Is Brand YOU in Tip Top Condition?

Is Brand YOU looking a little frazzled around the edges? Perhaps you’re feeling a little overwhelmed?

If you’ve answered yes to either of the above questions, then it’s time to start thinking about taking time out.  Time dedicated to Brand YOU, refreshing, reframing and relaxing.

If you’ve got kids and family to look after it’s not always so easy to get away. I get that. I know there’s often that feeling of guilt when leaving them behind. Going off without them. Or if you’re in business perhaps not wanting to leave the business.

You know what?

You need ME Time. We all do.

ME Time is dedicated to looking after your own needs because if you’re not in tip top condition, then you cannot look after your family or your business properly.

Time away – dedicated to Brand YOU

Have you ever considered a retreat?

There are many different kinds of retreats. But the common element is that a retreat is dedicated to focussing on yourself.

It’s usually means everything is taken care of for you.  No need to worry about being alone to fend for yourself in a strange place.

No meals to think about, no pressing deadlines – just time to be in the moment dedicated to yourself.

Some retreats are dedicated to weight loss, natural foods and all that other great stuff. Some even have curfews and no talking times. It’s horses for courses BUT that’s not my kind of a retreat.

If you like being pampered, eating delicious meals that you didn’t have to prepare,  perhaps sipping the odd glass of bubbly, a cocktail or two and… learning new things then we’ve got something in common!

Doing your homework

There are some great retreats around the world, but before committing your money it’s important to check out the organisers.

Do they have solid business reputations? Are their behaviours ones you respect? Have they got integrity?  You’ve got to know these things as you’re spending time with them! To be able to relax and know you’re in good hands is so important.

Bali is widely recognised as the Island of the Gods. There are the real touristy sides but there is also a whole other side to this country.  Andrea Wicking of Salty Plum Events really knows Bali well having been there countless times!

Andrea and I are combining my experience teaching, training and leading groups of women on travel adventures, with her wonderful event management skill, attention to fine detail and deep knowledge of Bali.

The result is we’ve put together a delightful sojourn in Bali, planning every little detail to ensure the very best experience!

Designing the sojourn especially to refresh, reframe and relax has been paramount.

Pampering massages, a bit of shopping, delicious dinners each night and your own beautiful double room complete with ensuite – no twin sharing – in a tranquil private villa.

You do as much or as little as you like! The perfect way to revive Brand You!

There’s also the opportunity of working one on one with me.  You can have your sessions focussed on personal or business development in total confidentiality.

Sound interesting?

Discover more about joining us for 7 days dedicated to Brand YOU.

Michelle

Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.


Number One Tip for Better Time Management

Do you struggle with time management? If you answered yes, do not despair.

The good news is that you’re not alone.

Time has a habit of running past all too fast. When you’re in business it is essential to have great time management skills and the reason is simply this – time is money.

Good time management can be achieved through discipline.

It’s not easy, but it is doable and like anything else it takes training.

The more you do something, the more you are training your brain into great habits.

So here’s the thing …..

One of the best way to wrestle more time is to take control of your inbox.

When you control your inbox, as opposed to it controlling you, you’ll soon notice that you’re able to achieve a lot more.

Trust me, this works!

How to gain control

You must TAKE ACTION!

Your own action. It begins with switching off your inbox.

Switching off  your inbox is NOT closing it down.

When you switch off, means you are in offline mode. No new emails can drop in to distract you.

Gain control by working in offline mode.

If you’re not sure how, here’s a little demo clip.

The benefit of offline mode

You still have your inbox open.  This means you can action and refer to the content while working.

You can even write responses, but the responses won’t be sent till you go back online.

By working offline, you are no longer distracted by emails as they drop in.

Yes, yes, I know – you have will power, but that’s not exactly true is it? I mean to say, out of the corner of your eye you will see that email icon. You’ll register at some level that there is new mail.

By being in offline mode you won’t be tempted to take a peek.

Here’s how peeking wastes your time

The moment you peek, you become distracted. When you’re distracted your attention is no longer focussed on the tasks at hand.

Peeking at emails means you spent at least 2 minutes each time (and it’s usually more than 2 minutes) trying to regain your though pattern and get back into the ”flow”.

This is not productive.

Imagine you do this for 10 emails over the course of the day – that 20 minutes you’ve lost.

20 minutes just getting your thoughts back into the flow.

