I’m sharing my story on how I started my VA business on the side while working full time with an infant at home!
If I can do it – so can you!
I wanted to share a little bit of my backstory for those of you who may not be familiar with me or don’t know my story.
Like many of you, I started my business while I was working full-time in Corporate America.
The catalyst of change for me was when 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 flourshing when I handed it off to a very capable colleague to manage while I was gone.
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 + 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.
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 camels 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. 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.
I remember the time he had the 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 as a tough sell!
In what world is it okay to put your job in front of your family?
The time had come for me 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 or 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 opportunity 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.
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 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 + 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.
The VA industry is NOT admin specific, it’s incredibly diverse.
There are so many different skill sets in this 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!!
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 setup a business + 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 started to do more research into skills and I realized I don’t have the skills 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. YouTube became my best friend! I saw requests for help with WordPress, and I’m like, what’s a 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!!
But then 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 make this work?
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 setup my business.
I also 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. Many of the administrative skills like, email management or customer service, you need to be in front of a computer or your phone certain hours of the day. I knew I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to be able to do the work around 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.
Now the time had come to set 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.
And to be honest… that just didn’t feel right to me.
I’m a systems junkie!
What about all the systems + 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 & error.
It’s not a path I recommend because it takes a long time + all the hiccups along the way.
But at the time I really didn’t have a choice.
Ok… back to my schedule. Now I had to figure out when I had the time to do all of this!
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… I would get up two hours early in the morning and 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, 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.
Why you may be thinking… because 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.
And… realize that the VA Industry is not cookie cutter!
Sorry… I digress
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!
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 is how The Techie Mentor was born in 2014!
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 backstory!
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?
Oh… and one more thing. Building a business takes time – it’s not something you can do in 30 days regardless of what other people are selling you.
This is not something you do in a weekend – it takes time + commitment.
Building a business, a successful business, takes time. But if you want to build it once then build it the right way, then you don’t have to worry about it anymore. You can move onto having the freedom and flexibility that you want.
Hopefully sharing my story has given some of you who are wondering if this is for you and if it’s doable, some hope.
Thank you for reading my story!
All comments + questions are welcome.
I’d love to hear from you.
If you prefer, to watch instead of read – click here to check out my YouTube video discussing my story.
If you know someone who might benefit from this information, please share. You can use the share buttons below the post.
HERE ARE A FEW RELATED BLOG POSTS THAT MIGHT BE OF INTEREST:
- What Skills Are Needed To Be A Virtual Assistant
- Setting Up A Virtual Assistant Business
- Your Virtual Assistant Business Plan
- Virtual Assistant is NOT a Title
If you’re looking for more details on how to start or scale your VA business including how to specialize by learning in-demand skills, join my FREE VA Training Vault. It’s over 8 hours of how-to video training for Virtual Assistants that want to create a successful business.
Don’t forget to leave a comment if you found this information useful – I’d love to hear from you!
Susan Mershon started The Techie Mentor ™ in 2013 to teach Virtual Assistants the systems + skills they need to start + run a successful business. With a strong base in project management, Susan brings her love of systems and teaching to offer training and mentoring to new and experienced Virtual Assistants. She’s taught thousands of students her unique system that teaches the skills clients are looking for + the systems you need to offer your knowledge as a service professional. This proven system will help you stand out as a professional, earn you more money and free up your precious time.