Admin Etcetera

Interviewed by Virtual Assistant Forums

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Virtual Assistant Forums and would love for you to see a copy.  I have included it below for you to read.

Pam Hower, President of Admin Etcetera, has 25+ years experience as an Administrative/Executive Assistant and during that time acquired a number of highly marketable skills. After Pam and her husband moved from London, England to the sunny beaches of Sanibel, Florida, she decided it was time to put those skills to use in her own freelance business, and Admin Etcetera was born. Pam’s exceptional organizational skills are put to the test on a daily basis as she juggles business and personal life. Her excellent people skills come in handy at the many networking events she attends, and her strong management skills help facilitate successful, long-term relationsihps with her clients. Pam admits she is always learning new things – which is especially important for a Virtual Assistant, who must support not only her own growing practice but her clients’ businesses as well. Pam has been a professional VA and business owner for nearly a year and looks forward to celebrating this exciting milestone in 2010. She agreed to chat with us about her definition of success, what it means to her to be a Virtual Assistant, and shared a few words of wisdom for newbies to the profession. You can catch up with Pam right here at Virtual Assistant Forums, as well as through her Facebook business page.

How long have you been a virtual assistant and what drew you to the industry?

I am getting ready to celebrate my one year anniversary of being a Virtual Assistant and am so glad I found this industry as it has been a wonderful year. My husband and I live in Florida and our two daughters live in Pennsylvania. Having a virtual business affords me the flexibility of taking my work with me when we go visit the girls for extended periods of time. We were in PA for seven weeks this past summer. We rented a house ten minutes from our younger daughter and our two grandsons – had internet hooked up, connected our phone to the computer, and worked away. It was great. I had all the conveniences of my home office at my “satellite” office. I worked on a major project from PA and had no problems at all. I love the flexibility of this profession. It fits my lifestyle perfectly.

Can you describe the startup process of your VA practice as you remember it? Please share your biggest triumph and biggest hurdle you had to overcome.

Before I started my practice I did a lot of necessary research to make sure I would be able to accomplish what I wanted. There are state and local regulations that a new business owner must be aware of. A business plan, a marketing plan and a website are a must. An office must be set up with all the necessary equipment that will be used. I think the biggest start up hurdle that anyone has to overcome is self promotion. It is really hard for some people to go out in public and talk about themselves. But you are your business and if you don’t talk about it, no one will know about what you do. Joining my local Chamber of Commerce forced me to go out in public and become more comfortable talking about the VA industry, my business and myself.

How do you define success? When did you realize you were ‘a successful virtual assistant’?

Success as described in the dictionary is a favorable or desired outcome. I agree with this definition and believe it is tied to a person’s home/life balance. In my case, I enjoy working. I wanted to be able to continue working while I also traveled. Being virtual means I can take my business with me. After being in business for almost a year, I now have enough clients to keep me busy to the degree that I want. The clients that I am currently working with provide me with work that can be done from either of my offices. To me, that is success. I have work to keep me busy, I can do that while I am visiting my daughters and grandsons, and I can still provide quality work for my clients. I have my desired outcome.

What are the top five tools or resources you use on a regular basis in running your own business?

Other than the basics – computer, telephone, printer, internet, etc – I would be in big trouble if I did not have a foot pedal. I do a lot of transcription work and would not be able to do that as quickly without a foot pedal. When I realized I needed a foot pedal I went first to Virtual Assistant Forums for recommendations from other VAs. I think anyone starting out should start at VAF. This is a wonderful resource for information. If you have a question about the industry, you can find your answer here.

Has your ideal client profile changed at all since you first started your business?

Not really. I have a few retainer clients that are female small business owners. This is what I expected. I have been able to help these women with projects they don’t have time for. They have been receptive to my suggestions and have grown their business because of them.

What do you love most about being a virtual assistant/self employed businesswoman?

