EPAA Member Interview with Kate

Last week, our director and franchisor, Kate Chastey was delighted to join EPAA’s CEO Victoria Wratten, as she continued to interview members and find out how they came into the PA profession.

In this engaging hour-long interview, Victoria asked Kate about her career journey and for her top tips for anyone looking to have a career in executive and business support – particularly freelance.

Kate found her love for being a PA at just 16. She did a work experience shadowing Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s PA and found the variety and scope so interesting. After doing her degree and an early career in the advertising industry, Kate met a lady that changed the course of her life forever. Sarah Howells run a small business called The Passionate PA and Kate, excited by what the freelance word might have to offer, joined Sarah in February 2010.

Very soon after however, Kate found herself at the helm of the business – alone and way out of her comfort zone. She spent four years learning how to be a successful freelance PA and building the business into a successful brand in its own right. In the last decade she has worked alongside all sorts of business owners from tech start-ups to global business and the thrill of business growth, even today, is what gets her up in the morning.

In 2015 Kate decided she wanted to help other talented, determined and positive individuals build their own successful careers as freelance PAs and so franchised the business.

Her role now is to lead The Passionate PA, helping her small but incredible team of franchisees in their work with entrepreneurs. It’s a varied role, one where Kate gets to fulfil her passion for business, people, creativity and entrepreneurship in equal measure.

Kate’s dedicated to helping others understand the freelance PA role in today’s business world and loves nothing more than assisting others on their journey to a fulfilled and happy career.

About EPAA

Founded in 2016 to bring together a range of business support professionals and support them through a period of industry upheaval and transition, EPAA has now become the go-to organisation for EA/PA professionals in a diverse range of roles, all of whom provide invaluable support essential to the day-to-day running of any and every successful business.

The work of EPAA isn’t just for our members, but for the EA/PA professional community as a whole. EPAA strive to establish and maintain the sustainability and longevity of the profession in UK and international business and continue to help build a diverse and technologically proficient workforce that has the capacity to endure these turbulent times for the EA/PA profession.

Kate has been a Fellow Member since April 2020.

Learn more about the Association and their work here.


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Is now a good time to become a freelancer?

This is a question I’m being asked a lot right now by people interested in becoming a Passionate PA, but also by skilled individuals who have toyed with the idea of “going freelance” for many years and are just looking for some advice. I’ve also had a few calls recently with people who have already embarked on their freelance journey but are finding it tough.

I have a few friends who are facing redundancy at this time too, and having shared my personal journey to some extent, they are wondering whether the freelance lifestyle is for them. They’ve seen me enjoying all the advantages of being my own boss, of working with great clients and of building the business of my dreams – something I never thought possible ten years ago!

So, when is the perfect time?

When I embarked on my freelance journey, I was 26, newly married with a wealth of skills and bucketloads of hope.

However, the UK was in recession, I had a massive mortgage and very fragile self-confidence due to countless bosses who had no idea what great people management really was. I was also dealing with the grief of losing the woman who set up The Passionate PA; my anchor, mentor and friend. (Read that story here).

My timing was NOT perfect.

But when would it have been? When my husband and I had six months’ money in the bank? When the economy had recovered? When I’d got over my grief? When I’d found my professional confidence?

Ha… the irony here is that my journey to becoming a successful freelancer ‘fixed’ all of this (except of course the economy – I cannot take credit for that!). Becoming a Passionate PA gave me choices like never before, developed my self-confidence, helped me recover from losing Sarah and paid really well. The recession was actually a good thing too because as my client-base recovered from the recession, they preferred to outsource rather than employ.

So, Top Tip Number 1 is to understand there is no such thing as perfect timing – it’s more about YOU and the commitment you have to yourself. When that is ‘perfect’, then the timing is right.

Top Tips for Freelancers

The rest of my Top Tips for freelance success go a little something like this:

🌟 Top Tip Number 2: Identify your personal goals and be crystal clear with what success REALLY looks like to you.

🌟 Top Tip Number 3: Be prepared to work hard – really hard. You may have great skills, but it takes real dedication to find the people who want to buy those skills. I urge all new freelancers to plan for the long haul and understand it takes time, effort and energy to build a successful business.

🌟 Top Tip Number 4: Define what your ideal client looks like and try to connect with them, and only them. Now, I know this is a bit radical, but no one else actually matters. You can have 500 followers on your business Facebook page, but it means absolutely nothing if they are just your family and friends… sure they might refer business to you, but your efforts are far better spent on targeted marketing approaches.

🌟 Top Tip Number 5: Know your value proposition (that’s what you offer, why and who to), and talk about it with total confidence! Know your personal USP too. 

🌟 Top Tip Number 6: Do not work for free, ever. Don’t barter, pimp yourself out or sell your soul to the devil no matter how hard it gets. The minute you start doing this, you undervalue yourself, your skill set and everyone else trying to make a decent living from freelancing. If there’s a problem getting clients, I’d wager it’s not price holding them back…

🌟 Top Tip Number 7: Distinguish yourself from your competition; keep an eye on them but don’t emulate them. While imitation can be flattering, in business, it is just plain rude to copy. 

🌟 Top Tip Number 8: Get to grips with the legals, finances and marketing on day one, particularly cashflow forecasting, insurances and GDPR.

🌟 Top Tip Number 9: Find a mentor that has been there and done it successfully for years (and years, and years, and years!). Momentary success is easy, sustaining a profitable, fulfilling business in the long-term is the real artform. Plus, try not to take business advice from your mum, partner, best friend etc unless they really are an accomplished business owner themselves.

🌟 Top Tip Number 10: Don’t have a plan B. Go all in like your life depends on it. If you have a plan B, you’ll waste valuable time thinking and planning for that and inevitably, your plan B will become Your Plan.

You know what, I could keep writing… There’s so much to say about how to manage your own mental health and keep a positive mindset as a freelancer. There are whole blogs I could write about how a successful freelancer must transition from an employee mindset to a business owner’s one.

Anybody who knows me well will know that one of my favourite words in the whole world is CONSISTENCY. I genuinely believe that my ability to remain consistent with clients, my business and the external world has been pivotal to my success.

There are so many more lessons I could share. I’m truly passionate about helping skilled individuals create rewarding and sustainable businesses as freelance PAs. That’s my role at The Passionate PA; franchisor, mentor, marketeer, rainmaker, a shoulder to cry on… a problem shared and all that! With my franchisees, I go through it all with them, right by their side and make sure they don’t fall over at any of the hurdles. If you are thinking about becoming a freelance PA and would love the support on offer here, book a call today.

If what you’ve read here has spurred you on to go it alone as a freelancer with your unique skills, then awesome! I wish you all the luck in the world for the next chapter of your career. Keep positive and remain consistent.

Kate x

Kate Chastey is ‘chief’ Passionate PA; a truly experienced and successful freelancer. Having run The Passionate PA since 2010 and been through all the highs and lows, it’s fair to say there’s not much she doesn’t know about building a small business in the UK. She is also franchisor of The Passionate PA brand. More information about Kate can be found here, or joining our franchise, here

Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Why I chose franchising…

Recently, The Times newspaper did a double page spread on the strength of the franchising industry in the UK, with a lead story about how women are thriving in this arena. 

Kate Chastey is the lady behind the growth of The Passionate PA. In this blog she shares why franchising is right for us.

Well, I guess myself and The Passionate PA are proof of that!  

But, unlike the huge brands The Times talked about, such as TaxAssist Accountants, ActionCoachUK, Subway and Wiltshire Farm Foods, my journey into franchising, along with my vision for the future, is quite unique.

The Passionate PA is a labour of love for me. If you’ve taken a peek at Our Story on our website you’ll know this was not really how it was meant to be. Our founder, Sarah Howells, started The Passionate PA over 12 years ago after realising she wanted to be her own boss. She set out to change her own career because she could see small businesses would buy pockets of time and skills from her. She was well ahead of the current Virtual Assistant trend, and definitely one of the first to recognise that branding and networking really matter! 

I met Sarah in 2009 when she had developed the business to a ‘busy’ point. She wanted another Passionate PA with complementary skills to hers, and so together our plan was to take Dorset by storm (that’s where I lived back then). She was the career PA, I was the marketing PA; we believed clients would love the double act.

