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‘Virtual assistants lift the lid on the bizarre requests they get

From reserving a courier to unplugging hair straighteners, chasing up 1000’s of kilos’ value of invoices and arranging spur-of-the-moment lunches in the South of France, the new breed of digital assistants — PAs who work remotely from dwelling — are paid handsomely to cater for the each whim of the ladies who make use of them.

Most of the time they stay underneath the radar, permitting their rich employers to take sole credit score for juggling their impossibly glamorous lives. But when, this summer season, we featured ladies who admitted to outsourcing every thing from cooking and cleansing to sizzling tub upkeep, quite a lot of high-end digital assistants (VAs) acquired in contact to inform their facet of the story.

Social tendencies knowledgeable Juliet Landau-Pope says the idea of a VA has actually taken off over the previous decade.

Five ‘digital assistants’ reveal the fact about working with very exacting purchasers, as social tendencies knowledgeable Juliet Landau-Pope reveals the idea has actually taken off over the previous decade. Pictured from left: Caroline, Namrita, Ally and Kerry

She provides: ‘Life seems much more complicated today. For a certain demographic, there are not only bills to pay and holidays to book, but also school applications to sort and second homes to run.

‘We are all time-poor and, in many cases, it is much more efficient to pay someone else to change the car insurance than spend all afternoon researching and doing it ourselves.’

But what’s it wish to be tasked with a dizzying array of day by day chores? Here, 5 digital assistants reveal the fact about working with very exacting purchasers . . .


Kerry Robinson, 28, co-founder of The Online Assistants, lives in South London. She says:

Arranging a personal jet at quick discover on a Sunday will not be the best job in the world — however that was the problem one consumer set me. Thankfully, I’ve a bulging contacts e-book to assist me in difficult conditions like this.

Another feminine consumer known as me at 9pm on a Thursday to e-book a visit to France so she would arrive for lunch the following day — this was at the peak of Covid journey restrictions so it wasn’t only a case of prepare tickets and a resort room. I organised it by way of Eurostar and there have been last-minute Covid checks to type. Needless to say, I made positive she made it to Nice by lunchtime.

I had one feminine consumer cellphone me from her vacation in Mauritius to get me to ask the resort bar to deliver her drinks by the pool. She was having fun with the sunshine and didn’t need to stroll up some steps to get them organized herself.

I admire that my purchasers look to me for assist with the trivialities of their lives, not as a result of they’re lazy however as a result of they’re answerable for organising the dwelling and taking care of their kids alongside busy working lives.

I began working at a sports activities administration company. Four years in the past, my colleague and I realised that the majority of our work was finished out of hours, so we started our personal digital assistants business. These days, I sometimes work from 8am to 6pm, however I’m there every time a consumer wants me. And, sure, I do work seven days per week as a result of not all purchasers plan forward.

Kerry Robinson, 28, (pictured) who is co-founder of The Online Assistant, said she once had to keep a diary of a puppy's every movement for a family

Kerry Robinson, 28, (pictured) who’s co-founder of The Online Assistant, mentioned she as soon as needed to hold a diary of a pet’s each motion for a household 

It’s pointless having a proper mode of communication after I’m so intimately concerned of their lives — we frequently chat on WhatsApp slightly than sticking purely to e-mail.

I’ve labored with some ladies for years. Their teenage kids usually message asking me to rearrange every thing from a resort in Rome to an Airbnb in Edinburgh.

One of my households wished a pet and requested me to assist select the excellent one. When they went away, I needed to hold a diary of its each motion. Each time it drank water, ate, pooped or slept I famous the time down. We look again and giggle at this — even she concedes it was loopy.

One high-net-worth consumer had winter tyres that wanted gathering from Switzerland and delivering to a storage in Italy so she may have them modified as quickly as she arrived to hit the ski slopes. I had lower than per week. Women like this anticipate you to type issues yesterday.


Catherine Gladwyn, 44, creator of How To Be A Virtual Assistant, has a 23-year-old daughter and lives along with her accomplice in Swindon, Wiltshire. She says:

Catherine Gladwyn, 44, (pictured), who is author of How To Be A Virtual Assistant, once had to organise ‘home-baked’ cookies for the child of a client

Catherine Gladwyn, 44, (pictured), who’s creator of How To Be A Virtual Assistant, as soon as needed to organise ‘home-baked’ cookies for the youngster of a consumer 

Some feminine purchasers are troublesome. One high-flying boss had me sending couriers to her home to unplug her hair straighteners on nearly a weekly foundation. I’d organised a reminder on her cellphone to prod her to modify them off however she nonetheless wouldn’t bear in mind.

She was exhausting. I’d get up to countless messages from her about what I wanted to do for her that day. From organising units of automotive keys (that she appeared to lose on common events) to reserving fancy lodges with hours’ discover and even interviewing dog-walkers. After six months, I refused to work for her. I couldn’t put up along with her mercurial methods.

These days, I don’t work with ladies like this. You be taught to place up boundaries. I’ve at all times labored in admin and beloved it. But due to a recurring brain tumour I’ve had since 2011, a anxious 9 to 5 in the office is not an possibility. As quickly as the tumour grows, I’ve to have surgical procedure to take away it. Stress makes the situation worse.

I grew to become a digital assistant six years in the past in order that I may higher organise my work round my personal life. Sometimes I solely work 4 hours a day, 5 days per week — but earn way more than I may as a full-time office worker. I cost £35 an hour and earn £80,000 a year on common.

It’s rather a lot when you think about persons are paying me to do the jobs they may very nicely do for themselves.

I don’t thoughts that mums usually take the credit score for the issues I do — it’s a part of the job to be in the background. There was the time a consumer had me organise ‘home-baked’ cookies for her youngster’s college fete. I purchased them from an artisan bakery.

