Alessia Pandolfi - Breathe, Delegate, Focus
Alessia Pandolfi is a Virtual Assistant or V.A. and she specialises in working remotely serving clients in Europe the U.S. and Asia.
Her No.1 mission is to support her clients in growing their businesses by eliminating time consuming tasks that get in the way of their goals.
She holds a diploma in Applied Arts and a degree in Russian. She's a native Italian and also speaks English and Spanish fluently.
Alessia spent much of corporate working life as a Project Coordinator and also working in customer service. But a move to Finland and a period of unemployment gave her the push she needed to establish her business. Alessia shared some of the ways that she creates structure within her working day, especially as she moves around from one country to another and talks about the emotional strength that she needed to find to truly believe in herself and establish her own business.
I hope you enjoy our conversation
Show transcript follows:- Diana: [00:00:00] So my question for you is do V.A.'s need a V.A.?
Alessia: [00:00:07] Yeah absolutely. Yeah. Because it's I mean it's exactly the same thing. So being a V.A. it's still a business itself. So not only I work for the clients but I also need to do my promotion my marketing and do things for my business. So yeah for some things in the past for some other tasks I had a girl that was helping me.
Diana: [00:00:41] Yeah. That's interesting so thats setting the model really aren't you. Because you know if you're saying look I do this for people but I also need people to do this for me. So it's a good example to set I think.
Alessia: [00:00:53] Yeah. Because it's much more I don't know I think it's it's a much better example of why it's useful. Because I myself really sometimes need help. So it's I think it's a it's a really good example. It's really good where you're showing that it doesn't have to be you know this huge investment or commitment on both of time or money because sometimes and even for me it was really hard at the beginning and then in the future I'm also planning to maybe have an ongoing assistant that can take also some other work and get the new clients that I will get so that I have more free time and I can focus on working better on my clients and the marketing and so on But it is hard it is because I don't know maybe it's the way we've been growing up that it's really hard and sort of a shame to ask for help.
Diana: [00:02:09] Yeah. It's admitting that you can't do things. Perhaps that comes and.
Alessia: [00:02:13] Yeah. Yeah.
Diana: [00:02:15] And I think also if you're a very creative type if you're somebody who has made things especially if you've created a business from scratch you know there was nothing there before you started. You're so very invested in it aren't you it's almost a part of you and it's a bit like giving up a part of you.
Alessia: [00:02:34] Yeah that's true.
Diana: [00:02:36] And also I know for me I try not to have this viewpoint but I can't help struggling with 'can somebody do as well as I do'. Will take away from my voice or my way of doing things you know.
Alessia: [00:02:51] Yeah. Yeah. That it's actually one of the objections or let's say blocks that people have. That's really common because you have built your own business your empire and then when it's time that somebody else does those same things that you've been doing maybe for years and then somebody else does those things then it's always like.
[00:03:20] Ok how will you be?
[00:03:22] How will it get done or will they do it properly?
[00:03:27] Will they do it in a way that that I like or that I think is the correct way?
[00:03:33] But then that's exactly the thing. Maybe maybe you've been doing things in a way and you're used to those but then another person has a different approach a different point of view. It maybe the others way it's more effective.
Diana: [00:03:49] I'm speaking to you now you're in Italy and you live in Helsinki.
Alessia: [00:03:57] Yeah.
Diana: [00:03:58] And so you're really showing that you can be location independent here. I mean that's really interesting. How does that work for you?
Alessia: [00:04:07] Well it's true that it's really location independent. And I really love it because I can come and visit my family. So this is absolutely great. Of course sometimes it can be a bit difficult because when you have your own working space you have your computer and you have your three four hard disks and you have your Internet connection and you are in a space that you know. Whereas personally I, because I'm talking about myself I know it's not the same for everyone.
Alessia: [00:04:50] For me I need some days to adapt to the new environment even if it's just that I come home to my hometown. I mean the place where I've been living for all my life after I've been in Finland for so long it takes some time to readapt to the whole environment but that's absolutely great.
