Avoid These 7 Cashflow Killers

Avoid These 7 Cashflow Killers

Running out of cash is one of the most frightening (and sadly most common) things to happen to small businesses. It’s easily done if you’re not keeping an eye on things and can sometimes be hard to spot before it’s too late. So what can you do to make sure it doesn’t happen to you in your business?

1. Understand the numbers in your business When it comes to the numbers in your business, knowledge is everything. At any given point you need to know what you owe out and what is owed to you. You need to know how much you have tied up in stock. You need to know how much you will need to fulfil orders. You need to be able to pay yourself, pay the bills and pay for any help you employ. Make sure you know your costs and how much profit you make on everything you sell, as an absolute minimum.

2. Don’t count your chickens Don’t assume you have an order until you have the order! Don’t assume people will pay on time. Don’t buy extra stock ‘in case’ you’ll need it. Don’t overstretch yourself. One of the biggest cashflow killers is tying up money in stock or supplies or committing to costs without having the cash to cover it. All it takes is one non-payer, late payment, cancellation, change in circumstances to throw your plans out of whack and your cashflow with it. The last thing you need is to end up with stock you can’t quickly liquidate or commitments you can’t meet because you trusted someone to do the right thing. Get your terms and conditions in place. Have a clear refund policy that protects you if someone cancels once you have ordered stock. Don’t take risks on someone else’s behalf using your business. Protect your downside (in other words don’t commit more than you can afford to lose) and be mindful. It’s not magic money, you have to earn it to cover what you pay out, and then some.

3. Track your sales Don’t guess how much you have taken in sales, KNOW it for certain. Track every sale coming in. Track deposits. Track instalments. Know what is due, when. Look for patterns. Know your quiet times, so you can come up with ideas to drive additional business. Know your busy times so you can plan for them and manage your cash accordingly. Where you put your attention is where the magic happens, so if you track your sales and understand how they work in your business, you will get more. Know how much of it is profit at any time. This is important because your profit is what turns into your salary or gets reinvested back into your business – if it’s not profit then you shouldn’t be spending it unless it’s directly related to delivering your products or services.

4. Collect your payments If you give credit to customers, collect it when it’s due. Don’t let embarrassment or fear of offence stop you. Think like a business owner and put processes in place so you know what is due, when. Make your credit or payment terms very clear at time of purchase. Get the customer to read, acknowledge and sign them so they can’t come back later and say they didn’t know how it worked. On the day the money is due (or even the day before) send a polite reminder notice. As soon as the payment is overdue, chase up every day or two.This is YOUR money. You are not here to cashflow someone else’s business. Successful business owners don’t let their money collection slip. You’re doing nothing wrong by reminding late payers and requesting payment, you are simply running a business in a professional way and if they don’t like it they can go elsewhere. It’s not worth putting yourself under stress trying to accommodate bad payers, when you could focus your attention on your Super Customers and have people who would happily pay in advance.

5. Plan ahead If you know you have shows or events or busy times coming up, plan ahead, not a week or two but a few months ahead. That way you’re giving yourself time to buy stock a little at a time, make the most of special offers and set aside cash as a contingency. Businesses are more likely to run out of cash if they get caught out or haven’t planned ahead. Don’t put yourself in that position.

6. Be Frugal You have to earn every penny you spend. It’s very easy to spend, spend, spend but how much will you need to sell to replace that? If you start adopting this attitude, you will soon get a different perspective on your business. That swanky new laptop bag might be gorgeous but if you have to find 5 new customers just to cover the cost of it, is it really worth it? If you’re spending money on stuff for the business, make sure you get a good deal but don’t talk yourself into stockpiling to get a ‘wholesale’ price, otherwise you’ll potentially have loads of stock tied up in the business that could take months or years to turn into cash. Always think about the return you’re going to get on anything you spend.

7. Choose wisely Choose your customers (not all customers are good customers). Sit tight, be really clear who your Super Customers are and market to them rather than saying yes to everyone. Make wise decisions. Don’t cashflow someone else’s business to the detriment of your own. Don’t be bullied into putting up with someone else’s bad money attitude  – you keep control over your business. Have confidence in yourself and your ability, you know more than you think.

I know it can be tricky if money is tight but the more you plan, the more you know your numbers and the more you realise that cash is the lifeblood of your business, the more likely you are to make sound business decisions and protect your business. My sales coach used to make me justify every penny I spent for months until I understood how much extra profit I’d need to make to cover my less-than-thrifty spending habits. I promise I’m not a killjoy, I want you to love your business but I also want you to keep having a business and not fall victim to dodgy cashflow. Did anything in this blog resonate with you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments and I’d also love to hear any other cashflow tips you have. Protect your cash and keep building your gorgeous business.

Facebook Video – Getting Over Your Fears

Facebook Video – Getting Over Your Fears

If you’ve been putting off doing Facebook video because it’s way too scary, this is for you.

In my last blog I shared Facebook expert Mari Smith’s excellent blog post about the changes going on at Facebook and the top things we can do to get Facebook working for us. She was very clear it was all about video and I shared her top 10 tips along with my own input and explanations on using video in your Facebook marketing and business.

I’m going to take those Facebook video tips one by one and show you how you could use them in your business. So, in this blog we’re going to tackle number 1 – focus on video but this is a HUGE topic in itself, so I’ll cover some today and the rest over the next couple of weeks. This is going to be a mammoth FACEBOOK VIDEO MASTERY series, I think you’re going to love it!

Video already takes priority in Facebook’s newsfeed. It’s only going to get bigger.

If you have tried putting videos on your Facebook page you’ll hopefully have found they get much better engagement than other posts? Obviously it depends on what’s IN the video, but if you can crack this, you will get lots of video views, which improves your Facebook page engagement, which in turn helps your page get seen by more people. At a time when it’s harder than ever to get seen on Facebook, it’s definitely worth grabbing video with both hands while its working well.

So, why might you NOT be using videos yet?

Let me take a guess…

Oooh, maybe you feel like you’re not ‘right’ for video. You might think you’d like to lose a bit of weight before going on screen? Maybe you keep telling yourself it would be better if your hair was tidier, or your voice was different or you had a more photogenic ‘look’. Hmm?

Or maybe you’re using the ‘I’m not techie enough’ excuse? I can’t ‘do’ videos! What about the editing? What do I use to record ON? Do I need a tripod? It’s all too scary!

Maybe you’re up for it but you’ve got video block – whenever you think about doing a video, you get stuck on what to make a video about? I mean what could you say that your customers and page fans would want to hear and watch? And what if they don’t like it? Oh heck, what if they laugh at me?

Blimey, what a lot of reasons NOT to do video! If you’ve talked yourself out of it before you recorded a single second  of video I’m not surprised!

But let me share something with you. I’m going to tell you how to work with and around all those reasons and excuses above.

GETTING PAST VIDEO FEARS AND OVERCOMING THE EXCUSES

Creating videos for your business, whether for your website or social media can be a nerve-wracking experience. It triggers all sorts of insecurities within in us about our appearance, our self-worth, our value – so why on EARTH would you want to drag all that up?

What if people laugh at me? What if they think I’m too fat/thin/ugly? What if I sound stupid? What if they think I’m unprofessional? What if my friends / old boss / mother-in-law see it? What will they think? What if people realise I’m just winging it and don’t really know what I’m talking about?

Run away! Run away! Why would you even want to go there? Even I had a wobble with those as I wrote them but do you know what? We all feel like that. Even people who are on TV every day!

But wouldn’t it be great to NOT worry about all those things? I mean, if they are holding you back from doing videos, imagine what else they are stopping you doing?

What if I told you these fears are not important and definitely not worth worrying about? What if I told you nobody really cares what you look like or sound like, as long as there is something for them in the video? What if I told you there are some things you can do to make Facebook video MUCH easier? It’s true!

Remember, it’s not about you

The first thing you have to realise is, it’s not about you.

People don’t watch videos ABOUT YOU unless you are a celebrity (sorry!) unless it’s an ‘about me’ video on your website (which is an awesome idea) but generally in our world, as small business owners (with big ambitions) people watch our videos to get help. They watch our videos to learn something they need to know or to see if they are missing something.

As long as you are sharing something interesting, relevant and of value TO THEM they don’t care what you look like or sound like, as long as they can understand what you’re saying. Occasionally you might get a nasty comment because Facebook does have trolls. I’ll tell you how to deal with them in a mo.

They want to know wiifm

What’s in it for me? Why are you reading this email? To see if I share something that could help you in your business, right? A tip, an idea, a new way of looking at something. Well, that’s the same for your Facebook fans, email subscribers, in fact anyone you come into contact with in your business.

Once you realise that, the whole Facebook video ‘thing’ gets much easier. What do your fans and customers want to know? What could you share that would help them in their life? What would make them take notice? What words or phrases could you use that would grab their attention? What are they thinking about or worrying about that you can help with? What would make them happy? What would they find intriguing?

“Why does my dog eat grass?”
“How long should my baby nap for?”
“Should I send e-newsletters to my customers?”
“How do I deal with email overload?”
“Why aren’t people visiting my website?”
“Why has my silver jewellery gone black?”
“How can cheese help my concentration?”*

*I have no idea how cheese could help your concentration, but if you know the answer then I know a load of people who would love an excuse to eat more cheese!

Think about what your customers and Facebook fans might be putting into Google. Think about what YOU put into Google! I know, right? Weird and random things (if you’re anything like me) but if you can figure out what your fans are bothered about, then YOU can be the person showing up on Facebook videos in their newsfeed with the answers!

What if I get a nasty comment?

It might happen, it might not. Depending on what you’re sharing, you might ‘trigger’ someone who then feels hurt or upset or angry or jealous and makes a nasty comment. The more controversial you are, the more likely this is to happen.

If you’re not controversial and you’re just sharing how you painted your latest picture of a puppy, it probably won’t happen. If you’re talking about vaccinations, politics, parenting, money, anything that people are likely to have strong feelings about, you’re probably going to get all sorts of comments, good and bad.

So what do you do? Well, understand first of all that people are very brave when they are on Facebook and will say things they would NEVER say in real life so they are unlikely to be a real threat. Don’t reply. Don’t bite. Don’t engage. Ban. Delete. Move on. No matter how hurtful a comment might be, don’t let it get to you. Don’t let it hurt you because then they win. Let it slide off and have a way of dealing with it so it doesn’t ruin your day.

As someone who has had ALL sorts of nastiness happen on my Facebook page I can tell you this is easier said than done – but for your own sanity you have to just ban (so they can’t comment any more), THEN delete the comment, then do something that requires you to focus so you can get them out of your head. Whenever you catch yourself dwelling on it, STOP IT. DON’T LET THEM WIN. Focus your precious time and energy on making your business stronger.

If you can’t BEAR the thought (yet) of putting your lovely face on a video, in my next blog (coming soon) I’m going to show you that you don’t have to be ON video to make a video.

And in the following blog  I’m going to give you some great ideas for Facebook videos.

And that’s just part 1! After that we’ll cover video production tips, technology tips, different types and sizes and lengths of video, monetising video, captions, and more! You’ll be a Facebook video pro before you know it.

The Facebook Feed Rumours Are True! (Sort Of)

The Facebook Feed Rumours Are True! (Sort Of)

The Facebook Newsfeed Rumours

OK so for AGES rumours have been flying around that very soon the only way we will get our business posts seen in the Facebook newsfeed will be to pay for ads. So is it true?

Well, sort of.

Very simply put, Facebook has so much content, paid and organic, that it’s impossible to show every user every post that’s targeted at them. And although Facebook has shareholders and advertisers to keep happy, they also have to keep their USERS happy, otherwise they will stop using Facebook.

This article by Facebook expert Mari Smith explains LOADS about what’s going on and what we can do about it.

I’ve pulled out some of the key things I think will help you. Firstly this video from Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s Head of News Feed where he explains how the newsfeed works. I found it really interesting. Here is the link to his article.

Secondly, here are Mari’s top 10 tips on what businesses can do to keep getting seen. Not unsurprisingly, it’s all about VIDEO. We’ve known for ages that videos, especially FB live videos take top priority in our newsfeed – this is just the start!  Mari’s version has a lot more technical detail that might feel a little overwhelming so I’ll leave you to read the tips in full on Mari’s blog here but here is my ‘translated for small business owners with big ambitions’ summary. 

Over the next few weeks I’ll take each of these tips and give you LOADS of ideas on what you could do, and how you can use them in your business, so make sure my emails aren’t going into your spam folder!

1. Focus On Video

Video already takes priority in Facebook’s newsfeed. It’s only going to get bigger. Facebook is putting even more things into place to make it a viable alternative to your TV, after all I tend to get my news via Facebook these day, THEN see it on TV later. How about you? If you’re not already doing videos then you need to start embracing the idea. They don’t have to have you talking to the camera, there are loads of alternative ways to create fantastic videos. Don’t worry, there will be a way that works for you.

2. Do More LIVE Videos

OK so the novelty of Facebook live videos has worn off a bit. To start with we watched all of them. Then we realised that some aren’t as good as others. Now we’re being more selective and picky about which we watch and there are certain things that DEFINITELY make your live videos MUCH more likely to be watched. I’ll share those with you in next week’s newsletter. Even though the novelty has worn off, Facebook Live videos are still top of the newsfeed priority list so it’s definitely worth doing them (but the RIGHT way). 

“We’ve seen that people comment more than 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos. ~Facebook”

3. Do more short, punchy videos

According to Mari, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer recommends creating ‘snackable’ video content. That is, between 6-15 seconds. This is the ideal length to be used as ad breaks. Now, I’m sure Sheryl was referring to the big brands when she mentioned this but how can we, as small businesses with big ambitions use it in our marketing? Well, 6-15 seconds is not a lot of time – what could you do as a teaser? What could you demonstrate in 6-15 seconds? What could you share that your fans would love? I’ll give you some ideas in one of my newsletters very soon.

4. Create longer videos too

OK so the short videos I just mentioned are what you’ll already be seeing while you watch longer videos – the longer video stops while a short video ad plays. Yes, I find it intensely annoying too.

But Facebook still needs longer videos in which to insert the ad breaks. Also, your fans won’t just want short videos, if you have something awesome to share with them. So, how long is longer? Well, according to Mari anywhere from 90 seconds to 30+ minutes for your regular Facebook videos. And, for your Live video broadcasts, a minimum of five minutes and up to four hours. And for Instagram, 60 seconds. Phew!

5. Add captions to your videos

According to Mari’s research 85 percent of videos are watched with sound off. It’s not surprising when you think how often you’re somewhere that makes listening tricky. Also, sometimes you just want to watch the story and read what’s being said – it’s definitely how I prefer to watch videos.  Adding captions is easy and lots of the work is done for you. I’ll show you how to do this in one of my newsletters very soon!

6. Create highly shareable videos

According to Mari ‘Share is the ‘holy grail’ on your Facebook business content. It’s free viral marketing, when you can get it. According to Facebook, “Recommendations from friends are powerful: in fact, 48% of video watch time on Facebook comes from shares. ~Facebook” So, how can you create videos that are sharable? Well there are lots of ways and obviously I’ll be sharing a load with you very soon in one of my newsletters but to get you started, think about sharing stories about your business. Think about sharing those time lapse videos of work in progress. Think about sharing videos of magical things in your business – I sat yesterday and watched a wax melt melting. I watched it 3 times. It was mesmerising. More ideas coming soon!

7. Create square videos

According to Mari’s research  “square videos perform better on Facebook, resulting in 28% more views, more likes, and shares, while leading to a 67% greater view-completion rate.” Wow! That matters when you’re trying to make an impression and build relationships. Also, you get more space in the newsfeed with a square video as opposed to a landscape one, which is a good thing.

Adobe Spark is great for creating square videos and it’s free! I’ll share some more apps and software very soon. Remember if you make your videos 60 seconds or under, you can use them on Instagram too.

8. Monetise your own videos

According to Mari, there are three primary ways to monetise:

  1. Your own offer. This is probably the most relevant to us as small business owners. It’s where you put a link to your offer in the video, or the post, or both.
  2. Sponsors. Worth a look but probably not your best option.
  3. Ad breaks. You need at least 2,000 followers and your live broadcast needs to have more than 300 people watching at the same time. Then, you’d qualify for ad breaks after you’ve been live for at least 4 minutes. You can take additional ad breaks every 5 minutes after your first break. But they are really annoying for your viewers. Just saying…

9. Stay away from the Boost button

According to Mari Smith, “most savvy marketers on Facebook have long known that the Boost button is a ‘lightweight’ ad interface. The Facebook ad algorithms know that you are a somewhat novice advertiser if all you do is boost your posts…” It’s time to get familiar with the Facebook Ads Manager and start looking at proper targeting and custom audiences. Luckily, I can help you with this – there will be a newsletter about it very soon!

10. Be a more sophisticated advertiser

According to Mari, if you “Use Ads Manager + install the Facebook Pixel + Standard Event tracking + use Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences + do retargeting + choose Traffic, Conversions, Products or Leads for your ad objective. This combo shows the Facebook ad algorithms that you are a much more sophisticated advertiser, compared to a business that only hits the Boost button.”

OK if that sounded like a very scary foreign language to you, I’m not surprised! What Mari is saying is that if you start to use the Facebook Ad Manager tools properly, your ads will perform better and you MIGHT get better organic reach too. Hmm. I don’t doubt it’s true but it feels like hard going! Try the first few options first, I reckon!

So, in my next few newsletters and blogs I’ll be taking Mari’s excellent advice and translating it into ideas you can use in your business. Don’t worry, you’ll be using Facebook like a pro very soon.

I’d love to know what you think of this. Does it make you excited? Worried? Scared? Are you already using videos on Facebook? How are they working for you? Tell me! 🙂

If you want to get all of my Facebook Video Mastery lessons as they come out, sign up to my newsletter here and they will pop into your inbox – SIGN UP HERE and get 12 free e-books while you’re at it!

45 Things You Can Outsource To A Virtual Assistant

45 Things You Can Outsource To A Virtual Assistant

Have you ever wanted to get some help in your business but were put off because it felt too hard?

  • Where would you find the right person?
  • How do you know if you can trust them?
  • How long will it take for them to ‘get’ what you need?
  • Will it be quicker just to do it yourself?
  • What happens if it goes wrong?

The thought of using another person to ‘do’ part of your business is nerve-wracking – of course it it, we know our business better than anyone and it’s our baby.

BUT there comes a point quite quickly where we realise we can’t do everything. What we WANT to do is the thing we set up in business to do – what we NEED to do is everything else from admin to legal, marketing to accounts. And although they are necessary, they are not the best use of our time.

Our time is BEST spent doing our thing. The thing we sell.

When we first start out, we tend to have very little money and so we feel like we MUST do everything ourselves.

When we’ve been going a little while and we have customers and orders, life gets a bit frantic. Things suffer.

  • The accounting gets left to the side because we don’t have time and then the end of the tax year comes around and we suddenly have a year’s worth of figures to do by yesterday. Eeeek!
  • The marketing doesn’t happen. We have fits and starts. We post a few bits to Facebook, tweet a bit and send out one e-newsletter (that took the best part of a week to get our head around and we’re left with chewed nails and a permanently perplexed forehead)
  • The client files are done when we are left with no option.
  • The blogging just doesn’t happen.
  • And as for making updating our website, well that’s a distant dream.

If this is sounding familiar then you are not alone – this happens to nearly every business owner at some point. It’s what you do next that makes the difference.

If you can see the bigger picture and you realise that getting those ‘bad fit’ jobs off your to-do list and outsourced to someone who can do them quickly and efficiently, you will free up valuable time to spend on the things that you do best. That means you can grow your business.

If you stay stuck at the point where you are always fighting the ‘bad fit’ jobs, you will never get the breathing space you need in your business. If you don’t get that breathing space, you never have time to plan or think – and without time to think and plan it’s really, really hard to scale up your business.

What Can I Outsource?

One of the biggest reasons people get stuck with outsourcing is that they don’t know where to start. They aren’t sure what they COULD outsource even if they wanted to. That’s why I’ve put together this list for you of things I’ve outsourced and you could too.
Remember, virtual assistants have different skill sets, so find one who can manage a particular task or role rather than looking for a ‘one size fits all’ person.

Hiring a virtual assistant for even just one or two hours can free up HOURS of your valuable time – things that take you a LONG time to do (because they aren’t your favourite thing and you’ve been avoiding them forever) will take a virtual assistant far less time because a) they don’t hate them and b) they do this all the time so they are good at it.

One last thing – put a trial in place so that BOTH of you can see if you’re a good fit. If not, you can part without issue – that’s what trials are for.

So, without further ado, here are 45 things you can outsource to a virtual assistant.

1. Inbox detox

I read recently that spam makes up over 80% of all emails sent worldwide – I can vouch for this as I seem to attract a few hundred each day. Also, it’s really tempting to sign up to ‘business expert’ subscriptions and newsletters but do you ever get time to read them? If your inbox is full of spam, newsletters and noise you’re probably missing genuine messages and enquiries – you need to take back control. A VA can do this for you by sorting out all those folders, unsubscribing from newsletters you keep forgetting to unsubscribe from, putting you some systems in place and giving you sight of the important stuff.

2. Importing databases

Setting up new software? Starting an e-newsletter? Anything like this usually means you need to import lists or databases – doing all that stuff with .csv files and spreadsheets that brings you out in hives. If you get it wrong it sends your software haywire – best to get it right first time. Why not get a VA to do it for you? It won’t take them long and they can focus on the task in hand rather than being pulled in all directions trying to run a business.

3. Creating reports

Sales reports, postage cost reports, mileage reports – any reports you need – give them the info and off they’ll go!

4. Transcribing audios

Record your client notes and get them transcribed to save you typing them up. Interviewed someone or done an online class? Get it transcribed by a virtual assistant so you can use it for other things (e-books, blogs, videos). Recording voice memos on your phone is easy peasy and will save you tons of time you can spend on other things.

5. Creating forms

Opt in forms, website forms, survey forms, expense forms, mileage forms – any forms you need – they take a little time and patience to set up and that’s something that’s in short supply for most business owners so use a VA to do it for you.

6. Preparing meeting minutes

Do you REALLY want to spend time going through those 23 pages of scribble from the meeting turning it into a beautifully clear set of minutes? Do you? If not, see if you can find a sympathetic VA with a talent for deciphering scrawl and they will have it done in no time.

7. Preparing presentations

Powerpoint slides. They have been the downfall of many a happy business owner. A few hours later and many curses and tears later they give up because the animations didn’t work and they got ambushed by WordArt. It’s not pretty. Whiz your logo and notes over to a VA and let them do it properly.

8. Travel planning

Trains, planes, hire cars, hotels, holidays, sightseeing… That.

9. SEO

Doing all that ‘behind the scenes’ work on your website, optimising blogs, adding keywords, all those important things you never have time to do but that make all the difference to getting found on Google. Just do it – there are VAs who specialise in web work and know this like the back of their hand and when you start appearing in key Google searches and getting more enquiries and sales, the investment in a VA will be paid back several times over.

10. Formatting blogs

You know how blogs need proof-reading? They need headings and images? How about embedded links and a bit of SEO work? No? Ooh, best find a VA who does! Blogs can be an amazing part of your marketing, attracting web visitors, positioning you as an expert and showing you know your stuff so it’s definitely worth going the extra mile and getting them looking great.

11. Formatting e-books

E-books are a brilliant marketing asset whether you’re selling them or giving them away for free in exchange for email addresses to build your list. No matter which, you need to make them look professional – this is the first impression most people will have of your business. I don’t mean you have to pay a graphic designer to whip them up but you DO need to get a consistent style and feel (and they need to be error free and grammatically correct). If you aren’t confident, find someone who can do it for you.

12. Diary management

If you just want to be given a ‘to-do’ and ‘to be’ list each day, there are VAs who will act like your PA, in other words they will manage and protect your time, book in your appointments and keep you right. Not everyone needs this but you will definitely know if you do!