Then there’s the time you spend reading, and I’m betting you didn’t action it immediately, so will go back later and deal with the matter.

So can you see how you’d pretty quickly waste 60 minutes?

That a scary thought, because if you repeat this pattern each day (and you get more than 10 emails) you’ll be clocking up several hours a week of wasted time.

This precious time is something you will never get back. So don’t waste it.

The beauty of good time management

With good habits, you’re freeing yourself up to have more hours to spend on things that really matter.

Stuff like family time, getting out with friends, or just precious time for yourself to veg out with a good book, Netflix or whatever takes your fancy.

When you carve out time for yourself, your business grows and thrives.

The reason is simply this – you are in a better frame of mind. You are relaxed and refreshed, so you are more focussed when you are working.

From a personal perspective, I’m as guilty as the next person of wanting to peek at emails. BUT, I control this urge by working in offline mode – it’s part of my secret sauce formula for day-to-day self management.

How often should you look at emails?

This very much depends on how your work comes in and your day flows.

I suggest 3 – 4 times a day.

I work across the globe, so my routine has to factor in the time differences in the US, Europe  and Australia.

Work out what works for you and start to establish your own routine – there is no one size fits all – because each place of business is somewhat unique.

I guarantee you’ll love this way of working once you get into the habit – although it might scare you a bit at first to be offline.

Got questions about trying this routine? Ask!

I’ll personally respond to each comment and query, so go ahead and leave one.

To your success!

Michelle

PS – you may like to check out the helpful FREE resources on our website.

The Truth About Being Your Own Boss

How often do you hear stories of people chucking in their jobs, starting their own business, making millions and now sitting on a beach watching the money roll in?

All the time. The internet is full of these people.

Sounds like a dream life. Right?

Hmmm, not quite that simple.

Even for those who are at the very top of the tree there’s still a ton of work to be done behind the scenes.

It’s absolutely true that when you start your own business and work for yourself  you have the freedom to do as you like. Being your own boss and having no one else to answer to is great!

Yes, it’s definitely true that you have freedom in the sense you get to choose what to do and when to do it. But only to a certain extent.

I have my own business. I’ve owned a couple of others prior to starting Dragon Sisters 9 years ago. Sure, I do, on the surface, have freedom and flexibility to do as I like.

The Reality

However, the reality of being your own boss is a little different.

The bottom line is this –  it all comes down to your own efforts to succeed – you are in the driver’s seat and 100% responsible. You are your own hero.

The truth is, as someone who runs their own business,  the onus always lies on you to bring in the $$.

Of course, the more successful you are, the less pressure there is on bringing in the basics to cover the day-to-day essentials.

If you love your what you do and have a real passion for it, then it no longer seems like work.

However, here’s the thing – no matter how successful you are, you still need to be out there smarketing.

For instance, coming back to my own example, I’m currently fully booked up .

But, I’m still out there …adding in workshop dates, interacting on social media and attending a couple of face to face events.

I’m actively keeping my brand out there.

Why do you need to do this?

No matter what your product or service is, unless you continue to pay attention to your profile in the market place, you cannot stay front of mind.

This is why all the top names spend time and money doing tours, running workshops, marketing via social media and much more. They are constantly on the look out for ways to stay ahead of the game, to be at the forefront.

It makes me want to cry when I see people who have spent months, perhaps years building businesses to a point of success, and then taking their foot off the accelerator when the pressure to succeed eases.

They’re starting to get ahead, can pay all their bills and are feeling confident. So time to relax a bit – after all they’ve worked hard and deserve it.

This is the danger point.

Unless you have robust systems in place, you cannot expect to just take off and leave your business to tick along. That’s the road to ruin.

I’ve seen this happen all too often. Good people going down the tubes because they’ve failed to famine proof the business. They’ve relaxed too much.

NOOO! I want to scream out.

Sure, take a little break to refresh and relax, but you must also reframe your thinking. Keep focussing on your business no matter what. Yes, take a holiday. Yes, take time for yourself, but have a strategy in place.

It’s the old adage “momentum flows where attention goes.”

If your attention is not on your business then it loses momentum.

Notice I used the word ON rather than in?

This is a really important differential. When you work ON your business, you’re taking a helicopter perspective. You have vision, you see opportunity and you maximise wherever you can.

Working in your business, means your head is down, occupied with the detail and minutia.  You cannot see the woods for the trees.

As your business grows, it is vital to take the time to work ON the business, as opposed to in it. This is what those highly successful people sitting on the beach are doing. They’re working on their business – always.

