Clare Clarke – My Journey as a VA… So Far!

I first entered the world of ‘virtual’ business support in 2010, having started employment as an administrative assistant, up to PA to an HR Director and then moving into Project Management, spending 3 years as a Consultant PRINCE II Project Manager implementing HR and Payroll software for the likes of Starbucks Coffee Company and Whitbread BeerCo.

Like many of the virtual assistants I know, I started my business tentatively, at first dedicating two working days per week to my newly launched VA company ‘CC Professional Secretarial Services’, while working three days per week in an employed role that offered a regular salary and a greater degree of financial stability. Unlike now, ‘remote workers’ were a fairly new breed at that time, so I found that my knowledge and skills and the unique support that I could provide to local businesses was instantly in demand, and my two self-employed days per week were quickly filled! When my employed role offered me an additional day per week in 2011, I was too tempted by the stability of regular income, so CCP practically ground to a halt. But I had an idea that at some point in the future I would return to my venture, so kept the business running in the background.

As we all know, life can change quickly and dramatically, launching you out of your comfort zone and straight into a period of uncertainty (and quite often, anxiety). For me, one of these moments happened early in 2014: I was advised that the business I worked for was relocating to the North of England, and as moving was not an option for me, I decided to leave the comfort and familiarity of employment and throw myself full time into life as a Virtual Assistant! As always in hindsight I see that this was just the opportunity and motivational ‘kick’ that I needed to focus all of my attention on gaining new customers and finding success as a dedicated and hardworking Virtual Assistant. However, as with many life events, there were also a few ‘gremlins’ that impacted both the way I worked and the decisions I made following the hard launch of my business.

As we all know, life can change quickly and dramatically, launching you out of your comfort zone Click To Tweet

The biggest of these ‘gremlins’ related to how I resourced the business – when you make the decision to start your own small business, there is often an element of ‘I’ll be better off on my own’ and ‘the only colleague I can 100% rely upon is ME’! These thoughts definitely influenced my business plan in the early days, so much that my ‘strategy was in fact to not grow the business – to carry out all of the work by myself, so that I could personally guarantee the highest possible standard of work (a key work ethic that remains central to my core business values today) – a plan that I rigidly stuck to for the next year!!

I bet you can imagine how this went!!? More and more businesses were coming to me for ever more varied business support – I didn’t want to turn them away so I was working longer hours and getting less and less sleep! I was finding it hard to find time to manage my own business and my quality of life (and my husband!!) really suffered. As well as the more traditional forms of business support (diary management, email management, events organising, etc.), I was being asked to manage social media accounts and write copy for websites – brand new skills that I had to learn quickly via courses and relevant reading in my spare time! And then it hit me. I was advising my customers to put their trust in me, a third party, to help them manage their time and work more effectively, when I wasn’t even doing it myself!!

CC Professional Secretarial Services

Through local networking and also hooking up with other VAs, I got in touch with other support businesses offering services that complemented my own – a slightly scary process when you’re a bit of a control freak and really want to maintain quality and manage customer expectations! But I just had to take that risk and work through it.

The first thing I decided to seek help with was social media support. As many Virtual Assistants know, sending a few tweets and scheduling the odd ‘engaging’ Facebook post can literally suck hours out of your working week! I met with a local Social Media Manager/Copywriter and decided to ‘bite the bullet’ and take her on as an Associate Partner, to help with basic social media support. We began slowly, with just the odd scheduled social media post here and there (each of which had been checked by myself, and my customer, for quality and to ensure consistency in tone). Then I asked another local VA to help me with some overflow work for one client – it proved remarkably successful and the client (and her clients) were delighted! All this definitely helped to build positive and trusting working relationships and gave me the confidence to gradually seek additional support from further Associate Partners, each offering unique services and skills that helped to broaden the range of high quality services that CC Professional Secretarial Services could provide to local and national businesses.

The first thing I decided to seek help with was social media support Click To Tweet

So here I am today, six years on from the soft launch of CC Professional Secretarial Services, offering a wider range of top quality business support services than ever before, thanks to the unique skills and dedication of a talented team that I have fortunate enough to put together – quite a step change from that person who was adamant at the beginning that they would ‘go it alone’ in the VA world!

I now have amazing channel partnerships with some incredible businesses who I’m honoured to work with – three other Associate VAs who help with the growing workload, talented IT support, an experienced Web Designer and SEO/PPC expert, an efficient and friendly Call Handling partner, a fabulous Bookkeeper – etc., etc. I love the fact that we have created our own small and effective network of mutually beneficial support, and still work to the notoriously high standard that I expect.

I have amazing channel partnerships with some incredible businesses who I’m honoured to work with Click To Tweet

CC Professional Secretarial Services has changed so much in the last 6 years; it is exciting to imagine where we will be in another 6 years’ time!

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