This is the second part of a 20-point checklist for VA Success. It’s designed to help you be ready to be more successful in the year ahead.

If you missed the first set of pointers, you can find part one here.

Here’s the checklist from 11 to 20.

11. Create the Right Workspace

To be at your most productive, you want to be working in a space that’s light, comfortable and avoids distractions.

You may not have the luxury of a dedicated office or study. But you can still make your work area or room the best it can be.

How’s your lighting? Have you got a desk or table to work at? Is your chair comfortable and adjustable? Do you need a footrest? Would a large monitor ease the strain on your eyes?

Is the room or area tidy? Do you have a place for books, printer, stationery or other resources? Are there plants or flowers to add some fresh and natural life to the workspace?

You may not be able to change everything at once. But maybe now is the time to plan a way to be more successful, and earn the money to create the space you really want.

12. Get the Computing Power You Need

The computer or laptop you’re using will use a lot of power – especially if using many applications or your workload increases.

Whether you’re starting out, well-established or already super successful, it’s important to have the tools to do your job efficiently.

A low-budget laptop may end up being false economy, if it can’t handle having multiple applications and tabs open or run apps like Microsoft Teams. If you want some tips about computer requirements, listen to Paul Richardson on Virtually Amazing – The Podcast.

Build upgrades and replacement into your business budget planning.

13. Ensure your broadband can cope

Are you all Zoomed out yet? Have you been holding virtual meetings or conversations on Teams?

More and more meetings are going online. More and more people are working from home, even if only some of the time.

This has an impact on the broadband speeds and service you may be experiencing. If you are finding your internet connection becomes unstable or the screen ‘freezes’, it’s time to get that sorted.

If your current provider seems unable (or unwilling) to help, don’t be afraid of switching to get the level your work and business needs.

14. Write a Business Plan

As a smart VA, you’ve probably already got a plan in place.

It doesn’t have to be a long, complex document. It’s a framework, a guide. It sets out how you want your VA business to be, how much income you want to earn and how you’re going to achieve that.

When you have a plan, some targets and some milestones, it makes it easier to measure how you’re progressing and be successful.

15. Create a Marketing Plan

This might be part of your business plan. You can also put it together as a separate document.

As with your Business Plan, this does not have to be complicated. It’s simply setting out the way you are going to make yourself more visible in the world and attract new clients.

What are your marketing goals? What activity will you do offline? What activity will you do online? What budget are you setting aside for advertising or promotions? How much time each week will you invest in marketing?

If you’ve not done so already, start jotting down some thoughts and ideas.

16. Do some Marketing

Having a plan for marketing helps give you clarity and focus. But it can only work if you implement it. That means doing stuff.

You may not have time to do ‘everything’ on your marketing list so make sure you choose your priorities carefully. What activity is most likely to make you progress and deliver successful results? What types of marketing energise you? Start with one of those.

There’s nothing worse than slugging away at an activity that sucks the life out of you. It will show in what you write, film or record. Get to know what you like, loathe and love doing. Get to understand the times of the day and parts of the week when you are in an energetic and creative mode. Build your activity around that.

The only way to know if marketing works – is to do some and show it to the world.

That might feel a little scary, vulnerable or intimidating at the beginning. But the more you do it, the more confidence you will gain. Good practice builds your marketing ‘muscle’.

17. Build your Knowledge

They say knowledge is power. Having the right knowledge can certainly open doors and give you leverage in business.

A good grasp of general knowledge always helps. Have relevant specialist knowledge for the industry or sectors you serve can add to your value.

When you have a free moment online, you could scroll through your social feed and notifications – or you could check out news, articles, videos or blogs to get those grey cells jiving up and down with a little more zest and colour.

If you’re not one for courses, there are plenty of training manuals and ‘how to’ books. I’ve written a shelf-load on how to use Microsoft Office and 365 applications, which you can explore on Bookboon.

18. Develop your Creative Problem-Solving Skills

There’s a saying that “problem finders are cheap”. Your clients prefer to look for problem solvers.

If you can demonstrate you are more than an administrative professional, and show you understand the challenges of your clients’ businesses, that will add to your value and reputation.

Some people are naturals at it but problem-solving skills are also something that can be taught and learnt. Useful tools and techniques include brainstorming, Mind Mapping, Lateral Thinking, SCAMPER, Word Association and Six Thinking Hats (and there are hundreds more out there).

There are many, many books on the subject and some of the more popular techniques can be found online with a quick search.

19. Get Support

Working freelance, going self-employed or running your own business are usually harder work than you think they’re going to be.

There will be times when you will want or need help – from a coach, trainer or mentor, for example. Don’t be afraid to ask for support.

I’ve had moments in my business where I’ve looked for help, because I was stuck or unsure about how to go forward with an idea. And each time it was worth doing.

People know me for my online ‘how to’ courses in MS Office and Microsoft 365. For many, that is all they need to learn what they need to be a more productive VA.

But I still get asked for 1:1 support, even from people who successfully take my courses. Usually, it’s either because they want to learn something specific in a particular application or function, or because they have a number of questions about several apps.

Because the demand was there, I set up a flexible and affordable way for VA’s to get access to me privately, to ask questions via email and have the option of some individual training. That’s available through my Trainer in Your Pocket service.

It’s a good idea to set aside some time and budget for support that will get you unstuck, shift your mindset and allow you to move forward with more surety and confidence.

20. Set aside time for Fun, Rest and Relaxation

When there is so much to do in making your VA business work, it’s easy to forget about how the hours can pile up each week and month.

