Monthly Archives: November 2017

The BEST WAYS to Overcome Your WORST DAYS in Your Business

How’s your business going right now? I hope you’re having a good day, but if not, I hope this blog post will help you feel better and move forward. Writing a post like this is a challenge because it’s easy to come off sounding trite and formulaic. Everyone responds differently to bad days, and different things may constitute a bad day for different people.

As a Virtual Assistant, my worst days often happen because of technology breakdowns and my own mistakes. One really bad day happened many years ago. It was before I knew about Wi-Fi and mobile technology, so I worked from one computer, and if anything went wrong, I had no backup.

One day I heard about a spyware removal tool that was supposed to be good, so I installed it and ran the scan. Unfortunately, it removed not only the spyware but the software that enabled my Internet connection too!! When I phoned my cable provider, they had never heard of this tool, so they couldn’t help, and to top it off, it was Christmas Eve, and tech support couldn’t send someone over until December 27th. That doesn’t sound so bad, except my client was expecting me to email two completed documents to his company by Christmas Day!

And if you think that’s as bad as it gets, it’s not. My husband had an old computer, so the cable company had recommended I unplug the modem from mine and plug it into his. I plugged it in, opened my email, sent one file, and then a message flashed across the screen – “Browser Hijack!” Oops, there was no security software installed on my husband’s computer. So now I had to worry about whether I had sent a virus to my client AND figure out how to send the other file. I phoned around, but all the Internet cafes were closed.

Long story short, I finally was able to borrow someone’s computer on Christmas Day to send the file, but it was a long process, and I was drained by the end. How did I bounce back from that? Probably not as well as I could have. It took another bad day to show me how to pull myself out of a funk.

Fast-forward a few years, and I was awakened one morning by a call at 6:00 a.m. My client was phoning to let me know she hadn’t received my project. What? I thought it was due the next day, so I checked my schedule. My heart sank as I realized I had read the date wrong. My client graciously gave me until 9:00 a.m. to complete the work and email it over. After freaking out for a moment, I had no choice but to focus and move ahead with the project.

Since I was on a tight deadline, my coping strategies had to be implemented quickly, and I realized that a lot of things I did in those few hours could be adapted to days where the awfulness lasts longer and has a greater impact.

With that in mind, here are some strategies you can use to overcome your worst days:

1. Pause

Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So relax.” – Bryant McGill

When I received that call from my client at 6:00 a.m., I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me, and I started to panic. But because I only had three hours to complete a large amount of work, I had to pull myself together quickly so I could get the project done. The first thing I had to do was stop panicking and calm myself.

After a horrible day of work, you might find you’re almost holding your breath. Breathing shallowly can contribute to feelings of anxiety, so in the midst of the challenge and afterwards, it’s good to pause and breathe deeply.

While you’re breathing, try to focus and calm your mind as well. In the midst of a bad day and especially afterwards, I typically have thoughts like, “That’s it – my client is going to fire me,” or “How could I have been so stupid?” Melody J. Wilding has some great advice for overcoming these negative thoughts in her article “5 Ways to Bounce Back From a Horrible Day”

“It may sound simple, but applying a label to the emotion you’re experiencing can discharge its hold on you and equip you to overcome the negative feelings. When you’re flustered, your mind is cluttered, but research shows that putting your feelings into words can put the brakes on your emotional response and help you process the situation from a more rational, calm perspective. A thought becomes simply a thought; an emotion just an emotion.

“For example, ‘I keep messing up at work, and I’m so frustrated with myself’ becomes ‘I’m having the thought that I’m not doing enough at work, and I’m feeling frustration because of it.’ This mindfulness practice has been shown to improve behavior and problem solving.”

2. Evaluate

“Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so.” – David Brooks

Once you’re calm, you can reflect on what’s happened so you’re equipped to deal with similar situations in the future. Rather than catastrophizing, it’s now possible to make goals and brainstorm solutions. For example, after reading my client’s schedule wrong, I could strategize like this:

– What caused this issue? I read the schedule wrong.

