By Lisa A. Perrone
After attending a rather prestigious secretarial school, if you can believe that was once possible, my career had very humble beginnings as a part-time secretary in a local real estate office. The legal division of that office ultimately hired me full-time in their private law firm. There I stayed for several years happily doing transcription and dealing with clients that included the remorseful, the woeful, the crazy and the kindhearted. After a few years and the death of my father, I moved on to the big city (well, "bigger" is more correct) but remained in the field of real estate law. I dealt with laws, mortgages, surveys, title searches, and my fellow employees from vice-presidents to mail-clerks. I'd like to add that at times, it was difficult to distinguish one from the other. From there, I moved to a local engineering firm, again, starting at the bottom of the secretarial ladder. This move was made due to life rather than cunning career skills. I was getting married and the engineering firm was right up the road from my newly purchased home. It was convenient and the money wasn't bad at that! I spent the next ten years climbing high into the corporate arena as everything from a Vice-President's administrative assistant to, eventually after having two children, a part-time assistant in Corporate Communications. Ultimately, as life and the part-time schedule would have it, I was laid off. As it turns out, my career not only had its humble beginnings; it also had its humble middle!
That said, I took my termination with grace and dignity even though I wanted to hit someone real hard. When asked by co-workers offering their heartfelt but glad it wasn't them, condolences on the day of my departure, I quickly found myself saying "I think I'm going to relax at home with the kids and then start my own business." 'Who said that?' I immediately thought to myself as the words escaped my mouth. Ironically, every secretary I spoke those words to responded in much the same way. "You mean a word processing business? I've always wanted to do that . . ." seemed to be the standard response. My confident response was "Sure. I've been doing this forever here, why not for myself." By the day's end, I had convinced even myself that it was possible. After all, I had successfully tackled hundred of projects I knew nothing about that my bosses placed on my desk. Frankly, the list was endless, presentations, conference planning, traveling across the state for seminars, budgets, and on and on. They always had confidence in my abilities, why didn't I?
After discussing my "marketing plan" with several friends (I had given up on the family thing by now) all the while trying to convince myself I had some clue about what I was doing, I actually came up with a few ideas.
I did the obvious and normal things - created a mailing list from the phone book and sent letters, went to businesses personally introducing myself, etc. What a wonderful and confidence building experience that was turning out to be! Day after day of mailings and visits and not one call back. Not one! I was sick but continued on. Slowly, very slowly, I started getting phone calls to type resumes, create business cards and other small projects. Ten dollars here, twenty-five dollars there, there was hope.
THE SYSTEM IS WORKING
Since my business is primarily used as an extension to the client's in-office secretarial staff. My working system includes the picking-up of the draft copies or transcription tapes and a "form" document on disk. Once the work is completed I return the tape, the client's disk, a disk with the finished project and a hard copy of the project in draft quality. This allows the client to make any changes to the document and use any necessary company stationery without having to make several trips to confirm "draft" copies.
Once you establish several clients in the same town or neighborhood, you may be able to establish a particular pick-up and drop-off day. This may cause you to eventually rethink your marketing system - using the same marketing tools but establishing clients and contacts within the same office building or complex.
One of the most significant and least discussed issues that impact your business venture is your family. One of the most significant and least discussed issues that impact your family is your business venture.
At least once per month make a mental review of how your business is growing, or not growing, and how that is impacting your family and their lifestyle.
Lisa A. Perrone is the proprietor of LAP Publications, Word Processing & Desktop Publishing located in Beaver, Pennsylvania.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The manual "I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT I'M A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT" can be ordered in advance by sending your name, address & $12.99 to
LAP Publications, P.O. Box
205, Beaver, PA 15009.
(Distribution date scheduled for April 1, 2000.)
(100% money-back guarantee if not fully satisfied within 30 days of receipt of manual.)