Jan. 17, 2023

How To Find or Become a Virtual Assistant in 2023

How To Find or Become a Virtual Assistant in 2023

Have you ever wondered how to get hired as a virtual assistant? Or, have you ever considered hiring a VA so you can save time and increase productivity? Tune in to learn from Ethan Bull, Co-Founder of ProAssisting, about how to find or become a virtual assistant or remote executive assistant.

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Have you ever wondered how to get hired as a virtual assistant? Or, have you ever considered hiring a VA so you can save time and increase productivity? Tune in to learn from Ethan Bull, Co-Founder of ProAssisting, about how to find or become a virtual assistant or remote executive assistant.

ProAssisting is a full-service remote executive assistance company that partners with remote assistants across the US and internationally, matching them with companies or executives.

Whether you’re looking to hire a VA or you want to become a VA (as a part-time side hustle or a full-time career), you’ll learn the best tips and tricks for getting started!


Episode 190 Special Offers: 



  • How studying abroad sparked Ethan's love of travel and led him to become the remote business owner he is today.
  • Top skills and requirements for virtual/remote executive assistants.
  • The #1 interview question ProAssisting asks candidates in remote executive assistant interviews.
  • How Ethan found an executive assistant job in the entertainment industry.
  • How he went from being a virtual assistant to starting a virtual assistance company.
  • The relationship between hospitality, business, and executive assistance.
  • The rise of remote work & how companies can adapt.



  • What skills are required to get a job as an executive assistant?
  • How many people can virtual assistants work with at the same time?
  • Should beginner remote assistants reach out to companies directly or use a remote work agency?
  • Who should read The 29-Hour Workday and why?
  • With the rise of remote work, are more New Yorkers moving upstate to remote areas?
  • How does someone get a remote executive assistant with a company like ProAssisting?
  • And more!



Resources for Digital Nomads:


Related Books:


Related Podcasts:


Related Videos:


Connect with Ethan & ProAssisting:



Support the Badass Digital Nomads Podcast:


A special thank you to Kristin's patrons! Become a Patron for $5/month at Patreon.com/travelingwithkristin


Connect with Kristin: 


Podcast descriptions may contain affiliate links of products and services we use and recommend at no additional cost to you.




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Introduction:   Welcome to Badass Digital Nomads, where we're pushing the boundaries of remote work and travel, all while staying grounded with a little bit of old-school philosophy, self-development, and business advice from our guests. 


Kristin Wilson, Host:   00:01:16     Hey there, Kristin from Traveling with Kristin here, and welcome to episode 190 of Badass Digital Nomads. My guest today is Ethan Bull, the co-founder of Pro Assisting, which is a company that helps match remote virtual assistance with executives and business owners. He's also the co-author of the book, the29-Hour Workday, A High Performer's Guide to Leveraging Your Executive Assistant. And today on the podcast, he's sharing with us why he left his small hometown in upstate New York to travel to Australia and study abroad, and how that experience changed his life and led him to becoming an executive assistant and ultimately opening his own agency. He shares how much you can make as an executive assistant and also how to go about finding a job, doing virtual assistants, whether you want to work for yourself, start your own agency, or just get a job with a company that provides virtual assistance to others.  


Kristin:    00:02:29    So whether you've been curious about if becoming a VA could be a side hustle for you, or maybe even a full-time career path, or if you've ever been interested in hiring a VA, is to help take some tasks and work off your plate. This episode is for you also thank you to Michelle who left a five-star review on Castbox. She says, "I've been listening to Kristin since 2018, and this is probably the best podcast out there to learn about remote work relocation and living the digital nomad lifestyle. Kristin gives practical advice and also has deep insights about how to live life on your terms." Thank you so much, Michelle. And you. Yes, you can leave us a five-star review almost anywhere that you listen on Spotify, on Apple, on Castbox, and you can go to lovethepodcast.com/digitalnomad to leave a review. Or if you don't listen on any of those platforms, you can also leave a review directly on our website at badassdigitalnomads.com. They really make my day. I get an email notification every time one of you leaves a review, and it just is my favorite type of email to get <laugh> and I get a lot of emails. So thank you so much for being a shining light in my inbox. Enjoy.  


Podcast Interview:


Kristin, host:    00:04:01    Well, welcome Ethan to Badass Digital Nomads podcast. Now, you're not technically a digital nomad like many people on this show, but you are living life on your own terms, living in a place that you want to live in, working from home, spending more quality time with your family and running your own business. So tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you talking to us from today and what do you do?  


Ethan:    00:04:29    Well, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. I am currently in Canandaigua, New York, which is upstate New York in the Finger Lakes region close to Rochester, New York. And my wife and I moved here seven years ago. I actually grew up in Canandaigua and moved away for 25 years, spent time in Boston, studied abroad in Australia, so we have that in common and lived in New York City for 20 years. Both my wife and I, in New York were top level executive assistants supporting CEOs, chief operating officers of hundreds of millions and billion-dollar corporations, organizations, and all that goes along with that. And then when our second son Henry came along, we decided to pull stakes and leave New York City, quit our jobs, quit our healthcare <laugh>, and moved to Canada Iguana New York, moved back home, if you will. I'm looking for that family support, better quality of life and didn't know what the future was gonna hold.  


