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To Track Time or Not?

Virtual Assistants need to have an effective and accurate time tracking system in place. It’s easy, but it can get out of control if you let it.

‘Losing time’ can not only set your schedule behind, lead to disorganization and late night catch-up, but it can also impact your revenue if you forget to bill for work done.

Here are a few answers to those questions you have about time tracking:

Why should I track my time?

First of all, because you need to know how you are spending your day. How much of your time is being spent on billable work? Non billable work? Wasted time? Things you dislike doing?

If you write it all down, it will be easier to assess where you can make adjustments to make your business more profitable .. and more fun too!

Also, as you start to get busier, the day can disappear right before your eyes. You want to be sure you are not losing out on billable time simply because you didn’t write it down.

When should I track my time?clock

Every day, every minute.

There are resources (see a few below) that can help you do this by using stopwatch to stop and start a timeclock, or you can do it the old fashioned way by writing it down.

I use a spiral notebook and record every task I do every day (even breaks, lunch, and my own business stuff). By using a spiral notebook, I have a record for every day. I transfer my written notes into my time tracking program for billing.

How should I record tasks?

In whatever way makes the most sense to you … whatever is easiest for you.

If you choose a complicated system or one that confuses you, you will run into trouble more than once.

My system is simple … I write my clients’ initials at the beginning of each line, and I record the task item I took care of for them beside it. I indicate the time I worked during the day. I record one task per line in my book for easy reference, and for easy transition to my time tracking program.

In my time tracking program, I have each client set up with their rate and I also have individual tasks set up for all of the things I do. I enter each client’s name and their task and the length of time I worked on it.

At the end of the month, I run my reports and can provide the detail if the client wants it.

I charge my clients on retainer (or by project rate) – I don’t need to track my time, do I?

Of course you do! What if your client goes over your budgeted time… or is way under? Even if you are working with someone on a project rate, it’s important to keep track of the hours you are putting in.

When you decide to revisit your rate package (which you should do often!) you will have an exact measure of how long projects are taking you to do.

If you are working with someone on retainer, it’s good to be able to keep a detailed list of what you worked on for them at the end of their retainer term.

Recording your time is helpful in both of these situations.

Any of these questions are easily answered just by developing a great system to keep track of how you are spending your time.

There are all kinds of resources out there (some free, some paid) that can help you manage this part of your business.

Myhours.com has a free level … it’s what I have used for years. Paymo.biz and Toggl.com are very reasonable and popular with VAs.

Freshbooks.com is a paid solution but also allows you to invoice your clients and track expenses. I use it in my business!

There are many other services and systems that you can use to track your time (just Google ‘time tracking software’ and you’ll see!). No matter which system you decide to go with, be sure that it works for you, and above all … use it! Your business, your client and your bank account will thank you!

If you need help to get your procedures in place, ask your colleagues what works best for them, or consider getting some help with yours.

And of course check out Your VA Mentor's free Time Tracking training session here!

Being Your Own Boss is So Great!

I recently hosted a free information session for Virtual Assistants.

One of the first things I ask anyone when they are thinking of starting out: why they want to start their own business.

I have heard a variety of answers to this question, but many times the answer is ‘to be my own boss’.

in-chargeWhen I start to work with someone as their coach, I ask them to look deeper into that statement. Why do you want to be your own boss?

There are always more underlying reasons that simply because you want to.

And we often talk about needed to understand WHY you want to be in business for yourself. Because some days are hard, and some decisions are hard.

Some days you will find yourself wondering if it’s worth it.

So why not start your whole business by considering that WHY, and building on it?

Why do you want to be your own boss? Think of the actual reasons.

Because it’s GREAT to be your own boss – for lots of reasons!

Here are some I have heard through discussions with other VAs:

1. I get to make my own decisions (good or bad!)
2. I can manage my own schedule.
3. I can manage my own workload.
4. I can choose the people who I want to work with.
5. I can decide which services I want to offer.
6. I can make time to fit in the other things I want to do in my life: kids’ field trips, travel, holidays, etc.

These are the normal responses that I hear.

Here are a few additional ones that you may not have thought of.

7. I get to decide what I charge, and how much money I make.
8. I get to claim some of my expenses on my taxes.
9. I don’t have to answer to anyone.
10. I can hire my own staff!
11. I can take a vacation any time I want!
12. I can make as much or as little money as I want to, anytime.

Being your own boss is a huge responsibility, but when you look at the advantages, it sure makes it easier to handle those tough days.

When you approach your business with a CEO mindset (you are not an employee, you are the owner and Chief Executive Officer of your own business), you will work better with your clients.

You will set boundaries and procedures to make things clear for everyone who works with you. Everything just becomes … easier.

Being the boss is great, as long as you act like one!

For more information about getting your VA business started, visit www.canadianava.org/va-training/

How to Find Great Clients

newcustomers

 

Being self-employed is extremely rewarding. It can also be a challenge.

