Get started as a Virtual Assistant
So, you want to become a Virtual Assistant, but you don't know how to get started? You might think you don't have the time, resources, or energy to get it done. You might not even know what services you could offer!
In this VA Success Stories interview, Jamie Wissinger shares her journey to becoming a successful virtual assistant. She balances her business with her full-time job, three kids, and epilepsy. Jamie is such an amazing example of how unique every VA is, and how we can all use our strengths and desires to build a business that suits our unique situation.
In our VA Success Stories series, we interview successful virtual assistants to go behind the scenes of their business, find out how they got started, why they love their work, and more.
Going from selling to helping
Jamie's work as a virtual assistant started when she offered to create a few graphics for a fellow MLM business owner. She volunteered her services to create graphics for her upline—the person who recruited her into the MLM—and after seeing the results, her upline hired her to do the work part-time. Jamie realised offering her services could be a way to replace the income she was making from selling the products, while staying in the community she loved working with.
Word of mouth grew from there. Jamie knew the MLM space. Because she was already a part of the MLM community, she had a network of people she already knew and had worked with. Once she started offering her services more seriously, it meant she had a base of potential clients.
How do you learn the skills you need as a VA?
At an old day job, Jamie worked in strategy at a cable company on a regional level. It meant she had experience in what she calls 'minimal graphic design', which was enough to get started. After three years of offering her services, Jamie also offers strategy. She creates brand boards to create a unique style so business owners can show their strengths and stand out from the overall MLM. It involves strategy and visuals.
If you're not in a MLM business, Jamie's approach would be like offering your services to your team or other people in your network. Jamie didn't have to 'pitch' to clients or go searching for them, as she started by offering her skills to people she already knew. Getting started can be as simple as telling everyone you know what you can offer. Reach out to your network! That is the best and easiest way to get your first clients. These are the people who know you, who trust you and who can vouch for you. Word of mouth will grow from there.
How to charge clients more
When Jamie first started including strategy in her service, she didn't realise her worth. Now, she does charge clients extra for strategy work. She has different packages, one including strategy, which she offers at different prices. Clients get to choose the work that fits their needs.
Although most of Jamie's clients are in the network marketing space, she has branched out to work in other areas too. Being specialised in MLMs means that she has an advantage. She can understand her clients and their businesses, not only from her experience as a VA but also from her experience in several MLMs. It's a great way to stand out and means that her business has grown almost purely on word of mouth.
Balancing work and life
How does she balance a full-time job, her VA business, and being a mom? 'It is hard,' Jamie says. Her tip is to manage expectations openly by setting clear deadlines with clients. What needs to be done on Wednesday? What can wait until after 5pm? She fits in work when her kids aren't home or are sleeping. Jamie says working on her VA business adds up to about 3-4 hours a day.
Work with what you have. If you have other commitments, don't expect yourself to work 8 hours a day. You can have a sustainable, successful business without being a slave to it.
Taking it to the next level
Virtual assistants often hesitate to spend money on their business when they first start. Jamie says it took her a couple years to invest properly. 'I really looked at being an assistant as a hobby,' she says. 'But now that I'm getting more into the strategy side of things—it is a business.'
With this new mindset, she outsourced her website design and had a professional photoshoot to make a stronger presence online. Jamie credits the Start, Market & Grow Your Virtual Assistant Business Facebook Group for pushing her from the hobby approach into the business owner mindset.
Jamie says she's not quite sure whether she's going to quit her full-time job. That's the best part about being your own business owner. You can choose how to make your business work for you. You don't have to go full-time to be successful.
Managing client expectations is half the job
Jamie recommends several tools, such as Asana. Not only can these tools and systems help you work more efficiently, you can use tools to set clearer expectations with your clients. In Asana, she creates a project per client and tracks tasks. You can also invite your clients to the same Asana project and you can communicate there, keeping your inbox less cluttered.
And for other tools, like Canva and PicMonkey, she recommends the premium plans. If you add the prices into your rates, your clients don't get any unexpected fees and you can provide higher quality work—more quickly!
