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Check the Outbox

Mail Flag by Robert S. DonovanArgh. I LOVE what I do, and I love getting to work everyday. What I never want to see when I restart my computer, however, is a number, a big number, next to my ‘outgoing mail’ folder in Outlook when it relaunches. In this technological age the last thing I feel I should have to do is check the outbox. To me, it’s the equivalent of looking out the window to make sure the red flag is down on my mailbox at the end of the day. When I push “Send” I expect my email(s) to send. Period.

But that’s not what happened. My emails for the past day and a half were not sent. And I did not check the outbox. Blech.

Importance of Personal Time

I am 100% guilty of working too much. I get up in the morning, see our boys off to school and get to work. I work on client projects all day and continue working on client or Sutton Creative Studios projects at night. It’s not uncommon for me to still be up at 2am working. It all catches up with me though. Yesterday was the anniversary of Dave and I meeting, and I crashed on the couch at 6pm. Happy anniversary, sweetie…  Zzzzz…  Business owners NEED to remember the importance of personal time, not just for themselves but for their loved ones and clients too.

Espresso by pawilon75I slept 13, yes THIRTEEN hours last night. I am completely refreshed and ready to go. The only reason I have coffee next to me is because it’s habit. I sit here thinking about all the late nights I’ve worked, and while I admit I love my job, the importance of personal time has to become more evident in my life. I, and every other business owner, need to know when to call it a night (at a reasonable hour) to spend time with the ones we love.

When to Push Delete

Delete FailLike this article if this sounds like you – Your email inbox would be spilling on to the floor if it contained paper mail, and the number flashing at you from the corner of your screen is more than a little intimidating. Is that number four or five digits long? I can’t imagine the lump in your throat if it’s the latter. An important characteristic of a successful business owner is knowing when to push delete.

I found myself in the four-digit category last weekend and those little blue numbers in parenthesis on my Outlook screen repeatedly made my blood pressure rise. I would try to get through a couple emails during any downtime I had, however for every two emails I deleted ten more came in. I needed to take action… Fast.

The Importance of Interviews

Yesterday I discussed the 5 Must-Dos Before Your Next Skype Interview and told you I would discuss the importance of interviews in a later article. Well, today you’re getting that article. I mentioned yesterday that a fellow group member in one of my online groups felt it was degrading for me to be having an interview for a position. The person felt that, as a small business owner, having an interview would put me and my business in the “employee” category rather than the contractor category. I strongly disagree.

Businessman by HenksterWe have been in business for nearly 15 months now, and while not an extremely long time, we have had 45 clients. Yes, I realize this sounds like a lot, however some of these clients have been for a one-time project that was over in the matter of hours or a couple of days. These short-term clients are not the ones whom I speak about when I say the importance of interviews. Those whom I am speaking about are the long-term clients.

Here are a few points about the importance of interviews:

5 Must-Dos Before Your Next Skype Interview

Skype-LogoI had an interesting exchange in one of my groups earlier this week about a (potential) client interview I have coming up. This individual didn’t believe that, as a freelance contractor and business owner, I should be doing interviews. They thought the interview process would put me in the employee category rather than contractor. I don’t agree (and will have an article about that down the road), and look forward to my Skype interview later this week. From my experience with these interviews, however, I have a list of 5 must-dos before your next Skype interview. Read on…

1. Lock your pets up on the other side of the house. While this may sound cruel, I definitely have my reasons besides that of a barking dog. Imagine this…  Last September, just as Dave and I were starting our business, we had a request for our very first Skype interview. Not realizing I could accept the call as voice only, I accepted with video as well. About halfway through the interview I noticed activity behind me on the screen showing my picture. There, right behind me, were our male and female cats going at it. I was MORTIFIED! What could I do?!? Turn around and tell the cats that this was not a feline pornography session? I don’t think so! I had to keep talking and pretend I really didn’t know what was going on. Somehow I got the job.

