Essential short cuts to setting up as a Virtual Assistant

If you are considering or planning to set up as a Virtual Assistant then it’s likely you will be doing quite a bit of research in relation to the market, your competition and how best to get in front of potential clients.

By Lilach Bullock

VA Understanding the short cuts and picking up tips from others, what works and what doesn’t, can save you a huge amount of time, money and effort. Here are some of the tips I have picked up through my own personal experience – I hope they help you set up and run your own successful Virtual Assistant business.

Maximise membership offers and deals on offer

It certainly pays to shop around when it comes to looking at deals. Also, do look into all the benefits offered by membership organisations. The Federation of Small Businesses, for example, offers a number of benefits to members from telecom packages and options on VOIP to free banking and legal advice.

It’s also worth signing up to small business newsletters to assess which are most useful for you. A number provide offers, discounts and complementary tickets to events – all handy when you need to keep a close eye on budget. Start Up Community is useful and it’s free to join:

Thinking long-term about your website could save you time and money

I’ve certainly found, through experience, that I could have saved time, money and inconvenience if I had known the value of a content management system for my website.

A website presence is essential and it’s worth investing money to get a professional looking website. You do, however, need to think carefully about how to keep the website up-to-date. You can choose to go for an option where the web designer designs a structure, and the coding to support, and is the only one to access the system and make updates.

Alternatively, you can opt for a content management system where they design a structure and then give you access to add in and update copy as and when you want. To decide the best system you need to consider cost and convenience.

Maintaining visibility

Some people shy away from the idea of networking. It may seem daunting but when you really understand what it is, and how it works, then you will see how you can make it an effective part of your marketing.

Maintaining visibility is key and it’s important to remember that networking is a slow burn. You must keep the momentum going and should not expect instant results. It’s about linking up with people you feel would be useful contacts – the connections may not pay dividends for many months, or even years, but you are investing in the future of your business.

Networking is just as much about how you can link people up with others to help solve problems. The more visible you are, and the more useful you can be as a contact, the more business will flow.

In addition, there are many more opportunities for online networking these days and this is particularly useful for those people who are not immediately comfortable with attending events or find it difficult to fit them into their schedule on a regular basis. Maintaining a profile online, aside from your website, is essential.

Focus on the customer

It may sound obvious but if you are going to be successful in business then you must focus on your customer, what they want and how they want it.

It’s very easy to make assumptions about the services you want to offer but you must be absolutely sure that those are what your potential clients actually want.

So, focus on the problems you are trying to solve for clients and potential clients – are you saving them time, money, inconvenience? Are you enabling them to access expert skills and/or flexible support? The chances are that all those will be important but you need to have a clear idea about what is most important to those you are targeting. If you can keep that in mind, and reflect that in your promotional materials and activity, then it will help you realise your business aims much more quickly.

Setting up and running a successful Virtual Assistant business is a huge learning curve. If you can gather as much information as possible from those people who have already done it, and continue to work as Virtual Assistants, then that will stand you in good stead.

Many Virtual Assistants are more than happy to share their experiences to help you on your way – learning from what they have done will help you avoid common mistakes and put you one step ahead of the competition.

Lilach Bullock runs her own Virtual Assistant business asklilach Ltd and offers training and mentoring for those keen to set up their own Virtual Assistant business. Lilach was short-listed for Virtual Assistant of the Year less than six months after setting up the business and was short-listed for the 2008 national Mother@Work awards.

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