I am Francesca, an Italian who has lived in Manchester in the UK since 2014. I have worked in finance departments in the corporate world before starting my own business as a Virtual Assistant.
The reason why I called my business Kaffeina VA is “Partly because I am Italian, and I love coffee. But also, because while I am enjoying a good espresso, I can relax and give my mind a break. So, my support for you would be that cup of coffee, or your favourite drink, where you can slow down and pause, knowing that a trustworthy and reliable person is helping you grow your business”.
Being native Italian and fluent in English, I can support Italian businesses in the UK or English companies that want to expand their business in Italy. I have also decided to specialize in Pinterest for Business.
Why I decided to become a Pinterest VA?
I have always used Pinterest as a personal tool to find ideas and suggestions, and I love it because it is so creative. But I did not know that I could use it for marketing a business. Since then, I have studied and practiced transforming this passion into a career helping other Business Owners to discover the power of Pinterest and how they can grow their business and sales channels using Pinterest. I offer different services based on the customers’ needs (Pinterest Management, Coaching Sessions, Pinterest Design).
Even though my background is different, I have realized that I can combine the knowledge I have using my personality’s creative part.
What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?
My idea to become a Virtual Assistant was around four years ago, when I was on FB and read about this article talking about digital nomads’ careers.
I was fascinated by the fact that there was job’s location independent. This lady was talking about a Virtual Assistant job (in Italy is a career not established as in the USA or UK market). So, I thought, why not? I can use all the knowledge I have to start a new career.
How did you go about establishing your business?
So, from that moment, I started reading as much as I could to learn how I could become a Virtual Assistant. There are tons of information in FB groups and blogs. I took some courses to develop some skills and to market myself. I also build a website on my own (I am pretty proud of this because I do not consider myself a tech person).
I started and grew my social media presence. I learnt a lot doing all this stuff.
Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?
I was in a job that I did not like so much and I quit it and have some savings to start my own business.
Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?
Especially in the beginning, I struggled to find customers and market myself. I ended up working on a one-year temp contract again, but I was not focused enough and lacked confidence in that period.
What support did you have around you to set up your VA business (family and friends, Coach or Mentor)?
I am fortunate because I have friends who support me in this new adventure. While my parents do not understand what I am doing, I know that it is not simple to understand online work for a generation where the permanent job was the only job. Plus, I had a Coach, and I also joined Amanda Membership. Being a VA can be a lonely path but being part of a group and having consistent support is a relief.
If you could go back and change one thing that you did when starting out, what would that be?
I won’t quit the job before having some customers because it is scary to start a new career from scratch without having any income.
What is your best advice for someone who is just starting out or someone who is considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?
Based on my experience, firstly believe that it is a possible career and that it can take time to establish and think that there is no fixed income every month, so working on the mindset is very important. Ask for help if you are struggling because there is support and a solution for every problem.
How would you describe the good, the bad and ugly of being a Virtual Assistant?
The good to being a VA is that I can organize my time and prioritize around my day. I can work whenever I want during the day. The bad, especially initially, is to switch mentality from employee to self-employed. You need to organize your day, and nobody tells you what you must do. The ugly part (for me) is constantly selling myself (I have improved a lot since the beginning) but being a VA means being out there and finding new customers. Also, before delegating, you wear a lot of hats in your business: marketing, accountant, social media creator, etc. It can be stressful.
What is the best business book you’ve read and how did it impact you and your business?
I have always struggled with time management, and when I read Deep Work by Cal Newport.
I can’t say it is a business book, but it helps me organize my time better because I am a person who jumps from one activity to another, wasting a lot of time and energy.
I also learnt to see when I am more productive during the day to do the essential tasks leaving the easiest ones when I am more tired.
I have more done in less time.
How do you stay on top of your own professional development?
Since I was a student, I have loved learning new stuff and taking courses. Although there are thousands of online classes nowadays, I choose the ones I need and put them into practice. I set a time slot every week to improve my development.
What do you love to do when you’re not working?
I love outdoor activities and travelling. Being a Virtual Assistant allowed me to spend more time in Italy (especially after the pandemic) with my family and travel with my friends.
Tell us one thing you can tell us about you that not many people know?
I want to start my blog about Travel and Interior Designers (I have two diplomas in Interior Designer, but I have never taken that path). I have postponed this project for a long time, but this year is the year.
What does the future hold for your business?
I want to create an online course, “Pinterest Beginners”, for those who want to learn how to use Pinterest for their business. Plus, I want to create some digital products such as Canva Templates for small business owners who don’t have time to make the graphics for Pinterest or social media for their business. Since I started working with Pinterest and Canva, I discovered that I love to create graphics! If I am not careful, I can easily spend hours in Canva!
Starting a business in the UK as an Italian
Many people asked me why I started my own business in the UK. My answer based on my experience is that it is more straightforward than Italy. The bureaucracy is less complicated, and I can develop different projects simultaneously.
Also, I am part of local networking groups in Manchester, and even though the online world is fantastic, networking face to face is still one of the most powerful ways to develop my business.