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Monthly ArchiveOctober 2009



Mindset Sydni Craig-Hart on 26 Oct 2009

Virtual Assistant Success Quote of the Week

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

~ Albert Schweitzer

Mindset Sydni Craig-Hart on 14 Oct 2009

You now have permission to …..

Perhaps you saw in last week’s ezine that I spent the better part of the week with my mastermind group in CT. It was, again, an awesome experience and I’m so grateful to have the support of these brilliant entrepreneurs as I continue to grow my business.

During one of my colleague’s presentations, I had an amazing “AH-Ha” moment! (You know…. one of those times when you think “DUH! Why am I just now realizing this?”)

My “AH-Ha” moment was this ….

We all need a place to brag!!!

What am I talking about? Let me ask you this….

How many of you were taught as children to not brag because it isn’t polite? I certainly was. I would have received a stern look from my Mom for doing so and maybe worse (depending on how obnoxious my bragging episode was! 🙂

So we grow up thinking this and go through life never really celebrating our accomplishments to the full. This is counterproductive in our business life. Because we are each working diligently to build a successful business, we may take for granted the small (or even large) success that we enjoy each day because we’re so focused on our laundry list of “to-do”. And because we’ve been trained not to brag about ourselves, we don’t even stop to acknowledge our progress or pat ourselves on the back.

So, I am here today to give you unconditional permission to brag! Yes, that’s right! I want to hear ALL about your recent accomplishments, large or small! Inspire the group! Tell us how much money you made! What new software you’ve mastered! Or anything else you want to share. I want all the juicy details! 🙂

I’ll love it and applaud you and so will the 2,500+ EA ~> VA community members! It’s high time we started celebrating our accomplishments in a big way.

So step on up! Who’s first?

Marketing &Networking Sydni Craig-Hart on 08 Oct 2009

Getting In Front of Your Target Market In a BIG Way

This week I am meeting with my fellow Mastermind members to spend three days working on my business.  I applied for the Mastermind at a marketing workshop I attended this past spring.  In attendance at the workshop were several hundred solo service professionals who were looking for tips and strategies to implement into their business.

Why am I telling you this?  Because attending events such as this, has been a MAJOR contributing factor in growing my business to its current level.  Did it cost me money to attend this?  YES!  (The registration fee was $2,497!)  Plus, I paid my own travel expenses AND took off time from my business.  But was it worth it?  ABSOLUTELY!  I walked away with contact information for several hot prospects that were just itching to work with me.

Even better than that, I CHOSE to work with as many or as few of these individuals as I wanted and have had no qualms about charging my standard retainer and project fees.  I ended up working with four new entrepreneurs who have been an absolute delight to work with.  You see, working with just one of these prospective clients MORE than paid for the time and expense it cost me to attend the event.  (In fact the combined revenue has been more than 10 times the investment to attend the event!)  As an added bonus, it was another great opportunity to hone my networking skills and connect with lots of folks that I had never met face-to-face or hadn’t seen in a while.  As you can see, this experience was a win-win all the way around!

What is the moral of the story?  We are BUSINESS OWNERS and we MUST invest the time, money and energy in our businesses to grow and market them effectively.  I try not to get irritated when I hear VAs say, “Oh, I can’t afford to go to any events, they cost too much money!“  That thought should NEVER cross our minds, let alone come out of our mouths. If you tell yourself that you can’t afford to go, then you won’t go.  So don’t tell yourself that!  If you think you can’t afford to attend live events or invest in programs to enhance or gain new skills it is probably due to a two-fold problem:

1) You aren’t charging enough money for your services and
2) You aren’t setting aside money and time each month/year to invest in yourself and your business.

If you truly want to grow your business and start working smarter, not harder, you MUST invest in your business.  It’s simply not optional. And if you are tired of working with DUD clients, who drain your energy, don’t pay you what you’re worth and don’t belong in your practice then you need to identify your IDEAL client and start getting in front of them.

The marketing workshop was filled to the brim with my ideal clients … smart, sassy, forward-thinking women who are ready, willing and eager to take their business to the next level.  I was truly inspired by many of the people I met there and made some GREAT connections that I know will lead to new joint ventures, projects and other opportunities.  That was EXACTLY the reason I chose to attend the event. .  I had recently phased out two non-ideal clients from my practice and was looking to replace them.  That’s why I went.  And that’s what I got.  Putting myself RIGHT in front of my target market and clearly articulating how I can help them improve their business guaranteed me new clients.

As you prepare your business and marketing plan for late 2009/early 2010, be sure you set aside time and money to attend live events to get in front of YOUR target market.  It’s one of the fastest, easiest ways to grow your business quickly.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this article, as well as your experiences and questions, so please feel free to post your comments on the blog.

Action Steps for the Week:

  1. Choose one target market.
  2. Find online and off-line places where people in that market congregate.
  3. Look for 2 or 3 events that you would like to attend before December 2009.
  4. Register for the events and make plans to attend.
  5. Fix in your mind the problems that you solve for them and the big benefits that your clients receive from working with you.
  6. Prepare to attend the events and confidently share your expertise.

Achieving Goals &Business Management Sydni Craig-Hart on 01 Oct 2009

Getting Back to Basics: 5 Steps to Strengthen Your Business Foundation and Become More Profitable

One of the most important lessons I learned in my business early on, was how important it is to have and maintain a strong foundation in your business.  In order to support our growth and efforts to achieve our goals, our business needs a solid infrastructure on which we can build.  If this infrastructure is not in place, you could find yourself in a position where you are growing too fast too soon and not serving your clients nearly as well as you should be.  This in turn will create unnecessary stress and frustration, which equals a not so happy Virtual Assistant who is working harder and making less money than she should.

So, it’s important to take stock of your business periodically and see how your foundation is holding up and what improvements you need to make.  And if you’re just starting out, you’ll do yourself a HUGE favor by setting up a strong business foundation from day one.  This is the perfect time of year to consider these points, as we are heading into fall and the final quarter of 2009.  If you set aside time now to analyze your business operations and start making adjustments, you’ll be primed and ready to jump into 2010, while most everyone else is still trying to wrap their heads around their New Year’s resolutions!

Following are my top five tips for assessing your business and strengthening your foundation:

1)      Review and revise your business plan – Many times business owners create a business plan when they are first starting out, get excited about it, but then file it away and never look at it again.  Sometimes new entrepreneurs don’t even take the time to develop a simple business plan.  This is a BIG mistake!  Going through the steps to create a business plan is a terrific way to get all of your ideas out on paper and to create a roadmap to follow to grow your business.  Its easy to think one can keep all of their ideas, goals and strategies locked safely in their memory.  But there are two things wrong with that.  1) You absolutely can’t remember all of the details and 2) you’ll have a more difficult time working towards them because you haven’t committed your thoughts to paper.  So schedule time on your calendar NOW to review and revise your business plan.  (Or if you’re just starting out, to create one – which we will help you with in our “Get A Strong Start” class).   Think about all that you’ve accomplished thus far in 2009 and map out your goals for 2010 and then how you’ll achieve them.

2)      Take stock of your financial situation – For some this can be the least “exciting” part of running a business.  That is having to deal with all of the “number stuff”.  But, most of us start our companies to make a profit and support our families – not to unintentionally be running a non-profit organization where we work for free.  You won’t know which category you fall into if you aren’t clear on the financial state of your business.  If you are not already doing so, ask your accountant or bookkeeper to start running monthly reports of your expenses and income so you can see how profitable you REALLY are.  You may be surprised to find out which of your services is actually most profitable and then start focusing more attention on those.  Also, you’ll see clearly how your expenses are affecting your bottom line and what adjustments need to be made.

3)      Review your business standards to see if they are still working for you – One of the things my coach helped me to do when I was first starting out was to create a set of standards for my business.  This included the hours I would work, my fee structure, how I would handle different clients situations, illness/vacation, etc. – basically ALL of the details of how I would run my business.  I highly recommend that you take the time to outline your standards as well.  It’s your business, so the way you work and operate your business should be reflective of and work for you.  After doing this you’ll be clear about your boundaries and can then easily (and tactfully) share them with your clients to ensure that you are supported and protected to do your best work.

4)      Fine tune your marketing systems – Some Virtual Assistants have a bad habit of only marketing their business when they need a new client.  That is a big no-no!  As a business owner, you should only be spending your time on two things – 1) serving your clients and 2) marketing your business.  If you don’t have a marketing system in place – meaning a strategic plan for how to consistently present your services/solutions to your ideal clients and enroll them in your practice, then now is the time to implement one.  You should be regularly attending networking events where your ideal clients hang out, following up on leads, engaging in social media and pursuing other effective marketing strategies.  Map out a plan of how you will market your business for the remainder of 2009 and then commit blocks of time on your calendar to work on your marketing efforts.  Marketing your business will be a lot easier (and much more effective) if you consistently and comfortable share what you have to offer instead of operating from panic mode because you need a new client.

5)      Start implementing systems in your business – You likely do some of the same tasks over and over again in serving your clients.  At the very least, each week/month you’re doing bookkeeping, marketing, reporting to your clients on project progress, etc.  As such you should be developing systems for every aspect of your business.  A system is simple a list of guidelines or instructions about how to handle a particular task or project.  It’s way for you to implement quality control into your Virtual Assistant practice so that you consistently deliver high quality results for yourself and your clients.  It’s a way to save time, because you won’t have to think about or try and remember how to handle a particular project.  And it’s a way to make more money.  “How so?”, you may ask.  Because you can easily delegate certain tasks to someone else, freeing up your time and mental energy to pursue your high-payoff activities.  The more you systematize your business the more organized and profitable you will be.  So, start today in outlining the steps you take to operate your business and serve your clients.  Compile the instructions into one central document or binder and create your own operations manual.  As you continue to grow you’ll have all of the information you need to run your business right at your fingertips.

Likely, you set out to be a Virtual Assistant because you wanted to pursue a career that would give you more control over your schedule and earning potential.  So make it easier on yourself to achieve your goals, by taking steps to tighten up your foundation and get clear on your goals.  Running a successful business obviously takes effort and dedication.  And having a strong infrastructure and a solid plan to follow will ensure that you are spending your time and energy on the activities that will get you the results you want!

Your action plan for this week:

1)      Pull out your business plan and schedule time to review and revise it by October 31st.  (If you’re just starting out, set aside time to create your plan by the same date).

2)      Pull year-to-date reports on your financial situation and review them with your bookkeeper or accountant to see what adjustments may need to be made.

3)      Outline the details of how you will run your business so that it is working for YOU, not the other way around.

4)      Review the strategies that have been most effective in marketing your business and then create a plan around how you will consistently implement these tactics to attract new business.

5)      Start creating systems for EVERYTHING you do in your business and compile the information in one central location.