13. Moderating blogs

Blogs are fantastic marketing tools but they are living documents. People will find them long after you’ve written them and if you’ve done it right, you’ll get lots of comments (which is a GOOD thing). My advice is moderate every comment rather than automatically allowing people to post  – a VA can do this for you.

14. Research

Need some statistics for a presentation or sales page or some figures for a client document? Or maybe you need to find some quotes for your FB page or get some information for a client report. If you don’t have time to do the research, a VA will happily do this for you – you just need to give them a time and money budget in advance.

15. Organising Dropbox

Dropbox can quickly turn into a disaster zone with files everywhere, duplicates taking up space and a complete lack of order, leaving you with a headache and lots of time wasted looking for things. Get a VA to set up folders, come up with a naming system and generally tidy up.

16. Data entry

Got a list of people who attended your event and gave you their email address on a sheet of paper? Someone has to input them into your database and a VA can do it quickly and accurately.

17. Creating spreadsheets

If Excel brings you out in hives then shout for a VA who knows her way around spreadsheets. You might think you can live your life without spreadsheets but if you’re honest, I’m sure you could do with some nifty cashflow or management account spreadsheets at the very least, not to mention record keeping, PR contacts, or even your list of tweets you need to schedule. Rather than battling with Excel, find a VA who can do the set up for you – they can even brand for you it if you ask nicely.

18. Checking voicemail

If you’re out and about with clients, at events or in meetings, who is keeping an eye on your phone? Even if you don’t want to stretch to call handling, it doesn’t hurt to get someone to check your office and mobile voicemail at regular intervals and either deal with the queries or put them into your to-do list.

19. Project management

Whether you’re organising a launch, going through a rebrand or working with a team to make something happen, a VA can help with the organisation and project management. You need one person who knows what is supposed to be happened and who is supposed to be doing it, and by when, and if you don’t have the bandwidth then a VA could do it for you.

20. Sending client invoices

You know you need to do it but it’s SO hard to find time! And yet it’s the lifeblood of your business – if you don’t invoice, you don’t get paid. Get a VA to sort it for you – it might take you a bit of time to set up between you but in the (not so) long run you’ll wonder how you ever managed. Some business owners I know do it via dictation – they record their hours and billing info onto a voice record on their phone, email it to their VA and the invoices come back to get checked then get sent. Easy peasy.

21. Credit control

Yeah, OK, so invoicing is only half of the equation. The other half is making sure they get paid. The thing about chasing invoice payments is it feels so PERSONAL – one day you’re treating your lovely clients like royalty and giving great service, the next you’re on the phone reminding them their payment is late. I know, it feels kind of odd. This was the first ever thing I used a VA for. My VA didn’t have to worry about emotions or guilt – she handled it in a very straightforward, matter-of-fact way and guess what? She got the cash in. Time after time. No brainer, if you ask me.

22. Receptionist duties

Maybe you want to look and act like a bigger company. Maybe you just want to make sure all your calls are getting handled. Maybe you only need a receptionist / meeter-greeter occasionally when clients come to your office. Whatever the case, just book your VA, brief them on the task and let them take care of it. You look awesome, your clients feel looked after and you only had to pay for a couple of hours of a VA’s time rather than having a full time member of staff.

23. Uploading to YouTube

You’ve made the videos, you just need to get them out there but it’s a hassle and you don’t have time to sit and upload them all to YouTube, put in the descriptions and make sure they are doing their thing. A VA could sort that for you – you stick them into a Dropbox, they upload them and before you know it, you’ll be a YouTube star.

24. Scheduling Tweets

Hootsuite anyone? Or Buffer, maybe? You know they are there, you know you need to schedule some tweets but who has time to sit and upload them? Not you. But a VA could. Just sayin’.

25. Moderating FB comments

If you’re struggling to keep up with your Facebook page, you’re losing out on sales. When you have a popular post and people are asking questions about your product or service, you need to be on the ball with your replies. They are sales waiting to happen but if you don’t get around to it, quickly, you’ll miss out. Set up a VA as an Editor on your Facebook page and they can handle most of the replies and field anything to you that needs your personal attention.

26. Newsletter creation

I’ve known grown women waste a whole week trying to get their newsletter to look nice. A week! Imagine! That’s not uncommon by the way – it’s very easy to waste a lot of time going around in circles trying to get your newsletter set up if you’re not arty and you don’t know what you’re doing. Get a VA to sort it – you know it makes sense.

27. Newsletter sending

You’ve got the template sorted, your email is ready to go if only you had a list of people to send it to…get your VA to upload your customer list for you and schedule your newsletter to go out when you want. And while they’re at it, ask them to check the stats afterwards for you and tell you what worked and what didn’t.

28. Press release writing

Not very good with words? Stuck for what to say? Tell a VA your story and ask them to turn it into a beautiful press release. You can tweak it afterwards if needs be but the hard work will have been done – it’s much easier to amend a release than start with a blank page.

29. Press release distribution

A VA can send out your press release but they can do far more. They can research publications that are a good fit for your target audience (your Super Customer) and make you a shortlist to work from. They can get contact details of the key personnel and even create a spreadsheet for you containing all the information. They can send out the releases if you like or you can get in touch with individual publications and build relationships, if you want. The main thing is, just get on with it – fame is just around the corner!

30. Setting up a podcast

If you want to start a podcast but the whole ‘techie’ thing baffles you (or scares you witless) then find a podcasty VA. There are some FAB techie VAs out there who know their way around all the software and tools AND can keep you right on other podcasting questions. Don’t struggle in silence, find a VA who already does this and save yourself hours of podcasty pain!

31. Editing audio files

The best podcasts have a snazzy introduction and ‘outro’ – it makes them sound far more professional. The thing is, to add them to your podcast recording requires an element of tech wizardry and using audio editing software can be tricky. Actually that’s an understatement. It can make you cry tears of frustration and throw your laptop in the sink. A techie VA can sort it for you quickly and efficiently – what are you waiting for?

32. Updating website

You know how you’ve been meaning to update the prices on your website for ages? And those new product images you mean to upload last month, remember? They aren’t going to magic themselves onto your website but they NEARLY can if you hire a VA to do your website updates for you. Just check your VA knows their way around your particular type of website and pass over that update list – you’ll feel a huge sense of relief and your website will thank you for it.

