8 Myths About Starting a VA Business
God, don’t I wish I could have found a solid article like this when I first engaged in the online business world. When I first started out as a blog writer, I didn’t even know what a VA (Virtual Assistant) was. About a month after I accidentally (yes, you read that right) got my first VA client, I decided this is what I want to do with my life. I drank the Kool-Aid (and I drank A LOT of it) and started figuring out what I needed to do to thrive in online biz.
The biggest issue I ran into was mostly finding articles that were geared just towards online coaches, and I wasn’t just a coach.
I wanted tangible results from my efforts; I wanted someone to tell me what to do so I could just do it.
Starting an online business is not, I REPEAT, no going to be a walk in the park. You have a lot of things you are dealing with. You are dealing with various mindset issues i.e. boundaries, self motivation, self restraint, explaining what you do to your friends and family (it took me 1.5 years to articulate this confidentiality and sometimes I still don’t do a great job at it), judgement, eye rolls, people thinking you’re in a pyramid scheme, people judging you because you aren’t the average Jane.
Don’t let this bother you, I have attended numerous conferences in the last 6 months that talk about the future of the labor force, and believe me, we’re ahead of the times.
I know it’s easy to think that you’ll be making 6 figures in no time, and maybe you will, but you need to do the work.
8 Myths About Starting a VA Business
1. Myth – You need to be open to offering all services to your clients.
Fact – Niching down is the best thing you can do for your business.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT offer anything and everything to your clients. I’m sure you may have excellent experience in bookkeeping, graphic design, copywriting, building websites, and administration tasks. However, 1) you aren’t going to enjoy the work equally, and 2) you aren’t going to appeal to any type of clients. If you try to perform too many varied tasks, you’re going to create such an unnecessarily hard time for yourself. You’ll then start to wonder why you aren’t finding clients.
I’d recommend niching down your ideal client and/or services for the clearest vision of your business. Once again, I luckily but accidentally niched into a specific client and found clarity on the services I wished to provide. When I first started out, my niche was a female coach based in North America who was heart-centered. I’ve niched down even further over the past few years.
2. Myth – It’s going to be easy.
Fact – You’re going to have to hustle… but in a good way.
Starting an online business is not, I repeat, IS NOT going to be a walk in the park. There will be various circumstances you’ll encounter. This includes dealing with diverse mindset issues like developing proper boundaries, increasing self-motivation, and establishing self-restraint.
You’ll find yourself having to explain what you do to your friends and family (it took me 1.5 years to confidently articulate my entrepreneurial ventures, but sometimes I still don’t do a great job at it), encountering condescending eye-rolls, talking with people that think you’re in a pyramid scheme, and experiencing negative judgment because you aren’t the average Jane.
Don’t let this bother you. I have attended numerous conferences in the last 6 months that discuss the future of the labor force, and, believe me, we are ahead of the times. I know it’s easy to think you’ll be making 6 figures in no time, and maybe you will, but you need to put in the work.
3. Myth – Setting a lower price for your work is the BEST thing you can do for your business and yourself.
Fact – Setting a price that you are comfortable with and helps support your livelihood is the BEST thing you can for your business (and yourself).
There is SO much conversation around this topic — charge what you’re worth, charge a small amount, charge nothing. It’s damn near impossible to figure out what you are supposed to charge. It can be hard to determine what your worth is or if you should do something for free. This is especially true when you’re, say, just starting out and have been hired to send out an email with Active Campaign, a program you have no idea how to use.
My start in the VA world was my first stint in the career world, period. I didn’t have 10+ years of experience in administrative services and had only worked in such an environment for all of 8 days. I am a millennial, so I at least had the opportunity to grow up coding my Neopets and Myspace pages because I wanted it to look pretty and have an amazing song for my friends to enjoy (side note, did you know Myspace Tom is STILL a big deal? Who knew?!). Despite having this bit of experience on the computer, I still knew very little about software and systems I wanted to work with. Trying to figure it out made me want to pull out every single piece of my hair. What I did know, though, was that I could learn it all in time (and I had a lot of it). Thankfully, I had a client that was willing to teach me what I needed to know while paying me a lower rate.
So, that leads to my suggestions for what to charge when starting out:
- Find someone who needs your help but may be unable to pay $25 an hour when you’re still learning.
- Find someone who is just starting their business and needs to save money.
- Find someone willing to teach you at a lower rate.
What I recommend NOT doing is taking on more than 1 client in the beginning stage. Do not stick to the initial price once you believe you have mastered the required skills to perform the job. Do not be afraid to charge more than others, either. Do keep in mind that you also cannot charge other clients to learn — this is a BIG NO NO unless agreed to in writing.
My learning trajectory was every 90 days. I had a re-assessment with the client to see how I was doing, what areas needed improvement, and figure what else needed to be learned (by either of us). I started off with a low $13 an hour, but now I am at $35 an hour and have a fantastic working relationship that resulted in a close friendship
4. Myth – Your client’s work is the only work you will end up doing.
Fact – You need to do your client’s work AND your business’ work.
This is the number one thing I wish I knew when I first started out. Every ounce of energy went into helping other people’s businesses. I was helping them thrive and expand and LOVED it. A year down the road, though, I realized I was barely getting by financially due to my business operation costs rising. I still didn’t have a website, either, which embarrassed me because I did a lot of website maintenance and coding for others. Besides, I was a got-damned virtual assistant. I needed a damn website, yo.
As with anyone and everyone, I’m obsessed with personal growth in all areas of my life. By NOT working on MY business, I was staying stagnant. I was gaining so much knowledge and experience by working for my clients, but it felt like I wasn’t doing anything with it.
