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solopreneur Virtual Assistant

How I started my VA biz {and how you can, too}!

How I started my VA biz {and how you can, too}!

When people ask what I “do”, I tell them I run my own business from home. The natural follow-up question is “Oh, what kind of business?” 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 owners…or at least that is the nutshell definition I offer.

To be completely transparent, I had never heard of VA prior to 2019. It wasn’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 – 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 friend’s story, becoming a VA seemed like the best of everything I wanted and needed – a flexible schedule, the ability to stay home with my baby, and an income stream that could meet our family’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 I’d gained a unique skill set that never quite fit into any job description I’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 who’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 wouldn’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 Abbey’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 – fast forward one year…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 IT’S JUST A GREAT OPTION ALL AROUND!

This is our home-based “coworking space”

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 you’d like to build a business around? Leave a comment or connect with me on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. I’d love to help you start building the life you want and a business you love through becoming a VA! 

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entrepreneur solopreneur Virtual Assistant

Mastering Your Gmail

Mastering Your Gmail

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 family’s Apple computer screen – listening to the dial tone and waiting for the internet to connect – 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 didn’t either. However, it turns out they didn’t save my high school MySpace account. Anyone else have memories like this?

My first email account was sessa7@aol.com (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. OK…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 I’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 aren’t going to get into in this particular blog post. I often hear the question from new VA’s (and other small business owners) if using the paid version of Gmail is worth the cost. YES…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.

I’m sure that every one of you reading this has an email account and knows how to send emails like a BOSS. In today’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.

#1 Templates

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 coworkers’ or clients’ 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 aren’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.

#4 Streak

Do you need a way to manage your prospects and emails coming in from your clients but aren’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 “boxes” 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 doesn’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 don’t have to leave to go to log into another site to get the information you need

#5 Wisestamp

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!

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Categories
Virtual Assistant

Goldilocks Syndrome: The Search for the Just-Right Job

Goldilocks Syndrome: The Search for the Just-Right Job

I’m a planner.

I mean, I LOVE to plan. I especially love to plan my life, but I am also content to plan class schedules, any kind of event, cleaning routines, vacations, weddings, my garden – even the birth of my child!

My love (and need) of a good plan did not start in adulthood. In 8th grade I decided what I “wanted to be when I grew up”. I selected my University and proceeded to make a 4 year, 9 year and 15 year plan. This including graduating High School at the top of my class and being involved in all the things, attending a state university that was highly regarded in the field of education and completing their 5 year Master program, followed up 5 years of teaching while getting my Doctorate and gaining a coveted position as Superintendent of Schools by the time I turned 30. Of course, sprinkled into this mix, were getting married at 22, having two kids and staying home with them while I also completed these massive professional goals.

Oh, and did I mention that my ambition and drive matched my love of planning? My life philosophy was pretty much summed up in this high school cheerleading chant “Do it, To It…Be The Best!” If you are wondering, yes, I would literally “cheer” myself on using this phrase.

However, even the best made plans (trust me, I make GREAT plans) don’t always work out the way we anticipate.

As it turns out, I did graduate at the top of my class in high school and had my hand in just about every kind of activity. However, what I discovered is that I found joy in few of these extracurriculars because most of them were little more than “resume-builders”. I did get into that university, but their scholarship offer disappointed me so I chose to go to a small, local Catholic university that offered me nearly a full-ride and seemed to appreciate my exorbitant hours of community service. I pursued a degree in Special Education but by the start of my Senior year had come to the conclusion that teaching was NOT the career path for me, leaving behind the only profession I had ever considered.

When I looked back at all of this, what was my response? To make a new plan!

So goes the cycle of my life – make a plan, see plan thwarted, make a new plan.

With my life plan was no longer as streamlined or secure as my dreamy 13 year-old self imagined it would, I began to suffer from what I humorously referred to as “Goldilocks Syndrome” (thanks, Urban Dictionary for summing up my life in one paragraph!).

I should probably also mention here that I am a recovering perfectionist. I struggle to let go of the belief that there is a perfect and best way to do just about everything. Let’s just say that this led to about a decade of therapy and the therapists I saw definitely earned their paycheck with me!

For the next 15 years following my graduation from college (I did finish that degree in teaching) I have been on the search for “the just-right job” In my cover letters I like to include the phrase “I have diverse and multifaceted career experience.” What this translates to is that I’ve done every kind of work imaginable – paid and unpaid. From proctoring the ACT, to ministry, to urban neighborhood development to teaching (yes, I did use that degree eventually), to managing a Starbucks and an on and on. During this time, I worked for some amazing companies and some that weren’t so great. I also had some amazing bosses and some I was happy to say farewell to when the time came. No matter how dedicated I was to these roles and experiences, after a year or two I would have this gnawing feeling that “this just wasn’t the right fit.”

All of these professional experiences afforded me amazing insight and perspective into myself, others, and the world. I wouldn’t trade this journey but it also wasn’t one that could be maintained indefinitely (in case you are wondering, it does get a little exhausting to learn an entirely new job in an entirely new field every few years).

Fast-forward to 2018. I was happily working in my role at Starbucks and found myself with a surprise pregnancy and some major life changes (including moving and getting married). Time for a new plan!

It’s amazing how building a life with another person and becoming a parent can instantly bring into focus what matters. Once that little one was growing inside of me, I knew I needed (and wanted) to embrace a different professional path. This article by coach Erika Gerdes really resonated with me. After an amazing career working at her dream company, she shares “What I came to realize is that wanting to work for an amazing company surrounded by wonderful people isn’t the same thing as knowing what I want to do with my life…. because what I’ve learned is: if it doesn’t feel right, no matter how great it may look on the outside, it’s time to make a change.” 

I’d spent most of my professional life doing what “looked right” – to others, to myself, to the plans I had made. Now, it was time to connect with my heart and do what FELT right.

I knew I was taking a 4-month maternity leave following the birth of my baby but after that the future was uncertain. For one of the few times in my life, I didn't have a plan. Even more, the plans I attempted to make didn't feel right and I was more committed than ever that it was time to let my Goldilocks-searching mind for the “perfect” job take a back seat and take this next step with my heart. Cue my friend, Rachel, and this Facebook post…

Through a long series of FB messages, Rachel shared with me her journey of starting her own business as a Virtual Assistant. As she shared her story and we messaged back and forth I FELT this was the right path for me to pursue. I NEVER planned to become an entrepreneur. I NEVER planned to be a work-at-home mom. I NEVER planned to use my “diverse and multifaceted” experience to CREATE a career I loved. I also NEVER felt better, more excited or more energized!

For me, the next step was joining The Virtual Savvy! This course CHANGED everything. It gave me a plan and the courage + community to launch my own business. Within three months of launching I was running a PROFITABLE business and loving life as a #mompreneur.Now that my business’ first birthday is approaching I’m more grateful than ever and am having so much fun serving my clients, living a life I love and DREAMING OF POSSIBILITIES!

What about that Goldilocks syndrome? I’m learning that for me, “just-right” means staying aligned to my heart and what I feel. It also means holding my plans loosely and living in the truth that “just-right” isn’t static but always evolving. What may be “just-right” in my business today may not be true a year, three years, or five years from now. What I know right now is that being a #mompreneur, running my own business, and supporting business owners in making their vision a reality fills my bucket. I am certainly living the best life I never planned.



If you’d like to hear more about how The Virtual Savvy

helped me successfully launch my business as a Virtual Assistant,

comment below. I’d be happy to help you discover what

your “just-right” path could look like! 

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