Work Hard

Even Batman had a Robin. Could you benefit from a business sidekick?

HLN catches up with local entrepreneur Michelle Stead of SRM Virtual Admin to see how her innovative solutions to online office management works to support other business owners.

Written by High Life North
Published 15.12.2020

In Partnership with SRM Virtual Admin

Tell us about SRM Virtual Admin. 

SRM Virtual Admin offers a wide range of services to support entrepreneurs at every stage. I work with start-ups to more established businesses who need extra assistance or are looking to grow. I offer a free 30-minute consultation so I can discuss the client’s requirements in more detail and then I create a bespoke package designed to cater to their individual needs.

How did you get into virtual admin? 

I left school at 16 and did a hairdressing apprenticeship – I have no idea why, because I had never shown any desire to be a hairdresser!  Unsurprisingly, I soon decided it wasn’t for me, so I started work with the local council working in various departments. Over the years, I continued to work in various administration roles across a range of sectors, including engineering, construction, charities and fostering.

In 2012 I was head-hunted by an independent fostering agency which was about to launch and asked me to work as Office Manager. I accepted the role, which was a great opportunity, and went on to become an Executive Assistant. After six years, I felt like I needed a new challenge and had a sudden flash of madness thinking I should set up my own business as a Virtual Administrative Assistant. I have enough admin experience, although I hadn’t run a business before. What could possibly go wrong?!

After only 18 months in business, you came runner up in the North East Region of the UK VA of the Year awards, which is a fantastic achievement. What would you say to others in the region thinking of starting their own business? 

That’s definitely been one of my highlights so far. Being my own boss really appealed to me and I loved the idea that I could work around my family and other commitments. Plus, who doesn’t want to work at home in front of the fire when it’s cold outside?!

SRM Virtual Admin was born in January 2018 and the rest, as they say, is history. I could never have anticipated how well it would do and I’m so glad I decided to go for it. I would recommend that anyone who has a burning business idea to do their research and, if it feels right, then just go for it. At least you can say you tried! 

What can SRM Virtual Admin offer? 

I work with clients worldwide across a variety of industries, including health and wellbeing, PR & marketing, business & leadership coaches, fashion, media publications and bloggers. Specifically, I can offer the following:

– Graphic design, including the design of social media graphics

– Transcription

– Inbox management

– E-book design

– Lead magnet design

– Newsletters

– Content repurposing (transcribing videos into blogs, creating graphics from blog posts etc.)

– Proof-reading and editing

– Powerpoint presentations

– Research

– Data entry

– Event management

– Spreadsheet work

– Design of marketing materials

What do you enjoy most about your job? 

One of the things I love most about my role is seeing my clients succeed. If I can help them achieve their goals, grow their business, or help them launch something that they never thought they’d have the time or the skills to do, that gives me so much satisfaction. Sometimes that’s by taking over their weekly newsletter or scheduling their social media so that they can spend more time coaching or mentoring, creating new products or running masterclasses, or brainstorming with them to help come up with an action plan to put their ideas into action.

I’ve always been creative and I’ve discovered over the last couple of years that I really enjoy bringing that into my business. I’ve worked with several clients this year who have been launching online courses and memberships and needed resources created in the form of workbooks, worksheets and slide decks. I love bringing a vision to life and I’ve taken this a step further by creating done-for-you printable workbook and social media templates that people can buy and customise to their own branding.

How do you feel the lockdowns have impacted your business?

I count myself very lucky that lockdown hasn’t had a massive impact on my business, as I was already working virtually – you could say I was a bit ahead of the curve. Initially, I lost a couple of clients because of the impact the lockdown had on their industries but, overall, my business has thrived this year because a lot of people have needed more support than ever as they’ve faced extra challenges – such as pivoting their business to an online model, home-schooling, or just dealing with the general pressure that came with trying to cope with such a strange situation. Having a right-hand woman to help keep things ticking over was what many of them needed.

Do you think the shift to a more digital model of working will continue? 

I certainly think that home-working will become more the norm in the future. Official figures showed that remote working hit nearly 40% in June. A lot of businesses have realised that they can run just as effectively with staff working from home, and many workers have realised they don’t need to commute into an office to get the work done, so are getting much more of a work-life balance. While I think this is positive, on the flip side, I’ve spoken to people who struggle to work from home and find it hard to discipline themselves. While I’m quite happy in my own company, I know a lot of people miss the work environment and thrive in a busy workplace.

Many clients I’ve worked with have wanted to add an online element to their business for a while and lockdown has forced them to make it happen sooner. For example, I have a client who is a Pregnancy and Postnatal Yoga teacher. She started to offer classes via Zoom, which have really taken off, and so she’s decided to continue with this online element once things go back to ‘normal’, as it’s reached another audience she wasn’t previously tapping into. 

There’s no denying it’s been a very tough year, but I definitely think there are positives to come from it. It’s given many people a push to think a bit more creatively about their offering.

What’s on the horizon for SRM?

My word for 2021 is ‘growth’ and I’m planning to expand the design side of my business, offering more creative services and support to coaches, mentors and creative business owners. To enable me to do this, I’d like to grow my team by hiring an associate (or two) with a range of skillsets, so I can offer a wider range of services – including more technical aspects, such as website design and SEO.

I’m a bit of a geek and I love a challenge, so I started an open degree with the Open University in October and my first course is Design Thinking. As well as learning something new, there is so much content I’m going to be able to apply to my business, which makes me feel so excited for the future.

To find out more about SRM Virtual Admin, visit Michelle’s website, Facebook or Instagram 

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