In February 2019 I’ll be leaving full-time employment to start life as a Virtual Assistant. I’ve chosen to be a VA as I believe I’ve found a gap in the market where the vast majority of Virtual Assistants are offering ‘standard’ PA services, and very few offer much in the way of technical support. Also, I’m a guy, and we’re grossly under-represented in the Virtual Assistant market! I’d like to change both, one step at a time and this podcast is my documentation into doing so.
In this introduction episode of Journey to VA I cover:
- Why I’m becoming a Virtual Assistant
- What steps I’m taking to get prepared for taking the leap
- A bit of my background and the services I’m planning to offer
Hey guys and welcome to episode one of Journey to VA. My name is Mark, and this podcast is just about documenting my journey from full-time employee to becoming a self-employed VA. For those of you that don’t know what a VA is, VA stands for virtual assistant, and basically, you just work remotely as a freelancer essentially for small businesses, influencers, anyone that just needs some help with either admin and various other tasks but we’ll get onto that later on.
Basically that’s the whole purpose is you kind of work from your own space. So I’ve got a home office. I say a home office, it’s more of a desk set up in the corner of my living room, but it’s my office and this is where I work, and I’ll just be documenting my journey. Everything I’ve done prior to going live, which will range from setting up my website, choosing a name to operate under, and deciding on prices. So my hourly rate and any packages and stuff I’ve chosen to offer as well.
So a little bit about me. I’m currently, as I record this, full time employed at Cancer Research UK. I’m a Senior Operations Manager, and I’ve been there for the best part of eight years, minus a little break in the middle. I’ve predominantly spent my career processing payments or managing teams that are processing payments, and so my area of expertise is really payment processing, obviously. But also process improvement, documentation and the organisation and compliance that comes with doing that sort of work.
So, why have I chosen to be a VA? Well, I’ve wanted to freelance/own my own business for quite some time now. I started a small web design company last year, which is great, but the market’s very saturated. Not that the virtual assistant market isn’t, but I think I’ve found a small niche really where there are just no male VAs. Every single VA I come across online, in Google, they’re all women. And I don’t know why that is. In fact, I do know what it is, it’s because most people transition from executive assistant or PA to VA because it’s a very similar skill set.
So what I’m hoping to achieve is to actually change the virtual assistant market somewhat and just offer some services that they don’t. So predominantly things around digital services, so social media marketing as well as content production, web design and website management. They just don’t seem to be things that are offered as much, because the skills are just not there.
There’s also things like payroll and basic accounting services such as book keeping, that I can also do, because I’m a part-qualified accountant, and again as I started to look at my skill set over the years, I think if you package those up, there’s just no one offering the same thing.
So I think I’ve found a gap where somebody can just choose to use my services instead of choosing potentially a VA to do some of the admin, an expensive digital agency to run a social media and build them a website. They can just come to me as a one-stop shop to be able to do all of that work for them. I’ve also got the benefit then of being able to impart my knowledge that I’ve gained having worked for a huge organisation, and large organisations all of my career, really for the past 16 or 17 years now, where you just don’t get the expertise in a smaller business.
And when I say small business, I’m talking one man bands, just a few employees potentially. Where they’ve probably or potentially only ever worked in their trade, and then they’ve gone on to set up on their own, so they just don’t have the benefit of some of the stuff I’ve experienced over the years. I’ve tried a few different things. I’ve managed large teams. I’ve done restructures. I’m a self-taught web designer and Excel guru, so I can do automation and stuff like that.
What I’m really hoping to add to these businesses is efficiencies, first and foremost, just to make their lives easier, take away some of their headaches. I know as a small business owner, you’re often plying your trade during the day, and then you go home in the evening and sort your paperwork, sort out your next day’s work, and you never really switch off because you’re always worrying about one thing or another. And you just haven’t got anyone to do it for you. Or you can’t afford a full time employee or don’t need a full time employee because there’s not enough work, so a virtual assistant is perfect for that. And I said, if you were to use my services, then there’s just more that I can do that a single person at the moment, as far as I can see, can’t offer.
So that’s kind of my USP.
So before I started, or before I leave full time employment on the 15th of Feb, in 2019, I have saved up about four months’ living expenses, which is less than the recommended amount if you’re going to fly solo. So I’ve basically got 90 to 120 days to make a viable business out of this virtual assistant service that I’m going to offer. Which is a little bit scary. I’ve got children and bills and so, there’s quite a lot riding on it.
