Nichole Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Biz and Tell, the show where we feature coaches, consultants and professionals who share their business expertise. I’m your host, Nichole Santoro of iMarketingSalon.com. As a podcast specialist, I help small business owners become the go-to thought leaders in their industry by helping them launch, market, and maintain their podcast.
Today, I am so excited. My guest is Alicia Jay, a virtual assistant and VA coach with more than 15 years of administrative and business management experience.
She started her foray into the online business world in 2009 when she found herself permanently laid off and pregnant. Determined to do work that she loved and help others while still having time for her family, she created her virtual assistant business.
Over time, Alicia transitioned into her current role as a business and marketing coach to virtual assistants. Alicia’s passion and purpose is encouraging women to follow their dreams of having a business that works around their lives–not the other way around.
Her coaching clients say that she helps put things into perspective and orchestrates a plan to get them moving, while being relatable and supportive.
On any given day Alicia can be found gardening, listening to music, working and connecting with people online, riding on the back of her husband’s Harley, or trying to keep up with her on-the-go little, adorable boy!
To learn more about Alicia, please visit her website at www.newvaadvice.com. Hi, Alicia. How are you today?
Alicia Hi, Nichole. I’m excited to talk to you today.
Nichole I am thrilled, too. I was going to share this later in the episode, but I’m just too excited. I’ll share it now.
As listeners may or may not know, Alicia and her team actually transcribe the episodes that we have here on BlogTalkRadio.com. Every time you see those amazing, detailed show notes on the blog, that is thanks to Alicia and her team.
We’ve been work together for some time now. We worked together a couple of years ago with my first podcast, and now with this one. We’ve been working together for some time.
It’s just been such a pleasure to work with you. Thank you so much for being on my show today. I’m just super thrilled.
Alicia Absolutely. It’s always fun for me, on my end, as the transcriptionist. I get to hear all these wonderful conversations and pick up all those little golden nuggets from the talks and interviews that you have with people.
Nichole Thank you. Let’s get started. Could you share a little bit about your path to becoming a virtual assistant coach?
Alicia Absolutely. You mentioned in my intro that I started out, first, as virtual assistant myself. I do still run my VA business, specializing in transcription.
When I first started that, I was working that business for a while. I was very successful at doing it. Then I started getting inquiries on my VA website, not from people looking to hire me to do their transcription work, but it was from other women asking me how I got started in my business.
They wanted to know, are you a real person? How did you do this? Can I do this? Where did you find information about it?
At first, I just started emailing them back. I tried to think of everything I wish I had known when I started and put it all an email and send that off to them. I did that for a while. Then those messages just started coming and coming.
I had a light bulb moment when I realized I could do something bigger to really share with other women who were in the same position as I was.
The first thing I did was create a course on general transcription and how to do that for people, because when I started, I really didn’t find what I was looking for. I kind of jumped in with both feet, a trial-by-fire situation. Not that I necessarily recommend it that way, but sometimes things work out the way they do.
I made a course for it, and that went really well. I had a live version and a self-study version, which I still run today.
Then the questions started getting more into how to run a business, how to decide what services you want to provide. That’s when I created newvaadvice.com, and started offering coaching and products to help other women.Moms launching a #VirtualAssistant biz often ask Alicia @newVAadvice what services to provide. Click To Tweet
The thing that made it such a natural transition for me was, number one, I was running my own successful VA business, so I got it. Number two, the people who were coming to me were a lot of moms who were in the same position as me.
They really wanted to work at doing something that they enjoyed doing, but do it from home so they could spend time with their families. However, they didn’t know whom to turn to for that.
When I started out online, I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know anyone doing anything online. I thought the only thing out there online were scams, but I didn’t want to give up on that dream I had that maybe I could do something.
There was just something inside me that said, “Keep looking.” I want to be that resource for other women, which is why this coaching came so to naturally to me, to show them that “There are other people doing this and you can do it. I want to share with you what I did so you can make it work for you.”
Nichole That is so true. Yes, this appeals to moms, and especially moms who have been in the workforce, who still have their professional backgrounds, and are still trying to balance that.
It’s not as though that goes away when you become a parent, but at the same time, you do have your family. You started a family to enjoy them. You want to be a part of them, too.