You can’t get that without investing in yourself. So, I started from the beginning and what I needed help with RIGHT NOW. I found this to be “messaging,” which is still a long-running battle I fight.
Still, I wanted to create my website because being in business for over a year at full-time without a website, to me, is just plain dumb. I mean, why WOULDN’T you want clients to be able to look you up on the web? My “Coming Soon” page even had a minus in front of the dates at one point … doh.
So, I signed up for a 5-week intensive course for new businesses that just weren’t hitting the mark. The outcome? I now have a beautiful website that I designed myself AND wrote copy for that I’m truly proud of. Oh, and I may or may not be the primary team member of that coaching program (hint: I am!)
In the middle of all this, I was having health issues that resulted in only being able to take on half my client load. So, I invested in a naturopath (I don’t do Western medicine, sorry not sorry). The result? Within a week, I had cleared up 2 major health issues simply by changing my diet — something I wouldn’t have tried since it wasn’t the normal “cut out dairy and gluten” recommendation.
Coming out of this recently, I signed up to be a Certified Consultant for Ontraport.
This was the scariest investment of all. The cost of the program was $2,000 plus flight, accommodation, transportation, and, you know, food. Taking this crucial step and applying for the course took all my courage just to hit “submit” after I entered my credit card … but boy, George, am I ever glad I did.
I write this article to you all while on the train from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles. I don’t know if I’ll become a certified consultant for another 3 weeks. That, in and of itself, is TERRIFYING — did I just lose all that money?
Honestly, probably not — I feel pretty confident, but the passing mark is 80%. That’s why even if I don’t pass, the motivation and plan I now have to push my business forward are WAY worth the investment.
5. Myth – You have to do it alone.
Fact – There are SO many free communities out there.
Working alone from home is insanely isolating. If you live alone, it’s even worse. Even for me, who lives with 3 dogs and a roommate that goes out after work once a week, I still feel incredibly lonely, at times.
Luckily, I have a lot of meetings throughout the week and manage 35 people at my local yoga studio. I do receive a human connection from that, but it’s still not enough. So, I’d recommend reaching out to different communities to help ease the eventual solitude that will creep into your life.
6. Myth – You can work from anywhere.
Fact – If you want to work from anywhere, you better check the internet connection.
I was SO excited I finally got to experience that location-free lifestyle so many online business owners get to enjoy (we’ve all seen the Facebook posts that make us drip with envy). I was ready to take a work vacation, sit on the beach with a laptop, and do work for my clients. Well, this isn’t exactly how it goes.
I cannot tell you how many times I was GREATLY disappointed when I rocked up to an amazing spot while on the road or when visiting family out East only to find I wasn’t able to access a decent Internet connection. Without one, I was unable to complete jobs for clients. Just this summer, I was traveling the Cabot Trail (Nova Scotia, Canada) and, to my shock and dismay, realized there was no service for about 3 hours. I ended up missing an important business call, lost that person as a client, and ended up crying on one of the most beautiful drives in the world.
Even when there’s Internet, shit happens. My first working vacation took me to Tulum, Mexico and I was SO SO excited. This was the first trip I took while working for myself. I did all the research and booked the best (and cheap!) Airbnb that I ever could have imagined. I arrived, took in a few sights, and decided to get to work … only to find there was no Internet. I even emailed the staff 3 different times to confirm there supposedly was. Luckily, it was just temporarily out due to a storm frying their modem. It was quickly replaced since the host knew how badly I needed it (and, honestly, it was the second best Internet service I’d ever used).
Long story short, make sure that your Internet connection is on point. Without one, you can and WILL lose clients — lived and learned by yours, truly.
7. Myth – You don’t need to invest in your business to thrive.
Fact – If you don’t invest in your business, you’re going to stay stagnant.
You can get a lot of free stuff to run your business, my favorite being LastPass. I’m all for curbing costs where you need to and where you can. I had FreshBooks for the first 3 months of my business, but because I had so many clients, I was paying over $60 a month — and that was just too damned much for me. So, I switched to PayPal’s free invoice system after trying hoards of others.
I also, for a brief moment in time, used MailChimp … but then I realized how much I DESPISED the system (and how limited it was). I changed to a different, more versatile option.
The reality for us VAs is if you want to create a seamless experience for both yourself and your clients, a bit of money is going to have to be given over to your business for growth.
Here is what I pay every month for software, programs, and subscriptions, alone:
*I have included affiliate links you can utilize to sign up for these biz tools (I’ll cover more about what these are in another blog).*
Acuity – $10
QuickBooks – $14
Website Hosting – $4 (I got an insanely amazing deal, so this price is hard to find)
Domain (GreenGeeks) – $1
BaseCamp – $40
ActiveCampaign – $40
OptimizePress – $10
Total = $119
So, $119 is about what I pay every month. Some of these are averages since I purchased hosting and domain registration up front, but you get my drift. This doesn’t include the $500+ I pay for coaches/business mentors or courses to help with my business. Then, I have my higher-than-average phone bill and increased performance Internet service so I can rock stuff out without having to worry.
So, on average, I spend about $600 a month on my business. This is A LOT, but it’s not an amount that’s unheard of. A lot of coaches cost way more than $500 a month for one-on-one help.
8. Myth – You need a website.
Fact – You may need a website.
This is the BIGGEST myth I feel is promoted that I’d like to break down in an understandable manner.
Having a website is going to boost your business, but it may not prevent you from becoming a legit VA. Take me, for example; I was in business for 1.5 years before I released my website. And I was always working on it for 1.25 years.
If you follow the advice outlined in this article and don’t allow yourself to be misled about what it means to start an online VA biz, you will surely be able to propel your business and yourself forward as a rockin’ professional.