Dubai continues to be a popular option for European professionals looking for a new challenge – as of 2016, expats made up 7.8 million of the 9.2 million residents of the UAE.1 If you’ve recently made the move, or are considering moving to the Middle East in the next few weeks, you’re bound to see
Becoming a virtual assistant is a huge endeavour that requires a lot of foresight and planning. However, once you’ve passed this stage, it can result in unmatched flexibility and freedom.
We sat down with one of Tiger Virtual’s long-term candidates, Sarah, to find out the benefits and challenges of being a virtual assistant.
Can you tell me a little about your professional background? How did you start out and what has your career progression been like?
I started as a lawyer, and was working in the music industry while also studying drama and music on the side – I did this for on and off 15 years and worked at most of the major labels and independents which was fun in my twenties/early thirties. However, I always wanted to write and act, so eventually I went to Drama School but still temped to pay the bills and live.
I was back being a legal assistant in a music publishing company when I became pregnant with my son and, when he was born, I realised I didn’t want to work quite so long hours or go out as much.
We went travelling for about nine months when he was six months old, and when I returned, I temped back in music until I found something permanent, which was in magazine publishing. It meant I could write and collect my son from nursery thanks to flexible hours. This was great for about four years but when my son went to big school, I wanted to spend more time with him so I started working a mixture of temp assignments, virtual placements, part-time positions and freelance writing work.
I wouldn’t say I have had a particular career or think of myself as ambitious; I have always gone for jobs that I enjoy, where the people are good to hang out with and where I don’t feel over-pressured to live to work, especially now I have a family. I love temp and part-time work because it leaves me time to write, enjoy my family and feel way more balanced as a person.
What is your current title? What are the types of tasks you do in your day-to-day work?
I work both virtually from home as an assistant, and have a part-time day job in a music company, again as an assistant. In my virtual job, I reply to emails, arrange evening functions, correspond with contacts and send out information almost daily.
What types of clients and industries do you work for?
In the past, I have generally worked across music, law, publishing, media, music publishing, music law and in-house law. My virtual job is more niche with HNWI and global networks.
What inspired the move into virtual working?
The desire to have a better work/life balance and to stop being a slave to the Man (ie ‘The Establishment/Corporate Worlds’)
What are the benefits you’ve experienced so far?
Flexibility is the biggest benefit – I can plan when to work, sometimes working late into the night but having the day free, or putting in a few hours first thing in the morning, rather than the usual 9-5, which is great. Sometimes the money isn’t great, but the freedom is immense.
Are there any challenges?
In my particular virtual role, I work with people in different time zones and I answer emails every day, so sometimes not having a completely free day including at weekends when we are busy is a bit of a downside, but the job is only about 15 hours max a week, so it is rare not to have free days in actuality.
Do you work from home or from an office?
Both! At home and in an office.
Would you recommend virtual working for other candidates?
Absolutely! I think the only issue is being ‘on-call’ all the time, like a real-life ‘Alexa’ if you’re a virtual PA – so I think setting reasonable boundaries as to when you’re not to be bothered (middle of the night/weekends, depending on what you want) is important to establish from the beginning. It’s also worth remembering to find virtual work that still enhances/furthers your CV. You don’t have to reduce yourself to tasks like being a dog-walker (although I am considering doing this before we buy a puppy!)
Anything else you’d like to add?
In my opinion, a good agency is crucial in getting connected with good virtual work positions – I have been with Tiger for about six years; they got me the magazine publishing job, some great temp jobs, and my current virtual job. It’s quite difficult to get a good position without an agency having vetted the client and found out what they expect and whether it’s right for you – and giving you a leg-up in getting seen by the client. There are so many different positions out there! Lastly, I have found it’s good as a top-up job in the longer term – i.e I still work part-time in an office in the day, and the virtual part-time position at home isn’t many hours, but acts as a top-up to my PT job, meaning I can afford to look after my son, still pay the bills and have time and money for me and my family!
If you’re interested in pursuing a virtual assistant role, or are in need of some virtual assistance, Tiger Virtual can help! Get in touch today!