Whether you are a stay-at-home parent, military spouse, or travel extroidinare that is tired of working around PTO - working virtually could literally change your life. For most though, it's a scary transition, just like the first slow climb to the highest peak of a roller coaster. It's a fulfulling roller coaster, though. Virtual positions have opened doors for companies and individuals alike, allowing talented people opportunities to 'have it all' in this life and allowing companies access to an untapped pool of talent, while keeping overhead costs down. My story will hopefully inspire you, either as a VA, or an employer looking to bring on virtual team members, to think outside the box, be confident in yourself, and make the leap towards your future.
Just another Tuesday at work equals a hoodie, sunglasses, and Starbucks.
Starting my virtual career wasn’t necessarily an easy choice, nor did I think it was going to be as viable as it is, but it began right after my son was born, when I was faced with the decision of going back to work (at a job that was not in my ideal industry), or staying home to be with my newborn miracle child. I tried to go back to work, I did...for a day. After that ONE day my mind was made up - I was going to find a way to make money from home. I had to, for my sanity (maybe more so, my husband’s sanity), and for the wellbeing of my family. I searched and scoured the internet, trying paid surveys, blogging, freelancing, and other so called ‘legitimate’ ways of working from home. Yeah right, who was I kidding? I needed something more, I needed to be challenged, to feel like I was making a difference, that I was part of a team, and that I was growing in my education and career. So, I kept searching until I found a virtual assistant firm that offered just that. Unfortunately, just 7 months later that firm closed, overnight, and I woke up to a locked email account and a note from the CEO explaining how they couldn’t make payroll and had to shut the doors. WOW, right?
That didn’t stop me. I thoroughly enjoyed what I had been doing and wasn’t ready to give that up. I contacted my clients personally and had four independent contracts by the end of the day. (Note: With the note from the CEO, explicit permission to continue work independently was given.) My head was spinning at this point. What do I need to do in order to make sure I’m going about this the right way? Do I need an LLC, do I need accounting software, what can I technically write off, how am I going to file my taxes at the end of the year? I went into research mode and contacted trusted advisors to validate my findings because at that point I didn’t have a team to turn to, I had me.
A few short months later, I had established a positive reputation amongst my clients and peers and was approached to help start a new Virtual Assistant Firm. After some negotiation, I accepted the offer and was responsible for all marketing, hiring, and training. I poured my heart into that company, designing a website from scratch, building and writing all content for an online training platform we utilized for onboarding new VAs, and expanding our social reach to attract clients. All this only to have the same news delivered to me a year later. That’s right, that firm shut down too. The BEST thing came from that though; Rivvly was born.
The team I personally vetted, interviewed, trained, and came to love, were profoundly important to me. I wasn’t about to let what happened to me happen to them. After more negotiation, and discussion with those trusty advisors, I purchased the assets from that VA firm and, with an amazing team working together, we transferred everything (billing, contracts, clients, VAs, training, documents, legalities) over in just under four weeks. FOUR WEEKS. That’s unheard of, and it went off without a hitch. I was beyond proud of the women I worked with, more so than before, and quite honestly -- I didn’t think that was possible. Lots of lessons learned, lots of long nights, lots of overwhelming gratitude, but absolutely no regrets.
Some CliffsNotes lessons I learned:
ALWAYS give credit where credit is due
Seek first to understand, then to be understood. If a client is mad and they take it out on you, don’t take it personally. 9 times out of 10, it’s due to something else going on in their life. (The 10th time only comes when you actually do f*** up, and that will happen at some point)
Own your mistakes.
Solutions, not excuses.
Don’t write an email when you’re emotional. If you do, have a trusted (objective) colleague or peer in the industry (NOT a friend or spouse) read it and help remove the tone before sending.
Be grateful for where you are. When you see credit card fees come out of your paycheck, remember you aren’t sitting in traffic, worrying about gas money or daycare expenses, or even for some of us, having to put on pants, much less makeup on in the morning.
Get out of the house sometimes. Work from Starbucks, or the park, it does wonders for your clarity and sanity.
Take breaks. Hour blocks of work followed by 10-minute breaks will help you more than you know. And it prevents burnout.
Be diligent in your personal vs business spending and pay quarterly taxes - you’ll thank me come tax time.
Have an outlet. Call someone on your team if you need to vent. We all face challenges as virtual career holders, both personally and professionally. This is beyond important and needs to be someone in the same industry that can relate and help with a solution to move forward (no offense, but Muggles don’t understand.)
Love the difficult clients - these are the ones that will develop into lifelong relationships because, well, you took the time to get to know THEM. You wrote the method to their maddness, you became their drving force and chaos coordinator. Basically, they can't live without you.
Complete, ugly honesty - I will never go back to working in a traditional, corporate office. (Unless of course there is a digital armageddon or zombie apocalypse and I’m forced to….but even then, I think I’d rather start another company relevant to the needs of others, or build a fortress and hunt zombies...) I absolutely, hands down L.O.V.E. what I do. I love my team, I love my clients (even on the bad days, yes), I love the challenges and joys that come with the daily grind, I love meeting people all over the world, I love even more when I get to travel and meet those people face to face, I love the fact I still learn something new everyday, I love being the ‘go-to person,’ I love the support and uplifting attitudes our team has for each other, and I love being able to do it all while still being available and flexible for my family. It’s seriously the best of both worlds and my commitment to this career choice started on Day 1. Best decision of my life.