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How To Start A Successful Virtual Assistant Business – Deciding Which Mentor Is Right For You

Michelle Dale - Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This post was prompted by 2 events which happened over the last week or so. The first event was the question posted on my Facebook Fan page, and the second event was a post on my VA Apprentice forum from one of the members who is in the beta testing of the course – we have recently completed Module 6, and the 7th and final module goes live on Monday. As part of the course we fully implement a new website for each member, and go through the step-by-step process of how to develop a VA business, as quickly as possible. Well, I am pleased to say that along with several other successes with the members, the forum post at the end of this article really hit home for me when I think back to what I was hoping to achieve as a mentor.

Anyhow, moving on to the first event, the post on my Facebook page “I am wanting to be a VA, how did you start? Is there a certain package you purchased with all the info? There is tonnes online, but unsure which ones are really worth the money. Thanks for any input!”

I would really like to be able to say that there was a magic info package that I went and bought with all the info I needed to start up the kind of business that I wanted, but to be frank there wasn’t anything out there at that time, and I ended up learning everything myself from trial and error. Since then virtual assistants have become far more well known and the industry is positively booming with potential clients and business, and along with it, virtual assistant guru’s have sprouted from every corner of the internet, all with different types of business models and ways of conducting business. If you are wondering where or who to turn to, the best advice I can give you is to choose a mentor, and then purchase their own products, or if they don’t have any, take their advice as to which products they recommend from other people, but you need to be selective, and that mentor will need to meet certain criteria which you will set for yourself based on what you need from them.

I did a short video post a while back about knowing who you can trust online in a general sense, there are quite a few people who are virtual assistants who are helping others, but it really all depends on the “type” of virtual assistant service business you would like. By type, I don’t mean what services you offer and what you specialise in, I mean what type of virtual assistant business model you are going to need to follow in order to set yourself up to achieve your business goals.

How to set your own mentor criteria.

Nobody can tell you who is best going to fit your requirements other than you, so here are a few things to think about when you are searching online for a coach or mentor, and how to make the right choice for yourself as to whether they are right for you and your business model.

Are you looking for someone who is going to understand you?

Try writing down all the reasons why you are wanting to become a virtual assistant – is it for mobility, to be able to travel? To be able to work from home? To generate a second income? To generate a household income? Is it because you are a mum, and can’t work a normal 9 to 5 (or you don’t really want to)? Why are you considering entering into this industry?

Be honest and truthful with yourself about your desires for having a virtual assistant business, because this will tell you a lot about the kind of business you are going to need to pursue, and also the kind of person who you need to find as a mentor. You may want to find some who you can relate to on a personal level, so they can also relate to you.

What do you need from them, and can they deliver?

If your goal is to earn a few thousand dollars a month working part time from home, then a solo VA business model should suit you just fine. If you are looking for a much more significant financial return, then you are going to need to think about eventually branching out into a multi-VA business model, because no matter how hard you work, it’s highly unlikely you will be able to make $20,000 a month online working part time as a virtual assistant all by yourself… Whoever you choose as a mentor, ensure they have the same business model as you need in the long-term in your own virtual assistant practise. In other words, choose someone who has already got to the place you want to be, whether that’s a solo-VA practise or a multi-VA practise.

Both the solo-VA and multi-VA business models can work really well, I have worked through both of them, and come across challenges in both of them. If you decide you want to stay solo, an important factor to consider is what your clients will do when you are on holiday or perhaps are unwell, your clients may question you on this, especially if they are on a monthly retainer package and rely on you on a daily or weekly basis. If you are intending to go into a multi-VA practise, setting yourself up to be equipped for growth is essential, or you could find your expansion maybe slowed down by having to restructure your systems, processes and procedures in order to accommodate your additional business.

Would you like to see some documented proof?

Virtual assistants who offer any kind of products, services or training to other virtual assistants ideally will be doing this off the back of their own success. They have been there, done it, and now want to share it with you. For example, I offer a training, implementation and coaching programme to start and develop a six figure virtual assistant company, because I have done it myself, and I have provided the social proof to back it up.

Whatever you decide to do, and whoever you decide to follow as a mentor (or mentors, of course you can have more than one), decide what kind of social proof you need to see from them so you feel satisfied that they are actually doing what they say they are doing in their own business.

I love the word “possibility” – it brings hope, and of course it’s true that ANYTHING is possible, however when it comes to my own business, I have a preference for the word “reality”. For example, it’s possible for me to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but is it likely going to be a reality that I can do it, ummm in a word no. If I am going to tell you it’s possible for me to climb that mountain, and I want to present myself to you as an expert mountain climber, then I am going to want to show you a picture of me at the top of it, otherwise it doesn’t quite have the same credibility factor.

If something is of great importance to you in your business, no matter what it is, then you should find a mentor who can “talk the talk, and walk the walk” – ideally from personal experience.
Have you seen their virtual assistant company website?