Alessia: [00:05:14] On one side because being location independent it's just it's really helpful because the only thing I need it's just a laptop and an Internet connection and then the place where I am doesn't really matter I can still do the work. I think it's one of the wonders of this century.
Alessia: [00:05:39] I was thinking about it a few days ago when I wrote an article that I was thinking only what maybe six years ago that how technology changed so fast and so much that now I can do my work from anywhere in the world. And really five years ago it was still possible but not at the level that it's possible now.
Diana: [00:06:08] So you mentioned a little bit about the downside of being location independent which is that sometimes you need your stuff with you and I guess that's going to depend on what sort of work you're doing as well. Do you think there's also an element of as human beings we like our space around us we like the things we know?
Alessia: [00:06:26] When I think it can be really different for everyone. But in my case personally I like my space. So I like to be and to work in a place that I know because in case I need something I know where I can find it.
Alessia: [00:06:44] But at the same time I often go also to coworking spaces because it's also a way to get in touch with people because working from home sometimes you know you can get really lonely. And if you live alone and then maybe in the morning you're tyred and you leave for example in Finland where did in the winter it's always really grey and it gets bright only at 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning and sometimes it may happen that for two or three days you're live in pyjamas and you work in your pyjamas all day long which is not really good when you work from home.
Alessia: [00:07:25] But yeah I mean I personally have to schedule time time out. For example when I go to the co-working because I like being in my own space. But I think it's also really important to go out and connect with people and also sometimes even to work in a bit more chaotic environment. I don't know why but when I'm outside from home it can be a cafeteria. It can be a co-working space.
Alessia: [00:08:03] I get things done faster maybe because I focus more so sometimes when I need to do get done some things it's easier to do it from a public and more chaotic place and than from my own home office.
Diana: [00:08:20] So I think that's a very interesting point there and that's I would agree absolutely with you. That's the times when I've had to go off to a cafe or somewhere and obviously not coaching clients I wouldn't coach clients from a public space but when I'm getting my paperwork done my admin or my marketing. I am more efficient if I head off to a cafe or some sort of public space. It's interesting isn't it there's no distractions I guess. And I tend to just plug in some music you know I put little earbuds in and I'll have some very quiet music playing and so I guess you get more into that work zone than if I'm at home and the dog might distract me or I don't know just life is around you isn't it.
Alessia: [00:09:09] Yeah yeah. That's absolutely true. I think maybe I you know by seeing other people doing their own stuff maybe you just more able to really focus and see what you really need to do. Because then of course when you work from home you might go downstairs and get something from the kitchen. Maybe okay I will go and get a coffee.
[00:09:35] So there are distractions as well. So I think both options working from home and also working from the co-working spaces they're both really good options but I think they are really good for some specific things.
Diana: [00:09:51] I think this is good advice really for anybody who is just setting up an a business or even if you've been doing it for a while. I think sometimes you get to a point where you get that low point and you start to miss working with other people. And you know it's something that you might when you're all excited about starting a business. You don't really consider that I think that you know that you being on your own all the time is going to be perhaps a little bit limiting in some ways because we're social creatures aren't we. We like to be with other people.
Diana: [00:10:24] So I'm just curious about something from what you said before you were talking about you know this need to get out and be amongst other people. I'm wondering if in your role as a virtual assistant do you find that you start to fulfil that need that your clients have to be sort of part of something. That they think they need help with stuff but you're actually also providing that contact and somebody to bounce ideas off?
Alessia: [00:10:52] Yeah absolutely. That is something that actually for me is extremely important because what I do is not only to take care of those more time consuming things but it's also to be a sort of external partner or sometimes even a proper team member. And for me it's really important because not only it helps me to understand the business of my clients from their point of view and from the inside but I think it's also establishes a much better relationship because at the end I mean we are colleagues. It's not that I work for someone because like a retail assistant like for example I don't know a web designer they're all independent contractor. So the kind of relationship is different between an employer and employee. But at the same time it doesn't mean that since I have more than one client I don't want to feel and I don't want to leave the business of my clients from their point of view and from their perspective because that helps the relationship and that helps also my work because the more I know the more I can help them the more I can support them.