The being your own boss formula is simple. Put in the time and your business will grow.

Do what you love and it hardly seems like work.

6 Tips for Working ON Your Business

  1. Set aside a minumum of 20 minutes a day (5 days a week) dedicated to your personal marketing activities – remember, people buy people so you have to maintain your presence.
  2. Be consistently attentive  – respond to emails, calls etc.
  3. Regularly view your business revenue streams. What can you tweak? What should you ditch? What can you add?
  4. Delegate/Outsource tasks that can be handled by others.
  5. Actively listen to your market place.
  6. Set aside time for yourself each day – to fresh, reframe and relax.

If you are already successful, your ongoing nurturing will ensure your business continues to thrive.  You’ll be able to sit on the beach and your efforts in working on the business are helping it become famine proof.

Starting your own business is an adventure. One that comes with many ups and downs, but brings with it many rewards.

If you want the freedom to follow your passion, then owning your own business and being your own boss is fantastic. I have never looked back. Sure there are hurdles to overcome at time, but I love what I do.

Are you your own boss?

Need a little support or got a questions? Drop me a note, or join my private Facebook group which is supportive, motivational, aspirational, refreshing and talented –The SMART Circle –

To your success,

Michelle

HOW APPEALING IS BRAND YOU?

Staring down the barrel of the of the last quarter of 2016 can be daunting.

We’re coming up to the year-end sprint finish. Time to turn on an Olympian effort. I’ve got to say I’m feeling less Usain Bolt and more Used Up Burnt.

I need a holiday.

Hah! Fat chance. I’m as likely to get one of those as I am of beating Bolt off the blocks. Snowball in Hell stuff.

I’ve got commitments. A stacked Inbox. A backed up Task Manager. Things to do. People to see. Deadlines to meet.

I’ve got to be on point. Too bad if I’m feeling less than rapier sharp.

Rather than cutting a swathe through it all, maybe I’m bashing along with a baseball bat, but it gets the job done. Perhaps with less panache than I’d like.

But hey, it’s been a big year and I’ve got enough bags under my eyes for a trip to Bali. Eye luggage only.

Truth is, Brand Me is looking a bit tired.

Like a billboard poster left out in all weathers. Not a great advertisement. And I’m not the only one.

Bali RetreatAlmost all my personal and business friends are muttering about needing a break.

So why don’t we take one?

Because we’re women with an inbuilt martyr syndrome?

Because we’re control freaks who won’t trust our associates further than we can throw them?

Because we are our business?

We are our brand.

When was the last time you looked at a brand, one with a weather worn billboard and thought, that looks great, sign me up, I’m in!

Answer – never!

Whether you’re working for someone else, or for yourself, people buy people.

They buy in to Brand YOU. Always.

Maybe we can’t justify a break. But shiny new brand development?

Now we’re talking!

Dragon Sisters & Salty Plum Events have teamed up to run a unique retreat, focussing on Brand YOU refreshing, re-framing and relaxing.

These gals know what they are doing.  Click here to learn more  about what they’ve organised for invigorating Brand YOU!

Yvonne

Yvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.

How to Effectively Communicate with your VA

Editors Note: The following article, a guest post, appeared in August 2016. We were saddened to hear of the passing of  Bibi Van Heerden in January 2017 – Vale Bibi.

Brilliant – you finally decided to get a VA! You might be terrified of letting go – don’t be. When you delegate, delegate fully. Make it work seamlessly by following these steps.

1. Make a great start

  • Don’t even consider getting a friend of family member as your VA – get someone who runs her own VA business. You will get a committed level of service, plus you get the benefit of her business experience. Win-win.
  • Don’t base your decision on cost. Think of it as an investment in your business – spend a little more to get more.
  • Get to know each other – mind-set & personality is half the relationship won. If you’re a little quirky, let it show. Concentrate of the positives of the relationship; don’t dwell on language or cultural differences.
  • Share mutual expectations & goals.
  • Be specific on what you require, & confirm your VA has the right skillset. You need to be confident that s/he will do what needs to be done.
  • Discuss how you will delegate work, communicate, and require feedback. Include exceptions and urgent work.
  • Step 1, after the initial interview, is to get a contract in place. Mandatory – don’t try to “wing it” by skipping this step. Include confidentiality clauses – this is your business, after all.
  • Step 2 in working together is to draw up a communication plan – a great way to test the waters with your new VA!

