Connie Zabala – From Corporate to Remote Work

By , April 27, 2020
From Corporate to Working Remotely

With years of experience in corporate offices, and 2-hour commute times each way to and from work, Connie dreamed of an opportunity to work remotely – like many of us.

The reality of having such a lack of freedom really hit home when her sister in Singapore had invited her to come on an all-expenses-paid visit.  Connie couldn’t get approval for the 25-day vacation because the company she worked for thought she would look for a job in Singapore and wouldn’t return.  Between the office politics, the inability to get approval for time off, and 4-hours a day wasted on the road to and from work, it was clear that a change needed to be made.

In May of 2011 Connie was really introduced to the idea of remote work during a live event she attended by a mentor she subscribed to, who teaches others how to work remotely.  The process she began then was challenging.  But she followed the assignments, and eventually built a profile online.

As a single mom, Connie knew she needed consistent income.  Jumping into remote work wasn’t an option with a priority of supporting her family. So even after she created an online presence, she continued in corporate work.

However, just a few short months later, in October 2011, Connie was laid off, forcing her to focus on working from home for income.  With the efforts Connie had learned from her mentor, she was able to lock in her first client, found through a Facebook group, in a Virtual Assistant role which lasted 2-years.

The biggest challenge Connie faced during her transition into remote work was her ability to connect with and talk to anyone about what she was doing, even family.  No one understood what she was doing.  And in the Philippines at this time, working remotely wasn’t generally accepted or popular.  It began to get lonely and she says an app like Mocha is something she really looks forward to!

In addition, there was the struggle of a limiting mindset holding her back.  She wondered if it was a stable job and if it would provide for her family.  But counter thoughts around going back to a corporate position prevented her from quitting her dream.

Even though most of the time Connie works from her bedroom, over time she learned that she could work from anywhere as long as there was a good internet connection and she had her laptop.  She began sometimes working in cafes, co-working spaces, and travel spots.

After 2-years with her first client, Connie continued to find clients to support herself and her daughter.  The biggest challenge she’s faced working remotely has been the consistency of finding clients.  Connie confesses that if the budget would permit, she’d have hired someone to find clients for her so she wouldn’t have to worry about that.  “We still have that mindset of being employed.  When we have a client we aren’t worried.  But as soon as that client finishes, we are needing to find a new one.”  As many freelancers do, Connie digresses that she finds most of her clients from connecting with other people.  There’s an importance to keeping an online freelance community or network.

Now with nearly 10-years of remote work experience, Connie is focusing on creating content more than providing services.  She runs her own YouTube channel, The Virtual Assistant Industry, in addition to virtual assistance.  She’s enjoying her morning routine before starting work, and the flexibility of scheduling her days.  “I can choose what I really want to focus on.  The freedom of time is really valuable.  When my family needs me I can give my time to them without asking for permission or anything.”

When asked what advice she’d give to anyone starting or in their journey to remote work, she shares that she wishes she had made the transition sooner.  “I wouldn’t have surrounded myself with the mindset that I had to finish college to get a good job.  Because working remotely doesn’t need a degree.  It’s about providing the best service to your clients, it doesn’t mean you need to give them your diploma.  Knowing that we can work online or remotely, studying college isn’t necessary.  If that’s your path then great.  But if you want to work remotely, it’s not necessary.  For me, the best education you can get is from experience.”

Connie goes on to share that the best thing anyone who’s thinking of working remotely can do, is to pick the brain of others who have experience and to get a mentor from the very beginning if possible.  “Ask yourself Why you’re choosing to work remotely, rather than how.  Because the reason you’re working remotely will likely help you push through the challenges – because there will be challenges.”  Changing her mindset through the help of a mentor and community that has the same mindset, was a real game-changer for Connie over the past year.


YouTube Channel:  The Virtual Assistant Industry