Is Your Motivation In Hibernation?

Is Your Motivation In Hibernation?

Remember all those New Year’s resolutions? You had plans to take on the world and make this year a year to remember. You were going to get tons of new customers, make a load of money (and lose a few pounds at the same time)?

But, now it’s time to actually make it happen, the resolutions have gone by out the window, reality has set in and you’ve gone a bit flat. A lot flat. In fact you just can’t be bothered.

You’re feeling like you just want to curl up in a ball rather than face another pile of paperwork or come up with a miraculous marketing plan. Right?

Motivation? You might as well be speaking Klingon!

I know, it’s tricky to keep motivated when you’re running a business, seeing to the kids, working other jobs, trying to keep on top of housework and keep everyone fed and watered. It’s even worse when the weather is rubbish,  and the New Year festivities feel like a distant memory.

Add in those jobs you really don’t want to do in the business, like writing that blog, doing tax returns, chasing payments, filing all that paperwork or coming up with some bright ideas to drum up more business and it’s no wonder you feel flat as a pancake.

But these things still need doing.

Without them the house would turn into something you see on the reality TV shows, where they have to send in a cleaning team to dig out the kitchen. They would find you in the corner of the dining room trapped under a pile of invoices, business at a standstill, in your pyjamas watching box sets and drinking coffee. However appealing that might sound right now, it’s not going to grow your business.

And you DO want to grow your business, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading business blogs, right? You WANT to snap out of perpetual PJ mode and back into business mode, so you can get the cash flowing and make your dreams come true? 

So what’s a girl to do?

Well, first of all know you are not alone. I go through this a few times a year – mainly after Christmas and after holidays or long weekends. It seems to take me forever to wind down but once I’m wound down, I take a lot of getting going again, no matter much I love my business. I have to drag myself to my desk and try to snap my brain back into work mode, even though it feels like a giant, sluggish marshmallow.

There are a few ways to tackle motivation hibernation. Different options work for me at different times so take a look and see if any of these feel appealing or even vaguely doable. I’ve used them all at different points and although it might take me a bit longer than I’d like to ‘snap’ back into work mode, I get there eventually and so will you.

1. Be kind to yourself

If your number one motivational tactic is beating yourself up because you’re not doing what you’re supposed to, maybe stop that? 

You know what it’s like when you have deadlines and you just aren’t feeling it – the more pressure you put yourself under, the less you feel like doing it and the less creative you are. Adding pressure makes it worse.

Take a step back, understand your body and brain have just had a well-earned and much-needed break and it’s going to take time to get back into the swing of things. Think of it like this – you’re restarting a cold business engine and it’s going to take time to get it warmed up again and working as well as it was before your break. So, stop being so mean to yourself and give yourself a couple of weeks to reacclimatise and fall back in love with your business. You’ll still get stuff done, probably more than you think but you’ll do it without that horrible, counterproductive stress.

2. Do the worst job first

I’m going to suggest two completely contradictory tactics now – I have used both at different times and they both work, it just depends on which feels most appealing at the time. The first is to do the worst job first.

Often the reason we can’t get back into work mode is that we have a horrible or tricky job to tackle once we get started and that immediately puts a dampener on any enthusiasm you managed to muster. It could be a tax return, stock take, filing, invoice chasing or some other job that makes you want to run away and hide in the biscuit tin.

If that feels like a huge black cloud over your business then tackle it. Now. No procrastinating, no excuses, just grab a cuppa, gather whatever tools and energy you need and do it. Once it’s done you will feel AMAZING and it’s a huge block out of the way, leaving you to do the nicer jobs you enjoy without the horrible one looming over you.

3. Do the nicest job first

If you just can’t face doing the horrible jobs first, pick something you enjoy doing in your business and do it, guilt-free. Give yourself a couple of hours or even a couple of days to do what you love (which is probably the reason you set up your business in the first place) without any of the less enjoyable stuff clouding your day.