2. Set up shared software

  • Virtual face-to-face communication and email are the minimum you require. In addition, you may add in workload management software, collaboration software, etc. Some ideas: Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, Evernote, DropBox, eBuddy, Trello, Yammer, Lastpass, Google Calendar, etc.
  • Ensure you can both view the workflow, and agree on times for updates – especially if you are in different time-zones.

3. Keep communication lines open

  • Set up a daily stand-up to discuss the day ahead – a quick convo: a) What tasks are in progress? B) What new tasks will she begin today? c) Are there any obstacles?
  • Restrict each email to one topic, for clarity.
  • Clearly outline your requirements, expectation, time-lines, and deadlines. Don’t forget your budget.
  • Follow-up, and confirm everything in writing. Reconfirm understanding with each delegated task.
  • Bear in mind that your VA likely has other clients, as well – so ensure that she is comfortable with meeting your deadlines.
  • Be patient – it may take a little time for you to adjust to each other’s methods.

4. Track progress

  • Be prepared to step in to clarify your expectations, especially at the start of the relationship; it takes a little time for the process to settle in & run smoothly.
  • Review in-progress results where appropriate. It feels a little sad to be given a large chunk of work, and left alone until delivery – show interest in what your VA is producing for you.
  • Depending on the terms of your contract, get interim figures on your usage hours – you don’t want an unpleasant surprise at the end of the billing period.

5. Provide feedback & encouragement

  • Treat your VA as a part of your team – value his skill-set.
  • Express appreciation & provide positive feedback – in terms of productivity, efficiency, and your positive outcomes as a result of her efforts.
  • He should feel comfortable reaching out to you any time he feels stuck.

6. Have regular reviews

  • Your VA needs to know your level of satisfaction.
  • You need to know your VA’s level of satisfaction.
  • Discuss concerns, better ways of communication or delivery, or processes.

Fabulous – you’ve freed yourself up from repetitive tasks & things you hate doing – think of all the time you now have to spend on revenue-generating activities!

Let us know in the comments how your VA has helped you in your business. Or, if you don’t have one yet, what’s stopping you?

AbouBibit the Author – Bibi Van Heerden (dec)  founder of Small Business Crux. A dedicated Success Coach, she relied on her experience as an IT project manager to improve her clients’ profitability through focused productivity and time management tools & techniques. As a solopreneur, she understood the demands of running a small business, and provided support through her services and blog.

WHERE DOES CONFIDENCE COME FROM?

Do you remember when you first started out your career? How exciting it was, and also how scary?

Exciting because you were on the road to independence. No longer a student or dependent on someone else.  In charge of your own destiny!

But, I’m willing to bet that in amongst that excitement and enthusiasm there was also a tiny tinge of apprehension, or maybe even fear. A worry that you might not be able to deliver, might not fit in with everyone else in the firm. Perhaps maybe even a fear of saying the wrong thing.

Totally nerve-wracking! Right?

You’re not alone if you have ever felt any of those things. Heck, I can remember my first jobs in London.

First Job

I worked first for a private hotel chain with interests in the Middle East and then for a private Arab bank in the City. The receptionists and PA’s were always beautifully made up with never a hair out of place. Luxury abounded. Rich wooden furnishing. Plush carpets. The smell of wax polish combined with fresh flowers.

No one was called by their first name – I was Miss Van Buerle. People spoke in hushed and reverent tones. We even had a very fancy doorman to open the door to the building.

I wore high heels, kept my nails manicured at all times, even if it meant reapplying polish very late at night. I got up bright and early to put on my make up and carried a little kit for reapplication during the day. I also had a dry cleaning bill that was not funny!

The high heel shoes pinched my toes. I had to be careful on the London Tube escalators not to get the heels stuck between the grooves. I was never actually comfortable in that workplace. I felt that I was always “on”.

Fast Forward

Fast forward many years later.

Confident_Michelle_Hanton
ThinkLab, Darwin – polar opposite to City of London private banks

As I write this, I’m sitting in a co-shared workspace – The ThinkLab – dressed in a pair of jeans wearing a comfy pair of flats. Sure, I’ve got a slick of lipstick on, but the rest of my face and nails are bare today.

How do I feel?  Very comfortable. Not just in the physical sense, but also in the emotional sense. I feel confident. I am confident in myself and my abilities. I trust myself.

So where does confidence come from?

