Episode 28: Salma Burney – How To Work Off The Grid And Love It

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Gold Nuggets

  • Juliet loves the part of the show when Steve calls her the Smarter Woman.
  • “Do what you do best. Outsource the rest.”
  • You’re not in competition with others in your industry.

    “We work together. We’re not in competition. I can only help so many people, and another person can only help so many people.”
  • You don’t have to use a Virtual Assistant every day, or even every week.

    “That’s the nice thing about a Virtual Assistant – it’s when you need them.”
  • “It’ll be better to have a Canadian Virtual Assistant, because they’ll understand the culture, they understand how corporations work here in Canada. An Indian VA, even though they may be cheaper, you’re still going to have to train them on some of the subtleties of your corporation, the culture, and other things.”
  • Salma was able to go on an extended road trip, while keeping her clients and working with them virtually.

    “For one of my clients, he was looking to hire a warehouse person, so I did interviews with people on my phone while I was on the beach in Texas.”
  • Somehow, Salma and her husband were able to buy a 50-acre property, with a 100-year old farmhouse, for $40,000.
  • There are things that every entrepreneur should consider outsourcing.
    1. “The first thing you should outsource is your bookkeeping.”
    2. Social Media.
    3. Email management. “Sometimes you have a lot of email, and if you give them access to your email, they could tidy it up for you.”
  • “Entrepreneurs tend to want to put things out when they’re perfect. Just do it, and if there’s a mistake, you can always update stuff. Nothing is ever perfect. Our stuff is imperfect, and it’s always a work in progress.”
  • “Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”

Meet Salma Burney

Our guest is Salma Burney, Virtual Assistant, Computer Instructor, Social Media Coach, and founder of Virtual Girl Friday. While VAs in general have only recently become more widely recognized, Salma has been working as a VA for the past 16 years, with clients in industries including Business Development, Goods Distribution, Graphic Design, Literature, Nutrition, and Industrial Safety, to name a few.

Smart Man, Smarter Woman References

We talk about a lot in each episode; however, we don’t want you to miss a thing! Here are some key items were mentioned if you want to take a closer look.

Website Recommendations:
Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants Group – https://ghva.ca/
Canadian Association of Virtual Assistants – https://canadianava.org/

Book Recommendation:
Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth, By T. Harv Eker

Stay Connected:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/salmaburney
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalmaVGF
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VirtualGirlFri
LinkedIn: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/salmaburney
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/SBFifi

Learn more about our Cloud Accounting Services here


Steve Loates (00:00):

Hi everyone. And welcome back again to the podcast, Smart Man, Smarter Woman, a podcast for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs. And thank you very much for joining us again today. I am Steve Loates.

Juliet Aurora (00:15):

And I am Juliet Aurora.

Steve Loates (00:16):

And we are your co-hosts. And before we get to today’s guest, let’s hear from my wonderful cohost, that smarter woman herself. And I know she loves this part where I have to call her that smarter woman herself. So it’s always, see this big smile on her face, which you guys can’t see when I say that, but how are you doing today, Juliet?

Juliet Aurora (00:38):

I am excellent, thank you. I’ve had a really productive day. Knocking things off my to-do list and moving things forward, so I always feel better when I’ve had a really productive day. And I think that today’s conversation is going to be perfect for that as we try and help our audience of entrepreneurs get more accomplished in their business. So I think it worked out to be a perfect segue for it.

Steve Loates (01:04):

Absolutely. And I think we have a great show for you today. We have a special guest with us, Salma Burney, and she is a Virtual Girl Friday. And we’re going to talk a little bit about that as to exactly what a Virtual Girl Friday does. And I understand she also does a little bit of a social media coaching, maybe she does a lot of social media coaching, I’m sure we’ll find out, and is also a computer instructor. So lots and lots of things to keep her very busy. So let’s bring Salma into the show. Welcome Salma, and thank you for joining us today, all the way from New Brunswick on the east coast of Canada.

Salma Burney (01:46):

Thank you, Steve. Thank you, Juliet. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Steve Loates (01:50):

We’re really glad you could be here. I’m looking forward to our chat. I was actually introduced to Salma through a mutual acquaintance that we have, who was also one of the very first guests on our podcast many, many weeks ago, Mr. Dan Holstein. And when Dan was talking to me about Salma, he said, “Salma has been on an really interesting adventure this past year in terms of her business and travel and being off the grid, and would be a great guest for the podcast.” So no pressure here, Salma, but Dan said you were going to be a great guest for the podcast. So those are his words, not mine, but why don’t we get started? Perhaps if you could tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and who are you helping with what you do?

Salma Burney (02:43):

Well, I am what they call a virtual assistant. So a virtual assistant is someone who assists busy entrepreneurs, solo entrepreneurs with different tasks that they don’t have time for. So my tagline for my business, and my business name is Virtual Girl Friday, is do what you do best, outsource the rest. So by having that kind of tagline, people go, “Oh yeah, you know what? I don’t want to spend four hours learning how to make a Facebook business page. Let me give it to someone else who could do it in one hour. And then I can do what I enjoy to do.” We do that with our accounting, right? No one likes their bookkeeping or doing their taxes, but we give it to our accountants because they can do it fast. And we can do the other stuff and we just give them the check or hope for the refund.

Steve Loates (03:37):

That’s very good. And I love that tagline.

Juliet Aurora (03:41):

No, it is. And it’s true. I mean, business owners are told that over and over and over again, to focus on the things that they do best. And it’s so difficult for them because when they are just starting out, they are wearing eight, 10, 12 different hats. They’re the marketing person, the janitor, the sales person, the product development person. They’re having to do all of it. And as they grow and as they want to grow, they actually have to learn how to separate that.

Salma Burney (04:14):


Juliet Aurora (04:14):

So I think that it absolutely is true to focus on what you do best, but it’s so difficult. I’m completely guilty of it. I will confess I’m completely guilty of it. And I still am even 20 years, after being in business for 20 years. So to hopefully I’m going to get some great advice here to be able to take some more things off my plate.

Salma Burney (04:36):

And I agree with you, Juliet. And I have clients who go, “Oh, I have so many things that needs to be done,” but it’s like they’re holding the reins. They just can’t let go. And us as entrepreneurs, we think, “Oh, you know what, no one else can do it as good as me. So why am I going to give it?” Or, “I’m going to spend more time telling the person how to do it, and by that time I could have done it myself.” So that’s where hiring a virtual assistant, and hiring one, and then you interview them to see if you have a good match. One, you want to have a good personality match and also skill match. Are there skills matching what you’re needing? And sometimes I’ll interview a potential client, and I just don’t feel the connection. I’m not interested in their business, or I don’t have that background, and I’ll tell them, “I’m sorry. I don’t think we’re a great fit. However, I do know someone else who might be a great fit for you.”

Salma Burney (05:40):

So I try not to leave anyone high and dry. I will pass them on to my other virtual assistant colleagues. Someone else that is in the niche. I am someone who’s in a niche for the database. So if someone wants databases, they go there. And my VAs, but other VA’s that I know, they know if somebody needs help with computer instruction or they just want their hand hold and they want to walk through how to do their LinkedIn profile, then they’ll send them to me. So we work together. We’re not in competition because I can only help so many people. And another person can only help so many people.

Juliet Aurora (06:23):

I love that. I love that attitude, that you’re not in competition with others in your industry. We’re the same way that if it’s someone that isn’t a good fit for us, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, or they’re a bad business. It’s just, it doesn’t fit. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And to be able to introduce them to someone that is going to be a better fit for them, it’s a win-win all the way around. So I love that, that attitude. And you don’t see that all the time amongst business owners.

Salma Burney (06:54):

No, a lot of owners, they won’t collaborate or go, “You know what? I’m too busy, but I know this person has space for you.” And there’s nothing wrong with it. I find when I do that, people are very grateful for that, because imagine if you went to a store and they didn’t have what you had and they just left you and you’d be like, “Well, where can I go?” “I don’t care.” That’s not a nice attitude. It’s that whole karma thing.

Juliet Aurora (07:22):


Steve Loates (07:24):

For sure. In your experience, and maybe it’s a tough question to answer, I don’t know. When should an entrepreneur consider hiring a virtual assistant?

Salma Burney (07:38):

That’s a good question. It all varies. It could be you know that you’re going to be swamped and you won’t be able to commit time to a project. You also have to have the money. You have to see the investment. I mean, I was talking to actually a new client today and I explained that, yes, my fee is a certain price per hour, but you know what? If you were a lawyer, you would charge $150 an hour. So your time is worth $150 an hour. And if you suddenly needed to, “Oh, you know what? I got to design a PowerPoint presentation,” and it’s going to take you four hours. There’s four hours on your billable time. You can’t bill anybody. You give it to someone like myself, I can have your PowerPoint done in an hour. And then that’s the only costing you, say, $50 for that hour, but you can actually do your billable work for that $150 at that hour. So you are actually saving time.

Salma Burney (08:40):

So it’s that mindset that time is of an essence and it’s investment. Are you investing in your business, or are you going to invest in yourself? And you can use, for example, I have lots of clients that don’t use me every week. They email me once a month or once every quarter. And that’s totally fine. That’s what the nice thing is about a virtual assistant. It’s when you need them. It’s not having that secretary at your desk going, “Okay, when’s the next project? When am I going to do some work?” I used to have that. I used to work at the corporate level and I’d be finished with my work at 12:30. And then I go around asking the other vice presidents, “Is there anything you need done?” And they say no, and I’m like, “Okay.” I would get tired of surfing the internet, because I can’t leave. I have to be there until 4:30.

Juliet Aurora (09:40):

Excellent. And just as a complete side note, we probably need to get an introduction to Salma’s lawyer, because our lawyer’s $450 an hour, not $150 an hour.

Steve Loates (09:51):

I told you, life’s different on these [crosstalk 00:09:55]. It really is.

Juliet Aurora (09:57):


Steve Loates (09:58):

How would an entrepreneur go about finding a virtual assistant? I mean, did they just go and ask Mr. and Mrs. Google or is there an association, is there an organization? Is there somewhere where they know the people who are there are qualified?

Salma Burney (10:20):

Yeah. Great question. There is actually a few. I belong to a group, when I lived in Hamilton and I’m still part of the group because it’s virtual, it’s called the Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistance group, GHVA, and they have a website and all of us virtual assistants that are on that site, we pay a membership. We are also, we have monthly meetings and we’ve been actually doing them via Zoom, which has been great because I still get to see my friends in Hamilton and we pass business to each other that way too. And actually, the new client that I actually got in today, he found me through the GHVA site, I guess he went to virtual assistance groups and he looked on this website and each of us virtual assistants have our list of what our niches are, what we do. And it has links to our website, our LinkedIn profile, any social media that we want to have.

Salma Burney (11:23):

So that one is a great one. There’s also CAVA, which is the Canadian Association of Virtual Assistants. And they also have a list of Canadian VAs. And then there’s the International Virtual Assistance Association, which is out of the US. So a lot of those are great. You could also go on your LinkedIn and you just type in the word “virtual assist,” and that virtual assistant has put that word enough times in their LinkedIn, they’ll come in. And that way too, you can see who they’re connected with. You can see the recommendations, you can see who they’ve actually worked with, and maybe see, “Okay, she’s done a lot in this industry. Maybe this is someone I can use too.”

Steve Loates (12:12):

Awesome. Talk about ignorance. I never knew there were associations for virtual assistants. I think that’s phenomenal. I think it’s great. I mean, there’s associations for everything else, so why shouldn’t there be? But that’s great. And that’s great advice.

Juliet Aurora (12:33):

Okay. I’m going to jump in with my question while you’re thinking about yours.

Steve Loates (12:36):

Sure. Well, go ahead. I was just thinking how to phrase it. That’s all. Go ahead.

Juliet Aurora (12:41):

Okay. And while you’re thinking how to phrase it, can you tell me, over the last, let’s say three years, businesses have changed a lot for many industries. Has the virtual assistant market, has it changed? Is it more accepted than it used to be? Did it not even exist three years ago? I don’t even know. If you can tell us a little bit about that.

