Lyndsey Gilchrist started Call Team in 2009 having traded as a VA since February 2005 offering Virtual PA Support and Call Handling. Then in October 2009, she rebranded and offered clients an Intelligent Call Handling service, with VA Services. She was finding that more and more clients were initially interested in the Call Handling side of things and would then consider additional services and so decided to turn the business on its head. One of the main reasons behind the change was having her little boy and, when getting ready to go on maternity leave, she needed to find support for her call handling clients. She was very lucky that another VA offered to help her out for six months but she knew that it wouldn’t be possible to answer calls for clients with a baby and started to think that there must be other VAs in the same position that she was in, with young children at home. These people aren’t even able to answer calls for themselves never mind their clients. She undertook a lot of research and created a team of Call Handlers, and Call team was born.
Prior to starting her own business, Lyndsey worked in the Scottish Parliament as a Finance Administrator and thereafter as a PA to one of the Members of the Scottish Parliament, followed by working as a Legal Secretary. We asked her more about herself.
Did you do any specific training before you opened for business and was it useful?
I attended the local free business start-up courses via Business Gateway (Business Link in England) which gave me some finance and marketing insight. Since then I have taken some training with regards to WordPress.
How did you find your first client and what was the first job?
My very first client was a local Choir who wanted their Choir Programme to be designed and printed, and they found me via a free listing in the Yellow Pages. It was a small job but one that returns each year!
Have you developed a niche area and what is it?
When we rebranded as Call Team our niche became Call Handling and we also have a team of Transcriptionists for our other niche.
How many clients do you work with now?
This varies on a weekly/monthly basis as we have clients that require our services for holiday cover etc. Currently we are working with approximately 65 clients.
Do you work alone or with other VAs/employ someone?
Our team is made up of Associate VAs who all have their own businesses and assist Call Team by handling calls remotely from their own offices, which helps us keep the costs down for clients.
What strategies have you used to grow your business and what has and hasn’t worked?
We created a Reseller Scheme for VAs so that they can offer a call handling service to their clients and not handle the calls themselves. For each client that they sign up with us they receive a % of the revenue generated and the clients is also entitled to an additional week’s free trial too. Twitter is our other main marketing strategy.
What has been most difficult thing about growing your business?
Working with a remote team has been challenging as you aren’t in the same room and having to rely on technology.
Tell us something about a typical day and what kind of work you do?
No day is the same. We can be taking general messages for clients, booking appointments and taking orders as well as making outbound calls for clients, undertaking admin and transcription projects.
What are your favourite applications/gadgets that you couldn’t live without?
To run our business we couldn’t live without cloud computing applications such as Capsule CRM and SmartSheet as well as VOIP phones.
What do you enjoy most about being a Virtual Assistant?
The ability to also work around family and nursery runs and assisting a variety of clients.
What do you enjoy least about being a Virtual Assistant?
Working virtually is quite remote however as we have a team in place and use Skype to keep in contact this makes a better camaraderie. Clients situations change all the time and you never know exactly how long they will be with you, so always having to have a backup plan for gaining new clients to cover the income you have lost is quite hard. We found this out the hard way when our biggest transcription client went through two rounds of redundancies and we were therefore also surplus to requirements. This was a big blow for us and gave us a massive hole to fill with other client work. Luckily we were able to turn this around by growing other areas of the business and gaining additional clients.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given / or you would give to others about growing your business?
I would firstly recommend that you research anything before you go ahead, and do not pay for advertising as there are so many free ways to do this i.e. social media and word of mouth.
What do you think are the most important qualities a VA should have?
Professionalism, efficient, honest, trustworthy, ability to work to deadlines and under pressure.