Pros and Cons of Being a Virtual Assistant with Jan Whiting
Episode 10 Show Notes:
Jan started her online business as a virtual assistant (VA) many years ago. Since then she has pivoted her business and walked away from offering virtual assistant services. She is currently working with one long-time colleague and assists 3 other clients but is not taking on any new clients. Today, we’ll find out more about why she is no longer a VA, changed her business and the ups and downs of being a VA .
This podcast is about our experiences with being self-employed, entrepreneurship, and bootstrapping it. Sometimes I have a spectacular guest that join me and share their stories. Also it’s about connecting to our soul, our inner selves to unwind and chill. My name is Lourdes, and I hope you enjoy this episode!
In this episode, my fabulous guest today is Jan Whiting. Jan worked as a high school secretary for 36 years, and when the school closed, she was offered a pension. However, just before she retired, Jan started her online business as a virtual assistant. I met Jan about 5 or 6 years ago when she was a virtual assistant, had her own clients, and also worked on a virtual assistant team. Since then, Jan has pivoted her business, and walked away from virtual assistant services. She is currently working with a one long-time colleague, and assists three other clients, but is not taking on any new clients. And so today, we’ll find out more about why she changed her business, and the ups and downs of being a virtual assistant.
Lourdes: And thanks for joining me today jan! How are ya?
Jan: I’m doing great, thank you. Thanks for inviting me!
Lourdes: Oh yeah, absolutely! This will be fun! So, after you retired, you were looking for an opportunity to continue working, is that why you decided to pursue a virtual assistant’s services back then? And how did you hear about it?
Jan: So, at the time when I first heard about being a virtual assistant, I was on my own with two teenage children. And I was always looking for a way to have just a little bit of extra money coming in. And it was actually on Facebook Marketplace that I first heard about being a virtual assistant. Somebody had been advertising her services through there, and so I started doing a search, and it just really excited me, the whole thought of working from home and making a bit of extra money.
Lourdes: Ok, you heard about the VA on Facebook, what did you find out you needed to do? Do you need to have a lot of money to start, what did you find out?
Jan: Well, first of all, I was very lucky. I found that in my local area there was a virtual assistant association, and these women met once a month for a meeting. So, I asked if I could attend, and I was able to meet some local women who were already doing this. So through that, I found out that it’s not expensive to start a virtual assistant business, all you needed was a good internet connection and a computer, and some skills that you could offer to clients.
Lourdes: Speaking of skills, what skills were you offering to clients back then?
Jan: At the time, I wasn’t sure what I could offer. Having worked in a high school, I thought “what do I have that would be good to offer a client?” Not understanding that some of the hard skills and the soft skills all transferred over. So the first thing I did was take a course in learning how to do online book marketing for authors. And through that, I became interested in learning about marketing, something that I had never learned about in school or in my career.
Lourdes: Online book marketing? Did you finish that course, and did you ever offer it?
Jan: I did finish that course, and I did offer the services. But I also found it was very hard to offer that to authors. Most authors that need the services are just starting out, and aren’t really wanting to pay for the services. So it was kind of like a catch-22. So through that, the next phase that I learned how – the next skill I learned was formatting a book so it could be uploaded to Kindle.
Lourdes: And did you learn that on your own, or was that part of a course?
Jan: There was a course, but I did most of it that I kind of learned on my own. There was the course that got into a lot of technical things, but all you need is, if you have Word or similar on your computer, you could do it yourself.
Lourdes: Do you think authors still need some of that help with formatting for an e-book? Is that for an e-book, actually?
Jan: It is for an e-book. Yes, I think authors still need that, and again, it’s… A lot of authors today are self-published, and they will write whatever it is they know whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, but they don’t have the skills to format so it would be accepted by Kindle, or any of the other e-publishing platforms.
Lourdes: And moving on, what other specialized skills were you working on when you first started as a virutal assistant?
