Paula is a military spouse and I feel very passionate about helping this sector of Virtual Assistants. Having been the Logistics Officer of a military ship, I used to get exceedingly frustrated when my staff said “Sorry Boss, I cannot go do that amazing job as my wife will need to give up her great role.” So I love the fact that when our military spouses are Virtual Assistants, our military personnel feel their spouses are fully supported. Paula has now gone on to launch her own coaching and training for military spouse virtual assistants.
I feel very fortunate to have grown up in one of the most beautiful places in the UK, the North Devon coast (I am biased, I know). Since then I have moved around, within the UK and outside, to include Germany and Australia, which has been both exciting and extremely interesting. I started my working career holding various administrative roles, from bookkeeping to office management.
Since then have undertaken roles in a wide variety of industries within the public, private and voluntary sectors in healthcare, dental, charities, and shipbroking. I have been fortunate to have worked in both small family-run businesses and larger corporate environments. The majority of my career has been in the healthcare sector, managing GP & dental practices, out of hours and mental health services. This has involved managing all aspects of the business from accounts; service level agreements; budgets and funding applications to human resources and customer service. Latterly, I held an administrative position in a London based shipbroking company that involved many roles, including; project management; introducing systems; compliance; human resources and research.
In 2017 I decided to take the plunge to become self-employed and put my wealth of administrative and business management experience to good use. Hence the inception of Advance Virtual Assistants. My wealth of experience prior to working virtually has furnished me with the skills to offer far more to my clients than purely virtual admin assistance. I naturally look to improve business processes and can turn my hand to most aspects of business. I like to think of myself as a business partner, working in my clients’ business as if it were my own.
I am very proud of the team of associates that I work with, ensuring that they have shared values with me and they understand the AVA ethos, that we are another member of our client’s team.
What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?
I was inspired to become a VA when my (now 14 years old) daughter was small. I was working for a dental practice that I loved and discovered that we had to move (due to my husband’s job). The lead dentist suggested that I undertake some of the duties remotely – which I did. However, I lost confidence to start my own business, thinking that I couldn’t give it the attention it deserved as I had three small children at that time. Fast forward to 2016. I found myself living in Germany, with no job opportunities available to me. Ting…. Light bulb moment… now is the time to start my VA business. And the rest is history!
How did you go about establishing your business?
I spent a lot of time researching the industry, I got into all of the Facebook groups that I could find. I read every relevant blog I could find. I signed up for every challenge that was relevant. Whilst gathering this information I started to think about who I am and what I could offer. Who I wanted to work with (or more, who I didn’t want to work with!) I contacted everyone I knew to tell them what I was doing and gained two clients immediately. (one was a fixed project – typing up memoirs, the other I am still working with! I secured a couple of new clients through referrals and I was successful in gaining some associate work.
Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?
No. I didn’t have a pot of money to get going at all. I just went for it. I already had a laptop, a mobile phone and we had good WiFi in the house already. I guess I was fortunate that the family wasn’t reliant on an income from me at that time. I looked for the most cost-effective ways to try and achieve what I wanted to achieve. I used all of the free software available to me in the beginning – and am still using some of them. I did need to buy a new computer after about 6 months, and I borrowed the money for that.
Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?
Living in Germany I wasn’t able to get out and attend face to face networking events which made obtaining new clients very difficult. I now know that I needed to work much more on my social media too. Also, my mindset wasn’t helping me either – I was getting in my own way. This all resulted in very slow growth which did make me question whether I had done the right thing. However, I am not a quitter and I am very determined. After several months of associate work, which helped me to believe in my abilities and a move back to the UK the business took off and I haven’t looked back since.
What support did you have around you to set up your VA business (family and friends, Coach or Mentor)?
If you could go back and change one thing that you did when starting out, what would that be?
What is your best advice for someone who is just starting out or someone who is considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?
Really understand what it actually means to be a VA (it’s not always a walk in the park and its not necessarily a simple ‘couple of hours of work whilst the children are in school’) Your business will consume headspace regardless of how many hours you plan to work. Believe in yourself and your abilities.
What is the best business book you’ve read and how did it impact you and your business?
There are so many……I really enjoyed the audiobook of Jen Sincero, You are a Badass and You are a Badass at Making Money. I found it was a straight-talking book that really helped to get my mindset in the right place.
What do you love to do when you’re not working
I love to be with my family. I am very strict about not working past 6 pm and not at weekends, except in special circumstances. I love to walk my two mini Dachshunds, Boris, and Henry (I use this time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks). I love making soft furnishings, collecting antiques and traditionally upholstering old chairs, etc.
Tell us one thing you can tell us about you that not many people know?
I own a Dirndl! I love it too!! It’s quite unlike me as I am quite conservative most of the time but this shows my colourful, playful side!!! (Note from Amanda: I had to google what this was…!)
Let’s Inspire You
If you are looking for a little more inspiration – check out the recent Wednesday Wisdom blog posts where we interview some past graduates of VACT and talk to some of our current VA: Be Awesome Club members.
Read Wednesday Wisdom – Jodye Laxton of Beyond Admin – https://www.vact.co.uk/jodye-laxton/
Read Wednesday Wisdom – Ellen Williams of Ministry VA – https://www.vact.co.uk/ellen-williams-ministry-va/
Read Sandra Storoni’s Experience of Training with VACT – https://www.vact.co.uk/va-training-with-vact/