Posts Tagged ‘business help’


7 Questions You Need to Ask Your New VA

Hiring a VA is a big deal. You’ve finally accepted that you can’t do everything yourself and you are ready to dip your toe into the waters of delegation. You’ve found a Virtual Assistant that is qualified to do the tasks that you need done and that you are ready to trust with your business.

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Not so fast!

Remember that you are both business owners and you may have different ideas of how business is run. You may not have much knowledge in the area that they are going to be helping you with.  What things can you do to make sure that you and your new (soon to be) trusted VA are on the same page?

7 Questions to Ask Your Prospective VA

1. Exactly what will your VA be doing for you? Make sure that you completely understand the scope of work outlined in the contract. Terminology misunderstandings may lead to you not getting exactly what you thought. If there are any words that you are unsure of, ask. Ask, ask, ask…until you are 100% clear on what your VA will be doing.

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2. What are the payment terms?  Obviously, you need to know how much your VA is charging for the work they plan to do. There are some other details that need to be addressed as well. When do they invoice? Are they invoicing for the previous month (work already done) or for the upcoming month (work to be done)? What are the payment terms? How is extra work billed (hourly or by the project)? How do they preferred to be paid (check, paypal, credit card, etc)?

3. What is their time frame for requests to be started and completed? Your VA works for other people too and won’t always be able to accommodate last minute/urgent requests. Find out what their policy is on new requests. Do they need 48 hours notice before starting a new project? 72 hours? A week? A day? It will likely depend on the size of the project as well as their current workload. What is the turnaround time for projects? What is their policy for rush items?  A good rule of thumb is to ask as soon as you know you will need help with the project. Don’t wait until the last minute because your VA may not be able to accommodate your deadline. If your business commonly has last minute needs, then you will need a VA that can work last minute. Some can, some can’t.

4. How do they want you to send requests? Does your VA prefer to requests to be sent via email, phone, entered directly into a task management system? Does the way they prefer conflict with what works for you? It’s better to discuss this in advance and come up with an amicable agreement than to have this be a constant irritation for both of you and have tasks getting lost somewhere. Decide on a method that works for both of you.

5. What is the approval process going to be? How involved in the project do you want/need to be? Are you looking to be completely hands-off? Do you want the opportunity to approve/re-approve the finished product? It will likely depend on they type of project. You may need to be more involved at the start as your VA gets to know you, your business and how you work. Don’t panic if you feel that you are more involved than you want to be at first. If other aspects of the working relationship are positive, give it a few months to work the kinks out of the process. Remember that it is still YOUR business – you are responsible for the final product that goes out into the world (if that’s the case). Don’t you want to approve that first? You also need to discuss when approval is needed by in order to make any edits and meet the deadline. Never assume anything!

6. What are your VA’s business hours?

Most VAs are not available 24/7. What are their business hours? Respect them. What holidays to they observe? Don’t expect them to respond to requests at 8pm or on the weekend unless they tell you they are available at those times. What is the process if your VA goes on vacation? Do they have a substitute VA lined up that will take over or are you on your own during that time?

7. Does your VA plan to subcontract out all or a portion of your work? Many VAs run Multi-VA businesses. If this is the case, how involved is the owner VA going to be in your work? Will they be checking for quality from their subs? Do you need to make requests to the owner VA or to the VA that’s actually doing the work. Some VA firms allow the subcontractors to be “client facing” and some don’t. Find out how that process works in their business.

Working out these details in advance will make the process of delegating much smoother and will alleviate a lot of unnecessary headaches for both parties. Hash out the details first and then enjoy the extra time you will gain from outsourcing!

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Manage Your Time by “Chunking”

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Is this your To Do list?

I first learned about “Chunking” from Tony Robbins’s “Get the Edge” program many years ago. It had a profound impact on how I view my tasks and how I organize my time. It is also an audio I return to whenever I get off track with my productivity.

“The Power of Chunking = grouping information together into ideally sized
pieces so they can be used effectively to produce the results you want.”

Our brains are easily overwhelmed. We have so much information thrown at us from every direction and so many tasks that need to be done. Have you ever written out a to do list and just stared at it afterwards…paralized. Where do I even begin?
Our brains count items 1, 2, 3, MANY. Anything more than 3 items and it may as well be 20. Overwhelm sets in and when we’re overwhelmed, we fail to take action.

For example, think about when you learned how to drive a car, especially a standard. You have to focus on the brake, the clutch, the gas, steering, the mirrors, look left, look right…AAHHHH!!!! 1, 2, 3…MANY! Those first few times out were exhausting and you felt like you would never be able to drive. I certainly swore I’d never buy a car that was a standard after the nightmare of my first few lessons. What happened after a you gained some experience? All of those different tasks that felt so overwhelming just became 1 item – Driving. Heck, now you can do 2 other things while you’re driving (although, I don’t recommend that).

