There comes a time in every self employed / successful startup where you have to hold you hands up and outsource work.
As a business owner, I know too well that time is our most valuable asset and well, it shouldn't be spent doing administrative tasks that will only make you more stressed - which they always will.
We all know that every aspect of a business is important so when you feel like tasks are building, there's one thing you can do straight away to ease the pressure - hire a digital assistant.
What's that you ask? From admin to books, social media to copywriting, I caught up with Leila Williams on what a day in the life of a virtual assistant is really like.
Hey Leila! Tell us a little bit about what you do?
So I’m a virtual assistant focused on helping creative female entrepreneurs delegate & manage their workload, so they can focus on the tasks in their business that only they can do. I help a lot of my clients with social media, email marketing, online accounting, basically anything they need help with that doesn’t require me being there in person! Though I do make exceptions sometimes! I’m all about working efficiently; if you can automate it, do that and then go do something else!
How did you get into this business?
My dad ran his own business so as a teenager I would often earn some extra pocket money, answering phones and filing for him, but when I moved to London after uni, I started temping. My first temp job was for Molton Brown, in offices by Camden Lock. So many free samples and the whole of Camden Market to enjoy on my lunch break! I was living the dream! From there, I went to various support roles in different sectors, from the NHS and the British Transport Police, to a market research company and more recently working for a tech start up and a lead generation company, holding Operations and Finance Manager roles there respectively.
When I moved to Birmingham, it was the perfect opportunity to take stock of what I really wanted for myself and I realised that what I was really craving was a job I felt passionate about. I did loads of different career tests and spoke to recruiters but nothing was feeling right. Until one day, when I came across a Myers Briggs personality test and I realised that I was never really going to be happy fitting into someone else’s mould. I had to do something for myself.
Flexibility, Variation, Excitement, Collaborating with Others, these were the things I wanted to for my new job and so I decided to go self employed and to use my expertise to help others and create the life that I wanted for myself.
Take us through a typical day, What time do you get up at?
I usually get up around 8am, with the cat pawing at my face telling me he’s hungry! I thought that once I was working for myself, I’d be better at getting up but no, I still hate having to leave my bed!
What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Feed the cat and make myself a chai latte. Then I’ll check out social media, seeing what’s been going on over night and what’s happening today. I’m lucky because I work from home, I can wear whatever I want most of the time, so I’ll usually pick something comfortable to wear at my desk. If I’m out networking or meeting clients, I’ll dress up smarter but never corporate, I like wearing bright colours as they make me feel more confident and they also help people to remember you at networking events! Although being Scottish in Birmingham helps with that as well!
What do you have for breakfast?
I’d love to say that I’m super healthy at breakfast time, but I am not at all! Yoghurt and granola is a good one, but I often have a couple of breakfast biscuits and a banana. Sometimes even a croissant with ham and cheese in it! I don’t drink caffeine, but I am starting to worry that I make up for it with sugar!!!
How do you keep yourself organised?
It’s so important that I’m on top of my own work, as well as my work for clients, so I have a few systems to make sure nothing falls through the net. I have clipboards on the wall above my desk, one for each client and one for me, with a running breakdown of what needs to be done for each. Each day these are updated with what’s been done that day and what needs to be done next. I also have a daily to do list, so tasks from the clipboards get added to this list each night, ready for the following day. I think it’s more efficient to plan the night before so you can see where to start in the morning. Each night, I review what’s been completed and what I need to do next.
I also have a family calendar on my wall so I can note down appointments, meetings or other commitments, so I can always clearly see what is happening when. Again, at the end of each day, I check all my appointments are in my online calendar as well, so I get notifications on my phone.
Having to juggle so many different things is part of what I love about what I do and I get a real buzz when I’ve got a packed day of deadlines to hit!
Tell us how you structure your day…
Once I sit down at my desk, I’ll start going through emails, checking if there is any new work that has come in overnight and responding to any enquiries as necessary. Then I get cracking on my to-do list. Anything urgent and important is prioritised first, so usually that’s any client work with a close deadline. I normally choose 3 things on my to-do list and I tell myself, “If I get these three things done today, then the day’s been a massive success.” I think it’s really important to be realistic with the expectations you put on yourself. When you run a business, there are so many things to do. It’s like a never-ending to-do list, so you have to keep things in perspective.
I try to be kind to myself and give myself breaks whenever I need to, though I am often guilty of completely forgetting about lunch until my stomach is screaming for attention! Luckily, my husband also works from home, so he’s often in charge of meal time, bringing me food when I need it!
Sometimes, I’ll take a break to do an hour of garden or to go to the supermarket. Living & working in the same space can bring on a bit of cabin fever so it’s important that I am able to step away when I need to.
My afternoons usually entail a bit of work on my own business, marketing or keeping up with admin, with a dash of client work thrown in.
Sometimes I’ll do some work in the evening, depending on what’s going on, but I do find the evenings good for personal development, so I’ll watch a webinar or do some training with the entrepreneurs club I’m in.
What time do you finish work?
I try to be finished around 6pm, but sometimes I do work in the evenings, like 8pm – 10pm. I take full advantage of not having to stick to office hours, so if I work late, I’ll let myself start later the next day, if my work allows it.
How do you wind down?
I’m a big fan of good (and not so good TV) so I’ll often wind down with an episode of something. The new Twin Peaks is a big favourite, also currently enjoying American Gods & The Good Wife / Good Fight. I also love playing my PS4 having an hour or two to pay before bed is great! Once a week I go to a hula hooping class with a friend and it is a great way to get rid of any frustrations and just connect with different people.
What's your bed time?
I like to be in bed by 11pm so I can read and journal before I go to sleep. I don’t sleep until between 12-1am.
Any advice for someone who would like to follow in your footsteps?
I’d say, if you are interested in becoming a virtual assistant, then you should be thinking about the skills that you already have and how you apply them to the clients you want to work with. If there are gaps in your knowledge, then get learning! There are loads of sites offering courses for little to no fee and the biggest thing you can invest in is your own knowledge.
Knowledge is 100% power in the VA world, clients need to be able to trust you with their businesses so it’s so important that you can convey that you know what you are doing and you understand what they want. They don’t have the time to learn all the ins and outs of admin, you need to show them you that you are the person to fill in those blanks.