After going on maternity leave from her job in HR, Sophie Khaksari wanted to establish a flexible working life that would fit around her young daughter. Sophie loved her job but felt she wouldn’t be able to provide the service she was used to providing and be the mother she wanted to be. So she decided to set up her own VA business instead.
Hi there, I’m Sophie and I’m the founder of Your Freelance PA, a business and lifestyle support service. I’m 32 and I live in South Manchester in the UK with my partner Will and our three-year-old daughter Robin.
Why did you decide to buy Jo’s DIY VA course?
I’d left my HR role in March 2013 to go on maternity leave and I knew within a few months of having Robin that I didn’t want to go back to the job that I’d left. I loved the job, I loved the people (my ex-boss is still one of my best friends) but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to provide the service that I was used to providing combined with being the mother I wanted to be.
In Jan 2014, just before we moved house, I handed my notice in. So we had a beautiful new home with a big mortgage and I was unemployed.
I toyed with the idea of doing something freelance but I didn’t know what and we needed money.
One of my maternity friends who was due to return to work had mentioned that she wanted a childminder and asked if I would look after her boy. Long story short, that turned into qualifying as a childminder and looking after three toddlers, ten hours a day, five days a week until Jan 2016 when I could take no more.
I had no idea what a VA was and at first, I thought I thought I was going to become a kind of housekeeper working for busy people, doing their shopping, cooking, tidying etc while they were at work. I wrote it all out and thought it was a brilliant idea.
But Will kept saying to me “Soph, I think you’re underselling yourself here” and pushed me to do some more research.
I’M SO GLAD THAT I DID. I can’t remember what I had typed into Google that brought Jo’s website up but as soon as I clapped eyes on it, I knew.
Who was this woman? How does she know all of this stuff that I want to do? Why is she willing to teach me everything she knows for a few hundred quid? What’s the catch?
But I was hooked and signed up for the DIY course there and then.
Will walked into the lounge and asked me why I was crying, I told him that I didn’t quite know but that some woman in Brighton had told me I could be a successful freelancer – and I believed her.
Did you feel confident the course would make you a VA?
Absolutely. Why wouldn’t it? I already have skills, people tell me that I’m good at certain things all the time. I’m not an academic, I don’t have a good education, I’ve always had to work hard but I believe in myself. I was determined that I was on the right path.
I think it took me about a month to complete the course. I started on 12th January and by the end of February, I had my first client.
I was working as a full-time childminder from 7.30am to 6pm five days a week so I got up early in the mornings and worked on the course late into the evenings and at weekends.
In my opinion, you get out what you put in and I was giving this my everything.
If the course had been twice as much I’d have paid it. THAT’s how ready I was to change my life.
It’s such good value for money and the amount of thought, skill and information that Jo puts into it is invaluable. I don’t think there is another VA source out there where you’ll find this quality of information.
What is the course like and how did you find it?
The course is so structured and easy to follow. Jo writes in the same way that she speaks so it’s as if she’s in the room with you. It’s laid out really clearly in step-by-step sections and you just work through at your own pace. There are loads of activities to do and blogs to read so you don’t get to the point where you’re flagging.
Jo is so supportive, I see her as a mentor. She invests in each of her trainees and it’s evident she wants us to succeed. She is always on hand to answer any questions but she’s also not afraid of telling us to think for ourselves and act like business owners!
The private trainee-only Facebook group is my holy grail. There is SO much useful information and advice in there and the support is tremendous. I have met some women in there who I think will be friends for life.
The best thing about the course though is that it gives you everything you need in order to set up your business. Not only that, you get ongoing aftercare and support which is second to none. It’s actually like a big VA family.
There is absolutely no way I’d have set up my business and found clients as quickly as I did and I’m confident that I have a sound, sustainable business for life.
How are you getting on after finishing it?
I LOVE MY LIFE! I have three brilliant clients and I do a mixture of full office and lifestyle management and traditional PA work. I’m a sucker for a weekly plan so I always know what my week is going to look like, who I’m going to be seeing and where I’m going to be.
I am working the hours I set, on the terms that I set and it feels completely natural like I’ve always done this.
Is your life very different now to how it was before?
I have freedom, I am the boss and I’m not relying on someone else to pay my wages.
I am less stressed, I have more energy and I’m a much better mother and girlfriend. I have time to cook, travel, play, SHOP and I’m meeting some wonderful people along the way. I’m confident in my abilities and in my business, and actually, I’m really really bloody proud of myself.
If you’re serious about becoming a business owner, if you have skills that you know people need and if you’re a hard worker then do yourself a massive favour and buy the DIY course because there is nothing else on the market that even comes close.