Diana: [00:12:33] So you know I'm really curious about why did you choose to be a virtual assistant?
Alessia: [00:12:39] Well actually I had already been working as a V.A. for several years but it had always been my side job and things that I do in my free time while I was studying while I was doing some other jobs.
[00:12:58] But then when one year ago I moved to Finland and I had been looking for a job for like two or three months and I really couldn't find anything because of the language because if I applied to Finnish companies I had to be fluent in Finish. And the international companies would be ok only with English or other languages. But the competition was extremely high. So then after these two or three months that I was really frustrated then I just came up with like oh why don't I just turn my side job into a full time thing?
[00:13:43] Why didn't I think about it earlier? But then yeah it just hit me and then I just started figuring things out because I mean the thing is that in order to get some documents and then a bank account and so on. You need to have a stable job and they are quite strict with these regulations.
[00:14:14] So I felt that the easiest thing would have been to find any kind of job and then after some months just readapt or create something else. But then at the end then it came out just okay let's just go and be self-employed and at the end it came out to be extremely easy and extremely fast to register everything. So yeah it it.
[00:14:44] On one side it was a struggle for me to say it out loud that I wanted to be self-employed because I had always considered myself like the anti-business person. Absolutely. But then it was a huge step. It was. But I had already pretty much all the competencies that I could use. Thanks to previous experiences jobs or voluntary work camps and so on. So then it sort of came natural.
[00:15:32] It wasn't so hard to do all the things in order it was just this first huge step to say out loud to admit to myself that hey I can really do that.
Diana: [00:15:47] Yeah well done you. Yeah I mean it's a big jump to take isn't it. You know because you're stepping outside of the box in a large way.
Alessia: [00:15:57] Yeah absolutely. I still remember when I invited for a date my boyfriend to tell him my choice to tell him what I had decided because for me that was an extremely huge step. It was maybe even bigger than deciding to move to Finland because I'd been used to move around to move to Russia or to Ukraine or to Latvia whatever. So I had used to move around and live in a different country. But this one was really. I don't know. Yeah really huge.
Diana: [00:16:44] It's sort of, your investing in yourself aren't you. I don't know that certainly how it felt to me. It was sort of like opening yourself up and saying look I think I can do this thing well enough to make a living out of it and so you become quite vulnerable at that point.
Alessia: [00:17:04] Yeah absolutely. I was really scared. I was I mean when I went on this date with my boyfriend and tell him my decision I was really expecting something like 'oh why would you do this. I don't think that's a good idea. It's risky. It's easier if you look for a job' at the end it just didn't happen.
[00:17:32] He was completely on my side and I really couldn't be more grateful for his support when he came to this huge choice. And it is I was extremely vulnerable at that moment. I was really admitting to myself that hey I can really do this and I want to jump jump on this new adventure.
Diana: [00:17:59] So that brings me back really to the purpose behind this podcast which is this whole thing about emotional strength and where do we find the strength to make these sorts of decisions and how do we nurture and grow that sustain it even when the going gets tough. And so my question to you Alessia is what does emotional strength mean to you.
Alessia: [00:18:22] Well I think it's something that I found I have as well. I don't know I thought that I wasn't that strong from the emotional point of view but actually living in Finland gave me the opportunity to attend some seminars and events where I had a chance to really dig deeper in inside myself and through my feelings and to find things that I had never expected could be there. So I would say that for me maybe emotional strength is the ability to overcome any kind of situation can be a good situation it can be an exciting thing it could be overwhelming and it can be frustrating whatever it is. And to just do it because I find the strength somewhere inside myself and I don't know when I realized that I could really overcome these situations only with my own strengths and abilities. It was one of these aha moments in my life honestly.
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