Dear Danielle: How Did You Arrive at Your Industry Figures?

Dear Danielle:

I recently purchased the Virtual Assistant business forms offered on your website. I am currently working on developing my business plan for my start-up Virtual Assistant business. In one section of the business plan, you list some industry statistics, specifically an estimated number of established Virtual Assistants. Where did you get that information. I have never attempted any type of market research and analysis before, and to be honest, I am at a complete loss and have been stressing over my lack of knowledge. I don’t even know where to begin. –TD

Oh dear, don’t stress over this stuff. Truly, in the scheme of business, industry state are not important.

Let me ask you this: are you doing the business plan for your own purposes or are you intending to use it to seek funding and loan assistance? If it’s for your own purposes, then definitely I want to put you at ease.

First, let me answer your main question on how we arrived at the figure we provided.

Back in 2006, my proteges and I took on the HUGE project of taking count from Virtual Assistant directories and search engine results. Honestly, I don’t know how we survived that “little” task, LOL. We literally looked at every single VA organization and website we could find and took census.

And we didn’t just take things at face value just because it showed up in results or was listed in a directory or someone called themselves a Virtual Assistant.

We deducted from our count any site that was no longer active, and specifically did not include anyone who wasn’t actually a Virtual Assistant (someone who is in the business of providing administrative support to clients) who we determined to be more accurately in another field altogether (e.g., we often found people calling themselves VAs when in fact their entire business was specifically focused on Web design or transcription or bookkeeping–which are completely different categories of business from Virtual Assistance).

So give or take the relatively few anonymous VAs in the world who didn’t have websites or listings, our count really is the most accurate number of those in the industry, increased exponentially to account for the three years that have elapsed since. In two more years, we’ll take another census of the industry and get those counts updated again.

But getting back to your agonizing :), how many VAs there are in the world is of absolutely no consequence for you and your business. It just does not matter. That kind of research and info is only necessary if you are submitting a formal business plan for the purposes of funding or loan assistance. I hereby give you permission to shed not one more bead of sweat on it.

Here’s how I would want you to refocus your thinking on the whole business planning thing… Going through that exercise is very valuable because it gets you to think about and plan things, work ideas and policies out and such, in your business that it might not otherwise occur to you. And of course, you should never, ever just follow a template. You still have to apply your own set of circumstances, your own goals and ideas, as well as your own critical thinking.

The Virtual Assistant business plan template I developed is specifically designed to not only give folks a professional format to follow that they can actually use for funding purposes if they ever need to, but also to get your own creative juices going–not substitute them–and show you a model where you can create multiple revenue streams, passive income and information products all in supplement to your premium craft and trade of ongoing administrative support.

But beyond all that, business planning should most importantly be about what you want for yourself and your life. Your business should serve you and your life first. Your business planning should then be approached from that angle. If you think about it from that perspective, it becomes clearer which parts of the formal business plan to focus your energy and attention on and which parts, not so much. ;) Not to mention, you might be able to have a bit more fun with it.

After that, your highest priority should be on determining a target market on which to focus and doing the homework and research on who they are, what they are doing, what’s important to them, what they need most and where their common challenges and obstacles are. The intersection between your interests and theirs is where you’ll find your sweet spot.

1 Comment Posted in Business Planning, Dear Danielle, Industry Info. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response

  1. Hi TD

    Having recently been laid off in SA, I decided after 5 years of research that the time was now right to open up my own VA business which is not an easy feat by any measure. We recently had a teleconf with our local BVAW of which I am a member and this was one of the issues I raised.

    The tools are provided with the kind assistance of the associations we belong too however the onus is on each individual to refine and tweak the business plan to their expert and/or specialised services they are offering. The important thing coming out of the conversation is that you are your own living, breathing brand so as much as you are given the tools, you must be able to walk the talk so that your clients believe in you because if you are hesitant or lack confidence you lose the plot and it is very difficult to regain their trust.

    A good idea is to always have an attorney or lawywer look over your plans or agreements so that you know you are covered all the way to the bank and that you fully understand your legal rights as remember companies have their own lawyers who are fully conversant with the law.

    I hope this helps too as I have found many challenges with financial and legal law so all the best and take comfort you are not alone hence the GrittyVA being a source of constant comfort and more especially Danielle who helped me through some of the darkest moments of my life. You can lean on how, trust me.

    Regards and all the best, your virtual colleague, Arlene de Waal

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