At the bus stop this morning, there was a group of us. I know one of the moms was new to our bus stop and she was mentioning how she was so excited. She’s gone back to work as an architect and they’ve been so flexible with her schedule. She’s been really appreciative of it.
Then she realized the next couple of days school starts late, and so the buses come later. She was saying, “Oh gosh. Every time one of those things happen, it’s panic. How am I going to tell my employer? We don’t want them to think we’re taking advantage of them, the situation or the flexibility.”
There are definitely incredible employers who are flexible and have seen the light, “We’re going to lose a valuable part of our workforce if we don’t take into consideration that there are other things in people’s lives that are valuable and important to them.”
At the same time, for those whose kids are a little bit younger or for their lifestyle reason, they do want to start an at-home business. I think over the years the information online has gotten much better, more valuable.
But the fact that you’ve lived the trenches, the fact that your personality, Alicia- you’re incredibly approachable- you’ve gone in the trenches, you know how to do things, you’ve really built a loyal following. I think that’s fantastic. I love seeing how you’ve grown your business.
Alicia Thank you. It’s always exciting for me to see how things are going to evolve. You can have a plan for something and, in the entrepreneurial world, in the end it might turn out to be something completely different.
Nichole Yes. That’s so true. I’m going to segue into a different question. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I know so much of this you’ve done on your own, charted your own course, but over the course of doing this, have you received some good advice that you want to share?
Alicia Yes. I think it’s such a great question. I did so much on my own, but then eventually you get to a point where I think a lot of people realize, “If I don’t invest in myself and get coaching myself, this could take a whole lot longer and I could make a whole lot of wrong turns.”
I went that route and still work with a coach today. Over time, the big things I think that I learned were, number one, consistency is key. That’s with anything, as far as growing your business, building it, marketing it.
You need to be consistent in the activities that you’re going to take in order to get you somewhere. Also, you can’t just give up after two days. You need to give things time to work and to show you the results. Staying consistent with a course is so important.
The other big thing I learned is that you don’t have to do everything like everyone else does. Yes, I know at first you want to follow experts and gurus who are going to tell you, “This is how things work.”
I think it’s great, but I think you need to look through it and pick the things that really resonate with you and feel good to you in the way that you run your business or the services you offer. You don’t have to do it like everyone else.
Nichole That is awesome. That’s fantastic. I’m going to switch gears into marketing because that sounds like that was related to the advice. Were you trying to follow all the gurus and do everything that was suggested, and what ended up working for you?
Alicia It’s so true, honestly. It’s exactly what I did. What my thought was initially, which I think worked well, was look at someone who is already doing what you do or very successful at it or has done what you’ve done and then moved on to coach other people how to do that. What did they do that worked for them that got where they were? Model that.
This is before I could afford actually working with those people. The things that I found that worked best for me were emailing marketing, building a list of followers, and the other thing would be what I call relationship marketing on social media. No, I didn’t make up this term, obviously.
Nichole Sounds good.
Alicia Right? I think what happens is people get tripped up. They think about marketing offline and what that’s like and what you do. You can do that online. You can transition that online.
You still have to make relationships with people. That’s what I found worked for me. I figured out the market I wanted to work with and then I found those people. I met them where they were online.
It might have been groups or forums or maybe they ran a podcast. Whatever it might have been, I went to them, and I showed up and I was present.
If it was groups, where they were asking questions, I was helpful and tried to answer them. I would share their blog and make sure I tagged them on social media, so that they saw that. I was being authentic, too. I was doing things that I thought were valuable, not just to gain a client.
It’s establishing a relationship with them. I was getting on their radar. I was answering the questions that they had. Eventually, that leads to natural conversations. I could then take that into sending them a direct message or an email and explaining why I thought they were a wonderful person to work with and what I could do to solve some pain points for them.
When you break that down, it’s not a really complicated process, but it is a little scary, to reach out to someone you don’t know and do that. Don’t we do that in networking and meeting events when we go offline, too?
It’s really the same kind of thing. It’s learning how to transition that online.
