This interview is one in a series of interviews with virtual assistants. I hope it will help other small business owners overcome that “I’m on my own” feeling and make them realize we’ve all dealt with the same difficulties, doubts, and challenges along the way. There are different types of virtual assistants with different areas of expertise. This interview is with Janet Barclay, a virtual assistant who is “organizing the organizers.”
GT: Janet, you refer to yourself as a “virtual assistant to professional organizers.” How did that come about?
JB: It was really a process that evolved over several years. I started an organizing business and joined Professional Organizers of Canada in 2002. About a year later, one of my colleagues offered to pay me to set up and manage her e-newsletter. I agreed because I thoroughly enjoy that type of work. Then I realized I should be offering those kinds of services. I gradually went from being a “professional organizer who also offers virtual assistance” to a “virtual assistant who also offers organizing services.” As my regular client base for the VA side of my business grew, I realized it was time to discontinue organizing. But because of my industry knowledge and contacts, it was natural for me to focus on that market.
GT: So, how many professional organizers do you work for?
JB: That’s a tough question. Some clients I work for every week, some just a few times a year, and some only once in a while. Let’s just say it’s more than I can count on my fingers!
GT: Wow! How do you keep track of what’s going on with all of your different clients?
JB: I have spreadsheets for everything. One spreadsheet lists all of my clients and when their agreements were signed. Another one keeps track of how many hours each client has on account. And finally, I have one for my weekly task list. For my blogging clients, I create a spreadsheet to organize their blog calendar, tweaking the column headings depending on their needs. I use Google Docs for this, so we can both access current information at any time.
GT: What do you do for your blogging clients?
JB: Anything and everything – from technical tasks like installing WordPress and configuring plug-ins to creative work such as customized theme designs. On an ongoing basis, I take my clients’ ideas and flesh them out into blog posts, proofread what they’ve written, select photos to illustrate their posts, and make sure everything gets put on their blog according to schedule. I also help my clients repurpose other things they’ve written into blog posts (and vice versa).
GT: With so many clients, how do you find the time?
JB: There’s no way I could do it without help! My husband Scott has been working with me for a few years now, and we’ve recently added another VA to our team who is just fabulous.
GT: Since you work with a lot of professional organizers, how can they be confident that you won’t share their business ideas with your other clients?
JB: As a member of the Canadian Association of Virtual Assistants, I’m committed to the Codes of Ethics outlined by the organization, which forbid sharing client information. In addition, my client agreement includes a confidentiality clause.
GT: I know you’re into technology, so I have to ask – Mac or PC?
JB: PC. I was really tempted to buy a MacBook Air last year but decided to get a Dell XPS 15z when my tech person (who is a family member and works for food) pointed out that he doesn’t support Macs.
GT: What kind of phone do you have?
JB: I have an iPhone. It’s not the latest and greatest, but it does what I need it to do, for now.
About today’s guest:
Learn more about Janet Barclay here.