Monthly Archives: August 2017

6 Ways to Better Manage Your Stress as a Business Owner!

Whenever I think of stress, I think of an episode of the TV show Seinfeld called “The Serenity Now.” A character named Frank Costanza is advised to say “Serenity now” whenever his blood pressure gets too high. The funny thing is, he throws up his arms and shouts it instead of saying it calmly.

As online business owners, we may also have moments that make us want to throw our arms up and yell, “Serenity now!” According to an article titled “Types Of Stressors (Eustress Vs. Distress),”  negative stress, or “distress,” decreases performance and can be caused by stressors like “excessive job demands” or “lack of training necessary to do the job,” among other things. I’m sure we can all add to the list of stressors in our business that almost paralyze us and make it hard to move forward sometimes.

But before we talk about how to manage our negative stress, it’s helpful to remember that not all stress is bad. The article above also talks about positive stress, or “eustress,” that feels exciting, motivates us, and improves our performance. Eustress is typically short-term, and you may have felt it as a surge of excitement when you experienced things like learning a new skill, being offered an exciting project, or signing a contract with a new ideal client. Instead of paralyzing us, this type of stress can make us keen to do a good job and move forward.

So as you listen to yourself and your emotions, take note of whether you’re experiencing positive stress or negative stress. Since we’re all different, we react to things in different ways.

Here are some tips that can help you manage negative stress as a business owner:

1. Breathe.

Imagine a day in the life of your business. You get up in the morning, grab a beverage, and log into your email.

Bang!

You just received a troubling email about [blank], or you logged into your email and suddenly the internet connection was lost. Fill in the blank with whatever trouble is happening in your business.

Now what do you do? First, are you breathing? When I’m stressed, I have a tendency to hold my breath and not even know it. This lack of oxygen sure doesn’t help, so in times of negative stress, be conscious of your breathing.

Slow yourself down and breathe in and out. Before you do anything, sit for a moment and breathe deeply. It’s hard to feel agitated when you’re breathing slowly. Stop to take a breath before replying to whatever email, phone call, Skype call, text message, etc., has created stress. In any event, pausing to take a breath will help keep you from reacting too quickly or harshly.

Marcus Geduld has some great advice in his article “5 Simple Steps for Mastering Mindfulness.He suggests a discipline called “Mindfulness Meditation” as a way of training your brain to live in the present. This technique may be helpful when you’ve just responded to a stressful situation and need to move forward, or it may even be helpful in the midst of a stressful situation. It simply involves setting a timer (for five or ten minutes, then gradually increasing the time over a period of many weeks), sitting comfortably upright, closing your eyes, focussing on your breathing, and gently returning your focus to your breathing whenever you notice your mind has wandered.

2. Talk

In the Seinfeld episode I mentioned above, one of the problems with yelling “Serenity now” was that it didn’t address the cause of the stress. As Virtual Assistants and online business owners, we often work completely alone. Sometimes we work during the day while the rest of our household is out, or during the night while they’re all asleep. So we can often feel alone in our stress.

If you’re experiencing long-term stress that’s interfering with your daily life and impacting your health, it may be helpful to talk to a counsellor or mental health professional. If your stress isn’t severe, you may benefit from having coffee with a supportive friend, family member, business mentor, or mastermind group who are willing to let you vent and give you advice if needed.

Online forums or groups like our VAClassroom University Facebook Group can also be a supportive, caring environment where Virtual Assistants can bring their concerns and commiserate with others who have experienced similar stressors. Asking questions in these groups or contacting your clients or colleagues to ask questions may also help alleviate stress.

And if you’re facing a stressful moment and are unable to reach anyone at the time, another option is to write your thoughts down in a journal. You may have an online document or an old-fashioned paper diary you can use. Sometimes it’s helpful to write down frustrations just to get them out of your head. You can then delete the document or rip up the page if you don’t want to keep a record of it permanently. Or you may have just written the first chapter of a great memoir on the life of a business owner!

