Web URL: http://www.marylandsecretarial.com
Years in Business: 15
Type of Business: virtual assistant
Works: 99% virtually, however, sometimes will go on-site.
Twitter ID: @webmss
Ruth: Welcome to The Naked VA blog Cindy. It’s great to have you here. Tell us about yourself.
Cindy: I am an award-winning virtual assistant. I help can you become more organized and less stressed so you can concentrate on your revenue-generating tasks. I do all your administrative tasks including data entry, desktop publishing, business card scanning, word processing, social media networking and transcription.
Ruth: Would you share what led you to consider a virtual profession and how you got started?
Cindy: My kids were very young at seven and five years old. I had just separated from my husband and I needed more income. I had worked for a major health insurance company for 22 years and I had acquired vast knowledge and skills in word processing. I started out slowly with my own income, added more skills, equipment and marketing as I progressed. I started out in 1997 part-time while keeping my full-time job. I went full-time in 2000 when I acquired a huge data entry job from a record storage company. That project employed ten subcontractors, kept us busy for more than a year, and paid over $100,000.
Ruth: I love how you knew what you wanted, started slow, and built a strong business that’s been serving businesses for the past 15 years. Along the way have you had a mentor or sponsor to support, guide, encourage and open doors for you?
Cindy: I really never had any help except when I started attending Meet Ups in 2007. Rose Woodruff of Executive Decision Coaching has been a huge help to me. She is a business coach and has helped me with great tips and suggestions. She has helped me grow personally, as I NEVER would have thought to speak in public or teach workshops. She has become a great help to me as well as a very dear personal friend.
Ruth: I know you do quite a lot of in-person networking and teaching events. If you could share a nugget of insight or bit of advice for someone considering a virtual career such as yours what would that be?
Cindy: Since you will be starting your business from “scratch” and not have a major corporation backing you with name recognition and a huge marketing department you basically have to do it all yourself. That means you have to market yourself. Follow-up every day with people that you meet. Don’t wait for them to come to you as they might not ever find their way. You have to keep your company name in front of them through networking events, direct mail, social media, email newsletters, articles, blogs, and phone calls.
Ruth: The follow-up is so important. I’m glad you mentioned that plus shared some ways to keep your business name to the front of someone’s thoughts. Now tell me, what bits of advice would you give someone seeking a virtual professional such as yourself?
Cindy: I suggest they write down what tasks they want to delegate to a virtual professional. Start out with 1-3 tasks to try; including possibly business card scanning or Facebook page design. Discuss the details with the virtual professional, such as, in what format will the work be delivered to them, in what format will the completed work be delivered to the client, what is the pay, when will payment be made, how long will it take? It helps to write everything out or send an email so the client and the virtual professional can see the details.
Ruth: Yes, having these vital pieces in writing helps avoid confusion when discussing scope and expectations. These tips are sure to be helpful for those beginning a relationship with their VA. Any last thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?
Cindy: Building a business does not happen overnight. It takes time and sometimes 3-9 months to get a client. It takes constant follow-up to keep people remembering what you offer. Attend as many networking events as possible and follow-up within 24 hours. I have written several articles that might help you. They are listed on my website at http://www.marylandsecretarial.com/.
Ruth: This has been an insightful interview, Cindy. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.
Cindy is authoring a book, An American Virtual Assistant, to be released September 2012. This spiral-bound book (also available as an eBook) is the compilation of the good, bad and ugly of being a virtual assistant in the United States. It will contain step-by-step instructions on how to start and grow a successful VA business from the comfort of your home. It will also contain stories, tips and information from up to 15 virtual assistants (including a submission from Ruth Martin of MaplewoodVA) and other helpful business owners. Have you started a virtual assistant business recently or have you been a VA for many years? It doesn’t matter where you are in the plan this book will give you some insights about what it’s really like for real-life virtual assistants.
You can purchase a pre-print copy of the book by clicking here.