Things came to a natural close at Cancer Research UK, and for all of the good stuff that I’ve done there and all of the enjoyable times, I think it’s time to actually run my own business. Take more control about my working hours and the things that I like to do, and kind of impart my knowledge on small business owners, and help them out really, rather than helping a single organisation. I can help out five, six, seven, I don’t know how many clients I can handle at once. Depends on how much time they want me for each week I suppose. But it just allows me to help more than one, and get a better work-life balance for myself.
So it’s important to me that I don’t just become another virtual assistant or another freelancer. I do want to re-create myself as a brand, really. So I see a lot of influencers these days focusing on them rather than hiding behind a brand name, and that is something I want to do too. So whilst I will have a brand name, it will be my face plastered all over it, and it will be Mark Smith rather than some made-up Purple Turtle or Pink Fox Consulting Company and stuff. So I didn’t want to create a pretentious brand name. Not that all of the brand names are pretentious of course, but I just wanted myself to be the brand because the USP is me. No one else is me, and no one else has the exact skills that I do, and so that is my USP.
So, what next? This is just the intro, of course. So next steps, plans are to finalise my website. I have bought the domain, themaleva.co.uk, and that is the name I will operate under. As I said, it’ll be my face on there, I won’t be hidden behind a brand, there’s no team around me, it’s just me. So I’ll be finishing building the website, which means adding a few more pages. At the moment I’ve just got a home page and kind of a rates and services page. I just need to build that out so there’s a page per service and give a little bit more detail, some terms and conditions and kind of how to contact me and stuff. So that’s first on my list.
I then need to look into how I’m going to get my first clients. I have started the ball rolling in terms of reaching out to people I that I know. I know quite a few business owners and so I’ll put some things out on Facebook, a couple of posts just to say what I’m up to from February onward, and that I’m available full time, as in not just evenings, like when I was trying to run my website business, it was basically in the evenings, and that proved quite troublesome as soon as I took on … when I took on more than one client at a time. So I’m hoping that by reaching out to friends and family, there’ll be … Even if it’s a few hours a week to begin with, some smaller contracts, get some clients in, see what sort of things I’m being asked for and then kind of build packages around them really, a bit of a test and learn approach.
And after that, it’s just going to be more content. This podcast is the very first episode, and I plan to release them weekly, and from the podcast content there will be show notes, there will be a blog post, and then that will turn into a series of social media posts as well, so I’ll be very present on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, potentially Pinterest, depending on what topics I cover on the podcast, but basically the main content will come from the podcast and I’ll take it from there really, and re-purpose that into hopefully a week’s worth of content where it’s just kind of promoting what I’m doing, changing it so that I’ve got the content out there in all different mediums and various platforms to make sure that anyone who wants to read it or listen to it can do at their own leisure on the platform of their choice.
One other thing I’ve done actually, in preparation for this, is reached out to a lot of people I’ve worked with over the years, either in my current employment or previous employment, and asked them for a recommendation on LinkedIn, so it won’t necessarily be relevant to the work that I will be doing, because a lot of them have been people that I’ve managed or I’ve worked with on specific projects. But what it will do is give me a bit of credibility if anyone looks at my LinkedIn profile about, who is this guy, is he trustworthy, what has he done before, etc. So I’ve just started doing that. I think I had one recommendation before I started and now I think I’m at 14 or 15, with another 10 or so promised. So I basically reached out to about 70 people, so I’ve had a pretty good hit rate so far. There’s a few people that have said they would and forgotten, so I’ll just give them a nudge, and I’ll just keep doing that really until I’ve got kind of 25, 30 recommendations.
And I’ll use those really as testimonials, so hopefully get some stuff up on the website from those people and just ask them, those that have worked on projects that may be relevant to the work that I’ll be doing as a VA, I’ll ask them if I can pop their name, potentially a photograph on the website just to say that I’ve done this work and that they recommend me, and I’ll use the wording from their recommendation on LinkedIn.
So that’s the end of episode one. If you are on your journey into entrepreneurship like me, whether that’s as a VA, or something else, why don’t you subscribe to the podcast and then follow along with what’s going on? You’ll learn loads from me. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes and I’ll include those as well, but you may also learn something new. How to gain new clients. How to price yourself. Not go in too cheaply. What sort of services you’re trying to offer. Best place to market, best times to post on social media, all of those things I’ll be covering as I learn them, as I go, and yeah. You’ll be able to hear about it all or read about it all warts and all.
Thanks for tuning in and I hope to see you in the next episode.