Are You Ready to Hire a Virtual Assistant? With Maria Carras

[00:00:00] Made Remarkable Intro: Welcome back. And thanks for tuning into the made remarkable podcast, hosted by Kellee Wynne. We are thrilled to introduce you to the marvelous matchmaker , Maria Carras and advocate for building lasting, trusting, and remarkable teams with virtual assistants. Through her membership and programs. 

If you have been wanting to find support for your business, if you're ready to hand off some tasks and begin growing your team. Then this episode is a great place to start. Maria and Kellee discussed what a relationship with a virtual assistant can look like and give some advice on where to get started in the hiring process. Check out the show notes and transcripts for more information about Maria. Exclusive promotional offers and any special links mentioned during the episode. 

Kellee loves connecting with listeners. So don't be shy. Reach out on social media and together let's build a community that celebrates the remarkable. If you want to be notified every time a new episode hits the airwaves, just hit that subscribe button on your favorite podcast platform. Thank you for joining us today and always remember that you are made remarkable destined to achieve the unimaginable. Now let's get to the good part. Introducing Kellee Wynne and Maria Carras

[00:01:12] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Well, hello. Hello. I'm Kellee Wynne, artist, author, mentor, fiercely independent mother and wife, and the founder of a multiple six figure creative business. And I love my life, but I've been where you're at. I was slogging away at this art business thing for more than a decade. Once I finally connected with my true calling, unlock the magic of marketing and built a system that could scale, while I realize I can make an impact and make a substantial income, I'm finally running a business that I love and it makes all the.

Difference in the world. My biggest dream is to help you do the same. Let this podcast be the catalyst to your biggest success. You already have it in you because you are made remarkable.

Hello Maria. It is so nice to finally meet you in person. Well, virtually in person. 

[00:02:07] Maria Carras: Yeah. Space to face on camera. Kellee, you have been part of my world in some weird distant way for so long, so it's great to finally meet you. 

[00:02:16] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I know. Well, here's my little backstory. In 2020 when I knew I wanted to grow my business, I realized I needed a professional virtual assistant, and not just other artist friends, and I don't know how, I think it was through a female entrepreneur association, someone recommended you.

So I went on your site and I'm like, okay, I'm gonna put in a request for an assistant. And I found Lisa, and now Lisa has totally transformed my life. She is my business manager, my COO, but it was because of you and through your system and your virtual assistant business that I was able to find the lifeline that my business needed.

So of course, I always recommend your business, and I would love to just have a discussion of how did you get into. Supporting virtual assistants. 

[00:03:08] Maria Carras: Ah, I love that. First of all, Lisa, just before we go into my background, Lisa was part of my first ever I think, cohort of coaching women who wanted to become virtual assistants.

Cause I do this live group program, it's 12 weeks and Lisa was one of the first to ever sign up for that program. And I'm so excited that she has come such a long way. Yeah. And you guys are a match, sort of made in heaven. Like she raves about you and Yeah. So I'm so super excited about that, that you guys have built this beautiful relationship.

So yes, I started my business, as a virtual assistant myself. Like how long ago is it now? 2013. What is this? Like 10 years ago? Oh my goodness. Yeah. So I started as, isn't that crazy? How are we in 2023? How is that? 10 years ago? I have no idea. The older I get, the faster time goes, right?

Yes. I think of it as my son was born in 2013, so it's kind of like my business is as old as my son because I wanted to work for myself when I had my babies. So the way that I did that was through virtual assistance, and I think in 2013 it was a relatively like new concept, or maybe it had been around a while, but it was still kind of fledgling. It wasn't like the big thing that it is now. 

[00:04:34] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Probably cause, you know, professionals in businesses prior to this would have assistances or even virtual assistants. But then so many of us started becoming our own bosses and coming online in the 2010s. So I think that's when it began to flourish.

So it makes sense that it was like, I mean, if I had it in 1999 when I had my first kid, I totally would've been a virtual assistant. But nope. Instead, it's the perfect timing for it. 

[00:05:03] Maria Carras: Yeah, it is the perfect time. And I think it's exactly what you said, like people were starting their own businesses. I think it was like back then in the 2010s when like the blogs were really taking off and people were making money from their blogs.

And people who turned their blogs into a business, they kind of needed to start building a team to sustain that business. And that's kind of where virtual assistants came along. So that's how I heard of it. Like I started reading all of these blogs and I just started looking at all of these job postings, or these people in Facebook groups.

Cause Facebook groups were actually quite huge back in the 2010s as well. I feel like they're still big. But I feel since the 2010s, a lot of big business people have closed their Facebook groups cuz they're, I don't know, the algorithm isn't in working in their favor, but whatever. Right. Yeah. I made lots of connections through Facebook groups and I've heard of this term, so I, I googled it, I did my research, I went on Upwork and I started getting clients as a va and I didn't do any training or anything.

I just kind of used the skills that I already had, to just start offering it to people who were looking for help. So I knew how to proofread, I knew how to write, I knew how to do an Excel spreadsheet. Like I knew those little things that I did from my job, when I was back in corporate and I just kind of transferred those skills into offering my own services.

And that's kind of how I got started. I dunno if this is the question that you asked me 

[00:06:25] Kellee Wynne Conrad: yes. No, that is, I'm very curious about it. It's like because, because I support creative people. Finding alternative ways to build their business. Right. So, yeah. 

[00:06:36] Maria Carras: Mm-hmm. This is what Yes. I love that you do that.

So as I was working as a virtual assistant, I started to hang out with virtual assistants online, and I had started working, like hanging out with online business owners, and I saw so many gaps of how people were running their businesses. Mm-hmm. So business owners sort of hiring and working with virtual assistants and then virtual assistants themselves.

I saw how difficult it was for VAs to differentiate themselves, to market themselves, to get clients to work without burning out. And I wanted to help them because somehow I figured it out for myself. Like without any coaching or anything. I figured out how to grow a business, which eventually turned into an agency without burning out.

