No matter where your small business may be based, John Malson has a personal assistant solution for you.
Malson, who is a 1-800Accountant client, is the proud owner of a startup company called Virtual PA 365, Inc. Based in Granite City, Illinois, the small business employs one individual who assists Malson with its services. Virtual PA 365 is a virtual personal assistant service provider for clients in all industries. It was formally established in May 2013.
Malson explains how the company operates.
“We provide clerical support to various clients remotely through the Internet, by phone, and by fax,” he says. “These include administrative and support services.”
According to Malson, most of his clients that he works with on a long-term basis are local to Illinois. However, he does have several customers nationwide and even works with a few worldwide on more of a short-term basis. His clients include real estate agencies, wholesalers, attorneys, marketing firms, and even some individuals.
Malson points to his background as a major reason for starting the small business.
“I have a clerical background,” he says. “I worked for various offices and temp agencies. I did some freelance work for 3 years prior to incorporating this company. I thought, ‘Wow, it makes a lot of sense with businesses downsizing and going through financial situations.’ We can provide the services at a much cheaper rate than if a company were to hire an employee for this.”
In his words, his experience is what will drive the overall success of the startup company over the long haul.
“My experience and broad-based skill set are what I think will make this successful,” he says. “The types of services I’m providing are becoming increasingly popular, and these types of service businesses are growing. There’s a very high demand for them. I also have to remain competitive with my rates. I know there are some international services like mine that are very low-cost, but I’ve heard from a number of clients who haven’t been satisfied with those types of companies.”
Malson loves having a to-do list with all kinds of different items on it waiting to be checked off.
“I really like the variety of tasks and projects I work on each day,” he says. “I like having the ability to flex-schedule things myself. There are things I can work on any time of day, and I don’t have to work a traditional 8:30-5 shift and can do things when I want a lot of the time. This is particularly important for any clients I have overseas due to the time change.”
Competition in the Small Business World
He’s been able to carve out his own path in his industry, which he feels is what can help him rise above his competitors.
“I separate myself because a lot of my skills are in the social services arena. I have lots of nonprofit and grant management experience, and I’ve transferred these skills to the for-profit businesses I assist. Having a specialized niche that you can market yourself with is so important.”
Marketing The Startup Company
To get the word out about his small business, Malson has taken advantage of a variety of popular strategies. He has sent out mailers and uses a website, Craigslist, Elance, Guru, and Manta. He also relies on word-of-mouth referrals, and he is planning to start his own YouTube channel for the company. Based on what he has seen, using Craigslist has been the best method.
“Craigslist ads have really paid off,” he says. “I have my own ads running, and I sort through Craigslist job opportunities in my local market and in other major cities. I go through general employment ads and independent contractor positions, and I reach out to these employers.”
Small business owners in all lines of work encounter hurdles and obstacles that can take time to overcome. For Malson, there has been a bit of a learning curve with his schedule.
“Learning how to keep my time management skills up has been a bit of a challenge,” he admits. “There are only so many hours in a week. You have to dedicate time to marketing, leads, and every other aspect of the business. That’s why I brought on someone else to take some of this work off my plate.”
His advice to entrepreneurs looking to take the leap of faith to business ownership is to plan ahead as early as possible.
“It’s so important to develop a thorough business plan that you’re sold on yourself. I’ve helped others write business plans, and getting small business owners to take ownership of these plans has been a challenge. They see all this paperwork, but they don’t see it as guidelines to performing their work. It has to be a living document.”
In his eyes, there are both advantages and disadvantages involved in being a self-employed business owner.
“When it comes to benefits, health insurance is a challenge. When you’re a one-man shop, there are always challenges of being overwhelmed as well. However, I’m part of virtual PA networks online where we share social support since many of us in this field work from home and aren’t around people a whole lot.”
Malson is a 1-800Accountant client. The national accounting and business consulting firm has been a huge help for him, he says.
“I have been very satisfied with 1-800Accountant. I have attended several of the webinars and found them very beneficial. I’ve received lots of info about taxes for different business structures. 1-800Accountant helped me learn how to deal with my specific self-employment situation. They’ve given me fantastic advice on how to pay myself. I learned that I should make myself a W-2 employee with the business and then pay payroll taxes.”
Photo credit: The photograph of the computer is used with permission via the Creative Commons license through Flickr.