How to Build a Successful Virtual Assistant Practice

The VA field is growing rapidly. You may just be starting, or you may be a seasoned VA. But even the most successful VAs keep marketing and positioning at the forefront. Growing your business is not a “back burner” activity. You may stay busy, but you will not grow — and neither will your business.

As the field begins to have a little less elbow-room, it becomes even more important to find your niche. Sounds simple. It’s not. VA’s are, by definition, the most flexible of any entrepreneur. We do it all. But the key to success is to do one or two things exceptionally well and fill in with other skills to provide “value added” to your clients.

Remember, it’s much easier to keep clients than to get them. VA’s are experts at keeping clients once they are secured. We go the extra mile, we provide excellent customer service, and we have extraordinary turn-around time. Our livelihood depends on it.

But landing the clients you really want and finding your niche are tough, especially for the new VA. And for the “old timers” it’s easy to become bored with offering the same services. It’s easy to get labeled the “research VA” or the “newsletter guru”. And that’s wonderful, IF that is what you enjoy most. But if you want to concentrate on something new, how do you get there from here?

You do your homework.

No, I don’t mean research the field, learn to market your Web site, or talk with others who are successful. I mean get out a pencil and a piece of paper (or pull up your word processing program) and do your homework. Right here. Right now.

Make a journal entry. In this freeform writing exercise (don’t cringe!) you will describe in detail what would constitute the PERFECT workday for you. Below are some questions to get you started:

First Exercise

  • What time does your day start?
  • What is your first project?
  • How do you handle interruptions?
  • What is the best part of the day?
  • What makes this day perfect?
  • How do you define success?
  • If you had a call from the perfect client who would they be?
  • If you landed the perfect assignment, what would it entail?
  • How do you feel at the end of your workday and why?
  • What time do you “close up shop”?

Sometimes we get so busy doing our “business” that we fail to set our goals. It’s hard to become a success if you aren’t definitive about what constitutes “SUCCESS” for you, personally and professionally. How can you know when you have arrived, if you don’t know where you were going?

If you are having difficulty determining what success IS, try writing down what it ISN’T, this will bring your personal definition of success into sharper focus.

Second Exercise

Describe your most disastrous day. For example:

  • What time does your day start?
  • What projects do you tackle?
  • What interruptions do you have?
  • What is the worst project that you manage today?
  • What makes you feel less than successful?
  • A nightmare client calls – what do they want?
  • You just got a “rush” job dumped in your lap and can’t say no, what does it entail?
  • How do you feel at the end of the day and why?
  • What time does your day end?

Armed with the results of these two “homework” assignments, take an inventory. On your last working day, which would most closely describe your experience – the perfect day or the horrid one? What about the day before that? Is there a pattern? Is it a good one?

Looking over your journal entries, it should be fairly easy to discern which of your tasks you enjoy and which you prefer to avoid. Select the top three tasks that you enjoy. It is from these three that you need to pick your “niche” services. These are the things you love, the projects that make you happy. Perhaps you don’t have the expertise that you need in one of these areas, but you love the learning process. If that’s the case – take a class. Devote a day a week to honing this skill, or set aside an hour a day. You CAN get there from here.

You cannot be all things to all people, don’t try. Virtual Assistants ARE the one-stop shop of outsourcing, but you can make your workday — and your life — more enjoyable by narrowing your scope. Target your niche skills and fill in with the less enjoyable ones to get the job done, but MARKET your niche.

When you are just starting out, or when contracts are in a lull, it may be tempting to take on that project that you hate. Don’t. Life is short. Spend that time growing your business, marketing or honing a skill – not doing what you despise. Go after only the clients you really want, those that you will be happy with long term.

Form healthy, mutually beneficial relationships with other VAs who enjoy and excel in the areas that you find less than satisfying. Trade services. Set up an agreement and help each other out. Follow your bliss. Find the way. It’s there.

Once you determine what you want, the battle is nearly won. The rest is just planning, networking, and thinking “outside the box”. But we are VAs and we do that for our clients every day. Today, do that for your most important client – YOU.

© Copyright 2001 by Angela Allen Parker

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