Being a VA – the unvarnished truth

Written by: Penny Cooke | Posted on: | Category:

At least a couple of times a week I’m asked what I do? This is generally from my fellow dogwalkers because, if you're out and about at odd times of the day ie during working hours, you're either self-employed, out of work, retired, or wealthy enough not to need to work (there aren’t too many people like that in my town - trust me, I've looked!).

My reply, that I’m a Virtual Assistant, is – more often than not – met with a blank stare. So, I follow with freelance Personal Assistant and then they generally nod quite sagely, although I’m never entirely sure if they get it…

  • So, yes, I am employed, but I have the best boss in the world (me!).
  • No, I don’t spend all day in my pyjamas (I don’t own any PJs, for the record).
  • Yes, this is a real business and not just a bit of work I do when I get home from my real job, for a bit of extra cash.
  • No, I’m not just a secretary (no one is ever just a secretary, we are so much more than “just a secretary”).
  • Yes, I do type and really quite fast.
  • No, I’m not going to sell myself short on my hourly rate, even if you do ask nicely and I like your dog.

To be fair, I’d never even heard of the term Virtual Assistant before December 2018 (although we've apparently been around for at least the last 10-15 years) when a job alert dropped into my Inbox for a franchise – too expensive, so I thought no more about it. And then I met my first VA – the brilliant Jen Williams – in June 2019, at an event for PAs and EAs held by one of the recruitment agencies I was registered with. I hate those things, I really do, but I went because I wanted to listen to what a real VA had to say and, hopefully, get to talk to her. I had a great chat with her, and that was the date I decided I was going to be a VA. I’ve had no doubts – even during the down times, and there’ve been a few of those – that this is what I want to do.

Whilst getting those ducks in a row – website, business cards, what services will I offer, what will I charge etc – even my sister commented that I’m “not working at the moment”. My somewhat snippy response (sans expletives) was “I am {{beep}] working, I’m just not being {{beep}} paid for it”. She’s never commented since but, to be fair again, she’s only once asked me how business is going so I think it’s fairly safe to assume that she still thinks I’m not really working.

But, it’s not really about the typing, the PJs, etc. Being a Virtual Assistant means you have to put yourself out there, all the time, and that’s not easy for some people – I know one or two people who’ve given it up because they hate pushing themselves forward, they hate the networking that they have to do. Holding yourself up to Social Media comment and criticism. It’s not easy. I still squirm sometimes, make an excuse about not doing this or that. I consider myself a high-functioning introvert – I’ll do these things, but I don’t have to enjoy them.

Except, sometimes I do. I’ve met some wonderful people networking – people I now call friends, real friends. I may not get any work from them but, hopefully, they’ll refer me to people they know who could benefit from using a VA. And that works both ways – I’ve recommended contacts and connections. So, not only do those friends hopefully gain a client but the person I've given that recommendation to will refer me to their contacts, as a helpful, useful person to know (and I really am 😉).

So, the Unvarnished Truth? I flippin’ well love being a VA (not just because it meant that I could finally get a dog)!

Give me a call. See what I can do for you – help you focus on what you do best, and leave the rest to me.

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke / Pixabay

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