Being a . This is my Why…

What is a Virtual Assistant

According to the balance small business website, a virtual assistant (VA) is a person who provides support services to other businesses from a remote location. The term originated in the 1990s as the ability to work virtually due to technology improvements, such as high-speed Internet, document sharing, and other advancements, made working remotely a reality.

Virtual assistants are especially in demand by entrepreneurs and online businesses that need help but don’t want to bring on staff in their location. However, many small and mid-size businesses use virtual support, especially for specific tasks such as social media management.

My Why…

Earlier in 2018, I decided to kick the corporate bucket and venture on a solo career path.  I just didn’t know what I was going to do though.  It wasn’t the first time I’d tried my hand at entrepreneurship either.  No, I’m a sucker for pursuing my goals, hopes and dreams.  Have I failed and bumped my head?  You better believe I have.  Has my confidence wavered?  Oh yes, many times. It still does. I have days when I sit back and question my choice, but usually, it takes a drive during peak hour traffic to reaffirm my belief in what I’m doing.

I knew I had to change what I was doing.  There were a few personal reasons for my decision but the main driving force for me is the fact that misogyny is still rife in the workplace.  This is a global phenomenon and a topic not discussed openly for fear of reprisal.

Working hard, long hours has always been a trait I’m proud of, but, as I approach my 50’s, I don’t gel with the rules.  Not that I really embraced these to begin with.  Boundaries create security, this is psychology 101 – but micromanagement and a draconian, authoritarian management style is on another level.  One I don’t tolerate.  Perhaps it’s just my personality, but I have a visceral dislike toward those who deploy this management style.  Nor do I take kindly to whipper snapper millennials boasting their degrees and exploiting others, especially mature women in the workplace.  Don’t get me wrong, I respect the fact that people work hard to attain their degrees.  Point is, it does not entitle belligerence.

I am pleased to observe on many company websites, particularly the UK based companies that the gender pay gap is being addressed.  These modern companies are also addressing their menopause policy for their mature female employees.  This is liberating and makes us ‘oldies’ feel appreciated and still worthwhile in the office and not maligned for being female.

As I was planning my exit strategy, I researched online work opportunities.  I wasn’t overly enthused at the ‘genuine’ options I found.  Seems there’s many a scam artist out there preying on desperate and vulnerable job seekers.  Scrolling through Google I saw the term virtual assistant.  Intrigued, I read on.  Yes!  This was for me and rest as the saying goes, is history.

Another important factor that influenced my decision is my teenage son.  It’s reassuring for mums of small children to be at home.  Unfortunately, there’s not too many half day positions available and mums are forced to either take a pay cut, opt to work from home or find full time employment and utilise the primary school after-care facility.  The assumption is high school kids have it all figured out and cope on their own in the afternoons.  This is not the situation and left to their own devices, teens tend to not be as studious as we’d like them to be. Boys tend to take advantage of this fact…  To this I can attest.

Where to from here

Setting up shop is not easy, and it’s become a competitive work arena out there.  If starting and running a business is such a simple feat, everyone would be an entrepreneur.  When I started out, I floundered for a while and was startled at my lack of up to date techie experience.  This from someone who completed their A+, advanced networking and MCSE in the early 90’s.  A lot has changed, and it can be daunting!

I wasn’t and am not deterred to work for myself and on my own.  As a Virtual Assistant, you cannot offer everything skills wise and there will always be other VA’s who offer more than you do and are better at a task than you are.  It’s about streamlining your skills and finding your niche.  If you don’t know something, say so.  But, turn your not knowing into a positive and learn how to do the task.  There are many online resources to be researched and honing your skills is do-able, without breaking the proverbial bank.

Be honest and upfront with your client and with yourself.  It’s no use struggling to fulfill a task or commitment you know full well won’t be done correctly.  The concept of working online requires open communication channels and engaging regularly with your client or clients.  Learn to manage your time.  When you’re on the clock and responsible for task management and key deliverables, you quickly realize how valuable time is.  There’s no chatting with colleagues round the coffee station or checking your social media profiles.  Accountability is tantamount.

Being on the cutting edge of technology and offering a bespoke service will ensure the global Virtual Assistant market succeeds.  This is an exciting career path and the industry is set to grow, exponentially so.

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