This month we’re featuring Rebecca Harvey of Let Me Organise You in our VA Stars section. Rebecca has followed a very traditional role of wanting to be her own boss and in control of her own destiny rather than being “just the PA”. She’ll be posting over the next few weeks about her business and her experiences of starting up… Over to Rebecca! Tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Rebecca Harvey, I am 31, and my business is in Leicester.
What first interested you about the virtual assistant industry and what made you start up your business?
I’d been wanting to start my own business for ‘ages’ I would look out of the window of my employed office job (when I had of course finished the all too easy work ‘given’ to me) and think of all of the things that I could be doing right there and then instead of being trapped in an employer’s office – I could be running errands, having business meetings in great locations, I could be working on my laptop but outside, and could manage my own work load working when I wanted to – I could work at 7am in the morning if I wanted and then take a few hours off to even go shopping if I wanted!!, and I wouldn’t have to take a lunch break when someone else wanted me to AND spend an entire hour waiting to get back to work… All great reason for starting business, but I wanted something that I could do primarily from home with no overheads, no product to worry about and to not need any employees – So VA’ing was a natural choice – I had read about the then phenomenon in the US (circa 2007) and wanted a piece! But was too scared to take the plunge. Being out of work during 2010 having come to the end of a fixed term contract and not being able to find a suitable full time employed job (at time of industry recovery from recession) saw that I started my business, with Website Design, ICT Training and now Social Media help / management at the helm.
I haven’t look back since, and am enjoying every minute of being my own boss! : )
What were you doing before becoming a VA?
I have been a Buying Assistant (High Street Jewellers), Logistics, Office PA & Customer Service Manager, Sales Account Manager, Retail Manager, Event Supervisor, In-House Staff Software Trainer and Database Support Officer. Which have all given me the relevant experience, and grounding for starting my business.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in setting up?
I have also found that time just disappears!! It is getting better now, but you can waste time waiting for things to download from the internet, setting up social networking, saying no to those damn advertisers who plague you for SEO business (Grrrr!), travelling time to meeting and networking events etc.
Finding clients has been a challenge, as numbers can quickly whittle down from a full networking room, to handful of business cards, to a few phone calls and emails, to meeting, to actual business.
I have also found pricing my services to be a challenge, as it is hard not to pitch myself too ‘cheaply’. There is little information on and given out (From Business Link for example) as to WHAT an actual expectation of your service should be, when you should be earning what and when you should gauge ‘that you have made it’ and not throw in the towel. This is usually more structured when you are employed as from the day you accept a job you know what you will earn in the next 4 weeks in way of salary expectation.
Where did you find information on the industry and on starting a business?
I went to Business Link (Who doesn’t!?) and went from there absorbing any relevant information like a sponge – I was lucky to become involved with Leicester Business Women, a training, networking, start up, coaching and mentoring group based in Leicester City Centre (all free) specialising in start-up businesses in Leicester, and looking at the passions, mind-set and reasons for starting – Good for helping to build confidence and a reliable network. I have also been involved in quite a few Creative groups in and around Leicester due to the Website Design part of my business, so this has opened doors too.
What’s your top tip for newbie VAs?
- Read, research, and train – Read all the information you get emailed, see on the internet about the industry and your speciality
- Network and find alliances in other VA’s – They are essential to your CPD, referrals and sanity!! This can be lonely work!! I have made a great contact / friend / mentor type VA and couldn’t have really got my business going without her.
- Get your website presence and social media up as soon as possible – If your business is ‘computer’ based and you are selling solutions, it is good to have examples of your wares in place first.
- Find your favourite ‘hidey holes’ – Search in your City / Town for great coffee shops / locations to work in between meetings, networking events, when you want to get out of your home / office and the like – Places with decent coffee, Free Wi-Fi, great atmosphere and plug points for laptop! Great stuff!!