Everyone has a story of how they have got to where they are today. With some it is straight forward; most, like mine, is a journey. I remember being asked, “what are you going to be when you grow up?”. I was 30, but I was stuck. What do you do when you have a background in education and administration? This is my story of how I became a virtual assistant.
I graduated from university with a Bachelor of Education in 1996. As a switched from education to admin, I was advised to get a qualification in that too. So, after studying two nights a week for two years, I got a HNC in Business and Management in 2002. During my career, I have been a teacher, receptionist, export coordinator, online customer service advisor, administrator, personal assistant and quality officer. The thing all of these roles have in common is administration. It may take different forms, but it is always there. Report writing, presentations, research, proofreading, reformatting documents, document writing all require a good understanding of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Don’t forget customer service relations and time management.
Admin or teaching
After getting out of teaching for the first time, and while studying the HNC, I became a personal assistant to four directors is fun and a tremendous learning experience. Four different personalities, four different ways of working, four different specialism – finance, marketing, systems and curriculum, four different workloads. I suppose it was here where I learned to juggle. Working for four directors ensures that you prioritise your work accordingly, and developed my time management skills. The principal also utilised my teaching skills. I became the lead tutor on the Access to HE Business Studies course. Admin by day, teach two nights a week!
From there I diversified in to export management. The role of an export coordinator was the first position where accuracy was essential. It tested my proofreading and accuracy skills. For anyone outside of export management, I had to create shipping documents that matched the Letter of Credit 100%. The Letter of Credit was a contract between the two banks, and it would set out what was being exported by the supplier to the customer. If these documents did not match the LC 100%, they were rejected by the bank. This meant that at best there was a delay in payment, at worst goods were stuck in customs at the customer’s end.
A few years later, I got a call asking if I wanted to get back into primary teaching full-time. I finally gave up teaching in 2009, when I had my son. My goal, again, was to combine the skills I had acquired from education and administration into a role that I could develop.
The road ahead
A short time after my maternity leave, I got a position working in the Quality and Compliance department within a health and social care provider. Proofreading and editing were crucial elements of the role; checking for accuracy, grammar and formatting. I have a keen eye for detail, and my grammar was not too shabby either. That was why my then colleague suggested I should look into being a proofreader. That was in 2014. I sat on the idea, did research and took part in a “How to set up as a VA” webinar twice. In 2017 something finally clicked. I decided I would become a virtual assistant.
I eventually signed up to do the VACT Mastery Course with Amanda Johnson. It is aimed at Virtual Assistant’s setting up their business to ensure that they have all the fundamentals in place. This includes knowing your story and highlighting it on social media (hence this post). Personally, it is the best investment I have ever made. It has given me a solid foundation for my business. As a result, and more importantly, the course (and Amanda) has given me the confidence to know I have got this. I know where I am doing.
It was around the same time; I started using one of those freelancing platforms. My first client required schemes of work to be edited and formatted for consistency. My first client combined with education knowledge with my admin experience. This turned into a 6-month project. I could spot different fonts, and font sizes, tabs and margins not being in alignment. We created a standard template and style. The project gave me the bug. It was possible to do work in the evening and weekends after my son was in bed.
So, that is how and when I got here. Why did I become a VA? Some could say that it was all those years of working in the evenings and weekends as a teacher were still there, and I needed something to do to fill the time. Honestly, there were personal events that happened within the family that made me stop and think. I wanted to build something for me. Something with more flexibility, for my family and me. Plus, I needed a challenge.
That first step and those early months were overwhelming. I remember thinking, what I am I doing? Everyone is talking about stuff that I have never even heard about. But within a short period, I have learned about software. If you asked me about MailChimp, Asana, ContentCal, Hootsuite or even social media marketing two years ago, I might have had a slow panic. Now, due to me slightly stubborn and wanting to know how things work, I have built my website, fixed a glitch on the blogs posting entirely on the homepage, create social media content and work with clients virtually. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t know everything. But I can Google!
At the time of writing this, I am still employed. My VA business is I run around my paid employment. I am still learning. I still have a strong desire to learn new things and continue with my CPD. It might explain why I have signed up to get my level 4 certificate in proofreading and editing.