Virtual Assistant Tips from Brainy Gal – Lisa McDonell

Virtual Assistant Tips from Brainy Gal - Lisa McDonell

In this blog post, I’ve interviewed Lisa McDonell. Lisa is a Virtual Assistant Business and Lifestyle Coach who inspires and empowers women to launch and grow their own businesses online. Sharing her wise and witty advice, she shows both aspiring and seasoned V.A.’s how to take their ‘big dreams’ and transform them into profitable companies while living a fun, healthy and supportive lifestyle.

She is a Certified Health Coach with expertise in Business Development, Marketing, Coaching and the science and art of personal transformation. She has been a featured Speaker at Various Virtual Assistant events around the globe. Lisa is a self-proclaimed ‘Brainy Gal’. You can find her hanging out at or on Facebook!

Lisa shares some Virtual Assistant tips about:

  • the importance of being a business owner versus an employee
  • 5 best practices in getting and working with clients
  • and more…

How did you get started as a Virtual Assistant?

While I was on Maternity Leave with my 3rd baby…I started doing some work from home for a couple of family friends who had their own businesses.  When those opportunities dried up I started to wonder if there weren’t ‘other’ online companies who could use my help…and the idea struck me that maybe I could turn this into a full-time business.  I had never heard of a ‘Virtual Assistant’ before.  I began to do some research into it and was thrilled to find out about the industry!  I didn’t know anything about having a business when I started – but I knew I would make it work so that I could be home for my family and earn a handsome living helping others. Since that day it has been my passion, and I’ve never looked back.  Today I run a full practice – working with my own clients and coaching others on how to have Virtual Assistant businesses as well.

How would you define the term “Virtual Assistant” to a newbie?

For me a ‘Virtual Assistant’ is a self-employed person who assists other entrepreneurs and business owners remotely.  Typically, a V.A. assists with business operations, administrative tasks, marketing and/or the technical aspects of running an online business.

What is the importance of establishing yourself as a VA business owner versus a VA employee? What are its pros and cons?

This distinction is wildly important, especially in recent months as there are different taxation laws for employees vs. business owners.  I am extremely careful about informing clients that I am a business owner and there are a lot of PROS (and a few cons) to doing it this way.


  • Having the ability to make my own flexible schedule every day
  • Being able to work with multiple clients at a time, and letting go of those who aren’t a good fit
  • Making my own decisions on the type or services I wish to offer and the direction I want to take my business


  • You have the sole responsibility to meet deadlines and do a great job
  • You are responsible for your own training / learning new skills
  • You can’t collect vacation pay, sick days or any other benefits from your employer

What’s your top 5 tips for VA business owners about getting/working with clients?

Become a Marketing wizard!  You could be the smartest, most educated, most experienced Virtual Assistant in the universe but you will never have any clients if you don’t know how to market your business. Learn everything you can about marketing and have fun with it.

Play to your strengths.  I have acquired a lot of clients doing public speaking gigs (something I’m good at) but I really suck at going to networking events and making small talk one-on-one.  Whatever you are best at – be it writing, drawing, being on camera, social media, photography, graphics…take YOUR strengths and think of creative ways you can use them to find clients.

Always be prepared.  I have found clients in the most surprising places – sitting at my child’s soccer game, while having my hair done, even by RSVP-ing to a party invitation!.  Be ready to talk about your business at any time and be sure to infuse your personal emails and social media sites with info about your business as well.  Every time you leave your house be presentable and ready to sell yourself.

Look for referral or affiliate partners in similar industries and help each other.  You may hook up with a web designer, social media manager, photographer, business coach etc. and be able to refer clients to each other.

About 80-90% of my clients come from current client referrals.  Always do a great job and you are almost guaranteed to have that one client refer you to many others.

Who is your role model as a business owner? Why?

I would probably have to say I have looked to Oprah Winfrey as a role model over the years quite often.  One of her best pieces of advice was to just keep taking your “next right step”.  You don’t  need to have a plan mapped out for the next 10 years and follow it exactly.  Hold a vision for the future in mind and just keep taking your “next right step” and then your “next right step” towards it.

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Gwenn Doria

Founder and Author at Virtual Success Avenue
Hey there, awesome! I started this blog because I understand the challenges of starting out and thriving as a professional working from home. My aim is to empower aspiring and fellow Virtual Assistants by sharing tips, inspiring stories and lessons learned about the Virtual Assistant industry. Get to know me more by visiting the "About Me" page. 🙂 Cheers!