Simplifying the systems and processes in your VA business can be a huge challenge — Tracey D’Aviero would know. Tracey has “officially” had her VA business since 2005, but has actually been working successfully from home since 1996.
Her firm belief in the VA industry and that anyone should be able to make a decent living working from home led her to develop her coaching business for VAs: Your VA Mentor. Tracey has taken the numerous lessons she has learned along her journey and shares her knowledge as a way to make the pathway smoother for other VAs.
As we have developed Adminja, we have been fortunate enough to be able to gather feedback from experienced VAs, with Tracey lending her considerable expertise to us also. We got the chance recently to catch up with her and have a chat about her plans and about the business of being a VA in general.
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Tracey’s business today…
Tracey has been through a few different incarnations in terms of specialties over the years, but she came to realize that what she had been doing all along was being a VA, even prior to the term becoming as well-known as it is now.
For Tracey starting out as a VA, there was no manual or resource to turn to for advice on running a successful VA business. She learnt through trial and error, along with upskilling herself with courses such as online marketing.
While she has taken and recommends some of the courses available specifically for VAs today, what she found was that nothing was catering to those who were brand new and starting from zero knowledge of the VA business. This was what lead to her creation of Your VA Mentor, to provide that missing essential resource for new or aspiring VAs.
Tracey was busy as a VA, but with the addition of Your VA Mentor, her business has grown hugely — she even employs her own VA to help keep things running. At the same time though, Tracey still does VA work herself. This helps to keep her current with happenings and issues in the VA world, knowledge she can use to better help new VAs.
As she explains, her specialty as a VA is clients such as coaches who have a program they’d like to market. As soon as she focused on that market, she found she didn’t need to do a lot of marketing of her services as her business naturally moved to a referral model from those clients. (A good example of how choosing a niche can work well for a VA business!).
One of the positives of being so busy is something many VAs will aspire to — the ability to be a bit choosy when it comes to accepting new clients. Tracey chooses who she wants to work with, which allows her to run her business on her terms and get stuck into the work she really enjoys. Who wouldn’t prefer to have some choice in their business?!
Pitfalls of being a VA
We asked Tracey about the common pitfalls or challenges which VAs face — “wow, where do I start?!” was her first response. While the VA business can be very rewarding or even sound a bit glamorous being able to work from home, there are a number of challenges which VAs will have to deal with from time to time.
Tracey was quick to pick out project management systems as an example. A key part of having a successful VA business is your ability to keep track of tasks, stay on top of timelines and keep up good communication with the client. The challenging part for VAs is that many of the project management systems out there are just too complicated for the work they need to do. Typical challenges Tracey picked out are:
- Challenges with finding or uploading information.
- Too many elements which aren’t needed by the VA, making the system complicated.
- Complicated or confusing interfaces making it difficult for teams to find things, which affects the efficiency and timeliness of projects.
In a nutshell, Tracey says if you want your projects to be profitable, you need to find a way to keep your business systems simple and efficient. This means the files and information needed should be easy to find, your system should be as intuitive as possible (especially if there is a team involved) and communication of updates with clients should be straight-forward.
This is where she sees Adminja really being a tool to boost the efficiency of VA businesses. As she puts it, Adminja “solves the pieces of the puzzle that are VA-specific.” Adminja is purpose-built with VAs in mind, so it doesn’t have excessive functions which are not needed or complicated interfaces which create inefficiencies.
Importantly, communication with clients is made to be quick and simple — instead of typing out lengthy email status reports, you can send a report automatically from the software, which allows you to get on with your work. As Tracey puts it, many of us have clients for whom “it’s not their job to be technical.” Present them with an overly complicated communication tool and you’re bound to run into problems. Simplicity is essential when you’re collaborating with clients through any kind of tool.
Working on your own…
If you are a VA business of one, Tracey sees this as presenting typical challenges too. For example, how many times do you tell yourself “I’ll remember that” then totally forget later on? A pitfall that solo practitioners run into is that they fail to keep track of their own task management, then regret it later on.
This causes you to lose time during your day and lose focus as you need to devote energy to figuring out what you’re meant to be doing.
We asked Tracey how she typically deals with her own task management:
“ When I do a production call with my clients, I take notes on pen and paper first — that’s just easiest for me. As soon as I get off the phone, I go into my simple task management system and add notes there, that way I know that piece of paper has been taken care of. If they send me an email, I do the same thing. That can be a really tough habit to form for a lot of VAs, particularly if you’re working on your own. Loss of time and revenue is probably one of the biggest pitfalls in the VA business, so it’s important to create a good system for yourself.”
Advice for VAs
We asked Tracey for her top piece of advice for current or aspiring VAs, of course, there is a lot she can say! We’ve broken down Tracey’s tips here — be sure to check out Your VA Mentor also as a great resource for anyone in the VA business.
When starting out…
If you are starting out or looking to grow your VA business, make sure you are very clear about the services you can provide for your clients. “Clients want to know two things: what can you do? And, how much will it cost me?”
If you’re not super-clear with answers to those things, it’s a relatively simple thing for potential clients to move on to the next VA, who may be clearer about what they are offering.
Get simple systems
If you collaborate with others (such as your own team), you need simplicity and clarity with a system that works. You don’t want to lose profitability on projects due to time added to decipher an overly complicated system, or one with too many components that you simply don’t need.
This is equally important if you are a sole practitioner. Get simple systems that support your services well and don’t lose time to complications, or to manually doing tasks which could have an automated solution.
Get the training you need
As Tracey points out, it’s easy to lose time with “busy work” or trying to figure out how to get things going on your own. Get the training you need to run your business properly as this will pay off for you in the end.
As an example, Tracey was an early adopter of online marketing and she looked for ways to upskill herself there. This not only gave her skills needed to market her own business, but provided her with valuable skills which her clients will pay for.
Need to simplify your business?
Grab our quick guide here
Thank you to Tracey for taking the time to share with us! We got some great takeaways with regard to setting up a VA business for success.
Simple systems are your friend when it comes to ensuring you get the most from your business and don’t lose profitability through inefficiencies. Set yourself up properly and get the right training to make it work. Your clients will be happy and your bottom line will thank you too.
Keeping things simple requires good organization and automation. Try Adminja, free for 30 days and see how it can help you organize and streamline your Virtual Assistant business.