It’s terrifying, to say the least when you realize you’re working hard every day not for money but for sanity. From where I’m from, this is a conversation better left unsaid because “we’ve got more important things to deal with”.

Of course, no one can contest against survival. 

But for years, this struggle within has made seas and oceans look to me like a basin of tears and high, green mountains seem only like an ambitious dumbass -- which is why traveling was not on my bucket list.

“What" and "If" are two words as non-threatening as words can be. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life: What... if? What, if? What *if*...?

~Claire reading out the letter written by Sophie, Letters to Juliet

I mean, the “what ifs”, for instance, seem never-ending still. The lockdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic triggered more bouts of what-ifs than ever, but this silent chaos has been around for as long as I can remember.

Most “what ifs” could be about taking risks and chances, but mine often takes a grayer and more regretful turn.

What if I missed out on something important today? 

What if I thought I did great, but it was not?

What if I’m reading the signs wrong or not reading between the lines enough?

I curl up in my blue bed sheets and needle-like pain raves around my sinuses to the nape down to my lower back and up to my eyes where tears just crawl out on their own.

When the silent chaos starts to rage, I do fight it. 

I push myself towards distractions -- work my ass off, play with my dogs, help out when I can --and for years, they have worked well enough to get me through one day at a time.

I have added dropping hints to my significant other of which he would frustratingly pick up right away and drag me out of my shell, figure this mess out with me.

“I’m typically the rescuer, not the damsel in distress.”

Probably, that’s a white lie that I say to myself now to soften the blow on an already bruised ego.

An screenshot from "Create Your Own Calm" by Meera Lee Patel

Tonight, we have another very interesting topic that I’d like to share with you because this applies to us, VAs and Freelancers, and how it could shape our future and that it’s something that we need to prepare for or at least foresee the things that we can do so that when changes come around, you would have a backup plan with you and avoid losing a lot especially that we’re talking about careers in this podcast.

A little backstory though, I joined online conversations and forums and there was a response from a lady named Ivy, she’s a technical support freelancer, and her response really struck me particularly because I related it to it big-time.

Okay, this is what Ivy said:

“The challenge now is that virtual assistants are being replaced by programs and applications that do the functions like what we do. I have come across people who opt for paying for several apps and programs just to cut costs on virtual assistants.”

It reminded me of my Marketing mentor who introduced me to this social media automation tool that is quite costly but it ended up saving his Social Media VA about 80-90% of the timeframe of what I’d like to call now as traditional way of social media marketing. 

It has become traditional in my eyes because the tool or software itself has not only introduced scheduling and automation, it has now given me the option of evergreen recycling, which means, a post can be published as many times as you want with caption and image variations options.

When I learned about the tool, I was amazed and at the same time, wondered, wow, could this tool make the social media VA job obsolete in the future or could this change the job description of what social media VAs should do.

So that was my first thought, and then, I kind of dug a deeper hole this time when I ran across research and findings about what they call as “Intelligent Virtual Assistants” or what I’d prefer to use here as “Artificial Intelligence Assistants” or AI assistants — just so to avoid the confusion. 

By the way, I’ve looked it up. According to Dr Mark Nasila, FNB’s Chief Analytics Officer for Consumer Banking, automation and artificial intelligence are easily confused as similar, but they are fundamentally different. Automation “saves time and money spent on monotonous, voluminous tasks and gives employees an opportunity to apply themselves to more complex processes”, while Artificial intelligence deals with “technologies, systems or even processes that competently mimic how human beings make decisions, react to new information, speak, hear, as well as understand language”.

I quoted that social media automation tool just to give a connection of how programs and applications can take over and do the job itself.

Now before I proceed to tackling about AI assistants, I’d like us to reflect on these first like what does automation mean for Social Media VAs or if you are in any other niche, think of a software that has made your life “easier” and “faster” or more convenient than ever— now ask yourself: if this tool or software can do 90% of your job now, what do you have left in your skillset to offer to your current and potential clients in the future? What can you do to upskill and not be fully replaced by this tool or program tomorrow? 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. 

Alright. You must have heard of the names, “Cortana, Robin, Lyra, or ELSA” or we can go to the more familiar ones like “Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant” — They are all Intelligent Virtual Assistants or for this case, AI Assistants. 

Investopedia simply defines Artificial intelligence (AI) as “the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions.”

The term artificial intelligence is not news because it was coined in 1956, but AI has only become more popular today because of the increase in data volumes, advancements in algorithms and developments in computing power and storage.

As a lot of you may know, the AI market boomed especially during the pandemic. A global lockdown happened, everyone had to stay at home for months on end and that just drove us to provide these machines more information and data than ever.

AI virtual assistant technology like Alexa, Google Home, Siri, became so popular that investors and business owners pushed for its rapid innovation and development. 

In addition to that, in 2021, the increase in AI usage across businesses will create $2.9 trillion of business value and 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity. That is a lot of value to business owners and as for our case, our clients.

And the capabilities of these AI assistants have grown over the years from the mundane providing of facts and information, playing music/video, and sending text messages to complex tasks like giving recommendations based on the user’s profile, previous behaviour and setting up appointments, ordering goods, and making travel arrangements.

Back in 2004, a project aimed to use AI techniques to design and implement an advice-giving system for E-commerce, which was said to “support a move from the current catalogue-based customer services, and emulate in some way to the performance of a human seller”. Shoutout to the e-commerce VAs who are solely working on selling, because AI is creeping up on you, it’s trying to emulate more than half of what you do or even your core tasks in selling. 

It makes you wonder, if this project was in 2004, what have you noticed in the last 17 years that has changed when it comes to e-selling? If you have any thoughts on the changes and developments, do let me know. I’d love to hear about them.

Language teachers are not exempted either. In 2015, ELSA or English Language Speech Assistant was born and is currently “enabling 1.5 billion global English learners to language fluency”. 

As a former English as Second Language teacher, I am amazed by how AI Assistants could multifold or amplify the results of language learning and fluency. The data and figures itself are quite astonishing, although still contestable if we test the AI students vs personally-taught students in terms of comprehension and language application… but the figures are quite something to think about.

And that was since 2015, now because of COVID-19 in 2020, Kwame, a Bilingual AI Teaching Assistant was created to help 42 African countries to provide answers to students’ coding questions from SuaCode courses in English or French. Now, these AI Assistants have gone from bilingual to polyglot if you know what I mean.

How about the Chatbots, you might ask? Chatbots earlier in the decade only respond to linear questions. It has improved so much that researchers are now looking into its capabilities between virtual assistantship and virtual friendship and how a “friend chatbot” can improve and strengthen a consumer’s brand personality perception.

I am only giving you lads and ladies the very tip of the iceberg of what these AIs can do. But enough with the micro, because there’s just way too many of them to mention. Let’s look at the bigger picture.

Are AI Assistants a threat to the economy and to your virtual assistant job?

Prof. Bernd Stahl, the Director of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility from the De Montfort University in Leicester UK, published a book on Artificial Intelligence for a Better Future and he gave dichotomous or contrasting insights about it, he said:

“An initial set of issues that arise from living in a digital world is related to the economy. The most prominent among these is likely to concern employment/unemployment. The potential of AI-related technologies to create a new wave of automation and thereby replace jobs has long been recognised (according to a 1990 study by Collins).”

This is straightforward and self-explanatory but since AI is not news and this science fiction is rapidly becoming a science fact, it’s going to happen, right? Now Prof Stahl continued:

“It is feared that AI will negatively affect employment. The novelty in the perceived threat from AI, is that the jobs currently under apparent threat are better-paying ones: AI may increasingly imperil the income of middle-class professionals.”

If I may reflect on that, as of June 2021, a middle-class monthly income here in the Philippines ranges from P44,000 to P77,000 and one can easily earn that here or even go beyond that range because of Virtual Assistance and Freelancing. Again, this is a statement that can affect us big-time.

Going back, Prof Stahl continues that “in addition to that, losing employment is of course not only an economic problem; it also has social and psychological aspects“.

Where I’m from, mental health still does not cause a commotion around here because poverty is the main day-to-day struggle, what to eat for the next meal is the primary concern. But I think for those who have recently transferred to the digital world and even those who have been in the digital industry for quite some time now, we are all vulnerable to the risks of the psychological and social impacts of AI if we are not able to prepare ahead of time or work our way around it.

Now, he did share a light of hope when he cited AI Now Institute in 2017 saying that “the outcomes may be different than expected: jobs may not disappear but change instead and new jobs may be created…

So that is indeed a little sign of hope for us that Virtual Assistance may not disappear but may change its nature or be completely redefined.

In 2017, a policy brief talking about Artificial Intelligence and Its Adverse Impact on the Philippine Economy  argued that “AI does not necessarily eliminate human input” but actually “compliments human input.” That’s one positive way to look at it. Nevertheless, it recommends “the emergence of AI will introduce the much-needed stimulus of renewed growth”

As for us Virtual Assistants and Freelancers, this means that we need to keep learning new tools, softwares, and skills to keep up with the growing capacities of AI. 