Jan: During the course of working as a virtual assistant, I assisted other virtual assistants, other VAs with their services. And through that, I did learn WordPress, which is a website platform. I didn’t learn coding, but I did learn a little bit about WordPress, and some e-mail marketing software. I started with Mailchimp, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I was working with a client, and they were using a software program at the time Infusionsoft. It has now changed its name, and it’s called Keap. A lot of people struggle with that, they think it’s very technical, for me I loved it. I still love it.
Lourdes: Yeah, I remember Infusionsoft, but then we used to call it Confusionsoft because that is a tough platform or software to use, and so there’s a need for that today is what you’re saying.
Jan: Yes there is, there’s a fine need.
Lourdes: Can you tell us what Infusionsoft, or Keap, does?
Jan: It is a all-in-one e-mail marketing system, so you can send out your e-mail marketing to your clients. There’s an affiliate program in there, so if you’re offering an affiliate program to your clients or to other customers, you can run it through there, as well as e-commerce. So this is especially good for clients who maybe have training programs, so they can e-mail their clients when they purchase their program. It’s all run through Infusionsoft, or Keap. And if you are running an affiliate, whereas if somebody uses their link, you would pay them a certain percentage, you can run that through there as well.
Lourdes: Ok, and what about payments? Are they run through that too?
Jan: Yes, the payments are also run through Keap.
Lourdes: Ok, so I’m imagining that set up will be done in the very beginning when a new client comes on to Keap, and then all that is preset?
Jan: Yes, it is set up. One of the other things I really like about Keap, it’s called campaigns. So you can set up your e-mails to go out automatically, and it can be based on a date, or it can be based on a day after the previous e-mail sent out, or however you would like it set up. So it’s great for clients that can set up five or ten e-mails, and then the e-mails go out at the specified time.
Lourdes: Did you go with a team, or did you stay solo for a long time?
Jan: I initially was on a team with other virtual assistants. I think I had two or three teams. They were all run differently. So you’d have a virtual assistant who was growing her business, she would bring on VAs to help out with the client. I liked that, I like the idea of being with a team. I also had a few of my own clients that I dealt with. So I did both.
Lourdes: Are there pros and cons to being solo or on a team?
Jan: Yes there are. When you are solo and you have your own clients, you get paid a higher rate of pay. When you’re on a team, the pro to that is that you don’t have to market for clients, the virtual assistant you’re working for is doing all the marketing and dealing with the client, but the rate of pay is less.
Lourdes: When you’re a solopreneur, do you find that you have more flexible hours than being on a team? Or when you’re on a team is it still a flexible hour schedule for you?
Jan: Well that’s one of the conundrums about being a virtual assistant. When I started I thought it would be very flexible, and in a way I think it is. You can do a lot of the work on your own time. But I also found that your days can be longer, because you’re almost at the beck and call of your client. So if they have a launch or something is going on, you have to be available and ready for any issues that may come up, or any last minute work that has to happen.
Lourdes: So if you were to advise a new person getting into the virtual assistant world, would you advise them to be solopreneur, or join a team right away?
Jan: I would suggest to join a team right away. That’s a good place to learn new skills, because you will be asked to do things that you’re not sure about, that you’ve never done before, and it’s a good way to learn because you have the other team members that can help you out, or the virtual assistant that you’re working with. So that is the one way I would suggest is a good way to pick up your skills. And then you can also learn “I like doing this task, but I don’t like doing that task.”
Lourdes: Oh, so you’re able to tell the business owner that, or the VA you’re working for?
Jan: Yes you can. Because you’re still your own business owner, even though you’re working for another VA.
Lourdes: When you were on a team, did you ever have to work with a difficult client?
Jan: Any of the teams I’ve been on, I did not deal directly with the client. All my dealings went through the virtual assistant I was working for. So the virtual assistant I was working for was my actual client.
Lourdes: And when you were a solopreneur Jan, did you ever have any difficult clients?
