You feel you have no time? I know you are busy! Today we are talking with Samantha Barber about Virtual Assistants (or PA for Personal Assistant) and how you can use them to liberate your time. Don’t be afraid to delegate. Here is how to do it, and it may be way cheaper than you think!
Ney Torres: [0:02] Welcome to the show! Today, I’m talking to Samantha Barber. Hello, Sam! How are you?
Samantha Barber: [0:07] I’m well. Hello, Ney! How are you?
Ney Torres: [0:10] Thank you for your time. Again, we are going to talk today about virtual assistance. And Sam, it’s great to have you here today because you can to explain us, just for the people that are thinking about or maybe never thought about hiring somebody as a virtual assistant, or maybe somebody’s thinking about going into working online or working from home. Can we talk to those people? Can you start by telling me your story? How did you end up in virtual assistance?
Samantha Barber: [0:43] Okay. I started out initially working in the film industry of all things. I was working in production. And so, I’ve always been doing an organizational crane of roles. And then, we had the recession back in two 2008 – 2009 kind of time and my job just basically disappeared that I trained up for because the film industry fell apart in the UK.[1:11] In the end, I looked at where I could move my skills to. I thought being a personal assistant will be good. I managed to land a job working as a personal assistant for a director, a British director/writer who was doing project out in Israel of all places. And so, I ended up going out with him and spending seven months living out in Israel and working out in the production now being his right hand. It was a very good way to learn the key skills to being a PA who work very closely with the person they’re supporting. And it was very much 24/7 role. [1:54] And so, from there, I then went on and I worked in a mixture of companies. For example, I worked for the Universal Pictures in their corporate offices. But then, I managed to land an opportunity to work for the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales. And that was a really fascinating experience where I managed all his business and his personal side of things. It was a very demanding role, but very enjoyable. [2:23] And so, from there, I then went on to another position working for a consultancy. I needed to take some time out for myself. I’ve been working very, very hard for many years and haven’t really had a break. So, I ended up coming to Ecuador. It’s where I actually still live. I came just to get some experience to train as a yoga teacher but it was more to get some retreat aspect. But as a result of that, I realized that I really like to help but I wanted to keep having an income and be able to work from home and do some volunteer stuff. And so, I contacted my previous employer and he took me on as a virtual assistant to help with some issues that he was having because the person that had replaced me hadn’t worked out. And in the end, we did it for a trial basis for three months, which ended up carrying on for well over three years. So, our work from home arrangement that worked well for me. [3:25] A lot of people think that with an assistant they have to be based in an office. There are jobs that, of course, it is better to have person physically there in the office with you. But there are many things that someone like myself can help you with where you don’t even have to really physically be in the same room or even the same country as a person that you’re supporting. So, things that I help people with are for example, schedule management, making sure that they have meetings put in when they need to, organizing personal appointments like medical appointments, hair appointments, and stuff like that. Then, get down to doing very complex travel management. Especially for people who are either very busy with business. But also, I help organize family holidays and things like that. So that involves doing all the research as well and helping get visas and all sorts of things like that, everything that comes into that. [4:29] And then, there’s also the other side of things like helping out on various research projects. So, that’s very interesting aspect for me as well because you never quite know what’s going to be asked of me, but that keeps it very interesting. So, there are a wide variety of things that a virtual assistant can be used for. It doesn’t have to be just for business. Many people do have it for their personal lives. It’s amazing how just some people realize that just having a couple of hours of help a week can really help clear their schedule and help organize them in a way that just make them work more efficiently. [5:04] And I think that people don’t realize how accessible it can be and how flexible people are with that, too. I think many people think of a virtual assistant as someone that you have to have full time. That’s not the case at all, whereas many virtual assistants, they have two or three clients who they do know, a certain number of hours for a week or a month, and that keeps them busy enough. So that’s kind of my story. And also, just sort of how I ended up getting to where I am now. But I very much enjoyed doing what I do. I think that’s the thing is I’m very fortunate to be in this position to be able to be working remotely from Ecuador and having the flexibility to live my life as well without being a solid sort of 24/7 role which I’ve done in the past. So, it’s nice to live in a completely different way.
Ney Torres: [6:02] Yeah. I just can add a couple of things there. It’s amazing. When you find somebody you can trust how, as you said, having those two extra hours sometimes it’s just the whole difference between breaking down or making things happen. You might think that… Sometimes, I think you might think I’m crazy because whenever I have an idea, I just send it to you. And it’s like, “Sam, would you find about this?” And, the problem I see with a lot of people that I’ve talked about virtual assistance is that they think that they don’t have anything to assign. I don’t have as many things but then you ask them like if they have time for anything else, they’re like, “No, I’m so busy. I’m so busy.” Well, you can assign a lot of things. Anything from research to buying things online. It can easily take a couple of hours away from you.
