What made you decide you wanted to become a VA and when?
Having left the City, I met a VA at a networking event – she helped me realise that I had all the skills necessary to set up my own business,
Were you concerned that there were already many VAs already out there and this would be competition?
I wasn’t that aware of VAs when I left the City, although I had read some articles about PAs who were going freelance.
What gave you the confidence to give yourself that push to go ahead and do it?
I knew I had the right skills and a huge amount of experience and said I’d give it a year and see how it was going. I’m still here six years later!
When you decided to get started what made you decide to go for some VA training?
I had extensive experience as an Executive PA and had worked in various industries, departments and roles, but I didn’t know how to run a business. I needed some training to help me identify how to leverage the skills I had into a business and service that clients would buy. VA training provided me with the information, tools and confidence to start my business. I continue to undertake a minimum number of training hours every year to ensure my skills are up to date.
Why did you decide on The VA Coaching and Training Company and what was your experience of the training?
The VACT was recommended to me. I did some research and decided that Carmen and the team offered me exactly what I was looking for. I opted for a two day residential course so that I had no distractions and could then hit the ground running as soon as I got back – I had my first client within a week. The training course didn’t tell me how to do everything, but gave me the tools to work out how I wanted my business to look and to grow. I still refer to my course notes occasionally.
What have been the highlights of your business so far?
Obviously being runner up in the new business category of ‘VA of the Year’ in 2009 after only 8 months in business was a huge boost. I also take great pride in my clients’ successes, and I have several who have won their own business awards.
What have been some challenges you have experienced and if you were to do things differently next time what would you do?
A big challenge is working out where you want to be in the industry. Having a niche or specialist skill really helps set your place in the market. I started out saying ‘yes’ to almost everything and then stressing about how to do the work. I learnt a lot about my capabilities and pushed myself to achieve in areas I had no experience. Now, I never over-commit or promise something I can’t deliver. Where I don’t have a particular skill, I outsource the work.
Pricing is tricky – finding clients who focus on the value of working with a VA rather than the cost, is key to a successful business.
Would I do anything differently? Probably not. Starting out was a huge learning curve but every experience was worthwhile, whether it was good or bad. I’ve learnt a lot over time.
What type of clients do you work with and do you specialise in a particular service?
I currently work with a wide range of clients, from solicitors, brand experts, clinical practitioners, and a music company to name just a few. I particularly enjoy working with new businesses, creative people and company directors/non-execs. Having worked in high level 1:1 relationships with city executives, I like to work with clients who want me to be proactive and get involved with their business. I’m an Executive PA, and outsource other services as necessary.
What advice would you give to anyone just starting out especially in relation to training?
If you have the experience under your belt, you need to train your brain to think of yourself as a consultant, rather than an employee. VA training will help you set up the right processes within your business so that you can offer clients what they are looking for and run the business efficiently.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
Who knows! The last 5 years have gone so quickly, I’m no longer surprised by how the industry is changing and not responding to that would be a big mistake. I try to be as flexible as possible and that could lead me in any direction. Seeing opportunity and acting upon it is a skill I’m still trying to master!
Who in business would you love to meet and why?
I’d love to meet Karren Brady CBE – she has built a career in a very male-dominated environment and has been hugely successful doing it. I admire her ability to take on several different roles, while maintaining a balance with her personal life.
Which book has influenced you the most in your business?
I can’t think of any. Too many people are reliant on ‘self-help’ books to tell them what they should be doing and how, and looking for a quick fix for their business. That philosophy doesn’t work for me so I don’t read them.
What is your favourite quote and why?
I have two – ‘learn something new every day’; and, ‘never judge others by your own standards’.
What do you love to do when you’re not working.
I’m never happier than when I’m riding or working with horses. I also took up golf a couple of years ago and go to the gym. I’m pretty active.
And lastly – what one thing can you tell us about you that not many people know?
I always wanted to be a dancer.
You can read more about Jacqueline on her website: