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Time Is On My Mind August 21, 2009

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Time seems to be a recurring theme in my life lately. After my post on Monday, the theme of time kept coming up this week. For instance:

I was speaking to a potential client yesterday. While he wants to begin sending an electronic newsletter to his clients, and is interested in talking about ways he can use social media he said, “I just don’t have time right now to work on this. Maybe in a week or two.”

Schedules change, and he may be right that in a week or so the will have time to deal with this. But I also think that by spending time now,  he will save himself a lot more time in the future . I reassured him that I saw my role as getting this set up and running with as little time from him as possible, then taking over as much as I could to keep the projects running smoothly without a huge time commitment from him..

The concept of time cropped up again in the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur blog. In a post about why now is the right time to begin your own business, 81 people gave their reason for this. (Including one by yours truly – I’m #72!) Read through them and you’ll see a central theme emerge – taking control of one’s life/work, and ultimately, taking control of how one’s time is spent. Unless a way is discovered to travel through time, we only get to go through this life once: make sure you spend your time in ways that matter to you.

And how is my time management system going after four days? In spite of quite a few bumps in the road, it is going well. The worksheet is helping keep me on track, and I am actually focusing on what has to be done each day, and getting it done. I am discovering, however, that I need a lot of adaptability to my schedule. I may plan to work for a two hour period, and I may know what I’m want to work on, but “stuff” keeps coming up that delays it. However, because I am so focused on what must be done that day, I can shift things around and accommodate it all. I know there will be more adapting and tweaking involved, but so far I am very pleased.

And now, I believe it is time for me to close! If you have any thoughts on time – how to manage it, how quickly it is passing, even how to keep track of it for billing, please leave a comment.

Focusing on Time August 17, 2009

Posted by gsbusinessresources in Biz Resources, GS Business Resources, time management.
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If you check this blog with any regularity, you noticed that I never got a post up last week.

Bad, very bad.

One of my goals is  to make regular posts, and I am pleased that I have been getting up 1-2 each week. I even drafted a post to go up early last week, but I never got back to it.

Now, I can blame my schedule, but I knew what was coming, so it wasn’t any surprise; I just never planned for it. Instead of editing the post last weekend, I did client work, got my son ready to go back to school, and took it easy. Taking a break was a very good thing, but I believe I could have done that AND gotten the blog post done, if I had managed my time better.

Time management is one of my issues, or perhaps it is the lack of time management. It is an area I need to focus on to grow my business, and as of last Thursday, I need to focus harder than ever.

Thursday morning I received word that funding for my position was a bit iffy for 2010. This did not surprise me, but having it told to me made it very real. I’ve been looking at taking GS Business Resources full-time, and this might be just the opportunity. I spent the next several hours rolling that around in my head, thinking how I’d spend the next 4 1/2 months growing my business, saving money, etc.

Then, mid-afternoon I got another phone call. The funding that was expected for the rest of this year had been sent in 2008 – and spent then. So, the money isn’t coming, and the organization doesn’t have any extra to cover it.

Wow.

While this is certainly scary, it may actually be the kick that I need to go after my dreams. And in order to do that, I HAVE to get myself organized and manage my time much better.So where do I begin? First, I went to Christine Kane’s Uplevel Your Business blog and watched the video and downloaded the daily schedule worksheet. Just watching the video gave me enthusiasm to start planning each and every day. I’ve started using the worksheet for each day this week, and while I like the structure it gives me, I know I’m going to have to tweak it some.

There is a part of me that resists being told to do something at a certain time; I want to have flexibility in my schedule. But I know that I need more structure as well. The more I hear about time management, the more I believe that giving myself an outline to my day is actually going to free up my creativity. I know when something is going to be worked on, so I don’t have to think or worry about it. And since I am setting my daily schedule, I can adjust it as needed (as I’ve already done several times on my first day – my printer stopped talking to my desktop computer this afternoon, so I’ve spent 3 hours trying to make them work together. Will need to schedule time tomorrow to go buy another printer.)

Next, I am going to order Time Management In An Instant by Karen Leland and Keith Bailey. I was part of the blog tour for the book’s launch, and in reading through various articles and blog posts Karen has written on time management, I know she understands the issues I face, and has practical solutions to meet them.

With each day, I believe I’m going to get a better sense of how to plan my day – what time of day I do some things better than others, where I tend to get off track, and where I need to allow more time. Look for an update in the next week or two to see what is working for me.

I am curious to know what tips and tricks you use to manage your time. Everyone thinks and works differently, but you never know when a method you developed can benefit someone else. Please post a comment and share your secrets!

What A Difference A Day Makes July 31, 2009

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I’m sitting on my patio to write this. The sun is shining, and white puffy clouds drift across the blue sky. In the background, I can hear a news helicopter repeatedly circling. They are no doubt getting footage of the damage from a tornado that touched down one-half mile from where I live late yesterday afternoon. Click here for the story in the local paper. My apartment is fine and I never lost electricity, so I am feeling very grateful today; however, one of my clients lives in the neighborhood that was hit. I haven’t heard from him today, which is not unusual, and I hope that all is well.

When the storms began moving through Memphis yesterday, I wasn’t at home. My son is at his dad’s in another city, so my first concern was for my cat. I finally realized that as long as the roof and windows remained intact, he’d probably be curled up asleep and never know anything was going on. Or, he’d wake up and find a dark corner to hide in (and where he’d probably be safe). Once I realized this, I felt better.

Then I also realized that my laptop was with me. All of my business information is on it, so knowing it was with me, and the storms were not headed in my direction, made me relax even more. Even if my apartment was hit, I could keep on working as long as I could find electricity and an internet connection.

The more I think about it, however, the more I realize that I must get a better system in place for backing up my computer. I currently back up my work documents on a flash drive every few days, and my entire hard drive to an external drive once a month. But I still feel like I need to have them backed up somewhere online, so I have access from any computer, not just my laptop.

My plan is to begin looking at various options over the next few days, and begin trying them out. Of course, my primary concern is security, but close behind that is cost. I already save some of my documents in Google docs, and that may be where I start, at least with documents that don’t need to be secured. I’d love to hear everyone’s opinions as to online resources for saving documents, photos, music, programs, etc. What have you used, and what was the good and the bad about it? Please leave a comment, and I’ll include it in a follow-up post.

For now, I’m going to enjoy the sun and calm weather. I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe weekend!

GS Business Resources Is In The News June 24, 2009

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I had a pleasant surprised last week when Dawn Rivers Baker, editor of the MicroEnterprise Journal contacted me requesting an interview.

After staring at the email for several minutes, wondering if she had lost her mind, I decided why not. I’ve read her blog for several months and have always enjoyed Dawn’s insightful, thoughtful, and sometimes sassy posts. I’ve also been following her on Twitter, and we’ve had a few pleasant exchanges about health insurance and the weather. If she thought my situation was worth talking about, who was I to argue!

The interview was a delightful way to spend a half hour of my day. The resulting post  makes me sound very good indeed. Thanks Dawn, for a great opportunity! I look forward to chatting with you again, to let you know how my business is growing.

You can read the  blog post here.

She also mentioned me, my business, and the interview in her weekly podcast which can be found here.

Take a look and listen, and post comments here and on Dawn’s blog.

If you came here via The MicroEnterprise Journal  or its blog, welcome! If you didn’t, you need to go check it out!

Get Clients Now! – Update June 22, 2009

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The last couple of weeks working through the Get Clients Now! program have been…..well, interesting to say the least! Many things have been going well, but overall I am feeling quite frustrated. I’m not making progress through the program as I thought I would ( and could!). Even when I sit down and plan out my day, things seem to go off track rather quickly.

Part of the problem is I still have a full-time job which leaves only nights and weekends for  working on my business. But if I work then, I end up without a day off. Not good at all!

So – some changes had to be made. The first change I made was one of my Success Ingredients – my web site. If you are reading this, you know I have a website/blog on WordPress, but I want to have my own site that I build myself. I bought the domain name in March, but still have to work out hosting, getting the site built, trouble-shooting, etc. Well, that isn’t going to happen during this 28 day period! I decided instead of trying to build a new site, I’d spend my time and energy on improving this one. So, I’ve added more links, I’m trying to post more ( and I finally figures out how to use the delay publish feature), and add more color and visuals to it. Not where I want it to be, but it will be a reachable goal and will move me in the right direction.

Once I made this decision, I could feel my body relax. That was when I knew I had made the right choice. Not only did I sleep better that night, I also found I began coming up with ideas for posts (including doing this series!).

