As we leave 2020 and head into 2021, it’s both a time for reflection and focus. What a year we’ve all just gone through. For many, it may have been the most challenging they have ever faced – in their health, in their work and in their life. Let’s hope the new year and 2021 gives people much more to cheer about.
But it’s not been all doom and gloom.
Many people have found their businesses have not only survived but thrived. You just don’t hear much about those stories in the news. A common denominator in the cases of success has been focus. An ability to stay calm, see and hold the bigger picture, make a plan, take action, monitor results and keep on track. Manage all those elements in play and it tends to work – whatever is happening in the world around you. Having focus often requires the ability to adapt, be flexible and have an eye for opportunities. The modern VA is much more than an administrative professional. The expectations of organisations – many facing huge challenges right now – are high. To attract clients, grow your income and develop your business you certainly need focus. However, it may also require some extra effort or even an expansion of your comfort zone. This is a little bit of guidance for you.
Introducing The Five Focus Keys for VA Success.
Here are FIVE areas of focus for the smart VA, PA and EA in 2021.
A bit of general knowledge and keeping up to date with the news, especially business news, will always help you in your professional life. If you work with clients in a particular industry, sector or niche, it’s a smart move to keep up to date with what’s happening. It can help you have better conversations with prospects and demonstrate extra value to those who pay you. Set aside time each week to focus on improving your knowledge – reading newspapers or magazines, scrolling through online articles, listening to an audiobook or podcast. It can not only give you extra confidence but also allow your paymasters to see that you have a thinking mind, curiosity and a deeper interest in their business. And if you can share with them useful information that they don’t know or may have missed in the ‘busyness’ of the week, that keeps you in their mind’s eye.
The world is not getting less busy. Businesses and organisations have high expectations of their employees – and also outreach support professionals like VA’s. It’s more important than ever to have a good command of the Microsoft Office applications like Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. You don’t want to be wasting time working out how to carry out tasks. Your focus should be on finding and knowing the most efficient way to get the work done. That helps your clients. It also helps you, giving you more time for yourself or for expanding your current client base. And, if you didn’t know it already, having a clear grasp of Microsoft Teams (and all it can do – not just the obvious stuff) should be a priority. For many VA’s, especially those working with larger SME businesses or corporates, it is essential. As leaders and bosses contemplate how they will manage the Return to Work of their employees, they will be thinking about how to make the hybrid model work for their organisation. Some people in the office, some working remotely from home. For many, that means turning to tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. They’ll expect you to know it – and know it better than they do.
Every individual or organisation you serve is facing challenges. They’re constantly seeking solutions. If you’re a VA who has a creative mind and can offer ideas, suggestions or ways to do things better, you’re going to be even more highly valued. When you’re researching for knowledge, learning about your client’s field or involved in meetings or discussions, you can pick up information and gain insights. If you can turn that into a solution, or possible solution, your clients are going to be ultra-impressed. This may not be something you can do instantly. But when you focus on it as a regular habit, you can build up your knowledge, add to your Microsoft ‘know-how’ and learn some simple problem-solving techniques. Even if you cannot help your clients straight away, you are building your creative ‘muscles’ for the future. And you may just find you start having ideas for your own business, too.
With collaboration as a focus, there are two ways it can work for you. Firstly, with your clients. Secondly, in working with others for mutual advantage. Organisations are going to have some employees in the office, some working remotely from home. Larger companies may have branch offices, across the country or overseas. Your ability as a VA to support how your clients’ teams, departments and sections can collaborate effectively is going to be important. Once you master Microsoft Teams, you may even be able to educate your clients in how best to use the technology. If you can improve efficiency, productivity and creativity at their end, they are going to see that as an added value from you. When you add more value, you can charge more. That on its own is a good enough reason to focus on it. The second approach to collaboration is to see who else you could work with – so it’s a win-win situation. For example, you may know a business coach who wants their audience to learn how to be more productive. You could offer to present a webinar training on that, be interviewed on a podcast or create online training they can offer to their list (and split the profits between you). You may know a web designer who has clients who struggle with the copy. If writing is one of your strengths, you might be able to offer a ‘review’ service or a copywriting service as a ‘bolt on’ service to the design package. Once you begin to be open to collaboration, you will start to see the possibilities. Go explore them in 2021.
Naturally, as a smart and conscientious VA, you are going to communicate well with your clients. With so much uncertainty around, it’s even more important to keep in regular touch – and to keep asking what more you can do for people. An individual or organisation might have hired you for a particular skill set but not know about what else you can do. Make sure you tell them. Whether you regard yourself as self-employed, freelance, a sole trader or a registered company you cannot ignore a simple fact. You are in business. That means you may face competition. That means people need to know you exist, what you do and how that helps them. That means you may have to do more of that important communication work – marketing. If you’ve not already done so, it’s a good idea to review your strategy and plans.
Ask yourself the essential questions. Questions like:
- Who am I?
- What do I do?
- Who is my ideal client?
- How do I help them?
- What difference does working with me make to their work and life?
- Why should people choose me as their VA?
What marketing are you going to do online? What marketing will you do offline? Everyone is expecting (or at least hoping) that 2021 will be a very different year to 2020. If you focus on these five areas and raise your game in each one, you will see the difference in 12 months. Maybe sooner. There is no reason why it cannot be a very good year for you – perhaps your best yet.