Recently, we sat down with Cindy Opong, founder of Creative Assistants and a 15 year veteran in the Virtual Assistant industry. Cindy is one of Adminja's earliest users and she's has been incredibly helpful in providing insight and feedback to make it better.
Cindy was kind enough to answer some of our questions about how she got started, why striving for "high-end" matters, and where she thinks future of Virtual Assistance is headed:
Let's kick things off by talking about how you got started in the Virtual Assistant industry. How did that happen?
I had been working as an Executive Assistant for HP and got caught up in the tech industry layoffs. I knew I wanted to run my own business again (I had done this before in a different industry) -- and with the growth of the Internet at this time, it seemed that there must be a way to put my EA and website skills to use for small businesses.
I had some rough ideas of what this might look like - I had seen books on running a "Secretarial Services" business and thought it was close, but not quite what I was wanting to do. As I was researching online, I stumbled across the IVAA website and instantly knew that this was it! There was now a name for what I'd had in mind - Virtual Assistant. That was November of 2002 and I've been a VA ever since.
Wow! Fifteen Years! What type of clients have you been targeting?
It took me many years of trial & error and working with different types of clients to define this! I really love to work with high end consultants - usually these are folks who were high end managers in the corporate world and later decided to start their own company. They don't want employees, but do need high level Executive Assistant support. They often start out with little knowledge of how to start and run a small business, what tools are available to them online, and how to set up their internal processes.
I love to work with my clients as they're getting started, bringing my expertise and guiding them through this period; then continue to support them as they grow their business. They really love and appreciate the warm & friendly, yet efficient & knowledgeable interaction I have with them and their C-level clients.
That sounds like a very rewarding model! Is it difficult to stay motivated for such a demanding base?
My family is one of my main sources of motivation! One reason I started my business was knowing I would have children and would want to be home with them when they were young, be available to attend school activities, and not put them in childcare. This has worked out very well, thankfully! I love the freedom this career brings for my family.
Given the variety of clients you have, what are the types of work you enjoy the most?
I love a new challenge and I thrive when I get a request that requires additional training and learning. I'm never bored!
Could you share your thoughts on where you think the Virtual Assistant industry might be in the next 3-5 years?
The industry is evolving very quickly. I see more people who want to take charge of their lives for the freedom and income potential it offers - and they need support as they grow to take on teams.
This is a huge opportunity for VA’s. I hope that in the next 5 years, our industry will flourish and attract more high-level VA’s.
Do you have any tips, or strategies that you’d recommend to VAs who are just getting their feet wet?
Seriously, be an active member and volunteer for online industry associations and local networking groups. By volunteering your time, you gain invaluable experience and contacts, others see your skills and how you work, and your visible to those who may have referrals for you. Several of my top clients have come as referrals from other VAs after working with them in these volunteer roles.
Of course, you know we are dying to know, as one of our earliest Adminja users, is there any one feature that you rely on every day?
The time tracker! I had been looking for a new tracker and it's great that this one is in my task management system. It's easy to use and easy to make edits.
Do you have any closing wisdom, both for new and seasoned VAs, that might be reading this?
Go above and beyond for your clients - be high end and expect the same from your clients and those you work with. If your mindset is high end and high value, you'll be compensated accordingly.
Great advice Cindy! We are really grateful she was able to take some time to share with us!
To read more about Cindy and her team, especially if you are in need of a quality Virtual Assistant, please visit http://www.creativeassistants.com/.
Cindy Opong, owner of Creative Assistants, has a varied background which includes running a Music Therapy business and working at Hewlett-Packard in the Enterprise Server group. She is passionate about working with people and helping their businesses succeed and grow.
Cindy is Past-President of the International Virtual Assistants Association (2009-2010) and led its Board of Directors and over 80 volunteers to implement expanded benefits for over 800 members, design and launch a new logo and website, and increase media exposure for the Virtual Assistant industry. As a Board member for 3 years, she has also served as Membership Director, Vice-President and was instrumental in the launch and growth of the industry’s first online conferences.
You can learn more about Cindy and her work at Creative Assistants.