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.
Tracey D’Aviero has been working virtually for 15 years. Her company Your VA Mentor is located in Osgoode, Ontario, Canada and specializes in providing training and mentoring support for Virtual Assistants.
Here’s her story:
Who/what inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?
I began working from home before actually knowing about the virtual assistant term/industry so my story begins a little differently than most. See answer #2. 🙂
How did you go about getting started?
Basically, my VA business came out of my consulting business. I had gone back to college after being out of high school for about 5 years, and I took my catering management diploma. I was working in restaurants but kept getting more interested in the admin side of the business.
I had gathered much experience in the admin field during my time in the workforce between high school and college. I started to work on my own as a food & beverage consultant for local restaurants in 1998. I was working from home doing their training manuals and setting up inventory programs, and helping them manage their controllable costs.
As I tried to expand my client base, I soon realized that the restaurant industry was not a really viable target market, because few restaurants at that time had the money to pay out to consultants. So I decided I needed to find out who could use my skills, and also pay me well for my work. 😉
I hit the Internet and I came upon the ‘Virtual Assistant’ term at that time, and realized that for more than 8 years this was exactly what I had been doing. That was in 2006. I decided to get some training in Internet Marketing and my business started to be built from there. I saw people like Tawnya Sutherland from VAnetworking and Craig Cannings from VAClassroom and they inspired me a great deal, to learn all I could and really develop solid skills to support amazing clients.
Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?
I did not have any formal financial support to start my business – in 1998 nor in 2006 – but I was lucky enough to be the second earner in my family and my husband was making enough money to sustain our household. My son was born in 1998 (yes, that’s when I started my consulting business!) and so I was able to stay home to raise him while still earning income.
In terms of getting started as a VA, I was the queen of ‘cheap or free’ for setup and ongoing costs, and I believe that it is not necessary to spend a lot of money before you hang out your shingle as a business owner. If you start with the skills you have now, you can get revenue coming in the door before you start spending in other areas.
Did you have the support you needed to start your business such as a family member/significant other/mentor/coach?
My parents were small business owners and I learned a lot from them in terms of how to treat my customers. They were very lucky to have great customers in their business, and it came from the service they provided for them. I also remember my Dad being very fussy about who he would choose to work with, saying ‘no’ to many people over the years. I think that was called his Ideal Client, though I didn’t know it at the time. 🙂
My business really grew, though, when I started working with a marketing coach in 2009. I didn’t really know what I was doing with my marketing, and so I really had to learn the principles and the strategy behind that. It’s something that I teach my own students and coaching clients now, because it’s the one thing that many people don’t consider when they are starting their own business – that you have to tell the right people about it!
Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?
There are lots of times I still think it might not work out! Running a business is an ongoing learning experience. We try things and we fail, and we try other things and we succeed. The best plan is to make a plan and then carry it out, and assess it – so you can learn from it for next time. Realizing that you always need a strategy for growth in place is the key that makes a business successful.
If you could go back and change one thing you did when starting out, what would that be?
Most definitely I would get the support from a coach – I didn’t get that until a few years ago, and I saw huge growth in my business just by learning from someone who had already been there. I went from being a small contributor to my household, to an equal partner, even making more than my husband some months.
What is your best advice for someone considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?
My best advice is to really consider that running a business takes a lot of knowledge about things that are not related to what your services or skills are. You need to educate yourself about what you don’t know, and put a strategy into place to help you market your business constantly, to the right people. If you can’t sell yourself, your business will not work out. It’s easy to get the training and support you need to be successful, so just do it.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I think the questions really answer it all. Great list. I guess I would just say that I believe that anyone who wants to start their own VA business should do it. It’s a great industry to be in, as long as you realize that you are a business owner. You need to learn what you need to know to run your business well, and get the support you need to keep yourself moving forward all the time. Find out what you need to know about running a business and then get going!