One of the challenges that we may have to raise to the government though is to improve Internet connectivity or digital infrastructures that can support “data-intensive businesses” like ours — to be made more secure and competitively affordable.

It continued to explain that with the rise of AI Tech and Assistants, it is imperative for us to re-tool and focus on “taking advantage of the technology and building non-automable skills”. Non-automable skills–things that are not about to be automated.

Adam J. Gustein and John Sviokla (Harvard Business Review, 2018) enumerated the 7 skills that a robot doesn’t have and won’t have in the foreseeable future:

  1. Communication or the ability to communicate compellingly like writing a compelling story which they said will always be in high demand and hard to automate.

This would work very well with Content Writers, Social Media Content Writers, and the like.

  1. Content: “It is those with a combination of expertise and the ability to move new knowledge forward who will stay ahead of the robots.”

This is where I think Directors, Developers, and Designers who would push the limits of their strategies, techniques, and styles to elevate their content, will really make the cut to stay on top of the game with AI tech.

  1. Context: Extending automatic reasoning of AI systems is still considered highly complex; so, having a deeper type of contextual understanding shows that you have knowledge of a business or client or employer that is very hard for robots to deal with.

Whether you are in marketing, ecommerce, or technical industry, understanding your clients personally has a huge impact over what AIs can currently do. I’m not saying it’s not possible but while AI is hurriedly catching up, we can keep working on understanding our client’s business working style, business model, and ecosystem that varies from one client to another.

  1. Emotional competence: AI machines are still far behind from understanding the “emotional tenor” of a person, meeting or organization let alone the options that have  emotional consequences with them. 
  2. Teaching
  3. Connections
  4. An ethical compass or the capacity of ethics and moral judgement.
    And these are definitely words to live by, “The fact that the world will be increasingly controlled by machines lacking an ethical compass amplifies the importance of having people in our future workforce who possess strong moral values.”

On a positive note, I think AI would elevate our lives to convenience and comfort as it would save us time and increase productivity and efficiency. In the long run, it is ideally created to decrease human-to-work time and increase human-to-human quality time with family and friends when done and used properly.

“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” ~ W. Edwards Deming

What changes have I done most recently to improve my work as a Virtual Assistant and Freelancer? Where do I need to start? Why do I need to do these steps? All these and more on my recent adventure to achieve this year’s resolution on getting more Focus and Clarity!

Mentorship: Unlocked!

About two weeks ago, I found my Digital Marketing mentor. I was doing a lot of reading and watching videos of giants in the field, trying to find my mentor in this industry and for some reason, the universe sent me one.

Why? Why did I need to have a mentor? 

Well, I have this huge admiration over mentorship and its power to provide guidance and clarity on your path, whether it’s personal or professional, the idea of having someone to look up to and be able to stand on the shoulders of giants is ultimately transformative and gives you a boost that you are doing it right or wrong.

But mentorship is for another blog. But I made a special mention about my mentor here because this person became my last straw to come to the conclusion that I needed to change things.

Being "In the Fog"

My mentor first brought up this phrase to me about a few ago when we started. And I did realise that I was in it. Being “in the fog” can mean a lot of things for different people but as for my case, it was confusion.

When I started as a VA, I was a newbie in Content Writing. I was ghost blog writing for a lot of businesses and it went on organically. I was just winging it, see where it would lead me. 

So, this strategy worked for me for the last 6 years but even during those years, every 2-3 months, I would find myself by the beach, trying to unwind, trying to take back my sanity.

Looking back now, I was saving myself from burnout. 

Being in this industry, whether you are in Digital Marketing or E-Commerce, Virtual Assistants and Freelancers are the people behind the curtain of small or big businesses. We do not only help them grow but we also save them time.

And in the process of saving other people’s time is that we consume our time and if not careful enough like I did, you would find yourself overwhelmed with the number of tasks.

And sometimes, it can blur and unconsciously sway you to a different direction and eventually, losing your focus and clarity from what you used to enjoy doing.

I realised I was in this fog. I got super busy trying to save everyone’s arses and just helping wherever I can. One day, I was dreading to start working; I mean, there was a time I was just procrastinating my delay the work.

A Better Process

How I typically get into the business of my clients is when I am presented with problems or concerns. So, I get into this “VA mode” and start to function when I see or hear a problem.

Being in this industry for nearly a decade now, I can easily spot a lot of areas that need help and oftentimes, I just dive right in and help.

First of all, I am the kind of VA who typically does not need a lot of supervision– especially in Digital Marketing. (Whoa. Airhead much? Just keep reading)

Not because I do not need one but because I self-study and try to figure my way things out and eventually, create a virtual ecosystem for myself in the business that works along with the business and/or complements the business owner’s working style.