Making enough money to support me and my family, and I wanted to share that with other people who I felt were, were not necessarily doing it the right way. So that's how I got into coaching. I always knew I wanted to, to coach from the very beginning of my VA business. I love teaching. I love helping women grow and recognize their skills and turn those into a, profitable business.

So about five years ago I started coaching and here we are now.

So I run a membership for virtual assistants. I run group programs. I help women. I. Who are looking to start their own business, who already have skills, and I help them package those skills and turn them into a profitable business. So this is where I am now, and what I do is I help these women then find clients through our free fee matchmaking service, so that they, we can help small business owners like yourself create more freedom, grow their businesses, scale their businesses with the support of a team.

[00:08:28] Kellee Wynne Conrad: And it just gives me chills because I know how invaluable that service has been to me. And I know from the point of view of wanting to support women be independent and instead of spinning their wheels and trying to figure it out, like give them that short path to success.

And I know that's exactly what you do. So it's like we have a lot in similarity. I may come from an art background, but the idea of taking our skills, figuring out how to make a business out of it, and then saying, you know what, I'm pretty. dang good at this, I can help other people really succeed as well.

 And I really love that. It's a small enough environment or community that you've created that I felt like it was so much more accessible to hire someone through you rather than going to Upwork or one of those other big companies. I felt like with something like that, I'd be just getting a person, like a body to fill the slot, to do the chore.

And I didn't want that. I really wanted a team. I wanted to be able to build a relationship with someone. And of course I interviewed several people from your program and there was just something that I connected with Lisa in knowing that she'd be the balance to my high energy. And she's calm and patient and she had a lifetime of skill as an admin in all different kinds of industries.

So maybe she was new at being a virtual assistant. But she wasn't new at being able to handle the tasks that I needed her to do. Like she's been brilliant at it. So much so that I was like, at some point last year, I realized, you know, she really needs to be the one running my business and telling me what to do.

Right? Because it was within months of hiring her that I knew I could trust her enough to say, you can make decisions on how to handle customer complaints or refunds. You can make decisions on even some financial stuff with us. You can make decisions on, you know, how we run the business so that it's effective for all of us.

So her position continued to grow and then I needed more help. And she actually brought her daughter on board. So her daughter does a lot of my social media writing, customer support, community support. But really it's the support I feel so, From having an assistant. And I just don't think that that artists in business realize how important that is to grow.

I can't do most of what I'm doing. I would be like complete, like it was actually 2020 when I was burning out that I said I need real support. And I think there's so many people who are like, I can keep doing this on my own, but they don't realize they can actually enjoy their business more, grow their business to bigger heights by handing off the things that they're not as good at or that they don't have to do.

So things that Lisa started off doing for me was just answering customer emails and working on some of the backend stuff for my system. Proofreading, just like you said, proofreading stuff and, and it just grew to a point where like, she manages the team for me, so I don't even do that part, but it took a while and it costs some money, but it's amazing.

[00:11:40] Maria Carras: I have so many questions for you because I love this. My first question is, how quickly did you trust Lisa to take such an important role as to make like, big decisions about your business? 

[00:11:52] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Well, so I actually interviewed with her in August of 2020, but I didn't really get to bring her on to the team until maybe November because I was in big transition shutting down a membership, letting go of the people I worked with before.

And it wasn't out of, you know, anything bad happened with them. It's just that wasn't their career path. They were artists who were supporting me, but they had other dreams of their own. And I just saw that it wasn't a perfect fit. And then transitioning. But I would say within three months I was letting her make decisions on how to handle customer problems.

And I gave her a raise before she ever asked for one, because I saw the immediate value in having her as part of my life. And I turned her into not somebody who just did tasks for me, but someone who met with me every single week. Every Monday was like, we regrouped, we answered questions together. We saw each other face to face.

So that was 2020 when I hired her. It's already 2023, but , it was last year. We came, became really close and it was at some point last year where I was just like, you know what? It just makes more sense to let you. Kinda manage me, I'm still the CEO of my business. I still make decisions on the direction of the future.

I have the vision for what I want, but the day-to-day operations, I know that I can turn over to her. But yeah, it didn't take long. Whereas, I mean, there's other people that I could work with for years and not feel like I could get to that point. But with her, it just didn't take long because she's just amazing. So I am sure she'll listen to this later and be like, oh, but like she's become my best friend and we have actually got to meet in person. We did a team retreat last. December, the two of us, and planned out this year. But I always knew I wanted to be in that role. I didn't know how to do it. So in some ways, she's trained me to be better at being a leader, between her and my husband.

Oh, wow. It turned to him all the time being like, how do I handle this problem? Because I've tried hiring a few other people since then, and they haven't really quite worked out the way I wanted, but Lisa's in it for the long haul now. 

[00:14:07] Maria Carras: Oh my gosh. I love that. And I love that we're talking about this now because you have a community of artists and artists, presumably they wanna create like, and yes, they wanna run a business, right?

But they want to essentially be creating, whether that's courses, whether that's art, and they don't wanna be dealing with all the niggly, like stuff that needs to happen, like the social media and the customer emails. And I guess I, cuz I've, we've helped artists before in kind of one of their biggest concerns about hiring help is obviously the, the money.

Like I don't have money right now to invest. I don't know what the r o I will be. And yes, those are valid concerns, but the reality is if you're doing everything yourself, if your mind is being taken up by these small but important things that don't require your specific expertise. Mm-hmm. You are going to be drained, like you said, you're gonna be burnt out.

You are not going to be performing at your best and it's such a shame for your business to flounder because of that, because you were scared of investment and it is an investment. A lot of people see it as an expense, but really it is an investment in your business. Like you can't grow without this kind of support and I'm so glad that youre doing this.

[00:15:22] Kellee Wynne Conrad: You can't grow without the support. Just flat out, once I learned that, that changed everything. We get so used to, well I can do it better. I know how to do it or, or it's gonna take too long to train someone. Yeah, it takes a little bit of time, but then that task. Someone else can do it and probably do it better than you.

