Freedom and Flexibility as a Virtual Assistant – 5 Tips for a Satisfying Lifestyle

Freedom and Flexibility as a Virtual Assistant

Freedom and flexibility as a virtual assistant is the Association of Virtual Assistants theme for July. In our first blog of the series we shared how freedom and flexibility is the number reason for becoming a virtual assistant and that, more importantly 98% of virtual assistants are experiencing the freedom and flexibility they desired when becoming a VA. Read the full blog here


AVA member Lee Edralinda of Virtualee & Co shared her story of leaving corporate behind eight years ago and building an all-woman powerhouse team. You can read Lee’s journey here


Last week, AVA member Ashley Nicholes, shared how becoming a VA matched her personality and the work she enjoys doing. 


This week, AVA member and solo VA Barbara Grealish shares how life’s circumstances opened the door to create a fulfilling lifestyle that sustains a full-time career and Sandwich Generation responsibilities.


Here is Barbara’s story including her top 5 tips for creating a satisfying lifestyle for yourself!


A perfect storm became my finest career move.


It was fifteen years ago, when within a month’s time I: 

  • Was made redundant when the tech startup was acquired,
  • Began as-needed caregiving for my widowed, Disabled Veteran dad,
  • Had increased shuttle-bus duty for our youngest daughter’s extracurricular activities that kept us on-the-go.


I braced myself, super stressed & ruminating about how to balance full-time employment + the homefront (two areas where I place equal importance) AND whether any future employer would accommodate such a schedule.


I saw the light (not that light!)


By chance, while caring for Dad, I tuned in to a human interest story on the TV news that showcased C-suite working moms who successfully leveraged flexible working hours for a balanced life by choice.  


The wheels started turning…


At the same time, I glanced over at my mom’s desk in the family room (a cast-off from a former employer) fondly recalling when she’d bring work home from the handful of her part-time bookkeeping/secretarial jobs whenever us kids were home sick, and on school vacation days.  Never without her trusty tote bag of paperwork, office supplies, and to-do list, she got work done whether at home or office.  


‘Hold that thought,’ I told myself.


Timing is everything


Out of the blue, a former employer emailed. (I was the Office Manager and we kept in touch.)  He was starting his own business, asking if I was available to oversee the setup and put ops procedures in place.  “Sure”, I said (read: happy dance!), grateful there’d be some income while I pondered the next phase of my employment future.  The project was successful and I stayed on providing ‘as-needed’ administrative assistance, working from home.


A few months in, two more former employers got in touch, as they, too, were in new roles and seeking ‘as-needed’ office assistance. Negotiations completed, clients secured (happy dancing continues!).


It dawned on me that I could utilize my corporate business experience and tech skills to set up my own VA enterprise, the catalyst for a freeing, flexible, and fulfilling lifestyle on my terms.  I honed my elevator pitch and intensely researched the VA world as a viable and realistic career path.


Fast forward to today – these former employers are my charter clients and we partner to this day, sparking an early business decision to focus on serving a niche of industries that I know best.  


I love what I do, can be a voice in the industry, and I’m not looking back.   


Barb’s top 5 tips for a satisfying VA lifestyle


Mindfulness: Wherever possible, strive to focus on the awareness of the present moment, whether it be client work, caregiving, or self-care.  It centers you to be fully available, free of distraction, and able to thoughtfully accomplish the task at hand.  


Track your time – both personal and professional: I’m never without my calendar and time tracking app.  For closure at the end of each work day, make sure billable hours are documented and catch a glimpse of future to do’s.  Review time-tracked results monthly, for a high-level view of how your time is allocated. 


Mobility & Technology: My office & gear fits into a backpack, ready and available wherever I need to be.  Favorite tech tools include my smartphone, portable wifi, and OneNote.


Document your wins:  Create a chronological file a.k.a. “brag sheet” of achievements.  Celebrate every success!


Tell your story: Freely and descriptively share what you do and the solutions you provide. You’ll be surprised how storytelling will resonate with someone and maybe your next client.  It’s my #1 marketing tool (and free!)



About the Author


Barbara Grealish is a career Admin+ following in the footsteps of her office manager dad and bookkeeper/secretary mom.  She made the virtual switch in 2006 – thanks to technology – providing office/operations management, bookkeeping, and executive assistance for psychiatrists, financial planners, and early-stage tech startups.  


Connect with Barbara on LinkedIn:


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