Jan: I guess it depends on what you call difficult. Every client is different. Some of them had higher expectations. Some of them were fine, they just thought it was great, anything I could do to help them. And others didn’t understand, and I’m not sure if I’m saying this correctly but, the concept that I was my own business owner, and I was not like an administrative assistant who would sit outside an office. So when you’re actually in a job, and you’re sitting in the office, your boss or your manager would come out and say do this do that. But I’ve had clients that would message me on WhatsApp, or a text, and ask me to do this do that or the next thing. And it really was not – They weren’t being difficult, it was just my boundaries I guess I didn’t set up, or the way they wanted to work. So for me it was a little bit difficult.
Lourdes: We’ve all had, well I’ve had clients that were difficult, in a way, and it was boundary setting. With these clients that you may find “different,” have you ever had to let go of any client?
Jan: I have had to do that. It’s not nice, it’s not easy, but sometimes it has to be done. And so, a lot of times I would offer to help them find someone if they didn’t have anyone available, and I would just let the client know that this isn’t working out, and I would help them find somebody who might be more suitable for the skills that they were looking for, or their needs.
Lourdes: I understand you’re not really accepting any new clients as a VA. What have you been up to?
Jan: Well, I’m trying to take more time for myself, for my health. But also, I discovered VoxxLife, which is a company that’s into neurowellness. And so I’m working on that. And just, again, taking time for myself that I never did before.
Lourdes: Yes, and being retired you have that nice option huh!
Jan: I do, I do! And I must admit, if I had to do anything over again when I retired, I would’ve taken 6 months just to myself before starting a VA business.
Lourdes: Oh, that’s good advice! And in those 6 months for yourself, what do you think you would’ve been doing?
Jan: I think I would’ve just, again, maybe looked after my health. Done things that I hadn’t done for 36 years, that I was working. Because that’s all I’d ever known, and I just stepped from one to the other without stepping back and saying ok, it’s time for some self-care.
Lourdes: Getting back to the VoxxLife, you said it was a neuro… health company?
Jan: Yes, it’s “neuro” wellness. The main product, that we call the Master Key, it’s HPT, which is Human Performance Technology, and it’s a wearable neurotag. So it’s not your FitBit or your Apple Watch or anything like that, but it is a tactile pattern that is in an insole in a sock, and when this pattern touches your skin, it sends a signal to your brain within 7 seconds, and it puts it into homeostasis. Which basically that’s just a way of saying it’s in balance, and then your brain works better.
Lourdes: And when people use these products, how soon do they feel these effects?
Jan: Well that’s a question I can’t answer, because everybody is different. What it does for your brain besides being in balance, no one knows but your brain. Which is really hard to explain to someone, because everyone’s different. But we have had pain relief. We’ve had over 95% effectiveness with curing plantar fasciitis. Clients have improved energy, stability, range of motion, more energy, everyone’s different. We’ve got thousands upon thousands of testimonials from people whose wellness has improved just from wearing a pair of socks.
Lourdes: That is very interesting! I can sure use a pair of socks for my low backache sometimes! So, the Voxx clients, how do you find them?
Jan: It’s mostly from word of mouth. When you help someone, they can’t help but tell someone else about it. And so that’s mainly how that works. A couple of years ago I did do one of those Facebook parties that a lot of people did. At one point we used to have the in-home parties, they used to call them Sock n’ Sole parties. So think of in the days of Tupperware and you’d go into someone’s home and do a demonstration. But of course, that all stopped in 2020, and we moved online. And I did do a few of the Facebook parties, but I found it was very time-consuming. Not for me, because I love talking about this and helping people, but it’s hard for the person who’s attending, because there’s just so much information coming at them. So right now I’m just relying on word of mouth.
Lourdes: What else do you do for Voxx? Do you send e-mail, do you go on Facebook still for any postings about this?
Jan: I have taken a bit of a step back from social media, but I really should be using it a little bit more for Voxxlife. I do have an e-mail list. When I have a customer that signs up, I will send them some e-mails to explain what to expect, how to take care of the socks. And then I try and e-mail my customers at least once a month, just to try and keep updated with them.
