Wanted: someone to help with life admin, appointment booking and all of the stuff that I don’t have time to do.
Sound familiar? Then you may want to consider hiring a PA for your personal life. Far from it being a luxury, having a virtual PA or a part-time assistant to help with “life admin” is considered by many business owners and entrepreneurs as a necessity. Here, we speak to ibLE Co Founder Georgina Bale about why she uses a personal PA and the difference it’s made to her as a busy startup boss and working Mum.
How long have you used a PA for?
I’ve used a personal PA since we founded ibLE two years ago. Before that I used to do everything myself. Most people with a personal PA will have one that they’ll have used for a while but because I like to test out the new PAs joining ibLE, I tend to work with one for a few months at a time and then change. This allows me to see firsthand what our PAs can do and to sense check their quality. For example, the PA I have at the moment has a little girl so she works when she can and when she wants to around her and she’s amazing at smart working and is really “on it”.
What type of tasks does your PA do for you?
It will be anything from booking hair appointments, doctor appointments, sourcing gifts, doing research on trips, booking travel and even just looking through the diary to make sure everything makes sense. My PA will do a lot of school and nursery admin for Teddy (Georgina’s two-year old son) and will often organise builders or workmen doing jobs at home, that kind of thing.
How does the scheduling work – will your PA work outside of usual “office” hours?
The PAs I work with are often really flexible and will turn tasks around in as quick a time as possible. With ibLE generally, the PAs set their own hours – I won’t necessarily ask them to do anything at the weekend but they can work when they want to and occasionally this might be at the weekend; how and when they want to work is very much led by them.
Your PA doesn’t work in the office next to you so how do you manage communication and tasks?
We set up an email address and access to calendar and then we’ll usually speak on Whatsapp or email, although I know some clients prefer phone calls – it’s entirely personal choice. I’ll also sometimes use an app like Wunderlist which is an amazing tool for organising your task list. You can create a task list for things you need to do or remember and share it, then you can both see when tasks are added or ticked off. A great PA is one that initiates and keeps communication flowing to provide seamless, intuitive support.
How has having a PA for your personal life made a difference?
It’s genuinely changed my life, I know I would say that but when I first started using a personal PA, Emma and I (Georgina’s co-founder) were setting up and effectively running three businesses. We were trying to build ibLE, grow our recruitment business and I had my son Teddy who was a bit sick as a baby and I had to try and work at the same time. Even when he was getting better there was still so much logistical admin at home for Teddy, childcare and so on that I knew I needed help in order to stay in control. I now have a much better balance of work and life. When I’m at work I can focus on work without distraction, knowing that I have admin back up in my personal life. I’m not worrying about organising childcare or swimming lessons constantly whilst I’m at work, I can just get my PA involved. It’s like being in two places at once! At the same time, I feel like I’m doing the best for Teddy which is everybody’s dream, to get that balance.
How easy is it to build trust with a virtual PA?
For me, it’s been easy as I’ve been a PA and I know what that mindset looks like. Obviously it takes different people different time to build that up and feel comfortable but I have faith in the way we test our PAs before they begin working with a client so it’s not a problem for me to trust people quickly.
Also the quicker you can trust someone the more quickly they can be effective and actually, it’s very much a case of if you trust someone with something confidential and private you get that trust back and you quickly develop a good rapport. It works both ways.
Most people think of having a PA as a “luxury” – what do you think about that?
When you think that I can spend an hour at work developing our business or spend an hour figuring out which toddler classes I can book for Teddy for the next couple of weeks it’s so easy to see where my time is best being spent. You spend money on a PA to make money, because you can focus more on your business. Having a personal PA do my life admin doesn’t mean I spend less time with my son, it just means I spend less time at work distracted by other things.
I don’t think it is a luxury, in my case it’s a necessity.. If you think of people who are entrepreneurs or leading businesses, they really need to understand that the time they’re spending on certain things is important. Time is money and if they’re spending more time on their business rather than booking their next holiday that’s money well spent and it’s highly likely that a professional PA will do a better job anyway!
Do you also think that more men than women are likely to hire a PA to help with personal tasks?
I think this is a wider topic with all PAs not just virtual ones. Most senior executives are unfortunately still men and therefore are more used to outsourcing admin than women are. Women are more likely to try to do everything and take on everything themselves. But I believe that is changing. We actually have a 50/50 male-to-female client split at ibLE, that’s possibly because our network is female-strong but we are very proud of this regardless
There’s often a stigma around getting PAs to complete personal tasks, perhaps fueled by films like The Devil Wears Prada and The Proposal, how do you set boundaries?
Obviously you don’t want to ask a PA to do something inappropriate and if a company is paying for a PA they may have their own boundaries within the business on what you can and can’t ask them to do and whether you can use them for personal tasks. But I don’t think it’s difficult to know what is and isn’t an appropriate task for a PA.
The only boundaries with ibLE is that some virtual PAs may not be local so if you’re asking them to run errands it might not work, but that differs client to client. Most PAs we have will have meetings with their clients fairly regularly so that their relationship is strong. ibLE HQ is there to provide support to both the client and the PA – this includes offering protection to PAs against clients who don’t understand where the boundaries are or who have unreasonable demands.
What would you say to someone who thinks they need a personal or virtual PA but is still on the fence?
I’d say give it a try! That’s why ibLE is so special and works so well. There’s no retainer or obligation. You can give it a go, then stop, then pick it up at another time. That’s the beauty and the point of it, to fit in with flexible, changeable lives, seasonable business and unpredictable situations. Personally I think it’s addictive; once you realise the high value for money you get, it stops being a luxury and becomes a necessity. Like Uber! If you need more convincing, write down what you spend your time on each day and work out what you could achieve if you focused on the most important things and outsourced the admin. It’s a no-brainer!
Secondly, people often associate a “virtual” PA with outsourced, call-centre type services with junior staff members but that’s not the case with ibLE. These are experience, professional staff. The stuff I give to my PA is task-driven but I can also say I’m really swamped with work could you sort this client presentation out for me and it’s great to know that they’re skilled enough to do that. They can be personal or business support, they are flexible and unique.
To give ibLE a go and set up your first personal-life PA register now.