Today I want to introduce you to our Feature VA: Caroline Buist of Above and Beyond VA. I am going to hand straight over to Caroline to introduce herself to you.
I’m a VA and copywriter. I’m ‘glass half full’ (most of the time) and love to have a laugh. I’m addicted to learning new things and challenging myself and I’m on a personal mission to continuously develop and improve my skills, knowledge and processes.
My core value is to go above and beyond, hence my business name. I always aim to go the extra mile, provide added value and exceed expectations. I offer general and lifestyle admin services and didn’t have a niche when I first started but I do now!
I love working with creative business owners who are passionate about what they do, writing engaging and magnetic copy for their websites, blogs and social media. My job as a copywriter, is to find the right words to attract your ideal clients and put off the nightmare ones!
What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?
The inspiration came from a variety of places. Firstly, I’d always wanted to be my own boss – I’ve had a nagging voice in my head for years urging me to go for it. I craved the freedom to do my own thing and choose who I wanted to work with. After 30 years of working as an employee, mainly in admin and customer service roles, it was a natural progression. Once I had my daughter, I wanted more flexibility and a better work/life balance. I was also sick of the daily commute and was looking for something that allowed me to work from home.
How did you go about establishing your business?
I started out researching all things VA and attended the PA Show at Excel in Feb 2020. Everybody that I met at the show was really friendly, and I loved the supportive, collaborative vibe of the event. I met you, Amanda and ended up signing onto your VA Mastery course soon after. The course was great and gave me the confidence, knowledge and a firm foundation to get my VA business going. It took me about 6 months to complete and I officially set up in October 2020.
Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?
No, I didn’t have any savings, but I was still working in my day job as a Construction Administrator and used that income to get started. I didn’t fork out for too much at the beginning, but I did need a new laptop (as my existing one had died a death) and wanted a second monitor, as that’s a necessity, rather than a luxury.
Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?
Not really, because I was determined to make it work and wasn’t going to give up on my dream. I did set up another business before this one and that didn’t work out, mainly due to self-sabotage. I learnt quite a few lessons on what not to do from that, so I won’t make the same mistakes this time, fingers crossed.
What support did you have around you to set up your VA business (family and friends, Coach or Mentor)?
I had the full support of my family and friends, who encouraged me to go for it and didn’t laugh in my face when I told them my plans. I also had you as my no-nonsense VA coach, who wasn’t afraid to give me a nudge and a kick up the backside when I needed it.
If you could go back and change one thing that you did when starting out, what would that be?
If I could change one thing, I would have invested in a mindset coach before starting to work through any negative feelings of imposter syndrome and lack of self-confidence. If you don’t have the right mindset when starting a business, it can hold you back and stop you from putting yourself out there and being visible.
What is your best advice for someone who is just starting out or someone who is considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?
Work out what services you want to offer and think about packaging them up, rather than working on an hourly rate or retainer. Trading time for money is not a sustainable way to run a VA business and could soon lead to burnout. You don’t need to offer everything under the sun. As a business owner, you have the choice to do work you enjoy and ditch the jobs that you don’t.
How would you describe the good, the bad and ugly of being a Virtual Assistant?
The good is working remotely, doing work you love and working with great clients. The bad is it can get lonely working on your own, especially if you’re used to a lively office environment. The ugly is when imposter syndrome kicks in and you start to doubt your ability to be a business owner.
What is the best business book you’ve read and how did it impact you and your business?
Actually, I’m still reading it at the moment. It’s called ‘Do what you love, love what you do’ by Holly Tucker. I bought this book as it fits in with my ethos of wanting to do the work I love and get paid for it. It’s an inspirational read and provides loads of tips and practical advice to help you discover what you’re passionate about to create a ‘Good Life Business’, as Holly puts it.
How do you stay on top of your own professional development?
I never stop learning. I love to challenge myself to learn new things and build on my existing skills and knowledge. I attend industry events, take masterclasses, read business books and listen to podcasts. I believe there’s always room for improvement and I take on board new information to help tweak my systems and processes.
What do you love to do when you’re not working?
Listen to music (actually, I do that when I’m working!), go to gigs whenever I can, play sudoku, watch movies, read, travel, socialise with friends and family, go to the pub and eat out.
Tell us one thing you can tell us about you that not many people know?
That’s a hard question to answer. I’m an open book and what you see is what you get, so there’s probably not many things that people don’t know about me.
What does the future hold for your business?
I’m currently expanding my network, building meaningful connections and hoping to grow my business, to the point where I can leave my day job. I’d love to run my business full-time and work remotely, rather than have to go into an office. I really enjoy the copywriting side of the business and hope to do a lot more of that, with a variety of clients. When you nail a client’s tone of voice first time and they don’t want to change one thing, it’s the best feeling ever!