We have known Emilia for a few years and have been impressed by her successful journey from being a PA to a virtual assistant & digital nomad. In this blog post she shares the details of how she decided to set up her own business and how it has changed her life.
With over 15 years of PA and operational experience, I set up my VA business in 2017. I had no experience of how to get clients or run a business, however I knew that I had solid PA experience, transferrable skills and determination.
I often sat and daydreamed working for myself and having that flexibility to create a business that works for me. I also used to scroll through social media with a twinge of jealousy while seeing pictures of digital nomads, seemingly living their best lives! I made myself feel better by telling myself that it’s not reality and it’s different for me or that my job is different. Then I continued to respond to emails and Zoom calls and, if I felt really wild, I would take some time out, while not really being present, as my head would be so full with work. Before I knew it, another year had gone by and I was still no closer to that digital nomad life that I kept hearing about.
I decided to leave a secure job as an office manager in central London, that I genuinely enjoyed and loved, to go out on my own as a VA. The idea was daunting, however it felt like something I had to do. I started with no clients, no contacts and no experience of sales or client management, let alone knowledge of how to manage a business from the accounts side or anything else.
Everyone I spoke to thought I was mad and had a lot of questions: “How will you get clients?”, “How will you manage clients?”, “What services are you going to offer?”, “How will you manage it financially?”. All great questions, to which I had no answers, other than, “I’ll work it out!”.
I just knew that I wanted to get out of the London 9 to 5, which, in reality, was 8 till very late, and when I wasn’t working, I was thinking about work. I was constantly stressed, and my weekends finished on Saturdays, because Sundays were spent consumed with major anxiety about the week ahead. I had a good job, loved the people I worked with and consistently received excellent feedback and got great bonuses. None of that mattered, as I was too focused on my anxiety and I hated working for someone else and having to work set hours, regardless of whether that’s where I’d be most productive. My stress and anxiety from work poured into my personal life and, let’s just say, anyone who has stayed around and is still speaking to me now deserves a medal! I was also frustrated about the progression opportunities (or lack of) and wanted to feel challenged and to push myself out of my comfort zone.
I’d always been interested in the Virtual Assistant industry and had lots of experience of working as a PA/EA. I’d also hired VAs as a manager and knew what ‘good’ looked like and what clients were looking for.
So, I decided to hand my notice in. I’d work out the minor details, like what I’d do with my life, after I had left!
I took this approach, because I’m an all-or-nothing person, and when I work for someone else, I put all of my time and energy into that. I don’t like doing things by half, and I had no time to work on another business while I was working where I was. Diving straight into it is not for everyone, and some people prefer to set up while they are in employment. I’d say do whatever you’re comfortable with and what you can afford.
The first few months were harder than I thought. I was spending my days getting set up and ‘working’, although I didn’t actually have any clients, and the transition from working in a busy office, where I was the go-to person, to working in my kitchen on my own was tough.
4 years on, I now run a profitable VA business, where I outsource all client work to my team of Associate VAs. I also have a podcast and set up The VA Diaries, where I mentor VAs (or people thinking about setting up as a VA) and I deliver training and digital products.
Setting up my own VA business has been so much better than I expected. The scope and services offered by a VA vary, however they often include the following:
- Diary management
- Email management
- Project co-ordination and management
- Travel research and booking
- Document editing
- Process improvement
- Expense management
- Personal/lifestyle support
- Event management
- Social media support or management
- Graphic design
Some of the benefits of working as a VA are:
- You decide when you work
- Being location independent
- Deciding who you work with
- No Sunday night dread
- Unlimited earning potential
I’ve learnt SO MUCH about myself. I’ve been traveling the world whilst working (currently writing this from Bali), making more money than I thought/hoped I would, have worked with epic clients and mentees and have had an absolute blast along the way.
Working for yourself isn’t for everyone, however if you’re ambitious, want flexibility and love a challenge, it’s definitely worth exploring!
If you would like to follow Emilia’s journey or if you are considering becoming a VA follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thevadiaries/