Strike while the iron’s hot!

Had a lovely email today from a VA who attended our BIG MEET event nearly 2 years ago… All that time she’s been plotting and planning her VA business and is finally in a position to launch – hooray!

She also asked me a very relevant question:

Will I be in danger of reading about becoming a VA rather than actually being a VA?

In other words, should she get stuck in or does research pay off? Of course the simple answer is, please do a combination… You could read about being a VA till the cows come home, and still be no closer to landing your first client unless you take action and DO SOMETHING!  And yet, I come across VAs all the time who have leapt in feet first and are paying the consequences…  So what is the right balance to strike?

No excuses must haves:

  • Data back up automated and off site – so many issues would be solved by this.  It needn’t even cost anything – there are loads of size limited accounts out there!
  • Professional versions of Microsoft Word and Excel – if you’re charging for your services, you need the right licence.  No I don’t think Bill Gates is going to come busting through the door demanding his $100 royalty, but I think it speaks volumes about your business to start out on the right foot.
  • The UK VA Survey – this is a massive shortcut for newbies.  Of course I would say that since I compile it, but truly before I became involved I purchased it faithfully every year because it’s such a good source for comparison, best practice and new business ideas!  At £25, it’s not going to break the bank but could really save you £££s.
  • Commitment to check emails and phone messages daily – This seems like a simple thing yet it’s critical to getting new business.
  • Proper bank account and accounting system – HMRC will not like you if you don’t have this… And by “accounting system” I don’t mean Sage – I’m talking about tracking all your expenses and income in a spreadsheet, it needn’t be at all fancy. Having a separate bank account solves quite a few accounting headaches instantly.
  • Terms and conditions/Client contract – again you are charging for a professional service, so be professional.  It protects you and your client avoiding any unnecessary unpleasantness.
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Stuff you don’t need but which might be nice:

  • Limited company – I get asked about this all the time and there are very few reasons why a VA would need to be limited as we don’t have many assets in the business and there would be no trading advantage to looking like a big company.  The exception to this would be if you were working with the NHS, who often insist on being able to subcontract their indemnity to another company when they outsource.
  • Insurance – VA insurance can be as little as £30 a month but it’s not a legal requirement unless you are a limited company (see above!) as you probably won’t have employees or on site visitors.  It is however a good idea because there’s all sorts of situations where it comes in handy – spilling a coffee on a client’s laptop at a meeting? Typo in a medical document which results in the death of a patient? Got broken into and your house insurance won’t cover replacement equipment since it’s been used for work?  Postie tripped on your garden path delivering business mail?
  • Networking memberships/Advertising – some people swear by their BNI membership bringing in all their business.  It works really well for specific kinds of VA business (web designers, bookkeepers mostly).  But in order to replace the cost of membership and your time, you need to get a heck of a lot of business from it and additionally a lot of membership organisations expect you to spend your time marketing their business.  Commit to spending the same amount of time and money on other strategies… See what works best for your business.
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Have I missed any off the list?  Seasoned VAs, please chip in here…

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