Katie became a virtual assistant after over a decade of working in primary schools, both as a TA and a teacher. She is now a VA who works with educational businesses. She loves helping edupreneurs to smooth out their systems and processes so that they can become more effective and efficient.
What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?
I live in an extremely rural area (big up the Shropshire massive!) where the kinds of jobs I was interested in simply didn’t exist unless I was willing to commute for hours at a time.
A very good friend of mine was, at that time, working remotely for Basecamp and his work-life balance, as well as the type of work he was doing seemed AMAZING!
I spent a few months looking into remote working positions for companies like Harvest, Basecamp etc, and as a part of this interest in remote working, I became aware that being a ‘virtual assistant’ was a thing. A bit of research and a pandemic later, and I was all set!
How did you go about establishing your business?
I was, in some respects, very lucky. The admin position I had already disappeared in the first lockdown – I helped a lady with her travel expense reporting and that simply wasn’t needed any more! Though I had two small children at home, my husband, who was training as a secondary teacher at that point, had been sent home. All of a sudden I had a lot of time on my hands and free childcare.
I worked out how to set up a website, did a lot of research in free groups like Amanda’s, asked many (many) questions and I was all set!
I then waited for about a month the get a client – not my ideal one – he is an electrical engineer who lives up the road from me, but he is fabulous and I still get bits and pieces from him 2 years later!
I knew that I wanted to work in the education business sphere so I did a lot of networking on LinkedIn and Twitter, and a few months later my first ‘ideal’ client came along – a educational consultant who wanted help to make lovely powerpoints for her courses! We still work together 2 years later and I’m really lucky to have her.
Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?
Not really – my Mum had sent me £500 (yes I was nearly 40 and yes my mum still sends me the odd hand out 😂) which covered the domain, the website and the email – plus a few other bits like some insurance and registration with the ICO. We were quite lucky at the time though, because Toby’s grants that he received as part of his teacher training meant that our bottom line was met without even trying.
Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?
I never really considered it, because in my head it was just something to keep me interested through the lockdown, and to get some remote working experience to add to my CV so I could have a better chance when applying to remote companies – it was always a means to an end.
It really became a viable business without my noticing – now I wouldn’t have it any other way!
What support did you have around you to set up your VA business (family and friends, Coach or Mentor)?
If Toby hadn’t looked after the kids it wouldn’t have happened, that’s for sure.
If you could go back and change one thing that you did when starting out, what would that be?
I think I would have invested in myself faster and gone with a career progression membership like Amanda’s. I spent such a lot of time looking in the free groups or working stuff out for myself (hellooo self-employed taxes!) that could have been found more easily and with less experimentation if I’d had someone to point me in the right directions.
What is your best advice for someone who is just starting out or someone who is considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?
Go for it! VA’s are a growing market – but make sure you’re in it with a will to do it right. Virtual Assistance is an unregulated industry and it’s hard to know who to trust, so invest in membership to the Society of VA’s etc, so potential clients have some peace of mind (and get insurance fgs!)
How would you describe the good, the bad and ugly of being a Virtual Assistant?
Good – My self esteem and self-worth have SHOT up since beginning this business. I can no longer imagine doing anything but running my own career – it rocks!
Bad – There is a very quick turnover from ‘too quiet and lots of time on your hands’ to ‘frantically busy and stressed out of your mind’. You should try to put systems in place before that happens (spoiler alert: I didn’t).
What is the best business book you’ve read and how did it impact you and your business?
Donald Miller’s Building a Story Brand helped me enormously with creating my copy and framing it properly. Miracle Morning – the book itself wasn’t amazing (it was essentially 500 pages that could have been summed up as ‘get up early and have a morning routine that involves self-care’ but the impact it has had on my day and the way I organize it has been out of this world. In the summer I get up at 5 and go for a walk (in my pyjamas because if I have to think about getting dressed it won’t happen) and then I meditate and journal. It has been lifechanging, though the winter months have made it much harder to do (can’t go for a walk in the pitch black and by the time the sun it up, so are the kids!)
How do you stay on top of your own professional development?
In theory, Friday is my day inside my own business – I have Amanda’s VA membership and the Atomic membership which is full of amazing development opportunities. In practice, at the moment I am so buy that it simply ain’t happening.
What do you love to do when you’re not working?
Gaming! I’m a massive PC gamer, particularly World of Warcraft (if I get bored of that then it’s usually some kind of roleplay game like Fallout). My oldest, Archie (8) is also getting into it so we spend weekends fighting over the laptop (I’ve been forced to buy him a Switch to get him off my back!)
Tell us one thing you can tell us about you that not many people know?
Not much to be honest – I’ve always been a complete oversharer!
I’m crap at crafts but I love them – if I’m not gaming then you will find me indulging in something that combines two things I love – craft and swearing. Never heard of profane cross stitch? Go and investigate. It’s so much fun!
What does the future hold for your business?
I’m currently learning about taking on associates – I want to help other ex-teachers, or people trying to get out of teaching, to do so – I firmly believe teachers have the skillset to make AMAZING virtual assistants. I’ve got one lovely lady on my team already and am on the lookout for a second!
I don’t want to be an agency, though. I need the associates to take on some of my more general work so that I can focus on what really lights me up – automation and in particular, email marketing software – I am a MASSIVE ActiveCampaign nerd. I asked Katie to write a guest blog about her experience of entering awards, it was so useful I have added it to the VA Conference website. You can read the blog here.