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  • Chantell Riches

How I Got into VAing

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

After immigrating to the UK in 2001 from South Africa (having been a contender in the Gladiators just a month before my flight - and having been embarrassingly defeated in that horrid gauntlet!) I continued my PA path within various industries in and outside of London.

How I Got into VAing
Chantell Riches | Your Private PA

8 years later, after working uber hard to build up a savings toward a deposit and buying my first ever home, sadly and scarily, I was made redundant!

And to top it all off, I was also taking care of my mother, both financially and emotionally who was still living 8,377.4 miles away in South Africa at the time.

Needless to say, I was under immense pressure to pay my new and extremely high mortgage, as well as continue sending my mom money for food, rent and bills.

Now you may as well know, I'm the kind of person who is ALWAYS thinking of new ideas for a business or that multi-million-pound product! You should see the state of my 'Business ventures' folder in my emails with some of the most ridiculously funny (although I didn't think so at the time), and some not-so-bad ideas I've come up with over the past 30+ years. And I’m still thinking! (not always a good thing!).

So here I was, in such a dire situation, worrying about how I was going to pay my mortgage, keep the lights on, feed myself and my two very precious kitties - Indie and Diego - who both got me through my darkest times. Along with figuring out how on this crazy earth, to pay for my mom to live, plus continue emotionally supporting her during her own difficult times, and all whilst I was a complete mess!

After many weeks after being curled up in an awful state sobbing my heart out, understandably feeling sorry for myself, I literally picked myself up, got my laptop out and not only started to look for a new job, but thinking (and crying) and thinking (and crying) and thinking some more about what I could do to help myself.

So, I decided to make the most of my experience and skills and turned my passion of lists, sub-lists, post-its, paper clips, and know-how into my own professional business. Now don't get me wrong, this didn't happen for many years still. Getting my name, my reputation, my skills, etc built up and out there was SO much work and no, it didn't miraculously save me from all my debt worries at the time. It did however, at the very least, help keep me sane, focused and feeling anything but completely useless! It even managed to create a little excitement as I started to think of business names, design and create my logo and website. I then reached out to friends and family and the very few professional connections I had at the time, to help me get some actual work in! I eventually found myself another office job but kept working hard on my business-baby. Tenacity at its best!

As challenging as this was for me to set up at the time when not many people were doing virtual/remote working, it was totally worth it. And now, even though the market is flooding with VAs, it’s much easier. Especially with social media opportunities we have at the tips of our hands.

Jumping 11 years ahead after initially creating my business-baby, arriving at the all-things-COVID pandemic! And honestly, this, I feel guilty to say, was the time I got my chance to really shine. Of course, people weren’t going into offices, frustratingly and sadly a lot of people lost their jobs. But businesses still very much needed to continue moving forward as best they could to keep themselves afloat, albeit it with extreme limitations, during a time of such unsurety.

I was working with a company at the time, but I was so stressed and unhappy, so I thought I’d pick up my business again and use this horrid time to make connections, send out my info, talk to people I knew, ask to be introduced to people I didn’t and make the most of it. Thankfully I managed to get a few hits, because let’s face it, businesses still very much needed PA/EA support. They had seen I had my VA business for 10+ years – albeit working through it on and off between permanent jobs, and they were keen to try out the ‘VA thing’, which to some, was scary unknown! It still is in fact, but we’re here to educate and introduce them gently.

I found myself finally working for myself – in the safety of my and my wife’s haven of a bubble, and the comfort of my PJs! I was setting my own hours, enjoying the rather unfamiliar privilege of deciding which clients I did and didn’t want to work with (their values and ethics must align with mine!).

To cut an already long story slightly shorter, I’ve been VAing full time since. Not only that! My wife and I decided after all the lockdowns were lifted, we would start LIVING life more. Whilst working still of course. So, in 2020, we packed up home, stuck it all in storage and started travelling and working remotely – yep, we became Digital Nomads. And the craziest part of it is we’re both earning the least amount of money we’ve ever earned. But I tell you what … we’re finally living the sh1t out of life!

My wife is the talent of our Training & Development business (Dynamic Development Training Ltd) – she’s an Accredited Licensed Practitioner of 15+ years, and I manage it, along with my PA business.

Our dreams of being our own bosses, enjoying a better work-life balance reached and slam-dunked!

We are at our happiest, free-est (I know – not a word Chantell!) and LIVING!

If you’re a struggling business owner/individual wanting some support, get in touch now –

If you’re an inspiring VA wanting to start your own business, now is your turn! Follow more of my blogs to learn how.

As a sneak peak, I invite you to gain a little insight into who I am personally here -

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