My road to remote work was actually quite long and winding. I had been working in film in Louisiana for over 5 years and was already nearing burnout with the demanding hours. In 2013, I took a leap of faith and launched my own business - an on-demand concierge business to assist other crew members.
While on paper it made sense to market concierge services to busy film production crews, I quickly discovered that not many were willing to pay for those services. So, I turned to remote assistance instead.
Initially, I joined a service called Zirtual that matched virtual assistants with clients. While the formal training and support I received from Zirtual were fantastic at the start of my VA career, I eventually left the company to lead my own VA business.
Having greater autonomy over my working hours, the services that I offer, and pricing have been incredibly rewarding, and I haven't looked back since.
I assist clients with their needs (which vary from day to day) and also create online courses for other VA's. My workload fluctuates pretty wildly. There are days when I spend a solid 8 hours assisting my clients, and there are days when I may not hear from them at all. When my clients are quiet, you'll find me either creating, filming, or editing a new e-course for other virtual assistants.
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My routine varies somewhat depending on where I'm working from. Since my wife and I both work online, we opted to take our "show on the road" in 2014. We have been working while traveling around the world ever since.
I purposely ensure that my clients are all located on the west coast (PST) in the US. By keeping everyone in the same area code, I'm able to guarantee my clients that I'll be available during their working hours, regardless of where in the world I'm working from.
Having said that, I always begin each day the same way: with a cup of coffee in bed while I read my favorite blogs or skim social media. I also end each day the same way: A late night workout at home.
Since we travel so much, I do not have a dedicated work space. Having said that, I try to ensure that our AirBnB rentals at least have a kitchen table that I can work from. I avoid working from my bed since I try to mentally keep that space reserved for rest and relaxation.
I've long stopped fighting myself when it comes to staying on task. Over the years, I noticed that I experience natural cycles of productivity.
There are some days that I feel more energetic and creative, and there are other days that I feel fatigued and bogged down by brain fog.
During the days or weeks that I feel unfocused, I tackle low-brainpower tasks like creating to-do lists. Then, I rest if I need to. When I'm once again feeling more focused, I tackle my to-do lists with lightning speed.
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I love the physical freedom that remote work gives me. My wife and I are currently working from our home base in New Orleans, but we're headed to Italy and Hungary very soon!
It's hard to build a friendly rapport with people that you've never met in person!
Clients don't get know the little quirks that make you unique when you're fully remote.
While I do hop on Zoom chats with clients when I can, speaking to someone over video isn't quite the same as grabbing a coffee in person or bumping into one another in the office. You must work harder to remind clients that there's a human behind the screen!
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There are over 20 tools that I use almost daily to keep my clients happy (and myself sane). People usually fall off of their chair when I mention how many tools it takes to keep a business running smoothly!
A handful that come to mind are must-haves:
Last but not least, my Macbook Air and iPhone. Apple fangirl aside, both machines are great for travel because they're durable, light, and are easy to shoot and edit high-quality videos.
Be prepared to wear many hats! Unlike an office environment where you can pop into someone's office for help, you will be your own IT department, HR department, accountant, editor, online marketer, and career coach. Get comfortable with being out of your comfort zone from time to time and don't be afraid to Google your many questions!
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My criteria have evolved over the years. When I initially launched my VA business, I said "yes" to any and every client.
My knee-jerk reaction to take on all clients really stemmed from a place of fear, though. I was only concerned with making a dollar and not going broke!
Eventually, I learned to become more discerning with my clients - not just for my benefit - but theirs too. Clients who pay good money to delegate to an assistant deserve to have a VA who understands and respects their work process.
Before taking on new clients, I now hop on a call to suss out their work style and personality. If they're not a good fit, I let them know that I think they'd be better suited with another VA.
The real bonus of being more discerning is that I open myself up to working with people that I genuinely enjoy, mesh well with my work-style, and can pay my going rate without batting an eye!
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Some of my client-work is consistent, so I know what's due by when and plan around those deadlines accordingly. Speaking of deadlines - giving myself due dates has been a real game-changer.
As a freelancer, you won't always have people or projects to dictate your work, so it's really up to you to determine what gets done and by when.
Regardless of what I'm working on, the first question I always ask myself is "When do I need this done by?"
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I think this question requires a lot of introspection. What does success look like in your own life? Is it hitting a certain annual income? Is it working with clients that you love? Is it creating a life where you don't work much at all and instead have more free time for family, travel, or passion projects?
For me, my "success" is all about balance. If I can assist my clients to the best of my ability, help other VA's learn a new skill through one of my online courses, make time to cook a great meal, take my dog on a walk, and get a weightlifting workout in, then my day was a great success.
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At RemoteHabits we're always trying to improve our interviews, what question should we have asked Erin Booth?
Erin is a virtual assistant, digital nomad, and eCourse creator. Wherever she's working from, you'll find her with a soy latte in her hand.
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