I regularly speak to small business owners, on both a personal and professional level, and if there’s one thing they all tell me it’s that when they first started out they tried to wear too many hats. In other words, they bogged themselves down with tasks that they really shouldn’t have been doing and ultimately lost focus on what they should be doing: building their businesses.
Unfortunately, this is one of the pitfalls of running a small business. It’s only when the owners realise that by trying to do everything themselves they’re actually hindering their businesses that things start to change.
But as we all know, hindsight is a wonderful thing and we can all learn a lot from it. That’s why I wanted to share with you some of the tasks that I carry out for my clients. While you will undoubtedly know about most of them, there are a few that may surprise you.
What I want to do is get you thinking about which of the tasks you’re currently doing yourself that could be delegated to someone else. Even if you manage to reclaim just five minutes of your time each day by delegating or outsourcing a task or two, I’ll feel as though I’ve done my job.
Here are just some of the duties I perform for my clients:
Project management – most business owners have got lots of nice little projects they want to undertake, but overseeing them all personally is often a time-consuming nightmare and something that detracts from the overall value of the project.
Newsletters – this newsletter didn’t write itself and yours won’t either. That means you’ve got to spend time thinking about what you want to include and then even more time compiling it. Time that could perhaps be spent doing something more constructive.
Social media management – we keep being told that our businesses need an online presence and one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to achieve this is via social media. But unless your business pages are updated regularly and your audience kept engaged, your social media efforts will fall by the wayside.
Blogging – Like social media and newsletters, blog posts are another necessity for most businesses today. And, like social media and newsletters, blogs are at their most effective when they are regularly updated with fresh content. Can you give your blog the time and attention it deserves?
PA services – general admin duties need to be done, but it doesn’t have to be you who does them, right? Even if they’re mundane, there’s someone out there who would willingly help you with them.
Email management – how many emails do you receive each day that warrant a reply, but not necessarily require a personal response from you? Responding to emails consumes a lot of time and unless those replies produce leads or sales, your time may be better focused elsewhere.
Calendar management – okay, so it’s similar to email management in its nature, but nevertheless it’s still a crucial part of running a business. Much better you concentrate on preparing for client meetings than organising them.
Research – conducting research is something that every small business does from time-to-time. And while the Internet has given us an overload of information at our fingertips, wading through the sea of resources to get to the stuff that matters can take hours.
WordPress management/maintenance – WordPress updates seem to be released on an almost weekly basis nowadays. Couple this with the constant plugin changes that also occur and maintaining even a basic WordPress site can be time consuming. That’s before you’ve even thought about making any content updates.
Data management – as your business grows, so too will all its data. Nothing is more frustrating than not having the information you need to hand. The technology exists to make it so, but all those documents and files still need to be put in the right places.
Did I give you any ideas? I really hope so…
Need a bit more inspiration? Drop me a line and we can talk about it in a bit more depth.
A VA can take a huge weight off of your shoulders and help you with those tasks that bog you down when you should be focussing on other areas of your business. However, hiring a VA is not quite the same as hiring an employee and there are different considerations to make when taking this route. It can be a huge advantage to hire someone for only the hours and skills you need, without the commitment in terms of budget and hours that you might have to consider with an employee.
Here are some pointers on how to start a successful VA relationship and avoid some common pitfalls.
1. Ensure you are ready to handover to a VA
A common mistake when hiring a VA is not being ready to pass on your work. The best tasks to hand over are the repetitive ones. This means you don’t have to train your VA on lots of new types of work and you will be free to concentrate on other things. Using a tool like Asana, I can see which tasks come up regularly and then easily assign them to my new VA once the workload looks like a viable amount. By reviewing those tasks before hiring, I can also see what skills and talents my new VA needs.
2. Create a repeatable process
Giving a successful handover often relies on your processes and systems being thoroughly nailed down before you start. I don’t give any work to a new VA until I have a tried and tested method to share with them. Creating a training document or video for the tasks you want to outsource is a great way to make the handover less painful. It also means that should your team grow, any new team members will be able to pick up (and run with) that same task with minimal interference and input from you or anyone else.