Ethan:    00:05:33    And after a couple years, uh, during that first couple years I was, I ended up working for the CEO of the second-largest employer in Rochester Regional Health, a 2 billion healthcare network with 16,000 employees. And during that time, my wife was contacted through our network to provide some remote executive assistance support to a, a consultant who traveled the world needed support, but didn't really care where that person was located. And that started opening our eyes in 2017 to the possibility of potentially breaking out on our own and forging our own path. And we did a deep dive from a research perspective on the virtual assistant space and saw some gaps in how we may be able to fill those gaps. And that's where our business pro assisting came from. And while yes, we work from home, I do consider myself somewhat of a local nomad in that I work uh, in the coffee shops. I work at home, I work in the backyard, I work in my car from the parking lot of the grocery store and we are allowed to, to take trips and move, um, to other family locations. Or when we're going on vacation. And our clients do not know that. And it is seamless. We are really home-based, but I am all for the digital nomad lifestyle and, and really what technology has done to allow a traditional role, like being an executive assistant, to step out of the office and to be effective outta the office.  


Kristin:    00:07:20    Yeah. For so long. Um, well my, my dad was a lawyer and I always had this image of, you know, the secretary or the assistant being right next to their boss's desk, whether it's in the same office or right outside the office, be it like the gatekeeper somewhat. And it seems like such an archaic mental image now to have the assistant physically right next to their boss. I guess it, that was the only way to do it back then. But now you can be a virtual assistant and from anywhere in the world and help people remotely. And I always like having assistance in other places because they're in different time zones. So when I'm asleep, they can be answering messages or emails and so on. So I'm looking forward to getting into some of your tips, both for people who want to hire remote assistance and for people who want to become one, because in my opinion, it's one of the fastest and most seamless ways of getting your feet wet in remote work because it doesn't take any necessary, necessarily any official formal training.  


Kristin:    00:08:34    But so many people either already worked in an assistant capacity in a physical geographic job, and now they can just do that remotely. And most people, just by virtue of working in the modern world, have acquired many of the skills that are needed for this role. And so it's something that people can apply skills that they're already doing for themselves or for their team or for their coworkers or for their boss, and they can now do it for themselves or for a company and make a good living at it and free themselves from the office. So have you noticed that there's been a big influx of people coming from New York City to upstate New York since the pandemic happened? Cuz you moved there seven years ago. So have you seen things change in the past couple years? Like maybe you're not the only person working in the coffee shop anymore?  


Ethan:    00:09:24    Absolutely. Uh, I was recently talking to a, a brewer at one of the breweries that we have here and he, you know, Canandaigua is a kind of a resort town in the summer, and we have a lake and then we've got a ton of wineries and a ton of breweries and a lot of great restaurants. And he mentioned how, well, I actually asked him, I said, what are people asking you about Canandaigua or the Finger Lakes when they're coming here? And, and he said, especially now we're in the crunch of, you know, air travel's kind of mixed bag in terms of you don't know how that is going to go and if you're gonna get stuck in a layover or something due to the issues that that industry is going through. And he said, we're seeing a lot of people from Philadelphia and from Pittsburgh and from Ohio and you know, that three to five-hour away drive coming up to the area and saying, wow, home prices are actually reasonable here.  


Ethan:    00:10:25    It's very beautiful here. What, you know, do you like it here, asking this brewer? And he was like, I love it. Absolutely not shying away from the idea that we do have a serious winter, but the glorious summers also, uh, make it palatable. So actually one thing I did wanna touch on before I forgot was I kind of have seen the transition from the assistant perspective of technology going back all the way to the days of the Blackberry. And my wife was working for two different hedge funds when we were in New York City, and the financial industry was very quick to take up the Blackberry. Um, I would say in 2004, 2003, four, and five before the iPhone came along. And that's when, you know, she started getting emails and calls at eight o'clock, nine o'clock at night on the weekends when we were out and about specifically because she had access to her email, she had access to hers and her principal's calendars and their contacts and could actually be very efficient in work that way.


Ethan:    00:11:33    And then Tim Ferris's four-hour work week came out and praised the use of, uh, the assistant out of the Philippines, a virtual assistant at $5 an hour to basically run your business. And, and then you have the iPhone coming out, which really made that accessible to more of the masses than a Blackberry. And what was re what's been really interesting was that back then before the pandemic, you know, remote work kind of was expected. It, it was like the C-suites of all these companies didn't feel the need to codify a remote work policy or pay extra comp or any of those things. It just became accepted and part of the job without mentioning it and kind of just creeped. And then what we found with, with starting pro assisting in 2018 and into and throughout 19 is I had to explain remote work to both prospects and assistance and how that worked. And then the pandemic came along and pretty much blew all of that out of the water. So I know you've been doing this for many years and living the lifestyle, uh, but from my perspective as an assistant, we were seeing those things happen without, as I said, without codifying the policy, the compensation, the, the expectations. And then now it's all switched and I, everybody gets it. So it's been a very, very fascinating few years to watch that quick transition.  


