How a VA can support clients by managing their LinkedIn pages

LinkedIn is another social media platform that can be essential for your business success, but one that also takes up a lot of your time! Handing it over to a VA, so they can support you is a great solution – but how can they manage it and what types of thing can they do on your LinkedIn account? Continue reading “How a VA can support clients by managing their LinkedIn pages”

How to collaborate with your VA on projects

Handing over an entire project to a VA can be hard for any business owner. You want to pass the job over, but may also want to have an input in it, to ensure it’s heading in the direction you want and is being managed effectively. If you have trust issues or struggle to let a project go, collaboration could be the answer you’re looking for.

Collaborating jointly with your VA on a project is an excellent idea. Not only does it allay the issues and struggles you may have over handing an entire project over, it also enables you to have a more hands-on role. But how can you effectively collaborate with your VA on projects? Continue reading “How to collaborate with your VA on projects”

How can a Virtual Assistant manage my diary remotely?

Virtual Assistants (or VA’s) can manage a variety of tasks for you, however one of the most popular roles a Virtual Assistant is hired for is managing an online diary. This leads to one of the top questions asked by business owners – “HOW can a Virtual Assistant actually manage my diary for me?” Continue reading “How can a Virtual Assistant manage my diary remotely?”

Become a VA: Step 2 – Identifying your Niche

Finding the right clients for your business, means that you will need to market yourself and your VA business. The businesses you ultimately work with need to know, like and trust you – in the same way, it is important for you as the VA to know, like and trust your clients.

Identifying your Ideal Client and Niche

Marketing your VA business is basically relationship building – getting businesses to get to know, like and trust you. As part of your brand awareness you are allowing businesses to witness what you are all about, what you can do, what you help businesses to achieve and where you add value. Marketing is also about ATTRACTING the IDEAL client who has a NEED and WANTS your services.

Who Needs And Wants Your Services?

Well, you may believe, as many do, that all businesses need a VA!!!!  However, it’s important to close the net and start to focus on specific businesses so that you have more of an opportunity to stand out from other VAs. This is where having a niche comes in.

Have a Clear Message

It is better to communicate a very clear message direct to certain businesses which connects with what their particular needs or concerns are, so that you can actually provide the solutions for those particular needs and concerns.  In addition, it can cost you a lot of money trying to market yourself to every business, however, by having a niche, it means your marketing efforts can be much more cost effective, more targeted and consistent and achieve better results.

Your Niche

IMG_1056The majority of VAs launch after working with a particular industry and so choose this to be their niche, as they already have a working knowledge of the issues that clients in these areas face – BUT – I know this isn’t always relevant or right for you. Take me…. My background was over 22 years in the military, the military doesn’t use external admin support (apart from government contracts) and so I needed to think about the skills I had and niche that way.

You don’t have to niche on day one – it can help, but sometimes working with lots of people initially can help you determine the niches or the areas you want to work with (or not as the case may be).

Once you have a clearer idea, step into the shoes of your potential clients and think like them. What support would you find useful? What would you want your VA to know about you? What challenges and concerns do you have that a VA could create solutions and results to?

Research You could also do some research and find out from them what they actually want and need, because once you have identified these points you will then create the service that fits as well as a marketing campaign that creates awareness that you are the solution to those needs.

Don’t worry, identifying your niche can be a pretty hard thing to do, personally it took me nearly 12 months. So don’t let it stop you launching your VA business!

Next week – we talk about Mastering the Art of Sales.

VACT-Logo-Green_png-250pxAmanda Johnson of Your Executive Secretary Limited is a licensed Trainer of the VACT.  If you would like to book yourself on the next Taster Session in your area then please click here or if you would like to book a free 30 minute breakthrough call then click here

 

Time Management: Using The 80/20 Rule

Do you know what the 80/20 rule is? Broadly speaking this means that 20% of your activities will produce 80% of your results. This is a very important rule of thumb to remember when you’re a Virtual Assistant and you’re worried about your time management. But what does it really mean?