This business affords me the opportunity to meet so many people while at the same time I am able to do things with my family. My family is extremely important to me, so I love the fact that I have the freedom to set my own schedule.

What’s your best advice for aspiring VAs thinking of starting their own practice?

VAs just starting out need to do their research. Check out the forums and ask questions. VAF is a great place for getting answers. Newbies also need to realize that this is a business, not just something to do when you feel like it. It takes dedication to the craft, and lots of time. You must be patient and build your business, your brand, and your reputation as a business owner.

As you’ve fine tuned your business, are there any services you prefer not to offer? How would you handle a request for these services from a new or potential client?

I am not a bookkeeper and do not offer this service. There are a lot of people out there who need this service and I get asked about QuickBooks quite often. I explain that, even though I use QuickBooks for my own business, I am not a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor and do not recommend using someone who is not one. There are so many ins and outs of bookkeeping that someone who does not know all the little things could really do an injustice to a business’ books. Someone who really knows what they are doing could save a business a lot of money. I know a number of VAs who are Certified and will gladly recommend one of them if needed.

Do you network locally? If so, what methods for contracting new clients have you found to be most successful?

I belong to the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce. They hold a monthly luncheon and a monthly After Hours. They also are always promoting new members with Grand Opening activities. I attend as many functions as possible and am becoming friends with many of the local business people. I always make a point of introducing myself to any new members. It makes them feel welcome to the group and also gives me the opportunity to promote my business. I always ask for a business card, which I will then add to my mailing list. I also make it a point to send a short note or email to anyone I have just met saying how much I enjoyed meeting them.

How do you feel about social networking for business – do you implement it and if so, has it been a successful addition to your marketing efforts?

Social Media Marketing is a must for any Virtual Assistant. It is a great way to keep up with your peers while at the same time connecting and building relationships with clients and potential clients. I believe that Social Media is not enough though. It must go hand in hand with marketing and networking in person. You still need to get out there and meet people.

Is there someone in our industry you admire? Can you please tell us about that person and share the reasons why you look up to them?

When I was first researching this industry I looked for local VAs and came across Dawn Riley of A Virtual Assistant in Paradise. I sent her an email and she responded immediately. We talked on the phone a few times and even met for breakfast. She is a very successful business woman, a grounded, wonderful person and she seems to know what her priorities are.

Please take us on a tour of your home office – can you describe how you have it set up and what you love about it?

I love my office. My husband and I both work from home and originally had the extra bedroom set up as a shared office. I found myself taking my laptop and leaving the office to work somewhere else when he turned the TV on at lunchtime or talked on the phone. So I decided to move my office out of the bedroom. I bought a really nice desk that fits perfectly on our back porch. The porch is all glass doors that open when the weather is nice. It looks out over a lake. I can sit and watch the alligators sun themselves. We also have a lot of big birds that come to the back yard. It is a very peaceful place to work.

Looking ahead, what’s your five year plan?

On the personal side, my husband and I hope to buy a new house this summer, so that will keep me busy for a bit. I also want to continue traveling and visiting my girls and grandsons. On the business side, I love what I do and want to continue doing it. I have learned so much this past year and have met so many wonderful people. My five year plan is to continue learning and providing my clients with quality work.


  1. Birgit Olson says:

    Congratulations on the interview – I very much enjoyed reading it. Good luck to you!

    • pamh53 says:

      Thank you, Birgit! My family is very important to me and I enjoy my professional life. I am fortunate that the two work well together. By the way, I checked out your website. Very nice. Do you frequent Virtual Assistant Forums? I don’t remember seeing your name.

  2. Birgit Olson says:

    Yes, that is why I love what I do also. I started this business because I wanted to help business owners in my community and I needed the flexibility, but have been very fortunate that it turned into something I absolutely love doing. And yes, you are correct, I have not taken the time to answer questions on VA forums – it’s a whole new world to me. Good luck to you and I’ll keep reading your blog.

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