Pouring the foundation for a successful VA business: Developing your niche

by
DonnaLynne MacDonald
Published:
June 30, 2021

If you’re considering working as a Virtual Assistant and you’ve been doing your homework, you’re probably aware that the industry is trending toward demand for specialized vs. jack-of-all-trades skills. VA's who have the most diverse skill sets and software experiences get the most work. 

It’s more likely that prospective clients are looking to add an asset to their business - someone who sees the bigger picture and can help them achieve their business objectives - the nuts and bolts execution are icing on the cake.

Success these days means positioning yourself with a skill profile that makes you stand out from the crowd.  With that in mind, you need a plan to achieve your ultimate objective, a thriving and satisfying VA practice.

Consider the following road map as a pathway to your success.

Start with clarity - your ‘why’

It’s inevitable. There will be over-the-moon days; others will be the pits. You’ll need solid bedrock laid down to steady you through the wobbly times.

Everybody’s ‘why’ is their own.  It can be a partner, family, your fur baby, your passion for community service. Maybe it’s travel, accelerating retirement plans, or learning new things. It could be a sense of freedom or a desired lifestyle. When you have ‘one of those days’, you need to be able to shake it off and put it in the perspective of your ‘why’.

Self-examination

To create and build a business you love, start with recognizing what makes you tick. Think of building your business as an extension of yourself. Ask:

  • What do you enjoy doing?  By definition, what you enjoy doing will almost certainly be what you excel at.
  • What activities can you get lost in? What are you passionate about?
  • What books do you like to read? What are your favourite movies?
  • How do you spend your free time? Hobbies? Sports?
  • Do you care about politics, local news, community events?
  • Are you a history buff?
  • What gets you out of bed in the morning?
  • What’s a great vacation destination? 90 degrees in the shade? Furry mittens, snow boots and a roaring fire?
  • How do you measure success?  Money? Status? Appreciation and recognition? 
  • What do you value? What is important to you spiritually, morally, ethically?
  • How do you relate to people? Do you love centre stage, or would you rather watch from the sidelines?

Brainstorm

Your exercise in self-examination will warm up your brain and prepare you for some private brainstorming.  Enjoy a leisurely mental stretch. Make notes as ideas come to you.  There are no wrong questions and no wrong answers.


Envision roles that match what you’ve come up with in your self-study.  Make a list of possible matches. There are no wrong answers. Don't be surprised if you come up with several possibilities - that's a good thing.  Sift through the potentials. Sleep on it. Have a couple of bubble baths. You'll come to a conclusion.

Position yourself to land the roles you want

Think on three levels

1. You’ve decided what a plum role looks like.

2. Now, it’s time to develop the right mindset. Think past offering garden-variety admin skills. Instead, you want to offer a 'value added' proposition that positions you as a strategic asset to a client, not just a support admin. Think in terms of planning, systems, processes, and implementation. 

Leverage your knowledge and skills to present yourself as a strategic partner capable of helping your client identify their goals and jointly work on an implementation plan.  For example, you could become a social media specialist to build the client’s brand organically. Or you can promote yourself as a rock star Mailchimp'er to help keep your client connected to their base.

3. You’ve established what you want to do.  You have a plan to bring value and the means for your client to measure that value.  Next step? Be sure you’re prepared to make good on your proposition.

What do you need to know to bring 5-star outcomes? Are any industry certifications necessary? Do you need to refresh or upgrade your skills? What equipment do you need? Do you need specialized software?

Defining your dream client

Now it's time to hone in on who you want to work with.  The ‘perfect’ role in the ‘perfect’ field will still be a nightmare if your client is unreasonable and impossibly demanding or if you just don’t see eye to eye.

Ideally, you’re connecting with someone who values you and appreciates your contribution right off the bat. It’s great when it happens that way, but more often than not, your relationship will take some grooming.

Your initial interviews are the staging ground.  Try to make their video meetings. Most experts agree that 70 to 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal, so you’ll miss a lot over the phone.

Ensure you have a complete understanding of what’s expected - what you need to do and how you need to do it. If you have a schedule you need to adhere to, make sure it’s a mutually good fit with your clients. Talk about performance expectations, i.e., acceptable response times. Find out how they like to communicate, the manner and frequency.  How do they value performance?  Does speed trump attention to detail? 

If any of these fundamentals don’t fit, the chance of success (and you keeping your sanity) is doubtful.

It’s a process, not a sprint to the finish

You may be thinking, “Okay, sure, that would be great, but I don’t have time to be picky. I need to make money”. I get it. I don’t imagine many of us start from a position of independent wealth. That’s okay. It’s a process that can evolve.

Take the time to build, do what you need to do. Get started and keep moving, one step at a time.

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DonnaLynne MacDonald

DonnaLynne MacDonald is an ex-Realtor, now a solopreneur, and a Virtual Gurus Academy Instructor. She resides in beautiful downtown Edmonton. When she's not writing or supporting her virtual clients, you'll find her in the kitchen or tending to her balcony garden.

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