Guest blog from Charlotte Speak – Power of the Parent: ‘How to get organised and on top of your business admin’

Guest blog from Charlotte Speak – Power of the Parent: ‘How to get organised and on top of your business admin’

I’m thrilled to welcome Charlotte Speak from Power of the Parent to my blog this week. Charlotte helps mums return to work and have confidence in their career. Here, she shares her tips on how she gets organised and on top of her business admin:

My role means I’m always wearing different hats, including founder, CEO, sales director, HR manager, and IT department. I could go on but you probably get the picture! With all of these roles there’s a creative side and an admin side. Creativity is a strength of mine and I love any opportunity to get stuck in. Admin is something I can do and I’m relatively good at, but it doesn’t spark me in the same way. I like to be organised and have a plan, but I loose interest in lots of instructions, or things to fill in. I pay much more attention when someone talks to me about it.

In reality, it has the potential to cause me a heap of problems. The admin side of my business is a necessity, and my volume of work doesn’t justify anybody else helping me (yet..!). So, I’ve had to get tough with myself and I’ve recently made some decisions about the set up of my business to get my mindset whipped into shape.

Here are some tips that have helped me to keep on top on my business admin:-

1. Setting up as a Limited (LTD) company

I’ve happily been a sole trader for the last 12 months, as it felt comfortable, low risk and a safe way to test if I could make money doing what I love – coaching and supporting maternity returners (and their accompanying businesses).

I’d been toying with the idea of being a LTD, but the only reason I could articulate for wanting to make that change was because ‘it feels more professional’. I gave myself a hard time for that being the only reason, but it turns out that really is all it takes.

I spoke with a friend who gave me some straight down the line advice and mindset questions about what becoming a LTD was going to mean. She spoke about her relationship with her LTD business, and that it puts positive boundaries in and gets her to think decisions through in a different way. It’s exactly what I needed to hear. I have been putting things off because I don’t feel established enough and forgetting that when I’m courageous I feel good. It will automatically put me into a rhythm and routine with my financial admin. Accountability appointments go a long way!

It won’t be for everybody and one of the outcomes of me doing this is that I’ll be working with an accountant (so, spending!), but from what I’ve experienced so far, it’s going to be a brilliant investment in me and my business.

2. Working in chunks of time

Most of the time I work to the Pomodoro method of 25 minute chunks and accompanying breaks. I don’t have a really long attention span when I’m working solo, but once I’ve set that timer on my phone I’m heads down and cracking on. I set the alarm as a song I really like, so that means no shrill default tones for me!

3. Plan your day around your energy

I know when I’m really alive and productive, so I plan my day to use that time for the stuff I don’t really enjoy, or could put off. The times when I know I’m low in energy and likely to get distracted, I fill that with work that I love. I adore writing, but I’m rubbish between 2pm and about 3.30pm so I’m currently writing this in that slot! So far so good!.

4. Protect your family time

This is a struggle in the world we’re in and it’s hard to talk about without sounding preachy, but I’ll have to give it a go!

Family time will come in all shapes and sizes. Time with kids if you have them, time with your partner if you’re with somebody, opportunity to go visiting friends, and importantly time for you.

Self- care gets banded around a lot, which I think is a good thing as long as it doesn’t become wallpaper. Taking time away from your daily grind is important and keeps your resilience topped up.

The nature of being in a freelance type role is that you feel like you have to always be on incase you miss the project of a lifetime, but the reality is there is no ‘one’ project, and opportunities can come from nowhere and everywhere. There’s no way to predict, so you really have to live in the here and now. That will mean you have to have down time, burn out is the enemy!

I need to break up with my phone a bit at the moment, so I’ve turned that screen time alert thing on that comes with iPhones and I’m keeping a much more educated eye on my habits.

5. Thinking and planning time

There’s a lady called Nancy Kline who has a coaching and wellbeing business called ‘Time To Think’. She’s written articles and books all about this topic (Look her up, her story is ace). One of the biggest things I’ve taken away from her is that the quality of everything we do is based on the quality of thinking we do first. Without a bit of thinking, chaos can ensue. I mean, chaos can arrive anyway, but at least if you’re wading through with a rough plan you’ve got a bit of a fall back! It doesn’t have to be detailed but just mapping out the two or three things you need to achieve in a day can help you formulate a plan, and most importantly celebrate getting through the other side!

I see lots of people talk about lists, to-do books, etc (to be fair, I’m one of them), but they seem to get used as a tool to create anxiety as much as anything else. Changing your relationship with your to-do list or equivalent, is really important if you’re currently going down the habit of telling yourself off when you don’t get through it!

