When I started working in the virtual assistant industry I had worked as an in-house legal assistant for a very long time and had never even heard of a virtual assistant. One day while home on unpaid maternity leave I had to find a solution to bringing in some kind of income to help my husband take care of our now even larger family. I was searching for at home jobs on the internet and ran across so many things that were or seemed to be scam type jobs. In just a general search for work from home jobs I found virtual assistant and that’s where it all began.
There was so much information on virtual assistants that it actually became rather overwhelming but I was so determined to make this thing happen and so I researched, watched various training, determined my niche, set up my business and was ready to be a Virtual Assistant. What I did not understand was that being a virtual assistant is what I do, how I operate my business. It is not who I am.
Well who am I, you ask? I am a small business owner who just happens to be a Professional Legal Assistant and Administrative Consultant. I operate my business from a virtual “remote” location and that puts me in the virtual assistant industry. According to The International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) virtual assistants are independent contractors who (from a remote location, usually their home or office) support multiple clients in a variety of industries by providing administrative, creative, and technical services.
I have clients in other states but the bulk of most virtual assistant’s clients just happen to be local. Actually both of my first clients were from other states and not local because I could not get around to local networking events since I had just had my 7th child. Let me tell you this, the transition from working at a brick and mortar to working from home is no cake walk. It is definitely a change that is unforgettable. You no longer have co-workers in the office that you chat with and move your day along in fact, you don’t even have human interaction on a daily basis unless you have people in your home. Lucky for me I have a husband and seven children which means there is never a dull moment. However, your computer becomes that co-worker that you tell about your weekend and have lunch with. For me, work was really my social life, the only people that I really dealt with outside of my family so it was a huge readjustment. Working from home is very challenging but it is definitely rewarding in the end.
I remember my first experience trying to obtain a local client. I will never forget how he looked at me when he asked me what a virtual assistant was. This was the topic of discussion because virtual assistant is not a common term just flown around as what someone does as a profession and I used virtual assistant as my title on business flyers, business cards and any type of advertising material for my business. So I spent the most part of my time to market myself and my business explaining what a virtual assistant was and we both laughed because he thought I was something like a computer tech. I laughed because it was funny but what wasn’t funny was the fact that I never got the chance to explain to him how my business works, how I could help him and save him money. It didn’t surprise me though because truth is before I actually did some searching on the internet I had never even heard of a virtual assistant myself. He wasn’t the only one in fact, I found myself explaining what a virtual assistant was so much that I sounded like a spokesperson for a company called virtual assistant and never really getting to introduce this new innovative way to operate business or the opportunity to explain what I do and how I could benefit their business.
Bottom line, I no longer go by virtual assistant. I use my title Professional Legal Assistant or Administrative Consultant depending on the industry I am targeting. This opened me up to the opportunity to market myself with a different approach. Fact is, I am known locally in my field as being one of the best of the best and so my name precedes me. So, when I am speaking with an attorney and I am marketing myself they hear what I am saying and not trying to figure out what I am talking about. Not giving myself the title virtual assistant and using my proper title gives me more time to tell potential clients and colleagues what I do and how I can help their business and then when the time arises tell them how I operate on a virtual basis. By all means, I am proud to be a part of the virtual industry, my business is new and innovative and has brought me much satisfaction. However, it is what I do, it is not who I am.