When discussing the skills a virtual assistant needs to be successful people will recommend things like social media management, marketing, wordpress, etc. These recommendations are all considered Hard Skills and are essentially the skills that are based on your expertise. Your hard skills will directly link to the services that you offer and are definitely an important part of your business. However, there’s another category of skills that are often overlooked when you’re looking to be a virtual assistant called Soft Skills or your people skills. Soft skills are less about what you know technically and more about who you are personality wise; they shape the way you work on your own and with others. Soft skills are equally as important as hard skills in any service based industry; they essentially determine the success of your business. Hard Skills win clients, but Soft Skills keep them.
Here are 5 ideal soft skills a virtual assistant needs to be truly successful:
The VA business is one based on relationships. You are meant to be your client’s “go-to” person. No client wants to be doing business with someone who is untrustworthy or unreliable; especially if that person is going to be privy to some of the most private workings of their company.
Be truthful about your capabilities. Don’t be afraid to let a client know that you don’t have experience with something but are willing to learn. A client is much more likely to give you a chance (if the price is right) knowing that you’re figuring it out as you go along. The likelihood that they will continue to work with someone who pretended they could do something and then failed at it horribly is 100 times less.
Be accountable for your actions. If you make a mistake or you misunderstood something, own up to it. If you think you’re going to miss a deadline say so. If you don’t think you can accomplish a task exactly as the client wants it admit that. Even if the client decides they no longer want to work with you that’s better than having the reputation of being deceitful or a fraud.
This is one of the really critical soft skills for a virtual assistant because you don’t have the benefit of face to face interaction; most of the time you’re using only written modes of communication. You don’t get to use verbal cues, facial expressions or body language to interpret instructions. Because of this you need to be very direct and clear cut in your communications with clients; leave nothing to chance.
Remember, clear communication involves both listening and speaking. Take in the information provided and ask plenty of questions for clarification. Be sure to always let clients know the channels of communication are open for further discussion.
It doesn’t matter how efficient you are, at some point issues will arise. It may be the result of human error, technology or just good ol’ Murphy’s law doing it’s thing; whatever the cause though you cannot be a person that panics. Panic solves absolutely nothing. As a virtual assistant you need to be someone who either has a plan B, C and D, or knows how to think on the spot. At times it will call for creativity and critical analysis as you may have to think outside of the box to find alternative solutions to a problem, but where there’s a will there’s a way. A client will always appreciate you more if they feel they can trust you to handle anything that pops up.
For me this particular skill is what determines if a virtual assistant is really extra special. The VA industry thrives on technology and technology is ever changing. Everyday there are new updates and releases to software we use for our jobs. Every month there’s a new app that’s trending, a new social media platform to get to know, a new method of doing things, a new algorithm to learn. Are you able to keep learning new things and moving forward?
You may also need to be flexible with regards to your business on a whole. Maybe you’re starting out with a set plan in mind; you know what you’re going to niche in and you think there’s going to be a demand for it. But what happens if after a few months you realize the demand really isn’t there? Are you going to give up and quit? Or will you be able to shift and learn the new skills necessary to make yourself relevant?
You absolutely NEED to know how to manage your time. There’s isn’t going to be a schedule set for you by a supervisor with a start, lunch and end time. You’re all on your own and can work whenever you like; if you don’t have the discipline to manage your time efficiently you’ll find yourself speedily heading towards failure.
You’ll be managing several different projects for your clients and you will need to make sure they each get your full attention. What a lot of virtual assistants tend to overlook when they’re just starting out though, is that you’ll also need to be able to manage your own projects as well. While you’re helping entrepreneurs run their business, there is no one helping you run yours. You must be able to find the balance that allows the time to adequately manage your client’s requests but still implement your own business processes.
Time management helps you make better decisions and maximizes your work.
If you’re lacking in any of the soft skills above it doesn’t automatically rule you out of having a virtual assistant business. It’s definitely possible for you to still get clients and make money if you’re missing any of these skills. However, these 5 skills will shift you from just having a hustle that brings you in a few extra coins to having a truly successful business that allows you to thrive and live your ideal life.
