I worked as a virtual assistant with a UK based online blogger, business developer and digital course creator. When she approached me she was in the process of creating, managing and launching an online support pack designed for new mothers. The pack was a collaborative project and included support, advice and encouragement from around 60 women who worked in the baby and motherhood industry across the globe.
Lack of time to get this project up and out into the world was the primary difficulty that this client was experiencing. She had several projects on the go and was also a mother herself which meant time was short. Without a virtual assistant the project was at risk of coming to an end before it had even got started.
1) Information and contact management
A huge part of this project involved collating and managing all the resources and emails that were coming in from the various contributors. I set up and managed a spreadsheet and filing system to maintain a running record for each contributor. This ensured we could easily see what had arrived to us and where there were gaps in information. I then took responsibility for filling in those gaps either by emailing contributors or finding the necessary information online.
2) Online community management
In order for the contributors to connect with each other and feel part of the project as a whole it was necessary for a central online hub to be set up. I did this by creating and managing a private Facebook group which I then invited all the contributors to join so they could virtually ‘meet’ with others and make new connections.
3) Transcription of audios
Many elements of this product were in audio or video format which needed to be accurately transcribed in order to offer various formats for learning. We do not speak in the way we write so in order to create pieces that could easily be read I used a method known as the intelligent transcription method. This is where filler words and expressions such as ‘um’ and ‘you know’ are stripped out to produce a coherent piece of writing.
4) Website support
As this was a digital product a lot of work needed to be done to the central website through which this pack was being delivered. Using a WordPress website I uploaded information about each contributor, edited and resized photographs, and generally ensured that information was displayed correctly to the client’s needs.
5) Proofreading and system testing
Once everything was uploaded and ready I did a thorough check of the whole system. This involved proofreading all the text, ensuring all the links worked, testing all the resources and making sure that everything was presented correctly and in the right order.
Although this client had the skills and capability to do all the tasks that I completed for her, working together on this project meant the final product started bringing in money far quicker than had she done all the work herself.
It meant that during this process she was able to focus her attention on the activities that really needed her full attention – writing her own contributions to the product, building relationships with contributors and getting a long term marketing strategy in place. Spending time on basic record keeping and website updates simply wasn’t an effective use of her time.
Not only that but by having a second pair of eyes to check everything for her, she knew that the final product was free of error, working correctly and ready for launch.
If you work in the online world and need a virtual assistant to help with ongoing administrative tasks or a specific project I’m always happy to discuss your needs. Drop me a line to get in touch. I’m in Southampton but can work remotely from wherever you’re based.
This client is a Brighton-based freelance editorial photographer.
His photographs have been published in many magazines and newspapers including: Esquire, FT Weekend, GEO, GQ, The Guardian, IL, The Independent and Wired as well as the photography journals: 6 Mois, 8, Dummy, The British Journal of Photography and HotShoe.
At the time of contacting me this client was in the process of creating a book for a photography project that he had been working on for many years. As well as photographs the final book design was to include a variety of interview transcriptions that people could read. My role as his virtual assistant was to turn approximately 6 hours worth of audio files into accurate transcriptions that could be sent directly to the book editor.
The audios were complex and included more than one speaker, strong American accents and lots of scientific terminology which needed to be accurately transcribed. Due to the nature of this work the client emailed the audio files to me so I could listen to a sample and provide him with a fixed quote for all the work. This allowed me to establish how long they would take to transcribe and ensured he had a good idea of costs before I began the work.
The deadlines were tight for this project and it was agreed that I would get the work completed with a quick turn-around of a few days which I adhered to.
Passing the transcription work over to me allowed this client to focus on his role as a photographer while confident that an experienced typist was managing this time consuming task. He was pleased with the accuracy of the final work and the transcriptions were forwarded onto the editor to become part of the book.
Do you have some transcription work you’d like help with? If so, drop me a line to learn more about my virtual assistant services. I’m in Southampton but can work remotely from wherever you’re based.
This client is a Hove-based freelance journalist, editor and copywriter who specialises in working with charities, social enterprises, ethically-minded entrepreneurs and NGOs to perfect their communication in print and online. I have worked as his Virtual Assistant since March 2013
His previous copywriting clients include IPC Creative, ASOS, Expedia, WWF, World Vision UK and The Equality and Human Rights Commission. You can also find his writing in Mixmag, The Guardian, Metro, The Big Issue, ILM Edge and a whole host of trade and specialist titles.
