This article is one in a series called Start up Stories. These stories are about women I’ve come to know and admire who are successful in the Virtual Assistant industry. My hope is that they serve as inspiration for you, proving that, regardless of your current situation or obstacles, it is truly possible for you to live the lifestyle you want.
Michelle Dale is an accomplished online business consultant and Virtual Assistant who has been in the industry for 7 years, developing her business while traveling through 6 countries. Along the way she met her husband and now has 2 children. Michelle has expanded www.virtualmissfriday.com into a multi-6 figure, multi-VA team supporting a global client base. In addition to working with clients she now mentors colleagues in the industry with achieving their own online service business goals through her business programmes, resources and one-on-one mentorship.
Here’s her story:
What inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?
When I was 23 I quit my job, sold everything and booked a one-way ticket to Egypt from the UK to begin a new life. At the time I had no idea how long I was going to be gone, or what I was going to do for a living. Once I arrived and started settling into my new life I quickly realised that I didn’t want it to end, and if I was able to start a business online I could potentially keep this kind of lifestyle going indefinitely.
At that point I began researching possibilities of businesses I could operate online, I came upon virtual assistance and then decided that would be the perfect choice for me, 7 years later, I’m still doing it, I’m still maintaining the same lifestyle and I have never looked back.
How did you go about getting started?
I began researching on the internet everything I could possibly find on running a service based business online, I also read a lot about internet marketing and online business in general, since I knew I would not be able to find clients locally, I needed the ability to work globally.
From there I discovered I’d need a website and decided to learn Photoshop and Dreamweaver to build it myself, it was a huge learning curve for me having come from more of a financial banking and mortgage background, despite it being intense, it was a lot of fun and I discovered I had a creative passion which I wasn’t aware of in my former life. Being entirely self-taught I then began servicing some ‘guinea pig’ clients free of charge to test all my theories before moving into paying clients.
Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?
No, I had a notebook laptop and no money to financially support the business, but I had moved to Egypt where the cost of living was very low, which allowed me to live very economically while I went through initial stages every start-up goes through.
Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?
This is an interesting question, in fact, I probably went through that point every 6 months, and I don’t think any business owner who is always striving to do better ever stops going through that point, it’s just that the goal posts change. There were various targets I aimed for to truly consider my business to have worked out how I would have liked it to, and when I reached those targets, I created new ambitions and goals, and I often considered whether they would work out or not, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether they do or don’t, what matters is that we always try, give it everything we have and never give up.
Did you have the support you needed to start your business in terms such as a family member/significant other/coach/group/mentor?
No, in fact when I started my business I was completely alone, in a new country, no close friends, no family. I would have loved a mentor but at the time they were hard to come by in this type of business, and I didn’t feel like I could really relate to anyone in the VA industry, I wanted a different type of business, so I tended to be drawn to more successful entrepreneurs in general sense through reading their blogs and advice. About a year into my journey when I was just starting to find my feet with it all, I met my husband, and he was incredibly supportive, and now works in Virtual Miss Friday with me.
If you could go back and change one thing that you did when starting out, what would that be?
I wouldn’t change a thing, although I made some pretty costly mistakes over the years, I believe every mistake I made was of significant importance to my success today. The fact I made them allows me to confidently know I am giving the best advice and support to my colleagues in the VA industry, based on actual personal experience.
What is your best advice for someone considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?
The best piece of advice I can give is to find someone who you can look up to or aspire to be like, and then learn, learn, learn as much as you can from them. If you look at their VA business and you say to yourself, “that’s where I want to be” then try to find a way to get into their brain and pick it as much as you can. It will fast-track your own success rapidly.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Learn to listen, learn to be patient, be determined, find what drives you – never give up.
Would you like Michelle to help you with your business and success online? Visit her learning centre at www.TheVARoadmap.com where she has created a complete range of programmes and resources based on her experiences of developing her own multi-6 figure VA business at www.virtualmissfriday.com.