Legal Assistant Turned Virtual Assistant with Janis Melillo | Ep #62
Janis Melillo spent over 30 years of her career in the legal world as a paralegal. She was used to multitasking, and the skills she learned after decades in law led her to launch a Virtual Assistant business handling projects for people all over the world virtually. Janis also hosts three podcasts, has co-authored 16 books, and does all of this while being an entrepreneur and calling her own shots while in her 60s. Listen to Janis open up about the ups and downs of life that have led her to where she is now in her career, as she speaks with Shannon Russell on Episode #62 of the Second Act Success Podcast.
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Second Act Success Podcast
Season 1 - Legal Assistant Turned Virtual Assistant with Janis Melillo
Host: Shannon Russell
Guest: Janis Melillo
Transcription (*created by Descript and may not be perfectly accurate)
[00:00:34] Shannon Russell: Are you at a crossroads in your career? Ready for a change, but you're not sure how to get there? Don't worry. We are about to produce your best life together. Welcome to the Second Act Success Podcast. I am your host Shannon Russell. I am a former television producer, turned boy Mom. I left my dream job to find family balance, and in doing so I produced my dream life.
Now I am [00:01:00] a business owner, podcaster, and career. My mission is to help other women like you find what they are truly meant to be doing. If you are ready to start over in your career or pivot to a new purpose, then get ready to be inspired by stories of women who have done just that. We will share advice and actionable tips to motivate you as you move along on your path.
It is time to shine. So let's start producing your balanced life of abundance today. This is Second Act Success.
Janis Melillo is a jack of all trades, if you will. She began her career working in law as a legal assistant, but she decided that she could do much, much more. Janis decided to focus on her own affairs by launching the Truly Your VA virtual assistant business writing books, and hosting two podcasts. Janis helps entrepreneurs grow their business while growing her. Join me for this [00:02:00] lovely conversation with Janis Melillo.
Hello, Janis. Welcome to Second Act Success. How are you?
[00:02:06] Janis Melillo: I'm doing very well, Shannon. Thank you so much for inviting me to be on your podcast. I'm excited to be here.
[00:02:12] Shannon Russell: Great. Me too. So why don't we start with you telling me where your kind of career journey began.
[00:02:19] Janis Melillo: Wow, that's a long story. I'll keep it very short cuz you know, I'm in that respectable age bracket, , but you know, I'll take it back three years and I was in the process of getting my online business up and running. I'm a certified health coach along with other things, and I'm not going to lie, I was dragging my.
I was working full-time and then I was laid off. When I look back now, I see it as a blessing in disguise. Well, that little fire under where I sit. Gotta keep the language clean here. . Yes. And I started Feverously [00:03:00] working on my business. My dad was living with me at the time, 92 or 93, and then his health started to decline and had to put things on pause.
And I started my virtual assistant business. And here I am three years later and. life is good.
[00:03:20] Shannon Russell: So when you were getting out of high school and you decided what career path you wanted to go into, what field was it?
[00:03:27] Janis Melillo: Some may laugh at this and, and I certainly understand why, I wanted to be an F B I agent. I felt in love with law enforcement, but then graduated from high school and spent the summer in Florida and. really started to notice boys and uhoh. Yeah, I was a very good girl though, I will say. But you know, I took the side road for a few few months, which was okay. It was exactly what I needed and [00:04:00] decided, no, I don't really wanna go into that. I don't think that's where I wanna be. But I was still very interested in the legal field. Came back to Connecticut, then started working at a law firm. I was so attracted to the legal field, and that was the perfect setting for me.
So my career in the legal field for 30 plus years. That's kind of how that part started. What was so cool about the legal world to you? What was very interesting to me was the craziness of it. For instance, you can plan on doing A, B, and C in the morning. , but then all of a sudden, Hal like breaks loose and then you have to jump around.
And I loved the creative aspect of, okay, I'm, I'm working on this. You get directed over here. So I had to become a director and I thrived off of that. Chaoticness, so to speak, and I was very good at it. And they saw [00:05:00] the potential of me and, okay, now we're gonna have you do this. And I instinctively knew what to do.
And worked the project and they used to call me the gold mine. Oh, get the project to the gold mine . Well, maybe that's where your organizational skills came from, that you now use in your VA business today. Oh, most definitely, without a doubt, because my life and what I do with running two businesses is chaotic.
organization is the top priority. And you know, people have often said to me, well, you do too much. And I'm like, no, I don't think that I do too much. I'm just very highly organized. I have to be, I work with clients that demand that and basically that's why they pay me the big.
[00:05:51] Shannon Russell: I was gonna say, that's why they come to you. So you worked in legal for 30 years.
[00:05:56] Janis Melillo: I went to school at that time to be a certified [00:06:00] personal trainer, then became a certified nutrition coach. And worked, full-time as a paralegal as well as a massage therapist. And I feel blessed because all those things that I did, you know, obviously helped to some support me. I knew back then that I wanted something more for myself. I just couldn't pinpoint it. ,
[00:06:24] Shannon Russell: right? You were a mom. You had a lot of things going on in your life, so it taught you so much throughout that time to kind of lead you to where you are today.
[00:06:33] Janis Melillo: Oh, absolutely.
[00:06:34] Shannon Russell: You said earlier that you were laid off or let go, and that kind of launched you into getting your online businesses going.
[00:06:40] Janis Melillo: Right. I was working as a certified health coach for a weight loss center in Connecticut, and I was traveling to all the different offices. The clients that I worked with, loved me and they always wanted to book with me. I lost over 142 pounds. [00:07:00] So, you know, been there, done that. Like I've, I've done it lost. So I can relate to that aspect of, you know, when people are struggling with that, I am grateful for that experience and with all the people that. I worked with out of everything that has happened in my life, something. Good has always came out of it. And here I am, really in my dream world. I mean, I just absolutely love what I do.
During the pandemic, my sister and I had always wanted to work with one another, and we always set it in passing. and she was inspired by my weight loss journey about 15 years ago now. So she started to become healthy and we just love the wellness through fitness and nutrition. It started very slowly. I started listening to podcasts and, and then it clicked one day and I said, you know what? We need to do a podcast cuz [00:08:00] everybody's listening to podcast. So we started our podcast Two Sistas and we're actually about four or five episodes away from 500 episodes. So that's pretty cool,
[00:08:11] Shannon Russell: Janis. That's amazing.
[00:08:14] Janis Melillo: Thank you. And we've had people from all over the world, New Zealand, Australia. . It's just been amazing. My sister and I are still doing that. And then my, VA business started really picking up steam and I'd also started my business podcast. I host, by the way, three podcasts, the podcast with my sister, my business podcast. Truly Your VA with Janis and my newest podcast Stories That Inspire. And I felt as though I was on top of the world. I'm doing what I love to do, getting paid obviously very well, to be so creative. I'm like, this is crazy. Like I, I absolutely love what I'm [00:09:00] doing and was actually a week or so away from my first five figure month, my son's accident occurred, and very long story. it made me think of things very differently. Like okay. In that moment I obviously did not know what was happening with my son, but when I think of myself that I was on top of the world, I actually wasn't. So that became, began a really long year of self-discovery, traveling back and forth from Connecticut Kit to, uh, Philly, where my son. and it occurred to me, and this is kind of funny in a way, as I was one of the drives coming home, I was going over the George Washington Bridge and. I was listening to satellite radio and I was in that line of stations where it was all news and let's be real. The news kind of sucks. Mm-hmm. , that's kinda being real.
[00:09:57] Shannon Russell: Especially today. Yes,
[00:09:59] Janis Melillo: especially [00:10:00] today. Absolutely. And I just, I remember sitting back in traffic and I'm like, oh my God, I just wanna hear a story that inspires me. And I thought back to what my son had said to me before I left, and it was something to the effect, and obviously this is not verbatim. He said, mama, you gotta continue being creative and taking care of yourself. And you know a few other words with that. And I thought, oh my God. , my son was directing me and he didn't even know it. So I started my third podcast Stories That Inspire us and you know, between all the three podcasts, I have close to 600 episodes. So it's been, very heartwarming and I don't specifically know the path, but I know I'm running the right journey. Yes, that makes any sense. And. Again, blessed and grateful that, you know, I'm able not only as Ryan's mom, but you know, [00:11:00] as an entrepreneur, as a mom, feeling. The anxiety, if you will, from everything that has transpired with my son that I, I was able to direct it in such a way where I'm able to help others and for me, that's what it's all about. I feel as though I am that platform for them to share their stories and inspire others. around the world.