3. Strategize.

So now that you’ve had a chance to breathe and talk about the stress in some way, it’s important to come up with a strategy for moving forward. One of my business stressors is often caused by receiving a project description and having an instant case of imposter syndrome. My first thought is, “How on earth am I going to do this? What if I mess it up?” Stress related to business tasks can sometimes be caused by our own self-doubt, lack of time, resources, or even lack of required skills.

One effective way to manage stress is to break the work up into manageable chunks. I like to create a roadmap for projects by figuring out what I need to do first, then second, then third, and so on. For example, in a nutshell, when writing this blog post, I research, outline, brainstorm, ask questions, draft, rest, edit, and then send it off to my client.

In the case of a problem that has cropped up, you may want to break the solution down into manageable parts and strategize what actions need to be taken. Do you need to subcontract a task? Do you need to say no to a task? Do you need to end a client relationship? Do you need to phone the cable company and see why the internet connection isn’t working? In each case, try to slow down and come up with a process and step-by-step strategy for facing the issue.

4. Focus.

Here’s where the technique of “Mindfulness Meditationwill come in handy. As you begin facing your stressor, whether it be a problem or a project, be sure to focus on only one aspect or one task at a time. Don’t let your mind jump ahead or jump back into the past.

I’m particularly guilty of not focussing. I remember in my university days, I would receive a syllabus for a course and feel overwhelmed by the list of assignments and exams. But if I could talk to my younger self, I would say, “Relax! You don’t have to do all those things at once!”

Similarly, when I receive projects from clients, I have to remember to focus on one thing at a time. Right now I’m writing this blog post. I’ll focus on my next project when I’ve finished this task.

In this case, time tracking tools can be used not only for productivity but as a way of encouraging yourself to focus on one thing at a time. For example, you can set the timer and say, “I’m going to focus on this one thing for 20 minutes. I’ll worry about the next thing half an hour from now.”

5. Rest.

This is a hard one, especially if you have a busy schedule and full client load. But in any way you can, try to take a rest in between stressful moments and after stressful work projects. Take time to revel in your accomplishment before moving on to the next task. Read any positive comments or feedback you’ve received and let the affirmation sink in. I like to keep positive emails from my clients and educators so I can look back on them and give myself a little pep talk.

If you’ve just solved a tricky issue or finished a task, whether big or small, reward yourself with at least a beverage or a favorite snack. I sometimes like to stop and listen to a favorite song to clear my head for the next task.

And whenever possible, take regular breaks away from the computer to allow your mind to rest and refocus. I usually program my time tracking software so I can get up and walk around every half-hour. If I’m at a loss for words or struggling to solve a problem, I often think of a solution once I’ve walked away from the computer.

Most of all, try to get adequate sleep to allow your body to rest and relax. Managing stress is very difficult when we’re sleep-deprived. If it’s hard to get a full night’s sleep, sometimes a power nap in the middle of the day can help.

6. Energize

Back in my university days, I discovered intramural ball hockey, and I remember thinking, “I love these times when all that exists in the world is a ball and a hockey stick.” When I’d head back to my dorm room, I felt energized and focussed, ready to tackle my homework assignments. I used those hockey games as a way to slap-shot my stress away.

Now that I’m older, my poor knees can’t handle the running, so I take a low-impact dance fitness class. I’ve noticed that if I ever head in there feeling stressed out and grumpy, I leave with a smile on my face and more energy after grooving to the music.

So as you face the stressors in your own Virtual Assistant business, pursue activities that give you energy and a feeling of well-being. Do something enjoyable, therapeutic, and cathartic where you can feel your stress melt away. Eat healthy food to keep yourself nourished and treat yourself now and then to your favorite dessert.

And be sure to get regular exercise in whatever way works for your body to release endorphins and build your strength and stamina. For example, you could do gentle stretches at your desk, or your may enjoy a walk outside, a bike ride, or an exercise class at a rec center.

While it may not be possible to avoid stress as business owners, there are ways to manage it so we can remain productive and healthy. What are some strategies or tips that have helped you manage stress in your Virtual Assistant business? Please share your thoughts below!

The Fine Art of Writing Client Proposals

Client proposals – two words that can make even the most experienced Virtual Assistant shudder. I have to admit a little chill ran up my spine when I found out I’d be writing about this topic.

