When I decided that I was going to do a blog post, I thought, right, I want to share knowledge. I feel that you never stop learning. During my research into becoming a virtual assistant, I came across Joanne Munro (I mention Joanne on my Allies page in case you ever need help). I asked Joanne if she would answer a few questions and share some of her experiences with you! I have gone on too long, over to Joanne.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Joanne Munro and I’m a Virtual Assistant specialising in providing online research, social media, event support and techie tasks (such as Gmail set up, newsletters, autoresponders, blogging etc) for Digital Marketers, Social Media Consultants and Freelancers.
I also have a separate CV writing business where I create CVs and LinkedIn profiles for people struggling to write their own, plus I have a website showing people how to set up their own Virtual Assistant business called The VA Handbook which I run as a sideline on top of the other two businesses – so I’m pretty busy!
How long have you been doing it?
I’ve been writing CVs on the side for years – It’s something I’m really good at and my CVs get people interviews, but I’m not hugely passionate about it if I’m honest. It’s not what I want to dedicate my life to.
I’ve been working as a Virtual Assistant since the end of 2008 and I left my full-time job in June 2009. The VA Handbook website has only been running since the middle of 2014 though so it’s still quite new.
What did you do before?
My background was hospitality and I used to run bars and restaurants. I then moved across into events – I guess I like organising people and making things run smoothly.
I once looked back over all the jobs I’ve ever had which ranged from working in a shoe shop whilst still at school, being an Auxiliary Nurse, then working in hospitality, events, CV writing and now business support, and realised that I liked facilitating other people’s happiness in a practical way.
What made you decide to finally take the leap and go for it?
I’d been doing some online research for a friend’s husband for a few weeks (four hours a week at £10 per hour) and suddenly realised that if one person needed some admin support then lots of other people would too. I’d already ‘sold’ 4 hours a week so if I sold another 36 then I’d have a full-time job. I’m very proactive, so as soon as I had this realisation, I set off to research it as much as I could.
Although I was still enjoying my job in events, it had become much more about the sales side of things and I still had the feeling that I hadn’t quite found my calling. I like variety and being in control of my own time and lifestyle, so I knew working for myself would suit me and make me happy.
What was the best and worst thing when you started?
The best thing was being free of any constraints. I was suddenly the boss and could set my own hours, work from whatever location I wanted and take the whole of Christmas off rather than settle with what holiday I was allocated.
I guess the worst thing was the worry of not having a regular income – although that was exhilarating at the same time because everything was now in my own hands and my success would be all down to me. People try to put you off as well. You’re going outside of their comfort zone and, if you get to live your dream, it highlights their failure to live theirs. And people don’t like that.
What advice would you give someone who was considering starting their own business?
Read as much as you can from people who know what they’re talking about. Find experts who have a voice and business model that resonates with yours and try to anticipate all the issues or challenges you might face. You’ll never be able to anticipate everything of course but that’s part of the fun! As long as you have a brain in your head and your wits about you then there’s no reason why you can’t succeed.
If you could go back and talk to yourself or do something different when you started your business, what would it be?
I actually don’t think I’d do anything differently. I spent all week working at my job then every evening and weekend researching and reading as much as I could. So I did as much preparation as was humanly possible and went into it with my eyes open understanding the pitfalls and common problems all freelancers face.
The VA Handbook site has turned out to be much more than I ever imagined. I thought I would create a place telling wannabe VA’s how to set up their business then work better and I’d perhaps make some passive income selling them my guide on how I get my clients. But what I didn’t expect is that they would communicate with me so much! I get emails and messages all the time from people thanking me for helping them and providing all this advice. I really didn’t expect that at all.
Their feedback has shown me that there are more ways to help them so I’m currently in the process of creating one-to-one consultation and training packages where I help VA’s decide on their niche, identify their target market and ideal client, work out which services to offer, and set their rates. I will also write their elevator pitch and LinkedIn summary so they can actually go and get a real life client.
I’ll still be working as a VA (you can’t show people how to be something you’re not!) but I want people to actually set up and get work rather than plan and ponder and procrastinate forever. I think many potential VA’s need someone to force them through the initial process and help them get their first client – then the stabilisers are off and they’re on their merry way!
It’s great thinking and talking about being a VA, but actually being one is better – and I know I can make that happen for them.