[00:11:24] Shannon Russell: It seems like Ryan inspire you to keep going and be creative and start these podcasts. And Janice, it's so interesting that you are using your voice in all three different areas of your life in the business area with your business podcast, in the health and wellness, with your health and wellness podcast, with your sister, and with stories that inspire that it is from your family and your something that you almost need for your.
it really has been. It's
[00:11:51] Janis Melillo: been very therapeutic. My guests that are coming on that podcast have entrusted me with such trust, with, with [00:12:00] such dignity, with such heartfelt emotions. Recently, one of my guests who such a sweet lady, Daisy, while she wants to do, is inspire people with her story. This is someone going through a terminal illness.
and she's happy, she's heartfelt. She was inspired to write her book. Kirk Cameron, the actor, wrote the forward for her book. Aw. And she just, we still keep in contact, obviously. She's just a lovely, lovely lady. And that is exactly what I was going for. Is what Ryan was directing me to do.
[00:12:45] Shannon Russell: Hey, it's Shannon.
If you are enjoying this podcast, then you will love my weekly newsletter. It's full of career advice, productivity tips, and of course inspiring stories of women who have launched a new career that they love. Just go to second act [00:13:00] success.co to sign up. Plus you'll get the My Success Vision Board to help you with your 2023 planning as well.
Now it's back to the episode.
So the situation with Ryan, do you wanna explain what happened?
[00:13:15] Janis Melillo: Sure. I'd, I'd be happy to. I had talked to Ryan about three days or so before, uh, his accident, and he sounded very tired. He had just received the second vaccine shot and wasn't feeling well. Wow. And. . He was working nonstop and he just didn't sound good.
And I said, Ryan, you have to take some time. Offer for yourself. You're working too much. You're under an enormous amount of stress. And he said, I'm the manager. Everybody's calling out sick. And I said, okay, please promise me as soon as you can get to the doctor. He says, I promise. Tuesday, July 20th at 2:00 AM in the morning.
I woke up to a, [00:14:00] a text message and I still have the text message and it said Ryan had a stroke. He's an emergency surgery. and I'm like, I screamed. Mm-hmm. all I remember screaming and almost hyperventilating. And of course my husband woke up and he was like, what's it, what's going on? Ryan was in the Whole Foods in downtown Philly and went in to grab something for lunch and he had a stroke, collapsed.
Cracked his skull. Suffered, um, seizures. stop breathing and they lost his pulse. When I hear myself saying that, I get a little choked up, so I do wanna, I of course apologize for that. Yeah. When I tell you I didn't know what to do, somebody who's highly organized, highly engaged, , I had no clue what to do. No.
Was hysterical. My husband finally. calmed me [00:15:00] down. Could not get to Philly fast enough. No, you're probably four hours away at that point. Easily. Right. And finally was able to speak with the, um, the surgeon and explain what had transpired. And there was about 24 hours where they weren't sure what was going to happen.
And that was the worst 24 hours of my. , but I have to tell you, Shannon, I look. and I think of all the blessings and the timing of when things happen and how everybody came together and made everything possible. For me, when I say I am blessed and grateful, I mean from the bottom of my heart with my whole heart and soul, that I am blessed and grateful.
Mm-hmm. , and unfortunately he's was hospitalized nine different times. He suffers from seizures. . [00:16:00] Now, some people feel seizures coming on. Ryan does not. It's a light switch. He's out, but he's okay. Other than the the seizures. He's okay. He's okay. He seems to have adapted very well to the seizure medication.
