Why I Decided to Start as a Virtual Assistant After I Moved Across the World
Just a small town Oregon gal
I know it sounds cliche, but growing up in a small town in Eastern Oregon (upper left USA), I never would have imagined that I would one day live on the other side of the world and would be creating a business by serving others with my strengths.
There are a lot of positives in my upbringing in that small rodeo town, but as I started to become an adult, I started to realise that I was living in a kind of box. Said small town was a place where nearly everyone dresses the same and most people share similar conservative values. I began to notice that, almost nobody in my family had ever even been abroad and few people I knew had left the continent.
I had this desperate desire to grow and learn, so I chose the biggest city, with the most diverse university for my continued education. It was there, in Portland, that I was exposed to new people, organisations, and job opportunities. And trust me, I took every opportunity that was presented to me. I worked at a doggy daycare, several admin jobs, I was in the student government, the president of my sorority chapter, and on the greek council. You can say that I really hate being bored!
It was during this time that I decided I had to find the means to travel the world, at least a little. So when I graduated, I decided to move to Italy to become an au pair. For 3 months, I took care of wonderful 8-year-old children and made new friends from around the world. All who wanted exactly the things I did - to be put outside of their comfort zones, to see the world, to learn and to stand on their own two feet. At the time, I’d always, always imagined having Oregon as my home base as I travelled and experienced more of what this world had to offer. Then life threw a curve-ball.
Along my travels, I met the most wonderful man
After my tourist visa expired, I decided to couchsurf in Ireland. Mostly because it has a different visa system from the rest of Europe and au pairs don’t make a whole lot of money. My first night in Belfast, I was asked out by a local software developer. My friends left town the next day, so I decided to take the chance and hopefully make a friend at the very least. Fast forward through hundreds of hours of Facetime calls, a gorgeous, small wedding, and the hell of getting a visa - I moved to Belfast to start the next phase of my life.
I knew it would be challenging to adapt to a new place, but I’d done it before and I had Paul. So I figured it would be fairly smooth sailing. As it turned out, I found it to be one of the most emotionally challenging things I’d ever done. The job market was different, making adult friends was a lot harder without a built-in au pair circle, and nice weather essentially doesn’t exist in Northern Ireland. A few months in, I decided I needed a project to keep busy and started Calibrated Concepts.
Organisation is my default
I knew that there were loads of small businesses that could benefit from the fact that I am a huge systems geek. Not to mention the skill set I’ve developed in my various admin roles. So I started marketing myself as an organisational specialist.
Let me tell you a quick story, I was a weird child. I have 4 siblings and I distinctly remember a 10-year-old me deciding I wanted to be a librarian and then alphabetising every VHS, DVD and book in our entire house. Which I then made my brothers, sisters, and parents “check out” from me so I could put everything back where it belonged when they were done using it.
Anyhow, back to my business plans... here’s the thing, when I started last summer as an organisational specialist, I was stoked - but I got absolutely no traction. Frustrated, I ran out of steam. I kind of let the idea fade, but then at the beginning of the year, I found a renewed spark!
I realised a few things:
I’d been marketing myself all wrong.
At the time, I wasn’t prepared to put in the work to get all that I have to offer out into the world.
If I could succeed with this, I could spend more time with my friends and family in Oregon.
Now, almost a year in, living in Belfast is pretty great
I know I said it before, but I am still taken aback by how much I have had to adapt to my new life. It took a while, but I am really starting to feel like I have roots here in Northern Ireland. I have a great day job, we recently moved to a gorgeous little rental house, we adopted a Springer Spaniel, and my VA business is starting to take off.
That said, I still desperately miss home some days. It’s where my best friends in the whole world live. It’s where I can get really damn good Mexican food. A craft brewery seems to be on every corner. The sun appears in the sky far more often. My main driver to keep going as a Virtual Assistant is to have the flexibility to keep growing my life here in the UK but to also be able to spend more time in Oregon.
I’m passionate about putting myself “out of a job”
These days I market myself as a Virtual Assistant/Virtual PA and I offer a lot of useful administrative services. However, my speciality is still in systems and tools. The truth is that I’m a productivity badass who gets more done in a day than pretty much anyone I know. I’m a firm believer that there’s no one-size-fits-all process to help business owners get more done. But with a little help, anyone can find tools that feel right for them to free up time (and possibly not need an assistant). As I always say - Delegate. Automate. Develop.