In this guest blog, Sam Hogwood shares her story on “How the UKVA Conference 2022 turned her business around and why she feels every VA should attend the UKVA Conference 2023.”
I was at a turning point when I attended the VA Conference in September 2022. I’d been a reasonably successful VA just before covid took hold in early 2020. The pandemic started to open up the online business world, and I had several clients I enjoyed supporting and the challenge of a couple I didn’t — everyday life as a self-employed VA.
I loved being a VA, but I realised I enjoyed the more creative work than the admin and tech support side over time. By early 2021, I’d invested in some copywriting training and was starting to transform my business to that of copywriter and creative. I wrote for a few clients while keeping my hand in as a VA.
Behind the scenes, though, everything was starting to unravel. My husband Ben and I were feeling the pinch with finances, thanks to a run of bad luck on our property, financial challenges coming out of the blue and the actions of a few disingenuous characters. My clients were starting to vanish because they couldn’t afford to keep me or were changing their business like I was.
Fast forward to 2022, and Ben and I had to regain control of our lives and finances or go under – simple as that. As a result, I couldn’t focus on my business properly, as the threat of losing everything was very real. It was a very tough and stressful time.
I had been pestering Amanda for ages about whether there might be an event to bring us like-minded VAs and business owners together. When I graduated from the VACT course in 2018 (what was then called The VA Mastery Course – now The VA Momentum Course TM), one of the best parts about the training was getting together with peers – collaborating and supporting each other as we started our VA businesses. I’m still in contact with many of those women – people I now call friends.
Collaboration and mutual support is one thing VAs are incredibly good at. It’s in their DNA. It’s a unique depth I think we have, and even though I am a business owner and have met many others face-to-face and online, the VA community has been consistently friendly, warm, and genuinely supportive.
So, when Amanda announced the 2022 UKVA Conference, great excitement unfolded! I bought a ticket on a payment plan for the Conference and was determined to make it because, apart from anything else, I wanted to meet the fabulous women I’d met online over the years. Little did I know just how much of an impact that Conference would have on my life and what I do now.
At the time, I didn’t feel like I fitted in anywhere anymore. Being a copywriter, I thought the VA community was no longer my tribe in terms of what I did – after all, I wasn’t a ‘traditional VA’ anymore. But I had been looking forward to the Conference for months, so with my best face on, I travelled to Bournemouth, checked into my hotel, and met some of the other VAs the night before. We met for dinner and pre-conference drinks – and you could have lit the whole of Bournemouth with the energy in that room alone!
And that’s when it started. The lights inside started to come back on again.
Amanda Johnson, our awesome and esteemed coach, and her team, headed by the incredible Laura Taylor, organised evening drinks so everyone could meet, put faces to names and get to know each other the night before the Conference. It was such a fun packed, and high vibe evening, a huge success, and it made us all even more excited for the Conference the next day. For any new people, there was the perfect chance to talk to people they might know online and learn more about each other.
The day of the Conference arrived, and what a day it was. As we assembled for registration at The Hilton Bournemouth on Friday morning, there was a flurry of noise and excitement, and the day itself was packed so full of information, laughs, high-value learning and positive energy. It was the perfect opportunity for people to mingle, getting to know each other and their businesses even more.
The speakers were inspired – Lucy Whittington (Brilliant Business Things), Alison Rothwell (Fiddly Bits WordPress design and support), Sarah Clay (LinkedIn Training), Clare Turner (Huunuu – wellbeing training) and a round of fantastic table talks packed the day with lots of new stuff to learn, and think about – with insights, informative, innovative and actionable things I still tap into to this day. I made a ton of notes and came away with a brain full of ideas!
Then came the gala dinner and VA awards in the evening – the event’s highlight because this was the climax of the Conference. We celebrated those VAs who were winners for their incredible achievements (new and more established) and their contribution to the world of Virtual Assistants. Dinner was delicious; the drinks were flowing, chatter echoed around the room, and the awards took over the evening – with all the runners-up and winners being celebrated by everyone there.
Amanda was a fantastic compere, and the evening was a pure and joyous celebration of those winners and runners-up – you can check them all here: [https://vaconference.co.uk/previous-winners/]
Apart from celebrating the award-winning VAs’ incredible achievements, the best part for me was meeting all the fantastic women (and the odd gent!) there – as many as you could meet and speak to throughout the day and evening. It was like we were long-lost friends. The chatter in the room throughout the day between speakers was loud and exciting! For the first time in over a year, I felt part of that community again – truly part of something special.
They say collaboration over competition in the VA world makes our community great – and it’s true. It’s genuine, and at the heart, it’s about integrity and connection. It’s a community that cares about its members, celebrating the highs and lows we go through as business owners, let alone highly skilled VAs. I’ve rarely encountered anyone in the VA community who isn’t supportive, warm, kind, incredibly hard-working and happy to share what they know with others.
Each of us has a unique skill, talent, and personality to bring to the table. I remembered that day that we all had something to offer and we’re all enough. It instilled a self-belief I hadn’t felt in a very long time – and I still feel that to this day.
Running a business is not easy, and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking it is. Yet it is a chance to make a difference in other business owners’ lives. To be confidants during their challenges. To be advisors when they’re stuck in that never-ending loop of admin and tech hell (we’ve all been there!). And to be peers and friends in business.
I’d say that the UKVA Conference – and meeting everyone there – brought me back to life and gave me back my purpose. The online connections and friendships blossomed into deeper ones at the Conference, and since then, true friendships have grown. I know there have been quite a few collaborations, and several of us want to work together in the future.
The UKVA Conference 2023 promises to be equally – if not more – of an impactful and inspiring space for VAs to come together to learn and grow, those of you who are new and those of us with a few years under our belts! This year’s theme is Resilience, which has come at a critical time for many of us – in businesses and our lives. Post-pandemic, it has been a roller coaster of uncertainty. Many of us feel like we need an extra dose and injection of grit, determination, and stamina as Virtual Assistants for the rest of 2023 and embarking on a fresh new 2024.
So, if you’re sitting on the fence about coming to the VA Conference 2023 for any reason (be it money, nervous about being on your own in a room full of others, or just unsure about the path of a VA) – I urge you to come and join us if you can. It’s not a costly event (with goody bags, lunch, dinner and refreshments thrown in, fantastic speakers and a chance to learn and be inspired by so many people). Although there are hotel costs, there are options for all pockets. And there is always a friendly face in the room, a warm welcome at the door – you will not be alone.
The most important thing is that you will be part of one of the most incredibly inclusive and diverse community of women and men who have built and grown their businesses with the dream of being a business owner. And like me, if you’re at a point where you feel your business is diversifying – come and speak to any number of us who have been where you are now.
Sam is the founder of Escape from the City Copywriting and Research, she is an ex corporate Executive Assistant who launched a Virtual Assistant business in 2018. Over the years, Sam has honed the services she offers to clients and today she helps business owners untangle the ideas in their head so they say what they mean and sell what they do in a language their ideal clients understand.
The UK Virtual Assistant Conference and Awards are a trading name of VACT Limited.
Copyright © 2012-2024 VACT. All Rights Reserved.
Registered Office: VACT Limited, The Old Barn, Brooklands Farm, Mannington, Dorset, BH21 7JU. UK
Registered in England – Company registration Number 08290669
VAT registration number: 360 5414 21
If you would like to exhibit or speak at the VA Conference and Awards or perhaps sponsor an Awards category please email Amanda on [email protected]. There are full sponsorship and business specialist category Award options available.