I recently asked Annabel Kay what lessons she has learnt from working with Virtual Assistants. I have known Annabel Kaye for a number of years, from both my time as Director of VACT but also from my days when I was a Virtual Assistant supporting clients. Annabel is well known within the VA community (as well as the wider business world), she is a firm advocate of Virtual Assistants (and user of them within her own business) which means she totally understands what is going on and how to support them and the industry better. Annabel is one of the experts within my VA Help Desk Facebook community and regularly answers questions for those within the group, which really proves the collaborative nature of the industry and supporting industries.
So I asked Annabel to tell me what lessons she has learnt from working with VAs over the years. You might be surprised…
We started writing contracts for Virtual Assistants about ten years ago. Like all our projects we started with finding out how the industry works, what the repeating problems are, and working out how we could use contracts to help VAs set healthy financial and emotional boundaries. Working with VAs is never quite like working with anyone else.
For most Virtual Assistants, getting it right is really important. Our mini-army of Virtual Assistants are always extremely generous with feedback and helping us to improve. We have literally hundreds of proof-readers, always ready to pick up an error and help us improve. This is a characteristic I observe in many Virtual Assistant groups – that constant willingness to share and help each other improve.
We have got it wrong from time to time, but in the main VAs are a forgiving group and as long as we put it right quickly we all move on to working on new problems and legal changes as rapidly as we can. We are constantly evolving our content and how we deliver it to suit a rapidly changing industry – as well as rapidly changing legal requirements.
Over time we have seen the industry and individual VAs diversify from general administration into developing service and market niches. It is fascinating to watch highly resourceful Virtual Assistants, start, try, experiment, change and finally find a niche they are comfortable in. Often this is done with a baby on one knee or an elderly parent in the next room. It has never been easy – but I am constantly inspired when I look at how Virtual Assistants persist.
Some remain solo Virtual Assistants, but others build teams. From a single ‘resilience buddy’ to help in case of illness or the unexpected to a larger team structure, it is fascinating to see Virtual Assistants bridge that space between ‘boss’ (which you are not if your team are self-employed) and team leader and make it all happen. The resourcefulness and planning skills needed to make that happen are hard-learned and I draw on it every time I start a project to launch a new range of VA support documents or GDPR programmes.
And let’s hear it for the Associate VAs. I have watched some start as Associates and then go on to run their own teams, while others are happy as associates within particular teams. Everybody finds their own way – and does what is right for them at the time. Some people need a team structure more than others. It can be a lonely life if you are the only one working on a long project.
Virtual Assistants are a remarkably loyal bunch. I am always shocked by how badly a minority of clients treat their outsourced team. There is something very satisfying in helping VAs write that perfect email that links to the contract and gets them paid. We can’t dry up all the tears, but we can be a powerful resource when things go wrong.
The industry is facing some tough times – along with everyone else – as we look at the effects of the Coronavirus and the lockdown. Despite the obvious challenges and the struggle to get proper support for start-ups and businesses with no business rates to pay, we are still seeing VAs celebrate getting new clients as they issue our terms of business.
Virtual Assistants are used to working remotely and to be resourceful and self-starting. With all the equipment ready to go, and secure GDPR ready ways of working, we are seeing many VAs pick up the slack and help local businesses transition to an online way of working. We have all been familiar with that for years, but for some, it comes as a great shock.
Despite all that, we are still doggedly preparing for changes such as Brexit and the revised IR35 rules. These issues have not gone away as we all face the consequences of the lockdown.
I am absolutely sure that Virtual Assistants will be more vital than ever in the new world of work that will come after the lockdown. The skills, supportive attitude, and knowledge of a Virtual Assistant will be vital to building new and profitable businesses. Here at KoffeeKlatch, we are doing everything we can to help set up simple legal and compliance frameworks so VAs can get on with their work without worrying about all of that too.
Annabel started her career in publishing and consumer law (Which? magazine) and then moved into advertising and HR. She founded KoffeeKlatch in 2009 specifically to support organisations which outsource to freelancers. Her practical expertise in outsourcing to VAs, web designers, bookkeepers, trainers and more, is a key part of her story. She lives the life she talks about. Old enough to be a grandmother, mother of millennials, a happy explorer of the gap between compliance and wiggle room, her witty persona makes light of the experience and learning that underpins her wisdom. You also need to keep an eye out for her ducks! You can learn more about Annabel and find out more about the legal documents KoffeeKlatch can provide for you and your business at the following links: