Diane Zimmerman is a newbie virtual assistant who agreed to share with us her first experience as a VA. As you’ll see, Diane’s first gig wasn’t exactly ideal.
But Diane overcame the hurdles with enthusiasm and determination. She’s also taken away important lessons that are already paying off in her freelance career.
Take it away Diane!
Before I started, working as a virtual assistant (VA) was barely on my radar. I had seen a couple of posts on Facebook and tucked the idea away. I was just starting to consider a writerly way to enhance our family’s financial situation, and noticed some people I admire on Facebook were writing, editing and working as VAs.
So why not me, why not now? (Thanks Gina!)
After all, I had worked some office jobs in the past. I had a part-time job at a friend’s wine shop, and working in retail during the holidays was something that I wasn’t keen to go through again.
My First VA Gig
Enter Client A, whom I happened to know well. Out of the blue, she hired me to be her VA this last January. I’d worked with her before in a different capacity, face-to-face, and was delighted to again be a support person for her many endeavors.
We agreed that I would work full-time and follow the job description and task list that she sent me. I discovered that my working knowledge of various programs and applications, (Word, Excel, Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar) was a strong “intermediate” at best.
I quickly picked up the gist of some productivity and email tools that were new to me, such as IQTell, Trello and Aweber. We seemed to have an ever-changing system of communication and workflow, but overall I think she was encouraged by my help, and I felt generally successful.
Then in May of this year, my VA services for her unexpectedly came to an end due to lack of funds. Sad, but necessary.
There were several triumphs while I was working as Client A’s Virtual Assistant:
- I was able to write copy for pages and to get a website up and running on a very short deadline.
- I created and sent several newsletters via Aweber, and used email effectively for a variety of communications.
- I set up Trello boards.
- I created spreadsheets and forms.
- I completed the process for a Trademark renewal.
I learned most of these tasks as I accomplished them. I enjoyed being paid while I was learning, gaining skills and supporting my client’s calling.
These wins and the schedule flexibility made my first VA stint really gratifying. I’m now working to improve my skills and build on the foundation that this first client afforded me.
Along with the good lessons, there were also distinct challenges. Some were particular to this situation, and others were more universal. Those challenges revealed that establishing a framework for success is necessary.
Freebie alert! Want a sneak peek into the upcoming Virtual Assistant course?
30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success launches next Monday, but you can get a FREE lesson on how to manage a client’s inbox to see how the course is formatted. Even if you don’t take the course, you’ll get a free guide on email management. 🙂
Here are the five main virtual assistant lessons I learned from my first (brief) VA stint.
1. You Need Foundational Knowledge and Skill Building
Though I have experience in a variety of office jobs, I found that working virtually revealed some gaps. I’ll be working to build specific skills in basic programs, apps and other productivity tools, especially those related to working virtually. There are many resources for learning about what is basically involved in being a VA. To launch your career strongly and quickly, finding a quality course is advantageous.
I’m part of the beta group of Gina Horkey’s newest course, 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success and concurrent private Facebook group. I’m finding the course informative, straightforward and actionable. The group interaction is encouraging, confidence building and adds excellent value!
Tip: If you want to start working as a VA, you should hop on the waitlist this course today!
2. Regular, Timely Communication Is Key
Establishing how often and in what form communication will take place is critical to the success of your working relationship.
In the beginning, you and your client will need to speak often. Aim for sustainable communication via email, phone, Skype or Google hangouts in order to determine which tools work best, get to know your client’s business and vision, work out which tasks can be delegated to you and generally to get in the workflow.
Tip: Ongoing communication might be only weekly, but it should include an “urgent issue” plan.
3. You Need to Actually Use the Tools and Systems That Were Agreed On
Some tweaking and flexibility of systems is natural as you get to know your client better, but you will likely create some best practices for your workflow.
For example, when the client requires a daily email update but doesn’t read it, the VA sets up really nice Trello boards and the client never logs into Trello, or when the VA doesn’t inform the client about an appointment she added to the calendar…Houston, we have a problem!
The client not using the tools agreed upon was one of the most frustrating parts of our work together. It felt like I was wasting my time and we weren’t capitalizing on the forward progress like we should have.
Tip: Revisit which tools are working and which aren’t – ditch the ones that aren’t.
4. Establishing Trust and Autonomy Is Crucial
Often, your client has been solely responsible for all of the work related to growing their business. Occasionally, control is not easily relinquished.
Excellence and impeccable precision in completing my delegated tasks enabled my client to trust me with a greater variety of similar assignments. I was easing her pain and she had more energy to complete tasks that required her attention.
Tip: Always be honest about issues and work to resolve them as they arise.
5. My Tools for Successfully Working Remotely
Basically, a great internet connection, an up-to-date computer with a webcam, and some sort of external back-up are critical. For me, an ergonomic work space is also vital. I may look into a standing desk, since sitting for the better part of seven hours was excruciating.
I also found I need more structure in my time management and routines next time around. At least when it comes to getting out of my PJs most days…
Tip: Be sure to consider your lifestyle when figuring out your schedule and total hourly commitment per week.
I’m amazed at what I learned, even from this brief experience. My next step is to finish 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success, do the action steps and build my skills.
With the information provided in this course, I’m confident I’ll enjoy supporting my client(s) to the best of my growing ability and feel comfortable valuing my service appropriately. I’m certain that my next VA assignment will be extremely beneficial to my client and fruitful for me.
Are you a VA? Tell us about your first-time VA experience in the comments!
Diane Zimmerman is a poet, aspiring freelance writer, editor and stellar VA wannabe. She is diligently working her way through both 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success and 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success. Diane looks forward to writing on health, relationships and spiritual life. She is mom to four entertaining ZimmerMEN and a spunky daughter-in-law. She lives near Nashville, TN with her very handy, handsome husband and loyal dog.