Hi! I’m Samantha Platten, Virtual Assistant – but you already know that right?!
I’m expecting that you’ve clicked on this to find out more about me, to see if we have things in common. To get to know me a little better, to see if perhaps you might want to collaborate with me in some form or another – me as your client, you as my client, within a group, one a 121 basis, now or in the future. That’s cool, I hope I get to find out more about you too. Although just to flag right now, this post is about how I became a VA. There’ll be a lot more info about what a VA is, how I can help you etc in additional posts.
So, where to start? It should probably be with my work history as clearly this isn’t a dating profile (been there, done that!). But, if you’re getting to know me then perhaps I should firstly share that I’m married to an awesome man, who I’ll refer to as J and we have two gorgeous girls, C, and E. (At the time of writing, they are five and 3 years respectively.) More about them later.
What did I do before?
I’ve always enjoyed working. From the age of fourteen I had part time jobs alongside school and subsequently college. I had quite a few too! My first was working in a fish and chip shop in Bournemouth Square. If you’re local and over the age of 30 then you may remember it! I also worked in a deli, a chinese takeaway, a video shop, a bridal boutique, the high street retailer with a name that rhymes with “text”, another high street retailer with a name that rhymes with… ah, nevermind, it was Ernest Jones. These were all part-time roles at (mostly) different times in my life.
My first “proper” job was as an sales administration assistant at a VW and Audi dealership whilst on day release for my NVQ Level 2 in Business Administration. I remember at the time I was SO chuffed with my job and my college course – I felt like a “real” grown up.
I moved on over the years to other Administration roles until I became a PA within a creative agency and here I was exposed to marketing and much of what it entails. It was something I found fascinating. I hadn’t realised the theory and psychology that was involved and it really sparked my interest. So I signed up for the CIM Certificate in Marketing.
Can you guess what happened next? That’s right, I wanted to put the “theory” I had learnt into practice. So I applied and was successful in securing an Account Executive role within a PR agency. (At the time I was one of the many who don’t fully understand the difference between Marketing and PR. Hmmm, note to self – good post idea for another day.)
I was SO lucky with my role at the PR agency, my boss and line manager were both totally fantastic. They taught me a tremendous amount and I even still have a hard copy of the first press release that I wrote where my boss didn’t mark up any amends or mistakes and just wrote “Perfect” at the end. I can still remember how great that felt – that someone I really respected and trusted thought that I’d done something really well. I’d liken it now to when I get similar feedback from a client – there’s not much that feels better!
This wasn’t what I planned…
Unfortunately, recession hit at the same time as I was being made redundant from the PR agency and I found it difficult to find the right role – I was lucky that I didn’t face any periods of unemployment but I applied for roles that retrospectively weren’t quite right for me and did a stint of freelance marketing. I moved on perhaps every couple of years for a while, working in a range of marketing/pr roles both in-house and within agencies trying to my place.
This ended when my mental health took a bit of a downward turn. I won’t go into too much detail right now, but it IS something I try to talk about as it’s had such an impact on my life and my decisions and I hope that by sharing, it helps others going through similar situations. Basically, I ended up sitting in the car park at work crying my eyes out every morning before I went in. Anxiety with a little dose of depression was getting the better of me.
Luckily for me – I have the most supportive husband in the world and we were in a fortunate enough position for him to be able to say “just quit”. So I did. I took 7 months or so out from my “normal” working world and worked part-time in my local pub, I went to counselling sessions and re-set myself.
Getting back on track…
Now this post is getting rather long so I’m going to speed this section up! Here goes…
When I was feeling better, I began freelancing again, I met some really awesome people and my confidence improved. Then, one of my clients offered me a full-time role! This role was a bit of a hybrid and I returned to my PA/Admin roots together with some business and recruitment support thrown in too. I was working for a company that I would previously have been too low in confidence to apply for and this is where my interest and passion for “people/culture/hr” was ignited. I was actually supporting the “People Director” so once again, after being exposed to something that really piqued my interest I was loving my role. My one little niggle was that I occasionally felt like I didn’t quite fit in. I think that mostly this was down to my own insecurities as everyone was lovely, but I was a tiny bit relieved that when I went on maternity leave, my boss resigned and wasn’t replaced, and I was made redundant.