Nichole Very interesting. I can relate to that, too. When you throw that internet/online term in there, it can be a little bit unnerving and throw people off. They think, “Whoa, what do I need to do?” It turns into a technology conversation, instead of what you’re saying, which is it’s a networking conversation. It’s just in a different place.
All the same rules apply. You don’t want to go out there and say, “Hey, okay, I’m ready. Door’s open. Hire me.” You want to start interacting with people. It does take time. It does take some effort. So we do need to budget that into our schedules as we’re developing our business.
However, obviously you’ve done this for some time. Once you put in that investment, you’ve developed some great relationships. I assume some of these have turned into business for you. Do you want to talk about that? Have you’ve done most of your networking online or have you done in-person as well, Alicia?
Alicia I really focus on online marketing. For me, personally, I did not find my market in my local area, so I moved things to online. I do help clients with both aspects, but I really feel it’s important to find where your market is and do that. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
Maybe you have a local business networking meeting that does really well for you, but you also, for example, work on list building and email marketing. You have a free offer on your website, you bring in people with that, and you keep in contact with that email list. Maybe it’s a combination of things that work for you.
For me, online was it, but I think it goes back to that consistency part, like you were saying. With anything, especially with marketing, give yourself a schedule and set aside an amount of time each day, each week, to work on those activities to be able to see results from them. That’s what worked for me.
List building, I don’t feel like it’s ever too soon to start your list. When I first put a free offer on my site for my VA business, I think the first two people to sign up were my mom and my best friend.
I didn’t just stop there and say, “They’re the only people listening to me.” I knew that I needed to get it out there, that I had this free offer, and get people on that list so that I could give them valuable information so they could see that I was an expert in that area and that when they were ready, they would then look to work with me. That was very successful for me, but it was something that took some time. I had to be consistent about it.
Yes, I got clients that way, through my list, and then my very first client was through that social media relationship marketing. It was Twitter. She saw me talking about something about transcription and got a hold of me through Twitter to hire me.
Nichole I have not heard of anyone getting leads through Twitter. That’s awesome. Because it’s such an active social media platform, it can be difficult to snag people there. That’s really cool. Twitter success story. That’s awesome.
Alicia You’re right. It’s a busy, fast-paced platform, but I think because I was consistent and on there a lot, I showed up when she was there at one moment and that was it. That’s what she needed.
Nichole Okay. I know you’re active in a lot of social media channels. Do you focus on one in particular, or do you try to balance out your time amongst all of them where you have a presence?
Alicia I will be honest. I don’t balance out among all of them because I feel it’s more important to focus where your ideal clients are. Maybe that’s just one or two places for you so that you don’t feel crazy overwhelmed.
For me, right now, my biggest one is Facebook, because I have a free group that I run for virtual assistants. I spend a lot of time in there, because I’ve found that’s where my audience spends time. I can come in there, show up and give them great information and meet them where they’re at.
Nichole I’m curious, because you’ve been in the online industry since 2009, what significant changes have you seen take place over these last few years?
You’ve really got some history. A lot of people I speak with are a little bit newer to the online industry. I’m curious what you’ve seen or some of the differences as you’ve been growing your business.
Alicia That’s a good question. The thing that’s always changing is technology. There’s always something new out there, a new way to do things, a newer way to connect with people.
The nice thing is there have been things that make your life easier. Things like Buffer, where you can preschedule your social media and line up some posts in there to be active. I’m not saying it takes the place of also showing up live and interacting with people, but that saves time.
There are things like Leadpages and other such software that make it really simple for you to set up a sales page or a landing page. It really saves you time in that process.
I’ve found that it’s easier for people like me who are not huge techie people. I’m not. Yes, I know how to do certain things. I did make my own WordPress website when I started and I set up all my own social media profiles, but I’m not a huge techie person.
Over time, I feel that there have been some great things out there that make it easier, even for the non-techies. Look at graphic design, for example. I can go on Canva or PicMonkey and make a pretty awesome picture, and I’m not a designer by any stretch of the imagination.
Nichole Yes. Canva, there’s a little bit of a learning curve, but once I got past it, I use it for everything. I think that’s been a huge boon for a lot of us, who perhaps have more of a writing background, at least that’s just in my case, to be able to provide something that doesn’t look pathetic. Canva has some really professional options that you can actually use.
