Dear Danielle: Do I Have Enough Experience to Be an Administrative Consultant?

Dear Danielle: Do I Have Enough Experience to Be an Administrative Consultant?

Dear Danielle:

I only have 2 years experience as an executive assistant and 6 years as a receptionist/data entry clerk. Could I still be an Administrative Consultant? Any suggestions are helpful. –BT

Well, it’s not really for me to say. It’s what the marketplace has to say.

What I mean is, yes, as an industry, those of us in it definitely have thoughts, opinions and expectations about what the qualifications should be for those who want to enter our ranks. Generally, we want to protect the reputation and credibility of the profession to protect interests of ourselves and clients alike.

Ultimately, however, this is an unregulated industry so no one can tell you that you may or may not open an administrative support business if that’s what you want to do.

That said, clients have very demanding expectations. So the better question might be, do you have enough experience that you will be professionally qualified enough to meet those demands?

Business savvy also plays a critical role here because if you don’t know how to run and manage business well, that also will directly impact your service to clients and their satisfaction.

If you don’t have a sufficient level of these things, are you prepared to deal with the extra difficulty and rejection you might face? Do you have the stamina, perseverance and tenacity to keep working on whatever you need to work on to get to a level that is marketable?

The less skill and experience you have, the much more difficult a path you face. It will be much harder for you to command the kind of fees that will earn you a real living and it may take you much longer to get established.

You can be the most likable person on the planet and have no problem developing rapport with prospective clients, but when it comes right down to it, the proof is always in the pudding. Clients get frustrated (and do not work long) with those who don’t have a business level of skill, competence and business management sense and ability.

What I might personally suggest is that it might be a good idea to stay in the workforce a few more years. Grab every opportunity to grow in your administrative support skills and at the same time become a student of business (and I don’t mean enrolling in an MBA program; simply start reading business books).

Use this time now to start thinking about a target market and studying what kind of administrative needs and challenges that market has and how you can support those needs and solve those challenges.

Lay the foundation of your business now so that when the time is right and you’ve got enough business knowledge and marketable expertise under your belt, you will be more prepared for success.

Then again, maybe you feel you’ve already got what it takes. If so, go for it. ;)

4 Responses

  1. Danielle,
    You make a really great point. Many people who have worked in office settings or assistant type jobs have the actual skills to be able to perform many duties of a VA. (Here comes the BUT) BUT, not everyone has the discipline, motivation, organization, and a handful of the other skills required to be a successful VA. The one thing I would like to suggest to BT would be to check out some of the major freelance sites ( or for some short duration VA “gigs” to gain experience and get a feel of what it would be like. Plus, if BT maintains their current position during the day a VA gig at night is a really good way to get some extra income!

  2. I can’t say that I agree. In my book, wasting time on elance and guru is the one of worst things someone new in our business can do. The ONLY thing those sites are good for is if you are hard up for money. But don’t confuse doing-what-ya-gotta-do-to-put-food-on-the-table-in-the-meantime with building a real business. Plus, you need to decide: is it your intention to freelance on the side for a little bit of extra money or is your intention to create a REAL committed business where you can actually earn a living? Because there’s a difference, particularly when it comes to clients.

    First, doing project work does not in any way whatsoever give new ACs any sense or experience for what it’s like providing administrative support. That only comes from real world experience so if you have that experience, there is no reason on earth to waste your time prostrating yourself for cheapo price-shoppers.

    And also, just the sheer nature of those sites can give a new person a completely warped misunderstanding about the real market and pricing. If those are their first experiences as they foray in our industry, those places can totally set them back and do a number on their professional self esteem. Those sites are nothing but bidding sites where the environment and culture itself is about catering to price-shoppers and competing on lowest cost. They turn the work into a commodity, not a service. Those AREN’T your clients and can’t be your clients if your intention is to build a real business that will create the kind of lifestyle and income you can truly live on and support yourself with. That time they waste working for peanuts on nickel and dime projects could be better spent (for more profitable, long-term success) charging REAL fees working with REAL clients.

  3. Suzanne Kaufmann says:

    I too am preparing to get started in the administrative support business and your poster’s question attracted me for that reason. One thing I would like to add to your comments is something I am learning right now since I am taking classes learning to become a VA. One thing I hadn’t considered going into this was COST of equipment and items needed. There really is a lot to think about beside the amount of experience one has in administrative duties. There is the question of do you have all the equipment you will need to do it from home. And do you know how to fix it if something fails? Do you have backup equipment? There are overhead costs even working from home. So all that has to be taken into consideration when thinking about becoming a VA. It is more than the skills you have worked with but also the skills and equipment you need not just to support others but to support yourself. In my classes we have had to make a business plan from the get-go and doing that (although we had to do it a little too fast) was an eye opener for me. The question isn’t “do I have enough experience or skills anymore” – the question is do I have the resources and if I don’t where am I going to get them. My recommendation for you poster would be to do a business plan first. When you have thought out what it will take to do what you are considering, then you will realize what you actually need to do it – INCLUDING skill sets and the like.

    Plan ahead – that should be her motto.

  4. Excellent point, Suzanne. Being in business is a huge undertaking with more things to consider than can be covered in a single blog post. By reading back posts, this gal can get a sense for more of what all is involved. She (and anyone new) can also get an Administrative Support Business Plan Template and other business tools and guides from our Success Store

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