This post is brought to you by serendipity. How so? Well, on the one hand, the question in the title (Can a man be a virtual assistant?) lands in our inboxes regularly. On the other hand, when we opened our latest call-for-pitches to our community, we received three pitches on the topic. Clearly, that’s a question on people’s minds.
So our guest this week, Steve Young, is here to share his story as a “man virtual assistant” (for lack of a better term).
Take it away, Steve!
Hi, my name is Steve. I’m a guy, and I’m a virtual assistant. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard the question posed in the title, but for me, that was a hurdle I had to get over.
Perhaps it relates to you, or someone you know.
How I Decided to Become a Virtual Assistant
It was my wife who first told me about Gina Horkey and her 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success course. I thought, “Well, I’ve written several books. I think I could become a freelance writer,” so I worked through the course on my own. I never really acted on it though.
Then last year, I wrote a book about how to start your own business. It started out as a list of items for my son-in-law to learn before buying my car detailing business.
As I wrote that book, I thought, “Wow, my life experience has given me a lot of helpful skills and information. Others could really benefit from the things I learned by trial and error, and the school of Trying Really Hard!”
I could relate to other business owners in a way many others could not. I knew the juggling that a small-business owner must do to get all the business tasks completed for his clients, employees, Uncle Sam, and future clients!
Being aware of these difficulties, or “pain points,” is a step in the right direction for a business owner. They must then intentionally take action to resolve the pain points, otherwise these might grow exponentially, and could eventually kill the business.
For instance, a pain point for me was keeping up with the finances of a business. I had daily, weekly, monthly, and annual tasks that had to be completed to make my business run smoothly. Through trial and error, I learned how to use my bookkeeping software (various versions of Quickbooks).
I designed specific reports that showed me just what I wanted to know each month about my business. I established the habit of working on my bookkeeping every single day. This solution turned out to be the key for staying current with my books, and therefore, not feeling out of control of my business.
As I thought about what I, as a man, could offer clients as a virtual assistant, I made a list of other pain points I had experienced as a business owner. Then I linked them with the solutions I had found for resolving them. I realized that I could apply many of the solutions I had devised in order to help my future VA clients.
I knew some business owners might get stuck applying these solutions to their business, because the solutions are either difficult, unpleasant, or outside their abilities. That’s where I come in!
3 Pain Points I Tackle as a Virtual Assistant
Remember that the focus of a virtual assistant is to meet a need for our clients; to help get rid of the pain points. As they are talking with their friends or family, imagine what your clients complain about.
“I know I need to put up a blog post every week, but who has the time?”
“Ugh, I have to do the invoicing!”
“My email inbox is overwhelming me; where do I start?”
You want your clients to see you as the hero arriving just in time to save them from tasks that:
1. Waste my clients’ time
Time, the only irreplaceable resource. It can only be spent; it can never be saved. Once spent, we never get it back. I relieve this pain point by completing tasks for my clients, so their time can be spent in other areas. I tell them, “Let me work on your business, so you can work in your business.”
One client asked for me to do simple digital filing for him. He invests in real estate heavily; buying anywhere from five to seven houses each month! You can imagine the paperwork that comes in daily from the purchase, rehabbing, renting, and selling of these properties.
His assistant was getting overwhelmed by all these digital documents. Now, when they come in by email, she forwards them to me, and I spend less than five hours a week filing them in their online file storage account (DropBox).
2. Drive my clients crazy
Maybe the task is just tedious, or confusing, or unpleasant. My clients would rather hire me to complete these tasks than do them themselves. I’m able to give them peace of mind, and I get a paycheck. Win-win!
Another client is also a successful real estate entrepreneur. As a result, a local real estate investing organization asked him to put on seven seminars this year to share his strategies. He agreed but didn’t want to do all the organization needed to promote, organize and run a series of seminars. He just wanted to show up, offer the training, and leave the rest up to me!
3. Push my clients past the limits of their abilities
My client did not know how to update his website himself. It was not a complicated site, and the developer had done a good job creating it. The problem was that no one had updated the information since it was initially set up. I am able to help my client by deleting past events and promoting upcoming events.
Hiring me allows my client to accomplish in his business what he would otherwise not be able to do without the help of a specialist.