Nevertheless, looking back now, this is not sustainable especially knowing that I want to grow mainly as a solopreneur and as a collaborator.

I needed a better process to progress.

My Evergreen Purpose

Evergreen in business means that it is something that “stays relevant over a long period of time.”

And that the core of every process is a purpose. 

When I started out as a VA, it was out of the impulse of helping. And now that I want to grow and help more business owners, the first thing I had to refresh my mind with was the reason behind that impulse and make it evergreen.

“I want to help businesses who speak my language.”

I mainly serve businesses who pay it forward. Businesses whose mission promotes help and betterment of individuals and the community at large are the areas I want to be part of and thus, I would gladly assist.

“I want to help business owners who respect my value”

My time, my services, my extra-mile efforts are my ultimate value. These may seem common to the ordinary eye but I have customized these valuables to the preferences of my clients’ personality, working style, and business model that I blend into the business’ environment with ease.

“I want to collaborate with passionate Virtual Assistants and Freelancers with a growth mindset in the business”

Professionals who have the initiative to seek help not to be spoon-fed but to water themselves with experienced-based strategies and who willingly find the time to study and learn new tools and techniques to provide quality of work are simply the best people who I want to welcome to my exclusive club of Rockstar VAs.

At present...

Currently, I am still in the process of getting out of the fog. This initiative of redefining my people is one of the next big steps to this refresh that I’m doing in my business because I know it will only get even more challenging as time passes by.

The world is still on recovery from the pandemic. The people have adapted to the times and have experienced a lot of things through the quarantine. Times have definitely changed.

So, I think online professionals, like you and me, can go through the same process of reinventing, redefining, and realigning our way of thinking and doing things to grow and become better leaders–altogether, this is the kind of progress we all need.

What changes will you make this year?

Back in January, a couple of people reached out to me on social media and asked if I can teach them “how to be a Virtual Assistant (VA)”. Truth be told, I was confused at first because how I got into Virtual Assistance was kind of a twist of fate.

Just a quick backstory, I was a former English as Second Language teacher and 8 months into teaching, I lost my voice to Chronic Laryngitis. So, I hopped on to my next best passion which was writing and the rest was history. Bottomline is, no one taught me how to be a VA.

But now, I got a few handful of people who want to do what I do. So, I thought, “Okay, I can most definitely share the most effective tips and techniques that I’ve used over the years, right? I mean, why not?”

But simultaneously, I also thought, “How can I make the most out of this situation?” and “How can I amplify it so it would make more sense and more value?” And then it came to me, “What about tapping the NGOs I serve?”

Children of Asia-Philippines (Enfants d'Asie)

In 2019, I was the English Teacher for Children of Asia – Philippines during their In-House Summer Training Program. It was a 2-month long intensive program housed in Naga City, Cebu.

“In-house” meaning I got to stay with the kids 24/7, giving them intensive English training. And apart from the training sessions, the most striking parts for me was when I got to know their life stories and was definitely humbled by their passion and commitment to education.

When I was younger, my family was also in the same difficult level of financial situation as them. It resonated with me so much that that experience is definitely still one of my best milestones and memories up-to-date.

Mayari Animal Rescue Organization (MARO)

My dad had always been the ‘vet’ in my family. His life may have taken him in a different professional direction but he always brought a sick and abandoned animal back home, whether it’s a dog, cat, or chick, and revived it to its fullest, healthiest stat.

And so is my life partner, Shreyansh, he continues to spend his days helping and feeding strays back in his hometown in India.

So these two people have been my strongest pillars and muses when it comes to my love for stray animals.

In February, we lost our 13-year-old dog, Toothless, due to old age. And my mom started to feel lonely and definitely was missing our old lady. So, I messaged non-profit organizations based in Cebu who rescue stray animals.

There, I found and messaged MARO about my interest to adopt a rescue.
Dan Vetter, the director of MARO, asked me to visit their shelter first so I could properly connect with one.

And that really moved me big-time because there were so many rescues that deserve a loving home. It tore me apart knowing I could only afford to have one back home.

Nevertheless, after 6 hours of savouring their warm hugs, I found my new soulmate. A week after, Dan personally brought our newest family member back home–the sweet, young boy, Marley.

The Virtual Charity Event

In March, I launched the “How To Be a Rockstar Virtual Assistant in 2021” fundraising event. My goal was to teach professionals how to switch their careers online and become Virtual Assistants and Freelancers.