Kristin:    00:13:13    So would you say that it's made your job easier?  


Ethan:    00:13:17    It's made my job as a co-founder of a remote executive assistance company easier because I don't have to explain remote work in detail to prospects. And we do have executive assistance coming to us now, searching out opportunities that allow them to stay outside of the office. And you know, even 2015 when we moved from New York City to upstate New York, I still did not believe that the executive assistant role could ever survive outside of the office in a remote way. And I was always jealous of the analysts or the new business development people or the marketing people who were allowed to work from home. And I was working from home too, but the principles that I worked for really wanted that presence outside their office. And so I never thought that the role would evolve to where it is now or has the potential to be now. And that's not to say that look  there are principles who want their assistant right outside their office. And I totally get that to be that gatekeeper, like you were mentioning with your father and being a lawyer. But technology has made interactions and response time so instantaneous if the assistant is paying attention, that it can feel as if they are in the office next door when actually they're a couple of states away.  


Kristin:    00:14:54    Yeah. Or a few countries in some cases


Ethan:    00:14:57    Or a few countries correct.  


Kristin:    00:14:58    Yeah. Maybe the same time zone, maybe similar time zones. And did you and your wife study anything related to this in college? Or what was, what were your majors, and why did you decide to study in Australia?  


Ethan:    00:15:14    Um, I'll start with the first question. My wife got her degree in psychology. I got my degree in marketing. My wife studied at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and I studied at Bentley University, which was Bentley College when I graduated. Uh, and it was a specialty business school, and went to Australia kind of looking for that. Just what do I wanna be when I grow up? What do I want to do? Um, I was really into, and I still am into music and, and performing and playing music. And when I went to Australia, that only increased in terms of hooking up with a couple of different Australian bands. And they thought it was novel to have an American in their band for a stint. And, and it was I think on the beaches of Byron Bay where I really thought, you know, why don't I combine this business degree that I'm getting with music?  


Ethan:    00:16:08    And I went back to the States and my final semester at school I got an internship for WEA, which stands for Warner Electra Atlantic, all record labels under the Warner Brothers label. And loved it. It was great, it was great experience working in the marketing department and whatnot. And through that role, I learned about a production assistant job working on a movie in New York. And fortunately, my uncle lived in New York at the time, so I had a place to stay. And I got hired on the movie Addicted to Love, which starred Matthew Broderick and Meg Ryan, and in September of 1996 and worked as a production assistant. And the interesting thing about working in entertainment in, in Hollywood, even if you're in New York working in film, it's kind of still considered Hollywood East, if you will, is that the assistant position is really the starting stepping stone of 80% of the people who work in Hollywood.  


Ethan:    00:17:14    You're competing for assistant jobs against Harvard and Yale, um, you know, attorneys or accountants from the Big Five because they wanna work in entertainment. But you have to earn your stripes as an assistant and find that mentor who brings you along and works in that way. I worked in advertising or in Marketing in film for about five years and moved up at, in working in physical production, then worked at the William Morris Agency, which has since been bought by endeavor and then worked at USA films when we were making the movie traffic by, uh, Steven Soderberg. I was second assistant to the chairman there. And over that five years, I fell in love with acting and directing and writing and actually shifted from entertainment to advertising to really use the assistant position and executive assistant role as kind of that nine-to-five role where I could then also chase dreams outside of the office in terms of writing and directing.  


Ethan:    00:18:16    Um, and so that was my path, my wife's path, you know, she left the University of Wisconsin, went to Washington DC, and worked for a publisher that published books for the World Bank in an assistant capacity. And then, when she made her way to New York, quickly landed a job at Credit Swiss as an assistant. And then from there quickly was poached by the c e o of a hedge fund to be his assistant and was his assistant for almost eight years. And really in that role, at that high level, compensation easily gets into the six figures very quickly. The responsibility and the role expands very quickly. And while you say there isn't a job descr or, uh, an education, which is pretty much true and accurate, it's really more about your individual work ethic, your individual idea of hospitality, being able to communicate, interact with everyone from the person who cuts your principal's lawn, all the way up to the chairman of the board of your most important customer and anyone in between. And really interacting in a very high touch hospitality way to put a really good face on your boss's office and the company as a whole. So, you know, and the work ethic required to do that is, is can be intense if the demands from the principal are high and at that level they always are.  


Kristin:    00:19:52    Yeah, it's like the, it's basically like the school of hard knocks. It's real life skills that you're applying to someone else's life in this assist, in this example to the your employer, to the principal's life and business. And you don't necessarily know what the job description is going to entail. Of course, there's gonna be some basic skills that everyone needs, organizational skills or email and things like that, which maybe you can tell us some of the top skills that you're looking for and in remote assistance. But yeah, it also seems like how people can adapt in to different situations and creativity I'm sure plays a role as well. I remember one of my real estate clients in Costa Rica when I was working there maybe more than 15 years ago now, I went to his conference in the, the United States and I had met his assistants, other executives on his team when they came to Costa Rica to look at properties.  


Kristin:    00:20:54    And I remember being in awe of his executive assistant of everything that she did. Everything from getting tickets and reservations for box seats at football games to managing his email and his calendar and everything. And she was just kind of a jack of all trades and a superstar, really a rock star. And I could tell that he definitely didn't wanna lose her as an employee because she was his right-hand woman and so valuable to allowing him to do what he'd as the president of his company. So what would you say are some of the most important skills that you are looking for people that are interested in getting into the virtual assistant or remote assistant career path?  


Ethan:    00:21:40    Well, for us in pro assisting specifically, we do really look for prior experience as an executive assistant at a pretty high level. We charge a premium price for what we do, and we pay our assistance commensurate with their experience. What we're looking for is, one, the resume and the timeline and the length of time with each principal throughout their career, uh, what the, that looked like, uh, in and um, how integral were they into their principal's life and worlds, both business, personal and community. And then beyond that, it's that high touch hospitality, it's the, you know, buttoned-up nature of your written and verbal communication and being very comfortable in your own skin and confident in your own abilities. And the trick is that it does cross so many different worlds and so many different kinds of people that you really need to be a chameleon and to shapeshift and form into who you're interacting with and dealing with.  


Ethan:    00:22:47    I always like to ask a question of tell me a very specific story with all of the details of the problem that arose, the solutions that you presented, how, what the decision was made in terms of what path to take, how you went along that path. Were any, did anything come up that inhibited that, and you had to shift gears or change directions because in the specifics, that's where you really learn. If someone really has that ability to think outside the box, but yet be very professional and leverage their past experience to come up with new ideas that maybe the principal isn't thinking of. And so we look for that time. That being said, and to circle back to your point about it being a really, you know, virtual assistance or remote assistance, in general, can be a very easy path for someone to start their own business and someone to, to gather their own clients.  


Ethan:    00:23:47    And, um, I think first and foremost is about continually showing up, doing things on the timeline that you specify you're going to do them on. Even in the getting-to-know-you phase where they're not even a client yet. If you say you're gonna have a call at three o'clock, you call them exactly at three o'clock, you're ready to go when you're in the role leveraging technology from making sure that you're getting notifications from your principal or any direct people from your principal that need that almost instantaneous feedback and response and leveraging technology to help you do that. And that comes back to good old work ethic and, and knowing that your work product and what you're doing comes down to work ethic and caring about what you're doing and showing up and being on top of everything. I am very creative outside of work and I write and I put music and all of this stuff, but when I'm doing my job, I'm very type an I'm a type A personality where I like to have everything buttoned up.  


Ethan:    00:24:56    My personal email inbox may be a little jangled, but my work email inbox is very succinct, and I know where everything is. And again, those types of skills, <laugh>, I you know, it's almost like, what do they say that like 85% of doing a great job is just showing up and, and having, taking that that to heart and being consistent. And what that does in the support role is just doing the little things well, consistently builds a really strong foundation of trust, and off of that foundation then the principle or the company will, will start providing more projects, higher level stuff that maybe make you stretch a little more, but creating that, that sense of trust, that partnership is paramount. And, and I hate, you know, not that I hate to say it, I just think it's true is that so much of it comes down to work ethic


Kristin:    00:25:57    And, and also the interactions that you have as an assistant with the other people that you're talking with on behalf of your employer. Like you mentioned your wife got poached by another company. I mean, there's gonna be executive assistant head hunters out there, or just regular people that you're communicating with from other companies that if you are consistent, and you are showing up, and you're communicating effectively and you're doing a good job, that could lead to other opportunities and other roles. And also I heard you mention on another podcast that you think that an ex-executive assistant can have up to, like the sweet spot would be about three different people that they're working for if they're working remotely. So that also opens the, the doors for people to not just work full-time for one person, but to have multiple principles that they're splitting their time up, allowing them to earn more potentially, and, and also get more experience in those different roles because each one is gonna be slightly different. Do you have anything to add to that?  


Ethan:    00:27:02    Well, that comes from our business model for pro assisting and our, both mine and my wife's experience, leading teams of assistants working full-time roles at companies. I led a team of 12 assistants supporting 60 executives in advertising. And that's a five-to-one ratio, which is high. And to accomplish that, we really had to put limited guidelines on what the executives could ask their assistants to do because there was five of them interacting with one instead of three. Stephanie led teams of assistance supporting executives, uh, supporting finance executives and executives at this, at the hedge fund. And some of their personal requests were more demanding, and she had to leverage and manage that. But what we found is that that three to one ratio works really well for 80% of the executives out there who needs support. And it allows, what our business model allows for is that one of our partner executive assistants can have three clients.  


Ethan:    00:28:07    And so one of them will ask them to do something and they do it, and then they won't hear from that client for another few hours. So that downtime, the client isn't paying for that downtime, another client is sends a request in or needs to have a chat. And when an assistant can juggle those three balls and feather the work in throughout the day, all three of those clients feel like they're getting full-service support, but they're only paying for fractional support. And the assistant, if they're organized and have a strong work ethic and all of the things that we talked about earlier if they have those in spade, will be able to still provide that service for all three clients and yet, and yet make them feel like they're fully supported. Um, so yeah, that's where it came from.  

