Being a Virtual Assistant is What I Do, Not Who I Am!!!

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.

Legal Services, Uncategorized

Solo Attorney Burnout: Tips to help you gain control of your business practice so you can put more focus on practicing law

download (1)Solo attorneys work harder to gain the clientele, respect and reputation as that of an established law firm or an associate of that established firm.  Balancing clients and family while keeping their business running smoothly can be overwhelming and stressful.  Common mistakes that most solo attorneys have that are often overlooked but ultimately cost them money are properly tracking time, maintaining their reputation and networking using social media.  Here are some tips that will help you deal with some common mistakes made as a solo attorney.

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Properly Tracking Time.  When working for a firm it is required that you track your time on a weekly basis and it becomes habit that you track your time after you deal with each client as a general practice.  As a solo, you are so overwhelmed with wearing the many hats needed to operate a law practice like tasks associated with that of being a paralegal, secretary, runner, receptionist and attorney that you tend to wait until you have time to write down what work you did on each case.  Without tracking time properly you are likely losing money.  Your time is how you bill clients and how you get paid.  Your bread and butter.  There are programs that allow you to develop a timekeeping system that are ultimately free tools like Google Calendar and iTimeKeep. There are also programs like Freshbooks that will allow you to track time, bill and invoice clients as well as keep up with business expenses.

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Reputation.  As a solo attorney trying to make your mark in this big world, your reputation is very important.  How you are viewed in the legal community can either make you or break you.  Reputation although very important seems like something minor for a solo attorney since it is the last thing on their mind;  being overwhelmed and stressed by wearing many hats trying to be successful with their practice.  It is important that solo attorneys be mindful of how they present themselves and how they treat others. Word of mouth is a good marketing tool and could determine if you get a referral or if you get smashed by competition.  This same word of mouth can reach potential client who in turn chooses another attorney.  Don’t forget the importance of reputation.  If you could get on top of all the tasks associated with running the business you can focus more time and energy on being an attorney and handling your clients needs as well as being the best you that you can be.

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Social Media/Online Presence.  Social media has become a vital part of networking and building a business. Use it to market your practice, make connections and gain potential clients. People are relying on social media to make decisions.  Same is true when deciding which attorney or law firm to use.  The first step most people do is to go to the internet and search for that attorney.  They want to find out about that attorney like what are their interests, what articles have they posted, what types of groups do they belong to, how much information they know (blogs), how professional are they (online presence) and what are people saying about them (reviews).  Having an online presence also gives clients a platform to brag and give feedback about you which helps build reputation.  It is time-consuming to juggle social media sites, post blogs and interact with potential clients and colleagues.  Your online presence is a reflection of you and your business.  It is as much a part of your professional image as the clothes you wear. There are programs like Hootsuite and Every Post that manage social media sites in that it allows you to post to all your social media sites from one place, as well as write blogs and schedule when you want them to post.

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Running a business takes a lot of hard work and dedication; add trying to practice law and be the best attorney in your field which requires just as much hard work and dedication, and that’s where the problem arises.  Two major careers and only one YOU!  The solution is simple, outsource!  Outsourcing for attorneys has become as common as hiring an in-house secretary.  The fact is that every solo attorney needs someone to handle the everyday things like screening calls, scheduling meetings with new clients, tracking time, billing clients, typing letters, scheduling court reporters, drafting pleadings and making sure that those pleadings are free of errors and filed with the courts upon your approval and social media management.  All the tasks that are overwhelming to a solo attorney or a law firm for that matter that require a big chunk of time and as a end result contributes to being overwhelmed and ultimately losing money!