3 Awesome Programmes That You Can Use Straight Away For Your Business

3 Awesome Programmes That You Can Use Straight Away For Your Business

Running your small business is your favourite thing to do right? Although you feel that you could be spending lots more time servicing your clients and selling your products.  

It is important to keep all your ducks in a row, juggling all those balls and maintaining that ‘can do’ attitude as your team will look to you for any final decisions, and if you don’t have a team (yet), then you will be wearing all the hats and also be the sounding board for your own advice.  

There are so many different tools that you hear buzzing around your industry, and you have no clue what to go for and what will work for you. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth, especially when it comes to finding a solution that can fit your business.  

Lots of tools out there come with a price tag, don’t purchase a subscription because it feels like you should, most will have a free trial so go ahead and sign up for a trial before fully committing. Set yourself a diary note to review after 5 days so that you don’t get caught after the 7 days and be fully charged for a monthly/yearly subscription. I have been caught out many times.  

There are 3 brilliant programmes that I just could not live without, they are:  

Canva 

Canva is an extremely popular graphic design platform in which you can design all your branded content and marketing materials. Canva has ready-made templates available to suit your business. The graphic design tool allows you to design anything from social media posts toe-books.  

With the free version, many just use this version as it does all that they need.  

Canva Pro is the paid version and with this, you can do that bit more with the ability for you to upload your own fonts and you also get lots more and access to more free photos and other elements. With the pro version, you can also upload your company logo to create a brand palette.  

Dubsado  

Dubsado is a business management tool where you can automate it all. From booking appointments with you to sending agreements, questionnaires, invoices etc. You can fully manage a project within Dubsado and more.  

You can use Dubsado for free for the first three clients, and then you incur charges. What you can do is use Dubsado for the free period to navigate your way around it, and familiarise yourself with the platform to see if you wish to continue using it with the price tag attached.

Everyone wants to work smarter so Dubsado may well be an option for you. They do say Dubsado is for everyone, As an Executive Assistant, it has worked for me and hopefully long-term it continues to do so. The best thing I like about Dubsado is it keeps a tab on all my warm leads and can help convert them into clients by allowing me to continue nurturing relationships.

If you are a Coach, Virtual Assistant, Photographer, Event Organiser and many more – this may be for you.  

Asana  

Whether you are a team of one or a team of 10+, Asana is my number one choice for a project management tool. If you are a sole trader, you can create your own daily to-do lists, projects and more. Keeping conversations in one place will make things so much easier, rather than continually switching tabs to find old conversations in your inbox.  

With Asana, you can create multiple projects and only include those that are working on specific projects. There is an option to include milestones so everyone can stay on track. Checklists can be completed every step of the way.  

Asana can also integrate with so many other apps including Google Drive, Slack, Dropbox, OneDrive and more which makes tracking the workload even smoother for yourself and/or your team. 

These tools will enable you to work smarter, not harder. The right tools for the job make things so much easier and put the control fully in your hands. I would say that these are all so useful. The trick will be to familiarise yourself with their features and use them for the best possible results within your business.  

If you wish to discuss how I can support you with any of the above tools, get in touch today.  

 

Simple Work Breaks To Stay Productive Throughout Your Working Day

Simple Work Breaks To Stay Productive Throughout Your Working Day

During the course of your working day, you have a number of tasks that you must complete before your day is up, if you are strict with the hours that you work. As you advance through the day, you get more tired and less productive. This is due to the fact that you have no breaks in your day to keep yourself refreshed and awake.

When you work constantly throughout the day, this will often lead to problems with concentration and forgetfulness which can be detrimental to your work performance.

Alternatively, if you are taking breaks what are you doing with the time? Do you go on Facebook, Youtube, or Instagram every time you want a break? You’re not alone. It can be easy to spend hours browsing social media sites mindlessly. But by taking simple work breaks throughout your working day, you’ll stop procrastinating and get more done.

Here are my 3 tips on what you can do when taking simple breaks to help improve your productivity and keep yourself on task the whole way through your workday.

Use the 20-20-20 rule

Are you familiar with this method? The 20-20-20 rule is that you should take a break from your screen 20 twenty minutes. Every 20 minutes, you should focus on an object for 20 seconds which is 20 feet away. Sounds like a chore for some but can be really beneficial to reduce eye strain. Focusing on a screen for long amounts of time can cause:

  • Blurry vision
  • Double vision
  • Headaches
  • Dry, itchy eyes

I hold my hands up, sometimes I am glued to my desk for a very long time, and I mean a long time. I will usually only get up to go to the toilet, answer the door for a cheeky amazon delivery or my stomach tells me that it is time to eat. As a small business owner, it is important to focus on our wellness too. Yes, we want to deliver to our customers and clients a great service but please remember you. You can read more about the 20-20-20 rule here

Stretch your legs

Move that body! Getting yourself out of your seat and moving around is a great way to get you away from your screen whilst incorporating some exercise into your routine.

Stretching is important to avoid those aches and pains, getting into the habit of sitting with poor posture and will also help avoid any neck and back strain. I have a great chiropractor who I visit twice a month to get my back and neck sorted out. I have found being in a seated position for work does me no favours if I don’t move around regularly.

If you always forget to step away from your desk, set a timer to remind you to take a quick walk and get a stretch in. There are even stretches that you can actually do at your desk, although I would rather you left your desk.

 Do something fun on your lunch break

Ensure you take a full break, not a 10-minute nibble and then back to it. Have your lunch away from your desk, somewhere comfortable and possibly in another room if you can.

Allow yourself to switch off even for 30 minutes and do something fun. Some ideas are:

  • Read a book
  • Meditate
  • Call a friend/relative
  • Play a game with friends/family
  • Listen to your favourite music
  • Go for a walk
  • Do a workout
  • Listen to a podcast

We all know that staying focused and productive throughout your working day can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re working on several projects simultaneously. The main point I am trying to make is that in order to be productive during the course of your day, it can be beneficial to take breaks from your work in order to prevent burnout.

Without taking these breaks you may find yourself becoming less and less motivated as the day goes on and eventually give up completely, which is what we don’t want. So, please remember to take regular breaks even if it is only briefly as they can have a major impact on your productivity. Keep bossing it!

 

How To Get Back Into A Routine

How To Get Back Into A Routine

So, we are already halfway through the week and it’s a lovely short working week for most of us because of the three-day weekend, due to the May bank holiday (UK public hliday). I’m guessing you have relaxed, maybe travelled and you are trying to transition back into a routine. Let’s face it, most of us small business owners will have worked throughout the extended bank holiday weekend.  

If you turned your out of office on and took some time out for your family/friends, then you may feel that you need some tips on getting back into a routine when you just don’t feel like doing anything. Whether you are running your business full-time or it’s still a side hustle while you pluck up the courage to take the leap of faith and run your empirefull-time, these tips are for you. 

1.     Be realistic  

If you have taken time out and struggling with the early start or late finishes, look at doing things, to begin with, that won’t sap you of energy and make you hate being back in the driving seat. Perhaps you could just check your emails for the day, respond to any that don’t require much and make notes to follow up for the rest of them. If you are a one-man-band, your clients/customers will have received your OOO (out of office) autoresponder informing them of your absence, so won’t be expecting a response before your return. Any that you cannot resolve immediately upon your return, why not drop them a line to say that you are back in the office and will be in touch again in X hours/days. PLEASE be realistic with your response time, do not add more pressure to what you already have on your plate.  

2.     Accountability Partner 

This might be something that you have in place already. Book a call/zoom meeting where you can meet up with your accountability partner upon your return. You can look at what you must do right now, you can both map out what that looks like and the timeline in checking those items off. An accountability partner is there to support you and vice versa. Think of them like a sounding board. Accountability partners can also bring clarity to your business. Try to choose a person/friend/colleague who is going to be honest with you 110%, nobody wants a people pleaser, you should be the same for them, complete honesty, and transparency from you for their small business. If you cannot find an accountability partner, you may want to do some research for a Mentor or Coach. This will usually be a paid service, ask around as many entrepreneurs swear by their Mentor/Coach.  

