Archive for the ‘Deep & Not So Deep Thoughts’ Category

Don’t Put Off the Scary Things in Business

scaryThings in business are only scary until you turn them around and they make sense. The scary comes from the unknown. Once you dissect what’s what the light breaks through and you realize it’s not such a mystery.

For me doing HTML coding is scary while friends who excel in this skill find it relaxing. When I dissect bits of HTML to make sense of why doing “this” will give me “that” I can see how the puzzle fits together. And then the magic can happen.

I’ll bet you can think a few things that you’ve put off because they seemed too scary to tackle. Pick one today. Start small by breaking it into smaller segments to learn, practice, or explore. As you master that small chunk add in the next segment. Soon you’ll have eaten that whole elephant, bite by bite, and conquered the scary.

Looking back it’s easy to see why it got in the way but the view from this side is empowering. The added confidence from conquering this thing will make you feel like you’re standing ten feet tall.

I’d love to hear about your experiences. Tell me in the comments below.

There Is No Magic Number

business magicThere’s a customized mattress commercial on television that talks about your number. You’ve probably seen it. As the camera pans from actor to actor each smiles broadly and says, “My number is __.”  As a virtual assistant I’ve heard similar statements when the question of “How many clients do I need to make it?” comes into conversation. And then you see numbers scroll past on the chat screen. Seldom are any two numbers the same. I always wonder if the individual posing the question leaves feeling more confused. I would.

The truth: there is no magic number.

It boils down to risk. How much risk feels right for you? What level of chance are you comfortable with taking?

If you’ve never thought of it as risk then let’s have a little conversation.

If you fill your practice with clients needing a minimum of 20 hours monthly and one leaves, can you survive that loss of income until it’s replaced? Compare the same if a 5- or 10- hour monthly client leaves.

This is the risk factor. It’s one part of what determines the right number for your business.

If replacing 20 hours monthly is no headache then the risk is minimal for you. If the thought of replacing 20 hours monthly makes your heart race and your palms sweat you may want to bump up your on-going marketing and Plan Bs. Some jump for joy when they have a client needing 20, 30, or 40 hours monthly on-going support. Remember with a client need of this size the total number of clients in your current client base is small compared to clients needing 10 hours monthly (when working as a solo VA compared to having a multi-va practice).

Do the math: if your goal is working 100 hours monthly then you can fill that in any one of these combinations:

  • 20 clients at 5 hours monthly
  • 10 clients at 10 hours monthly
  • 5 clients at 20 hours monthly

As a solo VA, working with fewer individuals monthly has its perks.

When deciding how many clients to take on at any given time I consider these factors:

  1. How much time will their projects take in a given day/week/month?
  2. Do these projects fit into my available time openings in a given day/week/month?
  3. Am I willing to add time outside my designated allotment of time, if needed?

While there are additional questions for consideration these big three come foremost. Time is a finite thing. We each get the same amount in a 24 hour period. How we use it, that’s where the magic comes in.

Now, the number of hours worked monthly and an earning potential are vastly different so understand that what I’ve shared above speaks only of the number of hours you desire to work monthly.

Not all hours are equal: You can fill a single hour with one client project at X hourly rate. Or, you can fill that same time space with multiple mini-tasks each having varying rates. Or, you may have a project rate that promotes value over time usage. Whichever way you fill time openings will factor in how you replace openings.

Here’s a relatable example for how 60 minutes can be filled:

Working for one client at $45/hour will earn you $45. Easy enough.

Working for one client for 30 minutes at $50/hour, another for 15 minutes at $40/hour, and another at a set project rate of $25 (for 15 minutes) will earn you $60 in the same time period.

As neat and tidy it would be that each client needs exactly one hour of this or that for their project it rarely works out to be an hour for everything you ever do. Some need 15 minutes, or 3 minutes, or 42 minutes. And equally not every service you ever do will have the same price because the skills needed will vary as well.

But all this is best saved for another blog post on another day. For today, the point is that there is no magic number for how many clients you need?

The Reasonings Behind Value, Results & Comparisons

valueaddedWhen conversations shift to the ways to attract and keep clients are: to give value and results or value and results are what clients crave, my eyes glaze over. I hear more blah, blah, blah. You may have just cringed inwardly for me. Or, wondered if my business provides shoddy work. Or, if I’ve shot myself in the foot by sharing this openly. Eeek! But I haven’t.

Here’s why those conversations hold little value for me…

I understand the reality of the question…seeking value is as vague as defining success. The definition isn’t the same for any two people. It’s not to say that value is elusive – never to be found. A business must stay grounded in knowing that circumstances and perceptions will influence value. Results are more concrete and can be measured. Results can be plotted, improved upon, and calculated. Results are tangible where value is not.
When clients and I define the type of results they are seeking I can help them. When they ask me to define and promise value I shake my head because they are searching for someone only they can put a tag on. Value is a moving target. Value is perception. What holds value in the moment may not hold as much value compared to something else on a different day.

I tire so easily with the conversations around giving value and results to avoid customers passing you by (based solely on price) for another virtual assistant. The heart of the question centers around “What else can I do with this $50?” The pivot point that sways someone to say “yes” is having them envision the end results and stamp a worth on that result.

Consider this scenario that was shared on a TedTalk: If someone said the price of a McDonald’s hamburger was $25 would you consider this too expensive? Many would agree and feel $25 is too much.  Why? Because of comparisons. In our every day world someone could walk into McDonald’s and buy a hamburger for under $3. With a $3 to $25 comparison, the $25 seems inflated. If you were flying across the world on a 16-hour flight knowing flight attendants would be serving only peanuts and granola bars to sustain your hunger – think crash diet for 16 hours – and someone in the back section had a McDonald’s hamburger they would sell for $25, would this price seem too high then? Perhaps not.

What changed? Not the value because the product – the hamburger – didn’t change. The change was in the comparison and the importance that has now been assigned to this item.

When the conversation shifts to “she is more (or less) expensive than you” ask more questions to even the comparison playing field. The questions will quickly uncover the unique areas between the two business offerings, opening the conversation to talk about results and expectations. When it comes to results either your business can or cannot do X. X becomes the tangible that can be measured and bring the customer value.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about value, results, and comparisons. Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Being a Beacon in Your Business

beaconIt takes passion for your business to keep motivated and to continue introducing people to what you do and how you do it.  It takes courage and belief in you and your services to put yourself before others not always certain if you’ll be met with a no – trusting that customers will come. Providing good quality work reflects well on you. It strengthens your confidence which will draw customers in.

How bright is your beacon when it comes to these areas? 

  • Share your knowledge and resources with your colleagues when they struggle with a problem or have difficulty in finding a solution for a techie issue. How often have you searched high and low for a resource to meet a client’s need? Could be a WordPress plug-in option, a free software alternative or shortcut to doing something, only to ask a friend and be pointed to an answer. Helping each other in our times of need is something that frequently occurs within the virtual assistant industry.
  • Going above and beyond when it’s unexpected. Our clients trust us to be knowledgeable and have their best interests at hand when it comes to making suggestions to operate efficiently and maintain effectiveness. Continual learning in this online industry is a must. Always try to offer a bit more (an extra helping or a baker’s dozen approach) to each project you execute.
  • Believing in the worth and value you bring to those you serve. The first person you must satisfy and convince of your value is you. If you don’t believe in your services, products, and all that your business can do for others it’s extremely difficult for others to believe in you. Be confident in your business – going forward knowing how your assistance helps others grow their business, gives them added time to connect with their family, and enables another business to give value packed offerings to their clients. This ripple effect is far reaching.

Which of these do you currently do and which can you include? Share with me in the comments. I’d like to hear how your business shines.

What a Client Gives Her Virtual Assistant: The 12 Days Before Christmas

ChristmasYou’re actually reading this nearly twelve days before Christmas – give or take a day. If you happen to be a client, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much a virtual assistant can accomplish in a mere twelve days. If you’re a virtual assistant, you’ll nod your head in recognition of the requests that can come to you in a mere twelve days – from a single client…or from all of your clients combined.

With that, let the merriment begin (feel free to hum the song’s tune while you read)…

On the 12th day before Christmas I assigned to my VA….a blog post to be scheduled today.

Daily blogging is one of the best ways to move a website up in page ranking plus position you as an authority on your topic. Google loves fresh content on a website. It shows activity and draws traffic to your business.

On the 11th day before Christmas I assigned to my VA….2 website updates, and a blog post to be scheduled today.

Schedule regular intervals to review your website for outdated content, broken links, and working forms. A web designer can assist with assessments, recommendations, and making your site easy to navigate.

On the 10th day before Christmas I assigned to my VA….3 accounting entries, 2 website updates, and a blog post to be scheduled today.

Having a good grasp of your financial health gives you freedom to hire support services, expand, and develop your business.

On the 9th day before Christmas I assigned to my VA….4 project additions, 3 accounting entries, 2 website updates, and a blog post to be scheduled today.

Looking at tasks as projects gives them structure and manageability. Get in the habit of assigning milestones to gauge progress and reviewing what worked and what didn’t when the task is completed. Through intentional review you’ll get more efficient as well as reap more impactful results.

On the 8th day before Christmas I assigned to my VA….5 PowerPoint presentations, 4 project additions, 3 accounting entries, 2 website updates, and a blog post to be scheduled today.

Did you know that PowerPoint presentations can be loaded into a library on LinkedIn? And easily converted to videos for on YouTube?

On the 7th day before Christmas I assigned to my VA….6 calendar appointments, 5 PowerPoint presentations, 4 project additions, 3 accounting entries, 2 website updates, and a blog post to be scheduled today.

A well organized calendar is a secret to getting lots done. Be sure to schedule time weekly for learning, growing your business, and marketing.

On the 6th day before Christmas I assigned to my VA….7 Tweets to share, 6 calendar appointments, 5 PowerPoint presentations, 4 project additions, 3 accounting entries, 2 website updates, and a blog post to be scheduled today.

Active conversations on social media are a great way to meet clients and strengthen business bonds as well as to share information quickly. Do you find talking in 144 characters a challenge?

On the 5th day before Christmas I assigned to my VA….8 reports needing summaries, 7 Tweets to share, 6 calendar appointments, 5 PowerPoint presentations, 4 project additions, 3 accounting entries, 2 website updates, and a blog post to be scheduled today.

There is no reason to feel stuck doing reports and worrying about formatting, too. Allow a virtual assistant to give your data a polished look in record time.

On the 4th day before Christmas I assigned to my VA….9 eBooks to be converted, 8 reports needing summaries, 7 Tweets to share, 6 calendar appointments, 5 PowerPoint presentations, 4 project additions, 3 accounting entries, 2 website updates, and a blog post to be scheduled today.

Have PDF giveaway offers that you’ve retired laying around? Consider giving them an edit, updating any outdated information and converting them to a Kindle format for selling on Amazon. You may have a passive income stream in your old docs file waiting for you to tap into it.

On the 3rd day before Christmas I assigned to my VA….10 sales leads to contact, 9 eBooks to be converted, 8 reports needing summaries, 7 Tweets to share, 6 calendar appointments, 5 PowerPoint presentations, 4 project additions, 3 accounting entries, 2 website updates, and a blog post to be scheduled today.

Develop a system for tracking and maintaining contact with your leads. It’s much easier to work with warm leads than continually be on the search for new clients. Put follow-up processes in place.

On the 2nd day before Christmas I assigned to my VA….11 audios to be transcribed, 10 sales leads to contact, 9 eBooks to be converted, 8 reports needing summaries, 7 Tweets to share, 6 calendar appointments, 5 PowerPoint presentations, 4 project additions, 3 accounting entries, 2 website updates, and a blog post to be scheduled today.

Get in the habit of repurposing your content into other formats. A transcribed audio, for example, can become a workbook, a blog series, a free giveaway gift, a seminar, or an outline for a eBook to name a few ideas.

On the last day before Christmas I assigned to my VA….12 projects for next month, 11 audios to be transcribed, 10 sales leads to contact, 9 eBooks to be converted, 8 reports needing summaries, 7 Tweets to share, 6 calendar appointments, 5 PowerPoint presentations, 4 project additions, 3 accounting entries, 2 website updates, and a blog post to be scheduled today.

Make forward planning a part of your business operations routine. Plan your goals for the coming year now. Outline marketing plans. Prepare a blog topic posting calendar. Make a list of colleagues you’d like to do joint venture promotions with. Your plans become the to-do lists to follow for the coming month, quarter, and year.

And the 12 Days conclude like this…

Upon returning from Christmas holiday in my inbox I found an invoice for the full 364 projects performed during the 12 days before Christmas with a Christmas card from my VA. She really is the best, you know.

Wishing you the warmest of times as you celebrate this holiday season with your family and friends.

30 Days of Business Thanksgiving: In Review

gratitudeFor the entire month of November I shared across Facebook and Twitter my business gratitudes. If you missed them or care to read them again, here you go.

[Business Gratitude: Day 1] I am immensely grateful to be able to work with some amazing clients. Love ya all and count my blessings that you’re part of my business success.

[Business Gratitude: Day 2] Having a family who supports my business ideas and believes in the work I do.

[Business Gratitude: Day 3] Having a desk that faces a fabulous view outdoors that feature glimpses of passing wildlife and birds.

[Business Gratitude: Day 4] Virtual buddies who make time for impromptu Skype chats to work through issues, giggle fests, and lunch parties.

[Business Gratitude: Day 5] Social media accounts which bring me into someone’s day to join them in celebrating their victories or send a virtual hug when they need it.

[Business Gratitude: Day 6] Rulers. Yes, you read that correctly. Of all the office supplies available I use clear rulers daily…as line guides in data entry work, as bookmarks in books, as extended hands to adjust open the blinds from cat rubs and probably have 10 colorful rulers on my desk on any given day.

[Business Gratitude: Day 7] VA organizations and associations that host FREE learning seminars. In my early days these webinars were my guides and virtual mentors. I’m grateful for all the networking opportunities and friendships formed from attending a webinar.

[Business Gratitude: Day 8]  Being the only one in the office so I can crank up the music when the mood dictates and listen to whatever order and genre strikes my fancy. So what if Queen is followed by Blake Shelton by Bruno Mars and then Nickelback. It’s the crazy way that weaves a melody into my eclectic day.

[Business Gratitude: Day 9] Listening to snoring feline office companions while I type. Happy purrs and snores mean life is grand, wouldn’t you say?

[Business Gratitude: Day 10]  I’m grateful for my inner circle of support peers who never roll their eyes at my raw ideas no matter how kooky it sounds at first description.

[Business Gratitude: Day 11] Having the insight to blog my way and not connect that blog to my business site because the audiences are different…and that, my friends, is okay, too.

[Business Gratitude: Day 12] Today I’m grateful for flexible schedules which allow me to sneak away in the middle of the morning for a podcast and walk on the elliptical machine (aka Eli). I wonder how many webinar presenters would be surprised to know I step to their talks?

[Business Gratitude: Day 13] Sweet tea. If you’ve followed my page or know me personally you’ll remember that this is what keeps me going. Special shout out to hubby who brews a pitcher for me about every other morning.

[Business Gratitude: Day 14] I’m humbled by the “yeses” I receive when I invite a virtual professional to be interviewed on my blog, The Naked VA. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for sharing your stories and being a living inspiration to your peers. I’m honored to feature you.

