Across Continents: How Two Virtual Assistants Keep It Professional and Fun

Jul 1, 2024 | About Me



In a delightful conversation with Shirley and Denise, two highly regarded virtual assistants who’ve successfully maintained a professional and friendly relationship across continents, they share some hilarious and insightful moments from their collaboration. From the amusing incident when a long-awaited call seemed perpetually doomed to be interrupted, to their mutual admiration for each other’s skills and humour, their partnership is a testament to the power of camaraderie and effective communication.

One particularly funny story involves Shirley promising to set up a hilarious challenge to catch Denise out with a bogus client task, testing if she can spot the fake one among real tasks. Their relationship thrives on a blend of humour, honesty, and mutual respect, demonstrating how a shared sense of humour and clear communication can bridge the distance between the UK and Canada.


Q1 – What’s the funniest or most embarrassing thing that’s happened during your time working together?

Shirley – Oh this has to be when my lovely parents turned up when Denise and I had our long overdue call that had been planned for weeks!

I’d told them I’d be busy but especially “from 3:30pm onwards”. My jaw dropped when at 3:25pm their car appeared! I opened the door and they started to walk in, and of course they were welcome but I was like “No!”. I think they had thought I’d be “less busy”. 

I wanted to assure Denise I was not spinning a yarn (Denise LOVES the English lingo!). I NEVER WANT TO BE ONE OF THOSE CLIENTS! 

I eventually explained to them “my VA in Canada and I had a call planned”. They were so impressed I had a VA in Canada; so downed their cuppa because they could see me anytime, but Denise is in Canada! We still managed a quick call but was short and sweet. The joy in working from home!

Denise – I remember this – and I remember thinking, “We are NEVER going to have this chat!” – and we desperately needed it *laughing*” I didn’t know your parents were so impressed with you having a Canadian VA! That’s funny – and now I have to go Google ‘spinning a yarn’!


Q2 – How have you maintained such a great working relationship over 4 years despite being in different countries?

Denise –  A sense of humour makes the world go ‘round! Seriously though, Shirley and I began our businesses in the same year, we were in the same Facebook groups and knew a lot of the same VAs. We were definitely friends first, so when she asked me for support, I was a bit hesitant – I didn’t want it to botch our friendship – I value Shirley and her friendship too much to risk that. But we discussed everything honestly and have miraculously kept our relationship both friendly and professional throughout the years – it’s always been such a good balance. I don’t have this kind of relationship with any other client, so I feel VERY lucky.

Shirley – Denise puts up with me! I don’t try to be anything but honest so she’s been through the good, bad and ugly with me! Sometimes my home life is so hectic as well as work life , I think of asking her to manage my personal life (emails, appointments, reminders, utilities etc), just to keep the plates spinning! I often wonder what else Denise can do because I know she’ll make my life easier! Can she remotely manage 3 teens and 2 dogs, I wonder. What is her superhero power?

When I first asked Denise to help support me, she was already supporting some of the entrepreneurs leading this huge VA group and its founder. I was so nervous asking for her help because I thought Denise would decline – I thought she was out of my VA league! She’s amazing. But we had a lovely friendship and a small group of us got on great; but Denise was so professional, sharp witted, dry humoured and supportive. I’m so glad she took a chance to help me in business and I think we have this great balance of friendship and work. 

We also sound eachother out both professionally and personally, it’s a great balance and just works! I’m not sure how Denise puts up with me but I’m incredibly glad she does! I think I annoy her loads because I do go underground for days and pop up randomly with work, and disappear again!

Q3 – What’s the biggest misconception people have about being a virtual assistant?

Denise – Oh the list… Definitely pjs and bunny slippers – although I admit, in the winter, that’s pretty much my standard uniform *laughing* Oh, and that we’re home all day with our feet up, just waiting for a friend or family member to pop by, or ask us to do something for them, since ‘we’re home all day’ *rolling eyes*

Shirley – The assumption was… if you’re home you’re available! That’s less of an assumption nowadays than it was pre-pandemic, as the world has embraced home working so much more since, but even now, people assume you’re free for a quick coffee, or to run an errand… or chilling! I’m sure Denise thinks I’m chilling… it’s the way she signs off emails “I know you’re super busy!” and sometimes I think she’s sending me a subliminal message that actually means “I know you’re so NOT busy!”.  Anyway I heard some weirdos wear bunny slippers and work in their pj’s…

Denise – That’s not true *laughing* – I assume you’re ALWAYS busy – what, with those three kids and two dogs, who wouldn’t be busy?

Q4 – If you could swap places for a day, what tasks would you want to try from the other person’s role?

Shirley – Designing Canva slides! Denise won’t know this but I LOVE doing them! I think I’m great at this but because I’d spend all day faffing and playing if doing my own, so Denise is brilliant at this and saves me time that I could be spent on client work! I also wish I could work social media scheduling as well, because with some really good investment in Denise’s time and skills, it now manages itself and we just keep it updated. I say “we”; I don’t need to anymore; I have Denise.

Denise – I had no idea you loved it that much! Interesting to know 😉

Shirley – It is probably something I should actually shout about as a service because actually, I can’t keep you all to myself – even though I love Canva, I would highly recommend you to my clients.  

Denise – Thank you so much!


Q5 – What’s your favourite part about the work you do together? What’s the most rewarding aspect?

Denise – So, I perform two different types of tasks, in general, for Shirley. I support her with her transcription work, preparing it as much as possible so that she can hit the ground running with her proofreading. The other involves marketing her business on social media. I enjoy both, if I’m being honest! I love the variety in both the types of tasks they are, but also the fact that there is a tighter deadline with the transcription (because her clients need this completed ASAP), but the easy-going nature of the social media work… well, I’m not sure Shirley would say it’s easy-going, but I just feel like there’s less pressure because that’s the type of work that seems to come more naturally to me.

Shirley – Initially, Denise’s help was in the form of implementing all my social media strategy material on an Excel spreadsheet – onto social media! I had a plan, a strategy but not really the skills to plan it all out onto the platforms as well as Denise. 

Denise took about 100 of my posts and brought them to life in social media! Not only this, but Denise has helped me with vast amounts of digital transcription prep/process which had very tight timescales. 

Events are more exciting… I had a second garden dome event business for a year, and Denise did all the brilliant social media project work on this too!

If I need website updates, I ask Denise. When I have a social media vision, Denise makes it happen! It makes me want to buy another business so we can collaborate even more! What it shows is Denise’s versatility with skills, adaptation and passion to help. I can’t imagine not having Denise. I wish my office had a “Denise” not Alexa, but given the time difference I don’t think Denise would appreciate this!

Denise – SUCH PRAISE – thank you! You make me sound as awesome as Donna from the show Suits (I adore her!)

Shirley – I have no idea who you are talking about as I have NEVER watched Suits (!) but you’re more than welcome.

Q6 – If you had to describe your working relationship using a famous duo or pair, who would it be and why?

Denise – *laughing* OMG – Lucy and Ethel at times… We could SO be on the candy assembly line together! The sarcasm and humour we get to enjoy in our relationship is so awesome. Although she tends to stump me on the regular with British slang, I have a deep appreciation for her dry sense of humour and perfectly-timed zingers… which both Lucy AND Ethel were known for.

Shirley – Oh goodness I’ve not heard those names in so long and just watched a clip – hysterical! Yes, that would sum up the working relationship . Imagine the fun, the chaos, the spats! Denise keeps me in line so much she’d definitely be the one on the left but I’m too scared to tell her which of the two!! Let’s just say I always thought Lucy the bossiest (or to put a diplomatic spin on it… assertive ).

Denise – I am definitely assertive – but I’d like to think it’s in a professional, ‘let’s get this done’ way!

Shirley – Exactly this.


Q7 – What’s the most ridiculous or outrageous request a client has ever asked one of you to fulfil?

Denise – This was before I was working with Shirley – I was actually an associate for another VA at the time, and one of her clients had a line of sex toys and personal.. um… products. I was asked to write some social media captions for the products, and I completely ACED the assignment. I wrote several tongue-in-cheek captions that I thought were brilliant. Unfortunately, I never did get feedback and the client was going through a lot of personal stuff at the time, so I’m not sure she even saw them, in the end. But it was a fun project to work on!

