Business planning for the new year

small business planning for the new year

Writing this post is going to force me to do my business planning for the new year. And I’m sharing it all! What I mean by that is that it might not be pretty. You’ll see that I’m going to focus equally on home and family life goals because feelings of accomplishment come from everything that we do. I can make all the money in the world, but if I don’t teach my kids how to be good people (fill in the blank) then I won’t have accomplished my most important mission.

I had 2 pretty huge ah-ha moments when I read Danah’s last article about how to do a year-end review of your business.

  1. Happiness and passion are huge contributors to drive and motivation. It is also what makes those hard times worth it, so remember that while numbers talk, happiness helps you get out of bed in the morning and do it all again.
  2. This part is paraphrased: what do you need to leave behind? AKA don’t carry dead weight into the new year. (mind BLOWN! As if I needed someone else to paint me a picture!)

How I’m going to build my plan

I will start by breaking my day (and my life) into segments. After that, I will develop each segment into more details of wants and needs. I’ll come up with the amount of time needed for each task. And finally, I will make some family goals and see how I will fit those into the big picture.

Let’s get started.

I have my kids. And I have my business.

You want to be sure that you have time to follow through on your plans. For obvious reasons, because you want your business to succeed, so that you can make money. But also because you want to feel the success of following your business plan. So make sure you have enough time in your day, week, or month to accomplish your goals.

Kids

My kids are in grade school and preschool, so Monday through Friday I have specific tasks that involve getting them to and from school. They are also in Taekwondo, so I take them to that 4 nights a week.

The stuff I do for my kids is my obligation. So I can start by filling my daily schedule with those items. That will allow me to see where I have “free” time to work my business. In my case, working from home as a single mom, my available time will dictate a lot of what I can do.

I want my kids to start learning more about taking care of themselves and the house. Cleaning up after themselves is the main thing, but other things like dishes and laundry. One of the things I can do is save these tasks for the evenings when we are all home and I will have to get them involved. Additionally, that will also ensure that I’m not using my free time during the day for something that I can do at night when the kids are home.

Business

Next, we have my business. I have 2 businesses: my virtual assistant business and I also work for a solar company. My businesses are both independent contractor roles, and the money I make is more or less a result of the time I put in. I’m not punching a clock for either of them, and it’s up to me to work and make sure that I have money coming in.

Now that I’ve identified 2 different work segments, I need to break that down further.

Breaking my business down

I’m going to break down both businesses into different income-producing channels. After I’ve made the list, I’ll go back and qualify each with the time it takes to do it, and how much of an impact it has on my income.

Virtual assistant business

My VA business makes money in two ways: clients, and selling digital assets.

Val and I want new clients, so I will check job boards daily for new leads. I am using the lead finder for the Fully Booked VA. This used to be called Horkey Handbook. I highly recommend the Fully Booked VA if you’re serious about being a VA. BUT, I also have a free email course that you should run through first. 😉

Time needed: Checking for new leads takes mere minutes. However, if I need to send an email to someone, while I re-use my emails, I adjust them for each new lead and I want to have a good 30 minutes available for this task.

Having clients is how we make money, so all I really need to do is look for new leads! But what else can I do? I can continue to write new blog posts like this.

Time needed: Depending on the topic, my enthusiasm, and the amount of research I need to do, this can take as little as one hour. But usually more like 3-4 hours from start to finish. So for the sake of planning, we’ll say 4 hours.

What can I do to increase digital asset sales? Blog posts are the main way to draw attention to my digital assets. So when I’m thinking about what to write, I need to incorporate those items.

I think I make “publishing a blog post every week” my goal every year. 😂 If you’re following me, you know it doesn’t happen. The question is why? And the answer is simple: I haven’t made it a priority. It doesn’t feel like a money-maker. But I’ve paid Val for several years now to build my Pinterest following, and she’s done an amazing job! When she started, I had around 100 followers and now it’s over 500!

Measurable goals for VA business

I’m officially making it my goal again: 1 blog post per week! And new clients. Goals have to be measurable, though, so the new client goal is actually to check for new leads daily.

Will these goals give me the results that I want? If I check for new leads daily, I will eventually find new clients. I don’t know if publishing weekly will affect my digital sales, but it certainly can’t hurt.

And there you have my 2 goals for my virtual assistant business.

Solar business

This is a bit more complex because I am a manager and do other activities for the whole team. I will use those activities for my time planning. But for income-producing activities, I need to knock on doors. This is where I make the most money, and the time I put in does have an effect on my income.

How will I measure “door-knocking?” There are a few things I can track, but the main numbers I look at are the number of hours and the number of sets. (I’m setting appointments for solar evaluations.)

For each hour that I knock on doors, I set approximately one appointment. And approximately 1 out of every 5 appointments turns into a sale. The company that I work for gives a $500 M1 payment shortly after the contract is signed, and the balance of the commission comes after the solar system is installed.

If I work backward from my financial needs, I want to make sure that I’m bringing in a minimum of $3k per month. So just from my M1 payments, I need to make 6 sales per month. (That’s $500 x 6 sales). Keep in mind that if I make 6 sales, there will be larger commissions that come in down the road. But I’m just counting the money that comes in shortly after the sale.

Time needed: 7.5 hours per week. How I got that number… If 1 in 5 sets becomes a sale, and I want 6 sales, I need to set 5 appointments for every sale. So 5 x 6 is 30 appointments per month. If I set approximately 1 appointment per hour, I need to knock on doors for 30 hours per month, or 7.5 hours per week. Not all appointments are held, but I’m not going to get into that number.

I will admit that 7.5 hours per week doesn’t sound like much, but it will be hard for me. Not impossible, but hard. I have about 4 hours in the middle of the day when all of the kids are at school. I will need to knock on doors for 2 hours per day, 4 days of the week. What feels more doable is to work 3 days during the week and then a couple of hours on Saturday or Sunday. This is something that I will play with to see what works for me. I have to remember that I do independent contractor roles like this so that I have flexibility and control over my time.