But it's also that, like you said, that mental energy, cause it's not just the physical work, it's a mental energy. So yeah, you're right. Artists don't realize that's an option a lot of times, and I'm talking to artists who are doing things other than just making art and selling art.

Although even in that, Frame of reference, having someone handle putting the images on your website for you even would be an amazing task to pass over to somebody else so that you can, for me, I believe that the forward facing job is the most important job that I can do. Making the art, showing people how to make the art, talking to the people, showing up for the podcast, showing up for the videos.

No one else can take that off my plate, but someone else can answer the emails, someone else can make sure that the newsletter goes out, someone else can edit my podcast. And Emily does and she does an amazing job at that. So it's like, as soon as you realize you wanna grow, this is the time to start investing early on and have faith that your business will grow at the pace that you are being like, what's the right word? You know, just mindset. Like a driven, yeah. When your mind grows about the abundance of what's possible. So that's why I really encourage the hiring of business early, hiring out those parts, even if someone else is gonna handle the customer service, you know?

Yeah. It's just make all the difference in the world.

[00:17:05] Maria Carras: I know. And I, I like how you said hire early, and I always say like, hire before you think you are ready. Mm-hmm. Because if you wait until you're launching, until you feel like you need somebody. It's already too late because there, there's preparation.

Like you can't hire somebody a week before you're about to launch. Right. Like you need somebody in your business who, like you said, Lisa, who knows the inside out, who knows the systems and the processes. Who is in it with you, who's by your side, so that when it does come time to crunch time, they're there beside you, helping you through crunch time, right?

Like you don't hire a week before crunch time. You hire way before and you can start small. Like you said, you hired Lisa for customer service emails, and that could be just the one single thing that you have them do to start with, and that's not gonna break the bank, like having somebody just answer your customer service emails.

But what are you getting for that? You're getting somebody who's starting to know your customers, who's starting to know what kinds of emails you're getting, who's starting to then be able to create templates for those emails who can then start creating an s o P for how to answer those emails.

Yeah. Who's starting to organize your inbox and slowly, slowly, like it happened with Lisa, she's gonna become an expert and start doing things better than you ever can or have the time to do. And like, what relief is that to have somebody be so in your business and alongside you and invested the same as you, and you're not doing this alone.

It's, I, I don't know how anybody can do it without, 

[00:18:51] Kellee Wynne Conrad: it's, you know what, honestly, the customer service part, I love to talk to my customers, but the daily task of going in there and checking it and answering and solving problems may only be 20 or 30 minutes, but for me it ends up being like two hours.

Because then you check this and you do this and you get lost down a rabbit hole. And it like was really Yeah, a huge, time suck where, you know, Lisa can manage that time better because she's doing it for someone else. And I just, Couldn't believe that the brain space that it released for me, how much of a difference that is, right?

Mm-hmm. Like that alone was like lifesaving to me. But yes, then she learned the systems, she learned how to go into the backend and see where a problem was and troubleshoot it. And I don't know, like, well, she had a lot of customer service, uh, work before she came in to help me. So she's just naturally able to deal with any of the challenges better than I can.

And so even that, I didn't have any time to spend riled up over a problem. Right. Or a complaint. Yeah. Which we get in business, no matter what you're doing, you're gonna find, you know, and we don't get 'em very often. Our art community is just so amazing and lovely, but every now and then there's a problem that we have to solve, you know?


[00:20:07] Maria Carras: Like, this link is broken, or this video doesn't load. Right. Or my payment didn't go through. Can you retry it? Like, and then you realize it's like hole, like. 

[00:20:19] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Right. And so they can't find their courses and then, you know, yeah, we can troubleshoot and find out that they replaced a letter in their email address.

And so these are the kinds of things that's, once I realized that she was really quick to solve problems, that's probably when I had to, partly because I trusted her, but partly because I realized for my own sanity I had to let go of control and give her space to just do what she does well, you know, and that's a really hard thing.

Yeah. When we're so used to doing everything ourself and I am, I've been used to just kind of like, , master my own home, master my own art business, master of my own teaching business. But then there comes a point where it's like, no, no one's really meant to do this alone. So I wanted to talk a little bit about the process of finding that person and hiring them, especially through you. It was really simple because you just put in a form question, you know, what are you looking for? What skills do you want them to have?

What price point? And, and I should just write out, say we're not paying for, foreign work prices, we are paying real honest labor here. So, probably starting at 20 and up an hour, which I think is more fair for the kind of work that you're gonna get from somebody depending on the skills and tasks that they're handling.

Then I got nervous because I was like, okay, so now how do I choose somebody? What do I have to be prepared for to hire them? How do I know if they're right for me? And I will say the one thing that I did early on before I started even working with you is I got a contract made by, I hired a lawyer, okay.

Had a proper contract made so that anyone I worked with, we already had a written agreement exactly how it was gonna go, so that I couldn't get, in a bind later. So I will say, yes, that's not a service that you offer, but you could probably find a place online that can do that for you.

But for me, that was invaluable to at least know I had that base cover. But the rest of it, I'm like, how do you even know what to do? 

[00:22:21] Maria Carras: Yeah, so I teach my VAs to have their own contracts as well. So it could be a little bit of a, you'll have your own contract. The VAs will have their own contract, so you're gonna have to decide, I guess, whose contract are you gonna sign.

So it's important that everybody reads whatever, whoever provides the contract that you're both happy with it. And go through it with a fine tooth comb. From the VA perspective, you're, well, I guess from the business owner perspective, you're gonna wanna look at, you know, what are their payment terms, what are their holiday terms, what are their boundaries in terms of work, how often are they working?

How is their IP protected? So all these things like that. So yes, definitely have a contract in place. In terms of, how to prepare your business for a va, or what to look for when you're hiring a va, or how to go about hiring a va? There's so many questions. 

[00:23:12] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Well, well, I think step one is how to be prepared for it.

[00:23:16] Maria Carras: Yeah, how to be prepared for VA's. Definitely get your contracts ready. Next I would write a list of the things that you want to outsource, like in as much detail as possible. Spend some time writing a list of the things that need to happen in your business that you don't necessarily have to do. So it's things like you've mentioned before, scheduling your newsletters, scheduling your social media, uploading videos, like what happens on a regular basis in your business.

That. Often falls down to, to the bottom of your to-do list or you just kind of dread doing and it is not in your zone of genius. Make a list of those items if you're having trouble figuring out what those things are. Spend a week tracking your time with a free tool like Toggle, you can literally map out or log everything that you do in a week.

I think you'll be surprised how much time you actually spend on things that can be easily outsourced to somebody else. Like it's shocking if you do this activity. So once you have your list, Look at the priorities, like what is priority number one? Which is the task that if I hand off that will give me back so much time?

And then, so cuz I encourage people to start, start small with their VAs and like, like what you experienced, that responsibility with your VA will, will eventually grow, but start small. Uh, so once you have your list, I would go to somewhere like me or Upwork or wherever you can find virtual assistants. I would recommend you go to a proper service.

Like I do like the VA matchmaking service. And our service is very much for people who don't yet have a job description, right? They just know, oh, I need to hire a va, but I don't exactly know how much to pay them or what to outsource. So we will send you a. A questionnaire to fill in and that will ask you questions like, what do you wanna outsource?

How much time do you think you need? What's your budget? So if you don't yet have a job description, we will help you create one by filling in this form. And then what we do is we share that job, description with our VAs, and they will apply and you'll get sent a form, like a Google sheet rather, with a list of candidates with all of their answers.

And then all you have to do is select the ones that sound like a good fit and then do your interview with them. Now that's like a whole other process, but really before you get to the stage of interviewing somebody, the, the early stages of getting your business ready for a va, I think start to document your processes.

You can get your VA to do that really. But if you can document your process of the top thing that you wanna outsource, that will make it so much easier to onboard a virtual assistant. So start document your processes. It could just be in a Google sheet, in a Google Doc, just step-by-step what needs to happen for scheduling your newsletter or uploading your social media.

So those are the of the main things. Yeah, sorry. Excuse you.

[00:26:19] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I know sometimes also just like recording yourself doing a process. Mm-hmm. Like if you are trying to load stuff regularly to your website, like how do you do it? How do you label your photos? Do you resize the photos? What order do you upload the photos?

If you're creating a course, document yourself how you, like, what are the steps? Like re you can just screen record yourself doing it. Yeah. And that's another great step, but I will admit Yeah. That a lot of our processes Lisa and I figured out together. 

[00:26:50] Maria Carras: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And that's exactly why they're there to help you figure this stuff out together.

And the, the beautiful thing of having your videos is that if, if, if it doesn't work out with this va, then you've al then you can easily bring somebody else on and watch the video and they've got the process down. So yeah, document your processes, whether that's on video, whether that's on Google, whatever a sheet written form, document your processes.

And then, when it comes to interviewing your virtual assistant, I, I'm sure you can attest to this, but like for me, when I'm interviewing people, it's so much about the personality fit than anything else. Because even more than experience and skills, because those can be learned, right?

Like you said, like Lisa had, experience in admin, but not necessarily in the online space or as a virtual assistant exclusively. Like she had experience previously in a different role, but everything else probably she learned on the job, like how to use. The software and the course platforms and things like that, so, right.

So I didn't really care personality her that she knew how to do everything.

[00:28:00] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I didn't mind that she didn't know how to do everything. I just wanted to, to know that she was resourceful and intuitive and like just able to figure it out. And she was, yeah. So, and for me and you and you learned that stuff. Important part. 

[00:28:18] Maria Carras: Yeah. And I think you can tell that from a person A, from like a interview, like a discovery call, B, from their communication style on the discovery call and via email and then, I don't know if you did this, but I recommend our business owners, they do like a trial period with their VAs, or like a month or maybe two months to give them some time to breathe and learn.

Do a trial period, a paid trial period. Yeah. And that could be in your contract as well and with a clear end date in mind so that if it doesn't work out, you know, there's an easy out for both of you. But it's really important to have, compatible communication styles and boundaries.

The ability to maintain your boundaries. And this is just as important for the va. As it is for the business owner. Because one of the things, the complaints that I hear from VAs is that their clients don't respect boundaries or they don't know how to. Not respect boundaries, but they don't know how to not break boundaries.

Right. Do you, you know what I mean? Like they feel like their clients are messaging them in the middle of the night. They want stuff done tomorrow. Like it's important for that sort of back and forth to be, to come to the fort early on so that you're not stuck in this relationship where it's not sustainable.

[00:29:43] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Right. And that takes both learning what boundaries are. Mm-hmm. If you're new at hiring and being a boss, my philosophy is, is that it's on me how my team. Works. It's on me to lead them. And that's taken a while. Yeah. For me to learn how to do so I, I feel like if there's ever a failure in my business as far as the team goes, it's pretty much on my shoulders.

Right? It's, how we communicate what the need is. And, and of course, the only thing that I would say is then it's also on the virtual assistant to set those boundaries. But as a leader also, I need to make sure that I'm respecting those boundaries. Every single minute that someone's working with me, I expect them to bill me for it.

So, mm-hmm. If I ask them to a meeting, if I ask them to hang out on a Zoom all day while I'm chatting with a client and just being there, I expect, like I respect so much the work they do for me, that I expect to be billed for every single minute that they're working for me. 

[00:30:48] Maria Carras: You're like a unicorn. Not every client is like that. Like you are a good one. 

[00:30:54] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Well, because I've been on the other end of that, and the only way to build a true, trusting, lasting team is to respect the work that they do for you. Mm-hmm. And the time that they offer. So I've never expected a turnaround of one day. That would be ridiculous. Yeah. I will say, these are the things that need to happen, and if you can't do it, let me know.

Pass it back to me. Right. Like mm-hmm. I, I mean, they're not my employee. I don't run, uh, Shop in the mall and have everybody clock in. That's not what a virtual assistant is. They're independent workers, they're their own bosses as well. So I look at us as equals, as team, as like mutual support.

So it's really important to understand those boundaries. Of course, now Lisa and I break them all the time because we've become such close friends, but in the beginning still, like, how are you gonna work and what time are you gonna give them to have their own space to have something done? I agree completely, but I, I'll say that I've always, I did learn that early on, is to have some sort of test project to work on, and not give them all the tasks at, at first. And so it's like a 30 day, what can we do and learn in 30 days? And you know, sometimes it means that I've lost money in hiring someone that I had to say after 30 days, I don't think this is the right match, because I've trained them and I've spent the hours training them.

And yet, those hours were billed because I built, I asked to, you know, be billed for every hour. So yeah, okay. They learned my system, but now I'm not using them. That's okay. For me, that's part of the deal, but I didn't have that problem with Lisa for sure. Or her whole family.

But yeah, so the testing and then knowing that you have like a project to work on, and if it works out great, then you continue on from there. 

[00:32:43] Maria Carras: Yeah. And I think you have to be realistic in your expectations that they're not gonna get it right the first time. That it's gonna take a little bit longer than what you expect is like, as someone who's hiring, just like manage your expectations a, a, a little bit and, um, just, just give a, a little grace, I think.

Yeah. But yes, but if it doesn't work out, then that then everyone's got an easy out. 

[00:33:10] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I think for me, I look for the red flags of, if I gave. Projects to do to an assistant, and they weren't done without having a conversation about it. The communication is everything. Why isn't it getting done? And there have been assistants I've had to let go because I realize a project wasn't done and there was no accountability for it.

So those are the kinds of things is a communication. That's not my number one thing. Do we have communications? If you can't get something done, I'm not gonna be mad about it, but please let me know because then it goes undone completely. So those are the kinds of red flags or continual mistakes or carelessness after I've said, this is how I want it done.

Yes, those are, those are things that keep tests and then I'm not mad at them because of something like that. It's just like, it's not an ideal match for me. Yeah. 

[00:34:02] Maria Carras: And I always encourage, and this is something that you can also pick up in the interview process, I always encourage my students, my VAs to be curious to want to, to ask clarifying questions like all the time.

And the VAs or team members or whatever, people who are looking to get hired, they're scared of asking questions cuz they feel that it makes them look like they don't know what they're doing or, or, or anything like that. But I feel like if I have someone asking me clarifying questions to me that says that they're invested in my business, they wanna do a good job, they want to get, clear instructions on how to do something.

 And it makes me feel like I, maybe I haven't explained something properly. So if they're asking clarifying questions, if they're getting curious, if they're asking things like, how does this fit into the bigger picture? What will this help you achieve that. Makes me feel like, you know, they're really into this.

They're gonna be someone that I wanna work with cuz they're this invested. 

[00:35:00] Kellee Wynne Conrad: That's my favorite question and that's what I would ask in the Yeah. That's why to me, an assistant hiring the right person who says, how does this connect? What will this help you achieve? How does this fit into the bigger picture?

Those are the kinds of questions I thrive off of someone asking me, because then it makes me clarify my intent, not just to them but to myself. And it's like, oh, okay. So that's one of the reasons why the business is running so much better is because I'm not just talking to myself all day long anymore. I have someone else who has a different set of eyes to say, you know, this is what's necessary.

I don't know that this is necessary. And that's probably why I got so close with Lisa, is because we came to this point of trust and it didn't happen right at first. But we came to this point of trust that she can actually give me honest feedback. And I've literally told her, if you think that I'm going off track, you can tell me no.

And the other day I'm like, well, what if I do and I participate in this one thing? She goes, no, that wasn't the plan. So it's just so good because she's gotten to know my business so well and the bigger vision. And when you build that kind of relationship with somebody who really knows, asks you every question that's needed to make sure that it's not just these little things that are happening, it's how it all fits together, this whole environment, the values of your business, the way you wanna show up, they're an extension of you.

So yeah, and I'm speaking, you know, I know as most of my audience, I'm talking to them about hiring, but this is the connection of finding that right person is that allowing them to ask, like giving 'em that safe place to ask you questions. 

[00:36:44] Maria Carras: Yes. Yes. Make, that's exactly right. Make it, make it a safe space for them to feel that they can ask those questions.

That is that everyone will benefit from that kind of environment. Yeah, absolutely. 

[00:36:58] Kellee Wynne Conrad: And for me also putting the trust in that maybe my assistant knows better than me because I'm an artist, I'm a creative, I wasn't naturally born, you know, admin and tech wasn't my thing. So trusting that they're actually gonna know more about how to solve a problem than you would.

So sometimes it's not just giving the assistant a place to ask questions, but it's learning how to ask questions of them. Be curious with your, yeah, what are they capable of? What do they know? What is their opinion? How would they wanna have, yes. Like sometimes, like an early days with Lisa, she'd be like, well, how should I handle this situation?

I'm like, well, what do you think? I even say that today. I'm like, how do you wanna handle it? What solution do you wanna come up with? Great. I trust you. And so it's, ah, I love that. Some of those things that because we have a relationship, that's how it's been able to flourish. You know? I love that. I love that communication is my number one thing when I'm working with someone.

Mm-hmm. And so that's probably why it works so well with her. And now with Emily, it's just like, there's never a doubt that I know that they have my best interest in mind and I, vice versa, have their best interest in mind too, because I want them to thrive. I want them to have a, an amazing career that they feel happy about being part of every day.

[00:38:17] Maria Carras: I love that you guys have totally hit the jackpot with each other. 

[00:38:22] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I know we did. And I'm like kind of, um, like overwhelming myself with how fortunate I am. And you guys, everyone who's listening, you don't get to go steal Lisa and Emily from me, however they're spoken for. Yeah. My suspicion is one of the reasons why I had the jackpot with Lisa is because she came from an agency like yours.

Because you are training people in your membership how to be good at their job and work well with other people. And so to me, I'm like, okay, this is someone who has a built-in resource for them to go back to a community to ask questions, what do I do with this client? Or I mean, like what you are offering to virtual assistants is invaluable.

And that's one of the reasons I felt like, Hey, think it's gonna be better to hire from Maria than it is from Upwork because they have support in your community. 

[00:39:18] Maria Carras: That's exactly right. Like they're not doing it on their own. If they're ever stumbling, if they ever have any questions, they don't know how to do something, they have a whole community and me behind them.

Right. To guide them through challenges, through, you know, tech stuff. Like they're the Yeah. When you hire from us or Lisa or whatever, you hire a whole community of like a hive mind of tech experts, VAs, whatever. So it's great that you get to tap into that. Yeah, exactly. 

[00:39:45] Kellee Wynne Conrad: One of the thoughts I had, because I encouraged the 100 ways to make money as an artist without selling your art though, selling your art is one of the options.

But a lot of times as artists were like, how can I supplement? How can I grow? And that's what one of the things that I've been encouraging through this podcast is to become an independent business owner, to create your own future with your creativity. And I realize that I might have missed it on the list, but being a virtual assistant for other artists, Maybe a perfect place that an artist can just find, maybe they don't wanna create a big, huge business, of course, creation or memberships or workshops or coaching or all the other things that artists come up with doing.

Maybe they don't wanna create, wholesale products and sell 'em. Maybe they just want something where they can show up and serve. And maybe this is the time, maybe this is your calling. Those who are like, huh, that's it. That's a place that I can, I know the artists, I know the business. I know the artist's heart and struggle, so it might be like, you're really good already with admin if you already know Squarespace.

If you already know Canva, if you already understand Etsy. If you already understand Shopify, like maybe this is your place to become a virtual assistant yourself, because I know there's a lot of artists who could really mm-hmm. Help. And then they could, yes. With Maria, so that they can learn how to build that business.

See, there you go. Either go to Maria to become a virtual assistant or go to Maria so that you can hire a virtual assistant. And then of course, if the artists are at Maria's, Being a virtual assistant, then we have a perfect match. I love it. Yes, I'm a connector. That's what I love to do, is I see the dots, I connect them, and I see how people can like really flourish in their, in their life and their business and their creativity.

[00:41:38] Maria Carras: I love that. Oh, I love that. So exactly what you said. Like my big, I want women to realize their potential. Like I want them to see what's possible for them. Working in the online space or just using, how can they maximize their skills? And, and I think one of the easiest and quickest ways to do that is to kind of start in the online space as a va like you said, go go and learn how coaches are doing it, how artists are doing it, how writers are doing it.

Go. And it's almost like an apprenticeship. This is like the stepping stone. Like start there, learn. And then this has happened with so many of my students. And then they'll, they'll flourish and grow into something else and they'll become specialists and web designers, brand designers, graphic designers and it, that is my big goal.

I want them to specialist. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Specialists and like, maybe a lot of them don't wanna just stay virtual assistants. They wanna grow something bigger. But I think VA is like a great way to get into it. 

[00:42:41] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I agree completely. Mm-hmm. And, and like you said, it's almost an apprenticeship because then you see the mm-hmm.

inside working of how Yeah. How business operates or how to help a business operate in some cases. Yes. Right. Or how they maybe shouldn't operate, because I've run into those situations before too, where it's like, okay, this is a hot mess behind the scenes, so how can we support it and clean it up, you know?

There's so many different variables, but I think that the industry has grown so much, especially since 2020. And when I say the industry, I mean the online space, but even the online space for artists and creatives, the types of work that we can do online is. Unbelievable because of virtual settings, because of Zoom, because of messaging apps, because there's so many amazing systems that we can use to implement into our business.

So it's grown like crazy. But that also means that there's a room for growth with virtual assistants, and specialized virtual assistants. 

[00:43:42] Maria Carras: Yeah. Because yes, it's grown and because of that it's become a lot noisier, like for artists as well, like Right. It's almost become a little bit more competitive.

Like how do you, how do you stand out as an artist when there are so many other artists who all have these tools at their fingertips? And we're all using these tools and we're all trying to get ourselves out there. Like, how do you stand out and, and. And, and one of those ways in the VA kind of capacity is, is to specialize and to get known for something.

Like what do you wanna be known for? And that goes for any business. what is it that's gonna make you unique? And it doesn't have to be anything crazy, right? It could be like for artists, you use a specific technique and you're known for that specific technique. I think specializing or niching is more important now more than ever.

Mm-hmm. When it's gotten just so busy online. 

[00:44:36] Kellee Wynne Conrad: It is. So what do you think a virtual assistant for artists. Would be a niche that I highly recommend. Mm-hmm. Because mm-hmm. So many artists wanna hire you because we really need the support. We really do. And you know what, a lot of it comes down to when I talk to my coaching group, the Remarkable League, they're like, I didn't even realize that this was an option, or why have I waited so long?

You know, like I thought that's something that you do once you're like making hundreds of thousands of dollars. But honestly, even if you're just making tens of thousands of dollars, you can get to the a hundred thousand mark faster by having some help Yes. And so once that light goes on in their head, they're like, oh, it's in the doing of all of the things that's keeping me back from being able to grow.

Exactly. And so once we talked about that in, in the Remarkable League, and also I've talked about it a bit on the podcast, like a light switch goes off and it's like, okay, so what's 10 hours a month? That might be, $300. What's dollars hundred dollars in order to save my sanity so that I can grow and make $600 instead or a thousand dollars instead.

So once you start realizing it's so worth the investment. Yeah. It's not a lot of money. It's an investment because every time I've invested in an assistant, it means that I'm able to grow the business again. 

[00:45:58] Maria Carras: Yeah. Yeah. Because like you have to stop being the bottleneck. You're just the bottleneck in your business like a lot of the time.

And I think one of the added benefits like the, the non-monetary benefits of having a virtual assistant or any team member is the accountability that comes with it. Like, you can't slack if someone is waiting for you to write the copy for the newsletter. You can't be slacking writing that newsletter.

