Running your business with Virtual Assistant know-how

Running your business with Virtual Assistant know-how

The pandemic and the predictions of recession has small business owners worried about the future.   Working remotely is a new model for many; and this has it’s challenges and complications.

Did you have days where you just don’t get to everything you need to before Covid 19 put businesses at risk? Are you feeling overwhelmed and stressed because you are spending too much time trying to run a virtual office?  Do you need extra help and processes for working with a virtual team?

You may not want to make the commitment of having to hire a full time employee, but you desperately need help with planning and positioning your business for the future.

If this is you, then hiring a virtual assistant is your answer!

 

Virtual What?

I actually had a new client the other day ask me this very question.   I couldn’t help but chuckle because the Virtual Assistant concept, although already known by many companies and industries throughout the world, is still also a fairly unknown concept for many business owners. A virtual assistant can be defined as an independent contractor who provides administrative services to clients while operating outside the client’s office and who can access planning documents remotely.

Like any other employee you would hire, virtual assistants have different skills sets.  Some are admin superstars, other are creative geniuses when it comes to putting together marketing content for your business and you even get those number crunching enthusiasts that are ready to come in and make your month end look like a walk in the park! Pretty awesome hey?

 

Still not convinced…

If your still not sure a virtual assistant would be right for you, here are some reasons why a virtual assistant is a good idea…

  1. Less investment – Yip, you read right! No office space and equipment will save you a considerable amount of money
  2. Saves Time – Recruitment requires time and money. A virtual assistant will be available as soon as you need them for as long as you need them.
  3. Reduce Expenses – Again no office staff requires no fixed monthly salary and benefits, you simply pay for the work done by the virtual assistant.
  4. Peace of Mind – While your Virtual assistant works in your business doing the things you simply don’t have time to or don’t know how to do, you are able to use your time focusing on what’s important to you. Giving you freedom of time and peace of mind that things will get done.

When you take the risk to start a business you put a lot of time and energy to make it a success. You’ve done so much already, so now it’s time to show yourself and your business some love and hire a virtual assistant that will help take your productivity and business to a whole new level.

Evernote Business versus Freedcamp:   How do they help you be more productive?

Evernote Business versus Freedcamp: How do they help you be more productive?

At first glance it may some strange that a virtual assistant (VA) is looking to make use of a project management tool. The term virtual assistant is often misunderstood as only fulfilling an admin role within an organization or only taking the role and responsibilities of a personal assistant, but this is a very shortsighted view of a VA. A VA can fit into almost any role within an organization and fulfill roles and responsibilities associated with marketing, finance, controlling, supply chain management, human resources management, business management, etc. With these roles and responsibilities, VAs face many daily tasks and projects.

 

Projects and tasks

The difference between a project and a task is that:

  • a project has a clear start and end date, the end result of a project is always different, the project is to achieve a specific goal, and may even involve different stakeholders (people involved in a project).
  • A task is the same action that is performed over and over again. It has the same end goal in mind. For example the sorting of emails, is the same task on a daily basis to ensure one gets through all email messages and sorts accordingly.
  • Should someone decide to migrate their email provider, this will be a project – a mail provider will be selected, paid for, then there will be a process involved i.e. backing up of emails, saving contacts, creating a signature, setting up of the new mail box, official move from old to new and then sending emails from the new account.

A VA will most of the time be faced with various projects that may sometimes overlap, this is where time management will be vital, never mind the actual management of each project, ensuring that each project meets its end goal within the set timeframe. The project tool/software will be significant to each VA, a tool that works for one may not always work for another. It may involve some trial and error to find the one that works for you, and we hope this series will save you some time.

There are a number of project management tools/software available to help VAs manage their project efficiently and effectively. Among these are Asana, Evernote Business, Freedcamp, Favro, TeamGantt, Miro, Smartsheet, Hive, MeisterTask, Freshdesk, CoSchedule, Monday.com and Padio.

In this series of project management tool/software comparisons, this blog will be comparing Evernote Business and Freedcamp.

 

Evernote Business

The word note is in their name as that is exactly what this tool is for, taking and sharing notes. It allows users to take, edit, upload and share notes and files from any device. This is also done in real time, meaning that all project stakeholders are up to date 24/7.

Evernote’s main focus is on individuals who can store all thoughts, ideas and lists in one space to ensure they do not miss anything. Evernote business takes this to the next step with allowing individuals to collaborate within in the space and be able to share ideas, webpages, tasks to be done, etc.

