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[Reprinted with permission from Mom-101.com, 2003. Interview with Sharon Williams, WAHM]
About 13 years ago, I started my business, now called The 24 Hour Secretary, because I knew I could fill a void for entrepreneurs and small businesses — providing administrative and secretarial services 24 hours a day, every day.
Our industry has evolved into what we now call virtual assisting. Virtual Assistants (VAs) are work-at-home solopreneurs or collaborative teams that provide professional administrative support to other entrepreneurs, small businesses, corporations, associations, networks, etc.
As a virtual assistant, I provide admin, secretarial, event planning, real estate transaction coordination and other business support services.
How did you get started in your business?
I didn’t really start my business to be an administrative services company. Instead, it was a business consulting firm. But, I found that a lot of startup companies did not have any administrative background and could not handle the paperwork-related responsibilities. I started taking on those duties and the business grew from there. So, basically, I stumbled into this role after 2 years of initially only offering business consulting services.
Did you have any previous experience with this type of business before you began?
Yes. In the 70s I was an administrative assistant and then move to management-type and leadership positions.
What were your first steps in starting your business?
I originally worked at Domino’s Pizza to save money to purchase the equipment I needed. Then I met with small business counselors at my local chamber of commerce. I developed a business and marketing plan and started networking.
How long did it take before you started earning money?
I started earning money immediately because I asked the contacts I had made during my planning to make referrals and networked continuously.
How many hours a week do you put into your business?
My company is open 24 hours a day, every day. I personally put in a minimum of 12 hours a day.
What activities do you do for your business on a day-to-day basis?
Document processing, marketing and customer service.
Do you work only when your children are not around or do you involve them in your business?
When my daughter lived with me she would help. My granddaughter answers phones, greets customers, makes copies and performs other tasks during the summer and when school is out.
Have you ever lost faith in your business and if so, what did you do?
No. However, I had one year when I lost 2 “major” clients and had to scramble to regroup and replace their income. It caused a downsizing of my company, but we rebounded and are back on track. I knew that I had found my “niche” and that as long as I could market and provide quality work, I would persevere.
Do you set goals for yourself and your business?
Yes, I have monthly goals, six-month goals, and yearly goals. I don’t always meet my goals, however, because of family situations or situations that occur with my clients. But each year, overall, I exceed them and have continued to grow.