There will be times when you are super busy – and loving it. You don’t have to have work-life balance at 50-50 through the year. You may have busier times and you may have quieter times.

Wherever your business is at, it is important to build in some rest and relaxation. Pencil in time for holidays and short breaks (the restrictions on travel won’t last forever). Even if not going away, build in days where you set work aside and have a bit of ‘you’ time.

Keep clients aware of your ‘away’ calendar and diary. Be organised so you can take time off without any lingering concerns or worries.

And that completes the checklist for becoming a more successful VA.

Let me ask you.

Which points stand out for you? Which ones are you going to prioritise? Is there something you would add to the list, here and in part one?

Do comment or get in touch and let me know.


Shelley Fishel

The session was well structured and the explanation was very clear. It was amazing how Shelley managed to squeeze so much info in just one hour and a half! Colin’s support and contributions were also very valuable, and so were “Virtual Veronica”‘s. Thank you for a most interesting and useful training session at the Miss Jones Virtual Summit!

Laura Carizzo- Royal Norwegian Embassy in Argentina

I haven’t used PowerPoint in 20 years, this has really boosted my confidence.

Lyn Parker

Course is packed with so much valuable information in a easy-to-understand and follow language, even for a complete beginner. I can respect the fact that sometimes it’s very hard for an expert to break the information down to basics. but Shelley has done it brilliantly. I was sure that I knew quite a bit but Shelley has proven me wrong even at the very beginning of the basics of PowerPoint. Lessons are short and precise which allowed me to easily transfer the new skill into practice without being overwhelmed and to carry on adding on more with each lesson. I had so many ‘Aha!’ moments and for most of them I couldn’t believe I used to pay graphic designer to do it for me, now, thanks to Shelley, I am looking forward to creating, designing, converting my presentations all by myself!

Iva Freeman – Vertex Human Capital

Shelley was very thorough and knew a lot of tip’s for using Teams, thank you 🙂

James O’Connor – Cavannah Homes

Very informative, constantly getting everyone in the meeting involved, loved every bit of it!

Dylan Teal Hopkins – Cavannah Homes
Fantastic and informative training and great to see all of the exciting functions with Microsoft Teams.
Laura Rigby – The Apprenticeship College
Shelley was really clear in her teaching and went at a pace that was helpful to us. We covered all we needed to know to get us started, as a small team, using MS Teams. She was also very helpful in the run up to the session, with check in calls and ensuring our platform was set up correctly. I would highly recommend Shelley to anyone wanting to learn to navigate their way around MS Teams.
Leigh Dowling – Innuous

Microsoft Teams One to One Training Session

Shelley was approachable, easy to work with, and agile with answering questions to apply the session to my specific needs

Melissa Marshall – Present Your Science

A course on Outlook had been on the top of my list when Shelley asked VA’s what they wanted to learn.

It was a real case of ‘so that’s how you do it’ or ‘I never knew that’. I have to say that I learnt so many great tips it has definitely improved the way I work in Outlook and my inbox is looking colourful and organised and I can’t wait to share this knowledge with my clients.

Jacqueline Leake – JLeake VA Services – Outlook

A great course with lots of examples and step by step instructions. I can now confidently create infographics and as a bonus, I learnt a lot of new PowerPoint functionality that will enhance all my PowerPoint work and save me so much time.

Jessica Bailey – Integral Resource

I really like Shelley’s courses. She has a clear and easy to follow teaching style. In ‘How to Create Fillable Forms’ I’ve learned about the functions of the Developer ribbon which will mean I’ll be able to create a bespoke Returns Form for a client who has an online shop

Freya Henderson – Virtual Office Orkney

Shelley was really clear in her teaching and went at a pace that was helpful to us. We covered all we needed to know to get us started, as a small team, using MS Teams. She was also very helpful in the run up to the session, with check in calls and ensuring our platform was set up correctly. I would highly recommend Shelley to anyone wanting to learn to navigate their way around MS Teams.

Sarah Clements – Inuous

Absolutely superb course, easy to follow and to refer back whilst putting it all into practice! I was unaware of the extent you can customise a presentation and it’s just made me want to know more – what’s next Shelley?

Denise Williams

I thought I had a pretty good grasp of Outlook until I did this course! In her videos, Shelley is clear and concise, and the language she uses is straightforward and jargon-free. Each module is broken down into manageable chunks, which helps keep your attention and means the course is easy to fit in around other commitments. I’ve created email templates and implemented rules that are already saving me time, and as all the other things I’ve learnt start to become second nature, the positive impact on my efficiency is fast becoming clear. This course has been incredibly beneficial and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to strengthen their skills and boost productivity.

Pip Doleman VA

I thought I knew Powerpoint really well, but I wanted to specifically learn how to use Powerpoint to create better infographics, easily and quickly. Shelley explains everything in a very logical and clear way, so I understood everything the first time I heard it. The most useful thing I learnt was that Powerpoint can do so much more than I thought it could. By also using the short cuts that Shelley showed me I am much quicker than I have ever been and I thought I was already quick!

Susan Marot

Shelley Fishel of Tomorrow’s VA has a wealth of experience in Microsoft Office. I met her in person 2 years ago at the PA Show in London. I also saw her in action in a fab workshop and knew she was the whizz that everyone had told me she was. I have since bought a lifetime access to her HUB and all the courses in there are a MUST if you are a VA on a mission. The courses will give you confidence in all the Office 365 components and will catapult you to dizzy heights

Alex Hughes