My first mentor was a most unlikely sort. We met when I started working at one of the oldest private Swiss banks (established in 1796).  She was the office manager, controlling everything that happened in that office, including the two bosses. She’d field calls from girlfriends, chastising over expense accounts being run up during weekends away in Europe, ordering flowers for the wife, and juggling everything else in that office. She was truly talented.

Lorraine was a Londoner. Born in the East End and a plain-speaking Cockney complete with accent. She also spoke fluent French, hence her role in a Swiss bank. She had no air and graces. Her hair often stood out like a bird’s nest, her stockings sometimes had a ladder in them. Her make-up was not immaculate.

Did she care? Not a fig! She was authentic and the absolute soul of discretion.

This woman was highly respected and trusted. From her, I learnt that it was okay to be who you really are and that confidentiality is a rare, but highly valuable commodity.  That being true to yourself is what matters. No matter where you are, or what the circumstance, unless you are in tune with your heart centred self, then you’re always going to struggle to feel comfortable and confident.

Gaining Confidence

Confidence should never be mistaken for bravado. Confidence is when you know your stuff and are comfortable with yourself.

Clothes can only do so much. They are actually meaningless, even though they can give you a quick confidence boost – I’m all in favour of power dressing when appropriate!

A spray of a favourite perfume.  Your best purple knickers.  Lucky earrings. Favourite cufflinks. Wearing your power colour.  All these little things can help you feel more at ease, especially if you’re nervous about an event. But they are simply props for the occasion. They are external.

Confidence comes from within

The fear of being rejected, of being thrust into the spotlight can be crippling – but, if you know your stuff you can overcome the fear.  Not easily, but it can be done. I am the living proof of that!

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become much more adept at going with my gut feelings. I have given up worrying about what other people may be thinking. I know that if I remain true to myself, I’ll deliver great outcomes.

When you take the approach that you want to help solve a problem, rather than simply sell a product, you’ll be surprised how that can turn around your business.  People buy people. They always have. There is a need for trust to be built.

Confidence is one of the key components of business success. It cannot be brash. It has to be authentic.

In my book, authenticity plays a key role in how confident and successful you will be. If you are genuine, you will be confident.

Look around at all the people you come into contact with. Take a moment to think about who you consider confident.

What is their magic ingredient? I’m willing to bet it’s the fact that they are comfortable in their own skin and authentic.

Confident people do not need public confirmation or affirmation of their value.

Confidence is a mantle that is easy to wear. It sits comfortably.

Confident people are frequently very generous people too. The SMART Circle closed group on Facebook has a great bunch of highly confident individuals in there who are 100% supportive and believe in paying it forward by sharing experiences and helping each other out with advice.

It’s by no means an exclusive group, and if you’d like to connect, share and gain support, you are most welcome to join us.

To your success!

Michelle

Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.


Not So SMART!

Michelle and I were really excited to start a new closed Facebook Group – this one – The SMART Circle.

It’s a lot of fun kicking around anything new, big or small, and we finally settled on how we wanted the page to run and on our cover shot for the page.

I say ‘finally’, because we did ping back and forth between us quite a bit. We like pinging, it’s a creative little process.

So, we finally agreed and the page was good to go; just needed its cover photo finalizing. We both had a lunch time deadline – mine was a piece of work going to print, Michelle’s was a routine health check-up then a client meeting.

She was rushing off for an appointment at the hospital for a stress test (to see how your heart’s going). But we really wanted to put the page up this morning and two minutes before running out the door, Michelle got it onto Facebook.

Michelle had made me an administrator on The SMART Circle page. I spent a happy few minutes over my lunch sandwich dinking around with it a bit.

Not So Smart after all

I thought I’d be helpful and tidy up a couple of things. Then I got carried away.

I deleted the cover photo.

Oh cripes! How did I do that? Searched for it, but it was good and proper gone.

What if Michelle was sitting in the hospital waiting room, fiddling with her smart phone, merrily inviting peeps onto the page?

The page with the now broad hint on it: Personalize Your Group.

The page with a generic blue blank where seconds earlier there had been a lovely colourful cover photo.

She was going to kill me.

Or I was going to kill her. After all, she was waiting to go in for a stress test on her heart.

Would steam coming out of her ears affect the test result?

Hmmm … maybe … probably.

Then again, she’d be a lot madder if she invited folk onto our now boringly blank page. Better ‘fess up that one of my lofty Page Administrator digits had slipped. Inadvertently. Onto the delete button. Including the yes I am sure I want to delete that button.