Then I realized something else. One area I want to focus on for my virtual assistant business is social media, including blogs. Spending time working in WordPress is great experience for me, and will allow me to confidently offer this service to my clients.

In my next post, more changes and adjustment as I near the end of the 28 days.

Facebook Vanity URLs June 15, 2009

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As you may know, last week Facebook began offering the option of “vanity urls” so that your page would be accessed by http://www.facebook.com/yourname instead of the string of numbers and letters that was there before.

The landrush began Friday at midnight EST – which is 11:00 pm where I am. Not late at all, so I knew I’d be up. However, I was finishing some work for a client, and before I knew it, it was over an hour after the name urls became available. I wasn’t worried; my name isn’t that common and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to use it.

So I log in, and see the list that Facebook has offered, but none of them are my full name ( first, middle and last name). I type that into the other box, only to get a message that it isn’t available.

Huh???

I tried several variations of my name – using only middle initial; putting a period between each name; adding numbers – only to get the same message. If I type in the Facebook URL and add any of the names I wanted to use, I get an error message that the page doesn’t exist.

So – has someone else gotten my name and just not put up a page yet? Is my complete name too long, and shorter versions of it are used by someone else? I looked through all the information on Facebook and it mentions a minimum length, but no maximum one. I didn’t put in any characters other than letters, numbers and a period, but none of the names I’ve tried are available.

Can anyone help me with this? Facebook still has some options I can use, but I’d rather have my full name.

Next on my agenda – get the page up for my business so when vanity urls are available for those pages, I can grab it.

Growing my VA business with Get Clients Now! June 10, 2009

Posted by gsbusinessresources in Biz Resources, GS Business Resources, Marketing, Virtual Assistant.
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Get Clients Now!, by CJ Hayden, outlines a 28 day program designed to help you find clients for your service business. This post, however, is not a book or program review. It is a record of what I learn as I work through the program to see if the program will help me get clients now.

I started the program in mid-May, when a  post appeared on the Virtual Assistant Forum about a reading group forming to go through the book and work the program. One thing the book notes is that it is better to work the program with a group, so you have support and encouragement. I don’t often participate in reading groups because I usually find I don’t have the time to keep up with the reading or work involved. But something told me this would be a great opportunity, so I signed on. One of the best decisions I’ve made this year!

To work the program you first choose which area you are stuck in. For me, as a new business, owner, I need to fill the pipeline with potential clients to contact and with referral sources. For more details on areas you may be stuck in, and on the ingredients to select to get you out, please see the web site where you can download the table of contents and a sample chapter.

So far, my group has had three weekly calls on Skype. (Not only have I been working the program, I’ve also had the chance to learn Skype!) I really look forward to these calls; they have been very supportive, informative, and a lot of fun! I have a feeling that we’ll continue to be a support group for each other after we finish the program.

For the first call, we read the first 3 chapters of the book, and completed the first half of the action plan. There was a lot of information there, but overall, it was easy to do. For our second call, we read the fourth chapter and finished the action plan. This is where it got more challenging. Trying to narrow down the areas we were going to focus on to help me reach my goal was hard – there were so many that I was either interested in or believed I needed to do to get my business off the ground. After much reflection, I selected the correct number and was ready to begin.

What do I think of the program so far? I like it! It is very straightforward, and can be adapted to focus on the area you are stuck in, and pick success ingredients that play to your strengths. I can see returning to the program as my business grows and I need to work another area.

And now we are actually working the program – I’ll talk about how it is going in the next post…..

Unexpected Bonus May 11, 2009

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I believe we all like to get a little something extra. It doesn’t have to be much, but receiving a little more than expected can make a big difference in how we view the person or business giving it. Even the after-dinner mint when you get your bill is a nice way to end the meal.

Last spring I wanted a flower garden, and since I live in an apartment, it was going to be in containers. I bought a selection of plants that would work in my climate, and since my budget was small, I selected mostly annuals. They thrived during the summer and well into the fall. As the temperature began getting cooler, they slowly began dying off. I hated to see that happen – it had been so nice to have the color on my patio – but it was what annuals do.

Some of the plants, however, did not die. While they no longer bloomed, the foliage continued to survive, so I set them in a sheltered area on my patio to see what happened. One by one, the foliage died off, except for one plant. I didn’t water or fertilize it; I just let it sit.

