Life as a Virtual Assistant

My life as a virtual assistant started in July 2007. Up to that point, I had been a stay-at-home mom since 1991 raising two great kids, home schooling, cleaning house, crafting and making patterns to teach others how to make my cute items. I also took a children’s writing course in the mid-1990s and a freelance writing course in 2015.

My interest in children’s writing never went beyond the writing course. I simply wanted to enjoy life with my own children while they were young. Crafting and pattern making was one of the things I enjoyed as my children became more independent and after lessons were finished for the day. I joined an online crafting community and it was there that I found my first job as a virtual assistant in 2007 working for a nice lady who owned several online crafting/crafty websites.

Throughout the week, I answered customer support issues for three of the websites – Instant Printables, Pattern Mart and eCraft Classes. I also made two to three blog posts each week for Pattern Mart as well as prepared and emailed the newsletters for Instant Printables and ECC biweekly and Pattern Mart weekly. Eventually she started another website, Prim Nest, for crafters to sell their finished items on. So, I would prepare and email the newsletters for that site twice a month when that site opened for business.

I was able to learn those site operations quickly, so before long, I was also assisting sellers with their upload issues. I worked closely with the sellers for other reasons as well. I was in frequent contact with them when I needed sale patterns or printables for the newsletters or free patterns for Pattern Mart surveys and for an online magazine that my boss also owned, Creative Times Magazine. I would also contact the site sellers when any of the sites, newsletters or magazine needed to fill advertising spots. This involved not only collecting names of advertisers and patterns, but also downloading patterns, images of the items, item descriptions and usually a couple of additional emails reminding them to send me the URL links to their personal websites, which Paypal email address to direct their payments to and the appropriate advertising banners.

Because of my impeccable organization skills, my job duties soon increased to assisting crafters who were interested in advertising or being featured in the bi-monthly magazine (we featured craft spaces and individuals and their craft businesses) along with keeping a detailed list of what should appear in each magazine, how much paid advertisers paid, hiring writers, reminding writers of their deadlines, proofreading all content before it was distributed for publishing, testing links in the final draft before the magazine was uploaded to the server to be downloaded by readers, serving as backup writer when writers didn’t turn in their articles, writing my own columns. I had the privilege of interviewing some very impressive people such as fabric designer Debbie Mumm, Jodie Davis creator of the online quilting show QTV, the famous crafter Terri O, poet Rita Quillen and several more to add spice to the featured crafter section. I also wrote the Quick Tips column which involved everything from crafting tips to household tips to life tips. I collected everything for the magazine and sent it to the layout designer a couple of weeks ahead of time for publication.

Although the magazine was published bi-monthly, the work was ongoing. When my younger son started high school lessons, I had to stop doing the work for the magazine so I could concentrate on his high school requirements. At that time, my boss decided to sell the magazine and the Prim Nest site to someone else.

Somewhere along the line, she bought another website from one of her competitors. The site operations were much different than her other websites. These differences were very difficult to maneuver for most of the pattern sellers she had invited from Pattern Mart to sell on the newly purchased site, Crafty Avenue. I, however, caught on very quickly and assisted them with either any snags they ran into or simply uploaded a few patterns for them each week. The latter was easier for both them and me. My boss sent out the newsletter and kept a tally of the sales herself for Crafty Avenue since she received the money for all sales and kept 40% of the proceeds for herself. This meant she also had to distribute the other 60% to the appropriate sellers who sold patterns. This was tedious and didn’t last but a few months. She closed the site down just prior to selling the other two sites.

In 2010, my husband and I actually purchased ECC from her. I knew the site was doing poorly. I simply thought it was because she was sinking so much time into Pattern Mart and Instant Printables. I eventually figured out that YouTube was probably my enemy. I worked very hard for the first two or three years updating, advertising, allowing easier ways for instructors to deliver their craft classes, uploading classes for them myself. It’s just difficult to compete with free tutorials that are provided on YouTube. I finally closed the site down last month after seven years of trying.

