Melissa Smith is the Founder & CEO of the Association of Virtual Assistants and The PVA. She’s also the bestselling author of Hire the Right Virtual Assistant and Become A Successful Virtual Assistant.

Melissa Smith The Leader Assistant Podcast

In this episode, Melissa shares her story of transitioning to a remote executive assistant long before working from home was trendy. We discuss tips for leading well while working remotely, how to price your services as a virtual assistant, future-proofing your career, and more.


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Elkhorn Peak Cellars is a small, family-owned vineyard and winery on the south end of the Napa Valley. Owned and operated by father/daughter duo Ken and Elise, Elkhorn Peak Cellars makes only 1,000 cases of wine annually. You won’t find their wines in any wine shops, so their fruit and wines continue to be one of Napa Valley’s best kept secrets.

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Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

– Jack Welch


melissa smith leader assistant podcast


Melissa Smith is the Founder & CEO of the Association of Virtual Assistants and The PVA. She’s also the bestselling author of Hire the Right Virtual Assistant and Become A Successful Virtual Assistant.

Melissa has been quoted by ABC News, Forbes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. News & World Report.

In 2013, Melissa began working remotely, and in 2017, became location independent. This transition gave her a newfound sense of freedom, affording her the opportunity to travel to 16 countries in 12 months, all while running a successful virtual business.


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Melissa Smith 0:00
Hi, I’m Melissa Smith and today’s leadership quote comes from Jack Welch. Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself when you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

Podcast Intro 0:17
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants. Thank you for listening to The Leader Assistant Podcast.

Jeremy Burrows 0:28
In here’s your host, my dad as an executive assistant. I’m asked to send gifts for various occasions to clients, board members, prospects and employees all the time. Personally, I like to send wine because who doesn’t like wine right? But shipping wine is challenging and picking out amazing wine is even more challenging. Thankfully, my friends at Elkhorn peak sellers are here to help. Elkhorn peak is a small family owned vineyard and winery on the south end of the Napa Valley. They are owned and operated by a father daughter duo kin and Elise Elkhorn pique makes only 1000 cases of wine annually. You won’t find their wines in any wine shops and their fruit and wines continue to be one of Napa Valley’s best kept secrets. So the next time your executive asks you to send them something nice, don’t think twice. Reach out to the family team at Elkhorn peak cellars for your corporate gifting needs. They will carefully and craftily package your wine and even include a hand written note. Visit to step up your gifting game today. Again, that’s All right, let’s get to the interview. I hope you enjoy it. Hey, everyone. Thanks for tuning in to The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s your host, Jeremy Burrows. And today I’m very excited to be speaking with Melissa Smith. Melissa is founder and CEO of the Association of virtual assistants. And she’s also a best selling author of hire the right virtual assistant and become a successful virtual assistant, Melissa, how’s it going?

Melissa Smith 2:26
It’s going very well, Jeremy. Thank you.

Jeremy Burrows 2:29
So let’s just dive right in. And why don’t you tell us a little bit about your career and how you kind of got kicked off as a as an assistant. And then tell us a little about your transition from working in the office and then working virtually.

Melissa Smith 2:47
Yeah, so my mom was an assistant. And when I was growing up, I just wanted to be like my mom, when I would go visit her in the office, people would say all these great things about her and how she they just couldn’t live without her. She was just awesome. And I thought I wouldn’t I want people to say that about me. So I thought, Okay, well, when I grew up, I’ll be an assistant like my mom. So I did. I went to Secretary school back when that’s when we were called. And I always knew that that’s what I want it to be. And I loved it. I loved being in executive assistant. The only bad part about it. What wasn’t really bad, it, you know, fit into my career, and certainly helped me. But it never really gave me longevity because I didn’t have a degree. So I worked in education and higher education. And in order to get a raise, or to get promoted, you had to have a degree. So I would top out very quickly. So about every two years, I was changing my job like long before Millennials were changing jobs. I was changing jobs. And when I would be interviewed and they would say why do you have so many jobs? What’s what is this all about? And I said well, you know, I topped out because I didn’t have degrees. So I have to promote myself and I move on to the next thing. And I said you can call any single one of my past employers and they will tell you that I am still on very good terms with them that I left the place the office better than I found it and that they would hire me back in a moment. And Billy, that’s how I was running my my career. And so here I was, again changing the job and in a different position. I was on my new job for three days. And then all of a sudden, my husband died. And that really just drastically changed everything. My daughter was a sophomore at the time my son was off in college. And I thought, Okay, well, I just kept on being an assistant and that wasn’t going to change anything. This is what I did. But what it did change was that I would have to move back to my home in California after a year, I just needed to be near my family, I needed to have that. Comfort that security. And so I found another job. I was being an executive assistant still. And I was there for a year. And after a year, my daughter came to me and she said, I can’t do this anymore. California is not my home, Georgia is my home, I want to go back home to Georgia to finish up my senior year of high school. And I knew I had to give that to her. But I really loved this job. And I was very, very sad to go. But I knew I had to do it. So I went to my boss and I said, Hey, I gotta get my two weeks notice I’m sorry. And he said, We don’t want to lose you, how can we keep you? And I told them, I said, I can do most of what I do virtually I don’t have to you have to be here in the office. And he said, Okay, let’s do that. And so I became the first remote employee.

Jeremy Burrows 6:02
So that was when was that?

Melissa Smith 6:06
So that was 2013. And then I officially started my business 2014. My husband passed away in 2012.

Jeremy Burrows 6:16
Wow. So the first remote employee at that company. And really that I mean, that was I’m sure virtual assistant was a thing back then. But it wasn’t a hip thing. Probably yet.

Melissa Smith 6:32
No, it was not in an In fact, I when I started my business, and when I started becoming virtual, I was in office ninjas. And I was in other admin groups and assistants, and people would have me come talk and like be on a panel. And no one wanted to hear what I had to say about being virtual. They did not like it at all. Some people were like, That’s the most ridiculous thing, how could you run something from the office because as I started really getting involved in the virtual world, I really understood that this was the way of the future. And it wasn’t because people didn’t value the office, it wasn’t because people didn’t like collaboration or that people didn’t like people. It was because so many companies have already been doing it. And the impact it has to the bottom line and profits is quite large. The impact it has to the new talent pool that you can have is quite large. And when it comes down to it, everybody that is successful really does follow the money trail, and the talent trail. So it wasn’t about hey, you know, we’re just going to close up the office for no good reason. And because we don’t think it’s good. And because no one wants to be here. It’s a money trail thing. It really is. And I could have never predicted COVID. But I can tell you those companies who already had their remote work policies in place, and there were already, you know, hiring that way, were far ahead of the game than those who were not. But when I when people would say no, my I my value is because I’m in the office, like I run the office. And I would say okay, well tell me what that’s like, tell me, tell me what you do in the office of the office can’t run without me. And I would say, Well, what are you going to do when there is no more office? And they will look at me I was crazy. They would say that’s never gonna happen? And I would say okay.

Jeremy Burrows 8:36
So you mentioned COVID. So, the way I’ve seen things with this pandemic, is what you said, where it’s kind of the future. You know, this remote work, the virtual work, the hybrid office, is the future. Well, I’ve kind of seen that in you, as you just said, you have seen it for a while as well. But what’s interesting with the pandemic is, it seems like it has basically brought the future to us a lot, a lot quicker than some people may have even liked. But it’s not that like the world is all of a sudden changing and we’re all of a sudden just gonna have to be virtual remote. I think the world was already changing that direction. And I think we were already heading that way. And this just expedited the process.

Melissa Smith 9:30
It really did. And, you know, I love doing things in person. I love going to places in person. It was never, you know, my grand idea that the whole world should be virtual or remote. But I definitely saw the writing on the wall. And why that’s so important is because as an assistant, as any person who’s working remotely, you really have to know your value and if Your value is that you just do things in the office that can be done by somebody else, by an outsource company. If you don’t really know what that value is, and why people really hire you, it makes it really hard to stay present and stay valuable to your companies and to your employers. And, and again, it’s, I could tell someone really easily why they’re valuable, right, I’m the outside looking in, I have no skin in the game. So I can just take a look around, and I can look. And I can say, Oh, this is why people find valuable, but usually the most valuable things about a person they can’t see in themselves, because it’s so simple. It’s something that they probably can’t shut off if they tried. And it’s the thing that they do without thinking about it. But yet, when it comes down to it, and it’s time to, you know, get a raise, get a promotion and look for a new job. That’s exactly the thing that you have to translate, and you have to be aware of it. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell someone how valuable they are, how great they are. If they’re not bought into it, it doesn’t matter, they have to do it. So that’s why I always ask the question, because it’s so important that someone knows, why is it that people hire me? What is my it factor? What does that look like? Because it’s going to be different for everybody, managing someone’s calendar, managing someone’s inbox. You know, being a gatekeeper, preparing board meetings, replaying slides, you know, I would love to think that, you know, we’re all the best at that. But those things can be easily replaced by somebody else.