Often the difference is the type of client you have.

The better your clients are, the more rewarding your business feels and the happier you are.

So, doesn't it makes sense to create a strategy to find great clients?

Of course it does!

Here are a few tactics to consider.

Network

One of the best ways to find people you enjoy working with is to meet them by networking - either local or online.

Sometimes you click right away with another business owner.

A simple, “I’d love to see how we can work together” may end up producing profitable results for years to come.

Networking both online and off is a fantastic way to find great clients.

In fact, you will likely find that networking is the best source of ideal clients for your VA business.

Spread the Word

Put the word out about your business.

Let your friends, family and associates know that you’re looking to add two or three quality clients to your schedule. (make sure they know what you do!)

You might be surprised at what you find.

You may end up with more quality clients than you have time for.

Referrals

When you find clients that you enjoy working with, ask them for referrals.

People tend to be attracted to like-minded individuals and clients referred from existing clients tend to be of the same caliber. In short, good clients refer good clients.

And often if you are working with a client you love, you learn quickly about their industry - and where more great clients are not far behind.

Consider offering a referral program for your business. Reward customers for their referrals by giving them a credit towards their own work, or even a gift card or a small gift. (I love Send Out Cards brownies!). Let them know you appreciate their referrals.

Partnerships

Consider forging partnerships with other business owners that you enjoy working with.

For example, if you’re a virtual assistant who provides social networking management you might partner with someone who creates social networking graphics.

Together you could offer a complete social networking package.

Before You Begin Searching For More Great Clients

There are a few steps to take before you begin searching for more VA clients. Taking these steps will ensure you’re attracting the type of client you want. It’ll also make sure you can accommodate their needs.

1. Make sure you have room in your schedule for them. If not, consider eliminating some of clients or tasks from your calendar. You want to make sure you can meet the needs of your new clients.

2. Identify exactly what you want in a client. What makes a client great to work with? What are you looking for? Are they easy to communicate with? Do they provide minimum instruction? Do they pay well? Define what makes a good client.

3. Take steps to make sure that your existing clients and any new clients know how much you appreciate them. Create a customer appreciation strategy. Finding those great clients is only the first step. You want to make sure to keep them too.

Finding great clients isn’t difficult.

Know what you’re looking for.

Don’t hesitate to ask for new clients.

Pay attention to the service you provide.

A good VA client can stick with you for years.

It’s worth the time and effort to show your appreciation.

Just Do It!

Steps to your Goals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a wish list of things you want to get done in your business?

If you don’t, you should. You should have a list of short term and long term goals, and an even bigger strategy for your wish list.

If you do have a list, stop now and have a look at it.

How are you doing with developing or implementing the things you need to get done?

If you’re like me, you probably have a lot of things on the list. Maybe you don’t even know where to start.

I say, start at the beginning!

Just pick something … anything (something small would be best to start!) and get it
done.

Maybe you want to set up a blog.

Maybe you want to start a newsletter.

Maybe you want to update the content on your website.

Maybe you want to sign 3 new clients over the next month.

Whatever it is, just do it!

Set a workable plan in place. Give yourself deadlines and then make a list of what you will need to do to get it done.

If you’re not sure what you need to do, get help from someone who knows.

You will not believe the excitement (and relief!) that you will get by finishing something
that will make your business better.

And once you do one little thing, and bring it to completion, you can move onto the next
thing.

Here’s a little checklist for you:

1. Decide what you want to do.

2. Decide when you need to have it done.

3. Put that date on your calendar.

4. Determine the steps you need to complete your goal.

5. Determine when you need to complete each step so that you can do it in the proper order, or in the proper stages.

6. Put those dates on your calendar.

7. Look at your deadline dates and make sure that they are reasonable and logical, and that you have time to do the pieces you need to do.

8. Make sure your deadline dates are short enough to create some urgency, but not so much that you are working intensely (or you may find that you will drop the ball if you miss one!)

9. Tell someone what you are doing, and ask them to help you stay accountable to complete it.

10. Hang your calendar where you can see it, and work towards your goal,

Getting things done is just a matter of making them a priority on your calendar, and then knowing the steps you need to go through to get them completed.

It’s a process each time, and once you go through it once, you will find that it’s easy, and you will be able to implement the same procedure for everything you do. Just do it!

Ten Ways to Show Customers You Care

client careIf you talk to most customers, they're not really that happy with how they're treated by most businesses that they have to work with. It seems as if good customer service is a dying art. But, as a business owner, don't think for one moment that good customer service doesn't matter. Good customer care pays for itself. Here are ten ways to show your customers that you care.

1. Loyalty Discounts - You often see new customer discounts, but what about giving your long-term customers a loyalty discount? If just once a year you offer a few items at a deep discount to customers who have been with you at least six months, it will go far in making them feel as if you care about them.