The perils of putting a putz in a power position.

What can I say? It just went to my head.

Deciding that I’d cause less trouble if I owned up immediately, I fired off a quick text to Michelle:  It was great. (Past tense). You’ll kill me. I deleted it by accident Better tell them at stress test (So the inexplicable spike in your stress levels can be explained – as in, it’s not a medical problem. It’s my sister – she’s the problem).

Michelle: Deleted the page???

Yeah, just as I thought, she was hovering over her phone until they carted her into the clinic. They ought to surgically remove that device off her while they had her in there.

Does three question marks denote a bit of stress … ?

Anyhow, turns out it wasn’t a big deal. Clever Clogs breezed through her stress test (she’d been doing that for years, living with a constant source of stress – who me?) and she put The SMART Circle page back all pretty.

Michelle: No problem, I can replace. I’m going to change your status to moderator not admin then you can’t do it again!

Me (AKA Facebook Fool): Yeh not SMART enough lol

So, I have been demoted.

Like being bumped down from Head Girl to Hall Monitor. (The shame of it.)

This is me now: You’re Now a Moderator!
Moderators are like admins, but with limited controls.

Limited controls – like not being able to get out of control with a stab-happy-delete-digit.

I expect anyone who joins our group will find that a relief. Michelle does!

Yvonne

Yvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.




Do you control your inbox?

Do you control your inbox or does it control you?

If you’re ending up your week with a backlog of things you plan to get around to reading, a host of emails to reply to and a bunch of “look at later” stuff your inbox is out of control!

Living in a digital world it’s all too easy to lose control. Unlike a physical pile of paper you can see, with emails, it’s so easy to hoard them “just in case” or “I’ll get back to it later”.

How it happens

It sneaks up on you.

Scrolling through your emails and not actioning them is easy to do.

Similarly, if someone has a really great advertisement, you might be tempted to click, hand over your email in return for some kind of giveaway.

If you’re growing your business, starting to get your head around concepts and new ways of doing things or working in sales and marketing, then you’ve probably signed up for a cheat sheet, e-book or something similar.

But then…WHAM!

Email Overload

You’re inundated with emails.

Like every couple of days.  Or even every single day.  Worse still, a couple of times a day from some of the really aggressive ones.

It’s out of control.

I mean, I’m all for email reminders of an event I registered for, but not for a daily blast trying to sell something or telling me how I’m missing a great opportunity.

Have you also noticed there are a number of  “experts” all busy cross-promoting each other? Some are excellent, but most are pretty average.

There were a couple of people I really liked. I enjoyed their newsletters but then they overloaded me with messages cross-promoting stuff from another expert, then another.

The result? It turned me right off.  Instead of turning me on to their product, which I had been considering buying, they actually sent me heading for the hills!

For a while, I hung about watching on in fascination at this bombardment system. I wanted to see how far they would go.

It was basically overkilling, out of control emails.

No way in the world was I going to have time to read everything being sent. At least, not if I planned to get any work done!

Taking Control

Your inbox can and must be controlled.

  1. Unsubscribe from all the email lists that you do not have the time to read, or no longer have an interest in.

You’ll be freeing up more time for working on your business and concentrating on important stuff.

2. Concentrate on moving yourself forward, not whittling away the time absorbing what everyone else is doing and saying.

You must TAKE ACTION!

Let me be really clear – action does not mean reading all the guff that pours into your inbox.

Action means dedicating time for your own activities and avoiding electronic rabbit holes. Check out my post  7 Tips for Maximising Your Business Day

You’ll find that by adopting these two simple tips you’ll have more time. Precious time to spend with your family and on looking after your own sanity.

If you’re already on one of our lists you’ll notice we don’t send out too many bulk emails. We use our blog (the one you’re reading right now) and Facebook to share stuff  – allowing you to choose when and what you’d like to read from us.

Michelle

Free yourself up with a Freelancer

Working for yourself is great.

It’s wonderful not to have a boss and just have yourself to answer to. It also means that you need to be really organised, as you alone are responsible for your income. The buck stops with you.

It can be really tough and there are a myriad of tasks to take care of – this can be quite a shock when first starting out in the world of self employment. As someone who is self-employed, time is money.

Effective use of your time is imperative to your success.

Meeting The Challenge

I know first hand the challenges involved and what a juggling act it can be.

