This week it is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Rachel Hands of RHVA for our Wednesday Wisdom blog.  We had to twist Rachels arm to write this piece and I so glad that she agreed (eventually!)  It has been my absolute pleasure to work with Rachel over the past couple of years, she is dedicated and amazing both in and out of her business, often underplaying the things that she has achieved or that she does for others.  She will hate me for saying it but she is inspiring and so let me hand you over to the lovely Rachel for her interview.

Rachel Hands Headshot Hello, I’m Rachel and before I start, I’d like to get one thing clear. I feel extremely uncomfortable writing about myself! I live in rural Warwickshire with my husband Dave, son Connor (7) and daughter Ella (5). I opened the inbox of RHVA in July 2013 whilst on maternity leave. I had never been a PA and don’t class myself as one now either, I am a doer of stuff. I have a strong background in customer service and business administration management in the engineering, manufacturing, and logistics sectors.

I truly believe that every business is unique, and I love working so closely with clients and becoming their “get it done” person. As a result, I’m proud to have longstanding clients who in turn have referred RHVA to other businesses. 98% of my clients have come from other happy customers, which for an introvert is obviously a big relief. Alongside providing administrative assistance to coaches, consultants, SMEs and multinational companies, I support a local grassroots charity as their Training and Schools Coordinator, and I am a volunteer mentor for new parents receiving a diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome.

I was delighted to have been awarded VA of the Year 2019 for the West Midlands, England Region and Runner Up – England VA of the Year 2019 and I am also a finalist in the Woman of Achievement (Achieves in Business) 2020 (although this is being pushed to 2021 now!)

What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?

The end of maternity leave. I always intended to return to my Customer Service Manager role, but then we went to view nurseries, when they advised they would write and tell me when Connor took his first steps it really hit me, I didn’t want that, I wanted to witness it for myself. So, I began looking online for jobs that I could do at home that enabled me to use my brain and came across the term virtual assistant.

The flexibility my business has given me over the past 7 years has been fantastic, although I set up before we’d even considered having another child. Ella came along in 2014 with her extra chromosome and I was truly glad I had the flexibility of my own business. She is the one that inspires me to be the best that I can be and to try my hardest.

How did you go about establishing your business?

After some internet research, I purchased a VA course from another trainer and completed it. I built my website myself – which at the time I was very impressed with! I signed up with some online directories and did lots of breakfast networking. I’d already been doing some VA support for my friend’s fitness business and I told friends, family and ex-colleagues that I had set up my business, most didn’t grasp the concept of what I was doing or how I could do it, but this was back in 2013.

Obviously now, thanks to COVID, people fully understand that you can work effectively from home!  My first client came from a VA directory listing, interestingly she told me I was more expensive than her current VA, to which my response was well you’re looking for a new VA so I don’t think you should compare the cost. I still work with her to this day and she quite often tells me I’m worth every penny. My second client came a month later via a contact of my husband’s and those initial two clients have given me referrals year after year and I still work with them 7 years on.

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

I took a voluntary redundancy at the end of my maternity leave so I had £5000 to fall back on, however, I never wanted to dip into it and luckily, I didn’t have to.

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

I don’t think I ever felt that it wouldn’t work as a business, but I did and still do doubt myself and feel like I am not good enough and need to be better.

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

My husband was extremely supportive both mentally and financially which removed the pressure to earn. Despite doing the VA course with another provider there was no support that came with it! My family aren’t local so in the early years, I worked during nap times, evenings and weekends. At that point, I didn’t have any VA comrades as I do now, so it was quite a lonely journey.

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

I’m not sure that I would change anything really, I believe that you learn from difficulties and mistakes, and if I went and changed anything I wouldn’t be where I am today.

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

Have faith in yourself, think about what success means to you. You don’t have to have a massive team of associates; you don’t have to earn thousands a month if you don’t want to. It’s your business and you get to define what success looks like to you. For me, success for the first 6 years was being available for my children and being able to give my daughter the input she needed to be ready for school whilst earning a living, which I did.

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

The good – being there for all of my children’s firsts, school plays, medical and therapy appointments without feeling guilty or having to ask for time off. Working with such amazing clients who work so hard to make a positive impact on people. The variety of work – where else could you go from booking a leg wax for a client to completing tender documents and submitting business plans on the same day? The amazing VAs that I have met, especially over the last two years who I am now honoured to call my friends who inspire me, hold me up, and are there to bounce ideas off of, and are pretty good with the GIFs too (you know who you are!)

The bad – an infringement on boundaries, I wish I was firmer with boundaries between work and family time, but I like to help.

The ugly – imposter syndrome, “sometimes” comparing myself to others, oh and writing about myself!

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

Has to be the book that Amanda gave me when I signed up for luminary coaching “The Go-Giver”. It hooked me and I read it in half a day. I could see some resemblances in me but also learned that although it’s great to give value it’s ok to get paid for it too.

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

I’ve been a member of the VACT membership for about 4 years so participate in the monthly training and work through the massive back catalogue of information. I’m currently doing luminary coaching so Amanda’s always adding to my list of learning. I participate in quarterly mastermind days AKA “get shit done days” where there is an element of training and board of directors. Alongside this, I participate in training with the VA forum, events at local business shows and webinars from specialists on mindset, social media etc.

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

When I’m not working?! Does sleep count? I love spending time with my family, going away in our caravan either in the UK or Europe and discovering different parts of the country and generally being outside.

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

I used to breed and show Boxer dogs and was lucky enough to compete at Crufts. I would quite happily drive up to Scotland and back in a day for a dog show!

What does the future hold for your business?

I feel like it’s going to be exciting over the next 18 months. This year I’ve onboarded some amazing associates who are aligned with my own core values and I’m thoroughly enjoying working with them and seeing my customers flourish as a result.

I’m fairly certain I’ll be pushed/kicked out of my comfort zone multiple times but knowing I have such wonderful people in my corner cheering me on will help immensely.

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