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The Business of Meetings

Jul 13, 2021

Today, we have the great pleasure of speaking to Melissa Smith! Melissa is a pioneer in the world of virtual assistants. She is the Founder and CEO of the Association of Virtual Assistants and the PVA (The Personal Virtual Assistant). She is also the bestselling author of Hire the Right Virtual Assistant and Become a Successful Virtual Assistant.

Melissa is with us today to explain what defines the ideal virtual assistant. She will also discuss when to hire a virtual assistant, how to communicate with them, and some common mistakes to avoid.

Melissa Smith’s bio:

Melissa Smith is the Founder & CEO of the Association of Virtual Assistants & The PVA (The Personal Virtual Assistant), a virtually-based firm that matches clients with the right virtual assistants.

Melissa is also the best-selling author of two books, Hire The Right Virtual Assistant: How the Right VA Will Make Your Life Easier, Create Time, and Make You More Money and Become A Successful Virtual Assistant: Learn the Business Side & Ditch 9 to 5, which is an integral part of the College of Western Idaho Administrative Specialist Program curriculum. Additionally, she mentors for Remote-how Academy, the first global, online education and individual certification program about remote work, and is a passionate teacher and consultant for those looking to grow their business remotely. 

In 2013, Melissa began working remotely, and in 2017, she became location independent. This transition gave her a newfound sense of freedom, allowing her to travel to 16 countries in 12 months, all while running successful virtual businesses. 

Drawing from her experience while working on five different continents and numerous time zones, Melissa truly understands the challenges of running a virtual business and uses her knowledge to serve clients all over the world. She knows firsthand how and where to get the best work done and she passes her insight on to her clients so that they can create the life they love – on their own terms.

Melissa has been featured by ABC News,  Forbes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. News & World Report, & Thrive Global and most recently named a female entrepreneur to watch in 2021.

No plans to become a virtual assistant

Melissa never planned on becoming a virtual assistant or owning a business. She did want to be an assistant, however, so she went to secretary school. After that, she found a job she loved and was happy doing it. 

Everything changed

In 2012, Melissa lost her husband unexpectedly. Everything changed after that, and she moved to California. 

Melissa Smith’s introduction to working virtually

After a year, Melissa told her boss that she wanted to put in her notice because she wanted to return to Georgia so that her daughter could graduate in her home state. Her boss did not want her to go, and Melissa could do most of what she did virtually, so her boss agreed to let her continue working virtually.

No plan 

After receiving her annual contract, Melissa decided to try working for herself. She was naïve when she started and had neither a strategy nor a business plan, and although she had no idea what she was getting herself into, she felt okay with that. 

The first year

Melissa’s first year was a joke that she can only laugh about now. 

The best time

The best time to hire a virtual assistant is before you need one because by the time you need one, something is already wrong, and you are in time debt. 

Where people go wrong

People tend to go wrong because they think about hiring in old and antiquated terms of a specific number of hours per week. 

There are many ways to hire a VA

You can hire a virtual assistant on a project basis, or you can have someone on call, as you need them. You can even retain a VA for as little as ten hours a month. 

If you wait too long

If you wait too long before hiring someone, they will have to put out fires and rearrange things, and no one wants to walk into that kind of situation. 

Red flags

The most productive people think about their time in hours, not days, weeks, or months. So when someone approaches Melissa wanting to hire someone for twenty or thirty hours a week, she sees it as a red flag and lets the VA know that they need to be willing to jump into the fire because anyone needing to hire someone for that many hours will already be way behind.

Time debt

Time debt is when you use the time that you set aside to do one task to do another. 

Melissa Smith’s suggestions for getting the most value from a VA

If you had an hour to do whatever you wanted to do for yourself, and someone else could do what you normally have to do, think about what that would mean to you, advises Melissa. Hire a VA to do things that are valuable to you, and think about it in terms of an hour. Then start building from there. It could be to answer your emails, create an FAQ list, help with your social media outreach, or even do some research for you.

Start small

Start small and remember that there is no limit to what you can outsource and give someone else to do.

The biggest mistake

You don’t want to cut corners when letting someone into your business. The biggest mistake that people make is not to do their due diligence. That usually tends to happen because they hire too late. When hiring someone, you need to have more than one interview and conduct reference and background checks, rather than just relying on your gut feeling.

Where to go when hiring someone

Where to go when hiring someone usually comes down to your management level and what you want and expect from that person. Although there are many great resources in countries like the Philippines and India, there will be a cultural difference, a difference in communication, and a difference in English and grammar. Hiring someone from those countries will also require a lot more management and possibly even some step-by-step instructions. When people have client-facing requirements, they often ask Melissa about virtual assistance within their home country. 


Hire people who match your level, whether you are at the C-Suite level, a small business owner, or a startup hustler. There are virtual assistants with diverse skill sets to match people’s expectations. Match for your expectation rather than for someone’s skill set. 


Hire someone who likes to communicate in the same way that you do. It could be via text, Slack, or even a phone call. If you hire someone who believes in you and your business, it will make your communication even more seamless.

More great advice in finding the ideal VA

Find a VA who is clear about the people they serve on their website or social media. If someone says that they serve everybody, that is a red flag because it means that they haven’t been in business for long enough to know who they are best able to serve. Look for a match in the language you use, the industry you are in, and your mindset and attitude in their bio, website, or social media profile.

Melissa’s journey

Even though Melissa made some mistakes with her first book, she evolved, became a better writer, and revised it. She is glad she wrote the book because it launched her business, and if she had not written it, she would not be where she is today, sharing a stage with so many great people.


Success is a journey, not a destination, so even though Melissa has not yet done everything, achieved every goal, and realized every dream, it doesn’t matter. She knows she has made it and has reached a place where she can enjoy the journey as well!

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