Being a VA is not for everyone, and that is okay
Question to a VA: What do you do?
Answer: I am a Virtual Assistant (VA)
Question: Okay and what exactly does that mean, what does a VA do?
Answer: a VA offers multiple PA and operational support to individuals and/or companies who are in need of these services but do not require someone to be physically present at a desk. In essence, a VA works for themselves, manages their own hours and invoices their clients on a monthly basis.
Question: Sounds like the perfect position. Would you say anyone can be a VA?
Answer: The simple answer is no, not everyone is cut out to be a VA. Being a VA takes a lot more dedication, time management, change management and discipline than one may think.
The so called “Perks” of the job, is that one works for themselves, has flexible hours, one does not need to rush in the morning to get dressed and out of the door in time to hopefully miss the traffic, there is no sitting in an office at a desk one does not like or with people that one doesn’t like either. This is called the “one-sided-glass” view. Here is an inside look into what being a VA is really like.
1. Mindset is Key
One may only need to dress the top half of their body, twist their hair up and you are ready to be seen via a PC camera, but one still needs to get into the VA mindset, ready to be productive and get tasks done. Personally, I always make sure I get up early, just like everyone else, get in a gym session, have a shower and get dressed as if I am going to sit at a desk with all the other VAs. Although one works from home, they still in fact work with someone else, and that someone is paying for a service. Therefore one needs to be on their A game, giving it just as much attention one would sitting in an office.
2. Always be switched on
One can never really switch off. All of those who don’t like emails on their cell phone, and when leaving the office at the end of the day get to switch off, a VA does not. A VA is continuously interacting with others, working on different projects for different individuals and/or companies. The hours in the day are filled with different tasks, in different roles. There is no time to switch off and especially for those who bill according to hours worked, time switched off is time not being billed.
3. Failing to plan, is planning to fail
As a VA, this is the most important part of the work. Every day needs to be planned out when one works on an hourly rate basis for a client. Hours need to be tracked and more importantly one needs to show that the hours put in have been meaningful and produced results. There is no room for excuses. One needs to be accountable and responsible for the tasks at hand.
4. Be a “Master Juggler”
A Virtual Assistants scope can range from being a personal assistant to one or multiple directors, managing HR, managing accounts, managing people, etc. therefore one needs to be able to juggle a number of tasks in one given day. The needs and requirements of the managing director, will differ from the sales director, the marketing director, etc.
Understanding this and understanding the different needs will allow one to be a better VA, and allow the juggling to be a mastered skill than a master disaster.
5. Know what you are good at
Being a VA means wearing many different hats but also in doing so one needs to be careful of biting off more than one can chew. I ensure that I never take on the responsibility of any task without full understanding and commitment. Faking it until you make it doesn’t work. One should be upfront about their strengths and weaknesses and rather concentrate on those strengths than filling the basket with all the eggs and never being able to finish one task to the best of their ability. Know who you are and what you can offer and stick to your guns.
6. Miss Independent
Being a VA means being independent, being able to work alone, and able to be alone. Being a VA can be a lonely job, so if you a person who doesn’t like to be alone, is easily distracted or like to be in your own space, then being a VA is not for you, and that is okay.
What drives me to be the best Virtual Assistant I can be
I’ve studied logistics for 4 years. During that time, I already knew that I loved project and production management and knew what I wanted to achieve in life…… the goal was to work for myself on my own terms in this field. While growing as student and young adult, I formulated the specifics of my goals. I became driven to provide client satisfaction and problem-solving methods to my clients so that they don’t have to deal with it themselves. I wanted to add value in such a way that clients should feel I am right there beside them, loving their product just as much. And them feeling satisfied with work delivered that they know they cannot do it without me.
I always wanted to have the luxury of a great home, amazing family, and being my own boss, but having all of this meant long days and sometimes nights and missing family time. I’ve always kept one thing in mind when the going gets tough, and it’s to succeed, building toward achieving my goals and having my own business. Easier said than done. I’ve learned so much in the time being a Virtual Assistant that the qualities expected of me isn’t always the easiest:
Updating your client on work progress and reporting back when work is expected, answering emails and calls. It does not always have to be straight away but as soon as possible. Being professional in every matter even if you feel you want to shout!
