Kathy Colaiacovo, President
Everyone has those days where you reflect back on your life and say ...
I have a few to share as well and thought I would pass on my "Best Tips", one for the best way to get more out of your IVAA membership and my best one for keeping a great working relationship with your clients (or your VA if you are the Client!).
"Wow, If I could do it again I would ..."
This month's issue of IVAACast is all about sharing our Best Advice for Virtual Assistants. I guarantee you there are lessons to be learned here ... tips to think about, advice that if you pay attention to can possibly save you from going down the same road some of us have ...
My "If I could do it again" story was learned from a 4 month stint in 2008 with my third client. When I signed up to work with him, I let him control the 'deal' because I was new, inexperienced and desperate to get clients. Because of this I went outside my normal zone — enticed by the lure of earning LOTS of money and I agreed to a commission-based type of service contract.
As they say "Once Bitten, Twice Shy".
Here's how it all transpired ... the entire proposal he had sounded real great — "You work with me providing admin and social media support for my mortgage broker business and for each mortgage I close I will pay you 10 percent of the commission I earn."
Well, when you say it THAT way, SURE! And knowing that his average mortgage sold was $210,000 — it could be soooo lucrative. And the year before he closed approximately 1 mortgage a week. "I could be the highest earning VA ever!"
Trouble was, my inner voice kept saying — This is not how you should do this — what if he doesn't close any mortgages? Even my husband questioned my decision to take on this client, as did my mentor.
But I did the math!
At $210,000 each, he earns $11,500 and I would get $1,150. Now, with the average mortgage requiring about 10 hours of my time, assuming that for every two I work on he closes one (as he told me happened the previous year) ... that means I would earn approximately ... WOW! $57.50 per hour!!! EVEN BETTER, if he keeps his average at 4 Mortgages a month, that's like, $4600.00 a month or $55,000 a year - from one client!
SIGN ME UP!!!
and so I did. (Totally ignoring my own voice and that of others).
Did I mention this was 2008? You remember the year 2008 right, the year of:
"The Economic Downturn", "These Hard Times", "The Financial Crisis of 2008"
... or simply known as the Financial Meltdown of the housing market ... everywhere!!!
Housing = Mortgages. You get the picture ... and needless to say 2008 was not at all the same year as the client had before. Not even close.
When I finally got my first Commission Cheque, it was 4 months later and he had finally, finally, finally closed one small $55,000 mortgage. 1 mortgage ... in 4 months, my cheque was for $400.00.
Now, mind you we had 'worked' on way, way more than 1 mortgage in those 4 months ... I had actually put in almost 200 hours over that time.
Yep, I did the math again! My hourly rate ended up being about $2.00 an hour. A far cry from my dream rate I envisioned $57.50!
So that's my "If I could do it again" lesson and advice.
When you go into business, create a business model for yourself, with limits and boundaries and processes. Stick to your guns and don't make decisions based on desperation or need to 'get that 1st client'. Be confident in what you have to offer, your value and know it may take a little time to build and grow your business.
So in 2008, I made a few new rules in my business, one of which is:
Stick to my business model. I ONLY charge a project, retainer contract or package type rate now. No exceptions.
Building a business, any type — Virtual Assistant or other — takes time, patience and confidence in yourself. Don't let others force you into, or sweet talk you into, changing things unless you really feel it is in your best interest. And most importantly listen to your inner voice ... it might have something good to tell you!
Read on for more Best Advice and Learn!
If I Could Do It All Again I Would Have Written Out My Goals
By Christine Bearse
I first experienced the power of written goals years before I started my VA business. I had just left my job as a restaurant manager and was looking to get back into office work. So before I went to the various temp agencies I wrote in a notebook what I wanted to make as an hourly rate. It was higher than I had ever earned before and it felt like a stretch. I then went about my interviewing and looked at the figure in the notebook a few times a day. A couple days after my interviews I got a call that a job had come up for exactly that dollar amount. I was excited, I applied for the position and got the job, which I stayed with for 5 years before starting my own VA business. This is a true story and one that I come back to time and time again when I am about to write my new goals.
What I find hard to believe is that 5 years later I had forgotten all about that incident. When I started my business I never thought to write goals. It wasn't until I was working with my business partner on a new project that I actually wrote down a goal for that year. Again it felt like a stretch, but we actually exceeded that goal by the end of the year. My only regret was that we didn't set a higher goal.
I have done a lot of reading about goals and singleness of purpose. All the authors and speakers say the same thing; writing down goals and looking at them everyday gives them the energy to help you achieve them. It seems like it would be harder than that, right? Actually the amazing thing is, it really is that easy! Our subconscious mind is so powerful that once we plant a seed in it, or goal, it works overtime to help us accomplish it. Some ways this can happen are new ideas popping into your head, networking opportunities springing up where you meet just the person who will somehow help you reach your goal, stumbling upon a piece of the puzzle that makes everything work.
