You’d never know it as she galvants around the globe with her husband on business trips – hello, England and bonjour, France! – family vacations, playdates with her granddaughters and serving at her local shelter a few times a month, but Deanna White has been a BELAY Virtual Assistant for three years.
Ah, the magic of a third option.
“The flexibility of this [third] option allows me to keep my priorities,” she gushes. “I love knowing my priorities don’t change. Tomorrow, my family will be first again. I’m so grateful I can say ‘YES!’ to my family instead of ‘Let me see if I can get off work that day.’”
So we sat down with Deanna recently to find out how, exactly, this revolutionary concept of putting life first has worked out for her.
What do you love most about your client?
“I love the multifaceted opportunities of working with her. Managing her captivating speaking engagements with fascinating people and audiences, planning colloquiums for palliative care, assisting with the syllabus, curriculum details and speakers for her college spirituality course, communicating with her ministry leaders at her church, and – probably the biggest honor – working alongside her as what she calls her ‘thought partner.’
“Oh, and planning activities for her and her granddaughter in the summer is so fun!”
‘Thought partner’ – that’s so perfect! How do you think your previous experience prepared you for that exact role?
“I believe it’s my experience with previous entrepreneurs, executives, educational directors and ministry leaders that helps me listen and be that partner for her.
“I also think that being a published author of children’s curriculum taught me the importance and effectiveness of ‘writing tight.’ Clear written communication has been beneficial in establishing and building professional – and yet personable – relationships with people I may never even see face-to-face.”
It’s incredible how every seemingly disconnected path we’ve taken in life has managed to prepare us for what’s to come. But how do you overcome not having face-to-face interactions while still building a relationship?
“When we first started working together, her calendar was so tight for months that we didn’t have any guaranteed weekly time together. We would catch a brief phone call a couple times a week but soon, I began managing her calendar and blocking time for all areas of her work.
“And now, well, we could seriously make a commercial for Zoom! We spend at least four hours together every Tuesday on a video call. And most weeks, we check in again for an hour at the end of the week.
“I realize that a four-hour Zoom call could scare away many assistants but for us, it’s like working in an office together for the day.”
And that’s exactly the point: Making ‘work’ work for you and your client. So to that point – how have you adapted work to your life – and not the other way around?
“I’ve had the opportunity to work from a desk in a hotel in France with an open window listening to the sounds of the quaint courtyard below. And I love ‘traveling’ with my client when we have our weekly video calls when she is in Cape Cod, Hawaii, Mexico, and Kinshasa!”
If you could give yourself one piece of professional advice when it comes to virtual employment three years ago, what would it be?
“Working virtually as an independent contractor is not setting yourself up to an electronic leash to a ‘boss’ 24/7.
“Early on with BELAY, I learned that as an Independent Contractor, I am the ‘boss’ and can serve my client well with clear communication – both written and through scheduled video calls – as well as setting boundaries and always ‘showing’ up to go above and beyond their expectations.”