How To Create a Successful Business as a Virtual Assistant

Want to learn how to make a great living and still have time to spend with your family?  If you have solid administrative skills, you should consider becoming a virtual assistant.  In today’s interview, we talk with Tressa Beheim of Sassegy – who shows us how, in just a year, she created a virtual assistance business that allowed her to quit her full-time job and have the flexibility to be with her small children.

Jasper: We’re delighted today to have Tressa with us. Tressa really personifies with someone who is in a position that a lot of other women during these days and that’s… she has got 2 young children to bring up but she also wants to make a decent living at the same time. The way she has done that is to become a virtual assistant. So, Tressa, tell us a bit about your background on how you became a virtual assistant?

Tressa: Yeah. So, about two years ago I had a three-year-old and a one-year-old, two daughters. And I was working as a teacher for a test prep company. The problem with that  my hours were nights and weekends. So, you know, with two young children, those hours are not ideal. But I was also making really good money so it was hard to give that up just because it wasn’t helpful for my schedule. So, I started looking for other alternatives and one of my friends, who’s also a fellow entrepreneur, had a lot of clients that she was working with that needed virtual assistance. And so I thought, you know, “Why not give it a try? “. I started out with maybe one client, working just five hours a week and sometimes not even five hours a week. And I slowly built that up to where I was able to replace a very well-paid, full-time job with being a virtual assistant and operations manager.

Meredith Okay. So, how long did it take you to build up from that 5 hours a week to your full-time income?

Tressa : There were a few like fits and starts. We moved across the country. But I would say from the time that I actually decided this is what I’m going to do, it probably took me close to a year. I probably could have done it sooner if I had not been so risk-averse but it was really hard, you know, to give up about security of the full-time job. So I probably could have done it in six months if I had a little bit more ability to just say, “let’s do this”. But six months to a year would be safe.

Meredith: Becoming a virtual assistant is s a good place to be for people who have a lot of admin skills and technical skills – and who are a bit risk-averse because it’s easy to get clients to stay with you for a very very very long time. So it’s a pretty good choice to start out in. What advice would you give to somebody who doesn’t already have a client, who’s begging them to do this, to get themselves out there and start advertising that they can help people as a VA?

Tressa: I would say  get started somewhere like oDesk or Elance. There’s a bunch of different online places you can start if you’re not really sure how to find a client. That’s a great way to start because it’s pretty easy to sign up, it’s pretty easy to offer your services. It doesn’t require a website. It doesn’t require anything fancy. And then talk to people that you know, talk to your network. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve had referred to me from a friend of my friends who heard that I’ve helped their other friend. A lot time they come to me and they asked for something that  I’ve never done before. But it’s very close to skills that I have so it’s worth the conversation with them to say, “Okay. What are you looking for and can I help you?”. The answer isn’t always yes but I would say the answer is yes, about 75% of the time.

Meredith: Or the answer becomes, “No.” more and more. Because what I find as a  virtual assistant is that once you start and kinda get a reputation out there as being someone who’s halfway decent, people are always looking for you.

Tressa: That’s a very very true. When you first get started, you do have to be less selective than you will eventually. Some of my first  clients,  I definitely would not have said yes to, where I am at now. But at that time I wanted the experience, I wanted the exposure and I was willing to take a little bit lower pay. I was willing to do things that  once were my cup of tea but  as you get more experience, and as you get a better reputation, it is easier to start turning down work. I actually tend to turn down more work than I accept now because I’m so busy. And one of my clients actually turned into a full-time job. So I work with her full-time now. And then I have a couple of clients on the side which means that my space is very limited, and it’s perfect because if I want to take an extra projects for a couple of weeks, I can see what’s available. And if I don’t, then I’ll just say, “you know I’m full at the moment”.

Meredith: Great. And that’s another hint for other people that just starting out.  You should  network with other virtual assistants because people turn down work a lot. And I know, I’m always looking for people to refer to because I have 3 people a week ask me to refer them to a virtual assistant.

Tressa: That’s absolutely true.  I always try when someone contacts me if I know somebody who might be up for hourly work. I’ll always try to give them the referral because it makes me feel better that I’m not just saying, ” No. I can’t help you.”. You know, it’s nicer for me to say, “No. I can’t help you but here’s this person, and there’s this person that you could check out, maybe they can help you.”.

