Wow...so I started my Virtual Assistance business in July of 2008. It has been a fun journey so far, even though I'm only 3 months into it! First, it would make most sense to give you a background on me! For some reason, I feel that this blog will bring me the type of clients that I'm looking for. Not to say that the clients that I currently have are not worthy of my time, they most certainly are! Especially the ones that fit into my "population" that I have in mind. But, if I tell my story, maybe the people that I want to help the most will come forward, ha ha!
Okay, so a short education background: Graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Administration and I am currently enrolled in a Masters program in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. But, I feel that I learned the most valuable lessons in life from working with children and adults. I feel at times the degree is there to "validate" that I'm a professional in my field and I'll take it!
I discovered my love for educating when I was in high school. We had a child development lab in-house that provided child care services for parents. We were responsible for creating lesson plans for the children, providing the material for the lesson plans and even developing the curriculum that they were going to follow that year. I loved it! I loved discovering new ways to teach the children. I was a firm believer from the moment I started working with children, that we all learn differently and that a teacher is responsible for providing these various learning methods to ensure the success of her children.
Okay...so I graduated from high school (yeah)! I started my first "real" job in the Baltimore County School systems. I was a reading tutor for elementary school students. I learned a lot from this job. I learned that I didn't necessarily like to work with children who were taller than me (that eliminated everyone older than 8) and that when you work for someone and you are being paid from a "Poverty Grant" you may not have a job the next school year:) The wonderful thing about this job is I learned the importance of data collecting and written observations as they pertain to education. I also discovered that I LOVED kindergartners; which further proved that I was meant to be an early childhood educator.
I moved onto two different children's learning centers. I started out as an assistant in the classroom at the first one; got my certification and started teaching as soon as possible. The problem was there were no teaching positions available at this center. So I learned my most valuable lesson at this center: negotiating. I negotiated with the center director to change every one's work day to a 10 hour day (a 4 day work week) versus 8 hour (a 5 day work week) day. Everyone loved the idea! And it allowed me to teach every day! The teachers alternated their days off and I taught in their class in their absence. When I left this center, it was because I wanted my own class. I loved the variety of a different age group everyday, but I had no space to call my own. At the second center in which I taught, I had a fabulous class of fifteen three year olds. Yes, you heard me right, fifteen three year olds. At this center I learned the valuable lesson of team work. Let me tell you...there is some great help out there when it comes to assistants in the classroom...and then there is the other people. I went through four-five assistants in the one year that I taught at the center before I found the assistant of my dreams. She was wonderful and we made a great team!
I decided that although I loved the classroom and the children, I needed to go back to school and earn a Bachelors Degree so that I move up the "educational ladder." To do this, I needed a job with a little more flexibility and shorter days. I left the children's center and started working for Kennedy Krieger Institute as a 1:1 aide in a classroom for children with various special needs. I worked with children with Autism, Fragile-X syndrome and traumatic brain injuries (to name a few). Guess what...I was a little disappointed that I was working with children that were older than the age that I thought was comfort zone (therefore the children were all taller than me) until I realized that working with children who had special needs isn't something that everyone can do...but I could and I think I did it really well! Kennedy Krieger Institute proved to have so many opportunities for me...I was a Child Development Teacher for a while at an Early Head Start that they funded and an Activities Coordinator in KKI's pediatric rehabilitation hospital. While working at the hospital I finished up my Bachelors Degree.
After receiving my degree, I was promoted to a Therapy Center Specialist and co-ran the Therapy Center. The Therapy Center was a very unique department. In it, you could find Child Life Specialists, Therapeutic Recreation Specialists and a plethora of other professionals. My responsibilities (along with my partner in crime) were to create rehabilitation goals for the patients that they were responsible to work on in every therapy, develop an appropriate curriculum to follow through out the year, develop activities for the patients to participate in when they weren't in therapies, running orientation to the department and other administrative tasks that come with running a center. I also started working for a non-profit organization at this time that provided services to families with children who have Autism. I supervised technicians that worked in the homes with children providing them with individualized support, respite care and family training.
I was where I wanted to be! I had two jobs where I was respected and was working with the populations that I loved: early childhood and special needs.
So, of course, I get pregnant...
I came back to work after three months off with my beautiful baby boy. I was excited to come back to work. With some negotiation, I was able to come back part-time. I still loved my job, especially the administrative aspects of it. I'm a planner and developer. I loved to develop new data collection sheets or lesson plans or groups for the patients to participate in. But something in me had changed, I was a mother and I wanted to be home with my son. I thought that if I worked three days a week, that would be enough for me and I would be satisfied, both at home and at work. Not so much. I lasted nine months and decided to be a stay at home before his first birthday.
Fast forward a bit...I got bored...so I decided to go back to school and earn my Masters Degree. I still worked for my non-profit organization also and once again was loving the administrative side of my job. I started to get busier with my non-profit and started to work with more families.
Guess what? Pregnant again! Well, 26 weeks into this pregnancy, I end up on bed rest after a hug gone wrong by my now two year old whose head managed to dive-bomb my lower stomach so hard, it caused me to have contractions which led into pre-term labor. I was on bed rest until my 36th week. I went a little stir crazy. I had to stop my work with my non-profit for the time being because I couldn't visit my families. So I began to think about me, my life, my children and where I wanted to be after I had this baby. I did some research and discovered the wonderful world of Virtual Assistants.
I was excited because I had a niche....already, I had a niche! This is one of the hardest things about being a VA, is finding that one thing that you were good at and wanted to work with. I knew that I wanted to provide services to the areas of my work experience that I loved the most: Educators, Health Care Professionals and Non-Profits. So, here I am three months later with two clients, one that falls into my "niche" and one that doesn't. But that's okay, because we all have to start somewhere.
So, what now? Now I'm working on marketing to my "niche" which isn't easy. The bad thing about the majority of clients that I want to help have no idea how they would use my services. The good thing about that is I think I'm one of the few that provides this service, so it shouldn't be so hard to find clients. Once again, not so much. But it's only been three months and I keep plugging along.
And here I am, a two year old who finally fell asleep at quarter of twelve, a six week old that will be awake any minute and me, who just finished her first ever blog...and all of this, because I was on bed rest!