Helen Haslam is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant business, Virtually for You Ltd.
After working for over 20 years as a high-level Executive Assistant, mostly within the NHS, Helen took the decision over two years ago to diversify and enter the world of Virtual Assistants. Since then, Helen has seen her business go from strength to strength. Specialising mostly in lifestyle management, her clients have and include a celebrity sportsman, High Net Worth Individuals, famous artist, government official, alongside corporate clients such as a recruitment firm, the City of London and a digital bank to name a few.
Helen’s expertise centres around demanding diary management, inbox management, managing personal finances, travel, property management and many other personal lifestyle tasks. Helen also has extensive skills around risk management and internal governance, as well as board level management and report writing.
Who or what inspired you to become a VA?
I’d originally looked into the idea of being a Virtual Assistant over 12 years ago, however, the business world wasn’t ready for the virtual world, so I put the idea on hold. After seeing how Covid impacted many businesses and how being forced to work virtually had opened many people’s eyes to a more efficient and cost effective way of working, it inspired me to try my dream again, this time, the world was ready!
Have you had any support starting up as a VA (mentor/family/network/financial)?
I have pretty much had to build my business and dream myself, my partner has given me emotional support, and had to put up with long nights and weekends of me working, but it has mostly been a journey I made on my own. I have tapped into the many available VA networks for support and advice.
What has been your highlight since starting your business?
My biggest highlight was landing a celebrity client, from my humble beginnings. For most people, working for a celebrity is a dream, I would have never thought that I would land that dream.
What was your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge was when I lost my largest contract, which was with the NHS; overnight my income for the business dropped dramatically, and I was left in the awful situation that most businesses or self-employed people face when they lose their biggest customer. I thought I can either dwell and stress about it, or do something about it, so I networked, worked hard and got myself out there. Within two weeks, the gap was filled.
What tools/apps/software can’t you live without?
I do love a spreadsheet. One of my clients always jokes when we have a meeting and there is something to plan, he always says “I feel a spreadsheet coming on here”. As I love organising, Trello is my go to for planning, as well of course as a trusty notepad!
Were there any times you wanted to give up? What kept you going?
When I lost my largest contract I thought, give up Helen, go back to full time employment, but I loved what I did and I had come too far to give up, so I didn’t!
What three words would you use to describe yourself, and why?
1. Strong – I don’t have much of a support network as I have no family, everything I do I have to do alone, and I have succeeded. I look back on my life and alone I have built a business, raised a child and bought my first house without any financial help from anyone.
2. Confident – I see myself as quite a confident lady, I think that comes from being strong when you have to be, I never feel phased or allow anyone to disrespect me.
3. Organised - I have that many to do lists, pads, planners, apps on my phone, I have no excuse not to be!
What has surprised you about becoming a VA?
I have been surprised at how diverse my client base has been. There are so many industries that use VAs and I had not realised how many there were.
What is the biggest misconception you had about being a VA before you became one?
There are so many adverts and online chats about how you can work very little hours and earn £6k a month, that is so not true!
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
My two biggest passions are walking and learning. I recently made the move 160 miles away to live in the Lake District, that’s how much I love walking, and me and my two spaniels can often be found, albeit with difficulty, on a mountain top somewhere. I’m also a big believer that you should never stop learning, because the world never stops teaching. I aim to alternate between a course for my career and then my personal studies. I’ve studied some weird and wonderful subjects such as Egyptology and Forensic Science!
Who would you most like to meet, and why? What would you tell them?
It sounds cheesy, but my younger self; I want to tell her that you will be ok, life will throw you many curveballs, but you are more capable than you know, oh and you really aren’t overweight, just wait until you hit menopause!
What is next for you and your business?
My main goal is to build on my client base and reach as many people as I can. I myself know how hard it is to get that work/life balance right, and I see so many professionals whose personal lives suffer as they have no time to concentrate on this and their business. I want to help as best I can to change this for them.
Is there anything you would change about your VA journey?
Nothing at all, I have loved my journey so far, and if I had to do it all again, I’d not change a thing
What is the ultimate goal for your business?
To build a team of successful VAs, so we can help as many people as possible
What advice would you offer other new or aspiring VAs?
Keep going when it feels like you are getting nowhere. So many new VAs give up early on as they haven’t got many clients, sometimes you have to use resources and agencies that may not pay the best rates, but this is a great springboard to use until you get established and understand the virtual world more.
You can find Helen at:
This blog was prepared or accomplished by Helen Haslam in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Kayleigh Johnstone or COZ PR.