Tag Archives: Self Employment Benefits Program

Jim Pagiamtzis asked me 2 questions…

Not long ago, Jim Pagiamtzis asked me to think about two questions:

  1. What got me involved in the VA industry? and
  2. How can a VA benefit different businesses?

Well, the first is easy.  I got fired; I got fired by a church.  Fortunately for me (not for them), it was wrongful dismissal and I walked away with a mitt full of money.   Now a friend of mine had, years before, done a program through the government called the Self Employment Assistance Program and I before that, I had tried to start my own secretarial service.  The two sounded like they might connect so I decided to check it out.

Horror of horrors, one of the things I had to do to qualify for the program was stand in front of a room full of other hopefuls and explain what my idea was and why I was ideally suited to start a VA business.  Like most people, I would rather have walked down the street naked – okay, well maybe not naked – than talk to a room full of people.  On top of that, one of the other hopefuls told me my idea was “stupid” – in a heavy Russian accent.  I have no idea how I got through that day, but I was accepted into the program in 2003 (and so was the Russian guy) and I have never looked back.

The trickier question is how can a VA benefit various businesses; tricky because there are so many answers to that question.  As Michael Gerber states in The E-Myth Revisited, most new start ups fail in the first 5 years because they try to do everything themselves, not just whatever it was that got them into business in the first place.

One of the ways a VA can assist almost any entrepreneur is by doing customer service:  this happens to be what I enjoy the most.  This can take the form of answering the phone (receptionist), booking appointments/calendar management (admin assistant) and trouble shooting (tickets or customer service desk).

There are numerous other tasks that a VA can do including research, project management, presentation preparation, invoicing, collecting on outstanding invoices (some do the entire bookkeeping gig).  I have prepared documents, edited/proof read web pages, manuscripts, documents, Powerpoint presentations; called client’s customers and elicited testimonials for the client and then written the testimonial for the customer to sign; mass mailings, mass e-mailings and acted as gatekeeper.  One of the strangest things I’ve ever done was babysit some documents in the basement of a law office…for 3 days!

The real benefit of using a VA for any of the above tasks or others, limited only by your imagination, is that the VA can do one, two or many of the tasks.  A VA can be hired for a specific task, for a specific period (May), or a block of time (5 hours).

The only limit is your imagination.

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A recent interview

Recently I was interviewed by Trudy Van Buskirk of Boomer Biz Builder about being a Virtual Assistant and how I got to where I am today.  It was a very interesting experience and I’m going to use it to do another “Interview” for Jim Pagiamtzis’ blog.

When I first decided to become a virtual assistant back in 2003, I applied for and got into the Self Employment Assistance Program (now called Self Employment Benefits Program, a government program then run by HRDC and now run by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, which assists budding entrepreneurs during their first year in business.  Included in the program is one year of mentorship by a Business Advisor.  Trudy was the Business Advisor assigned to me.  Although there were times when we butted heads over the direction I should take my business, Trudy competently steered me through the sometimes rough waters of early entrepreneurship.

So fast forward 9 years and Trudy asked me if I would be one of her interview subjects.  The interview itself was a very interesting experience, to say the least; the interview was held in a coffee shop, the Red Rocket Coffee, on the Danforth.  So aside from sitting within inches of another table, the occupants of which could hear everything we said, there was also all the attendant background noise of a busy coffee shop.  Although most of the interview is clear, at one point there must have been an influx of people, which I didn’t notice at the time, because the background noise almost takes over.

Thank goodness one of the things I’ve learned as a virtual assistant is to be prepared for anything, so I took my digital recorder with me and recorded the interview; good thing I did too as Trudy’s digital recorder didn’t work for some reason.  That’s me…just like a boy scout…always prepared.

In any event, you can hear the entire interview on Trudy’s blog at http://www.boomerbizbuilder.com/2012/05/14/meet-liz-saunders-mcmanus-a-virtual-assistant/

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