Then, a U.S. client who also became the event’s sponsor, Tartle.co, pledged a gracious donation for every sign-up.

Fast forward to the day of the event, I gave a 2-hour webinar live training to the attendees, which had enthusiastic individuals who were really eager to improve and develop their careers online.

Fortunately, we were also able to gather enough sign-ups equivalent to PHP 50,000 for Children of Asia-Philippines and Mayari Animal Rescue Organization (MARO).

Over the weekend, I was excited to personally donate them on-site amidst the COVID-19 restrictions and protocols in the city.

The Bayanihan (pronounced as buy-uh-nee-han) is a Filipino custom derived from a Filipino word “bayan”, which means nation, town or community. The term bayanihan itself literally means “being in a bayan”, which refers to the spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation to achieve a particular goal.

To witness the amplified impacts when people work together to achieve a goal, especially when the ones in need would benefit it the most is priceless.

The Bayanihan Spirit

The concept of Bayanihan is a traditional one when the town’s people were asked to lend a hand to transfer/relocate a family and literally, their entire house (which is traditionally a bahay kubo, that is made out of bamboo and nipa/anahaw leaves) to a new place.

Without everyone’s effort and cooperation, the success of the event would not be possible. Amidst the pandemic and its economic impacts, it is amazing to see people of different walks of life willing to lend a hand for others.

What’s more is that the bayanihan spirit shined the most because we all had the same goal in mind, which is to not only move our professional lives into a virtual direction but to bring the lives of children and stray animals to a better state or welfare– where good education and good health resides.

Thank you once again to everyone who participated in this event. You are the true rockstars!

On this day, 20th of March, last year was my last day in Dubai as a Social Media Content Writer for a big travel company. Fortunately, they got me a direct flight from Dubai to Cebu to seek refuge in my home country, The Philippines and a few days after, my country shut its doors down from the rest of the world.

Retrospectively, a day before my flight, I was lying on bed in my room, looking up to the ceiling, crying and confused. 

Working for a big company and doing the job I am most passionate with are every career-minded person’s dream come true. It was my chance to take my skills and knowledge internationally too.

“Am I giving up on my dream?” 

I was thinking of how difficult it would be to get back on track knowing how competitive the market will be.  I was terrified of the thought of having to go back to scratch again after experiencing the international limelight and stage, which was challenging and exciting.

I was mortified of the thought of flying back home. 

Everybody was telling me that I have to fly back home so I won’t be caught in a lockdown in a foreign country and in Dubai no less which was expensive to live by without work. Every second was an emotional torment and a mental dilemma between my dream and a pandemic.

Nevertheless, my boyfriend at the time, convinced his heart out and advised us both to fly back to each of our home countries. He was in the events industry, I was in travel — industries that took the immediate repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And so, today marks one year of that life-changing experience — I lost my dream job, I was separated from my significant other, I had to move out of the place I was starting to build my own life on.  But what has happened during the year of lockdown and quarantine?

Yes, I thrived.

When I got back home on the 20th of March last year, I had NO online clients. 

I took a few months off of virtual assistance thinking I wanted to focus on my corporate job and my personal relationships.

So, I had no time to waste. I remember only having 20k of savings left in my bank account, but still, I bootstrapped myself into self-employment, into Virtual Assistance and Freelancing. It was my only option during the quarantine period.

I hooked up with the lowest internet plan I could have. Fortunately, my last U.S. client gave me a laptop as a gift before I left for Dubai and I used it to kickstart myself into the online world.

I refreshed and updated my online profiles — LinkedIn, OnlineJobs.Ph, CV/Resume, etc.

I relentlessly day and night sent out relevant applications to clients and digital marketing agencies and got into a series of interviews and test tasks for the next 2-3 weeks.

Fortunately, in April, I got a part-time Virtual Assistant position with Kimberly Brown of Gr8CollaborationVA, a U.S.-based Virtual Assistant agency.

For me, it was a sign.

I kept on sending out applications because I knew I had to make ends meet here for me, my mom, and my younger brother.

Like your average Filipino child, I have been financially helping my parents since I was 16; so, working twice or quadruple times more is not news.

Fortunately, now, with enough effort, patience, and hardwork, I am working with multiple clients now (looking to keep me for the long-term)!

Ever since I was a child, I have always told my teachers in school that when I grow up, I want to help children and animals in need.

My parents have so much devotion in faith and good education. They did their very best amidst the financial challenges and strived to send me to private schools and to a premier university in college. Of course, I had to assist them with it via gaining scholarships too.