Ney Torres: [7:08] In my personal case, I need to research a lot of things. And as an entrepreneur, if I have an idea, I have to educate myself in regulations, cost, budgets. And 99% of the ideas don’t work. So that’s when Sam is extremely efficient on that because it’s more important than having a to-do list is to have a not-to-do list. And Sam helps me to put those ideas that are maybes in my head to the not-to-do list the fastest way possible, if that’s the case.[7:48] So, Sam, what would you say to people that are looking into this? Or can we try it? Because, again, you don’t need to hire somebody, as you said, full time. That’s what I like about Sam. I will say, “Sam, can you take an hour to check this out?” But if she takes 20 minutes, she will say, “No, I just needed 20 minutes and this is the result.” And sometimes, well, it takes longer but I can trust you. And that’s the whole point. What would you say to the people listening? “Hey, give it a try. Why don’t you try maybe outsourcing this?” Or these are what you need to look into somebody when doing PA?
Samantha Barber: [8:31] Yes, I agree. And I think trust is actually very important. It is very difficult when you’re taking on a complete stranger to then be able to go like, well, you know, sometimes you’ll be dealing with a lot of confidential information as well and it’s just a case of feeling that you can build up a rapport with someone. But it’s amazing, the little things that can really make a difference. Some people just might want to have some research doing like I do for you. And it’s amazing how it’s something that you might anticipate just takes half an hour. And then before you know it, like two hours have flown by, and you’ve only just scratched the surface. And that’s the way that having a virtual assistant can really help because it is just taking those little things off your mind.[9:21] There are plenty of assistants out there who can help you at ad hoc things. You don’t have to take on someone with a big, elaborate contract, having a minimum term of like six months and doing a minimum of 20 hours. There are people that just say I’m available for you each month. You just tell me what you need, and I’ll charge you X amount for an hourly rate. Or if you need, I can definitely put aside let’s say 20 hours a month. You can just say, “Okay. I want to pay you to use you for 20 hours a month for whatever I throw at you.” Many assistants will just do what’s known as a retainer rate. So, you pay a certain amount each month and they will fill those hours. And some will roll it over if you don’t use them all to the next month. And then, you then have someone at your disposal when you need. So, there are those kinds of different setups available. Many people in my experience do find it just amazing how much difference it can just having someone else available just to help you out once in a while. It doesn’t have to be a full commitment but if it turns into a full commitment that can be something that works for both parties as well. It’s just about building up a good working relationship. That’s the key thing, I think. Key communication is the thing. Good communication.
Ney Torres: [10:42] Yeah. And I can’t just insist enough to everybody listening. Just get somebody now. Try it. Just try it. You just do it.
Samantha Barber: [10:55] See how it can help. And there are plenty of different ways to hire an assistant as well, especially right now is a good time to look into it. Especially if you’re working from home and you want to maybe try another project. And you want someone maybe that can help you out with certain things. There are assistants out there that specialize in particular things too. For example, I’m more traditional in my approach. My major things tend to be doing diary management and research projects and travel management, that sort of thing. But you have assistants that do social media management there, they build websites. I mean there are all sorts of different ones. Some are bookkeepers in particular. And it can be just these little things that you just need the additional help with. There are very talented people out there who are very helpful.
Ney Torres: [11:49] Yeah, for sure. And for example. Just to give you an example of what I’ve done today, I talked to the podcast editor. You help me with scheduling interviews. So, just for example, when somebody says… Oh, a podcast is a big deal because it’s kind of complex sometimes, but I just have to make a phone call, I record it, then there’s somebody that edits it, and I have somebody else that creates a transcription. And soon I’m going to have somebody else that creates a video out of this. So, I repurpose the content that took me probably an hour into multiple social media and multiple hours and hundreds of people listening to this reading it. It’s just leverages. And, an hour here and an hour there for virtual assistance. And, you know, for a very affordable fee, you can have a show per month. And, that’s an example of how to tackle a new project, for example, but you do need to have clarity in what you want.[13:00] I have two people in social media creating links, comments, stuff like that. And SEO person too. So, what other things do you think the normal people that maybe don’t have a business could find help with? I can think about many things for example. I’d rather study something. I love buying these courses online. I’ve always done it and I always will. When I find that people are really good at something and I just want to learn what they do and they have a course online. Lately, what I’m doing is just transcribing the courses and that’s actually how you and I start. Remember? I just gave you the link. Please Sam, this thing is going to take me like five to 10 hours. Would you please just write the summary down? That’s an example. What are your examples that you think about that a normal person can use virtual assistants with?
