Thank you to everyone who attended on Saturday 18th September 2021 for the 7th annual Northern VA Collaboration. Whilst this was our smallest gathering to date, that wasn’t a bad thing given the pandemic. It also meant we could have more intimate discussions and everyone got chance to speak to each other.

Here’s a recap of what went down …


 We kicked off with a VA version of “the shopping game” to break the ice, listing and memorising VA services. There were a lot of services listed – ranging from bookkeeping to certificate creation – and the contest was won by Nicola Burt-Skinner, remembering close to 20 services in order, with Crescent VA’s Amy Russell coming a close second. Well done ladies! 

Coming Out of the Dark

There’s no getting away from the effects of COVID-19 and so we discussed the challenges faced by the industry as a result of the lockdown etc. and it was comforting to see that we were more or less in the same boat and thankfully managed to bounce back.

The VA Survey compiled by Society of Virtual Assistants revealed that one third of VAs had been adversely affected by the pandemic, one third were unaffected, and one third had benefited from the situation.

Challenges & Opportunities Brought About by the Pandemic

Not wanting to dwell on the challenges to much, we set about equipping the attending Virtual Assistants with the knowledge, tools, and skills to take their business forward.

Virtual Assistant Values

The overriding theme throughout the day was AUTHENTICITY ie BEING YOU.

This was embedded by Amanda Ryan from Raindrop Comms (and co-founder of  our valued sponsor Borderlands VA Network) who was the first speaker up and helped us to find our core values in order to help us create our business vision and mission statement.

Core values can range from flexibility and freedom to professionalism and power – and all adjectives in between.

When you truly know your values, it becomes easier to use your voice and translate this into your content, in turn attracting your perfect client.

There are many reasons to base all your business decisions on your values. Remember life is about what’s important to you. At the end of the day, your ultimate happiness is the ideal focal point. Build your business and your happiness through values-based decision-making.

Everyone agreed that this was a fabulous session and gave us a lot to think about throughout the day, tying in well with the other sessions.


Loneworker but not Lonely Worker

The majority of virtual assistants (96.7%) are homeworkers, and even those who have offices were made to revert to working from home over lockdown. Sadly there was a significant rise in the number of people reporting feeling lonely.

Long-term feelings of loneliness can affect your health in many ways. If left unchecked, chronic loneliness symptoms can put you at greater risk for more serious medical and emotional problems, including:

    • Depression
    • Sleep disorders
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • High blood pressure
    • Mental health and emotional problems
    • Substance use

There is even the possibility that chronic loneliness and the health risks that come with it, could shorten one’s lifespan.


So how do we ensure we don’t become lonely as a lone worker?

Gwen Backhouse of Curlew Secretarial Services and Borderlands VA Network gave us some very useful tips.

  1. Recognise the symptoms of loneliness:-
    1. inability to connect with others
    2. exhaustion and burnout 
    3. feeling isolated, separate, and disengaged
  2. Network – virtually & in person. eg
    1. Northern VA Collaboration Event
    2. North West VA Hub
    3. NW VA Conference
    4. Borderlands VA Network
    5. Society of Virtual Assistants
    6. Yorkshire VA Collective
  3. Join a co-working site, so you’re not constantly working on your own.
  4. Make sure you take a lunch
  5. Create a happy board, so you have something to look at when you feel lonely. Include:
    1. Images of family and friends
    2. Items that evoke strong positive memories
    3. Something silly that makes you smile
    4. Compliments and positive feedback from clients
  6. Have social conversations with peers and family – not just about work.
  7. Create time for you. Schedule it.
  8. Have an accountability partner.
  9. Get a pet (if viable). They are great at keeping you amused and mean you get out of the house more often. 

All great tips, which I’m sure virtual assistants will be quick to implement.

Take care of you so you can take care of business!


The North East of England VA of the Year is always announced at The Northern VA Collaboration Event and this year we were delighted to announce that Jen Workman of Business Owl had won. Jen wasn’t at our event so her award was sent separately but we were able to present the runner up award to attendee Amy Russell of Crescent VA. Congratulations again ladies!

Also special mention to our founder Angela Dawson who won a “VA Voice Award” for contributions to the industry. Very well deserved.

For more information about the VA Awards check out:

Keynote Presentation: Invading Your Impostors and Slaying your Saboteurs

Our keynote presentation was from Beverly Sherratt of Launchpad Associates.

Beverly led us through her own journey of self-awareness and detailed how she invaded her impostors and slayed her saboteurs and how we could do the same.

We discussed the labels we give ourselves, the masks we wear, and how they are created/shaped by our upbringing and environment. But more importantly we explored how these labels may not actually be true and may in fact be hindering our success.

Be confident about your strengths and weaknesses and by being YOU and owning who you are, you will attract people to you.

The key takeaways from this discussion were:-

  1. Be aware of what labels and identity you are creating for yourself.
  2. Get independent evaluations from trusted friends. (Is what you think true?)
  3. Recall a time when you felt your best – what were you doing? Repeat.
  4. Who has influenced you over your life – positively or negatively.Why?
  5. What are your strengths? (We discussed how i3 profiling could help with this)

Impostor Syndrome can affect anyone at anytime, regardless of whether you’re just starting out in your virtual assistant journey or whether you’ve been at it for years. It’s much more than just self-doubt but with a little work you can overcome it.

Chocolate Bar Marketing – Discovering Your Individuality

Last but not least we had Caroline Wylie of Society of Virtual Assistants helping us clarify how we can stand out in the industry by owning our uniqueness; understanding that although we may offer the same services as a multitude of other VAs, how we work will be different because we are different. We are all UNIQUE and can use this to our advantage.

The “Ingredients” we use in our business will differ. These can include:-

      • Team Environment
      • Specialist Services
      • Industry knowledge (niche)
      • Dedicated/named VAs
      • Specialist equipment
      • Branding
      • Pricing
      • Connections
      • Location
      • Way of working

It’s safe to say that this may have been the favourite presentation of the day and not just because Caroline gave away free chocolate but because it helped us get our marketing plan updated and down on paper.

If your VA business was a chocolate bar, which one would it be and why?


And that’s a wrap on #VACOLLAB2021. Until next year, remember … 

It’s not easy to stand out and reveal yourself to the world. We learn early in life that it’s often easier to blend in. Standing out in a school setting often results in bullying and teasing. It gets easier in adulthood, but those early lessons can be hard to shake.

However, the world needs your individuality. And you need to be yourself. Life is never completely satisfying while you’re pretending to be less than you really are.

We feel uncomfortable around those that seem to put on a show and wear a mask – being who they think we want them to be – but we admire those that are willing to be themselves. In a sea of seemingly average people, those brave enough to present themselves honestly to the world are valued and respected. You can be one of those people. Take a deep breath and reveal your true self. Share your talents and your weirdness. The world needs you.

So be YOU: online, virtually, in real life and wherever, whenever you show up.