Top 10 Tips for Becoming a VA

SVA put together 10 baby-steps to becoming a VA – a must-read for any aspiring assistants! Continue reading

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Why advertising doesn’t work for small businesses

As a former Ad Girl, you would think I’d be gung ho about businesses advertising their wares, knowing exactly what media would work for a virtual assistant business.  But yet, I can honestly say I have spent less than £50 on advertising in the last year.  Marketing – don’t ask!  But advertising, practically nil.

Here’s why:

Advertising does not work for small businesses 

Now that’s slightly controversial so I am going to clarify.  Continue reading

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In retrospect…

21598400360_72a8a9a3d1_kThis week my favourite band ever, Lush, announced they were reforming – this is me 20 years ago with their lead singer Miki…  I couldn’t believe it had been 20 years, it seems like 5 minutes.  And yet, I think of all the stuff I’ve done through those 20 years, and suddenly it starts to add up!

It struck me that this is very much like my attitude to what I’ve achieved in business… I always think of myself as a small business owner, doing a small thing, in a small way.  Continue reading

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Typists: Having trouble opening DS2 files in Express Scribe?

Typing as a serviceI’ve been having some hassle with DS2 files on Express Scribe.  Now I am a big fan of Express Scribe’s programme – it opens more file formats than any other so is very flexible.

But they’re clearly not listening to their customers.  I’m not the only one experiencing problems their support forums are littered with unhappy people – the DS2 files open fine, but the audio cuts out some way into the audio and you get left with blank tape towards the end.  Continue reading

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Is networking killing your virtual assistant business?

A few weeks back I had an interesting conversation with a fellow new mum virtual assistant.  She was complaining about how tough it was to get childcare so she could go to networking meetings – thus creating a vicious cycle of not having enough money to be able to get out there and get some more work.  It galvanised me into sharing a little secret:

Even before having the baby, my last networking event was probably, um…three years ago?  Continue reading

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Sometimes I Work In My PJs

PJsDisclaimer: This blog post was written at an undisclosed moment in time, no animals were harmed during this experiment, except for some fried eggs. 

These things sometimes happen – Sunday night and I pop out for a quick drink with an old friend and somehow it’s suddenly 11pm, last orders, and we are merrily rolling home. At some point in the evening the immortal words were uttered “No, we’ll just have one eachNot a glass, a bottle”. Sigh. Now several of my former bosses will attest to my occasional overindulging and consequent non-productivity in the mornings – in music and media, it’s more or less part of the job description. Give me a fried egg roll, a vat of sugary tea, a quick snooze under my desk and I’m usually okay in a couple of hours. But as long as the work gets done, no one really minds. 

So I’m opening the Pandora’s Box of Client Fear on thisYes, it’s true. Sometimes virtual assistants work in their pyjamas! 

Here’s why it’s a good thing though: Continue reading

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SVA Guide: 101 Ways To Market Your VA Business

SVA was started by a core group of perhaps 7 virtual assistants – we all wanted to raise the profile of VAs in the UK, educate people about what we do and, of course, to get more clients!

Over those first few years, we discussed all the things which had worked for us, and all the things which were a complete waste of money.  A list began to emerge – a sort of checklist of how to market your VA business.

In fact, it expanded to include 101 quick, low cost ideas which you can use in your virtual assistant business.  They are proven techniques which work for UK based assistants.  Great as a starting point for new VAs and a reminder for established VAs.

Get yours now:

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Exercise for Work Productivity

RNfd3D7dWelcome Guest Blogger Andrea Webb of Distinctive Assistants who provides invaluable support to dozens of businesses throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians, as well as further afield across the UK, her blog is called Living the Life Work Balance.




Continue reading

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Testimonials – have you ever seen a bad one?

This came up during the judging of the Outstanding VA of the Year awards, and I wanted to throw it out there and get a response from other VAs:

Have you ever seen a bad testimonial?

