Deborah contacted me several months ago when she found out I lived nearby. She wanted to come by personally to get her copy of our book. Below is the interview she did for her college class at Sierra College.
Sue Canfield, a Virtual Assistant, co-author and co-owner of Chief Virtual Officer, provides her virtual services worldwide. She previously resided in Roseville, California. Since then, she is traveling the nation while conducting her business virtually. During my first semester working towards the Virtual Administrative Certification Program, I contacted Sue to order her book, "The Commonsense Virtual Assistant - Becoming an Entrepreneur, Not an Employee", and companion, "Building Blocks: Succeed as a Chief Virtual Officer Workbook". Coupled with my VA studies at Sierra and Sue’s books, I have learned what it takes to help me succeed as a Virtual Assistant small business owner. Already a fan of Sue Canfield, I contacted her on Monday, November 29th to ask if I could interview her for this project. She pleasantly agreed and that evening, at a mutually beneficial time, I conducted my interview.
Question 1: What first drew you to become a Virtual Assistant?
Virtual Professional (Sue Canfield) response: I started my Virtual Assistant business back in 2005. After working in administration for 25 years, I left the corporate world when my last child was born. I wanted to stay home to be with her. A while later, a friend asked if I would do some administrative work for her from home; thus, virtually. My Virtual Business started from there!
Question 2: How long did it take you to sign you first client?
Virtual Professional (Sue Canfield) response: My first client was actually my friend, who had asked me to help her out with an administrative project that she was not able to manage on her own. From there, I helped my husband grow his coaching for speakers business by doing administrative tasks virtually. Although not actively looking for new business, I started receiving referrals from my friend who I had helped out initially. This happened in less than six months after my first virtual administrative project.
Question 3: What do you find to be the most effective way to market your virtual assistant business?
Virtual Professional (Sue Canfield) response: The most successful way to launch your virtual business it to attend a networking group of business people from various industries. Since my husband had a business coaching speakers, I first started attending a networking of speakers meetup. While my husband met speakers from different industries, I spoke about my virtual administrative company. Within one year, I had over 25 clients just from this networking meetup group alone! Networking with people in-person is the most effective way to market your virtual business. The Chamber of Commerce mixers are usually free to attend for the first couple of times. Through events such as those, you can meet people in person and speak to them directly about the services you offer. Not only is it important to meet them in person, but they hear our excitement about what we have to offer. It is also important to follow-up with the people you meet.
Question 4: What do you feel is your challenge as a Virtual Professional?
Virtual Professional (Sue Canfield) response: Communication is probably my greatest challenge when operating a business virtually. Since most communication is done virtually instead of face-to-face, it is easier for misunderstandings to take place.
Question 5: What type of changes, if any, have you made to your business since start-up?
Virtual Professional (Sue Canfield) response: Since becoming a Virtual Assistant, my husband and I have started :Chief Virtual Officer", a company specifically providing coaching for Virtual Assistants. My husband and I both run CVO. Through our CVO website, www.chiefvirtualofficer.com, you can become a member of our VA blog. It is designed for future and existing Virtual Assistants just like you who want real world business advice. I also provide general Virtual Assistant work. In addition to my regular virtual administrative services, I set up and send ezines for solo professionals and small businesses. The program I use to create ezines is Constant Contact.
Question 6: What is the one thing you wish you knew before you started your business?
Virtual Professional (Sue Canfield) response: My biggest challenge in marketing my virtual business was not having a marketing plan in place when I first started. It is so important to create a marketing/business plan. Even a simple one is sufficient. A business plan keeps you on task with your overall goals and provides direction for your company. Without one in place, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations and forget to market your business.
Question 7: What resources have helped you in your virtual business?
Virtual Professional (Sue Canfield) response: It has been very helpful to be a part of various Virtual Assistant forums. Through these forums, I communicated with others in my industry. I shared my experiences as a VA as well as received advice from others. Being active on VA forums as well as posting/reading VA blogs is a great way to network with other VAs. In turn, you will become more knowledgeable and seasoned as a VA. It is also a great way to receive referrals from other VAs that may need to outsource some of their administrative work. Professional VA organizations are also good networking avenues.
Question 8: What advice would you give to new and aspiring Virtual Assistants?
Virtual Professional (Sue Canfield) response: My advice to you is to continue what you’re doing. Find out what it takes to be a successful Virtual Assistant by talking to other VAs. Also, make sure you have a basic business plan in place. It is also important to define who your ideal client is. You do not necessarily have to have a specialty as a VA, but you must have a narrow market. Do what you enjoy the most. That is important. Through CVO, we offer a complimentary 30-minute coaching session which can help you solve any obstacles you may have as you establish and grow your VA business.
Question 9: Do you outsource to other VAs?
Virtual Professional (Sue Canfield) response: As a matter of fact, I do. Traveling across country with my husband and daughter, I just had a client who needed me to print up the virtual project I had completed. Without a printer in the car, I did not have printing capabilities. Through my VA networking channels, I contacted a local VA in the area (out of state), and asked her if she would print my project up for me. We both benefited from the experience because we split the profits!
Question 10: Are you a member of any VA organizations/associations? If so, what are they?
Virtual Professional (Sue Canfield) response: There are many VA organizations you can join that are free of charge. I believe IVAA has a free membership version. VA forums are great to become a member of and are usually free of charge. I am also a member of www.vanetworking.com. Northern California Virtual Assistants meet up group is a networking avenue.
Although my interview questions only took up approximately 10 minutes of our telephone conversation, Sue provided me additional business insight towards establishing my own VA company. Since the interview, I have become a member of her CVO Source, which provides a self-study learning experience filled with audio, video, tutorials and how-to instructions for Virtual Assistants. Also recommended by Sue, I joined Northern California’s VA meet up group. I’ve also arranged to meet with Sue in the near future for VA coaching. The interview with Sue was very informative and uplifting.
The most significant piece of advice I received from my interview from Sue is not to get caught up in having everything in place prior to starting my VA business. Besides a business plan, other things will fall into place once my business starts. For example, I asked her about how I am still not definite as to what my niche services will be when I start Valley Administrative Services. She taught me that it is not necessary to have a specialty. It is necessary to have a narrow market when marketing my VA business though. She informed me that most likely, I will grow into a niche over time. I also learned about different online avenues, such as specific VA networks and VA websites that provide valuable information and advice to Virtual Assistants such as myself. For example, Sue recommended a website, www.findvirtual.com, for forms generally used by Virtual Assistants. Her own website offers training in developing and maintaining blogs, ezines and more! It made me even more excited and determined to become a successful small business owner as a Virtual Assistant!