Virtual Assistant/Project Manager - could it work?(21 Posts)
I've been a SAHM for nearly 3 years and am looking to set up my own business. I'm stuck on ideas and low on confidence, probably because I've been out of the workplace for a while. My background is IT project management (public sector) but would not want to return. My youngest is now in nursery for a few mornings a week and I would like to set up my own business.
Logically I should use my skills: project management (would need to refresh due to length of time), admin, PA, minutes etc.
My questions are:
Are there any virtual assistants/PMs out there and/is there a demand for such like?
Would I need to bid for work?
How would I price myself? Obviously I would be new to the virtual work but am well skilled in a non-virtual environment.
Plus, as mentioned, my self-belief is a little low right now so I'm guessing this would be a relatively low risk start up?
thanks in advance.
Well, for a start, you can achieve what ever you like! You know you have the skills, you know you have the knowledge... so that's the confidence bit sorted.
It sounds low risk, and you would need to think about how you are going to promote yourself. Is it worth seeing if there is a local demand for you to work with too? A friend of mine has a Girl Friday business which is successful. Not teaching you to suck eggs, but have you researched existing businesses like the one you want to set up?
Thank you for your reply, interestingtimes. Confidence is so important and it was my weakness when I was in the workplace, tbh.
My research so far has been limited to profiles on PPH and elance etc. I would ideally like to promote myself as a project manager, as this was my last position but as I've been a SAHM for a few years, perhaps I should be more catch all and include admin, PA etc. But is this just my low confidence striking again or just being pragmatic/increasing my opportunities. I don't want to sell myself short but need to be realistic IYSWIM.
But yes, I must do my research and take a look at websites....
....and your friend's business looks very good; I'm encouraged by her success.
I also know of a successful Girl Friday type business in the north-west (leafy Cheahire, good demand for people to do all the boring bits of life for you ;).
Slightly off-topic but I've recently heard of a U.S. online business called Fancy Hands (God knows why...) that charges a subscription and then let's you request a certain number of tasks from them a month - research, restaurant bookings, finding a handyman etc. Interesting concept and could easily be adapted to your skill-set.
From my own experience, I'd say there a definite domestic market for errands and tasks such as online grocery shopping, choosing an buying presents, booking holidays, arranging cleaners etc.
I used to be a self employed PA / Secretary about 10 years ago. It's a slog setting up as it can take you a long time to establish a stable client base. You really do have to go out knocking on office doors and leafleting around the businesses you target, which in my case were small businesses that might have not have the money or space to employ a FT PA.
TBH I never did get my business to the stage I would have liked and I got most my work through one-off contracts, which didn't give me a secure enough income. I could earn Â£500 one month, Â£20 the next and then nothing for a few weeks.
You do need to have a solid contract in place for your clients, detailing what you will provide, cost and, most importantly, your payment terms. I had one job that signed my contract then did not pay within my 30 days terms, insisting that they operate a 90 day turnaround. I could have taken them to the Small Claims Court but it would have taken longer than the 60 days left and eventually they paid up after 91 days .
If yoy have small children at home with you it will not be easy. Be prepared to work into the small hours to finish work. There's many a night I worked till 2 and 3am to complete a shedload of audio work because I had to stop work to pick kids up from school, make tea, sort bath and bedtimes etc, which is really frustrating when you know you have a deadline to meet.
My advice for start up would be to leaflet every small business in town; get yourself in the local paper with an "enerprising mum" story; visit business meetings, eg Chamber of Trade, and, most importantly, follow up all and any contacts you are given.
Remember to squirrel a quarter of all earnings away for tax and NI purposes, and remember to log all business mileage and keep receipts for everything as you can offset these against income on your tax return.
I did it for 6 years but went back to a PT job after the first year as I really needed a secure income and my business didn't give me that.
Feel free to pm me if you'd like to ask more, and good luck!
