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So, you wanna be a VA! Awesome!

Well, here’s a tip – determine your ‘End Goal’ … ‘Whaaaat!? How can I do that when I’m not exactly sure how, when, where to start?’

Good question, I understand your concerns. But, here’s the thing – an end goal will give you a focus point and help you map out the pathways to reach it. Let me illustrate this with a story.

The story

Sarah is in her mid-thirties, married to Tom. They have two great school-aged kids. Sarah has extra time in her schedule and wants to focus on earning some much-needed extra money. Those extra-curricular activities the kids want to do after school doesn’t come cheap.

Sarah dons her thinking cap – ‘What can I do? I need a job but it must be flexible enough to fit the family’s needs. I could serve coffee at a local café, but that seems a waste of some good, albeit rusty, admin skills I gained prior to being a mum’.

Sarah looked for a part-time office job but without success. The problem was she had been out of the workforce for nearly eight years, so her skills were out of date. Her disappointment was bitter.

One day, while searching for inspiration online, reading up about courses, franchise businesses (how many dog washing businesses are that successful anyway?) and ‘get rich quick schemes’ Sarah stumbled across a phrase that would change her life – VIRTUAL PA – Boom Shacka! Ping! Light Bulb Moment! Tell me more.

Two days, one billion words and a pair of bloodshot eyes later Sarah had searched, clicked, read, consumed, digested and absorbed just about everything she could about the Virtual Assistant world. A decision had been made and a seed of an idea sprouted: ‘I’m going to be a VA!’ Hurray, Whoo Hoo!

Sarah told Tom; announced it to her friends; divulged it to her sister, brother, nieces, and nephews; even confided in the guy who delivered the new washing machine that morning. She sang it from the rooftops, spilled the beans on Facebook, considered commissioning an advertisement for television – ‘I’m going to be a VA, I’m committed to a new career’. It was a euphoric moment.

Then, the great big fat hairy reality check kicked in  – ‘How do I start? What do I need to know? What have I got to offer? Where do I get clients? Will people want to pay me for my limited skills? Will I be taken seriously? Will I succeed or fail? There’s a lot of competition out there! What am I worth? Can I really do this? Too many questions – where do I find the answers?’

Now, at this point Sarah’s Fairy Godmother suddenly appeared and with a swoosh of her magic wand a tall dark handsome…no wait sorry, that was a dream I had last night, different story…

Set the end goal

Back to Sarah…by now she was feeling very overwhelmed. Her research had unearthed a mountain of information, some useful, some less so. Her brain was spinning. Confusion, doubt, fear, excitement, intrepidness were blended in an emotional cocktail.

Sarah decided that there were only three points she needed to focus on:

  1. What do I need to do to achieve this?
  2. How do I set in motion the steps to achieving this? And, most importantly
  3. What fairy tale ending do I want from this?

It was time for Sarah to step out of her circle of doubt and take a deep breath. She focused on her ‘End Goal’, what she wanted to achieve by becoming a VA, and mapped out her strategy, starting at the end and working backward. The result was enlightening and empowering.

You see, like many of us, Sarah had a dream. She dreamed of being a writer after having won first prize at school for an essay. Yes, it sounds very cliché but the best clichés are usually true. During her first pregnancy she did a creative writing course at her local Adult Education Centre; wrote and submitted a couple of stories to a well-known popular magazine and was promptly dismissed with the standard ‘Thanks but no thanks’ rejection letter. Sarah fell at the first hurdle. She allowed that rejection to end her glorious writing career.

Now older, wiser, more determined and no better qualified, Sarah went back to the Google drawing board.

To her delight, it became apparent that outlets for writing had boomed. It wasn’t limited to articles, stories, interviews or mind-blowing beautifully scribed features in National Geographic, Vogue or Parking Review. Now there were blogs, websites, newsletters, and sales and marketing material for the Internet. There was a market for snappy headlines, catchy subheadings, there were bloggers that needed help with content and proofreading, and business owners needing content written for their webpages. Not to mention optimising those pages for the web! The options exceeded her imagination.

So, Sarah set her ‘End Goal’ – she was going to be a copy and content writer. Her next move was to figure out how to get from where she currently was to reaching that goal. Sarah planned her pathways:

  • Path 1: get her typing skills honed and skilled up using a computer (it had been a while).
  • Path 2: invest time and energy into writing a personal journal to exercise the brain and flourish creativity.
  • Path 3: research some relevant writing courses and devote a bit of time each day to completing them.
  • Path 4: learn how SEO works and how search engines ‘think’.
  • Path 5: join a few professional associations and subscribe to relevant material.
  • Path 6: learn some additional skills such as blog management, email automation, image sourcing and optimisation, and editorial calendars.
  • Path 7: set up a separate Facebook business page, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts, and start writing content for them; gain followers and follow others actively (without resorting to stalking); network regularly; build a brand and tell the world that she’s the next best thing since J.K Rowling; follow blogs, comment on and share those blogs – in short, build a social media profile.
  • Path 8: make a website, optimise it, link it to social accounts; start her own blog; develop a key-target audience (remember those blogs she commented on and shared? Well, they did the courtesy of doing the same for her).

Sarah stuck to her paths. Over time her confidence in herself and her abilities grew. Sarah learned that the best way to boost your confidence really is to ‘just do it’.  Because she studied everything about her niche, kept in touch with top people in her areas by commenting on their blogs and following them on SM, she stayed ahead of the market, which assured her as an expert in her field.

With a well-thought-out strategy and an achievable end goal, Sarah found that the ‘big shiny thing’ she desired had somehow fallen neatly into her lap. She was a well-known and respected copy and content writer, able to work from the comfort of her own home, on her own schedule, and bringing in enough extra income to more than cover her children’s extra curricular activities.

Needless to say, this story has a very happy ending. It is based on some truth, some fact, and some fantasy. I’ll let you work out which is which.

If you take anything away from this be it that you set a goal, decide on a plan and stick to it the best you can. Pathways may change, twist and turn – that’s fine, but the key thing is to always keep your eye on the Big Shiny Thing at the end.