We are in the 4th quarter and most businesses are starting to plan for 2019. I’m starting this process for my business with the first thing being going through my paper files.
Remember when the big thing in the future was “the paper-less office”? Slowly, I think we are getting there, but It’s still HARD to let go of that physical document that you can easily read, touch, and write on.
What do you do with your paper? Are you the type that needs to keep it just in case? Is it time to get rid of that physical paper and go digital? Here are a few tips to lessen your paper load.
- Use Pinterest
I love Pinterest and use my profile for personal and business. My boards are organized by topics and then I can pin directly from a website or if I have a paper version of an article, I search for the it online and pin it. Afraid of putting your ideas out there for the world to see? You can create secret boards, so your ideas stay your own until you are ready to share!
- Get rid of those stacks of business cards
In the business world, it seems like everyone has a stack of business cards. The easiest way to clear this clutter is to create a spreadsheet of those business cards and throw away the cards. Don’t have time to input all that information into a spreadsheet? Outsource it!
Want to really clear that business card stack clutter? Throw away all those OLD business cards that you have collected and start fresh! Are you really going to follow-up with all those cards you’ve collected and haven’t touched in months (ok, maybe years)?
My suggestion before starting over is to get a system in place before starting to collect again. It can be as easy as a spreadsheet or use a CRM. And this time around, make sure you follow-up with the people you want to grow a relationship with.
- Start scanning those old documents
Purchase a good document scanner (or a printer/scanner) that can do double-sided scans. Don’t have time to do it? Outsource it!
- Create an online filing system that makes sense to you
There are so many filing options out there. Just go with your gut and figure out a system that works for you. If you don’t know where to start, hire a VA or a professional organizer who specializes in business/online organizing to create a system for you.
- Make sure you have an automatic back-up of your files
Take advantage of the free online storage out there! You won’t have to worry about a computer crash and never being able to retrieve those files again. I love how the cloud syncs automatically and I don’t have EVERYTHING available on my computer. Once the file can be archived, I just un-sync it from my computer.
I promise you, you will feel like a weight has been lifted with less paper in your office… and other business owners will be jealous.
I recently came across the book, “Organize Your Office…In No Time” by Monica Ricci. The very first chapter in Ricci’s book is called, “Determining Your Work Style.” Ricci goes into 6 different work styles that will help you organize your office.
The work styles (with a very short description) are:
- The Speed Demon – everything is FAST
- The Ponderer – Slow and steady
- The Scarlett O’Hara – Puts things off
- The Visual – Everything must be visible
- The Aesthetic – The outside looks in order, but the inside might not be
- The Combination – Characteristics of two or more of the above work styles
WHY am I bring up your work style? Because what if you and the Virtual Assistant (VA) you hire are the same? What if you are both completely different?
Just like when you hire an employee, you want to make sure that a subcontractor that you hire has a compatible work style. You want that person to help your business thrive and take you to the next level, not hold you back because of different work styles.
When hiring a subcontractor, make sure you let them know how you work, how you think, how you are organized, and how you act on an idea.
Also, know what work style your Virtual Assistant is. If you are a Speed Demon, Virtual Assistant who is a Ponderer might not be a good fit if you need help researching a business tool. If you are a Scarlett O’Hara who puts things off, more than likely a VA with the same work style isn’t going to help your business grow.
Taking the work style a step further is considering your personality and your Assistant’s personality. Do you want them to take an idea and run with it? Do you want them to keep you focused? Does that VA have the personality to step up and let you know when you are off-course or push you forward to make a decision when you need that push?
Some of these work style and personality questions can be brought up when interviewing a subcontractor, but unfortunately, the only way to really make sure you mesh is to work together – so take that chance. You are both professionals, running your own businesses, so you should be partners growing BOTH of your businesses together. If it doesn’t work out or you grow beyond each other, that’s ok – it’s not personal, it’s only business.
You can learn more about Monica Ricci at monicaricci.com and catalystorganizing.com
When you own your own business, it’s all about efficiency. Having those processes in place and delegating tasks that others can do.
Sometimes it’s easy to know exactly what you want to outsource – especially if you don’t have the skills for it. But what about those little tasks that are taking up your time? Time that you could use to take your business to the next level?
So, where do you begin on deciding what to outsource? Here are some ideas on where to start your list.
- Tasks that you HATE doing
You know the tasks – the ones you put off until the very last minute and then you drop everything to do them. You have the skill to do them, but you just HATE to do them.
- Tasks that you don’t have the skills for
These are the tasks that you have research on how to do it or take classes for. Yes, DIY saves you money, but are you saving money in the long run? How long are the research and class taking you and then to do the actual task? Think about the money you could be making if you didn’t spend that amount of time on learning and doing the task.
- Tasks that are repetitive
These are the easy tasks that you do day-in and day-out. The time you spend on those tasks adds up. What if you wrote done the process and delegated it to someone? How much time would you be able to add to working on your business instead of working in it?
