It’s that “PMP” behind her name that caught my attention. I have such high respect for certified project managers because I am aware of what they do to get there and keep their certification. It’s a “lifetime” commitment.
I started following Susan Mershon, PMP otherwise known as The Techie Mentor, last year. Her skills, knowledge and the way her training programs were organized really screamed “kickass project manager/mentor”.
Susan mentors Virtual Assistants in building their business. Through her coaching, training and mentoring programs she shares the roadmap she used to build her 6-figure VA business.
In my latest blog post, I’ll share with you the conversation I had with Susan where she answered the following questions (and more):
- How can aspiring Virtual Assistants leverage on their corporate experience?
- What’s the importance of being “techie” as a Virtual Assistant? How do you become “techie”?
- How would you define the word “Virtual Assistant” to a wannabe or a newbie?
- What’s the importance of having a mentor and/or an accountability partner when you work as a VA?
I promise you, you’ll get some valuable Virtual Assistant tips and insights from one of the experts in the industry! Read on…
How did you get started as a Virtual Assistant and why did you decide to transition to the “Techie Mentor”?
The short of it is, my husband and I had an unexpected surprise late in life. We had a son. He was the catalyst that changed my mind of working with others. Here in America, we are not like other countries, that they give you a lot of time when you have a baby. No only that, the industry that I was in which was IT (Information & Technology) is very male-based. When I came back from maternity, I wasn’t treated the same. It just left a bad taste in my mouth and I was already unhappy with the thought of not seeing my son all time except for nights and weekends. I had a great nanny but I’d just grown restless over the several years and decided that I don’t want to work for somebody else anymore. I was just so tired of it. I just wanted freedom.
In fact when your little one is sick, you have to take time-offs and having a high pressure career, they frown upon you for not being around when they need you. So I decided to look for something I can do from home.
Obviously, as a project manager, I could have gotten a job working for somebody from home. But I didn’t want to work for somebody else anymore.
I found Virtual Assistance by accident and I decided that with my skill set that would be easy. Because basically, what a V.A. does is manage tasks all day and that’s what a project manager does as well but at a higher level. So, I thought, I can do that.
I set out to build my business without really knowing anything. I used primarily Linkedin as my social media platform. I didn’t want to have anything to do with Facebook or Twitter because it wasn’t my thing. Linkedin is a professional networking group. I’ve already been a part of Linkedin. I have a profile so I thought I’m going to use that as a method. I used Linkedin in RFPs (Request for Proposals) which are people who are looking for Virtual Assistants. I used a combination of Linkedin and RFPs to build my entire business enough that I could leave my job, come home and work.
It took me 14 months before I actually quit my job so that did take time. I was a Virtual Assistant for about four years and I was constantly asked how did I do what I did. Questions like:
- How did you build your business?
- Where do you get clients?
- How do you market?
- How do you use WordPress?
I was just asked all the time how to do these things. I was always a teacher at some respect. I was teaching project management fundamentals, project server or some piece of software. So, it just made sense, at that point, to transition to what I truly love which is teaching. That’s how I become The Techie Mentor. I was always known for technology and that’s where the name The Techie Mentor came from.
I really had people approaching me, telling me “I’ll pay you for your time if you just tell me how you did what you did.” That’s how I came to where I am today.
How can aspiring Virtual Assistants leverage on their corporate experience?
Anybody can be V.A. It doesn’t matter what your background is. You can learn what you need. Truly you can. It was an easy transition for me because of what I did in my career, which was a Project Manager and I was also a Consultant. A lot of VAs are a combination of task manager and consultant, so that was the hat I’ve worn. I usually leveraged that to easily walk in and become a Virtual Assistant. My point is, it doesn’t matter what you have in terms of professional capacity, as far a your expertise.
If you’ve worked in any professional environment, you already know how to be professional, be reliable and accountable which I think is highly needed in this industry. But, when it comes to your experience, if you are an Executive Assistant, you have a lot of same skills that’s needed in the V.A. world such as answering the phone and emails, calendar management, travel arrangement customer service, powerpoint/excel/documents preparation.
