Being in the virtual assistant industry for 4 years now has lead me to many successes in my life. However, this experience also brought me lessons that I learned through mistakes and failures. Today, I will bravely share these mistakes with high hopes that you will also learn from it. I was often asked by my offline friends how I managed to keep my VA business afloat for the past 4 years. Oftentimes, I would also reply that this is because of hard work. But lately I realized that a crucial factor of my success is my failure.
1. Starting without a concrete plan
As soon as I learned that I can work from home as a freelance virtual assistant, I immediately hopped in all job sites that I can find online. I ran into scam sites, bid jobs like crazy and just grab every project that came my way, regardless of the pay or the project details.
I didn’t have any background knowledge nor any formal virtual assistant training. The only thing that I have then was my call center experience. My first project was actually finding online “dates” for a client. He offered to pay me $150 per month for 8 hours of just browsing thru women’s pictures, replying to their emails, setting dates, sending his sexy pic etc.
I know! It sounds like an adult porn site kinda-job right? And to think the pay was just $150! Barely 8000.00 pesos. As soon as I got my first payout from him, I resigned.
2. Offering super LOW rates…
Yes, I got paid for just $75 for 2 weeks of 8 hours work. Silly me. Worst of all, it happened all over again. I accepted a writing job from a freelancer writing 500 word articles for $1 per article. I took 50 articles quota per week, I delivered all the 100 articles in 2 weeks. I got my pay 1 month after I sent the invoice! I was not only underpaid, I waited so long for me to receive my full payment.
Then I discovered oDesk, a Freelance bidding site. I applied in all possible projects. I got hired as a live chat operator. My hourly rate? $1 per hour! I found myself in a very similar scenario: chatting to men creating a sexy YM account with a sexy profile picture and enticing them to “text” me thru a certain number. I asked the client if it’s a for a porn site (I couldn’t bear that thought) and the client said no, its for an “online” sms promo. (or so I thought…) They gave me a list of standard scripts for chats and also a quota… Not only was I working for a questionable company, I am not learning anything!
3. Working with an employee mindset
Since I came from a call center company, I thought working from home is the same thing, my clients are my boss and I am just their employee. I thought it is normal for a client to be very demanding and rude. I also thought it was okay to be insulted and criticized by clients and slave drivers. For months, I have worked with clients who cared less of the time zone difference and didn’t understand that I also need a time off and family matters to attend to.
I once had a very demanding client. I wasn’t able to reply to his IM message at 3AM in the morning Philippine time. Of course I was already asleep! When I opened my IM in the morning I got a lot of insults and not only that, I got fired from the project. I was furious and at the same time felt guilty. Guilty that I wasn’t able to answer his concern right away and furious because I don’t understand why he would send me a message at that time when in fact he knows I am already in dreamland!
4. Trying to be a SUPER-VA!
I used to think I should always strive to be a SuperVA. Offering all sort of services possible without any proper training. This resulted to negative feedback from clients, cancellation of accounts, and unpaid projects.
What I Learned From All of These
“Be patient with yourself.
Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground.
There’s no greater investment.”
Being a virtual assistant is not just a fly by night kind of job. If you just dive into the VA industry without planning, you might end up just like me, taking on silly projects or offering super cheap rates to just get a project.
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. (I read this somewhere…)
I no longer charge $1 per hour. Why? Because I learned how to value myself, my skills and my business. I learned that I won’t win my competition by just lowering my rates. Good clients value quality over money.
I am my own BOSS .
I am running my own virtual assistant business. I am now a business partner of my clients. Now, I make sure that clients understand our working hours and more importantly respect it. Although I have personally decided to work the graveyard shift, I no longer work for more than 10 hours a day (sometimes even less).
Super VA – I am NOT!
I no longer desire to be a “jack of all trades”. Instead, I have hired the right people with various expertise to provide quality services to our clients. I grabbed the opportunity to be apart of a VA training program – The VA Apprentice that changed the course of my VA business. My mentor, Michelle Dale helped me transform from being a cheap virtual assistant to being a respected Filipino virtual assistant.
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