My purchasers pay me by the hour or on a retainer if they know what number of hours they need per week.

I helped one lady who had a advertising and marketing consultancy to get better £250,000 in unpaid invoices. It took a number of weeks, on and off. She had assumed they’d ultimately pay her however, till I began chasing them, they by no means did. She was so delighted.


Caroline Marshall, 33, runs a digital assistant service known as Upsource and lives along with her husband and their kids in North London. She says:

Caroline Marshall, 33, (pictured), who runs virtual assistant service Upsource, said she once had to book a hotel room for a client and her lover

Caroline Marshall, 33, (pictured), who runs digital assistant service Upsource, mentioned she as soon as needed to e-book a resort room for a consumer and her lover 

My day begins with triaging my purchasers’ wants at 9am, understanding whose duties are the most pressing. I are inclined to work on the 80:20 rule, that means I go away 20 per cent of the day unplanned so I can slot in final‑minute requests.

The longest I’ve labored was a 16-hour day and, sure, they have been all billable hours. Women are, on the complete, a pleasure to work with. The good ones know what they need and are comfy with delegating.

That’s to not say there aren’t any surprises. One married consumer requested I e-book a resort room in London — for her and her lover. I solely came upon she wasn’t along with her husband after I known as the resort to verify particulars concerning her keep. Awkward!

I additionally helped one lady via her expensive divorce. I used to be at her beck and name, managing childcare, vacation calendars and even oversaw the home transfer — till she discovered a brand new accomplice and her ex reduce her off, which meant she may not afford me.

Pets are one thing mums like the sound of — however then actuality kicks in. One lady requested me to discover a self-cleaning cat litter tray as a result of they didn’t need to cope with the cat poop. Amazingly, they do exist, however they are pretty costly.

Caroline (pictured) recounts helping a CEO return to work two weeks after giving birth, which involved finding four nannies

Caroline (pictured) recounts serving to a CEO return to work two weeks after giving delivery, which concerned discovering 4 nannies 

I helped one other lady who returned to her CEO position two weeks after having a child. It was an fascinating journey, not least as a result of I needed to discover her 4 nannies working completely different instances with a view to facilitate this, together with an evening nanny. I even organised her and the child’s first six-week check-ups, a mummy MoT and mummy massages.

Now I’m a mum myself, I get pleasure from supporting different mums. I don’t bat an eyelid when a lady asks me to e-book a bikini wax.

Some may assume it’s beneath them, however I see it as serving to her accomplish what she wants to realize in her working, dwelling and personal life — all of that are equally vital.


Namrita Sharma, 31, is a Pink Spaghetti digital assistant franchisee and lives along with her husband in Solihull, West Midlands. She says:

Namrita Sharma, 31, (pictured) who is a Pink Spaghetti virtual assistant franchisee, said one client asked her to do their Christmas shopping

Namrita Sharma, 31, (pictured) who’s a Pink Spaghetti digital assistant franchisee, mentioned one consumer requested her to do their Christmas procuring 

My mum ran her personal business but nonetheless managed to be there for me rising up. I wished to comply with in her footsteps by being self-employed.

One day, I used to be joking with my husband that I may do with a PA to assist me type my life out. It was an ‘a-ha!’ second that led me to digital help company Pink Spaghetti. Their franchise package deal meant I may work for myself however with their assist.

One consumer has simply received a prize from the United Nations. It was a praise to be talked about in her acceptance speech. With others, I’ve signed a non-disclosure settlement, so I can’t discuss them.

One consumer asks me to do her Christmas procuring. She travels steadily for work and, to ease her workload, every year I’m assigned a price range for household and associates (from £25 to £500 every).

It is my job to analysis, buy, wrap and hand-deliver them to her properties on the different facet of the nation; for kinfolk and associates overseas, I organize supply in time for Christmas.

This will not be one thing I do for a lot of purchasers although — it takes loads of relationship-building to get to a stage the place purchasers allow you to into their personal lives.


Ally Phillips, 50, can also be a franchisee of Pink Spaghetti and lives close to Frodsham, Cheshire, along with her husband Greg and their three kids, who’re aged 18, 17 and 11. She says:

Ally Phillips, 50, (pictured) who is a franchisee of Pink Spaghetti, said she had to purchase £600 of limited-edition Lush products to send to a client in Singapore

Ally Phillips, 50, (pictured) who’s a franchisee of Pink Spaghetti, mentioned she needed to buy £600 of limited-edition Lush merchandise to ship to a consumer in Singapore

In this job you’re by no means ‘off’, even if you’re on vacation. I’ve finished every thing from holding a lady’s hand via her divorce — altering her title on official paperwork — to buying £600 of limited-edition Lush merchandise to ship to a consumer in Singapore. In the latter case, I requested for cost up entrance and funds duly arrived electronically in a single day.

At the retailer, I used to be in a position to organise a dwell video hyperlink for the consumer. She was delighted. I bought her merchandise, took photos of the cabinets and acquired a e-book signed by the Lush founder.

Whether I’m working with business house owners or non-public purchasers, it makes no distinction to my staff and me.

I as soon as helped a girl whose son has extreme disabilities. She had years of paperwork to type via. Much of it involved monetary assist for her son. It was vital as a result of it meant she may make use of carers and legitimately declare again the money she was due.

I spent days working via a room stuffed with papers which, in all honesty, modified her life. It is instances like that when the job feels actually worthwhile.

I grew to become a VA in 2016 after I returned to work after having kids. Previously, I had labored in advertising and marketing and project administration however I wished extra flexibility so I may very well be round for my kids.

I began out working on my very own and now have a staff of six. We satisfaction ourselves on making our purchasers’ lives simpler.

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