User-friendly and highly configurable, Evernote gives you access to features such as web clipping tools, multi-device synchronization, search handwriting options, document scanning, and PDF support so that you can supercharge your note taking efforts without hassle. It even has the capacity to save any references you need for notes such as audio files, photos of handwritten notes, or even scanned receipts (www.reviews.financesonline.com/p/evernote).

Evernote Business is more an information hub for a project. This tool will be great to share ideas, ensure every team member is aware of their roles and responsibilities, to be able to communicate will all team members at the same time which will make sharing important and time sensitive information much easier. Besides a team space, individuals can also use this to store their own information for their project, set reminders for tasks and compile to do lists, among many other things. Evernote Business does not allow the actual tracking of a project in terms of budget spend, goal achievement and time. Should you be looking for an information space for your project and project teams – Evernote Business is for you. should you be looking for a tool to actually track project budgets, track outcomes and view closed tasks and tasks still to be completed, and to see when certain tasks need to be completed by to ensure one is on track to meet the end date, then this tool is not for you.

Pricing (www.evernote.com/compare-plans):

Evernote Basic:                       Free

To take great notes

Evernote Premium:                 R49.99 per user month

To organise everything

Evernote business:                 R96 per user per month (min 2 users)

To bring your team together

 

Freedcamp

If you are looking for a project management tool/software that will allow you to have total control of your project, to track budget, time and tasks, then Freedcamp is for you. you will be able to assign tasks to project members, schedule events via a built-in calendar, setup discussion boards, and time track projects.

Pricing (https://freedcamp.com/pricing) :

Free:                $0 per user/month

File size limit: 10mb

Minimalist      $1.49 per user/month

File size 25mb

Business          $7.49 per user/month

File size 100mb

Enterprise       $16.99 per user/month

File size 250mb

 

All options come with:

  • Tasks
  • Discussions
  • Calendar
  • Milestones
  • Files and
  • Time

 

Premium features and add-ons

  • Wiki
  • CRM
  • Email-in
  • Issue tracker
  • Project templates
  • Good Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive
  • Invoices+
  • Reports

 

Enterprise Benefits:

  • Daily data snapshots
  • SSA with SAML
  • White Label
  • Private Cloud
  • Support
  • 2 factor authorisation

 

Conclusion

Evernote Business is great on an individual basis or should you need to have quick open lines between you and your client. This will allow you and your client to always be on the same page no matter the time of the day.

Freedcamp is perfect if you are involved in a bigger project that has many different people involved, if you need to keep track of multiple parts of a project, manage the timeframe as well as budget constraints.

 

How to cope with working and being a mom during Covid 19 lockdown

How to cope with working and being a mom during Covid 19 lockdown

“If you love yourself, STAY AT HOME, keep the virus out.”

Anonymous

 Being a South African at the moment is tough.  We are outside, braai and socializing people. Now with the rise of the Coronavirus in South Africa, our president took the very brave step and put the whole of South Africa under lockdown for 21 days.  At first many thought “holiday, fun, braai and so much more”, not realizing what lockdown meant. Not even dog walking or jogging is allowed, and you are only allowed to leave your home for essential services or to buy food.  Schools closed earlier than usual and will be closed until further notice.  Being a VA, mean  that work still needs to continue, but now I have to entertain a 6 year old, 3year old and 2year old……… for 21 days.  I googled everything for 2 days, from not getting depression under lockdown, to school activities for kids, to keeping your family life as stable as possible.  And even now a few days later, still more WhatsApp’s, Ideas etc. are doing the rounds to make our “new” norm as normal as possible.  For me the following tips helped to keep me focussed and proactive as VA:

 

WORKING WEIRD HOURS

  • Inform your clients that you are moving your time table around to accommodate your kids, and that you will focus on certain projects during different times than usual.
  • Every reasonable person on earth is aware of this epidemic, be reasonable, positive and gracious when hard decisions and issues need to be handled.
  • Set up your “office” so that you can be with your kids and work. For me this personally meant doing most of my work on my mobile, and moving the rest out to when I have time to sit in front of my PC.  Personally this freed up a lot of time while being with the kids.

 

CREATING STABILITY

(Please note this is how I have done it the last couple of days, but you can change it as fitting to your situation.  The most important is to keep doing what works for you and your family.)