Now the reason I am asking is because testimonials can be very powerful things.  People see why they should hire you because the testimonial gives them a real life example of how they could use a VA.  It also soothes their anxiety about sharing their precious business with someone they don’t know – hey, it can’t be that bad, this VA has worked for “George of Aldershot” and he says she’s great! Continue reading

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Competitive Analysis

One of the most important things you can do as a new virtual assistant is research, research, research. Oh, and then some more research. Part of your business plan should be a marketing projection including a competitive analysis. So how do you actually get information about what other people are doing? And more importantly, how can you do it better than them?

Number 1 Rule:
Do not pretend to be a client in order to get information from another virtual assistant.

The reasons for this are threefold.
1. It’s stealing. VAs sell their time as a commodity and you signing up to their newsletter or calling up asking for prices is using up their time and resources. It does cost them for you to be on that mailing list. And it does take time to weed you out or call you up and check who you are. Not only does it steal the VAs time, but it raises questions about whether you were planning on plagiarising their materials or how you came up with similar content to them in your own newsletter at a later stage. Don’t sign up to their marketing materials and don’t pretend to be a client.
2. It’s pointless. Their marketing strategies will not work for your business, because you are not them. You will have different skills, a different business model or certainly a different personality to them. What works for them may not work for you. Plus, and this is unique to the virtual assistant industry, most VAs will happily tell you what their rates are and what marketing strategies work for them. Just ask nicely, not dishonestly.
3. It’s unnecessary. There are many different surveys and reports now available for both the worldwide and UK virtual assistant industries and you can easily buy one. Not only do these give accurate results, they also show you a number of different trends including how much you will realistically earn. If you aren’t able to spend £25 investing in your business, you really should not be starting at all!  Just click here to purchase

So what do you need for your market analysis?

Competitors hourly rates: Don’t be tempted to be “the cheapest”. Someone will always be able to go lower than you. Instead aim to be “the best” and create a niche market for yourself. Some good examples I heard recently were “the social networking queen” and “the horsey VA”.
A realistic amount of billable hours: I recently spoke to a new VA who fondly imagined she’d be billing 40 hours per week at £25 an hour from the very first week her business opened! She forgot to include her own time for marketing, getting new clients, admin, billing etc. And she forgot that every business will go through busy and quiet periods. Last week I billed 20 hours work in one day, but not all of that went into my pocket because it would be physically impossible to actually produce that amount of work. If you have other commitments which take you away from the business, you need to build these into the amount of hours that are available for billable work. Any figures you put in here will be speculative, but what your advisor is looking for is research to back up any assumptions that you have made.
A plan for getting new clients: Be specific here. Saying “I will network” is rather wishy washy. “I will network twice per month at Chamber of Commerce events and Women Into Business and follow those leads up with phonecalls and emails” is slightly more specific. Put in place a marketing budget and stick to it because marketing should be an investment not an expense – for every £1 you spend there should be more coming back in! Measure your results carefully and don’t flog a dead horse, if you aren’t getting results, try something else, there are lots of ideas out there… in fact SVA has 101 Marketing ideas here.
SWOT: Stands for “Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, Threats” this is where you get to say why you’re better than everyone else! Don’t be shy about blowing your own trumpet, and don’t be blasé about real threats. Any bank manager reviewing your business plan is going to ask you about offshore VAs, call centres and temps – show him you mean business by addressing that threat here.

That done, you should sail through the business plan. Good luck!

Posted in Marketing, Pricing, Start Up VAs | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

SVA Newsletter September 2015

Hi there,Virtual PA-233

This year seems to be flying, September already!  I’ve finally been assigned a council nursery place for my son (7 months after he was supposed to get it!! Grr!) so enjoying a little less juggling and some more cash, which is always nice.

Our survey has been a big hit – I’ve had some lovely feedback from people telling me how they are using it in their own business to get more clients, justify their rates and target new markets.  If you don’t have a copy, pick it up here.

And the lovely people at Office* have given us 10 VIP tickets to VA Day on Wednesday 14th October.  Click here to enter – more details below.


Caroline Continue reading

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