Salma Burney (13:06):

Sure. So I’ve been a virtual assistant for 16 years. And funny enough, when I was starting off, the lady who was actually having a course, she lived in British Columbia, and she was having a teleconference course in how to be a virtual assistant. And I found out about it through the Learning Annex. I don’t know if you remember the Learning Annex, they have those little free little sessions and I was living in Toronto and I went to one. So I took the class and I learned about it and I was like, “Oh, this is great. I can work when I want, I can work at home. I don’t have to do this.” And at the time when I started off, yes, people had no idea about virtual assistance. They were around in the US, but not really big.

Salma Burney (14:00):

Then we started getting bigger and Tim Ferriss has The 4-Hour Workweek. And that’s where he started about the virtual assistant and that got people thinking. I was also one of those virtual assistants that actually is an extrovert. I’m not always behind the screen. I like to be on the other side too. And I’d go to a lot of networking events. So I was actually a BNI member for six years and a BNI ambassador. So I was around a lot of the Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington area. And so by me going around and talking about what a virtual assistant is, it became more aware. Now, a lot of people also think, “Well, what about those VAs you hear in India?” You can get an Indian virtual assistant and it only costs you $5. I’m like, “Okay. You get what you pay for.”

Salma Burney (14:55):

And I try to tell people it would be better to have a Canadian virtual assistant because they’ll understand the culture. They understand how corporations work here in Canada. An Indian VA, even though they might be cheaper, you’re still going to have to train them on some of the subtleties of your corporation, the culture and other things. And if you wanted your VA to come and actually help you at an event, they can’t help you. You’re not going to pay for them to fly out. I’ve done that. I’ve helped clients that have had seminars or conferences, and I’ll actually be at the reception desk for them helping out. So I’m not just virtual, I was actually assisting. So you can’t get that when you’re a virtual assistant from the Philippines or India or overseas.

Juliet Aurora (15:51):

I’ve certainly heard of a lot from the Philippines.

Steve Loates (15:54):

Yeah. Yeah. Now, before we run out of time here, because the time’s flying by, I do want to hear about this journey that Dan talked about. So please share, and I understand this happened right before COVID, but please share a little bit about this travel and being off the grid.

Salma Burney (16:18):

So my husband and I, we left September 1st, 2019 in our travel trailer, which also my husband rigged up with a solar panels so we were off the grid, and we traveled from Hamilton through Quebec, up to Labrador and then across to Newfoundland, and then Nova Scotia, PEI, New Brunswick. And oddly enough, that was one year ago now. And October 16 last year is the first day we went over to Maine. So it’ll be coming up to one year anniversary for us. And then from October 16, 2019 to February 17th, 2020, family day, we traveled on through the eastern seaboard, down to Louisiana, New Orleans, and then stayed in Texas for seven weeks, and then into New Mexico, Arizona, California. And then we traveled back across. And on that journey, so that journey, I also worked. I took all of my clients with me at the same time. And it was great because it was a seamless thing for them because I train them on how to work with me virtually.

Salma Burney (17:41):

And then when I came home, COVID happened. So then we had to work virtually. And then I moved to New Brunswick and I took them along there, and they were totally fine. Now the [inaudible 00:17:54] thing came in when we were halfway through our trip in December, we asked ourselves, “What do we want to do when we come back?” We love this journey, we love the traveling, but we knew we had to come back to Hamilton, but we knew we didn’t want to go to, as they say, the rat race, the grind, the same old everyday work, go home, eat, sleep, rinse and repeat. So we thought about, my husband wanted to be sort of self-sufficient on the land. He’s very much a construction person. He has many facets of his self, being he has an engineer background, but he enjoys construction. And he also had been traveling in a motor home previous before he met me.

