I've got a passion for side hustlers (folks who work day jobs and run a business) because I'm one myself so I wanted to learn more about other side hustlers. I'm happy to introduce a fellow hustler, Dean Morgan, from Office Orange.
Hi, Dean! Thanks so much for being the first virtual assistant to be featured in our Side Hustle blog series. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your business niche.
My name is Dean. I recently launched my virtual assistant business, Office Orange, in December 2016, working alongside my full-time 9-5 job. I want to take a fresh approach to Virtual Assistance, simplifying the overall concept and making it more accessible for people - my target audience is small business owners who are just starting out, who have little money but big ideas!
That's awesome, Dean! What has been the most challenging aspect of building your business so far?
Probably trying to find the time to do so and prioritising tasks. I’m always full of ideas and I struggle trying to juggle everything in my head, as well as my job and personal life.
I can totally relate to that. How do you handle it?
I’ve found I’ve become much better at it since deciding to work as a VA. I made a business plan to focus my business objectives, and I plan my week out in my diary. As I progressed, in January, I decided to set out some measurable goals up until the summer and then broke these goals down into tasks for the month, and even for each week. I love using project management tools like Asana, but nothing will beat my pen and paper diary & notebook!
I'm a pen and paper gal myself! What’s a typical day schedule for you? How many hours a week do you work?
I work as an Office Manager in a residential care home for adults with learning disabilities so no day is ever the same. Although I now work in the office, it’s never quiet! I typically work 8am-4pm Monday to Friday, but I have to commute to work and because of the traffic, I need to be up at 6am every day to ensure I’m there on time. It’s for this reason that I love my weekends! Sometimes due to the nature of the job, I’m needed to cover on the weekends which messes up my plans and can start to get me down, but I just alter my plans and keep on going.
Wow, Dean. You've got a lot going on. How do you manage your projects?
I plan small amounts of work for the evenings, but sometimes if I’ve had a stressful day at work I really can’t get motivated. I don’t let this get me down for long, though. I take this into account when planning and I plan minimal tasks I can transfer throughout the week. That way, when I have a good day, I catch up on what I missed earlier on. I use a pen and paper (huge) diary where I plan my tasks then tick them off, however small! I then write underneath what else I have achieved, and any notes related to the tasks I completed, using it as a record of what’s happened that day. I also use Asana to set long-term goals to keep me motivated.
We all need those little wins to keep us going. When you start a new business, there are some things you have to give up. What did you have to let go of or sacrifice in order to allow your business to blossom?
I tell my partner we can’t sit and watch our favourite box-set all evening tonight, I’ve got work to do haha! No, I’m realistic with this. I don’t want to over-do things so I’m happy to progress steadily. I’ll say to my partner I’m going upstairs to the office for an hour and this helps me to focus and to be productive. If I’m feeling especially motivated, I’ll take two hours but I tend to save my working time ‘til when she’s at work so I don’t miss out on too much quality time.
I would say that I have canceled a few meet-ups with friends, but again, I am not pushing myself so hard that I’m making sacrifices here, there and everywhere. I think it’s important to maintain a varied lifestyle to avoid resentment.
Amen, Dean! What are tools or people (professionals included) that have helped you to grow your side hustle?
The internet, in general, has helped me - I love to learn and research and this is where my motivation to become a VA began, from reading. I have to say, Facebook groups have been my go-to for all the advice I have received, and in particular the group “Virtual Assistant Savvies” - it’s such an active group and everyone is so helpful and honest - I’ve learned so much from everyone there.
I’ve used Wix in the past but using it again for my VA website has gained me some positive comments and even landed me a potential regular gig with someone I’ve been chatting to, so shoutout to Wix! I learned about Hootsuite from FB groups and I couldn’t live without it now. It makes posting to Instagram so much easier and I can batch create all my posts at the beginning of the week and have them scheduled to go. Canva is awesome too - again, I’d never heard of it until I joined all the VA FB groups.
Big shoutout to Virtual Assistant Savvies because that's where we met! Working a day job and a side business is tiring. When do you know you need a break from your business?
I take a break when I’m not feeling motivated. If I’m feeling or looking stressed my partner will tell me to take a break, she’s good like that. If I have a blog post planned and my head’s not with it, I’ll leave it - it can wait! It’s about being realistic and remembering I need to be fully committed mentally in order to do my best work.
I think that's a good move to table things to another time when you're really feeling it, instead of forcing it. What is one of your biggest upsets/setbacks/fails as a side hustler/business owner?