Kristin:    00:29:00    Would you say for people that are just starting out or who are transitioning into this kind of a remote role, would it be better for them to try to find their own clients reaching out to their network or cold contacting people and companies? Or is it better for them to go to one of the virtual or remote assisting agencies and apply for a job to work as a provider under another company?  


Ethan:    00:29:28    Well, I think, I think it's a combination of both is what I suggest, especially for, if someone has high-level executive assistant experience and is scratching that 80, 90, a hundred, $120,000 base salary, and they want to break off on their own and start their own business, I would encourage someone like that to look at pro assisting. We offer a platform to partner an assistant like that with that experience with a client, while they can also go out and find other clients because they are an independent contractor of us. And that I would take that same philosophy to someone who is just getting started and maybe has been a marketing assistant or a coordinator or, um, you know, a project manager at a different company for a couple years and yet really wants to break out on their own all of the virtual assistant companies based in the US Most of them, about 90% of them work off of the independent contracting model as well.  


Ethan:    00:30:26    So in that instance, someone could get a job at one of those companies or get a couple clients from one of those, couple of those companies, add that to their resume and their LinkedIn profile, create a very simple webpage and hang out their own banner and their own shingle. And then, and then while they're getting some income from some of those other clients through that company, bring on a couple of other clients in a project-based way, in a part-time way through their network, through seeing open opportunities online and being proactive. You know, sometimes, and I've, with the amount of assistance I've interacted with, I've seen it more often than not the assistance, they just wanna do the work. They don't want to have, they, they're behind-the-scenes people.  


Kristin:    00:31:15    Hey there, Kristin here, did you know that I have a weekly newsletter? You can stay in touch and receive an email from me every Friday by going to travelingwithKristin.com/subscribe. You'll be the first to know about new projects, videos, and opportunities for attending meetups live streams, and more. You'll also get a lot of travel and remote work tips, insights, and thoughts that I don't share anywhere else. Sign up today at travelingwithKristin.com/subscribe. You can also find the link in the show notes and now back to the show.  



Ethan:    00:31:53    They don't want to have to do the sales and, and do the cold calling and the outreach and figure out what to charge and all of that. So that's understandable too. But once they have either a company like ours providing remote executive assistance or a company that provides virtual assistance on their resume, they may find that some people are reaching out to them directly anyway. There's also places to leverage like Upwork, you know, putting a profile up on Upwork, looking at where pricing is and what other virtual assistants are charging and, and thinking about where you wanna put your foothold in, and then slowly raising your rate as you get more clients. I'm not gonna sit here and say it's easy, but it is absolutely doable, uh, with some persistence and in, and you know, maybe a little midnight oil burning in terms of doing some research and looking for those right prospects and, and then also leveraging some of your skills. If you really enjoy doing social media, focus on doing, being a social media assistant. If you have some skills with Canva and with graphic design, leverage that, and then you can charge more, um, doing something that you know, you have the skills doing, and you still fall into the assistant space, but you're not a generalist.  


Kristin:    00:33:14    Right. Yeah, I I think a lot of people, especially in the entertainment industry and any industry, their eyes and ears will perk up when they see somebody advertising to be an assistant for that specific type of person. Um, you know, or even picking a niche, like being an assistant for Instagram, influencers like something that's very specific or female Instagram influencers, fashion bloggers, an assistant for Instagram, influencer fashion bloggers, you know, I just made that up. But if you are that person, and you're looking for an assistant, even if you just type in something on five or Upwork for like social media assistants, that listing might come up, and you're like, oh yeah, that's exactly who I'm looking for. And that way it's a win-win because the assistant is working in something that they wanna do and the person that's their ideal employer can find them more easily.  


Kristin:    00:34:11    And it's also interesting to see how you transitioned from working in entertainment over the years on film sets and in production, all those different skills that you acquired to then start your own company that provides assistance to others. So I always like to look back at how people got where they are, and especially now with your own company and with a book, it's like, you didn't start out with that or know necessarily that this was the path that you were on, but do you feel like you achieved your goal when you went to study abroad in Australia? Do you feel like that experience kind of got you started on the right path that led to what you're doing today in your career?  


Ethan:    00:35:00    Yeah, I, I to a point, it, it opened my eyes to what I wanted internally and, and that at that point when I was in Australia, it was all about music. And then when I got to New York to work on a film on a lark almost, that opened my eyes to the relationship between director and actor on set as well as writer. And I was very, very intrigued by that. And so my creativity kind of pulled me along in that direction. But I'm gonna be honest with you, I did not think I was gonna gonna be a career executive assistant. I, uh, for, uh, the first third of my EA career, which is now about seven or eight years, um, not that I looked down on the role, but I, I, I was just, I looked at it as a nine to five that I could do, and I was good enough to where my principals liked having me around, and I didn't see the higher level of it.  