Don’t let the mind monkeys stop you enjoying it – you will get the ‘horrible’ jobs done soon but for now, it’s time to fall back in love with your business and reconnect with the feelings you had when you started it.

Often this feels like a real treat because our time is usually taken up with business stuff we can’t avoid and don’t necessarily like. Simply spending a little time doing what we love can reinvigorate us, remind us why we do this every day and get us back into work mode in the nicest possible way.

4. Do a brain dump

Sometimes all it takes for us to unlock ‘work mode’ in our brain is to bring a bit of clarity to the situation.

Often after a break (and actually at regular intervals throughout the year) I feel that my head is full of ‘things I must do’.

It’s like when your computer gives you a ‘memory full’ message and refuses to do any more work until you have cleared things out. My brain is stuffed to bursting and I can’t see what I need to do first, or even what I need to do at all because my brain has crammed it all into one big ball of ‘THINGS YOU SHOULD BE DOING NOW, WHY ARE YOU SO RUBBISH?’.

Before I can even begin to do anything productive I need to see what I am dealing with, so I do a brain dump. That involves taking a big sheet of paper or a notebook and writing down everything that is taking up space in my brain. All the tasks. All the ideas. All the nagging doubts. All the appointments you must not forget. Everything. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything else and don’t be surprised if some weird stuff comes out too! My brain dumps include things like:

  • Must set reminder on phone for dentist appointment on Monday
  • I never have parking money. Why do I never have change in the car? I need to sort this.
  • When did I book Chloe in for a dance lesson? Need to find out
  • I must get some bulbs for the living room light, it’s doing my head in
  • Phone mum
  • Phone British Heart Foundation to get those boxes of charity stuff in dining room
  • Buy spinach
  • Get Chloe to do Latin homework

I can keep writing for ages. Those were just the little non-work bits swirling around at the top of my brain, I haven’t even started on the chunky business stuff.

Brain dumps are really useful because they achieve several things at once:

  • They help to free up your brain’s processing power so you can get past the feeling of ‘brain overload’ and see what you are dealing with.
  • They help you to feel more in control of what’s going on.
  • They help you to see what is taking up space in your brain and deal with it.

When I do a brain dump I use my 3DS system – Do, Ditch, Delegate or Schedule. You’ll often find that several things on your list can be done right now, in 2 minutes.  Others can be scheduled into your diary because they need doing, but not now and if you schedule them, you know they are dealt with for now so they don’t need to take up space in your brain. Some can be delegated, some can be crossed off altogether (I actually bought the light bulbs yesterday but for some reason they are still taking up space in my brain). If you’re struggling to get motivated, try doing a brain dump and see if it helps – it usually does for me.

5. Pick a Sticky Note

Another technique to help you break that productivity block and kick-start your motivation is the Pick a Sticky Note method – it’s great if you’re prone to procrastinating and overthinking.

Get a pad of sticky notes and write each task on your to-do list on a different sticky note (if you use erasable pens you can reuse your sticky notes many times). Then stick them all on a wall, then pick one. Don’t look at it, just close your eyes and pick one THEN DO IT. When you’ve done it, if you feel up to it, pick another one and do it. That way there is no room for overthinking, you just take pot luck and let fate decide. No swapping them out either, if this method is going to work you have to take what you get and crack on. It’s very effective and when you run out of work time, gather up those that are left until next time you have a spare hour.

6. Work on your business vision

If you can’t face ‘work’ work, then why not do some dreaming? All in the name of building your business, too! I’m talking about working on your business vision. Your business vision is where you think about where you want your business to be in 12 month, or 5 years or further into the future. It’s all about getting very clear on what success looks like to you and how you want your business and life to look in the future – if you are clear on that then you can create plans and targets to help you achieve it.

To create a business vision you can use a notebook, a sheet of paper or a Pinterest secret board. It’s even better if you can get loved ones involved in this process because what you’re going to do is dream big.

Think about what your business could help you achieve, if you really focused. Holidays? A new home? A new car? What would your family love to be able to have or experience in the next few years? There is no need to worry about the ‘how’ for now – the first step is to get those dreams down where you can see them.

Try to be really specific too – rather than saying ‘holiday’ say ‘A holiday at Disneyland, in the hotel where giraffes look through the windows and where we can afford to get those VIP queue-jump tickets’ When you think of what you want, imagine how it would be and include all the details in words or pictures that will really bring the dream to life.

Finally, and this makes it real, put a price to it. How much do you need to save for a holiday like that? How much of a deposit would you need for your dream house? By adding money/costs into the mix you can turn those into specific, meaningful targets to work towards in your business.

If that doesn’t get you motivated into work mode again, I don’t know what will!

7. Do some preparation and planning

If you’re not ready to tackle your to-do list, can you do some preparation?

  • If you can’t face writing a blog or a newsletter, can you come up with the rough topics for the next few? Can you maybe come up with titles? Even scope them out? 
  • If you can’t face your tax return, can you stick on the radio and at least get all your receipts together and sort them into date order?
  • If you can’t face a stock check, can you set up the spreadsheet on your computer or print off your check list?

Don’t underestimate the power of preparation – when it comes to doing ‘the actual job’ you will be happy you took time to prepare as it will save you time later. 

8. Go for a walk and listen to a podcast

There are some days I just can’t be bothered with work but I also don’t want to waste my precious work time (these days are usually when I’m tired or getting over a bug) so I stick on my wellies, grab my phone and headphones and take the dog out for a walk. I’ve always got a couple of podcasts downloaded and in my case I usually choose not to listen to business coaching podcasts. I prefer things like The Infinite Monkey Cage with Professor Brian Cox, or BBC Business podcasts where they tell stories of different businesses or industries around the world, or History Hit podcasts with Dan Snow.

I immerse myself for a while in something totally unrelated to my business, something I can learn from and enjoy with no pressure and get some fresh air and exercise at the same time.

If I do nothing else productive all day, I have still managed to keep my brain active and more often than not, it will spark an idea or a thought that will help my business later. That’s where the Notes app on my phone comes in handy!

If I get REALLY inspired then I stop and let Meg the dog have a run around while I use my Otter app to dictate my idea. That’s how some pages in my Awesome Marketing Planner were born.

9. Watch a motivational video

If it’s horrible weather or you can’t (or don’t want to) leave the house, get onto YouTube and look for TED talks, or whatever motivational speaker you prefer. Watch some feel-good videos, raise your mood and know you are doing a great thing for your business. Creating a positive mindset is a wonderful investment that will reap rewards far into the future.

The best thing is, you don’t have to take any action. You can watch motivational videos for the sake of it, as many as you like. No pressure, just enjoy them for what they are. If you do get inspired, you can scribble a note or two to look at later but just raising your mood is enough when you’re feeling flat and demotivated. A few days of that and you’ll be making your own motivational videos as you power through your marketing.

10. Look at your Book of Awesome

If you haven’t got a Book of Awesome, read this blog I wrote about it. In short, it’s a book where you collect all the lovely, positive, complimentary things people have said about you and your business. Your Book of Awesome is something to dig out and dip into when you’re feeling flat or sad – and especially if you’ve just had a ‘bad customer’ experience that has left you wondering why you bother and doubting your ability. Reading about the joy you have brought, the difference your business has made, the lives you have improved even in just a tiny way – it makes your heart sing and it’s good for the soul.

If you don’t have one, create one now. Treat yourself to the prettiest notebook you can find or decorate a boring one so just looking at it makes you happy. Print off lovely reviews and feedback. Write down things people have said to you.

Make it a book about all the amazing things your business has done and why you matter (you definitely, absolutely matter). And when you need to, when times are tough and you’re feeling flat, demotivated or defeated, dig out your Book of Awesome and read it. Properly read it. Think about how those people were feeling when they said or wrote those words. You’re awesome.

 

If all else fails, come into my This Girl Means Business free Facebook group and join in. Help other people if you can. Ask for help if you want. Do what makes you happy, knowing you’re among likeminded awesome business owners who totally get how you feel. You can do this.

