Episode 17 |

How A Rockstar VA Can Give You More Freedom And Peace Of Mind with Carolyn Ketchum

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This Week’s Guest

Carolyn Ketchum is the writer and creator of alldayidreamaboutfood.com, a popular blog dedicated to low-carb, gluten free recipes. She was my former VA.



You might know Carolyn Ketchum for her highly popular food blog, All Day I Dream About Food, which receives over a million views per month. What you probably don’t know her from is her past as my rockstar virtual assistant. That’s right, in this very special episode I’m baring all and breaking down the secret entrepreneur technique of having a virtual assistant. Carolyn was an absolute rockstar VA, and we discuss how the entire process works in this little-seen role. If you’ve ever considered your own virtual assistant, or have hopes of working as a VA for a successful entrepreneur, this is a can’t miss, because we are rattling off essential tips for an optimal entrepreneur/VA relationship. We cover:

  • The 3 lists of Freedom.
  • How to find and screen the perfect VA.
  • What a VA can do for your email and your calendar.
  • How to onboard a new VA.
  • Why you deserve to outsource the things you don’t want to do.


Here’s what we discussed:

Once You Work for Yourself, You Can Never Go Back

  1. Carolyn used the VA position to have stable income while she built her passion.
  2. Now, she finds that she never wants to work for anyone else.
  3. Stephan likes calling the shots for his clients.
  4. Carolyn got the courage to jump and follow her own passion.
  5. VA-ing can be a great opportunity to learn from the best entrepreneurs out there.
  6. The best VAs can’t last forever because they are ambitious people.
  7. Stephan always has more than one VA to have backups in case one leaves.

The VA onboarding process

  1. Stephan uses Craigslist to find VAs.
  2. It is important to include a riddle in job ad.
    • It should be not easily Google-able.
    • It is about the effort.
    • If they show their work and make a good effort, you know that they care enough about the job to do well.
    • It doesn’t even matter if the solution is correct/incorrect.
    • It is about attention to detail-if they don’t even pay attention to the instructions of including the answer, how can they be trusted to pay attention to important tasks.
    • Or you can ask them to show examples of their own social media accounts.
    • Delete the application right away if they don’t include it.
  3. If a VA can do the first interview, it saves up a bunch of time for the entrepreneur.
  4. Stephan tried a VA from India but realized the imperfect English wouldn’t work for him.
  5. Carolyn needed to make choices for Stephan all the time.
    • She answered emails as him when necessary.
    • When Stephan was on vacation and there was a crisis, she needed to know how to solve a problem for a client and answer as Stephan.
  6. The new VA:
    • Use skype to get answers from the more experienced VAs.
    • Need to be an independent thinker-don’t just keep coming back to ask the same question, figure it out on your own.
    • There are offshore VA services that only do things on checklist, which isn’t ideal.
    • Take a screenshare of a training session so you have training materials for VAs in the future.

Where to look for VAs

  1. Stephan chose Boston because it is a college town.
  2. It’s highly educated.
  3. A student that is working through school and wants a part time job is a good candidate.

VA Productivity Tools and Time Logging Software

  1. UpWork (formerly oDesk)-great for recent onboards.
    • They take care of admin stuff like 1099s.
    • They take 10% of what you pay your contractor.
    • Their system takes screenshots of activity.
  2. TimeDoctor
    • Great for trusted VAs that have been on past trial period.
    • It measures keystrokes per minute.
    • It also takes screenshots.
    • Stephan uses it for all of his employees.
    • It’s great for a VA that manages other VAs.

How a VA manages email

  1. Stephan subscribes to inbox zero.
    • When you manage your life via email, you are basing your time off of other people’s priorities.
  2. You shouldn’t need to look at your email all the time, that is the VAs job.
  3. You only see what you need to see.
  4. Pick a regular schedule once or twice a day that you look at email.
  5. Put email alerts off of your phone and your computer screen-they will distract you.
  6. Put a filter that grabs PR emails by scouring for the phrase “for immediate release”.
  7. Use labels for your email.
    • Based off of Getting Things Done by David Allen.
    • Action-the one you need to look at for sure and respond to.
    • Read/review-things that are nice to know, but you don’t need to respond to them STAT.
    • Waiting for-you’re waiting for a response.
    • Archives-an email you no longer need to see.
    • Someday/maybe-to look at when you have time for it.
    • Receipts folder/travel folder.
  8. There will be a learning process with the VA.

How the VA works with your Calendar

  1. Stephan’s Google Calendar syncs up between his phone and computer and with the changes the VA makes.
  2. The VA must let Stephan know via text or call if there is a new appointment.
  3. Google now automatically syncs flights to your calendar.
  4. Give space between client calls in case any of them run over.
  5. Account for travel time, traffic, and time of day.
  6. Place in your calendar who is calling who, a number, and sometimes even the confirmation email.
  7. Have the login info to your admin email so you can see what is going on if the ball drops.

What is the Goal of Your Day?

  1. Developed by Taki Moore-you should have 3 different types of days to maximize your work on your priority goals.
    • Buffer day-when you accomplish the things you must do like interrupting calls and little annoying tasks.
    • Focus day-focus only on your projects, deliverables, and creativity-like writing the Great American novel.
    • Free day-time for you and your family.
  2. Manager schedule vs. Maker schedule
    • Managers are constantly on the phone and checking in with people.
    • Makers prioritize their own work-have time to be in flow and get creative.
    • Makers do their creative work when they are in their best mental place.
  3. Pomodoro method is helpful too.


  1. It syncs password across all devices and keeps them.
  2. It randomizes passwords for you.
  3. Guard your master password with your life.

3 Lists of Freedom

  • These are the things you should outsource to other people.
  1. What You Don’t Like to Do.
    • Things you simply can’t stand doing.
  2. What you Can’t Do.
    • A technical skill you don’t have.
  3. What you Shouldn’t Do.
    • Simply not the best use of your time.

VAs can do personal work too!

  1. If you are comfortable with it, it frees up a lot of your time for things you love.
  2. Use TaskRabbit for local tasks like furniture assembly.
  3. Elderhelpers.org to help with elderly parents.

The 3 Types of People

  1. Developed by Tony Robbins,
  2. The first type is the Manager.
  3. The second type is the Artist.
  4. The third type is the Entrepreneur.
  5. If you’re trying to fit the life of another, it won’t work.
  6. Stephan delegates most managerial tasks because he is an artist.

3 final tips for hiring a VA

  1. Separate your “to-do” list and your “get to do” list-delegate the things you aren’t excited about or aren’t in the best interest of your career.
  2. Finding a VA you trust is crucial.
  3. Allow yourself to let go of some of the control you have over your company-you don’t want to be a micromanager.


Links And Resources Mentioned






Call Recorder

1 Password


Get Optimized!

1. Start looking for a VA-either through a VA service, or put up an ad on Craigslist.

2. Put a riddle in the job posting that applicants must answer-if they don’t answer it, dump their application.

3. Get your VA to manage your email so your email doesn’t manage you. Use folders to know exactly what is the highest priority when you access your email.

Thank You For Listening!

As always, thank you for tuning in. Please feel free to drop by the website to contact me or leave a comment. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it!

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