This week it is my pleasure to introduce you to Sara Roddis of Sara Roddis VA Services.  I love the honesty in this blog, Sara shares how she tried to set her business up on the cheap using free resources etc but wasn’t really getting the traction she wanted in business and since investing in herself and the business, it has gone from strength to strength – which is awesome news. I also love the fact that Sara hasn’t had the traditional EA / PA route to business and in fact brings transferrable skills with her to the business world.

Feature VA Sara Roddis HeadshotHi, I am Sara and I run Sara Roddis VA Services, (that’s a bit of a giveaway!) I set up last year after returning from my maternity leave as an estate agent. I’ve always had a knack for admin and I was always the one in the office people could depend on for support. So when I heard about Virtual Assistants I was intrigued right away. Fast forward to a year later; I have a business, I have associates to support me and I have a wide range of clients. Most of my customers are online service providers (think coaches, web designers, NLP practitioners, etc…) and therefore need flexible support. My service is completely flexible as I don’t tie in anybody with a retainer contract. I have honed my skills to the needs of my clients – many of them require email marketing support, help with their launches and courses and with social media. This is what I offer now in terms of my service!

What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?

When I returned from my maternity leave to resume my estate agency career my role had slightly changed. My role became part-time and I became more involved in supporting the rest of the team (although I was still selling houses!). I absolutely love doing this – so much so in fact that one of my clients mentioned that I’d make an amazing VA. “What’s a VA?” I asked him. Hearing about VAs really opened my eyes and a lightbulb clicked, it was definitely an ‘a-ha!’ moment. I had always wanted to be my own boss and this path was one that suited my skill set and personality perfectly. I really do love helping people to do their jobs and go to the next level. I completed one of those personality tests that also confirms this! (ENFJ if you’re wondering)

How did you go about establishing your business?

Research, research and more research! It was actually quite overwhelming in the beginning. I had to shift my mindset from employee to business owner, to begin with this took a long time. I really wanted to make sure that I had myself covered from a legal point of view, and then from there, I had to figure out exactly what type of service I would offer and for how much. Then came the hard work of building relationships and connections, and building a client base. It’s definitely very different from being an employee! VACT and The UK Society of VA’s really helped me in getting the right information and motivated me to do the right thing. A lot of information out there isn’t relevant to UK VA’s or it’s just overwhelming to take in. VACT really broke it down for me and Amanda has been a great source of support for my business. I really recommend speaking to Amanda whether you’re established or just getting started!

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

I did not, but I did save up to make sure I could have everything I needed for my business. I started off by being very savvy (which wasted a lot of time, if I’m honest). I had a free site and free contracts I took from the internet and got by without really paying for much. In hindsight I really wouldn’t recommend doing this, I wasted many hours trying to get things to work or trying to find things that I could fit into my business.

I quickly realised that I needed to invest in my business and it has been a game-changer. I paid for a proper site, proper contracts, software, licenses, and have also invested in CPD to keep my skills up to date. I pay more than I ever have, but I am also earning more than I ever have as a result and that’s a win-win.

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

Gosh, yes! Many, many times. I would lie awake in bed thinking “I don’t know what I’m doing!”. The overwhelm can really cloud your judgement too. I had a miscarriage late last year and I completely lost my mojo, I stopped interacting on social media and basically dropped off the face of the earth for a bit. I didn’t sign any new clients during this time and didn’t make much money at all. I wondered if I would ever gain traction again…

Well, I did and since then my business has grown from strength to strength…

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

My partner is very supportive, he shows off that I am a VA and that I run my own business! He’s self-employed too and he sees how much work I put into juggling our home, family, and work. Just having him there to pick up the slack when I’m busy has been invaluable. Having family who can support with childcare (or when I just need to really crack on with work) has been a godsend too. Professionally, Amanda’s membership has been a great source of support. The other VAs in the group are really supportive too. Quite often there are questions asked in the group which answer mine, or discussions which are really helpful.

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

I would invest in myself more. I would have bought the website and branding, and proper equipment from the get-go. The time I wasted and the stress of trying to make things work the way I wanted them to (on the cheap) was simply not worth it. I would have invested in proper mentorship too to help guide me and tackle the overwhelm that I experienced.

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

  • I would say keep it simple, the more you complicate things in the beginning, the more overwhelm you will experience.
  • Show up, be online, shout about your service from the rooftops.
  • Invest in the right tools and support for your business from the get-go.
  • Practise what you preach, delegate if something is taking too long/is being put off/you cannot do!

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

The good? When you get new clients simply through word of mouth! That’s the best feeling.

The bad? When you are struggling to see eye to eye with a client! This is so rare, but it can happen, especially if important details for a project get lost in translation. Thankfully, it can be rectified with some good communication and customer service. But it’s still stressful!

The ugly: when you work really hard to advertise your service and you’re not getting any clients. Don’t quit! The right clients will come!

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

I don’t read business books, but I do work with a lot of coaches who bestow their knowledge on me from time to time. One of those ‘epiphany’ moments has been showing up as myself. I was trying really hard to be this professional, corporate VA which is not me. Now when I speak to business owners I speak as I would normally speak and show my personality too. The result has been that I attract like-minded people and business is much more pleasant as a result.

Another ‘epiphany’ moment has been finding my ideal client. This really boggled me in the beginning, but I have really dug down deep on who I LOVE to work with, and that has been coaches. Since tweaking my message I have attracted a lot more coaches too!! Win-win!

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

I have been identifying what my clients most need (and what I enjoy doing) and devoting my time to really learn the skills I need to help my clients. One of those has been email marketing and social media. Lots of practice and investing in courses, and of course the VA membership which gives me access to a lot of training specifically for me and what I do. It’s brilliant.

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

When I’m not working I love baking and cooking and also spending time with family. At the moment travel isn’t really an option but I love taking trips throughout the year, exploring Britain and abroad.

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

Not many people know that I am a qualified childcare practitioner! I worked with children of nursery age and qualified to Early Educator level. I really love children but I decided that I didn’t want to pursue a career in Childcare my skills and personality were suited to a different career.

What does the future hold for your business?

In the future, I would love to incorporate more packages as part of my offering. I want to hold a stall at a show/event (when they are allowed again) and would love to win an award for my services. I really believe in what I do and it’s a testament that clients return month after month, even though they are not tied into a monthly contract. I feel incredibly lucky to be in this position.

I set some mantras at the start of the year, and this is what I affirm to myself each day:

“I receive warm leads regularly. “

 “Onboarding clients is a breeze.”

 “I am attracting the clients I want to work with”

 “I am creating targets for my business and hitting them to achieve my financial goals”

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