Another way I can look at this is that I need to set 30 appointments per month. Are there other ways that I can set appointments that don’t require me to knock on doors? Absolutely! I can follow up with old leads. And I can ask for referrals. Both of these are things that I can do when the kids are home.

Measurable goal for Solar business

So my main goal is 30 sets per month. As noted above, I have at least 2 different ways to get sets that work for me.

If you’re interested in getting your home evaluated for solar, please reach out to me using this form. The form is set up for central Illinois, but just tell me where you’re at because we sell all over the country! The same goes for work: if you’re interested in hearing about how you can make money setting appointments, just reach out to me by email and we can chat.

My plan summarized

Most of my business plan for the new year has to do with how to maximize the projects that I’m already working on, and how to fit it into my day. REPEAT: HOW TO FIT IT INTO MY DAY.

How you can do it

List out what you do (your sources of income) as well as your daily obligations. Identify how much time you need for everything. What can you grow, or do without? Do you need to improve upon something?

It’s like you’re setting your priorities. I can’t stress enough that you need to have time in the day to finish the things you want to do, or you might feel like you failed when you never had a chance to begin with.

Here’s what mine looks like just written out on paper.

2024 GoalsList of goals
Rough plan of my goals for the new year

Probably the most important part is the bottom few lines where I segment my day into time slots. In the morning I have my little one with me, and I list out the things I can do when we’re together: blog writing, going to the gym, texting leads for appointments, team work, which is responding to emails and looking up projects on the computer. I can also do stuff like laundry during this time.

In the middle of the day is when I am free, and according to my goals, I need to use this time to knock on doors!

After school and through the evening, I have the kids and we have taekwondo. I can still hop on the computer to finish things, but it’s important to me to be flexible, and I want to avoid computer work at night so I can focus on the kids and our home needs.

I love that the weekends are completely open, again, for flexibility. If something doesn’t get done during the week, I still have the weekend to get caught up. Plus we have time to do family activities.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do this line of work (independent contractor and work-at-home gigs) so that I can be there for my kids when they need me. FLEXIBILITY. As long as I’m taking care of the kids, taking them to their activities, and I’m there for them on sick days, and teaching them how to be good people, then I’m doing what I need to do.

 

Amazon Prime Day 2023

computer and shopping cart with words: how to shop Amazon Prime Day 2023

I can’t hide it – I’m an Amazon junkie! So I’m going to share my best practices for Amazon Prime Day 2023!

You might wonder how I, as a small business owner, could give my money to a monopoly like Amazon. I do my share of shopping with friends who have businesses. Danah calls it her social networking business. I call it direct sales. It’s all the same. It’s a person you know, or come to know, who sells a product and earns a commission on their sales. I still do my fair share of this kind of shopping!

But please don’t beat me up for my Amazon habit! Did you know that over 50% of everything sold on Amazon comes from small and medium-sized businesses? People just like you and me can sell on Amazon!

With that being said, I am going to share my favorite Amazon items and how to shop Amazon Prime Day 2023! While I don’t sell on Amazon, I do have an affiliate link, so anything you look at might give me a small kickback. As a matter of fact, just by entering Amazon through the links I’m going to share, if you make a purchase, even if it’s not what I’ve shared, I should still get a commission for sending you into the Amazon abyss!

What is Prime Day?

Amazon Prime Day is an exclusive event for Amazon Prime members. The first Prime Day was on July 15, 2015, on Amazon’s 20th anniversary. It was started as a way to celebrate Prime members, and IMO, has grown into a holiday of sorts. It’s the official start of my Christmas shopping, as I usually find at least 1 deal for the kids that I just can’t pass up!

When is Prime Day 2023?

Amazon Prime Day 2023 is Tuesday and Wednesday, July 11th and 12th. It’s 48 hours, from 12 am on the 11th, until 11:59 pm on the 12th. If you’re reading this after 2023, it’s pretty easy to Google search and find the dates!

Amazon Prime Membership

You have to be an Amazon Prime member. You can pay monthly, or annually, which gets you a discount. At the time of writing this, the monthly membership is $14.99 USD/month, or $139 annually. There are ways to get discounts, like with your Snap/Link card, or student discounts.

The list of benefits is so long! There are delivery benefits, streaming and digital benefits, shopping benefits, reading benefits, and more. Free shipping and access to Prime Video are my top favorite perks. But while looking for this list, a free year of Grubhub+ caught my eye!

If you’re not a member yet, you can go here to get started!

What I buy on Amazon

I buy everything from toys to clothes and electronics. My hobby is jewelry making and I have found some of my best supplies on Amazon, like zippers and swivel clips! This leather tassel end cap is used in my most popular Etsy item!

The last thing I bought on Amazon is an LED Night Light. We had one that I bought a few years ago and Ethan recently found that one. So I had to get another one for Zander. I searched and could have gotten the exact same one but decided that a different one would be better to avoid confusion about who’s is who’s!

Earlier this summer, I bought a couple of different swimsuits! I love this flowy swim top! I’m not a huge fan of clothes shopping, but if you can think it, you can search it, and you can likely find several options! What I love about it is the ease of returns. It took us 3 tries to find the right size of shoes for Ana’s first communion.

Electronics on Amazon

Kids’ tablets. ‘Nuff said! I’d have to count how many of the Fire tables I’ve bought over the years due to kids getting older and getting upgrades. I’ve claimed the free warranty return a couple of times and that worked well. Most recently, I traded in an old tablet for a discount on a new one. I usually wait for Black Friday deals, or Prime Day (duh!) to get the best deals. Remember to get the screen protectors too!

