I want to share a little bit of my Virtual Assistant story for those of you who may not be familiar with me or don’t know my backstory. Like many of you, I started my VA business while I was working full-time in Corporate America. I hope this will be a motivation to show you that you can do it too!
My Catalyst Of Change: Sam
I had a late-in-life baby who was very unexpected but a blessing all rolled up into one. I worked as an IT Project Manager for a large fortune 500 company and was lucky enough to have 90 days off when Sam was born.
Now before I left on leave, I handed over the project that I had been working on for the past year – one that I had resurrected from near death. The project was flourishing when I handed it off to a very capable colleague to manage while I was gone.
Back At Work: An Unpleasant Surprise
Fast forward 90 days when I was back at work. It took about a week to get settled back into my old routine before I was ready to take back my project. So, I reached out to my manager and asked: “When can we have a turnover meeting so I can get my project back?” At first, I didn’t get a straight answer or was delayed in getting any answer at all.
After another week of delays and excuses, I finally said, “Well, what’s the deal? Am I going to get the project back or not?” I was finally told I would not be getting it back and didn’t get a reason as to why. I asked why they came to this decision but it was ignored.
I did hear through the rumor mill that it was because I had a newborn at home and the powers that be figured I wouldn’t be as available or invested as I was before. I thought, well, that’s crap. I’d always been available. I had worked long and hard to fix this project that was given to me broken and I brought it back to life.
What do they mean I wouldn’t be available or invested? This wasn’t my first child. I had always done great work for them before and the more I thought about this situation, the madder I got. In fact, I got really angry. I had busted my butt for this company and this was the thanks I got. Seriously?
I didn’t get my project back and they decided that I would not be as available as I was before because I had a newborn at home. That was really the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak. At that point I thought, you know what? I’m going to take my talents elsewhere. As a project manager, I had worked for other companies from home in the past. Companies like Discover Card and American Express.
The Realization: I Don’t Want Another Job
But I realized, I didn’t want to do that anymore. I didn’t want to work for anybody else ever again. I didn’t want to deal with this crap. The gossip, the backstabbing, the politics, the commute all of the “stuff” that goes with being an employee. I just wanted to be rid of all of it! I got tired of always having to ask permission for everything.
It had come to the point where my job became “soul-sucking”. Can you relate? With a job, you’re kind of boxed in. Most of the time you don’t know what your true talents are because you’re doing the same stuff day-to-day.
You’re told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, blah blah blah. It’s like you’re being robbed of your creativity! On top of that you may feel unappreciated, unheard and at times taken advantage of – like I was.
That’s no way to live a life – especially since we spend up to 40 hours per week at WORK! No thank you – no more. I wanted my freedom. I wanted freedom in every sense of the word. In fact, my word is Freedom. It was back then and it still is today.
I was so tired of making somebody else money. I wanted to make money for ME without all the crap that comes with the job. Plus, I wanted the flexibility to be home for my children. I hated it to call in sick because my son was sick.
In What World Is It Okay To Put Your Job Infront Of Your Family?
I remember the time he had chickenpox and we couldn’t go to school for a week. He only had 4 little chickenpox but he wasn’t allowed back in school until they were all gone. I had to call in sick for a week. And in the back of my mind, I was worried about being fired because I wasn’t at work. I managed to convince them to let me work from home during that time but it was a tough sell!
Step #1: Finding Out What’s Out There
I wanted to quit my soul-sucking job. But first I had to figure out what I was going to do to make a living. So I set out to Google, our friend Google, what can I do from home. From my Google search, I stumbled on the VA Industry and I thought “hey I can do this!” But then I thought, wait a minute I don’t have any experience as a VA and I don’t have a college education.
I went to work for my dad at 17 and never looked back. When it came time for college I passed since I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was lucky and given a lot of opportunities to move up the corporate ladder and make great money as I went along without a college education so I saw no need to get one.
The bottom line is I didn’t have any special education or training. I just knew that this “VA-thing” was my ticket out of the cube farm. But I didn’t even know what a VA did or how to get started. Then I thought, well how AM I going to do this? I’ve always been an employee – I have no idea how to be a business owner. Plus, what do I need to know to become a VA?
I Started By Researching Everything
And anything I could find about the VA Industry and being a Virtual Assistant. Now realize, 10 years ago when I started my business, there was very limited information on all things VA. Not to mention that all the books and training I bought were all focused on being an Admin.
I didn’t want to be an Admin. I hadn’t been an Admin in 20 years. I knew I had skills that I could use, but not as an admin. So, that was my first stumbling block. I thought, well, I don’t want to go back and be an admin, no offense to admins, but that’s not what I wanted to do.
