How Emma Conway-Hyde set up her business after deciding she wanted more from her life

Emma Conway-Hyde wanted more from her life. She had become disillusioned with working in an office environment, was finding the commute hard, office politics harder and had become very unhappy. Emma couldn’t bear the thought of being in the same situation in 30 years’ time so she decided to set up her own Virtual Assistant business instead.

Hi, my name is Emma Conway-Hyde, I am a Virtual PA and my business is called The Umbrella Tree.  I am 41 years old and I live in Dorset in the UK with my husband, 11-year-old daughter, four cats and five fish. Still trying to convince my husband to let us have a dog!

Why did you decide to buy Jo’s DIY VA course?

I had become very disillusioned with working in an office environment. I was finding the commute hard, office politics harder and generally had become very unhappy.

I was sure that there was more I could do with my life and I couldn’t bear the thought of being in the same situation in 30 years’ time. I didn’t want to waste another minute. 

Emma Conway-Hyde VAI had a bit of an epiphany moment at Christmas whilst speaking to a friend and it went from there. I Googled ‘virtual admin’ and all the information was in front of me.

From that moment on I knew I wanted to become a VA.

I was excited at a new prospect in my working life for the first time ever and I just knew I could do it.

If other people could why couldn’t I? I had over 20 years’ experience as an administrator and then PA so the knowledge was there, it was just a different delivery method.

Whilst researching to become a VA, Jo’s was one of the first websites that came up. I looked about but kept gravitating back to The VA Handbook.  I liked the way it was written; straight up, straight talking and right up my street. All the information that I would need seemed to be provided.

There was already vast amounts of free information on the website to access straight away and it could only be more beneficial if I invested in the DIY VA Course. I have never regretted it as Jo and her vast knowledge have been invaluable.

Did you feel confident the course would make you a VA?

I had complete faith in Jo and her course.  There was no reason that I could see that it would not be effective in helping me achieve becoming a VA. You got out of it what you put in and Jo was there every step of the way.

The way the course was set out was very clear and concise and stressed the need to complete each module before moving on to the next. It contained great templates which I use in my business and saved so much time as I didn’t have to research certain things as they were provided to me.

There was constant advice and great ideas and I would not have been able to set up my business as quickly if I had not invested in this course.

I did the course alongside my part-time role so I worked four days a week and used my fifth day and weekends to work on the course. It was hard at times to find the time but I wanted to get on with it so you make the time to complete the modules.

It took me three months to complete the course as I had other commitments which inevitably got in the way of me completing it quicker but it also gave me the time to think about where I was going and how I wanted to get there.

You can spend as much time or as little as you want on each section, it depends on what you want to achieve at the end, but to complete them thoroughly takes time so you have to put the effort in.

The thought of being able to be a freelancer was my motivation.

What is the course like and how did you find it?

The course is well laid out, takes you through each section, gives you all the information you need and the templates are brilliant. It’s very straight forward so makes motivating yourself to crack on and do it much easier.

I like the fact that you concentrate on each section and work through that before moving on to the next – it keeps you focused.

In terms of value for money, it is well worth it as the amount of information and knowledge supplied is great and I know it will stand me in good stead in the long run.

The support received throughout the course and afterwards is brilliant. You can join the private trainee-only Facebook group and there are many VAs there who have tons of advice to offer – it’s a positive goldmine of information! Jo also provides constant support in the Facebook group as well as monthly Q&A sessions.

The support after completion of the course is a huge bonus in itself.

The best thing about the course though is that it was easy to work through, set out in a no-nonsense language that I really liked and it was down to me how fast I completed it.

The aim is to complete it in three months and this is very achievable as it gives you the time to ponder your next move whilst motivating you to get to the end.

How are you getting on after finishing it?

Since completing the course, I have not looked back. 

I carried on working for a while and got my first two clients through a Facebook post. I am now working full time as a VA and I love it.

The flexibility that comes from working for yourself is great and for the first time, I have been able to spend a lot of time with my daughter during the school holidays.

I’ve done lots of networking and have four clients as a result of that, so it was well worth the effort to put myself out there and join some groups. Plus there is a social aspect to it which is really helpful when working on your own.

In total, I have six regular clients with hopefully two new clients coming on with me in the next couple of months and have also had a few ad hoc jobs along the way.

I have found that I love a bit of inbox management! This has been a popular service, so I do this along with scheduling appointments, audio transcription, posting on social media, data entry, formatting of power points, newsletters etc.

One day is never the same as the next so it keeps life interesting and I cannot wait to keep building my business for the future.

Is your life very different now from how it was before?

My daughter made a comment to me the other day and I quote: “You seem so much happier now Mummy”. And I think that says it all.

If you’re considering doing the DIY VA course then I say go for it and don’t be scared of the fact that it is such a big change in life because change keeps us on our toes.

You won’t regret taking this course. It is such a help when starting out and the amount of knowledge that you get from Jo and the other VAs in the Facebook group is worth its weight in gold.

The course is awesome and Jo is a truly inspirational lady who is very invested in all her trainees and their subsequent success – because there is no doubt that you will be successful if you complete this course.

So just do it, you won’t regret it.

Say hi to Emma on Facebook

Ready to set up your own business?

Then follow in Emma’s footsteps by signing up for my flagship DIY VA course.

With lifetime access and an incredible trainee-only support group, I hold your hand through the entire process and support you all the way.




Great motivation to get going but feel some self-doubts coming in, I’ve been working in NHS as a PA for 10 years then EA for Executive Directors for 11 years but doubting my abilities as my duties have been so limited to mainly diary work. I have tried to keep my hand in for PowerPoint and Word. I’m also trying to get my coaching/holistic business up and running too so do some posting on Instagram and FB but wouldn’t call myself an expert by any means, so basically at a loss as to what I have to offer a client. Any ideas?

Joanne Munro

I would look at reading my blog post on what services to offer and to get my course on how to identify your niche as it shows you how to analyse your CV. It’s the beginning section of the DIY VA course so it works!

I can’t make you confident (although I do have a free confidence email sequence!) but you’re an EA-level PA so you wouldn’t get paid if you weren’t any good! Many VAs first client is their current/last employer – they just take them on as a freelancer.

You don’t have to be an expert – you just have to be available to do someone’s admin for them. They could do it themselves (just like you could cook your own dinner or clean your own house) but people go to restaurants and hire cleaners, not because they’re ‘experts’, but because they don’t have time or don’t want to do it themselves. Make sure you join my VA Handbookers Facebook group if you haven’t already as they will bolster you up too. x


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