This principle applies when we look at our own lives. How many goals do you have at one time? How many categories do you break life into? More importantly, how many NEW things do you try to take on at a time? You may have great intentions of starting a blog, a newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, a podcast, a video series… 1, 2, 3, MANY! That’s how you get overwhelmed into inaction.

Instead, try limiting your new endeavors to 2-3 at a time, max. If you’re already blogging, try adding a bi-weekly newsletter and a few Facebook posts. Nothing too crazy. Then, when that feels like one thing – marketing – you can add one more to the mix without too much overwhelm. The same is true with determining your services. When starting out, you may feel like you need to offer more than you’d like to. Doing that, you end up spreading yourself thin and watering down your expertise. You’re efforts will be more focused if you choose 3 services or 3 programs to offer. It will also lead to greater productivity and less feeling scattered in 100 directions keeping track of a dozen different programs or services.

How can you use the Power of Chunking in your business or life? Please share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!
~Deb

Identify Your Unique Brilliance and Love Your Business Again!

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Business owners need to be constantly learning how to improve their craft and their business. Not to mention finding new ways to make this work/life juggling act less of a struggle. It’s important to take time out to learn new techniques and new ideas and gain a better clarity on how to move forward.

Last week, I took that time and attended (virtually) a 3-day workshop on how to Monetize Your Message hosted by Fabienne Fredrickson of Client Attraction. The nuggets of worthwhile information are too numerous to list in full so I’ll share just one today:

Discover your unique brilliance and do only that.

We all do things within our business that we don’t like and aren’t great at. When you are starting out, this is often necessary. The goal, however, should not be to try to strengthen your weaknesses but rather strengthen your strengths and delegate the rest.

4 Quad Instruction

The above diagram is part of an exercise that is very eye-opening. What are you doing in your business that you hate? What are you downright bad at that could be costing you money?

Get rid of it!

Ideally, you want to work as much as possible in the “Uniquely Brilliant” quadrant. There should only be 4-5 things, at most, that you are uniquely brilliant at. You will likely spend a fair amount of time in the “Really Good” quadrant as well, which is acceptable. Nothing positive will come from the bottom. Nothing. Delegate those items as soon as possible. They won’t make you money and will make you miserable.

Not only will those items not make you money but they will likely LOSE you money by wasting your time and your energy. How much time and energy do you spend just thinking about having to do them or procrastinate about doing them? Hiring help may not cost you as much as you think and will free your time and energy to spend on money-GENERATING activities THAT YOU LOVE!

That creates a business to get excited about again!

You can’t be good at everything. Sorry. I’m feeling the dirty looks from all of my fellow perfectionists out there. But it’s a fact that we need to accept.

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I don’t wake up in the morning with the goal of being mediocre…do you?

But what am I brilliant at?

That was my question. I’m sharing this exercise because I struggled with it. It is so ingrained in me to try to do it all and dwell on my failures and inadequacies that I looked at my worksheet with my blank Uniquely Brilliant box and…crickets…. I had no idea what to enter there. I know what I hate and what I’m just ok at. But brilliant? Perfectionists never feel brilliant. So, what’s one to do?

It was suggested to take the Strengthsfinder test. I found my results very interesting and eye opening. The test will generate the 5 areas of strength for you and provide you with a detailed report on what they mean and how you can use them. I highly recommend this if you are so involved with the minutia of your business that you have forgotten what you love about it.

How to use this info to improve your business

When you begin delegating within your business, focus on unloading the tasks in the “Incompetent” quadrant first, followed by “Competent”. Look for team members who are strong where you are weak and who love the tasks you hate. There are actually people out there who LOVE bookkeeping and get excited about doing it! Can you imagine that? Add those people to your team and your business will be unstoppable! Not to mention, you will feel a huge weight lifted and you may even begin to LOVE your business again.

Please fill out your own 4-quadrant worksheet (4 Quad Strengths – Blank) and share in the comments what uniquely brilliant skills you’re going to commit to doing more of and what items you’re going to delegate first.

Thanks for reading!

~Deb

5 Tips to Fiercely Profitable Networking

I know, I specialize in content marketing. Why am I bringing up networking?

Last July, I started working with a coach that recommended in-person networking as a viable marketing technique for starting out VAs. I’ve done networking in the past but thought I’d save it for a last resort. After all, my business is “Virtual” so I shouldn’t need to network locally.

Corporate workWrong!

The truth is, a good marketing plan needs to have a variety of tactics – blogging, social media, AND networking all serve their place. A couple of months ago, I finally ventured out into some local networking groups. The results have been fantastic. Funny that my coach was right (coaches are like that). I have made some very promising connections and have signed on new clients already from my groups. Worthwhile, indeed.