Time management can be a major issue for the Virtual Assistant, whose very business is built around the concept of productivity at the end of the day. Often, the VA will face the same types of distractions that their client may face. Remember that the Virtual Assistant  is supposed to alleviate some of the time management problems for a given client, but often they are far from being a time management expert to begin with.

DeathtoStock_Desk5Back to the 80/20 rule. What are the activities that bring you the most results? Once you have been able to determine what these processes or activities are then you should focus on more of the same, even if it means that you have to refuse or reject requests for work, conversations or other activities that are not fruitful in this way.  (If you don’t know how you spend your time, I suggest you read our When it comes to Time Management – Analyse First post.)

Don’t be afraid to take one step backwards if it means that you can take several steps forward in the medium term. This can be a frightening prospect, especially if it comes to refusal of work or even the rejection of a client. Yet it’s at the heart of time management and productivity. Unless and until you identify what is essentially wasting your time and money then you’re not going to be able to achieve fulfilment and happiness in your business endeavours.

business advice
Delegate Effectively

Remember that even though you are receiving a certain amount of revenue for a given block of time this does not necessarily mean that you should accept this without questioning. Are you being productive enough when tackling this particular task, or would you be better off delegating it to someone who is much more astute, has more experience or has more of a “flair” for this style of work? Don’t bury your head in the sand any more when you know deep down inside that this is the case. Look for the activities that come easily to you, look for the conversations that seem to be productive and developmental. Focus on these “20%” situations so that they begin to generate exponential results across the board.

Far too often time management is approached from a very mechanised perspective. It’s all about productivity, eliminating distractions and simply keeping your head down for a working day. Be very careful to ensure that you’re engaged in the “right” type of work first, before you become too obsessed with the mechanics of time management by itself.

The 80/20 rule is a crucial consideration for any virtual assistant. Don’t fall into the trap of looking at your Virtual Assistant business as a way for others to offload their mundane tasks. You need to be able to ensure that you’re being efficient, productive and “savvy” as well.  This can often be a hard lesson to learn, but by learning it early on, you can concentrate your efforts and grow your business quicker and get the better work/life balance so many Virtual Assistants crave.

 

When It Comes To Time Management, Analyse First

Where do you start when it comes to time management?  You may just feel as if you’re being pulled in so many different directions on any given day.  Sometimes I don’t know about you but it can feel difficult trying to identify ways in which you can remedy the situation.

Time Management - Feeling frazzled?Certainly, if you arrive at the end of a work week feeling frazzled and as if you’ve been put through the ringer then you have to know deep down inside that you have not been as productive as you possibly could have been.  What needs to change……..

Experts who devote their time to the study of time management advise several courses of action.

Conduct a Time / Motion Study 

Firstly, in the short term try to make the matter worse by carrying around a schedule, so that you can record everything that goes on in a given day. Yes of course this will make things seem even more challenging as you now have to devote a little bit of time to writing all this down. However, it will be time well spent and an investment in your future. Record all of the activities exactly as they take place including whatever thoughts are running through your mind. You will be able to identify patterns and to help yourself understand exactly what does get done and what precious time is being dribbled way.

Bonus Tip:  This can be a useful exercise in helping you to determine things to outsource to someone else.

Secondly, if you can manage to do this for the course of the week then it may well be an even better investment to devote your Sunday to sorting it all out. Analyse everything and allocate a score based on a scale from 10 to 1 and based on the importance or otherwise of the task or disruption. Be ruthless here and even though there’s a temptation to think that we are all naturally productive, if the schedule shows that you have not been then you should call it as it is.

Remember however to treat any time that has been spent engaged in potentially lucrative, business building activities as a priority. Time spent engaged in activities, conversations or thoughts that can potentially produce the best results must be higher on the scale when it comes to your analysis.

Time Motion StudyThere will always be interruptions. It’s very difficult to eliminate this entirely from your work as none of us live entirely in a bubble, no matter what we try to do. It’s best to build in a certain amount of this “interruption time” to your schedule for the future, so that you don’t get disillusioned or experience frustration when you find those interruptions creeping into your new business life.

