Hello Friends! Welcome Back!
Being a military spouse is a blessing and a curse at the same time. We get to travel the world, make new friends, experience things in life most people would never have a chance to experience. However, it comes with the curse of not being able to create a lifelong career, having to move multiple times, changing jobs every few years and the confusion of where to start once at the new duty station. Many employers are hesitant to hire military spouses because our resumes show a different job every few years, which in employers eyes, can be viewed as instability.
I'm going to show you the benefits of being a Virtual Assistant and how it can give you the freedom of having a portable career.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
Virtual Assistants are independent contractors that generally provides administrative services, medical administrative services, marketing and/ or customer support and so much more. Virtual Assistants usually works from home or you may work from home but will work out of an office a couple of times a week.
Being a Virtual Assistant as a Military Spouse
Think about how many times you've moved as a military spouse. How many jobs have you had during those moves? Now, put that into resume format and look at the number of positions you've held during that time. It probably looks like a different job every few years. This is what an employer sees when you submit your resume for a new job at a new duty station. To an employer, it's showing instability, but to us it shows many jobs because we had to move many times.
“Almost half of unemployed military spouses said their service member’s day-to-day job demands were a barrier to employment. Another 18% said their service member’s deployment schedule made working nearly impossible,” the report says. “Forty-four percent of military spouses said the child care they needed in order to work was too expensive.”
Frequent moves do not help because jobs are often scarce on and near some military installations, the report says. – Association of the United States Army (www.ausa.org/news/military-spouse-unemployment-remains-sizable-issue)
My husband is active duty military. We have a large family including two dogs. I've become a professional packer due to the amount of times we've had to move. I'm able to have my family packed and ready to move in a blink of an eye. When my husband deploys, I become a taxi service for my kids, a chef, housekeeper, part time mechanic, sports coach, and the list goes on. At the same time, I'm trying to manage my career and set new goals for my career. As soon as I'm about to complete my goals, we receive orders to a new military duty station. Hmmm..I'm sure this sounds familiar to many of you.
At our new duty station, I found it difficult to find a job due to our many moves. Once I found a job that I loved, my husband got deployed, kids became stressed and sad and they needed me. Several times I had to choose between caring for me kids and going to my office. One day, my son started crying out of the blue. He explained that dad is gone and I'm either at work or on my laptop working from home.
At this moment, I realized becoming a Virtual Assistant will allow me to become an independent contractor in my field of work and will allow me to run my business on my time and how I see fit. Since I'm in the medical field, I became a medical administrative VA. To me, it was the best decision I made for myself and my family.
Where do I start?
Before starting, Find your passion! Everyone has a passion. It can be running (or any type of exercise), administrative skills, medical billing or coding, cooking, graphics, etc. You can turn that passion into a virtual business. When you have a true passion for something, use that as your focal point. For example, I do medical and behavioral health billing, accounting, credentialing and other administrative work. I went to college to become a nurse and I ended up in the administrative field. So I took that knowledge and experience and was able to run departments, train others in the administrative field and coordinate with providers that have their own practices.
Research the market! Look up other VAs that are providing the same or similar business services. There may be tons of VAs doing the same business or providing the same service. Instead of being caught up in the mountain pile, offer an extra service.
Stand out from the pack. If you're offering social media management services, add creating template. Many business owners don't have the time to constantly update their social media accounts and may like a particular format. If you create that format into a template, it may not only be useful to you, but the business owner would appreciate the extra step.
Business and Domain Name! This is my favorite part. Pick a business and domain name that's catchy and reflects your business. If you're offering administrative services, it may be a bad idea to name your business or domain "I Love Dogs". Be creative but not too far out there. If you absolutely can't come up with an idea for a name, there's many websites that has domain generators. But, be careful. I've seen numerous virtual websites with similar names. Do a google search and make sure you name stands out and out be confused with another virtual website.
Create a website! As we know, technology rules and is a must have, especially in the VA world. If you are tech savvy, then you could create and monitor your own website or you can use a website service that also hosts and may provide the drag & drop option. You're website doesn't need to look like a million dollars, but does need to be attractive and have your services and contact information listed.
Advertise and Market Yourself! Do you remember the old saying, "it takes money to make money?" Well, yes that's somewhat true, but there's ways to save money too. Don't pay others to do what you can do for yourself. You're the one that knows what you want and how to convey your message properly.
Create a Facebook page. Make sure it's professional looking and please don't place photos that could be offensive. You never know who's looking at your business page.
Join groups that have a similar career field or ideas as you. I've been blessed to meet people that's been in the VA world for many years. They've been fantastic about answering my questions and pointing me in the right direction. Although most groups ban "networking" you're still able to learn a lot from them.
Join groups where you think your target audience would be. If you're providing medical billing service, then look into medical administrative groups. A cooking group wouldn't have the audience you're trying to reach.
Create a local business page. Since we are Virtual Assistants, we tend to overlook our local businesses (I'm guilty of that).
* Yelp and Google Business have free local advertising. They also have paid advertising but utilize the free services to become familiar with how to market and promote yourself.
Marketing items can be very beneficial, but can become costly. Again, if funds are tight look at creating your own business cards. Nowadays, you only need a printer, good card stock (Avery has awesome card stocks), and your idea.
I use Vistaprint. They're affordable and have many products for you to choose from. Vistaprint is also great with sending discounts. When I first signed up with them, they gave me 30% off and free shipping.
The best overlooked promotion is word of mouth. Tell your friends to tell their friends, etc. Again, you never know who someone else knows!
Articles pertaining to military spouses, employment and the benefits of being a Virtual Assistant
Military spouses are some of the most versatile people in many career fields. Not only can we work well with frequent changes, we can think outside the "box". We need to use these talents to create our own portable careers.
The best feeling i one of my military spouse sisters or brothers create a career to benefit themselves. I'll be more than happy to assist anyone with any questions or advice.