5 Routines You Can Implement Now To Make You a More Efficient Virtual Assistant

5 Routines You Can Implement Now To Make You a More Efficient Virtual Assistant

If you are not working with regular routines in your VA business, and instead handling everything ‘as it comes up’, you are probably wasting time and risking burnout.

Routines are an excellent way to bring regularity into your VA business.

All business owners have lots of balls in the air, and it’s important to manage them well regularly, so none of them drop.

One of the best ways you can manage your ever-changing workload is to implement regular routines that can help you to keep on top of what needs doing, prioritize it accordingly, and get it done.

Routines improve your productivity and efficiency – and they don’t have to be boring.

First, here are some ‘don’t do this’ tips for you:

Don’t open your email first thing in the morning. Save the first hour of every day for you. Opening your email as soon as you sit down to work means that you are letting others set your priorities. Set your own priorities for the day and then tackle your email.

Don’t leave notifications open all day. There is no reason for others to interrupt your work flow when you work alone. Schedule times during the day to check in on things that you would normally get interrupted by, and keep those ‘check’ times short so you can stay on task and get your work done.

Don’t forget to take breaks. Working all the way through the day is not productive, and it’s not good for your health either. Be sure to schedule in regular breaks (they can be short!) so you can come back to your desk refreshed.

Knowing what not to do is one thing – making sure you aren’t doing it is another. Are you guilty of any of these things?

Here are 5 routines that can help you start working more efficiently today:

1. Beginning of Week Routine

At the beginning of each week, set your schedule for the coming week. What do you plan to do, and when? Using your calendar to block out time for what you need to get done is an excellent way to preserve that time before the day arrives. Book in 30 minutes to lay out your week and hold those times sacred!

2. Morning Routine

First thing each morning, set a series of things that you need to do for your business - that might be checking your bank account, or doing some business correspondence/follow up, or answering your social media messages. Book in 30 minutes every morning before you start serving others to look after your own business.

3. Midday Routine

Midway through your day, create a routine that helps you stay focused and sharp. That might be checking in on your email or social media platforms – for a scheduled amount of time (again, I suggest 30 minutes!). But maybe it’s just getting out for a quick walk, having lunch away from your desk, or reading a book. Clearing your mind of the things that you have been working on is important to come back to your desk refreshed.

4. End of Day Routine

Before you pack it up for the day, be sure to set up your task list for the next day. It is easiest to prioritize what you need to do when you are not under pressure to do everything ‘now’. By setting your priorities for the following day, you can move and shift things around so that your workflow is efficient.

5. End of Week Routine

At the end of each week, take a few moments to reflect on what you have done. Reporting and analytics are great things to do at the end of the week – they show you what is working for you, and doing this on Fridays helps you close off the week knowing just how your business is doing.

Scheduling time in your day (even just a little) every day also helps you to avoid ‘fitting in’ managing your business around your client work. You must make your own business a priority, just like your clients work.

Managing your business well means looking at it every single day – which many VAs do not do.

Putting routines in place doesn’t have to be boring – in fact all you are doing is putting a framework in place to look after very important areas in your business.

Staying organized and prioritizing what you need to get done helps you become more efficient, and more successful.

And routines are a great way to break your day into regular activities. Try one or all of these routines for yourself – you’ll look forward to it once you get it working for you!

If you need some more help getting organized or trying to manage your time better, check out my Work Smarter: Time Management for VAs program here. You will learn 10 action steps you can take now to start managing your time better. Time is money when you are a VA, so make yours work for you.

About the Author: Tracey D’Aviero is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Author. After operating a busy VA business of her own since 1996, Tracey began teaching others to run their VA businesses in 2010 through Your VA Mentor. In 2016 she purchased the CAVA and GAVA VA associations and now teaches and coaches VAs exclusively. She has a vast amount of experience working in many different industries which helps her to offer her students and coaching clients a unique perspective and sound advice. She is a proud advocate of the Virtual Assistant industry. Learn more about Tracey’s journey in the VA industry here.

How to Prioritize Your VA Tasks So You Get More Done

Prioritizing your task list is a good idea when you have a lot of things to get done.

What kind of system do you use to keep your VA business organized?

As a Virtual Assistant, we often have many people throwing tasks and things to do our way – and that can get out of hand very quickly.

And of course, the squeaky wheel often gets the grease – so sometimes the pushier clients try to tell us when we need to do our work.

