Procrastination the enemy of productivity – are you guilty?

Procrastination. Everyone is guilty of procrastinating once in a while.

You put off doing that one important task in favour of washing the dishes, doing the laundry, or playing a game. We all have some form of procrastination activity, but it’s the enemy of productivity and in business, there’s no time for it.

Encouraging Productivity

I’m a terrible procrastinator, and I hate it. So over time, I’ve tried to find ways to be productive and also to FEEL more productive.

There’s a plethora of books and articles that will tell you how to be more productive but a lot of the time those tips don’t work for me.

And even when I’m being productive I often don’t feel like I am.

Now I’m not saying what works for me will work for you but here’s what I’ve found helps:

Check Lists

When I have a checklist to mark off I’m able to tell if I’ve been productive and that in turn encourages me to be more productive.

It also works as a bit of a pseudo-reward, I love that feeling of accomplishment when I mark off a task.

There’s an App for that

And of course, in this technological age, there’s an array of apps for monitoring productivity and encouraging productivity.

Personal I’ve got two apps on my phone and a separate program on my laptop for this and I find them so helpful in avoiding procrastination.

My favourite is Habitica which a friend recommended as a way of tracking productivity.

It’s super helpful in that it’s designed to be a little like an RPG (Role Playing Game).  You get experience points and coins for completing tasks so you go up in levels and can purchase new equipment for your avatar.

For me, this format is really encouraging.  It feels familiar and even though the rewards are simply virtual I find them a great incentive for upping my productivity.

The other apps I use to keep myself productive are Anti-Social and Cold Turkey.

Forced time offline

Social Media and the Internet, in general, are some of the biggest tools for procrastination.

We’ve all had that moment where we go to check something on Facebook and then, one hour later, we haven’t gotten anything done. That’s why it’s so important to be able to take time off.

To unplug.

Although often times your work may require you to remain a little plugged in – emails need checking, research needs to be done etc.

For that reason, I’ve made blocking apps a part of my work habit. When I really need to buckle down and focus I turn on the apps and block off all access to social media.

Removing the temptation is a great way to push forward. If I slip up (and I do sometimes) I just get a pop-up that says the site is blocked – a great deterrent!

I’d love to hear about your productivity secrets, so leave me a comment.

Sasha Hanton

 

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING – UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS

Social media marketing is here to stay.

Yes, it can be a moving feast of pixels, insights, reach, engagement and algorithms.

BUT…before you even start to think about those, there are a few basics to get a handle on.

Talking basics

It is very important to understand that marketing is not the same as sales. It is not about generating sales.

Marketing is a very different beast. Social media marketing is huge. There are so many channels to choose from.

You do not need to be on all channels. Do one and do it right. You can always add others later.

The key is to choose the ones that are right for your business. The one where your audience is likely to be hanging out.

Facebook is the biggest platform and that’s why we always recommend it as the best place to start.

The key focus is on building your audience.

It’s about creating a relationship.

5 Key Steps

Social media marketing is a changing landscape, but there are five key steps you need to take to make sure you are “dressed” for business.

In the online world this means:

1) A good clear profile picture/logo

If using a photo of yourself, remember it does not necessarily have to be studio shot but it does need to be clear and recognisable.

This means no hiding behind sunnies or under a big hat.

If you can afford a professional headshot – get one done!

2) Link your personal page to your business

This is important because if you interact in a group you are interacting as yourself when you make comments.

If folks are curious about you, they click your profile to learn more. Naturally, you want it to lead them to your business page. Check out the video clip on why here.

3) Join groups where your target audience hangs out

These can be really great sources of market research. Watch, listen and get a feel for what is happening.

Be helpful without the expectation of gaining anything.

Be interested in what others have to say – like and comment as appropriate.

Remember, social media marketing is not about what you have to sell.

4) Be consistent

It’s a crowded marketplace so consistency is key.

This means showing up regularly. Not just on your own page but visiting others too – you can use your professional identity when you visit.