– How was it solved? I was honest with the client about my mistake, and she made a change to the timeline. I focussed on the task and met the new deadline.

– How does this issue impact my business? It might have lowered my credibility as the client urgently needed the document by the originally scheduled time and date.

– How can I avoid a similar issue in the future? Read schedules carefully and double-check with the client if in doubt.

You may want to speak to a trusted mentor, colleague, friend, or family member who can help you deal with the issue. Depending on what’s happened, you could also do some Internet research for resources on the topic. Sometimes reading about others who have experienced similar challenges in their work day provides inspiration and advice.

Above all, remember to tell yourself that experiencing adversity will make you stronger and wiser. Your success is not measured by a lack of mistakes or challenges, and you can use the worst days in your business to inform your strategies for the future. Think about what you’ve learned, and try to see your worst days as part of your professional training.

3. Unplug

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… including you.” – Anne Lamott

After an awful day, it might be tempting to hover around the computer or keep checking email to see if there are more fires to put out. But at a certain point, you need to leave the office so you can give yourself a break. Your brain might have been in problem-solving mode all day, or you may have felt irritated and frustrated, so it’s time to pull the plug and push the reset button on yourself.

If you work in a home office, leave the room and shut the door. If you use a laptop around the house, shut that puppy down and close the lid. Maybe even put it in a case and hide it from yourself momentarily. I used to cover my office equipment with a tea towel to tell myself I wasn’t going to use it again until tomorrow.

In an article titled5 Ways to Bounce Back From a Bad Day at Work,

Kali Hawlk, writing on behalf of GoGirl Finance, recommends establishing “an end-of-the-workday routine that helps signal the official end of the day.” She says, “That way, when things don’t go so great, your mind still gets to process that work is over – and now it’s time to go home, relax, and do something that makes you happy.”

As Virtual Assistants and online business owners, we might already be at home, so we need to do something to separate the bad business day from our personal life. One option is to literally step out of the house, take a short drive or walk, and enter the house again as if we’re commuting home from work.

4. Unwind

“Take time to do what makes your soul happy.” – Author unknown

Now that you’ve unplugged, it’s time to unwind and recharge those batteries so you can face another day. At this point, even if you’ve calmed yourself down, you might still have some frustrations and anxieties simmering inside, so if you need to talk to someone about what happened, please do so. But be sure you’re talking to someone who will help you feel better and not worse. Gwen Moran relates the following advice in her article “6 Simple Ways To Turn A Bad Day Around”:

“On truly bad days, you may need to call in the reinforcements. You probably know what you need to feel better, whether it’s a friend or colleague who will let you vent and just listen or who will help you find solutions. Grab that person and be upfront about what you need. After all, there are few things more annoying than needing a good vent and being peppered with solutions that don’t work for a variety of reasons…”

Next, treat yourself to a good meal, especially if the challenges of the day have kept you from eating enough. I always feel grumpy and pessimistic on an empty stomach, so some nutritious food helps rejuvenate me. Since I’ve been known to overindulge in chocolate when I’m stressed, I appreciate Kali Hawlk’s advice in the abovementioned article.

She emphasizes the importance of engaging in healthy habits and warns us that overindulging in food or alcohol won’t help. She explains, “You need to bring yourself back up – not sedate yourself with activities that keep you sedentary and disengaged.”

So enjoy a healthy meal, maybe a bit of dessert, and end the day with an activity that invigorates you and brings you joy. Remind yourself that there’s more to life than work and that there are people who love you, even if your computer melted down or you lost a key client. Do something that makes you happy, makes you laugh, makes you see the beauty in the world, and gives you hope for tomorrow.

Check out this infographic that provides a visual summary of how to handle those BAD DAYS! (Just right click on the image to “Save”)

Overcoming Your Worst Days in Business

Now we’d love to hear from you! How do you overcome your worst days? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

What’s in a Name: Should You Call Yourself a Virtual Assistant?

When I began writing this post, I thought of a quote from Shakespeare:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

 

We often paraphrase this to mean that the name of something doesn’t affect what it is. But is that always true? Have you ever wondered whether a title by any other name would perform better for you when marketing your Virtual Assistant business? It’s an interesting question.

How Important is Your Title?

Is it sufficient for people to know that you’re a Virtual Assistant, Online Professional or Freelancer, OR is it MOST important that they know the skills you possess? Are you defined by your title or by WHAT YOU DO in this market?

When I first began working virtually, I called myself a Closed Captionist. I learned transcription through a court reporting program at a college. Some people taking the course would become court reporters, and others would become closed captionists. But it was the same skill – transcription.

When I told people my job title, they’d ask me what a closed captionist was. I’d say, “I provide closed captioning for television shows.” My answer was still a bit confusing, so they’d reply, “Oh, you’re the person who does sign language on TV while someone’s talking?” And then I’d explain that, no, I transcribed all the dialogue and sound effects that were displayed on the screen as text.

Looking back, I wonder if it would have been just as correct to call myself a “transcriptionist.” I loved my work and was very proud to be a Closed Captionist, but when I moved on to other contract work, I discovered that the transcription skill itself was marketable. Audio-to-text transcription could translate into many other business opportunities:

– Court Reporting
– Virtual Event transcription
– Podcast transcription
– Oral storytelling transcribed into book form

In this way, being identified by the skill led to more mobility and a greater variety of tasks.

Virtual Assistant Definitions

Many of us reading this post would call ourselves Virtual Assistants. Tawnya Sutherland provides a good definition of this title on her site VAnetworking.com

“A Virtual Assistant (VA) is a highly-skilled, independent professional who remotely provides administrative, technical and/or creative business support services.”

These screenshots from a Pinterest board provide some other great definitions from the client’s point of view:

If that’s what clients think of VAs, it might be good to give yourself that title. As always, the key is to know your target audience. When you say you’re a VA, do potential clients seem puzzled, or do they greet you warmly and imagine the great load you’ll be taking off their plate? Do they offer you tasks that interest you and that you’re skilled in?

Let’s think about this again… Is it important for people to know you’re a “Virtual Assistant,” or is it most important that potential clients know the skills you possess? Are you defined by your title or by what you do in this market?

Arguments for Calling Yourself More than Just a Virtual Assistant

Susan Mershon has written an interesting article called “Virtual Assistant is NOT a Title,”  where she stresses that the term Virtual Assistant is an industry, not a title. She says people either “don’t know what one is” or “think you’re an administrative assistant.” In this case, she advises, “It’s not about your title… it’s about what you do for your clients.”

She recommends using a title related to the services you offer, like “Email Marketing Manager,” “Social Media Specialist,” and others.

In another article called “Virtual Assistant, Such a Deceptive Phrase,” Stephanie Watson-Barry of Barry Publishing stresses that Virtual Assistant is an important search term because people still use it when they’re looking for help. However, she gives the following advice:

“The point is to use terms that help your audience find you and then define your niche in a way that best describes what it is you really do.

“Therefore, I believe virtual service providers or virtual assistants should call themselves what they believe will work to attract their ideal clients. Without worrying about the term other than as a search term. I plan, organize, and create effective content strategies. Therefore, I call myself a Content Strategist, but I also consider myself a VA due to how I perform my duties.”

The common thread here is highlighting your skills. Using a title related to your services is in essence communicating your area of expertise.

Finding a Middle Ground

But what if you do want to call yourself as a Virtual Assistant, Online Professional or Freelancer based on your target audience and your business preferences?

Including the term Virtual Assistant in your title, for example, keeps you connected to the greater Virtual Assistant community within the industry, so you can identify with like-minded business owners who share common goals and concerns.

I like to use the word “freelance” in my title mainly because I want clients to know I won’t be coming into an office – i.e., I’ve sworn off the 9-5, and I’ll be working where the coffee flows freely and the business attire might be pajamas! ☺ “Freelance” is probably my favorite way of describing my work because it gives a feeling of freedom – freedom of location, freedom of time. I include the terms “writer and editor” or “content manager” because I want people to know what my skills are, and that I won’t be offering bookkeeping or accounting services. If I were to say that I was merely a “freelancer,” people would probably ask me, “What kind of freelancer are you?”

So another idea is to give yourself a title that includes both your skills and the industry. You could call yourself a Social Media VA, a Project Management VA, or a Freelance Content Manager. The list goes on…

Some Thoughts to Consider

How generalized or specialized do you want to be? Are you a Virtual Assistant willing to do any tasks required by businesses, or do you prefer to provide services for a business if they fit within your skill set?

What you call yourself may determine what kind of clients you’ll attract – those who know what they need and will hire you for your skills, or those who want to play it by ear and hire you to do whatever, whenever, no matter what type of skills are involved. Many articles have been written about the benefits or drawbacks of specializing, and whether it’s better to be a generalist or a specialist. When it comes right down to it, I feel it’s a personal decision for your business.

If you’d like to specialize, do you want to eliminate a certain scope of tasks and embrace a certain scope of tasks? As mentioned above, I do anything I can to avoid accounting and bookkeeping services, and I wax poetic about my love for content – writing content, editing content, researching content, etc.

I avoid just calling myself an editor, because then I might never be asked to write. And I avoid just calling myself a writer because I also enjoy editing. And if I want to broaden it further to include other tasks I do such as researching content, managing content, and repurposing content, I can also call myself a “Content Developer” or “Content Manager.”

It’s always possible there’ll be some clients who want general Virtual Assistance and will pass you over if you’re too specialized, and there are some clients who may pass you over if you’re not specialized enough. The choice is yours to determine whether you’d like to provide generalized services or specialized skills.

So, what’s in a name? Is your business title important, or the skills you possess? I think it boils down to client opportunities and job satisfaction. If your target clients are able to find you, and you’re offered fulfilling tasks from your chosen niche, you’re communicating your business services well.

Going back to that scene I was talking about from Shakespeare’s play, Juliet was mourning the fact that Romeo’s name prevented her from being able to marry him freely. He was a Montague, she was a Capulet, and their families were rivals.

If you find your title is preventing you from connecting with your ideal clients, do some brainstorming and create a new one. If you need to, you can shed your business title much easier than Romeo could shed his surname.

Now we’d love to hear from you! This is a challenging topic with many viewpoints. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

What Credentials Do You Need To Be A Successful Virtual Assistant?

In the VA industry, there is often much debate on which credentials and certifications are essential to being successful in your business.

In this recent Facebook LIVE video, I addressed this discussion and offered 6 ways to develop the RIGHT credentials for your VA business. Enjoy!

Video Outline

-24:44 – Opening Thoughts

-24:29 – Introduction to Topic: “What Credentials Do You Need to be Successful as a Virtual Assistant?”

-23:25 – How to Define Credentials (your qualifications, achievements, personal qualities, evidence of authority)

-16:33 – Discussing the Question: “Do I need certifications to be successful as a Virtual Assistant?”

-15:54 – Benefits to Getting Certifications:

-15:30 – #1. Builds confidence. It’s tangible evidence that you’ve accomplished something.

-14:56 – #2. Boosts your motivation.

-14:44 – #3. Helps you create a focus.

-14:21 – #4. Showcases your professional development (evidence of your authority).

-13:48 – #5. Gives you knowledge and skills to move into new niches.

-13:13 – How Do You Build the Right Credentials for Your VA Business?

-13:02 – #1. Be a student of your niche.

-10:08 – #2. Create learning blocks.

-7:47 – #3. Practice, practice, practice.

-5:52 – #4. Find a learning mentor.

-4:59 – #5. Participate in discussion groups.

-3:52 – #6. Be a curious, contagious learner.

-2:53 – Recap of 6 Ways to Develop Your Credentials

-1:53 – Importance of Developing Skills