 

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.

5 Tips To Help You Outsource (Painlessly)

5 Tips To Help You Outsource (Painlessly)

I asked the ladies on my Facebook page recently what their biggest business struggle was – as you can imagine I got a whole raft of replies (which gave me some ideas for some fabulous blog posts) and one lady said:

“Claire –  my biggest challenge is learning to trust others so I can confidently outsource to free up my time to build the business.”

And I know that you’re probably feeling the same. Outsourcing seems like a HUGE deal – and it is. We’ve all heard horror stories of outsourcing disasters but do you know what? I could not have built my business to this level without outsourcing.

But it’s hard to think about at first because it’s our BABY.

We’ve created this business from scratch. We’ve put blood, sweat and tears into it (usually LOTS of tears). We know everything about it and we are worried about giving any of it away. Because that’s how it feels.

We feel that if we give away some jobs then:

  • We’ll give away our power
  • We’re paying for something we could do ourselves
  • No-one else can do it as well as we can
  • WE’RE HANDING OVER OUR BABY TO A STRANGER!

I know this because I had these thoughts too. I can do everything – EVERYTHING in my business. There is not one job I couldn’t do if I set my mind to it. But it doesn’t mean it’s the best use of my time.

If I’d stayed doing everything myself, I’d be stuck on a pittance instead of zooming along and growing my business.

I simply don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything I need to do to grow my business. I want to be able to collect Chloe from school and have a life.

Plus, there are some things I’m really bad at. I’m not a detail person at all so anything that needs patience and fine tuning is a recipe for disaster in Claire World. I get bored really easily, too. I’m pretty good on techie stuff but I could waste hours doing stuff that anyone with a techie brain could do for me.

So I made the decision fairly early on in my business to reinvest my meager earnings into my business and found myself a virtual assistant or VA. I could only afford her for a couple of hours a month but you would not BELIEVE how much stuff she got done in those 2 hours. She freed up my time – I freed up far more than the 2 hours I’d paid for. I handed over web update stuff, social media stuff, accounts spreadsheets and blog uploads for starters. She whizzed through it like a knife through butter.

What A Relief!

All of a sudden, all those crappy jobs that had been on my to-do list forever were gone. And not only did this free up hours of time, it also freed up space in my brain because I’d been suffering from guilt nagging. You know, when you have a job that needs doing but you’ll do anything to avoid doing it so it nags at you while you’re trying to do other things? I didn’t have that any more. Wooohoooo!

And in those hours I’d freed up, and with the mental space I’d freed up, I got down to doing what I’m really good at.

Creating content for my programmes. Recording webinars, writing blogs, that kind of thing. I love it! I could do it all day. And because I was doing what I love, it flowed. I got LOADS done. I got programmes written in record time, which meant that I could sell them, which meant I was bringing in money – money that meant I could buy more time with my VA.  My VA was costing me £20 per hour and I could write stuff that would bring in 10 times that amount.

These days it’s a no brainer for me. I outsource my website stuff, my day to day business administration, my techie content stuff, social media and anything else that I don’t fancy doing. I spend a lot on outsourcing every month but it’s an important investment and I can afford it easily – because I’m using the time I free up to make more money in my business.

And while we’re on the subject of outsourcing, I have a cleaner for 3 hours each week, a gardener and I’ll be getting an ironing lady when I find one locally.

Now, it’s not all sweetness and light.

Choosing someone to outsource to can be tricky.

You are very attached to your business and so you want to hand over your baby to someone who thinks like you, who appreciates how wonderful your business is and who ‘gets’ it.

Easier said than done.

Here are my 5 best tips to ensure that you find the right person and outsource happily ever after

 1.    Work Out What You Can Outsource

Look at how you’re spending your time. I mean REALLY look at it. Spend a couple of days seeing where your time goes. You might be really surprised. Be honest with yourself about how much time you’re spending on social media, on searching for images, on trying to twiddle your e-newsletter design. Get really clear on what is taking up your time and then work out which of them can ONLY be done by you. Then see how much time the rest is taking. This is the best place to start with outsourcing – tackle the biggest time drains first and find someone to do them for you.

