Personally Virtual Blog

On the 28th February and the 1st March, I braved ‘The Beast from the East’ and made my way to Kensington Olympia for Office*, the annual convention and expo for PAs, EAs, VAs and Office Managers.

On day one, having finally made my way through the blizzard to Kensington High Street, I was pleased to support the VIP VA Team on their stand.  VIP VA - - is an organisation that was set up to champion, support and nurture the VA industry, and Personally Virtual is proud to be a VIP VA accredited business.

On day two – World Book Day and VA day at Office* – I was asked to appear in the book corner to share and sign my book, ‘Virtually Painless: The Unedited Reality of Moving from Personal Assistant to Virtual Assistant, PA to VA, Employee to Business Owner’, which was released in Spring 2017. Despite weather-related transportation nightmares for the VAs of Britain, a surprising number of hardy souls braved the snow to visit VA day and book corner and share their own experiences of life running their own small business with me, which was a fantastic experience. 

Events like Office* are a great opportunity to network with peers and fellow business owners and talk first hand to businesses who offer products and services that could help your own business (or even your customers) to work more efficiently or to expand into new areas of interest.  The majority of Expo’s are free to attend, though many offer some paid-for seminars or VIP networking experiences alongside their free tickets.  One event that I can recommend is The Business Show (held in ExCeL on the 16th and 17th May this year, visit:, as whether you run your own small business or are a key player in the management of a larger enterprise, they have a great range of talks and seminars from a diverse range of speakers that can’t fail to motivate and inspire!  Another bonus is obviously the freebies – if you, like me, love some good stationery, Business Expo’s could keep you in pens for the rest of time.

The best thing about business events like Office* and the Business Show, for me, is the opportunity to take a day outside of your traditional working environment and have the time and space to reflect on your business.  These events can be quite an intensive networking experience too, and chatting to stallholders about your business every five minutes can give you an interesting insight into the aspects of your business that you are most passionate about, and the ones that you aren’t quite so enthusiastic to share details of.  Despite a conference, convention or expo being a day away from your regular work, the value your business could gain from the event could be beneficial! I had a great time at Office*, and am sure you’ll have an interesting day too if you choose to attend a business exhibition in 2018.

12th March, 2018

I have a stationery problem. Even in this digital age, when it’s easy to go for weeks without having to pick up a pen, I can’t walk past a stationery shop without leaving a few pounds lighter and a notepad/pen/post-it note pack heavier.  The primary purpose for this writing material isn’t anything too exciting and ground-breaking (I’m not a secret haiku writer and though I do love a bit of art therapy, I’m pretty sure my notepads aren’t going to be sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds for my doodles and sketches), as 90% of my notepads and post-its are dedicated to lists.

I use lists for everything, from shopping to household tasks and from holiday planning to holiday packing! I also use lists to plan my daily, weekly and monthly task lists for work, though tend to use an online task management tool like Todoist (, Trello ( or Asana ( to do this as I can save emails and upload relevant digital files to these task lists to make it easier to find all the relevant information associated with a particular task when it’s time to complete the work.

I consider myself a little bit of a ‘list master’, so if you are finding that your New Year’s Resolution to be more organised isn’t quite going to plan and need some help finding (and embracing) your inner list-maker, I’ve compiled some helpful hints and tips for you: 

1.) Make sure that you can cross off items – this seems a little obvious, but if you are creating a daily or weekly task list, don’t forget to add the short but essential jobs that you take for granted, like checking emails, creating social media posts, etc.  It’s easy to lose motivation when faced with a long list of large and difficult tasks that doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter, so by adding quick and simple tasks to your list too and actively crossing them off, you will feel as though you are making progress.  It’s all about maintaining the positive mindset! Todoist has a fabulous feature that congratulates you (I’m not sure if it has an associated fanfare) when you complete your set task list for the day and reach ‘Todoist zero’; it’s a simple feature, but really does help to encourage you to be realistic when setting tasks for the day ahead, and considering which tasks could be delayed for a day/week/month if they are not required immediately. 

2.) List individual items – writing ‘Emails’ on your task list might make sense first thing in the morning when you’ve just reviewed your inbox, but what about at 4pm when you’ve returned from a customer meeting and are trying to finish all your ‘must do’ jobs for the day? It’s easy to forget the odd email, especially if you regularly receive lots of them, so make sure that every individual job is listed to avoid this potential problem. 

3.) Be reasonable – you know how long it takes to complete certain tasks, and you know when your customers need work completed by.  Arrange tasks for the day or week in terms of priority, and don’t overfill your daily task list with jobs that simply cannot be completed in the time you have available.  We’d all love to research and write a 1000-word document in under an hour (and proof-read it, and source relevant images), but for most people this just isn’t possible.  A long and challenging task list isn’t going to help your motivation or stress levels! Breaking your working week down into daily task lists can also help you to address potential turnover issues before they arise – does a customer need an urgent piece of work completed in the next 24 hours? If there is a chunk of non-time sensitive work that can be moved, then do it, if not, be honest and let your customer know as soon as possible that you cannot work to their incredibly tight timescale on this occasion.  Trust me, it’ll work wonders for your stress levels! 

4.) Don’t be afraid to doodle all over your nice neat paper to-do list – doodling and productivity are linked according to Sunni Brown, author of ‘The Doodle Revolution’[i].  Brown claims that doodling can improve focus, help you problem solve and deal with challenges more effectively[ii], all things that can help you power through your to-do list efficiently and successfully!

If you love a list, what is your favourite piece of software to create your daily and weekly task list? Or do you swear by a paper list, artfully handwritten on a dozen post it notes and stuck to your PC? Whatever your preference, we’d love to hear your thoughts on all things list related! Find us on Facebook at: or on Twitter under the handle @kathysoulsbyPV – see you there!



[ii] Gasca, P (2014) ‘3 Ways Doodling will help your focus and creativity’ Read more:

15th February, 2018

It’s easy to assume the role of ‘Jack of all trades’ in your business, particularly if you are a sole trader or small business owner with a restricted team.  But should you really try to ‘Do it yourself?’ or is it better to bring the experts in?

In my experience, it definitely helps to carry out some research in the area you want to outsource, or even try carrying out some of the work yourself before you pass it on to a third party, as this helps to ensure that:

a.) you’ve got an understanding of what is a fair/appropriate timescale to complete the work

b.) you know what is involved and can ask for occasional or regular feedback (and actually understand it!)

c.) you can decide whether it is going to be cost-effective to outsource the task, based on the hourly rate of an expert and the potential ROI.

Let’s use the slightly scary example of Digital Marketing to illustrate this idea; Prior to speaking to any Digital Marketing about the work your business needs, it’s worth carrying out some research work into the activity so that you understand what a massive and multi-faceted industry it is (and therefore don’t make the assumption that it’s ‘just SEO’ or ‘just Social Media Marketing’).  Just a few hours of research into the subject will soon lead you to the conclusion that 1 hour of Digital Marketing support per month isn’t going to have you celebrating dozens of number one positions in the Search Engine Results pages for relevant search terms anytime soon! A little research should also help to de-mystify some of the jargon that full-time Digital Marketers regularly spout – PPC, SEO, CPC. O.M.G. Thankfully, with a little reading or a handy homemade glossary to hand, you’ll actually understand what your resident Digital Marketing expert is going on about without just having to nod and smile… Finally, by doing a little research you’ll get a bit of an understanding about the size of investment you’d need to make in an activity in order to see the best results possible; if you can only afford to take on support for a couple of hours a month, but want the results that a full-time member of staff would have difficulty achieving in a 40-hour-week, you’ll need to re-think your approach to outsourcing and consider ‘doing it yourself’ until you have the funds available to seek external help.

Once you are satisfied that outsourcing really is the best option for you and your business, it’s worth making sure that the professional business support provider you are trusting to carry out your work is skilled and proficient in that particular area; cheap labour and a super-quick turnaround may sound appealing, but ‘cheap and quick’ doesn’t necessarily mean that the work is going to be carried out with the precision and attention to detail that you may need.  Seek out an experienced and proven professional to help you with any work that you want to outsource – it may seem like their hourly or package rate is slightly higher, but the likelihood is that they will complete your work far quicker than someone with limited experience in the field, and you can also rest assured that your data and work is in the safe and responsible hands of a business owner who invests in your business by ensuring that they have appropriate insurance and qualifications and/or are registered with specific regulatory bodies set up to take care of your work responsibly.

