3 Realistic Tips for Balancing Work and Family
I want to welcome our guest blogger Raquel Wilson. She founded Peachtree Virtual Assistants in 2014 because she saw a growing need in the small business community. With so many businesses being run solely online or by individuals who work from home, Raquel feels that virtual administrative support is the solution many independent professionals and small teams have been searching for.
I’m writing this blog post from a cold bathroom floor, in a hotel, in Florida. I’m on a working vacation of sorts. My husband had a business trip planned with reservations at a nice resort, so the kids and I decided to tag along. My kids who go to bed at 8 pm. So, at 8:01 pm, I found my way to the bathroom floor, opened my laptop, addressed my email inbox and started writing this blog post.
You might think this sounds like a horrible vacation, but I beg to differ. Since starting my career as a virtual assistant in 2014, I’ve found a flexibility I had not ever known in a career before. My background as a social worker has given me over a decade of experience, but not much flexibility.
In 2013, my family moved from the Midwest down to Atlanta, Georgia for my husband’s job. I decided to take a year off and assumed that at the end of that year, I would find my way back into social work. I was good at it and I enjoyed it so it made sense. However, in 2014, I was introduced to the VA world by a friend and was instantly hooked.
I started doing one-off tasks, helping her with overflow work and simple projects like transcription. My friend soon introduced me to Sara Lingenfelter, who was kicking off her VA training academy, which I enrolled in (and I’m so glad I did!). The course equipped me with the foundational knowledge I needed to start building my VA business on solid ground. Sara, who is also a mother, talked a lot about the importance of finding a work/life balance from the very beginning.
I’ve had over two years of making good choices, learning the hard way and lots of trial by fire, so I want to share some of that knowledge with you. Here are my top 3 realistic tips for balancing motherhood and a VA career.
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”
Be Realistic About Time Management
If you are anything like me, you probably think you can get ten times more done in a day than is realistically possible. Sometimes tasks don’t get done because you hit snooze three times (no judgment), your kid wakes up with a fever (been there) or a project for your VA client doesn’t go smoothly and needs a little extra TLC (it happens to the best of us). If you over commit from the beginning, you leave no room for these things to happen. And they will happen. Starting your day already behind schedule is no way to run a successful VA business (or parent, but that’s another blog post).
In Sara’s training, I have to admit, I first thought it was weird that she actually scheduled eating breakfast or taking a 15-minute break on her Google calendar. Two and a half years into my VA career, with a full client load and a team of ten…I totally get it.
Blocking off your calendar for business, motherhood responsibilities and leisure will help keep your reality in check.When a client, friend or spouse asks if you can fit something else in, you’ll be able to refer to your calendar to see if it is possible. If it’s not. Say no. You’ll thank me later.
Be Prepared To Sacrifice Something
Remember, I am writing this blog post on a cold bathroom floor in Florida. Everyone else is sleeping. And, although I’m tired too, I have to get this post written by a deadline and there are about five other client tasks that will be completed before my head hits the pillow. Don’t feel bad for me though. I got five billable hours done today thanks to my in-laws coming on this trip with us and entertaining the kids in small doses. I got to play with my kids in the pool, eat dinner out and watch my three-year-old daughter squeal in delight as she impressed patrons at the ice cream parlor with her dance moves.
It was a great day.
It was also a day that required me to stay up a little later and work on a bathroom floor. A sacrifice totally worth it, in my opinion.
My career as a virtual assistant has been so rewarding because it has given me the opportunity to check all the boxes. I was able to keep my young kids home until I felt they were ready (ok, I was ready) to send them to preschool. I am bringing sizable income into our household that is helping to set us up for long-term financial success. And, just as importantly, I’m able to flex a side of my brain that was a little bored during my professional hiatus. And this provides me with immense personal gratification.
None of this comes without sacrifice though. If you are thinking that being a VA is right for you because it’ll allow you to “have it all”, know that having it all doesn’t happen without a lot of long nights, early mornings, creative childcare solutions and a few tears.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
When I first started my VA business, it was just me, a wild idea and a pretty small financial goal. I had zero clients, no background in technology and I was feeling stressed because I knew that I needed to earn $1,000 a month to make this whole thing worth it. With some grit, lots of trial and a few errors, my client list grew to a point where it started to feel unmanageable. I had two choices. I could stop accepting referrals or I could grow my team. I chose the latter.
My first support VA subcontractor came highly recommended by someone in the industry. I used her for overflow tasks and found it very helpful. As my client list continued to grow, I realized it would be more advantageous to have a local subcontractor, someone I could meet with regularly to train, bounce ideas off from, etc. I asked a good friend of mine if she was interested and she was! This was tremendously helpful as I found her easy to work with, open to learning and helping me improve systems and very dependable.
Throughout 2015, my client list grew and grew and grew, as did my team. I started listening to my clients and their needs and strategically adding support VA’s who had the background and talent to address those needs. My team consists of VA’s with backgrounds that range from marketing to education, sales to graphic design. We now can address most tasks our clients throw our way, without reaching outside of our own team.
This is something I’m immensely proud of, but also something I wouldn’t be able to do had I not asked for help when needed. You can’t do it all and be all things when it comes to your VA biz. Identify the areas where you could use help, find good people, trust that they can do a good job and then foster your relationship with them as a manager. For me, this is crucial to not only maintaining my VA biz but also my work/life balance. Every support VA on my team contributes to my success as a mother, too. They are the best team I could possibly imagine.
So there you have it, my top 3 realistic tips for balancing motherhood and a VA career. I’d be happy to elaborate on my experience more if you have specific questions. Feel free to drop me a line anytime. For now though- this bathroom floor is getting cold and I have a few more tasks to get done so that I can wake up feeling ready to tackle the beach with the kids!
Raquel Wilson is the owner of Peachtree Virtual Assistants, a wife and a mother of two children, ages 3 and 5. She lives with her family in Atlanta, Georgia and works with clients all over the U.S. and Canada. For more information on PVA, visit them on the web, Facebook or Instagram.
If you are interested in the training referred to in this article, you can click here to get on the waiting list and receive a VA Starter Kit so you can get a jump start!
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