For many business owners and in particular virtual assistants, it is indeed eye-opening to see just how often they drop everything to turn to a phone that’s ringing or an e-mail that just pops up in front of them on the screen. You should get used to not answering the phone each and every time it rings and should get used to turning your e-mail programme off, so that you can control the time of day when you check for messages and not be constantly jumping here and there.

Amanda (the Director of Your Executive Secretary) admits to being guilty of being a slave to the ring and a slave to the ping.  So recently she took her own advice and now uses the services the call handling service we offer to ensure she remains productive for her clients.  If you would like to know more about our pay as you go, affordable call handling service, then drop Amanda an email on [email protected]

Runner Up – VA of the Year (Southern Region) – Sep 14

I am absolutely delighted to share with you that I was awarded Runner-Up in the VA of the Year Southern Region as part of the VA Conference and BeMyVA VA Awards.

The awards took place at Sandy Park, Exeter (more commonly known as Exeter Chiefs Rugby Ground) on 23 September 2014,

Award and Fizz!

2014 saw a new format for the VA industry awards with it being the first time there were Regional Awards for Virtual Assistants. The Regional Awards provided recognition for a VA’s work in their area – and the awards themselves are the first step towards the Grand Finals of the UK Awards that will be presented at the Annual VA Conference.

The VA of the Year Category – 
The ultimate recognition of excellence within the industry.  The judges were looking to find the champions of good practice for Virtual Assistants and they were particularly keen to assess the candidate’s passion for their business and their awareness of vision, purpose and values – and how that is applied to their successful business model.

 

To be part of this category VA’s needed to have been in business over 12 months on 31 January 2014 – I had been in business 13 months!

Being presented Runner Up of the Year AwardI am thrilled to have been recognised for my achievements in building a unique, innovative and effective Virtual Assistant Business supporting clients across many geographical areas and ultimately helping them to achieve their goals and dreams.

In the last couple of months, my business has grown – I now have a small team of Associates supporting clients and I also now a licensed trainer for the VA Coaching and Training Company – helping develop either those interested in joining the industry or new VAs grow their business. The next 12 months are going to be very exciting. Ensure you sign up to the newsletter (over on the right hand side of the screen) to keep up to date with what is going on.

 

Summer Holidays are coming – 10 tips for juggling your business and children!

When I launched Your Executive Secretary Limited in December 2012, i didn’t really shout from the roof tops that I was a mum.  I really wanted Business Owners to see me as a Business Owner first and foremost.  But the reality is, my husband and I both run businesses from home and we have 2 children (age 4 and 8 months) of course they will have an impact on us and our working lives.  My eldest finishes pre-school next week for 6 weeks holiday before starting School in September and so I am about to increase my juggling ability.

Being a Working At Home Mum or Dad can often turn into a juggling and balancing act. The duties of work and home begin to overlap, and often one can take over. Many mums decide to work at home to spend more time with their families, but end up dedicating even more time to work. Here are a few tips to help you juggle.

1. Get organized. Figure out what your goals and priorities are, in your business and in your personal life, then figure out how to achieve them. Then put your house, office, and life in general, together in a way that will help you achieve your goals.  Outsource the things you can get someone else to do for you.

Writing In A Daily Planner Organizer2. Lists, lists, lists. One you have your plans and goals, make to-do lists. Try to organize your lists by priority. If something doesn’t get done, it probably wasn’t that important anyway.  (Personally I use my filofax diary, a notepad for my daily To Do List, the ToDoist software (come back next week for a blog on ToDoist) for managing the work of clients and a weekly wall planner for managing the children’s activities.)

3. Multitask. At some point, you’re probably going to get burnt out doing things that seem tedious or that you just don’t want to do. Try mixing it up. If something is really stressing you out, go on to something else and come back. There ís always something else that needs to get done (like put the washing on or empty the dishwasher).

4. Set work hours, and follow them. Set work hours for times when the kids aren’t around, or don’t require a lot of attention. When your work hours are done, stop working. If you can’t manage to get your work done, you may need to reset your work hours, but you most likely need to look at how much work you can actually take on.  At the moment due to school hours etc, my typical working day can be from 0630 – 0830 (normally in my pi’s, while the children are playing, having breakfast etc).  I then get into the office for 0910 and work through to 1530 – between 1530 and 1930, I am mum.  Then once the children are in bed, its back to work for me til about midnight.