Lourdes: When you’re not working in your Voxx or helping out your clients that you have now, what do you do for fun?
Jan: I like to crochet. I love watching crochet videos on YouTube, I love actually crocheting, looking at yarn, and buying yarn. [Laughter]
Lourdes: [Laughter] Why not?! If it fills your heart, brings you joy, why not? So, how long have you been crocheting?
Jan: I first learned how to crochet in my early twenties. My mother wanted to learn how, and at the time we went to a night class. And she didn’t drive, so I would drive her, so I went into the class and I learned how to crochet. I didn’t really keep it up, I was off and on for years. But after retiring, it was yes, I really want to jump into this again! And with YouTube, being able to watch videos, and people teaching different skills or stitches or techniques, it definitely made it more interesting.
Lourdes: And is that also for relaxation, crocheting?
Jan: Yes it is.
Lourdes: That’s nice. So your crochet projects, do you have a piece that you’re most proud of?
Jan: Well right now I’m working on a dog sweater. Which, the pattern is a little bit difficult to follow, but I’m making my way through it. And I’ve recently learned how to do what’s called a Graphgan. So that’s corner-to-corner, so instead of going straight lines back and forth, you go up, it widens both ways. So exactly what it says, corner-to-corner. And putting an image within there.
Lourdes: That sounds difficult!
Jan: Well, it was, it was a bit of a challenge. But, something I’m proud of. I just enjoy it so much, learning new techniques and learning something new in crochet.
Lourdes: So Jan, can you name one or two people that is most influential when you first began your business journey?
Jan: My virtual assistant business journey?
Lourdes: Or the Voxx, whichever.
Jan: With the virtual assistant, I want to name some of the local virtual assistants that I met in person. And the reason I want to do that is because it’s somebody you actually meet and you can ask questions of, whether in person or by e-mail. It’s somebody that is available all the time. Now the first person I want to mention, her name is Janet Barclay. She is the founder of the local VA group I told you about, it’s the Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistant. And she started out as a virtual assistant many years ago, and she is now a website designer and caregiver. So she’s gone from virtual assistant to websites.
And another person I want to mention, also started as a virtual assistant, is Angela Spisak. And she started as a virtual assistant on team, helping other people, and she now has her own digital marketing business. So, the two of them have helped me out tremendously, and I’m really proud of both them have gone from being a VA, and just evolved into a bigger business.
Lourdes: That’s so nice, evolving. So, we’re gonna be reaching the end of our podcast, but before I let you go, I always ask a funny or weird question. So here it goes! Jan, if you were an inanimate object for one whole year, what would you be, and why?
Jan: Oh my goodness, an inanimate object! Hm… [Laughter] You know what, I’m going to say a cell phone.
Jan: Why? Because a cell phone isn’t just sitting there and not going anywhere, like a lamp or a pitcher. A cell phone goes out with the person who owns the cell phone. And, when the person is doing whatever it is they’re doing on the cell phone, you’re helping them out.
Lourdes: I love your answer! Can you imagine the conversations you can listen to?
Jan: [Laughter] Yes, exactly!
Lourdes: Wow! Thank you Jan for joining me today! And I’ll just put your information on the show notes, and if you want people to contact you I can add you in there too. So, thank you so much for joining me today, and this was so fun to get to know you better!
Jan: Oh, thank you so much for asking me Lourdes, I had a lot of fun today!
Lourdes: Thanks Jan! And for next week’s episode, we will talk about landing pages and websites. What is the difference between the two? You don’t wanna miss next week’s episode, and until then, thanks for listening!
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*****Disclaimer: All the episodes in this podcast are for information purposes only. The views and expressions from the show and our guests are their own. 8th Level Podcast, its subsidiaries and owner are not liable nor guarantee any business outcomes or your success. Seek optional advice from tax preparers, legal, and financial pros at your own discretion. For more information of our terms and disclaimer go here.