If you’re reading this, you’re probably in a quandary. Should you try setting up a VA business alone or get some help?
Let me state my opinion right from the outset – if you only do one thing, it must be finding help and support from someone as you set up your VA business. Going it alone is stressful, expensive and ultimately takes far longer.
How do I know? I did exactly that and wasted hours (and a fortune) on things that didn’t bring me any work at all.
Which means, for me, getting some proper help is non-negotiable – I recommend it to everyone who asks. But how do you know who to choose to help you? And how do you know what you need and what you don’t.
Here we’ll be looking at the issues that matter and how My VA Business might (or might not) fit the bill for you personally.
In my experience, you’ll probably have an awful lot of questions at this stage.
And speaking of experience, that’s my first point.
1. Why should I pick an experienced VA mentor?
This may seem obvious but there are a lot of people out there who have never actually worked as a VA or who only ran a VA business for a short time before giving up actual VA work to train others.
I really do believe that you need someone who’s worked in the industry for a longer period – they’ll have weathered a few storms and know how to adapt a business if the economy is struggling or in the face of new technology or regulations.
And of course, you might want to consider someone who still runs a VA business – how can someone have their finger on the pulse otherwise?
At My VA Business, you’ve not only got my 13 years’ experience to fall back on, my support team are all currently working as VAs too. If you get in touch, you can be sure that you’re speaking to someone who really gets it.
2. What should I be looking for in a VA mentor?
Firstly, you need to find someone you trust and get on with – this is a key relationship so make sure you’re completely happy with it. It’s no good being too scared to ask the silliest question – we always tell our members to ask anything they like. The chances are we’ve heard it before and nothing is ever too small or too leftfield.
Then compare what you’ll actually get from different trainers. There are some great people you can work with out there but check carefully that you actually get 1 to 1 support included. There are some really good training manuals and webinars available that will be perfect until you hit a problem. Then you’ll realise there isn’t anyone you can ask for help. So be clear on what you want and what you’re buying.
Make sure the person fronting the business is available to you when you need help most – after all, it’s their knowledge that you’re paying for. So, ask yourself, can I book a call? Are they available to answer my questions while I’m setting up? And what happens if I have a wobble – will they help?
I’m proud to say that My VA Business offers unlimited access to me and to my business partner Noel, a qualified chartered accountant, for 6 months on our most popular package. All members have my personal mobile number.
3. Do I need to worry about getting qualification for services I offer?
A lot of new VAs worry that they’re not ‘qualified’ for the job, despite often having worked as an EA, PA or a similar role for many years. And while some professional services like accounting may need qualifications, a VA doesn’t need a specific bookkeeping qualification to raise invoices or do day to day matching of payments and receipts.
In my 13 years as a VA, I’ve never once been asked for any qualifications – my experience and ability have spoken for themselves. In my opinion, you can become a successful VA without having to spend any money on a specific VA (or other) qualification and I know a lot of successful VAs who have done extremely well based on their experience too.
If you do want to get some qualifications, make sure you do your research and know what you’re paying for. There are lots of new training companies springing up and many offer very cheap courses, often through group shopping sites. Many of these courses are not accredited externally and would therefore be of very little value in the real world.
4. How do I know how much to pay for things like my website and branding?
If you’re like me when I started out, this worried me a lot. I worried about getting charged too much, about not knowing what I needed and about missing the important things.
It’s hard when you have no point of reference, and there are a lot of people out there who take advantage of unsure new business owners (sadly I know from my own experience!).
The main thing to remember is that while branding is really important, and you must be consistent across all your contact points, you don’t need to start off spending thousands of pounds to achieve this – you’re not the new John Lewis.
It’s a sad fact that as a new business owner, you will come across people telling you that you need all sorts of things you don’t and quoting you astronomical figures for the work. Unscrupulous businesses take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge and scare them into signing up for all the bells and whistles, when a simple site would be perfectly adequate for someone starting out.
I might be advising that you start small but don’t make the mistake of some new business owners who go to the other extreme and refuse to invest any money at all in their branding and online presence.
Quite honestly, this is just as bad.
Think about potential clients – are they really going to see you as a credible VA if your website doesn’t work and your branding is a mess? I’m all for doing it yourself if you have the skills but you’ll cost yourself far more in the long run if you’re out of your depth.
With this in mind, I designed our ‘VA Business in a Box’ packages to alleviate all this stress by including a lot of great value ‘done for you’ elements – amongst them being your logo, branding and website.
5. Is the financial and legal side of running a business too complicated for me?
This is a worry that puts off many potential new business owners. They worry they might make costly mistakes or miss something important and end up paying out thousands in legal fees.
I know how that feels – it’s scary lying awake in the middle of the night wondering if you might not have registered your business correctly or worrying if your website meets data protection requirements.