Meredith: Okay. . A lot of people wait a long time before getting help with their business and they don’t really ask until they’re sort of at the bursting point. Can you give people some hints on getting started really quickly and effectively, and getting the most and best work out of their virtual assistant?

Tressa: Absolutely. So, I think systems are probably one of the most helpful ways to work with a VA. If you have  tasks that you do over and over again those are really easy to have a VA start with. Something like your scheduling or your intake process for consultation. Things that are very simple as far as there’s not a lot of potential for… “or maybe we do this”, “or maybe we do that”. It’s just like, “Step A, step B, step C…” . And then the second thing is you really have to ask yourself, “Is it worth it for me to do this?” I think that’s what a lot of business owners get caught up  in and they don’t want to pay somebody to do things that they could do themselves. So the question is, it’s not necessarily can you do it – but rather – it is the best use of your time?

And a lot of time, yes, you could easily build your own website. You could easily do all of your own blog posting, you could easily do all your scheduling, but you probably shouldn’t be doing it because you can have somebody help you with that and then you can focus on growing your business – on the things that actually do require you to do them. And so I often when I get started with the client I’ll ask them let’s make a list of 10 to 15 things that you don’t have to do yourselves. Maybe we don’t start with all 15 of those things on day one. And maybe we only start with two of those things. But then as they grow their business and they start to have more of a budget, we’ll add item after item until eventually they aren’t doing anything on that list.

Meredith: Now that, that makes total sense. And again I think a lot of people wait until it’s too late and it’s better to get someone for just a couple hours a week even. And people think they have to hire a full time 40 hours a week person and for most virtual assistants 10 hours a week is a lot really…

Tressa: Right. And that’s totally true. Because if you wait until the point where you’re so overwhelmed, you can’t even take the time to have a conversation with your VA, you’re not really going to get anything out of them because it’s kind of like the blind leading the blind.

But if you do it at a time when you know you are starting to get pretty busy,  for example, within the next 3 to 6 months I’m not gonna have time to do any of these items,  then you have the time and space to train your VA to do it the way that you would want them to do it. And work out all the kinks. That way you’re not going to  waste money on a bunch of incorrect assignments or you’re not going to  waste your time either.

Jasper: Okay. So, now let’s take this back in terms of what you do… because … especially to a young college educated mother this looks to be a really attractive way to earn a living. Because you get well-paid for it, you have the flexibility in terms of your hours and you can do it from home. So on the surface it looks really quite of an attractive prospect. But obviously it requires certain qualities to be able to do so. What would you say  are the qualities that you need to have to be able to do this kind of work?

Tressa:  It really depends on what you tend to specialize in, and I’ve moved more towards project-management and project-management business operations. So,  for that kind of work it definitely being able to multitask, being able to manage deadlines, being able to pay attention to details. All sort of things are really really critical and also being able to learn new software relatively quickly. Being able to figure out how to coordinate is really useful for that. But when I first started, really just the ability to navigate basic online programs was about the only skill that I needed. All I really did was blog posts and social media posts and newsletters. That was when I first started. So, you can be as simple as – can you basically navigate the internet – when you very first get started. And then as you start to find what you like and what you don’t like, you can focus more on the things you like, because there’s a lot of VAs that are more technical than I am. They really just focus on nitty-gritty technical type of things. And then there’s ones that are more like content writers, so it just kind of depends on where your niche is…

Favorite Movie: Playing By Heart

Online Resource: Sweet Process

Screenshot 2014-12-28 08.43.40Guest: Tressa Beheim – Sassegy

Tressa Beheim comes from a traditional corporate background but decided to branch out into online-based businesses after having children and completing her MBA. Using the skills she gained from years of management experience working at financial institutions and in retail, she has helped a variety of clients implement systems and streamline so they can provide even better service to their ever-growing client bases.

But don’t worry: Tressa knows the value of balance. When she’s not working, Tressa enjoys spending time with her husband and two young daughters. She can often be found reading zombie books on her Kindle, making jam and plotting her next visit to England.

Website: Sassegy

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