Jenny Lewis founded Adminosaurus on the 1st January 2016 after realising her desperate need for freedom, control over her own destiny, and to be able to harvest her own ideas.
Jenny’s started her professional life with a dream of becoming the real Indiana Jones with her degree in Archaeology. Sadly, it hasn’t turn into a reality (although never say never) and she instead fell into an administrative role of a local authority.
She worked hard under a fantastic manager who wanted Jenny to excel, and from there moved into a marketing role. After a self-funded CIM qualification, she was offered the new role of Marketing Administrator and from there in to the Marketing Officer role.
Unfortunately, as happens to so many people working in the public sector, the job made Jenny ill. Very ill. After a panic attack and meltdown too many, followed by an epiphany, she quit.
After a stint as a freelance copywriter – which she didn’t enjoy – she went back into employment. This time in to finance. But whilst the job was great and she thrived within the organisation, getting promoted to supervisor within three months, she felt smothered and longed for her freedom back.
And that’s when she took the plunge to set up her own VA business.
She admits that she perhaps did it the wrong way by quitting before getting any clients, but she has no regrets.
Read our chat with Jenny in full to find out more about her VA business.
Did you do any specific training before you opened for business e.g. book-keeping, web-design, start-up business, something particular to VAs and was it useful?
No. I rely on the experience and knowledge gained from nearly 10 years of administrative roles, but mostly I’ve read a lot about starting a business and taken some helpful webinars. I follow business owners that I find inspirational (Vicky Fraser’s Business for Superheroes and Denise Duffield-Thomas’s Lucky Bitch blog) and have joined a lot of business groups on Facebook (Kimra Luna’s Freedom Hackers and until recently I was a member of the Female Entrepreneur Association). I taught myself web design a while ago when setting up a personal blog, and when I was a reclusive teenager I would build HTML websites. But I am planning a bookkeeping course in the future, both for my own needs and to offer as a service.
How did you find your first client and what was the first job?
I’m still working with my first client. We have a friend in common who introduced us when I first announced that I’d started my VA business and her friend told her she needed some help at the same time. I proofread, edit and publish/schedule blog posts for her, as well as source images, do research, manage some of her social media and a spot of data entry.
Have you developed a niche area and what is it?
At the moment I’m focusing on a marketing niche. I was quite surprised when I started how many design and marketing agencies were interested in working with me. My marketing background gives them confidence that I’ll not only be able to do the work well, but I’ll understand the what and why of the work too.
Do you work alone or with other VAs/employ someone?
It’s just me.
What strategies have you used to grow your business and what has and hasn’t worked?
In terms of growing your business, I’m a strong believer that you have to find what works for you, no matter what everyone else says. For example, a lot of people talk trash about pitching via email but done the right way, it can fetch great results. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback and interest from my email pitches. I also love direct mail. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money (a bit of printing and postage), but it’s something you can be creative with and really show off your brand and personality. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from my direct mailings.
What has been most difficult thing about growing your business?
Finding clients has been the most difficult thing. It’s definitely a learning curve. I have a lot of ideas and I love doing the work, but finding the right people to work with can be tricky.
Tell us something about a typical day and what kind of work you do?
I’m a writer as well as a VA, so my typical day starts with some fiction writing or editing. It means I start every day with something that’s mine, and it means I can get lost in client work later without feeling guilty about neglecting my own work.
I’ll usually then do a marketing related task for Adminosaurus, whether that’s sending out a pitch or another marketing channel such as guest blogging, which is something I’m looking into right now.
Then it’s onto client work for the rest of the day. That can be anything from proofreading, finding images, uploading pages and posts to websites, finding content to share on social media, creating presentations and social media graphics, or finding information on the internet.
The end of the day is usually taken up with checking my own social media accounts and doing a bit more work on my own business.
What are your favourite applications/gadgets that you couldn’t live without?
My favourite applications are Thunderbird, for my email, Picmonkey and Toggl.
Thunderbird is free and allows me to access all of my emails, business and personal, at once. It means I can be in my personal emails, looking at webinars, when a client will ping me an email and I can answer it immediately.
I love Picmonkey for making graphics for my website, social media and for my clients. Again, it’s free, and it’s easy to use. In fact, it’s fun! I’ve lost a few evenings to messing around with Picmonkey.
Toggl is a great app for time recording and the free version does everything you need. You can assign clients, different projects for each client, pause time and create professional and detailed time sheets at the end.
What do you enjoy most about being a Virtual Assistant?
It feels good to finally accept myself. Yes, I love being organised. Doing data entry, creating spreadsheets and uploading blog posts gives me a small thrill. It’s great that I can now make a career out of that while being my own boss. That’s the other great thing about being a VA. The freedom, both literal and creative, is fantastic. There’s no one to say no to your ideas (apart from your clients of course), and there’s no one to ask where you think you’re going when you want to go out for a walk.
What do you enjoy least about being a Virtual Assistant?
There are definitely some benefits to being employed. What I miss the most is being able to have a day off and NOT think about work. When you’re self-employed, it’s almost impossible to switch it off.
Being self-employed also means getting out of your comfort zone, which can be hard. Networking events are the bane of my life right now, but a bandwagon I know I need to jump onto. Being a VA is quite a personal thing and clients need to know they can really trust you. That usually means meeting up somehow. Which is where going into a room of strangers and striking up a conversation comes in, and that’s not something I’m great at. I’d rather be at my laptop building a spreadsheet.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given / or you would give to others about growing your business?
The piece of advice that really stuck with me is that the only failure is not trying.
That doesn’t mean you should just try once and then, when it doesn’t work, give up. All businesses encounter hiccups and make mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not trying hard enough. That’s not the failure part, the failure part is when you give up after those mistakes.
To grow your business, you need to put your defiant, stubborn hat on and keep trying. If something doesn’t work, then just try something else.
What do you think are the most important qualities a VA should have?
A VA should be professional but personable and approachable. They should also be problem solvers, love helping people and get a buzz out of doing what other people would consider boring. Bonus points if they collect stationary.