With graphic designers, then, they don’t have to do “change this text, change this word.” They’re focussing on what they do. They can create beautiful graphics for our website or create templates that you can then upload into Canva and use to create posts.
Canva, I think you’re right. That’s as exciting to me as GPS is, because I get lost all the time. That was another pretty good one.
Alicia I know. The invention of the GPS was heaven for me.
Nichole Life changing. To me, that was the best invention in the last century. I love it.
WordPress, I built my last first couple of websites, too. In the last couple of years, I couldn’t do it anymore. The technology evolved faster than I could keep up. I was lost. I thought, “I’m going to have to suck it up and outsource.” I did, and what a difference. It just made my life so much easier.
As you’ve been talking about how the pace of technology keeps going, I think at some point we have to decide, “At what point can I still handle it and it’s not worth it to outsource it?” versus “This is really taking up too much of my time. I’m actually losing business because I’m being stubborn and not outsourcing it.” I think that’s evolved.
Alicia Absolutely. Because I’m immersed in the VA world, that’s what we always talk about. You want to focus on only the things you can do in your business and outsource the other pieces.
The more you get all this technology and different things thrown at you, don’t let it spin you off in a different direction and spend hours on something that you’re not going to master.
You could much more easily find someone else who is really good at that and let them handle it for you, so you could focus on other things.
Nichole You’ve been transitioning from the VA world to being a coach for VAs. Your transition really has happened some time ago. Nevertheless, I’m curious, how does your coaching process work and what was the transition for you? How does it work and what do you enjoy about it? I’d love to hear more about that.
Alicia I really do enjoy the coaching part of it. Part of it is because I am a helper by nature. Yes, I have a business and marketing background, but before that I was a social worker. I think that really is part of who I am.
This was a chance for me now to tie my helper abilities in with what I knew about business and marketing, and put it together to help someone else in their process.
When I work with someone, of course, we always have an initial call to make sure that we’re a good fit, that they’re in the place where I would be the person to help them, that we would both benefit from the relationship.
I have group programs as well as one-on-one. It’s pretty much the same type of process that we go through when we work together. We really look at a big picture and what someone’s goals are for their business, how they want it to look and feel.
I help them break that down into small manageable pieces and tasks that they can do to achieve that goal. Then we schedule those things, which is a big part of it.
Sometimes people get stuck in making a list of things to do, but then they don’t do the things.
Nichole I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Alicia We’re all good at that, right? We schedule them. We put them on the calendar. Because I also have products and programs besides my coaching, wherever they are in their journey of creating a business or marketing it, I give them whatever products I may have that’s going to benefit them, so that they can move forward.
Then we check in for accountability and encouragement and, the big one, I feel, is to celebrate all of those little milestones. It can be the small things. It can be, “I finally finished my services page on my website. I didn’t tell anyone about it yet, but it’s up there and it’s done.” Yay! Celebrate that. That’s going to get you excited, encouraged and feel more confident to keep going and hitting those other milestones.
That’s how we work the process together. I love seeing that transformation in people. I like seeing how they come in. You can feel the drive and the excitement, but they’re unsure. They’re nervous and scared. We all are when we start out.
I love being able to see that and then watch them go through the process and transition into feeling confident, setting up their business and marketing it and getting the clients they really want to work with.
Nichole Clearly, you enjoy it. You’re just bouncing in the interview. I feel the enthusiasm and energy that you have for this. I did not realize that you had a social work background. That explains your nurturing ability, not only teaching the steps and the process.
You mentioned celebration is very big, which I think is so great, especially when you’re working on anything with your website. That always deserves a celebration because that is just painful. Not as painful as push ups, but it’s up there. It’s definitely, “Ah, I got that done.”
You may have covered this. I suspect you have a lot of answers for this one, but I’m going to ask it anyway. What is your coaching superpower?
Alicia I love this question. I had to think about for a while. What I realized is that sometimes we don’t realize what the superpower is, because it’s just part of us. It’s part of what makes us who we are and why we’re good at what we do. Sometimes we can’t see that right away. I had to think about it, but I came up with a way to say it that seems very superhero-y.
