Lisa Lade started Speedy Audio Typing in April 2014 with well over 30 years of secretarial/administration experience behind her. On leaving school she obtained a place on a Youth Opportunity Programme (similar to an apprenticeship) for a big pharmaceutical company as a trainee audio typist and then went to work for the Metropolitan Police. Over the years she had many different secretarial type jobs, more recently within the surveying/property industry. Lisa has 4 children, now grown up – and as she fast approached a milestone age (we’ve kept that secret Lisa!) decided that she didn’t want to work for someone else anymore. She was tired of being told what to do and having no flexibility – plus working full time and running a home was so tiring. She decided to take the plunge and set up her Virtual Assistant business offering all her skills and focusing on the surveying industry.

We asked Lisa more about her business.

Did you do any specific training before you opened for business and was it useful?

I just read many books about how to start up your own working from home business and joined VA networking groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. Everybody was so helpful and friendly and gave me the confidence to go for it. My husband and family were also very helpful and supportive. My eldest son designed my branding and built my website as he has his own business doing exactly that which was very handy!

How did you find your first client and what was the first job?

Having worked for a company of surveyors I knew a few other companies within the local area and I put the word around that I was setting up my business via LinkedIn. One company contacted me straight away as they outsource to ‘home workers’ on a regular basis for their overflow work. Consequently I had 1 client before I had even left my last job. I was so fortunate and they still use my services now after 2 years which is fab.

Have you developed a niche area and what is it?

Yes, audio typing of surveying reports for that particular industry.

How many clients do you work with now?

I have 6 regular clients, two who use me on a daily basis. I also have many other clients who come to me when members of staff are on holiday or off sick.

Do you work alone or with other VAs/employ someone?

Because I have built up such a good business I now outsource to a network of other typists on a regular basis.

What strategies have you used to grow your business and what has and hasn’t worked?

When I first started I compiled a list of companies and just rang them. It was very scary doing cold calling but I found just speaking to people was the best way to get your business across and most companies were interested in what I was offering. I have gained most of my clients that way. For instance one company who I rang in the very beginning contacted me a year later and now they are one of my regular clients. They kept my details so that worked well! I have also had a few ‘word of mouth’ referrals which is brilliant. Because I have been successful this way I haven’t found anything that hasn’t worked as such. I’m just hoping that my business continues to grow as it has been.

What has been most difficult thing about growing your business?

The most difficult thing I have found is when the work started flooding in and I felt I couldn’t turn work away, consequently it got quite stressful and I was working my fingers to the bone, until I found my network of ladies who I can rely on to help in busy periods.

Tell us something about a typical day and what kind of work you do?

I always aim to be at my desk by 9.00 and I check my emails, download all the relevant soundfiles for the day, outsource to my ladies if needed and then plug my headphones in and type. I produce many different types of surveying documents, all of which are very interesting and most companies use online software now which makes the production of the reports a lot easier. I also have ad hoc requests to type dissertations for students, interviews, telephone conversations, blogs and sometimes I type documents for translators. I have also compiled databases, answered telephone calls for companies and undertaken internet research tasks.

What’s one thing you’ve done that’s made a client absolutely delighted?

I had a client who was very old fashioned in his ways and reluctant to change from using “tapes” to a digital Dictaphone. I offered to visit him and show him how to use everything and talked him through the process from start to finish. He was very grateful that I dragged him into the 21st century!

Do you have any funny stories/anecdotes about jobs you’ve done?

Seeing as I mainly transcribe soundfiles, there have been many times that clients have left their machines on, thinking they had been turned off! I can’t obviously tell you specifically what I heard but you can probably imagine!

What are your favourite applications/gadgets that you couldn’t live without?

I couldn’t live without Facebook as I feel that it keeps me in touch with the outside world as working from home can get quite lonely on occasion! I also love Quickbooks for my accounts.

What do you enjoy most about being a Virtual Assistant?

I LOVE the flexibility of working for myself. If I want to have a nice long lunch break or need to do something else, I can, nobody tells me what to do!

What do you enjoy least about being a Virtual Assistant?

I don’t think there is anything I don’t enjoy apart from worrying about the business if I’m on holiday or poorly!

What’s the best advice you’ve been given / or you would give to others about growing your business?

I have mentored a friend of mine who also wanted to start up on her own and I just said to her to have confidence in herself and whatever you put your mind to you can do.

What do you think are the most important qualities a VA should have?

You have to be extremely good at time management and keeping precise records, as having many different clients can get a bit overwhelming if you don’t keep track of everything. You also need a lot of patience as some clients do forget that you don’t specifically work for one person and expect you to be at their beck and call always!