3.     Be kind to yourself  

Running a business can be extremely stressful especially when you are working all hours, to keep money coming in. Reach out and ask for help where you think you need it. Outsource what does not fit your skillset, which may be sending out contracts or packing orders. Keeping costs low will be something to take into consideration, but as soon as you can please do. Take regular breaks and stay hydrating. Lack of fluids can cause headaches and fatigue, that is where mistakes can happen which can be detrimental to your business, so be careful.    

4.     Lists, lists and more lists  

If you have been reading my blogs for a while, you will know I am a fan of lists. Create ato-do list and focus on the top three tasks for the day. This way, you will be eased in nice and gently. I feel that it is such a good feeling crossing through completed tasks. I am not sure if intentional, but I always want to do more thereafter.  

Sometimes to find inspiration we need to take a rest for a bit, it is only when we are refreshed that we can look at our personal and business lives and see what needs to be done.  

As you can see, there are multiple techniques to get back into the routine of running your business. You could try one or all or develop your own plan for getting back into the swing of things after taking a break. 

3 Virtual Assistant Myths That Need To Be Busted Right Now

3 Virtual Assistant Myths That Need To Be Busted Right Now

I have heard some statements in my time about the Virtual Assistant industry. A Virtual Assistant will provide you with lots of support on a wide range of administrative tasks that can help you improve your productivity, effectiveness and more.

Having a Virtual Assistant isn’t just for the wealthy and famous. If you can afford it, you may be able to hire a Virtual Assistant full-time or part-time to free up time, earn more money within your business, or simply take care of things within your personal life that may take up time/requires more focus.

Virtual Assistants are becoming more and more popular in the business world as we head out of the pandemic. I was at my busiest during the lockdown and many entrepreneurs still haven’t heard of us, if they weren’t already using one themselves which is completely fine.

You can get started with even the smallest budget and there are services available to suit every budget, whatever your financial situation.

There are lots of myths surrounding Virtual Assistants and today, we bust some of them right here.

Communication is poor as Virtual Assistants only allow you to contact them via email

This is false. Email is great as we know but that is not the only way to communicate with your VA. My methods are email, call, WhatsApp messaging and whatever project management tool we use, these can vary from client to client.

From a personal point of view, whichever method works best for us, then that is what is used. My clients are busy entrepreneurs who can be time-poor so will often send voice notes on the go, and I will pick them up throughout the day.

I have clients who use solely email and it works fine. Email also gives you a conversation trail, but it is not always great for locating a particular conversation if you tend to have a lot of back and forth on things. If you can, I would recommend using something like Slack, Asana or Click Up.

Virtual Assistants are more expensive than an employee 

Virtual Assistants working remotely is a better investment for you as opposed to having somebody in the office full-time. You will not have to worry about:

  • Taxes
  • Holiday Pay
  • Desk Space
  • Equipment
  • Pension Scheme
  • Payroll
  • Insurance

Virtual Assistants take care of the above, so you never need to worry about these things. You receive your invoice every month or per project, make payment and your helping hand is available.

Your Virtual Assistant will also have specific insurances to cover themselves and you.

A Virtual Assistant can do it all  

I can tell you and show you that I can do ‘most’ things but there is no way that I am an all-rounder in every category. Before I speak to a potential client, I will review their questionnaire to see what their needs are. If I am unable to assist, I will let them know prior to the call taking place and offer to put it out into my community of other VA’s as there will be somebody who may be able to handle their needs.

There are some Virtual Assistants that have a niche from the beginning. This could be all things tech such as podcast editing, website building or even graphics. Every Virtual Assistant will offer what they love and are good at. I could try my hand at taking on other things, but I feel it best to focus on what I am experienced in and know that I can deliver great results.

I’ve some experience in adding blogs, updating the odd item on a website, uploading YouTube videos etc but this is usually an add on service for one or two clients. Having over 20 years of experience in the Personal Assistant field, that’s is my offering and love all the things that I do. As they say, ‘do it, and do it well.

