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Demystifying Virtual Assistants

Nikolina Kukoč

Nikolina Kukoč

02.09.2022.

There are still people perplexed by this profession, so we wanted to demystify it for you. And who better to ask than someone who does this work daily! Sanja Veletanlić, Virtual Assistant, as well as the initiator and leader of Go2human Hub, was the person we turned to in order to demystify virtual assistants.

And in our interview with her found out so much more – about this profession, about ‘ko?VA! (we’ll demystify this particular term later), and a little bit about Sanja and Go2human Hub. So, let’s get chatting with a virtual assistant, shall we?!

How would you describe your profession?

“About 20 years ago, when the Internet did not enter every pore of our lives, I used to meet people on the Internet and socialize with them, so when I tried to explain to a grandmother how I knew this company, she sympathetically declared that they were my “people from the computer“.

Therefore, we could say that virtual assistants are “computer business assistants“. These are people who work from home and provide business services related to administration, operations, and organization, as well as other business segments, via computers and the Internet.

They are independent, have several clients at the same time, and the specific services they provide primarily depend on their individual knowledge and skills.

Some will fill out various reports and forms, and schedule meetings for small entrepreneurs, others will respond to customer inquiries, or help create content for social networks, maybe manage smaller projects, and some will do a little bit of all of that.”

What does a typical working day look like for a virtual assistant?

“A typical working day consists of three basic segments: working on tasks and projects for clients, working on your own business, as well as the private part of your life – not necessarily always in that order.

How much time and energy will be spent on projects for clients on any given day, how much on work on own marketing, sales, and planning, and how much on private duties – this changes as needed.

For example, today is Sunday and I will work in the afternoon so that I can have Monday off, and I also had a meeting with a client on Saturday.”

What projects are you currently working on?

“These days it is a relocation “project” – private and business. 🙂

At the same time, I am also working on preparing Go2human‘s entry to the foreign market, I am preparing a conference, and soon there will be new research on virtual assistants. I am also waiting for the official certification as a Notion consultant.”

What have you improved the most since you started this profession?

“In understanding the bigger picture and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Being the right hand of various entrepreneurs gives a very good insight into what is behind the scenes and helps in understanding why and how certain decisions are made.

In addition, now I also run my own small organization, so I experience some situations differently than I experienced them before when I was an employee of a company.

I became more enterprising and creative.

For a long time, I didn’t see myself as an entrepreneur at all – in large part because of the instilled negative connotations associated with that title – and now I’m somewhat content with the fact that entrepreneurship is exactly what I enjoy.”

What is the most interesting thing about the work you do?

“The differences between those I work with and getting to know other cultures, and then finding similarities and those threads that unite us, regardless of the fact that we come from different continents and that our core business is not always the same.

This erasing of the borders, both geographically and in the business sense, is something that is very interesting and indescribably dear to me.”

What do you like about your job?

“I love that it allows me to express myself, try something new, throw myself into a project when I have an idea, and even make a mistake.”

What is the biggest obstacle you encountered in your work and how did you solve it?

“The biggest obstacles are related to my prejudices about marketing and sales. I hate a good part of marketing and sales because, throughout my life, I have seen examples that often insulted the intelligence of customers.

When I had to start dealing with marketing and sales myself, I had sort of hit a wall because I didn’t want to do to others what made me feel bad. I solved it by learning about marketing and sales and realizing that there are different ways we can go about it.

For example, I try to practice no-bullshit marketing. I’m still finding my way, and I’m still learning – it’s not an easy and fast process – but marketing and sales are no longer repulsive to me. In fact, they make me happy now.”

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made since working as a virtual assistant and what did you learn from it?

“Only one? If I have to single out just one, it is the situation in which I put my colleague in an uncomfortable position because of some of my statements. I won’t go into details, but I was very sorry for that thoughtless statement which in the end damaged our relationship.”

What is your experience of entrepreneurship in Split and Croatia?

“Split is responsible for the start of my entrepreneurial journey and I thank this city for that.

If the job opportunities in Split had been better a few years ago, I probably would never have started something of my own. I didn’t dream about it, I didn’t plan it, but at one point I felt that I had no other choice. Now I wouldn’t go back no matter how hard it used to be!

Judging by my experience, it is possible to do business well in Croatia and in Split, but there is still resistance to new ways of doing business. With foreign clients, I gain trust faster and we immediately get down to business, while I first have to woo local clients a bit and slowly introduce them to the whole idea of virtual assistants.”

What piece of advice would you give yourself now when it comes to those entrepreneurial beginnings?

“Don’t forget to have fun, socialize, laugh, and rest, regardless of how many business projects are running at the same time. And make friends with cameras and videos as soon as possible – you’ll need it!”

What is the most important or favorite project you have realized so far?