Jeremy Burrows 11:40
Yeah. I agree. So what would be one thing that you just practically believe that assistants could do for their executive and their company that could not be outsourced?

Melissa Smith 11:57
Well, again, I think it goes back to what the company or the person finds valuable. We have a lot of leaders out there, a lot of executives and they are their own worst enemy. They can they you can’t outsource an app for someone to not be their own worst enemy anymore. Someone has to get in their face and say, Hey, you hired me to do XYZ? Are you gonna let me do it? Or are you not? And an apple is not going to do that another company is not going to come in and do that they’re not going to have any skin in the game. But when you hire an assistant, and you have to know what, why is this person really hiring me? What? What’s the value I’m going to bring to the table? What are they going to entrust me with that is, is going to be asked like we’re going to be doing this as a team. And then you have to really go back to that, and know that and be able to say that to somebody. So when I’m in an interview, or when I was in an interview with, you know, any employer that I was interviewing with, and they would ask me, you know, what questions do you have for me? And my question was always, what do you really want this position to do? Like, I’ve read the job description, I know what the last person did. But what do you want it to do that you’re afraid to ask for? And they would say, Oh, wow, I would really love, you know, XYZ, I would really love for someone to for like, I want to, I want to go see my kids. I want to get off at a certain time. I want someone to stand up to people and say no, you can’t have this meeting. No, I’m busy, she’s busy, he’s busy. I want someone who’s going to really take over and tell me to stop to tell me to get off it at five, tell me it’s okay to leave. And so those were the things that, you know, I really did. And not only that, but it was all about, okay, but if you’re gonna let me do this, then you’re going to have to give me control of your calendar, because I’m going to make it happen. But it’s not because you’re not getting work done. We’re going to completely overhaul your calendar, and you’re gonna get all your work done, and you’re going to leave on time and you’re gonna do all these things. And then you’re actually going to enjoy the time because I’m not going to have you out with your kids and feeling guilty and thinking about work. That’s not going to work either. And, you know, for everyone that’s going to be different. Some people, they’re like, no, if I get off at seven, if I get off a nine, I’m good. I’ve never worked in corporate because I didn’t want that kind of lifestyle. But you know, you find out what is valuable to the person doesn’t matter what it is you have to find out what’s valuable to them, because you can do everything but that and it could be considered a failure. But if you did just that one thing, then it can be a huge success.

Jeremy Burrows 14:52
Yeah, I mean, my executive says his goals right now, and probably for The rest of his life are to stay healthy, stay married and stay in business. And so because I know that, then I know that my goals as his assistant are to help him stay healthy, stay married and stay in business. So everything that I do, I kind of filter through that lens. And I know that that’s going to set me up well to Yeah, to not be able to be outsourced. Exactly. Awesome. So let’s switch to the executives perspective for a second, I loved your question that you asked executives when you’re being interviewed. What’s, uh, what’s an interview question for an executive? To ask a potential assistant?

Melissa Smith 15:51
I really like to ask them, you know, what about me, attracted you? Why would you want to work for someone like me, and see what they say to that. For my clients. My private clients are often males, when I worked in an office, they were females. When I, on my own as a VA, my private clients are males. And they can typically off on the same box, they have small children, they want to be better dads. They have social anxiety disorders of some kind. So they’re very successful, but they don’t always deal well with people. And so when they say, how can you work with someone like me, I can easily tell them. Well, based on my background, and my dad had PTSD and was bipolar. I’m very comfortable in situations that make other people awkward, and I know how to handle it. I’m not sensitive. And I can give you the direct feedback you need in real time. Versus someone else who is going to shy away or have their feelings hurt or not know how to handle the situation and step up and tell you you’re actually doing something wrong. And so they really appreciate that. But I can also tell them, I feel much more comfortable in those situations as well, because those are the things that I know, I don’t work well with creative. I, I need so much structure in my life, that working with a creative or anyone who says oh, you know, we’re going to herd cats today, that just, I can find them a VA but I cannot be their VA because I do not know how to work without super solid boundaries and schedules and things like to a tee. I don’t work in, you know, circles and patterns. I work in blocks of time and 15 minute increments, and five minutes is five minutes. You know, when they say that they’re like, Oh, you are my person. And I’m absolutely i i am very choosy, who I will work with. I know very much my my value. And that really comes from my mom and watching her as I was growing up. But I’ve never had a job that I’ve disliked. And I didn’t even know that was a thing until I became an entrepreneur and found out that many other entrepreneurs became entrepreneurs because they hated their job.