I can imagine that the growing popularity of Virtual Assistants might be scaring some small businesses and entrepreneurs, but hey, everything that helps you out should be considered a good thing, and not a bad one.

If you are thinking of outsourcing, then please think about hiring a Virtual Assistant. I’m confident that you’ll be surprised by how much time, effort, and money you can save when outsourcing.

You can get started with even the smallest budget and there are services available to suit every budget, whatever your financial situation.

Book a call with me, to discuss how I can free up time for you and grow your business.

How Small Business Owners Can Use Virtual Assistant Services To Scale

How Small Business Owners Can Use Virtual Assistant Services To Scale

If you’ve experienced first-hand the benefit of using virtual assistant services to run your business, you know it can be a great investment. You can create so much more value if you can free up your time to focus on areas where you have a comparative advantage.

You’re probably already thinking about scaling and growing your small business. So, what are some other ways you can leverage and boost your small business? VA’s are hands down the way to go to help you grow.

It can be difficult to find reliable and qualified people to support you. I have met many business owners who have found various people to help with single tasks such as marketing, data entry, research, copywriting and so much more. It can be challenging but finding so many different people can be a drain on your time and money.

Help is out there in the VA field, many offer so many different services including:

  • Tech
  • Marketing
  • Copywriting
  • SEO
  • Accounting

Depending on your needs, you can whittle down exactly what services you require the most help with. I always advise my clients that the things you outsource are not the only bits that you have no knowledge about, it can also be the bits that sap you of all energy or you just simply do not want to do. There are plenty of things in my life that I could do myself, but I choose not to. I outsource my clothes to the dry cleaners, I outsource my car to the local car wash guys, I outsource the housework to my fabulous cleaner and I also order via Deliveroo every now and then (cheeky Nando’s usually) so it’s very easy to do.

You may think that your money is better spent elsewhere but time is so valuable, investing in somebody that can do the same job in half the time is priceless!

One of my clients tells me all the time about how much time I am saving them in their week, I work a set number of hours for them a month, we use the hours as required daily/weekly and it works so well. I save one client around 2-3 hours a week just by designing flyers for their business. Canva is a godsend for branded materials. It is something that I find fun to do, my client trusts me and gives me the freedom to use the brief as a guide.

As a business owner, you are very conscious of the money spent on the business and want to bring in as much steady income as possible. Just investing in a VA for a couple of hours a month can help dramatically.

Handing over those mundane takes that maybe don’t take a lot of time but have to regularly be done can drain your energy. Hand these over to your VA and he/she will incorporate them into their schedule, so you never have to worry about them again.

Having regular check-ins with your Virtual Assistant will help you get used to handing things over. Often, I don’t wait to be asked so I will just request that be sent over to me or I will add it to my list while on the call. It can be difficult to remember that you are a team and teamwork makes the dream work. Getting used to delegating can take some time. As time goes on, the trust and confidence with grow between you both and the delegation will flow effortlessly.

While it used to be small businesses were forced to handle all aspects of their businesses individually, with no way to realistically grow, times have changed.

Now you can take advantage of Virtual Assistants – which offer an array of potential benefits at reasonable prices – and start scaling your business today.

A Day In The Life Of Moi

A Day In The Life Of Moi

What can I tell you, no two days are the same when I am wearing my VA hat. Things can change in a blink of an eye and I think that is what I really thrive on. I work well under pressure. I usually complain for 5 minutes and then suck it up, put on my big girl’s pants and look for that solution that is waiting to be grabbed because let’s face it, there is always one.

5:00am

Monday-Friday I set my alarm to go off at 5:00am. My boys are 15 and 21 so they won’t be up for another few hours thankfully. My husband will probably come home at this time, having completed his night shift. We will usually enjoy a cup of tea, and have a chat before he goes to bed.

6:30am

At least 2-3 times a week, I will grab my gym clothes and head out for a class, my gym is a two-minute walk so there are no excuses. I prefer classes as I literally turn up and the instructor puts us through our paces. 45 minutes of blood, sweat and tears with no apology. I find workouts really get me lively and ready to tackle the day ahead. I spend a lot of time seated so it is important for my body, especially my back, neck, and shoulders to move around.