I also know that the best way thrive in challenging circumstances is to surround yourself with experts.

In fact, it’s the only way to thrive and grow your business.

Use people who are good at doing the tasks you can’t handle, that you don’t like or that are simply too time consuming to be taking up your precious time which is better spent on other areas of your business

By this I mean things like creating graphics, doing your bookkeeping, monitoring social media, blog posts, editing, proofreading, marketing and a raft  of other tasks right through to having a virtual assistant – it really does depend what your profession is as to what those tasks might be.

Sure, you need to know what is going on and you can’t just hand stuff over willy nilly.

You need to be confident you’ve got someone decent working for you. There are plenty of sub-standard contractors out there! A glossy website and a slick sales pitch should never be what you base your decision on.

In the case of my business, I make sure everything that goes out to a client under the Dragon Sisters banner has my sign off.

But I don’t physically do all the tasks myself – I simply don’t have the time.

However,  I know how to do most things, or at least have a very good idea of what is possible, but making it all happen is outsourced to those more skilled in that area. They’re faster than I can ever be, and my time is better spent creating content, consulting and providing guidance or training in the field where  I am an expert.

Benefits of Outsourcing

As a business strategist, I frequently see clients who are so bogged down in the day to day running of their business that they have failed to take a helicopter perspective.

They are drowning in a deluge of the mundane. It’s like being bogged in mud, and  literally dragging themselves through the mire of tasks that are choking the life out of them.

They are so overwhelmed with keeping their business operations going from day to day, that they fail to lift their heads, making it almost impossible for them to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Unless you are able to come up for air and take a helicopter perspective of your business, you’ll never be able to really grow your business.

You’ll just be on a treadmill going nowhere fast.

An obvious solution is to get some help: outsource!

How to successfully outsource?

Word of mouth is a great way to go. There is nothing like a personal recommendation from someone you trust.

A word of caution here, there are several business network groups where individuals recommend other members within their own group. I’ve been caught taking a recommendation without realising what was going on. It was not a brilliant experience.

So my advice now is – make sure you clarify whether they are linked via a network group, and if they are, specifically ask “has this person done work for you?”

 If it’s a task that can be done remotely, platforms for freelancer services are becoming more widespread. They seem to be popping up everywhere!

Most of them do pretty much the same thing.

There are lots of benefits to freelancing and hiring a freelancer. In my book, the two biggest benefits are:

  •  It’s cost effective
  • You gain access to a really deep pool of talented freelancers

These two benefits make good business sense, especially for solopreneurs and small-to-medium size businesses who do not often have big budgets and cash flow available.

The ever increasing number of individuals choosing to freelance means you get an excellent job done at a fraction of the cost of hiring an on-site staff member.

Being a freelancer has so many benefits including the ability to work remotely.

The challenge is how do you choose the right platform and the right freelancer?

There are lots of horror stories out there. But on the flip side, some great relationships are happening too. I’ve been in the global freelance world for 2 years now, both as a freelancer and as someone hiring services.

For the most part my experiences are positive – of course there have been a couple of demanding clients that I would rather not have had – but, hey, it keeps life interesting and there’s nothing like a challenge to keep me on top of my game.

 My 5 top tips for ensuring you’re picking a great freelancer:

Make sure you’re using a respected and trusted platform – I’ll be including a section on the freelance platforms I’ve used further on in this blog.

  • Check out the freelancer’s profile and pay close attention to the feedback from previous clients. It’s always best to start with a small trial project and see how well they perform. Or if you’re the freelancer, start with a small job to test if this is the right client for you.
  • Be clear about your job specifications, e.g, give clear and concise instructions, be sure to explain what you expect as a finished product and your deadline. Similarly, as a freelancer, be upfront about how you work, timelines and expectations.
  • If you’re using a freelancer in a third world economy, you’ll usually do better using at the higher end of the market. So if the average is $4.00 an hour, when you pay $8 – $10 an hour you’ll usually get a top class freelancer. Similarly, if you’re working with freelancers in countries with strong economies, those who charge $50 and upward are generally better performers than those at the bottom end of the scale.
  • Consider conducting Skype/phone interviews, ask the right questions and you’ll get a quality freelancer for your job. The same goes for when contacting a client, speaking to them gives a much better insight about how you can expect them to treat you.

Of course, there are always exceptions to all the above.