[Business Gratitude: Day 15] Thank you to my clients for placing your trust in my business knowing I have your back on your projects and will always treat them as carefully as I do Maple projects in my own business.

[Business Gratitude: Day 16] Sharing a big HIGH FIVE for those days when I thought a project glitch would kill me, only to overcome it, and come out the other side. Yeah, I know it makes me stronger but when you’re walking through it, as a solopreneur, that’s hard to remember.

[Business Gratitude: Day 17] Having a hubby who excels in IT support. This, my friends, is a reason why I delegate faster than doing these things myself. I’m spoiled and much prefer working in the less tech-y areas. Added bonus: Our son is also gifted in this area so I have a backup plan in the making. 😉

[Business Gratitude: Day 18] I’m grateful for the employment positions that have built skill on top of skill to pave the pathway for operating my own businesses. Looking back I can see how each piece neatly fit together to lead me to today. God’s plan has been amazing.

[Business Gratitude: Day 19] Today I’m grateful for leftovers and warm up meals. Some days I get so engrossed in what I’m working on (not wanting to break the creative flow) that I hate to stop to fix a proper lunch. 2 o’clock can sneak up on you in a blink on these kinds of days.

[Business Gratitude: Day 20] I’m grateful for a garden of fresh flowers, ready for picking, to grace my office desk. Everyone should indulge with fresh flowers on their desk. [Fuschia mums today!] What a smile bringer!

[Business Gratitude: Day 21] Thursdays. Thursdays have been a favored day of mine for years. Seems all the great newsletters arrive on this day. Great evening tv shows. Some of the best present seminars on a Thursday. Thursdays are rarely jammed packed on my schedule like a Monday or Friday.

[Business Gratitude: Day 22] Testimonials. Getting these from happy clients makes my heart sing and is one of the BEST compliments a business owner can receive.

[Business Gratitude: Day 23] I have a small North America map on my office wall with map pins on the locations of my clients. I’m grateful for the visual picture of how far reaching my services have supported other business professionals. It reminds me that the impact circles of my work continue to ripple across the US and Canada.

[Business Gratitude: Day 24] I’m grateful for evergreen friendships among my peers. Perhaps we haven’t spoken recently but when anyone reaches out for a subcontract job, for a consult, or to troubleshoot an issue the time lapsed never matters. What an industry and great friendships across the miles! Someday I’d love to meet each face-to-face or even voice-to-voice.

[Business Gratitude: Day 25] Free Kindle business books. Wow, you can get addicted to loading business books on your Kindle Thanks, authors, for your generosity.

[Business Gratitude: Day 26] The VA forums and administrators. Wow, the dedication you demonstrate and the savvy to start up a forum site that gives so much to this VA industry. You are the ultimate givers who so many owe much gratitude *BIG ROUND OF APPLAUSE*

[Business Gratitude: Day 27] I’m grateful to those I mentor for sharing your successes with me as well as trusting me with your struggles. You’ve got this! Don’t sweat the hiccups because these will be forgotten in time.

[Business Gratitude: Day 28] I’m tickled with each comment or like or share on my comments on social media. It’s a small gesture that has an immediate impact. Thanks for participating.

[Business Gratitude: Day 29] I’m thankful for a great office chair that is conducive to chair dancing when a great song is filling the office. (Oh come on, I know, you dance, too.)

[Business Gratitude: Day 30] Wow. My heart is full and I’ve enjoyed sharing some of my gratitudes with you these past 30 days. I hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse into my world and have had many thankful moments in the past days with many, many more in the days to come.

If you’ve never participated in the November Thanksgiving “thanks” postings online I encourage you to calendar it and do it next year. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to come up 30 gratitudes. But, I think, you’ll be even more surprised how many people will connect with you and share their “thanks.”

To your continued success….  /Ruth