5 Steps to Building a Successful Virtual Assistance Business

books, papers and studies by husseyLately I’ve been networking in quite a few Facebook and LinkedIn groups, particularly those comprised of virtual assistants. You would be surprised by the camaraderie in these groups, especially considering that we’re supposedly competing for work. Rather than being standoff-ish, however, we help each other out. We cheer for each other when somebody land a first (or another) client, and we provide insight about invaluable tools and applications. Because of my active participation in these groups, several members have asked how we built our business to where it is today. Because of this, here are my “5 Steps to Building a Successful Virtual Assistance Business.”

1. Start Out Humble. Let’s face it. Even if you’ve been an executive or administrative assistant for the past 15 years, you don’t have virtual assistant experience. The people you are marketing to, all over the world, don’t know you from the next person, and you need to know that. Sacrifice your high-paying hourly rate until you can build a reputation. That’s what we did, and now we’re making more than we had ever hoped!

2. Find Your Niche. Without us even realizing it, our client base suddenly became predominantly marketing consultants. I honestly didn’t even realize this until earlier this week when I was working on our clients page of our redesigned website. We were good at what we did for our initial marketing clients, and they spread our name. Then those people spread our name and the rest is history. I’ve told Dave more than once that if I could go back 15 years and choose a different college major I would choose social media marketing. Unfortunately I then realize social media marketing as we know it today didn’t even exist back then. I feel old.

Check It Twice

Feedback Form by kikashiIn the past week the Sutton Creative Studios website had a MAJOR remodel, and the blog was included in the renovations. If you haven’t checked out the new site yet you really should. During the course of the week, however, I discovered an issue. The contact form wasn’t working. I noticed site visitors were visiting the “Contact Us” page, however we weren’t receiving any correspondence. After setting up the contact form I had failed to check it twice. Ouch.

Santa Claus isn’t the only one who should be checking his lists twice. Business owners, web developers, graphic designers and virtual assistants (to name a few) all need to be check their work twice. Often MAJOR issues will be found during the first round of revisions (so how did I miss the contact form!?), and small, less obvious errors will be picked up the second time around. Simple grammatical errors and misspellings like to instead of too, no instead of know, are often used when a busy business owner or contractor is hurriedly trying to finish a project. I won’t deny that I’ve made some big mistakes while rushing to get a project finished. In my previous profession as an interior architect I accidentally specified the ceiling paint color (white) to be placed on the walls and the wall colors (bright) to go on the ceiling. While this was a simple mistake of putting data into the wrong column, the end result was…  Disastrous. Hey, we all make mistakes.

Friday Freak Out

Expressions of Mads 3 by trolfIf you’ve been reading our blog for a while you know I’m one to stay calm. I normally write articles focused on helping business owners maintain or regain sanity in their crazy circus life. Not tonight. Tonight is a Friday freak out.

Why?

Our website is acting up. I installed a really great new theme however now the site won’t let me use it properly. My computer keeps flashing “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Please check back in a minute.” Well, no shit! (Pardon my mouth) I’m the one trying to do some un-scheduled upgrading! So don’t make me wait a minute! I want to do it now!

The Circus Life of a Business Owner

Travel and Laughter by W. TiptonClient phone calls, vendor emails, prospective client meetings, networking gatherings, training seminars, and strategy sessions… This is just a portion of the circus life of a business owner. With so many tasks to be accomplished, finding time to actually work can feel like a clown juggling 15 flaming torches at once. How do you actually focus on one task without all the rest falling down around you?

Just like in the circus, you can’t get to the main event in your business without partaking in all the sideshows. While they may seem trivial and cumbersome, the tasks accomplished during the perilous walk across the tightrope can make or break your business. Because of this, it’s important to not miss a step along the way.

I Can Do It Faster

local time 2 by saavem“I can do it faster than I can teach it to someone.” I know I’ve said this before. I’ve even said it to Dave when he’s offered to help me with my work. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve been truly thinking that it would be faster for me, or if I just didn’t want to relinquish my role. In either case, “I can do it faster…” often turns into a misuse of my time.