33. Proofreading

If you have an important letter or email to send, you don’t want glaring mistakes or spelling errors spoiling the effect. If you’re paying good money for brochures or fliers to be printed, you don’t want to repent at leisure when you see loads of typos upon opening the box. Let an eagle-eyed VA take the uncertainty away and make sure you get it right first time!

34. Setting up FB ads

Facebook Ads are the nemesis of many an unsuspecting business owner. You think you know what you’re doing and then BAM!  A chunk of money leaves your bank account to pay for FB ads and you’ve seen nothing for your hard-earned cash. And then just when you think you’ve got it sussed, FB goes and changes the rules. Aaaagh! You could give it up as a bad job; or you could hand it over to a VA who knows what they are doing and can work with you on budgets and targeting to make your ads amazing.

35. Monitoring FB ads

Setting up Facebook ads is one challenge; keeping an eye on them and tweaking them for optimum performance is another and for most people, it’s a step to far. But, if you do this, you can save loads of money and figure out how to get your best ads performing better – BUT it takes time and patience, which is something most business owners have in short supply. A social media-savvy VA can do this for you AND you’ll learn something in the process.

36. Creating autoresponders

Autoresponders are emails that go out automatically to your customers or email subscribers for a specific reason, such as welcoming them to your business or telling them what to expect from their purchase. There are LOADS of brilliant ways to use autoresponders and the right VA will already know most of them – find someone who has already done this for other clients and bring their experience and expertise into your business.

37. Scheduling autoresponders

Autoresponders are a two step task – first of all you have to write them, then you need to plug them into your email software and schedule them to go out on the right days at the right time in the right order. It takes an organised, patient person to do this and if that’s not you, find someone who can do it for you.

38. Creating Canva images

Canva is an amazing, mostly free graphics programme for beginners that lets you create everything from social media images to blog headers, e-books to brochures and everything in between. It is loads of fun to play with but it can be a serious time drain as you tinker with images. By all means have a play but if you are serious about getting images created, find an arty VA, give them a brief and let them loose on your image list.

39. Basic bookkeeping

Rather than collecting bags full of receipts and steeling yourself for a day of torture when your accounting deadline looms, why not put each month’s receipts into a ‘month’ envelope (or even take photos of each one) and send it off to a VA to input into your accounting software or a spreadsheet. That way it won’t build up and the cost of the VA will be more than justified when you get your life back…

40. Spreadsheet formulae

Remember those spreadsheets we discussed earlier? If you use a VA they won’t just set up your spreadsheet, they can also add – wait for it – *formulae* (said in a reverent whisper) because formulae make magic things happen, are in the realms of secret languages and spells….Seriously, getting my Twitter character-counter spreadsheet from my VA was a happy moment and it was all done with formulae.

41. Reminder services

Do you keep forgetting birthdays? Or missing booking deadlines for those events you wanted to attend? I get it, life is busy but if you had an organised VA, THEY could set up reminders for you and nag you until you do what you need to do OR do it for you. Money well spent, I think you’ll find.

42. Customer service emails

If it’s taking you too long to get back to customers with quotes or answers to questions, hire a VA to do it for you. Give them a ‘cheat sheet’ and your pricing structure, ask them to check with you before they send and watch your customer service levels soar…

43. Sending greetings cards

How long is it since you sent thank you cards to your customers? Or birthday cards to your favourite client? How about a ‘good luck in your new home’ card to the supplier who just moved into bigger premises? Cards like this in the mail make people smile. Making people smile is good for everyone. Task a VA with sending out the cards on your behalf – you can even ask them to compile a ‘birthday’ list for your top clients!

44. Managing events

If you’re running an event, there are lots of things that need to be covered. From finding and liaising with the venue, setting up the ticketing and payments, marketing the event, dealing with enquiries, even manning the reception desk on the day  – are YOU going to do it? If not, best get a VA involved early on and it will run like clockwork.

45. Ask them! You might be surprised!

Every Virtual Assistant has their own unique combination of experience, expertise, skills and knowledge so why not schedule in some time to have a Skype or a coffee and chat about what they can do and what they HAVE DONE in the past. A chat like this could give you some great ideas for your business and you’re talking to the person who can make it happen. Awesome stuff!

There are LOADS of other things a VA could do for your business, I’ve really just scratched the surface.

How Do You Find A Good Virtual Assistant?

There are a several associations that train VAs and these can be a good place to start – just Google Virtual Assistant association or training and see what comes up.

Google the specialism you want – if you need a VA who specialises in podcasting then put that into the search bar – any good VA worth their salt will make sure they show up in searches for their expert topic.

Ask in groups – if you’re a member of any networking, business or Facebook groups, see if any names get put forward. Word of mouth is a great way to find a gem of a VA.

Remember – not every VA will be right for your business and not every VA can do every single thing you need – you might have to use a few different VAs for different areas of your business, and that’s fine. Also, it doesn’t have to be forever – put trials in place, keep talking and work in out. Neither of you are mind readers so good communication will make sure you’re both getting what you need.

Finally – when you find a good VA, don’t let them go! A great VA is an asset to your business and can make a big positive difference to your bottom line.

Where To Start Using A VA

Pick ONE task that’s been sitting on your desk for ages and find a VA to do it for you. Most VAs will take on one-off projects and it will give you an affordable way to see if working with a VA works for you (while ticking another item off your to-do list). If the first one goes OK, keep handing over small jobs until you’re confident you have the right person and then think about putting something more regular in place.

8 Easy Ways To Get Laser Focus Right When You Need It

8 Easy Ways To Get Laser Focus Right When You Need It

People say ‘FOCUS’ is the magic ingredient in any successful business and they’re not wrong, but they make it sound like it’s EASY! And it isn’t! Being able to focus when you feel like you barely have time to turn around, is not easy. Trying to find space in your brain to focus on just one thing, when you’re trying to juggle life, business, children and other jobs is tricky!

