This month, I am delighted to feature Sarah Clewes of All About Admin. I asked Sarah a new mixture of questions and I hope you find her story and her answers as inspiring as I do.
Describe yourself in 3 short sentences. Personable and proactive; I thrive on variety and consider myself quite formal (but not stuffy). I like getting to know people, problem solving, action plans and gin! I am considerate and generous, content yet still ambitious.
What motivated you to become a Virtual Assistant? Having served in the Royal Navy for over 20 years, I wanted a second career in the Charity sector but found it really difficult to settle into a civilian working environment. Having gained some experience whilst working for a few different charities, I decided that rather stay and try to change the world, the best solution would be to work myself, offering ad hoc administration support, business development and marketing.
How long have you been in business? I launched my business in November 2014 (after a few months of research and preparation) and so less than one year; it feels like much longer (in a good way!).
Who do you love to work with? Like-minded people who are focused and want to get things done. I do value time to chat, share experiences and ideas and I get this from the networking, personal and professional development side of my business. I’m definitely a list and processes type of person and not creative!
What is the biggest challenge your clients face? Managing information and keeping up with IT. A number of my clients are overwhelmed by the numerous ways to create, store and share files. I love being able to improve ways of working and provide solutions that work for them.
What have been the highlights of your business? Receiving some really lovely testimonials and knowing that I have made a difference. Securing a contract to work with an organisation that I pitched to a number of months ago, but they didn’t initially understand the benefits of outsourcing over taking on another employee.
What is the best piece of advice you received in relation to your business? Let to know who your ideal client is and targeting your marketing accordingly: once I had established who I wanted to work with and the best method to reach them, I saved myself so much time and energy!
What is your least favourite part of being in business and how do you manage it? Preparing my Accounts. I am really organised and good at keeping receipts and Invoices in order but there seems to be so much that needs to be included that I do my best to avoid collating the information. I do have a great relationship with my Accountant, she’s really helpful.
What 3 tips would you give someone if they have never worked with a VA before?
- Be assured that VAs have a vested interest in your success, this sets them aside from an employee.
- A VA is a business owner too and so already you have common ground.
- Once you have established a relationship with your VA you can delegate with confidence and free up time to work on your priorities and or quality of life.
What do you see in the future for you and how will that effect your clients? I need to have the support of Associates and as a result only some All About Admin work will be done by me. My niche clients are based around my background and experience: I am aware there will be some concerns therefore I need to make the right decision for my business and reputation and consider quality vs quantity.
Why did you decide on The VA Coaching and Training Company and what was your experience of the training? I had served with Amanda in the Royal Navy and knew that she had her own very successful VA business. I attended a Taster Day that raised a number of issues, most of which I hadn’t even considered! From that I realized the benefit of accredited training and a Mentor.
For someone just starting out on their VA journey what would you say are the first steps they should take? As soon as you have established your business in terms of branding and processes and can offer a professional service, just go for it! If you wait until you have tried to learn everything you will never get started. Know where to go for advice and support and learn new skills and programs as you need to. Step 2 is to get your name and personality ‘out there’. Network, network, network!
Who in business would you love to meet and why? Alex Polizzi ‘the fixer’ I love her forthright approach and ability to get things done whilst getting buy in (most of the time) and ownership from business owners.
What is the best business book you’ve read and how did it impact you and your business? Brilliant Marketing by Richard Hall. I have had this book for years as I referred to it a lot for my business degree and Certificate in Marketing qualification; It makes me think ‘I get it’. Numerous pages have a post it note to mark pertinent information and highlighted text. It’s my Marketing bible.
What is your favourite quote and why? “This is your life, it’s not a dress rehearsal.” On days when I find myself procrastinating or feeling anxious about trivialities this quote spurs me on and puts life into perspective.
What do you love to do when you’re not working? Power walking, spa days and spending time with my friends. I share my husband’s passion for motorbikes and am often found in the garage, holding various bike parts, drinking tea and sharing Jaffa cakes.
Tell us one thing you can tell us about you that not many people know? I was catapulted off an American Aircraft Carrier (a huge ship with over 5,000 crew) in an aircraft. Exhilarating?..yes! Scary? no, terrifying!
Thank you Sarah.