So, back in October 2020, I gave out a trial webinar for Virtual Assistants (VA) and Freelancers and guess what, I got a really good response from the people. I was able to help 3 Virtual Assistants/Freelancers from that trial webinar to find new clients!

In November (on my birthday) 2020, I launched my own podcast for VA and Freelancers, The Rockstar VA Podcast. I was lucky enough to have enough experience and enough professional network to create and launch a podcast. And I’m still gaining and creating more connections online!

And just on February this year, I launched this portfolio website — shielapialago.com that digitally houses all my experiences and initiatives!

And now, I have an online fundraising event that aims to help in so many ways!

The “How To Be a Rockstar Virtual Assistant in 2021” aims to:

I know, it’s nuts!

All these efforts have sprung because of my career in Virtual Assistance and Freelancing. But in the bigger picture, all of these happened amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking back, I could have been in a different place if I remained stubborn and did not take heed of the advice of a few trusted people. In fact, I would not have been able to create my own digital garden if it weren’t for all the things that happened this year.

A Friendly Reminder

If you have gone through worse, I do still believe that there is a reason for everything that happened and most definitely, a door of a big opportunity is going to open up for you.

Continue to be brave, take a deep breath and step into the challenges of the opportunities set for you. Pro Tip: Identify what you did right and wrong today. It makes you more self-aware but not too anxious as I am!

Create your own “digital garden”, your own virtual space where you can let your plethora of skills and expertise shine!

Things may not make sense at the start, but oddly, the universe has its own complex way of assembling your life’s puzzle.

I hope you made the most out of 2020 because you will never probably have that enough time off to spend with our family, loved ones, and even to ourselves too.

In 2021, you are going to do great and even better than last year!

As a Freelance Digital Marketing VA, I get to meet and talk with different kinds of business owners and entrepreneurs. Some instantly click and stick well with me and my personality, some just feel bland and downright “uh-oh” kind of vibe. More recently, I had a very humbling experience with a potentially great client but here’s why I had to end it.

The Exciting yet Blinding Start

With every discovery call with a new client, I always check in with my client’s personality through the first few sentences that he/she engages with me– does she/he have a bubbly and upbeat personality? Or is he/she the calm and collected type? 

In my experience, clients are not always exactly those two types of people but they often play around those areas in front of their VAs at least. And in my current roster of clients, I work well with both.

Not that I forcibly adjust my personality to theirs, but first impressions always work both ways. I have first impressions towards my clients and my clients instantly create impressions about me… It’s a human thing.

And even if no matter how bad or rough my day was, I always put that smile on my face just to welcome them as much as I would welcome my first-time visitors to my house. I think that’s fair enough, right?

And so, I got to speak with this new client and we talked for about an hour about the tasks, the expectations, the deliverables, the communication, the PRICE and what-not, the usual stuff. 

Everything was all so blinding, especially that the price was right, oh yes! Clearly, I am still a victim of the money mindset. So, I was so eager to start with it.

The primary tasks were really something I could do well enough too but I also knew and told the client upfront that I could not do it alone due to time constraints. 

So, I suggested having another VA to assist me with the tasks, right. Honestly, I was already expecting that person to disagree to that offer but surprisingly, it was not an issue to the client as they only care for the end result, the deliverables, the content that I will put on.

Well, I thought, that’s GREAT! That’s settled! 

So I prepped up a VA Contract and started on the tasks right away.

Skipping an Important Step

This potentially great Client was content-focused. They are famous for the valuable content they bring; so, ideally, the content had to be crafted and almost perfectly-synced up to their brand’s voices.

Truth be told, it already takes a lot of skill and time commitment to create quality content, how much more syncing the content to someone else’s tone and diction.

But since I’m stubborn, I convinced myself that I have the time to make this work. In my head, I was like “Hey, you have a VA to help you out. This should be a cake walk!”

Also, I started out as a Content Writer for about 2 years before I explored other aspects of Digital Marketing. I was rocking the pricing tiers of my previous Content Marketing agency because I was able to produce 5-6 articles PER DAY! So what could go wrong, right?

But at the same time, there was also the voice in my head that also said, “Hey, hold up, you have 5 other clients to manage, would you have the TIME? Would you be able to clear your mind and be in the disposition of actually writing something meaningful and not just for marketing’s sake?”

Heck, I thought it was just the imposter syndrome talking. I did not realise then that it was already my ego talking some sense into me. But what did I do?

When my VA submitted his work to me for review, there were so many tasks from other clients that week that I did not have the time to even go through the written work. I took a leap of faith hoping the client would like it, I winged it as they say, but of course, was shot down.

I had to rework on it and was able to save it. The client was hopeful for improvements in the next weeks to come.