The trouble is, without focus you’ll struggle to get anything done. Jobs take far longer to do when you’re trying to do a dozen other things at the same time. Even the simplest tasks can take hours, if you’re being pulled in all directions when actually they would take just a few minutes if you were able to focus on them. Life is easier when you can focus. Business is easier when you can focus.

So how DO you get the focus you need to get stuff done and build your business?

Well, I’m no focus guru but I am a mum and a business owner and I’ve learned how to do this (or I would have gone crazy) so I’ve put together 8 tips for you to help you find more time and do more with it. Give them a try, one or two of them could seriously help you build your business, reduce stress and help you get more done. What’s not to love?

1. Stop multi-tasking!

Women are brilliant at multi-tasking. We’re told this as we grow up. It’s like a badge of honour and we sometimes feel like we’re scoring major girl points, the more we can boast we can do at the same time. And in life, it’s great to do that – I often make tea while helping with homework, while making a dentist appointment and answering quick work messages on my phone – I’m sure you’re the same. We HAVE to do it or the day would run away with us, but in business it’s different.

I was talking to a woman recently on Skype and I could see she was busy working on something while I was talking to her ‘Oh keep talking’ she said ‘I can do this while I’m listening’. But she wasn’t quite with me. I didn’t feel listened to. And it mattered.

Maybe you CAN do invoices while you’re helping a customer, but you’re opening yourself up to making mistakes and to be honest, you would get the invoicing done far quicker and more accurately if you blocked out 10 or 15 minutes and just did it, without spreading yourself thin.

We often kid ourselves into thinking we’re getting more done by multi-tasking, but we often end up just spending a lot of time spinning our wheels – things take longer, mistakes are made. So, my advice for what it’s worth is to give ONE thing your full attention, even just for 10 or 15 minutes and just do it. Give it your full attention because that’s when the magic happens. You get more done but because you’re focusing fully, you see ways to improve, you come up with ideas, you remember things you had meant to do ages ago – it’s great!

2. Finish tasks that are easily completed.

You know that my mantra is ‘don’t get it perfect, get it finished?’ Well I mean it! Most of the time you’re having trouble staying focused is because there a bunch of little things on your mind that you know you need to do.

Get a pad and pen and write down everything that can be completed in under 10 minutes, then finish everything on the list before you start on a project that requires more focus.

This doesn’t mean that every time something comes up that would take less than ten minutes to do, you do it. You simply batch everything together that requires ten minutes of time or less. And don’t agonise or keep putting it off because it’s not perfect – just get the darned thing done! Finished!

3. Stay in the now.

As much as you can, practice focusing your attention on the present moment. I know that person really annoyed you last week. I know you might be worried about something coming up soon. But being bothered about something that happened in the past (that you can’t change) and being worried about something that might happen in the future – you have no control over them. The only thing you have control over is what you are doing right now – how you are feeling, how you react, what is getting your energy – you can change that right now.  And the things you DO and DECIDE right now have a big impact on what WILL happen.

Don’t dwell on ‘might haves’, and ‘should haves’ and ‘if onlys’ – don’t let the baggage of the past hold you back. Focus on what you are doing and can do right now and let the other ‘stuff’ go.

4. Respond, don’t react.

We’re busy. Often the person who shouts the loudest gets seen to first – that’s how life works, right?

Here’s a thought; instead of reacting to the latest ‘urgent’ email or phonecall, take time to think. If you keep reacting, then you’re not being productive.

Work out what YOU need to do each day and protect your work time while you’re doing it. Don’t immediately react to requests or messages, instead only check messages when it suits your schedule and don’t feel that you have to come back to people immediately. It’s perfectly OK to sit on an email for a couple of days while you consider your options or get something more important finished. Take control of your time – respond in a way that’s right for you and your business instead of reacting.

5. Declutter your workspace.

It’s really hard to focus and be organised when your workspace is a mess. If you have piles of papers, empty cups, unpaid bills, and other ‘stuff’ piled up and around you, how can you expect to think clearly, let alone find anything? Declutter your workspace. Do it now. You will feel so much better once it’s done and you’ll find it easier to concentrate too.

6. Love what you do.

If you don’t love what you’re doing then you’re going to have a really hard time staying focused. A lot of the time we can’t focus because we really don’t WANT to. We’re bored. Or we really don’t like what we have to do. And yet as soon as we have a job we’re looking forward to, we have no trouble finding the time and space to focus, right?

If you don’t love your business, do something else because that feeling will only get worse. If there are certain parts of your business you don’t like, then find a way to either get rid of them altogether or outsource them. There is always a way, you just have to be open-minded and creative. Spending your time and energy on something you really don’t enjoy or actively dislike is a sure fire way to make an unhappy, unproductive, unfocused you. Time to face up to it and do something about it, eh?

7. Distinguish between urgent and important.

What’s important in your business? What’s urgent?

They are not always the same thing.

Important things are running your business properly, managing your money, creating great products or services, getting more customers, providing great service, keeping on top of your tax – they are all really important. But most of the time they are not urgent, especially if you deal with them regularly and don’t leave things till the last minute.

Urgent things tend to be of our own making. Oh no! That tax return is due in tomorrow and I need to find all my receipts and call my accountant and find my government website login but I’ve forgotten the password and they will only send a replacement out in the mail…yes I’ve been there too. But it was only urgent because I hadn’t treated it as important before, and had it all sorted out well in advance. It wasn’t unexpected.

In business there aren’t many URGENT AND UNEXPECTED things. Most of the time, urgent things are just important things that we’ve forgotten about or ignored.

It’s really hard to focus when everything seems or feels urgent. So stop creating urgent things. You can do this!

8. Set a timer.

If you really need to get something done and you keep getting distracted, set yourself a deadline. There are loads of free timer apps online or for your phone. Set yourself a time limit of 10, 20 or 30 minutes and focus on that ONE job for that period of time until the buzzer goes. It’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re up against a deadline!

I do this all the time and I’m always amazed how productive AND focused I am when I’m trying to beat the clock!

What are YOUR top focus tips?

I’d love to read them – pop them in the comments and share the focus love!

Time To Fix Your Broken Business?

Time To Fix Your Broken Business?

Do you feel like you have a broken business?As if part of it just aren’t working?

