now and then, there can be a bit of a customer drought. Work dries up and you’re left twiddling your thumbs for a period. This is natural, but you can mitigate the impact of these slow work periods in several ways. You could consider a secondary or passive income (affiliate marketing, offering your own online course, etc.) so that you’ve got multiple income streams to rely on. Alternatively, you could try to take on more retained support work, where people sign up to ongoing monthly packages rather than short term projects, enabling you to more accurately forecast income. You could also use these period of downtime to further develop your skills and help you to increase the range of high quality services you provide. The main thing is to prepare for these periods so that you can continue to function for a short period, even without regular income coming in – budgeting and creating a little ‘pot’ of money to cover short periods of downtime (or sickness) can really help to take the pressure of periods like this.
– Winning work isn’t always as easy as you would think – it’s very rare that we just wander out and stumble across a new job. And even when we’ve found a potential customer who is interested in our products/services, there’s no guarantee that they will choose to purchase from us! They may choose a competitor, or to hold off for the time being. Again, this is something that you need to factor into your marketing and budget forecasting – 10 potential leads doesn’t translate into 10 fully fledged customers, so it’s worth thinking whether there is anything you can do to sweeten the deal so that more prospects covert into customers (i.e. slightly preferential rate for packages, free training course, 1 hour free per month, etc.).
Despite its challenges, VA life can be incredibly rewarding; choosing your own working hours, choosing your own clients, taking a 2 hour lunch break to go out for a walk or attend a family event, deciding which services you do (and don’t!) want to offer… If you can get over the uncertainty of self-employed life and build your own successful corner of the VA world, then it really can be the best decision of your working life!