Archive for June 30th, 2010

Dear Danielle: Is It Possible to Start a Virtual Assistant Biz in Japan

Dear Danielle:

I have 30 years of diverse administrative experience.  My husband is transferring to Japan and civilian employment is very difficult to come by where we’re being stationed.  Is it possible/feasible to start up an administrative support business from overseas?  I have a modern, complete home office set-up.  Any advice or assistance you can provide is greatly appreciated. –KF

Absolutely, it’s possible!

You’ve got the experience. You’ve got your home office set-up. Perfect.

As with any new business, there is always a learning curve when it comes to running and managing a business successfully and profitably. And you’ll need to get your foundations in place.

But everyone goes through those stages, so that’s nothing out of the ordinary.

And most importantly, you aren’t restricted to your local area as far as finding clients. That’s the beauty of the kind of work we do — it’s done remotely and all you need to work with clients is the internet and email.

You don’t mention whether you are intending to seek local clients in Japan. I’m not sure what the market is like there or how receptive they are to this kind of working so naturally, as you would with any market, you’ll need to do your research.

I would advise you to  steer clear of the term “Virtual Assistant.”

Anymore, it’s associated with cheap gopher labor rather than skilled, professional expertise. Plus, people have never understood what it meant in the first place.

Instead. as long as you are specifically in the ongoing administrative support business, use our term of Administrative Consultant and “administrative support.” This makes it much clearer to people what we are and what kind of work we do.

And consider this, accountants don’t go to their clients’ office to do their work. People don’t expect their attorneys to come to their offices to conduct their work.

With few exceptions, no professional service provider does their work on any clients’ premises.

They might make courtesy visits for client relations purposes. They might conduct consultations face-to-face. But their actual work is done in their own offices or places of business.

What we do is no different.

If you learn to put things in the right light, avoid the word “assistant” at all costs, and compare yourself to any other service provider they might hire, clients won’t expect that you are going to be coming to their offices to work.

They will see you as any other professional with a particular area of expertise (in our case, that’s administrative support) they hire to provide a service.

Which is why geography isn’t a barrier for doing what we do. We can pretty much work with anyone, anywhere.

So if you find that the market in Japan is difficult or less receptive, you have the entire rest of the world, including your own native country, in which to find clients.

At the same time, while geography isn’t a barrier and we often never meet our clients face-to-face (especially if they are in completely different states or countries from us), this makes establishing trust, rapport, credibility and confidence even more important.

Your business website, your social media accounts, your blog, your marketing materials… all of those become the visible, tangible representations and demonstrations of your competence and legitimacy as a business.

So, you’ll want to put top priority and care into how they look as they will become your “face” to prospective clients. They’ll either feel safe or suspicious based on what they see.

It’s an emotional comfort thing. An attorney might not work at the client’s office, but the client at least knows where the office is. Just knowing the attorney is in town or nearby gives the client comfort.

It’s the same thing for us. Logical or not, we have to make up in trust and credibility what we lack in face-to-face availability. Your location becomes less relevant the better you are able to do that.