What is a virtual assistant (VA), do you need one to help you grow your business, or is this a job that you might like to do yourself? Grace Robinson, founder of Eden Assistants, shares her VA story and answers these questions…
Grace Robinson left 9-5 employment to become her own boss, as a virtual assistant. After gaining experience with a variety of clients and getting an influx of referred business, she drew on her passion for talent management and expanded to running a virtual assistant agency with a team of associates.
Grace lives in Caterham, Surrey, with her partner and is expecting her first baby in February 2020.
It was during the Southern Rail strikes that I began searching for work which didn’t require a long commute. Getting paid for something I could do at home seemed like a dream at the time. I began working as a virtual assistant in February 2017. Entering the fabulous world of online working and entrepreneurship that the world-wide-web permits was enlightening.
So what is a virtual assistant? Not be confused with Amazon’s Alexa, a virtual assistant is a real person who works remotely providing business and personal support. Services offered can be anything which assists the client in running their business, or freeing up their time. This could be admin, booking a restaurant or lead generation. Virtual assistants can be likened to virtual PAs, delivering all-round support without being in a physical office.
Some VAs provide traditional PA skills such as diary and inbox management, travel and appointment booking and document creation. Others specialise in supporting online businesses with digital marketing, blogging or social media.
The beauty of being a VA is you can choose the services you want to offer as well as the industry or type of clients you work for. Some of the major perks include being able to operate from anywhere (providing there’s a decent internet connection) and fitting work around your lifestyle.
There is a strong VA community in the UK, which values collaboration over competition
Hiring a virtual assistant is one of the top actions advocated by business coaches in order to increase productivity and growth and decrease stress and overwhelm. A right-hand woman or man can help to pick up the time consuming jobs that don’t actually require the business owner to do. Freeing them up to concentrate on the high-level tasks which bring about the most impact.
My clients love having assistance, as it allows them to get back to why they started the business in the first place and doing the things they love. It also means they have more time with their families and so restoring some ‘work-life’ equilibrium.
Becoming a VA was a steep learning curve. I grew much more tech savvy and learnt to solve problems without the support of an IT person. I had to develop the skills and confidence to wear the many hats required to manage a business, including sales, marketing, finance and the legal stuff.
There is a strong VA community in the UK, which values collaboration over competition. I’ve met some amazing VAs through meet-ups and events, which makes up for lots of time spent working alone.
I have worked for a range of clients including a hypnotist, a tech startup, a positive psychologist and an interior designer. Having a background in office work and media, I was fortunate to initially secure some clients through an agency. I also found clients through my website and word of mouth.
I believe I will really see the benefits of having created an online business once the baby is here
I loved my new ‘virtual’ status and enjoyed the variety of work I was being exposed to. Working so closely with entrepreneurs I was able to play an important role in their businesses, getting involved with decisions and strategy, something which can take years to get into in large companies.
Working as a VA was rewarding as clients expressed their gratitude for helping to make their lives easier and contributing to their successes. Many of my clients were solopreneurs so they appreciated having a sounding board and moral support.
After being offered more work than I could carry out myself, I partnered up with two other self-employed VAs so that we could service more clients with a wider range of skills. Over the last two years the business has developed to a team of 10 associates.
We are proud of our diverse client base, ranging from high-profile health and fitness figures like Dr Hazel Wallace from The Food Medic and personal trainer Carly Rowena who has a YouTube following of nearly 500k, to family law barristers and a canine learning school.
I love that we support innovative businesses such as Founded Wellness whose mission is to make wellbeing a part of everyday work-life in the corporate world. It’s always satisfying to hear how my associates are assisting our clients businesses to thrive and restoring peace of mind and order to the lives of busy people.
I am excited to be expecting my first baby next year. I plan to take a good few months off from my own client work as I want to be present in the moment. I have someone in place to manage the agency side of the business.
Over the next few months, there will be lots of planning and preparation. It’s a bit daunting not knowing how things will be after the birth and also letting go of being fully in control of the business. But I am confident that I have the right people around me for support.
I believe I will really see the benefits of having created an online business once the baby is here, as it will give me the flexibility to work around childcare and run a business I love.