Christine Southam is the CEO and Founder of CS Virtual Assistant.
Before having a child, Christine spent more than a decade building up experience as an Executive Assistant in London and Berlin in social sectors: local government, higher education and environmental not-for-profit. As a Virtual Assistant Christine supports and amplifies the clients who are thought leaders and change makers in the purpose-led industry. Her commitment, work ethic and attention to detail are held in high regard by her clients.
Christine is also supported by a strong team of eco-conscious collaborators to provide a wide range of additional services under one roof, including, digital marketing and course creation.
Who or what inspired you to become a VA?
At the end of maternity leave I realised that going back to work would mean missing everything I wanted from parenting. I decided that I’d create my own future as a freelance Virtual Executive Assistant in order to provide for my family while being able to dictate my own working hours and be flexible to my family needs.
Have you had any support starting up as a VA?
Family and friends don’t understand the freelance world nor do they understand the VA world so the best support came from other more experienced VAs in FB groups. I have invested in a mentor or two along the way but, definitely choose one that resonates and empathises with your personality and character and has relevant experience. Nothing came instantly. Building a business from scratch has been very rewarding but I also made and learnt from a lot of mistakes. I honed and refined my valuable knowledge and skills from my time in employment but, as a freelancer, there’s so much more to running your own business than just turning up to do the work. I’ve kept my knowledge current through training courses, staying at the forefront of industry news, apps for efficiency as the virtual world has blossomed and smart, talented role models.
What has been your highlight since starting your business?
The clients and stakeholders I serve are my daily highlights. My choice of clients are organisations and people whose vision is directly aligned with my own and are people with whom I get along. I support a broad diversity of local and global partnerships and networks of organisations to connect and work together, aligning vision and uniting efforts to ensure that societies are more inclusive and the global economy thrives, sustained by healthy global commons, on a stable planet.
One of my client’s missions is to “empower citizens, cities, companies and countries to become effective stewards of the global commons”.
In addition, I provide a service for aspiring Eco- friendly VAs who want to build their own business. Nothing is greater than taking new aspiring Virtual Assistants under your wing and being generous with knowledge, support and guidance.
What was your biggest challenge?
Realising that there are at least 3 different versions of me has taken some time e.g. the worker, the CEO, myself, being a mum etc. Being the person who does the client work and the CEO are two different roles and both deserve an equal share of time. The CEO spends time on the financial, relationship building and marketing side of business. This is just as important as doing the actual client work. On a more personal level, maintaining a firm line between work and private life for balance, good mental health and well-being ensures that all the different versions of me are able to work harmoniously with one another.
What tools/apps/software can’t you live without?
Google for document sharing
Time recording apps such as Toggl
Pomodoro timers for time management and sticking to task
Canva for graphics and scheduling
Password lockers such as LastPass
I’ve written about some here in my blog - 6 Essential Programmes and Apps for Virtual Assistants - CS Virtual Assistant :: Eco-conscious bespoke, expert, admin support
What is the ultimate goal for your business?
There is a great deal of ambition, growth, and opportunity in the environmental sector and this is creating a very real need.
My vision is to inspire a new generation of freelance thought leaders and change makers in business in the purpose-led industry.
I am passionate about empowering women, youth, indigenous people and those from the global south. These groups tend to be those less frequently invited to take a seat at the decision making tables. Those who do make the decisions tend to be people whose livelihoods are not affected by the climate crisis and planetary emergency we are watching unravel before our eyes.
What advice would you offer other new or aspiring VAs?
Choose skills, an industry, a niche which you are passionate about so that despite doing it day in and day you still feel really motivated.
Make sure you maintain a good balance of all your physical, spiritual, emotional and cerebral needs for yourself to feel harmonious and be as effective as you possibly can be.
With client facing communication combine conscientiousness, efficiency and economy to so that you are always there when they need you but never under their feet. You do not burden them with your problems and challenges but, you are proactively solution focused.
My current social media tip is to not burden the reader with problems - they have enough of their own instead declare a shared value, the problem you are fixing and your suggestion of a solution.
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