If you’re like me, you want to talk hands-free. Like I need both hands free to think straight, lol. I found Amazon to be the best (easiest) place to get Bluetooth earpieces. I like this brand and style, but I usually can find one that costs about half of this. This IS the last one I got, but the sound quality isn’t great. Hopefully I can get a new one this year on Prime Day! 🤞

I have gotten a couple of different sets of earbuds, only multiple for having lost a pair. Interestingly, I found that I can use just 1 earbud for phone calls! So this is my current favorite! Oh, and it’s actually on sale right now!

Amazon around home

You need to organize? Check out Amazon for home organizing ideas. I decided I needed something for mail and bills that need to be paid. I searched for “mail organizing caddy” and then “farmhouse mail organizer wall mount” and this is the one I ended up with. But there are so many cute options! I picked this one because it’s a nice price point, plus I wanted hooks.

I have also ordered larger home items, like a writing desk and storage cubbies. The desk I have is no longer available, but I like this writing desk for Ana’s room!

Amazon for business

Clearly, the desk and Bluetooth can be considered “business” essentials for me. And the craft supplies are my small business supplies. I have gotten other items like paper and pens. At one time, composition notebooks were part of my client organization plan, where I had a different notebook for each client. I got this laptop elevation stand to keep my laptop off the table. The added space underneath it was an added bonus.

Most interestingly, when preparing the write this post, I stumbled across AWS, or Amazon Web Services. I will go into this in more detail in a different post. (watch for the link to appear here!)

Tips for shopping Prime Day

I highly recommend making a list or a budget, or both. Having both a list and a budget will keep you from getting things that you don’t really need. If you’re keeping an eye out for toys or possibly Christmas gifts, ask your kids ahead of time what’s new and hot. You don’t want to get it if it was last year’s “it thing”.

Put an alarm on your phone. I would look the days leading up to it to see what promotions they have going on. I have read that starting on July 3rd, you can purchase $50 Amazon Gift Card for yourself and you’ll receive a $5 credit. It doesn’t seem like much, but that’s like saving an additional 10%. And if you know you’re going to spend it, it doesn’t hurt to save a little more!

Will you be shopping on Amazon Prime Day 2023? I hope you found this helpful! Let us know what you’re watching for (or what you get) at this year’s Amazon Prime Day shopping event!

Time Management Strategies for Virtual Assistants

girl working at home office desk; desk is clean and free from distractions

Managing multiple projects and deadlines in a fast-paced digital environment can be challenging as a virtual assistant. Don’t worry – we’ve got some time-saving tips to help you make the most of your day!

First, we’ll break down the difference between urgent and essential tasks. Then we’ll show you how to use techniques like time blocking and the Pomodoro technique. Last we’ll talk about prioritizing tasks efficiently, and keeping distractions at bay!

Prioritizing Tasks

Knowing the difference between an urgent and essential task can be key to understanding how to manage your time effectively, and ultimately, it has a huge impact on the success of your day.

Understanding urgent vs. essential tasks

Urgent tasks require immediate attention and often have short-term consequences. This would be something that is due TODAY. Something with a specific deadline that is approaching quickly.

On the other hand, essential tasks contribute to long-term goals and objectives. This would be like checking emails or doing something on a weekly or monthly basis.

By recognizing which tasks are urgent and which are essential, you can better allocate your resources to ensure both types of tasks get the appropriate attention they need.

Creating daily and weekly to-do lists

Want to stay on top of your workload? To-do lists can be a great tool for staying organized and prioritizing tasks. Create daily or weekly to-do lists focusing on the most urgent and important items. Once you complete a task, cross it off the list – this will help you keep track of your progress and give you a sense of accomplishment.

Be sure to regularly review and update your list in case priorities need to change. I like to use a worksheet that I made. On the right-hand side, I make a list of all of the things I need to do for the week or month. On the left side, I make daily notes for things that are urgent, or that need to be done on or by a specific day. 

Making your to-do list isn’t enough. You need to have a plan of attack – how you’ll work your way through the list. But first, allocate time for each task.

Allocating Time and Setting Deadlines

Allocating time and setting deadlines for specific tasks will help to keep you on track throughout your day and throughout the course of a project.

Estimating the time required for each task

Knowing how long a task will take is essential for effective time management. Estimate each task’s time, considering any potential obstacles that could slow you down. Once you have an estimate, you can plan accordingly and set realistic expectations for yourself.

I know how much time I have between taking my big kids to school and getting my little one on his bus. For example, I have two and a half hours. So I figure I can spend one hour on something, 3o minutes on something, and then I can also do one or two other “quick” things. It’s nice to know how long something will take so that I don’t expect too much from myself. With practice, you’ll become better at more accurately estimating the time needed for tasks and better equipped to manage your workload efficiently.

Breaking tasks into manageable subtasks

Facing a large or complex task? Breaking it down into smaller, more manageable subtasks will help you stay organized and make steady progress.

Start by listing all of the elements of the task, then prioritize each subtask based on urgency or importance. As you work through the list, you’ll get closer to completing the larger goal while also achieving a sense of accomplishment. With this approach, tackling even the most daunting tasks becomes possible!

Time Management Techniques

The time management technique you choose is basically the means by which you’ll work through your to-do list. There are numerous time management techniques out there, and each technique can be modified to fit your needs. It’s a good idea to try different techniques to see what works best for you.

Time blocking

Time blocking is an effective technique that involves scheduling specific blocks of time for each task on your to-do list. By assigning a dedicated time slot to each task, you can maintain focus, minimize distractions, and ensure you’re giving sufficient attention to your priorities. Time blocking also helps you visualize your day or week and avoid overloading your schedule.

Regularly review and adjust your schedule to make sure you’re making the most efficient use of your time. When setting up your time blocks, think about your energy levels throughout the day, the urgency and importance of tasks, and any external deadlines you need to meet. Consider taking breaks and adding buffer time to provide flexibility for unexpected interruptions or tasks that may take longer than expected. 