“Since the conference has not yet been realized – and I do have a feeling that it will become one of my favorite projects – I will single out the research on virtual assistants that we have conducted for two years in a row, and now soon for the third time.

It is a project I like because it has become traditional, and it is important. Before that research, we could only talk about virtual assistants in Croatia based on our own feelings and experiences, but the research gave us a more objective picture of the market in which we all operate.

I like this project because I believe that the results are useful for all virtual assistants in Croatia, many entrepreneurs, but also to an even broader community than that.”

What are your plans for the future?

“This year we need to successfully complete the conference and research and take Go2human‘s first step towards entering foreign markets. And in the long term, then work on the development of everything we have started and leave room for something new that I can’t even imagine now because 3 years ago I couldn’t imagine almost anything that is currently being realized.”

Can you tell us a little about ‘ko?VA! conference, but from a behind-the-scenes perspective?

“All the time since I started dealing with virtual assistance, I have been working on educating the domestic market and demystifying the profession of a virtual assistant.

I do this because I believe that this knowledge and understanding of the possibilities that are offered is essential and useful for a large number of people.

The conference came as a natural next step after the establishment of the Facebook group, after starting research on virtual assistants, and after numerous posts and videos on the topic of virtual assistance. I felt that it is time to take things to a new level if we want better overall awareness.

I knew that there would be a lot of work to do with the organization, but I admit that I did not know that I would be working on it every day for months. I really care that everything goes as if we are doing it for the fifth time and that everyone is satisfied, so there is a lot of work to achieve that.

In the future, I hope that it will become a traditional annual conference and that it will become international.

This year, all lectures are in Croatian, and only one of the two panels is in English. Next year, I believe that there will be more content and lecturers in English, as well as foreign attendees.”

What are you most proud of concerning your work?

“I am proud of the fact that I set up a business and a small organization with my own hands, without any previous entrepreneurial experience. If someone had told me 5 or 10 years ago that I would run Go2human and connect other virtual assistants with entrepreneurs, I would have just laughed.

And now it’s really happening!” 😀

How important is the local tech community and networking in general to you?

“What helped me a lot in Split at the very beginning were all the Women in Tech meetups by Split Tech City, which I loved very much and which opened the doors of the local tech community for me.

The business community is a big thing when you start work as an anonymous person, and the tech community is especially dear to me even though I am not a developer, but in that environment, I feel almost at home. I love technology and I love being surrounded by people who are into it.

Even if no business deal is closed through the help of the community and networking, hearing other people’s real stories is great for a clearer perspective and encouragement to break out of anonymity.

Without networking, it would be much more difficult for me to do business – because business is done with people.”

Where do you see the future of your profession?

“I see the future in erasing borders and connecting regardless of location, as well as constant learning and adapting to new technologies and ways of working.”

If you had a magic wand and unlimited funds, what would you change about your profession?

“My desire is to create a high-tech, but also humane platform specialized in virtual assistants in a way that I have never had the opportunity to see before.

Most platforms are dehumanized on the one hand, and on the other hand, there is a paradox of too much choice. But to implement what I imagined into reality, significant financial resources are needed, which I do not have.

Until now, investors have not found the idea interesting enough because it is not scalable at the level at which they have been taught to function. Maybe things will change now that many have seen that super-fast growth often means a super-large number of layoffs because such hyper-growth is often unsustainable.”

What advice or word of support would you give to someone thinking about becoming a virtual assistant?

“It’s hard for me to give advice when I don’t know who exactly I’m giving it to and what’s bothering that person. Over the past three years, I have talked to a lot of people and shared what I know with many, but I try to be specific.

If someone told me that they were thinking about becoming a virtual assistant, I would first ask them what is holding them back, because we don’t have the same obstacles, so when I hear a specific problem, then we can discuss it further.

That’s why the Facebook group I run (Virtualni asistenti Hrvatska) is good because everyone can come there and ask their questions, which will be answered by me and other colleagues.

The job of a virtual assistant is a dream job for many – but it is not for everyone. Those who expect easy and quick money may be better off doing something else.”

We bring our interview with Sanja to an end with this important piece of advice and hope we’ve managed to demystify the profession of virtual assistants in the process. We’d also like to thank Sanja for her time and wish her great success with Go2human Hub, ‘ko?VA!, and all other projects she might do in the future!

Photos are from Sanja’s personal archive

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About author:

Nikolina Kukoč

Researching is woven into my DNA, but I am a musician at heart. Interested in too many things and always curious. Forever in love with Split and enchanted by people who teach me new things. When I am not creating content about Split's tech community, you will find me in singing rehearsals, somewhere in nature, in the theater, or with my head stuck in a book. I do my best to live by the verse from the opera "Fedora" by Umberto Giordano: "Love forbids you not to love."

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