Remote Work Story of Melissa: Trailblazing Female Entrepreneur

Remote Work Stories
22 August, 2021
Melissa Smith - Founder & CEO of The PVA

This is the 11th edition of the remote work success stories series. Mellisa has shared her experience and tips on living and working remotely. You can also learn work from home productivity tips shared in this story.

Key Highlights

  1. Melissa Smith is the Founder & CEO of the Association of Virtual Assistants and The PVA.
  2. Melissa has been quoted by ABC News, Forbes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. News & World Report.
  3. Melissa says give yourself time to learn what you enjoy and what you don't.

Can you please introduce yourself?

Melissa Smith is the Founder & CEO of the Association of Virtual Assistants and The PVA, a firm that matches clients with the right virtual assistants. She is also the best-selling author of two books, Hire The Right Virtual Assistant and Become a Successful Virtual Assistant. Additionally, Melissa also mentors for Remote-how Academy, the first global, online education and individual certification program.

Drawing from her experience while working on five different continents Melissa truly understands how to operate a successful virtual business.

Melissa has been quoted by ABC News, Forbes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. News & World Report. Most recently Melissa was named Top Virtual Assistant Consultant of the Year and a trailblazing female entrepreneur to watch in 2021.

What’s your profession, what do you do?

I'm a virtual assistant matchmaker, VA coach, and remote work consultant.

What company do you work for? Are you a freelancer or Digital Nomad?

I'm location independent and a business owner.

How did you start with a remote work journey?

Back in 2014, I was an executive assistant at a private independent school in California. My husband had passed away suddenly in September 2012 and I had moved back to my home state of California to be with family in 2013. The move was exactly what I needed. However, my 16 year-old-daughter wasn't doing so well in the move. Less than a year into my job and my new life I knew I needed to move back to Georgia.

I went to the head of school to give my two weeks' notice and he said, "We don't want to lose you. How can we keep you?" I told him I didn't need to be in the office. I could do most of what I do now, remotely. He said, "Okay, let's do that.” I become their first remote employee.

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What do you think are the main benefits of working remotely?

Being able to work remotely meant I didn't have to choose between work and family. Of course, I'm going to choose my family but decisions like that don't feel good because while you've made a choice now you're left with more questions that don't have answers.

The main benefits of working remotely for most people are freedom and flexibility. Freedom is new wealth and when people feel wealthy they tend to have a clearer mindset which benefits the company.

Do you think there are disadvantages or that you’re missing something by working remotely?

I have never personally felt at a disadvantage because I was remote - even though I was the only remote employee. As an introvert, it was actually easier for me to keep relationships and feel part of the team. Staying connected became a purposeful action where I set intentions instead of allowing relationships to be created by happenstance.

From what cities or countries have you worked since you have become remote? What are your favourite countries or cities to work from?

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Morocco, Spain, England, Czech Republic, Germany, Croatia, Serbia, UAE, Thailand, Israel, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Chile, Indonesia, Italy, Cyprus, Mexico, France, Guatemala, Costa Rica.

My favorite cities to work in are not always my favorite cities to travel to. There are some cities that I just have too much fun and can't focus enough to work and that's saying a lot! While others don't excite me enough to keep me interested and leave me feeling blah. My favorite countries to work in are Argentina, Spain, Colombia, Italy, Serbia, and Costa Rica. Time difference also makes a big difference in my work. While Vietnam is one of my favorite countries the time difference was not conducive to my work at all.

From what type of places do you prefer to work? Home, co-working spaces, coffee shops, or others?

I prefer to work from home or my Airbnb. Hotels have notoriously horrible internet unless you pay for upgrades and even then it's not the greatest for my work. I also enjoy coffee shops or books stores, but only on days when I don't have calls or video meetings. I don't enjoy co-working spaces because the open floor plan is extremely distracting. Many are not set to be ergonomically correct which is hard on the body. Plus, I would need to pay extra for private booths when I'm having my many confidential calls. The private booths are usually quite small. It's just easier and less expensive to stay home.

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What places would you like to travel to while working remotely?

I've traveled to most of the countries I've wanted to while working. There are still plenty of other countries I'd like to visit but not to go to while working.

What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them? Share your remote productivity, communication, management, etc. tips based on your experience!

The biggest challenge I faced was having patience. Things will go wrong no matter how well you plan when traveling. I've had to practice patience while volcanoes were being active and causing delays and chaos in Indonesia and in Guatemala. There was no way I could have planned for that! However, there is always a solution. If you practice patience you'll figure out how to adapt. Without patience, you'll spend frustrating time spinning your wheels.

What tools do you use to improve productivity and manage work efficiently?

I'm a minimalist so I use very few tools. I don't believe tools are the answer to productivity. I believe managing your energy levels and doing the right work is a better way to track productivity. For these things, I use my calendar and calendar scheduling tool to reduce back and forth emails. Whatever I need to produce goes on my calendar. It's where I track my time and how well my time is being spent.

How do you manage your business and taxes as a remote working professional?

I take my own advice and hire a professional. It's a valid business expense and the amount of time and money I save by hiring a professional makes it all worth it.

What advice would you give to people looking to work remotely?

Determine what type of lifestyle you want to live. Don't try to live someone else's life because you'll find no joy in that. It's a learning process. Give yourself time to learn what you enjoy and what you don't. Be okay with what works best for you no matter if it doesn't work for others. You're only responsible for your happiness.

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Keywords: remote work story, remote work success stories, live remotely, tips working remotely, work from home tips, working from home tips for success, wfh tips, work from home productivity tips

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