If you’re a small business owner or sole trader, it’s like that YOU are carrying out every aspect of your business from marketing to finance to day to day admin – not to mention actually delivering the product/service that your business is set up to do!  Chances are that though you are the marketing department, finance team, HR department, client service desk, etc., you don’t actually enjoy all of those jobs. So why not do the ‘unthinkable’ and relinquish control of some of these tasks to someone who actually does like them? I know, mad idea, right? Let me explain how and why it could work…

When you are at the top of your game and doing the job that you were made for (be that sales, technical support, coaching, whatever!) and have the opportunity to carry out the task efficiently, you bring in £X per hour to your business.  When you are carrying out administrative tasks, or doing your marketing (or something else you don’t enjoy) you aren’t able to bring in the £X per hour that you usually can and the actual process of completing the task may be a long and arduous process.  However, if you outsource some of the tasks that a.) take ages because you aren’t very good at them or b.) you’d rather poke yourself in the eye with a fork than complete, you’d have extra hours in the day to go and get your £X per hour, and would be paying £Y per hour for the privilege – probably less than the £X an hour that you are able to make.

Even if the immediate financial benefit of outsourcing isn’t visible (i.e. £X per hour minus £Y per hour leaves nothing, or involves you paying out extra), the long term benefits of outsourcing definitely have value. For example, by bringing a talented and proven external team member (a virtual freelancer, in this case), you are enabling certain aspects of your business to continue, come rain or shine, providing back-up and support if you are out of the office or the country, unwell or on holiday.  The feelings of comfort and wellbeing that an experienced and proven ‘extra pair of hands’ can bring to a small business can be significant, leaving you to recover/sip your G&T at a beach-side café* with significantly reduced stress levels.  So why not consider what you could outsource in 2018?


*delete as applicable


19th January, 2018

It sounds painful, but I can assure you that self-development is an incredibly worthwhile exercise.  It’s all too easy to fall into a familiar routine of household chores and day-to-day work, sitting down every evening to watch the same television programmes before going to bed and starting the entire process again, day in, day out...  A mental or physical challenge to learn a new skill (or improve on an existing hobby) can draw you out of this monotonous state and give your personal and professional life a boost, though I know that can seem like a far-fetched idea on a cold, grey January day, when all of the motivation and inspiration that swept you in to 2018 like some kind of productivity god appears to have vapourised.

Learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby – regardless of whether it is a physical activity or a more sedate occupation – has been found to improve both psychological and physiological wellbeing.  A 2013 article in the Washington Poststated that “research has shown that people who have hobbies are generally healthier, and have a lower risk of depression and dementia[1].  Last year I had a go at both painting and paddleboarding (with dog!) and those times really were the most relaxed I felt at any point in the year – even with the likely risks of falling into cold water or creating something that looked more like a 3-year old’s finger painting effort than a Monet.  

Learning new skills can help to keep your brain active and, if engaged in a team sport or if you are learning in a classroom setting, the social benefits of getting out and about and interacting with different people can also prove to be a rewarding experience, particularly for remote, lone-workers like small business owners and self-employed individuals, who can potentially go for weeks without having meaningful face-to-face interaction with anyone! Trust me, it can happen!

Admittedly, making time for a new hobby or course can be a difficult process in itself! If you’re already busy at work or have a million and one things to do at home every day, it’s difficult to justify spending an hour or two a week on what could be perceived to be a ‘frivolous’ activity.  But self-development isn’t a purely selfish act – with the health benefits associated with hobbies, it’s an investment in your own future, and an aid to relieve stress that could otherwise manifest itself in other aspects of your personal or working life.  Upskilling via an online or open course, or even the odd webinar, will also help to benefit your clients in the long term; you may be able to offer them an additional service, or have greater knowledge in an area that you already work in. So, block out a regular slot in your diary for self-development, and treat it as a business necessity, just like invoicing and marketing, to ensure that your business remains competitive and sustainable.  There’s never been a better time to start.

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