Jeremy Burrows 18:36
Yeah, so, you know, a lot of assistants listening are either considering becoming a virtual assistant, or they’ve kind of taken that leap, and they’re trying to find clients. How did you figure out who you wanted to work with? Did you work with a few? Or did you interview with a few potential clients that you could just tell right off the bat that they weren’t a good fit? Or how did you kind of navigate that because I know a lot of new vas, they’re like, Well, I just need clients.

Melissa Smith 19:09
Yes, I struggled. You know, the the struggle to go remote was not hard. That was easy, because I always felt that regardless, I was working remote with my executives, they were traveling, they were in class, they were in meetings, we’d be in the next office, they could yell across the room, but still they would text me or send an email. So that part was really seamless. Didn’t have a problem. But the problem that I had was what so many EAS have when they go on to being a VA and that is when we’re in the office. We are the Jack or Jill of all trades, right? Like we’ll do anything we get tasked with this we get tasked with that. We’re on it, we got it. Bless is so much more when you’re a VA Less is so much more, there’s just not the same need to be that Jack or Jill, of all trades. And one of the main reasons is because you’re also not having just one client, you have multiple clients. So if you’re constantly changing up and having to go back and forth, and context switch, and you don’t ever get into this rhythm, you can’t scale that to four or five clients as an executive virtual assistant. You know, if you’re have a client, they’re really on top of their game, you’re, you’re looking at three to five clients, Max. And when I say five clients, Max, I mean, they’re probably not that busy. But if you have some, you know, bigger executives, and they have like bigger companies, you’re looking at two to three. And to be able to do all that context, but you really less is more. And it was so hard for me when I first started and I had a business coach, and she kept on telling me that you’re doing too much, you’re doing too much, and do less and do less. And then she was charged telling me to charge more. And I thought, woman, you’re crazy. You Why would you say that I would get fired? If I did this in an office and she said, You’re not an office, you work for yourself? What are you talking about? We just went round and round. And I kept on telling her and I was just so frustrated. And I said, how many things do you want me to take off my plate? Before? Like, someone hires me, and she’s like everything until the right person does hire you. And I thought, Oh, okay. She, and in really what it boiled down to was that people wanted to hire me to manage their their private projects. And then my private clients, they wanted me really to help manage their personal life, that over spilled from their business life. They had set themselves up for really good. A really good team that did a lot of things. So they didn’t have to manage people, and they didn’t have to talk to people. But there was still that little bit that was their business life. And it kind of spilled over into their personal life. And so I became more of that side of things. And instead of all the things that I used to do, you know, calendar, flow, management, scheduling, liaison, vendors, travel, you know, all those things, were still involved. But there, if you just tell people, all those things, it overwhelms them. But if I could just take a step back, and, you know, they’re asked you, what do you do? And I say, you know, I manage your life. And they’re like, oh, that sounds awesome. But it was really hard for me to distill that down and put it into words. I mean, it was a year for me, and that’s not for everybody. Most people, you know, they’re like, Oh, I definitely know what I’m gonna do. I definitely have this thing. But there’s a lot of us out there that when we first get started, you know, the word niche sounds like a bad word. We’re not for it, we’re against it. We, you know, they’re like, oh, I don’t I’m afraid I’ll get bored. This is not fun. But yeah, and I mean, when I look back all the times, I was turning away money, because people would, you know, want to hire me for something. And I would say, oh, no, that’s not really me. I don’t really do that. I don’t know what to charge. You know, there was all these things, because I honestly, I didn’t know what I was really valuable for. And it took me a good bit to figure it out. It took me a good bit to figure it out. And that’s not everybody. But that was certainly me. And that’s always why I asked the questions to EA is like, what what do you really known for? What’s your real value? Why would people hire you back over and over again? Why would someone give you a great recommendation? Why would they say they can’t run the office without you? That’s too general? What What can we get that’s more specific. And when you have those things, then you can really start deciding like what your niche is, and who your clients are. Because then once you know who your client is, then you know where to find them. If you don’t know where they are, you don’t know where to find them.

Jeremy Burrows 24:23
Right. So, okay, so then talk about pricing for a minute, once you figured it out, and kind of like alright, this is who I’m going to work with. Did you just bump your price up and keep raising your price?