- Tasks that have been sitting on your to-do list forever
The “I’ll get around to it someday” tasks. These are the great ideas you have and have never acted on. What if you did complete those tasks? What would your business look like? Would you have better processes in place? Would you be able to increase your income? Would you be able to spend more time enjoying life?
- Tasks that you enjoy doing, but should really be growing your business
These are the “working in the business” tasks that you enjoy doing, but you still need to schedule the time to do them. As a business owner, you should be working on your business – the income generating activities – and not the “back office” items that keep the business running or even are an expense of the business.
Can you imagine the time you will free up if you outsource these 5 types of tasks?
Do you need even more ideas for items you can delegate? Check out this list by Chalene Johnson – Delegate or Die. The list covers not just business, but also personal tasks! Who says you can’t have a “personal assistant?”
And – enjoy your newly found time.
You’ve finally decided to outsource some tasks and know what you want to delegate. How do you know what virtual assistant is right for you?
Let’s start with the fact that every Virtual Assistant is different – different in their pay structure, different in how they work, different in the quality of their work. Keep this in mind researching your Virtual Assistant.
Even before you start researching, ask yourself the following to make sure you get the right Virtual Assistant for the task:
- Are you in a special line of business (i.e., Real Estate, Legal, etc.)? Are the tasks that you are delegating something that a general Virtual Assistant can perform or do you need a specialty Virtual Assistant?
- Are you ok with being one of many clients or are you looking to be the one and only client?
- Are you ok if English is the second language?
- Do you already have the procedure/steps written down on how to perform the task?
- Do you have an idea of how many hours a specific task should take?
- Will the VA use your login and password or are you able to create a separate account and give them rights?
Now that you know what you are looking for, how do you find a VA? Here are some ideas:
- Reach out to your network – you probably know someone who has used a virtual assistant in the past.
- Check local chambers or BNI (Business Network International) directories – there might be a VA that you didn’t know about.
- Look on LinkedIn to see if there is a VA in your extended network and ask the mutual connection for an intro.
- Look on Facebook and online – There are also a bunch of different Facebook groups and online forums for Virtual Assistants.
There’s no doubt you will find a Virtual Assistant, but are they the right fit? When you talk to them make sure you find out some of the following questions. This is sort of an interview process for the both of you – just without resumes – but of course, there should always be a LinkedIn profile and a company website.
- How long has the VA been in business?
- What is the VA’s work experience?
- Do they bill by the hour or by the project? Do they have additional fees for rush projects? Do they give an estimate if by the hour? Is there a minimum billable time? Is there a contract? What is the minimum for the contract?
- Do they have the right equipment and software needed to perform the task that you are delegating?
- Do they know how to use the software that is needed to perform the task that you are delegating? If not, how will training be done? Will you pay for the VA to take a course? Does the VA expect to be paid for the time they are being trained?
- Where are they located? Are they in the same time zone as you? What are their core hours?
- How do they work? What kind of lead time do they need for projects?
- What is the typical turnaround time?
It’s a process – you are hiring and trusting a person with your business. But when you find the right person, it will all work out because there is something that every single VA should do for you – give you back your time to work ON your business and not IN your business.
As a small business owner, you are constantly juggling tasks for your business. Sometimes there are administrative tasks (working IN your business) that are easy for you to do, but you know you should really be doing something else (working ON your business). Maybe you just don’t have the skills or time to figure out how to do a task. There is a solution – a virtual assistant – also known as a VA.
A Virtual Assistant is a person who provides professional administrative, technical, or creative assistance to clients remotely from a home office.
That being said, there are many different types of Virtual Assistants, and they usually have a specialty. It could be administrative – from answering phones to bookkeeping. It could be social media – posting to your social media sites to e-newsletters. It could be marketing – creating graphics to managing your website. There are even some VAs who have a niche, and they work only within a particular industry. There are also full-time Virtual Assistants who will only have you as a client.
A VA is great for those business owners who know they need help, but aren’t quite ready to hire an employee or to be responsible for payroll taxes or employee benefits. As an independent contractor, a VA is responsible for all of the employment taxes, and can be used for a single project or just when you need them. A Virtual Assistant also provides their own equipment and software.
Remember, a Virtual Assistant is NOT an employee, so don’t expect a resume. Do expect them to be knowledgeable and give examples of what they have done for clients.
Virtual Assistants are found throughout the world, and are usually in business for themselves just like you. Do you mind if they aren’t in the same time zone? Is the VA a solopreneur or part of a team?
Not sure where to start? Start by reviewing your daily tasks and decide which ones you can delegate, then outsource a couple of small tasks. That way, you can make sure you and the VA get along professionally and work well together.
Every Virtual Assistant is different – different in their pay structure, different in how they work, different in the quality of their work. So, before outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant, make sure that expectations are understood on both ends.
Using a Virtual Assistant is a great way to grow your business. How? You get your time back to work ON your business instead of IN your business.