In virtual assistance, we all make mistakes. We misjudge situations, make hasty decisions, or create total mess ups. But that’s natural. We’re just human beings, after all. What matters is what we learn from those and what we should do to avoid making the same mistakes again.
As a virtual assistant, I have done my own share of mistakes. Some, I regret, others, I learned from. I hope you learn from them too.
Virtual assistance: 9 things I wish I knew
1. Help is out there
When I was just starting out, I had to learn everything on my own: how to create online profiles, how to write good cover letters, how to pass an interview, and so on. If I had known that Facebook groups for Filipino freelancers existed, I could have saved a huge amount of time. Yes, there are Good Samaritans who are willing to help out with anything and everything. They give advice and share their knowledge for free. Check out the following FB groups:
And more!!! I guess I have to write a separate blog post on this….
2. I have to be resourceful
Yes, it pays to be a member of different FB groups and have freelance friends, but they can only help so much. It’s because, like me, they have several jobs too. So I watch how to videos on Youtube and Vimeo, read blogs and articles, and listen to podcasts about virtual assistance, social media management/marketing, and writing. Here are some of my fave sites:
These are just my faves. I visit hundreds of sites weekly, but my complete list might just bore you to bits, lol! As to why I love these sites, I’ll discuss in a separate blog post.
3. I have to have a niche
Writing has always been my niche since I started my home based career. It’s my passion. But writing about anything and everything under time pressure made the job boring and redundant. So I had to diversify. I became a virtual assistant so I can do non-writing tasks like photo editing, social media management, data entry, and other VA stuff. Guess what? I did well, I still do, but I am not great at virtual assistance, not by my standards. And guess what again? When my clients learn about my writing skills, they assign me writing and editorial tasks.
Now, I have gone full circle. I am back to my original niche. It’s what I am good at so I’ll stick to it. Thanks, John Pagulayan for making me realize that I have to have a niche to succeed as a freelancer. I’ve taken your advice seriously, idol!
4. Networking is a must
Sure, learning virtually helps, but learning from others in real life is better. I attended Freelance Blend’s Creatives & Entreps Mixers, Blog Ex, Manila Workshops‘ Freelancer Fair, won, with the rest of In the Mix Group, in the first ever Digital HaloHalo Hackathon, and more. In each of these events, I learned something new, met friends, developed my public speaking skills, gained more self-confidence, among others. Even simple meetups make a lot of difference. It’s nice to be with fellow freelancers. You don’t have to explain what a virtual assistant does, why you work from home, how much you earn and so on. So go out and network, peeps!
5. Learning tech takes time and effort
I am a proud lola with an online career, but I have to admit that technology baffles me – a lot. What takes some millenials to learn in an hour takes me several hours, even days! Not that I have poor comprehension. Maybe my fifty-something brain just isn’t wired for it so I have to rewire it by spending more time and exert extra effort. Well, stubbornness does pay off most of the time. When I really set my heart to learning something, I will.
6. There are things I can and cannot do
Yes, I am stubborn, but I learned to set limits. I excel in blogging and copywriting, but not in technical writing. Again, my elderly brain gets in the way, lol! I cannot put SAAS, SAP, and similar terms into words. I know I use them a lot, but I cannot explain how they work. When I was just starting out my freelance writing career, I took all types of writing jobs, including technical writing. Now I know better. Rather than waste precious time and hate myself for not being able to write a 1,000-word article about WP plugins, I decline such offers. I now stick to my fave niches, health, wellness, self-improvement, entrepreneurship, and franchising.
I also suck at graphics and video creation. So instead of spending a good amount of time trying to make them pretty, (and have Althea and Francis laugh at my creations), I outsource the task. (wink)
7. How to set my rates
Ahh. Rates. Setting it according to how I value myself was a mistake I hope you do not make. Initially, I asked for an $11/hour rate. But after five or six months of waiting for someone to notice my Upwork profile, I slashed it to $1 – seriously. Did it work? Yes, it did. I got my first client after two weeks. Was I happy about it? Yes, I was, at that time. Am I proud of it now? NO. Looking back, it made me look desperate. I just got lucky that clients hired me even as I raised my rates.
For help in setting rates, read Freelancing.Ph’s 2016 Pinoy Freelancers’ Salary Guide.
8. I have to get rid of the scarcity mindset
I first heard this from John Pagulayan during his 3 on 3 Talk. What, exactly, is the scarcity mindset? Debt Roundup says:
When you have a scarcity mindset, all decision-making is based on the false notion that there isn’t anything else coming or that you can’t make more money.
Yes, I raise my hands in guilt. I used to grab every earning opportunity that came my way for fear that my finances would suffer. I did not see the value I can provide to clients. I used to have seven of them, but now, I only have three. Why? So I can focus my attention on what I do best – writing. But not all types of writing; I am learning more about copywriting by reading and practicing every single day.
What happened to my contracts with my three remaining clients? They all gave me a raise! One even gave me complete management to his website. Sweet, huh!
Here’s the short video of 3 on 3.
Want access to the full video of 3 on 3? Just send me a message here: firstname.lastname@example.org. Video access costs 400 pesos.
9. I have to be healthy
For so many years, I lived a very unhealthy lifestyle. I love food, especially the types that can make your blood pressure cringe, lol! All types of chicharon, lechon, shrimps, crabs, squid, and bulalo. I used to drink 5 mugs of coffee and more than a liter of soda. I didn’t eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. And then I started writing regularly for a Yoga and health and wellness site. I turned a new leaf. I still eat my favorite foods, but I balance my diet by eating more fruits and veggies. I take apple cider vinegar and honey and drink more water. I stand every 25 minutes and do flexibility exercises.
The result? Weight loss, more energy, better sleep, increased focus and productivity, allowing me to finish my tasks faster. This gives me extra time for my family and doing the things I love – like writing this blog. 🙂
How about you? What things do you wish you knew before you ventured into virtual assistance? Let us know by writing in the comments box below. Thanks!