2.    Be Clear On Who/What You Need

There are millions of VAs out there and they have many different specialities. Some are brilliant at social media. Others are techie VAs. Some are fab at event management. Some are diary management divas and some are good, all round general admin support Vas. So be really clear on which one you need and want. You might need a combination of various outsourcing partners – a VA plus a web person maybe. Don’t just go for the first VA who catches your eye – take a look around. Remember they are virtual – ie they can be anywhere in the world. The only consideration to bear in mind is time zones – ideally you need someone who is in the same timezone so that it’s easy to communicate and you’re not always waiting 8 hours for a reply. And check them out. Interview them as you would any other sort of assistant. Get testimonials. Ask them if you can speak to current clients.  The right VA will understand why you need to do this – you’re in it for the long haul and you want to find the right person for you and your business.

3.    Manage Expectations At The Beginning

When you first start working with someone it’s a bit like dating. You’re both really nice to each other, you’re just happy to have found someone to work with who gets you and you don’t want to go into any icky topics that might make you feel both uncomfortable. The thing is, if you don’t set the boundaries and manage expectations before you start working together, you might find yourself having to have very uncomfortable discussions further down the line.  My advice is to set out exactly what you expect to have done, by when, how you’d like it done and whether they need to check with you before sending/doing something. Be really really clear on how you like to work. And ask them to do the same. Iron out the glitches and wrinkles before you start working together. You don’t want to jump in with both feet just to find that your lovely VA takes 6 weeks off in the summer for the school holidays, but you don’t have kids and business goes on. There’s nothing wrong with your VA doing this, as long as you both know where you stand. This is a professional relationship so treat it that way and you’ll not leave yourself open to tears down the line.

4.    Have A Trial

A great way to start outsourcing is to put a trial in place – say 6 weeks or 3 months. This will give you enough time to get to know whether the relationship is working for you – it’s enough time to get over any teething issues and for your VA to get to know your business. If you’re both clear at the outset that you’ll have a trial period then there are no hard feelings if one of you decides it’s not working.

5.    Communicate and Feed Back Regularly

Every relationship works best if there is regular communication and feedback. If something is bothering you about the work you’ve outsourced, or the way it’s being done then SAY SOMETHING! I know so many women who suffer in silence – both VAs and clients, who are trying  to muddle through when they are clearly a bad fit for each other. The trouble with us women is that we don’t like ‘being horrible’ and so we’d rather grit our teeth and put up with it. STOP IT! Broach the subject as soon as you feel it’s not going how you expected. Tackle it immediately. Nip it in the bud. This will avoid much heartache, soul searching, guilt and MONEY later on. Your VA is not a mind reader – she will be doing her best based on what she thinks you need and she NEEDS your feedback. I promise she’ll like that much better than you going distant on her and then dropping her for no apparent reason.

JUST GIVE IT A TRY!

So, lovely lady. I’ve been outsourcing for 5 years now and I’ve had my ups and downs but generally it’s the best thing that’s happened to my business. I love the work I do – I don’t have to do anything I’m not good at and I’ve built up a dream team of support geniuses who make my business run like clockwork. It might feel like you’re giving your baby away but in business terms it can’t grow up and get bigger if you don’t put the right support in place. If in doubt, give it a try and just bear in mind my 5 tips – good luck! And just to get you started, here are 45 Thing You Could Outsource To A Virtual Assistant! Yay!

A Quicker Way To Grow Your Business

A Quicker Way To Grow Your Business

When you’re a one-woman band it’s tempting to try and do everything yourself. Run a home, see to the children, do the marketing, social media, book-keeping, legal stuff – oh, yes and actually do the thing you get paid for, too.