He is also a family man and spending time with his partner and daughter comes high on his list of priorities.
When he first came to me he was overwhelmed with work and struggling to keep on top of everything. As a consequence invoices weren’t getting sent out quickly, record keeping had become virtually non-existent, stress levels were high and his work/life balance had taken a serious battering. He also charges a higher hourly rate than I do and so it made financial sense to outsource the tasks that were taking up too much of his time so he could focus on gaining new clients and working to his strengths.
The first priority when we started working together was to get an effective invoicing system in place. I created a spreadsheet that we both have access to in Dropbox where projects and payments are recorded. At the end of each month I send all invoices out for that previous month and we have a monthly phone call to run through payments so I can chase anything that’s outstanding. As a consequence payments now come in on time and he has an accurate record that he can easily send to his accountant each financial year.
As a journalist he regularly interviews other professionals over the telephone which he records and saves as an audio file. He will often send these files through to me to transcribe and return back to him as a Word document which he can then use to create articles.
During busy periods he sends me articles and copy to proofread so he can focus on the next job in hand. Using my keen eye I’ll check for typos as well as reporting back on my understanding of the article (if required). It means he can send the final piece to his client confident that it’s free from human error.
4) Online research
As his virtual assistant now and again I’ll do some online research to support his writing. On one occasion I found six articles that had been written by reputable sources on the topic of ‘Imposter Syndrome’. On another day I sourced some academics that could be good contacts to interview regarding leadership articles for a trade magazine. Research can be time consuming and handing this work over to me can be an effective way to free up precious hours his end.
5) Personal ‘life’ admin
As well as providing support with his professional work I am also available to offer help with any personal ‘life’ admin. This could include anything from booking tickets, researching venues for a family birthday or helping with the logistics of a house move. One of the first tasks I did was organise a provisional driving licence for him!
Since hiring me as his virtual assistant this client now has far more time and energy to focus on what he does best — writing, meeting with clients and being a father. Rather than working all hours he is able to work four days a week safe in the knowledge that he is still delivering his best work and getting paid on time for his efforts. The flexibility of how we collaborate ensures he can dip in and out of the service as he experiences peaks and troughs in his workload. As a consequence both his work and personal lives have felt the benefits.
I’ve loved working with writers in this way so if you’d like to discuss how we could work together do drop me a line. If the virtual assistant services that are listed here don’t match exactly what you need, no problem! Check out what else I can help you with here. I’m in Southampton but can work remotely from wherever you’re based.
Running a business is all about people.
Built up of an intricate network with off-shoots sprouting in all directions, it’s people that will read your blog, tell their friends, provide support, help you learn, offer their audience, compete with your offerings, want to collaborate and, most importantly, give you their money. The list of possible people that could enter your life when running a business is endless. And the more successful you get, the longer that list grows.
Now, I don’t know about you, but my memory for names is shocking. Take me to a pub quiz and I’ll be the one saying “Oh it’s that guy, you know, he was in that action film, you know, the one where loads of people have to run from aliens…YOU KNOW” Ahem. Yeah, best not to take me to a pub quiz if you’re routing for first prize. Names clearly, are not my thing.
But the point is, I recognise this fact. I understand that when I’ve had very little contact with a person, I am likely to struggle to remember their name. And so, I’ve set up a tool to help me.
If you have contact with a lot of people and want to keep track of who’s who, then I highly recommend setting up a contact management system. There are lots of systems out there but my personal recommendation is Highrise. Unlike some systems it’s easy to use and has a decent free version which can you can use for up to 250 contacts.
Highrise is essentially a database where you can store details of any of contacts you have. You can create histories for contacts, tag them, add tasks and reminders, and attach email conversations so you can see what your last email conversation to each other was (a super useful feature). It’s also great if you work as part of a team so you can all have access to a central list.
So, for example, if you want to keep a record of all those people you’ve guest blogged for, a system like Highrise makes it really easy. Create a tag called ‘guest blogging’ and you can tag all the relevant people and develop a resource of contacts that you can dip into every time you have a quiet period and want to reconnect with someone.
No more forgetting who’s who. Easy.
Need some help with your business? Then check out my virtual assistant service. I’m in Southampton but can work remotely from wherever you’re based.
Image Credit: Shutterstock
One for the parents this week!
As someone who works with a lot of parents in business, I know that managing a business when you’ve got kiddies is a super doopa monster challenge (to put it mildly!)
A spare hour to get things done can seem like a mythical creature that slips into your grasp every now and again before doing a runner and scurrying back to hiding. It may make another appearance later that day. Or maybe it won’t. Life is hard to predict when children are in the picture.
If your little’uns are school aged, you’ve likely perfected a routine to make the most of the school day when they’re keeping their teachers on their toes. But with the school holidays arriving and teachers ready to jet off for some sunshine – those little scraps of time are going to be increasingly hard to come by…
Before panic sets in – take a deep breath. With a bit of planning, there are ways of managing your business so you can enjoy the summer with your children and still keep things ticking over nicely…so here goes!
Deal with the urgents
What are the absolute ‘oh my god I must get these done’ tasks? Write out everything you need to do and ditch the stuff that can wait for another day. By trying to do everything, you risk burning out before the holidays have even begun which would be no fun for anyone. Work out what the essentials are, put the rest to the side, then accept that you can’t do everything. Your health (and your family) will be grateful for it.
One of the wonders of technology is that you can get things set up then leave them for the online fairies to deal with. By using tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer for social media you can ensure that you still have a voice online even when you’re on the beach trying to cover wriggly bodies with sun cream. Similarly, if you can get blog posts and newsletters written prior to the holidays then the rest can be automated. Newsletter tools such as Mailchimp and Awebber have scheduling functions as does WordPress. Upload your articles in one go, spread them out through the summer holidays then grab yourself a G&T. Sorted.
Let your customers know what to expect
Changing your working hours at certain times of the year is not uncommon so let your clients and customers know what to expect. Set up an out of office detailing your work pattern for the summer and direct new customers to the best of your website and a handy FAQ page. Be honest with them (and yourself!) about what you’re able to achieve during this period and you’ll keep everyone happy.
Get a helping hand
Sometimes trying to juggle everything becomes an impossible task and outsourcing work over this period can be a great option when things are getting too much. Getting a Virtual Assistant to help you out during the school holidays when free time is particularly hard to come by can give you peace of mind that things are ticking over nicely while you are busy with the kids.
As someone who doesn’t have children, school holidays make absolutely no difference to my hours and I’m always happy to give you an extra hand over the summer months. Drop me a line if you need a hand!
Image Credit: Shutterstock
Here’s what happened to me once
There has been a growing trend over the last few years for companies to require you to set up an account before you can buy. Seriously. In a world where online exchanges are happening all the time and we are relying more and more on cloud based tools, having to set up an account just to buy a bunch of flowers is truly frustrating. Even more so when you set up an account 3 years ago and can’t remember the password. I should know, as a Virtual Assistant I have A LOT of passwords!
Unfortunately we have no control over the companies that want you to set up an account with them. That’s just how it is these days and it’s really, really, really not recommended that you have the same password for everything. There are lots of nasty people out there. Don’t be a victim.
HOWEVER, we do have control over how we manage our passwords. That situation up top that you just read about? The one where I nearly threw my laptop out the window? That doesn’t happen to me anymore.
Here’s what I did.
I set up LastPass
LastPass is a super easy and free tool for securely storing all your passwords. Download it to your computer, then every time you set up a new account you can store away your new login details in the vault. The only password you actually need to remember is the password to get into LastPass.
It’s considered a lot more secure than having your browser remember your login details AND because you don’t have to remember anything, you can get LastPass to generate super strong, random passwords. Easy!
I set it up a few months ago and I’ve never looked back. Check it out here.
Need some help getting tools set up? Then check out my virtual assistant service. I’m in Southampton but can work remotely from wherever you’re based.
Image Credit: Shutterstock
If you’ve ever tried to get on a tube in central London at rush hour you’ll know that life, for many people, is pretty fast paced. There is certainly nothing quite like being herded onto a metal train before standing with your face in someone’s armpit to make you think about the places you’d rather be. I can tell you that for sure – I’ve been there. And it’s not just in London. It seems somewhere along the way, us humans have got ever-so-ever-so busy. At what point life got so hectic, I’m not quite sure, but I for one am not convinced that this pace of life is doing all that much good to anyone.
There is of course a different way. Life doesn’t have to be the constant struggle of rushing around like you’re being chased by a herd of angry bulls prior to collapsing on the sofa.
We all have the same amount of time to use on a daily basis, that’s never going to change. And, unlike pennies in a jam jar, you can’t save time for a rainy day (as much as we may trick ourselves into thinking that’s the case). Once it’s gone, it’s gone. What you can do however, is give some real thought as to how you want to spend your precious time on this earth and give time to those moments that truly make you happy.