As I started to do more research, I realized that it’s just a perception. This industry is NOT admin-specific, it’s incredibly diverse. There are so many different services in the VA industry! I quickly realized that I had skills that are transferrable! Woo Hoo! I have Project Management skills, plus I’m a techie! And I can learn!!
YouTube Became My Best Friend
One of the benefits of having a job when you’re starting your business is that you have money that you can spend to learn how to set up a business and the skills clients want. I bought training and I bought books. Some were good – most were crap. But once again they were focused on offering administrative services as a VA and that is NOT what I wanted to do.
So, I dug deeper into the skills and I realized I couldn’t offer the services that a lot of clients want, but I had the money to be able to invest in training – if I can find it! Now I know not everybody has $$ to invest, but you could still dive into YouTube. I did especially for techie stuff.
I saw requests for help with WordPress, and I’m like, what’s WordPress? And I’m a techie! I used to build websites with HTML, but I’d never heard of WordPress before. So, I used YouTube as a way to find what I needed. The more research I did, the more excited I got. I knew this was my ticket out of my soul-sucking job!
Step #2: Deciding On The Type Of Services
I wanted to focus on offering the types of skills that weren’t going to keep me in front of my computer at specific times of the day. For many of the administrative skills like email management or customer service, you need to be in front of a computer or your phone at certain hours of the day.
I knew I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to be able to create my own schedule and focus on delivering it on time. So I made the choice to focus on techie skills. The kind of services that didn’t keep me in front of my computer all the time. That way I didn’t have to talk about “business hours” I could just talk deadlines.
Step #3: Setting Up The Business
First off, I noticed a lack of legitimate training around setting up the business side of things. Most of it was just focused on figuring out what services you’re offering then going out and finding clients. To be honest, that just didn’t feel right to me. I’m a systems junkie! What about all the systems and processes you need? After all, a business is just a bunch of systems that work together.
How could I have a business if I didn’t have any systems? Skills are not enough to be successful – you need to have a solid business too! So I set out to figure out what systems you needed and how to set them up on my own by trial and error. It’s not a path I recommend because it takes a long time and all the hiccups along the way. But at the time I really didn’t have a choice.
Step #4: Making It Work
The problem was how am I going to do this when I have a 40 plus hour job, plus a two-hour commute every day and an infant at home. Not to mention my nine-year-old son, fur babies, and husband.
How am I going to find the time to build a business when I’m working all the time and spending time with my family? The answer was obvious – I knew I’d have to create a schedule. One that I could use to help me learn the skills I needed and set up my business. I created a simple plan and stuck to it by working when my kids were asleep.
- I gave up TV and put my energy into setting up my business.
- I would get up 2 hours early every day, and I’m not a morning person.
- Then work late into the night after my kiddos were in bed.
- I worked on Saturdays and I took Sundays off because I realized very quickly, if you work all the time you’re going to burn out.
Having a schedule is so key to building your business and getting out of your soul-sucking job. It took me 18 months of work before I could escape my soul-sucking job. I had to replace a 6-figure income FIRST. It’s possible to do it faster it all depends on how much you need to make to replace the money you’re making at your JOB. Everyone is different – it’s not a one size fits all answer here.
Remember, I had to figure it out as I went along and made lots of mistakes along the way. That is definitely not the fast track for building a business. Don’t jump ship too early – know how much you need to earn before you quit your job. Otherwise, you’ll struggle for money and who wants to do that!
Once I was home full time there were still some learning curves since I’d never been my own boss before. I’d always been an employee, which means I was used to being given direction or asking for permission. It’s a whole different world when you have your own business!
Step #5: From VA To Teaching Other VAs
I ran my VA business – Clever Collaborations – for four years before I started to get restless. You see, it was about this time that people were coming to me and asking “How did you do it?” They wanted to know how I built my business, how I got clients, how I marketed my services, and everything else I did to be successful.
This got me thinking that maybe this was my calling – to help others build a successful VA business around the lifestyle they crave. And that my friends, it’s how The Techie Mentor was born in 2013! I was a computer trainer in a previous life so teaching is second nature to me and something I love to do. This will date me, but I used to teach DOS, Windows, Lotus, and WordPerfect!
So there you have it my Virtual Assistant story! If you’re somebody who is interested in escaping the cube farm and starting a VA Business you can do it too! I’m living proof that someone with ZERO business skills, NO college education, and NO experience as an entrepreneur built a successful VA business from scratch!
What’s stopping you? I’d love to know! Leave a comment and share your questions or your Virtual Assistant story.
Thanks for listening and reading – Susan
P.S. If you're ready to invest in yourself and a professional future, please check out my VA Success Training. It's for people that are serious about running a successful Online Business. It includes everything you need from business set-up, getting clients, client management, a WP website, coaching, a supportive community, and so much more.