I was never one of those people who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. I went from wanting to be a mechanic, to wanting to teach to wanting to be a barrister.
Although I was pretty smart, I never excelled in anything. That was until I took Business Studies at GCSE. This was the first time I’d come across something that really excited me, and the only class I’ve ever really wanted to be at. It probably helped that we were a very small class as it was the first year of the course, and the fact that the teacher was just amazing. She was one of those that knew how to inspire and engage students. In this subject I excelled so much that they allowed me to take the exams early. It’s possibly not a surprise that I followed Business through to A Levels.
A Levels didn’t go quite so well for me, and not all the blame was mine. It did mean however, that I was done with education. I had lost faith in the education system, but more than that, I had lost faith in myself.
I must have literally sent my CV to every office in Dorchester trying to secure a position, and every rejection letter felt like another defeat. Finally, I got a chance. And not just any chance, it was with a law firm. Could this be the sign that law was my calling after all? Barrister here I come.
Nope. Law was not my calling. I loved the firm. But I did not love law. At school, law was shouting across the classroom at one another, arguing our case. In reality, law was books and paperwork. So, when I was offered ILEX training, I just knew it wasn’t the direction for me. I can’t tell you how lost I felt. I did however, quite fancy running the office, so set my sights on an Office Manager position. I was super elated when I achieved that goal. That feeling didn’t last long. Yes, I loved running the office, and I love helping people so thrived on the positives of managing people. When it came to the tougher side of managing people, that wasn’t my forte. Especially when half the staff trained me – it didn’t sit well. And on those days, I struggled.
When an opportunity arose to launch a new co-working space in
Birmingham, I just had to take it. This was the dream job. It was cool, edgy, we had the freedom to run the business without staff to worry about (it was just me and my manager), plus they gave me a clothing allowance to make sure I always looked trendy. I didn’t even know workspaces and careers like this existed. I was learning new skills in social media and marketing. I saw a whole new way of working and was once again fuelled with excitement.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t to last for personal reasons. To be honest, I’m not sure the city was for me anyway. For a year or two it would have been fun, it was new, it was buzzing, but after that, I’m not ashamed to say I love the slower and quieter pace of life.
On my return to Dorchester, I have to confess I was feeling more than a little broken and quite worthless. For a twenty something, at the time, I had already had a few tough lessons in life and didn’t know what was next. Job hunting in Dorset was pretty underwhelming, particularly when I had seen the sparkly and glittery jobs available in a city setting.
I remember clear as day, I was sat on the sofa in my dad’s lounge feeling rather sorry for myself when it just hit me. I had had enough of feeling sorry for myself and allowing others to have control over my life and decisions, and that was it, I was going to prove my worth.
I had been speaking with someone while in Birmingham about how they wanted to outsource their call handling, so it made their business look bigger and made sure they didn’t miss a call and potentially a new client. I could do that! I had been a receptionist and had a job which involved answering the telephone since I was 18. Plus, there was that company that asked if we did administration support as part of our package at Alpha Works. OMG, that’s it. I can bring Virtual working to Dorchester. Over the weekend I had created the first version of my logo, created my website and researched how I could let people know that this was me and this was what I was doing. Easy!
Well it wasn’t.
Firstly, no one had ever heard of a Virtual Assistant, let alone what we can do and whether it actually worked. The theory people understood once I explained it but convincing them that this was a thing and there are systems and technology in place which make it one of the most effective services available for small businesses, start-ups and sometimes larger companies was another matter.
Eventually I got my first break. And after 6 months I was turning work away. For the first time, I felt worthy. I had set out to take back control and I had done just that. All my hard work, all those tears, it was all worth it. And I realised, in the beginning it was about proving my worth to everyone else, in the end, I had done it for me. I had done it to create a life I wanted. I had done it to prove to myself that I am worthy and that I don’t need to measure my success against anyone else.
And it hasn’t stopped there. I now know that I need to learn. I need to be constantly developing myself personally and professionally to stop boredom setting in, and I make sure that I fulfil that need.
I no longer dread Monday mornings. I love what I do, and in fact I often find myself working 6 or 7 days a week. That doesn’t mean I work all the time though. I just work to my own schedule. I listen to my brain and my body, and when it says it’s had enough, I take a break. I hit the gym, or I go shopping or read. I just do me. And I don’t feel guilty for it. I know it’s how I avoid burn out.
No longer am I tied to only four weeks holiday. I can travel whenever I wish and if I have work to do, I take it with me. The freedom and satisfaction this has brought me, I can’t even express. I love to travel and get itchy feet if I don’t. This way I get the best of both worlds.
I don’t ever have to sacrifice or miss out because I can’t take time off. I don’t have children myself, but I do have nieces and a nephew, and I love being an aunty. Being able to watch them in their school plays or be there for sports day is something I didn’t even realise I was missing until I was able to be there.
My relationships with friends and family has changed. Because I’m no longer stressed or in an unhappy environment, I’m so much nicer when I’m home. I’m present in that moment and can focus on them rather than stress about going back in to work the next day.
There are so many reasons why becoming a Virtual Assistant changed my life, and each one of them a positive. Going solo was a huge risk, and had the potential to go spectacularly wrong, however, it was the best decision I’ve ever made and the only time I look back is to see how far I’ve come.
That’s why in January 2019 I launched The Contemporary PA’s License, allowing other people to do the same using my model and branding. Licensees receive training from me on exactly how I have created my business, receive ongoing support from me, and have a team of other Licensees to share their journey.
If you would like to find out more about our License and launching as a Contemporary PA, contact Gemma.