Friday, 22 August 2014

Ever wished for a different day

I did this the other day. Sitting working during the first week of the school holidays while my daughters were having breakfast I heard a dripping sound. On further investigation I discovered that my geyser had sprung a leak. Needless to say, the recycled paper and cardboard insulation, which seemed like a good idea at the time, was sodden and before I knew what was happening I had a big hole in the ceiling.

This brings me back to a post a couple of weeks back about employees paying attention and being the company that they work for. After numerous phone calls, my landlady having a go at the insurance company for lack of response from the builders I finally have a bedroom ceiling back and the walls painted. I'm still waiting on the carpet people to come and replace the carpet however.

Why am I writing about this you may ask?

Well in true fashion instead of getting upset about this bump in the road, I decided to look on the positive side instead. If the geyser had decided to burst a week earlier I would have been doing the school run and the water would have had another hour to run before being shut off. My neighbour was just leaving for work when I went out to shut off the water and very kindly did it for me. My husband came home from work to take the girls off to various activities and left me able to clean up as much of the mess as possible without being asked a million times by my 3-year-old why there was a hole in my ceiling.

So three weeks of mess and chaos with the school holidays and my bedroom is finally a bedroom again, albeit without a new carpet at the moment but I'm hoping that that will be sorted with the Insurance shortly.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Everything or Somethings

Something that is often asked by people investigating the options of being a Virtual Assistant is whether or not they should offer everything or choose a niche and stick to it.

There are advantages and disadvantages for both sides and the final decision is really down to you.

What I would suggest those is that you start with a small list of jobs that you really enjoy doing and don't include anything that you find tedious or bothersome. If there is something that you want to learn and are willing to take a hit on the earnings to use it as a learning experience (only with the consent of your client of course) then that can also work.

What I can tell you though is that a long list of services is no guarantee to getting work, in fact sometimes it can actually be detrimental. If you're looking for an accountant or bookkeeper would you really want someone who listed amongst the services they offered, typing, research, diary management etc.? While in some cases the answer may be yes, its also just as likely to be no.

Whatever services you decide to offer remember to factor into your time a couple of times a year the time to review what services you offer, what you don't want/like doing any more as well as new services that you have been asked about. The life of a VA should never be boring!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Diary Maintenance

One of the hardest things about running a business is maintaining the diary to ensure that everything happens as and when it should.

Remember that this doesn't just include appointments for work, but also deadlines, quotes and invoices, payments as well as the necessary evils of ensuring your paperwork is up to date and any necessary forms and payments submitted to the relevant people on time.

In this modern day and age it is actually very easy for a virtual assistant to be able to assist you with this. The diary can be created online in Google Calander and then you and your assistant, and anyone else who may need it, can have access to it. You can also link various calenders together so that a workforce can see what is happening as well as add meetings, appointments and reminders or each other.

If you're a small business struggling with meeting all your targets and deadlines you might want to consider hiring a virtual assistant who can help you. Add to diary maintenance call answering and your office truly has become mobile.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Accessing the Power of Gratitude

The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.

But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

There are many things to be grateful for: colorful autumn leaves, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, chocolate, fresh eggs, warm jackets, tomatoes, the ability to read, roses, our health, butterflies. What’s on your list?

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

  Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.

  Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.

  Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.

  Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.

  When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.

  Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude.

As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

Author’s content used with permission, © Claire Communications

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Challenges II

This topic is especially close to my heart as I have in the last few years had incidents where colleagues have called for urgent help but then for whatever reason have not paid.

In the last few years I have on numerous occasions helped colleagues out at short notice when they have had deadlines that were virtually impossible to achieve without assistance. No problem I can pull the odd late night or early morning, or even work on Christmas eve, to help them achieve their deadlines. All hunky dory or so you would think.

Of those colleagues I have helped, some I haven't billed of my own choice. The one from Christmas Eve for instance. I did the best with the transcript I could but wasn't happen and was not going to be able to make the deadline. I sent back what had been done with time for her to complete the file even if it was going to be late. As my Christmas gift to her, and because I was not happy with the state of the file I elected not to bill her. She appreciated the gesture too, especially as it was Christmas Eve and I had spent time working rather than with my girls.

On the other side of the coin are those wonderful colleagues, where everything is going great until time comes to pay the bill. I have one outstanding from 18 months ago and one from six months ago. Now while I am understanding when you get in trouble financially what I do think is that it really should be done to the contractor to have the courtesy and manners to keep me in the loop on a fairly regular basis about when I might possibly expect payment. What I don't expect when I am following up for the umpteenth time about when I might possibly get paid, bearing in mind that I think 18 months is a lengthy period of time to be understanding, is the same old sob story expecting me to be sorry for you and telling me how its not your fault that you owe me the money as you were advised to withhold work from the client and therefore didn't get paid. I've heard it more than once, I've been sympathetic and now I'm just feeling plain irritable. As for the second one, well they've just vanished off the face of the earth. All emails bounce and the one number that she advertises just goes straight to voice mail.

I know, why haven't I written the debts off? Well why should I, like any other client you undertook to pay me for work which I did, why should I not be paid?

All that said, to me the most valuable aspect of working for colleagues, whether its for payment or not is communication. But then that goes for all clients as well. And remember communication is a two way street.

Monday, 20 January 2014


There are so many different types of challenges when running a business.

There are the easy (well relatively) challenges like the blog challenge that I am currently participating in. It challenges me to write two blog posts a week, which I have managed so far (but I will give you that we are only in week three).

