“There is something you should understand about the way I work.  When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go. It’s rather sad, really, but there it is.”

So says Nanny Mcphee  at the beginning of the film about her journey to “sort out” a family left in disarray by the death of their mother and the father’s inability to control his seven wild, unruly children who have already scared off seventeen previous nannies.

For those of you who haven’t seen the film, Nanny McPhee is a no-nonsense woman with mystical powers and a gift for bringing calm and order where there is upheaval and chaos. Sounds JUST like a VA doesn’t she?!

In the way that a good VA cares about his/her clients, Nanny McPhee cares about her charges: she takes the time to LISTEN to the children, to understand them, to teach them, and in doing so she becomes part of the family. But, at the end of the film, when the children have developed into responsible people and the family has come together under her guidance, she leaves them.

Now I’m not suggesting that your clients are like naughty children who have frightened off legions of petrified VAs before you, or that you’ll need supernatural powers and some foul-tasting medicine to get them to behave, but, like Nanny McPhee, sometimes you won’t need to hang around: you’ll get in, get the job done, and move on.

The fact is that not every client NEEDS you long term, and it’s important that you market your business as one which can provide cost effective, no-nonsense, short-term solutions, as well as ongoing support.

Gone are the days when a VA was limited to personal assistant/secretarial services, carrying out day to day transactional tasks. The industry has expanded and transformed to the point where today’s VAs come brandishing any number of specialised skills. Perhaps you can implement a social media strategy, design a website, set up email marketing systems, build a market research campaign?

Whatever your niche/unique talent/skill is, you need to be SELLING it and opening potential clients’ minds to the potential for you to come in short-term, troubleshooting, setting systems up, putting processes in place or replacing staff on an interim basis. It’s all about flexibility and moving away from the idea that a VA’s role has to be a long-term, ongoing arrangement. Make it clear that you can provide support exactly when your client needs it!

Nanny McPhee is a fairy godmother of tough love; along with her sprinkling of magic she brings a lot of discipline and some seriously good ideas about how to make things work. She pushes the children to think for themselves, to use the resources they already have, and to figure out what they can do without someone doing it for them.

In many ways this is what we should be doing as VAs too: offering a fresh perspective, new ideas, the skills to get the job done and the ability to do it well enough to get to the point where your client simply doesn’t need you any more. And when they want you, but no longer need you, your work is done and it’s time to go. Now THAT is magic…

Go on, spread a little magic, Jo x