Like someone's waiting for that. So you need to get it done so that they can do their job. This is what I've experienced, like I've got people waiting on me. I need to get this stuff done. Right. Exactly. 

[00:46:30] Kellee Wynne Conrad: That makes so much sense. It's like it's not, the other benefit is the accountability. You're right.

I have been more productive because I'm working with a team because I have to keep to a certain schedule. Yeah, exactly. 

[00:46:45] Maria Carras: Yeah. You can't just go and do your laundry in the middle of the day. Like people are waiting for you. You can't just be slacking. 

[00:46:51] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Oh wait. So that means we turn this into a real business still with flexibility.

Mm-hmm. Which is nice. So when the kids come home mm-hmm. School, you're there. Or if you wanna take a trip, you don't have constraints of how many hours have I earned of leave this week? And because when you have support, you can take the trip, which was really important, which is why I expanded my team in the fall.

I took a three week trip to Nepal and I could not have done that if Lisa and Emily didn't have my back. But between the two of them, they ran the social media, they sent out the newsletter. And I had to trust that they, because we had done so much work on our SOPs, our standard operating procedures, our systems, we actually had spent a good year, Lisa and her sister had spent a good year collecting swipe files and organized nice everything that I've ever said and done online.

So that when Emily came in, she could find all the information without, and it sounded just like me. So she's been able to write my color for your inbox based off of things I've already said and done. And I had that ability to go travel through Nepal and take a complete break for three weeks. 

[00:48:02] Maria Carras: Like, like how priceless is that? That is like, you can't put money of monetary value on that. That is amazing. 

[00:48:08] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah. But that's creating a team and earning a healthy income does for you when you run your own business. Yeah, 

[00:48:16] Maria Carras: absolutely. So, Oh gosh. That's amazing. 

[00:48:19] Kellee Wynne Conrad: So where do you see the future of the industry going? Where do you see your business going as you grow?

[00:48:28] Maria Carras: Wow. Okay. So the big elephant in the room, I mean, it's not so much of an elephant anymore, but obviously AI has made a lot of people quiver in their boots, especially virtual assistants because a lot of the tasks that virtual assistants do can now very quickly and easily be done by ai.

Especially when it comes to content. Obviously social media, content newsletter, content blogs, which a VA would sometimes, you know, traditionally do AI can knock out quite easily. So. That is, is scaring a lot of virtual assistants, and I guess a lot of people in the industry in online space overall.

But what really, what you have to do, rather than fight it, is obviously just integrate AI into your business. Like the VAs who know how to use AI are the ones who are going to survive this threat. The ones who know how to use AI properly mm-hmm. Who know how to use fonts. And then you're always going to need somebody to, answer the customer service emails.

You're always gonna need a personal touch. You're always gonna need somebody to upload the stuff to the platform Uhhuh. Like, that's not gonna go away. And you're always gonna need someone to hold you accountable and brainstorm ideas with you. So I don't think there's that much of a threat. It's more the kind of the writing and maybe the graphic design, all this stuff that might be a threat, but really it's not a threat, it's just making your life as a VA easier.

So embrace ai, and then, Oh, where's my business going? We're kind of creating more resources to help virtual assistants integrate AI into their services and helping business owners. And like overall as a business, we're just gonna keep growing the membership. I'm gonna keep doing my group program, my courses, and ultimately, I really need to create more research resources for business owners.

Looking to hire like I really need to do that. Like, uh, course and PDFs to, to how to hire virtual assistant. Like I have a presentation that I do live in people's courses and memberships, but I don't have like products or like downloads to help people. So that is my big goal. 

[00:50:32] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Well, for sure if you create one of those, I'd be happy to. Spread the word. Yes. Thank you. Cause a lot of times it's just people being aware that it's a possibility, right? Yeah. And of course I'm gonna be sharing everything, how people can find you, follow you, work with you, hire an A assistant, become an assistant, whichever of that will be totally, all that information will be easy, accessible with the show notes and everything for this podcast.

But I always ask one really important question to my guests, uhoh, which is, what is your big audacious dream? 

[00:51:13] Maria Carras: Oh my gosh, my big audacious dream. Now you're catching me off guard because, what is my big dream? I feel like it switches every, every week. So my big dream business-wise life or life-wise 

[00:51:28] Kellee Wynne Conrad: business.

So like the whole big picture, 

[00:51:32] Maria Carras: oh my goodness. So I, I would like to be completely location independent, ideally I would live in a different country every, every year with my kids and like we'd homeschool and, my business would be very hands off for me. Like all I would do is just podcast interviews and maybe do a course every now and again and one zoom meeting for my mastermind.

Like that would be my goal. Everything else would be outsourced efficiently in my voice and all I would have to do is just create a little bit of content and do some coaching. And we live in a tropical, tropical place for half of the year. Yeah. Cause I live in the UK so we don't get a lot of tropical weather.

[00:52:20] Kellee Wynne Conrad: You live in the uk 

[00:52:23] Maria Carras: Yeah. But you're, yeah. I'm not British myself, but, but my husband is where from. I'm Greek American, so I was born in New York and I grew up in, in Greece for a lot of my high school years. Met my husband at university, he's British. He dropped me here. This is where we're now. 

[00:52:41] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Oh, so I can see why you want the tropical environment.

Yes. That's the dream is to build the business big enough to, I don't really love the term, but retire your husband, but at least let him off of his nine to five. So there's a little more. 

[00:52:55] Maria Carras: He doesn't have a ni, he works in our business, so he doesn't have a nine to five. Oh, okay. So he works with our bus.

So we're almost there. There you go. He just need to somehow Yeah. The kids are in school, so that's kind of a thing. Of course, that's, you can't take kids outta school. I know. 

[00:53:09] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Unless you, and you said homeschool, but then there's that part of me that's like, I've just my kids and I would've like, So I'm at my end now.

I only have three more years with my youngest in high school. And then I'm like, babe, can we just like go live in France? He took about 10 years. Is that, 

[00:53:27] Maria Carras: what's your big audacious dream? 