  • Stability is created by a healthy routine
    • Wake Up, drink your java, put on clothes (it is important not to stay in your pj’s the whole day) and do some work.
    • When the kids wake up, make them breakfast, do a “school activity, craft and arts, read them a story”, and let them play for 30 minutes outside to catch some rays. Vitamin D is important for staying positive. Remember staying healthy and social distancing is the important during this epidemic.  If you do go outside while staying in a flat, draw crayon lines on the floor in which areas everyone are allowed to stay in.  Now jump on your phone and start working. This time is usually great if you have to keep up with your social media and networking.  If you have lost clients or have a loss of income, now is the time to search for new opportunities.
    • Prepare lunch, and involve the kids. Usually they enjoy to eat what they help made.
    • After lunch, let them have their 30min screen time. I hope for your sake a nap follows.  Usually mine sleep between one to two hours.  During nap time I check my emails and see if any new projects or urgent messages need to be handled.
    • When everyone is a wake normally a fruit or yogurt are enjoyed, and then it is “active time”. Their brains were stimulated during the morning, now we need to get the legs moving.  Find a fun kids yoga session online and join in.  This is relaxing for young and old, followed up with exercising with anything heavy.  A butternut for kid’s weights, onion bag for adult weights, jumping rope, short sprints and many more.  You can jump online and get x100 ideas.
    • And lastly you can make dinner. Let the kids have a bath on their own while you sit and relax with glass of wine, coffee, tea or cold drink.
    • Let them have some screen time again if needed. And now you can jump on the rest of the work not yet done.  Personally for me, I do the work that takes less thinking as the day is more tiring while looking after kids and working. That being said, as Coronavirus takes over work is also getting less.  I do not need to work after 22:00 anymore, a luxury at this moment.
    • Remember you made it through today, tomorrow you can do it again.

 

STAYING HEALTHY MENTALLY

  • Prioritize your kids’ needs before your own.
    • Remember kids are part of the vulnerable list and can get sick easily, please stay at home to keep the virus out.
    • This is a strange time for them also. Do not show them you are tired or scared.  Keep going, this lockdown will not last forever.
    • Use technology such as WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype and FaceTime for children to keep in contact with grandparents, maternal parents, family and friends.

 

  • Prioritize your relationship
    • Lockdown can bring your relationship issues into sharp focus if both of you are confined at home. Now you have to talk, listen and be in each other’s personal space.  Stay positive and always talk with respect.
    • Make time for each other especially if you have children. When they have screen time, try to sit with each other and talk about what is worrying you, how to overcome your fears, and plan for the future.
    • If your relationship is rocky try to find online help, podcasts, seminars etc. Now you have the time to work on the problems.
    • Lastly if you are in an abusive relationship, please go online and find help for your sake and that of your children. You will be seen as venerable and can be removed.

 

I am not a psychologist or remotely knows what it takes to run a country under lockdown.  But I do know this lockdown did make me appreciate the small blessings I usually take for granted.  Things like going to the shop, dropping kids at school, visiting friends and family, walking outside or having small talk with neighbours; made me realise we as humans chase after the next day, often missing today.  I hope I can keep some of my own tips going in the future when our reality changes to post lockdown again.  Maybe being a VA prepared me in some why for the lockdown, as I have been doing all the above, just without the kids around 24/7. Stay healthy mentally and physically. And remember being with family during this time is special, we may never have this solitude again.

Photo by Anastasiya Gepp from Pexels

 

Asana versus Monday.com:  What is your tool of productivity and why?

Asana versus Monday.com: What is your tool of productivity and why?

What does it mean to be productive? The word productive is often described as a person’s capability to do a lot of work successfully.  How can we maximize our productivity in our careers? Nowadays, the most common answer would be through the utilization of a Project Management Tool.

What is the best suited software for you? A popular comparison would be of Asana verse Monday.com, which are both powerful Project Management Tools. Asana can be described as a simple, more traditional approach and better suited for small to medium sized businesses, while Monday.com is a more sophisticated, detailed option and better suited for medium sized businesses. By comparing the core features of each tool, it will allow you to select the best option for you and your team.

 

Pricing

This can be the ultimate deciding factor and the fuel behind your system of choice; Asana is free for up to fifteen team members per a project and would require an upgrade to a paid plan to make use of certain features. Monday.com offers a free fourteen-day trial and then the option to purchase the basic plan at $39 USD per month. Asana is slightly pricier than Monday.com when comparing the paid plans but it does offer the option of a free plan and not only a trial.

