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I’ve known Alicia for some time now. She not only successfully built her own transcription service business, but also gives back to others by helping them build their own virtual support services business. I’m so glad she has shared her story and tips with me and you!
What was your first home business and how did you choose this profession?
My first home business was as a virtual assistant. At first, I offered any services that I could think of, that I knew how to do. I quickly learned that it was far better to specialize in something and help a particular market. I settled on specializing in transcription and proofreading services, helping clients repurpose their audio and video materials so that they can reach a wider audience and bring in more income. This is still one of the businesses that I run today.
As far as how I chose this, it wasn’t quite planned. I found myself permanently laid off, and seven months pregnant, in a downturned economy. That’s when I decided to search online to see if I could find any legitimate work I could do from home so that I could make income while raising my son. After a lot of searching–and research–I found the virtual assistance industry, and I’ve never looked back!
Do you have an exit plan and if so, how important is it to have an exit strategy?
I do have a bit of an exit plan in place. I also run a second business where I coach virtual assistants and offer them resources in order to help them grow their business. After running that second business for a little while, I quickly realized that I’d found my passion. My goal at some point is to no longer offer virtual assistant services and just run a coaching/consulting business. The ultimate goal would be to work a couple of hours a week while continuing to save for retirement.
I do think it’s important to consider an exit strategy, whatever that might mean for you. That might mean transitioning to offer different services, starting another business or planning for retirement. When you start your business, you want to look at the big picture and create some kind of plan for your future, and how you’re going to get there. As life changes–and it will–that plan and path might change as well.
Can you give advice to those who are working from home while working an outside job and taking care of a family?
It can often be hard to juggle things like working from home, your full-time job outside of the home, family and other responsibilities. I don’t believe in the concept of a perfect work-life balance, but I do believe it’s important for you to prioritize things and make time for what’s most important to you. Sometimes that might be your work from home and sometimes that might be your family. I’ve coached many women who worked a full-time job, had children and were also trying to start up their own business on the side. Yes, it’s hard work but it’s not impossible.
My suggestion would be to create a schedule that works best for you and your family. Write down everything that needs to get done, including things like your work outside the home, any appointments for you or family members, your work from home responsibilities, family time and “me” time. Then use some kind of calendar, like a daily planner or Google calendar–whatever is going to work best for you. Schedule in blocks of time for each thing you want to accomplish. And don’t forget that I mentioned scheduling in things like “me” time and family time. Those things are important!
Who is your biggest influence?
I really had to think about this question, and I think I have a couple of different influencers. First, there are people that I look up to in the work-at-home community, like my business coach Kelly McCausey, who makes me see what’s possible and inspires me to strive to reach my dreams. Then, my family is a huge influencer for me. Spending time with them reminds me every day of why I’ve worked so hard to make my businesses successful–so that I can spend quality time with them.
How do you deal with the feelings of isolation or loneliness that many work from home professionals feel once they leave the hustle and bustle of corporate life.
I’ve honestly not dealt with that because I have people around me all the time. My young son is home with me and my husband has an unusual schedule, so I get to see him a lot because I’m home. I suggest getting involved in networking events and forums with your peers. You can find those kind of groups online. Sometimes it helps to talk with people who “get” it. And Meetup groups are popping up all over the place. Try attending something in person so that you can connect with people in your area. Can’t find one locally? Start your own!
What does a typical work-at-home day look like (I’d like to give readers an idea of type and amount of work successful people do.
There is no typical day around here. Ha ha! It all depends on what we have going on. However, I can give you an idea. I get up in the morning with my son and have a smoothie for breakfast. Then I work out right away (Otherwise, it’s easy to make excuses and not fit it in later in the day), then shower and dress for the day. By this time, it’s around 10:00 AM. I sit down to do about 1 to 2 hours of work. This usually includes things like responding to emails, blog writing, writing to my list and coaching calls. I break for lunch and playtime with my son for a couple of hours. Then I work again for another 1 to 2 hours. This time is reserved for client work for my first business, doing things such as transcription, proofreading any number of things, and blog posting for them. I stop around 4:30 PM to make dinner. At this point, I spend time with my family, having dinner, playing or hanging out. When my son goes to bed around 8:00 PM, it’s back to work for me. I will usually work in the evenings for another 2 hours. This time is a mix of marketing for both of my businesses, client work for both of my businesses and prepping my schedule for the next day. I always make sure to schedule in a couple of days a week of down time, where I don’t do any work. I don’t necessarily keep a schedule where I’m off every weekend because my husband works on some weekends, and then he gets some days off during the week. I tailor my schedule to fit his when I can so that we spend quality time together either just the two of us or as a family. What I like is that this time might be spent on a Saturday or it could be a Tuesday afternoon. My son will be starting full-day kindergarten this coming school year, so my schedule will be changing entirely. But this is what I love about running my own business from home. There is so much flexibility!
How do you decide what to invest in for your education or personal growth (you can waste a lot of money on info products etc. How do successful people decide what’s worth the money and effort to them).
I think it’s easy to get caught up in bright shiny object syndrome. There are so many products and classes out there, and you just want to take it all in. I learned a strategy long ago that really helps with this. I decide what ONE next thing I need to learn in order to advance my business. That might be taking a course to add a skill to my services list. It might be investing in a business coach in order to reach the next level of my coaching business. It might be purchasing a product that saves me time or money when it comes to creating sales pages. It might be outsourcing a task to someone in order to gain some time back to work on another aspect of my business. Whatever it might be, I always keep my goals in mind and make a decision of the ONE next thing that’s going to help me get where I want to be.
What tasks do you outsource?
As a virtual assistant, I practice what I preach. I outsource the things that I don’t rock at in my business or that take time away from the things that only I can do. For me, those things are a good bit of my social media marketing, the tech aspects of my website and online shopping cart, and design. Finding good people who love what they do and can take things off your plate is truly invaluable.
Think back to your first day as a work from home mom; did you stare at the computer screen frozen in fear? Did you already have a plan of attack? Who was the first person you went to for professional guidance?
Wow, that seems like a long time ago. Ha ha! I do remember that, in my first days, I was very pregnant and I did have a plan of attack. My goal was to get my website completed and begin marketing to bring in my first client before my baby was born. Those first days were spent learning (mostly on my own) how to use WordPress in order to create my site. I know I emailed my mentor, Loretta Oliver, in those first days asking questions about pretty much everything. Hers was the first product I purchased that taught me the skills I needed for general transcription, and she and I just bonded. On the first day, I’m pretty sure I didn’t sit and stare at a blank computer screen. I was so excited about what lay ahead of me. I had a list of what needed to be accomplished and I attacked that list. I had eight pounds of motivation growing inside of me, and that has always helped to drive and move me forward!
Alicia Jay is the owner of Transcription e-Services, where she specializes in general transcription so that busy professionals can make more money from their podcasts, teleseminars, webinars and interviews. She is passionate about inspiring others and created newVAadvice.com, a site where she shares her journey of becoming a Virtual Assistant, as well as training, products and mentoring to help women get out of overwhelm and on the path to success. Her passion and purpose is encouraging women to follow their dreams of having a business that works around their lives—not the other way around.