This week, I am delighted to feature Caroline Marshall.
Caroline runs a Virtual Assistant Service Upsource. A small team of VAs who provide Virtual Assistant Business, Lifestyle, Events and Social Media services to Entrepreneurs, small business owners & freelancers.
Caroline had worked in the VA industry as an employed VA since 2016 and had a background ranging from being an Executive Assistant for C-Suite executives in the NHS to working in Customer Experience and Events & Communications.
he started Upsource as she had become frustrated with the job market after welcoming her first child in 2018. After a disastrous return to work she was made redundant in 2019 and then took furlough in 2020 to care for her toddler and, unable to work from home, she wanted to be able to support business owners like her.
Caroline believes anyone can achieve their version of success when they have the right support in all areas of their life and business.
Upsource officially launched in July 2020, a decision which was rewarded when she won ‘UK Best Newcomer VA 2021’.
I asked Caroline a few questions and these were here answers:
What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?
Following my redundancy from a London based VA service in 2018 I swore I would never be a VA again! I went to work for a friends family business as thought I just wanted a job with work / life balance for my little one. Apparently after a few months I couldn’t keep away from the VA world and I started joining groups such as the VACT-helpdesk facebook group and loved how different and supportive the industry was! I also attended the PA show in 2020 and was inspired by everyone at the VA conference – not long after I booked a call with Amanda Johnson to seriously consider what being a VA would look like if my career changed again!
How did you go about establishing your business?
My time as an employed VA from 2016 was an excellent training ground. I worked with clients ranging from plumbers to tech startups, Finance to content marketing agencies!
In December 2020 after my redundancy and back in the employed world I was approached to help a friend of an old co-worker in the content writing industry for 10 hours a month which I did in the evenings for extra pocket money. When COVID hit and I found myself at home not working and being the main carer for our child / pregnant again, we agreed Id spend a few hours a day working on my VA business.
I joined the VA Membership, checked out the Society of Virtual Assistants checklist of what I needed to make it official. Branding, a website and emailing / messaging everyone in my network meant I was ready to officially launch in July 2020 (once my nursery re opened) and I was fully booked by the August!
Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?
I was ‘lucky’ while Furlough was hard, I got to use that time to plan what I wanted the business to look like. I invested about £1000 of our personal funds for my website, branding, bits of tech and getting things kicked off the ground.
Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?
When I was approaching maternity leave in December 2020, I had a few wobbles, but I had no choice but to make it work.
What support did you have around you to set up your VA business (family and friends, Coach or Mentor)?
My husband, he has always fully supported me doing this and giving me a few hours a day where he did the parenting so I could work on my business. Everyone needs a life partner like that! He even put a post on nextdoor telling everyone I had started and to contact me if they needed a VA – It did bring in a few leads that thought it was lovely he did that!
My dad – he’s an accountant so helps me plan my finances and my best friend is a lawyer who makes sure everything is above board – I really am very lucky!!
I also have lots of friends in marketing who support / help me with all my LinkedIn & Instagram questions. In general, I am always amazed how supportive my friends are at recommending me as a VA whenever they see someone looking for one – it’s all about your network!
And of course, Amanda is my mentor and does a fab job of keeping me on the right track and making sure I don’t get distracted by the shiny fun things!
If you could go back and change one thing that you did when starting out, what would that be?
My website! I have a custom website due to a connection I had recommended. She did a fantastic job at a great price but its not needed for my business and not cost affective in the long run. I would have kept it simple and gone on something like WordPress which is so I could more easily have changed it as I grew – as a result I am not restarting and moving to WordPress.
What is your best advice for someone who is just starting out or someone who is considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?
Be bold. It’s a really scary thing putting yourself out there whether it is your website, on social media or telling your friends and family. But that is how you will grow and learn.
(also, others are more concerned about their own socials and doing their things to even think about yours!)
How would you describe the good, the bad and ugly of being a Virtual Assistant?
The Good is shaping the business to what me and my family want from it, the bad is never switching off (but I’ve never been good at that evening when employed) – the ugly?! I’m not sure about that…but I’m not a fan of people being very new in business as VAs and then setting themselves up to coach and promise other new VAs X figure months in X amount of time – doesn’t sit right with me. (That’s why Amanda’s my mentor!)
What is the best business book you’ve read and how did it impact you and your business?
Not strictly a business book but one for everyone is The Source by Tara Swart. Exploring the Law of Attraction with Neuroscience evidence behind it.
How do you stay on top of your own professional development?
With difficulty! I am coming out of maternity leave now, and that has been one of the areas that has slipped but I must accept I’m not super woman.
2022 it will be a priority, but I will make sure it’s in areas that will benefit my business
What do you love to do when you’re not working?
The theatre!! Once upon a time I loved to sing and dance also, now I am very happy to watch it but would love to make it to a dance class occasionally again.
Tell us one thing you can tell us about you that not many people know?
I once had my heart set on being an Opera Singer!
What does the future hold for your business?
Next year I want to focus on some areas I have never done before, growing my email marketing list and what I can offer personally to other business owners I work with. Otherwise, we are going to continue growing following the VA Agency model route.