Nichole Good. I’m excited. Let’s hear it.
Alicia I am the slayer of overwhelm.
Nichole Oh, yes!
Alicia When you’re creating or marketing your business, it can be very overwhelming. There are so many people who tell you different ways to do things and there are all these different things that you can buy and Shiny Object Syndrome.
I help people cut all of that out and look at, “Where do you want to be? Now, let’s break it down. How are we going to get you there?” That’s what they love.
They’re no longer overwhelmed. They say, “Oh, well this simple. There are these steps. I can take these steps then, right?” I say, “Yes,” and they say, “Now that you say it that way, I see it. It makes so much sense.”
That’s what I like to help people do. I slay that overwhelm for them. We make it simple and doable, and then we work that plan.
Nichole I love it. The slayer of overwhelm. We’ll have to use Canva and come up with a superhero crest.
Alicia Yes, we’ll have to work on that.
Nichole Earlier you were talking about the importance of building an email list and how you have freebies on your website. I notice when I go to your website, you actually have three amazing valuable freebies that you can get. Do you want to talk about those or any other freebies that you have?
Alicia Yes. I stuck with three for a little while now, because, honestly, I didn’t want to pull anything away from people. I’d rather give more and feel like I’m giving you things to really help set you up for success.
I started with the first piece on there, a report about making sure the virtual assistant industry is right for you and it’s really what you’re expecting of it, because, as I said, there’s so much information out there.
If you get through that one and you decide, yes, I’m going to do this, then usually the next one is, where do I start? There’s that overwhelm. I created this Ultimate Virtual Assistant Business Starter checklist.
People really like the checklist. I give you an order of things to think about. For example, you want to think about your services. How do you figure that out? Here are some resources. Then you want to figure out the market you want to work with. Here are some resources. Then you want to think about your website and what you need on that. Here are some resources.
It goes through that checklist, but it also has clickable links to give you a little more information. People really like that checklist.
Once they get through that, then usually the next thing is, “I want to work with clients. Where am I getting them? How do I find them? Who are they?” I have a report in there for identifying your target market. It’s getting you clear on who you want to work with and why. All of that is part of my freebie package at newvaadvice.com.
Nichole Yes. That’s awesome. When I saw that I thought, “I want that.” It’s just packed with value. It’s like picking your brain of the last five-to-seven years. I definitely would encourage people to sign up and get that freebie.
You mentioned your Facebook group earlier. Who’s typically in that group, and are you looking for new members? How does that work?
Alicia Yes, good question. It is called the Virtual Assistant Empowerment Facebook group. It is a private group, but it is open to anyone who is a virtual assistant or is considering becoming one and they want to know more about it.
The reason why I called it the Virtual Assistant Empowerment group is because I feel that knowledge is power. You can come in there and get answers to your questions. You’re going to feel a lot more confident to continue on your journey.
In the group, there are more free resources that are just for group members. I also hold, which people really like, a weekly live Q&A in there. It’s an actual thread in there.
I will pick a particular day of the week and time, I’ll tell everyone ahead of time, and send you a Facebook invitation for it. I’m in there for a whole hour. People can come in and ask anything they want about building the foundation of their business or marketing their business.
I am there live and I’ll answer whatever I can. It’s a way to get really targeted, free coaching in the group. I switch up the day of the week and the time, because I know there are people from different countries and different time zones. I like it to be open to people.
What people say most about the group is that they feel like it’s a safe place to ask questions, they get the answers that they want, and they don’t ever feel embarrassed or uncomfortable to ask someone.
I like that I’ve nurtured that kind of community. Yes, it’s open for people to join. I love seeing when new people pop in.
Nichole Fantastic. I’m so glad you had a chance to talk about that. I’m in the group and I love it. You just offer so much information generously.
As a reminder, Alicia’s website is www.newvaadvice.com. I highly recommend you go there. Alicia, thank you so much for being my guest today. This time flew. I could just keep talking on and on.
Alicia It did, I know. I loved talking with you. Thank you so much for having me today.
Nichole You’re so welcome. Show notes are provided by Alicia Jay and her transcription team and are posted at iMarketingSalon.com, if there’s anything you missed. This is Nichole Santoro. Make it a great day!