And the requirements start right from the very beginning of your journey to becoming a business owner. Should you set up as a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company? What are the pros and cons of each and what do you need to do to make sure you’ve registered correctly with HMRC?
There’s the data protection and GDPR side of running a business – now, more than ever, it’s important you understand what’s required of you to make sure you’re complying and not risking a large fine. Can you really be sure you’re only keeping the records you’re allowed to hold, and what time period is reasonable to keep your business records?
Then there’s the whole issue of client related paperwork to consider. Do you have a client contract that protects you as well as your client? It’s essential to consider all the types of things that can crop up in working relationships – from payment terms to your complaints policy – and have these clearly laid out so there’s no ambiguity.
And again, this is why it’s so important to choose an experienced VA to mentor you – I know what comes up time and time again in our industry and how to cover yourself. You’ll get a legal contract, drafted by our solicitor, to use with your clients that is specifically for VAs (not a ‘one size fits all’) – it has evolved over time to include everything I’ve encountered myself over the last 13 years. That experience really can’t be bought off the shelf.
We’re here to talk through all the financial and legal points you need to consider and with the ‘VA Business in a Box’ packages, access to Noel our qualified chartered accountant is included as part of the package so you have access to both of us.
So if you’re not sure what type of insurance you need to make sure you’re not risking everything you’ve worked for, we know the answer.
6. What if I’m keen but I’m not sure I’m confident enough to run my own business?
This is a question I’m often asked and I’m not going to lie, starting your own business is a big step and requires a certain amount of confidence.
But I’m a great believer that most people can develop this with the right support. Some of our most successful members felt a bit wobbly when they started out but are now super confident and wonder why they ever worried.
The trick is not to listen to all the well-intentioned friends and family who will try and talk you out of taking the risk – yes, sadly it’s true that many people will try and dissuade you.
They will tell you that self-employment is too risky, or they can’t imagine anyone using a virtual assistant as they’re so expensive. They might mean well but ask yourself one thing – how much experience of the VA industry do they have?
As one of the fastest growing sectors, some surveys estimate the size of the VA market will triple over the next few years. And while this isn’t guaranteed of course, there are already a large number of Virtual Assistants earning a very good living from this type of work. Proof indeed that many people are more than happy to use a virtual assistant as they truly understand the value and not just the cost.
So, working on your own confidence and ignoring the negative voices around you is the best way forward. After all, you only get one life, and do you really want to spend it chained to a job you hate, stifled by corporate rules and regulations?
Part of the beauty of my ‘VA Business in a Box’ packages is that we include our exclusive Confidence Boost videos – filmed for My VA Business and featuring my own personal business coaches. They already know what being a VA entails from their work with me and there’s even the option to access their coaching for yourself for an extra cost if you feel the need for a little extra support.
So don’t let doubt hold you back. After all, increasing your confidence is a useful life skill, let alone business skill, so invest some time in developing yourself and you won’t regret it.
7. Can mentors offer me a discount as I’m not sure I can afford it?
The simple answer is usually no. And here’s why. If they’re like me, they’ve already priced their service to offer the best value possible. As trainers and mentors, we’ve all spent years learning from the bottom up and making expensive errors – it’s that priceless experience you’re paying for.
You have to change your mindset from seeing the price to understanding the value and realising there are numerous costly mistakes that you’ll avoid if you have an experienced VA guiding you through the process.
To give you an example, when I was a new business owner, I completely fell for a sales pitch from a magazine and spent a fortune on adverts that never made me a penny.
I know other VAs who didn’t get proper contracts in place when they started out and then found a client would make a fuss and refuse to pay. Scared for their business reputation and fearing they’d never get any work, they had to let it go and it cost them a fortune in time and money.
And there are countless other beginner’s mistakes that a proper trainer or mentor will steer you away from. They’re shaping you and moulding you into a business woman or man and giving you the tools to realise it’s not rude to insist on signed contracts and a deposit up front from a new client for example.
At My VA Business, we’ve already crammed our ‘VA Business in a Box’ packages full of extra value and I really believe that if you are serious, you’ll invest in proper support. If you don’t, you’re not going to be as successful in the short term and it will probably cost you just as much in the longer term.
Plus we already offer you our money back guarantee. And why is this important? Well when you’re looking at all the training options available, it’s worth asking yourself just how confident people are that they can help you set up a successful VA business.
We’re so confident in our programme that if you follow it properly and don’t get any clients, we’ll give you your money back. Either way you win!
However, if it’s finding the money in the first place that’s a challenge, all is not lost. We know that sometimes you just need a little flexibility to make your dreams a reality so there are a couple of options to consider.
Firstly, a Government Start Up loan is available and we can point you in the right direction to arrange this.