The good news is that aside from Integrity/Dependability, pretty much everything else on this list can be learned. I can’t teach you to be a good person, you either are or you’re not, but everything else we can work on and improve. It may take a bit longer than if you were to learn a hard skill since soft skills call for a development of self; but as is the case with most things you have to work hard for, the reward will be immeasurable.
For a lot of us, there comes a point in our lives where we think back on all the plans and dreams we had when we were younger, and then we look at where we are right now and wonder “How the hell did I get here?”. I felt that way just before I began my virtual assistant journey. See I always knew that a regular 9 to 5 was not for me; I never truly enjoyed it. Some mornings I woke up and dreaded the routine that my life had become. I found myself wondering how I was going to transition to a career that I actually looked forward to.
In some of my most recent conversations with friends and clients it’s clear that the pandemic has forced a lot of people into this mood of reflection. People are worried and fearful about where the money they need will come from. Some persons have been laid off from their jobs, or had to close their businesses down. Others, even though they are still employed, have found themselves with a sense of insecurity about how much longer that will last, or feel that they just aren’t where they want to be. So many of you are trying to decide what’s next for you.
Whichever of these categories you find yourself fitting into, starting a VA business just may be the answer to all your worries.
When people hear virtual assistant they usually assume someone who works in administration; a secretary or personal assistant who manages a client’s emails and calendar, and while those are services that a VA can offer, they are a gross oversimplification of what a virtual assistant can do. In reality a virtual assistant is simply anybody who offers their services from a remote location. As long as you can offer a full service to a client with just a laptop and a fast internet connection, you can be a virtual assistant. Before you make that final decision to venture into this industry though, here’s a few things you should know:
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons above and have decided this is something you really want to do, here are the steps you need to take:
In order to have a business you have to have a service or product. So what is yours going to be? Remember, there is no service that you ABSOLUTELY have to offer as a VA. You can do anything that you’re good at, anything you enjoy, anything you think will be in high demand. Do you want to do just basic calendar and email management? That’s absolutely fine. Are you good with social media? Maybe social media management could work for you then. The possibilities are truly endless.
The recommendation is always that you find a niche or specialty service but I’m a big believer in figuring things out as you go along. So if you can’t think of something specific you can offer that will be in high demand, there’s nothing wrong with choosing several services that you know you can do well, and then weaning it down to a niche as your skills develop and you get more clients. For a full list of the types of services you can offer just click here.
In this age of technology you can not have a business without a social media presence; it’s simply impossible. There needs to be a space where clients can find you and see what you’re offering. Having a social media presence doesn’t mean that you have to be on every single platform, so don’t go off just creating accounts willy-nilly that you’re never going to actually post on. You’re better off getting started on just one or two platforms of your choice (choose the ones you genuinely enjoy and will be consistent with) and fully focusing your efforts on that. Don’t get stuck on the logistics of a name for your business and having a logo, etc. All of that you can develop as you go through the building of your brand. It’s absolutely fine to start this business with just your name.
It’s one of the biggest perks of being a virtual assistant. You alone know how much money you need to make, how much you think your skills are worth etc. so you alone can decide what you’re going to charge.
Contracts are very important and should never be overlooked, even if you know the person that’s going to be hiring you. If someone who’s doing business with you doesn’t want to sign a contract, don’t trust them. Run away. Not only do contracts provide legal coverage for both yourself as a consultant and your client, but they serve as a clearly defined set of parameters on how the working relationship between yourself and the client is meant to function. A contract allows all parties involved to be clear on where they stand with regards to payments, duties and responsibilities, working hours, etc. If you don’t know where to start with creating your contract click here for a free template.
You know what you’re offering, you have prices set, a contract ready and you’ve created a space to market your business. Now, it’s time to find that first client. There are lots of ways that you can do this and we’ll get into it in more detail in a future blog post but to get the ball rolling let’s just focus on these two:
You can plan, hope and dream as much as you like, but you’ll achieve nothing if you don’t act. Learn from my mistakes. Don’t try to have everything be perfect before you get started; it will never be perfect. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to have to change direction a couple times, and you’re going to have to learn somethings along the way. That’s the life of entrepreneur. This is by no means going to be an easy venture, it will definitely require some time and effort on your part, but believe me when I say that it’s going to be worth it.