Why do client proposals make us so nervous? Because a lot is riding on the words we put together. We may meet potential clients at a conference, and we’re excited at the prospect of working with them. Then we’re asked to send over a proposal, and suddenly we need to convince them why they should choose our online business over others. We may freeze up and not know where to start, or our minds may race, full of ideas and unsure of how to communicate them effectively.

But rest assured there are many ways we can prepare ourselves so we can put our best foot forward. Here are some tips and strategies for writing winning client proposals:

1. Do your research.

Before writing your proposal, ensure you have all the background information you need. This research begins with making sure you’re listening well during your initial contact with a prospective client.I sometimes start daydreaming about possibilities when someone is talking (a bit of an occupational hazard for writers, I guess ☺), but it’s important to focus in on the matter at hand. Listen to gain an understanding of the client’s needs, the nature and scope of the project, and any preferences the client may have. In all your contact, whether in person, on the phone, Skype, or email, try to observe the client’s personality too and what makes him or her tick.

Also remember to ask any questions you have either in person or in a follow-up email exchange. Your potential clients will admire your interest in their business, and you’ll gain valuable material to include in your proposal. If time allows, you could brainstorm a list of questions ahead of time so you’re prepared before your initial meeting. If you meet a client unexpectedly, listening well can also help you know what you need to ask about. Amy Hardison White includes this list of example questions in her blog post, “How to Write A Client-Winning Proposal”:

• What does your business do?

• Who is your target audience?

• What are your goals?

• Who are your competitors? How do you differentiate your business from them?

• What are your needs?

• What is the proposed timeline?

• What is the available budget?

White advises that you think carefully about how you ask questions. Determine which ones are better asked in person or on the phone, and which ones can be communicated via email or web form.

And as you think of questions, you’ll realize that some of the answers can be found online. So remember to research potential clients’ businesses on your own as well. You can look up their website, social media presence, and any other online information that will give you a feel for what their business does. Take notes and save them for later so you can include any relevant details in your proposal.

2. Write from your client’s point of view.

This next tip echoes a previous blog post we shared on “5 Keys to Creating a Winning ‘About Page’ For Your VA Business. Like an “About Page,” a client proposal has less to do with you and more to do with connecting with your target audience, i.e., your potential client.

First, it’s important to speak your client’s language. If you’ve been listening well, you’ll notice certain key phrases and business terms your client uses when speaking about a problem or project. Being aware of this vocabulary will help you know how to state the client’s need without making assumptions.

In a guest post, Bidsketch founder Ruben Gamez advises using your client’s exact words in your proposal. He explains,

“I know, this feels weird — you’re afraid they’ll notice and think you’re up to something. But in fact, quoting key phrases back to them is incredibly powerful. It’s a sales technique used by some of the most persuasive people in the world, and basically it works because people are helpless against their own thoughts. Using their own words to offer them something makes the offer virtually irresistible. (And even if they *do* notice, they just think, ‘Wow, they were really listening!’ And that’s also a GOOD thing.)”

So as you speak your client’s language, focus on reiterating your client’s need in his or her terms. Doing so will ensure the meaning you’re communicating is clear and relatable. You can elaborate on ways your business will meet the need, but don’t take it in a direction your client doesn’t want by clouding the terminology or making incorrect assumptions.

3. Know what you’re offering.

When writing a client proposal, it’s essential that you maintain a clear sense of your own business and how it relates to your prospective client. Which of your services are applicable to the project in question?  What are your rates for those services? Will there be any expenses? If you’ve been working as a Virtual Assistant for awhile, you may want to include some samples of your work and a few client testimonials.

In “A Virtual Assistant Guide to Writing a Great Client Proposal,” Alpine Small Business Solutions gives the following advice:

“Most important, make sure you are being true to yourself and the type of business you want to create. What makes your proposal different from every other freelancer or virtual assistant? You need to make yours stand out in a professional but charismatic way. Don’t take a client that is not a good match for you. And remember, you are the boss now.”

So if you have a mission statement for your business, think about how it relates to fulfilling the prospective client’s needs. How is your business a good fit for this project? How are you a good match for this client?

