Indoors and Outdoors…a VA’s Journey

A VA's journey

A real life VA's journey

How do you become a VA? Is it a planned career move?

In my case, it was a natural progression from an already a varied career.

I am continually learning and growing and here I share my story of my career background, a little of my personal life, and how I came to be a virtual assistant.

I wonder where this particular path will take me?

A last minute change

I’ve always loved writing and wanted to study Media & Communications at university but despite getting good grades, I didn’t get the results I needed to secure the 2 conditional places I’d been offered.

During the clearing process, a course jumped out at me – Countryside Management.

I have always been quite adventurous, love the countryside and being in nature.

As a child, we regularly visited my grandparents who retired to the edge of the Lake District. I loved pack holidays with Brownies, orienteering in the local woods, and drives up into the wilds of Northumberland in search of a pub lunch and a stroll.

When I saw you could actually do a course in Countryside Management, I went for it like a shot!

The 3 year course led to a career in nature conservation and countryside access, and I still love things like hiking, bird and plant ID and the history of our lovely towns and villages.

The practical, ’hands on’ life was wonderful and the dry stone walls, fences, stiles and paths I built and native woodlands I helped to plant are still standing strong today. I know, because I regularly go to the lakes, and I check!

I gain such a sense of satisfaction from creating a tangible ‘thing’ whether it is a website or a new woodland!

Promotions....and back to media and communications

My job as an outdoors based countryside officer led to promotions and before long I was managing teams and heading up environmental projects, but I was on relatively crap money and was now indoors all the time!

As a manager, I had developed skills including:

  • copywriting for grant bids, 
  • web copy, 
  • leaflet and interpretation copy, 
  • giving talks and presentations, 
  • email marketing
  • stakeholder engagement.

In search of a new challenge, I moved over into regional government and for 5 years I was a communications officer. Responsibilities included:

  • events management
  • programme support 
  • internal and external communications
  • supporting Chief Executives, senior officers and elected members (learning heaps on the importance of confidentiality and diplomacy)
  • supporting high level HR, Leadership, Coaching, OD and Business Process Improvement programmes.

Then the organisation was wound up due to a change in government.

Redundancy And Pregnancy...At The Same Time

I was facing redundancy…and 6 months pregnant with my first daughter. I accepted this complete change in pace and I was able to spend 18 months with my lovely new baby. Looking back, I realise I experienced postnatal depression which lead to my needing something outside of the family, something of my own to focus on. Luckily, as my parents were retired, they along with my husband supported me with childcare. I investigated starting my own business, and looked again at another lifelong interest I had taken for granted – holistic therapies. I went back to college to get my anatomy & physiology and body massage qualifications. I also trained in aromatherapy, ear candling and had two wonderful Reiki attunements.

In 2012 I set up a mobile holistic therapy practice, and started working with a spiritual mentor over several years, who taught me advanced tarot, palmistry and astrology. Then along came daughter number 2! With a 3 year old and a baby who was very ill for the first 6 months of her life, the mobile therapy no longer worked for me. I needed a stress-free predictable income so I went back to my love of admin and worked in the charity sector in Executive Support, followed by a part time role managing a small civic charity.

The First Time I Heard The Term 'VA'

Running my therapy practice gave me a real passion for being my own boss.

My sister in law had been working remotely online right from when it first became a ‘thing’ and I was fascinated to learn more about how she ran a digital marketing support agency from home.

It was the first time I had heard the term ‘virtual assistant’, and I knew instantly that was what I wanted to do.

In early 2018 I began training with Freelance University to refresh my skills, and by June 2018 I had launched Jackie’s Virtual Bureau, gaining my first client on the first day. This lady is still a valued client and I will always be grateful to her for getting me started.

What a journey I’ve been on!

Now, in my mid forties, I can look back and see how my wide range of skills, experiences and roles (as well as a whole heap of good and bad life experiences) have shaped me into the mature, supportive multi skilled VA that I hope I have become.

Let me know if you need some support in your business!

Jackie Salmon

About the author

Jackie Salmon is a freelance web designer & virtual assistant based in Northumberland, England.
She offers website design, Mailchimp and online content support & training for people who help people.

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