Melissa Smith 24:40
Yes, so I am probably quoted on pricing more than any other topic. It’s going to be the topic of my next book isn’t what I really know for because, again, I did it so wrong in the beginning. And I was charging by the hour because that’s You know, we break everything down an hour, even if I was on salary, the salary as it was presented to me came in the form of a salary, and then they broke it down to an hourly hourly rate. So that’s what I did. And you know, there’s always going to be that time. For the association of vas, we have an industry standard pricing guide, and it just gives the minimum is the minimum that you should be charging in the industry does that mean that’s what you have to charge, you can certainly charge more. But we provide the minimum and it’s for the protection of both VAs and the clients. But what I realized was, if I charge by the hour, I’m going to make less money as I go along. Because as I get to know this client better, and I’m actually doing things less, I’m just going to penalize myself, that’s not cool. Like,

Jeremy Burrows 25:49
I got a better job, but taking, like I’m less plus hours.

Melissa Smith 25:53
So again, I went back to my coach, and I said, you know, how do I do this, and we started talking about long term value, and packages and what that looks like. And so I started creating package pricing. Again, not not tied to hours, the biggest mistake in package pricing that BAs make is that they tie it to hours. So that’s really, it’s not a true package, it’s if it’s tied to hours, or what you have as a retainer. But packages, tell my clients, it doesn’t matter if this takes me five minutes, five hours, 50 hours, whatever it is, this is what I’m getting paid, and not pay me to do it for the amount of time that it takes me, you’re paying me for the value that I’m giving you and the long term value that I’m providing. So package pricing is very different than hourly rates and retainer rates, which are perfectly fine. There’s no right or wrong. But to create package pricing means that you’re creating a different type of experience for your client, you have a different type of mindset. And you certainly have to know your value. So much. So much. The talk is all about Know your worth, know your worth. Well, as far as I’m concerned, everyone’s priceless. There’s not another you there’s not another me. But that works both ways. There’s not another one of our clients, right? So for all prices, that really prices is all out of one another. It’s really hard to put that down on paper. But what’s really easy to put on paper is your value, what you offer for what their problem is the solution, and how long you will provide that for. That’s easy to do.

Jeremy Burrows 27:50
So can you give us an example of of one of these packages?

Melissa Smith 27:55
Sure. So for instance, for a consultation with me is $250 for 45 minutes, and the client knows what they’re walking away with the client knows that they’re going to walk away with a job description. They’re going to walk with questions to ask during the interview, and an onboarding document. They got that if a client wants my wall treatment package, then it’s 2500 ollars. On match them with the right VA, I’ll conduct all the interviews, I’ll do the reference check, I’ll do the background check, I give them a three month guarantee. If it doesn’t work out within the first three months, I’ll match them again, at no charge, I have a 98% match rate. And we’re done. So that’s real easy. So some people would say, oh my gosh, why would anyone pay for that? There’s virtual assistants everywhere I can go to here, I can go to there, like I know somebody who’s a VA. But for my clients, it’s a different kind of experience. Because they would say, I don’t have the time to get it right. And I can’t afford to get it wrong. Who can I throw money out to solve this problem for me? And lay like Where have you been my whole life? This is awesome. I want to do this more. Right? For my book management clients. So I help people who want to write a book. And so I manage that project. And it’s really based on how well are we going to how long are we going to take to do this. So we are for three, four or five months, I don’t work with people on books for more than five months, we are going to crank this book out. So the Packages start at 5000. And then it goes up from there. So 5000 for three months, and then it goes up from there depending on what they want. So we have a base of that because it’s all about expectations, people’s expectations for what the book process covers is all different. So we started expectations of 5000. Then again, for my private clients, we start at 5000 to work with them. And again, that’s the minimum that we started out but that’s the expectation and that they’re going to need something and I’m gonna get it done and we Don’t really know what that is like, I’m not going to take on a client, who wants me to sit around my laptop and answer emails all day and requires, you know, a three hour turnaround time, that’s not gonna happen. So I also know who my client is, it’s not just that I know my value, but I also know who values that and what they’re looking for. And then for my remote work consulting, it will vary based on the number of remote hires or their work strategy that we’re talking about. But I know that companies that value me are going to be companies of 20 or less, they don’t have a dedicated HR department, and they have no time to start their hiring process, or strategize around it, write the job description and do the first interviews. So those are the companies that I serve. And typically, we’re going to start around $10,000 for that. And when it comes to package pricing, you know, people say, Well, how much time do you spend on this? And how much time do you do this? And how much time do you that? It, you have to you have to know your time, of course, but you also have to know how much of the time the client is going to require of you, because you will always get faster will always figure out a way to do it. But what’s the client’s expectation of the time, what’s the value of the time. But what most people forget about when they put their packages into place, and they think about their time is the time that they don’t want to work. So I raised my prices quite astronomically overnight, when I learned this formula, because I always knew that I was going to write books that I was going to coach people that I was going to build an association. And all that takes a great amount of my time. I didn’t want to work myself to death, although I almost died a few times. But I needed to make sure that the money I was making was going to pay for the time that I was serving my clients and the time that I was not so that I could work on myself. And that is a key factor. People put way too much time into thinking about their prices for the time that they are working, but not enough time and good luck thinking about their pricing for the time that they’re not working. And there’s a huge, huge difference. I mean, if if I I could charge $99, for my consultations, I would be booked solid every day all day long. But I don’t want to do that. I only want to work when I want to work. And I only want to do certain things. So I need to price that accordingly. In order to make sure that I only work as much as I want so that I can work on my own business the rest of the time.

Jeremy Burrows 32:40
So when you said private clients, did you mean like, essentially, you’re their private executive virtual assistant?

Melissa Smith 32:49
Correct. So I don’t take on private clients all the time, because again, I’m building my own businesses and doing my own thing. So I take on private clients, maybe one or two times a year, and they are for short term or not for long term. Usually getting them on their feet or getting them through a rough patch for about three, maybe four months. And then you know, we’ll move them on to someone who can be dedicated to them. But yeah, me being someone’s client, or you know, EAA forever. Is is not in my book. I have my own businesses that I have to take care of.

Jeremy Burrows 33:27
Nice. Well, speaking of your, your own businesses, tell us a little bit about your books. And yeah, just just how did those come to be? And what are they about?

Melissa Smith 33:38
So my first book came to be because I was managing other people’s book processes. And so my clients began asking me when you’re going to write your own book, and I thought, what would I write about? And they said, Well, you’re writing all the time. And I said, I know. But that’s different from writing a book. And they said, Well, you know, write about that thing that you do, what were you like, match people with virtual assistants? And I thought, really, and they’re like, oh, yeah, people would love to know about that. And I thought, okay, I guess like, and then one of my clients has really pushed me and he said, You got to do it. You can’t be managing a book process and not have manage your own book process. And I thought, well, that’s fair. for that. I’ll do it. Right. So I wrote the book. And it just took off. And I was, I mean, I was, it’s what I wanted, and I was super pleasantly surprised, but I didn’t think that it was going to change my entire business structure because I had been matching clients to VAs already, but I had been doing it for a year without charging for it. Because again, like I didn’t know that that would be valuable to somebody. I had no idea that’d be valid. able to somebody because it was so easy for me. And so when I first started charging, and first started doing it, you know, the idea of writing a book about it, it was really common place. I thought it was common knowledge. I didn’t know, really who would read it or if it would take off, but it really took off. And then what I found was strange was that VA started contacting me and they were like, how are you doing this? What are you doing? I loved your book, I’m gonna put it on my shelf. And for years, I was just shocked. And I thought Why is why are VAs reaching out to me, I just don’t understand. But then later, I learned that the reason is because we had a shared value. No one was no one was their voice before no one was saying, Hey, this is what it really takes to work with a virtual assistant. It’s how you hire one. This is why they’re so great. This is what they can do for you. This is what you can charge. This is how you build a team. Everyone was just saying before, like, Hey, that’s a great way to save some money. You know, that’s a great way to hire someone and only pay $10. And no one was really talking about the value. The expertise that add an assistant is a partner that an assistant can help you strategize that an assistant can make your life easier that they can do all these things are not task takers. They are parts of your business that are critical to the mission and having you have a better life. And so having that part was really great. And that opened up another side of my business where I started consulting with vas, because everyone that I seem to come into contact with online, they their story was much different than mine. They were like, Oh, I was making six figures in six months. And I was like, Oh, well, I wasn’t. I was writing the struggle bus. The first six months for sure. So I just didn’t have anything in common with them. But then when other VA started reaching out to me, and they had struggles, and I thought, Oh, I did too, here’s what I did for that. And here’s what I did for that. And finally, again, slow learner. But I thought Wow, I wonder if if bas would be willing to pay me for this information. They were so then I started consulting with Bas and I had an a summit and an online class. And I use all that information. And I wrote my second book become a successful virtual assistant. And that released in January 2018. And that was really incredible. I still have VAs reaching out to me and saying, I’m so thankful for this book. Because it’s my goal is not to teach anyone the skills to be an assistant, if you’re if you’re picking up the book and you’re becoming a VA, I’m just assuming that you have them already. I think I’m a huge fan of assistants. I’m a huge fan of virtual assistants, it’s why I can do what I do, because I’ve mark it EAS and VAs better than they could possibly market to themselves. I’m a huge fan. So my goal is saying like, I don’t need to teach you that stuff. You know how to run a calendar, you know how to do spreadsheets, you know how to do reports, you can do far better than I can in many situations. That’s not how you run a business, though. So my book really concentrates on okay, how do you run a business? Anyone can be a virtual assistant, but not everyone can run a business. And that is much different. How do you get the clients? How do you do your pricing? How do you know what to network? How do you market yourself? How do you do all those things and change from that employee mindset to that business owner entrepreneurial mindset, those are different. And so that’s really the place where I wrote my book from. And there’s a lot of courses out there for vas, there’s a lot of things that they can take there’s you know, Bas live on YouTube videos and how tos and taking courses. So there’s no, there was never a need for me to do that. It was more about how do you put all these things together in order to run a business. And not just think about other people because as assistant, you know, we’re trained to take care of our clients, our executives, those that we serve. But when you’re a business owner, you are your first client. And if you take all your time to take care of them and you never take care of yourself and you never take care of your own business, you won’t be in business for a long.

