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5 things I wish I knew when I started my Virtual Assistant Business

Updated: Apr 25

What I wish I knew when I started my Virtual Assistant business: Molly lays down on a sofa reading 'The Crossroads of Should & Must', with her sausage dog on her lap and looking into the camera.

How to set your Virtual Assistant business up for genuine success (on your terms!)

I’m here to be real, raw and completely transparent about what it means to run a Virtual Assistant business. I have first hand experience that tells me it IS possible to run a freedom-first, aligned VA biz that doesn’t burn you out at every next turn and actually makes you feel GOOD. 

Within 3 months of launching my Virtual Assistant business, my books were full, and I’ve had consistent retainer & project clients for the last 4 years. My husband quit his corporate job in mid 2022 to join forces with me so we could expand the business & our income. This led to hiring our own VA to support us. Every weekend is a long weekend because we don’t work Mondays, and we fit all of our client work around the kids’ school hours. 

But don’t be fooled. It’s been a ride. There have been high highs, and seriously low lows. Running a virtual assistant business is NOT all digital nomading in Bali and 4 hour work weeks, it’s still a JOB, and you are a business owner when all is said & done. 

My initiation into the VA world has been quite the ride and I want to share exactly what I WISH I’d known from the start. 

1: Red flags to look out for with potential clients

Collaborating with the right clients is everything when it comes to running your own business. I know it can be tempting to jump at every opportunity that comes your way, but make sure you swiftly replace your rose-tinted glasses with a red-flag radar before you jump into any new contracts. 

Immediate red flags usually come in the form of poor communication, unrealistic expectations, and a lack of respect for your time & expertise.

Don’t get me wrong, 9 times out of 10 people are just downright lovely. But being lovely doesn’t automatically mean they are the right fit for you and your business. 

Of course you want to make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to the basics, for example:

  • They understand and respect your rates

  • They understand what the scope of work covers

  • They understand exactly what you offer (and what you don’t!)

But you also want to be totally sure that they understand and respect:

  • How and when you prefer to communicate

  • That you’re not always available 

  • That you are a human being, with a life outside of your business

The bottom line is that if something feels off, trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel like a full-body yes, that’s OK! Respectfully decline and trust that the right people will make themselves known to you. 

2: How to set boundaries for myself & my business

Flimsy boundaries are a one-way ticket to burnout. Trust me, I’ve been there and got the t-shirt more than I probably should have. 

Setting boundaries in your biz can feel a teeny bit uncomfortable even at the best of times, but the rewards they bring are truly priceless. Being crystal clear on your boundaries is an integral part of creating a more easeful, joyful & sustainable kinda business - one that lovingly serves your clients and honours & aligns with you wholeheartedly.

Here are some questions to reflect on when setting boundaries:

  • What boundaries do you currently hold in your business?

  • How do you communicate them?

  • What areas of your business don't feel aligned or bring up feelings of resentment?

  • How can you allow more ease into your business?

If you need some inspiration, here are some of the boundaries that I lovingly held in my Virtual Assistant business:

  • My office hours are Tuesday - Friday, 9:30am - 14:30pm (Monday is our CEO day).

  • I use Trello to manage all tasks and projects, please add tasks to your board whenever with as much info/detail as possible (you're welcome to follow these up with a voice note for extra context too!). This helps us see everything in one place and ensures nothing goes under the radar.

  • Please let us know of any new tasks or projects ideally a week in advance, (3 working days at an absolute minimum!) so that we can plan our time & workload accordingly.

  • Catch up calls can be scheduled during the last week of each month, you can book in using this link.

  • Please keep voice notes under 3 minutes.

I WISH someone had told me to get clear with my boundaries from the moment I started my Virtual Assistant business, so take this as your sign to define your boundaries and communicate them! 

3: How to say no when something doesn’t feel aligned

As a recovering chronic-people-pleaser, saying thanks but no thanks hasn’t always come naturally to me, especially in business. But, over the last 9+ years that I’ve been in the online biz space, I’ve gradually (and not always gracefully) learned to say what I mean and mean what I say.

As we all know by now, running your own business is absolutely not all 10k months and aesthetically pleasing coffee shops. Sometimes you’re gonna be faced with conversations and opportunities that do not light you up, and this can be a lil bit confronting and confusing when it comes to knowing how to respond.

If you’re anything like me, you can end up ignoring red flags 🚩 and saying yes because you literally don’t know how to say no. cue resentment

I’m here to tell you 3 pretty wild truths about saying what you mean and meaning what you say:

1: No is a full sentence

2: The world doesn’t actually cave in when you communicate your boundaries

3: Being clear and speaking your truth is the key to finding alignment with yourself and your business

Communicating my boundaries is a constant practice for me. I get better at it every day. And you will too.

To help you continue your practice, I’ve created some totally free easy-peasy email response templates that you can simply cut & paste to put those boundaries in place. They include my go-to way of saying ‘it’s a no from me’ without:

a) over-explaining myself

b) unintentionally opening myself up to being asked again in the future

c) spending time looking for someone else who might help (you can do this if you want but I prefer not to!)

Boundaried email templates for Virtual Assistants

4: Why the time for money exchange eventually leads to burnout

I really should have seen this one coming. I’m gonna try and keep this point short and sweet because there’s a lot of noise around the Virtual Assistant business model and it’s important that you know this and let it marinade:

There are only so many hours in a day.

When you are charging by the hour, you are putting a ceiling on your income. 

You cannot continue to grow and scale your business sustainably whilst charging by the hour, and this will lead to burnout one way or another. 

The solution? Value-led pricing. 

Look at the services that you offer. 

How much value do they bring to your clients? 

What is the impact of your services? 

What results do your clients get when they collaborate with you? 

Really think about this. Then, you can begin to price accordingly and align yourself with clients who value the impact and ease you are gonna bring to their business – all while increasing your income and your capacity to… do whatever you like… Ah, bliss.

What I wish I knew when I started my Virtual Assistant business: Family sits on Margate steps sharing chips

5: Why success doesn’t necessarily = 10k months

PSA: Success isn’t synonymous with 5 figure months or 6 figure years. 

Ok, ok, let’s be real. Yes, you started your business to get on the path to financial success. But you’re never gonna be truly content until you define what success actually means to you, on your terms. 

Do 10k+ months = success for you? Is that what you really want? Like really, really? Or do you want to be able to…

Take a nap on a Tuesday afternoon because you can?

Be there for every school drop off & pick up?

Plan your client work & calls around your cycle?

Have the freedom to choose when & where you work?

Go to that late morning Pilates class?

Support and serve delicious, aligned clients?

Make every weekend a long weekend?

Give your body what it needs, when it needs it?

When you know what you value wholeheartedly, you can sow those value-seeds and nurture your VA business baby to bloom and grow around YOU. And that, dear reader, is success. 

It's time for your ✨ alignment era

Starting a Virtual Assistant business, like any business, is a journey of self-discovery and growth. By being mindful of red flags with potential clients, setting boundaries, learning to say no, re-evaluating the time-for-money exchange, and redefining success on your own terms, you can build a thriving and fulfilling business that truly aligns with your values. 

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