The tools you use to manage your clients and expectations have another bonus for virtual assistants. Every system or tool you use is another service you can offer. Streak, Jamie's CRM of choice, is a tool she also sets up for clients to help them manage their client communications.
Do the work you love
The things that you enjoy can set you apart in your work and help you stand out as a VA. 'In my past job, I was a big ExCel nerd. I love ExCel, I love spreadsheets, I love doing all that,' Jamie says. 'And that is the number one thing people do not like doing.'
'If you find that weird thing you love doing, which for me is spreadsheets, share that.' The people who don't love what you do will gladly hand over the work!
It's easy to assume that the work you love is the work others love, too. Not everyone loves to write, or create graphics, or set up business systems, or manage appointments. The services that make you say, 'That's too easy!' or 'No one would pay for that!' are probably the very services you should consider offering.
When you find that ideal balance, you're helping business owners stick to their zone of genius.
How to keep finding work
Jamie's advice for anyone just started out: 'Put yourself out there.' It can be as simple as a Facebook post telling your friends and family.
'When you're first starting you may not necessarily know what you like and what you don't like to do as an assistant,' Jamie says. 'But as you do continue on with your journey, make sure you make a list of what you really like to do and really, what you don't like to do.'
Many assistants start out by offering every service they can think of. As you do the work, you'll narrow down on your own zone of genius.
'It is your own business. So don't do what you don't want to do.' And that applies to not only the work you offer, but the work you delegate - like when Jamie wanted to level up her website, she outsourced the website and the photography.
Another great tip is to send clients a survey after you've finished a project. It's the best way to get fresh, excited testimonials. Get feedback early, and often. Testimonials increase your credibility and can also point out your strengths and unique talents in a way you had never considered before.
The simple things keep clients happy
One big way Jamie sets expectations upfront is by having six-month contracts with her clients. This means they are both committed to the work involved, and she has better cashflow in her own business. This also gives her time to truly show business owners how her work helps them.
'If you are showing them value - if their productivity is increasing, if their revenue and profits are increasing - once you have started, then they're going to hire you again.'
Another little tip to keep clients happy? 'Send Happy Birthday messages!' It's a great way to break the ice.
Don't overthink it
Even after three years of working as a VA, Jamie got a huge response when she posted about this upcoming interview. Many people didn't know that she offered VA services. Promoting your services and letting people know what you do is a continuous process. It doesn't have to be difficult.
Simply saying, 'I'm a virtual assistant and I do _____' will remind people about what you offer. Sharing behind the scenes of your business is a natural way to let people know what you do, too.
It's easy to feel like you're spamming people, but when you post on Facebook, Twitter, or any other major platform your messages are mingled with everyone else. People don't see a continuous stream of your messages about your work. They see a mix - and they won't see every single post, either.
Promoting yourself is a process you'll learn by doing it, too.
Jamie's parting advice:
You can run a virtual assistant business in the time that you have.
You existing network is the most powerful tool you have to get started and find clients.
Charge what you're worth - strategy should be a premium!
Manage expectations for clients, and for yourself, to maintain balance and keep everyone happy.
You don't have to be a full-time VA to find success.
Respect your zone of genius. The easiest work is probably your best work.
Do the work you love, say no and delegate everything else.
'Treat people behind the screen like you treat people face to face.'
Putting yourself out there isn't 'one and done'. It's a continuous process.
Resources we mentioned:
Asana - a project management tool you can use for yourself and clients
Streak - a free CRM (client relationship management) tool to manage your emails and client contact. (For Gmail)
Trello - a more visual alternative to Asana project management tool
Connect with Jamie:
If you'd like to learn more about what it takes to become a successful Virtual Assistant, take a look at my self-paced course Start, Market & Grow Your Virtual Assistant Business that covers everything you need to know: from deciding what type of VA you want to be, to identifying your ideal client, to branding yourself for success, to creating your website, to setting your rates and packages and finally, to getting and working with clients.