So, if you’re fed up of running round like a headless chicken, here are my top tips for slowing down, taking a breather and finding time for the simple things in life.
Work out what’s important to you and get that stuff in the calendar
It’s amazing how the important activities that make you most happy are often tagged onto the end of a day or packed into the odd weekend where there happens to be a bit of time. Surely those moments should have much more weight in your diary?
Be it spending time with family, going for a leisurely walk through the woods, putting an afternoon aside to mooch through fabric or antique shops. Whatever activities really make you tick and feel relaxed – get those in your diary and start giving them some importance.
Struggling to fit everything in? Then it’s time to start saying ‘no’. Seriously. Saying ‘yes’ to everything will only keep you on the road to busy. Work out what YOU want and need, then ditch the rest.
Learn that being productive is not the same as being busy
Many people seem to believe that productivity equals juggling a million things at once and getting as much done as possible. I disagree. This way of living your life is not productive. But it is exhausting.
Being productive is ultimately about getting things done effectively with the least amount of effort. It’s not about packing in as much as is humanly possible, nor is it about being slap-dash. Rather it’s about using your time efficiently so that you can get things done that need dealing with and still have time to actually live your life.
There are lots of ways that you can be more productive and use your time effectively. A few methods include: batching similar tasks together, setting yourself time limits so you get the important things done first, avoiding distractions such as social media and using tools such as email filters and keyboard shortcuts to speed up anything you do on the computer.
Stop trying to do everything
Even those activities you love doing could soon have you tearing your hair out if you try to do everything all at once. Living a slower pace of life is about really giving yourself completely to an activity. Rather than listing tons of things that you want to do over a weekend, just pick one or two and really take the time to enjoy the experience (rather than thinking about the next thing on your list).
Get others to help you
Sometimes activities that take a lot of your time and which you don’t necessarily enjoy could easily be outsourced. This doesn’t have to mean huge expenses but it can be hugely rewarding to you in terms of the time you reap.
For example, how about getting your weekly food shop delivered to your door? Many supermarkets offer free delivery at certain times and you can easily save a couple of hours (particularly if the only time you can normally get to the supermarket is the nightmare ‘Saturday’ shift!). Or how about hiring a cleaner to help you out? Even just a couple of hours a month to give your kitchen a good once over, is one less job for you to do so you can go and spend the afternoon doing something nice.
And if you need help with your business, then why not get me to help you! 😉
Don’t be afraid to simply do nothing
The week I wrote this post was the week the sun came out of hiding. So, on a Tuesday afternoon, I succumbed to the sunshine, went outside and lay on the beach. Listening to the waves with the warmth on my face I felt completely and utterly relaxed and content. A few days later when I spoke to a friend about my relaxing afternoon he said how he felt guilty about doing something similar (despite the fact that I know he works really long hours). So why the guilt from having an afternoon off?
Sadly we seem to live in a world where doing nothing but just ‘being’ isn’t good enough and many of us feel that we should always be on the go. Yet in a society where people are being signed off work from stress and more and more people who seem to have everything are complaining of a void in their lives and a lack of happiness, isn’t it time we just stopped? I don’t feel guilty about the fact I took an afternoon off to sit on the beach on a beautiful spring day. It made me happy and I urge you to do the same. Because that’s what life’s about, right?
If you need some support with your business so you can find time for the simple things then check out my virtual assistant service. I’m in Southampton but can work remotely from wherever you’re based.
Image Credit: Shutterstock
Are you running a business and not enjoying every single aspect of it? Perhaps you’re struggling to be a …(deep breath):
Erm, well here are some home truths. NO-ONE can do all that. You are what is called a human being, and like all human beings you have things you are amazing at and some things you are ok at. Some things you love and some things that bore you. And, most importantly, not only a desire, but a right to enjoy what you do on a daily basis and still have time to spend with the people you love (which is what life is all about, right?)
A great way to ditch all those jobs that you don’t have the time or inclination to complete, is by hiring a Virtual Assistant. So, here is a little introduction to the world of the VA and some rockin’ reasons why working with one might just be for you…
Lower your blood pressure. When you have a million and one things to do on your list and are pulling your hair out trying to get everything done, a Virtual Assistant can step in, take some of those tasks off your hands and help ease the pressure.