Good communication skills
Try to meet work progress and timelines at all time. If you know you cannot deliver on time, update your client.
Working for multiple clients at once isn’t always easy but setting a good time schedule that works for all is essential. Use apps available to you to manage this effectively.
Go the extra mile to succeed in the success of your business. There will be expected of you to do tasks that you would rather someone else do. But this makes your client look up, notice and see.
Always stay professional even if you have a difficult client. The way you talk, and act plays a big role in how you present your business. Your business is you. How you treat anyone in life is how you will treat your client. If you lack this skill, start immediately with courses. This is probably one of the biggest money adding value next to sales in your business. If you feel upset, take time to cool down and only then respond.
Providing the best work and keeping your eyes on goals can sometimes feel drained. When feeling like this, do something that relaxes you. Keeping your mindset positive and ticking off your achievements will feel like winning all the time. Balance is not always possible in this line of work but burning out has never helped anyone either. Sometimes you will meet people saying it is not worth it…but these are the people usually sitting in a job that frustrate them. At least I am doing something that I would love to do over weekends. Probably why I can work for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and still be motivated.
Being able to do whatever is expected and being able to do the work that you have never done before is always a challenge, and ALWAYS rewarding. Never have I thought I would like to do tasks required from Personal Assistants. I am terrible at being a PA. And yet, my client always treated me with respect and consideration when I made mistakes. That said, now I love handling tasks that are out of my comfort zone. Just imagine this, I have not moved to a new house in the last 14years, and last month I planned a move in 2 days, in another country!!!!! And guess what, I freaked out and thought it impossible, but I made it happen. So yes ladies, you can do it if you put your mind to it.
To bring it all together
Working, Building and learning to be a Virtual Assistant helped me understand what it was that I needed to do to have a successful business. These goals became my life lessons: Delivering quality work and excelling in my performance to become the best in what I’m doing. Setting my goals and working towards it, creating my own values and expectations of what it means to be a Virtual Assistant. Being confident when dealing with clients. Overcoming obstacles that might have been mountains in front of me but going through it meant yet another option to learn every step of the way. Mind over matter!
This is why you should regularly move the goal posts
Are you moving the goal posts?
Mention the word Goalpost and immediately a sport comes to mind. A total play on words, because even though it is termed sport or a game, it is still taken seriously. No matter what game you think of, there is a goalpost of sorts, some defining object that remains static and signifies the end objective within boundaries. And so it is in business. When you have your boundaries or goalposts in place, they need to remain static in order to realise the goals and objectives you set out to achieve.
Some may say that “systems” are the most important and yes, while they are the backbone of getting, and keeping the flow of work going smoothly, if your boundaries are not constant and clearly defined, even the best system can be pushed out of whack. Boundaries give as much structure as systems.
It cannot be stressed enough how important clear communication is within the working environment. Being on the same page, following the same path and achieving the same target are vital to the success of any business, especially when working in a virtual team and relying on cyber communication. Being absolutely clear about how you work leaves no room for grey areas and instances where the overstepping of your boundaries can lead to feelings of frustration and irritation. Matters such as hours of work, channels and times of communication, prioritisation of tasks and even what would constitute an emergency should be defined, and more importantly, adhered to at all times.
Crossing the line
Whilst you may be adhering to your practices, there may come a time when your boundaries become tested and possibly even crossed. Don’t let the situation slide. Address it in the moment or as early as possible. Have a plan on how to handle it and carry it out before it loses its power and results in those feelings of frustration or even exploitation at times. Making exceptions can take you onto the downward slope.
Consistency is key
Now I’m not saying be inflexible when the need arises, but consistency is an indication of your seriousness and professional approach to your work. After all, if you don’t respect your own boundaries, you cannot expect others to do so either. Should it happen that additional hours or some urgent work become necessary, assess the situation objectively and discuss how best to take care of it, leaving everyone fully in the picture. Being flexible but consistent is the key to a great working relationship.
So, are your goalposts firmly in place, or do you have some cementing to do……