Updated: May 23, 2021
We hear so very often from those trying to get their business off the ground that they don't know what else to do to help grow their business.
The team at VA Institute are at the coalface - both in terms of running our own successful VA businesses, and of delivering solid and knowledgeable VA Startup Programs to those wishing to get started properly as VAs. And what we are seeing is that there are some distinct commonalities amongst those who succeed and those who haven't yet - where ultimately, everyone who comes through our courses is delivered the same content.
So what is it that those who succeed do that others don't?
Reality Check #1: They understand the importance of the right mindset
Those who we have seen succeed quickly understand and stand behind their worth, legitimacy and value they bring to potential clients.
They don't focus on hurdles or negatives. They see those as part of the journey and don't let their focus on their ultimate destination be side-swiped by a perceived lack of time, dream bullies, self-doubt, "comparisonitis" and financial hurdles. They actually put effort in to having and building a positive mental attitude.
Honestly, 9 times out of 10 when we work with our students in their follow-up sessions, their biggest hurdle isn't practical things like branding up templates or writing their 'About Me' or Professional Profile. It's almost ALWAYS related to their mindset.
Things that help with this? It's personal for everyone, but here's a start: affirmations, solidify and know intimately your why, exercise, feed your brain, keep your circle positive.
Reality Check #2: They see investing in themselves as mandatory
In order to grow your business, quite often we need to learn new skills - or at the very least brush up on some. And yes, that generally means some monetary investment.
One thing is sure though - if you want to succeed, you need to invest in your own growth and learning. Maybe not immediately... but eventually!
Think: online courses, conferences, books, memberships, subscriptions that save you a stupid amount of time - because your time is PRECIOUS (and if $20 a month on Zapier can save you 5 hours of onerous tasks....well, I don't know about you, but I charge my clients way more than $20 an hour so my time is better spent elsewhere).
And this is definitely not a reflection on the amount of money you do or don't have... It's actually more about you understanding the basic cost / risk / benefit of anything you are about to invest your hard-earned dollars into - and don't forget that money spent ON your business can be counted as tax deductions.
I'm not saying that you should go without paying your utility bills, or put yourself in the position of being unable to put food on the table in sacrifice for a course.
But, heck, if you have to get a little scrappy and eat takeaway less or cut out dining at restaurants with friends in exchange for a bring-a-dish dinner at home with a $10 bottle of wine instead of the $13 a glass wine at a restaurant?
Or a picnic?
Or cut down the Netflix AND Stan AND Disney subscriptions to make way for your Canva or Zapier subscription?
The point is... if you are able to get scrappy and still pay bills and put food on the table so that you can invest in growing your skillset, or have access to an app that frees up your time so you can actually be earning more - do that.
Reality Check #3: They are crystal clear on the Key Service Areas they can offer... and don't pretend to be something they aren't.
They know what they do well, and more important, what they absolutely LOVE to do when it comes to paid work. They are confident that, whilst they may not be able to provide 'everything' or the current 'popular' service areas, they do what they do well. Even if they haven't done it in a VA capacity previously, they know that they have invaluable real-world experience and the capacity to provide those services well.
And on the flipside, they don't pretend to clients that they can do things they have zilch idea about. And they absolutely do not pretend they can do something and then go online and ask others to tell them how to actually do them.
If a quick Google can't set them straight on how to complete a task, they collaborate with another VA who can do that task and do it well.
And, you know what... they feel a darned sight better being transparent with their client in relation to what they can and can't do... and most importantly, they gain respect and kudos from their client as part of this!
Reality Check #4: They manage their time.... WELL.
Guess what? VAs who are successful don't have any MORE time in a day than you.
We all have the same 24 hours in any one day.
Successful VAs just have strategies in place to manage their time, and are likely to be making conscious decisions on how they spend their time.
They time block and understand how to prioritise.
They sacrifice things that don't serve them in reaching their goals. Maybe they cut out the hour they used to spend watching the news or latest reality TV show. Or they are conscious about the time spent mindlessly scrolling social media. Whatever it is, they have spent some time doing some form of time audit and know where their time is wasted so that they can better redirect it.
Reality Check #5: They know who their ideal client is... WELL.
If you don't know who you want to work with (or who you don't want to work with!) in an ideal world, how on earth can you go out and engage with those people?
Successful VAs know who they want to work with, and know their pain points and how they can be of service in addressing those pain points.
Knowing who they want to work with helps them locate their ideal client both online and face-to-face. It also helps them target their messaging in their marketing to those ideal clients - in turn, making their ideal client feel heard.
Reality Check #6: They have a solid networking strategy.
Successful VAs understand that their website is just one part of their marketing strategy. They understand that unless they have the time, money and/or skill to sink in to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), the website itself doesn't bring traffic.
They also understand that, in order to find their ideal clients, they need to have a strategy around connecting with them. Much like an accountant or other business owner with a physical office, customers don't just walk through the metaphorical door. They know they need to connect with people to get clients... both online and face-to-face.
Additionally, they are acutely aware that the employee mentality which used to serve them well when they worked in traditional employment is no longer relevant and needs to be replaced with an entrepreneurial mindset.
Entrepreneurs know that there is simply no space for an expectation that work will find its way to them through some form of magical osmosis. They have to go out and get it... and be absolutely relentless when it comes to finding clients!!
Entrepreneurs know that there is a huge value in making connections, building relationships and adding value... and they network formally and informally! They never leave home without their business cards, and they are ready to have a chat with anyone they meet about what they do and how they do it - maybe even the person serving them at their local shops!
Ultimately, they are painfully aware that building relationships is the crux of all networking, and they put time and effort in to this.
Reality Check #7: They have put time in to making their Cover Letter / Emails and Professional Profile stand out, show their personality and articulate the value they can offer.
Do you want to know a secret? Successful VAs know that there are templates out there that many are cutting and pasting and just inserting their name in where it fits. So they put some effort into utilising products like Canva or Creative Market to help create documents that look different... documents that actually look like them and represent their brand or feel. And they stand out... in a GOOD WAY!
They also make sure that they alter the wording from the templates and make them their own - put it in their own words.
They also ensure that each Cover Letter / Email addresses the key points the client is after and articulates the value they can bring to the client - they show "What's In It For Me?" (WIFM) from the client perspective.
And they have these documents ready to go at a moment's notice.... because job leads go QUICKLY... and they know that!
Bonus Reality Check #8: They have gone all in. They are committed. They have set themselves up professionally.
These people have a goal and aren't 'dipping their toes in'. They know that, for credibility and business success, they need to :
set up professionally with appropriate agreements from the start,
have client onboarding processes in place,
have articulated their rate and are confident in that rate,
have a plan, and
have a networking strategy.
Successful VAs also look at a list like this, and work out which one they need to work on first, and put an action plan in place to get on top of it - they don't get disheartened, they just pull up their pants and get on with it.