5) Interact

When people visit your page, make sure you interact.

If they leave a review make sure you thank them. If they’ve left a comment, at the very least like that comment. Even better respond!

Let me know in the comments if you found these tips helpful.

Fly like a dragon!Fly like a dragon

Michelle

PS – if you’ve got a question – ask away and we’ll do our best to answer.

 

CHANGES = NEW OPPORTUNITIES

Changes are part and parcel of all our lives. From the day we arrive in this world, change is inevitable. We are constantly changing as we grow. Learning. Evolving. This goes on for our entire lives.

Being in business it’s exactly the same. Periods of growth and evolution. Changing is not unusual. Adapting to meet the demands of the marketplace and the needs of clients.

Sometimes changes are planned…other times they are thrust upon us by circumstances.

I’m currently finding myself in one of those “thrust upon you” changes. Not planned but something that has to be dealt with.

My ageing parents (almost 80 and 90) mean that I now need to be physically close to them. I have a lead role to play in helping care for them in their own home.

And you know what? I welcome the role.

They have taken care of me for my entire life, stood by me and seen me through ups, downs and bumps in the journey of life.

It is my turn to give back. To be close by. At hand to help as needed without being asked. It’s what our family does.

But of course this does have a massive impact on my business; big changes need to happen.

Changes needing to be managed

I’ve travelled my entire life. It’s never been a big deal for me to hop on a plane to meet clients, or to take Skype calls across time zones at weird hours.

BUT…that cannot continue…at least not for the immediate future.

So what does it mean for my business?

It means lots of juggling and in a nutshell, a bit of a restructuring.

I’ve spent many hours mulling everything over and thinking about what is possible in these new circumstances.

Challenges are actually opportunities…to explore other ways of doing things.

Opportunities

Opportunities come in many guises if we are open and receptive.

No point in looking at a door that is closed. Instead, it’s important to search for openings that lie ahead.

The result for me is:

1) Moving further into the online market.

What I have done for the last 10 years is help businesses move ahead by helping them to learn HOW to tackle challenges that prevent them from moving forward.

This can be done online; it actually works out a lot cheaper than having me on the spot. It makes my services more affordable and is actually a win/win.

Below are some of the things now available via online teaching:

  • Identifying your Unique Selling Point
  • Creating a Strategic Plan for your business
  • Elevating your brand profile without being ‘salesy’
  • Building a marketing/sales funnel
  • Understanding the power of social media and harnessing it to help your business
  • The key steps to take to CLOSE a sale without coming across as pushy

I am still here to answer the questions, but there is a component delivered via the modules.

Benefits

Way cheaper for a start!

Access to the modules at a time.

Queries are answered through weekly online sessions and via a private Facebook group. It’s not quite as instantaneous as one on one but the cost benefits make our services more affordable to many.

2) Less Travel

I can’t just hop on a plane to fly overseas or around Australia. Bookings for my in-person presence need to be scheduled well in advance.

Thankfully the Refresh, Reframe & Relax trips to Bali is still going ahead – next one in November – I am looking forward to it on so many levels!

3) Increasing the Writing Bureau output

Ghostwriting, grant writing, sponsorship proposals and of course our favourite area…

…supporting authors taking them from the idea stages to the finished and marketed product.

Never widely promoted previously, this is an area that has been steadily growing since Sasha joined the team; we’ll be ramping it up further.

Coping with changes

Coping capacities are determined by mindset and attitude. Being individuals means we each react in different ways, but being in business means it’s important to be proactive.

I’m getting feedback that I must be Wonder Woman, being able to put together business proposals, deliver workshops and also deal with current family circumstances. I’m no such thing – although it is flattering 🙂

The reality is simply this – learning to be resilient and excellent time management. It’s a skill I’ve picked up over many years.

I’ve also learnt that when you are open and using a smarketing mindset, there is always an opportunity.

The opportunity often means adapting to what circumstances present themselves. Looking forward…not backward. Being grateful for what you have.

