Panic Proof – Book Interview

Heidi Cohen Interviews Jess Ostroff

New book – Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business


Panic Proof cover

Q: What’s your best piece of advice for readers looking to improve their marketing?

A: My biggest piece of advice for readers is to identify what you’re uniquely qualified to do and what you love to you. Then, relegate, automate, or delegate the rest. This will allow you to focus on big, important projects, come up with great new creative ideas, and be the best manager, boss, teammate, and colleague you can possibly be for all the other people you work with.

This takes some time and some soul-searching, but it’s possible for everyone to get to a point where they are doing what they love or what they are great at at least 80% of the time.

Q: What was the inspiration for Panic Proof?

A: I’ve seen too many people doing too many things that they shouldn’t be doing. It’s partly because they wear an imaginary cape and think they’re superheroes. They think just because they can do something means that they should. It’s also partly because they’re afraid of asking for help. They think somehow it makes them a weaker leader or manager. Finally, they don’t know where to look. They’ve heard that the virtual and gig economies are the future, but they’ve also heard horror stories about working with virtual assistants.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the value and experience of virtual assistants, and I was inspired by my team’s successes to uncover the myths and share the incredible ways that today’s VAs can change people’s lives.

Q: What is the key concept behind your book?

A: At the end of the day though, everyone needs help, and getting help doesn’t have to be painful or all that challenging. It’s all about finding the right fit for the job and nurturing that relationship to become one that’s everlasting. I want to show my readers the right way to go about finding, hiring, training, and building a relationship with a virtual assistant that can grow their businesses.

Q: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

A: I want everyone who reads this book to come away saying at least one of the following:

  • I know exactly what I should be doing in my business and in my life and what someone else should be doing
  • I know exactly where to look to recruit a virtual assistant
  • I know exactly what to ask and how to test a virtual assistant to make sure they’re the right fit for me
  • I know exactly how to create a give-and-take relationship with my assistant so that we stay working together for years to come
  • I am not afraid to ask for help
  • I am ready to relegate, automate, and delegate in order to live a life I love .

Q: How do you describe yourself professionally?

A: I am a Director of Calm and I focus on matching chaotic, overworked entrepreneurs and marketers with focused, reliable, proactive assistants so they can get their work done on time, every time, while growing their businesses and saving their sanities at the same time. I am adventurous and spontaneous. I love traveling to new places, meeting new people, and finding new ways to get work done efficiently.

Q: What are 1-3 books that inspired your work/career?

A: Body of Work by Pam Slim was the first book that helped me get clear about what my unique value proposition is and how my work can impact the world. I was able to drill down into all the things that I love and care about, both in my personal and professional life, so that I could craft a life that fulfills me every day while also helping others.

The book is super useful because it comes with exercises that you can do to get deep into developing your body of work. I happened to have come across it relatively young, but I think professionals of any age can get value out of identifying and cultivating the thread that propels them forward.

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome?

A: I’ve always been very much a “yes” person. When new opportunities come around, I almost always would say yes in order to harness them. This, combined with always giving people the benefit of the doubt, has gotten me into trouble more than once! I have definitely worked with clients and team members who were not a great fit for my agency because I wanted to take the chance on them. I have also made some snap decisions without thinking through whether they actually contributed positively to my life and business goals, which meant that I had to back-peddle sometimes.

Perhaps the most important consequence of this trait was that I became stressed and sick because I was constantly biting off more than I could chew. I was plagued with the Superhero Syndrome. I have had to battle out of some bad injuries and illnesses due to stress and have had to slow down and re-prioritize a lot over the last couple of years. Luckily, I have learned a lot from these experiences and have been able to take a positive view of what happened and why. Now that I am clear about my high-level goals and what truly matters, I make sure that every decision is thoughtful and is not made in haste.

Q: What’s something unusual or fun that most people don’t know about you?

A: I’ve been playing the oboe for almost 20 years. I play in a community band as well as in a quartet. I also love trying new fitness classes and routines, including aerial yoga, trampoline, and the flying trapeze.

Q: Is there a piece of content, a social media campaign or a marketing campaign that you worked on that you’re particularly proud of?

A: No, I mostly just want to point to the book ☺

Bonus: Jess has generously provided a downloadable copy of her ebook: How to Hire the Perfect VA in 7 Easy Steps (pdf, 1.7mb).


Where to find Jess Ostroff

Thank you Jess.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
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