Time is Money: 3 Tips to Use Your Time More Wisely

Time is Money: 3 Tips to Use Your Time More Wisely

Guest Post: Author: Jimmy Cowan www.myspeedreading.com

A Virtual Assistant (VA) charges for their work either by the hour or project basis. The rate charged will depend on the work that you’re undertaking and the complexity of the project. Every VA wants to earn the best value for their time that they are dedicating for their service. So it’s important to charge the best value for your work.

Every VA wants to find success in their work. Time management is a big part of being successful. Our rates, schedule and productivity are all more effective when we manage our time well.

Do you have a plan?

For a VA, time is money. Every minute wasted is a loss of money. A VA must plan their day efficiently. The first thing to do when you begin your day is to plan your schedule so you can complete the work that you desire to finish in that day.

Also, make a plan for that month to achieve the targets or goals you have set for yourself. Ensure that you finish your work in that stipulated time. Planning is very important to be successful. It is rightly said that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

Can you multi-task?

Multi-tasking is doing more than one thing at a time. Not everyone agrees with multi-tasking. Some say that multitasking reduces the quality of the work, or will cause you to lose focus. In fact, multi-tasking is a skill that you will acquire with experience. As you gain experience, you will tend to be able to juggle multiple tasks more effectively.

Can experience make you more efficient?

In your initial days, you might take a couple of hours to complete work. As you get more experience, you will complete work faster. For instance, if you're a proofreader, and you used to take an hour to proofread a 10-page article. Over time, now you could proofread the same 10-page article in half an hour. So now, you can complete double the work in an hour. Efficiency and expertise come with practice.

So, what’s the importance of reading?

A VA has to read a large amount of information in a day. Things like reading client emails, documents, contracts, blogs, business news, and books to improve their skills.

Most VAs book their time for client work and don't always think about how to improve simple tasks like reading.

Speed reading is a skill that a VA can acquire through practice and training. Being able to read and comprehend things in a more efficient way impacts your whole business.

Here are three quick tips for to become more efficient at reading:

  1. Skimming – Just scan through the documents to pick up information that is important. Skimming is a technique of speed reading. From a sentence or a paragraph, just read the important words or sentences and skip the irrelevant information. This saves a lot of time from reading long documents or emails. Of course this should not be used for proofreading, but practicing skimming is an effective technique for daily reading.
  2. Pointer method – While reading, just keep your finger below the word or line you’re reading and just continue sweeping the finger along the lines or sentences that you’re reading. This method helps in focusing on what you’re reading and you will read at a much faster rate.
  3. Eye Exercises – When you read, you engage your brain, eyes, ears, mouth and more. Our eyes have a tendency to go back and forth while reading. Doing a few eye exercises can help you train your eyes to take in more information by expanding your vision field.

Practice these techniques and you can invest your time more wisely while reading. And you can get more done quickly, which will increase your earnings.

And most importantly, don't forget to take frequent breaks!

When your stress increases, you efficiency and quality of work get impacted. A 5 to 10-minute break every hour will revive your brain and you will feel fresh. A short break will not impact work but will boost your productivity.

For more great tips on how to read more efficiently, visit www.myspeedreading.com.

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!

Common Questions About Setting Rates

Are you having trouble setting the rates for your VA services? It can be one of the most challenging decisions you have to make. In fact, many aspiring VAs struggle with this decision on an ongoing basis. Let’s take a look at some of the more common rate setting questions. The answers may help you finalize your decision.

What’s the Going Rate for the Task?

Before you can begin setting your own rates, you might want to look at what others are charging. This is by no means the only determining factor. As you’ll see there are other considerations that are more important. However, knowing what your competition is charging is useful information. With a little research, you’ll be able to better position your business and your services.

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

A better question may be how much do you want to make per hour? This is a fantastic starting point. You can then take a look at how long it takes you to complete a task and set a rate. For example, your goal might be to make fifty dollars an hour. If it takes you two hours to transcribe an hour audio file then you know to charge a $1.60 per audio minute.

How Are You Going To Charge?

You essentially have two choices. You can charge by the project or by the hour. Charging by the hour ensures you don’t accidentally underestimate the project. Sometimes it takes longer to complete a task than you might have intended.

However, when you charge by the hour most clients will want an estimate. They’ll want to know how long the project will take. You can quote a range. For example, tell them it’ll take two to four hours. If it looks like it’s going to go over, make sure they’re okay with it before you proceed.

To set an hourly rate, take a look both at your experience and your specialization. You can charge a higher hourly rate if you’re offering a specialty service. You can also charge a higher hourly rate if you’re experienced or skilled with the service you’re providing.

Your Rates Aren’t Set In Stone.

Note, you can also charge differently based on the task you’re managing. For example, if you’re setting up a Facebook Fan Page for a client then charge by the project. If you’re managing social networking then charge by the hour.

You can also change your rates as your needs change. If you want to gain a lot of clients quickly then set your rates a little below market rate. You can then raise them in six months to a year.

To position your business as an exclusive provider, you might set your rates above market value. Take a look at your goals. Evaluate your niche. And consider the type of clients you want to work with. Consider your business vision. Then you can begin to set the rates for your services.

Software for Professional Billing

As a business owner, you will need to send invoices to your clients in order to get paid. Sending a professional-looking invoice not only creates a good image for your business, but it also helps you get paid on time.

Clients will treat you in a more professional manner if you treat your business professionally. Also, as a business owner it is imperative that you are able to manage invoicing and billing in an organized manner to keep your business running smoothly.

One way to manage invoicing is to use invoicing software. Today there are a variety of different invoicing software options available that you can use to manage your invoicing in a professional, organized way. There are both free and paid options around. Here are a few that you can consider.

FreshBooks

Freshbooks is cloud-based professional invoicing software that allows you to send professional-looking invoices no matter how your client likes them - by email, in the mail, or even directly to their Freshbooks account. It also allows you to track time and manage expenses on each project so that you can track profitability of everything that you do. FreshBooks syncs with a variety of other systems to help you manage your entire business.

QuickBooks

Available both as cloud-based software and as local software on your computer, QuickBooks offers advanced invoicing options. If you often send estimates first to your clients, you can convert your estimated invoice to a regular invoice automatically. You can also schedule automatic invoices to be created and sent to clients on a particular date. You simply keep track of all the work you do for that client and the system will grab it and make the invoice for you.

Wave

Wave is a free invoicing software that allows you to create professional-looking invoices. You can customize your invoices by altering the template with your own logo and colors. You can even add a pay now button to your email invoices that allows your customers who use credit cards to pay your invoice automatically. This free software is also totally mobile ready and completely in the cloud. Here is a great review of Wave App by Cloudwards: https://www.cloudwards.net/wave-accounting-review/ 

PayPal Invoicing

Many people don't realize it, but you can also use PayPal's free invoicing tool to send professional invoices via email to all your clients. If you have a business account, you simply create an Invoice. You can save invoices and client information so that each time you create them you don't have to re-enter all their information. You can't customize them as much as the other offerings but you can add your logo to them. And like all Paypal features, it's free.

No matter which software you choose to use, you'll be sure to look more professional if you use a professional program for invoicing. Not only that, you'll be more organized because you'll know who owes you and who has paid you at a glance.