When you decided to become a Virtual Assistant did you dream of choosing the hours you worked, picking your preferred clients, being able to grab your laptop and head off to far flung lands at a moment’s notice yet still run your business without dropping a task?

Okay so the latter point may not be for the majority of you. In fact it could only be for 1% of you who are reading this right now, but I know I’m not alone.

I also know that the idea of choosing the hours you want and cherry picking the best clients is perhaps a little far-fetched, but being able to pack a bag and grab your laptop to fulfil your dream of working from abroad is completely doable.

How do I know?

I’m doing it right now. And in fact, I’ve been doing it since I started my business back in 2011.

Becoming a Virtual Assistant was a means to an end for me.

My boyfriend and I had just moved to France and after a stint in French school to get to grips with the language, I needed a job.

And I needed a job that gave me the freedom to move around, since we weren’t sure whether we’d stay in France for a month, a year or more.

With my background, skills and experience I knew I could be a VA.

Luckily I built a solid client list fairly quickly – it’s amazing how much work you’ll put in when you need money to cover next month’s rent! That initial client list continued to grow until I felt I had the number of clients I wanted with an income to match – well, an income that I felt was acceptable at least.

And right now I’d say I have a ‘successful’ VA business – of course what I class as successful may not be what you class as successful, but you get my point.

We spent three fabulous years in SW France, but at the beginning of 2014 my boyfriend was offered a great opportunity in Costa Rica.

We both wanted to go, but I wondered how many of my Clients would stick with me with such a large time different (-7 hours) – incredibly none of them batted an eyelid.

I put this down to planning.

I wrote a list of all the tasks I do for each client and alongside them explained why I didn’t think the time difference would affect those tasks. Then presented this document to each of them.

Obviously this may not work for you.

But I’m guessing if it doesn’t work for you i.e. you work one day in an office for a client, you attend regular client meetings, you answer the phone for a client, etc. then you aren’t looking to move your office to another country anyway.

If you’re anything like me and do want to work abroad whilst still managing your VA business, then subconsciously, you’ve probably already chosen clients who allow you flexibility in your working day.

Who are happy with a Skype call from time-to-time, but who prefer communicating by email most of the time. Whose tasks aren’t time critical – they give a deadline, and as long as the work gets done, that’s all that matters. They don’t care if you work at 10am or 10pm.

However I also knew that moving to Costa Rica was going to be the real test for both our businesses.

Could we actually live the location independent lifestyle that we so craved?

YES, we could!

Now I’m not going to say it was easy. There were many challenging times, but the positives far outweighed the negatives.

And most importantly, we knew we wanted to continue living this lifestyle for the foreseeable.

When our four months came to an end, we returned to France to figure out what was next.

Which was …

Vietnam. We arrive one month ago, and are planning on spending this entire year in SE Asia.

So if you’re craving the location independent lifestyle, or have started the initial steps to moving your business abroad, here are my tips on making the transition as stress-free as possible to ensure your ongoing VA business success.

Plan. Plan. Plan.

The more you plan, the better your chance of reducing stress later down the line. It’ll still happen – stress I mean – but planning will greatly reduce it.

1) Internet

Whatever you do, and trust me here, make sure the place you head to has a good reliable internet connection.

Our location in Costa Rica (Nosara on the Pacific Coast to be exact) wasn’t necessarily the best choice. The internet was sketchy at the best of times – monkeys walking on the cables taking down the Internet for hours at a time certainly didn’t help.

So investigate the location thoroughly.

Your business relies on you being able to maintain work, seemingly without a glitch to your clients, so this is the most important aspect to consider.

Resources:

2) Accommodation

Don’t worry if you don’t have a place lined up before you arrive, just make sure you’ve at least investigated how easy it is to rent a place with Wi-Fi.

And in fact, my advice would be not to sign up to a full contract before arriving.

You may hate the rental. You may realise the Wi-Fi is shared (yep, this one happened to us in Costa Rica and we were tied into a 4 month contract, so couldn’t do anything about it). You may hate the location.

Start off by staying in a hotel or guesthouse. Or if you want your own space, rent an apartment or house for just the initial one or two weeks to get to know the place first.

Try before you buy – or rent in this instance.

Even if this means spending a little more money initially, it’s worth it in the long run.