I’m extremely grateful to still have my parents.

If you’d like to help me with this next phase of my business I would you to get in touch or recommend me to anyone who’d benefit from my new model of service.

Fly like a dragonFly like a dragon

Michelle

Which words would you use to describe yourself?

An interesting post cropped up on social media this morning.

It went like this:

On those days that you’re just feeling like a BADASS — you’re clear, you’re productive, you’re feeling great — what word do you associate with, most?
For example, you kill it with your presentation or sign 3 clients, etc. 
“Damn I’m good. I’m such a ______!”

Everyone was then asked to vote for the word they would use and there was even a place to pop in your own word.

Word Choices

Of the choices, shown in the diagram below, I added the word SUCCESS as my word of choice.

The reason for my choice is this – when you’ve done a great job with a presentation or whatever it is you were working on, you’ve been successful. You’ve achieved your goal.

I personally do not like the word BADASS and would never apply it to myself.  To me, it is filled with negative connotations.

Yes, you may have won or achieved your goal, but what was the cost?  The word to me implies you’ve had to step on someone to achieve.

A badass is not what I would call a good thing to be calling yourself.

Or am I a dinosaur? I know these days the term is used to mean an achiever.

Connotations

I prefer words that have a positive connotation like Leader, Role Model, Success.

LEADER is a much better word than boss.  Simply because it gives the sense of bringing a team along with you. To me, it’s about empowering those around you to achieve (as opposed to bossing them about!)

HERO – I feel is a word others allocate to you, not for us to use to describe ourselves. Seems a tad big headed to me.

Words have power

Much more than you may realise.

The ones we use can make a real difference in how we think and feel.

My point is that it’s really important to choose the ones that resonate with you personally.  Especially when it’s a word you are going to be using on a regular basis in your own self-talk…perhaps even when you are speaking to others about your work.

As an example “She’s a real badass” vs “She’s such a success” – what pictures spring to your mind as you hear these words to describe someone?

Yes, we should never pre-judge based on words used to describe someone before we meet them, but the reality is…that’s exactly what each of us does. Right?

Which word would you choose to describe yourself when you’re clear, you’re productive and you’re feeling great?  Let me know in the comments below.

Michelle

Why Reviewing Is Essential For Your Confidence

Does the word reviewing send you into a spin? Do visions of being hauled over the coals or worse…being let go, dance before your eyes?

Hang on a sec. Let me explain.

The word review is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as meaning a formal assessment of something with the intention of instituting change if necessary, a critical appraisal of a book, play, film.

When you look at something in a formal way, it means you take the time to really LOOK.

To be considered and measured.

You are focussed.

This means you can often see something that is in plain sight but has been missed in your day to day routine.

Taking time out to review where you’re heading and how you’re tracking tends to be something that is not always given the priority treatment it should be.

Let’s be honest, life gets pretty hectic – both in the personal and professional sense. We’re living in a fast-paced world.

I’ll fess up and say that reviewing my progress is not my favourite activity. BUT…I mean, how do you know where you are going if you are not measuring and reviewing?

I manage a pretty packed schedule; juggling business commitments, taking my turn looking after my Dad (he’s got Alzheimer’s so we can’t leave him alone for long), and making sure to spend quality time with the rest of my family, as well as plugging in some “Me Time.”

It’s one big juggle, BUT….the way business works has changed heaps since I started my career, so it’s actually easier to keep all the balls in the air.

Note I said easier, not easy!

Approaching our 10th Birthday (27th October) means time to do a deep review of Dragon Sisters. We’re looking at how we are working, who we work with, what tools we use and most important of all what results we are getting.

We began with looking at where we came from – I’ll be talking about that in another post.

When Yvonne (the other Dragon Sister) and I first started working…..

Telex machines – Shock! Horror!

Yes, we are “that” era! – ran hot, zapping messages to offices on the other side of the globe. If we needed to speak to someone, the phone costs were horrendous, but, hey, we worked for big corporates so finances were never an issue.

