Photo credit: Catherine East Photography
When asked what it is that I do, the conversation often takes the turn "so you’re a VA then?", to which I tend to respond "well not exactly - there are similarities, but I work slightly differently", and then struggle to get across succinctly how! I figured it was time to provide more clarity. Please be gentle with me though - this is my first non-anonymous blog (I’ve guest blogged under a pseudonym before, but this feels very different!)….
1. The way I prefer to work – visibility vs virtual & on an ongoing basis
While I get on with lots of regular routine work for clients virtually (typically managing CRM databases, newsletters, web content management, event organisation among other things), I seek out clients who like to meet face-to-face on a regular basis, whether to have a general catch-up, do some business planning, or simply sit and work alongside them to tackle something meaty together, so they are local.
There’s something about face-to-face contact that really helps to build more meaningful business relationships and for me, the better the understanding between the client and I, the more trusting the relationship and the more value I can add to their business going forward. I’m also increasingly working with established businesses on an ongoing basis (via a monthly retainer arrangement), now just picking up ad-hoc projects as and when there’s space in my schedule.
2. I become the client’s ‘right-hand’ person
I enjoy picking up several responsibilities rather than one discrete responsibility for business owners - this allows me to get a deeper understanding of the whole business and how things fit together – in essence I become the Business Admin Manager, a client’s ‘right-hand person’. Where more VAs (though not all) are now niching, and business owners may find themselves feeling like they have to have more than one contract in place to get two or three discrete areas of work covered, I do my best to cover as much as possible of the most-needed support as I can myself (I can help you identify that via my Business Deepdive package). As business is expanding rapidly I am now exploring the option of working with Associates to support anything that is either beyond my remit or hours I have available each month (but meaning I am a single point of contact for the client, thus still managing the workflow, ensuring work processes are joined up, and taking the onus off my client).
3. Input to regular formal Business Planning and Review sessions
As the work I typically carry out for clients across the piece allows me to really get under the skin of their business and understand what it is they are trying to achieve holistically – while I work in a detailed way from day to day as required, I am also able to step back and review the bigger picture when called upon. This positions me well to offer up ideas in planning and review sessions, which I recommend running at least quarterly, and are face-to-face (of course ;)).
4. I provide a good sounding board
Clients will often call or email with all manner of questions, to run something past me, or to let off a bit of steam about an issue they’ve been having – they really seem to value having the ear of someone who ‘gets it’ – someone who runs their own small business and understands what it takes and the highs and lows associated with it.
5. I can network on behalf of a client
I recently stood up at a networking event (150-strong) and spoke on behalf of my client who couldn’t attend, to make sure her courses were advertised to the masses at a key specialist event. My experience as a trainer and educator come in handy in such situations and while this isn’t something I have done regularly for clients as yet, it’s something I am able to do and beyond the remit of a typical Virtual Assistant.
I suspect I'll be back to add a ‘part 2’ to this as I’ve not covered everything that makes what I do slightly different, but I hope I’ve achieved my aim of giving you a better idea of what it is that I do and whether or not it might be something you (or someone you know) could benefit from.