Today's interview is a little different from my other interviews. Meet my virtual assistant Tricia! She has been doing a bunch of stuff online with me with and other businesses. The other cool things is that she's also a physical therapist. We're going to talk about her journey from the clinical to the non-clinical, and how she's tying the two worlds together.
What we're covering:
Tell us who you are, what do you do, and about yourself.
Tricia: I am from South Jersey. I've been a PT for eight years now. Right out of PT school I joined on with a team in a subacute rehab facility. I loved it. I had a great team, and even a couple people in there that were really great mentors. I eventually worked my way up to senior physical therapists of the team. I loved everything about it. There were obviously some weaknesses, just like any setting of health care, but I always knew that my plan was when I had kids I wanted to pull back a bit.
I had my first daughter in 2019 and I went to part-time work. In the process of all of that I was trying to figure out what I could do on the side because obviously going from full time to part-time you need to make up for some income. I started looking at a bunch of different avenues and I tried a few different things. I was doing transcription for a while and that was not worth the effort. I looked into a couple of things more and then came across "virtual assistant". I liked the fact that it was this broad topic. I did some research on the Virtual Assistant Savvies Facebook group, which was super helpful. Then I figured I'll try it. What's the worst that could happen?
One of the things I guess it should throw in there too was that I wanted to tie the two worlds together. I didn't want to just be a virtual assistant for the sake of being a virtual assistant. I wanted to still keep my my healthcare background, so I decided to be a virtual assistant for people in healthcare. One of the most frustrating things for me as a PT was that I just wanted to do the job of a therapist. I hated being pulled in so many different directions and it pulled me away from what I wanted to do, treat my patients. I decided I'll do virtual assistant and my goal for the job was to give healthcare workers the chance to do what they love.
I joined the group and a few others, because one of the things they tell you is to join a bunch of Facebook groups for virtual assistant. In one of the groups is where I came across your (Morgan's) posting and we started working with each other back in 2019, part-time. Fast forward to Covid which was super stressful in healthcare and it was it was just becoming draining. I knew that a change needed to happen and that need became even greater because I had my second daughter and knew that I wanted to be full-time at home with both the kiddos. I talked with Morgan and we figured out a way to get me out there to find more clients and make it work.
So you're a physical therapist, I'm a physical therapist, I help therapists make their own therapy practice. Tell us more about why you chose to go into something non-clinical rather than using therapy skills privately.
Tricia: The ironic thing is that when I was a therapist about five years or so ago, my dad kept going, "You should go into business for yourself", etc. I kept saying it was never going to happen (never, never, never). The whole idea of handling insurance freaked me out. When it came time to try and figure out working from home, I still wanted to be home with the kids and I couldn't really figure out what to do. I'm definitely more of a hands-on/ be in there with the patient if I'm going to treat them. Telehealth didn't feel like I would be serving the patient best, at least for me. There are plenty of people who do Telehealth and they rock at. It just wasn't for me. I wanted to try and find a different avenue and so that's why I started researching all the different ways that you can earn money from home. Nothing was really sitting well with me. It wasn't worth the effort and it also bothered me that I wasn't doing something that had some clinical tie. That's why when finding VA it was the best of both worlds. I could be with my kiddos. I could have a flexible schedule and still serve people who were in healthcare. You and I have started talking recently about some other avenues that I would want to take possibly supporting healthcare and patients differently, so maybe something a little more clinical down the road. However, this is great for my season right now.
Morgan: I love that. That's honestly, I feel, one of the biggest things that I've learned doing all of this stuff. I don't know if it's just me or what. Because we go to school for such a long period of time and then you graduate, get licensed, get a job and you're a staff clinician, and that's kind of the end point, unless you decide to go into management or into business for yourself. I had to become okay with change and understanding that there are going to be different seasons of life. Just because you commit to doing something right now doesn't mean that you have to do it forever. I like that you put it that way. Being a virtual assistant too, it can translate to so many other things.
Tricia: Oh my word, yeah. I was so shocked when I started and I came across everything. It was literally a ton of different niches and you can do a ton of different tasks with that. It is endless. Literally no limits and I can make it whatever I want. You and I have even changed my roles with things for you. I came in as basic administration and minimal bookkeeping, and that has changed drastically over the years just by you showing me things.
