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Being bigger as a virtual assistant doesn’t always mean better!

bigger doesn't always mean better as a virtual assistantBigger doesn’t always mean better as a Virtual Assistant.  Back when I started my virtual assistant business, I fondly imagined once I’d got the business up and running, I’d hand the reins over to someone else and franchise different areas or specialities…whilst I’d lie on a beach somewhere!

But in reality it was impossible to find people who matched my commitment and attention to detail in terms of getting the work back to the clients.  Getting bigger meant more headaches and less profit for me, as I juggled workload and tried to inspire the same obsession which I have with hitting each deadline.  Which is tough when it’s not their business (as a subcontractor) and tough when they haven’t had the confidence/skills to strike out on their own (as a franchisee).  I must admit my response was to get small again.

Bigger doesn’t always mean better as a virtual assistant

Getting bigger was supposed to mean less headaches, not more.  And yet I found myself dealing with staff squabbles and disappointed clients because the increased workload meant my time was divided into a thousand different places and the work wasn’t going through the same rigorous checking process which it had been.  I certainly wasn’t earning any more money – not when you took off all the costs of managing the clients, the marketing and the systems necessary.  I definitely was not getting time to sit on a beach – keeping all those balls in the air was exhausting and time consuming.  Getting smaller seemed like a failure…

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And there’s where I think perception sneaks in: I – and I suspect many other VAs – often believe that everyone else must be doing tons better than our own businesses.

Couple of points to think about though:

  • To date, there has not been a single franchise VA business which is a British Franchise Association approved – no one has the magic formula.
  • 40% of the industry is earning £10k or less*.
  • 2% of VAs are earning £100k+ & there are VAs out there charging £50 an hour – so it can be done!*
  • Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity – which would you rather be, a VA earning £80k a year but taking home 25% working 60 hours a week or a VA turning over £20k taking home 90% and working just 20 hours?
  • The VA announcing YET ANOTHER new client on a forum, why the constant search for new business? Are they retaining their clients?  Are they making enough money off those clients to survive?
  • Anyone turning over above £85,000 should be registered for and charging VAT… Is it on their website? If not, chances are their turnover isn’t as healthy as they would like you to think. (Bear in mind you can voluntarily register for VAT, so they could be earning less than that even if they are charging VAT).
  • Am I able to hand over the reins? Do I like the work I do?  Would I prefer to hand it over?  (And this was my major breakthrough… I quite like doing the actual work rather than managing all those staff headaches!!)

* = Figures from UK VA Survey v9

In conclusion: Small is beautiful!


  1. Maggie on 4 October, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you – a much needed sanity check!

  2. Wai on 4 October, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    Thank you Caroline for a timely reminder that it’s quality rather than quantity.

  3. Sarah Hope-MacLeod on 8 October, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    Thanks Caroline, that’s exactly the business model I am striving towards. I don’t want the business to run my life.

    • Caroline on 8 October, 2018 at 2:26 pm

      It’s a tricky one because of course the clients quite often do want 24:7 availability or the option to scale up their workload rapidly when they have extra work… You kind of have to keep it in the balance though!

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