[00:53:29] Kellee Wynne Conrad: My big, I have a bunch of 'em. Well, my husband still has like a decade before he retires, so he'll at least be able to retire with a full pension in his fifties, which is I think is remarkable.

Nice. Yeah. Yeah. I have a bunch. I wanna continue to travel. I would really love when my son does graduate from high school. We wanna be able to move more into the mountains and have some property and space and, um, yeah. Nice. But travel is big on my list. And I would love to serve more artists so that they can become independent business owners making their big, audacious dreams come true.

[00:54:12] Maria Carras: Oh, I love that. I love that. 

[00:54:15] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Definitely feel called to this. And it was really hard to resist. For a long time. I was like unsure. But when I start seeing the transformation, I'm sure you feel this too. Mm-hmm. When you see people that you've helped teach them the skills they need to thrive to, to not just like finally get on their feet, like, I like that part.

And it took me a long time to make the connection myself from artist to entrepreneur and business owner. But when I see that happening for other people, and now they're successful and they're making six figures or more, because I was able to help support them in that journey, it's like, oh wait, like we can all rise up with the work that we're doing.

And that's where it like changed my mind. Like, okay, I, I am gonna go all in on this. So it's been scary, but you know what it means, you know that there are people. Yeah. Lisa's whole family's changed because of you. 

[00:55:09] Maria Carras: This is exactly right. You can't walk away. Like how do you walk away from that?

Not that I've ever thought about it, but like it's addictive and I know that sounds selfish, but like, oh my gosh, how I want this to happen again and again and again. Who else can I do this for? Like Yeah. It's remarkable. It, it's the most rewarding feeling. Yeah. For me, like hands down, other than my kids doing something that will make me cry, like, happy tears.

This is like the most rewarding feeling. 

[00:55:40] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah. 

[00:55:40] Maria Carras: And I'm, it's, yeah. I'm so glad that you get to do that and that we get to do this. Right. And we have the financial comfort to be able to do it. You know? 

[00:55:51] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I mean, definitely there needs to be an energy exchange for it to be successful because I can't continue to do what I'm doing if I don't have, the Reci Reci 

yeah, reciprocity. Reciprocity. Uh, so there you go. We can leave that blooper in no big deal, of teaching and giving and whatnot. And that's great because I really feel like people, who invest in themselves do a better job at growing their business anyway. And I've loved teaching art. I've loved supporting the artist and their growth, but when, like, for at least two whole years, I put off doing this because I'm like, who am I to do it?

Does the world really need this? And then once I started seeing the transformation for other people, it's like, I can't. Deny that this is important and necessary and transformative for other people. So I lean into it and that's where my whole philosophy of made remarkable is come from. But to tie it all back to you, Maria, I wouldn't be able to make it remarkable if I had not found you when I did and hired through you and found my dream team and I mean, till the day she retires.

And then, so I'm gonna make her stay in business forever. To have Lisa and her daughter Emily, and just the whole team and her family supporting me the way they do. It's like I feel. My anxiety levels have dropped over the last year. My, belief and faith in my business that I can grow just my confidence in myself has grown.

Having my little small but mighty team and it's just changed everything on how I look about my business. So I am very grateful to you, which is why I wanted you on and I wanted other people to know about you and what you're doing. 

[00:57:42] Maria Carras: Oh, that's amazing. It's been great being on and I mean, it's not all me, like you're changing their lives as well by like hiring them.

And so it's not just the artists' lives, you're changing, but the people that you're hiring offer your team. My gosh. It's amazing 

[00:57:59] Kellee Wynne Conrad: because my business can help, support other small businesses and that's really, yeah. 

[00:58:04] Maria Carras: So, oh, this is like a love fest. I love it. 

[00:58:07] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I love it is a love fest. And a lot of that has to do with the brain has to flip a switch of what's possible. You know? And when you stay small-minded, you're only gonna be able to do small-minded things. But once you start seeing the world for how big and abundant and possible, then you can see yourself growing a business and being able to travel all over the world and take your kids outta school and homeschool 'em from, where it is that you wanna go

[00:58:34] Maria Carras: I don't even know I open to, anything. Oh, yeah. I, I really wanna try Norway for a little bit, even though I said tropical. I just love Norway and their whole way of life. And Scandinavia in general. I'm a huge fan 

[00:58:48] Kellee Wynne Conrad: through the summer. I know, I know. I am very much a fan of it as well. Oh, so much possibility. But I would've never in my youth ever dreamed this was possible. But I am so grateful that the internet exists and that social media exists, and that even ai, you know, you said that it is kind of scary, but you know what? All I see is a tool for productivity. Oh, yes.

I really feel like it has to compete with the role of an assistant. It just means that we can accomplish more quicker, and, but you still need the human touch, which is why Lisa's business is called Human va. She was so spot on for that. 

[00:59:30] Maria Carras: Mm-hmm. I know. She definitely saw it coming. Like, that's a way to stand out, isn't it?

Right. Like I offer the human touch. Yeah, definitely. 

[00:59:38] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Exactly. Thank you so much for joining me. I could just like sit and have this conversation forever. We're so lighthearted about this, which is great. 

[00:59:48] Maria Carras: Aw. Thank you so much. it's been an absolute blast talking to you.

Well, we'll, 

[00:59:53] Kellee Wynne Conrad: yeah. We'll have to reconnect again later. I will. I think this was a conversation worth continuing, especially, you know, for everyone who's listening, go say, hi, Maria Carras. 

[01:00:04] Maria Carras: Yes, Maria Carras. I'm, I love Instagram, so come find me on Instagram @heymariacarras okay. That's m a r ia, C a double r a s.

[01:00:17] Kellee Wynne Conrad: There you go. I love it. Then go sign up and get yourself a virtual assistant, 

[01:00:21] Maria Carras: please. Yes, you'll be changing your own life and someone else's life as well, so definitely do yourself that favor, 

[01:00:28] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Spot on. Thank you. 

If you'd like to listen to or learn more about the podcast visit https://www.maderemarkable.com/blog  for our show notes and links to the main players.