What WAS awesome was that I was able to spend the first 18 months of C’s life at home with her. It was such a lovely time (despite HATING baby groups with a passion but trying to do them as it felt like “the right thing to do”).
Then, when I began to crave grown up conversation and mental stimulation, I approached a local company I’d previously engaged with to see if they had any part-time roles available. I got lucky and began work there for just 8 hours a week. I started off by providing admin support wherever it was needed. My passion for work returned and I mentioned to our MD that I was really interested in HR, something that he primarily dealt with. He said, “Sam, if you want to do then pull it towards you.” I did what he said and offered regularly to get more involved. With the support of my excellent line manager I was also able to undertake some HR training and work with both our retained HR Consultant and the Business Consultant our company brought on board for change management and restructuring. I LOVED it! However, I was getting on and my clock was ticking… if you know what I mean. It was time for baby girl number two! So off I went on maternity leave having increased my 8 hours to 35 hours a week with the title of HR Officer.
As I was nearing the end of my second maternity leave and our eldest was due to start school, I was becoming increasingly anxious about returning work. I enjoyed the role I was doing and worked with some really awesome people. But, being someone who is frustratingly bothered by the opinions other people have of me, I was worried…
Worried what would happen when I needed to attend school assembly, or if one of our girls was poorly, how I would fit back into office life after seeming to lose most of my confidence. With these thoughts going around in my head, I did a little googling. I liked the idea of my own business but I wasn’t sure about “being a boss” so I thought more about what I enjoy and what I don’t enjoy. I talked to J about my concerns and about how I wanted to create a more flexible life and decided to write out what was important to me in me “dream job”. My list of requirements was pretty extensive, but these were just a few…
- Flexibility – non-negotiable
- Working with people who inspire me
- Working with people I trust and respect – non-negotiable
- Being able to utilise the skills I’ve learned and developed over the years
- The opportunity to continuously develop and keep learning
- Having control over the work that I do and who I do it with
- Time to prioritise mental and physical health
- No office politics
I had dabbled with freelancing before and this was in my mind, but I felt like this time was different. I started researching and came across the term “virtual assistant (VA)”.
Now I love to support people, it makes me happy when they succeed. Every role I’ve ever done has meant that I support people in one way or another (even working in a video shop when I was 17!) So the more I read about becoming a VA the more it appealed to me. And I realised that I had actually connected with an expert, award-winning VA trainer and mentor about 6 years previously via Linkedin and Twitter so I got in touch with her. (And for those wondering – yes, it was the Awesome Amanda Johnson of VACT.)
After brainstorming lists of potential clients and possible support services I could offer, a chat with Amanda, a few more discussions with J and a persuasive call to my lovely mum. I did it. I took the plunge! I signed up to Amanda’s VA Mastery Course (which I would HIGHLY recommend – and no, she doesn’t at this stage know I’m writing this!) decided to take the plunge and create the “perfect role”, tailor-made, just for me.
I was very lucky in that my first client was a friend who I’d helped out previously on a freelance basis and he had a nice chunky project for me to work on. So, from there, I’ve worked on my mastery course, and found other clients. I work 3 days a week while my daughters are at school / childcare. (Although it all went a bit strange in the Covid chaos, but hey, everyone’s life did!) I have, at this point, two retainer clients and six ad hoc clients. My course has taken me MUCH longer to finish than I had planned and retrospectively I should have completed it prior to starting working as a VA – but life would be boring if we did everything the right way around ALL the time!
The result is that I’ve created the life I want by becoming a VA. I’ve got all the skills required and more. I provide versatile support in a range of areas, I choose my hours, choose my clients, I do what I love – help and support people to achieve their goals.
Finally, if you’ve made it this far – THANK YOU for reading, I really appreciate your time and I hope I get to know you better soon. If you’d like to read more posts, ask any questions or arrange a 121 then please click on the relevant button below. Oh and if you were reading this because you’re thinking of becoming a VA yourself – speak to Amanda Johnson!
Have a great day!