Then there are the challenges of the actual business and family.

My daughters are all back at school now which is great, but brings a bunch of challenges with it. They are at two different schools but have three different finishing times. Then you need to add the after school activities. My eldest is easy as her sport starts straight after school, wonderful from a working mom point of view. My middle daughter however has a break between when school finishes and the activities that she has chosen start. So its fetch her, bring her home, get her changed and fed, and then back to school again to do sport. Fortunately my youngest doesn't have any after school activities at this stage because I'm not sure I could fit any more into the schedule.

I then help out at the school my eldest two go to for a couple of hours on a Wednesday and Friday morning, and once a month in the morning at my local hospital. As well as all of this I run the house and have to ensure clean clothes and food on the table three times a day.

Then of course, around all of this there are the challenges of actually running my business and meeting the deadlines of my clients. I am fortunate in that my clients are very understanding but I still work hard to ensure that work is not returned late.

And as you can see there is a very good reason why I don't seem to be able to keep normal working hours.

However, I am no super woman and there are things that do slip through the cracks when everything gets hectic. That said, I thoroughly enjoy everything that I do and wouldn't change it for the world.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Be The Business

How often have you phoned a company for assistance and because of the poor response you got from them never used them.

This happened to me a couple of years back. I urgently needed to have a security gate replaced just before Christmas. I phoned the supposed best provider in my area. There response was that the factory had closed and therefore there was no point sending out one of their guys to look at my requirements until after the New Year.

This was most definitely not the answer I wanted to hear. Having just suffered a burglary and having young children in the house with a husband that often works late at night I wanted safety and security and I wanted it now, now in four to six weeks time.

The upshot was that when they phoned me in the New Year to make an appointment they had lost their client as I had gone to another other provider who understood my concerns and was willing to assist me despite it being a week before Christmas.

How many of us have done a similar thing to potential clients and as such lost not only that particular client but also other potential clients due to word of mouth.

Whether you are the owner or an employee the client really should be king. Treating clients badly is never a good idea, even employees need to remember this as without the clients there is no need for them.

What potential client have you helped today?

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Backup, backup, backup!

Its a common refrain when there is a problem with a computer or smartphone these days. People are always saying they meant to backup but were busy.

While everyone gets busy if you run your own business then ensuring that you backup regularly is not only a good idea but absolutely essential. You need to be able to access your client files in the event of a computer crash, or even because of Mother Nature, be it storm, flood, fire or anything else.

I regularly back up to the cloud as for me that is the easiest. I have it set to back up automatically. That said if your backup is automatic you do need to check on a regular basis that it is in fact backing up what it is meant to be backing up. This applies not only to the cloud but also if you use conventional media. Computers are like children! You can't just set it and leave it alone to get on with it, you do need to check back regularly to make sure that everything is happening as needed.

It is down to you whether you back up to the cloud, conventional media (an external hard drive, etc), or whether you back up to both. What ever you decide is best for your business then just remember to ensure that they are actually doing what you want them to do and backing up what you want.

My choice was the cloud as I can access my files from my smartphone so even if I am out of the office I am able to help my clients out if they need something urgently. From that point the cloud works great for my business. I will however be investing in an external hard drive this year to have a second back up as you can never be too careful.

So the all important question now is when did you last backup your computer?

Friday, 10 January 2014

Adapted Working Hours

I think a lot of people that consider setting up their own business believe that they can conform to normal business hours where they live. While it is nice in theory I don't think that it really works in practice, especially not for service based industries.

As a working mom with three children I find that my time is often called upon by both family and work commitments at the same time. The advance of being my own boss of course is that I can, within reason, accommodate both the demands of work and family when then clash. I can take time off from work to go and watch my daughters in their school sports day, or help out at school when they need help, but by the same token when I am swamped with work I am able to spend the time I need working.

My regular clients understand that while I hit deadlines on a regular basis every now and then there may be a time when I need to stretch the deadline an hour or so.

On the flip side of that my daughters all understand that I may need to put in some hours when I normally wouldn't. This may mean that I need to work in the afternoon when they are home or on a weekend, although I do try not to. By not working in the afternoon it does mean that my conventional working day is foreshortened. I therefore need to make up those hours and this means either working at night once they are asleep or alternatively getting up early before them.

I am fortunate in that the majority of the work that I do does not require constant communication with my clients so these unusual business hours are not a problem. I do however keep my phone with me at all times so if they do need to contact me urgently then I am available even when out of the house.

I would love to hear how other working business owners deal with their working day?

Additional Services Not Normally Offered

As a Transcriptionist/Virtual Assistant I am kept busy with work that I am comfortable doing. There are of course calls from people that require services that I do offer as well as ones I don't. The question is always how to deal with such instances.

For those services that I don't normally offer, if that is all a client requires, I will pass on the lead to other Virtual Assistants that offer those services. If a client requires services that I do and don't offer then the situation becomes more complicated. For me, and often for the client, the easiest way to handle the situation is for me to take control of all the work and subcontract out the work that I don't do.

The advantage of subcontracting out the work of course is that I can ensure my clients are attended to in the manner that they are used to, with work being completed on time and to a high standard. I can also ensure that the deadlines are adhered to and that the relationship I have with my client is maintained.

The major advantage to the client of course is that they only have one invoice to deal with at the end of the month, as well as having one point of contact for any questions they may have.

I would love to know how others handle the work that is out of their comfort zone.