When I first got the idea to start my virtual assistant business, I didn’t know for sure the best way to get started.
There were a few classes I could invest in to learn how to go about starting my business, but I wasn’t able to take the plunge. So I became good friends with Google and learned enough that I was able to get started and am still going strong 2.5 years later.
But there a few things I didn’t learn by googling that I really should have done differently and I made a some mistakes. I’ve learned from them and have since rectified everything, but I’m going to share them now so that you don’t have to make them, too!
Mistake #1: Not setting up a separate email address for my VA business
This one caused a lot of headaches. When I first started applying for VA positions, I used my personal email address. Not only was I receiving work emails to my personal email account, but all of my personal Google drive files were mixed in with work stuff!
A few months in, I realized my mistake and created my own VA email address. But my existing clients had shared all of their files to my personal email address, which meant I either had to ask them to share their files with my new address or just deal with having their files in my personal Google Drive until our time together was complete. Not fun, trust me.
Mistake #2: Not getting an FEIN# for my business
This one was just silly on my part. When you work as an independent contractor (which is what virtual assistants are!), you have to send the people you’re working with a W9 form which they use to create and give you a 1099 form at the end of the tax year. You use the 1099 as kind of like a W2 and use it to input your income information on your taxes and they use it as a way to report the expense for their business from working with you.
When I started my business, I had no idea that I should get an FEIN# because on the top of the W9 form, you have the option of either using your social security number or an FEIN number. So I just put down my social security number and sent it to my clients. Big mistake!
Think about this… I sent my social security number out to people that I met online, that I would never meet in person, and although I researched each client to the best of my ability, I really had no way of knowing for sure if they were legitimate. Fortunately, all of my clients were incredibly trustworthy people and nothing happened with my identity. But that opened up a huge window of liability that just didn’t need to be there. (I still shake my head about this one… good grief!)
Mistake #3: Not establishing firm business policies before working with my first clients
When I got started, I wanted clients! That’s all I could think about… must… get… clients… must… start… working…
But I soon realized after I got said clients that I really should have set up some firm business policies before diving in.
For example, I didn’t have a set schedule or a parameter for when I’m available to work. I didn’t have any kind of requirement in place for the amount of work clients sent my way, which meant I had no way of predicting my revenue at any given time. I also didn’t have policies in place for ending client relationships, refunds, etc.
Again, I worked with great people and was super fortunate and didn’t have any major issues. But after being in business for awhile, I learned it’s important to be clear about my business policies and expectations from the get-go. You can always alter them at a later date, but it’s much easier to tweak an existing policy than to put a policy into effect when one never existed.
I hope you let me be your guinea pig and learn from my mistakes. While they ended up not being major disaster for me, they certainly could have been (did you read the part about my social security number?!) So learn from my mistakes and go forth and create amazing businesses!