You can learn a lot from people who are doing what you want to do. That’s why I created the Behind the Scenes of a Virtual Assistant Business series. I hope these interviews inspire you to create your own successful VA business!
Today I’m interviewing Jeannine Warrick of JL Administrative Services. Tired of being laid off due to downsizing and inspired to help small businesses, Jeannine started her VA business back in March 2010.
Jeannine has been a member of my membership program, the Introvert VA Club for several years. One thing that I find fascinating about her business is that she helps construction businesses.👷 Recently I learned that she’s made some big changes in her business and has ventured off into sub-contracting and consulting.
Read Jeannine’s interview to learn more about her story, how she went from almost closing shop to being completely booked out, and what she advises new VAs.
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MY INTERVIEW WITH JEANNINE WARRICK OF JL ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
Q: Why did you decide to become a VA?
I decided to become a VA because, first I wanted to help business owners succeed, and second, because I was tired of being laid off due to downsizing and I wanted better control of my career. It all started after I was laid off in September 2009 due to the Great Recession. I am good at what I do, I love helping people succeed, and I knew businesses still needed administrative help, but they could not afford it. I had a strong inner feeling that there had to be something I could do!
So, I started searching for ways to help businesses by being an independent contractor and how to start a business doing this. Well, lo and behold, I discovered there was such a thing, and it was called virtual assisting. Since people had hardly heard of a virtual assistant, there was truly little info on it. I found a couple of virtual assistants that offered training, and I knew this would be the answer to starting a business doing something I am good at. I thought I struck gold!
In March 2010, I created JL Administrative Services. This was perfect because I have a passion for keeping small business owners organized and free to run their businesses. I could assist enterprises from my home, and I just knew this was a win-win.
Q: What type of services do you offer clients?
The types of services that I offer range but generally, I provide general admin support services. I help with calendar & schedule management, invoice management, email customer support, HR-related services like scheduling interviews & job postings, client follow-up, and a little social media support.
Q: What type of clients do you work with?
At first, I worked solely with construction trade businesses but I now work with service-based businesses like insurance agents, property managers, construction trades (not GCs, remodeling companies), commercial & residential cleaning companies, etc. I will help almost any business owner depending on their needs.
Q: How did you find your first clients?
I got my first client from a direct mailer actually! It was an insurance agent that was looking for help with a large mailing he wanted to do.
Then when I worked as an office operations manager for a national painting company, I managed all of the painting subcontractors that worked with us. They were great painters, but they had no clue about how to run and manage their businesses. So, I let them know what I did on the side and lo and behold, I started to gain more clients. My boss loved it because I kept the painters organized, so it worked out great.
Q: How did you prepare to become a VA? Did you take any courses, read any books, use skills from another job, etc.?
I learned from two experienced VA’s back in 2009. They taught me general stuff, but being an admin for as long as I had been (by that time, I had been an admin for 21 years), it was not much different from what I already did. But instead of working in someone’s office, I worked from home.
Fast forward to 2019, I had been working from home 4 days a week and at the painting office 3 days a week. This also helped give me a feel of what it was like to work from home while assisting my boss, the sales team, the painting crews, and customers all from my home office. I taught myself everything else that I needed to know to build my business from things like what business structure was best for me to how to market my business.
Q: Tell us about your VA journey and how you scaled your business. What do you focus on now?
My journey was a roller coaster. honestly. I had great days and I had horrible days. In 2019, I resigned from my job at the painting company and went full-time in my business. There were moments that I thought, what in the heck am I doing? Some of the painting contractors left and went back to their home countries and quit painting, so my business started to get very slow.
Then the pandemic started and although construction was booming, I was not able to get more clients and I was going to close down. I did direct mailers, social media advertising, and Google advertising, but I could not get anyone to move forward with me. Then I started networking and my business exploded. After a few months, I started getting a lot of projects, and then those turned into clients. I was so busy that I stopped taking on new clients.
I also started getting inquiries from VA’s and now new small business owners in my county on how I got started and could I help them. At first, I did it for free but then I added business mentoring/consulting as a service. I began to love mentoring so much that I wanted to focus solely on that.
I hired a few VA’s to work for me as subcontractors and they took on all of my client work so I can do mentoring. My thought was I could take on more clients and grow my business into a VA agency while I oversaw operations and focused on mentoring/consulting. Well, that was short-lived because I had to let two VAs go but now my VA handles all of my clients and he supervises any temps that help him on occasion. My only focus now is on mentoring/consulting. I will take on a small client from time to time but I guess I am semi-retiring as a VA.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about being a VA?
My favorite thing about being a VA is the freedom to work on my schedule. I worked 7 days a week at my last corporate America job and now I work when I want. I am able to take off as much time as I want, I get to work from home or wherever I want, I don’t work before or after office hours, and I never work on weekends. I am able to help my parents without having to ask my boss, and I can help other family members from time to time that need help because I don’t punch a clock anymore. I feel so free! My life is balanced now, my anxiety is calming down, and I am happy.
Q: What do you struggle with as a VA?
Hmmm…what do I struggle with as a VA? This is a hard question, Billie! LOL!
Let’s see, well, I still have a hard time telling people no. I listen to their issues and because I love helping people, I immediately want to say yes to everything! So when I do discovery calls, I have to tell myself to remain grounded and don’t commit to anything.
I listen and tell the potential client I will get back to them with a proposal within 24 hours and sometimes that proposal turns out to be a “we are not a good fit” letter. Now, if their request is something that I just do not do at all, I immediately refer them to someone else.
Q: What tools or programs could you not live without?
I couldn’t live without We Are Indy or Indy, formerly Tispr. I love it! I use it as a CRM, project management, contracts and proposals, invoices, so much! Plus, it is extremely affordable and it is perfect for me.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy spending time with my husband, relaxing in my backyard with a glass of Merlot or two, eating (I’m from New Orleans so food is HUGE in my world), and I enjoy taking care of my plants. We have a lot of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks that visit and we have wild rabbits that visit too, plus the occasional stray cat. I feel like Snow White without the 7 dwarfs sometimes! LOL!
Q: What’s your advice for someone who wants to be a VA?
My advice: if you want to be a VA, then do it! Don’t be afraid to make your dream come true. It seems like there may be a lot of competition and you won’t grow, but that is hogwash.
Don’t worry about what someone else is doing… focus on you and your business. You are unique and you are the perfect partner for some business owners.
It’s hard work (starting any business is) but you don’t have to do it alone. The Introvert VA Club has lots of resources and support even if you are not an introvert. I highly recommend it.
I mentor new VA’s and would be happy to help and of course Billie, you are a great mentor! There are so many options but I just caution against spending a lot of money on fluff.
Don’t get caught up in taking a lot of courses, or thinking you have to have everything perfect when you start. Just start! Step outside of your comfort zone. It’s the only way you will grow.
Q: Where can we find you?
Thank you, Jeannine, for sharing your VA journey with us!
Ready to start your Virtual Assistant business? Join the Introvert VA Club to access the Passion to Profit Plan, tech trainings, templates, and support!