Ethan:    00:36:08    And then, you know, I think part of it was when my wife started working for the c e o of a hedge fund and really opening both of our eyes to how much and how high you can go in the role. That intrigued me. It also intrigued me to kind of lean back into my first job experience working for my dad at a, at a restaurant. And the idea of hospitality, the idea that, you know, service is something you provide to someone where hospitality is how you make them feel. And I always look at it as a challenge when I'm interacting with someone and I'm on task for my principal, but I'm interacting with someone and they are just not happy, they're not working with me. And how can I leverage my hospitality, my interpersonal skills to um, warm them up, you know, make 'em smile, you know?  


Ethan:    00:37:09    And I definitely have some go-to techniques for that and seeing if I can, you know, crack that egg and get a win-win situation out of something that's starting out and not, we are just so not on the same page. So I looked at that, and it was interest and, and kept me interested and really kind of opened up what the role could be. The other thing is I recently read a book called From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks, and he talks about fluid intelligence. And fluid intelligence is in your twenties and your thirties and in getting into your early forties where you can switch things really quickly, and you can, you're very on top of the ball and you have a lot of energy and you can recover quickly and, and it's very fluid. And then how it transitions to crystallized intelligence in your mid-forties and throughout and how what you learn and what you've been exposed to in that fluid intelligence phase kind of solidifies itself into crystallized intelligence and how that opens a whole new career opportunity or career path.  


Ethan:    00:38:15    And I feel like that is where both Stephanie and I are with pro assisting right now. We've taken this 25 years of experience each and now we've, it's crystallized into what we know works and how we do what we do and the expectations we set, and the business model we created into this business. And it's really rewarding that I went to school for business, was a career executive assistant, and now I'm running a business that provides that support to many, many different kinds of businesses and people and the clients and the prospects that I get to interact with on a daily basis is fascinating to me. So we've kind of gone on that arc, and we are looking at the next 10 years or 15 years running this business as a whole new career path, even though it's really centered on the, the, the career path that we had prior. Does that make sense?  


Kristin:    00:39:17    Yeah. Um, it, it's kind of like how everything has come full circle, but also it's brand new. So you left your hometown looking for opportunities, which I think is something that everyone can relate to. And that's the reason why so many of us love travel cuz we need to get away sometimes, get out of our head, get out of our environments, get a fresh perspective on a recurring problem perhaps, or start a new habit. Like there's so many benefits that can come from getting out of your physical hometown or getting out of your comfort zone and you just weren't exactly sure what you were looking for. You just needed to find yourself <laugh>. And that's another thing that living abroad and traveling, even if you're going from upstate to new –New York to New York City, that's something that can just change your perspective and set your life off in a completely new direction and a new trajectory.  


Kristin:    00:40:14    And so I kind of see it how you went on this, this exploration and journey to figure out who you were in the world, who you wanted to be, what you wanted to do for work. And that led you to New York, to college, to Australia, back to New York City, and then ultimately seeking a quieter, more laid-back lifestyle, insular pace of life and better quality of life back in your hometown. However, it wouldn't have happened that way had you stayed in your hometown from the beginning and just said, okay, born and raised, went to school here, get a job here. And you know, closed case, it was like starting the journey here, going abroad, traveling around, getting that life experience coming back and then integrating it and kind of like evolving in who you were as a person in your life phase of getting married, having a family, and now into this new phase of starting a business that's providing a service to other people and serving more people on a higher level than when you were just one assistant for one person.  


Kristin:    00:41:24    And so that to me is what really stands out in your story. And also thinking of things from the perspective, not of just a nine to five job, just a means to an end, but approaching it from a perspective of humanity. Like that's what hospitality is. I actually majored in hospitality for a semester or two before I went to international business, but I've never thought of customer service or, well, I've never thought of virtual assistance or executive assistants or even remote work with that layer, that perspective of hospitality and just connecting with people and making them smile and making them happy. But really that's quite significant <laugh> that's quite compelling, and I have to integrate that into my own life.  


Ethan:    00:42:11    I would say. There is a, an eight-minute video on YouTube that we've blogged about a couple times over the years we've mentioned in our book. And it's from a restaurateur sommelier in Boulder, Colorado, and his name is Bobby Stuckey and s t u c k e y. And the title of the video is How to Be A Hospitalian. And his point in the video is that hospitality should infuse all aspects of our life, both business and personal. And he tells a story about his aunt who comes to Thanksgiving dinner, think it's Thanksgiving or Christmas, and how she is just never happy and it is his job to make her happy. And he goes through all of the things that he does and, and that's one part of the story and there's a couple other parts, but it all comes back to this idea that if we all had hospitality at the front and center of our daily lives, how you interact with the person who is taking your coffee order in the morning, something as simple as that, if you infuse an idea of hospitality on your end as a customer and giving them, showing them a little bit of grace 


Ethan:    00:43:34    And watching them open up and blossom just because, you know, yeah, the previous customer pretty much was a big jerk to them. It will make your day, it will make at least the next hour of your day better. And, and that is, you know, in my early years as an executive assistant, I was what I would term as an old school executive assistant and in entertainment advertising, throw sharp elbows, yell, scream, not care, just get the job done. And the boss of mine sat me down in a review about three years into the job and said, you're just like me. You don't suffer fools lightly, but you need to do the same work you're doing because you get it done, but you need to be nicer and more hospitable. And that review had a, a profound effect on me, how I viewed the EA role and brought me back, as I said, to working in my dad's restaurant and how, you know, the customer is 99% always right and how to break the ice of that frosty customer and get them to smile or, and get them to engage. And it really changed my whole trajectory on what I do. And then when I saw that video from Bobby Stuckey was it just all kind of clicked and, um, very, very interesting. I I would suggest you give it a watch. I think, you know, your audience might really connect with it as well.  


