I love routine and order, in my work life. Anything outside of my normal day to day activity makes me slightly nervous. Imagine my horror when my teenage daughter announced in May, she had been invited to visit Liverpool and due to the nature of the visit it was midweek.
Usually, I would have said fine and taken the time off - but knowing that we were going away to visit relatives for 3 weeks, I was unsure how my clients would react to another couple of days off. Yes, I hear you shout I am a freelancer and can do what I want. However, when one of my clients sounded surprised about my extended break I decided another couple of days off so soon wasn’t a great idea.
Being the organised person, who always works at her desk, surrounded by everything you can ever need and having moved away from a laptop last year, I knew this might be a challenge. Out came the laptop – which recently needed a factory reset, the dongle, notebook, pens, cables and everything else you might ever need. That all worked perfectly at home. Then came the packing my daughter’s comment 'we’re only going for one night do you really need all this?' Yes, of course, (I like to cover all eventualities - even if we are only going out for a few hours I am known for packing everything except the kitchen sink) - I love a large handbag!
I negotiated that on arrival I would need an hour to catch up before we went exploring. We arrived at our hotel, the dongle wouldn’t work, panic set in – it worked at home. Our room wasn’t ready – great! Finally, we got access to our room, the dongle worked, I calmed down checked everything I needed to do, did it and we headed out for a few hours. After exploring etc. we went back to our hotel and I did some more work. By this time, I had calmed down and was enjoying the change of scenery.
The following morning, I dropped my daughter off and went back to the hotel to get another couple of hours work done. By the time I picked her up at lunch time and headed back to Lime Street, I realised I had done something so different to normal and loved not only our break but working elsewhere. Admittedly it was quieter than usual work-wise, as it was the end of August. I did work most of the way home on my phone, but the pleasure of seeing my daughter achieve her dream was worth every minute of stepping outside my comfort zone.
That feeling of actually doing something different was amazing. Yes, we will be going back to Liverpool but next time I am taking the time off and intending to spend more time relaxing, but just pushing those boundaries has made me realise I can.
I challenge you the next time you immediately think no – try it – you never know what the result might be! You might just enjoy it!
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
I love quotes and love the way they make me feel, when you need that piece of inspiration. For me I can usually find one which lifts my mood just when I need to.
This week I attended the Elevate Virtual Summit aimed at Virtual Assistants and full of inspirational speakers organised by VIP VA. I for one was brimming with ideas at the end of the day.
Going forward and reflecting on the day I realised that many of us as small business owners forget about self care - whether it's drinking enough water, eating or just moving. I am guilty of all three, so going forward I am intending to use my inspirational quotes on my social media feeds to inspire not only me but also other people, so if you can spare a few minutes please have a look.
What is GDPR?
It stands for General Data Protection Regulations and is EU wide legislation. It comes into force on the 25th May 2018.
Having recently attended a seminar and followed various threads on Social Media there still seems to be a lot of confusion and uncertainty around the concept of GDPR. Providing you have stringent policies in place for the Data Protection Act (DPA) GDPR should not worry you unduly, as it builds on what you already have in place. Some of the questions I am seeing are around how do I manage the data I already have? Other comments include I am only a sole trader, so it won’t affect me.
To me the former will depend on how you signed people up, did you pick up their business cards and add them manually or did you get them to sign up to a newsletter using a double opt in?
Perhaps more worryingly is the comment I am only a sole-trader, so it won’t matter. In response to this would you leave your children unbelted in the car? No, I thought not, so why take a chance with this? There are plenty of resources out there, both paid and free as well as people claiming to be experts. Personally, I don’t sign people up to newsletters, but many small businesses do. For me, consent jumps out. There is a much greater emphasis on how you gained consent and the need to record how you gained their consent and the rights of the individual.
I have read plenty on the subject but for me the ICO guide Preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 12 steps to take now jumps out as my go to information.
This is what I have been using to prepare myself and the organisations I work with. However, clarity is still required for certain aspects and I for one will be looking out for updated information.
My strategy for GDPR is don’t panic and look around for the answers you need. The ICO have recently set up a dedicated helpline for small businesses.
With Christmas fast approaching and the year drawing to a close, I tend to be in a reflective mood. I have previously written about the Highs and Lows of being a freelancer, in my personal blog The Emerging Flower https://judithhealy.wordpress.com/ However, this year I decided to concentrate on my work blog on my website, as well as writing some ghost blogs for other people.
After building up my portfolio of clients over a year it felt like my working world collapsed around me in June, through no fault of my own. One of my clients and I don’t blame them in anyway decided to move their admin support in-house leaving me with a large gap in the hours I worked. No problem I thought – a change is always refreshing, I have gained some valuable experience in new fields, so I can easily (as I have done before) find some new clients. The reality was somewhat different, I applied for everything I thought I could do, using the various platforms I have used before. By this point we were approaching July – I spent hours reading articles online, making decisions, about logos, a website relaunch and braving it out the house to networking and tried to remain optimistic, while watching my bank balance diminish. I have a policy that whenever anyone does any work for me I pay them immediately, because the number of small businesses that fail due to late payments is high and having worked for people that take up to 6 months to pay I don’t appreciate people doing it to me so why would I treat someone in that way.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was fortunate to have a holiday, purely because my parents live abroad, I’m not sure I was much fun. My teenage daughter tells me that I was miserable when we were away and even worse when we got home! I believe her because she has to put up with me.