Service is Not Specific to Gender
As a matter of fact, character has never been gender-specific. Where service is concerned, gender does not come into play.
Look at these two great quotes from two great moral/spiritual leaders:
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“The fruit of service is peace.” – Mother Teresa
Self-awareness and peace are two bi-products we receive from being of service; and being a virtual assistant definitely feels like I’m being of service. As a bonus, the concept that “the fruit of service is peace” works not just for you, but for your client as well! You can offer peace to your client, so she can perform her other duties, confident that you’re taking care of your assigned tasks. In this way, you will make yourself irreplaceable!
After seeing my performance on some initial tasks, one client began giving me other responsibilities. Honestly, I actually took other responsibilities. As I saw “gaps” in his business, I pointed them out to him and in the same breath offered my solutions. As a tag to the conversation, I’d add, “…and I can take care of that for you.”
He told me yesterday that I’m vital to his business because not only do I have a different perspective from him, but I develop and act on the solutions I propose. One example was a pop-up ad on his website promoting an event from five months previous; I changed the ad to focus on a live event he had scheduled for the following month. I served my client by making his website relevant.
But What Should I Call Myself as a Man Virtual Assistant?
I still have a bit of a hang-up about my title.
“What AM I? I don’t want to be called a Virtual Assistant.”
Without getting too much into psychological analysis here, I believe that I see myself as a self-made entrepreneur. While I do “assist” my clients with their businesses, I don’t want to be seen as a passive responder to the whims of my client. I want to be seen “an integral part of the team.”
Honestly, I haven’t come up with a good title yet, but I tell people I offer virtual business services. The sub-title of my business is Virtual Business Solutions, which sounds to me like a consulting firm. I’m not sure why, but this helps me a litte!
Perhaps I could be called a Practical Business Consultant, or a Project Coordinator, or Social Media Specialist? There are many imaginative ways around a title. After all, I’m a creative guy; I can come up with a creative title! Hey, Creative Consultant—that sounds good! What will yours be?
As you can see, I’m still working through this little dilemma. But it’s not stopping me from forging ahead in my new career. I have five clients now, and I’ve added new clients each month. Whatever you decide, don’t let a little thing like what you’ll be called stand in the way a of a new career.
After you get paid for a few invoices, it may not seem that important anyway!
What If I’m Too Old a Guy to Be a Virtual Assistant?
Oh … don’t get me started about perceived limits because of age!
I’m 56, and had never been involved in business until the age of 49. I had been a Christian minister and missionary. My wife and I both reinvented ourselves and have seen wonderful successes. I believe we should all be learning throughout our entire lifetimes. Not just learning new information, but new skills, new points of view, and having new adventures.
Fifty-six is just a number. I see my life experience as a valuable asset that can benefit my clients. What I’ve learned in 56 years allows me, in some instances, to skate by the “young whipper-snappers” who have not had the experiences I’ve been privileged to have. For instance, I’ve learned how to read people because of all my one-on-one experiences with individuals. This ability is learned over time, and I happen to have had a lot of that!
So What’s Next?
Perhaps you’ve been thinking of someone else as you’ve been reading this post. If so, share this article with him and encourage him to explore all that’s offered here at Horkey’s HandBook. He’ll appreciate the thought, and it might just give him the nudge he needs to try something new.
And if you’re a guy, don’t let nomenclature or gender stereotypes get in the way of some profitable and fulfilling work. You don’t want to look back with regret at missing an opportunity because of petty concerns.
You, too, have skills to offer and there’s a client out there who wants to pay you for your skills.
You can spend 3-5 minutes with pen and paper, or a blank Google doc, and brain dump 10-20 tasks you know how to complete now, which might be beneficial to a client. Think through not only your work experience, but your free time activities. What do you hear others complain about, but you think: “Well, that’s not so hard!”
You’ve just begun the list of services for your new virtual assistant business!
C’mon! I dare ya!
Steve Young is a husband of one, married to Laura for over 35 years (she should get a medal!), and father of four millennials across three time zones. He’s been a Christian minister for over 25 years, spending 12 years with his family as a missionary in Mexico. He loves all things business and writing. Check out his VA site at www.penandedit.com, and his book BYOB: Build Your Own Business in 30 Days on Amazon.