This week, I am delighted to feature Lynsey Cowan of Elite VA as our Featured VA. I asked Lynsey the following questions:

When did you launch your VA business?

Left my full-time job at Cairn Energy on Friday 31st October and officially started Elite VA on Monday November 2014 – glutton for punishment!

What jobs had you done prior to launching?

First ever job was mailroom assistant and have progressed ‘up the ladder’ from 15 years old up to PA to CEO/Chairman roles for the last 5 years ranging from working for PA firms in London for 5 years, recruitment firm in Sydney for 2 years and then back to Bonnie Scotland 7 years ago working for an oil and gas exploration company.

What gave you the confidence to give yourself that push to go ahead and do it?

Was offered voluntary redundancy mid last year, was such a great offer so thought if I don’t do it now, I never will. So jumped at the chance and before I knew it, it was my leaving do.

When you decided to get started, what made you decide to get VA training?

After spending two years researching on how to set up your VA business prior to taking the plunge, it was clear to me that I needed a mentor of some kind with experience working in the VA industry in the UK to help me strategise and determine what would work for my business. I also thought it would be invaluable to do the CPD course as it would provide me with the basics required to set up a business.

Were you concerned that there were already many VAs already out there and this would be competition?

Initially I felt slightly concerned but then after making my decision to leave the big bad corporate world and taking the plunge, I soon realised VAs were in high demand and there was enough work out there for us all, including associate work (helping other like-minded VAs to grow their businesses).

How easy (or hard) did you find it to get your first client?

My first client started four years ago, doing bookkeeping for my best friend’s husband, I never once thought that four years later I would be supporting clients like him full-time. But I have never looked back!

Do you have a niche area?

It took me quite some time to establish my niche area but I guess I stumbled onto it, some people may say it was the Universe throwing in my lap but I’ll go with – what’s for you, won’t go past you. Over the past six months, I seem to be drawn to life coaches, authors and motivational speakers. This is something of great interest to me also, love working with creative and sometimes ‘crazy’ people but hey I do love a challenge!

Is it just you in your business or do work with Associate VAs?

Currently working mainly alone with some other VA support when needed. Ensuring you have associates on board to help you in your time of need is an absolute godsend, highly recommended.

What did you do to build and grow your VA business?

I would say if you really want to succeed you must get out there and network, network, network. The work will never come to you but if you get out there with a passion for connecting with people, you will reap the benefits!

What has been most hardest thing about building your business? What have been the successes and highlights of your business so far?

First six months of setting up the business has meant eating, sleeping, breathing the business but I have thoroughly loved every minute of it. Highlights so far have been the varied work, from basic bookkeeping/reconciliation to helping pull together online courses to social media strategies. No two days are the same, absolutely love the variety of the work, it’s amazing what you can learn in one week!!! Exhibiting and speaking at Elite Business event last month was one of main highlights to date, it was most certainly stepping out of my comfort zone presenting at a Workshop but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

What does a normal day look like for you?

Being a morning person, I’m up at 6.30am – first port of call is a strong coffee to get me started. Then its diary/inbox management for clients, social media strategies scheduling posts etc then project related work including client/customer management. Scheduling 121 calls with clients and fire-fighting any business-related issues they may have – not forgetting service with a smile (even when you want to scream)!!!

Tell us about a particular success for a client?

Solving on-site issues at a large client event last month, the client was running late so rather wait for him to arrive, I took the initiative to resolve the issues whilst he was en route to the event. Handling these issues in his absence meant I had to ‘think on my feet’ to determine the best solution as it was time-sensitive. When he arrived to find all issues had been ‘ironed out’ he was thrilled, so much so he treated me to a spa day after the event as a thank you.

Do you have any funny stories/anecdotes about jobs you’ve done?

Just recently I was preparing a newsletter for a client, had sent it to the client for final proof read, we were close to scheduling it via MailChimp when I realised I had slightly misspelt a word in the newsletter, was meant to be shift, I had missed out the ‘f’ from the word. God can you imagine if I didn’t notice that and scheduled the newsletter out to her 1,000 network!!! Oops – close one!

What are the tools and applications that you use every day?

MailChimp, Asana, Dropbox, Hootsuite.

What are the best and worst bits about being a Virtual Assistant?

The best bits are: being my own boss, the variety of the work, having amazing like-minded VAs to hand to support you in your time of need but also networking with them online and offline. Love this job! While the worst bits have to be working for 12 hours per day, actually that is no-one else’s fault but my own. Time management refresher course required!

What’s the best advice you’ve been given so far or as a result of your training?

Have a dream board with every goal you would like to achieve within your business, it’s amazing how much of a difference that can make to you achieving those all-important goals, by taking small steps daily anything is achievable.

What do you think are the top qualities a VA should have?

Flexibility, first-rate communication skills, patience and determination to succeed.

Which book would you recommend to others?

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E Gerber – absolutely amazing book, focusses on what is required when launching a business and what it stands for. Michael E Gerber explains the importance of outsourcing what is NOT your talent, skillset or best use of time.

What is your favourite quote and why?

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got – Henry Ford. Taking small steps to continually growing your business and personally will in the long run, help you achieve your goals.

Tell us about the Lynsey outside of work – what do you like to do?

Love spending time with family and friends, love to let loose at a club or a live gig, huge lover of music so go wherever that takes me. Twin Atlantic gig in a few weeks and T in the Park in a couple of months – counting the days!

And lastly, what one thing can you tell us about you that not many people know?

I develop a strange sense of claustrophia when a tall person (anything over 6 foot tall) walks in front of me!!! Don?t ask!!!!

From Amanda: I don’t know about you but I found it fascinating learning a little more about Lynsey Cowan and Elite VA. If you would like to be the Featured VA on the VACT website, then please send an email to Amanda at [email protected].