With September dawning and having worked my way through my savings, as any freelancer will tell you, you work when the work is there and save for the lean times. It was time to make some decisions. I discussed with my daughter the possibility that I would close the business down and look for a job. I also made one of the hardest decisions ever, to claim help again and on my daughter’s first day back at school I went to do this. However, then I turned a corner, all the jobs I had applied for back in July started contacting me for interviews and in the space of 10 days I turned it around and took on 5 new clients.
Note to self - gaining new clients is fantastic, but scary at the same time, especially when they all want you to start within 3 days of each other. There was a lot of juggling, late nights and very early mornings, to get to grips with what needed doing and perhaps less cooking than usual!
Having completed the initial trials with these clients I feel that things are on the up, I have more than doubled the number of clients – my ambition was to have 10 and at times I have worked with 12, so mission accomplished or maybe not. There is always room for more, as some projects naturally come to a conclusion.
However, this has been a major learning curve, it is not the first time I have worked with one major client and then the work has dried up and left me in this position (although that was when I first started out 7 years ago). However, I didn’t expect it to happen again. I can hear you shouting at me – why were you so stupid? I asked myself that as well. My confidence was knocked, and I questioned my capabilities, both personally and professionally. I wanted to prove to my teenage daughter that I was a good role model, but felt I had let her down.
Now as year-end is approaching not only am I working with a number of clients and feeling more confident, both personally and professionally, I am volunteering for a local charity, as well as running a Single Parent Gingerbread group in my local area. So, my advice to anyone in a similar situation is you can turn it round with perseverance hard work and determination.
I would like to thank all those people who have supported me both knowingly and unknowingly over the last 6 months and most of all the biggest thank you is to my beautiful daughter.
Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year – I hope the new year brings you everything you want.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
If you are a sole trader, freelancer, a small business or an entrepreneur, then the daily grind of completing the administration can seem like an additional chore.
You are obviously very good at what you do and want to focus on that. By freeing up your time and concentrating on the actual business rather than drowning in admin you can grow your business.
We are all familiar with the mountain of paperwork that results in running your business. How many times have you heard the phrase when are you going to stop working? Are your weekends filled with the stress of trying to complete everything you didn’t get done in the week? Missing out on what you enjoy?
Then it’s time to think again. For just a few hours per month you can start to shift your work life balance.
The advantages of hiring a Virtual Assistant include: -
However, you do need to consider what you want from your Virtual Assistant. Do you just want to hand over a pile of paperwork and let them get on with it? Is it important that they are local to you or are you happy communicating via email, Skype, instant messenger or telephone? This is dependent on the type of person you are, the type of work, and whether local geographical knowledge is important. Virtual Assistants are professional, flexible and will work with you to establish the best ways to work together. Some clients I speak to regularly, while others prefer to communicate by email.
Are they a general VA or do they work within specific sectors? Do they specialise in certain tasks or are they an all rounder?
Communication is the key to a successful relationship with your Virtual Assistant. The principle of the crystal ball doesn’t work, believe me I have been on the receiving end of that one! We all forget things sometimes, but you do need to communicate effectively like you would if they were sat in your office. No Virtual Assistant minds the occasional lapse, but repeated forgetfulness, missing catch up calls or choosing to exclude them from information may result in difficulty retaining or recruiting Virtual Assistants. So please be honest with yourself a Virtual Assistant is not for everyone.
Also check your chosen VA’s availability as well as agree timescales for delivery of your work. Many VA’s work with a number of clients. The joy of being a VA is working the hours you choose but there are horror stories of clients expecting VAs to be available 24 hours a day, regardless of time zone. I always say to my clients feel free to email me things over the weekend but I won’t see it until the Monday.
Remember, by investing time (sitting down and working out what you need from your Virtual Assistant and what both of your expectations are) at the outset, this can lead to a more successful business for you, freeing up your time long-term.
One of my clients who I started off working just 2 hours a day (and ended up working way beyond this), grew their business to such an extent that they realised that they needed someone in their office to provide full time support.
Like wearing in your favourite comfortable shoes hiring a VA and learning to work together takes time!
As September dawns are you feeling blue about the end of summer and if you are a parent or grandparent, the school holidays or do you feel rejuvenated by the thought that you can finally speak to people and concentrate on your business rather than just marking time?
For those of us who have been lucky enough to have a break away from home, we may already have settled back into our routine, or for others waiting until the world re-emerges, from the August slump.
I love spending time with my family, I am lucky enough to have family living abroad. I enjoy the thought of getting away from it all, but I tend to do a lot of thinking about what I want to do next strategically. I even took my logos on holiday to decide on my final choice and considered doing a poll of all the passengers on my flight!