IMG_08995. Make a separate space for work and family. While it may be easy to work and play in the same area, it helps to have a dedicated office area when you work from home. This will help you focus on what you need to be doing, and even help protect you from getting your work disrupted by your family.  (My husband and I share an office – we converted the garage, so that we have dedicated space to work and we actually feel like we leave home to go there!)

6. Get the family to help. Sure, if your kids are young, they aren’t going to be able to help with much, but even very small children can often help organize the house or dry dishes. Make sure everyone does their part.  We have a Nanny for 3 days a week – she is awesome and part of our family, (it scares me how alike we can be sometimes) but it means that I don’t have to worry about certain tasks relating to the children.

7. Take time for you. When balancing work and family, you often forget an important part of the equation: you. When scheduling your work and family, always schedule some time to relax, socialize, and do what you like to do.  If necessary – put it in your diary.

8. Make friends. Even if you don’t get to see them a lot, friends are an important part of maintaining your physical and mental health. Remember to take time to keep your friendships alive.

9. Stay positive. One of the biggest keys to success is keeping a positive attitude. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish as long as you believe you can do it. Plus, you’ll be setting a great life example for your kids at the same time.

10. Remember that you are unique. Trying to fit into someone else’s schedule and someone else’s plan isn’t necessarily going to be successful. You need to tailor your plan into the unique needs of your family and find something that works for you.

So if you need some help (or a sympathetic ear) with your juggling and staying on top of either your administration or social media, please either drop me an email to [email protected] or call 0800 612 5596.  I would also love to hear your tips for juggling your business and your family at this time of year.

Amanda

Eight Creative Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

As we fast approach the end of the second quarter of 2014, I have started reviewing the marketing activities of Your Executive Secretary as part of my review of my Business Goals.  This got me thinking, how should I pitch the business in the coming months to really stand out.

Small businesses need to be focused on marketing at all times. Even if your diary is full and you a have full list of clients,  or you think you have enough customers, you must keep marketing. But marketing doesn’t just consist of adverts and selling. It consists of so much more. If you are stuck with the same old marketing ideas, take a look at how you can make your marketing better with these strategies.

1) Develop Your Elevator Pitch

When people ask you what you do – whether you’re in an elevator, in line at the supermarket, at the doctor’s office with the kids or at a business event – it’s important for you to be able to explain to the people asking what it is that you do in a succinct way that invites more questions.

An elevator pitch isn’t just a 60-second monologue; it’s more like learning different ways to answer the same questions based on the audience you’re speaking to, so that they leave understanding what you’re about.

2) Get Involved Online and Offline

Get out from behind your computer and get involved in offline events. Go to meetings, business events, and conferences. In addition, participate in tele-summits, webinars, and social media. But do it all in a proactive, involved way that advances your business goals.

Online Marketing Pyramid Showing Blogs Websites Social Media And Email ListsBefore doing any event, online or off, ask yourself what outcome do you want to achieve from this particular activity or what might it help you achieve. Then, base your participation and how you communicate with people at the event on reaching that goal.

3) Develop Relationships

Finding a person to collaborate with is a great way to improve your business and find new ways to market. By creating short-term joint ventures with individuals and companies who market complementary products and services to the same audience, you can expand your reach exponentially. Don’t form these alliances willy-nilly. Each venture and each relationship needs to have its own goals involved which align with your overall marketing goals and need to be right for both parties.

4) Write a Book

You’re smart and you know about your niche. You either know how you became successful, or you know a lot about a particular subject that you can share with others. Writing a book, and getting it published today, is a simple process. All it’s going to take is time. Be sure that your book has an ultimate goal aside from making money. It’s not likely book sales alone are going to make that much. But a book used as a marketing tool to sell other products and services can help increase your net worth substantially.

5) Speak in Public

Once you’ve written a book, you can leverage it to engage in public speaking events. Find events that are attracting your target audience and simply go tell them your story. Create a “one page” to market your speaking and subject matter to event leaders.  Personally, I would struggle with this but they do say there is a book in every single one of us!

At first you may need to do some events free (get permission to record it) and later you can actually make quite a living out of public speaking if you desire to go in that direction. If not, the act alone can be a great marketing strategy.

6) Give Your Opinion

Find ways to get your name associated with expert status. Use the social media (such as Twitter and the # – #journorequest) to find people to pitch your articles, speaking, and answers to and who will use your quotes in stories. The more you’re quoted, the more you will become known as an expert. You can do the same thing with targeted and focused guest blogging, expert panels, interviews and more.

7) Ask for Creative Testimonials

Go straight to your current customers and clients and simply ask them to write, record or make a testimonial for you. You can even have a contest to make it more interesting. For instance you could ask them to “Create a video or meme about how awesome your product or service is.”

8) Break the Mould

If you really want to differentiate yourself from the crowd, find a way to break some rules. You don’t have to be unethical to push boundaries and break rules. Many people believe they have no right to take a leadership role without having first been a follower. That’s insane, because you can be a leader without having been a follower. If you are good at what you do, there is no reason you have to punch any cards or push any particular buttons in any particular order to be at the top.

Being creative in marketing means stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something different than you are currently doing. If you’re not doing something new every quarter at least when it comes to marketing, you’re not really trying.  In the Comments section below, please share any ideas you have for Marketing differently in the second half of 2014.

How to Get Over Time Management Procrastination Top Tips

One of the biggest challenges to being self-employed and owning your own business is getting over time management procrastination. It is just so easy when you’re the boss to let things slide until it is an emergency and you must absolutely get the task done. That was me recently and my annual accounts…….. The longer I left it, the more stressed and overwhelmed I felt and the cycle of procrastination and overwhelm was well and truly in force.

Overwhelmed and Stressed

Here are a few tips to get out of this habit and start being productive today, not tomorrow. 

Challenge yourself to something achievable but challenging. Sometimes we procrastinate because the task seems too large to manage. For example, you have an information product to create and just don’t know where to start. Rather than putting create information product on your task list, break the project up into several smaller steps. The first one could be, outline information product or choose title for information product. These smaller, more attainable goals are easier to accomplish and don’t feel as if they are looming over your head. If I think about my accounts it was just a case of not knowing where to start but they are 90% complete now.

Reward yourself (with a day off). Work hard; play hard is the cliché, right? Well take advantage of it. Make a to-do list at the beginning of the week and promise yourself a day off, where you do something fun, when the list is complete.

Involve Other People.  It is easier to commit to a reward if you involve other people. For example, if you make an appointment for a massage on Friday, well you had better have your task list done by Thursday night or you’re going to have to cancel on your masseuse and she’ll never book you an appointment again for cancelling at the last minute. You’re making yourself accountable.

Identify distractions. Find out what you procrastinate with. Do you watch television? Run errands? Surf the net? Determine what distracts you. Spend a day or two working, or procrastinating, like you usually do and simply take note of what you do other than work.

Eliminate distractions. Once you know what you’re using to procrastinate then it’s time to get tough. Eliminate the distractions. For example, if you find that you often let household chores deter you from being productive, schedule a time for household chores. Give yourself thirty minutes at lunchtime to get a chore list completed and then go back to work. I tend to have what I call “Mad 30 minutes” when I do absolute miracles

Stop procrastinating - set a timer!Use tools to help you. Time tracking tools, both online and off, are great for helping you stay on task. You can for example use something as simple as an egg timer or an alarm clock. Set it for thirty-five minutes. Work for thirty-five minutes and when the timer dings, give yourself ten minutes or so to stretch, walk around the block, put away the clean dishes or something other than work and then go back and set the timer again.

Get creative with these tools and ideas and use them to help you stay on task and stop procrastinating.  In all of this, the bit that scares me is that for my clients work I never procrastinate so why do I do it in my own business?  If you are wondering what the reward was for me when my accounts were finished – it was actually a really simple reward.  The reward of not having to transfer it to the following days To Do List!

Please share with me in the comments section what you either procrastinate over or how you stop yourself procrastinating.