 

Task Management

Task Management is achieved by setting tasks with deadlines and then meeting the set deadlines. Asana allows you to create a task, name the task and then assign it either to yourself or a team member, accompanied with a deadline. By clicking on the task, it will expand to show you more detail, you can comment mentioning team members and attach documents or links used to collaborate. Asana displays tasks that are due soon in the ‘Home Section’, and you can see a complete list of all tasks assigned to you by viewing ‘My Tasks’. Monday.com refers to tasks as “Pulses”, you can name the Pulse, assign it to a team member, set its status and make it dependent on other Pulses. Asana has a basic and to the point task management method, while Monday.com has room for customization.

 

Workflow Management

Workflow Management is the optimization of your company’s business processes through automation. This includes mapping, planning and coordinating all parts of your business structure. Workflow in Asana is created through views such as lists, Kanban boards, calendar and timeline formats. Monday.com operates in a similar way, it allows you to see different visualizations for Pulses without having to switch between browser tabs. Monday.com shows a list view of your Pulses with a mini progress bar for each one, it also shows the visualization of your choice in the section above the fold. You can change the Pulse statuses in Monday.com using a drop-down menu in the list section, you can stretch and shrink Pulses in the timeline view or drag-and-drop cards in the Kanban board. Monday.com gives you more freedom to customize your workflow than the traditional approach of Asana.

 

Communication

Communication is a key factor to a successful team; a team must establish communication standards and a shared task management system contributes to those standards. Asana gives you the option to comment at task, project and team levels and Monday.com only lets you comment on tasks. Asana allows communication between your team in various ways, you can comment directly on a task or start a conversation in a dedicated window within a project. If you have a team page, you can host team discussions and post announcements on one dedicated page. The inbox keeps track of all communication, alerting you when a conversation has started, when you are mentioned in a comment or when a team member prompts interaction. Monday.com offers one way to communicate with your team and that is at task level. When you click a task in a project, a window will open, and this is where you can leave update. Here is where you can leave comments, mention other users, add GIFs or attach files and links. Monday.com offers the use of an inbox, that will display all communication on the subscribed boards, even if you are not assigned to an item or mentioned in a comment.

 

Integration

Integration is a method of coordination that allows various software systems to work together. Asana offers over 100 integrations from Dropbox to Slack. Monday.com does not match that number.  The the integrations offered by Monday.com are useful, though this feature is dependent on each individual business and will depend on your preference. Asana is a clear leader in integration.

 

My preference

What is the best Project Management Tool for me as a Virtual Assistant? My conclusion and chosen tool of productivity is Asana, simple is better.

 

CoSchedule VS FreshDesk:     which  is best for you?

CoSchedule VS FreshDesk: which is best for you?

As a business owner you want to make sure you are giving your clients the best service around … all the time! But it is human nature to let things fall through the cracks as we juggle a myriad of things, most times not purposefully, but it happens.

So how do you keep your clients happy, get the work done and keep track of what is going on overall in your business (and ultimately in your clients business)?

 

Project Management Tools

Using apps and software programs that can help you keep everything in one place and that can allow you, at a quick glance, to see what has been done, what is on hold and what still needs to be done as well as the timeline and so on is imperative in this day and age. Having effective project management tools in your business is the best thing you can for yourself and your clients.

Now, there are so many available out there, which one should you choose? That all depends on the type of business you have. Is your niche marketing, are you a graphic designer, website developer, customer service or a blogger? The type of business you have will determine which tool will best serve you and provide you with the outcome that desire.

In this article I am going to discuss two lesser used tools which specialize in the marketing space and the customer service space. CoSchedule and FreshDesk – Both are great project management tools for the marketing and customer service sector (and can be applied to many other sectors too).

Which one is the most beneficial for your business? Let’s find out …

 

CoSchedule

CoSchedule is great for the marketing industry as it has a Marketing Suite built in with features such as:

  • Marketing Calendar – A global visual real-time calendar that allows you to see (wherever you may be in the world) how the content will look with graphics and text. This can be shared with the entire team. The calendar is customizable and can be changed as the business need changes.
  • Content Organizer – Imagine a triage for your content schedule and strategy. Prioritize things and shift as needed, all in real-time and allowing your global team to access it all.
  • Work Organizer –This one is all about your team. Help them reach their full potential, set deadlines, allow them to see progress and so on. This will alleviate bottlenecks and possible missing of important deadlines.
  • Social Organizer – Make templates so that they can be filled in and re-used, eliminate the busy work. Keep the workflow and work communication transparent and you can automatically set tasks and social plans and content that need to recur. “Set and Forget” is their motto.
  • Asset Organizer – Categorize the work at hand. Quickly locate and access and use the folders you need to get the work done, on time every time.

Overall this feature is perfect for business and enterprise. It allows strategies to be put in place, it allows for flexibility, it gives global real-time views so that a team can have access no matter where they may be in the world. Transparency and customization is also evident in this feature of CoSchedule.

If you are an individual or a startup, do not fret, you too can benefit from the Editorial Calendar feature of CoSchedule.  These include:

  • Blog Editorial Calendar
  • WordPress Integration
  • Social Media Publishing
  • Re-queue Social Automation
  • Task Management

You can organize everything in one place and schedule out content and articles without the headaches. The automation and integration features of the key benefits with this feature.

 

FreshDesk

Is providing stellar customer service more your buzz? Then FreshDesk may take preference between these two project management tools. Let us find out more.

“Trusted by 150,000+ businesses”

That statement says a lot, there are many reasons as to why this statistic is the truth and here are some of them.

  • Convert emails to tickets – This feature allows you to take emails from customers and automatically turn them into tickets and respond that much faster. Never miss another email.
  • Intuitive Reporting – This feature is great because you track team performance and customer satisfaction.
  • Social Helpdesk – This is a brilliant feature as it allows you to take Tweets and Facebook messages and automatically convert them into tickets. You can now respond to customers anywhere, anytime.
  • Smart Automations – Automate the ticket assignment process
  • Seamless Integrations – Have everything your support team needs in one place with ease of access.
  • Knowledge base – Set up a Knowledge Base. This allows customers to possibly find the answers they are looking for, and therefore they would not have to wait on a response from the support team. For example, adding screenshots or links to changing passwords, or changing profile details and so on.

Overall, Freshdesk would be great for anyone who wants to create a seamless, effective communication channel with their customers and provide high-end customer service around every corner.

Is this you?

 

Conclusion

These two project management tools are by no means the only ones available, however they seem really great and capable of handling the tasks at hand.

As you can tell they both have different functions in the workplace, but that is not to say you would not benefit from both. Essentially, if you have a product or service that you offer, you need to have systems and processes in place (CoSchedule) and a customer service platform (FreshDesk).

For a comparison as far as usability and price points go, you can click here and get up to date information to help you decide on the way forward.

Happy Project Managing!

How to find your happy place at home

How to find your happy place at home

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic that we are all facing at present I thought that it would be very appropriate to encourage everyone to find that place that you can call your happy place.

Do you have a happy place? A physical place that you can retreat to that grounds you and makes you feel peaceful and find balance. Finding your happy place sounds cliché, I know, but everyone has at least one. A happy place is a serine place that puts positive thoughts in your mind and a smile on your face. This is where we can be our true selves allowing ourselves to be present, casting aside grudges of the past and pausing our worries for the future.

 

Recharge your batteries

Everyone needs a place they can go to where they can step out of daily life and just relax. All of us need a place to recharge our batteries, where we feel safe and where we can do things that bring us joy. We all have that one place our mind immediately goes to when we imagine a safe and comfortable environment. It’s important to remember that your happy place mustn’t be something that uses up your energy,

I have a love affair with the beach.  There is something about looking out over the beautiful endless ocean, feeling the sand beneath my feet, and smelling that fresh salty air.  It never disappoints, rather it is always there to soothe my soul and dissipate my worries.  With each wave that rolls in, comes calm and loving energy. It is definitely my happy place.

When finding a happy place, you need to have an open-mind and be willing to try new things. It is always good to experience new things alone. You will know if the place or activity you are doing brings you peace of mind and become stress-free.

 

How it benefits you

A happy place gives you the chance to be in your own little world, feel happy and de-stress. Whether it be with a good book, a movie, a meal, exercising or at a relaxing spot. You get to find out what really makes you happy and how beneficial it is in your life. A happy place can get you out of a bad mood or a bad state of mind.

 

Creating Your Happy Place

  1. What kind of environments are you most drawn to?
  2. Where do you feel most energized and alive?
  3. Where do you feel most calm and at peace?
  4. It’s somewhere you feel safe.
  5. It has things in it you enjoy.
  6. It has privacy.
  7. You literally look forward to being there.
  8. You feel peace and joy in it.
  9. Take a few minutes to jot down a list of the places that always brings you the most pleasure.
  10. It could even be that your happy place isn’t physically real, but a mental place you can go to when you need to.

I hope that these 10 tips help you find your happy place.

 

Conclusion

If you don’t have a happy place, dealing with your stress and isolation during these very trying times will probably be much harder. Stay Safe!