Becky Flansburg has a personal blog titled “FranticMommy.com.” An appropriate title for any mother who is trying to raise young children and bring in an income at the same time. However, Becky’s life has become a little less frantic in the last year since she left the profession she’d worked in the last 30 years and started her own business as a professional virtual assistant.
From the workplace to the home office
It’s not that Becky is working less hours than she did at her 8-5 job at the office supply shop where she worked; in reality, she’s probably putting in more hours running her business than she did at her other job.
There are a some significant differences, however, that should be noted. Number one is the fact that those hours are flexible. She can start work at 5:30 in the morning, if she so chooses (which she does), and can take a break mid-day to attend a school function or take her kids to an appointment. She also can stop working and be available to greet her kids when they arrive home from school in the afternoon and pick up where she left off after they go to bed.
The second difference about the number of hours Becky works at her business as a virtual assistant is the fact that she’s in control of how many hours she works and what types of jobs she takes on. She could work less hours and bring in less money, if she chose to. She also can choose what types of work and clients she chooses to take on. If she finds a client difficult to work with, she is not stuck working for them. She is her own boss and makes the decisions as to whom she wants to contract with and whom she doesn’t. Of course, if you asked Becky the reason why she chooses to put in as many hours as she does, she would tell you it is because she loves what she does!!
“I was burnt out,” Becky said in a recent phone interview. “I hated the fact that I was missing out on so much time with my kids and my job no longer held the challenge and excitement it had. I was also having frequent migraine headaches and other health problems.”
Finding a niche in the work-at-home job market
Becky already knew what she loved to do; she’d discovered it a few years earlier. She loved the whole realm of social media, from blogging to facebook to twitter and soaked up everything she could find on the subject. Social media combined her three loves: Writing, marketing and interaction with people. She just didn’t know if there was any way to make a living with those skills.
Becky’s ‘Aha! moment’ came at a seminar she attended while still working for the office supply store. The woman leading the seminar was talking about utilizing social media as a business marketing tool and Becky seemed to be the only one in the room who understood and got excited about the things this woman had say. It was in the conversation with the presenter after the seminar that Becky first heard the title, “Virtual Assistant.”
“You have the skills to be a great virtual assistant,” the lady told her.
Once Becky had a title to place with her skill set, there was no stopping her. She set out to learn all she could about what it would take to become a self-employed virtual assistant. She was amazed at the volume of resources available on line; everything from where to find work to how much to charge and how to set your billing system. She did her research and starting putting a plan in place.
What is a virtual assistant?
Becky’s focus as a virtual assistant might be much different from yours. When Becky describes her business she says, “I provide freelance writing, blogging, and social media services for companies or busy executives from the comfort of my home office.” But a virtual assistant can have many different skill sets, those just happen to be Becky’s. That’s why it is such a perfect profession for a stay at home mom; virtual assistants provide very customized packages of services, depending on each individuals talents.
This is the definition of a V.A. according to the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) : “Virtual assistants are independent contractors who (from a remote location, usually their home or office) support multiple clients in a variety of industries by providing administrative, creative, and technical services.”
Here’s just a sampling of services a virtual assistant might offer their clients:
- Answer and/or return phone calls
- Create press releases
- Answer emails
- Manage social media accounts like facebook, twitter and linkedin
- Create sales letters, brochures or other desktop publishing
- Maintain your contact database and/or calendar
- Update your website or blog
- Bookkeeping services
Any service that can be completed remotely that helps free up valuable time for the client could be included on the list.
Becky’s clients range from local real estate agents to online businesses like Storkbroker.com to a publishing firm. Some of her clients she has met face-to-face, but many know her only through email and telephone conversations.
How to get started working from home as a virtual assistant
The first steps according to Becky are to do your research. Determine what your marketable skills are and how much you will need to make for your services and what the going rates are for those services. The internet makes that easy; there are plenty of resources out there to help you get your V.A. business up and running. VirtualAssistantTrainingNetwork.com would be a great place to start your research.
If you’re considering quitting your job to work from home as Becky did, you’ll also want to be sure to determine what you’ll need for equipment and software to set up your home office and take into account any benefits you may be losing such as health insurance coverage, as well as the costs and reporting involved with paying self-employment taxes.
The next step, of course, is finding clients. You may be able to gain some clients locally as Becky did, but more than likely you will need to find your clients online. There are many freelance sites online which allow you to bid on virtual assistant projects that match your skill set, but each have positive and negative aspects to their memberships. Becky recommends Elance.com as one that she has used often to connect with new clients.
“There’ll be some ups and downs, but that’s part of the learning process,” Becky says.
Like any business, it takes a lot work and tenacity to build your clientele. But when you can do it without leaving your home, it takes some of the ‘frantic’ out of a frantic mommy’s world.
Written by: Kathleen M. Krueger