Jeremy Burrows 39:27
Yeah. So on that note, who do you think should not be a virtual assistant? In other words, you mentioned not everybody, not every assistant is cut out to run their own business. If if somebody’s listening right now thinking alright, I want to run my own business, whatever. Is there something I mean, obviously I’ll I’ll link to your book in the show notes so that they can go deeper on this topic. But is there something They can do is almost like a look in the mirror self assessment to say, Listen, am I really ready to run a business or not?

Melissa Smith 40:10
I don’t know that someone could say, you know, if I if I’m ready or not, I went into it. And I was completely naive. And that worked for me had I know, everything I was getting into, I probably wouldn’t have done it. Because the lack of knowledge that I had was overwhelming. When I look back on it, I but I was so naive when I first started, I didn’t know the difference. I’m like, Yeah, let’s do it, this is my chance, I’m gonna go for it, I was super gung ho, I had made up my mind. And I think anyone who hasn’t made up their mind is probably not a good fit. And that’s not just for virtual assistants, that’s for anything. Yeah, you know, if you’re, if you haven’t made up your mind to exercise or lose weight, or eat right, or learn a new language, or to learn new skill, like, you’re not really going to get what you want out of it, right, it’s not going to really pay off, you have to really make up your mind and be all in it doesn’t mean you have to go full time and quit your job or anything like that. But you have to come to a place in your mind that says, I’m going to make this work. Because no matter what, what you’re doing in life, you’re gonna bum up into a problem, right? You’re not every day is going to be great. And you have to go back and say, I made up my mind that I was going to do this today may not be the best day, I might have had a setback, I might have run into a problem. I don’t know how I’m going to fix it yet. I don’t know how I’m going to solve it. But I know I’m going to do it. And if I hadn’t made up my mind that this is what I’m going to do. And I’m not turning back, oh, I would have run back to my job over and over and over again. You know, I would have never got my business off the ground. And I talked to VAs all the time. And they’re like I did it. I started I was still working at the time I did my side hustle, I started getting more clients. And you know, they did all these things and made the sacrifices and they put their mind to it. And they made it work. And the common denominator of those who haven’t been successful, are those who really have one foot in and one foot out the door. Because they’re just like, it sounds good. But I’m not sure. Yeah, I want to do but I don’t know. And it’s the same if you, you know, you you’re in that administrative role right now, and you want to get into the C suite, or you want to be the founders assistant, you want to work for the you know, person in a specific department and you’re trying to work your way up there. You can’t be wishy washy about it, you have to say, that’s my goal, I’m going to do it. I don’t I don’t necessarily know how I’m gonna do it right now. But I’m gonna figure it out. And that’s, that’s what I’m going to be doing from now on. It’s the same, you have to have that kind of mindset.

Jeremy Burrows 42:59
Yeah, you know, it’s funny, you say that, because a lot of the assistants I’ve talked to who are like, Yeah, I’m considering trying to go virtual, whatever, and start asking them about it and get it getting into it. And it’s like, oh, you know, you haven’t really tried, you’re just kind of dipping your toe in. And you may never, never take off and jump in. Because you’re, like you said, Get your hand and on both sides of the fence. So last question I liked, I always like to ask what makes an assistant, a leader, but I want to specifically ask you How can assistants lead their executives, while working remotely?