Like, okay, we're, we're getting somewhere with this. I want him obviously to live a life as normal and carefree as possible. And yeah, that's what happened to my son and he's really. Continued inspiration through everything.
[00:16:32] Shannon Russell: He has to be so proud of you to now be able to share stories of other people who are going through family issues, health issues.
It's just such a wonderful work that you're doing.
[00:16:44] Janis Melillo: Well, thank you. It, it really is obviously near and dear to my heart. Ryan will ask me about it from time to time, and he looked at me and he said, I inspired you. And I said, well, of course you. , of course,
[00:16:59] Shannon Russell: our kids [00:17:00] inspire us in ways that they'll never, ever know.
I feel like they really, truly do make us the people that we are now, that we're moms. You know, it really, Ugh. That's wonderful. I'm so happy to hear that he's doing well. Thank you. And that you're able to just be there for him whenever he needs it and, and still be so busy running everything else. So three podcasts?
Yes. Oh my goodness. One is a lot for me. I can't imagine how you do three. .
[00:17:27] Janis Melillo: Well, I am what they call a live podcaster that changes everything in the world. Janice, let's explain to the listeners what a live podcaster is compared to what I do here where I record and then edit it and, and put it up at a later time.
And I so admire that, by the way, that is a craft. But for me, I've been podcasting now for over two. I don't foresee myself doing that. So I do live podcasts like Go live on my Facebook page, and I also started also going live on the Wisdom [00:18:00] Audio social media app, and I record to the cloud. I do the podcast and it's.
Always a great conversation. For instance, today on the Truly Your VA Podcast, I had a Canva expert on Brenda Cadman, which was an amazing episode, and after I do the sign off that day, I process the audio and I uploaded and of course uploaded my YouTube channel, my Rumble channel in the bit. Shoot. and send those to my guests.
And it's been so much fun, you know, and I'm like, this isn't work. Like, I don't,
[00:18:39] Shannon Russell: it feels like a hobby, right? Like you're getting to have these, like today we're having this wonderful conversation and it's just, you're learning about someone else and you are growing as a person, having these conversations.
It's just so fun.
[00:18:51] Janis Melillo: It's just of such a blessing that, you know, out of. Things that happen in our lives. We have [00:19:00] life experiences and we learn from them. And the most important thing is we grow from them and the growth may take a while. It's there. We have to acknowledge what we're going through. And I think I've done that in quite a creative manner.
And I gotta tell you, I am proud of. It's just, it's a blessing.
[00:19:22] Shannon Russell: It is. And I'm thinking about your monetization as a business owner times two or three now. Mm-hmm. , uh, I'm assuming that each of your podcasts directs back to your business.
[00:19:33] Janis Melillo: Of course, it always comes up in conversation. Oh, you're a ba. Oh, you do podcasts?
Would you work with an entrepreneur like me? So, yes, of course. So I've been able to organically grow my business, which is. Kind of mind boggling.
[00:19:52] Shannon Russell: Why don't you explain what a VA does for people who may not know? Because that's an excellent career path for a lot of my listeners who are [00:20:00] kind of looking for their second act.
[00:20:01] Janis Melillo: A VA can do many things to support online entrepreneurs, whether it's email management. , whether it's project management, whether it's content creation, content repurposed, those are two very separate things, but they work together of course. And what's very unique about it and how I went about getting started, I wrote a list of the things that I will say with certainty I am an expert at now, and the things that I don't like with everything that has transpired this past year, I've kind of niched it down further.
And what I would say to somebody who wants to be a va, I am actually a Facebook moderator in the Facebook group with Brenda Sandor. She has a VA school, and you know, join those different types of Facebook groups where you can gather the information, see what everybody's doing. But [00:21:00] start with a list. If you are great at admin, admin stuff looks good, but do you like answering the phone?
Do you like making appointments? That sort of thing. And maybe you. , I wanna get into the podcasting field as far as me maybe a podcast manager. You know, go on YouTube and do a lot of research that way. Or you can go on my website and kind of check out how I do things. That's where you learn what exactly what you wanna do as a va.
