When I started working from home in 2007 as a virtual assistant, thrilled doesn't begin to describe how I felt. I admittedly stumbled into this new world of freelancing when my boss at the time allowed me to start working from home. Everything was rolling along quite well and I truly enjoyed working with my real estate client. Then, as quickly as it had began, it was over. The real estate industry tanked in 2008. Work suddenly dried up. This girl had to hustle and hustle hard! I had mouths to feed.
I was determined to make freelancing work so I started marketing my services and signed up for a few online freelancing sites. The work started to roll in. Before I knew it, I had multiple clients and more work than I could shake a stick at.
But it wasn't all peaches and cream. I made some serious mistakes starting out. If you're a current virtual assistant or thinking about being one, don't make these three now cringe-worthy boo-boos:
Pricing services too low.
I'm embarrassed now to say that sometimes I took jobs that paid WAAAY less than minimum wage. Think about it: if you were to work in a brick-and-mortar setting and you had mad administrative skills, there's no way you'd work for less than minimum wage. Don't cheapen your value. You're not doing yourself any favors by low balling your rates just to land a client. If a client's budget is low, that's okay. Entrepreneurs are at different walks in their journey. But that doesn't mean you have to settle for a low rate.
Price your services accordingly in the very beginning. Don't start off at a low rate and then realize that you need a higher rate just to keep your head above water. Your client isn't going to like a repetitive rate increase. Keep in mind that as a freelancer, you're responsible for stuff like taxes, your life insurance and retirement benefits and any other overhead expenses you might have. Try this cool tool by Beewits to help you determine your freelance rate. You might be amazed!
Not identifying a niche.
Okay, Supermoms (you know who you are are!). Hate to break it to you but I've just gotta - you can't do everything. I know. I tried.
In my freelance virtual assistant business, I was all over the place. I took a lot of jobs from a lot of industries. I was eager, hungry for the work. With my twenty plus years of experience, I knew I could do it all.
But I couldn't. I had to hone in on what I truly was good at (I found out I really enjoyed social media and the creative-type stuff, like graphic design) and what I wasn't good at (I hated phone work and repetitive tasks, like data entry). Although I could do the stuff I truly didn't enjoy, I didn't give my all. The quality just wasn't there. Clients could sense that. Get the picture?
You've got to know what type of virtual assistant you really are. Are you a social media whiz? Is appointment setting your thing? No one is good at everything but everyone is great at at least one thing. Find that one thing and run with it because there's a demand for what you're offering. I now only work within the faith-based niche, offering the services that I know I can deliver quality work. And finally...
Taking on too many clients.
This ties in with pricing my services too low. Because my rates were so low, I had to stack clients like firewood. I was working around the clock, trying to service way too many clients for too little money. The result? I began to resent the work and my time management skills went flying out the window. I was definitely stretched too thin.
First, I had to decide which clients I wanted to continue to work with and which ones I needed to let go. Surprisingly, money wasn't the deciding factor in most of the cases. Did I truly enjoy the type of work I was doing? If I really didn't like the work, the decision was pretty easy to make. After I weeded out my client list, I went back to the drawing board by figuring out my niche and my lowest freelance rate. When I relocated from a major city on the East coast to a Midwestern city, my cost of living declined drastically, mostly because of the difference in housing costs. That meant I could command a lower rate (nothing too low, mind you) and not have to work as many hours just to make ends meet.
Well, there you have it. The three mistakes I made starting out as a virtual assistant. For those just starting out, I hope you take something away from my mistakes. Then it will seem as if it was worth it! I'd love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to leave a comment!