Which, I can't stress this enough for people who aren't sure about virtual assistant. I came in with next to no know-how of software and it was because Morgan is a flipping genius with it all. Every time it was like, "Hey have you ever used this?" And I'd have to say, "No I haven't, but sure let's try it. Let's go YouTube this and find out." You learn stuff on the way and you find what you like and what you don't like. It's always changing.
Morgan: Some of us have a lot of softwares to use and change every six months. 😉 Don't do that to yourself. The positive of it is like you said, you get a lot of experience learning different things and you can watch my business and take what you like for yourself and notice things that you're like, "Wow I can't believe she's doing this. I'm not going to do that."
I also really like the other thing you said about whenever you're coming across something you don't know how to use, you just look it up. There's so much information available on how to use everything. If this is something that you've ever considered doing or even if you're just scared to use software, maybe you do a lot manually right now, you can basically type in how to use whatever software on YouTube and somebody will have a tutorial for you on how to use it.
Tricia: 100%. It's nuts. YouTube, Facebook, just the amount of groups that are out there. You throw a question up there and not just the administrators but, kind of like your group, anybody who's part of the group is answering questions and offering support there. Everybody's learning.
Morgan: You could literally start tomorrow with zero skills and you'd be able to figure it out which is super cool! There's definitely a lot you can do.
With this journey over the past couple of years and getting into working for yourself, overall what have been some of the biggest challenges?
Tricia: One the first thing was just having the confidence to do it. To be okay with going from a steady PT job, something that I went to school for, something that I've spent years getting good at, and leaving it to try something new. I sort of took it cautiously in the sense that I still had my part-time job when I started it. I still had that steady job. I feel like you bring that up often in your in your blogs and podcasts that you are able to have this by starting slow and "what's the worst that can happen" sort of thing. Just take that leap.
Now the biggest challenges have been that I have two small ones at home with me. I have an 18 month old and a three-year-old, so they are constantly changing. When my youngest was first born we were trying to navigate what's this going to look like for your business, for my business, etc. Once she got to a more independent level it was great, we had arrived, right? But there's going to be another change right around the corner, so just juggling life and trying to find what is the best for for me, for my clients, for our family. Those were the two big ones right now.
Do you have any, off the top of your head, pro tips on life balance stuff? Anything that you've found that's made things 1% easier?
Tricia: The first is get organized, as organized as you can. For the people who don't have kids, then great... you're a step ahead of the those of us who are working from home parents. For those of you who are working from home parents though, I would say just learn to accept that things are going to change. It's not going to be perfect. It's not going to be how you have set in your head. You just have to roll with it and find your priority. Find what is the most important thing for you and for them at the time. Having only been a parent for three years, it's gone so fast, but in my head I'm still new to all this.
I am partially a "type A person" where I'm like, "Okay, I have this and this, and I'm going to plan this out..." You can't though sometimes. It just does not happen that way, and you have to be okay with it.
Also, find people who are going to support you. I have an amazing husband who has been super supportive during this. My mom and my mother-in-law have been great with helping watch the kids, and then finding clients who are flexible with this. I would not be able to do any of this if I had clients who were not flexible with me. That's another huge one!
Morgan: Yeah absolutely. I think that that would be something readers, if working for yourself, being a service provider to other businesses, whether it's virtual assistants or I do a lot of marketing stuff for other businesses now, when you are meeting with clients asking them about that. Is it more important to you to have everything done by a certain time, on a certain day, every single week without fail? How much flexibility do you have? Or, like myself, do you not care as long as it gets done around the due date? Because it's so true, especially because Tricia and I are in different times zones.
I don't think I've ever been very, at least with you and my sister, I've never been very deadline driven. I have with myself, but I think just going into business for yourself you also have to learn to have that flexibility with your own self. Things mostly are going to take twice as long as you think they are. That's one of the biggest, most helpful things that I've given myself. I know, particularly with websites, if I chained myself to a desk, I could make an entire website in one day if I really wanted to. Realistically this is probably not going to happen, so I give myself extended periods of time and set expectations with the people that I work with, or at least I try. Then that way you're not putting a ton of extra pressure on yourself. That's another thing, I don't know how you feel about that, but I feel like there's never external pressure. All the stress and pressure that I feel is completely self-imposed.
