One of the things I’ve noticed about my business advice clients is just how many are business owners with dyslexia. I’d say that a third of the people that I work with have dyslexia or some version of it. And dyslexia is particularly common among people who run creative businesses.
It creates a particular challenge for those people, and this gap in the market is one that you can fill by helping them to meet those demands and create a successful business, despite, or because of, dyslexia.
If you have the opposite sort of skill set – you’re good with words, you’re organised, plus you’re patient with people who are different to you – you could be an amazing virtual assistant to help some of these business owners. I like this idea because it’s specialised or “super-niched” which allows you to target a particular market, and therefore be very clear about your marketing. And I found that I love working with business owners with dyslexia, just because they’re different to me, so I learn things all the time, and they challenge some of my ways of working. This could be very fulfilling for the right person.
How this business idea works
First, you’d need to do some research into what you could offer. I would think about all the normal virtual assistant services, such as diary management, filing, answering non-priority emails, and booking travel arrangements, plus, if you wanted to, you could also think about marketing-based services. Many business owners with dyslexia have difficulty with online marketing in particular, as obviously, this requires a lot of writing and computer work. Helping people with dyslexia to meet this challenge and compete with everyone else would be great.
So think through what you’d like to offer, what your skill sets are, and of course if there are any gaps where you’d need to bone up or get better at what you can already do.
And if you’re marketing to business owners with dyslexia, your website probably needs to be a bit different. If you Google “virtual assistant services”, you’ll see a long list of secretarial-type tasks. Offering to do these tasks for someone with dyslexia isn’t going to be much of a selling point. I can guarantee you that this group of people are going to be much more interested in the outcome that you can achieve for them. In fact, that’s good advice for any marketing – just providing a list of services isn’t enough to make somebody enthusiastic about buying from you – you need to paint a picture for them of what their life would be like with you and how much better it would be.
If I was selling just to business owners with dyslexia, I would do a lot more video marketing, and explain to people what they would get from working with me. You’d want to get the message across that you really understand the challenges of dyslexia, and that working with you would help them to create a successful business.
A quick note on virtual assistants
A virtual assistant is somebody who helps out with a business, maybe like a secretary or personal assistant, but they provide all of their services onlinet. It’s a thriving market, and there are lots of opportunities within it, in fact so much so, that I’ll be coming up with other super-niche virtual assistant ideas over the coming months. If you haven’t come across it before, virtual assistants supply all sorts of different services to businesses (and sometimes to individuals as well.) Some of them do traditional secretarial-type tasks such as audio-typing or database-cleansing, some specialise in call-answering, and others work on online marketing campaigns.
You might call yourself a virtual assistant, or you might call yourself something completely different; it’s up to you. I’d avoid the word ninja though, as that seems to be used quite a lot, to the point of being overused now.
But what they all have in common is that you can book their services by the hour to do a particular task, or set of tasks, and you just pay for what you use. So it’s good for the business, because they don’t have the hassle of taking on an employee to do all the admin, and it’s good for the virtual assistant, because he can charge a good hourly rate, and be very flexible with his time.
How much does this cost to get going?
This is a quick start-up business, and like a lot of these businesses, I recommend using LinkedIn and a set of business cards. And then you can recycle your first profits into producing a website, which doesn’t have to be anything terribly fancy, at least at first, but does help you to attract far more clients. So your start-up costs at the very beginning would probably be £13 for a set of moo.com cards, and the website could be something that you put together yourself using a template and would cost you less than £500, especially if you could make your own simple videos that would be so effective in getting the message across to your target market of business owners with dyslexia.
Who is this business idea good for?
This business idea would be good for somebody who is organised and is used to directing their own work and getting things done. You’d need to either already know, or be prepared to learn about how to market yourself, especially online, as that’s how somebody is likely to find you. Of course, if you’re going to help business owners to do online marketing, you need to be good at it yourself and be able to demonstrate this.
Being a virtual assistant can be a little bit of a lonely job if you’re not careful because you could be sitting at your kitchen table, or in your spare room working away, and not see anyone all day. Think about this carefully, as I’ve known people who have set up home-based businesses where you communicate only online, and it’s driven them crazy. One friend of mine tried to get around this by getting some kittens, but even kittens weren’t enough and she ended up getting an office and changing her business model. But if you enjoy online communication, or you get all the social interaction you need when the kids come home from school, this could be a good opportunity for you.
This version of the specialist virtual assistant service definitely requires an understanding and some experience in working with business owners with dyslexia. You need to be able to be empathetic and see the world from their point of view, otherwise, you’ll get frustrated with people being chaotic and disorganised. Of course, this is exactly what you’re going to help them with, and why they need you, but you need to be able to understand that they’re not doing it to annoy you. There are some great resources around learning more about dyslexia, so it would be good to read up on this fascinating subject beforehand. Even if you have experience of somebody with dyslexia, it’s such a wide-ranging condition that not everybody is the same.
What skills will I need to be good at this?
You definitely need to have computer skills for this and be committed to learning new things, as software and online applications change rapidly. I suspect that some virtual assistants are still stuck in an old-school way of thinking about things from when they were secretaries in big companies, and you don’t want to come across this way. You want to look as if you’re at the forefront of being in control of modern technology, and full of bright ideas about how to do things.
You’ll also need to be good at project planning, super-organised, calm and patient.
What’s the trick to making this work?
If this sounds like a good recipe for you, remember that the trick of making it work is to keep the customers coming back. You don’t want to have a customer for one week and then never hear from them again; you want that customer to come back to you every month and book you regularly. In fact, you are aiming to be the linchpin of their business, so that they can’t operate without you. That way they’ll be happy to pay you, respectful and considerate of your time, and you’ll have regular money coming in.
The other trick to this is not to be shy of going for the super-niche. This niche is definitely big enough to give you (and a hundred other virtual assistants) enough work to go on. So make it clear that you specialise in working with business owners with dyslexia, and don’t worry that other people won’t want to use you. You’ll probably get recommendations and end up working with people who don’t have dyslexia, and that’s fine – it’s all billable hours, but the trick to the success of this business is to be very clear about your specialist area.
Some virtual assistants offer a block of hours, which are pre-bought, so the customer buys, say, five hours or 10 hours at a time. I can see why they do this, but I think it’s a bit of a barrier to somebody taking you on for your first job, which is often when they want to try you out, so I would just allow people to buy you for one hour if they want to.
How much money would I make helping business owners with dyslexia?
This is a billable-hours business model, so your income will be limited by the number of hours that you can work. Many virtual assistants run this business alongside having a family, or other things that they do in their life, such as hobbies or travel. But it can be run as a full-time job as well. The standard hourly rate for a virtual assistant is about £25 per hour, but that is for a standard virtual assistant in the UK. If you’re offering a specialist service, and in particular if you’re offering help with online marketing, you can definitely nudge this hourly rate upwards.
I think if you are doing this part-time during school hours, a successful specialist virtual assistant service for business owners with dyslexia would generate about £25k per year. If you did it full-time, that would be nearer £35k. These are turnover figures, so you’d need to take into consideration the cost of running the business, paying for your computer, software, and accountancy fees etc.
Other things to remember
On the legal side, you might want to have professional indemnity insurance to cover you in case something goes wrong, but this isn’t a necessity or a legal requirement.