Melissa Smith 43:44
So it true assistant, whether human or AI, is always going to be measured by their ability to anticipate their executives and other clients needs. And that’s how we, that’s how we provide so much value, right? We’re looking out and saying, Okay, you’re healthy, you’re still married, you’re still in business. And here’s all the things that I’ve done, to make sure that you’re always pointed in that direction, that I’ve anticipated that this is going to be a problem for you. If you do this, I anticipated that this is going to be great for you if you do this. And so when we’re talking about leading, and in even remote terms, you still have to anticipate those needs, you have to show up and you have to build the trust. And then when you’ve done that, the table start to turn. No longer does the client, you know kind of look at you and think well, you know, I already have this decision made. Or Okay, well maybe next time. Thanks for you know the offer, and it’s you constantly pinging them and saying I’m here I’m here to make a difference. I’m here to anticipate your needs. These are your goals. And I’m not going to stop until we meet them because I’m like the Terminator. And that’s me personally, I’m like the Terminator. That’s not everybody. That’s my own personal style. So I’m not saying they have to be that way. But I said, you know, until you tell me you want to change these goals, then I’m not going to stop. So if you want me to take this off your agenda, you want me to take this off your to do list, you then you tell me you change your goals. And when they see that kind of dedication and that kind of trust, and, you know, always pointing back to this is what you said, you want it and this is what I’m trying to help you achieve. If you know if that’s changed, then just let me know. And then it’s not long after that, then they start coming to you and bouncing ideas off of you. Right? Because who do we trust? Who do we think is a leader? Someone can have that title. But if we don’t trust them, they’re not a leader to us. They could be anybody that like, I don’t trust you. You’re not leading me anywhere. I’m not following you. Nowhere. Good luck with that. But once you earn that trust, then you earn that leadership title, right? Because then they’re start coming to you. What do you think about this? Can I bounce this idea off of you? Do you see a better way? Do you see a problem with this? How could this be better? I don’t know, you know, what do you think about this opportunity? Can you follow up instead, and then they automatically start assigning you those roles, like, Okay, you do this, and you make the decision, and then you report back to me. And, you know, it all starts there. But it starts by, you know, showing up doing the things that we say we’re going to do anticipating, and, you know, repeating back what the client said, because they forget, they forget all the time, because they’re you know, it’s not that they’re trying to do it on purpose. But when you’re a leader, and you’re in a leadership position, and you have all these people to manage, and you have all these different things that you’re doing, it’s easy to get sidetracked, and we’re the people that keep them on track. So we also have to remind them of what their real purpose is, are they busy? Or are they being purposeful? Are they being productive? Or are they just passing time. And when we can do all those things, and they’re like, this person has my back, they I trust this person so much. There’s no greater way for them to pay you back, then asking your opinion and treating you as their their partner and trusting you to lead with them. And beside them.

Jeremy Burrows 47:29
Mic drop, there’s the mic drop right there. Great, great, great end of the conversation. So why don’t you tell us where we can find you online and how we can support what you’re up to? Obviously, I’ll share all the links in the show notes. But maybe tell us quickly about the association of virtual assistants as well for those interested? Sure. So

Melissa Smith 47:51
I’m at, you can find me on LinkedIn, Melissa Smith, the PVA, I live there, so you can really find me there all the time. The Association of virtual assistants is where I spend majority of my time with my members, we have a members only Slack community. But you can certainly email me there. And the association of virtual assistants is really designed to bring together like minded individuals who want to be valued as a virtual assistant. There’s so many out there that said, you know, people just don’t value what I’m doing. They don’t know my worth, they don’t take what I do seriously. And I’m a professional. And just like you were maybe in the office, and just like, you know, I was when I was in the office, you want that kind of association that structure, those guidelines, that community where you can have a network and exchange resources and thoughts and ideas and become a better business owner become a better VA. That’s what the association is all about all about training industry standards, we have a be a state of the industry report where you can see what’s going on in the industry where the gaps are, where the trends are. And it’s all about providing you the education and the platform and the resources to have the freedom and flexibility that comes with being a VA which is the number one reason why people become virtual assistants. And so we’re here to support that and value you in that no matter what type of VA business you choose to run.

Jeremy Burrows 49:26
That’s great. Well, again, I’ll share the show notes, or the links in the show notes. And Melissa, thank you so much for Yeah, just sharing your story and telling us a little bit about what you’re up to and some great tips and great wisdom and yeah, thanks again.

Melissa Smith 49:45
Thank you Jeremy. It was great. Thanks for all you do for assistance

Podcast Intro 49:57
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