Shirley – Nothing very exciting; a client once wanted me to reflect his entire dropbox folder and file history in an Excel spreadsheet.  1200 files, 90+ columns later, I think the client realised the enormity of the task didn’t benefit him to continue so we stopped only half way!

I wish I’d been asked to write captions for sex toys! Actually… it makes me want to set Denise up with some hilarious tasks and see if she can spot the fake one. I feel a challenge coming on…

Denise – Ugh, Dropbox sucks – I can’t believe you still use it *shaking head*. Challenge accepted, though – you know I’ll ace it!

Shirley – This will be so much fun, and I know you will smell a rat… (you know that expression, right?).


Q8 – What’s the weirdest place you’ve had to work from while assisting each other remotely?

Denise – I don’t think I have any funny stories about this one – I am usually home while working, but may have answered emails or texts while lounging in the sunshine in my backyard… but that’s the extent of it. I think I should set some new goals for myself *laughing*

Shirley – I agree, I have no funny stories about this one. There was however a time when I was on a video call with a client and the sound dropped and he couldn’t hear me. He texted to say he would retry in 10 minutes. In that time I proceeded to chat to the kids, fuss the dogs and re-apply my makeup at my desk. When we reconnected, he pranked me that my camera had still been on!  Honestly, 1001 flashbacks went through my mind trying to recall what I had been doing!

Denise – Oh my goodness, that’s hilarious!!!

Q9 – If you formed a virtual assistant superhero crime-fighting duo, what would your superhero names and powers be?

Shirley – I think Denise would be Spider Girl because no matter where I am or what I am doing – Denise has this ability to reach me and pull me back into focusing and holding me accountable – it’s like she has that web shooter thread thing from her fingers! Her design and creativity is pretty cool too (web-like *laughing*), so that would be a cool superhero. 

I would like to think I am like Wonder Woman! I don’t need a fancy suit of armour or special superpowers.  I have my wit, training and superb intelligence to make things happen and get the job done (I lifted this from an extract btw). Thank goodness she doesn’t need that fancy suit because I sure as heck couldn’t get into that anymore.

Denise – I aspire to be like Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow). She’s so bad-ass and just wants to deliver results. Of course, physically, there’s absolutely no competing with Scarlett Johansson – she’s just gorgeous, but I like to think I’ve adopted a similar kick-ass attitude. I’m not opposed to Spidergirl, though – those attributes would be handy for listening in on conversations during failed audio during Shirley’s Zoom calls… *laughing*

Q10 – What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about each other’s cultures or home countries?

Denise – Definitely that Brits assume Canadians have accents when we ALL know it’s the Brits who have the accent – and that Shirley’s kids are so interested in the fact that she knows someone in Canada. I had no idea it was that big a deal *laughing*!

Shirley – The first time I heard about “bangs”. No – it’s fringe!  Who thought up “bangs?”. Denise loves to travel and I so enjoy seeing all the camping and lakes in her photos; Canada seems absolutely vast.  Denise’s accent is fantastic and makes my British accent sound so, so dull.  Yes, the kids think it’s pretty cool to have a Canadian VA! 

Actually, some of my clients have remarked how shocked they are to learn that I have my VA is Canadian – and even more shocked that I have a VA! “A VA with a VA?”. Yes! I am a business owner and I need help!   

I wish I had worked with Denise years earlier. Denise also refers to her back garden as a yard. I can’t quite get to grips with that – my Auntie in Liverpool used to have a backyard with an out house, off a back alleyway. Denise – you have a GARDEN!!! Actually we need to have a virtual coffee soon… in our respective gardens…

Denise – I would love that… iced coffee, sunshine and a British accent 😉

In conclusion, Shirley and Denise’s partnership shows that humour, honesty, and respect are key to a successful virtual assistant relationship. Their story proves that strong communication and shared laughter can bridge any distance, offering valuable insights for VAs and clients alike.

Some of The Tools I Use

Asana, Adobe Pro DC, Buffer, Canva, Dropbox, Evernote, Gmail Calendar, Microsoft Office (Word, Powerpoint, Excel, OneDrive), Hootsuite

Invoicely, LastPass, Linkedin, Outlook, RecurPost, Twitter, Facebook, Lumen5, SmarterQueue, SurveyMonkey, Todoist, Toggl, Trello, WeTransfer.