3. Hire as carefully as you would an employee
Introducing a new person to your business data and contacts is a sensitive process. Whether you are sharing your Social Media logins or your company books, ensuring you have a reliable and trustworthy VA is of paramount importance. Check references as carefully as you would with an internal employee and consider a short Non-Disclosure Agreement for anyone handling confidential material.
4. Agree on timescales
When working with remote VAs, you may have multiple people working across different time-zones. This can have an impact on turnaround times. It can also be an advantage if you need round-the-clock-cover, as a VA on the other side of the globe can work while you sleep.
Something else to bear in mind is that you are a client, not an employer. You are probably not the only person who the VA works with. Treat the relationship as a partnership and consider a Service Level Agreement to help keep your workflow on schedule and easy to manage. Setting expectations early will help avoid any frustrations for both parties.
5. Agree the payment structure
There are many different types of VA solutions available, from individual sole traders to large Virtual Assistant businesses with multiple employees. Each business has its own payment structure and pricing. Hourly pricing might appear to be the simplest option, but you might get better value from a retainer or package based model (in which a set number of hours are sold in bulk).
Aside from payment models themselves, make sure you understand the payment terms and how you will be invoiced, especially with the smaller or solo operations.
If you’ve not yet considered hiring a Virtual Assistant, read more about why working with a VA can benefit your business, save you time, money and help you to accomplish more.
Hello and Happy New Year from Writer’s Block Admin Services! I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas break and welcomed the arrival of 2015 in a suitably memorable way.
And with a New Year comes the inevitable resolutions. Things that you’ve been putting off over the last 12 months, but really should start abiding by.
For most of us, New Year resolutions involve lifestyle changes that serve to make us healthier. Losing weight, quitting smoking and going to the gym more are all classic examples. But Christmas will have undoubtedly involved some major spending and as a result, it’s our finances that could do with some TLC this January.
With that in mind, I’ve taken it upon myself to compile this virtual assistant’s survival guide to saving money. Hopefully, you’ll pick up some useful tips and get your New Year off to the right start financially.
Leverage Social Media for Exposure
Ever stopped and wondered why every huge brand you know encourages you to like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter? It’s because they want to leverage the superb advertising opportunities that social media affords.
Clicking ‘like’ or ‘follow’ means you are signing up to receive all their future updates and while many of those may be useful or entertaining, there will inevitably be sales pitches thrown into the mix too.
Traditional advertising mediums, like TV, radio and print, are expensive and very much one-way in their nature. Social media allows for proper audience engagement and is as cheap as advertising gets in today’s world.
Outsource Wherever Possible
There’s no denying that the lifeblood of every business is its employees. But people costs can consume a large proportion of a business budget and if you’re a start-up that can significantly affect your chances of growth.
It’s no surprise then that more and more businesses are looking to outsource their tasks to skilled freelancers and virtual assistants like me. You’ll only pay for the services you use and ultimately save money on recruitment costs, physical equipment and training, to name but a few.
By keeping just a core team of staff and outsourcing everything else, companies can free up their employees’ time to focus on the jobs that really matter and drive real business value in the long-run.
Take Advantage of Tools and Applications
Nowadays, there are tools and apps to help us with almost anything. And while some may involve a small investment, the productivity gains you’ll realise as a result far outweigh the cost.
I even wrote a post outlining some of my top productivity tools, all of which make my life a whole lot easier on a daily basis.
The beauty of tools and apps is that they are often very intuitive and you can start reaping the rewards right away.
One example, off the top of my head, is Skype. Traditionally, meetings involved travel costs, hotel costs and a lot of time. With Skype, you can hold a constructive meeting virtually and incur very little in the way of costs.
Going green can not only save your business money but it’s also great for PR.
Now while many of us aren’t in a position to construct a state-of-the-art new building which incorporates the latest energy-saving innovations, we can make a few small changes that will all go some way to saving money and the environment.
Simple things like switching off computer monitors when they’re not in use, dimming lights or turning them off completely overnight and printing double-sided will all save you money in the long-term.
Reducing your energy consumption will in-turn reduce your energy bills, waste and pollution. It’s a win-win situation all round. Make 2015 the year in which you implement a greener mindset.
If you like what you’ve read then you should also check out my virtual assistant’s guide to saving time while you’re here.