Kristin:    00:45:12    Yeah, we'll definitely add that in the show notes as well as that book from Strength to Strength, um, who doesn't wanna get stronger, right. <laugh> great title and also you and your wife have a book called The 29-Hour workday. Can you tell us a little bit about that and who does that book benefit? Like who's the ideal reader for that book?  


Ethan:    00:45:37    Sure. Um, so in the assistant world if you will, there are a lot of awesome books that teach someone how to be a great assistant. You know, uh, Bobby, uh, Bonnie Lo Kramen, uh, Jeremy Burrows, those are a couple that come to mind. I've worked with both of them in the past. They're great people, offer great advice and, and really offer a roadmap on how to be that great assistant. What we didn't find, and the reason that Stephanie and I wrote the book was cuz we, we saw that there weren't many options out there to show a principal how to best leverage the support of a great assistant. And so we lay out what our view is in terms of the five performance multipliers that an assistant provides their executive or principal. The first is being a business partner, the next is being a chief of staff.  


Ethan:    00:46:33    The next is being a project manager. Then there is the assistant slash scheduler and personal assistant. And a great assistant is that person that a principal can call up on the phone Monday morning. And that principal's to-do list goes from 15 things down to two in about a 12-minute conversation. So they can communicate to their principal or to their assistant on all five of those performance multipliers. I mean, they're not saying this when they're having the conversation, they're just saying interact with, you know, tell the Gardner we need the long cut it for please call this client back and tell them that John Smith can answer their question and make that introduction, you know, find me this information, the whole rainbow of things that are on their to-do list. And in that one short conversation, the principal hangs up the phone and feels an immediate sense of relief because they have, uh, someone that they've worked with for a while, they trust, they respect, they like handling all those things.  


Ethan:    00:47:35    And our book kind of, that's why those, through those perform five performance multipliers, you can add five more hours onto your day and get 29 hours out of a day instead of 24. And, uh, that's why we wrote the book kind of to be a, an instruction manual, if you will, on how to leverage great assistance support. And from our perspective, we talk to a lot of prospects who come to us and say, my business is doing great. I've got two full-time employees. I'm making 3 million a year, and I'm just up to my eyeballs doing things that really that need to get done but don't really need to be done by me. So what do I do? And I say, well, we can talk about partnering you with an assistant, but in addition to that, I really want to forward you our book because it, this will really get your brain going in terms of how to best leverage that support and create that partnership.  


Kristin:    00:48:34    Yeah, I need to read that book because this has been a, a long recurring problem for me is delegating to people and not doing everything myself. I think a lot of people who are freelancers, a lot of people who are starting online businesses, they can relate to the solopreneur hamster wheel, and sometimes it can feel like the more people you hire, the more work you have to do because now you're managing people. And I've gone through so many different virtual assistant companies, and I've spent so much time on hiring, interviewing people, training, and anyone who works in business knows what, you know, the human resources cost of hiring people and replacing people. And yeah, it's something that I definitely think there's room for improvement, and I haven't really found that sweet spot yet of being able to afford the type of help that I need.  


Kristin:    00:49:35    Of course, I have a lot of people working in different roles and a lot of contractors, but I haven't taken the plunge and hired like a full-time executive assistant that's gonna be there, you know, with every day. But I think that's something that everybody should think about is, is delegating more tasks that need to get done, but don't necessarily need to be done by you. And having the right systems and processes in place so that you're not spending more time delegating the tasks and having meetings about the tasks, discussing what the tasks are that need to be done in the time that you could have done those tasks yourself. And so that's this constant push and pull of, yeah, sometimes it's like if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. But that can also be a limitation and a mindset block. And I, I think for anyone who's working remotely now, even if you are a salaried employee in a remote job, starting to think that way of what things can you delegate to other people, even if it's in your personal life and not in your job, like you're not subcontracting your own tasks that you're getting paid for.  


Kristin:    00:50:46    That is a way to give yourself more freedom, more time freedom, better quality of life. And even something as small as ordering meal service, or I have a laundry service here, wash dry fold. And I went to go pick up my laundry, and then I thought, why am I picking up my laundry? You can actually just have Uber run errands for you now or Lyft. And so I asked the guy, I was like, do I have to pay for this here? Can I pay online? He's like, no, you can pay by phone. So I'm like, all right, that's gonna save me like at least 15 or 20 minutes of going to pick that up. Like, just have the Uber driver go get it and bring it back to you. So I think a lot of people, and myself included, like we make ourselves busier than we need to be because we try to do it all.  