If so, you’re definitely not alone. Building a business is tricky. Not only do you have to actually DO or MAKE the thing you get paid for, there’s a whole bunch of other stuff you need to know and do to keep the business running and legal. From marketing to cashflow, invoicing and credit control to tax, rules, regulations and legal requirements, it can be all consuming – and no wonder we get overwhelmed and struggle with where to focus first.

The thing is, if any of these areas get neglected, your business starts to break.

You get behind on invoicing. You get hit with unexpected tax bills. You come to the end of a busy period to find you have NO business and no idea where the next sale will come from. And those are just some of the symptoms, not to mention the panic, overwhelm and despair that accompany them.

And here’s the thing. Hardly any small businesses get it ALL right, all of the time. Most businesses have areas that are ‘weak’ or neglected because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to tackle everything.

So there is always something that’s broken or breaking. And that’s a shame. So, what can you do about it?

Well, the answer is LOTS! But very slowly and in very tiny steps. Let me explain.

By the time we reach a point where one or more areas of our business are ‘broken’ or not working properly, we’re usually in it up to our neck. We are busy, we have no spare time, we just have to keep paddling and hope we can keep going and fix things before disaster strikes.

And when something BIG goes wrong, we go into crisis mode. We stop doing everything else and throw all our attention and energy at the ‘broken’ thing until we get it going again.

So, if we run out of cash we go crazy chasing up outstanding invoices and ignore everything else. If we come to the end of a busy period and find sales have come to a total stop, we put all our attention on marketing like a crazy person, throwing out deals and offers and promotions left, right and centre and ignore everything else until we get the sales, then we start again.

So, let me ask you something.

Does this sound like a good and sustainable way to run a business?

I don’t think so.

What we need to do is start fixing the tiny things first.

The tiny, seemingly insignificant things that you think won’t make a difference but over time, they make a huge difference.

This might be as simple as spending 10 minutes every day checking to see whose payments are overdue and sending out emails or making calls to ask when payment is coming. If you did that every single day you would see big changes starting to happen.

  • First of all, you would know EXACTLY where you are with your money and your outstanding payments all the time. That’s massive.
  • Secondly, you would always be on top of debtors and they would know you are running a professional business. You would send them a reminder on the day payment is due and ask them when you can expect payment.
  • You would follow up a week later with a friendly phone call asking when you can expect payment and showing them that you’re serious about collecting this money, instead of sitting waiting patiently until someone remembers to pay you.
  • Thirdly, you would start to see who the problem customers are and you could make a decision about whether it’s worth dealing with them in the future.

And if you did this every work day, you would never have a mad panic about who owes what at the end of the month, and then despairing because the person who signs off payments has just gone on holiday for 2 weeks. If you’d done your 10 minutes a day you would have known about the holiday and you would have probably already been paid by now.

Let’s take another example.

Say you’ve been crazy busy with orders and then one day you finish everything on the list. You have been SO busy that you’ve not had time to do any marketing or line up any more sales. So now it’s like a ghost town out there. You have to start from scratch again, like you did the last time before you got crazy busy again, remember?

But just imagine if you had a steady stream of orders and a healthy waiting list that always has sales coming through, so you never have crazy busy times but you also never have a ghost-town. That takes one tiny change in your business.

You just need to start keeping in touch. With customers, with prospects, with anyone who wants to hear from you. Regularly.

If you start keeping in touch and sending out a regular e-newsletter every month or two weeks, magical things start to happen.

  • Customers start getting in touch and ordering more because your email just reminded them how fab your business is and why they need to be buying from you again.
  • Enquiries from potential customers start to appear because something you said in your newsletter jogged their memory or hit a nerve and they decide NOW is a good time to take action and buy from you.
  • You get bigger orders because you started showcasing your products and services in your newsletter, focusing on different ones each time and you have testimonials and case studies showing how your stuff works and why it’s so great. Customers who would just have bought one thing decide to try this other new thing because the testimonials showed them it’s just what they need, plus they are more likely to trust you because customers are singing your praises.
  • You can create sales. Yes really. Just from a newsletter. You decide every so often to put out an offer or a deal, or try a new style or product and you give your newsletter subscribers a sneaky peek and an early bird price and guess what? People buy. They book. They purchase. They place orders. Just because you sent them a newsletter.

This one tiny change in your business has a HUGE impact on your cashflow, on your time, on your peace of mind and on your sales.

Sending a newsletter might take you a day the first time you try it. The second time it might take half a day. The third time it might take you an hour. Before very long you’ll be a whiz at it and you’ll be writing newsletters like a pro (and you’ll have time because you’re not running round trying to scramble after business).

Every day, write down anything that you think needs to go in your next newsletter so when it comes to writing it, the content is there it just needs putting into the email.

This Works For Every Part Of Your Business AND Life

It does! Making tiny changes and STICKING TO THEM is all you need to do to create MASSIVE changes down the line.

Sometimes it takes a short time. Sometimes it can take a year or more (putting money into your pension pot for example) before you see the benefits but those tiny changes add up.

Where you put your attention is where the magic happens and the magic only takes a tiny change to start working. You just need to STICK AT IT!

Your Challenge:

  • Pick ONE TINY THING you want to change and start today. It needs to be something really small that takes hardly any effort. Something that’s easy and quick. Just pick one. Once you’ve cracked one area, you can start tiny change number 2.
  • Keep doing it, every day for a week.
  • And once you’ve done it for a week, commit to doing it for another TWO weeks because after 3 weeks you’ll be used to it. It will become a habit and something you just DO without thinking.
  • Every 3 weeks you can make ONE MORE TINY CHANGE in your business and it will feel effortless because your previous tiny changes are now such a part of your routine that you don’t even think about them.
  • The last thing you need to do is to write down what the tiny change is each time. Put it on your wall, on your phone, in your notebook along with the date and look at it every day. At the end of a year you could have made 17 tiny changes in your business and your life and you will probably have forgotten most of them because you are so used to them but when you look back, you’ll be amazed at how far you have come and what you have achieved just by making TEENY, TINY CHANGES every few weeks in your business.

I can’t wait to see how you get on!