This week, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Susan Wright, The Wright VA. I am often asked is it feasible to manage a long term health condition and to run a VA business and my very short answer is “yes” it is achievable, but there has to be a sensible balance and you need to know your own health limitations. So I delighted to share Susan’s story with you as she is one such VA who juggles a health condition, who set up, attended the PA Show, realised she was missing a few bits, tweaked her set up etc and now has a great VA business. (I I am proud of the journey she has been on and I love the successes she is now having in her business and I am excited to see where it goes moving forwards.)
Hi, I’m Susan and I have over 20 years’ experience working in the Private Equity sector, where I gained and honed my organisation skills, attention to detail and document production expertise to deliver support to a range of Senior Managers and Directors. Following redundancy back in 2015, I looked into the idea of working from home as I felt 20 plus years of commuting was enough. Getting cold feet, I took on a temporary role at the local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) where, as PA to a very busy NHS Director, became skilled at diary management. Due to a restructure, I was made redundant again whilst on long term sick leave in early 2017. It was then, I decided, to set up on my own, and launched Susan’s Office Solutions in September 2017.
A last-minute decision to attend the PA Show in February 2018 opened my eyes, as I met several inspirational people, learned about the VA world (not knowing about it previously!) and came away with a bucket load of information that enlightened me to the industry. I took this new-found knowledge (and a call enquiring if I sold copy paper!) to re-brand and professionalise my business. I re-launched exactly a year later in September 2018 as The Wright VA. I assist a range of clients and as a born organiser, a desire to help and a want for all things ‘right’, I go above and beyond to ensure these qualities are met for my clients.
What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?
Having been made redundant for the second time whilst on long term sick with chronic fatigue, I was unsure I would be able to hold a full time employed role. Knowing a couple of clients that required some ad hoc admin support, I decided to take the leap and set up on my own. I thought that if it worked – brilliant – if it didn’t, well, I tried, but most importantly I was able to build my strength and health and know if I was able to return to work. So, for me, it was a win-win and also took the stress away knowing that I could always go and get a job if I needed to. In addition to this, knowing there was a number of Facebook groups for support was also a game-changer.
How did you go about establishing your business?
When I set up originally in 2017, I was very naïve and knew nothing about running a business. I didn’t have insurance, a domain or any of the other foundations required. It was only after visiting the PA Show that I set about getting the basics in place. I read, engaged and learnt within the Facebook groups and slowly began to have a proper and professional business set up rather than ‘just doing a bit of admin at home’ set up. Having spent the summer of 2018 getting all the ducks in a row, I re-launched in September. I then began networking – going to several meetings a fortnight, eventually settling on a couple – both of which I still attend today and one of which I now co-run.
Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?
Yes. But having said that, after a couple of stints of long-term sick leave and redundancies, the pot was getting a bit low, but I was unable to work anyway, so anything I brought in was a bonus.
Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?
Not really – I knew I was good at what I do and able to help the right clients, it was a case of getting the clients on board. However, I’ve always had clients. They might not have been for the hours of full-time job, but for me, I wasn’t looking for that – it was more about building up my health – the rest would come. It’s only now after 2 years that my health is settling down (I believe as a result of working from home and being able to rest and recoup when I need to) and the clients are coming on board.
What support did you have around you to set up your VA business (family and friends, Coach or Mentor)?
I have been very lucky. My husband has been hugely supportive and has championed me every step of the way – and calls himself a stakeholder! My friends and family have also all be very supportive even though some, I think, don’t really ‘get’ what a VA is or the amount of work that is required to get a business up and running.
If you could go back and change one thing that you did when starting out, what would that be?
I am very proud of the fact that I have got where I am today by my own efforts, but if I knew of the VA Mastery course at the onset, I would have done it.
What is your best advice for someone who is just starting out or someone who is considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?
Engage with others in the industry. Get to know fellow VAs – it is a collaborative industry, not competitive, and you will need to lean on them at some stage, either with knowledge, assistance for a client task that you’re unsure about or a friendly ear.
How would you describe the good, the bad and ugly of being a Virtual Assistant?
The highs are very high and the lows are very low. Learn to ride the waves – they don’t last long, but they are more pronounced when you run your own business. Try and ‘flatten the curves’ to quote a 2020 saying!
The good is working from home and being your own boss. You no longer need to do the tasks that you hated in an employed role. Ever. In addition, the number of likeminded business owners, not just in the VA world, but across all industries, that I have met over the past couple of years has been really rewarding.
The bad, for me is continually having to market your business. Even if you have a full book, you never know when one may leave, so you need to keep up the marketing so ensure a steady stream of potential clients are always nearby.
The ugly, for me, is the legal stuff. It just scares me that things are not ‘right or correct’ despite knowing they are – it’s still the ‘demon’ of being a business owner.
What is the best business book you’ve read and how did it impact you and your business?
Hmmmm…. I’m not a reader, never have been, but I do have a selection of books currently gathering dust that I need to look at!
How do you stay on top of your own professional development?
I joined Freelance University and undertook a couple of courses on there. I also signed up to the VACT Mastermind as I know there is lots of information to learn in there too. You can’t learn too much all at the same time otherwise you get information overload and absorb nothing, so I like to learn things when I need to. In addition, I always read posts and comments in the Facebook groups as this is a fabulous source of information and knowledge. I also have about 2 or 3 courses waiting in the wings for me to purchase and complete!
What do you love to do when you’re not working?
I love to play sport, netball and korfball, both sports I’ve playing since school and to a high level, but to really relax I like to go birdwatching. A hobby that I got into when I was resting on the sofa for 9 months back in 2008 and still enjoy it today. I also enjoy doing jigsaws – I’ve lost count the number I have in the loft!
Tell us one thing you can tell us about you that not many people know?
I played county netball and korfball for Great Britain. I played netball for Surrey when I was at school and korfball, a fast paced, mixed-gender sport for GB at all age levels from U14 through to seniors.
What does the future hold for your business?
I feel I have the foundations for a sustainable business which is currently going from strength to strength and has the scope and potential to grow, so whilst I was always against building ‘an empire’, I think Associates may feature in the first quarter of 2021.
Learn more and connect with Susan:
Website URL: thewrightva.co.uk/
Facebook URL: facebook.com/SusanTheWrightVA
LinkedIn URL: linkedin.com/in/susanwright-va/