I would never have jumped off my own corporate career ladder without Sarah holding my hand (insert “giving me a push!!”). But, she was proof that being a freelance PA could be rewarding, and as I was only 26 at the time, risk was something I still felt pretty comfortable with. With the support of my husband, I quit my well-paid, sensible job in marketing (which I did love to some degree), in order to experience something new. I was to be self-employed but under the wing of someone who’d been doing it for over a year, and could sell ice to Eskimos! 

What could possibly go wrong…? 

Cancer. Sarah lost her battle with Cancer just 16 days after I officially joined The Passionate PA in Feb 2010. So, in amongst all that grief and sadness, I was left to run, market and build a brilliant business that I felt had only really been brilliant because of Sarah and everything she was. 

This was one of the lowest points in my life. I was 26, knew absolutely nothing about running my own business and knew even less about being a freelance PA; in fact, I hadn’t even had ‘PA’ as a proper job title before! Panic set in and a pretty turbulent four years followed. Throughout all the personal doubt though, I managed to find amazing clients, deliver exceptional work for them and make decent money, so something was working, it just took we a while to pin down exactly what! 

Throughout those early years, freelance PAs and VAs were be-friending me all the time with the goal of getting to know what it was I was doing so differently. In honesty, I didn’t really know – I was just doing what I thought was right with a keen eye on client happiness and my own profitability. Looking back now, this was a period that shaped me and my life hugely. At the time it just felt like a constant rollercoaster ride of building a business, filling Sarah’s shoes and wondering what the hell the future had in store. But, my knowledge and confidence developed – and so did my vision. 

If the early days of being a Passionate PA taught me anything, it’s that every so often, we all need someone to hold our hand. I would never have set up my own business without Sarah’s initial push and a recognised brand to hang my hopes on. I would never have continued that journey without the unwavering support of my husband and the Dorset business community.  

And that, in a nutshell, is exactly why I franchised The Passionate PA. I wanted to give other people the opportunity to be brave in setting up their own business, with me holding their hand. I love helping others identify their truly valuable skills and experiences and working with them in a partnership to shape a business that empowers them and delivers financial rewards and personal fulfilment. 

Franchising isn’t an easy option. It’s scary at times, can be incredibly lonely as a franchisor without a head office team, and obviously it needs pretty deep pockets to create a business worthy of investment from franchisees. But, there are so many advantages! It suits my life goal, which is not to manage people through employment, but to help them develop themselves to be the best they can be. Franchising enables me to create partnerships with each of my franchisees – and for them, there is complete clarity on what they are investing in and what they will receive in return. 

All of my future growth plans revolve very much around my chosen lifestyle on Dartmoor – the house of my dreams with 2.5 acres and a life full of family, fur babies and baking. Unlike the global franchises of this world, I don’t want an empire with a huge head office team and all the associated stress and cost that goes with that. I’m committed to spending my working life helping honest, passionate and skilled individuals create businesses they love under The Passionate PA’s brand. I am building a team of freelance PAs that are unrivalled in terms of skills, outlook and team spirit. It’s that simple. 

There are so many ambitious business owners out there that need/want a Passionate PA and relish the fact that we are very different from the option of employing a PA or Project Manager, or in some instances, using an alternative freelancer. The power in The Passionate PA comes from our team – together we can tackle just about ANYTHING a business owner needs, due to the variety of skills, knowledge and experience within our growing team, and our little black book of contacts full of experts in their field. That is added value and clients love it!

Being a freelance PA wasn’t what I dreamed of when I was a child, but running a business certainly was. Franchising wasn’t part of my plan when I left employment, but because it gives me and the franchisees a partnership where both are responsible for our success, it has always felt so right. 

Happy clients! Happy Passionate PAs! Profitable businesses! It all makes my heart skip a beat. 

Having built a great platform to franchise from, I am now committed to growing the brand and business at a pace that I am comfortable with, together with a clear focus on delivering exceptional value to the team as it grows. I will only grant franchise territories to those that share my passion and vision. It’s incredibly exciting to have finally defined what success looks like to me, and be well on the path to achieving that.

Further blogs from The Passionate PA: