Learning the Profession

After reading the last article, you’ve come to the conclusion that in spite of what is required to set up a legal business, your heart’s desire is still to become a successful virtual assistant. Congratulations on making what I consider to be the best career choice available for admins!

By Jackie Eastwick

This is a great time to enter the virtual assistance profession. I've been in business for three years and I can now pick and choose the clients I want to work with. I attribute this to having a thorough knowledge of the industry. This knowledge came from extensive research – from the moment I decided to enter the field up to and including the present. My research does not stop.

But we all learn in different ways. I learn best by doing and at my own pace. A lot can be said for the "trial and error" methodology. Fortunately, the "error" parts weren't too costly for me. Today, someone entering the profession has several options for "learning" how to be a virtual assistant. The oldest online Virtual Training Program is AssistU ( http://www.assistu.com ). I did not attend AssistU, but I have never, ever heard a bad thing about this training, developed and led by Stacy Brice (President and Chief Visionary Officer).

Ask Shane!

Shane Bowlin, www.askshane.com, a successful and well-known VA, graduated from AssistU three years ago. "AssistU cut the 'learning' curve. I am sure I could have started my practice without it, but the benefit of learning from others mistakes was invaluable. I had a full practice within a few months. The ongoing support is instrumental in the success of the AU grads," states Bowlin. Shane learned to set boundaries and further stated that AU is very focused on helping to define your practice and standards.

Shane worked full-time outside the home as general manager of a regional newspaper publishing company. She explains that AssistU is a 20-week course and requires a commitment of about 15-20 hours per week, depending on the person. As you can see, this is quite a time commitment for someone employed full-time elsewhere. The hardest part for Shane about attending AU while working outside the home was the amount of reading and research. But this enabled her to very quickly learn how to navigate the Internet. I can tell you Internet research, at least for me, has been instrumental for the success of my practice. You must know how to navigate the Web.

AssistU comes with a price tag, but at least one state (in the U.S.) has approved funding to pay for AU training. Shane states that she has no regrets about taking the training. "The biggest thing I learned about becoming a VA is that you need to have self confidence. If you aren't going with formal training, still sit down and do a comprehensive business plan. You need something to keep you on track and measure your progress," states Bowlin. This is excellent advice.

How about a Coach?

Virtual assistant coaches are now available (http://www.professionalvirtualassistant.com, email program/one-on-one coaching; http://www.innovativecoach.com, one-on-one coaching/mentoring). If you choose a coaching/mentoring program, be sure to ask questions. You want to make sure your coach has a successful VA practice. It would help if they also had formal coaching training.

I receive e-mails daily from people wanting to be virtual assistants. I used to be able to keep up with these e-mails, but that is no longer the case. My workload is heavy and the e-mails keep piling up. For this reason, I've developed a weekly e-mail training program. The program consists of e-mail lessons and assignments, as well as a weekly e-mail lesson consultation and end of the month brief phone consultation. The assignments not only help you learn the ins and outs of the profession, but also train you in learning to navigate the Internet. Remember, I firmly believe a thorough understanding of navigating the Web is a fundamental principle of the virtual assistance profession. This e-mail program is getting ready to launch and can be found at http://www.professionalvirtualassistant.com.

For those who already have set up their practice, www.professionalvirtualassistant also offers one-one-one training. Other one-on-one coaching programs are also available. Just do your research first. Ask questions and make sure the coach has the qualifications.

Going it alone!

When I started my business, no coaches were out there. AssistU was there, but I felt with my skills and education, I wanted to try the solo-approach first. Looking back, it was the best decision for my circumstances. I had worked in corporate settings running departments and had a good understanding of successful small business practices.

Perhaps the main reason I chose to go it alone was that I was no longer working outside the home. This topic will be addressed in the next article. I had become a stay at home mom, so I had the luxury of time. Allison Lane, my daughter, was still a baby. In May, she will be four. I can honestly say that if I were starting my business today, I would not have the luxury of time. Keep this in consideration if you have children – and in particular, small children.

Being a stay at home mother of an infant, I could research to my heart's content. Last month I showed you how to go about legally setting up the business. All of this research on the profession, setting up a business, learning to market, helped hone my Internet skills.

If you are going to do this the solo way, virtual assistant communities are there and ready to help you learn the ropes and network. I'm a member of several excellent communities and without them, I would have floundered around far more than I did. I can personally recommend ABSSI, IVAA, Staffcentrix, and the Virtual Business Group – run by a terrific lady, Renae Bolton. IVAA is a not for profit organization run by a volunteer board elected by the membership. Staffcentrix is – along with Stacy Brice of AssistU – the "founders" of the virtual assistance profession. All the above organizations can be found by researching the Web (your first research assignment).

Next month's article will address the experiences of those who worked outside the home full-time while setting up their successful virtual assistant practices. You can look forward to some excellent input from Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero, http://www.wordsorcerer.com, another popular virtual assistant. She has her degree in Journalism and was former VP-Marketing of the IVAA. Lorrie will describe some of the difficulties, including work and family, when working outside the home and starting a VA business.

©2002. All rights reserved. No portions of this article may be reproduced without written permission from author.

Jackie Eastwick, owner of Allison Lane Business Solutions, has been in business since April, 1999. She is an IVAA CVA (Certified Virtual Assistant) and former VP-Education of the IVAA. Jackie operates a full-time Virtual Assistance practice as well as a Virtual Assistant Coaching Program.

In 1998, Jackie left her job while pregnant with her daughter (Allison Lane Eastwick). Since she did not return to the workforce, Jackie could devote the countless hours necessary to starting up a successful business support service. You may view more about Allison Lane Business Solutions at: http://www.allisonlane.com, http://www.professionalvirtualassistant.com or send an e-mail to


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