Working for 12 hours in a snowstorm in an aircraft hangar at JFK is the less glamorous side of working in the airline industry. Missing both my children appearing together in the school nativity play that day made it seem even more difficult…
11 years ago after recovering from brain surgery, I resolved to find another way to make it all work. To earn money, have control of my working day and not to miss another important event. So when I returned home to London, I set up my own VA business…my first client was a former employer, a hedge fund manager and the second….the airline.
Since then I’ve often been asked by new and aspiring VAs whether they should take the plunge and leave their job or whether they should build their business gradually. I was lucky enough to have another salary to rely on and I was so keen to leave employment that I didn’t look back. I was also extremely fortunate to have two clients right from the start. However, I’d always advise VAs to build their business while they’re still earning a salary. Running your own business is very hard work but it takes a while – usually – to build a solid client base.
A little advice
The ideal solution is to become an Associate to another VA while you’re marketing your own business. Ideally because you can dip a toe in the water and find out if it’s for you, boost your earnings and build your network.
Once you’ve been in business for a while, it soon becomes apparent that you cannot do everything. Are you going to be a one (wo)man band or do you want to grow? Many VAs choose to work on their own but if you’d like to take time off (without checking emails) and still make a living you have to think big!
During my first year in business, I took on two Associates who are still with me today. They had different skill sets to me and experience in other business sectors and therefore broadened my service offering to clients. One specialised in marketing and market research, the other in social media. I take on more of the research and business development roles for clients and together with the rest of the team (which now numbers 11), we can usually get some help if we need it. If not, we can always find someone who knows. Again, sharing your little black book with your clients is invaluable to them and a great way to make referrals.
Working on your own can be isolating but if you have a team of people to talk to, compare notes with and share best practice with, dealing with difficulties isn’t nearly as daunting. Join communities of like-minded business owners and build your own too. Eleven years on, I could not have grown this business without my team.
Of course there are risks in bringing Associates on board - reputation, trust and standards of service must all be considered. If you put contracts in place, manage expectations and communicate regularly with Associates, the rewards far outweigh the benefits.
Our team is spread across the UK, Europe and North America and although we haven’t all met in person, we keep in touch both whilst we’re working on client assignments and also have regular catch up calls. We work remotely and some of our clients have either relocated overseas or launched their business in new overseas markets. Having another VA on the ground means that our clients have also benefited from VA support from someone who has a second language and knowledge of local business customs.
So if you’re at the stage where you’re ready to grow, take the leap and bring an Associate on board. It will give you the opportunity to grow your business, compare notes, share the workload and thrive as a business owner. It could even save your sanity.
Learn more about Susan by visiting her website!
- My Journey As A VA: Pros and Cons of Working With Associates - August 29, 2019