Surprise!

At the end of March I noticed this plant had buds on it. A week later, a couple of the buds opened and I had an unexpected burst of pink on my patio! I didn’t expect this plant to bloom this year, and I don’t know if it will survive until fall or not, but for now I am enjoying the unexpected bonus flowers.

This made me think about what unexpected bonuses I can offer my clients. Not something big, nor something they should expect such as good work or meeting deadlines. Something unexpected – an small extra service thrown in for free, a discount for each referral they send my way. I’m considering taking any mention of them and their business in print media, digitizing it and sending it to them, or taking a digital mention, printing it out and putting it in a frame for display.

I’m looking for other ideas as well. What is something extra that you could give to your clients, to put something pleasantly unexpected into their day?

Small Business Marketing Ideas April 13, 2009

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As I get my business off the ground, I am looking for ways to get the word out about GS Business Resources. So when the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur blog posted 115 Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses, I took notice.

That’s right, 115 tips gathered from a wide range of sources, and designed to help small businesses market on a tight budget. Well, I have a small business, and my marketing budget is about $0, so this list was very helpful for me. I was pleased to see that I am already doing some of the items suggested; however, I came across some I hadn’t thought of such as:

  • #13 – Send hand-written follow-up cards. Hand written notes are so uncommon, they get your recipients attention. Now this may seem odd for a virtual assistant, but as I am building my business locally, it is the perfect opportunity to make myself stand out. And if I live far away from a client? Why not use a postcard featuring local attractions to show them my part of the world?
  • #34 – Join forces with other businesses in the same target market. Need to brainstorm people to contact on this one.
  • #78 – Use your email signature to promote new products, discounts, or events for your business.
  • #97 – Use Twitter Search to look for keywords related to your business. Join in conversations and tweet help to people looking for it.

Not every idea on the list will work for every business, of course, but I encourage you to take a look and see which ones would work for you. What marketing ideas are listed that you had not thought of before? How will you implement them? Post a reply so we can all benefit!

Updating Your Thinking April 7, 2009

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Have you ever realized that a thought you’ve had for awhile, possibly for years, wasn’t really working? That there was another way to look at the situation that had never occurred to you before?

Well it happened to me last week. Nearly two years ago I received a gift of a coffee maker. This was a “fancy” one, complete with a built in grinder. I would have never purchased it for myself, since I had a separate grinder that worked quite well, but it was a gift from a good friend who knew I loved my morning coffee, and who had – and loved – the same coffee maker.

I also knew that her grinder had stopped working after a year and she had to purchase another one, so I decided to keep my old coffee maker “just in case” mine broke. My old one also had an espresso maker on it, and even thought I only used it a couple of times, I wanted to keep it “just in case” I decided to make espresso.

Do you see where this is going? It FINALLY occurred to me that if the grinder breaks (and it hasn’t in nearly two years of daily use), the coffee maker will still work, and I can grind my beans with my small grinder (yes, I still have it). I also had not even thought of pulling the old one out to make an espresso. I don’t drink espresso that often; if I want one I’ll head down the street to a coffee shop and let them make it.

My old coffee maker, which still worked very well, was simply taking up space in my home. So I loaded the coffee maker in my car along with some other items I was ready to let go of, and took them to a local donation center.

It felt good to let it go—–but I also felt a bit foolish for not realizing the options I had earlier. So I am trying to learn from that, and I am taking a hard look at many things and thoughts in my life, to see which ones are no longer true for my life.

How about you? What thoughts are you holding on to that you can let go of? Are you a small business owner who thinks you have to do it all yourself because no one else would give it the proper attention? That you cannot afford to hire anyone to help you? That spending your valuable time doing tasks you hate is better than handing it off to someone else, allowing you to focus on what you do enjoy?

Hiring a Virtual Assistant is something worth thinking about. A VA may be more affordable than you think, and certainly more affordable than hiring an employee. Think about it – you don’t pay for vacations, holidays, or lunch breaks. Since a VA is an independent contractor, they depend upon doing a good job to receive repeat business and referrals.

Consider giving you thinking an update. Consider a Virtual Assistant to help take care of tasks that you don’t enjoy, freeing your time on what you went into business for in the first place.