Hi, Tell us your name, what you do, and about your business. Please do mention the monthly revenue for our readers as well.
I’m Sarah Banks, Online Business Consultant and owner of Banks’ Business Solutions. I help women in business have more time to focus on their ‘core’ business by supporting them with their online customer service, technical systems, and administrative tasks.
Specializing in MailChimp and WordPress I provide 1-1 training and support so that my clients can utilize these tools better for their businesses. I am passionate about simplifying technology to save my clients time. My business currently turns over approximately £2,500 per month.
What’s your own background. Were you always proficient in this business, or did it just strike your mind one fine day?
My business started back in 2014 when I returned to maternity leave after the birth of my second daughter. The balance in our family wasn’t right and a chance conversation with a mum at school planted the seed in my head that I could become a virtual assistant/online business consultant.
I had no idea what this would entail but spent time researching the industry and made the decision to leave my employed role.
As my background is in project management and office administration I bring a lot of skills to my role as Online Business Consultant. I started out offering a much wider range of services to my clients, however over the last 5 years I have niched down to offer the skills that my clients most need – email marketing, WordPress website, content marketing, GDPR, and 121 training.
What went into designing the initial product? Can you take us through the actual process?
I don’t have products but offer a range of services to my clients. Before launching my business, I spent time understanding the legalities of running a business:
- Registering as self-employed with HMRC
- Ensuring I had appropriate contracts to issue to my clients
- Taking out business insurance
Things I didn’t do initially but would have done had I know about them are:
- Registering as a data controller with the ICO
- Setting up cookie and privacy policies on my website
I then looked into getting a logo created by a graphic designer, purchased hosting and taught myself WordPress to be able to build my first website for my business. I also create a Facebook page that I used to promote my business alongside my personal Facebook profile.
My initial offering to clients as very generic and came from a list of possible tasks business owners could outsource, I had no idea who my ideal clients were, or what they needed! However, once I started to work with clients I had a much better idea of this
Talk us through the process of the launch of your business. What does a typical virtual assistant cover letter look like?
I didn’t have a formal launch for my business – I started to raise awareness by sharing things on my personal Facebook profile and connected with my first clients that way. After that, I starting to research networking groups I could attend both on and offline so that I could build up more connections.
I would say my business had a slow launch but I was busy with clients very quickly and within 12 months was fully booked for my services despite only really managing to do regular online networking.
There’s nothing like a fixed format of a virtual assistant cover letter. My clients find me both online as well as offline. Usually it is the first interaction whcih is most useful to convert a client.
However a basic format for a cover letter would include a very short summary of who you are. This is required to be short enough so that you can pick interest, rather than boring clients in the first conversation itself.
After the client shows interest, you can then pitch your exact services
How is your repeat customer rate like? Can you take us through how you attract and retain customers?
I don’t have a formal repeat customer rate! Many of my clients have been with me since my first year in business and others come back regularly for short term projects.
90% of my clients find me via referrals or I have connected with via online networking. The easiest way I have found to attract clients is to help them – when someone in my online networking groups needs help, I help them – this maybe with a quick comment to answer their question or by arranging a short call.
Whilst this doesn’t immediately lead to work in all instances, many of these people come to for support when they are in a position to pay for it as they know I am an expert in my field and will do my best to support them.
What is the current situation? How do you see yourself in the next 12 months?
I am currently working with just over 20 clients – some of these are short term projects and others are retained clients. Over the next 12 months, I am planning to increase the number of projects I am working on whilst maintaining my work-life balance.
I started my business to ensure I had flexibility around my children and this is the most important thing to me so I don’t want to take on too many more retained clients as the balance would shift in the wrong direction.
I am also looking at ways of sharing my knowledge further by creating webinars or online courses so watch this space!
As a woman founder, do you see this as only financially uplifting? Or otherwise too? If yes, then how?
Financial gain isn’t my main motivator, flexibility to spend time with my children and travel is much more important to me.
However, since starting my business I am able to provide more income for the family as a whole and therefore feel this has been uplifting.
What tools or services did you use?
The key things I couldn’t live without are….
Teamwork – I use this to plan out all my client work and business tasks;
Microsoft Office – Outlook is my preferred email client and I still use office document regularly despite also spending a lot of time in Google for clients;
Zoom – fantastic for video calls and I use this to record all my YouTube/Social Media videos as well;
MailChimp – although it has had some bad press recently it is a fantastic FREE tool for simple email marketing;
WIFI – my business wouldn’t function if I didn’t have internet access to having a good broadband service with great WIFI is critical!
What are your key challenges today? How are you planning to tackle those?
Time is always a challenge but it is about how you manage it – I can sometimes become distracted by social media which sucks time so much from what I do! Being able to use tools that help me focus such as working with the Pomodoro method is really useful to me.
Clients can also be a challenge as sometimes they have unrealistic expectations – I find that discussing these with the client is the easiest way to ensure that we are both on the same page.
Which are some resources, books, articles or podcasts that have been useful to you, and would share with your readers
I’m not a huge fan of ‘business’ books as such and much prefer motivational books:
- Becoming by Michelle Obama is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
- For anyone considering becoming a virtual assistant Virtually Painless by Kathy Soulsby is a must-read as are all the blogs on the VIPVA website – they are also launching a podcast soon which I can’t wait to listen to.
- Brene Brown is also a fantastic motivation – listen to her TedTalk on Vulnerability
- I also great things about Mary Portas’ podcast but have yet to listen to it!
Many times, women feel that businesses are for only for men. What’s your take?
This is a very outdated view, women have so much to bring to the table in business – whatever sector you are in you have every right to be there doing what is best for you.
I only work with women in business as I feel that we do have a different style to men but this isn’t a bad thing it just means that we come to the business with a different viewpoint and there is room for both.
Looking to kick start your own venture?
Hi! This is Misha.
I interview women founders in building profitable businesses
My idea is for other women to get inspired by these actionable tell-all stories and start their own profitable enterprises.
I am hugely inspired by inspirational interview series starters like IndieHackers, StarterStory by Pat Walls, Failory, SpaceBandits and have put significant efforts in reaching out to women founders in order to get started.