This week I am delighted to introduce you to Heather of Bridge VA Solutions. I love the honesty that you get when working with Heather, be that as her VA Trainer and Mentor or in reading her social media updates. Often people worry about what they will offer when they start a VA business and although I encourage (quite strongly) that you need a social media presence to market your business you don’t have to be offering it as a service to clients – instead play to your strengths and offer those as services to clients.  (Why do I encourage the use of social media, well, it’s because social media accelerates the know, like and trust required in business…) But back to the skills and services, we know that the top selling VA service in the UK is traditional administrative support so when Heather talks about “her old school approach” clients in fairness love it.  I for one, love her tag line – I would love to know in the comments what you take away from this blog.

Heather Bridgman Feature VA Hi, I’m Heather, I live on the south coast in Hampshire and am very privileged to be able to enjoy being by the sea but also the beautiful countryside that surrounds us. I wasn’t very academic at school but the subjects I excelled in were Office Studies as it was called then. Not quite chalk and slate to write on but I did learn to type on a manual typewriter! I progressed through my course taking some of my RSA exams earlier than other students, this wasn’t because I was particularly brilliant but more due to the fact that disliking school as much as I did I was always going to leave at the end of the 4th year, then the 5th year, until I finally departed at the end of 6th form! I started work as a Junior Secretary for an Accountants and my career went on from there. Throughout that time I took on different roles working for MDs, CEOs, VPs, Executive Management, I have a reputation in my family for not staying in a job for more than a couple of years, it’s easier to say where I haven’t worked rather than where I have!!

Like most people, I went through several redundancies which is always very unpleasant, so when this was looking likely yet again in 2017 I decided to look into becoming a VA, after all, I could hardly make myself redundant could I? I did some research and found Amanda Johnson, we had a chat and I signed up for her Mastery Course, which as I’m sure Amanda will attest was much more painful for her than me!! In 2018 I was working part-time to ensure I had some income while I set up the business, from August 2019 I have been working in my business full time.

Like all PAs, we have certain values ingrained into our very soul, confidentiality, trust, flexibility, honesty, transparency I also include in that traditional. I would say I’m ‘old school’, I’ve worked my way up through the ranks so have what a previous boss said ‘an old fashioned’ approach to my role. Naturally, I disagree with that but I firmly believe that providing traditional PA support to my clients is what draws them to want to work with me!!  My tag line says it all, ‘PA support delivered virtually with traditional values’.

What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?

Circumstances made me think about becoming a Virtual Assistant, I had been made redundant several times, each time it was harder to pick myself up so I decided to see what it was all about and everything went from there.

How did you go about establishing your business?

I did loads of research into becoming a VA, whether there was any training out there, made some enquiries and spoke to a lot of people. I was very fortunate that my Husband’s Nephew is an IT whizz and he created my website for me so I had a huge advantage there.

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

No savings whatsoever, when I started looking into it I was working full time then reduced down to part-time until I felt I could earn enough to make it a viable proposition.

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

Every day, even now, today, I’m not convinced it will work out long term, but I have a tenacious and very stubborn streak so will continue to make it a success

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

I approached Amanda Johnson and signed up for her VA Mastery Course which was hugely helpful.  Earlier this year I did have a business coach which sort of wasn’t right for me but that was down to the wrong coach, not the premise. My husband and family have been amazingly encouraging, always there with encouragement and support

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

Probably have a better idea at the start on who or what type of businesses I wanted to support

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

Do your research, be firm on the type of work you want to do, if you didn’t like doing it in a paid role then why do it when you’re working for yourself.  Stand by your values.

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

The flexibility is great, I can manage family, domestic commitments around my work.  Not having the awful commute to work is fantastic, it basically gives me back at least 2 hours every day.

For me the bad and the ugly is putting myself out there, social media is my nemesis; it can also be pretty lonely at times but I have developed a small but perfectly formed group of other VAs who I regularly talk to where we discuss our ups and downs or go to for support, that is invaluable and I feel very blessed knowing they are there

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

I have quite a collection of business books which I never seem to have the time to read apart from one, which I won’t name, everyone else thinks it’s great but I am the lone wolf in the pack who found it did nothing for me!

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

I try to get involved in some of the challenges on social media, I did have a coach for several months and of course, all the books which I will get round to reading someday!!

What do you love to do when youre not working?

My garden is my passion, I just love it, it gives me so much joy, it is my sanctuary and is the place I go when I just want to lose myself and be alone with my thoughts or no thoughts at all!

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

When I was growing up I wanted to join the police force, but I was too short, still am for most things!!

What does the future hold for your business?

Retirement or semi-retirement!!  I can do what I do for as long as I want, I don’t want to build an empire, I want to have a business where my clients like and trust me but where I don’t have the stress and anxiety I had when working full time.

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