How I Got My Life Back… by hiring a VA

A few years ago I realised I had far too much on my plate. No big surprise really, it happens to everyone. However after looking at what was causing me the biggest problems, I decided that I needed someone to help me deal with some of the administrative aspects of my workload. Rather than hiring a Personal Assistant (PA), I opted for a Virtual Assistant (VA) and I’ve never looked back.

Here’s why:

For me, the initial problem was my email.

At first, my email problem didn’t seem that huge. After finishing a consulting day with a client, I usually had around 45 minutes worth of emails to catch up on. The problem came if I missed a day. That 45 minutes became 90 minutes of emails the following day. And if I missed two days, I had to take the whole of Friday to catch up.

You can see how quickly a seemingly small issue could escalate and put me under pressure. So, I hired a VA who started handling all my emails. I gave instructions on what stuff I wanted to see and what I didn’t. Like you, I get loads of marketing emails and offers, which are important to the sender but often not to me. Just eliminating that noise was a huge step forward. My VA forwards me the stuff that only I can do, which greatly reduces the load. An unexpected upside I’ve discovered is the customer relationship benefit – many times my VA is able to respond to a client more promptly than I’m able to. This makes the client feel more valued and improves their confidence in the work I do for them.

Over the years, I’ve increased the workload of my VA from what was initially a day or two per week to four days per week. However as a VA works hours not days and can work when and where suits them, I pretty much get full coverage.

My productivity has improved and my clients are happy.
It’s a win-win all round!


There are some fantastic benefits in working with a VA.

Here are just a few:

  1. You can hire the best talent, even if they don’t live or work in your location. I know a few advisers who feel their location makes it difficult to hire good people. Hiring a virtual team can overcome this issue.
  2. A VA doesn’t need to be physically in your office to do your work. At FP Advance we ditched the office years ago, and our whole team works remotely. This has made for substantial cost savings in the business.
  3. Working remotely forces your business to be smarter with filing, using electronic systems and outsourced document management services. Having your hand forced in this way really gets you focused on working more effectively and there is so much out there that’s cheap (and often free) to use.
  4. As a result of the remote approach, we’ve embraced document sharing which allows us to access anything, anytime, anywhere online.
  5. You get your life back.

Our whole team is virtual!

Debbie and I describe ourselves as ‘location independent’ and are travelling more and more as a result. I don’t think of it as travel though – it’s more like living somewhere else for a few weeks or months. We still do our work, but now can do it wherever we fancy – the Alps in winter, Paris in springtime, the Greek Islands in summer or New York in fall! We still take proper, forget-about-work holidays too, but the location-independent lifestyle is lots of fun. The rest of the FP Advance team are spread across the globe as well:

  • Our VAs have been based in London, New York and Dorset
  • Our copywriter lives in Melbourne, Australia
  • Our designer lives in Hereford
  • Our web guru lives in London and Glasgow and also works as a musician
  • Our HR expert is also based in Dorset
  • Our life and business coach lives in Newburyport (MA) in the US

We make use of technology because we have to…

but we’ve found that this has yielded all sorts of productivity benefits that we may never have discovered if we were more traditional in our setup. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest benefits (if you make use of it) of the digital age of the 21st century. Some of the simple, free resources we use include:

             

  • Google Docs – a free online document management system.
  • Skype – for video calls and cheap calls from abroad. I put £10 on my Skype phone account a good while ago and it is still going strong (even if I’m phoning mobile numbers).
  • Wrike – a great online site which allows us to send each other tasks, communicate with the team as we move projects forward, and see when tasks are completed.

All these tools can be used on all our mobile devices as well, making us a truly virtual team!

If you’re not as productive as you think you could be, the starting point is to ask yourself:
“What do I dislike doing?”

You’ll easily be able to identify that sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you start working on a task you really don’t love to do. From that one question you can begin to find tasks to delegate. If you don’t have team members you can delegate to, then perhaps it’s time to look at adding some new (virtual) team members and adopting new technology.

Take a few minutes right now and think about what you can let go of this week. Drop me a line when you find something. My VA will let me know you wrote, and I promise I’ll respond – from wherever I am in the world!


Not as productive as you could be? Then delegate. Start by asking yourself: What don’t I like doing? [click to tweet]


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2 thoughts on “How I Got My Life Back… by hiring a VA

  • Couldn’t agree more. I have a VA based in Queensland, Australia. She is the best thing since sliced bread 🙂 Some people may think the time difference is a disadvantage, but it is definitely an advantage – I pass things through to her UK-time, and she gets on with them while I sleep so that they’re all ready and moved on when I get up. And there’s usually some overlap time first thing in the morning UK time if we need some real-time communication. The result is that everything moves on quickly.

    I will say though that I had to suffer a few awful VA’s to find the jewel in the crown. Not all VA’s are good at communicating via email which is a must if you are in significantly different timezones or if you just prefer that method of communicating (I do simply because it’s a great log of what’s been discussed). Having said that, you as the ‘hirer’ also need to be good at communicating via email too. Another issue I found with past VA’s (now ‘past’ for a reason) is adhering to deadlines. It’s amazing how many people don’t think a deadline is a deadline.

    My VA is multi-talented and is involved with (and manages a lot of) our social media, email campaigns, website, co-ordinating updates of our resources with the rest of the team…. and much more. I have tried to persuade her to move from Australia to here (she’s actually Canadian) but for some reason I can’t convince her…..

    Reply
  • The copywriter we use to help me edit my blogs is based in Melbourne and the same things works well for us with the time difference.

    One of the major benefits of hiring virtual staff is that you can get the right person for you and they can be based almost anywhere. This overcomes the issue many firms think they have around not being able to find the right talent in their local area.

    Reply

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