It was the podcast’s official launch just last week, so I just want to send huge and massive thanks to everyone who subscribed, listened, rated and reviewed the show! With your help, I’m pretty darn amazed to say that we hit the top 20 of the Apple Podcast chart for entrepreneurship here in the UK. Now, admittedly, it was just for one day, but hey! That was rather unexpected! The truth is that a podcast without listeners is as much use as a chocolate teapot, so thank you for supporting me in this way. And extra thanks goes to DropCapCopy_Graeme, John Espirian, Essjae, Dooners and Demeternoth for your kind reviews. 

Now, for today’s special guest.

I’m joined by Emma Peradon from The Flying PA. 

Emma has over 25 years’ experience across various industries and is both a super savvy Virtual PA and digital nomad.

Emma’s love of travelling started in her teens, and just last year she packed up her life here in the UK and took her business on the road throughout Europe. 

In this episode, you’ll hear exactly how Emma’s balanced that desire to travel with her career, as well as the super impressive extreme lengths she’s gone to just to ensure she provides the best possible service to her clients while she’s travelling.

Emma’s contact details are in the show notes, so make sure you connect with her if you need VA support, particularly virtual note taking, or if you’d just like to have a nosey at her awesome travel pics.

If you liked today’s episode, please do leave a review. It will only take a moment of your time and I will be forever in your debt. Thank you so much.

More Emma-related things:

www.flyingpa.co.uk
http://linkedin.com/in/flyingpa
Twitter: @Flying_PA
Facebook: @flyingpa

 

Show Notes

Victoria

Emma, thanks so much for joining me today. So, where are you? 

Emma 

We’re in Portugal at the moment – where we’ve been since the end of March. We’ve been doing European travels for the last year, and then we put down some roots here and bought a little farm, which we’re currently residing in, and then we’ll be travelling later on.

Victoria 

I can’t wait to hear more about that. So let’s go back a little bit. Can you tell me about your background and how your career started?

Emma 

I didn’t go to university straight from school, and my parents both lived abroad. And so when I left school, I went and lived my mum for a bit in Greece. Maybe that’s where I got the travelling part early on at 18 and ended up doing a bit of travelling, and then coming back to England, going back to secretarial college. I had a normal, traditional shorthand typing skill, all that audio typing, traditional secretarial training. And from then I basically spent the next 25 years moving up the ladder going from being team secretary for local council to then working in for the Yorkshire Co-Operative Society for Britain. We moved up to Bradford, and then all kinds of different industries like local government, architecture, the arts, finance, law, and all the industries. I ended up being a PA and then an EA, and then went to be an operations manager for a big sports company, and did that for quite a few years. There was a life changing moment and decision and I decided to make a change and then went freelance. 

Victoria 

What were you doing back in the UK? And what prompted this big trip?

Emma 

Originally I was working for somebody and I got to a point where I had enough of commuting and doing the nine to five, and I decided to have a break. I left my job, went to Australia for a while. And then when I came back, I thought I needed to get a job and I couldn’t. I was looking for jobs and having interviews and I either didn’t like them or I didn’t get them. So I thought I’m going to do it myself and started my own business, which is why I did it in 2015. In 2015 I started The Flying PA which was as a freelance PA, and then my partner in 2016 said, “have you ever thought about going travelling?” And we decided that that’s what we were going to do. We bought our bus and in 2017 we did it up and then hit the road in 2018. This time last year, actually in September, so it’s a year anniversary. And being a VA is quite easy to transition into being a digital nomad because it was the same sort of setup and that your clients are many sorts of remote. So it wasn’t like a complete change from what I was already doing.

Victoria

That sounds so, so exciting. I’m really rather jealous about all of that. You mentioned it’s quite similar to being a VA in the UK. But have you had to come up against any challenges that you’ve had to adapt to in order to provide that continuity of service to your clients?

Emma 

First I had to let go of one of my favourite clients because I did used to sometimes see her in person and it wasn’t going to suit her to have me not sort of be able to pop in and see her once or twice a week. So that was something that I had to sacrifice. And also because we were going travelling, I didn’t want to be committed to more than 20 hours a week, because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to fulfil that. I had to pare back on my client base, but I had one client who I still work with who’s travelled a lot herself internationally. We’ve never met in person, and we’ve always had a very good remote relationship. And we share stuff by Dropbox and we speak on Skype. So that didn’t really affect our working relationship, which was good. And most of the other work that I do is our talk, a lot of a virtual note taking for the employment tribunals and investigations and things like that. And that always just comes in. I might get a call and they say, “can you free up the next three days to do that?”. So that’s not so bad.

Victoria 

Just thinking about that long-standing client that you mentioned that you’ve never met her, but you’ve got this really, really good relationship. How do you think you’re able to build that credibility and trust with somebody on a remote basis when quite likely you’re not actually going to meet them?

Emma 

I think largely, it’s got to be really good communication. No matter where we are geographically, we always know what each other’s doing. And we always have set times to talk to each other. And even if those get changed or move, we stay in constant contact. And I have a specific email address that’s associated with her business, which I check in on every day or every other day. Basically it’s about good communication and knowing where each other are and having set goals. When we do talk, it’s normally that we both have an agenda and just stay in close touch.

Victoria

I think that’s great. And I think it is absolutely possible to build trust and credibility with people that you’ve never met. But I do think it’s that much harder if you don’t make the time for perhaps face to face video calls, because it just allows you to get to know them on a completely different level. So you mentioned using Skype, do you feel like video conferencing has helped you?

Emma 

Completely. We’re using Zoom, which is like the modern version of Skype and there’s some younger people that I’ve worked with recently when I’ve mentioned Skype, they’re going to Skype as if it’s really old fashioned and they’re already using WhatsApp groups. Skype is a bit old-fashioned, but it still works for me. And I think my clients are quite traditional as well. So it works. But any of these technologies, they’re pretty easy to pick up and download and so I don’t mind what if anyone wants to use their own it’s fine with me.

Victoria

I think one of the things that we have to do in our industry is adapt a lot. Because if we were in an employed role, we just have the IT department. So in a way you do kind of become a little bit lazy because you don’t need to figure stuff out yourself. But when you’re running your own business, and in the Virtual Assistant industry, you’re wearing so many different hats and there isn’t that IT department and you have to be completely self-sufficient. It does take a level of tenacity to try and overcome those challenges.

Emma 

A good example of that: I’ve got an old iPhone 6. Which is to me, is an old fashioned one and I’ve just got a new phone, which was a Samsung. These clients needed to have a four-way meeting and they all had iPhones, they’re like “we want to do it on FaceTime.” So it’s good that I still have my iPhone because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to participate. You have to havebackup plans. , I make sure that my boyfriend’s phone is  available if my data is about to run out. That’s a big issue when you’re travelling, you can’t rely on broadband or anything. You have to be able to tether to someone’s Wi-Fi so that you can do what you got to do. You have to kind of think on your feet. Definitely.

Victoria 

How’s the lack of access to electricity or access to regular internet caused you any challenges along the way?

Emma 

At home, or back in England, you’re so used to having landline, broadband, electricity, like a printer, scanner, two screens. Everything that you have in your home office and when you’re travelling, you just can’t have those things, A) because it would be expensive and B) you haven’t got the space and see it’s just not practical. So there’s lots of things that I had to learn to do without but you don’t need a printer or a scanner. These days you can take pictures of documents you have on your phone and email to somebody, but the lack of electricity was really challenging because we run and having a solar panel on a bus so that charges everything and if you’re driving it’s okay because the batteries charged things. If you’re in one place for a while and it’s a cloudy day, then you’ve got to do everything you can while you’ve got time otherwise you have to start getting together these kind of Heath Robinson style inventions where you’ve got car batteries and jump leaves and all sorts of different things all connected so you can get your phone to work.

Victoria

Thinking of the technology side, so you mentioned Skype and that you used various different things. Are you using any tech now that you’re a digital nomad versus what you were using when you were back in the UK?

