Deirdre Shockley will be recognized as one of VA Forums' more generous contributors. She lives near Elizabethtown, KY, and is wife to Tim since 1993 and the mother of 3 children: daughter 19, son 8, and son 6. The family has recently moved to Diedre's grandparents' farm and built a house.
Deirdre's background includes work in a pharmacy, physician’s office, hospice, state government agencies, church offices and more. Find out more about her at http://dvirtualoffice.com/about.html
Please feel free to respond to Diedre with questions, comments, etc., within this thread.
Please tell us your history as a VA. When did you start, what motivated you to open a VA business, and how has your progress been?
In 1997 I bought a book about beginning a home word processing business but didn’t have the motivation to do what it took to start my own business, which was probably a good thing because I began working and increasing my skills. When 2007 rolled around I realized I had waited long enough and told my husband that I was going to start my business. He was very supportive as I began my quest for information. I spent hours reading and researching about Virtual Assistance. In April 2007 I bought my domain name, got my business license and opened my virtual doors. It was at this time that I stumbled upon OIVAC
(Online International Virtual Assistant Convention). The presenters for this conference were incredible. I took away so much knowledge and gained more confidence.
My progress as a Virtual Assistant has been perfect. I, of course, wanted people to be knocking down my door, but found it was a good thing it was a gradual progression. I started out with some small jobs and then things started happening. I did a little task with Ros Null, The Edge VA
, and when her business started to grow she asked me to help with some clients. Then Kylie Short of Tilda Virtual Services
asked me to assist her with some projects. I then responded to an RFP from Julie Ensor
and began working with her business. And from a promotion that you’ll read about later on, I am working as Erin Blaskie
’s Project Manager.
What's your typical work day like?
Of course the first thing I do is check my email. I categorize everything in Outlook for my tasks. I then begin with my Project Management client to make sure everything is set for everyone. Then I tackle the projects one by one. I really try to focus on one client at a time. It’s really hard for me to ignore email when it comes in, so sometimes I have to close my email program while I work on a project so I don’t get distracted.
What kinds of clients do you most enjoy serving?
I enjoy working with coaches and I love my project management tasks.
How did you come to focus exclusively on the VA market, and what do you like about working this way?
For a while I was focusing on providing assistance for churches, but they're a hard niche to crack. I was working with one church a bit but now no longer work with them. I think the problem is that the VA would have to convince the entire or at least a good portion of the congregation. And again this is where my poor marketing skills come into play. I’m not aggressive enough to go knocking on the doors of the churches to promote my business. Maybe one day I’ll have what it takes. But for right now I’m very content to do what I’m doing.
I find it very difficult to promote myself. I found it was very hard for me to separate my business from myself. I do not enjoy marketing so I am very happy to let the other VAs do the marketing and let me do the work.
What is the hardest part about being a VA, for you? What's the easiest?
I think time management is the hardest part of Virtual Assistance. I have to learn when to close the doors for work. The easiest part is not having to “go” to work. I love being at home, so this is perfect.
In learning about the VA world, have your run across any really great tools/books/resources you'd recommend to other VAs?
I think the most valuable resource has been the forums. I did purchase Diana Ennen
’s book and I also took the course that Kathie Thomas
has for new VAs.
Which parts of your work do you enjoy the most? What do you like about them? Are there some things you dislike doing?
I like working with blogs and websites, and project management.
I dislike article marketing.
What methods do you rely on most to bring in new business? What marketing tips can you share?
My clients are other Virtual Assistants and their clients, and my advice to the VA if you want to subcontract is to actively participate in the forums. Use good grammar and punctuation when you reply to messages. I participated in Erin Blaskie’s, So You Think You Can Sub promotion this past summer, and received several interviews and signed contracts with 2 VAs.
You have a great website. Tell us a little about the evolution of your site to this point. What advice do you have for VAs regarding their sites?
Thank you! My website is a template that I found, I picked one and with trial and error I made it work. Until my website, I had not had any experience with html. My advice is to find a nice free template so the site has a more professional look.
What is your opinion regarding VA certification?
I personally don’t feel it is necessary. If one has certification that is great but I gained most of my knowledge by experience and sometimes feel that life is a better teacher than some schools. We don’t all fit into the same mold.
How's your business holding up in these difficult economic times?
My business is actually doing quite well.
One of your service areas is Genealogy. Readers may be interested to know more about your work in that area: how did you decide to focus there, and are you finding many clients?
I started doing some genealogy research for my own family years ago. I found the thrill of finding that one little piece of information was worth the hours of research. I found clients by placing an ad at the state genealogy library. I don’t do very much genealogy research anymore.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I am a member of my local Homemakers group and a Quilting Guild. We just moved to a farm and plan to raise chickens and possibly turkeys in the spring. In fact I’ve asked my family to buy me the necessary equipment for Christmas so I’ll be ready for spring!
You're a longtime member of these forums. Please tell us what keeps you coming back here.
I love the friendships that develop from chatting with one another. When I first started reading the forums I was amazed at the friendliness of everyone. Everyone was very quick to share whatever they could. The VA community is a very giving group!