Q and A With An Experienced VA

Q & AThis  is first in a series that I want to do of Q&A interviews with experienced Virtual Assistants. The aim is to give new and aspiring VAs insight into how they started their businesses, how they run their businesses and how it fits into their lives. This will be the first in hopefully a long line of Q&A’s with inspiring VAs throughout the industry. And to kick it off, we’ll start with myself. So here’s my story.

Q&A with Megan Barber, Owner and CEO of Barber Virtual Assisting Solutions

How did you start your VA business?

Before I started my business, I worked in administrative positions in real estate offices, and as an in-house assistant for Realtors. When the agents I was working for couldn’t afford to use me full-time, I figured that I could do these things for many agents all at the same time. That is when my eyes were opened to Virtual Assistant industry. I found it to be a pretty natural transition from what I was already doing and was excited to be starting my very own business with much mentoring help from my business savvy father. I celebrated my 4 year anniversary in business this month.

How did you figure out what to charge for your services?

I did a lot of research and looking around at VA websites to see what other Virtual Assistants were charging. At first, because I didn’t have much experience, and I was afraid that people would think I was too expensive, I placed my fees on the low end of the spectrum. Even though I was low, I still thought my local prospects would balk at my rates. But I was surprised to find out that people were more than willing to hire me at my rates (especially since I emphasized the “no employee expenses”). I have raised my rates 3 times since  as my services became more in demand, and was confident in the value of my services.

How did you find your first clients?

I was lucky to draw my first clients from the people I already knew. My first 2 clients worked in the real estate office I used to manage and knew of my knowledge and my abilities. I was very fortunate to have signed them within the 1st month of being in business.

How long did it take you to build your clientele?

I must say that the first year in business was a little rough. I got my first to clients, and things stagnated for awhile. But then 6 months after I started, I finally got a website, started joining different networking groups and seriously upping my marketing efforts. Word of mouth from my own clients helped me gain new clients, and my online marketing efforts that reached my clients directly, helped me grow even more. Now I have 8-9 regular clients at a given time, and a few extra projects that come on occasionally.

How many hours per week do you usually work?

For straight client billable work, I have about 20-25 hours per week, sometimes more. But I do still seem to work 40+ hours a week when you add in my non-billable work. That includes my bookkeeping, marketing, blogging, networking, etc.

Do you find being a VA provides you flexibility when you need it, especially with family, hobbies, etc?

It does and it doesn’t. Even though I am running a business from home, it is still a business and I need to treat it as such. It is sometimes hard to keep the balance between business and home life, but I manage.

I am my own boss and I do get to set my own hours and work when I want to. But that also means I need to stay disciplined and make and stick to a regular schedule. I make sure my clients are clearly aware of my business hours so I am not getting calls at all hours of the night. But I also sometimes need to remind myself to turn off the business for the night and focus on my husband and house.  And now that I have a baby on the way, it is becoming more important than ever.

Do you have a specific niche or specialized target market you typically provide services for? If so, what is your niche and how did you choose it?

My particular niche is Real Estate and I only market to and work with those within the real estate industry. It was natural for me to choose this niche because of my past experience  doing admin work for real estate for many years previous. So I started my business and focused my marketing efforts that that target market.

What of your services do you find are most in demand?

In the real estate world, my services that seem to most in demand at the time is Listing Coordination or Listing Marketing. Right now that is probably due to the state of the economy and the real estate market, as some agents have a listing inventory that they need to get sold. But some of my services most in demand have varied over the years.

What do you like most about being a VA?

I love being my own boss and running my business the way I want to. I don’t think I will ever go back to a j-o-b. I like the flexibility that I have working from home, since those working in the corporate world aren’t so lucky. I also love the networking opportunities and the great connections I’ve made with other fabulous Virtual Assistants. Some have become close friends and tremendous resources for helping my business grow and change.

Do you have an advice for new VAs or those thinking about joining the VA world?

If you are thinking of starting a VA business, take it seriously. It is not a “get rich quick” type of thing, and takes some hard work to get started. So be prepared, make a business plan, and check out all the small business resources you can.

Make sure you also get a website started for your business quickly. I have witnessed other new VA’s and they really struggle to market their virtual business without a website. So make that a high priority if you can. And if you are not familiar or comfortable with web design yourself, hire someone to do it for you. It will save you loads of time and money in the long run.

And don’t get too discouraged if new clients and new business don’t start coming your way immediately. Just keep plugging along, marketing, networking, and demonstrating what you know. The opportunities will roll in.


Want to be involved in the Virtual Perception’s Q&A? If you are an experienced VA that has some insight to share, contact me today and you can be a guest on The Virtual Perception.

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About Megan Barber

Megan Barber is a Real Estate Virtual Assistant, small business owner, entrepreneur, social media junkie, dreamer, crafter, wife and mommy to a sweet little boy.

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