What’s Your Catalyst? My Journey to Becoming A Virtual Assistant

What’s Your Catalyst? My Journey to Becoming A Virtual Assistant

Without fail, every VA I talk to has a story to tell about their journey from their employee role to becoming a VA, and it always includes a ‘catalyst’ for them to make the move from an employee to their own virtual business.

For some people, the catalyst was because they have young kids and want to be there for them; or others might be fed up with commuting hours each day; or perhaps they’ve been made redundant and just don’t feel like going back to full-time work; and some people live remotely and find job roles are hard to come by.

I rejoice in these stories because they’re the very fabric of our diverse and wonderful industry. We come from all walks of life, and we bring our own unique skills and talents with us. I am truly passionate about our industry, and the people within it.

What brought me to this place is a combination of my background, and the choices that I, and my family, made along the way. The values and lifestyle that I grew up with very much set me on this path, and I am grateful now for those very things which sometimes I couldn’t quite understand or appreciate – as I am sure many people can relate to.

I do think I have admin in the blood!

Looking back, I recall that as a kid I was fascinated with typewriters (the clunky old manual ones that are now in museums), having come into contact with one at a relative’s workplace. And then again, as I grew up, I used to love to watch my dad’s secretary tapping away on her manual typewriter, and organising everything.

After finishing my HSC in 1980, I decided to enrol in an Advanced Secretarial Studies Course at Armidale TAFE. This was old-school secretarial training at its finest. We all learned touch typing on manual typewriters, we studied shorthand, PMBX (manual telephone switchboards), manual bookkeeping, dictaphone, and good old fashioned English spelling and grammar for business. I absolutely loved it, and after I graduated, I headed to the ‘big smoke’ (Sydney) to forge my career.

I spent the next 15 years working in various secretarial roles in Sydney; including legal, stockbroking, and the entertainment industry (music and television). My training and experience grew, and I was very fortunate to have been mentored by some extremely talented EAs who taught me skills and processes I still use today!

Technology was slowly changing, and by the time I went on maternity leave to have our first child, we were using ‘electronic’ typewriters, photocopiers, and faxes.

But in the space of a couple of years, there was a HUGE and visible leap in technology.

When I returned to full time work, instead of an electronic typewriter on my desk, to my surprise and delight, there sat a PC! It was absolutely incredible. And, I LOVED it!!! And I was extremely fortunate again to be at the beginning of this growth in technology in the workplace, because I was often able to receive work-based training on software and equipment.

In the mid-90s, with a young family in tow, we made the move out of the city to the beautiful Mid-North Coast of NSW, and started our own small photographic business.

My experience in all things admin continued to grow during this time… As well as helping establish and administer our own small photography business and studio, I worked as a temp/relief secretary at legal offices and specialist medical practices in the area, until I finally took on a role full time with a local legal firm.

The last ‘employed’ position I held saw me working for a lawyer who was a workplace bully, a tyrant of the highest order. It was an extremely traumatic time for me. Had I not had the benefit of a supportive family around me, I don’t think I would have come through.

Being in the position of having to earn an income, combined with the effects of being subjected to daily workplace bullying, I was dealing not only with the anxiety that caused, but also with low levels of self-esteem, self-confidence, and thoughts of suicide, and getting out actually became a life and death decision for me – I absolutely HAD to find something new that I could channel my skills into AND earn an income.

As bad as it was at the time, and as crazy as this might sound, I am actually now extremely grateful, because this terrible situation (as awful as it was) was really the catalyst that led me to becoming a VA.

So, it was in 2008 that I came across the career path of Virtual Assistant. It really was the answer to my prayers, and it was the vehicle that I used to slowly claw back my self-confidence and self-esteem, whilst building a business that has continued to sustain me emotionally and financially.

Since then, I have been so very fortunate to have met and been mentored by some of the Australian VA Industry’s best.

Throughout the period that I have been operating as a VA, I have constantly been in an enquiry about what it really takes to be the best, why some VAs are screaming successes and others not so, how to provide excellence in service, and how to stand out from the crowd.

When it all boils down to it, being a success in business is all about YOU! That’s right – there’s no escaping it. You are the master of your destiny… the Captain of your ship. You can steer a course to success, or you can take the path to disaster (and, really, who wants that?).

Being a success in your VA business doesn’t just happen. It’s about how much effort and energy you put into it. It’s about how well you learn to apply your God-given talents, your skills and aptitude, and your personality that is the DNA of success.

Learn more about Ingrid by visiting her website! You can also check out Ingrid's book, Discover the Authentic VA Within – A Journey from EA to VA here!

Ingrid Bayer
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