And above all, remain true to your vision for your business. Is this a client you would be proud to list on your website or next client proposal? Does the client’s business match up with the qualities you value? Does this project involve services you’re currently offering?

This last question may sound strange, but it’s a valid point. As Virtual Assistants, we sometimes begin offering one type of service and then for various reasons switch to another area. Sometimes prospective clients will hear about our previous service offerings and ask if we still provide them. In this case, you need to weigh the value of going ahead with the proposal versus saying no in order to move forward with your future service offerings.

4. Choose an appropriate template and communication channel.

As mentioned above, listening is a crucial part of the client proposal process. This includes finding out how your prospective client would like to receive the proposal. In the online business world, technology allows for so many different communication channels, each client may have different preferences. Some may want to receive the proposal in a simple email, others via Word document, special proposal software, or even video. So the best way to make a good impression is to communicate in a manner that resonates with your client.

In any case, make sure the proposal is clear and professional looking. In an article titled “5 Proven Steps to Writing a Perfect Freelance Proposal,”  Ryan Robinson recommends an app like Bidsketch to give proposals “a visual edge above the average proposal.” Bidsketch streamlines the proposal writing process by providing templates and allowing you to reuse designs, content, and fees. You can also embed images and video for clients to view online.

If you’re sending proposals in the body of an email, Robinson suggests at least using an invoicing tool like FreshBooks. FreshBooks also allows you to connect to both Bidsketch and Proposify, another app that allows you to create an industry-specific online proposal. Once completed, you simply email the prospective client a branded link that allows them to check, accept, and sign the proposal.

5. Be authentic.

Now, I would say the most important tip when writing client proposals is to sell yourself in a sincere way. If you don’t think you’re good enough, or you think you need to act differently to impress a potential client, stop for a moment. Think about all you’ve accomplished in your Virtual Assistant business and all the work you’ve put into training for it. You are valuable, and you need to believe it before you can convince your client to believe it.

Be sure to think through the project and be realistic about timelines. It may be tempting to suggest a shorter timeline in order to compete with other businesses, but it’s better in the long run if you know you can meet your deadlines without running yourself into the ground.

Take note of the style you’re using when writing the proposal. Imagine yourself talking to the client in person so that you don’t lapse into an impersonal or salesy tone. If you communicate in a professional yet personable way, you’ll connect with clients more readily, and they’ll catch a glimpse of what it would be like to work with you.

I especially like Joshua Lisec’s advice in his article “10 Foolproof Tips to Make Your Freelance-Writing Shine”:

“Show you’re a real person to keep prospects engaged. Work your sense of humor or amusing stories into your proposals.For example, when writing a proposal for a $4,500 editing project, I included with my quote a section focused on potential ROI titled:‘3 reasons why this is a deal worth writing a letter to Mom and Dad about. I won the project.”

If you’ve been feeling nervous about client proposals, I hope you feel better after reading this post. And if you have experience in this area, we’d love to hear your suggestions. Please share any questions or advice in the comments below!

Semester Schedule of New Training Opportunities (May 2017)

VAClassroom University offers three intakes in September, January and May and features three semesters of NEW certifications, courses and workshops.

Based on ongoing surveys and input from our advisory board, new programs & courses are developed each semester to help you develop the most in-demand skills and services for your business. Each semester features 1 new certification, 1 core course and 4 interactive workshops. That equates to 18 new and relevant courses per year!

How to Enroll at VAClassroom University Today

Two Easy Tuition Plans to Choose From:

SELECT YOUR TUITION PLAN: Annual 12 Pay Plan
(BEST VALUE)Until december 31, 2018
Annual 12 Pay Plan Until December 31, 2018
40+ Certifications, Courses & Workshops($7200 value)
New In-Demand Training Programs 18 NEW COURSES ($1942 value) 6 NEW COURSES (Fall 2016 Semester Only)
VA Resource Centre with Practical Guides & Checklists
Interactive Course Discussion Boards
Tech Corner Software / App Tutorials
VA Success Interviews
Monthly Office Hours Q&A Webinars with Craig
Ongoing Support from Our World-Class VA Mentors
Professional VA Certifications Powered by Accredible
Monthly Access to the Learning Curve publication
Facebook Learning Community
VAClassroom Professional VA Directory

TUITION OPTIONS:

1 Payment of 597
SAVE OVER $100

12 Monthly
Payments of

59

Closed Closed

* Please refer to our 15 Day Cancellation Policy below.

The VAClassroom 15-Day Cancellation Policy

I am absolutely confident that your enrollment in VAClassroom University will be an immensely valuable step forward for you, and will help you build and grow a profitable Virtual Assistant Business

Still, I want you to be absolutely sure it’s right for you.

So take 15 DAYS to check out and evaluate the University. If for any reason you feel that you are NOT satisfied with the training and VAClassroom is not a good fit for you, then simply contact us at [email protected] and we will issue a prompt refund … NO questions asked!

moneyback moneyback

Craig Cannings

Co-Founder / Chief Learning Officer

VAClassroom University

The True Value of VAClassroom University

For the past 8 years, we have created a wide range of specialized VA Programs that students were able to purchase on an individual or al-la-carte basis. So, if students were seeking Social Media Training, they would enroll in one of our six Social Media Platforms.

This is what our tuition model has looked like for our first 8 years:

VACLASSROOM PROGRAMS
  • Certification Course
  • Skill-Based Course
  • Clinic or Workshop
OLD TUITION MODEL
  • $297
  • $147
  • $47-$67

But, a common concern we’d often hear from our students is: “I am really needing multiple courses, but can ONLY afford to take one.”

It is important to us that you are able to access the right training at the right time in the most cost-effective way possible. So, in keeping with our ongoing commitment to offer the most current and affordable VA Training, the new VAClassroom University has just gotten a lot more attractive to you (and your training budget).

From Al-La-Carte Model to All-In-One University

Enrollment our new VAClassroom University, there are over 50 high relevant and in-demand Certifications, Courses and Workshops. As part of your enrolment in our NEW University, you will receive access to EVERYTHING.

if we were still using our old tuition model, your education costs would breakdown like this:

PROGRAMS FEES TOTAL TUITION
8 Certification Courses @$297 each $2367
16 Skill-Based Courses @$147 each $2352
7 Workshops @$67 each $469

That’s over $5100 dollars of industry-leading courses included in the new VAClassroom University

Plus, each year, you will receive 18 NEW courses including:

3 major certifications programs ($994 value)
3 skill-based courses ($441 value)
12 interactive workshops ($564 value)

That’s an additional $1886 in valuable training offered every year to go along with the $7200+ worth of training already available in our University!

But not to worry, VAClassroom University will be a whole lot more affordable for you than $9,000+ in training! Keep on reading below.

Industry-Leading Certification Programs

Access comprehensive and easy-to-learn VA Certification Programs across seven key tracks: Social Media, Internet Marketing, Virtual Events, Content Development, Business Management, Technology, and Graphic Design.

VAClassroom University includes a database of certification courses featuring short, practical videos, quizzes, resources and checklists.

Comprehensive Course Library

Access a large library of powerful, skill-building courses each designed to help you improve and expand the skills and services you offer your clients!

Our course library includes both “Business-Building” programs that help you set up, market and grow your business in an effective way as well as “Skill-Building” courses designed to improve and expand the services you offer your clients.

Monthly Skill Workshop

Join us every month for a new, LIVE, interactive 90-minute workshop on Virtual Assistant topics that matter to you!

Through ongoing surveys and input from the VAClassroom Advisory Board, our team is fully dialed into the skilled-based topics that are most pertinent to your growth and success.

The live workshops will be recorded and posted in an established archive of awesome training!

Tech Corner (Software / Apps Tutorials)

At some point, all of you as Virtual Assistants need to get your “geek on” and learn new technology that is vital to your business and your clients.

Our “Tech Corner” offers practical, step-by-step tutorials on software and apps most relevant to your business including social media management tools, project management tools, marketing landing page tools, ecommerce tools, productivity tools and so much more…

VA Resource Centre

In the work you do, there are so many systems that need to be set up and managed for your business (and your clients)!

The Resource Centre simplifies your life with practical guides and checklists across a variety of areas to help improve the delivery of your services and the operation of your business.