Then you find that you’re so busy DOING that you don’t have time for strategy, planning or any of those other vital business-growth activities and as a result, your business stagnates (phew, what a stink!).

But I Can Multi-task!

Yeah, yeah, so can I!

We’re brought up being told that women are great at juggling and that we can make it all work if we just learn to multi-task properly but do you know what?

I don’t WANT to multi-task in business.

I don’t WANT to do it all myself and stretch my already-stretched time even thinner – and so I DON’T!

And neither should you, if you’re serious about growing your business.

If you REALLY want to grow your business, you need to bring in some help.

I don’t mean employ staff necessarily, unless that’s already part of your plan. I’m talking bringing in a bit of help here and there, in the areas you’re struggling. Some people call it outsourcing. Whatever you want to call it, it’s really hard to grow your business without it.

Just because you COULD do everything yourself, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Look at where you are spending your time. Look at those jobs you HATE. Look at the jobs that take up hours of your time because they’re just not your specialist subject.  And look at the jobs that keep getting pushed to the bottom of the pile and never get done.

Personally, I’m rubbish at keeping my accounts in order so I don’t even bother trying. I have an amazing accountant (who loves her job) who takes all my records and turns them into a set of accounts and then talks me through it all and explains what it all means.

My Little Team

I have a lovely lady who helps me with customer service and makes sure everyone is up to date with payments.

I have a fab designer who creates my little TGMB ladies because I couldn’t do that in a month of Sundays.

I have a lady who helps me with social media and I also employ my little sister as my business manager and Girl Friday.

All apart from my sister work for themselves. All of them are part time. None of them costs me a fortune but ALL of them free up my time and ensure that otherwise neglected jobs get done.

I remember when I first started out in business, though. Money was tight and although I didn’t have enough hours in the day and was falling behind on my admin, I simply couldn’t afford to get help. Or, at least that’s what I thought.

It wasn’t until I realised that according to the laws of Physics it was impossible for me to do everything on my growing list even if I worked without sleep for the next 2 weeks. And THAT wasn’t going to happen. I looked at what was being neglected because either I didn’t have time or I really couldn’t face doing it.

The BIGGIE was credit control.

People who owed me money. I had put it off and put it off and in the meantime I was struggling to make ends meet and yet there were hundreds of pounds of my money out there in unpaid bills.

That was the moment I realised something HAD to give. I called a lady I’d had recommended to me – a virtual assistant and asked her to help, not really knowing what to expect.

And I was really pleasantly surprised. She said she could spend an hour chasing up these people who owed me money and it would cost me £25. So I said yes, please!

In the space of that hour she called all those clients who owed me money, some of them for months.

She was polite and friendly but firm. She didn’t have any of that emotional baggage I had about pestering clients (eek they might not hire me again). She just got on and called them. Within half an hour she had collected payments for £786 and had confirmed dates for another £2500, with notes in her diary to keep chasing them up.

I did the maths.

And then I booked her for a couple of hours each month to keep on top of the credit control. She also updated my cashflow spreadsheet (another job that never used to get done), sorted out my email folders and drafted some standard emails to send out when people owed me money.

Over the next year or two I added on more hours, as I needed them with this lovely VA. I learned that the more I outsourced, the more time I had to do what I was good at AND nothing fell by the wayside.

I’ve never looked back.

And I’d never dream of taking those jobs back now.

These days I think like a business owner and business owners know that if they want to grow their business they can’t do everything themselves – it doesn’t make business sense

Your Challenge

So, my challenge to you is for YOU to see where you are spending your time. Which jobs take forever because you’re not very good at them? Which jobs are getting neglected? Which jobs do you HATE to do?

And where would your time be better spent? What could YOU be doing that would really add value in your business? Where do you get the best return on your time? What are YOU best at?

If you do this, you’ll soon see where the issues and bottlenecks and neglected tasks lie. And if you want to grow your business, my advice is to find someone who’ll get them done for you, give them a trial (it doesn’t have to be forever) and see what difference it makes to your life. You can get on with what you love doing and because of that your business will grow.