Tricia: Oh yeah. I mean from the perspective of work and from the perspective of general life it's been completely me being like, "I have to get this done." It's never been my clients asking about getting something done now. Even from home life where I'm trying to balance everything, it's never been my husband being like, "Did you clean this yet? Did you cook this?" It's never been any of that. Literally been my own self. Which is a huge blessing, but at the same time it's also a little bit of why I went into business for myself. I don't have that external pressure of productivity. I have this freedom which is very nice, so as long as you can keep yourself accountable. I mean we might be doing a little bit too much self-critiquing to ourselves, but you have to have some aspect of it because you're running a business. However, it is nice not to have all that external pressure as well. My stress level has been a lot better.
Morgan: Good! I feel for me, I'm definitely still stressed as you know, but it's a lot different than the stress that you're under in the clinic or at the hospital. Because a lot of it is you're doing stuff that either you're passionate about doing, you enjoy it, or you're very much in control of where your time is going. It is still stressful, but also not too much.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the clients that you have/ the other businesses that you currently work with and what you do? For options or examples.
Tricia: Yeah. Like I said, I'm trying to keep in the healthcare realm. For Morgan, I am managing some Facebook stuff for her in the groups, handling the production of her content (the blogs, the podcast, etc.), a little bit of end of the month finances.
One of my other clients is a company that does SEO work for dentists and orthodontists. My jobs include handling blogs for their clients. I look at the keywords for their clients and create topics. We send it off to somebody, they write it up, and I load it up on each company's system and try to make it score the best score possible to get it ranking higher. I'm also creating Google My Business graphics monthly for them as well.
Then Morgan just got me in touch with Brandis recently. Readers met Brandis as your first interview of this series. I'm taking on a few similar tasks for Brandis of what I'm doing for Morgan as far as production of some of her content, updating her CRM, etc.
That's within my little business, but it could be anything. We started off just basic administration stuff for you, but it can go anywhere. You just can't even explain how far it can go. The first Facebook group that I tell anybody is to go to Virtual Assistant Savvies because it's the one that I found that described things so well of "Theres are all the different things that you POSSIBLY could do. Oh by the way there's more!"
I think it's a little confusing to people at first though, especially my former co-workers. When I left I told them I started a business, and they thought I was doing private practice. When I told them I'm a virtual assistant or they see my business title Patricia Miner, VA and they think I work for veterans. So I explain to them I'm not treating anybody, but I'm working with healthcare...but I literally can do whatever I want with them. Just know it's limitless.
Morgan: I say this all the time too, but if I were to go back and start a business again I would probably go down the VA route. I might still treat people as well, but there's so many options. I mean I feel like some of the stuff that I do/ we do for the people that we work with does kind of fall under that. Even though it's more marketing and that's what I advertise it as, I'm still doing things for other businesses.
I just wanted to mention as well, being a virtual assistant, not only can you be involved in a bunch of different areas in business, but I feel like there's also a spectrum where on one end you basically are just another person who can do stuff. For example, business owners will always say, "I wish I could clone myself", and that's what you become. You just read the instructions, do the thing for them. But then on the other end, it's being more proactive and maybe even like an office manager so to speak. You're more watching the business and seeing everything that's going on, make suggestions in ways that things could work a lot better. Maybe you are an assistant that helps with marketing or sales, and you specifically only do that. Like social media managers too.
Tricia: Absolutely, and it's why I have "my why" of the business. Like you said when people say "I wish I could clone myself". It, for me at least, it's for that purpose, so that you can go do exactly what it is that you've been wanting to do and not get bogged down by all the other things. It just depends on what you want to do with it. You can zero in on just one thing and just be exclusively marketing or whatever, but you get your chance to pick how specific or broad you want to be with it.
If somebody wanted to be a virtual assistant and they picked an niche, do you have any advice on how to be a good virtual assistant?
Tricia: The first thing I try and think of is what I would want. For a "good virtual assistant", don't be afraid to ask questions. There have been plenty of times where I've come to you and been like, "I don't know what this is." We either figure it out together or we've both learned how the other learns. For example, you create a Loom video if you wanted to show me something. Not only does it save us time, but I can go back and look at something. So figure each other out, don't be afraid to ask questions, and then trying to anticipate what your (client's) needs would be.