I’ve been running my Virtual Assistant business for just over three years now. I started back in 2018 when it seemed to be the only solution for my life at the time. Knowing Barbadian society well, I figured it would be a bit of an uphill climb to get clients to understand the concept of remote working and I was right. Here on my beloved island we are far from being considered advocates for change; Bajans love to tell you about “the way things are done” and in the Barbadian work industry employees need to be in the office so the bosses can watch their every move. Only a few forward thinking (and younger of course) entrepreneurs were willing to take a chance on hiring a virtual assistant, even though remote working has long been a thriving industry in the US & UK.
Yet here we are now, a year into pandemic life and businesses that would never have considered it possible two years ago, now find themselves having to function with their staff working remotely; and what do you know, it seems to be working JUST FINE! Who would’ve thought?
I want my Barbadian people to be freed from the shackles of office life. We have all of the technology at our disposal; we can do and be so much more.
So let me take this opportunity to make my “Remote Work is the future” pitch. Here are FIVE reasons why Barbados needs to move toward a culture of working from home:
I think this pretty much goes without saying now thanks to Covid-19 but for argument’s sake let’s remove the current pandemic from the scenario. We were previously going to work in poorly ventilated offices with central air conditioning that evenly distributed every cough, sneeze and other un-thinkable germs throughout the office Think about all of the times before Covid-19 that you still went to work even though you felt a little under the weather. Surely now that we’ve gone through this experience we can appreciate how working remotely is definitely better for the health of everyone involved.
There are other ways that remote working can make for significant improvements in the mental and physical health of the employee. Employees get to avoid the real possibility of a toxic work environment. Instead of being forced into enclosed spaces for hours with people they can barely get along with they get to eat meals at home with the family they actually like. They also have greater control over their meal choices with a fully accessible kitchen and refrigerator at their disposal.
The absence of a work commute can also add at least an hour or two to an employee’s day that they can now use to be productive in other ways. They can physically exercise, get extra rest, spend time with loved ones, etc. They could even put those extra hours towards getting their work tasks done.
If we look at it from an employer’s point of view, having your employees work remotely, saves you from paying rent and utilities like water, electricity, phone & internet for your building or space. That alone must be a noteworthy impact on your budget every month. Then there’s no need to pay for uniforms for staff. No need for desks, filing cabinets, and all those other pieces of costly furniture and equipment to outfit your office space.
For the employee, think of the savings on commute costs; no need to pay three Mia Mottley dollars per bus ride to and from work everyday. If you drive, consider the ever fluctuating cost of gasoline and diesel, not to mention the cost of the repairs to your vehicles after traversing these Bajan roads. Think of the money that you spend on lunch and snacks that you’ll save, because as we fully understand now that we’re adults, “we got food at home”. If uniforms were not provided there was that additional expense of needing appropriate work attire; no longer an issue when I can work in my pajamas.
Remote working is simply more cost-effective for everyone involved.
This is the one that you really have to convince Barbadian business owners of right here. They are CERTAIN that if they cannot see you, you will not work, and that rationale is hilarious to me. The number of series I have watched from beginning to completion at my desk in the past….I cannot even begin to count. Watching your employees will not make them any more productive. They’re still going to take every opportunity they get to be idle if that’s their desire. If you’re worried your employees will be at home watching Netflix when they should be working, they do that at the office anyway; they have the app on their phones.
In reality it has been proven that employees who work remotely actually get a lot more done. In this study done by Nicholas Bloom, co-director of the Productivity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Program of the US’s National Bureau of Economic Research, productivity increased by 13.5%. That’s the equivalent of an extra day of work from each employee. There were also fewer sick days used and less time off requested (because they weren’t existing in a cesspool of recirculated germs, am I right?)
