Are you cut out to go Virtual? By Lilach Bullock

The Virtual Assistant profession is one of the fastest growing in the country with many PAs and secretaries setting themselves up in business. We asked Lilach Bullock, an experienced VA to give us the pros and cons of going virtual. More.

By Lilach Bullock

PA The credit crunch and the looming recession will have an impact on all of us, whether it’s the price of petrol and food or concerns about job security and risk of redundancy. Of course, changing direction because of redundancy or the need to balance the demands of family can open up opportunities too.

The Virtual Assistant (VA) profession is one of the fastest growing in the country and many PAs and secretaries are setting themselves up in business. It’s a trend that is set to accelerate with developments in technology and the drive by businesses to keep overheads down while still tapping into a flexible resource.

What is a VA?

A VA offers the services traditionally provided by PAs and secretaries but they do so remotely, based from their own office and using their own equipment. The vast majority of tasks can be provided remotely. This can be particularly useful for individuals and organisations which require flexible expert resources but don’t want the responsibilities or financial outlay of employing staff.

Could you go Virtual?

For anyone considering setting up in business the key is to be clear about what you want to get out of it. Do you want a particular lifestyle? Generate a specific level of income? Achieve a particular lifestyle or spend more time with the family?

You can achieve all of these, but being clear on your aim will dictate the business model you follow – whether you want to build your own client portfolio just for yourself; work alongside other VAs, and get overflow business from them, or grow your client list before expanding by employing staff.

What can you earn?

Some VAs specialise in a particular sector or focus on offering specific services. Prices charged typically range from £20.00 to £30.00 per hour depending on what is required. You might also consider one-off projects or retainer packages for a specified number of hours. If you worked 40 hours a week you might expect to earn £1,000.

What are the advantages of becoming a VA?

Setting up as a VA brings many advantages – just being your own boss gives you great scope for exploring ideas and being creative.

It’s a steep learning curve - the attributes you need to be a successful secretary or PA are different to those needed to set up and run a successful Virtual Assistant business.

In addition to all the skills your bring as an office professional, you will need to understand basic accounts and book-keeping, as well as, marketing and business planning.

If you are looking for a challenge then this could certainly be it. Depending on the type of business model you follow, and the type of work you are aiming to get, you can work around the needs of your family. Being based at home will also save you considerable commuting time.

There is, of course, a need to put money into the business, even though you maybe working from home and it’s important to set aside a realistic budget.

What are the disadvantages?

Working from home can be lonely and some people do find this difficult.

Having the mindset and determination that you can make your business work is important, and you need the ability to find business yourself – it won’t walk through the door.

Once you have clients, juggling their needs can be tricky. What do you do if requests for support all come in at once? You do what you’ve always done and prioritise!

Again, depending on the business model you opt for, you will need to put in considerable time. This includes Networking, an important aspect for finding clients and you’ll find plenty of events that can fit with your schedule be they early morning, lunch or evening.

The buck stops with you for finding new business and making business decisions. As such, you can feel under pressure.

Hard work can reap big rewards.
Being a VA can be hard work but the rewards, however, far outweigh the stresses and strains.

The experience of setting up as a Virtual Assistant will certainly take you outside of your comfort zone with the need for networking, devising promotional strategies and materials and presenting in public. That might seem daunting but if you would relish the challenge then it may well be just what you are looking for.

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 VA of the Year less than six months after setting up the business and has been short-listed in the national Mother@Work awards.

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