Then there’s our own payment plan that lets you pay over 3 months rather than having to pay a lump sum up front. We know that for many of our members, this has allowed them to take up the opportunity without having to borrow any money.
We also now offer the ‘Transition’ package. This offers all of the same features and benefits of our fast track package but with payments spread across 10 months and content delivered in structured sections. This is ideal for those looking to set up and start their VA business alongside an existing job our other commitments.
8. Can I really make a fortune as a VA?
If you read some of the promotional material out there, you’d be forgiven for thinking that becoming a VA is the fast route to riches.
My advice is to be very wary of anyone promising you a six-figure income in a small space of time.
Of course, anything is possible, especially in the longer term if you take on associates and expand your business, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be earning anywhere near six figures when you’re starting out.
Firstly, you need to have a really clear idea of who your target market is and many of these unrealistic financial projections miss out the important part – how you work out who your client avatar is and where you’ll find them.
On paper, any business is scalable, and the financial projections will match the projected growth and seem very appealing. The key thing to question is how this growth will be achieved. If you can’t get a clear answer, the chances are you’re buying into a dream, not a reality.
Secondly you need to be realistic about your own capabilities. If you’re moving from the corporate world into self-employment, there are lots of added responsibilities that you must consider. You won’t have the support of a head office team – you’re doing this on your own. So, do you really have time to set up a business, market it and then recruit, expand and train a large team in the first few months? And that’s before you even think about the whys and wherefores of winning enough work to sustain your team.
I feel stressed just thinking about it and I’ve been doing this for 13 years!
We’re realists at My VA Business and we think reaching £2000 a month after 8 months by working 20 hours a week is definitely achievable if you put in the work. We have members earning far more but as a realistic initial goal, we think this is a good starting point.
With the proven strategies for finding clients that we give you, we’re confident that you’ll be able to identify and reach your potential clients and you’ll soon be earning this amount.
9. Having a mentor sounds great but in reality, will I be left to fend for myself after I’ve handed over my money?
If you choose the correct support, this definitely won’t happen which is why it’s really important to take your time and get it right.
Really investigate the type of support on offer and have an honest audit of your skills and weaknesses and think about your hopes for your business.
If you’re an IT whizz, you might not need any help with your website for example but if you’re a technophobe, you definitely need to be looking for a package with more ‘done for you’ elements.
Remember personalities are key too – you need to be sure you can get along with your mentor and they’re the right person for you. If they’re not, walk away as it just won’t work, however successful they are.
And what about your plans – there’s a big difference between wanting to make a small amount of money as a part time job and planning to expand your business and take on a team of VAs.
So, think about the experience of your mentor and the type of help they can give you to reach your goals – it might be worth paying more for example if you need someone with more experience or advice on a specific niche of the market.
If there’s one thing I feel very strongly about, it’s making sure you don’t start this journey on your own, and proper support is exactly what I didn’t have when I started out.
If you choose to work with My VA Business, I’m so confident we can make you successful, I’ve even backed it with a money-back guarantee so it’s in my interest to really help you get there!
I know that this is a big step and you’re understandably nervous but the support we offer is one of the key elements of the packages. You’ll have 6 months unlimited access to me, and to my business partner Noel who is a chartered accountant, with our most popular package and this is increased to 12 months if you choose the higher package.
Then there’s my team – I may be biased but they’re a really friendly and supportive bunch who are happy to help you when you’re setting up too. And the great thing is that they all work as VAs as well, so you can get a real-life perspective from people doing this every day for a living.
Last, but certainly not least, is the private Facebook group which has proved to be one of the most popular things we offer. Why? Well apart from me, Noel and the team, it’s restricted to our members going through the same process as you (plus all the ones a step ahead who are up and running and living the life of a working VA).
Now there are lots of great open VA Facebook groups out there but sometimes you want to ask something without giving all your personal information to strangers. And maybe not everyone on a public group is actually as experienced as they claim or as impartial.
Certainly anything legal or financial should be taken with a pinch of salt as you never know if someone is talking sense or nonsense!
In our group, it’s like being amongst friends. It’s smaller, safer and you can ask me or Noel questions there too. I’ve been thrilled to see how the group has developed with members passing extra jobs to others and advising on the best software. It really is an invaluable source of support and one that you shouldn’t underestimate.
10. What if I have a question or a worry that you haven’t covered here?
We want this to be the right choice for you so we’re here to answer any questions you have. We’re serious about what we’re trying to achieve too so if it’s not right for you, we’ll be honest. You may not thank us at the time, but if it’s not the best fit for you, we’re not going to say it is.
We’ve talked about a lot of the issues that I often discuss with people, but if you have any other questions, no matter how small, feel free to book a call in my online diary for a chat. https://calendly.com/sarahrugg/30min
So, the support starts from here – whether that’s to rule us in or out! I’m always happy to advise even if you choose to go elsewhere.