This week I am pleased to introduce you to Emma Boatman, of Boatman Admin Services. What Emma shares in this story is how people come to the industry with not necessarily a pure PA or EA background and how they still have awesome businesses. I have loved learning more about her and I hope you do to.
Hi, I’m Emma from Boatman Admin Services. I have over 20 years of experience working in admin and project management roles so starting a virtual admin business seemed the logical step when I was looking for a career change. I love helping small business owners follow their dreams and achieve more in their business by taking away the time-consuming admin tasks. I’ve always been passionate about supporting small, local businesses – I much prefer an independent café to a chain. Who doesn’t love a good piece of cake!
What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?
I didn’t really have any aspirations to run a VA business – it came from a matter of need. I was in an employed job as a Clinical Research Associate in a pharmaceutical company and it was a role that I loved. Id’ been at the company for 14 years. However, with a change of management, a lot of issues started to arise. I was told that I could no longer do my role as I didn’t have a ‘proper’ degree. This was despite having a post-graduate diploma in clinical research. After 4 months of sitting at my desk not being allowed to do my role, but not being given an alternative role I decided to leave. Within this time I’d also experienced some bullying by a peer which wasn’t addressed despite my complaints.
I had no job to go to but my husband, John, needed admin help in his business, so I made a leap of faith!
How did you go about establishing your business?
As mentioned before, there was no grand plan to set up a business! I started doing my husbands admin and got him pretty organised in a short space of time. We met with our accountant and she said she needed some admin help. She also knew some of her clients could probably do with some help in the admin area of business. It was from there we decided to set up a business and see where it would take us.
Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?
When I left my employed role, I had a lot of share options which I sold meaning I had just under a year’s worth of salary. We already had a computer that I could use so my initial outlay wasn’t high.
Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?
There are still moments now when I think it won’t work out! Self-doubt creeps up on everyone at some stage in business.
What support did you have around you to set up your VA business (family and friends, Coach or Mentor)?
I absolutely could not have done it without John. He was the one that encouraged me to leave my old job and to work with him doing his admin in his business as an independent financial advisor. When I left I had zero confidence in anything. I distinctly remember the first task he gave me was adding a name and address to a template letter and being in floods of tears as I was certain I couldn’t do it.
If you could go back and change one thing that you did when starting out, what would that be?
I don’t think I’d change any of it, to be honest! I’ve learnt a lot about business and the transition from being employed to self-employed. I don’t think you ever stop learning.
What is your best advice for someone who is just starting out or someone who is considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?
As Nike would say, ‘Just do it!’. I was lucky that I had a big chunk of savings behind me but I never dismissed getting another employed job if it didn’t work out. What’s the worst that could happen?!
How would you describe the good, the bad and ugly of being a Virtual Assistant?
The good – without a doubt, the flexibility of the job. As long as you’re hitting your client deadlines, it doesn’t matter if the work is done at 8 am or 8 pm (& of course, being able to take your laptop outside when we have beautiful sunny weather whilst everyone is trapped in an office!)
The bad – having to be the master of everything! Not only are you doing your client work but you’ll also have to do your accounts, marketing, sales until you’ve reached a point where you can outsource them.
The ugly – not having defined boundaries. It’s all too easy when you’re running your own business to work every hour of the day. If you answer an email at 8 pm on a Saturday night, it might become expected by some clients. Set yourself some work time boundaries, just like you would if you had an office job.
What is the best business book you’ve read and how did it impact you and your business?
Despite being an avid reader, I find business books a little dull so I’ve never actually finished one! I much prefer to listen to podcasts and I love A Branch of Holly, Friends with Business Benefits and You’re Welcome
How do you stay on top of your own professional development?
I’d be lying if I said I was good at this! I set up the Wiltshire VA Support Hub in 2019 and I’ve found it’s something we all struggle with. I’ve been to several VA and Freelancer conferences over the years.
What do you love to do when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I run a lifestyle blog called HappyWiseOwl. I also love walking our dog Connie (it’s a great way to get outside every lunchtime away from the computer screen). My other huge passion is to travel. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to travel all over the world over the last few years.
Tell us one thing you can tell us about you that not many people know?
I’ve done a charity skydive! I’m quite an introvert so this was a bit of shock to everyone. A friend was doing it for her birthday and I commented saying I’d love to do it. Her boyfriend said I’d never do it…so I said if I do it, you’ll have to do it…so the challenge was on!
What does the future hold for your business?
We’re heading into our 4th year of business which is incredible. I never thought I’d run my own business so to be here 4 years down the line is great.
Learn more and connect with Emma:
Website URL: http://www.boatmanadmin.co.uk/