Make more money. How much are you worth? If you earn a higher hourly rate than what you would pay a Virtual Assistant, is it really worth you spending a whole day on admin when you could be out working with clients and boosting your income? Just do the maths.
Push your business forward. By delegating the tasks that take up a lot of your time but aren’t necessarily making the most of your skills, you can free up time to work on all those fabulous projects that keep getting put on the backburner.
Be happy, be healthy. There are hundreds of advantages of running a business but it’s not just about the 9 – 5. Seeping into your weekends, evenings and holidays it can be hard to find time for other things and the work-life balance can easily be tipped. If you want to have a break, and I mean a real break, where you switch off from work completely. A Virtual Assistant can temporarily take the reigns, keep an eye on your business and ensure your customers aren’t left hanging. Just put your feet up and grab a cuppa.
Ditch the boring jobs (because life is too short). Do you dread your admin because it is just so dull? Or maybe you sit on your computer trying to get the job done but end up getting distracted by more exciting tasks like laughing at ridiculous facebook pictures or watching crazy YouTube videos. Sound familiar? Then pass these jobs onto a Virtual Assistant so you can focus on the parts of your business that you actually enjoy.
Forget all the employment faff Virtual Assistants are freelance and work remotely. This means you can forget the staffing costs or legal responsibilities that go with employing somebody. No overheads. No HMRC hassle. No trying to work out complicated tax paperwork until you want to scream. They deal with that, so you don’t have to. Simple.
They’ve been there and done it Virtual Assistants are running businesses themselves and consequently will have a great understanding of your needs and the challenges you may face as a business owner. Always handy if you need a ‘been there, done it, bought the T-shirt’ approach.
It’s all about being flexible. As a business owner, your workload isn’t always going to be consistent. One week you may be working 3 or 4 hours work a day and then BAM! Suddenly 3 big projects land on your doorstep. Exciting, but also slightly scary as you realise just how much you have to do. Virtual Assistants are all about being flexible. Often working outside of the traditional office hours, many VAs can be available at short notice. You simply pay for the time you need and then they’ll slink off into the background till you need them again.
It makes travelling the world easy. Due to the nature of how Virtual Assistants work, you can keep in touch from wherever you are. If your perfect VA is based on the other side of the world, it really doesn’t matter. With today’s technology and the tools that have been developed, keeping in touch is simply no longer an issue. So book that flight!
Virtual Assistants have a wealth of knowledge. Don’t go thinking all VAs are your traditional run of the mill secretarial types that just happen to work from home. Depending on their backgrounds, they can offer a huge range of skills and experience, such as social media management, SEO support, event planning, techie help, website development, copywriting and lifestyle management. Make the most of it.
Get your business running like a well oiled machine. Planning, setting up systems, using time saver tools and advising you on how you can cut down your admin. Virtual Assistants can help with all of these. Ultimately your business will be running more effectively, you’ll have more time to focus on the stuff you love and your customers and clients will reap the benefits. Seriously – what’s not to love?!
Need a second pair of hands with your business? Then check out my virtual assistant service. I’m in Southampton but can work remotely from wherever you’re based.
Image Credit: Shutterstock
You know what it’s like… you’re in the the middle of doing something completely unrelated (or boring as hell!) and suddenly…BAM, you have a great surge of inspiration as an electrifying idea comes to mind – the lightbulb moment as I like to call it. If you’re anything like me your excited and energised brain will start going at 100% miles an hour as you suddenly start to see what’s possible. I love it when that happens, I mean who doesn’t?
The problem is that these lightbulb moments tend to crop up at the most inconvenient times. You can’t plan when the light is going to switch on. It just happens. And, as with all things in life, it’s not always possible just to drop whatever you’re doing at the time so you can channel your new found energy into your fresh idea (as much as you may want to!)
So, how can you capture that moment before it pops out of your brain?
At these times, it’s really important to record that idea in some way. It might just be a couple of key words or even a quick doodle but getting something written down is the first step to making it real and ensuring it doesn’t disappear into the abyss, never to be seen again.
There are lots of ‘capture’ tools out there to help you and here are a few of my favourites:
A final word…
Capturing that idea is one thing but turning it into a reality is another. To keep the light bulb momentum going, make sure you return to the idea as soon as you have a chance to block some time in your calendar and explore it further. Need a second pair of hands to get things going? Then check out my virtual assistant service. I’m in Southampton but can work remotely from wherever you’re based.
Image Credit: Shutterstock