So you’ve decided to start your own Virtual Assistant (VA) business. Now what?
In Part 1 of this series, I provided a guide to starting your own Virtual Assistant (VA) business: Where Do I Begin? Selecting Your Specialty. Now it’s time to make sure your workspace provides an environment conducive to productivity. Depending on your selected specialty, your home office needs may vary. This is intended as a guideline for basic requirements of a typical VA home office.
Hardware and software. Obviously, since we’re talking the virtual world, you need a computer. PC or Mac, laptop or desktop – the choice is yours, but there are a few basic needs regardless of your preference. It is absolutely imperative that you have up-to-date Operating System and Anti-Virus software. This protects you as well as your potential customers. The last thing you want is to find out the document you sent infected and took down your client’s server.
File storage and backup. Files can be stored on your hard drive or other method, as long as you have adequate storage available and make frequent backups. Always, always have a backup. It can be an external drive that replicates your entire hard disk (or just certain files) or off-site through an online backup service provider. Whichever method you choose, be sure to backup on a regular basis, preferably daily. An advantage of off-site storage is that it also eliminates the risk of losing your backup due to theft, fire, or other natural disaster.
Dedicated phone line. For extensive telephone work, you must have a dedicated phone line, without call waiting, but with a professional voicemail message. Invest in a comfortable headset to keep your hands free to enter data. Obtain a high quality headset with noise-canceling to eliminate background noise.
Office furniture. For long hours sitting at your desk, spend the extra dollars for a comfortable chair – your body will thank you. Arrange your workspace for ergonomic efficiency: keep frequently used items at your fingertips, and adjust your monitor so that the top is just above eye level. For maximum comfort, and to minimize the risk of repetitive motion injuries, your chair should be adjusted so that your feet rest firmly on the ground and your elbows are bent at 90 degrees when typing. Don’t forget to take breaks; stand up and get moving frequently to prevent fatigue.
Distraction-free workspace. Perhaps the most important aspect of working from home is having a quiet place to work. It’s difficult to concentrate when the kids are vying for your attention or just playing loudly. Your home office should be treated as if you were working in a traditional office. At a minimum, you should have a door that closes (and locks) to signal you are “at work.” If you have small children, you may need to consider hiring a sitter.
Business hours. Working from home requires a great deal of self-discipline. It’s easy to get distracted by, well, life. If your mind is on laundry piling up or dishes in the sink, it will be very difficult to work your business like a business. Set business hours – and stick to them. Your clients and your family will appreciate it.
So now you’ve selected your virtual assistant specialty and equipped your office. Your phone is ringing off the hook, right? Emails flooding your Inbox? Not quite? Then join me for Part 3 of this series, Building Your Clientele, where I’ll discuss how to market your services to build your client base.
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