It’s always really amazing when virtual assistants give comments and feedback on how a product, programme or service has helped them, I am so grateful for all the feedback I get from the virtual assistants who I work with, but there is another area of the mentor’s business that you should be paying close attention to. Take the time to step away from the mentor’s training environment such as their blog or site aimed at virtual assistants, and step into there actual virtual assistant business. Every VA who is still practising as a VA will have one. Take a look at the site, what do you think about it? Is it the kind of site you would consider having? Look at their client testimonials page, what are their clients saying about them, who is the VA working with? Are their clients providing them with good quality testimonials. Whatever the virtual assistant is doing themselves, they will most likely be passing it on through whatever they have created for virtual assistants. You should want to aspire to have a business similar to theirs.

This industry, its technology and ways of servicing clients is changing and improving all the time. If the mentor is no longer practising as a virtual assistant and doesn’t have a VA company anymore where they still work with clients on a regular basis, there is a chance that their information could be outdated and no longer applicable to your desired goals.

How do they appear to you socially?

Whilst you are developing a business, and technically someone doesn’t need to be nice to have a successful business, in fact I am sure there are many pretty awful people with successful businesses, but that doesn’t mean to say that you shouldn’t be looking for someone who you would choose to hang out with on a personal level as well as a professional one. The best place to check out someone’s character is via social media, generally likeable people will have fans and followers engaging with them on a regular basis, look at the engagement between the potential mentor and those that follow them. You can tell a lot about someone’s overall character from how they interact with people, their blog, their Facebook wall and what they tweet about.

Are you only looking for virtual assistants?

When I was looking to become a virtual assistant I searched high and low for a mentor VA who could meet my own criteria, the closest virtual assistant I found who I could relate to at the time was Erin Blaskie, and I still think she has a great business model, and coming from my personal interaction with her, when she made an excellent contribution to the bonus section of my VA Programme, she’s a really nice, open minded, sociable person, and also a very good business woman who truly loves what she does. I did look elsewhere to find more mentors for the kind of business I wanted, and despite the fact that we were in very different industries, I followed entrepreneurs like Yaro Starak and Gary Vaynerchuk as 2 examples, they are really wholesome, sincere and good natured people, and I knew I wanted to conduct business in the same manner as them. So you don’t always need to choose mentors in the VA industry, online entrepreneurs and business people have a lot to offer too, and I have learnt a lot myself from people who are not in the VA industry, but who have very successful businesses.

If you are still undecided, compose a list of questions you still need the answers to, and directly contact the virtual assistant mentor who you have in mind to help you, and ask them to answer your questions. Try and get to know them, and always follow your instincts, you will know from the inside if you think they would be a good fit to guide and advise you on how you are going to achieve what you want to achieve as a virtual assistant.

So onto the post which is in my forum by one of my TVAA members, Martha Christie.

It goes to show that if you have the will, dedication, drive and a great support team and mentor behind you, you can get to where you want to be, and it doesn’t have to take forever… Martha’s SoS has been born. A big thank you to Martha for allowing me to post this on the blog. It’s highly motivating!

“Hi All

I just wanted to share this with you….

I had my first ‘official’ client consultation today. It all started late last week when a lead scheduled an appointment. Obviously my excitement stepped in as I ran off to my ‘new intranet’ obtained my new template consultation email and sent it off to my potential.

I spent the weekend doing some research on the company and the person, friending them on Facebook, following them on twitter and having a little social interaction on their posts.

Today was my call, so to make sure I didn’t fall into my ‘old’ routine of sell, sell, sell and get as much money from them as possible lmao, I gathered up my notes from the ‘client consultation module’ read through everything. Gathered up my notes about the potential client, had my voice recorder, notepad & pen at the ready and then called the potential.

I took the call slow and steady as I didn’t want to rush into anything and end up waffling. I was very tentative, listened to what the client had to say. And here is the change……I actually listened to what they wanted and then offered my solution to help them. I offered my advice and tips and was also open to their suggestions.

The potential loved my website and said that was one of the reasons why she decided to speak with me. She said that everyone else that approached her all had websites that ‘looked’ the same and mine was different. She also liked the fact that I’d done my research about her and her company.

We built up a rapport and discovered that we had a few things in common – Which was a bonus.

It wasn’t until we had almost finished the consultation when the matter of the cost came up. I was too busy telling her how I could help her business that I didn’t mention my rate, and she was the one who brought it up.

After the call, I gave it a few hours, then started on my formal proposal as promised. One of the things I gained from researching my client was that she didn’t like long winded proposals so I kept mine clean, clear and straight to the point and sent this along with my ‘new service agreement’ email.

I just wanted to say – This has been a bit of a slog for us and I know we have all been wondering – Will this actually work? And the answer is quite simply YES, YES, YES. Seeing everything in bits and pieces and wondering what it will all look like.

My potential loved my website, she loved that I had everything automated, she love the fact that all I wanted to do was help her and most of all, I followed every bit of advice given by Michelle and I turned the lead into a potential client and then (by tomorrow) a client.

My advice is simple – Listen to Michelle, follow her advice, systems and processes and you won’t go wrong.

Thank you Michelle

P.S. – Just had to add – The client has just signed the agreement – Whoo Hooo”

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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.

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