Lessons Learned as I Start My Fourth Year as a Virtual Assistant
This month marks my third-year anniversary being in business as a virtual assistant. I can't begin to tell you how much I've learned about running a small business. There are many things I did right and OH-SO many things I did wrong. I'm the type of person who learns by looking at others' mistakes. So I thought I would share with you three of my biggest lessons learned from the last three years.
Mistake # 1: Not having a plan or setting goals
The first six months after opening my business, I was working seven days a week and found myself at the computer at 3 a.m. more times than I could count. I was trying to find clients, figure out how to market my business, optimize my website, setting up my blog, it seemed as though I didn't have enough hours in the day (all you small business owners, I'm sure you can relate). My problem was that I didn't have a business plan, marketing plan, or any clear goals.
In formulating my goals, the trick was that I had to set clearly defined goals or it would not work. Just saying "I want to make more money" didn't cut it. If I made $10 more this month than I did last month, then I would have achieved my goal but did I really accomplish anything? Instead, I set a clear financial goal of "I will earn X amount of revenue each month."
Lesson Learned: Write out clearly defined goals in the areas of finances, marketing, personal, and what you want your business to look like. To start out, I challenge you to set one big goal for the next 90 days, write down the steps to complete it, and note your achievements along the way.
Mistake #2: Not aligning my business with my goals
In the beginning, I fell on my background in real estate to be my niche. I became a NAR Real Estate Professional Assistant, I got my Certified Real Estate Support Specialist designation from IVAA, and I perfected and optimized each web page to speak directly to real estate professionals. But I was not happy and I wasn't sure why. I was getting phone calls in the evenings and weekends and doing many tasks on short notice, but I chalked it up to it being the nature of running a small business. But in truth, the reason why I was not happy was because my business wasn't in alignment with my goals.
One example is that one of my personal goals was to "play" more on the weekends. My clients, real estate professionals with expectations that assistants work extended hours, expected me to work on the weekends. I cannot play on the weekends if I am fielding phone calls and answering emails. Needless to say, I changed my niche soon afterwards.
Lesson Learned: Put a lot of thought into what market you are targeting and make sure it fits your work and lifestyle.
Mistake #3: Undervaluing my services
If you were like me or like many other virtual assistants just starting out, you probably researched other virtual assistants' websites, looked at the types of services others were providing, saw what others were charging, and then followed suit. Repeat after me - this is not the way to set rates.
Worse, some websites even had a nifty calculator wherein you input your expenses and other variables and Voila! - it calculates your rate. This is so very wrong.
Instead, look at the value you are giving to your clients and set your fees with that in mind. Take into account the expertise you possess that others do not. For example, do you specialize in graphics, website design, or have a background as a paralegal? You can probably command a higher fee than those who provide general data entry or typing services.
Lesson Learned: Don't be shy about charging what you deserve.
Working and growing in a relatively new industry is exciting and some day I'll be writing about my first 'ten years' in business. If you are thinking about jumping into entrepreneurship or have been doing this awhile and find yourself struggling, think about your goals, your target market, and your fees. It's never too late to change things around to suit your work and lifestyle. The important thing is to remain positive, be persistent, and take time to enjoy the freedom being an entrepreneur brings.
Copyright 2008 Lisa Wells
Source: Free Articles from ArticlesFactory.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa Wells is a Certified e-Marketing Associate who partners with coaches, consultants, entrepreneurs, and small business owners, managing their many online marketing needs. Move your business to the next level and up your e-marketing game - sign up for her FREE e-course "e-Marketing Toolbox Essentials" at http://www.emarketingtoolboxessentials.com/, where she shares ideas, tips, do's and don'ts, as well as programs and strategies you need to avoid!