Featured Freelancer: Tracey Smith, TLS Virtual

Our second Featured Freelancer from the Freelance Heroes FB GroupTracey 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…

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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”

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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:

Linkedin – https://uk.linkedin.com/in/tracey-smith-729a0b30
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/tlsvirtual/
Twitter – @tlsvirtual
Instagram – tlsvirtual
Website – www.tlsvirtual.co.uk

Visit our other Featured Freelancers here and, if you’re a UK freelancer, join us in our Facebook group.