Emma 

To begin with, it did a bit because I didn’t really know what I was going to need before I came away and ended up like investing in this thing, which I actually really barely used at all. It was a mobile Wi-Fi router, with an aerial –  something on top of the bus – and it’s attached, and you buy a data card to put in it. And I really thought it was going to be kind of the answer to my prayers. But the reception was so bad that half the time it didn’t work, and it was like about £1,300, so I was a bit annoyed. And then in the end, I found out that using my mobile phone data was much better quality. I just ended up getting 100 gigabytes a month instead of what I had, which was an extra £10 a month. And now I’m just very careful not to browse on the internet and be looking at Daily Mail online or whatever, and just making sure I only use it when I really have to. Because every gigabyte or megabytes are precious when you’re measuring it that closely. But in terms of other tech, there hasn’t really been anything different that I’ve used other than just use a laptop and a phone. But again, I wish that I had done more research into the laptop that I got, because I think I was dazzled by the fact that it was touchscreen and you could flip over and everything. But actually the battery life is useless. And it only lasts for about an hour and a half to two hours without having to be charged, which is a bit of a pain. So I think if I did it again, I’d probably research it a lot more carefully.

Victoria 

It’s one of those situations though, you don’t know what you need until you actually go there in that situation. I went travelling for a year and the amount of stuff I packed that I didn’t use, like water purification tablets. You could buy water, it was fine. 

What kind of tech do you rely on quite heavily in your business? You’ve already mentioned Skype.

Emma 

Dropbox, and I’ve got the business version of that because you really need to have that space for storage. And I do a lot of file sharing with one of my clients. And I produce a lot of materials for her delegate packs and presentations and PowerPoints, and they take up a lot of space. So Dropbox is a big one. And OneDrive as well is another good storage app. Canva I use a lot because of design things. That’s a really good tool. And various free photo banks are used a lot as well. But I think those are the main ones. And then it’s just good old Windows, Word and Excel and those kind of traditional ones that you use.

Victoria

Are you still an Office user? Or have you moved over to G Suite and Google Docs and Google Sheets?

Emma 

No. In the past, I did have clients back in England that used Google and I shared things on Google. But at the moment, I haven’t had anyone that said, “let’s use G Suite”. So I haven’t had to, but I would do it if that’s what someone wanted to do.

Victoria 

It seems like people have a bit of a divide in terms of all “you should be using the modern equivalent” which is G Suite and Google Docs and Google Sheets, but I’m very similar to you. I don’t have any clients who specifically request that. It’s all Office, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, that’s what they want. Which is good because that’s what I know.

Emma 

In the past, I’ve had people say, “let’s use Asana or “let’s use Trello”, “let’s use these different kinds of management tools for assimilating ideas and communicating”. But for me, it’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s just some people that I work with that rather get on the phone or get on Skype and go through a list that we’ve got written down with a piece of paper and take notes. And that’s just what works for us personally.

Victoria 

It sounds like you have that type of relationship probably from your EA and Ops Manager background where they know that they can decant their brain onto your piece of paper effectively, and you’ll just run with those ideas. It’s almost like they don’t need that visual reminder of what’s in a task management system. They’ve got complete trust in you. 

Emma

We are their task management system. 

Victoria 

Exactly. Their second brain. 

Before we wrap up, if you weren’t doing The Flying PA, what would you be doing?

Emma 

I thought about this before when I was going to start my own business, and I was thinking, “do I still want to be a PA? Is this what I really want?”. Because I’ve always been really interested in the arts. I did a fine art valuation degree. I worked as PA to the manager of an art gallery for years. So I’ve always thought maybe I could sort of cycle into doing something that’s a bit more creative and arty but at the end of the day, I think I probably would always just go back to what I know I’m best at and keep that side of things, just for as more of a hobby. So I think if I wasn’t doing this here. I’d be doing it in some capacity elsewhere, whether it was back in England or maybe in another country, or Australia or Greece or somewhere like that, where other members of my family lives. I think I can’t get out of this industry because I like it and it’s what I do best.

Victoria 

It certainly sounds like you found that happy balance between travelling and having a career at the same time. Thank you so much for your time and I will catch up with you soon. 

Emma 

Lovely. Thanks a lot, Victoria.

Victoria

Take care. Bye

So over the next few episodes, I’m going to be having some fantastic guests coming in to speak with me about all of the issues relating to building a remote working business and all of the tech issues and the tech challenges that building a team and building a trust along the way as well. So I hope you enjoy it. If you have any questions, drop me an email. It’s podcast@victoriatretis.co.uk.

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If you liked the episode, please do give us a review. It will only take a moment of your time and I will be forever in your debt. Thank you so much.