We have had two years to develop this relationship and get to know each other really well. In that time I feel you really need to invest yourself in the client. I can say I know you pretty well now. I can anticipate what you're going to want, I know your style, etc. Like you said earlier, you're watching this business. I'm watching you do this, and I can make suggestions. Obviously it's still your business, but if it's in the name of improving your business and not being like, "Listen I think what you're doing sucks", it's never going to work, (which that has never been the case). However, if it's more like, "Hey I saw this on a Facebook group and I thought it got a good response, what do you think?" At the end of the day, it's your business, you do what you want with it. Just trying to anticipate their needs. I think is an important piece as well. I'm sure there are other things that will probably come to me as we were doing a project, but there are some for now.
Morgan: Yeah I think that's good. I was just curious of thing things that you've learned. I think you answered it. How to be effective and making a good relationship with whoever you're working with comes into play no matter what you're doing.
The other thing that I wanted to mention too, at least I feel is one of our best things that we have done is making a standard operating procedures (SOP) manual. Tricia and I instant message back and forth all day, and instead of us messaging about how to do things and that information getting lost once it's used, we actually started a SOP in ClickUp. It's essentially a list of all the routine tasks that could happen, whether there are things that happen on a daily basis, monthly, just as needed, but "how to do X,Y, and Z". We've been taking those Loom videos that Tricia mentioned and we put them in there.
For example, maybe it's something like "how to schedule an appointment for a client". Then I make a video on how to do that then if I ask you, "Hey Tricia can you schedule an appointment for John Smith?" She's got it, 100%. That's definitely saved a lot of time. We might be bringing on an intern soon, so it also makes it really helpful if you are going to hire and bring more people in, they can pop in because you already have the instructions put there. So, I wanted to put that out there. If you're going to be a VA and you were working with somebody who doesn't have a SOP manual, that could be something that you suggest because it will help save a lot of time.
If you want to be a VA, how do you get clients?
Tricia: Great question, and I feel like I have an advantage here a bit. There have been sadly, when I look on some of these Facebook groups, there have been people who have been struggling for months trying to get clients. They've put themselves out there, they've responded to job opportunities and just haven't gotten things back. Morgan literally fell into my lap within probably weeks of me saying I'm going to do this (VA).
My first game plan was to just be present on these Facebook groups. That was huge. I wasn't just going to sit and wait for someone to find me on Facebook because that's not going to work, so I joined as many Facebook groups as I could manage on there and responded to people if it was something like, "What kind of what kind of niche do you guys do?" I would immediately go on and I think that's how you and I found each other now that I think more about it. Either you saw it or there was a discussion topic about it and boom you find somebody.
For my second client who I do SEO work with, it was a discussion you and I had about wanting to try and develop more clients. One of the things that you said was, again, be present on social media. Throw a post up there and let's see what happens. I use my personal Facebook for my business and I have a huge network in and of itself because my husband's family is huge, so me putting one post on there got shared a ton of times. It was super helpful to have people who were supportive with that. I just said something like I have spots open and this is what I do.
Ironically it was a family member who came to me and told me about their business and to join them. You start making this network. The biggest thing is, and I feel like you've brought this up too, you have to be present. You have to make a mark somewhere. I feel at least for me, because I'm not a good salesperson, when you go to the gym and you talk to people, you have to know that it potentially could take time. But you're talking to people and word gets around. Stuff like that would be my nightmare, but on social media it's a little bit easier. I'm finding I'm becoming more of an introvert as I get older, so social media is at least a little bit easier for me to create a post or a graphic that shares what I'm doing. I started an Instagram, (I have not been very good about it), but I I started an Instagram profile for my VA business. I started showing reasons of why I started being a VA. I was doing it for my kids. Sharing yourself, being involved as much as you can or as much as you want to be. You get out of it what you put into it.
Morgan: Yeah absolutely, and I think a lot of what you're sharing with being present and networking and talking to people it also boils down to you believing in yourself enough to be willing to literally say "I am a virtual assistant!" and in this case, "I own a virtual assistant business and I work with other business owners and help them with whatever they need." Even if you haven't gained a client yet. You have to make that decision in your head and flip the switch that you own a business now: "I'm a virtual assistant now and I don't currently have anybody on my roster, but they're coming because they have to. Because that's what I do."
The same thing with all the therapy stuff too. I feel like that's a place where it can kind of make or break you when it comes to opening a business. If you don't make that decision to actively become what you want to be and start acting like it, it makes it hard for other people to believe you too.