I recently took part in a 3 day virtual event hosted by Emma Hague called Mumpreneur Success Secrets, it was held on 21st – 23rd May. There were 12 different experts on the virtual training:
Claire Young – BBC Apprentice Finalist, Entrepreneur, Motivational Speaker & Mum
Hannah Martin – Award-Winning Freelance Copywriter & Co-Founder of The Talented Ladies Club
Suzanne Dibble – Jargon-Free Business Law Advice For Entrepreneurial Mums
Kate Tilston – Solution Focus Coaching – Personal Training For Your Mind & Soul!
Sara Stewart – Social Media & Creative Marketing Expert
Wendy Shand – Practical Tips & Advice From Award-Winning Entrepreneur
Kalpana Fitzpatrick – Personal Finance Expert & Journalist
Jessica Hylands – Confidence Coach
Melanie Malcolm – Networking Expert
Alice Judge-Talbot – Social Media & Blogging Expert
Emma Hague – Amazing Business Creation Mentor & Qualified Accountant
Emma kindly sent over the recording of my interview, and I am now sending this out to all my email subscribers. If you’d like to listen to the interview where I provide lots of tips for people starting their own businesses and also how a virtual assistant can assist you, then sign up to my newsletter above or via my Facebook page.
The interview is approximately 30 minutes long and you can listen to it directly in your browser. When you sign-up to my newsletter you’ll also receive my free eBook ‘3 Key Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant’… so you will have everything you need to get your business off to a great start!
Do you often find yourself with a list as long as your arm of mundane tasks to do? If so, then chances are that you’re not working efficiently and therefore your business is not operating to its full potential. If this is the case, you could find yourself struggling to be competitive in your marketplace and losing valuable business to your competition. The ultimate and most disastrous consequence of this is that your business will inevitably fail and all of your hard work will have been for nothing.
So what’s the answer? Keep persevering and hope that you get everything done? Unfortunately, a day is only 24 hours long and there’s nothing you can do about that. However, you can make certain adjustments that will ensure your time is used efficiently and only for the most crucial aspects of your business. For example, start by outsourcing the mundane, but ultimately necessary tasks to a virtual assistant.
Now you’re wondering what kind of tasks a virtual assistant can perform and the answer is… more than you can imagine!
Here are just five examples:
Ever wish you could just ask one of your employees to scour the internet and report back to you the latest trends, hot issues and consumer needs in your industry? Well, with a virtual assistant you can do just that. They will meticulously comb the internet and discover everything that your business needs to know, especially when it comes to digital marketing vehicles like social networks and how to take advantage of them to boost your brand’s image.
If you find yourself sifting through countless emails on a daily basis and filing most of them in the trash bin, is it really efficient use of your time? The answer is no and so outsourcing the bulk of your email management and filtering to a virtual assistant will make you a lot more productive. You will be able to focus on the emails that really matter and give them your full attention. Furthermore, important correspondence won’t be missed through overzealous deletions.
The beauty of the internet and modern technology is that it allows for virtual assistants to be an integrated part of your business. As with emails, they can answer and filter telephone calls coming into your office and even make calls on behalf of your business. This again allows you to focus on the more business-generating tasks and not have to worry about missed calls or forgetting to follow-up on a lead.
Hotel and Flight Bookings
Today’s busy entrepreneur will inevitably find themselves doing a lot of travelling, particularly at the start of a new business venture. However, booking hotel rooms and even flights can be a time-consuming process. Moreover, if your first choice hotel is fully booked, you aren’t left scratching your head for alternatives. You can rest assured that your virtual assistant will already be ahead of the game and find you a suitable hotel. The same goes for travel bookings like flights and train tickets. Basically, any job that requires a bit of thought and criteria-based searches can be performed by a virtual assistant.
It’s one of the most mundane office tasks that there is, but data entry is a necessary evil that has to be done. You obviously don’t want to do it yourself and it can take up a hefty chunk of one of your regular employee’s time, so the perfect solution is to get your virtual assistant to do it. After all, data entry follows a pretty repetitive pattern and often takes very little explaining. This makes it a perfect task for your virtual assistant and their ability to focus, free from distraction, means that the accuracy is always excellent.
What tasks do you wish you could outsource to a Virtual Assistant? Are you looking to create some balance in your life?
Get in touch with me to find out how I can help you utilise your time more efficiently.