Salma Burney (18:42):

So we actually looked somewhere, we looked across Canada to see, where can we get some land that we could build a home or renovate a home and be off the grid? Meaning we are not so self self-sufficient for water, hydro, and electricity, and also heat. So we looked around BC, way too expensive. Ontario, the only place that was really good was way up north in black fly country. And you get maybe five acres for $300,000. We’re like, “Yeah.” And you know how the trip is going. People don’t know, but the cottage country traffic going up, you’d spend more time in traffic just going back and visiting your family. So we’re like, “No.” And then we said, “Okay,” we looked at the Atlantic provinces and my husband has family here in New Brunswick. So we looked in New Brunswick and then he found this piece of land. And it was amazing. It started off with 50 acres with this house that we have as a farm, an old farm house, almost 100 years old. And I’ll tell you the price because people don’t believe it. We got 50 acres for $40,000.

Juliet Aurora (19:59):


Steve Loates (20:00):


Juliet Aurora (20:02):

That’s crazy.

Steve Loates (20:04):


Salma Burney (20:04):

So we’re like, “Okay.” And this is the funny part. We were in Texas when we were looking at this online and we decided to hike all the highest mountains in all the states. So we were hiking the highest mountain in Texas. I get up there and I got a call from the lawyer saying, “Oh, we just have a few questions to finalize, and then you can have the house.” And we’re like, “Okay.” So we always say we bought the house at the top of Texas.

Juliet Aurora (20:38):

That’s very cool. That’s a great story.

Salma Burney (20:41):

Yeah. And his sister did the closing for us. So we had the house, everything was finalized January 15th. And then when we came back, we couldn’t, interestingly, the little backstory on this too is while I was gone, most people don’t realize if you’re going to go for an extended trip, your home insurance is invalid if nobody’s in the house. So I thought, “Well, this is not good.” So I actually Airbnb my house for the whole journey. So I had a property manager who took care of all the Airbnb and our house was Airbnb from September 1st until May 30th. So that’s why we didn’t leave until the beginning of June, because we didn’t have the house, and A, we packed up, got everything, and then drove over to New Brunswick. We’re in a village called Anagance. And if New Brunswick, we’re just between Sussex and Monkton on the highway.

Juliet Aurora (21:49):

That’s very cool.

Steve Loates (21:51):

It’s a great story. And certainly with your role of a virtual assistant, that just fits so nicely with the travel and still being able to do what you need to do when you need to do it.

Salma Burney (22:08):

And I did actually too. While I was on the trip, there were times I was doing computer instruction for, I was contracted for a few for the government of Canada. So one time I did it while I was in Texas, they thought it was in Hamilton. And the other one, I did while I was in New Mexico. And even for one of my clients, he was looking to hire a warehouse person. So I did interviews of people on my phone while I was on the beach down in Texas. And they didn’t know.

Juliet Aurora (22:45):

And they don’t need to know. Right? And that is the whole advantage of building your own business, especially if you can live the way you want to live and still run your business. So now that we’ve got everyone in our audience motivated to want to take their business to the next level so that they can travel for that length of time, let’s help them along on this journey to be able to hire and make use of the resource of a virtual assistant. Can you give our audience maybe three things that they should think about outsourcing?

Salma Burney (23:24):

Okay. First thing you should always outsource is your book keeping. Now, there are VAs that do take care of that, or you can also get an actual bookkeeper. So that’s one, I find for a lot of people that’s tedious. Social media, social media can done by a VA. They can actually send things for you. You set up a calendar, you give them the themes that you’re looking for. And some VA’s are great writers for they’ll actually say, “Okay, just, you do the writing and I’ll make it look pretty. And we’ll put it together.” And when I mean social media, that means your Facebook pages, your LinkedIn, Twitter. And if they’re into emails, MailChimp or constant contact, they can take care of that for you.

Salma Burney (24:17):

And I guess the other thing that would also be good thing to hire out is email management. Sometimes you have a lot of emails, and if you give them access to your email, they could tidy it up for you, sort it. I have one client, I have access to see his email and I control his junk box. So he doesn’t have to worry about things going through the cracks. I’ll go through the junk mail and if there’s something that looks like it needs his attention, I just forward it to him. And then I let him know about it. So those are things that can be done virtually, and don’t need too much. Now, email, there could be sensitive information and you’re just not comfortable doing that. But if you had an email that was, say, info@abc.com or sales, they can take care of answering those emails for you.