I’ve actually had a couple of other online stores myself through DIYWebsites. I don’t think that lady is even in business any more. Again, the new competition with all the new DIY sites like Wix, etc. can destroy businesses that can’t keep up.  She sold the craft forum I mentioned earlier and EZShoppes to someone else. I sold on EZShoppes also for a while as well. I tried selling on Ebay. Eventually, crafts stopped sell well on Ebay. I discovered Etsy and I’m doing very well on there. I am using my domain names for my blogs now. The Sew Practical blog is a great way to keep people up-to-date with my Etsy store and the eCraft Classes blog is a great way to discuss my crafting endeavors and offer free tutorials.

I enjoy blogging both on WordPress and Blogger. I do use YouTube and Twitter. I tried Linkedin. I decided only after a week that I could do just as much with blogging as I ever could there, so I closed my account. I have never had any interest in Facebook. And I’m a whiz at Upwork, of course. I also sell my book on Amazon and hopefully will have a few more ready to sell by the end of this year. I have used Dropbox and Google Drive on occasion. My point is that I find new online platforms interesting and easy to learn. I hope to land a job using Hootsuite soon. I’m discussing it with one of my Upwork clients now.

I started working on Upwork in September 2014 because of the new interests I had in Virtual Assistant work. This included writing on different niches for blogs and websites, proofreading, transcribing, data entry and research. My career took off more quickly than I realized it would. In August 2015, I finally announced my resignation with my original boss since she had only two websites remaining and my son graduated from high school in 2015 as well. My boss spent the next four months preparing to run these two sites on her own. Everything was in place by the time my last day of employment for her arrived on December 30, 2015. She and I are still in touch, and I will be forever grateful to her for giving me my first VA job and having so much trust in me.

Quitting my other job and finishing with my home school responsibilities allowed my freelance work on Upwork to blossom.  I, now, do weekly transcribing work for two clients and random transcribing for two other clients. I hope to pick up the Hootsuite job with one of these clients. I do random data entry work for another client.

Off Upwork, I rewrite content and do some uploads on Houzz for a marketing client and I write blog posts and web content for another marketing client. I plan to contact another marketing client if I ever see her ad in the local paper again. This type of work is extremely random so I look for this type of work to fill in voids.

Proofreading is very random work as well, but that is always welcome. I do my own proofreading for the transcribing work I do as it’s very important to me to turn in work that is done well.

The research itself comes in when I am hired to write blog articles or web content or when I need to learn how to spell words like Takotsubo cardiomyopathy and enkephalins.

All of my clients, except one, are women juggling careers, hobbies, family and more. I still work directly with a woman for the art company I work for. I prefer working for women because women understand women. Womenpreneurs also take weekends and holidays off, which allows me time to clean the house, cook the meals, exercise, do the laundry, update my blogs and Etsy, craft, read and to be able to spend time with my family which is extremely important to me. I hope to write at least two more books by the end of the year as well. For now, I’m decluttering so my mind won’t wander to those crammed closets and cabinets. I’m down to cleaning out three closets now and I’ll be finished. After that, my mind will be free to write those books.

All of this is possible because I have a supportive husband. He understands how much I enjoy my work, hobbies and writing, and that is probably the best help I could ever receive. Yes, he wants to help around the house, but he has his work and hobbies as well. So I firmly refuse his help around the house.

I enjoy having a well-rounded life. It gets hectic sometimes but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am happy to say that I remain fully committed to God, my family, my health and my work, which also includes my hobbies. Don’t let the terms freelance or work-from-home fool you. These jobs are just as fruitful and rewarding as working for a major corporation. Those of us who work from home are also helping the environment since we don’t have to drive to work every day. So, I guess we could also be called green employees.

Are you a busy lady who could use some occasional help running your business?

When logged in, Upwork clients can hire me and send me messages at http://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~011eb2912da5483620/.  I’m usually available each weekday between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. U.S. eastern time.

 

 

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