Tea ladies, doormen, receptionists, secretaries and typists (woe betide those who confuse the two!) were a part of our daily working environment.

Fast forward to 2017

Things we never even dreamed of …smart phones, tablets, laptops, Skype, WhatsApp, Trello, Dropbox, LinkedIn and…

…the Nespresso machine is part of our daily toolkit.

No doorman, no secretary anywhere in sight. Instead, we have virtual assistants and independent freelance experts.

One thing jumps out at me …

Despite all the changes and the new technologies at our fingertips, there is one thing that never changes.

One thing that never changes

The need for strong communication skills remains as vital today as it ever was BECAUSE this is the way to connect.

If you cannot make the connection then you cannot move forward, in life and in business.

As an example, you want something done – perhaps you want your kids to clean their room, or staff members to adopt new initiatives. How you connect them with your message, how you present the instruction is going to shape the results you get.

As I think back, I now realise all my successes were achieved because of my ability to connect. In other words, to communicate with my team, donors, my board, managers, and clients.

Communication methods have changed

Most things are electronic; hard copy letters or invitations are pretty rare.

The way we write has also changed.

Let me ask you…how many times do you just skim through correspondence?

I’m a fast reader. I need to be because of the nature of my work. When it comes to unsolicited mail, I am a skimmer, and so are most people I know.

There is just so much that makes it way into our inboxes that unless we skim, we’ll never get to the end.

The new way of writing means lots of white space replaces block paragraphs. It makes things easier to skim and scan through to pick out key parts of the content that are of interest to you.

I have had to learn how to write for this new era.

Everyone types these days, and not because of typing class. Technology has made us all typists – even if you are of the two finger or flying thumb variety!

And that has made me realise that although almost everyone can use electronic communication tools, not everyone has the ability to communicate well. And some are really uncomfortable with the new mediums.

So as the 10th Birthday review for Dragon Sisters is underway, we’ve come across some very interesting data. It’s informing the direction the business will head… and no one is being let go.

Phew!

Services will be changing slightly, but the one thing that is standing out loud and clear is the need to once again be adding to the Wordsmith Wonders team, which has tripled in the last 12 months.

The first surprise for us is that our biggest client base is the young male, senior-level executives/entrepreneurs who are absolute stars when it comes to heading up their teams. Being thought leaders that are so self-aware, they recognise a little confidential support on the communications front goes a long way.

So how does a review boost your confidence?

In its very simplest form, a review gives you confidence by either demonstrating you are on track or off-roading!

Regardless of what the outcome is, you can then be confident that you are either on the right path for your career/business or you know 100% that you are not.

Knowledge is power. You have the information in your hands and this provides the confidence to make the decision on what your next steps will be.

A review gives me the confidence to keep going in the same direction or to cut my losses and change direction.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Fly like a dragon,

Michelle

Need help choosing the right consultant or coach to work with? We’ve got a tip sheet that just might help. Click reply and ask for a copy.

5 Simple Tips to Improve Your Writing

Do you love to write?

If you do, then you’re just like me!

If you don’t…. you’re not alone.

Whichever category you fall into, these 5 simple tips will help.

Before you take to writing that next piece of yours, whether it be a blog post or a business report, here are some quick tips to help you shine.

1) The Daily Habit

Get in the habit of writing each and every day; start a journal or a diary, write to a pen pal, just get yourself in the habit of writing.

It might seem like a lot of work but it isn’t.

*A really good way to practise this is to write 2 pages in a notebook each morning. Even though I am a writer,  I’ve just started utilising this tip that I learnt from a LinkedIn post and it is working wonders for me.

If you’re in business, chances are you’re already writing every day. You might not think of it as writing, but no doubt you send off countless emails each day?

2) Broadening your vocabulary

Get a word calendar or download an app on your phone like Dictionary.com.

Putting new words into your vocabulary is a great way to make your writing more powerful.

Often, when expanding your vocabulary you’ll also improve your knowledge on spelling and the correct use of words already in your vocabulary.

*I personally love learning new words and use them often to improve my personal writing.

3) Keep using those tough words.

Everyone has words they struggle to spell.  Don’t let that stop you.

I recently found a recipe book and I’d written one of the simplest words wrong.

I was mortified, but you know what? That’s just proof of how reliant we’re getting on the computer spell checking for us.

If you struggle with certain words keep pushing yourself to use them. Eventually, you’ll spell them so often that you’ll learn to spell them correctly.

*Whenever I misspell something on my computer before looking for the correct spelling I go back and try to spell it again. Nine times out of ten I’ll spell it right on the second try.

4) Don’t always listen to the computer

Microsoft Word is great, don’t get me wrong.

I’m always looking out for those red and green squiggly lines, but it isn’t always right.

Sometimes computers don’t understand the context of how a particular sentence should work, so it’ll underline the whole thing with a green line. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the sentence.

Before taking on board the computer’s recommended changes always give it a second or third read over.

See if it flows.

If it flows and you don’t detect anything wrong there probably isn’t an issue.

Also, bear in mind that not every word is registered in the Microsoft Word dictionary. If a word is really old or comes from another language Word will just keep on telling you it’s spelt wrong, even when it isn’t.

5) Write it ALL down first.

I used to always edit as I went, so if I misspelt a word I would immediately change it and if a sentence didn’t flow I’d spend ages re-writing it.

However, that isn’t the most efficient way to write and edit.

The most efficient process is to write everything out and then do a re-read for editing.

Trust me it saves time.

A helping hand

If you need a helping hand with any aspects of writing or editing…

Simple emails, sales funnels, website content reviews through to book manuscripts, blogs and ghost writing are all in a days work for us at Dragon Sisters.

Need some help…..reach out to us.

To your success,

Sasha

Sasha Hanton – a graduate of Bond University with a Bachelor in Journalism. Sasha possesses high caliber skills across a wide genre of writing, editing and multi-media content creation. Sasha’s achievements include the Sally A White Award for Investigative Journalism 2013.

 

My Secret Weapon

It’s Wednesday, halfway through the week, and rather than an ‘aha!’ moment, I’m having an ‘aaargh!’ moment.

When I was a fledgeling sales person, a trainer told me to avoid making cold calls on a Wednesday. He advised that at the mid-stage in the week, people started to feel a bit on the back foot and would give any sales caller short shrift, sending them marching, before there was the least chance of getting a toe over the threshold.

My problem’s rarely my feet (other than the one I tend to jam in my mouth fairly frequently), but rather, my hands – I reckon I could really rock the multi-arm Hindu goddess look.

Unfortunately, I don’t have multiple hands to juggle the week’s jobs.

Fortunately, I have something even better!

Want to know what my secret weapon is?

A Virtual Assistant.

Actually, Dragon Sisters has several VA’s, who are some of my favourite people on the planet. Especially when I get to off-load jobs I’m rubbish at, slow at, or stuff I just hate doing!

Having a VA is like having a fairy god person complete with a wand to magic stuff for you.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

That’s because it is!

If you want to know more, here’s Michelle’s Free yourself up with a Freelancer article, which applies to selecting a Wunderkind VA too.

Plus, where to find them and how to pick a good one.

Now, I’m off to email my Aargh Moment into the ether where it will be magically transformed into an Aha Moment, by a very talented VA ???.

Nothing like breaking out your Secret Wednesday Weapon ?.

Fly Like A Dragon

Yvonne.

#1 Barrier to your business growth

The #1 Barrier to business growth is frequently lack of customers. Does this sound like your barrier?

Me – 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.

So who do we help?

We mostly help small business and NFP’s identify the barriers which are holding them back. Barriers that prevent them growing to their full potential.

Then we help bust down those barriers.

Notice the word ‘help’?

How do we help bust down barriers?

By showing how to do it. 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 these:

‘Dragon Sisters coaching has helped me with my business in practical and visible ways. I put the techniques into practice and got amazing results – I got four appointments with new clients all in one afternoon! I was so excited I had to ring up my DS coach and tell her, “Wow! This really works!!’
Karen, Business Development Manager, Qld

“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 your number 1 business barrier – not getting enough customers – you might like a copy of our e-book, just drop us a note and we’re happy to share, FREE!

I’m off to listen to Annie Lennox singing ‘There Must Be An Angel’, while Michelle polishes her halo …before jetting off to Bali tonight for the Refresh, Reframe & Relax retreat.

Yvonne

PS – if you would like to learn more about our services check out our website

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.

 

It’s an Honour

Working as part of Dragon Sisters and now heading up the Wordsmith Wonders team as Editor in Chief is a huge honour and a big step forward for me.

What I love about the position here at Dragon Sisters is the diverse range of writing that we tackle to help connect clients with their audiences.

My personal favourite is the social media posts where we see the images and the words come together to create empowering and enlightening messages. I also love getting my teeth into the ghost-written blogs and books, and enjoy learning more about Smarketing as I edit the Sales and Marketing Strategy reports that Yvonne and Michelle prepare.

Want to know more about who you’re dealing with?

Back in 2014 I graduated from Bond University with a Bachelor of Journalism. Studying journalism opened up a whole new world and taught me some invaluable skills. I found myself especially adoring editing and wanting to be more involved in this field.

During my studies I was able to experience a vast array of journalistic fields, from copy writing to film. It was hands on and intricate, I was taught how to better refine my writing and how to edit my own film pieces. For one of my classes we even got to experience being part of a real life newsroom.

In 2013 for my university course work I was even granted the honour of being a part of the team that won the Sally A White Award for Investigative Journalism. However, I found during my studies that I didn’t feel confident with my chosen path and that journalism didn’t seem to fit me.

After graduating, my suspicions that journalism wasn’t quite right for me were quickly confirmed. Of course I didn’t completely wash my hands of journalism as I later found myself writing an article for Territory Q Magazine.

The piece I wrote was about the local NT fireman’s stairclimb competition, Rescue Me. I’d been given the responsibility for writing the piece as at that time I was volunteering for Lifeline, which was that year’s chosen charity that Rescue Me would be donating to. It was a fun experience getting interviews with the firies and taking lots of photographs.

I spent the last 2 years working casually in customer service retail, whilst simultaneously freelance writing while I figured out what my next step would be. After all, if you want to succeed in your career then it should be something you are passionate about. You should always strive to be able to love your job. In October this year, I quit my job, said goodbye to a wonderful team of co-workers, and took a two month European sabbatical.

My return to Australia

It’s become evident to me that my focus needs to be on what I love – writing and editing.

I’ve always been an avid reader and pride myself on being able to easily pick up on mistakes in both spelling and grammar. As a child, I used to enjoy finding that one mistake there always seems to be in a book. Even whilst in High School I was editing and assisted with some ghost editing of a book before it was taken to a professional.

Whilst I’m an avid reader and have been called on numerous times by friends for help with spelling and word choice, I’m also not afraid to admit I wasn’t always the smart cookie that I am today.

Overcoming Obstacles

During the years of my earlier education I actually had to have learning support and go to Kumon for help with improving my grades. I was also a somewhat slow writer. However, that was a long time ago and I’ve overcome those challenges.

I certainly didn’t envisage that I would become one of the youngest journalism graduates, or be able to complete my degree in just 2 years!

Overcoming obstacles is what helps to shape us as people, and I’ve overcome a few.

As head of the Writing Bureau for Dragon Sisters you can be sure that I’ll be doing all my editing with a fine toothed comb and utilising all my skills to provide you with the best possible service.

I look immensely forward to working with Dragon Sisters and managing our team of exceptional VAs.

Sasha Hanton

Sasha Hanton_Dragon Sisters My full bio is available on LinkedIn

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.