In this guest post, Alchemy VA founder Suzy Sanders reveals what it really takes to become a self-employed Virtual Assistant.
Well, it’s a big question! One that it’s not easy for me to answer not knowing you, your dreams, or your personal circumstances. However, I’d love to go deeper on some of the key elements to making a success of self-employment.
But first, let me set the scene by explaining a bit about my journey from employed Executive Assistant to freelance VA. Then, from freelance to VA business owner and, most recently, my adventure to Virtual Assistant franchisor.
I started my Virtual Assistant business, Alchemy VA, because I wanted what many people strive for - flexibility, freedom and fulfilment. In the early days I sought those things for myself, but I also had an underlying desire to help, inspire and facilitate them for others too.
As my business grew and evolved, so did my purpose. Most business owners I’ve had the pleasure of meeting share this deep-rooted resolve. Success is so subjective, so personal and, in my experience, isn’t always just about making money.
I knew I wanted to build a meaningful business with real impact. So, after exploring all the options in detail, I chose to franchise Alchemy VA. The decision was one that best aligned not only to my own private and commercial growth aspirations, but to my personal values and our company ethos too.
I loved starting a business so much that I chose a business model that allowed me, in effect, to do it over and over again, supporting new Alchemy VA franchisees launching their Virtual Assistant businesses, or Hubs, as we call them. We call them Hubs so that our team feel connected to Alchemy. They have a hive of activity within their own Virtual Assistant business, but they’re never alone. Alchemy has their back.
Starting Out as a VA – The Real Requirements
In my experience, there are five elements you need to be aware of and be prepared to foster in order to be a successfully self-employed Virtual Assistant. So, let’s dive in and take a look at the REAL requirements of starting a VA business!
- A SUPPORT NETWORK: a group of people who provide emotional and practical help.
The starting point here is a supportive family. Whoever you count as your immediate and extended family, they need to be 100% onboard and supportive.
In time, you will need to be prepared to grow your professional network too, in a meaningful and genuine way. This is important for four main reasons: your well-being, your personal fulfilment, for finding clients and for continuing to develop your Virtual Assistant business.
- PASSION: strong and barely controllable emotion.
When I talk about passion, I mean having passion in your purpose. Being so fired up about and emotionally connected to your VA work (your purpose) that you’re gently relentless in delivering and achieving it to the best of your abilities. Your passion needs to be bigger and more controllable than your fears.
- MADNESS: a state of wild or chaotic activity.
On some days what you’re trying to accomplish and some of the things you’ll face can feel a bit chaotically bonkers! Starting a VA business is a lot of work, both practically and emotionally. As you and your Virtual Assistant business evolves and grows, the highs will get higher and the lows much lower. A healthy dash of compassionate and wild madness will help to keep you moving forward.
- GROWTH MINDSET: the belief that success depends on time and effort. That skills and intelligence can be improved with effort and persistence.
This belief has to be unwavering and, not only that, but you also have to have the courage and determination to take the necessary action. Courage perhaps should be a separate sixth element as it is absolutely imperative. Courage is the thread that holds these five elements (and everything else!) together.
- RESILIENCE: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
Whilst I have the gift of experience and knowledge, each time I support a new Alchemy VA franchisee to launch their Virtual Assistant business it’s different and each time I learn something new. There are two main reasons for this: business is deeply personal, and everyone is unique.
For our franchisees, we have a structured, tried and tested framework to follow. We ‘top load’ all the necessary training before the business is ‘born’. Our head office team take away a lot of the hassle by physically laying the foundations for their Alchemy Virtual Assistant business. All of this is a powerful springboard to get their business off the starting blocks swiftly and maximise their earning potential, all with minimal stress.
However, self-employment isn’t static. When you’re starting or running a business, there are many variables and fluctuations such as the health of the market, the hearts and minds of your target audience, seasonal peaks and troughs, timing, personal circumstances, the ‘second hand’ impact of clients and suppliers, industry and wider world news and events.... I could go on.
And that’s why resilience is so important. If you’re going to achieve your Virtual Assistant vision, you absolutely HAVE to swiftly adapt and overcome many complex challenges.
Change is the only constant and resilience helps you successfully navigate change.
Let’s be completely real here, there’s absolutely no ‘right’ time to start a business. There will always be a million reasons why you shouldn’t or a load of excuses as to why you can’t. I hear them from aspiring VAs all the time. The difference is, the successful ones have (or are prepared to develop) all of the elements I’ve mentioned here.
There are three key things I would always advise anyone considering the big leap to self-employment:
- Define what success means to you. Success is so personal and deeply subjective. Before you set out on any path - first establish what it is YOU want to achieve. What does success look like to you?
- Do your homework - research and explore all of your options. Get your numbers and finances in order and establish which possible avenue will lead you to your personal definition of success in the most fun, efficient and fulfilling way.
- Once you’ve chosen a path, stick to it. Draw on your resources, believe in yourself wholeheartedly, show up for yourself and take consistent action - every single day.
The way I see it, you have two choices: giving your dreams a shot OR living with the regret of not trying. Which is the bigger risk to you? Lastly, always remember that when people say that it can’t be done, it’s an expression of their limitations, not yours.
Read more about starting and growing a successful Virtual Assistant business in Suzy’s book: The Alchemy of Virtual Assistance: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08B1JK2JM. You can visit www.alchemyva.co.uk for more information on Alchemy VA or to learn more about Virtual Assistant franchise opportunities.