My experience working as a virtual freelancer, first as a Virtual Assistant (VA) and later as a Certified Online Business Manager (OBM) has for the most part been freaking amazing! I’m working around my life rather than living around my work and I get so much happiness out of my intrapreneurship with them.
Without question, it is an amazing time to be a VA or an OBM. Why? Because many more businesses are appearing or ‘pivoting’ online, this in no small part is “thanks” to the fricken C word of 2020. More businesses are seeing the benefits of remote working and herein comes the need for VAs and OBMs. There are some frustrations though.
When it comes to knowing about the availability of this type of work and the huge benefits this kind of contract worker has for a business, my experience has been that the UK and Europe do not have the same awareness as the USA business world. So, the majority of job opportunities come from the USA. THIS in turn brings with it other frustrations.
The bulk of the opportunities for VAs and OBMs are coming from the US but US time zones are 5 to 8 hours behind the UK and Europe and for the client, this can appear to be a disadvantage.
BUT – I have found the time difference can have amazing benefits for the client.
Let’s say for example that Client A is on CST time. That means when it is 4pm there in the US, it is 10pm here in the UK. I’m not averse to doing the odd 10-20 min job in the evening, that’s fine, but not ideal. Though, think on this.
The client sends an email request for a report to VA/OBM at 4.30 pm CST / 10.30 pm GMT. The metrics for the report require a lot of digging on the part of the VA/OBM, the client however has an unexpected 9:30 am meeting the next day and NEEDS that report.
A CST zoned VA/OBM would be working into the early/late evening to get these figures. Out of usual hours working usually comes at a premium price! The VA/OBM probably doesn’t start work again until 8.30 am the next morning by which stage the client, after checking her phone at 7 am, has sent urgent amendments. The CST VA/OBM now has LESS than 1 hour to do the amendments and get them to the client for her to sit down at 9:30 at her meeting.
However, *picture Disney bluebirds gently singing their song* a GMT zoned VA/OBM would first see this request at 09:00 am their time and have >>> at the very minimum until 7am CST which is 1pm GMT to have them in the clients inbox and then an extra 2 hours plus to make any amendments.
I don’t know about you, but sending something to my right-hand person at closing time and still having it completed and sitting in my inbox when I wake up in the morning – even 2 hours before I’m at my desk, would be freakin amazing!!! And the bonus here is the VA/OBM didn’t even have to work crazy hours at a premium cost to the client, it was all done in their standard business working hours.
Another question I am often asked is, “what if the client has to speak to the VA/OBM during their own CST hours?”
That’s easy too!
There is loads of time between 7 am and 12 pm CST time to speak to the VA/OBM, for who, if in a GMT zone it will be between 1 pm and 6 pm. It works – it just does!
If people have a hang up it is usually around one of two things.
- I mention the client working at 7 am – people don’t email their PAs at 7 am! Oh yes, they do, welcome to the 21st century! One of the first things people do in the mornings is to check their phones for messages/emails. I would argue that CEOs are even more likely to do this. I’ve worked for both online and bricks and mortar businesses over the last 28 years – since mobile phones became the norm, so has the CEO pestering the PA at 7 am!!! What is great for the GMT VA/OBM is it’s not freaking 7 am where they are! Wooop!
- What if the client needs you after 1 pm their time? Fair question. I would counter that with an experienced response. NEED is a single word with extreme variants of meaning. Almost all requests from clients/CEO’s to their team are not ‘need now’ things. Unless you are a medical first responder, then it is unlikely that there be catastrophic consequences if you don’t stop your world at that very moment to enter the one that is revolving around your client’s head. Of course, there will be important and often time-critical things that need to be attended to in a timely fashion. I would argue that if your client has a well organised VA/OBM, deathly urgent scenarios should not arise anyway *wink wink*
So let’s go back to the CMT client. Need is still need but need does not mean now. How amazing would it be for the client/CEO to get to their desk first thing, or even wake up to see the job done right there in their inbox the next morning! No pacing about frantically, is it done yet, is it done, what bout now? Because it was done while she/he was sleeping!
I have only ever had one single instance where I have been critically NEEDED after 6 pm my time – once in 28 years and that was a bricks and mortar office! While the boss had been in the bathroom, Security, not realising he was in there, did a final sweep of the building and didn’t see him, locked up the building, and set the alarms. As the poor boss walked out on to the main floor, the alarms starting raising hell!
So that be my 2pence/2 cents on the time zone issue. There are some more pennies and dimes rolling about in my head that I’m sure to share with you soon on this subject!