Sometimes, though, networking takes time. Just like blogging and social media can take time. Networking isn’t about pushing what you do into someone’s face. It’s about relationships. Make connections. Get to know others with the goal of providing them with referrals. The more you do for others and learn about others, the more likely that they will trust you. Give THEN receive.

Here are 5 tips having a FIERCELY profitable networking experience:

  1. Arrive early. Showing up early at an event will give you the opportunity to talk to more people, make more connections and get comfortable with the environment. You have more options to choose where you want to sit and who you’d like to sit with. Sit with different people every time you go.
  2. Ask questions and LISTEN. Your first instinct may be to tell people everything about you so that they will know how great you are and will want to hire you on the spot. Resist this urge. This initial encounter is not the time for a sales pitch. In the spirit of building relationships, use this opportunity to ask questions. “What brings you to this event?”, “What are you hoping to get out of this group?” or “How long have you been coming to this group?” are great conversation starters. Follow up with questions about their business. “Tell me about your business.”, “What is a good referral for you?”, “what is your biggest challenge with your business?” are good questions to learn about the person. Take note of the answers. They may be revealing the very way that you can help them.
  3. Prepare an elevator pitch. Most groups will provide the opportunity for everyone to give a 30 second pitch about something they do. Be prepared. Respect the time limit of the group. In your pitch, give them your name, business name, website, what you specialize in, who is an ideal client for you, and what makes you different from others in your industry. If it’s a group that you attend often and you have gone through your pitch several times, you can deviate by talking about a special you’re offering, a program you are launching or just give a tip relating to something that you do. Don’t take yourself too seriously here. Relax and have fun with it!
  4. Get a card...from people you talk to. It’s great to gather up 50 business cards from one event but did you really talk to that many people? Focus on connecting with a few people each time. Have a real conversation. Don’t just take everyone’s card and slam them with email. Focus on those relationships. Talk to people. Get their card and make a few notes on the back about your conversation. This will be useful when you…
  5. Follow up. Send an email to those that you talked to at the event. I like to try to get these out within 2 business days so they remember who I am and our conversation. A fast way to do this is to create an email template that you can fill in the blanks on and customize based on your conversation. It will save you time from typing out the same information in each email. Again, show interest in something that they said. Offer them some more information on what you do, perhaps directing them to your free offer and getting them on your list (here’s where you add the online marketing piece). If you have a referral for them, pass that on. The goal is to offer value. Show that you listened and offer something that may help them.

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Give more then you ever expect to receive and you will benefit more than you can imagine. Be willing to give it time. Building real relationships doesn’t happen overnight. Finally, be consistent. The people that are at the meetings on a regular basis are the ones that get more referrals.

Try these tips at your next (or first) networking event. Please share in the comments below how it goes or share any other tips you have found helpful for your networking.

Thanks for reading! Much success to you.

 

7 Steps to Delegating Your Way To More Profits and More Time

Why did you become an entrepreneur? Why do any entrepreneurs start on this path? More money. Opportunities to give back. If you’re like me, one of the big factors was time freedom and flexibility.

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 What you thought your entrepreneur life would be

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What your entrepreneur life actually is

Here’s the Catch 22: A successful business that allows you the freedom to set your own schedule probably also consumes way more time than your 40-hour/week job did.

Figures…

What now? Entrepreneurs are known for trying to do everything themselves. We’re a resourceful bunch. Especially us moms that feel they need to do everything for everyone. Hiring help is a last resort in our minds.

ENOUGH!

Not only is that causing you more stress but it is restricting your income potential. You only have so many hours to work. Wasting half of your working hours doing non-billable tasks is just silly!

When you’re ready to take the step to delegating and outsourcing (and if you’re reading this, I suspect you’re close), here are 7 steps to doing so successfully and profitably.

    1. BE AWARE: Track everything you spend time on in a week (business and home). Also list what should have also been done (or that you would have liked to do) that you didn’t do because of lack of time.
    2. CHOOSE: Star the items that you LOVE! These are things that are your top strengths, things that you would do for free because you love them that much. If you don’t have items like that in your job, that’s a bigger issue for another day. If you’re in that boat, for now just star the items that directly make you money or lead to sales.
    3. REMOVE: Of the rest, choose the tasks that you hate or struggle with the most or things that you need to be doing but aren’t (like marketing). Include household things that you hate. There’s no “Good Mom” handbook that says that your kids will be more successful if you clean the house or do the laundry yourself! I know, I know…you can’t afford it. I’m getting to that.
    4. SYSTEMS: Create detailed systems and processes associated with these tasks so that they can be delegated. Having a system in place means less time spent training, fixing mistakes and paying someone to “figure it out”. Systems make the transition smoother for all involved.
    5. HIRE: Here’s the fun part. Here’s where you get your time back and grow your business at the same time. For business help, virtual assistants are a great way to go. You can hire the person with the skills you need and hire them for the tasks you need, when you need it.You can find qualified VAs online at IVAA.org. You can expect to pay anywhere from $25/hr – $100/hr depending on the level of expertise needed for the task.If you’re in need of help and have a tighter budget, Elance is a decent option. There is a higher likelihood that you may find VAs in other countries, which may present a language barrier, but many are very qualified. Remember, though, the adage that you get what you pay for. A $5/hr VA may not provide the level of quality that you’d like for your marketing endeavors but may do just fine for online research.Keep in mind what your hourly rates are. If you make $100+/hr, spending $35/hour for a VA makes complete sense. Heck, $50/hr even makes sense. Not to mention the saved frustrations from doing things that you don’t like and are not good at. You don’t have to delegate a large amount of work to start. Start with a couple of hours a month or 1 hour a week. Delegate your most hated or “not getting done” task. Remember that it may only take a trained VA only 1 hour to do what may take you 4 hours to figure out. That’s a big waste of your time. Start thinking like a CEO and not like someone who has just created a JOB for yourself.
    6. TRAIN: Even the most experienced VA needs to learn how YOU do business. This involves using the systems you documented. Give them your manual for reference and there will be no question how you like things done. Trust me, this will save you headaches in the long run from miscommunications and misunderstandings. If you are hiring someone to do something that you don’t know how to do, assign them the task of documenting the system they use so that you can use that for the next person.
    7. ENJOY YOUR EXTRA TIME: Spend your VA-saved time on a priority. Spend it on money-generating tasks for your business. Spend it with your family. Make that time count and it will go a long way to alleviating the guilt that we are so good at putting on ourselves.

You didn’t start your business with the goal of working 12-hour days and struggling to take time off. It’s time to step back and evaluate what can change. What can you hand over to someone else? What will you do to advance your business during that extra time? Maybe you’re happy with the level of your business but you just want some more time for your family. That’s the beauty of entrepreneurship. You can design a business that fits the lifestyle you want. That’s why we started this crazy journey in the first place.

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Please share in the comments the biggest, most hated task that you would like to delegate first. How and when are you going to take that step?

Thanks for reading! Much success to you!

Just Be YOU…And Stand Out From Other Experts

I’m going to make a confession. Since I’ve started this particular blog, I’ve struggled with what direction to take it. I have all of the mindset and confidence issues that make me hesitate each time I hit “Publish”. I have felt like I have to appear a certain way in order to be taken seriously, especially since this is a new business venture. I’ve been nervous to be too…me.

It can be a challenge in a business-related blog to walk that line between being a real person and portraying too much. You are blogging to share valuable information about your industry. There are people out there that need to know what you know. The thing to remember, though, is that they don’t want to be reading a textbook with no personality. People don’t connect with facts and data. People connect with other people.

Be a real person.

In any industry, there are experts. Like it or not, there are experts out there that know more about your field than you do. They are likely blogging too. Maybe they have a bigger staff and bigger budget and can produce more content. How can ‘lil ‘ol you compete?

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Just be YOU!

“But there’s so much expert knowledge on the web already. I do my own research on those other sites. People could just read it from the source. They don’t need me. What do I have to offer that’s different? ”

I’m going to be redundant here…You, You, YOU!

There is only one YOU. No other human on the planet possesses the same combination of personality, experience and knowledge that you possess. You have a unique perspective of life, business and your industry that people need to see. Not everyone will want to read the experiences of some other experts. Some need to learn from you. They are looking for what YOU have to offer. They want to know what YOUR opinion is on the subject. There are over 2 billion people on the internet. Yes, that was BILLION. Do you think it’s possible that a few hundred, maybe even thousand, could find you and be interested in your perspective? Absolutely!

Like attracts like.

By being yourself, sharing your opinion and getting personal at times, you give people a PERSON to connect with. That, in addition to killer content, is what will grow your blog following. Don’t just regurgitate of facts. They can find facts and data anywhere. Give them your take. Give them you.

Please share in the comments how you plan to incorporate more of you into your content.

Thanks for reading!

Why hire a VA? (And it’s not what you think!)

If you’re here reading this, chances are you’ve already done plenty of research on the benefits of hiring a Virtual Assistant.  You know all the basics:

  1. VAs save you money when compared to the cost of hiring an employee.  You know that you don’t have to pay for benefits, vacation time or breaks.  You only pay them for the actual work they do-leading to significant savings, even though their rates may be higher.
  2. VAs give you the flexibility of having help only when you need it.  You don’t have to find “busy work” for your employee (and pay them to do it).  If you need help with a one-time project, great.  If you have an ongoing monthly project that will take 10 hours, you no longer have to hire a part-time employee for 20 hours/week.  Again, this goes back to the cost savings. (more…)