Pomodoro technique for focused work sessions

The Pomodoro technique is a time management method that involves breaking your work into short, focused intervals (usually 25 minutes) called “Pomodoros,” followed by a brief break (typically 5 minutes). After completing four Pomodoros, take a longer break (15-30 minutes) to recharge. This technique helps maintain focus, reduce mental fatigue, and increase productivity by encouraging regular breaks and preventing burnout. 

To implement the Pomodoro technique, choose a task, set a timer for 25 minutes, and work steadily until the timer goes off. Then, take a 5-minute break before starting the next Pomodoro. Adjust the duration of your work intervals and breaks as needed to suit your preferences and energy levels.

Task batching for increased efficiency

Task batching involves grouping similar tasks and completing them in a dedicated block of time. This strategy can help streamline your workflow, minimize context-switching, and increase productivity.

For example, you could batch tasks like responding to emails, making phone calls, or processing invoices. You probably already do this for personal tasks such as paying bills and folding laundry. 

Balancing multiple tasks and projects

As a virtual assistant, you may manage multiple tasks and projects simultaneously. Consider the following strategies to effectively balance your responsibilities:

  1. Prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance.
  2. Create a clear and organized workspace to help you stay focused and reduce distractions.
  3. Develop a daily and weekly plan that outlines your essential tasks and projects and allocate time for each using time blocking or another scheduling method.
  4. Stay adaptable and be prepared to adjust your schedule as priorities or deadlines change.
  5. Communicate regularly with clients and team members to manage expectations and ensure that you’re staying on track.

By implementing these techniques, you can effectively manage your time, juggle multiple tasks, and maintain your productivity as a virtual assistant.

Staying Focused and Avoiding Distractions

Being distracted while working from home is a common problem among virtual assistants. The ability to manage distractions will help you stay productive and provide the best service you can for your clients. 

Identify common distractions

Distractions like social media, emails, phone calls, text messages, and external noise can interrupt your focus and productivity. It’s important to identify which ones most affect your work and develop strategies to minimize their impact. 

Create a dedicated workspace

Setting up a dedicated workspace can help you stay focused during work hours. Find a quiet, comfortable space with minimal distractions and set up your work equipment, such as a computer, phone, and necessary supplies. Personalize the workspace with ergonomic furniture, good lighting, and any items that motivate or inspire you, like quotes or artwork.

Techniques for maintaining focus during work hours

Effective focus-enhancing techniques can help you stay on task and resist distractions. Consider the following strategies:

  1. Set specific goals for each work session and break them into smaller, manageable tasks.
  2. Use time management techniques like the Pomodoro technique or time blocking to allocate dedicated periods for focused work.
  3. Limit your access to distracting websites or apps during work hours, using tools like website blockers or app timers.
  4. Establish a routine that includes regular work hours, breaks, and designated times for checking email and social media.
  5. Practice mindfulness techniques like deep breathing or meditation to help you refocus when distractions arise.

By staying focused and minimizing distractions, you can make the most of your time, boost your productivity, and deliver high-quality work to your clients.

Balancing Work and Personal Life

It’s essential to establish clear boundaries between your work and personal life to maintain a healthy balance, especially if you work from home. Setting boundaries can help you avoid burnout, reduce stress, and ensure that you can fully engage in both your professional and personal responsibilities

Consider the following strategies:

  1. Set specific working hours and stick to them, taking regular breaks as needed. Make sure to communicate them to clients, colleagues, and family members.
  2. Refrain from responding to emails or other work-related messages outside designated work hours.
  3. Create a dedicated workspace that separates your work environment from your living space.
  4. Give yourself adequate time each day or night for leisure activities or hobbies.

Prioritizing self-care and personal well-being

It’s essential to prioritize self-care to sustain a reasonable work-life balance. Some strategies for caring for your physical, mental, and emotional health include:

  1. Eating nutritious meals and engaging in regular physical activity.
  2. Practicing mindful or meditative techniques for stress reduction.
  3. Setting aside time each week for leisure activities or hobbies that bring you joy.
  4. Connecting with family and friends frequently through phone calls, video chats, or messages.
  5. Taking regular breaks throughout the day and getting enough sleep at night.

Managing personal time effectively

Developing practical time management skills in your personal life will help you maintain a balanced lifestyle and improve your productivity and your overall well-being. Make sure to plan and schedule leisure activities like exercising, socializing with friends, or pursuing hobbies so you don’t overlook them due to work commitments.

When you understand and follow effective time-management techniques as we’ve discussed here, you will experience optimal productivity and success and you’ll be better prepared for long-term success in your business. With dedication and commitment to these strategies, you can make the most of your valuable time and be a first-rate virtual assistant for your clients.

 

Free QR codes

free QR codes

I got a QR code for my  VA business! So yep, I had to research it.

Back up; I got a QR code a couple of years ago for my direct sales business. I never used it, but I went ahead with the same QR code generator.

I’m going to tell you about the one I used, while also checking out some options. But first I’m going to tell you about static vs dynamic.

I hope I’m happy with my choice! I haven’t paid for anything yet, but I plan on it because I already made a code and added it to an ad that will go in my daughter’s dance recital yearbook. So I kinda walked myself into a corner, and again, I hope I’m happy with my choice! 🤷‍♀️😂

QR code – static vs dynamic

Static codes can’t be changed once they’ve been made and printed. On the other hand, a dynamic code can be changed. But why does it matter?

Say you make a code for your business but then you change the website, so you have a new URL. Or maybe you have a direct sales business but you change to a different direct sales company. I mean, face it, some people want your product, but some people want YOU. By changing the URL, your loyal followers can easily follow you to your new business.

I feel like a dynamic code is important so nothing happens to my code! But why would it? I have a website and I don’t plan on changing it. 🤷‍♀️

Do free static QR codes expire?