A lot of the things you do in a corporate capacity, no matter the job, can easily equate into coming in to the V.A. world. Everything has strengths and weaknesses but I think the biggest thing is for people to understand that they can learn the technical skills that they need. They can learn the soft skills that they need. You can learn everything.
I didn’t know what I was doing. I just had the drive and the desire to get out of my corporate job and that I was going to to do whatever it took to get out of there. I knew I had to learn and I think that can stop people and it shouldn’t. You should know that you can learn what you need.
What’s the importance of being “techie” as a Virtual Assistant? How do you become “techie”?
For me, it was an easy transition because I came from a techie background. You don’t have to have a technical background but I would say that if you want to earn more money, be more marketable and have more clients, then, you do need to learn the technology.
You can pick the technology you want, you don’t need to know them all. You don’t have to learn Infusionsoft but I do recommend all VAs to learn WordPress because all your clients have WordPress website. That’s a given. So, if you know WordPress, you got a client.
You can learn the technology and figure what which ones you like to work on because there are some technologies that you just might not like. But I think as the industry grows, people has to realize that you are supporting a business owner that has an online business. Online businesses are run by technology so you have to have some technical skills as you grow. That’s something you have to add to your skill set.
As a starting VA, is it safe to be a General VA for a certain span of time first before being a Specialist?
It’s easier to find clients if you specialize than if you are a generalist. The reason is, it’s easier to speak about what you do. Example, if I only do Infusionsoft, it’s very clear to people what I do versus if I do a lot of things, it’s really harder to explain that.
There are a lot of people who are generalists and they are very happy with that. But I just think that it’s more difficult to find clients when you are a generalist. That’s my experience.
When I started to decide that I would start doing technical things, my business exploded because I was very specific about what I would do and what I wouldn’t do. A lot of people start as generalists and over time, they gravitate towards something they like to do and they start to specialize.
I think the biggest thing is, people have an idea what a Virtual Assistant does but actually you won’t really know until you do it. I think if people are going “Whoa! I don’t want to specialize in…” Again, don’t stop moving forward. Start as a generalist. Get some experience. Then make a decision versus trying to specialize when you don’t know what it is you are specializing in.We all have to start somewhere.
How would you define the word “Virtual Assistant” to a wannabe or a newbie?
Unfortunately, the term “Virtual Assistant” is very broad. It’s almost like saying I am a coach – there are different types of coach: business coach, life coach, money coach, relationship coach…It’s the same thing with Virtual Assistant.
In a nutshell, all it is is somebody who supports an online business owner. But for specifics, it can be anybody who does data-entry or somebody who programs websites. So, it’s a huge area of expertise.
I someone asks me what’s a VA, I tell them they are somebody who works from home and they support online businesses and that could be administrative, technical, social media. That’s how I would describe it.
I try not to get hang up on the term Virtual Assistant because it isn’t clear. When I was a VA, I didn’t use that term except to fellow VAs. When I was out networking, I didn’t use a title because people don’t care about titles. they just want to do what you can do for them.
What’s the importance of having a mentor and/or an accountability partner when you work as a VA?
Accountability buddies are very valuable to anybody starting out because we are always more accountable to others than we are to ourselves. I think that it’s important to find somebody you can trust to hold you accountable to what you say you are going to do.
As far as mentors are concerned, mentors come in 2 types – paid and free. It’s important to find somebody who resonates with you. There are a lot of mentors, I’m not the only one. Since it’s really relationship based, you need to find someone who has a message that speaks to you and follow that person. Watch them on social media, go to their website and learn what you can from them.
When you are ready to invest in yourself training or coaching do so. I highly recommend that you invest in your knowledge because in the end it’s just going to come back to you tenfold. You’ll get more money by investing in yourself and your business.
If someone would want to get you as their coach, where can people find you?
You can always email firstname.lastname@example.org. At TechieMentor.com, you’ll find that I offer 2 kinds of training – technical and I will be launching a new program for new Virtual Assistants or anyone who has been in business for less than a year.
Learn How to Get Started, Get Clients & Manage the Moving Pieces of a Virtual Assistant Business in this Free Training – enjoy! http://vabusinessblueprint.com/
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