Terri Leary, an experienced EA, Office Manager and Virtual Assistant business owner, recently took the time to chat with us about her career so far. In our conversation, Terri shared expert advice and tips for the Personal and Executive Assistants in our audience currently working from home for the first time due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
Hi, Terri. Could you tell us a bit about your career history and your virtual assistant business?
“I am an experienced Operations Manager, Executive Assistant and Events Manager with over 15 years’ experience at an international level and a demonstrated history of working in the digital industry. My passion is keeping a busy CEO and office calm and organized.”
“I also currently offer a virtual assistance service, being a Virtual Assistant (VA) means I can get to help! I get to do the tasks that normally take up valuable time, leaving my clients to focus on what they do best and ultimately help them make more money. I’m exceptionally organised, trusted and reliable, I can multi-task like nobody’s business, and I’m great at getting results within short time frames.”
“My previous experience includes being an Operations Manager of a digital training company, which was successfully sold in 2016. This role was a varied role covering areas such as Company Secretary, HR, financial administration, implementation of office administration processes and office move management. Other experience includes an Office Manager and Executive Assistant position at a mobile gaming provider and being an HR Assistant for Universal Music International.”
“Colleagues know me to possess strong multi-tasking skills, with the ability to simultaneously manage various projects and schedules. I am also co-founder of an executive networking event called Centurions Connected, established in 2009.”
We know that a big part of being an Assistant is adapting to changing priorities, but could you tell us what a day in the life of a Virtual Assistant might entail?
“I work for a range of companies; two training companies (one based in London the other in NYC), one restaurant chain and mobile games studio Reality Gaming Group. So, quite a varied mix. I have a different relationship with each client. One just needs a few hours a week to help with invoicing and booking travel, while another is 3 days a week in an Operations Manager capacity. The joy of being a Virtual Assistant is that I can help people so they can concentrate on what they do best and not have to worry about the day to day mundane tasks.”
“I don’t think I have a typical day and that’s the best part of this job. Not one day is ever the same. One day I can be creating a budget for the next 5 years and the next building office furniture.”
How do you ensure that you stay motivated while working from home?
“I plan my week out as much as I can on a Monday, there will always be other priorities that come in during the week but having a rough plan helps me keep on track for the week. It’s essential to take regular breaks as being at home alone it is so easy to get lost in a project and not realise you haven’t moved from your laptop for 6 hours. Set alarms to get up and move about, put the washing on or go for a quick walk. Thought I can’t do this at the moment, I usually also take advantage of going to work in a coffee shop a few hours a week to break the location up.”
A major anxiety for PAs and EAs working from home for the first time surrounds the idea of their role becoming defunct. How do you keep the role an essential one while working remotely full-time?
“Just because you are not in the office doesn’t mean you’re ‘out of sight, out of mind’. As long as you are reliable, resourceful and have good time management, your client or employer will see you as an essential member of the team. There is so much technology now available to make working from home pretty much like working in an office. I expect to see a major shift after the recent world lockdown of more companies wanting staff to work from home.”
Good, healthy relationships with bosses and colleagues can influence the happiness and success of an Assistant. How do you cultivate good working relationships with your clients while working from home?
“Communication is another key element of being a VA. Stay in regular contact with your client or boss at a level they are happy with. I have regular video conference calls with the clients - whether the CEO or the whole team - and I also join some of the teams for “virtual” Friday night drinks or any other office activities, whether virtual or in person if I can.”
What was the toughest challenge you faced when transitioning from an office-based PA to a virtual assistant business owner?
“One of the main challenges I struggled with first of all is switching off. It was hard as the laptop was always nearby and I would be answering emails at all hours of the day and night. It took some self-discipline to set myself regular hours. Of course there are times that you have to work late or at a strange hour. I also found it strange that I could just go a meet a friend for a mid-week brunch, it took a while for me to realise that I am now my boss and can set the hours I want to work. As long as the work gets done in the time frame the client is expecting, you can manage that time to work for you.”
What would you say are the main advantages of being a Virtual Assistant?
“Being able to set your own hours and chose the location of your office for that day. When setting this business up my main goal was to be able to work on a beach. I have worked on the beach in Bali and Copacabana - now how many office-bound employees can say that?”
What do you like most about working from home?
“I like the freedom that I have taken back. Being able to just put a wash on or start the dinner is such a godsend. And as I said previously, the ability to take my business anywhere in the world and continue to work with such great clients. Oh and having no commute is a dream!”
Do you have any final tips or advice for the EAs and PAs in our audience currently working from home for the first time amid the Coronavirus pandemic?
“Getting dressed is the absolute priority. It sounds so simple but completely changes your mindset for the day and puts you in ‘work’ mode.”
“Take regular breaks, go for your one daily exercise outside and get some fresh air. I find that taking breaks helps me think about what I am working on and might give me a different perspective on that task that I might be struggling with.”
“Take advantage of the video call facilities that are available. I have one client where me and a colleague catch up on the last 24 hours and work out a plan for the next via a video call. Just seeing and speaking to your colleagues makes you still feel part of the team and less isolated.”
“Most of all, embrace it! How many people that are currently working from home will ever get this opportunity again?”
For more information about her VA business, check out Terri’s website https://terrilearyva.wixsite.com/website or contact her at email@example.com.