I started out as a Content Writer before I expanded out to the other Digital Marketing areas. I knew I was going to do well on this quickly once I gave myself enough time to work on the tasks.

But when the second round of tasks came in, something felt super off about it.

I felt so anxious about opening my inbox or my Slack.

I was putting off the work for later and did all the other tasks from the other clients that “gave me joy”.

I also felt striking pain on my upper back as I was deliberately avoiding the tasks itself.

So I asked myself, “What the heck is going on?”

Because you see, this Client was nice, patient, and kind as well as very soft-spoken when delivering the critique and the necessary revisions. So the Client was great. And the pay was awesome. But why was my mind and body telling me otherwise? 

I asked myself, “Am I being lazy now? Being too picky? Am I quitting for invalid reasons?”

I was so torn and half-hearted about it all that I was forcibly squeezing the words out of my brain to make them feel organic. I knew I had to deliver as fast as I can because the deadline was also on that day or the next and I have other tasks from other clients as well!

Of course, it did not go out well. The client saw several grammatical errors and had to do a lot of revisions before pushing it out on social media.

Damn, that was my stop light.

I skipped the step of reevaluating myself, my availability, and my current situation. I only savoure in my greatness and felt that I could do anything, if not, everything.

So I reached out to a dear friend, Kimberly Brown, and have shared to her this scenario of what was actually going on. She is a VA Agency Business Owner that I also work part-time for, but more importantly, she is a dear friend and a mentor.

For the first time in my VA career, I asked for help. I rarely tend to do so because firstly, I self-search for solutions online (i.e. Google, YouTube, etc) and secondly, I just do not want to be inconvenient to someone else’s time when I think I can do it on my own. 

But this time, it was something different and new altogether. I asked for advice because when I started out as a VA, we never had those VA consultants and certifications on handling clients when I started about 6 years ago too!

So, I thought, apart from my mom and my life partner, I knew that Kim was the next best person who can relate to my experiences and possibly, to this odd event that’s happening to me.

We had about an hour of conversation and as she guided me through my way of thinking, I cannot forget our conversation about how I have actually shifted my focus and passion over the years.

Yes, I started out as a Content Writer but eventually, I realised that I am at my best when I am creating teams for business owners, connecting businesses to the “right” VAs from the Philippines as well as managing teams while creating and implementing marketing strategies for the business.

I have swayed so far away from Ghost Writing that I could not enjoy it as much as I did about 6-7 years ago. 

Now, I am at a stage in my career where I want to actually write for my own podcast, my own blog, my own digital garden so to speak.

Initially, I blamed myself for being a “quitter”, a “loser” and/or “not being proactive enough to foresee the inconvenience” right after I terminated my contract with that client. 

Honestly, I cried it out a bit which was silly but it was cut short to literally 2 minutes because I had to attend another client meeting right after the exit call.

Overall, I just thought I had to end a potentially great client relationship because I knew that it would not be practical and sustainable for me and for the client’s business to continue if I will not be at my best, optimal state of mind and time. I actually wanted to save the client’s time and money from further damages.

A Process in Progress

Fortunately, in the same week where I experienced a bit of a drawback, I had the chance to participate in the Energy Leadership™ Index (ELI) assessment led by Charlotte Smith.

She coaches executive lawyers and lawyer leaders in the U.S. but this week, she gave me the opportunity to take the assessment and even have one-on-one coaching with her! I know! LUCKY DUCK!

Yes, everything did fall into place last week too amidst the hurdle. In that assessment, I learned so many things about myself especially all about the energy that I have towards myself, my clients, and everyone/ everything else around me.

I am now much aware of how much energy I give to stressful situations and how far down low I get when things do not go my way or when problems arise. Right now, I want to give myself a chance to be more conscious of not hitting rock bottom right away and give myself some room and space for mistakes and improvement. Moving forward, I really do want to respond better to stress by consciously bringing myself to a more positive if not constructive level of energy. 

Speaking of level, I also realised that I have the helping and collaborative energy levels in me, which feels amazing knowing that the nature of my work as a Digital Marketing Manager / Freelance Virtual Assistant needs that kind of energy. I do find comfort and relief when I’m helping others whether it be the significant people in life or the business owners I work with. 

At the same time, I realised that I find helping others as well as an escape to heal given that it is my happy place. But this assessment and Charlotte’s coaching also made me realize that I miss that part where I actually deserve to help myself, to heal for the next day and for the next battles to come. It makes a lot of sense because I often bottle things up inside of me and escape all the time which in the end, leads me to burnout and eventually end things impulsively.