2. Thank You Notes - Writing thank you notes seems to have gone out of vogue, but you'd be shocked at how much a nice handwritten note will mean to your customers. You will stand out to them and next time they need your products or services, they'll think of that note.

3. Remembering Special Days - If you've collected information on your customers such as birthdays, anniversaries or other special days, drop them a card in the mail. It's also a good time to give them a birthday discount.

4. Referral Rewards - Your happy customers will likely tell others about you anyway, but why not encourage the process by offering referral rewards. You can offer a percent off future services or a free gift; it's up to you. All will be appreciated.

5. Prompt Service - Another way to make your customers feel cared for is to offer very prompt service. Treat their work as if it's your sole priority and get it done on time or early. They will notice how you treat them.

6. Going the Extra Mile - You've heard the saying to "under promise and over deliver" before, but it cannot be said enough. If you can go the extra mile for your loyal customers, they will notice. Even if it's just something really small, they'll notice and feel cared for.

7. Personal Service - Don't treat your customers like an account number. Call them by name, and personalize all correspondence to them. By simply calling clients by their name, and making each service you provide feel special, your customers will definitely feel cared about.

8. Ask for Feedback - People love giving their opinions about things. But, often they will not do it if they're not asked. At least quarterly, send your customers a survey to ask them how you're doing and how you can do better. Then, if possible, implement something suggested.

9. Pay Attention to Detail - Very small details often go unnoticed by workers, but not by clients. If you pay attention to the small things, they'll notice - even if the small thing you paid attention to has nothing to do with the work. Perhaps you noticed an article in the paper about your client. Clip it, congratulate them, and mail it.

10. Be a Resource - Sometimes we can't be all to our clients. They need something we cannot deliver. Therefore instead of just saying no, say yes by recommending someone who can give your client what they need. When you become a resource to your clients, they'll become loyal to you because they know you care about more than the almighty dollar.

People have so many other options available to them today that they really don't have to patronize your business. Remember that customers can and will go elsewhere if they are not happy. It costs a lot more money to find a new customer than to keep one. Therefore, you should go out of your way to keep good customers happy by showing them that you care.

Breaks Increase Productivity

take a break

Are you working and working but just can't seem to focus and get stuff done?  You might even be considering seeing a doctor, but the solution may be much more simple than that - just take a break.  Taking short ten minute breaks throughout the day can help you refocus and re-energize so you're more productive once you get back to work.  

Scientists and psychologists have actually done many studies that show how effective breaks can be.  In fact, many large businesses have now started adopting break times into the course of the regular day.  Employees are actually paid to sit at their desk and read, research topics they enjoy on the Internet, and do other things that interest them.  It's been shown that allowing these breaks actually increases productivity and employee satisfaction enough to compensate for the lost time plus some.  

To get the most good out of your breaks, try making your activities something that will help increase production when you return to work, rather than something that simply distracts you.  Some great options include aerobic activity or relaxation exercises.  They'll clear your mind, while producing chemicals in your body that will boost concentration when you get back to work.

If physical exercise isn't your thing, or you just don't have the chance to do it at work, there are other things you can do to relax and clear your mind so you can get back to work.  Meditation or other breathing exercises only take a few minutes, but can help you feel better mentally and physically.  Not only does it help you focus, it can also lower your blood pressure and help reduce the physical signs of stress.

The biggest danger in taking breaks is not getting back to work when the break is done.  A lot of people will try to skip breaks because they're afraid they won't get back to work and the work won't get done.  But when you skip breaks, you can significantly decrease productivity and actually end up getting less work done.  The key is setting a time limit to your breaks and sticking to them.  If you have trouble, try setting a timer when you take a break, or having someone back you up by making sure you get back to work.

If you've been pushing too hard and have reached burnout, a ten minute break just isn't going to be enough.  If you are finding yourself feeling sick, tired, and only ever in a negative mood, especially about work, you are probably burnt out by work.  In this case, you not only need to incorporate short breaks into your day, you also need to alter your how and when you work and may even need an extended vacation.

Breaks are an easy and effective way to increase your results and become more successful with very little effort.

How To Prove You Are the *Right* Person For the Job

Guest Post By Tina Forsyth www.OnlineBusinessManager.com

Over the last years I’ve spoken with a lot of business owners who are searching for a new virtual team member. One of the questions I get asked all the time is “Tina, how do I know if the person I’m hiring can actually do the job.”

Young Woman Working at Home, Small OfficeToo often, business owners jump into a relationship with a new virtual support professional after just two brief conversations. After a few short weeks, things start to crumble – leaving the business owner (1) unsure of how and why things started to crumble and (2) feeling a little ‘gun shy’ about working with virtual support professionals moving forward.

