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?

Working Remotely Is So Much Better For Me

Working Remotely Is So Much Better For Me

This year will mark five years since I opened Format Services, it was slow to begin with as I juggled part-time work with existing clients. It meant I would leave home at 7:00am to head to the office, get back home at 2:00pm to cook dinner for the boys and get back to work.

I am not quite sure how I even did it, but I knew that it would pay off eventually. Crunch time came when my workplace was looking at extending my hours and I just knew that I loved what I had going on as a side hustle more. I bit the bullet and chose to hand in my notice and try my hand at freelancing.

I said I would give myself a year, if it did not work out, I would head back into the world and secure another role, after all I was skilled having started my work history as an Office Junior right up to Executive level across various industries.

What I love about working remotely is:

Freedom & Flexibility

I have so much more freedom and flexibility. As I am an Autism mum, I juggle many appointments for my son and always felt a pang of guilt when needing time off of work or having to rush straight back. Now I am able to look at my workload and see what I can move around to incorporate motherhood without the added stress.

Travel Costs

Living in London is quite expensive to live in, compared to some of the other cities in the UK so saving on travel is great. London transport (TFL) put their prices up each year and most of my employment have been spent working in and around Central London, sometimes it felt like I was just paying for the privilege of working in Zone 1.

Location

I work from home so the perfect location for me. Prior to the world going into lockdown, I would spend many days out and about sitting in cute coffee shops, and just working away for hours. My client base has increased dramatically since then, with so much variety. I got myself a new desk and now have two monitors to keep me on track………two screens are priceless (thank me later).

Although we are able to roam freely now, I still enjoy working from home but try to pick one day a week to head to a co-working space. I signed up to &Co. Life who has some gorgeous co-working spaces dotted around London. This also allows me to network with other members and create new relationships with those whether in or outside of my industry, I actually met a client at a co-working space.

Productivity

My day begins at 5:00am every morning. Chaos normally begins at around 6:30am so it is nice to be able to get up, have a hot drink and collect my thoughts on how my day is going to run while the house is peaceful.

I always write my to-do list the night before or on a Friday afternoon before I sign off, so I always know what needs to be done when I sit down at my desk. I have failed once or twice in creating my to-do list in advance, this never ends well if truth be told!

Overall, I think the best thing for me about working remotely is my work/life balance. I have a much better handle on things in regard to work, family and friends. I can choose my own hours ensuring I never scrimp on the quality of my work. I have managed to build strong working relationships with my clients who really trust me and the things that they want my support with.

For that I am extremely grateful and love what I do, knowing that I am contributing to another business’ growth in a small way, fills me with content and gives me that lil pat on the back, that I made the right choice.

Free Up Your Time With These 5 Outsourceable Tasks

Free Up Your Time With These 5 Outsourceable Tasks

If you’re an entrepreneur or bootstrapping your startup idea, it may seem that there’s just not enough time in the day to get everything done. Anything you can outsource will help free up your time and allow you to focus on the parts of your business that only you can handle. Let me show you five ways you can outsource tasks, so you can have more time for yourself and grow your business.

Email Management

If you have been reading my blogs for a couple of weeks, I have spoken about how to manage your inbox and avoid overwhelm. If you are a small business owner, start-up or even if you have been running for a while and feel that you have everything under control, there is always one thing that my clients tend to want to get rid of straight away. It is usually the emails.

You open up your mailbox at the beginning of the day with loads of unread emails and you end the day with the same. Although your autoresponder acknowledges every email that comes in, sometimes you may miss responding within the 48 hours that you promised.

I manage a number of mailboxes on behalf of my clients. It could be as little as checking in once/twice a day or it could be consistently responding to what comes in on a daily basis. How nice is it for your customers to receive a tailored response within 24 hours? I know I feel great when I get a speedy response once, I have hit send. You could also create email template responses for your VA to use, these can be tweaked but your tone, sound etc are infused in each.

Diary Management

Outsource your diary to ensure your days run smoothly. Everyone is busy so having back-to-back meetings will eventually catch up with you physically and mentally. Double booking yourself can put clients off so it is advisable to have another pair of eyes to review your calendar and slot in meetings where they will work.

Blocking time for travel is a great tip, getting across London in rush hour traffic is an extreme sport at times. Another great tip to outsourcing is that your VA can give you a buffer where you will have time before and after a meeting, whether it be 10 minutes for a water break or even 30 minutes to record voice notes to your VA to type up meeting notes later on, you run the day, or the day will run you!

I will pencil in a regular client meeting to have a glance at calendars for the week ahead to just ensure that everything is where it should be, and my clients have everything that they need. This extends to even making travel arrangements. This includes booking taxis, train tickets etc.

Research

 Research can be really time-consuming. This can often spiral down a rabbit hole as the internet churns out so much information for us to process.

Outsourcing this task will allow you to continue growing your business and know that information will be on its way to you, in whatever format you choose.

It’s advisable to provide a brief if possible, which should include:

  • Clear instructions on what you need
  • Any examples you may have
  • Ideas of what it looks like for you
  • How you would like the information presented to you
  • Given the opportunity for any questions to be asked/answered

Remember although the instructions may make sense to you, they may not make sense to somebody else. To get the most out of the support you have, work together to get the best outcome and be available to answer any queries.

Website updates

You might want to outsource to somebody that just does tech support, although there any many VA’s that can do a variety of tasks including tech. Things like uploading videos, blogs, podcasts, website tweaks, tutorials etc. can be really time-consuming so this is something that you will probably spend doing during an evening or the weekend. This then takes you away from having time for yourself or your family/friends.

Creating short how-to videos can work just as well, as you can stop/start as much as you like. Your VA will be able to familiarise themselves with the correct format, steps to take and your how-to videos can be used time and time again, especially if your support moves on or you take on more support.

Social Media

This is a very popular one. Although I was offering this service years ago when I started out, I thought I had to offer what everyone else was offering. I no longer offer this as I decided to only offer what I actually love doing!

There are many apps where you can batch your content and schedule it all out across different platforms but having someone manage your account to target your ideal audience, interact with your tribe and nurture potential working relationships is invaluable. You simply don’t have the time, as much as it is on your daily to-do list, you cannot do it all. You can grab a social media manager who specializes in just that.

So, have a think about the bits that you would rather be taken off your hands immediately. I have listed a few but there is so much more Virtual Assistants can do for you, the list is absolutely endless. It is all about the customer experience, you would like to retain and gain new business all the time. Look around and see what areas you can improve on and areas that you could definitely do with some extra support. If you want to see how I can help you, book a call with me.