She’s particularly pleased that she’s never had a difficult customer. To establish a good working relationship right from the start, Kimberly’s approach is to be upfront and detailed in her discussions with her clients especially the initial conversation. She says, “After discussing the details of working together, I will draw up a proposal detailing all aspects of the work to be done and send it to the client for approval or revision. Once everything is agreed upon, I ask the client to sign two copies and send one back to me. If it’s a retainer client, I send them a contract detailing the terms of our agreement.”
Deciding on the price to charge, however, was not easy. “There’s always the temptation, especially when you’re just starting out, to compromise on price “just until I get established”. I found it difficult to have confidence in myself in the beginning and was lacking in self-confidence when promoting myself and my business and my rates to a potential client,” Kimberly explains.
She also finds working from home challenging. Kimberly has converted a room in her apartment into an office, which she shares with her artist boyfriend. While recognizing the myriad benefits of having a home-based business, she sometimes finds it difficult to concentrate while working at home. She says “I hear the TV, kids yelling and playing outside, the piles of laundry that need to be done, the cat meowing for attention, the dirty dishes in the kitchen etc. I am definitely learning a different level of concentration and dedication for my work.”
Marketing a Virtual Assistant Business
The tough part of the business, Kimberly concedes, is marketing her practice. “My business name says it all – Behind the Scenes VA,” she says. “It’s sometimes difficult for me to ‘put myself out there’ and talk to a room full of people I don’t know.”
Fortunately, her first client “sort of fell into my lap.” Kimberly explains, “I met one of the partners of a local graphic design firm at a Ryze networking event who also happens to run the Women’s Business Forum. I joined the Forum, went to one of their networking events and met a business coach who has been recommending me to her clients. She referred my first client to me.”
Networking and word of mouth are “extremely important” marketing strategies for her virtual assistant business. She goes to local networking events that allow her to meet potential clients. According to her, “Mainly I go to local networking events. Just last night I handed out 8 business cards between 2 people who said they knew of colleagues who could use my services. I also have listings in many reputable organizations directories and am on the Board of Director’s of two of them.” She is also participating in numerous message boards in order to network online with people outside of her geographic area.
Kimberly is also active in a number of organizations that allow her to meet and network with other entrepreneurs, interact with like-minded women and other entrepreneurs, as well as boost her business profile. She is on the Advisory Board of the Delaware Valley Virtual Assistants Association (http://www.dvvaa.org), which is a local virtual assistant organization that promotes the virtual assistant industry on a local level handling PR/Marketing. Her participation in the organization offers her numerous opportunities that she may not otherwise have. Kimberly explains, “The other VA’s on the Board are great friends and we work well together. If we need help with a particular project we’re working on, we’ll all help out in any way we can. We also share information freely.”
She is also on the Board of Directors of the Women’s Business Forum (http://www.womensbusinessforum.org) and one of the Founding Member’s of the organization. “I serve as the Director of Membership,” Kimberly says. “This is a truly wonderful organization. I’ve never met a group of people who are more giving of themselves and their knowledge than this group of women. Every meeting I attend leaves me energized, excited and motivated.”
In addition to networking, she is also doing a direct marketing campaign. “I’m in the process of creating a postcard mailing campaign. I mostly just rely on word of mouth. The VA concept is still fairly new to the area so there are many businesses that are interested in working with a VA once the concept is explained to them.”
Kimberly has also created a professional and well designed website at www.behindthescenesva.com showcasing the services she offers, while giving potential clients the chance to get to know her and her qualifications. Currently, about 30 percent of her clients come through her website. She views her website as a support tool of her networking and other offline marketing campaigns. “I don’t market my website very much as I see it as a tool to use after I’ve initially met a potential client – if they haven’t already visited the site,” Kimberly explains. She lists her website in every online directory listing and includes her URL on her business cards and other promotional materials.
Leading a Balanced, Active Life
Kimberly understands the need to lead a balanced life. Despite her very hectic schedule, she still finds time to enjoy sports and activities such as running, hiking, camping, horseback riding, archery, knitting, and quilling. In June of this year, she will be running a marathon in San Diego, California (her second) as part of Train to End Stroke Philly team for the American Stroke Association. “The biggest challenge for me has been trying to find a happy balance between my corporate job, my VA business and my personal life,” says Kimberly.
She is looking forward to working full-time on her virtual assistance business. Right now, she is laying the groundwork for this business that she loves to do, learning everything about becoming a highly effective virtual assistant. She has excellent advice to other people looking forward to become a virtual assistant”
“Do your homework. Research, research, research. Ask questions. Make sure that becoming self-employed is really what you want to do and you know exactly what it entails. I would suggest that someone who is thinking of becoming self-employed, especially as a Virtual Assistant, should meet with people who are already established in the field of work you want to get into. Ask questions. Just because you know how to type, have a computer and know a few programs does not a VA make. Try and find a mentor to help guide you. Make sure you have the right type of personality to run your own business. Make sure you can handle the pressures of being an independent contractor. Know what you’re getting yourself into. Don’t stop marketing your business. You will eventually run into a dry spell if you do. Always learn new things to keep yourself current on technology and software. Be professional, be informed, be knowledgeable, be realistic, be patient. Don’t compromise yourself; your work ethic or your prices just to get a client.”