It's definitely doable and a lot of VAs that I know Pep started out small and they still work full-time and they, they obviously grow their business so much that they end up leaving their full-time job. So it is doable
[00:21:48] Shannon Russell: and it's flexible, right? You can kind of do it when you want to. When your clients need things, you're not beholden to nine to five.
[00:21:57] Janis Melillo: Absolutely. Now, how do you [00:22:00] like your life now compared to your life when you were working at the legal firm and you were in more of a corporate structured environment? Well, I have to tell you that I was into dressing up as poly paralegal with my high heels and makeup, just so when I get dressed up for something, it feels weird because I basically wear yoga pants.
Nonstop, but, uh, it's a different view for me because I'm my own corporate entity. The only one I have to answer to is myself. M. , I love it.
[00:22:33] Shannon Russell: you know what? In your second act, as we get older, we realize, like you said before, what we like and what we don't like and what we can bring into our business. So if there's something you don't like, you don't have to do it. And that's kind of a really cool thing about being your own boss.
[00:22:48] Janis Melillo: It absolutely is because if you're at a nine to five or whatever it is and you don't like the thought of even going into your job, [00:23:00] that's gotta be a big red signal there. So start thinking in terms of. , what do you like to do? Maybe it's not being a va. Maybe it's coaching someone to play piano. Maybe you're a personal trainer and you wanna start online classes, like it's doable.
Don't leave that for someone else to do because somebody needs you. You have a specialty out there.
[00:23:28] Shannon Russell: Absolutely. I don't wanna leave without talking about your books, so talk to me about these 16 published. Books that are out there.
[00:23:37] Janis Melillo: I do have 16 co-authored projects. 10 or 11 of them are number one international bestsellers, and then quite a few are all Amazon number one best releases.
I realized something very valuable. I think it was the the sixth or seventh book that I co-authored and we hit number one international [00:24:00] bestseller in four or five countries within six hours. and you know, got the notification, you're an international bestseller. Like I wasn't getting it.
I was doing it because I love to write, right? But it occurred to me that I received an email from somebody in Australia and said, thank you so much for. Sharing your story really inspired me to.
Make a change in my life. And I'm like, that's when it occurred to me. The power of our words. And of course now the power of our voices. And you, for instance, by sharing the power of your voice with doing your podcast. I mean, think about the number of lives that you've affected Shannon, like that's pretty significant.
[00:24:48] Shannon Russell: You don't realize it. Right. You don't realize it till you get that email or you hear from someone or someone comments and it really is powerful. We can reach people all over the world. Yes, and [00:25:00] wow, congratulations. That's amazing. Okay, so where can our audience connect with you? Where are all the places?
[00:25:07] Janis Melillo: I'm on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, but the, the very best way to get Uphold to me is my website, which is www.trulyyourvawithjanis, j a n i s.com.
[00:25:25] Shannon Russell: This is so inspiring. Janis, I really wanna thank you for sharing your personal story, your career journey, and just all that you have going on.
[00:25:34] Janis Melillo: Thank you so much. Shannon for having me on your podcast and gracing me with your presence because you are an amazing podcaster, an amazing host, and I just feel very blessed to know you as well.
[00:25:49] Shannon Russell: Aw, thank you.
[00:25:50] Janis Melillo: You're welcome.
Thank you to Janis for being so open and honest about the twists and turns that life has thrown at her.
I am incredibly impressed with [00:26:00] all that she has built and accomplished up until. If you need some assistance in your business or in your podcast, reach out to Janis. All of her info will be in the show notes. Thank you for spending some time with me today. If there is something that you would like to hear on an upcoming episode, maybe a career question that you'd like me to answer, or a win that you would like us to celebrate, please leave me a voice message at my SpeakPipe.
It's speakpipe.com/second act success. Until next time, my friend, I am Shannon Russell, and I will talk to you. Thank you for joining us. I hope you've found some gems of inspiration and some takeaways to help you on your path to second act, success. To view show notes from this episode, visit secondactsuccess.co.
Before you go, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don't miss a single episode. Reviews only take a few moments and they really do mean so much. Thank you again for listen. I'm Shannon Russell and this is Second Act [00:27:00] Success.