When people ask what I â€œdoâ€, I tell them I run my own business from home. The natural follow-up question is â€œOh, what kind of business?â€ To which I respond, I run a business as a Virtual Assistant (or VA). Cue quizzical expression I usually go on to say that I provide administrative support to online business ownersâ€¦or at least that is the nutshell definition I offer.
To be completely transparent, I had never heard of VA prior to 2019. It wasnâ€™t until a friend of mine posted on Facebook about how much she loved working from home and I inquired about what she did that I began my journey into the world of VAs and online businesses. As my friend described the work she did AND shared that she was able to do this work for a COMPETITIVE WAGE with LITTLE OVERHEAD while RAISING HER BABIES at home I began to hinge on every word she said.
You see, at the time, I was about 7 months pregnant and working for a major retail coffee shop. I knew that 4:00 AM shifts, managing a team of 20+ people, and waking up to nurse a baby during the night was just not the combination that was going to create the life I wanted professionally or personally. I had spent months preparing for a four-month maternity leave and was confident that I needed to pursue a different path professionally following my leave. I also knew that I did not want to send my child to daycare for 40 hours a week (for all those mamas who do, I support you â€“ this was just not the right choice for me). Yet, when my husband would ask what I wanted to do nothing really excited me. I am not one of those people who wants to work just for the sake of an income. I need my work to carry some sort of meaning and purpose and as the birth of my first baby approached I also knew that I needed a career that would allow me to prioritize my family without repercussions or guilt.
After hearing my friendâ€™s story, becoming a VA seemed like the best of everything I wanted and needed â€“ a flexible schedule, the ability to stay home with my baby, and an income stream that could meet our familyâ€™s financial needs on a part-time schedule. Even more, I could continue to develop myself professionally. Through my diversified work experience over the past couple of decades Iâ€™d gained a unique skill set that never quite fit into any job description Iâ€™d come across. Yet, as a VA, I could build a business around this skill set, focusing on the WORK I LOVE DOING while using my STRENGTHS. It really seemed like an all around WIN.
The only hiccup was that I never considered myself an entrepreneur and had no idea how to start or manage my own business. I talked about my concerns and hesitations with my friend and, as it turns out, there are people whoâ€™ve gone before me and paved the way for budding entrepreneurs like myself. In fact, my friend had gone through a course that walked her through setting up her VA business step-by-step. I wouldnâ€™t need to do hours of research online or navigate my way through the entrepreneurial forest without a map. Someone had already done that work for me and was willing to share all of her knowledge and expertise so I could get my business up and running within a matter of weeks.
My friend introduced me to Abbey Ashley, the Virtual Savvy, and her course called The Savvy System. I downloaded Abbeyâ€™s VA Checklist, joined her free Facebook group for VAs and tuned in for a free 5 day biz planning crash course she was offering at the time. I loved her vibe and the way she broke everything down into easy, manageable steps. Most of all, I felt like Abbey and her team were my biggest cheerleaders and the community I was becoming a part of was supportive and so knowledgeable! I was hooked! I took the plunge and signed up for The Savvy System.
Ba-da-bing â€“ fast forward one yearâ€¦I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl and, with the support of The Savvy System course and community, I launched my business while I was on maternity leave. Within one month I had my first client and within three months I had earned back my investment in The Savvy System and had built a PROFITABLE, SUSTAINABLE business. One year later, my business is BOOKED OUT and FLOURISHING! I love the work I do, I have clients I adore working with, and I get to enjoy days at home playing with my baby. It turns out I also love being an entrepreneur and building a VA business gives me so much room to dream about how I want to grow my business as my baby grows. I entered into all of this thinking that this was a great option while my baby was at home but it turns out that ITâ€™S JUST A GREAT OPTION ALL AROUND!
This is our home-based â€œcoworking spaceâ€
Do you have the entrepreneur itch? Are you a mama looking to bring in income while you stay home with your babies? Do you have a skillset that youâ€™d like to build a business around? Leave a comment or connect with me on Facebook, Instagramor LinkedIn. Iâ€™d love to help you start building the life you want and a business you love through becoming a VA!
I remember life before the internet was a thing. I also remember the internet being birthed into existence. The days of sitting in front of my familyâ€™s Apple computer screen â€“ listening to the dial tone and waiting for the internet to connect â€“ were exciting times! The world was on the brink of something that would eventually change the way we do just about everything. As a high schooler, I primarily used the internet for IM chats, email and MySpace to chime in with music creators and other angsty teenagers sharing their feelings in the digital space for the first time (Did you know that MySpace is still around?!?! Yeah, I didnâ€™t either. However, it turns out they didnâ€™t save my high school MySpace account. Anyone else have memories like this?
My first email account was firstname.lastname@example.org (Vanessa is hard for a toddler to say, so Sessa was the nickname my brother coined me with when he was learning to talk.). It turns out AOL.com is also still around. OKâ€¦I really need to stop distracting myself with all these trips down my digital memory lane! Anyway, I moved on from AOL and eventually adopted a Yahoo email account, which I still use today for my personal email. At this point, every account I have is associated with this email so the idea of changing feels a bit daunting to me. But, since using Gmail exclusively for my business Iâ€™m getting closer and closer to being ready to make the switch and go all in.
Gmail has 1.5 billion users and counting. Not only that, but all Gmail users have access to GSuite which has a host of features that we arenâ€™t going to get into in this particular blog post. I often hear the question from new VAâ€™s (and other small business owners) if using the paid version of Gmail is worth the cost. YESâ€¦100% YES! Using the paid account with a customized domain name (I use GoDaddy but there are loads of options most of which are less than $5 your first year) for your business is huge value for $6 per month (if you do a quick internet search so you can also usually find a coupon code for 20% off your first year making it only $4.80 per month). BAM! For less than a fancy beverage from Starbucks you now have a professional email account that gives you room to grow as your business grows.
Iâ€™m sure that every one of you reading this has an email account and knows how to send emails like a BOSS. In todayâ€™s post we are doing to dig into a few features and add-ons that I have found to really help you master your inbox and maximize your flow.
Did you know that you can create template emails in your Gmail account. This is a lesser known feature but if you are finding yourself sending the same email more than three times, this feature is AWESOME because it keeps you from having to draft that email over and over again or from having to copy and paste it from a Google Doc. I have a series on my IGTV called #featurefridays where you can check out my video on how to create templates in Gmail. This feature will literally change your life!
#2 Schedule Send
Do you have reminder emails that need to go out, want to send a birthday message, or information that you want to make sure gets sent at a certain time? You can schedule your emails to be sent at your preferred schedule day and/or time. This is also a great feature if you are working through emails after hours but want them to hit your coworkersâ€™ or clientsâ€™ inboxes during normal business hours. You simply click on the arrow next to the SEND button and select Schedule send. Once your email is scheduled you can find it in the left side bar of your Gmail account.
#3 Send Safely
If you are a #mompreneur or solopreneur like I am, you probably arenâ€™t part of a secure network. Yet, sometimes, you need to send information or documents securely. I use a free program called Send Safely. You can download a Chrome extension and you can also have it overlay in your Gmail account so using this feature is as easy as sending any other email.
Do you need a way to manage your prospects and emails coming in from your clients but arenâ€™t ready to make the investment in a paid CRM (client relationship manager)? Streak is a great option! Streak overlays in your Gmail account, kind of like a spreadsheet, and can house all of your emails from a particular person, business or organization in one place through creating â€œboxesâ€ and tagging them. You can also track where your prospects are in their process by creating pipelines. In the pipeline you can add To Do items to automatically add to your Gmail calendar which will remind you when those tasks are due.
You may also want to track if an important email has been received and/or read. Unfortunately, Gmail doesnâ€™t offer read receipts as a built-in feature. Streak allows you to track if an email has been viewed or not and when the last time it was viewed was so you can decide the best way to follow-up.
Streak has a slight learning curve but their support team is really helpful and their tutorials are great! If you happen to have a team working alongside you, Streak also allows team members to view the same boxes for your prospects and clients so you can all be in the know without having to forward and cc all those emails. One of the best features about Streak is that is works entirely in your inbox so you donâ€™t have to leave to go to log into another site to get the information you need
Looking for a beautiful custom email signature? I use Wisestamp. Wisestamp will integrate with your Gmail account and plug-in your custom signature directly into your account. You can even add an animated closing remark!
Those are my top 5 favorite features for making the most of my Gmail account. I’d love to know what features you use to optimize your Gmail account. Share in the comments below. Maybe I’ll even add it to one of my #featurefridays on IGTV!