Juliet Aurora (25:17):

That’s a great idea.

Steve Loates (25:18):

Right. You’re not going to give us a plug, Juliet, for someone looking for book keeping?

Juliet Aurora (25:23):

Well, you’re the business development person, so go for it.

Steve Loates (25:26):

Okay, is that too self serving? Is that too self serving?

Salma Burney (25:28):

No, no.

Steve Loates (25:31):

But anyway, anyone looking for book keeping, please give us a call, AIS solutions.

Juliet Aurora (25:36):


Steve Loates (25:37):

That brings us, and that was great. Really appreciate that. That brings us to the part of the show where we ask every one of our guests six questions. It is the same six questions for every guest. And if you’re ready, Salma, I’d like to get started on that.

Salma Burney (25:55):

I’m ready.

Steve Loates (25:56):

Perfect. What one word best defines an entrepreneur?

Salma Burney (26:03):


Steve Loates (26:05):

Okay. What profession, other than your own, would you like to do?

Salma Burney (26:12):

I have two. Psychologist or a change agent.

Steve Loates (26:18):


Juliet Aurora (26:19):

Those are both very different.

Steve Loates (26:20):

They are. What profession would you like never to attempt?

Salma Burney (26:26):

Criminal lawyer.

Steve Loates (26:29):

Okay. What sound or noise do you love?

Salma Burney (26:35):

The purring of my cats.

Steve Loates (26:38):

Okay. What book would you recommend every entrepreneur should read?

Salma Burney (26:45):

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by Harv Eker.

Steve Loates (26:50):

Okay. And when your own entrepreneurial journey is completed, what do you hope your legacy is?

Salma Burney (27:00):

I like to make this world a cleaner and better place to live in. And cleaner, meaning, I also have a little issue with garbage and garbage collects other garbage. So some of my friends call me earth girl, because every time we’d go on a hike or somewhere, I have a bag. And I’m always cleaning up.

Steve Loates (27:24):

Awesome. Well, I think if we all did the same, the world would be a little better off for it. So I think that’s great. Now for those in our audience who would like to connect with you, what is the best way or the easiest way for them to get in touch?

Salma Burney (27:43):

You can phone me, (416) 278-6500. Also email is perfectly fine. And the email is girl, G-I-R-L-F-R-I, @gmail.com.

Steve Loates (28:01):

Perfect. And we will make sure that those go in the show notes so that people will find them there. And before we conclude, are there any final thoughts you would like to share with our audience of entrepreneurs, Salma?

Salma Burney (28:16):

I think entrepreneurs tend to want to put things out when they’re perfect. They just have to be right. I find that, just do it, and if there’s a mistake, you can always update stuff. Nothing is ever perfect. We are all imperfect and our stuff is imperfect and it’s always a work in progress.

Steve Loates (28:41):

Thank you. Did you hear that, Juliet?

Juliet Aurora (28:45):

Yes. Yes. I figured [inaudible 00:28:47].

Steve Loates (28:49):

Just saying, just saying, that’s all. And what about you, Juliet? Have you got any final words before we close down this episode?

Juliet Aurora (28:58):

No, just completely inspired to be on the road for that length of time and be able to still run your business. I mean, that’s what life is about. And so, just inspired. That’s a great story.

Salma Burney (29:10):

Thank you.

Steve Loates (29:11):

Awesome. Awesome. And so for this episode’s words of wisdom, I chose the following quote, “Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the arc.” And thank you, Salma. You were great. Lots of valuable information there for our audience. Thank you once again to my awesome cohost, but most importantly, thank you to all of you for tuning in and giving us a listen. We hope you found some value. If you did, please subscribe. You can find us in all the regular places, iTunes, Spotify, or you can go to the website, SmartManSmarterWoman.com. So thank you. Until next time. Take good care of yourself and those that you love. Bye for now.

Song by Adam Vitovsky / CC BY 3.0

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Episode 28