Life as a Virtual Assistant or Freelancer isn’t all kittens and rainbows and cupcakes. You know it and I know it.
Running your own business is hard; long hours, lack of IT support, challenging customers, a non-existent work-life balance – these are all things that can have a negative impact on our day to day business lives. But these aren’t the only potential issues out there. This Halloween, I’m going to tell you a spooky story about the darker side of the VA and Freelance Business Support Professional industry…
Once upon a time, there was a VA called Simone* (*it’s important to note that the name ‘Simone’ can easily be replaced with any other name in existence, as this story relates to most of us) who was good at what she did, produced great work for her customers and actually managed a reasonable work-life balance which meant she could leave the house occasionally to do fun activities rather than just household jobs.
Simone was a happy person, and didn’t notice the three spooky shadows that started to take root in her business.
The first shadow was actually a group of fellow VAs from within the industry who didn’t agree with Simone’s pricing structure, her belief that insurance was a business necessity for every professional business owner, and who thought that her giving away the odd free introductory session with potential new clients was inherently and categorically wrong. These shadows snuck into Simone’s life from Social Media pages and via whispers at physical networking groups, making Simone doubt herself and her core values.
The second shadow was also from ‘within’ the industry, and was a group of individuals who charged significantly less per hour than Simone did (we’re talking comparable to minimum wage for employees here – or less!), causing other business owners to exclaim “My, how very expensive you are!” when she gave them a quote for her services. These shadows seemed to cause the most problems for Simone when work was thin on the ground, encouraging her to reduce her prices beyond a level that was fair for her…
The final shadow lived within Simone’s head, and got bigger and mouthier when she didn’t take regular breaks from work or was able to interact with her peers about the highs and lows of freelance work.
Occasionally, these spooky shadows got a little too much for Simone, leaving her world a little dull, dark and lacking in joy. Until one day, she ninja-kicked those shadows right out of her life because she was an amazing, strong and capable human being and didn’t actually need rescuing as she was more than able to sort that kind of thing out herself…
This isn’t a far-fetched story, and it doesn’t involve a helpless individual being rescued by a superhero. These ‘shadows’ are a real part of life for a VA, just as much as being able to work in your pyjamas and having the ability to spend as much as you want on stationery (as a legitimate business expense). But whilst VIP VA and fellow VA organisations can help you if the odd shadow becomes too much for a little while, you don’t need us to remind you how excellent you are! We are, however, a safe space full of kind words and GIFs if you ever need a little escape.
There will always be people out there who don’t agree with you. There will always be people out there who charge less than you. If you are a perfectionist, you will always second-guess yourself and take it to heart when a customer spots an issue (however minor!) in the work that you have completed for them. Stick to your guns and don’t feel compelled to do something that goes against your business ethos and personal integrity in order to land or sustain a job. But most of all? Be kind – life is crazy enough without people being unable to ask questions or voice ideas or opinions without being torn apart by their peers; you never know quite how many shadows your fellow freelancers are dealing with today, so GIF away and let’s build on the collaborative, educational and supportive nature of the industry rather than feed the trolls in their deep, dark holes….
The end (P.S. Simone lived happily ever after and won a series of shiny awards because she was excellent).