Barbados, in an effort to embrace renewable energy, has committed to eliminating fossil fuels completely and being zero carbon by 2030. We are 9 years away from that deadline so it’s a very ambitious goal, but moving toward a remote working culture can play a part in reaching it.
Working from home would result in a significant decrease in the greenhouse gases produced by the numerous vehicles on the road. There would be less waste generated from offices, especially with regards to paper use, and there would be a reduction in electricity used to keep offices lit and air-conditioned through the day and night.
Remember how clean the entire world became when we were all forced to lock down for a bit? No more smog in China or Los Angeles, swans swimming in Venice; let’s face it, human beings, existing as we have in the past, are a plague on the earth. A move toward remote working is a step toward a greener Barbados.
Your employees are commuting less, well rested and saving money. They get to be more productive, while having greater flexibility to do things that lead to a better work/life balance. They’re spending time with their loved ones, eating better and working out more. Most importantly, they don’t have to wear pants. Of COURSE they’re happier; and happy employees are much more likely to be loyal and long-lasting ones.
So there we have it, my desperate plea to the Barbadian work-force. Yes, I’m well aware that not every position in every industry can be done remotely; I wouldn’t want my dentist to check my toothache via zoom. The reality is though, that a LOT of roles can be fully accomplished by remote working. The only thing stopping us from embracing these new levels of productivity and improving our livelihoods are the mindsets of our past.
If you’re a business owner and you want to learn more about how you can transition to a remote work model, Subscribe to my mailing list!
I recently had a conversation with a client and she mentioned that she wanted to focus more on video content because “blogging is on it’s way out”. As I thought about this a bit more I began to understand why she would feel that way. Living and working in the Caribbean it’s a norm for businesses here to focus on more visual content for marketing. However, even if you think that your target audience embraces visuals more, blogging can still lend significant value to your business. By failing to make use of it fully Caribbean entrepreneurs are doing themselves a great disservice. So here are 5 reasons why blogging is important for your business.
When we google something and get results, we tend to find whatever we were looking for in the first 3 or 4 links they recommend; this is because of search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines like Google and Bing provide content by scanning websites and articles across the internet for the keywords of your search and presenting you with what they believe to be most relevant. This is why search engines LOVE when we have blogs for our businesses. It gives them a lot more content to offer up and they can’t gather information from videos and podcasts the same way. For this reason you will find that brands who have major podcasts or vlogs will still use some form of written content to optimize their site. In doing so they give themselves increased chances of ranking higher in search engine results.
Blogs last way longer than the average social media posts. By focusing less on visuals and more on discussing concepts they can be re-shared repeatedly over time and hold immense value for your business. Having a blog can also provide lots of fodder for content re-purposing. A single blog post can be used to create a week’s worth of social media posts for your business by extracting the main points of that blog to create quotes, memes and conversation starters.
As you continually create quality blog posts persons will come to respect your brand and the experience you share with them. This community of readers will at the bare minimum provide you with increased engagement and establish your business as a trusted brand in your industry. Ideally though, these persons will find themselves becoming your clients and will lead to increased sales for your business.
This is one of the most important reasons for why you should have a blog on your business website. Great blogging content will be quickly and easily shared on Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter, giving you a reach that could far surpass that of your original circle. Unlike visual content that can be shared without credit to the creator, every time your blog post is shared that is a guaranteed hit on your business website. Increased traffic to your website will inevitably lead to increased sales.
With an increased following, significant customer engagement and constant site traffic your blog will be in a position to monetize itself through affiliate marketing. This is where persons may ask you to write about or recommend a particular service or product and will offer you a small commission for every person who makes a purchase through your site. You can also create and sell your own items such as E-books, courses, digital products and services. Lastly persons/businesses may want to pay to advertise on your blog if they believe that their target market fits into your demographic.
If you’re business has a distinct brand or you’re a popular personality/influencer, and yet you DON’T have a blog, you’re selling yourself short.
If you’re interested in having a blog for your business take a look at my Blog Management Packages and book your FREE 30 minute consultation to discuss how we can utilize blogging to help your business achieve it’s goals!