Our second Featured Freelancer from the Freelance Heroes FB Group, Tracey Smith, comes from the town of Bathgate, in between the beautiful cities of Edinburgh and Scotland, and has 5 years experience as a Virtual Assistant. This is her story…
- What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Tracey Smith and I am a Virtual Assistant offering PA/Admin and Book-Keeping Services to all types of businesses.
- How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I have been freelancing for almost 5 years now and took the decision after having our youngest, Lucy, who was 5 last October. It gave me the chance to still work whilst being able to be at home for the kids and be able to do the school runs.
- What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
Luckily enough I have a very supportive husband and family and no one advised me against it at all. In fact, they were all very excited for me.
- Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
To get started, I created an account on Peopleperhour.com. Took me approx. 2 weeks to get my first client.
- How would you describe your clients or customers?
I have fantastic clients. All growing businesses. They are all very good at what they do and they are all genuinely nice people and are all different businesses which I love, because not only do I have a varied week but I get to learn about their business.
I also have one lady who is a great inspiration and she allows all her virtual staff to grow. She has also given me access to many different courses to seek new possibilities.
- Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
Some of my clients have been referrals but for those who are not, I believe it’s due to my experience and that from the initial meeting we just “click”
- Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
At the start I was working ridiculous hours and being too flexible. I became a Freelancer to be there for the kids but also wanted more time to spend with them so I have learned to hold back on the hours and ensure I have time for me and the family when I can. I am getting the balance right, slowly but surely. Still a few bits of tweaking but I will get there this year.
- What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
Dropbox and Time Doctor – both are essential for me working remotely. Without Dropbox I wouldn’t be able to receive and share documents with my clients. Time Doctor is a great app for tracking my time with clients. It also gives me a detailed report for each client that I am working for on that day which allows me to invoice them accurately and gives my client peace of mind that I am not charging them for time that hasn’t been worked.
- What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
I would advise them to go for it and not be put off that there are a lot of us offering similar services. There is always room for more Virtual Assistants because not everyone is a fit for every business and entrepreneur. I would advise them to start off with Peopleperhour.com if they don’t have a previous boss or friend who will hire them straight away. Peopleperhour is a great way to get reviews and feedback and I found it was the best way to get me started.
Networking and building relationships with other VA’s is also very important. I have a few VA’s I also keep in touch with and I would never have a problem passing a client over to them if there was a particular skill they required which I didn’t have.
- What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
I found I was too nice in the beginning and too flexible which meant I was doing ridiculous hours. I have no problem with being flexible to good clients but some in the early stages did take advantage. In the past 2 years I have “sacked” 2 clients because of their lack of payment or behaviour. I will always treat a client’s business as my own but this is also my business and I refuse to be treated in an unprofessional manner and won’t work for free. It’s taken a while to get to that place but it’s a journey and I absolutely love what I do which helps. I’ve also learned to be way more positive in life.
- What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
Love what I do and being able to generate an income from that is fantastic. I love meeting new people and learning about new businesses. I have made some great connections but also made some great friends. I am looking out the window now and there is snow! Apart from the school run, I don’t have to go anywhere because I will be in my house, heating on and kettle at the ready. It also gives me more time to enjoy my other passion which is my football club. I’m a Season Ticket holder with my 2 youngest daughters at Hibernian FC and love being able to have the time to go to matches in the evening without having to ask for a half day at work.
- What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
Nothing professionally but on a personal note, sometimes friends and family although they are supportive, forget that although you are at home all day, you are working.
- What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
My ultimate goal is to have the perfect work/life balance – not far off this but I always want more. I also want to branch out and mentor as well as public speaking.
- What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
Wish I had the confidence at the start with my pricing. I charged a really low rate in order to get my first client and was doing a lot of work and hours for very little. I wasn’t charging what I was worth. Thankfully I am now older and wiser and I know what I can bring to the table and that I can enhance a business with the skills and experience I have.
To learn more about Tracey and TLS Virtual, visit: