This week I am excited to introduce you to Emma Conway-Hyde of the Umbrella Tree.

Headshot of Emma Conway-Hyde of The Umbrella TreeHi, my name is Emma and I run The Umbrella Tree, a virtual assistant business supporting Coaches, Speakers and Trainers. I am a bit of a geek when it comes to diary management (I love it!), am an expert organiser and get a kick out of solving those problems. Here at The Umbrella Tree, we like to take the stress away along with that never-ending to-do list. After all, what is the point of running your own business if you never get to do the things you are good at or enjoy? With over 25 years of experience working as an administrator and PA, there is not much that I cannot put my hand to and love the challenge that comes with working with different individuals on a daily basis. At the end of the day, when my clients are stress-free and have more time for the things they love, I am happy to have been the one that has helped them achieve that.

What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?

My friend – I was visiting one Christmas and she had just taken voluntary redundancy from her high earning job. Now usually, she would have been stressed, tired etc. but instead I found her floating around the kitchen, a glass of wine in hand looking like a new woman. It was a complete role reversal! At that point, I realised just how unhappy I was in my current job. I was the stressed and tired one, feeling undervalued and worse bullied, something I had not experienced before. I decided enough was enough, and I started Googling. The VA world opened up before my eyes and I have not looked back.

How did you go about establishing your business?

I started with research and found a few courses that helped VAs get started and set up. Having never been in business or self-employed before, I literally didn’t know where to start. I was still working at the point so started my VA business alongside my part-time PA job, completing the course and going from there. Before I knew it, I had my first client. At that point, I knew I had to take the plunge and give in my notice as I found I was not really concentrating on either job fully. Once, I had left my job, I started networking, put myself on social media (that was a learning curve!!) and just started getting out there. It was hard work but it paid dividends and finally, I had a few clients and was bringing in an income and business has gone from strength to strength.

Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?

I had some savings and I gave myself six months to get it off the ground at which point I would have needed to go back to work which was not something I wanted to do. So, while we did have some back up financially, there was a finite time limit and I had to get the business up and running before that point.

Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?

Ooodles of them!! I had plenty of moments that I just thought ‘Stuff it, I am fed up with this, nothing is going my way, etc.’. Especially at the end of the first year, where time off had been minimal and I had put myself under massive pressure. It was always my husband that managed to talk me down and get me to keep going. Bless him!

What support did you have around you to set up your VA business (family and friends, Coach or Mentor)?

I did not have much support at the beginning other than initially when I was completing my course. I joined FB groups, so I had contact with other VA’s in the same boat and my family were very supportive. My husband never doubted me and always gave me the encouragement I needed. Eventually, I found Amanda and invested in some mentoring, which has been hugely beneficial and more importantly keeps me accountable for actually getting things done.

If you could go back and change one thing that you did when starting out, what would that be?

I wouldn’t change any of it! If I had done things differently, I would not be where I was today, I learnt so much, increased my skills, got tougher and learnt to stand up for myself more and know my worth. I learnt from my mistakes and they have been worth making albeit tough at times.

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting out or someone who is considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?

Just go for it, what is the worst that can happen! I remember sitting there one day in my old job thinking ‘Is this where I want to be in 30 years’ time?’ and the answer was no. So, if you can, take the risk, keep at it and don’t give up at the first hurdle.

How would you describe the good, the bad and ugly of being a Virtual Assistant?

The good – the flexibility of the job, running your own business you can set your own schedule, choose who you want to work with and what you want to do.

The bad – It can be lonely, especially if you are working from home and there is no one to bounce ideas off or ask advice from.

The ugly – not everyone is as nice as they seem! You will come across clients who mess you around, don’t pay and are just not very nice. But from my experience, these people are few and far between.

What is the best business book you’ve read and how did it impact you and your business?

I am not the greatest at committing to reading business books, but one that has stuck with me and I read cover to cover is Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles. It has some really inspiring and motivating stories in there.

How do you stay on top of your own professional development?

With great difficulty, this is one aspect of my business that I do struggle with. I tend to neglect my own personal development. However, I do have a favourite networking group that I attend that has personal development sessions monthly and I work with Amanda to make sure that I get on and do all the bits that will help keep my business growing and successful.

What do you love to do when you’re not working?

Reading (not business books!), watching films, walking and hanging with my family. As my daughter gets older, I try and grab as much time with her as I can.

Tell us one thing you can tell us about you that not many people know?

I am a secret introvert! Lots of people do not really know this but I am actually not great in crowds of people (makes networking tricky!) and much prefer my own company.

What does the future hold for your business?

At the moment, I am loving the fact that I have got past the three-year mark and am still in business. I have great clients and regular referrals which is lovely and my plan over the next six months is to consolidate everything I have done over the last few years to make sure my business stays sustainable.

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Let’s Inspire You

If you are looking for a little more inspiration – check out the recent Wednesday Wisdom blog posts where we interview some past graduates of VACT and talk to some of our current VA: Be Awesome Club members.

Read Wednesday Wisdom – Jodye Laxton of Beyond Admin –

Read Wednesday Wisdom – Ellen Williams of Ministry VA –

Read Sandra Storoni’s Experience of Training with VACT