7:30am

Once back at home, I get myself sorted to begin my working day. I quickly have a look at my emails, to see what has come in overnight. A couple of my clients are overseas, so our PM is their AM and vice versa.

I run around after my youngest as he would lose his head, if it wasn’t screwed on. I make sure everyone has everything they need, lunch money, oyster card, house keys and bags are packed ready to go.

8:00am

Both boys leave home to go about their day and I exhale. I then make another cup of tea and decide whether I want to listen to music or watch a Podcast. My current favourite is ‘Diary of a CEO’. Between 8:00am – 10:00am it is purely ‘my time’ so might pop to Tesco’s to do a full shop or put on a load of washing. The joys of working from home.

10:00am

This is my official start time, so I begin by checking emails on behalf of my clients. I currently manage 7 mailboxes, and all are very busy. I focus on each mailbox and feedback to each client with anything that needs to be followed up or needs immediate attention. I feedback to my clients either via email, WhatsApp or by flagging it within the same mailbox. I will answer any emails myself and sign off as myself using any of the titles my clients like me to have. My job title for my clients varies, they are:

  • Coordinator
  • EA to……
  • PA to……
  • Team Assistant
  • Team Member

The most popular one to use is ‘Personal Assistant to’, I don’t think I have ever been referred to as a VA to any of my clients. Clients really enjoy the thought of having a team and having a person acting on your behalf brings a feeling of ‘teamwork makes the dream work’.

11:00am – 13:00pm

I head to Asana which is the Project Management tool that I use for all client work. All tasks will be added here and once done; I mark them complete. It’s really helpful also to keep conversations all in one place. My clients and I can set deadlines here and track milestones of any projects that we are collaborating on. You can even add attachments etc. it is a great piece of kit Asana is.

Once I have done with Asana and have completed any tasks set (that are due) I move on to any other client work that I may have. I have weekly catch-up calls with my clients to just touch base or even have a chat in general which I love. 10-minute conversations can easily progress to 30 minutes with no one even noticing that the time has flown. In our defence, the work stuff is always covered first just so we do not miss the point of the call.

I will also have a planned discovery call with a potential new client. I have limited these to no more than two a day. Once my discovery call comes to an end, I follow up with a summary of what service I think may suit them best and what it could include. This is always tailored to suit their business.

During this time, I may have a couple of emails to move meetings around to fit another one in, set up a Zoom call for that morning/afternoon or even move a meeting to a completely new date and inform all parties, when the meeting is due to start in 30 minutes! Things happen and I understand my client’s stresses, so I make sure I keep a calm voice as us both being frantic, help nobody

13:00pm – 14:00pm

Everything stops! I put my laptop to sleep and head to the kitchen to grab some lunch. I make a point of stepping away from my desk completely as if I work through the time I have blocked out for lunch, I will work through the entire day and not notice.

14:00pm – 16:00pm

These are the last hours of my working day (officially) so I will spend time doing more client work. I work best in the morning so will do all those tasks that require lots of concentration and attention to detail in the morning. In the afternoons I will usually do things like updating databases, organising meetings on behalf of my clients, sending out Agreements, collating receipts etc.

Before closing for the day, I will look at my to-do list and see how I got on. Things change all the time, so occasionally not everything will get done and that is no problem at all. I am very good at prioritising my workload, so nobody gets left behind.

I will then write a list for the next day and include anything that did not get done the previous day. This really helps because it means that I don’t waste any time getting started when I sit down in the morning. My brain is not fuzzy, and I can get straight to work. This trick has never failed me yet.

16:00pm onwards

Although my official working hours are finished, you might find me watching Emmerdale whilst designing a flyer or uploading a video to YouTube for a client. For my overseas clients, I keep an eye on my inbox just in case anything comes up. My overseas clients know I am in the UK so will usually send me emails/tasks to do with no quick response required.

So that’s it, as they say, variety is the spice of life right?