Top of the morning to you…whatever time of day it is!
I’m Trish, and like Elle and Rachel, I’ve also taken the slightly scary, but positive leap of being self employed as a virtual assistant, as a move to Ireland from the UK gave me the ideal opportunity to set up my own business , McGinley Online Marketing.
Although I’d been back to Ireland many times over the years to visit family, it’s quite a different proposition to set up a business in a small village on the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal.
I’ve only been in business for just over 3 months, and whilst everything is still fresh in my mind, I’d like to share my journey, and some useful tips with you. I’d also welcome your comments.
FUNDING AND SUPPORT
For me, one of the greatest benefits of setting up a business in Donegal, was that I was able to access funding and other support to get my business off the ground. I also attended a free, 2-day course (with lots of other people) on setting up a business, which gained me a new network of potential clients. So, if you’re thinking about doing the same, check out whether there are any business support schemes where you live.
RESEARCHING THE BUSINESS
I spent hours (let’s be honest, days!) searching for information on the internet about how to set up as a virtual assistant, and finally I found the Society of Virtual Assistants. The site has a great Forum, where you can get great advice from other virtual assistants. It also fantastic free resources, as well as reasonably priced products. If you’re not sure what a virtual assistant is, and is not, check out Caroline Wylie’s post. As the co-founder of the Society of Virtual Assistants and Virtually Sorted, she should know!
I also came across Helen Stothard’s book, 30 Day (setting up as a Virtual Assistant) Challenge, a great buy – especially the Kindle edition which I bought for under a fiver – great value! It has loads of practical information and plenty of inspiring ideas which helped me plan my business.
One of the most important things you need to do early on is order a stack of business cards. You can’t tell people about what you do without them, and usually you will be asked for one. Look out for offers – I was lucky and managed to get a 50% discount with Vistaprint when I ordered mine. An important point to note here is to take your time to look for a design that compliments your business. Then, bear in mind that you should probably use the same (or a similar) theme on your website and social media profiles, as it will really give your business a polished and professional look.
I also developed my own website as firstly, I wanted to learn how to do it and, secondly, it was hard to find someone locally to help me.
Although it did take me some time to complete my website (as I must have changed the theme at least 10 times!), I’m now really happy with the look of the site and I also feel confident in helping others to set up their own WordPress site, in addition to the other services I offer.
My only mistake was signing up to a hosting provider that doesn’t offer a Freephone number that I can use in Ireland as they are based in the US. When I bought the hosting the tariffs were all displayed in euros, which lulled me into a false sense of security into believing that I was buying from a company that had a presence in Ireland. Big mistake. Every time I now need to contact their support team I have to email them, which often takes days to resolve any issues which is incredibly frustrating. I hate not being able to pick up the phone and speak to someone, and I’m now in the process of researching a new hosting provider. I’ll let you know how that goes in my next blog. Recommendations welcome!
TALK TO PEOPLE
So, what’s the best way of doing business in a small Irish town then? Well, from my experience, the old fashioned way, by talking to people and letting the conversation flow. ‘How’s it going?’ and ‘What’s the craic?’ are typical phrases you might expect to hear in these parts. Everyone here talks to you – young and old. If you reply and show an interest in what others are doing, the conversation will often naturally gravitate towards work.
Although I do have UK clients, one of my main goals is to acquire 5 new clients from the local area. Of course, as I’m working virtually, it doesn’t matter where my clients are located, but as I also want to create a social life here, this is an important factor for me personally.
To that end, (when in Rome) I met my first client in the Village Tavern, my local pub, after what has to be said, was a very (but enjoyable) late night. During the latter part of the evening (yes, it was the morning!) my soon to be client suggested that I call into their offices the following week to follow up on our chat. A little apprehensive, just in case it was just bar talk, I turned up with a friendly (and hopeful) smile. Thankfully, they were delighted to see me as they’d been trying to get someone to help them with their website for ages.
Hallelujah! I was off the blocks! 1 down, 4 to go!
(Perhaps another trip to the pub is in order 🙂 )