The overall experience felt like that of a Hero’s journey in literature – “a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed”. 

I hope this unique experience gives you insights on how to best deal with new clients and to situations when you are in the process of progress to your next potentially great client!  Have you experienced a similar experience? I’d love to hear them!

In a world of instant yet fragile connections, how do we achieve longevity?

Hey there, Rockstar! This is Shiela once again.

Most of the time, I’m on a constant challenge to do better every day for my clients.

Even though we’re a million miles away from each other, I make sure all my efforts are not only seen but felt. 

But along with this also comes that constant overdrive on how to take care of these connections for them to last long.

Eventually, I realized I cannot make “love out of nothing at all” 

Uh, Shiela… What?! 

Earlier today, I realized that I’ve been unconsciously collecting pieces of things that I found to be very useful in my day-to-day working life as a VA.

Allow me to call this, My Rockstar VA Longevity Kit!

Seriously though, these things really do keep me going all day and/or night long!

Posture Corrector & Back Support – VAs, Freelancers, and anyone who lives a sedentary lifestyle are prone to back pain. Don’t let the new age routine ruin your posture! (Shop: Mound via Lazada)

Pocket Wifi – Best backup ever for the Internet connectivity wherever I go. As much as possible, I’m never radio silent. At least, I try to inform my clients way ahead of time if in case, I’m going off the grid for a few days! (Brand: Smart LTE)

Blue Light Anti-radiation Photochromic Eyeglasses – Okay, I have invested enough in this baby because our eyes are the most vulnerable when being in front of the lappy for long hours. Don’t forget to rest your eyes every 2-3 hours and look at the greenery outside! (Shop: Sunnies Specs Optical)

Throat Spray – Meetings after meetings, hot and dry temperature, mild dust allergies …. yes, I need this one big-time every now and then. (Brand: Kamillosan)

Relaxing Rub – Great for neck pain but I think this is the big secret that has really helped me sleep during the day. My mind gets into overdrive sometimes and I have trouble shutting it down. But yes, this baby is not only pain relief, but it’s also my insomnia-relief! The aroma is so relaxing! (Brand: Creations Spa Essentials – Sleep)

Wireless Earbuds – Client calls and virtual meetings with colleagues have been more often ever since I started managing teams; so, invest in good babies for clarity and convenience! (Brand: Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus)

Eye drops – When I started as a VA, I used to have bad headaches, if not migraines. I had it checked and found out it was because of my eyes drying up from so much screen time. My opthalmologist recommended this lubricant eye drops for me! Please consult your healthcare provider on this first. (Brand: Systane Balance)

Tinted Lip Balm – So, this serves in two ways … the balm to avoid dryness and lip cracks and the tint for the video calls! Ha! Yes! I wear makeup with a purpose! (Shop: Lafes from Healthy Options)

PLUS:  Drink 8 glasses of water every day!

AND always remember, self-care is never selfish!

P.S. I’d love to see your VA kit in the comments too!

I often get a surprised reaction when I tell another Virtual Assistant or Freelancer that I can refer them to a client without any strings attached… well, I do!

Because you know that phrase, “Pay it forward“? You “pay it forward” when you respond to a person’s kindness to you by being kind to someone else.

I’m thankful to receive 5 referrals from my Star clients this month alone. It’s actually very kind of them to do that for me given that I’m working for them as well. I think their confidence in me is heart-warming and very selfless.

So the proper “netiquette” to handle referrals is to hop on to that discovery call with each of them to discuss further details. Here I get to learn more:

 If the business model and needs align with my skillset and expertise, CHECK 

 If the client’s personality positively resonates with mine, CHECK 

 If I still have available time, CHECK 

If it DOES NOT, that’s where my hand-picked Rockstar VAs & Freelancers comes in. They are like my cream of the crop.

I do the liberty of virtually meeting with each of them (new connection or old friend) in my free time just to casually chat about our professional lives and hear out each other stories, journeys, and current endeavors too.

And because of this initiative, I can say that the VAs I recommend are pretty solid. I think my love for language and communication has also been very useful in the sense that I can objectively decide who to best recommend for the opportunity.

Going back, not only do I help a business owner but I also get to share that kindness in a form of an opportunity with someone else.

I know these times are difficult for a lot of us. Money is scarce and oftentimes, kindness wilts with it.

Nevertheless, despite the difficulties, I always put in mind that the universe will conspire to make all the things that you deserve happen to you anyway. 

So basically, if you receive kindness from someone today, pay it forward to someone else… even to a stray dog! 

#TheRockstarVAdiaries #virtualassistance #freelancing

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