Samantha Barber: [14:02] I mean it can easily be just having someone who… If you are terrible at paying your bills on time, for example. There are assistants out there and it’s something that I do for one of my clients is help manage their bills. It’s just making sure things are paid in time. Things are new to, you know, policies and make sure everything’s covered like on the household insurance and cars and that their passports are all in date, and any visas that they need, like for the states and so on and so forth. It can be just as easy as that as being able to just delegate that sort of thing. I’m just trying to think of something else.
Ney Torres: [14:48] Shopping. I hate going to the supermarket and shopping.
Samantha Barber: [14:52] My next thing was like being able to… Having someone that can help with Christmas shopping in particular. It’s something that I’ve done physically when I’ve been able to be there, but it’s like running around helping source particular gifts. And then like getting things sent to your house, and you then wrapping up all the Christmas gifts for that person. And so then, all they have to do is you just have to get the gifts to them so then they can give them to whoever they need to. That is something over Christmas that people often love is to have that kind of service to have someone. They’ll give you a list of names. It’s a sort of thing they like. Or like give specifics and then it’s up to the assistant to go and source what they need. But it can be quite interesting because you can suddenly get led down the interesting avenues and discovering new interesting things yourself. So again, it’s quite an enjoyable task to do. It’s enjoyable for the assistant. And then, for the person you’re helping, it’s a massive help for them because then they can concentrate on 10 billion other things they have to do, especially around Christmas.
Ney Torres: [15:53] Yep. When anybody else from now on tells me, “I don’t have time.” I’m going to redirect them to this podcast and be like, “Okay. This is how you get time.”
Samantha Barber: [16:07] Exactly. It’s about dividing and conquering, isn’t it? That’s the approach that many people are scared of sometimes, but actually, if you’re willing to put some trust and surrender to some of your own stuff and not micromanage too much, it could really help you out. Some people I have worked for in the past, I understand why they have tried to micromanage but I’ve managed to over time just encourage them. “Well, why don’t you give that to me. I know how you’d like this or know what you want. I was in that conversation or whatever.” And just coax them out of trying to control everything. Their lives have been much better for it. It’s just very hard for people to surrender that sometimes. I appreciate that. But in the long term, it really can help improve people’s lives in many different ways.
Ney Torres: [16:56] Yeah. And I’m going start giving some tips here. You can use something called privacy.com, which will create a digital credit cards swipe when you hire virtual assistants and they need to pay for subscriptions or something like that. You can limit with that virtual card how much they spent. So, you can give them a budget per month of $20 or $100, whatever it is that you think that they’re going to need. They never get your credit card. They just have their own credit card. And it’s a couple of clicks away. What other tools do you use?
Samantha Barber: [17:31] Yeah. I mean I think that’s a really good one because it builds up a trust and it protects you in the sense that if you don’t know that person well enough, then at least you know that there’s only a small amount of money on that card but also protects you for anything that is being bought online, just as a matter of protocol. So, if someone were to get hold of those details, then you know, there’s only so much that could be the worst-case scenario.[17:56] But yes, that is something that I think is good. But we also have… You and I, we use some good online tools to work well together. I think that that’s where things have changed in the past couple of years is that online working is becoming more accessible for people and it’s easier to work remotely as part of a team. So, for example, we use Trello, which is a way of like organizing tasks isn’t it? It’s like a to-do list and that’s very good. And also, to track time. There’s always the trust there to a point of people. Someone saying, “Oh, I spent an hour on this or 20 minutes on that.” But the way to keep track of things these days is to use a little online tracker and there’s so many time trackers that you can so you can assign a task and just show when you can stop it and then you use that when it comes to submitting the invoice is then very clear on how much time was spent on everything. So, everyone has a very clear idea of what there is. I think that’s a really good way of managing the time as well of the person. If you have an assistant, it’s a good way to help manage their time as well. So, everyone is very transparent on that.
Ney Torres: [19:13] Yep. Yep. So, guys, just go ahead and do it. Be brave. If you think you have nothing to delegate, I know you do. That’s why you’re not having all the time in the world just to chill out or relax or take the new online course or be more efficient. Just try it out. Sam, where can people find you if they want to learn more about this.
Samantha Barber: [19:37] Absolutely. Feel free to reach out to me. If anyone has any questions, I’m more than happy to help answer them. My website is the nomadicpa.com. And so, you can find all my details there and my LinkedIn. And so, yeah, ping me a message. I look forward to speaking to some of you soon.
Ney Torres: [19:58] All right, see you next episode. Thank you so much, Sam.
Samantha Barber: [20:01] Thank you.
Ney Torres: [20:03] Bye bye.
Samantha Barber: [20:04] Bye.