One thing that I need to reiterate here, it really is this easy. So here is my advice:
- Write out 3 BIG, beautiful, scary goals, make them juicy and a real challenge. You have to feel them in order for them to work. Our subconscious is fueled by our emotions.
- Put them somewhere that you can see them everyday, and read them at least once when you get up and again before you go to bed. Try to feel like you have already accomplished them. Imagine exactly how happy, proud or relieved you will be when you achieve them.
- Don't tell everyone your goals, the energy dissipates the more you share them. Also, there are people around us who unfortunately will steal their power by trying to "look out for us" and suggest we are being foolish.
- Pass it on, when you reach your goal, share what you did and encourage others to write out their goals.
So go and write out 3 goals right now! I would love to hear your results. If you have a story about goal setting, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WORKING WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT
What Can You Do Differently?
By Tracey D'Aviero
When I look back at how my VA business has changed over the years, there are many things I would change that would have made my road forward smoother.
- I would have had a solid business plan in place before even beginning.
- I would have learned how to price and package my services properly so I set myself up for success.
- I would have figured out how to plan my marketing better so it was simpler and more effective.
- I would have worked with a coach or someone who would be able to guide me through the hard parts.
What about you?
When you look back, did you do everything right?
Probably not. None of us usually did it all right.
Here's my story.
I left my job at the corporate office of a restaurant chain, where my job was to manage the controllable costs of the 10 restaurants and 2 catering divisions. That means food, beverage, cleaning supplies, smallwares, that type of thing.
I became very good at analysis and the financial part of things. I was making a difference with each of these restaurants, helping them to become more profitable. And I loved doing it!
So I decided that this would be a great service to offer as a consultant. I left my job and hung out my shingle.
No business plan, no service packages, no marketing plan, no guide to help me.
I started cold calling restaurants in the local area. I sent direct marketing letters. I offered them services that I knew they needed (but they didn't know they needed!).
I did not do well.
I didn't realize that all I had to do was have a plan in place that would set me up for success.
I learned the hard way.
So what's my advice for you, whether you are just starting out, or looking to grow? Plan!
Here are 6 things you should do to make sure that you are helping yourself run a successful business:
1. Decide on a business model. Whether you want to work by the hour, on a retainer, by project, by package, part-time, full-time, subcontracting ... determining the right business model will show you exactly where your money will come from and how many clients you need to work with to build your business to that level.
2. Write a business plan. It's simpler than you think. Just figure out who you will be supporting and what you will be providing as services and you are halfway there. A business plan will help you to really flesh out the pieces you need to get your business set up or grow. It's not just about the revenue piece, it's really planning your business so you love it and that your clients do too.
3. Pick a specialty. Whether you are a website designer or a client care specialist, choose something that you do really well and become the go-to expert at it. It's much easier to sell a service that is very specialized — and you can charge more for it.
4. Find clients in big groups. The key to getting lots of good clients is finding them (online or in person) in big groups. Specializing your services is one thing — but being able to connect with lots of people who can all use your services is just smart networking. Work consistently with a group before moving on to another group. It's a great way to quickly grow your business.
5. Set marketing goals. Marketing without a plan is a very common mistake that VAs make. Be sure to determine what your goal is first, and then strategize the best plan to get there. Break your goals into smaller goals, to help keep yourself moving forward.
6. Get support. Working with someone like a coach who has walked the part before you is invaluable. It helps you avoid the mistakes so you can succeed faster. Support also can be outsourcing your own work so you free up your own time to just do revenue generating activities. It can also be training. Taking a course to improve your skills or learn a new service is a great way to build your business. Getting support comes in all forms, and should definitely be a big part of your business planning.
Looking back at my own story, there are so many things I did wrong. Things I didn't do at all!
If I had it to do over, I would follow my instructions above so that I had a better chance from the start.
What did I do? Well, I changed my target market, developed new services, learned about marketing and started working with a business coach. And boom. Successful business ... eight years later, though!
Whatever it is you decide to do differently, pick something and focus on it. Set a goal to make it happen. Whether you are just starting out (or thinking about getting started) or trying to grow, objectively look at what you are doing and consciously decide to do something better. Your business will thank you!
FORMULAS FOR SUCCESS
Who Said Working from Home is Easy?
By Lisa Silva
Back in May 2012 I started my own home business as a Virtual Administrative Assistant. I was under the impression that working from home and being a stay at home mom was going to be very easy. Boy was I wrong. My life became very complicated very quickly.