Based on my research, static codes do not expire. They only go bad if the URL changes or something physically changes the pattern. I should be fine with a simple, free, static QR code.

Why a dynamic QR code might be better

I already mentioned that you can change the URL that the dynamic code points to. This of dynamic as alive. The code itself doesn’t change, but the destination can.

Another reason you might be interested in the dynamic code is because of the tracking that comes along with it. You can see the total scans and the country and city location of the scans.

Tracking will also allow you to test out code designs. You can see which one performs better. Since you can change the color, framing, and add text and arrows, you might have a code that performs better than others.

Last thought about static vs dynamic codes. If you’re going to print it, for example, on a business card or a print ad, a dynamic code is your safe bet.

Free QR codes from QR Code Generator

I got mine from QR Code Generator. You can do a 14-day free trial. When you click on the plans, scroll all the way down and click on the dropdown “do you offer individual plans?” In the fine print, you can activate their free plan and you’ll get a free dynamic code! Yay!

This will work for most people. The free plan also includes 5 static codes. So if you add another business to your lineup, you can quickly make a new code for free. Remember to follow through with the activation so your code doesn’t expire at the end of your trial!

The paid options start at $9.99/month but I really think the free plan will work for me for now. Though I may add the next tier at $15.99/month at some point so I can offer dynamic QR codes with tracking to my clients.

Free QR codes from QR Code Monkey

QR Code Monkey is another free QR code generator. Oh, this is interesting!

First, I entered my direct sales website address. It said it wasn’t a valid URL. Yikes! I finally typed it into a browser and then copied the URL as it appeared – you know how they re-formulate into something a little different? That one worked.

What is really cool is that I was able to make a gradient color image! Check this out:

Qr code for my direct sales business, Thirty-One

Then I clicked to sign up so I can keep this cool-looking code and it said I already have an account. What?? It appears to be the same as the QR Code Generator that I just signed up for this morning!

Sadly, I can’t figure out how to save it. But I did download it so I suppose that I can keep using it. It’ll be interesting to see if this code lasts forever like it says that it will! 🤞

Tip, if you want a gradient code like the one above, follow the link to the QR Code Monkey, make it, and download it. Done. You can’t change it, but you can use it as a free static code.

Free QR codes from The QR Code Generator

I found another free QR code generator, The QR Code Generator. This one appears to be different. You can create a one-time code without ever signing up. If you want a dynamic code, you have to sign up.

I’m constantly signing up for things, so I just want to reiterate that you don’t have to sign up! You can download and keep using the free static code. I would just check it periodically to make sure it’s still working.

Summary

After my research, writing this, and several times re-reading it, my first choice, QR Code Generator, is the one to go with. I say this because you can activate their free plan and have 1 dynamic code as well as 5 static codes. All for free! Just remember to follow through with the activation so your code doesn’t expire at the end of your trial!

Here’s the ad I made for my daughter’s dance yearbook.

Ad for a dance yearbook

I used Canva to make it. I’m kind of chuckling because I really enjoyed making it. 😂 This is what I call “work”.

I spent an hour this morning making this ad, which my business paid for, btw😉.

I decided I should add a QR code, so that’s how this whole post came about. Then while communicating with the owner of the dance studio, she mentioned that she may be contacting me for my services! I call that a good day!

If you’re interested in what I do, you could do it too! Check out this free course I made. It’s delivered for 5 days via email and walks you through the steps of starting your own virtual assistant business. 👍

 

 

 

Using Zelle Payment App

Banking from your phone

While I was trying to figure out what to name this post, I was doing some searching and I came across this story about a woman who was scammed using Zelle. Long story short, she got her money back. But nobody wants to be scammed!

My story using Zelle doesn’t have anything to do with being scammed, but my gosh! I mean, it can happen to anyone, anytime!

What is Zelle?

Zelle is an online payment app that is connected directly to your bank account. Hundreds of banks and credit unions offer Zelle through their banking apps. Don’t worry, if your bank doesn’t have Zelle yet, you can still get the Zelle app from the App Store or Google Play. You no longer have to use the same bank to transfer money between friends and family.

How to use Zelle

Signup is quick and easy through your banking app or online banking website.

You’ll choose to use either your phone number or email address. When you want someone to pay you using Zelle, you give them the phone number or email that you used so that it will go to the correct account.

You can only have one bank account per phone number or email address. So for example, I have my email address tied to one account at bank ABC. And my phone number is tied to another account at bank XYZ. Different accounts, different banks.

Here’s what happened to me using Zelle

I have a client who rents out several Airbnb units. On occasion, for whatever reason, we’ll do bookings “offline”. My client’s preferred payment options include Zelle, Venmo, and wire transfers. Zelle is definitely becoming a more popular selection for our guests as people realize it’s tied to their bank and almost anyone can use it.

We have a new guest who needs to make a payment. In communicating with him, he decided to send a $1 payment to ME to make sure it went through. Well, no sir, “it’s not going to me,” but rather to the owner. “This is her email address: xxxxxxx@gmail.com.”

The entire day goes by and I finally hear back from him. He sends a screenshot of it going to the owner – by her phone number!🤦‍♀️

If you know anything about Zelle, you might know where this is going… Or do you?? Well, you might because I explained this above:

With Zelle, you have the option to enroll with either your phone number or your email address. 

I actually just learned this recently! I pay and accept money kinda frequently, yet I just learned this!

So imagine the ordinary Joe who rarely sends money (and probably never receives it) there’s no way he knows that it actually does make a difference if you send it to a phone number versus an email address.

How I use Zelle for my virtual assistant business

I have received payments from clients through Zelle. It was important that I tell my client where I wanted the payment to go. She doesn’t normally pay me that way, and in hindsight, I should have sent her a Zelle request from the bank account where I wanted the money to go. If we need to do that again, I would send a request rather than tell her my phone number or email address. It just reduces the risk of error.

Curious how you could be a virtual assistant? Take a look at this FREE 5-day email course. Seriously, anyone can do it!

I’ve also used Zelle for personal transactions. I send Zelle requests to my ex-husband so he can pay for things for our kids. And just yesterday I bought myself a gift from a direct sales friend. It’s definitely convenient for exchanging money between people without using credit cards.

Is there a solution?

I don’t know if there’s a fool-proof solution to the issue I ran into with my client and our guest.

If it was my bank account, I could send him a request for the payment so that it comes to the correct bank. But since this is for my client, I don’t have access to her account in order to send the request.

I could use something like LastPass to gain access to her account without having the password. But I would still have access to her bank account, which might feel risky to my client. I wouldn’t want to allow access to someone else.

I’ll be thinking about this and I’ll let you know what I figure out!

 

Have you used Zelle? What’s your favorite app for sending and receiving money?

WhatsApp Business messaging app small business review

WhatsApp Business review

I do content creation for a client and one of the topics I worked on recently was WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business. I learned a lot of interesting things about the app and played around with it for quite some time. So I thought I would write up my own review.

While I was working on the articles, I kept thinking about how I could use this for my virtual assistant business or a direct sales business. Other small businesses kept coming to mind with how they could use it.

What is WhatsApp?

First of all, what is WhatsApp? It’s an instant messaging app. And it’s FREE. Worldwide, it’s actually more popular than any other messaging app. Yep, more than twice as popular as Facebook Messenger. Pow!

WhatsApp vs WhatsApp Business

Standard WhatsApp is the personal account you might have, whereas WhatsApp Business has features that would help small businesses have better communications with their customers.

When I first started playing around with WhatsApp, I simply installed the regular WhatsApp app. I used my phone number. As it turns out, I was able to receive a message from someone in another country (another work thing). I gave them my phone number and received their text via WhatsApp. So just in that instance, I totally can see why, worldwide, it’s the most popular instant messaging app.

Then while I was working on this latest project, I installed WhatsApp Business. It has a whole slew of features that are awesome for a business.

WhatsApp Business with one or two phone numbers

It’s important to note that you can use WhatsApp Business with your personal phone number. But you can only have one WhatsApp account. So if you want to have a separate account for personal use, you would need to use a different phone number for WhatsApp Business.

As I mentioned, I used my personal phone number for the WhatsApp account. When I installed WhatsApp Business, I decided to get a free Google Voice number and use that for the business account. It’s so cool!

Using my phone number and the Google Voice number, I had two separate WhatsApp accounts. Then I decided to un-link the Google number and merge my WhatsApp accounts. When you do this, you essentially lose some stuff, unless you back it up. So I recommend thinking that through before you spend time setting things up on WhatsApp Business.

WhatsApp Business features

There are a lot of features. I am only focusing on the features that I think would be especially beneficial to a small business. Here goes!

  1. Catalog – that’s right, you can add a catalog of your products or services. They allow you to add up to 500 items.
  2. Greeting message – this is an automatic message that you can set up to send to new customers who weren’t already on your contact list.
  3. Away message – this is an auto-reply you can set up for times when you’re not available, such as vacation, or illness. But you can use this anytime. If you’re a solopreneur, you probably spend a lot of your time creating your product or providing your service. You can’t always respond immediately, but you can have automatic responses set up so that people always receive a prompt response from you.
  4. Quick replies – these are messages you create that help you quickly respond to an FAQ. If people always ask the same question, you can save yourself a lot of time, and reduce errors, by setting up quick replies.
  5. Labels – labels allow you to organize your customers and messages. Adding labels to customer messages also allows you to send targeted promos to specific customers.
  6. Status – much like a status update on social media, when you update your status, all of your contacts will see that. This could be a powerful tool for someone who provides a service. For example, a personal trainer, massage therapist, or beautician; say you have a cancellation. You can update your status so that you might fill that time slot on short notice.
  7. Starred messages – you can “star” any message that you want. Then you can filter to look at the starred messages. This could be used as a to-do list of sorts.
  8. New broadcast – you can send a broadcast to anyone in your contact list that has your number also in their contact list. This is another awesome sales tool for contacting a large group.
  9. Convenient – you can log into WhatsApp from up to 4 different devices. So you can work from your desktop, phone, or tablet.
  10. WhatsApp API – as your business grows, they have resources that some larger businesses need.

WhatsApp Business is like a mini CRM. You can organize your clients and messages in a variety of different ways. Labels can help push customers through a sales funnel. I think it’s an incredibly useful messaging app.

Tell me, are you already using WhatsApp Business? You can download WhatsApp here. But before you go,  have you looked at my templates?

 

Is it OK to use a freelancer website?

Freelance Site: Upwork

When you decide you want to get started freelancing, you suddenly find there are sources online just for freelancers! It can become overwhelming with all of the options.

So I’m going to answer the question:  is it OK to use a freelancer website?

Yes.

But please keep reading because, TLDR: you can get started on a freelancer site, but don’t hang out there forever!

In this article, I’m specifically going to talk about Upwork. I’ll even give you my experience with it!

About Upwork

Back in 2018, I wrote a review of Upwork for Full Time Job From Home. Even then, I already had experience getting jobs through the platform.

Upwork is a place where people (AKA businesses or entrepreneurs) can post jobs that they need to outsource. And you (the freelancer) can bid on the jobs that you think you’re qualified for. Pretty simple.

How to be successful on Upwork

From my experience, the way you will find the most success on Upwork is to fill out your profile. Make sure it’s 100% complete. This will help you stand out against the competition.

Back when I was a bigger user ( I haven’t had to log in for quite some time, but I’ll get into that in a bit) I was able to take tests to help demonstrate my abilities. The tests could be focused on English grammar, etc.

I looked around and only found 1 test for myself at this time. I found it under the heading Find Work. It’s called an Upwork Readiness Test which I am able to take.

“The Upwork Readiness Test has 10 questions. It covers the best practices and safety tips that top freelancers use to build successful businesses on Upwork.” It continues on to say that each question has a 2-minute time limit. And they give you links to study up!

My Upwork Readiness Test Score

Oops! I scored a 3.5 out of 5… and failed! 😳😥

Definitely read up using the links they provide! I wanted to speed through the test to see what it was about. Thankfully, it says you can retake it at any time. Phew!

When do I use Upwork?

I’ve been a virtual assistant for over 5 years. I have clients and I have other lead sources for jobs. (You have to check out the Horkey Handbook mini-course!) But once in a while, I like to see what kind of jobs people are posting on Upwork.

Clients come and go. In the past, as clients have left, I have logged into Upwork and started bidding on new jobs immediately.

I think that’s the beauty of a freelancing site like Upwork. If you feel like you need more money – get online and bid on some jobs!

How Upwork works

When you sign up (for free) you receive what they call connect credits. The connect credits allow you to connect with the owner of potential jobs. You get a certain number of connect credits per month, so there’s no reason to hoard them. When they run out, you can buy more.

DON’T BUY THEM!

Just bid on jobs that you want. And when the month rolls over you can get more credits.

Why I say don’t hang out there

I say don’t hang out there because you’ll be competing against some people who will low-ball the jobs to get them. On the other hand, not all jobs want the cheapest labor! Some people need a certain skill that they don’t have and they’re willing to pay more for someone to do a better-than-good job.

Also, Upwork takes a portion of your earnings. Twenty percent, to be exact. So if you bid $40, they’ll take 20% which is $8, and you’ll receive the balance, or $32.

The nice thing is, you can play with the number to get it where you want it. I adjusted the field for the amount I’ll receive after fees, to make sure I’m getting my rate, and it adjusted the hourly rate I will propose to the client so that I can receive my rate after the fees are taken out.

Interestingly, I was able to submit a proposal even though I just failed the readiness test! 🤷‍♀️

My experience with Upwork

I have gotten at least 2 good jobs through Upwork plus other small jobs. One of them I’m still working with! After our contract ended, she contacted me to work on a different project for her and I’m still working with her!

Another client I’m still in contact with and we’re actually connected on Facebook! Needless to say, I’ve had a pretty good experience with it. But as I said, I put the time in, completed my profile, and took the tests they offered.

What to do next

If you haven’t started your virtual assistant business yet, there are a couple of ways to get started.

  1. If you’ve got $19 burning a hole in your pocket, you can take a mini-course from Horkey Handbook and find out if being a VA is something you really want to do.
  2. If you want to dive right in (this is you if you already KNOW you want to be a VA) you can enroll in Horkey Handbook’s FullyBookedVA system. It’s basically full access to all of their courses for as long as you want to stay enrolled.
  3. Or, you can take my FREE eCourse! You’ll receive 5 emails that will walk you through starting your VA business and you can literally start your business this week!

So is it OK to use a freelancer website? Have you tried Upwork? Are you ready to start your VA business? What questions do you have? I’m here to help!

Should I niche down

Niching Down

Should you niche down? Yes, for sure! But what does it even mean?

In this article, I’ll tell you what it means to niche down and why you want to do it as a freelancer. I’ll come back in another post to talk about how to do it.

Let’s get right to it!

What is a niche?

A niche is a small, targeted area of a product or service.

If you were to use doctors as an example, a general practitioner is someone who serves many people. But a cardiac specialist is someone who focuses on and serves a much smaller, more focused subset of people.

Why would you want to niche down?

To say you are a “Freelancer” or “Virtual Assistant” could mean any number of things. Like seriously, hundreds! No, thousands!

But if you say that you’re a “Customer Experience Expert”, that shows a narrowed focus as to what kind of service you provide. That’s your niche – customer service!

In this article, I talk about what you should (or shouldn’t) call yourself. Finding your niche isn’t exactly the same as finding a better name to call yourself. But if you’re thinking along the same lines, you’re going to find your niche.

When you niche down, you are no longer a general virtual assistant. You have a narrowed focus, and your expertise in a subject matter increases. And so do the rates you can command!

By narrowing your focus, it helps you find better clients, because you’re looking for people who specifically want the thing that you do. And it will also help them find you!

This is an awesome article that I read on the topic of niching down. Brennan Dunn actually reviews a book he read, written by Philip Morgan. He goes into further details about the benefits of choosing a niche.

How do you find your niche?

This deserves a whole blog post. But just to get you started, think about what you like to do.

Let’s use customer service as our example again. Any business with customers needs customer service. But, is there a specific industry you want to serve?

I, for example, have a background in manufacturing, so I would enjoy servicing manufacturers or builders. If you have experience in the medical field, that might be your niche.

So you’re thinking: what do I like to do, and who do I want to do it for?

Now you do it!

Most important resources for a new virtual assistant

Free resources for a new virtual assistant

Are you a new virtual assistant? Maybe you’re a virtual assistant wannabee? Good! You’re in the right place! I’ve been a virtual assistant for close to 6 years! I’ve tried many-a-tools over the years and I’m going to share my list of most important resources for a new virtual assistant!

Thankfully, there are sooooo many apps out there that are free! I have chosen to pay for a few along the way, but you don’t need to do that getting started.

How do you even begin to figure out what you need?

You’re going to figure out what you need as you go. You’ll start to work on something, you’ll Google it, and you’ll find new potential resources. Maybe that’s even how you found this article!

You’ll figure out what you need, literally based on your needs! If you’re trying to design an image for a Facebook post, you’ll Google something like this: best free image creation apps.

What’s first on the list? Canva. YESSSSSS!!!! I 100% agree! If you haven’t tried Canva, you have to! I used the free version for years. I enjoy the perks of using the paid version, but I promise you’ll be happy with the free version of Canva!

Most important resources for a new virtual assistant

Canva aside, my two favorite resources are Trello and Clockify. Let me tell you about them…

Trello

Trello is an amazing free app that you can use to keep track of your projects and your clients. I have this app open all day long and skip around to whatever I’m working on.

It’s broken down into Boards, Lists, and Cards.

A Board would be your client. Inside each board, you have lists. My lists are titled Credentials, Daily to-do, Ongoing tasks, Brainstorming, etc. Then for each list, you can add multiple cards to fill out the list. Within a card, you can add links to anything with a URL, you can add attachments, and you can chat with people who you’ve added to the board.

Trello also has a mobile app (I’m on android but I’m sure iPhones have it as well). It’s very handy to be able to look things up on the go!

Clockify

A way to track your hours is a must! I used a time clock app on my phone for the first 5+ years of my business!

A couple of years ago, a client suggested I start using Clockify. I looked at it, but I was so used to my time clock app that I couldn’t get into it.

I kept on using the app on my phone until just recently. I was having an issue with the app and my go-to solution when I have a problem with my phone is to uninstall the app and reinstall it.

I don’t recommend doing that!!🤦‍♀️

When I went to re-install it, the app was gone!! I understand that’s probably why I was having an issue, but, I was still quite disappointed that I lost my favorite app!

I tried several other time tracking apps that day, all on my phone. None of them were worthy!

Queue the solution! Clockify!

What I love about Clockify

What I love about Clockify is that it’s a Chrome extension. So I don’t even have to log into the site to start using it! But don’t worry, if you don’t like extensions, you can use the website.

I spend a lot of time on business activities that aren’t billable. Sometimes at the end of the day, I feel like I haven’t gotten anything done. That can be a very crushing, defeating feeling.

But I have this handy timeclock that I can click on and keep track of EVERYTHING! I set myself up as a client and I now know where my time goes. It might not be billable time, but I’m still being productive and it’s important to see that!

I hope you discovered something new and useful! Let me know what you think! Do you have a free resource that you swear by? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

Best follow up hack

How to follow up like a pro

Good follow up practices can make your business thrive vs make your business die. It sounds harsh, but it’s kinda true.

In this article, I’m going to talk about following up, why you want to do it, and how to do it!

And I’ll give you my #1 best follow up hack!

Why follow up?

It sounds like a no-brainer, but not everyone does!

  1. One thing that happens when you follow up: the recipient knows that you are still there.
  2. The recipient knows that you are still interested.
  3. The recipient knows that you are on top of things.
  4. And you don’t let things fall through the cracks.

Why don’t they respond?

You’re right, they don’t all respond. It sucks! You pour your heart out to a potential new client, you tell them what’s so good about you and why they need you and they don’t even reply. I admit, it sucks.

They’re busy! They need your help – probably because they are busy!

This is exactly why you need to follow up!

When to follow up

Is there a specific time frame you should follow? I usually follow up 5-7 days later, just depending on the day of the week that I sent the initial email.

For example, if I send them my initial email on Monday, I might follow up as early as Friday, so they can go into the weekend thinking about me! Or the following Monday at the latest.

If I send my initial email pitch on Wednesday, I might follow up as soon as the next Monday.

Either way, put it on your calendar or on your pitch tracker and when it says to follow up – just do it!

What do you say in a follow-up?

I follow up with something like this:

Have you made a decision yet? If you chose to go with someone else, could you provide feedback so I can make improvements if needed? Thanks for your time and good luck to you!

That is literally, exactly what my follow up email would say! Very simple and to the point. If they didn’t have time to reply to my first email, why would I want to overburden them with another long-ish email?

Can you force them to reply?

Unfortunately, no. There’s nothing you can do to force someone to reply. But you never know – they may be so overwhelmed that they haven’t even decided yet, and your follow up could be just what they need to make a decision!

I actually got a client this way back earlier in my virtual assisting career!

Why You Need a Follow Up System for Your Business

What else can you do?

Is there anything else you can do to aid in your follow up efforts?

Actually, there is!

I use something called Get Notify. It’s a free read-email notification. Check it out at www.getnotify.com

Ok, so using GetNotify is two-fold.

  1. When you see that the recipient has opened your email, then at least you know it got to them and they opened it. Yay!
  2. But it tells you more – if you see they’ve opened it several times, that could give you an indication that they wanted to read and reread your email!I think that multiple opens is a good sign!

Something you can do when you see they’ve opened your email is to call them. I’m not big on phone calls until they are an established client, so I don’t do it exactly this way, but it may be a tactic you could use.

This is it – my #1 best follow up hack

Picture this: your prospect opens your email. Then all of a sudden they get a call from you! Some will feel like it’s fate, or serendipity, that you called just as they were looking at your email!

But be careful! DON’T say, “I saw you opened my email”. You don’t want to sound like a creepy stalker! Lol

DO say, “I emailed you last week and I just wanted to follow up and see if you have any questions.” WOW!

Back when I was doing outside sales, this sort of tactic would work well when sending a proposal to a current customer. If they’re looking at my email, they might be ready to talk to me right now.

Same goes for pitching a new client. If they’re looking at my email, they may be ready to talk to me or hear more about me. If I think I left anything out of my email, I have used their opening an email as an opportunity to reply and add any relevant info that I feel I missed.

It’s like I’m answering potential questions they may have before they even respond. Just remember to keep it short. It’s perfect to say what I said above, “Just following up to see if you have any questions.”

Summary

While you can make a consistent process for yourself, you can’t control the prospect variable. But following up never hurt anyone. I promise. And if someone says, “your follow-up kinda annoyed me (or replace that with the word that sets you off)” – trust me, you don’t want to work with that person!

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