6. Keep it simple

I’m such a stationery lover. I’ve counted this week nine notebooks ready and waiting to use. I still have a paper diary, but my husband will refer to an online family calendar I set up (queue lots of transferring between the two, and that includes work appointments!).

The last couple of months I’ve simplified my methods, in that I use my paper diary for my to-do lists, a notebook for meeting notes or planning posts, and an online calendar for all appointments and outings, with no transferring to paper.

I’m still adjusting but it already feels so much better. You might read that I wonder why on earth I was being so inefficient, but honestly my levels of OCD when it came to planning and the materials I did it with, it’s been a long road to change!

*About Power of the Parent*

My name is Charlotte, and I coach and support maternity returners (and their accompanying businesses). Through strengths based coaching and workshops, we are positively challenging the experience of returning to work after parental leave. http://power-of-the-parent.com

Knowing when to outsource

Knowing when to outsource

Crucially, knowing when to outsource any part of your work or life admin can be a linchpin moment that can, either, move you swiftly to the next step or make you sink.

I am often asked in interviews and in online forums: ‘when should I outsource and how will I know when I get there?’ The honest answer is: earlier than you feel ready!

In all honesty, if you are working regularly and you have family at home, as well as life admin, family, friends, birthdays, pets, laundry, a social life, sports, hobbies…. you get the picture (!), then life is full and, unless we outsource effectively, we will end up burnt out and overwhelmed. Neither of those two things are part of the Clear Desk mentality and are a huge reason why I started my business in the first place.

Rather than battle on, marching against the wind and having an uphill struggle every day, allow yourself the gift of time by outsourcing. This could be outsourcing at home or at work. At home, for example, I have a cleaner who comes twice a week and gives the house a good clean. Could I do this myself? Well, yes, I could, but I’d be doing it either at the crack of dawn, before my daughters get up, or in the evening, once they’re in bed, and I feel much more at peace if I spend some time with my husband in the evenings, and so we invest in the outsourcing. And it feels SO GOOD to come home to a sparkling house – oh, SO good! The money spent on this does not even compare to the feeling of joy, peace and calm that settles on me once the cleaners have been; it is worth its weight in gold. Did I think I’d ever grow up to be the sort of person who has cleaners? No. Not one bit. But I’m damn proud that I can support my cleaner’s business and, in turn, her family, by employing her. It’s a win all round!

In business, if you’re getting to the point where you’re spending more time working ON your business, rather than IN it, then it’s probably time to outsource some regular tasks. I know, it’s scary, and there’s a fear around making those first steps to let someone in. My advice is to take small steps and outsource any regular tasks that could be done by someone else; they’re, most likely, not the tasks that turn the needle on your business but, without them, you won’t keep moving forward. Start simple: social media scheduling is a great one. If you’re scared of losing your voice in your copywriting, then having someone to schedule your posts is a great weight off your mind. Think how you’d feel once you know that your posts are going out, just as you’ve created them, but you haven’t had to plug them into a scheduler, format them, add the relevant hashtags, check that they’re going out at the best time, etc, etc. How would you feel? You’d feel lighter. You’d feel chuffed to bits when you open your social media app and see your posts seamlessly being posted and proud that your marketing is being kept up to date.

If, however, you’re ready to make a bigger investment and seek more in-depth support, then a VA can also be the best person to do that. Often, professional VAs have a real rounded set of skills so, rather than searching for a Graphic Designer and then a Copyrighter, you can employ a VA, such as Clear Desk VA, who can do multiple tasks for you. We manage the back end of website content – everything from upgrading plugins on WordPress –  to managing your workflow and client portals in Dubsado. It’s the things that take the time that are stopping you from being creative in your business that are the best to outsource.

I know first hand what this is like because, at almost a year in my business, I now outsource myself. I have support, both at home and in my business, because I am only one person and I acknowledge that there are some skills that others have better than me! We are all aiming to achieve personal growth and happiness and, to achieve this, I think it’s imperative that we admit that we cannot – and should not – have to do everything ourselves. That acceptance alone is liberating.

If you are battling through the summer holidays juggling childcare and business, feeling like you’ve got to the point where you are ready to outsource from September then let’s chat.

We have availability and are here, arms outstretched, ready to support you to achieve a Clear Desk ~ Clear Mind by the end of your working week.

You can email: hello@cleardeskva.co.uk or click on our website to book a free, no obligation, discovery chat.

Natalia x

CDVA HQ

 

Guest blog from Laura Parker – Shoreway Business Support: ‘The Best Free Tools to Boost Business Productivity’

Guest blog from Laura Parker – Shoreway Business Support: ‘The Best Free Tools to Boost Business Productivity’

I’m super pleased to welcome Laura Parker from Shoreway Business Support to my blog this week. Laura helps busy business owners with business support, social & digital marketing and content creation. Here, she has some fantastic tips on the best free apps and websites to help you to be super organised and boost your business productivity:

Like many of you, I started my own business to try and find that elusive balance between being a mum and contributing to the family income.  Trying to find this balance for us as a family means that I try to make my working day between 9 and 3. To run a business within these hours means one thing – I have to be super organised!

To help me with my ongoing quest for balance, I utilise a lot of free apps and websites, and I thought it might be useful for me to pull them together in one blog post for you. I hope you find at least one here that makes your day that little bit easier.

Canva

If there is one app I couldn’t live without:  This. Is. It.

Need a professional looking flyer?  Canva.  Need a social media graphic?  Canva. Need a swish and professional CV? Canva. You get the picture!  Canva allows you to create graphics in keeping with your brand identity, with a huge amount of free options of background/ text/ images, etc.

If you do one thing today, take a look at Canva!

Trello

Trello is perfect for organising work flow.  If you don’t already use Trello for your own business, clients or personal lists, then take a look.  I love it.  You create a ‘board’ per project, and then within that board you create cards (or lists) of workflows within that project.  Then, within that card/ workflow, you can then list all the activities you need to do. You can add due date, colour codes, attach images, assign tasks, add link to external pages and lots more.

Slack

The perfect option when there are more than two people discussing more than one topic.  Rather than endless emails going backward and forwards, Slack allows you to keep all the messages on a ‘board’.  You select which topic you would like to update the other users with, and hey presto! They will then get a notification that you have made an update.

Unfold

My absolute favourite Instagram app for my own account and those of my clients.  Unfold is all about gorgeous, easy on the eye Stories templates (and we all know how hot Stories are right now).  You get a couple of free options, and then pay (really low cost) if you want any of the additional paid for templates.  I love it and I think you will too!


LastPass

If you are continually forgetting passwords, take a look at LastPass – it is sooooo clever!  Once installed, it will remember all of your passwords in its ‘vault’.  It also allows you to share your passwords with others, without them actually seeing them.

FocusBooster

As someone who is obsessive about improving time management and finding different strategies to improve how I work, I love this app.  It is based on the Pomodoro method of working within your limited time rather than against it.  If you are looking for ways to improve your productivity, take a look.

Planoly

If you want to make the aesthetic of your Instagram page really stand out, Planoly is a great way of planning your grid so that you can see how the flow of posts looks before you actually share them.  You have the capability to schedule the posts, move them around and the best bit is that you can save different batches of hashtags to use for different types of posts.

I hope you have found these tips useful to boost your business productivity.

*About Shoreway Business Support*

My name is Laura and I run Shoreway Business Support. I work with busy business owners who aren’t ready to hire someone, but need to outsource chunks of their To-Do List in order to keep their sanity. I specialise in using my ‘Monica’ skills to get my clients organised by implementing processes. https://www.shorewaybusiness.co.uk

How A Virtual Assistant Can Help You To Grow Your Business

How A Virtual Assistant Can Help You To Grow Your Business

If you’re reading this, then the likelihood is that you should pat yourself on the back, as I imagine that your business has already reached fantastic heights…

However, if you’re reading this, I get the inkling that you might be reaching the point in your business where you’ve started to feel slightly overwhelmed at your seemingly never-ending task list? Perhaps you’re starting to get frustrated at the amount of time that some of your administrative tasks are taking? Maybe your business growth is stalling because you’ve been devoting less time to driving sales? If you’ve answered “Yes, that’s me!” to any of the above, then you are in the right place.

How a virtual assistant can help you to grow your business

A virtual assistant can help you to grow your business with a multitude of tasks, but it’s when ‘tasks’ move into ‘support’ that the magic really occurs. Any old folk could do some data entry for you, or you could probably ask a well-meaning relative to proof-read your e-marketing, but would they be truly invested? Would they see beyond the words to the effect on your ideal customer? That’s where Clear Desk VA really comes into its own.
You see, it’s the feeling of peace of mind and trust in your virtual assistant that really builds your businesses growth.
Yes, if your invoices are sent out for you – it helps.
Yes, if your social scheduling is neat and tidy for the month – it helps.
But the *real* service a brilliant virtual assistant should provide to help you to grow your business is being that wingman that helps you to push sales, constantly improve, and tweak everything to help you to move forward.
An efficient and well organised virtual assistant will always be on hand to serve their clients needs, and to come up with the best ways to help you to grow your business. If you are an entrepreneur feeling overwhelmed by your task list, look no further and contact us today for a FREE, no obligation consultation call to see how we can help you to grow your business and to achieve a Clear Desk – Clear Mind.
No (wo)man is an island, after all.

If you’re interested in working with me to help you to grow your business, then I’d love to hear from you. For more information, contact me via my website here, or email me at hello@cleardeskva.co.uk.

Let me help you to achieve a Clear Desk – Clear Mind.

Guest Blog from Ruth Buckingham – Kandu Marketing: ‘6 Useful productivity and blogging tools for small business’

Guest Blog from Ruth Buckingham – Kandu Marketing: ‘6 Useful productivity and blogging tools for small business’

I’m really thrilled to welcome Ruth Buckingham from Kandu Marketing to my blog this week. Ruth offers jargon-free content marketing support for small business owners. Here, she has some brilliant tips to improve your productivity:

When budgets are tight and you are managing your marketing yourself, any tools that can help improve your productivity or increase engagement with your blog posts can be beneficial.

Below are the top 6 free tools that I am working with on a daily basis for different client needs. 

Productivity

  1. Toggl – Take your timesheets to the next level

As my business has started to grow I have moved on from a timesheet approach to tracking time that I spend on different activities and clients using Toggl.   Toggl is a simple to use, free time-tracker tool that also provides reports as and when needed.  

I can ensure that my precious part-time working hours are well-spent.  I also have a record of how much time various activities require on a regular basis.  This can help me when preparing quotes for customers so that I can be accurate in budgeting. 

  • Buffer – social scheduling covering LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Facebook

I use this tool for my own accounts as well as my clients for scheduling social media posts. Prior to discovering Canva I also used to love the Pablo extension which has a range of free images which can be customised for my needs or you can upload your own and edit with logos, quotes etc. 

Once the posts have been published you can also go back and view analytics on engagement at a basic level.    By scheduling batches of social media messages in advance it allows us to be active on multiple platforms but still have time free to focus on core business activities.

A note on images – I always like to use my own but on the occasions I am sourcing images for client or for a specific image, another two great free picture resource sites are Pixabay and UnSplash.  Always credit the photographer if you can, even if it’s not required on these sites, I think it is good etiquette!

I also use Later for my Instagram scheduling.  I probably will combine them at some point but for now I’m happy to keep them separate as I do use the platforms differently and Later shows you a lovely graphical view of your posts to check that everything flows nicely.

Recently, Instagram updated its platform so it is now possible to auto-publish to your account, rather than get a notification on your smartphone to post.

Blogging tools

  1. Co-schedule headline analyser

If you are writing your own blogs or email campaigns you might find this one useful.  I love this tool, it really does what it says on the tin, by helping ensure the title of your blog will get more opens and ultimately engagement.  The teacher’s pet in me loves getting a score of over 70 and a smiley face! 

As an example, for this blog post I started out with the basic topic “B2B blogging and social media tools” which scored 44 points and used the headline analyser to refine it to “Useful social media tools for small business” which got a whopping 71 points!  On review I didn’t feel this accurately reflected the content of the blog so have compromised on the title above –  a score of 64 so not too bad!

A well-known plugin for WordPress, Yoast is great to help you ensure you have your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) basics in place on your blog post and also to edit the post for readability.  I find this is a great last sense-check before posting a blog.  A “virtual” second set of eyes so to speak.

As a copy-writer I find it quite easy to come up with blog ideas for my clients, less so for myself!

However, you may feel a little stuck sometimes.  Perhaps further down your blogging journey and have already covered why you started your business and key trends in your industry.  This little generator can help spark your next great idea to think about what your customers might want to read about and what ties into your own usps

I hope you have found this round up of tools useful!  Most of the companies I have recommended also have great blogs of their own that you can follow for further marketing tips. 

*About Kandu Marketing*

My name is Ruth, I am a Freelance Marketing Consultant operating as Kandu Marketing.  I provide jargon-free B2B marketing support.  This usually starts with content strategy or copy-writing but also covers a range of other marketing activities. www.kandumarketing.co.uk