We all make mistakes, it's what makes us human. The key is to learn from mistakes and not make them again. But what if you can learn from my mistakes and never fall prey to them while building your virtual assistant business?
Below are some of the biggest mistakes I made when I first got started.
1. Not getting my systems in order before taking on client work
Thankfully my growth during my first year of being in business was solid. I had 10 clients in 12 months and a team to support me. But the back-end systems of my business were a hot mess. I didn't have intake forms, or automation set up to handle the repetitive time-consuming tasks that I did on a daily basis. I wasted hours each week on non-billable work and that cost me time and money.
2. Not picking a niche
I was all over the place. I had a lawyer, ice cream distributor, design firm, finance coach, non-profit entrepreneur, and more. If clients had money and needed administrative help, I was all over them like a cheap suit.
I said yes to working with anyone with some money to throw at me (that sounds a little like prostitution, eek!). This meant that I had clients in so many different industries. I had to learn to use industry-specific software which took time and could only be used for specific clients. I wasn't able to focus my time learning the kind of software that I was passionate about because I was too busy serving the myriad of clients I had. Moreover, when asked "what do you do" I always said something generic because let's face it, I had no specific niche. This made marketing doubly hard.
3. Accepting any type of client or work
So this goes with the one before, do not, I repeat DO NOT take on work just for the money if you feel it's not a good fit. You'll regret it and resent your client. Instead, work on saying yes to the right kinds of clients. Don't know who those clients are? Think about the industries you've worked in and the people you worked for that you loved. That's a great start.
4. Not having your contracts and agreements in place
This is such an obvious one but often times we're so busy getting our business set up and running that we forget some of the most crucial details and that's making sure we have bonafide contracts and agreements in place BEFORE you sign up a client.
5. Shiny Object Syndrome
This one could be number 1 but it's not because well, it's just not. ;)
I can't tell you how many minutes per day I wasted on reading blog posts, or surfing the web trying to find the right font for a project that didn't end up getting done for whatever reason. Oh and FACEBOOK. We all get sucked into the vortex of social media and have a hard time coming out of it. For the love of all things holy, please stop. Spend your day on activities that can push your business forward. Be RUTHLESS about this. Get used to saying to yourself "what is the ROI of this activity?". Your most active time of the day tends to be in the morning so don't use it surfing the web or responding to emails, use it to work on your business and get clients!
6. Lack of structure in your back-end systems
You have got to be set up like a BOSS before you land your first client. You aim to impress them, right? Show them how you run your own business. This is a testimony to how awesome you are and why you're the right person for their needs. But most of you don't have your systems in order. What do I mean by systems? Set up a proposal submission process, client onboarding process, and continued communication chain. Also, set yourself up with the standard software that all VAs need to know how to use.
7. Not charging enough
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started out is undervaluing my expertise. I was working for C-level Fortune 500 companies before I became a VA and when I got my first VA client, I was making $18/hour while the company that was matching me with clients was charging $35/hour for my services. They took HALF my earnings. If they can charge $35 for what I am doing, why can't I? But I didn't. My first client outside of the staffing company asked me what I expected to earn and I said $20. $20!!! Ladies and gentlemen, the term "know your worth" isn't one that I like to use because I don't feel like what you make has anything to do with how worthy you are. But I will tell you this, know what the fair market value is for the services you offer and combine that with the whole life experience you bring to the table. Then figure out how much you need to make each month and charge based on THAT, not some "I think I should charge just this because (enter some excuse about why you're not good enough yet). Go out and get what you need, girlfriend/boyfriend. You're f*cking awesome.
8. You have a website that looks like my kid sister designed it
I'm just kidding, it's not that bad but it's not doing you any justice and my guess is that you're probably embarrassed by it, too. Consider this, your website is the person that stands in for you 24/7 when you can't. Your website needs to show off how capable and amazing you are in every sense of the word. Make sure the links work, make sure you've run the copy through a program like Grammarly to check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
9. Not investing in yourself
Do you want to know why the richest people in the world are as successful as they are? They invest in themselves. The first investment Warren Buffet (2nd richest man in the world) made was in a book to teach him how to invest, the 2nd was an actual investment.
He also spends 80% of his time reading books. Why? Because through books and courses you're learning how to be better at your craft.
Self-made millionaire Steve Siebold interviewed 1,200 of the world's wealthiest people to find out what traits they shared. One trait nearly all of them had in common? They read everything from self-improvement books to autobiographies.
Instead of reaching for the TV or surfing on FB, invest in your own education, new productivity software programs, etc. There are a ton of free resources out there that can help you with this.
All the mistakes above can be avoided by having access to the processes, tools, templates, contracts and weekly coaching to make sure you're doing things right.
One place to find all the above is in my favorite paid networking and coaching program, Create Your Laptop Life created by my friend Julie Stoian. If you can afford the monthly membership fee, do it. It's life changing, I promise.
I'm thankful that this level of education and support exists today because it didn't when I first started.
I encourage you to sign up to Create Your Laptop Life and join me and hundreds of other virtual assistants/freelancers who are taking control of their lives and finances. The money that's being made in this network is all the proof you'll need. See for yourself.