What I’ve Learned from a Virtual Assistant Conference

Yesterday, I attended my first ever virtual assistant conference here in Ottawa. I’ve attended numerous conferences in the past for work and Christian-based personal development. But, this particular conference for virtual assistants really piqued my interest because I was going to “discover the unknown”. I’m a “returning” virtual assistant and I was excited to meet the VA gurus – Tracey D’Aviero and Kathy Colaiacovo – whom I’ve been following mindfully and mindlessly for close to 8 years. Mindlessly, because I started out in 2011 but didn’t have the support and emotional tools to handle a business which does a whole lot of selling yourself. As a graphic designer who was used to being in a cubicle with another person in silence staring at the computer while working on projects for usually 8 hrs a day for 15 years, the thought of SELLING really made me want to run for the hills! So, I quit just under a year of trying.

I realized very quickly that being a solopreneur is a very serious business if I wanted to thrive and I had to have the emotional fitness to even just keep myself mentally afloat which I didn’t have at that time. I knew I had to do something with my confidence – and SELL my brand – which meant, putting myself out there. What’s disheartening was that I get consultations calls and inquiries but nobody stuck around because everyone thought my rates were ridiculously high.

I caved in, but I knew I’d be back. I knew what I had to do and so, I made myself work in retail and within those 8 years of my VA hiatus, I was fortunate enough to land a job at CAA Saskatchewan. I worked there as a member services representative and a driver’s license and vehicle registration issuer and insurance agent(auto & travel). My job there for 4 years really transformed me into a confident salesperson and negotiator. But sadly, I had to quit that stable job to move to Ottawa with my husband. It was a blessing in disguise because it made remember about being a virtual assistant and decided that I really wanted to do it all over again. This time, I knew I was ready.

I’ve committed myself to go to the VA conference because I want to make my business work this time. Plus, this is my chance to see and feel how the virtual industry really is. I was still searching for the tangible aspect of it and I got my answer yesterday. Here’s what I’ve realized and learned:

There really is a market for it

In the room, I learned that all of us have clients and that some of them were relatively new into the VA industry. Most are general VAs who wanted to niche down and specialize in certain services to earn more. The challenge has been, how to say your rates without involuntarily cringing. Having confidence is what the speakers were mostly addressing yesterday as well as how to properly put ourselves out there without really selling.

Socializing with fellow VAs is really empowering

I wasn’t the kind of person to talk to a person first, but I really forced myself to strike a conversation and socialize with my fellow VAs. It was a great feeling and I gained friends – which is also important. 🙂

Getting out of the house is a great way to maximize the potential of getting clients

I’ve been shooting myself in the foot for isolating myself and it doesn’t help that my husband is also a loner. The plan is to get out more and reconnect with old friends and actually attend parties that I’m invited to. No more “no-thanks-I’m-busy-that-day” spiel.

It’s all perception

I know I’m competent and qualified even back in the day but I really lacked the mindset of a business person. Then, I see some other VAs – who were even “gurus” – didn’t really possess special skills but were charismatic and engaging. Mind you, they’re big VAs now – and way better skills-wise and better branding than 8 yrs ago. 🙂 But, they knew how to project how they wanted to be perceived. They evolved with confidence before their audience’s eyes.

Seminars in person are way more engaging than webinars

I’ve done countless webinars on quite similar topics, but the talks yesterday really left a lasting impression. I’m actually doing the actions steps that were suggested by each speaker.

Then again, you may have followed all suggestions, attended every webinar about being a VA and self-development, hire the best business coach there is, but if you never do the suggested steps, you will remain where you are and you’ve wasted your own time, money and efforts.