Tricia: Yeah. When I was researching all the stuff for VA and I was considering it and looking at the steps, that that was literally one of the first things. Just start telling people I'm a virtual assistant. You're talking to people and they ask what do you do, tell them you're a virtual assistant. Who cares if you don't have a client yet? Just start it and like you said, if you start believing that you're going to be doing this, people are going to believe it as well. Not that it's not true but it's that they feel that confidence as well and pass along the information.
Morgan: Absolutely. And if it makes you feel any better too, if you want to be 100% truthful even more, you can always say that you are a virtual assistant and you're looking for your first client. People will understand that. Nobody's going to look at you and laugh. If anybody does that they're a crazy person and don't even bother with them.
Tricia: People are positive about it.
Morgan: Yeah they're going to be like, "Wow, cool! What does that mean?" It's definitely a really great opportunity. I did want to point out as well for our readers: you may or may not have any concept of the wide world of being a VA, but there are lots of different options in terms of who a business owner can hire and where they are. For example, I know a few other business owners that I've met over the past few years who have hired virtual assistants overseas.
One of the biggest reasons that they do that is the pay rate is a lot lower than in the U.S., which can be beneficial to a business, if that's one of their biggest things that they're looking for. Sometimes people will look for a VA in a particular time zone so that when work is being done the times zones line up in some fashion that works best for the business.
Tricia: You're almost always working.
Morgan: Yeah exactly. I know for me, I was most comfortable with somebody here in the states so that typically we could talk on a daily basis even though we're hours apart. I also love the fact that you're also a physical therapist. It's so cool because even though I have a bunch of stuff I do and it's not just practicing PT, if you're looking for a VA and you are a therapist and hire somebody who is also a therapist, (or even somebody with a healthcare background), you speak the same language immediately. That also helps with getting going.
So don't count yourself out if you're worried about there being a bunch of other VA's that charge a bunch less than you. That's fine. I know for me, I would rather hire somebody with a higher rate that I can speak to immediately, who knows what I want, rather than somebody be overseas. That's just my values, but other businesses might value the pay rate more. Totally okay.
Tricia: Even for my one client that I do SEO work for, we have a third party person who's writing blogs for us. You have to figure out that value. Do you want to pay a little less, but they don't quite understand some of the dental and orthodontics lingo, so we were at times going back reading over the blogs and trying to make sure that it makes sense and actually fits. We eventually found somebody who was in the states and understood the topics a little bit better. It's been helpful for your business and their's because I'm not constantly having to look stuff up since I've been in the healthcare for a while now. I know what I'm reading.
Morgan: That just reminded me of another worry that sometimes people have about starting their own business: "I went to school for all this time and if I am not a practicing therapist then it was a waste of time to go to school." If you haven't heard of the Non-Clinical PT by Meredith Caston, she has tons of great information on all the different ways that you can use your degree non-clinically. Being a virtual assistant for healthcare businesses is a perfect example and you can still use your degree and your knowledge and all that you've gained. You just apply it in a different way to still help patients.
Tricia: Even outside of my VA world, I'm still tied to that PT world. I've been helping either my friend's parents' or my parents' friend's. If they're in rehab or something, I've been helping walk them through everything. I have this flexibility because I'm not doing my PT job and I have flexibility with my VA job. I can hop on a call and be part of a wellness meeting and talk the family through what just happened during that meeting or looking for the next step. So I am still using my PT degree. I'm still doing per diem every now and then as well, so I'm still involved with it. That's what works for me, but again there's no there's no shame, there's no guilt in that you spent all this time going to school and working for X amount of years. There's still plenty of things that you can do with that degree.
Morgan: Yeah and remembering that your degree is not your identity.
Tricia: Absolutely! It serves its purpose in one way or another, even if it's just that you've learned valuable lessons of how to treat other people. Especially for the field that I was in being sub-acute, a lot of it was mostly geriatrics. It opens your eyes to a whole new world, so even if I'm not treating somebody, you treat people differently. You get a different perspective and it doesn't just spill into your business. It spills into your life. Like you said though, my degree isn't what makes or breaks me. It's what you do with it.
How to contact Tricia:
*Find her on Facebook
*Find her on Instagram
Listen to this episode on my podcast!