So how can you, the Virtual Assistant, freelancer, virtual support professional of any kind, prove that you are the BEST person for the ‘job’ and are worth hiring? If you feel confident in your skills and abilities, you know you’re great at what you do AND you can clearly and concisely communicate this – you will make it super easy for clients to make a decision to hire you.

Here are three things you can do that will help you prove that you’re “the one”:

Get Testimonials

Most virtual support professionals don’t do this enough. When you do great work for your clients, ask them for a testimonial that you can post on your website and use in other marketing materials.

Here’s a tip to make it super easy: Draft the testimonial on behalf of your client and give it to them to edit. Business owners will often have a tough time coming up with a testimonial from scratch … but if they have something to edit, they will realize what they really want to share.

Keep Track of Your Own Successes

What successes have you helped your clients create? Those are your own successes as well, and are proof of your contribution to the business.
Keep track of these successes so that you can share these stories/examples when talking to new clients. If you offer visual/graphic services, create a portfolio of your work so people can see what you do.

This exercise is also a great confidence builder for YOU. You will likely be surprised (and very proud) to see how much you actually contribute to the success of your clients.

Date Your Clients First

There is no better way to prove yourself then to actually jump in and do some work for the client.

Offer to help out with a project before you commit to a longer working relationship -- I call this ‘dating’ the client. Make it clear that in the dating stage there are no strings attached – either you or the client can decide to discontinue at any time during the dating stage without any hard feelings.

If things go well, you can both jump into a longer term relationship with confidence.

By implementing these three simple steps, you will not only boost your own confidence, but also the confidence of the business owners you want to work with.

I’d love to hear from you – what else can you do or have you done to prove that you are great at what you do and are worth hiring? Please share your thoughts.

Strategies to Become a Better Decision Maker

good decisionBeing a good decision maker can help you in business and life. It’s been said that highly confident people make decisions clearly and stick to them rather than changing their minds or being indecisive.

And even if decision making doesn’t come naturally to you, it is a skill which can be built on. Here are a few tips to help you:

#1 – Start small. Even making small everyday decisions will help you accomplish the bigger goal. Small decisions such as what food to eat at a restaurant are not to be underestimated. A good way to start is the next time you’re eating out, look at the menu and decide what you’d like to eat. Then put the menu down and don’t change your mind. Don’t ask your companions what they’re having and base your decision on that - make the decision on your own and then stick to it.

Small steps like this can be empowering and help you to tackle the bigger decisions to come in the future.

#2 – Approach decisions logically. Many of us tend to make emotion-based decisions rather than logical ones. In business this can spell disaster. A good way to help you approach decisions in a logical manner may be to write down a list of pros and cons.

Simply grab a sheet of paper and label one side pros and one side cons. Then list all the good and bad points of your choice. Logically think through your comments and then make your decision. This way you can leave emotions out of the equation and concentrate purely on the facts.

#3 – Cut yourself some slack. Making decisions is a skill which can be learned but even pros don’t always make the right choices. Realize that making decisions effectively takes confidence and is a great first step, but your decisions may not always be the right decisions. If you happen to make the wrong decision, give yourself a break and take comfort in the fact that you thought out your decision clearly and logically and made the best choice possible at the time.

Being a good decision maker takes time and practice. However, it’s a worthwhile skill to develop. Making decisions regularly may help build your confidence level and also help people know where they stand with you – two great entrepreneurial qualities.

Advantages of Webcasting (Video)

Webcasting

With social networking being at a high point and increasing steadily, the drive for interactive websites is on the increase.

A lot of people want a website that’s not simply static and they’re looking for interaction when they log onto the net – from Twitter to Facebook to YouTube – we want to connect.

As an online business owner this means that adding a webcast to your online business is a great move.

First, what is a webcast?

In simple terms it’s a video recording placed on the web. Just like a TV offers traditional viewing, a webcast does something similar - but the video is streamed on the internet rather than the TV network.

A webcast can be anything from a video of you explaining how to do something to your viewers, to a two (or more) people interview, to an interactive online class.

The point is that you’re adding an interactive feature to your website and making it easier for visitors to give their feedback and get involved.

Anyone can start a webcast with a simple video recorder. One of the easiest methods is the Flipcam. It makes getting your videos on the internet drop dead easy. You can also use more sophisticated equipment to create news programs on a very high-end level.

There’s a lot of different equipment you can use and a little research will help you find the best. Once you’re set up with your video recording mode you can take things a step further and use a video editing service to add features to your recording which will really make the video stand out. There are many services online and a simple Google search will help you find the right one for you.

Webcasting is a great addition to your website. You’re making it easy for your visitors to interact with you while offering valuable information. This will keep them coming back to your site over and over again.

LeadPages Step-By-Step Guide

Step-by-Step Guide to LeadPagesWorking with LeadPages for your clients? It's definitely not completely intuitive, is it?

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Table of Contents

Guide Table of Contents

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