When it comes to being a VA, there are the usual things you need to know like how to book travel or manage a diary, how to use social media to promote your business and even how to angle your webcam so the client doesn’t see your jogging pants on a Skype call!

Yet there are a lot of other things that nobody ever tells you about that can make a real difference to how you set up and run your VA business.

So I’m here to fill you in with 5 things that you may not have heard before.


1. Bad days


We all have them – days where you wonder why you left a job with paid holidays and other human beings to talk to. If you find yourself feeling a bit lonely and lacking in motivation, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s quite a change in mindset to realise it’s now all down to you and if you don’t do it, it isn’t going to happen.

Yet the flip side is that there’s no playing by anybody else’s rules – it’s your business and your choice. So how can you turn things around?

Well, firstly keep in mind all the reasons you wanted to work for yourself in the first place, which may be:

• Freedom
• Flexibility
• Family
• Sense of achievement
• Fun
• Financial rewards.

Then, remember that the tipping point for your business, moving from the start-up phase into success, will come – and often sooner than you imagine. It can feel that you’ve been plugging away at getting clients with no return, but keep working on your marketing and networking and all your efforts will definitely pay off, I promise you. It just takes patience.


2. What clients really want to hear


You might think you already know the answer to this but let me tell you that it really isn’t how many qualifications you have or how long you’ve been a VA. While that might be the case in your standard 9-5 office environment, VA clients tend to think in a far more pragmatic way.

Years of VA experience have taught me that what a client wants more than anything in a VA relationship is to feel that you ‘get’ them – that you understand what makes them tick, how they want things done and will go the extra mile for them.

Think about all the things you can say that start to build trust and great working relationships and start to work this sort of language into your conversations – let them know that you can see the issues they’re facing and you have the solutions, convey your passion for your work and always make sure their budget is kept firmly in mind. If there are different options to solve their issues, share them with the client – even if the best option is using software instead of a VA. You’ll reap the benefits of this honest approach in the long run!


3. Legal advice and knowing the rules


If you’re new to running a business, one of the hardest things can be to make sure you’re covered for all eventualities but it’s also one of the most important things to get right.

Legal advice is something that people often feel scared of – whether it’s the cost or the complexity of it – but working without legally binding client contracts can expose you to levels of risk that will cost you far more!

Then, there are the Data protection rules – many VAs don’t realise that if they’re holding client information on file, they need to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). It’s a quick and relatively cheap process that should be one of your priorities.

Lastly, there is insurance – so many VAs don’t realise they can be held liable if their work isn’t up to scratch or any mistakes have financial consequences for the client. The types of insurance you’ll need will depend on the sort of work you’re doing but make sure you’re not risking everything you’ve worked for by underestimating just how far some clients will go to recoup consequential expenses.


4. Complications of charging


This is one of those areas you just don’t think about until you have a client and then suddenly you find yourself on the spot and needing to give a client an answer. In fact it is a popular topic that I see discussed on VA Facebook groups.

It’s far easier to think this one through in advance so you’re prepared. So what sort of things can cause problems?

Well, if you don’t have a policy about charging for all the grey areas like initial meetings, travel time, travel costs and learning software, it’s worth thinking about these.

My thinking on the matter is that you need some common sense and flexibility as one size doesn’t fit all. If an initial meeting is likely to bring in a significant amount of work over time and you know the person is reputable or recommended, you may not want to charge for your time, especially if it’s a local meeting. On the other hand, if you’re travelling two hours there and the same back by train and you don’t know anything about the client, it’s reasonable to charge for both your time and the travel costs.

And if a client wants you to use a popular business software package that is commonplace, you probably wouldn’t charge for learning this as your client would expect you to be up to speed on it (and you can also use the knowledge for future clients). However, if it’s obscure or bespoke, you’d expect to charge for learning time. Whatever you decide, the important thing to remember is to be clear about this up front.

Just be careful, in all dealings, that you do get paid… which leads me to my final point:


5. Dealing with unscrupulous characters


When I was wrapped in the cotton wool blanket of the corporate world I’d never been exposed to the big bad world of business first hand, with no back up. Being a little on the naive side, I was in for a bit of a shock.

The sad truth is that there are many unscrupulous business owners out there and con-merchants who specifically target Virtual Assistants to carry out work for them and never pay up.

To protect yourself, make sure you always research potential clients with at least a Google search to see if everything stacks up and if your gut feeling is that something’s not right, don’t ignore it! Always take some money up front even if it feels uncomfortable at first – that way you limit your risk of working for free. Don’t get me wrong, most clients I’ve worked with are great, but in the early days of my business I found out the hard way that one bad apple can really cause long lasting issues for your business.

At My VA Business, we’re perfectly placed to get you through the bad days and teach you how to talk to clients. We’ve got years of experience of setting up businesses so can guide you through the legal maze, advise on charging and make sure you’re not taken advantage of as you set up your VA business.