“The main high is that I love my job every single day”

Paula has strived to create a business that fits around military life while providing necessary professional challenge and now she is dedicated to supporting others to achieve their ambitions.

What is your career background?

The majority of my career has been in the healthcare sector, managing GP & dental practices, out of hours and mental health services. This has involved managing all aspects of business from accounts; service level agreements; budgets and funding applications to human resources and customer service. Latterly, I held an administrative position in a London based shipbroking company which involved many roles, including project management; introducing systems; compliance; human resources and research.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I was working for a new dental practice helping with its initial set up, best practice and external accreditation and thoroughly enjoying the work when…. we were posted!  The lead dentist suggested that I could continue this work online, working from home in our new location and so the idea was born.  However, it took me several years to ‘go live’ as I had small children and had found other jobs.

How did you move from the ‘idea’ to the actual business?

Yet another posting, this time overseas where there were no work opportunities available to me.  The perfect time to start the business.  I was afforded the time to thoroughly research the idea, what I was going to offer and to who.  It was then I discovered this new term, Virtual Assistant, and that there is an entire and huge industry out there with many people offering various services.  It was particularly prevalent in the US and Australia, but we are most certainly following suit.

What have been the main highs and lows in starting your own business?

The main high is that I love my job every single day.  There has not been one day when my heart has sunk at the thought of going to work.

Thankfully, there haven’t been very many lows; however, on startup, when it seemed difficult to find my initial clients I found it demoralising at times.  Another instance was a situation where a client delayed paying me a significant sum by some considerable time and that was a terrible situation to work through.

Can you describe your typical day?

That is what I love about being a VA.  Every day is different, and I can schedule my day to suit me.  However, if I had to try to give you an idea, it would look something like this:

0830 Check emails

0900 Work for client A – project management

0930 Business management – work on my own business – any current project I am working on

1030 Work for client B – general admin

1100 Work for client C – PA role

1200 Work for client D – Compliance for a charity

1300 Lunch

1330 Check emails

1400 Work for client A – project management

1430 Work for client E – operations management

1700 Check emails

1730 Plan for next day

What motivates you?

I love to feel like I am helping people and making a difference for them.  I feel very motivated by good feedback.  I also am very motivated to have my own income and feel I can contribute to the family coffers!

What has been your proudest moment?

I have several moments over recent years whilst building my business that I feel enormously proud of.  It is always a proud and exciting moment when you sign your first client, I am pleased to say that I still work with my him three years on.

I am also proud of the couple of achievements I have earned, to be shortlisted as VA of the year and to win a day of being promoted as part of the Big Support Campaign by Small Business Britain and Milspo Business Network.

How has being an entrepreneur affected your home life?

It has been an amazing journey and I am very lucky to have all of my family fully supporting me.  The business gives me great satisfaction and with little negative impact on our family life.  That said, being a business owner can be all consuming, especially if you are trying to figure out the best way forward for growth or you have an issue that you are trying to resolve.  I am very aware that I may not have always been very present in the past, mentally, with the family when I am not working.  I now try to ensure that the family are my focus outside working hours.

What three adjectives describe your strengths?

Resilient, Driven, Organised

As a military spouse, what has been your biggest obstacle when trying to balance work/kids/military partner work commitments?

Time!  It is a juggle to fit everything in and give it the attention it deserves.  I have learnt to prioritise what is important and let go of what is less important.  Tricky for a recovering perfectionist.  I often remind myself of the phrase ‘done is good enough’.

What advice would you give fellow Military spouses who want to get back into work, retrain for a new career or start their own business?

I am passionate about helping other military spouses that are interested to set up as a VA.  The role is very well suited to our lifestyles, providing an income and mental fulfilment, that moves around with us.

Setting up your own business takes resilience, determination and effort.  However, the reward is most definitely worth it.

To become a VA it is preferred that you have had approximately five years’ experience in the services that you plan to offer.  Be it general admin, PA, bookkeeping or social media, to name a few.  Quite often fledgling VA’s take on associate work, looking after an established VA’s clients.  I would recommend looking for associate work in the first instance as it really helps to gain confidence and experience to be ready to find your own clients.

There are many courses available to help you brush up on your skills of the services that you wish to offer. Some may even be freely available on your military base (Microsoft Office courses).  Additionally, there are courses available that are designed to help you set up your VA business.  These vary in depth, length and price.  They are helpful to guide you through the set up phase, ensuring nothing is missed, imparting valuable information and lessons learned for you to avoid pitfalls or reinventing the wheel.

If you are considering undertaking a VA course would advise you to research all that is available, narrow your list down to the two or three courses that appeal to you and set up a discovery call with them.  This will help you determine if the course content is what you are looking for and if the course provider makes you feel confident the course will give you what you hope to achieve.

For more information about becoming a VA, visit our Focus On page: Being a Virtual Assistant

Advance Virtual Assistants are proud to announce the launch of our new ‘business in a box’ style VA course, the new Advanced VA Vault, coming this summer – watch this space.  Please do contact us for more information.

Email info@advancevirtualassistants.co.uk

Website How to become a VA online course