I had to be out of the house networking if I wanted any clients. I had to create and execute my own marketing if I wanted any clients. Blogging alone is a full-time position in itself. I still had to be a full-time mom and wife, which meant Guitar Lessons, Karate Lessons, Tutoring and all the normal full-time household wife duties. Wow! It was more than I really expected. Seeing it on paper in a business plan and actually living it was a shock to my body and mind. I was exhausted all the time. Usually I am extremely organized. I became very disorganized. I was overwhelmed like never before. I had to take control and take control quickly if I wanted to stay in business for myself and have a happy healthy family.
Now a little over a year later I am running a successful Virtual Administrative Assistant business and I have a happy healthy family. I am proof that working from home and being a full-time wife and mother can be easy. Here are a few lessons I learned along the way.
Stay organized: I made a plan of everything that needs to be done on one piece of paper and I wrote down how everything was going to get done and when. I prioritized and worked from start to finish. This included making a schedule of the days I would be out networking, calling prospect clients, working on client projects, and taking my son to guitar lessons, etc., and even when the laundry gets done folded and put away.
Plan ahead: I plan at least two weeks ahead for meals; breakfast, lunch and dinners. I prepare all meals in advance for up to two weeks. Yes this might take up to two hours on a weekend, but it saves about five hours during the work week. I also organized my pantry, refrigerator and freezer, as well. This also saves time not having to rummage through to locate items needed for a meal. This is also a great way to stay healthy, by planning and preparing healthy meals and snacks.
Set limitations: You've heard the expression "A lack of preparation on your behalf" does not constitute an emergency on my behalf. I say no to anything that is not important to me, my family, or my business. It's just that simple. I used to think that "I need to help everyone so they will like me". Not anymore. Having been burned on numerous occasions by this mentality, I've learned it is ok that not everyone likes me. My health and my family's health and happiness does not depend on anyone but me. Why stress over someone else's inability to be organized, plan ahead, or get caught up in their drama.
Don't neglect yourself: I like to walk. I walk 3 days a week for 1 hour which usually ends up being about a 2.5 to 3 mile walk. I like soaking in a hot bubble bath after a hectic week. I take 5 minute breaks every couple of hours at my desk and do a little desk yoga, deep breathing and stretching. I love manicures and pedicures. A monthly massage is an excellent way to pamper yourself. Because I am so organized I am able to be in bed at a decent hour. I am not rushing to cleanup, check emails, or get that last load of laundry done at midnight. I make sure I am well rested for the following day. Whatever you enjoy; do it. Don't neglect yourself and don't feel guilty cause you did it for yourself and not a loved one. You will be no good to anyone, loved ones and clients if you are not happy and relaxed.
Keep in touch with your friends: I've made a lot of friends through school activities and other kid functions, prior to starting my business. I don't want to lose touch or worse lose a friend, because I was too busy to keep in touch. I keep in touch with them by sending out a few texts, tweets, and Facebook comments, and messages throughout the week. I schedule lunch or coffee. I even schedule walks with friends. Your friendships are just as important as your relationships with your loved ones. They provide support and encouragement and you can provide the same for them.
I feel being a Virtual Assistant was the perfect business to go into for myself. I love the attention to detail and organization. It took about 4 months for me to learn how to take control and balance work at home and home life. These five things were most important in helping me to succeed at that balance. I hope that they help you too.
A busy month for the Events team. Speaker's applications are rolling in for both Online & Live Summit. Be sure to share our links with your networks. We have some exciting & varied speakers & topics already and can always use more choices.
We are working on some exciting new sponsorship opportunities.
Watch for exciting announcements as we finalize more.
Reminder: Bonus 2 for 1 offer gets you not only the Early Bird Price for the 2015 Live Summit BUT also a ticket to our Online Summit this fall — our annual 2 day Virtual Summit being held Oct 16 and 17th — this is a savings of at least $70. Get your Live Ticket before July 31.
STAFF WRITER BIOS
Christine Bearse has been a Virtual Assistant, technology trainer and small business mentor for over 5 years. She especially enjoys giving back to the VA industry and brainstorming with women business owners to uncover their true callings. She can be found at www.vbbassociates.com where she and her business partner, Hilde, run a global, multi-VA practice and her new coaching and training site at www.christinebearse.com.
Tracey D'Aviero is a veteran VA and Founder of Your VA Mentor. Her mission is to provide education, inspiration and motivation to Virtual Assistants to help them build and grow successful businesses. She teaches teach them business and marketing skills and strategies, and mentors them as they implement those skills. Visit www.yourvamentor.com to learn about upcoming VA training programs and to pick up some great free resources.
Lisa Silva has over 17 years' experience in the Administrative field and is 2 years new to the Virtual Administrative industry. Lisa is the founder of LMS Remote Office Services and specializes in online marketing and social media, as well as administrative support for small businesses. Lisa can provide solutions and resources you need to get the job done right. Her track record for consistency, timely service, and subject matter expertise makes insurmountable tasks possible to overcome. To learn more about Lisa and LMS Remote Office Services visit her website at www.lmsassistyou.com.