#VAin30 - Day 8: Setting up Your Home Office
Nothing is more important to a virtual assistant than his or her workspace. You'll be spending a lot of time there, so you'll want to be sure you get it set up correctly, and always tweak as you go. There has been a lot of discussion as to what a VA would actually need to get started working. The truth is that there is no one-size-fits all office setup. It's also important to note that different types of VA's will need different types of equipment. Don't let anyone tell you that you need to spend a fortune to get started, however. Most of us already have many of the items needed to have a modest start as an assistant.
Do you Need an Office?
We asked this question awhile back. And the answer is: it depends.
I'm a mom of 6 who doesn't have an office, and --worse yet -- I have a tiny home with no room to call my own. But I make do. And you will to. If have found that have a "base" that stays put no matter what is important. This will have your files, books, resources, supplies, and perhaps your desktop (if you use one.) Then I set up mobile workstations throughout the house to get work in where (and when) I can.
I have a little nightstand where I can set my files while I work in bed with my laptop. I have a powerstrip int he dining room to plug into when I want to watch the kids do their homeschool work. I have a travel bag set up with duplicates of many supplies so that I can just pick up and go to the library or have what I need while working on a plane. If you think ahead, this strategy almost works better than a large 12 x 12 office space. You have flexibility and can get more done on a given day.
What Items Do You Need?
Like I mentioned before, you likely have most of what you need already. Most of us have a computer or laptop. (I don't recommend trying to run a VA business with just an iPad or tablet. They are cumbersome and can't handle the file sizes you'll need to deal with.) You also have the internet. A dedicated landline is soemthing needed in the 90's, but not so much now.
You might need items for comfort. I recommend this list of extras if you intent on sitting and typing a lot. But don't feel you need to rush out and buy everything now. Make some money, then invest a little. Putting yourself in debt just to have a cushy designer chair may not be the best idea.
You'll want a planner (this one is nice.) Some notebooks for ideas and keeping track of expenses. If you really like to be organized and want to look professional, you can invest in a bookeeping service like GoDaddy's. It has invoicing, too!
For the most part, you'll spend most of your budget on software tools and web services, but these will all depend on the type of work you do. We will go into some of the most popular ones in more detail later. But this is a nice list of tools that I use in social media management, blogging, copywriting, and freelance writing.
How to Know When to Buy More
It can be hard to know when it's OK to spend more on your home office. I have a habit of thinking I need something, putting it in my Amazon cart and waiting 3 days. I usually discover by that point that I didn't need it in the first place, or a better solution has come along. Guard your money tightly in the beginning. You may not find that you'll be the doing the type of VA work you thought you would, so it makes no sense to invest too much at the start. If you do want to dabble with adding to your services kit, try a free trial of a service or the one month plan to begin with.
Many virtual assistant guides and courses are rife with "buy this tool" announcements, which are usually a sign that they are getting a commission through an affiliate relationship. But I believe that there is no one magical tool or product that all VA's need. Your tools we be vastly different than the next person's, because your services will be unique. Do a lot of research before plunking down more cash. Ask questions, and you'll probably have an idea when it's time to buy more.
I ask myself 3 questions to know if it's time to buy something:
1) Will this guarantee me another client? (Some clients require a special software or tool, so it would make sense to buy.)
2) Can this save me time -- freeing me up to take on more work and make more money than what the item costs?
3) Can I charge more by mastering this tool and incorporating it into my services?
If you can answer YES to one, it's probably an OK idea to buy. If you can answer YES to two or more -- do it! That's a good investment in your home office.
Sign up for the mailing list to be reminded of each's day's new step in the journey to starting a successful virtual assistant business! I can't wait to do this with you! Need to catch up? Start with Day One here.