Resources:

And many destinations often have Facebook groups offering accommodation. It’s worth checking those out too.

3) Infrastructure

It may sound idyllic to find a remote corner of the globe and setup shop. In reality, to run your business successfully, it ain’t gonna work.

Internet for one. Accommodation for two.

And think about access – How easy is it for you to get too? And to get out of, if needed?

Then there’s the essentials to consider.

You can only travel with so much shampoo and conditioner – what happens when you need to restock?

I’m just saying!

Planning the location based on what’s available is a must.

Expats forums and Facebook groups are a great way to talk to people who already live there. Ask questions, even the stupid ones. The more information you get in advance, the better you’ll be able to decide if a place is right for you. And if so, how to deal with situations – both good and bad – once arrived.

4) Language

Honestly, in my naivety I didn’t realise that moving to France would be so difficult without being more than conversational in French.

Yes it’s easy enough to get by, but if you want to actually have a life there – meet people, build up a social life – you need more than just the basics under your belt.

Costa Rica – yes it’s good if you know some Spanish, but with such a large expat community, English is widely spoken by the locals too.

SE Asia – now we’re getting into much easier territory. It’s not expected for you to speak the local language anywhere in SE Asia. Of course it helps, and personally I’m loving learning Vietnamese, but here the locals have realised the power of speaking English in order to do more business. That alongside the huge expat community, you’ll fit right in with just a phrasebook for those awkward moments.

My point – decide if you’re prepared to learn a language and manage your business, or if you want to ease into life abroad gently without isolating yourself.

5) Plan B

My last piece of advice – always have a Plan B.

No matter how much planning you do, you can’t possibly cover all eventualities.

Perhaps the town isn’t as nice as you thought. The apartment you rented is next door to a building site. Sharks have bitten through the Asia-America Internet Gateway slowing internet speeds to international websites – and yes, this did happen to us just 3 weeks ago!

Having a Plan B in place is fundamental to successfully living a location independent lifestyle.

If you’re a VA living the location independent lifestyle, tell us where you are, how it’s going and feel free to share your amusing stories from life on the road – there are bound to be plenty!

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hi I’m interested in moving to Sth France. I have somewhere to live that i have been visiting for many years. I just need an income. I have seen odd bits of info on virtual assts & would love to chat to you more about it. Plse return am email. Im tired of life at home. I moved county to be with my partner but after 3 years its a dying relationship. I am mid 40’s & if i don’t do something to make a diff now i never will. Bring me the sunshine & get out of the mundane 9-5 is what I’m craving alrho hard work has never phased me!
    Regards Karen

    • Moving to France was the best decision I made. It’s hard work and there are plenty of obstacles – French bureaucracy for one – but it is so rewarding. Learning the language is a must if you want to really integrate and feel at home there, but since you’ve been visiting for many years, perhaps you’re already proficient. As for work, you can just as easily work as a VA in France as in the UK, or anywhere else. You’ll just have to go on the French AE system which is frustrating and more complicated than it should be, but most of it can be done online now so it’s becoming easier. VA Pro Mag provides lots of guidance on setting up – the same applies in France because it all comes down to marketing. If you want clients based in the UK, then you still need to market yourself there. The only downside to wanting UK based clients but living in France is that you can’t go to networking events which is where you can pick up new clients more easily than networking online. But I know a few VA’s living in France working with UK-based clients, so there are plenty of ways to get round that. There are a couple of Facebook groups for ‘Ladies in Business in France’ that you might want to join to ask questions, and of course plenty of VA groups. Join and talk to people. Then get a website, list your skills and services, price yourself and start touting for business. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask here or on our FB page. Wishing you lots of success. Sarah

  2. Hi Sarah,
    my name is Tanja, I am just starting my reserach on how to start my VA business.
    The main reasoning behind the change is wanting a location free lifestyle and the freedom of moving to a new location at a blink of an eye.
    I am struggling to find any information on how others have set up their business and how they make it work, until I came across your article which is giving me hope that it is possible. 🙂
    However I am wondering if you would be able to provide me with some tips as to setting up the business and accounts etc.
    Is it necessary to register the business to an address in the UK? ( I would not longer have a home here). What would your recommendation be with regards to bank accounts?
    If you have any other tips or comments they are more than welcome.
    Thank you!
    Best wishes
    Tanja

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