Kimberly Mann: How to be a Virtual Assistant

| January 19, 2006 | 19 Comments

(Editor’s Note: Ms. Kimberly Mann is now running a pet sitting business called Creature Comfort and Care)

Administrative assistants, secretaries and executive assistants are seeing new opportunities on the Web with the rise of the virtual assistants. Virtual assistants provide the same services administrative assistants may do – except that everything is done over the Web. Virtual assistants provide services such as word-processing, event planning, and handling other office chores over the Net – often without seeing their clients. The bulk of their work is done by E-mail, phone, fax, electronic file transfers, password-protected Web sites, and Web-based software. While the business is still in its infancy, virtual assistance has become one of the fastest growing home-based businesses today.


Kimberly Mann of Hatfield, PA, a founding member of Women’s Business Forum, is one of those who saw the growth potential of the virtual assistance business. Employed as an administrative assistant and executive assistant, she decided to use her considerable skills and experiences to become a virtual assistant, and to eventually move on from being an employee to self-employed.

She started her part-time virtual assistant (VA) business in June 2003 with the launch of her website BehindtheScenesVA.com www.behindthescenesva.com. According to Kimberly, “The idea of working for myself, working more in partnership with my clients, choosing my own hours, and the type of work I do appealed to me very much. The work I do as a virtual assistant is very satisfying because I am treated more as a ‘partner’ not ‘just an employee’. Being a virtual assistant allows me to take a more active and proactive role with the businesses I work with and to really help them succeed.”

The Path to Self-Employment

Kimberly has taken a conscientious approach to starting her virtual assistance business, opting to work on it initially on a part-time basis. As she says, “I wanted to make sure it was the right fit for me and that it was something that I was really cut out to do. Over the past two years I’ve decided that being a Virtual Assistant is the direction I really want to go.”

She started by doing research – lots of it. She recalls, “Not only did I have to do a lot of research on what a virtual assistant actually was, I also had to research how to start a business, and determine what type of business model was the most appropriate for a VA business. I also had to determine what type of services to offer, how much to charge, what hours I wanted to work, what my ideal client looked like, etc. I also had to write a business plan and marketing plan.”

Given the relative newness of the industry and lack of information about it, researching information about becoming a virtual assistant was challenging. “I visited established virtual assistant websites, joined several virtual assistant organizations and posted to virtual assistant message boards. Everyone was extremely helpful, supportive and willing to answer my questions. Some even provided me with information they had gathered (for themselves),” says Kimberly.

Once her research was complete, Kimberly felt ready to start the business. Her array of services include arranging meetings, typing recorded meeting minutes, tracking project status, researching POD publishers, art galleries and outdoor fine art shows, formatting a manuscript for POD, assembling and mailing promotional packages and managing mailing lists, streamlining their filing processes.

Lucky for her, funding the business did not become a problem. Kimberly recalls, “Capital is dependent on the type of virtual assistant business a VA decides to have and what they may already possess. Because I decided to be a solo virtual assistant, I did not need much capital to start with. I already had a computer, printer, Internet access, and the software I needed to do the work. Most of my initial investment went into registering my business name, a domain name and setting up a website, business cards, letterhead, joining virtual assistant organizations and directories, advertising and marketing.”

Nurturing the Business

Kimberly runs a tight schedule as she continues to work full-time while growing the business. Some projects have her working all weekend, while others make her get up and working early in the morning before she goes to her full-time job. She works mostly during her lunch hour, in the evenings and on the weekends.

While juggling a career and business is a tough challenge, Kimberly is committed to delivering only the best quality service to her clients. “I would not compromise the quality of work, “ she says. “I pride myself on providing my clients with the best possible service by not taking on more work than I can handle. If one client needs 20 dedicated hours per week, I would most likely only take on one additional client who had need of only a few dedicated hours per month. I typically don’t outsource work. If I find I cannot accommodate a potential client, I will refer them to VA’s I know and trust.”

Nonetheless, she loves being a virtual assistant. For her, the best part of being a virtual assistant is “the flexibility of the type of work I do and the type of clients I work with.” She says that most of her clients tend to be in the real estate industry in some capacity “either as an investor or realtor.” She has also worked with a public relations firm typing up faxed documents and survey answers. For a motivational speaker, she sent out announcements for her speaking engagements and researched POD (Print on Demand) publishers for a book she had written. She has also researched art shows and galleries for an artist.

 

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Category: Startup Stories

About the Author ()

Isabel Isidro is the editor of WomenHomeBusiness.com. She also writes for PowerHomeBiz.com and Learning from Big Boys .

Comments (19)

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  1. Manual Fein says:

    You may have not intended to do so, but I think you have managed to express the state of mind that a lot of people are in. The sense of wanting to help, but not knowing how or where, is something a lot of us are going through.

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    Hi,

    It’s not hard to be in business, it’s hard to start!
    I started and now i can’t stop…

    Also follow your dreams!

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    Love the name of her pet care business. So many people want to start a home based business – but most of them just spend way too much time trying to come with that ‘perfect’ idea – Thank you for sharing Kimberley’s story

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