What made you decide you wanted to become a VA and when?
A Virtual Assistant is probably what I have always wanted to be truth be told. I recall many moons ago wanting a role where I could use my secretarial skills yet be more than just a secretary. The conscious decision to become a VA arrived gradually as my children were growing up and I began to think about my future once the children had decided I was redundant! After researching the term ‘VA’, I finally launched my VA business in June 2012.
Were you concerned that there were already many VAs already out there and this would be competition?
I never worried about competition when I was a paid employee and I have not changed that view to the present day. Even today, I am not aware of many VAs in my region but regardless of that, there is a huge global VA community out there and I expect the UK VA community to grow significantly over the coming years.
The VA-Client relationship is almost like a marriage – the two partners must complement one another or it won’t work. Having said that, I truly believe that people work best with those they find a connection with and each of us has something unique to offer.
I would also say that good VAs support one another and do not view each other as competitors. I am happy to say that my personal experience of contact with other VAs has been extremely positive and I am confident 99.9% of us have the same experience.
What gave you the confidence to give yourself that push to go ahead and do it?
It was time for me to get my career back following 12 years focused on being a mother and providing support for my husband’s business. Flexibility to accommodate family commitments was important to me so going the VA route was ideal.
When you decided to get started what made you decide to go for some VA training?
Nikki Rollins, a fellow VA, and I met at the Office Show in 2012 and she could not speak highly enough about Carmen MacDougall and the VA Mastery Course. Whilst I was at the show, I liked what Carmen had to say so I signed up. Thanks Nikki!
Why did you decide on The VA Coaching and Training Company and what was your experience of the training?
I decided on The VA Coaching and Training Company because I met Carmen personally and was impressed with her calm, approachable and professional manner. Carmen’s passion shines through and I really felt she had a special personal touch. When you are working in the virtual world it is important to know that there is real support available to you so faceless on-line training would not have given that to me.
What have been the highlights of your business so far?
I administer a number of local community websites – paid for with advertising by local businesses, albeit not well paid. My biggest single highlight has to be acting as the social media interface for real time reporting of the 5 December 2013 floods in my local community. People were anxious for information and thanks to my years of management of the local community websites coupled with my social media skills I was able to help a lot of people by keeping them informed instantly on behalf of the community in real time. The feedback I received after the event told me I did an exceptional job but the whole experience was a buzz as events unfolded by the second.
What have been some challenges you have experienced and if you were to do things differently next time what would you do?
My pet hate is public speaking. Last year I had an opportunity to pitch to a body of decision-makers. Despite preparing a detailed proposal, I soon realised I was ill-equipped with presentation skills and my lack of confidence ensured that my audience (who knew very little of the internet) were not on my side. I withdrew from the meeting and trusted the decision-makers to guess what I didn’t say. Naturally, I did not get the result I wanted.
I have since joined 4N networking group and ‘sub’ at BNI meetings and I am working on improving my presentation skills via elevator pitches. I am also very mindful of how I need to approach targeted presentations and feel I will only improve.
I am pleased to say I have since delivered a highly satisfactory presentation on social media working alongside websites and blogs to a group of tourist attraction businesses who have little or no knowledge of the subject. My confidence was hugely boosted as, despite considerable nerves, I was able to get my message across effectively and the feedback I received supports this.
What type of clients do you work with and do you specialise in a particular service?
My clients are varied: some are on-going and some seem to be one-off training clients. These include tourism/hospitality businesses such as pubs, bed and breakfasts and hotels. I also have worked with an IT trainer, a management consultant, a client in the well-being industry as well as clients in the craft and soft furnishing industry.
What advice would you give to anyone just starting out especially in relation to training?
I would say:
- You are not alone – VA support is tangible if you get in the right groups and communities.
- Always be true to yourself. It is OK to say NO. Do not try and do everything just to take the money on offer.
- Expect your business to take time to build up (it can take years, not months). It is not a reflection on you or your skills if you do not have clients lining up every week.
- There will be challenges. How you deal with them are key to your ability to keep going and your ultimate success. Good training will help guide you through these times. The VA Mastery Course is a good example of what I mean.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
I see myself with a solid VA business including a number of Associate VAs. I will be living a laptop lifestyle which allows me to maintain my client work whilst also being able to travel.
Who in business would you love to meet and why?
Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates would both be interesting to meet. I am impressed with the achievements Bill Gates has made in his working life and how he now generously chooses to give back to others in recent years. In particular, I love his talk to a group of American High School students which was emailed and went viral (I think). I loved his message so much I have saved it to show my children in the hope that their core values will be enhanced as a result of reading it.
Which book has influenced you the most in your business?
‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie as I believe it is full of wisdom.
What is your favourite quote and why?
‘It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.’ That’s what gets results! My Grandad always quoted it as I was growing up and I totally believe it is true.
What do you love to do when you’re not working?
I love to spend positive time as a family. I don’t care what we are doing as long as it feels like we are all together in one space. Having dinner, snuggled up watching TV or a good movie together is enough to make me feel happy. Other than that I love to watch the sun set over The Wash where I live, enjoy walks along the beach, travelling, music and dancing.
And lastly – what one thing can you tell us about you that not many people know?
I met Richard Branson in the flesh at London Heathrow whilst waiting to board a flight as part of the Raleigh International expedition to the Northern Territory in Australia in May 1990. He was really down to earth and chilled. He was very personable and interested in our expedition. My lasting memory is of a man totally at ease with himself and happy to share of himself.
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