Visit Julie Lichtman's business website and you'll see:
Freedom Professional Services
Giving You the Freedom
Freedom was a theme that permeated our discussion as I interviewed Julie for this post: freedom from tasks you'd rather not do, from those keeping you from what you should do, freedom from the cubicle, freedom to focus on what you do best. That applies not only to her clients, but to Julie herself.
Julie decided to launch her own Virtual Assistant business after nearly 20 years of doing similar work as an employee of other businesses. That 20-year career included fund raising and event planning for The Banner School, assisting with marketing and publicity for the Maryland Shakespeare Festival, serving as the Public Relations Chair on the board of the Boston Knit-out & Crochet Expo 2005, and providing administrative assistance to executives at the likes of Swisshotel Boston and the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston.
She has a degree in Linguistic Anthropology from Brandeis University. She said she was drawn to that field of study because she's fascinated by other languages and cultures, how we're different and how we're the same and how language influences and/or reflects that. A course in Corporate Anthropology, which looks at the tribal customs and rituals of the business world (formal and informal, known/acknowledged and unknown) steered her toward a career in corporate communications. Her training underscored for her that language is key to any business activity. For example, if you want to connect with your customer, with your target audience, you must understand that customer's culture and speak the customer's language.
That awareness drew her into assisting with public relations, marketing, advertising, events planning, and fund raising for employment after college. Among the most rewarding was working for a non-profit and feeling she was making a positive difference in the world. But, she wanted more. She wanted freedom. Freedom from the cubicle so she would have more control over her time, freedom to apply her energy and experience in building a business of her own while helping others do the same.
Julie moved from Boston, MA to Frederick, MD in 2006 and opened Freedom Professional Services (FPS) in 2010. She'd had the idea for three years and began researching, studying, and planning, with the help of the Frederick Small Business Development Center (SBDC) before taking the leap from cubicle-dweller to entrepreneur. She give herself six months to prove FPS was a viable business. She did and now has a number of clients, some on a project basis, some on a monthly retainer. She is a member of IVAA, the International Virtual Assistants Association.
She gets all her clients, many of whom are "solopreneurs", the way she got her first, through networking. She explained that trust is key when someone as invested in their business as any entrepreneur contemplates handing tasks over to someone else. Word of mouth is her best way to get clients. She understands. It's the way she feels about her own business and works to make her clients feel she will take care of whatever part of their business they trust her with as if it were her own. She has built a network of trusted referral partners to assist her clients with business areas that she doesn’t handle herself, such as bookkeeping, graphic design, and web design. Her long-term goal is to grow her business to a multi-VA practice, managing a team of VA’s to handle a wider range of services.
You can engage FPS by the hour, by the project, or on a monthly retainer, depending on your needs. FPS can handle a wide variety of tasks including correspondence & bulk mailings, data entry, social media and blog posts (HEY! I could have had her write this!), newsletter writing, event planning, public/media relations, and marketing assistance -- on a remote basis. Julie explained the "virtual" in Virtual Assistant is important. It allows her to juggle the demands of all her clients and her own life more effectively and enables her to work with clients anywhere in the United States. She is also a big fan of Skype, which enables her to meet “face-to-face” with those outside the Frederick area.
In addition to the actual work, she enjoys the consultative nature of running a Virtual Assistant business. She asks clients:
She helps her clients determine where they might best offload work so they can focus on what's most important. Julie charges $30 an hour for basic administrative work and $40 an hour for more creative work, such as writing blog posts (because, she explained, "that takes both sides of her brain"). As for what she loves best about having her own business, Julie says it's helping others who have struck out on their own succeed, "keeping more people out of the cubicle, out of the corporate grind".
Hearing those words, my focus turned to Julie's membership at Cowork Frederick, where we target small businesses, entre/solopreneurs, and freelancers, with the goal of providing an environment that helps them succeed. Julie came to our open house in August 2012 and began tweeting about Cowork Frederick immediately, drawing additional people to visit. Like many, she joined a coworking space because she wanted to make connections with others. She also wanted a place other than a coffee shop to have meetings with her local clients and referral partners.
To learn more, contact Julie at Freedom Professional Services | tel:240-367-5157 | email: FPS@freedomprofressionalservices.com