I am six months on since being made redundant. I am 40 years and 6 months old. I am still a curvy girl and I still don't like Avocado. However now I am a business owner - I am a self-employed Virtual Assistant! I just wish everyone knew what one of those is and what I do...
I like to think of the last six months as my transformation period; like a butterfly I emerged from my angry cocoon of redundancy and have blossomed into being my own boss. I am going to say it again: I AM MY OWN BOSS!!!
Six Months Ago
So let me backtrack a bit, March 17th I was unceremoniously made redundant and I was hurt, angry, panicked, terrified and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do next. I had been working 20 hours a week part time as an Operational Support Manager for a Digital Marketing Agency and had been earning a good wage with bonuses on top. My employer had been flexible with my working hours so I could pick my two daughters up from school and work different hours in the school holidays to ensure I could manage my childcare effectively. How was I going to find something else like that??? We moved into a new build house 18 months ago with the mortgage based on two salaries - oh sweet Mother of God! We are going to have to MOVE!!! It was just an awful, awful situation to be in.
The Thought Process
Now I am not one to sit still - I needed to put a plan into place. March 18th I set aside all the emotion and turned to Google and many recruitment sites to find my next career. There was nothing suitable for a Mum of two.
Right, time to think outside of the box; what makes me happy? What do I want to do for the next decade or more? Oo! [a thought is emerging] I could run my own business? Nah, I can’t do that [yes you can], can I? What am I going to do? [organise stuff] Yes! That is it! I love admin, I love creating processes, I love organising things and making things ordered [making them better] I like researching and writing and training - I CAN do this! But what is this? What should I call myself? And then I stumbled across a Mumsnet forum post about Virtual Assistants and everything fell into place.
So, I am going to be a Virtual Assistant - is there a demand for this? Turns out there is! There is even a Society of Virtual Assistants and it was here that I turned to start researching and creating a business plan. The SVA produces an annual survey and it has a wealth of information relating to the VA industry:
There are 1844 UK VAs
Each VA has on average 6.2 clients which means there are 11400+ UK SMEs using a VA
The VA industry is a uniquely collaborative industry and is heavily female dominated
82% of VAs work less than 30 hours a week and 89% work from home
A VA working part time 20-30 hours a week earns on average £23804 per annum
67% of VAs surveyed believe their turnover will improve next year.
The initial research looks good: I can work from home, I can work around my family, I can earn a decent wage and there is growth in the industry - bring it on!
The Set Up
I need a company name. Crikey that bit is difficult. I brainstormed lots of ideas and in the end I decided to keep it personal: my Dad’s nickname for me is Emma the Blemmer or Em-Blem. I asked him when I was younger what a Blemmer was and his response was “something that is amazing” [I know - pulls on the heartstrings right?!]. I typed Emblem into Google and the following definition came back:
I liked it and EmblemVA was born - thankfully the domain EmblemVA.com was available too!
Company name created it was time to do all the legal stuff and I set myself up as a sole trader with the HMRC and I was off.
VA or Professional VA
Now if I do something, I always want to do something properly, not half heartedly, so I knew I wanted to get this right and be the best Virtual Assistant I could be. I turned to the Society of Virtual Assistants (SVA) again and then also discovered VACT and VIP VA - all of these companies/societies had Facebook groups you could join and ask all the questions [some of them quite daft] you wanted and there are literally hundreds of VAs all willing to help. This industry really does thrive on “collaboration, not competition”- the support was and is amazing. It was through this support I learnt that the SVA created VA standards that all Virtual Assistants on the Approved List have to abide by:
Have professional email addresses. These must be domain-specific and no @email@example.com.
Back up data securely offsite. Additionally from May 2018 these will need to comply with GDPR.
Answer phone calls or emails received within office hours next working day. Or to have an answerphone or autoresponder giving further information about when you will respond to the query.
Be professional. Only take on tasks which you are fully capable of completing and have suitable professional indemnity insurance.
Be based in the UK. We do not list offshore VAs.
Be ICO registered. Have data controller registration via Information Commissioner’s Office.
Contribute. Have contributed to the industry by interacting with our forums, facebook pages or in another demonstrable way.
I also learnt the importance of having good client contracts in place and Annabel Kaye at KoffeKlatch has created contracts specifically for VAs. Annabel is our go to legal expert and helps the industry to understand IR35, the new data protection GDPR regulations being launched in 2018 and the necessity of being registered with HMRC for Money Laundering Supervision
I am working my way through ticking all of these requirements off my list of things to do and I am probably about 85% of my way there.
Training - Really Do I Still Need This?
The answer is yes! I am very adept at many aspects of business admin, after 22 years of working in this area I would hope I am - but I have no idea how to run my own business! Plus self-development is a necessity for everyone - it helps you to keep motivated and keep moving forwards.
I wanted to make sure that I gave my fledgling business the best start I possibly could. I attended the “Be Your Own Boss” and “Sales & Marketing” course with local training providers Always Consult and I learnt how to do a business plan, create a cashflow forecast, market my business and sell to potential clients. I also signed up to VIP VA’s Nurture
Programme - a 6 month training programme designed by Charlotte Wibberley who is passionate about setting industry standards for VAs globally as well as raising the profile of VAs to ensure they are paid an hourly rate in line with the UK average of £24.35 per hour. She really is a force to be reckoned with and someone I admire greatly - she is also extremely approachable and supportive and I look forward to my monthly coaching calls with her.
I am happy, I am busy, I am making a profit and I have a growing client base. I work for myself and everything that I do is for the greater good of my client’s businesses and ultimately for me - not for a board of directors who can change their mind at the drop of a hat.
Everything does happen for a reason, if I hadn’t been made redundant I would never have made this leap and I am so glad I did! Forget being a butterfly, I am like a phoenix rising from the ashes and I am ready to succeed.
So, if you need to relieve the burden and stress of your never ending to do list, drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org, I can literally give you the gift of time. Sales Outreach, Sales Admin, Marketing, Tax Admin, helping you to move your files into the cloud - you name it I can do it and I will be more than happy [would love] to sort your chaos out!