Catherine Blackwood was Runner Up in Best Newcomer at the 2016 VA Awards for her business Blackwood EA and I am delighted that I have been able to catch up with her and ask her to share some Wednesday VA Wisdom.
Hi – I’m Catherine, and I set up my own VA business called Blackwood Executive Assistance in July 2015. I live in Aberdeen, Scotland with my husband and daughter.
I launched my own VA business as I was seeking a new challenge following redundancy and decided to put my knowledge and expertise into doing what I love – helping others, making their life easier, generally keeping them organised and in control of their workload.
Prior to setting up my VA business, I was a Personal Assistant to Senior Executives primarily within the Oil & Gas industry which provided me with a diverse range of experience and transferrable skills. Running my own VA business has given me the life work balance I wanted!
What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?
I decided to set up my VA business following redundancy, which all happened whilst I was on maternity leave, with our soon to be 3 year old daughter. I already knew that I wanted to reduce my hours, so that I could spend more time with our daughter. I also wasn’t prepared to settle for any old job just to work part time hours – so being a Virtual Assistant would give me the best of both worlds, a role which fits around family life and allows me to do the work I love which is both interesting & challenging.
How did you go about establishing your business?
Lots of research, and I also contacted established VA’s to ask them for any hints & tips they’d be willing to share with me. I also signed up to my local business gateway sessions which covered areas such as writing a business plan, bookkeeping and marketing. In addition to this I contacted a previous work colleague of mine (Christina Moore – who also runs her own VA business) and asked her advice on setting up, getting clients, generally how she was finding it all. And finally, I signed up for the VA Mastery Course, which was a fantastic course and has been a worthwhile part of my VA journey.
Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?
Yes, I had my redundancy money, which gave me peace of mind to go ahead and set up my VA business, knowing that I could use that as and when required. You don’t need large sums of money to set up your business, but I’d suggest having some savings as a fall back, especially if you are giving up your main source of income.
Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?
I was quite hard on myself in the early days, as I’m a bit of a worrier, and would question if I was doing the right thing, but overall no as I knew that ultimately, I was in control of my success, and I was determined to make it work for both me and my family.
What support did you have around you to set up your VA business (family and friends, Coach or Mentor)?
My family were and still are very supportive of my decision to set up my VA business, my husband has been fantastic, and would often tell me to stop being so hard on myself, and make me realise that I should be proud of myself and what I have achieved.
And of course, I also had the superb support from Amanda Johnson – thank you!
If you could go back and change one thing that you did when starting out, what would that be?
I honestly can’t think of anything that I would have done differently?!?
What is your best advice for someone who is just starting out or someone who is considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?
I’d say go for it, give it your all, and try not to worry! Ask questions, reach out to fellow VA’s and network as much as you can (both online & offline) as you never know where you will pick up a new client.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
….i can’t think of anything….
What is the best business book you’ve read and how did it impact you and your business?
Afraid I’ve not read many…but one which comes to mind is “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg & John David Mann. I can’t put my finger on just what made me like the book so much, but perhaps it was simply because everything made sense, and it’s the approach I take myself, so in a way I’m putting some or even all of the ‘laws’ into practice already without realising it.
What do you love to do when you’re not working?
I love spending time with my family, eating out, treating myself to a spa visit, and going on relaxing breaks with my husband & daughter.
Tell us one thing you can tell us about you that not many people know?
At school I was more interested in music than anything else (which is why I went on to study ‘Business with Music Industry Management’). I can play the keyboard & drums – and would love to learn a new instrument, perhaps the saxophone or play in a pipe band – I just need to find the time!
Meet Catherine: If you would like to connect with Catherine or follow her on social media, here are the important links:
Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/blackwoodea/
Twitter ID: https://twitter.com/BlackwoodEA
LinkedIn URL: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/catherineblackwood
Company LinkedIn page URL: – https://www.linkedin.com/company/blackwood-executive-assistance