The more organized you can be yourself, the more you can manage your own workload and prioritize your own tasks.

It is important when you are working with multiple clients that you are the one who prioritizes things, and not the clients.

Being organized takes practice and experience, and learning some techniques to do it better is always a good thing!

1. Keep a master list.

Start by writing down everything you need to get done. A master list is a really good tool to get things out of your head and help you decide what needs to be done, and when. Take your master list and break it into daily work items as necessary, but that master list is important to start with.

2. Work tidy.

Are you a piler or a filer? How do you keep things organized on your desk or computer? Working tidy is a good concept – only keep what you are working on in front of you, and put away everything else. If you don’t use paper, then think of this in terms of web browser tabs – close everything you are not using so you can concentrate on what you are doing. When you focus on just the task at hand, you will work more efficiently.

3. Always be on time.

When you are providing support for a lot of different people, you need to really use your calendar to keep things on track. Set appointments and task start times, and make sure you hold to them. Use meeting agendas to keep them running on time. When you start everything on time, that is the beginning of excellent time management.

4. Respect your stop times.

As much as start times are important, stop times are even moreso. You have to make a plan to complete a task in a certain period of time, so that you can be the most productive. If you are supposed to stop working on something in an hour so you can move along to something else, do that. Our brain can work much faster than we think – if we set an hour to get something done, we can do it. If you leave the ‘stop’ time open, you can get distracted and take longer to complete everything you do.

5. Use a prioritization matrix.

To help you decide what you should do first, or next, consider using a prioritization matrix. There are many varieties of them, so find one that works for you. A sample one could use the parameters Urgent -> Important -> Can Wait -> Doesn’t Need to Be Done. Not everything is urgent, but important things need to get done before those that can wait. When you identify the urgency of each task you can put it in your calendar to do at the right time. And definitely don’t forget to remove those things that don’t really need to be done to free up your time for the important and urgent stuff.

If you need some help getting organized or trying to manage your time better, check out my Work Smarter: Time Management for VAs program here. You will learn 10 action steps you can take now to start managing your time better. Time is money when you are a VA, so make yours work for you.

About the Author: Tracey D’Aviero is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Author. After operating a busy VA business of her own since 1996, Tracey began teaching others to run their VA businesses in 2010 through Your VA Mentor. In 2016 she purchased the CAVA and GAVA VA associations and now teaches and coaches VAs exclusively. She has a vast amount of experience working in many different industries which helps her to offer her students and coaching clients a unique perspective and sound advice. She is a proud advocate of the Virtual Assistant industry. Learn more about Tracey’s journey in the VA industry here.

5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Virtual Assistant Business

Are you feeling unprepared to start your VA business? If so, you are not the only one.

We all started the same way. With no real knowledge of how it worked, and how we were supposed to get started. I did, too!

How you proceed with your Virtual Assistant business will determine whether you can succeed or whether you will fail.

There are many things that you need to consider when you are getting started or are growing, and you will make mistakes.

Identifying mistakes that can be easily fixed, or avoided all together, is what will help you get past the tough times and on the road to success.

Here are 5 mistakes that you should try to avoid (or fix!) in your Virtual Assistant business:

Learning New Skills to Get Started

Finding clients is hard enough when you first start out. Don't make it harder on yourself by spending money on something that you don't even know you can do or sell. You will need to get comfortable selling yourself to clients, which can be very difficult - and this will be made more challenging when you are trying to sell them something that you have no experience doing for clients yet. Training is great, when it is timed right. But you should never start your business trying to market and sell a brand new service or skill. You have admin experience. Start with what you know.

Charging Rates That Are Too Low

Recognizing our value is always a challenge as Virtual Assistants. We feel like what we do is not as valuable as what other people do. We struggle with selling our value to clients. And that translates to setting prices that are not high enough to sustain our business. When rates are set with intention (and by doing math!) and you know the value that you are providing the clients, they are probably going to be higher than you thought. But your business will thank you. Don't be afraid to set rates that earn you a profit and reflect your expertise.

Getting Stuck in the Research Phase

There is a lot to learn when you start a VA business. Probably more than you thought there would be. But many VAs get stuck in the research phase - looking for advice or simply Googling things and taking free trainings. I've seen VAs spend weeks on their logo and company name, or more than a year on their website. You need to get out of research phase and make a decision. Your business is a living, breathing thing - and it can (and will!) change. Your business name and logo are decisions. Your website should be simple. It will change. Don't let it hold you up. You need to get started to get clients, and you will never start if you keep researching. 

Never Saying No

Clients will ask you to do whatever they need. It is up to you to say yes to things you want to do. It is also up to you to say no to what you don't want to do. You are a business owner and the client does not get to decide what you do for them. If you have a client contract, it should include a scope of work that you discussed before starting to work together. If the task they request is not on that list, you can say no. Saying no is your right, and you need to exercise it so that you stay happy in your business. Your clients will be happy when you are clear, and you can always help them find someone else to do the tasks you don't want to do.

Not Setting Boundaries

Boundaries are a very big part of being a business owner and yet they are grossly overlooked, especially by Virtual Assistants. We are helpers by our nature as support professionals, and so saying no and setting boundaries can be difficult for us. But setting things like business hours or work time helps everyone know when you are working and when you are not - so that you can balance everything in your life. Just because you are at home doesn't mean you are available to everyone all the time. Set boundaries and be sure you follow them yourself. Again, clarity is the key, and it keeps everyone happy.

Are you currently doing any of these things?

Avoid these mistakes or fix them if they are part of your business right now.

I challenge you to identify what you are doing that could use a change.

Get help with something if you are having making the change yourself.

It's your business - and your health, and your life. Setting yourself up for long term success helps everyone around you. But especially you. You are worth it!

For more tips on how to take action and get moving, watch this free video: Take Action and Stop Making Excuses on my YouTube channel. There are more than 40 free training videos for VAs there!

About the Author: Tracey D’Aviero is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Author. After operating a busy VA business of her own since 1996, Tracey began teaching others to run their VA businesses in 2010 through Your VA Mentor. In 2016 she purchased the CAVA and GAVA VA associations and now teaches and coaches VAs exclusively. She has a vast amount of experience working in a many different industries which helps her to offer her students and coaching clients a unique perspective and sound advice. She is a proud advocate of the Virtual Assistant industry. Learn more about Tracey’s journey in the VA industry here

What You Need to Know About the GDPR (and Why!)

Is your business GDPR compliant?

Unless you've been hiding under a rock lately, you have probably heard about the GDPR.

The GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulations that are coming into effect for people living in the European Union (EU) beginning Friday, May 25, 2018.

Here is what you need to know*:

What is the GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for anyone living in the European Union. (Which countries make up the European Union? Click here). The regulation also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU - so, wherever you live.  The GDPR gives control of their personal data to the citizens of the EU. They have the right  to know who has their data, why they have it, what they are doing with it, who they are sharing it with, and how to access it and delete it.

The GDPR actually came into being in April 2016, but there has been a two-year transition period in place. It becomes enforceable on May 25, 2018.

Why is it important?

The GDPR is important to residents of the EU because of the rights they will now have regarding their own personal data worldwide. It is important to those outside the EU because if you are collecting, processing or holding the data of someone in the EU and they have not consented for you to have it or use it, you could face stiff fines (up to $20 million pounds or 4% of your company's worldwide income). This is a law, and it is enforceable, so that is what makes it so important to understand. 

What kind of data is included?

The regulations include what is called "Personal Data". Basically, the main purpose of the GDPR is to protect the personal data of EU citizens. Personal data is anything that is identifiable to a specific person. It's not just about email addresses. It's about IP addresses of computers, names, addresses, credit card information, and more.

How will it affect my business?

If you are not connecting with or marketing to residents of the EU, you could be safe. However, this doesn't mean that you have EU customers. This includes your customers, your email subscribers, your website and blog visitors, anywhere you have contact with EU citizens is affected. If you are using custom audiences for your Facebook Ads, you will need to be sure your mailing list knows. And if you are using Google Analytics or Facebook pixels on your website, you are collecting cookies and that needs to be made compliant (for EU citizens) as well. 

The GDPR regulations are for data processors and data controllers. , etc. the basis of the GDPR is that it includes data processors and data controllers. The official definitions of these two are:

Data controller:  Article 4 (7) ‘controller’ means the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which, alone or jointly with others, determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data; where the purposes and means of such processing are determined by Union or Member State law, the controller or the specific criteria for its nomination may be provided for by Union or Member State law;

Data processor: Article 4 (8) ‘processor’ means a natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which processes personal data on behalf of the controller;

Data controllers are you, and anyone else who works within your company who has access to the data that is being collected. 

Data processors are the businesses or services you might use to process the data that is being collected.

Simple example: If you have an opt in on your website, and you use Aweber as your email service, and you have Google Analytics activated on your website, YOU are the data controller. Aweber and Google Analytics are the data processors. Make sense? So your data processors are your ecommerce/bookkeeping systems (or services), your email system, etc. 

What do I need to do to comply with GDPR?

Review your processes and update as necessary:

  • Maintain records of the data you are collecting and processing (or having processed on your company's behalf). 
  • Make a list of those who are processing your company data for analytics, mailing lists, marketing, payment processing, online storage systems, web hosts, website, etc.
  • Ensure that you have proof of consent for personal email data (ie mailing list). If you can't prove consent, obtain fresh consent.
  • Implement a system for people to choose the way you can use their data (ie allow them to opt out of any and all forms of retargeting, marketing, segmentation, and communication).
  • Develop a plan to remove stale data from your company's records.
  • Be certain that your business's data processors are GDPR compliant.
  • Educate your employees, subcontractors and partners on your procedures if they are handling your data in any way, or provide a Code of Conduct for them to adhere to.
  • Update your Privacy Policy on your website to include GDPR compliant language (or add a special GDPR addendum to your existing Privacy Policy if you prefer and link it to your existing policy). Add a link to this page on every page of your website, and on your data collection forms (order forms, email opt ins).
  • Update your Terms of Service on your website to include GDPR compliant language. Link your terms page to your Privacy Policy page.
  • If you do use analytics or a Facebook pixel, install a notification (pop up) to tell people their data is being collected when they visit your site.
  • Ensure that your contacts are able to contact you easily if they have they questions about their data that you may be in possession of, or request for their data to be deleted from your possession ('the right to be forgotten').
  • Develop a system to handle a data breach, should it occur.

Get more information:

If you want the whole shebang in plain English, this is the best article we have found to explain it clearly: Varonis (Michael Buckbee): GDP Requirements in Plain English

Suzanne Dibble is a UK lawyer who provides excellent information about GDPR compliance. She has a free checklist here: http://globalava.org/gdpr . She also runs an excellent GDPR specific Facebook group (download her checklist to get an invitation to join it), where you can get specific help.  She also sells a GDPR Compliance Pack that provides all the forms you might need to become compliant, if you want a handy little package (the webinar is very helpful too!) 

The Bottom Line:

Whether you are actively marketing to EU citizens or not, these are good changes to make to your business. It probably won't be long before something like this is rolled out by other countries as well. Data protection is a huge topic of discussion in all areas of business. Don't avoid the whole thing and hope you don't get caught. Do what you need to, to become compliant. Know what data you are collecting, develop good procedures to handle, process and store it, and make sure your connections know that too, and you'll be just fine. 


Disclaimer: The Global Alliance of Virtual Assistants (GAVA) is not an official GDPR resource. GAVA is a educational website and blog, and the information contained within this site in no way constitutes legal advice. Any person who intends to rely upon or use the information contained herein in any way is solely responsible for independently verifying the information and obtaining independent expert advice as required to become GDPR compliant.

*Article sources: Suzanne Dibble (UK Lawyer), Information Commissioners Office (ICO), Varonis Systems Inside Out Security, Europa EU, Wikipedia (definitions),

About the Author: Tracey D’Aviero is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Author. After operating a busy VA business of her own since 1996, Tracey began teaching others to run their VA businesses in 2010 through Your VA Mentor. In 2016 she purchased the CAVA and GAVA VA associations and now teaches and coaches VAs exclusively. She has a vast amount of experience working in a many different industries which helps her to offer her students and coaching clients a unique perspective and sound advice. She is a proud advocate of the Virtual Assistant industry. Learn more about Tracey’s journey in the VA industry here

Software for Professional Billing

time is money!As a business owner, you will need to send invoices to your clients in order to get paid. Sending a professional-looking invoice not only creates a good image for your business, but it also aids in helping you get paid on time.

Clients are going to treat you in a more professional manner if you treat your business in a more professional manner. Plus, as a business owner it is imperative that you are able to manage invoicing and billing in an organized manner to keep your business running smoothly.

One way to manage invoicing is to use invoicing software. Today there are a variety of different invoicing software options available that you can use to manage your invoicing in a professional, organized way. There are both free and paid options around. Here are a few that you can consider.

FreshBooks

This is cloud-based professional invoicing software that allows you to send professional-looking invoices no matter how your client likes them - by email, in the mail, or even directly to their Freshbooks account. It also allows you to track time and manage expenses on each project so that you can track profitability of everything that you do. FreshBooks syncs with a variety of other systems such as Outright.org, Basecamp.com and Zendesk.com to help you manage your entire business.

QuickBooks

Available both as cloud-based software and as local software on your computer, QuickBooks offers advanced invoicing options. If you often send estimates first to your clients, you can convert your estimated invoice to a regular invoice automatically. You can also schedule automatic invoices to be created and sent to clients on a particular date. You simply keep track of all the work you do for that client and the system will grab it and make the invoice for you.

Wave

This is a free unlimited invoicing software that allows you to create professional-looking invoices. You can customize your invoices by altering the template with your own logo and colors. You can even add a pay now button to your email invoices that allows your customers who use credit cards to pay your invoice automatically. This free software is also totally mobile ready and completely in the cloud.

PayPal Invoicing

Many people don't realize it, but you can also use PayPal's free invoicing tool to send professional invoices via email to all your clients. If you have a business account, you simply go to "Request Money" then choose Create an Invoice. You can save invoices and client information so that each time you create them you don't have to re-enter all their information. You can't customize them as much as the other offerings but you can add your logo to them. They are free and a lot of people like them.

No matter which software you choose to use, you'll be sure to look more professional if you use a professional program for invoicing. Not only that, you'll be more organized because you'll know who owes you and who has paid you at a glance.

References:

FreshBooks
http://www.freshbooks.com/

QuickBooks
http://quickbooks.intuit.com/invoicing/

Wave
https://www.waveapps.com/invoicing/

PayPal Invoicing
https://www.paypal.com

Ten Ways To Balance Work and Family

balanceBalancing a work life and a home life can be difficult, but with a little knowledge and planning, you can make it work for you.  Here are ten tips that will help you balance your work life and home life.

1.  Set realistic goals.  It's pretty much a given fact that if you want to achieve something big, you have to make some sacrifices.  While the select few can manage, most people can't become a CEO and run a successful household.  When setting your goals, be realistic and don't stretch yourself too thin.

2.  Make schedules.  Keeping track of work and your family can be difficult to plan.  Try to keep a set schedule from day to day and week to week if you can.  Always remember to make a written schedule and give everyone a copy.

3.  Take time for yourself.  It's a natural instinct of mothers to sacrifice themselves for the good of their family.  However, it's important to remember that if you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else.  Try to schedule in at least a few minutes of "you time", whether it be going for a run, watching your favorite TV show, or just sitting in a room by yourself to relax for a few minutes.   

4.  Work from home.  If you can do your work over the Internet or phone, you may be able to swing working at least part of the time from home, giving you more time to spend with your family.  Just remember that there are a lot more things at home to distract you from getting your work done.

5.  Get some exercise.  Working out is not only a great way to stay healthy and gain energy, it's also a great way to spend time with your kids.  Instead of hitting the gym, go play ball in the park or take them for a walk.

6.  Take advantage of leave.  Most jobs allow you a certain amount of leave, but a lot of us end up not using it.  Make sure you know how much time you have and take it, whether you go on a vacation with your family or just use it to take a well-deserved rest day every so often.  

7.  Prioritize.  When making your to-do lists, figure out the things that are most important for you to do and get them done first.  If there isn't enough time to do everything, you won't feel as bad about what you have to cut.

8.  Take classes.  As many people will tell you, there's no manual on how to be a good parent and have a successful career.  But if you search around your community, you can find classes and seminars from people that have been where you are and managed to do well.  They can give you inspiration along with helpful tips and tidbits to get through your day.

9.  Watch for burn out.  Even if you schedule everything, take breaks, and do everything else above, what you're doing may just be too much for you.  Watch yourself for changes in mood or physical problems.  They could be a sign that you're burnt out and need to make some changes to your plans.  Remember, your health is important too.

10.  Learn to say no.  If you want to have a successful career and family life, you will have to learn to say no occasionally.  If you try to do everything, you're going to burn yourself out and not be able to take care of anyone.  Being a good employee and a good parent doesn't mean you need to do everything you're asked.