This is a Virtual Assistant case study and interview with Michelle Gibson. UK-based Michelle lives in the small village of Measham in the East Midlands, and initially started her business in 2011 when she became a freelance administrator. She now runs Gibson VA and provides creative support to other VAs.
What did you do for a living before you became a VA?
I’ve had a variety of office roles. The main one being within the conveyancing practice. As a legal secretary I learnt many of my administrative skills and quickly picked up that I needed great attention to detail. I also had a number of roles as a PA within the NHS, which helped develop my organisation and communication skills.
When did you first hear about VAs or became aware they even existed?
After attending a job interview. The word Virtual Assistant was mentioned to me after I’d gone into detail about a home working role I had done in the past as a homeworker conveyancing assistant. I didn’t realise that I had already been a VA. So I researched the subject.
What was the trigger for you becoming a VA?
I no longer wanted to commute into an office. I was tired of not getting anywhere on the career ladder and I’d also considered going into photography and wanted a part time job to support that. The main reason was to be in control of my own destiny though.
Did you just leave your job or start VA-ing gradually?
After finishing a contract, I just decided to go freelance and luckily landed a part time self-employed role working for a lovely family business. This was so I could develop my photography skills and see where it took me. However, I ended up working back as a ‘homeworker’ conveyancing assistant and have progressed from there.
Where did you find the help or advice you needed when setting up?
There were so many other VAs willing to share their advice and knowledge. It really is a wonderful and supportive industry. I also visited forums, read books and participated in the VA Mastery Course with a Virtual Assistant coaching and training company.
Who was your first client?
My first client was a fellow Virtual Assistant who needed help with her blog posts and social media. Through Linked In I had made a contact (who I now like to call a friend) who needed some help writing an ‘about page’ for her website, so I said I would give it a shot.
She loved my style of writing and asked if I’d be willing to write guest blog posts. So I did, and that led onto me being introduced to a client that I still work with now almost two years later. This was how I decided I wanted to become a VA for VAs.
Do you have a niche?
At the moment I love working with other Virtual Assistants and so I call myself a VA for VAs. I mainly help with the creative elements of their business., so blog writing, meme images, content creation and social media. I’m looking to develop into graphic design, branding and web building too so I can assist new VAs at a price they can afford.
How would you say you were different from other VAs
I’m very focused on health and well-being and maintaining a work/life balance. It’s all too easy to become engulfed in your business when you start and forget why you wanted to do it in the first place….in my case, to have a life, some control and earn a decent income.
I started a Facebook group called Virtual Assistant Health and Well-Being just off a random thought about two years ago and it’s grown in leaps and bounds since then, helping me to offer my USP.
What’s the best thing about being a VA?
Freedom, Freedom, Freedom which results in happiness, motivation, self recognition and a work life balance that I never had before.
What’s the hardest thing about being a VA?
Those days when you lack in your self confidence. We all have them and those negative critters get into your mind. The hardest thing is finding a way to combat them, but once you’ve got your technique sorted you’re back to full steam ahead.
How virtual are you?
Initially I worked on a client site, but now I work 100% from home (unless I have a client meeting) many of my clients are in the US so I would love to visit their offices sometime haha!
How do you find your clients?
At the moment it’s mainly through word of mouth and the activities I’ve contributed to on social media. A marketing strategy is something that’s on my to-do list!
How do you manage your personal/work life balance?
By having structure and sticking to it. Making sure I have a realistic schedule and setting achievable deadlines enables me to finish at the end of my working day, at the time I set myself to finish and be able to close my brain off from work and focus on my family and ‘me’ time.
How do you manage your clients and their expectations?
Communication is key! Always keeping clients updated. I like to under promise and over deliver.
What technology, websites, or apps are invaluable to your working life?
I couldn’t be without TeamworkPM. It’s my business hub and where the organisational magic happens on a day to day basis. It helps me collaborate with my clients and keeps me sane as I know I’ve done everything I need to do by ticking off tasks.
I’m also a fan of Freshbooks for invoicing and accounts and Google apps because updating docs in real time is a must when collaborating with a client.
Would you do anything differently if you had to start again?
I would probably think a little more about how I could separate my personal social media with my business profile. If you’re like me and enjoy Facebook, then sometimes you want to be on it out of working hours. However, when you hop on there on your phone just to see what’s going on before bed, you can sometimes get distracted by industry stories, hints and tips – which is great, but it gets your brain back into work mode again.
What advice would you give to anyone considering becoming a VA?
Just go for it! It’s the best thing I ever did with my life. Surround yourself with supportive and positive people, be determined and disciplined and always be prepared to challenge yourself.
What you put into your business, you will get out of it. It’s scary and there’s a lot to learn, but that’s all part of life and the only way you’ll improve it.
Connect with Michelle Gibson on Facebook.