Oh for goodness sake, I should really put my thoughts and questions in one message! May I ask how she started and gets her business contacts? I have read ona va website that marketting doesn't work for va's and it's all about networking..
More replies, thank you laquila and harriet, I shall digest and come back later if necessary
Have a look on Peopleperhour at the business support hourlies - might be a way of seeing how you get on without building a whole infrstructure for yourself.
I have read some negative reports on PPH incl fraud and endless bidding for very little return. I wondered if I should avoid. This would leave me with networking meetings, word of mouth, a website and leafletting/adverts I guess. Might this be sufficient? However I realise the beauty of working virtually is I should in theory get clients from other regions, which is where PPH etc would come in.
laquila - am intrigued by fancy hands. I wonder if this model would be more attractive (to me and clients) that fees per hour.
I would also be interested to hear opinions on when to get a website and business cards, business name etc. Is it a prerequisite for actively looking for clients? Apologies for really basic questions; I'm really starting from scratch
Yes you do need all those things, when you approach people they will want to check you out. Get on LinkedIn as well and see if there are any relevant networks you can join. See if you local council has a business advisor, some do and they can be really helpful.
Sounds like a great idea. There are so many tech start-ups out there that don't know how to organise themselves.
I know you have PM experience but what about qualifications? Is it 'agile' which suits IT environment or will 'prince2' be more suitable? National careers service website is good for looking at job profiles to get an understanding of this.
My DH just went on a free 2 day course about setting up own business, organised by our local equivalent of business link - do you have anything like that?
This is brilliant - thank you.
hopping I will reactivate my linkin account and get searching.
topsmart I'm prince2 practioner accredited. I've done a search on the council business section and there are several free workshops ipcoming, so I'm getting booked on.
Meanwhile I'm going to make a start on a business case as am hoping this will begin to consolidate my thoughts and ideas. I'm also going to take a look at wordpress to see how doable it is to build a website myself.
If you've worked in IT project management, I'm assuming you have a higher than average level of IT literacy, and I think you would find pretty easy to build your own Wordpress site.
There are loads of virtual assistants out there. You might want to think about calling yourself something different - perhaps think about what you really loved doing when you were a project manager? were there particular projects or project types you enjoyed more than others?
Harriet gives loads of good suggestions on how to get started. Personally I don't think you need a business card at first if your networking is going to be done online. I use a VA - she doesn't have a website or a business card. She gets her clients through word of mouth. (She also used to be a project manager). It is probably worth checking websites of other VAs to see what their going rate is. Good luck.
If you love doing project management, don't call yourself a VA or you'll wind up doing data entry and booking people's holidays.
All the successful VAs I know work for themselves and don't bother with the bidding sites. Just build your own website, then keep networking and find your own clients. Often the offline world is a good place to get them too, like small businesses that have a bit too much work.
And go to somewhere like MOO to get your first business cards. It's dirt cheap for a small run and they look great.
Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.
If you are PRINCE2 Practitioner accredited then really don't under-sell your skills by becoming a virtual assistant - if you don't know already project management is fast becoming a profession in it's own right (yes really) and the APM (Association for Project Management) are close to achieveing a Royal Charter - they would have done so last year if the American PMI had not appealed against the decision to grant it.
If and when that happens that could be the start of putting project managers on a footing with accountants/lawyers - and there is a conversion course for PRINCE2 PMs to get the APM Practitioner qualification. If you need encouragement to stick to being a PM read this: blog.parallelprojecttraining.com/project-management-articles/project-manager/
Thanks everyone. I would like to focus on the project management side. I have decided to offer both and to charge more for PM services. My website is getting there and I'm called My Project Consultant!
Good luck- it would be worth doing some pro bono stuff perhaps for charities to build confidence and network- something local. Do not undersell yourself. Contacts are everything. Contact ex employers for testimonials etc? LinkedIn is more important than websites! Local network groups are also good. Good luck!
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