For instance, a new freelancer to a platform will often start at a low rate simply to build a reputation. Sometimes, it’s worth having a conversation to determine if they might indeed be the golden nugget you’re seeking. Trust your instinct!

Freelance Platforms

These seem to be popping up everywhere, but here’s a quick run down the platforms that I have personally used. Each has a slightly different approach, pricing plans, payment options, posting, applying to jobs, and talent sourcing.

Fiverr

As the name suggests, this is a marketplace for goods & services starting at $5. Fiverr is a tremendous resource for small jobs. You’ll be surprised at the variety & depth of $5-services. It’s a myriad of services ranging from blogs to graphics and everything in between!

The website has loads of loyal users, from buyers to sellers, so it’s a very healthy community.

Registration at Fiverr is free. However, you can’t do anything unless you register. Once registered, you’ll have access to an amazing micro-job market.

UpWork

This is my favourite site. UpWork is very user-friendly, and posting a job is easy and free. The sheer number of freelancers offering various services, ranging from customer service reps, graphic designers, project managers and software developers right through to ghost writers and virtual assistants, can be quite daunting.

However, the rating system and feedback from other clients is extremely helpful. When hiring you’ll be presented with the highest ranking contractors for the job you’re posting.

UpWork also has its own testing system so you can check out the scores of various freelancers and offers the choice of fixed price or hourly jobs that come complete with the option of using a time tracker that takes screenshots every 10 minutes.

UpWork has an excellent system that manages all billing hours. You can check your contractor’s work via screenshots, time tracking, and real time chat – another of the reasons I love this platform!

Freelancer

Freelancer is based in Australia and has been around since 2004. It’s a good place to find web developers, software engineers, writers, and marketing professionals for project based work.

Freelancer’s platform is easy to use for both employers and contractors, and both are required to sign up to be able to use the services.

Fixed-price jobs are paid when the task is completed. Hourly jobs are tracked in a similar manner to Upwork.

Guru

I have not used this site myself, but I hear that it’s very good if you need a freelancer based particularly in the US.

According to Guru, they have over 1.5 million registered freelance professionals (or gurus, as they call them). You can hire technical, writing, marketing, and many more professionals.

There are no hourly tasks at Guru, only fixed-rate jobs paid in escrow, then released to the contractor upon completion of the task, eliminating a buyout option if ever the employer is not happy with the output. It is crucial then, on the part of the employer to very picky during the hiring process.

Do you outsource tasks?

I’d love to hear your feedback and your favourite platforms.

Michelle

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The number one barrier to your business growth

I’m an ‘80s YUPI throwback – and it shows.

Like when I was asked what Michelle and I do, and gave the flippant reply, ‘We’re business barrier busters’.   My equally long-in-the-tooth friend said, ‘What – like Ghost Busters?’, and he began to laugh and sing the movie theme song, ‘Who ya gonna call? Ghost Busters!’

Anyhow, it stuck.   I liked it, more than the dry corporate speak, ‘We’re business strategy consultants who blablabla …’   We even named one of our programs Barrier Busters.   Because it exactly describes what we do.   We help mostly small business and charities identify the barriers which are holding them back.   Then we help them bust down those barriers.

Notice the word ‘help’?   That’s because we show them how to do it for themselves. Like ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves’ by Eurythmics – another 80s icon (now I can’t get that tune out of my head) – is a song all about empowerment.   We’re a bit empowerment mad (better than being power mad, right?).   That’s how we get testimonials like this:

“Prior to working with Dragon Sisters, I went to a lot of expense and effort to strategize the marketing for my business development – with no real results. I had folders full of information, but not the detail of how to translate this for my own business.

Now, I am able to get the strategic positioning, content creation, marketing and business development support, for the specific outcomes and results I want and need for my business. Within 7 weeks I could see measurable, significant improvement. Finally, someone understands me and my business!   Michelle has been the angel on my shoulder.”  Dee Waterson, Ignite Yourself

Did you notice that Michelle has achieved angel status?!Image courtesy of Prawny at FreeDIgitalPhoto.com

Funnily enough no one ever calls me an angel …

The Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ pops into my head (now that’s even older than me).

If you’re having the devil of a time working out the number 1 business barrier – not getting enough customers – here’s a FREE little ebook to help you out.   It’s called The number one barrier to your business growth.

I’m off to listen to Annie Lennox singing ‘There Must Be An Angel’, while I watch Michelle polish her halo …

Yvonne

Yvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.