I also enjoy the fact I don’t have to get up quite so early when I return to the UK, although I am always at my desk by 8.30 am!
While I’m not keen on the darker mornings and the evenings I look forward to September, as I see it as a time for renewed vigour. For me this means putting into practice what I have been learning during the quieter summer months. This year I learnt more about Social Media marketing by doing some blog rewrites for a client and another client took the opportunity to start teaching me the accountancy software Sage, for my own use. Now all I need to do is put all this into practice.
If you are feeling invigorated and want to concentrate on growing your business then contact JH Admin to assist you with your admin needs.
So you've been business networking. What do you do with the business cards you collect? Have you sorted them into an orderly fashion and filed them electronically or even better spoken to the person or people and set up a meeting?
Perhaps this is one of the jobs you save for later but time to sort them never comes because you are too busy running your business. Rather than keep them in your drawer, or a pile on your desk what do you actually want to do with them.
When you collect the cards what are you intending to do with them? Are you intending to use them for networking in the future - do you want to use their services or are you going to use them for marketing purposes?
Sophie, one of my client's had attended various networking events and had over 60 business cards from different sources. When we met she asked me to sort them firstly into excel spreadsheets and then upload them to Insightly (her CRM - Customer Relationship Management software of choice). Once completed I uploaded them to Mailchimp (an email marketing platform), so that Sophie could tailor her marketing to the specific groups.
For a small amount Sophie was able to maximise her time and target her marketing more appropriately.
Imagine you’ve worked hard all year and you are looking forward to your 2 weeks away, with your loved ones or on your own. Will you be spending your time relaxing and enjoying your time away with your favourite drink, alcoholic or non-alcoholic or will you be worrying about whether you are missing out on business?
Mine’s a frappe with ice cream!
For peace of mind why not consider using a Virtual Assistant. Virtual Assistants can look after your business while you are away. They can answer your calls, book appointments in for your return and monitor your email account.
No time to plan your holiday some Virtual Assistants will do this for you, or maybe able to tap into other resources for you.
Imagine coming back feeling rested and refreshed ready for your return to work, knowing that everything has been dealt with and you can just pick up your work.
image courtesy of www.freeimages.co.uk
Probably something that many small businesses and freelancers dread. Having recently attended my first ever networking event as a freelancer I survived! We all know the feeling of nerves, I have previously done extensive networking but that was many years ago and in a different profession, where I was a recognised expert. That was totally different, as I knew what was expected, how to dress, who would be there and I also knew a lot of people. I have heard stories of groups, where if you don’t attend you have to find substitutes. Many meetings are held at breakfast time, so totally unachievable for many parents, especially those who have sole responsibility for their children in the mornings.
I stumbled by chance upon a local networking group, Wellingborough Business Network, at a reasonable time, within walking distance and affordable. Okay so I managed to book a place, then I needed to get some business cards in a rush (note to self never do them in a hurry – I have already noticed things I would change and will be doing so within the next few months). I looked at elevator pitches – 30 seconds to talk about myself. Public speaking isn’t my greatest strength, but after standing up and speaking to over 1000 people at an international conference I know I can do it. Who then forgot to write anything down so I had something prepared, although I had been through it all beforehand – that was me then!!
Next problem – what to wear after discussion with both my Mum & daughter I settled on leggings and a top – that was fine until my daughter took one look at me on the morning and said no. Thanks for that (I wasn’t feeling confident in the outfit, so quickly tried on my one pair of smart trousers – hideous was my thought), so I pulled out my newest jeans – much better, more me. My daughter left for school telling me it would be fine and she had confidence I would soon have some new clients.
At the appointed time (I estimated it would take me 15 minutes to walk there and it did) past some allotments which helped me to relax, down to the venue. I arrived, found the meeting room and walked in. I saw the refreshments and then met Paula Ross who was doing the registrations, who was lovely and made me feel welcome. There were already groups of men at some of the tables – dressed in suits and then there was me in my jeans. I saw a table with someone’s notebook on it and decided to sit there. At this point I was terrified and managed to carry a cup of coffee back to the table, (complete with the shakes) by which time some other ladies had arrived and joined the table. We started to chat and it put me at ease. The speaker Caroline Prout - Inspired to Change, who spoke about Train your Brain for Networking Success and guess what at about that time my nerves really kicked in - 30 seconds and guess who forgot to take her notes. A thought flashed through my mind ‘freeing you up to do what you do best’. As my turn approached my nerves increased and then it was my turn – I did it, I did stand up, nobody laughed, next time I will be more polished, I learnt a valuable lesson – I am me and I can go as me – no need to dress up, just turn up!
I am the business, I’m never going to be the noisy, confident individual but I am resilient, good at multitasking and as people get to know me they might even become a client. So onwards and upwards I have booked my place for next month.
I am a small business Virtual Assistant and run my business freeing people up to do what they do best, while loving the paperwork you hate!