Kristin:    00:51:35    And especially parents that are like doing 18 loads of laundry every week, like trying to find ways that you can take some stuff off of your plate and, you know, just enjoy life more is really important. So I think no matter what side you fall on, whether you are the executive hiring an executive assistant, or whether you are an entrepreneur or a freelancer or somebody who wants to get tasks off your plate, so you can focus on your passions and not the other stuff, or whether you're just trying to get some more personal time back, I think it's all really important, um, beliefs and mindset that you can adopt for yourself instead of thinking that you have to do it all on your own.  


Ethan:    00:52:21    Well, we, I fight that all the time with new clients in terms of the quote unquote, I can do it faster myself, syndrome, <laugh>, which initially that's true, that's absolutely true, no doubt about it. But if you take the extra time to show your assistant once or twice walking them through it exactly how you want it done, and it takes, sets a task or a project that takes you on half an hour a week to do, and it may take them an hour and a half the first three weeks that they do it, but then that time will go down and down and down. And as the person delegating that project or task, you have to think about the ongoing recurring nature of that time save. So when you, if you, and then if you put it out on a week on a monthly or yearly scale, you're like, wow, this is saving me a ton of time, but there's no free lunch.  


Ethan:    00:53:25    You have to put the time in upfront to train and onboard and then eventually trust your assistant to do it. And a lot of people, especially people who've been doing it for so long on their own, it may sound very easy to hand over those reins, but it's not, it takes time and you really gotta commit to it. And then you're, you're gonna be feeling nervous, and you're gonna be feeling, sometimes you may jump in and just do it yourself because you don't wanna, you just want it done now, and it still could be done tomorrow when your assistant was gonna do it, but you just do it anyway and there will be fits and starts. But I think if you focus on that north star of this will consistently save me x amount of minutes or hours a week, it behooves me to put the time in to get my assistant up to speed. And then once that's rolling, then you tackle something else. And then something else. And, um, but it's, it's, it's not an easy cycle to break no matter how easy it sounds.  


Kristin:    00:54:31    I, I, one thing that helped me a lot at the beginning was tracking my time and Mm, yes. Looking at that and realizing how many hours I was spending updating my website per month. And that compounds, right? Like even something as simple as uploading the weekly podcast that takes at least 30 minutes or an hour at least just to publish the podcast plus update the website. Well, I have two websites and one of it is automatic and one of it is manual. So I, to train someone to do that, I basically figured out how much time I was spending and then I documented my process of how I do everything. And then I used a video screen recorder. You can use Loom, you can use Vidyard, and I have my, my face on there explaining <laugh>, talking them through it. I'm recording my screen and there you go.  


Kristin:    00:55:27    Yep. And then if that person can't do it, then you have a training manual for the next person that can come over, and it's pretty good. And now I can't imagine like every time I do successfully delegate a task, I can't imagine adding that back to my to-do list later. So I think it is just step by step. But yeah, I'll definitely check out your book, the 29-hour Workday and <laugh>. It's such an American mentality to have a 29-hour workday, but it's okay. That's where we're right now. <laugh>, the important thing is that we're not answering our Blackberry at three in the morning. Those were the days. Um, yeah. So if people want to check out more about how you can help them hire assistant or apply to be an assistant with your company Yeah. Where can they go?  


Ethan:    00:56:13    Yeah, our website is Pro Assisting P R O A S S I S T I N G.com. And if you are interested in potentially partnering as an executive assistant with Pro Assisting, if you scroll down to the footer of the website, you'll see a join our team link that will take you to a page where we outline some of the expectations and resume requirements that we look for when partnering with an assistant as well as an application form to submit. If you're looking to find support, you can just go to proassisting.com and book a free call with me and can really dig down into your business what your needs are. And even if we are not the right fit, which is totally fine, I am pretty certain I can point anyone in the right direction that would meet their needs. So the call could be valuable in and of itself. Um, and then on LinkedIn, Ethan Bull, B U L L  on LinkedIn. Please feel free to connect with me there too.  


Kristin:    00:57:15    All right. I may be your first customer. I just have podcast guests on and then I end up buying their stuff. <laugh>, we're becoming a client. I'm like, oh, I need that. I need that too. So. Well, thanks for coming on today, Ethan, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your week in New York. Do you have any travel plans coming up?  


Ethan:    00:57:33    We are actually traveling to Toronto on Sunday for a little family getaway. Uh, and then my wife and I sneak away to Portland, Maine, for our 15, year wedding anniversary, as well as picking up that puppy that I mentioned earlier.  


Kristin:    00:57:52    Ah, yes, congratulations. I haven't been to Portland, Maine, but it Maine looks like a beautiful state. Awesome. Yeah, we'll connect online and everyone, the books, videos, everything we mentioned today are in the show notes and see you all again next week. 


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Ethan BullProfile Photo

Ethan Bull

Co-founder & Author

Ethan Bull is a career EA who is now co-founder of ProAssisting, which is a remote executive assistance company partnering high-level EAs with clients across the United States. He is also the co-author of The 29-Hour Work Day: A High Performer’s Guide to Leveraging Your EA. https://amzn.to/3pFOf3U