Tell us what inspired you to start your business?
Unfortunately, I don’t have an exciting story to share as the burning reason that I went into business. Instead it was out of necessity. After a 22-year career with one of the big four banks, my position as a regionally based Executive Assistant was made redundant. Being regionally based, with a mortgage and all the usual living expenses, I needed an income. While updating my online presence via LinkedIn, I came across a post discussing those who worked remotely with their boss. I immediately aligned with the post as my most recent role before being made redundant was a virtual arrangement; my boss was based out of Yarrawonga (or on the road visiting his team) and I was located in Bendigo. We saw each other once or twice a month and communicated via phone and email. I soon realised running a business where I could help other business owners and entrepreneurs from my home office was something I could do. From there, I was on a huge learning curve as my business was established and started to grow.
How did you procure clients in the early days of Executive Virtual Associate?
One of the first things I did was to tell people about my new venture. I’ve given the same advice to other Virtual Assistants (VAs) who have started out – “You can’t just start a business and hope people will find you. You need to get out and talk to people”
I started talking to people who I thought would be potential introduction/referral partners. I was careful who I selected, focusing on those who knew my work ethic and skill set. As it turned out one of my first clients was one of these valued connections. I also started networking locally, meeting other business owners – growing my connections and knowledge on running a business.
What exactly does a Virtual Assistant do?
A Virtual EA or VA (Virtual Assistant) is many things to many people. What a VA may do for one client could be very different to what they may do for the next client. My favourite definition of a Virtual Assistant is “the difference between should do and have done”. Essentially, we assist business owners, leaders and entrepreneurs with projects or tasks they can’t do, don’t do or shouldn’t do, so they can direct their time to more important tasks – usually the key reason they went into business.
So a VA could do anything from internet research to finding the perfect program/holiday location/gift to monitoring emails. Some VAs are more specialised and may focus on bookkeeping, web design, event planning etc.
Talk us through a normal day for you
A typical day doesn’t really exist when it comes to my workload. Some clients require ad hoc project work, but a few are supported daily.
I usually rise between 6am and 6.30am. I’d like to say I get my morning exercise out of the way at that time, but that would be a dream!
The first thing I usually do, with a morning coffee in hand is a quick scan of my emails. I have a few clients that I work with on a daily basis, so it’s important to check if something urgent has cropped up.
After I take my two kids to school, and then get my daily exercise in, I’m back into the office to check my calendar for reminders, events and notifications from those who work with my clients.
The workflow of three of my main clients is reactive, that is based around their client needs. So although I might allocate 2 – 4 hours for two of them, and my team member Sarah manages the 3rd from her home office.
I work consistently until my calendar alarm reminders me to collect the kids from school. Depending on the day, I may need to incorporate after school extra-curricular activities before returning home for another block of work.
I am blessed that most nights, my husband prepares dinner while I continue in the office until dinner-time.
Some evenings you will find me volunteering with either the Junortoun Community Action Group or Ladies Lounge Bendigo, or networking with fellow business owners locally or from time to time in Melbourne.
Because every night is different, we like to include a window of family time, depending on who is home and what activities need to be undertaken will determine what family time looks like.
I usually turn the light off to sleep close to 10pm.
You are Australia’s only IVAA Ethics Check VA and Australia’s First RAVB. What does this mean?
The role of a Virtual Assistant generally means we are dealing with personal and private information supplied by our clients. This could be bank account details, passwords and other sensitive information. Plus, we are representing our clients and their businesses in our dealings. Therefore, an element of trust is assumed and expected by a client when they partner with us.
At the moment, there is no regulation of our industry (self or otherwise), however a few VA associations, including the International Virtual Assistants Association, offer accreditations to support those VAs who operate with professionalism. These accreditations are not given out lightly; successful accreditation includes confirming your involvement with VA networks, client feedback, and testing your knowledge.
From my perspective, achieving a successful accreditation provides my clients with a level of trust and comfort that I am serious about operating ethically, protecting their privacy and reputation.
I am the only IVAA Ethics Checked Virtual Assistant within Australia, something I am very proud to hold and operate within the Code of Ethics associated with it.
What advice would you give to somebody looking to become a VA?
Firstly, connect with other VAs. Our industry is very friendly and collaborative. As I mentioned earlier, Bendigo has a few VAs. We all know each other and help each other out with tips, tricks and from time to time workloads. So, by connecting with other VAs you will learn more, benefiting your business and clients. Australia has several VA networks that can help with job leads, training and support, but be sure to find the one that suits you best.
Find yourself a mentor to guide you. Someone you wish to emulate.
Ensure your business is set up correctly, talk to your accountant if necessary, and ensure you have everything in order to start trading and working with your new clients.
I would also suggest getting out of your office. Start networking, meet people and grow your connections. This one tip has led to many great friendships, clients and other business opportunities.