As I’m still so fresh to the VA game I’ve yet to experience many upsets but the one that sticks out in my head was when I was working with my first client, designing her logo in exchange for a testimonial. Whilst doing so, she took a week or so to get back to me after my second revision, and me being eager to develop my website wanted to get something in place, so I used a part of the image I’d created for her logo as an element of my infographic, merely as a placeholder with the view to changing it if the client ever got back to me and wanted to use it for her logo. In the meantime, I was networking online and my client was checking out my website and found the image and was upset that I had used it. I apologised and explained my train of thought, being completely honest with her, but I realised I should have mentioned this from the start. As I result, I lost her as a client though there were no hard feelings, and actually, she contacted me to give a testimonial in the end too! It definitely taught me to be more careful though and be accurate in my communication.
What advice would you give to individuals just starting out?
Create a business plan to focus on your business aims & objectives, set measurable goals from these objectives & don't beat yourself up if you fail.
It's important to remember that success takes a long time and to view each failure as a positive learning experience rather than a negative.
Don't get disheartened, take breaks, and enjoy life. Success will come if you remain positive and productive.
Good advice, Dean. If you have children, how have you adjusted their schedules to your business?
Don’t quite have children yet, but we have a baby on the way! I’m sure I’ll figure something out...
Congratulations to you! What are your top three tips you can give that has helped during your business journey?
Rely on your support network & listen when they tell you to take a break.
Don’t beat yourself up at failure. See it as a learning experience and get back up!
Keep on learning and use those skills to give value to people, don’t focus on selling at all - going that extra mile to help and advise others will help your business to grow much more than promoting yourself every 5 minutes.
What did you do first to build your clientele/customer base?
I invited all my Facebook friends and got the word out on FB, posting every so often. I started a Twitter and followed a few people. I created an Instagram account and began posting regularly to gain a following. I network regularly on FB groups and ask questions/give advice in order to gain a social presence. I’ve started a blog and ask for feedback on specific subjects to create talking points and then blog about these topics. I’ve created an eBook that I plan to offer free in exchange for email addresses in order to build up an email list of potential clients. My first clients all gave glowing testimonials and wrote these on my FB page, they also tag me in posts where people ask for specific services. This is so helpful in enabling me to find work as they’re doing it for me! This comes back to giving value to people rather than trying to sell, sell, sell!
A lot of new virtual assistants tend to oversell rather than focus on relationship-building so I'm happy to hear you promoting value over selling. What was your strategy to charge what you deserve in your business?
I will admit that I found this hard as firstly. Most VA businesses I came across traded in US Dollars and I’m based in the UK. I did some further research and eventually came up with a figure that I felt was fair. I worked out how much I needed to earn per hour in order to make what I’m currently earning in my full-time job and estimated the number of clients I’d be able to sustain for the work I was offering.
I definitely under-valued myself to begin with and have since altered my pricing. I am still on the lower-end of the scale as I want to appeal to new small business owners who have a small budget, helping people to get their ideas off the ground. I do think your prices need to be reflective of your target market.
How were you able to get your spouse/life partner on board with your vision?
It’s clear that I’m not entirely happy in my job, so if I’m able to replace that, my partner is happy too. My partner isn’t hugely interested in the ins-and-outs of my VA business but she will always support me and tell me when something’s a good or a bad idea and is great at making me be realistic and encouraging me to take breaks.
It sounds like you've got a very supportive partner. What are your favorite tools that help you manage your to-do lists and time?
Everything will always come second to pen and paper. I love diaries and notebooks but I do use Asana to set goals and tasks. It’s great that there’s an app for it too so I can add to it on-the-go.
What’s next for your business? Are you working towards going full-time? Anything else you’d like to share?
I’d love to just quit my job now and launch straight into gaining new clients but I have to be realistic. Everything’s a slow-build and now that I've accepted that, I’m happy with it. I’m studying a qualification in my place of work that would be great to have on my CV and I aim to have it finished in 6 months, if not before. I also have a baby on the way, due in September so I’m being realistic and planning not to leave my job before any of that. I will certainly keep on going, but I’m in no rush - as much as I’d like to be!
I’m in talks with a few people I’ve worked with before who are looking to promote my packages so hopefully, something can come of that in the future. I’ve created an eBook, and have a few more in the pipeline too. I’ve looked into starting an Etsy store to sell some templates etc so am excited about that as well, but generally, I’m just happy to keep on going slowly & steadily growing my client base and developing myself.
Dean, I can't thank you enough for stopping by to share your experiences. I can't wait to see your full-time launch and congratulations again on your upcoming baby.
If you want to learn more about Dean, follow him here:
Office Orange offers creative support for your business; presenting a positive, friendly & fresh approach to Virtual Assistant services. My mission is to provide creative support for your business. Using my skills I want to be able to lessen the load by helping business owners fulfill their day-to-day office tasks.
I'd love to feature other side hustlers so reach out and contact me.
If you enjoyed this post and want to hang out with other side hustlers like Dean and myself, I invite you to join: