Monthly Archives: March 2019

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Five Ways to Create a Winning Entrepreneurial Mindset

In a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck says, “The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you live your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”

In your Virtual Assistant or freelance business, are you the person you want to be? Are you accomplishing the things you value? As virtual business owners, we are entrepreneurs, but do we always think and act like entrepreneurs?

Sometimes we might catch ourselves behaving as employees, especially when we’ve come from or are still working in the corporate world. And chances are at some point in our younger days we were employees, even if it meant working a summer job at an ice cream shop.

In our “Entrepreneurial Mindset” course at Freelance University, co-founder and instructor Craig Cannings defines entrepreneurs as having a “growth mindset.” This type of mindset is characterized by qualities like problem-solving, adaptability, decisiveness, leadership, optimism, and many more. He also stresses that if we don’t want our clients to treat us as employees, we need to set the tone from the beginning.

But how do we set that tone? I think that we need to start with ourselves. We need to believe that we’re entrepreneurs before we can act like entrepreneurs.

To help us win the tug of war between our employee and entrepreneur sides, here are five ways we can create a winning entrepreneurial mindset:

1. Choose Your Words Wisely.

We often relate this advice to how we speak to other people, but in this case it applies to how we speak to ourselves. To foster an entrepreneurial mindset, it helps to think and speak in entrepreneurial language. If you’ve worked in the corporate world in Human Resources, for example, you may be able to identify many “employee/employer” words.

For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll share a few words and phrases that I and other freelancers or VAs may say or think about, along with some possible alternatives:

– Instead of “employer” or “boss,” say “client.”

– Instead of “job,” say “business opportunity” or “service.”

– Instead of “failure” or “mistake” say “learning opportunity.”

– Instead of “working for” your client, say you are “working with” your client.

– Instead of “change,” say “transition,” “new chapter,” or “new journey.”

– Instead of “problem,” say “challenge.”

– Instead of “worker,” say “business owner.”

The list goes on and on. As you travel on your entrepreneurial journey, you may come across instances where you find yourself speaking and thinking like an employee. For almost 18 years, I submitted what I called a “resignation letter” to my clients when I ended a contract. Then a couple months ago I discovered that the more entrepreneurial way of describing it was not “resignation letter” but “written notice.”

So, be prepared to learn more entrepreneurial words along the way and incorporate them into your self-talk.

2. Employ Yourself with Tools.

If you’ve been a Virtual Assistant or online professional for a while, you may already have collection of software that helps you run your business. When you look closely at these tools, you’ll find that they also help you think like an entrepreneur:

– Project Management Software like Trello (https://trello.com/): You’re setting vision and goals for your business.

– Accounting Software like FreshBooks (https://www.freshbooks.com/): You’re responsible for what happens in your business.

– Client Onboarding Tools like 17hats (https://www.17hats.com/) or Dubsado (https://www.dubsado.com/): Your client is not your employer, and you’re creating healthy boundaries and expectations.

– Virtual Assistant or Freelancer Conferences and Online Training: You’re committed to continuous learning.

– Time Tracking Software like Toggl (https://toggl.com/): You’re making good use of your time and optimizing your productivity.

When you think of the apps and software in your business, take a moment to identify how they illustrate your leadership, vision, and goals as a business owner. Observing these qualities will help shape your view of yourself.

3. Schedule Your Communication.

When your client emails you, do you jump to attention and write him or her back right away? Many of us may carry a feeling left over from the days when we needed to be at our employer’s beck and call. Maybe you worked in an office where someone would come over to your desk and summon you to a meeting. Maybe your employer would walk by your desk and deposit a pile of papers for you to process immediately. Or maybe you worked on call and had to keep your phone by your side at all times.

As an entrepreneur and online business owner, you’re free to decide when you’ll answer messages and respond to requests. You may need to read that sentence again and repeat it to yourself, because it can be a tough one to accept. But to embrace an entrepreneurial mindset, you need to give yourself permission to communicate on your terms.

Here are some ways you can communicate as an entrepreneur and still serve your clients well:

– Decide on a reasonable response time and let your client know when they can expect a reply from you (e.g. within 24 hours, unless you’ve prearranged to be more responsive during busy times like a product launch).

– Decide how you’ll communicate with your client (e.g. which types of communication you’re comfortable with and which are off limits).

– Batch your emails and other messages so that you respond during the time frame you choose and give your full attention to answering requests.

– If possible, turn off your device notifications while you’re working on other tasks so you aren’t tempted to respond immediately.

This strategy can take a lot of work, but try to be consistent. As long as your client is aware of your prearranged response time, they won’t worry that you’ve dropped off the face of the earth. If you’re onboarding a new client, you can be upfront about your communication schedule in your contract.

4. Govern Your Own Work Schedule.

In addition to scheduling your communication, you are free to schedule your own work times as an entrepreneur. Good clients who are aware of the entrepreneurial mindset often reflect it in their requests. For example, they may say things like this:

– “I’d like to create an ebook on such and such. What is a reasonable time frame for you to complete this project?”

– “I’ve sent you such and such pieces of content. When you have a moment, could you please review them and send me any revisions?”

– “I’d like such and such task completed. I’ve set a deadline of such and such. Let me know if that works for you?”

When they word things this way (and even if they don’t), give yourself permission to decide what time frames work best for your business. If you do consulting work, tools like Acuity Scheduling also give you freedom to block out times when you’re not available. In his article, “Entrepreneurs Are Scheduling Their Days Down to the Minute for Ultimate Success,” John Rampton recommends maintaining proper balance by adding personal events with friends and family to your Google Calendar too. He says, “If it’s important enough to be in your schedule — then it’s important enough for you to stay committed to the event.”

Embrace this freedom, and you’re embracing an entrepreneurial mindset. Unlike the days when you needed to submit a vacation request to Human Resources or to your employer, you make the call as a virtual business owner. Of course, there may be circumstances where you schedule vacations to work around your clients’ busy times, but remember that is always your decision.

5. Enrich Your Client Relationships.

I remember times when I worked as an employee, and I strictly followed the rules and performed tasks just to finish them. In an office, I would file papers and never stop to consider whether the filing system could be improved. I contributed nothing beyond following orders.

If there was a problem (which I’d think of as a problem and not a “challenge”), I’d rely on my employer to fix it. Or I’d take his or her advice on how to fix it, without offering any suggestions or stepping outside the box to find a solution.

In an article titled “6 Tips For Growing With An Entrepreneurial Mindset,” Arash Asli says that “by treating tasks as problems to be solved — and thinking about how you can provide value at every single turn — you can continually put the entrepreneurial mindset into practice.”

So, instead of merely completing an ebook project, an entrepreneur would take the client’s suggestions and consider whether there are other ways to add value to it. If a challenge arises, entrepreneurs may consult a client but also embrace the freedom to make suggestions of their own.

And when it comes to mistakes (or learning opportunities), I like this advice given by Jayanth Sharma in his article “How to Build an Entrepreneurial Mindset”: 

“Successful entrepreneurs never imagine that they are perfect and know it all. Their curiosity for knowledge and their motivation for self-improvement transcend any setback that a mistake can create. Mistakes are opportunities to understand yourself and the problems in your approach or your implementation. As long as your intentions are correct, making mistakes and persistently trying to resolve them lead to better growth as an individual.”

Creating a winning entrepreneurial mindset is a process that may last throughout your virtual career. It starts with your own perspective and then flows through your behavior to your relationships with clients and colleagues. And by embracing this mindset, you’re sure to become the business owner you’ve always wanted to be!

How do you create an entrepreneurial mindset in your Virtual Assistant or freelance business? Do you find it challenging to shed the attitude of an employee? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Image of a person sitting with two hands typing on a keyboard in front of a monitor, with a cell phone to their left, on a large wooden desk in a boardroom with other people sitting in chairs around the table and light coming in from windows.

Quick Guide to Building an Email List from Scratch!

Vinyl records are back, and email is here to stay. Did you think you’d be hearing that statement here in 2019?

Although the way we play music has come full circle, email has never really left us, especially when it comes to online business. In fact, an article titled “U.S. e-mail marketing – Statistics & Facts” states that “There are 3.7 billion e-mail users in the world as of 2017” and that “e-mail advertising spending in the U.S. is expected to increase from 270 million U.S. dollars in 2015 to 350 million U.S. dollars in 2019.”

What’s the reason for our continued reliance on this older communication channel? Kyle Nordeen puts it best in his article “Why Email Should be the Cornerstone of Your Digital Marketing Strategy”:

“Email provides a credible, long-lasting way to connect with subscribers. Sure, you can reach subscribers with a Facebook meme or a tweet, but the lifespan of social posts fade quickly. Research shows a tweet’s lifespan is 18 minutes, according to Moz. Your tweet lasts for mere minutes and then disappears into the newsfeed abyss never to be found again. An email is different. It gets prominent placement in an inbox and is easy to reference later on.”

But how do you go about building an email list from scratch when you’re just starting out in your Virtual business? Here are some tips that can help you get started on this important component of your online marketing campaign.

#1. Identify Your Target Audience

First of all, consider an email list like an invitation to a party, not a petition. Although you want the list to grow, it’s best to focus on the quality of the connection rather than the quantity of subscribers.

Here are some things to think about:

– What is my niche?

– What are my virtual services?

– Who might benefit from a long-term connection to my business?

In an article titled “Email Marketing 101: 6 Foolproof Steps to Build an Email List From Scratch,” Kali Hawlk suggests some more important questions to determine why your audience would gladly give you their email address:

“Why should they share this information? What’s in it for them? Why do emails from you matter so much that they need to appear in that person’s inbox?

“Answering these questions requires you to consider the needs, desires, problems, and challenges your target audience has. If you can meet a need, provide for a desire, or solve a problem, you likely have a compelling reason for someone to give you their address.”

And if you’re just starting out in your virtual business, don’t hesitate to reach out to people in your local network who might be interested in joining your list. The above article also recommends starting with your friends, family, business contacts, and past customers as long as you ask them first and give them the ability to opt in to the email list themselves.

#2. Brainstorm content that is important to your audience.

In the realm of email marketing, it’s common practice to provide what’s called a “lead magnet,” some sort of free offer people receive in exchange for providing their email address. If you visit the Freelance University site,  you’ll see this pop-up offering our “Ultimate Freelance Tool Kit” e-book.

It’s content that benefits freelancers and virtual assistants who visit the FreeU site and provides an opportunity to keep in touch with them about future training and other support services that may benefit their businesses.

In the same way, the website of digital marketing pioneer, writer, and speaker Ann Handley https://annhandley.com/ contains this opt-in box that invited me to sign up for her newsletter. As a writer, I was more than happy to give my email address in exchange for valuable tips that could benefit me in my virtual work.

Screenshot via www.annhandley.com

After subscribing, I received a welcome email that invited me to write Ann back and let her know why I subscribed and what I hoped to learn so that she could offer me real value in return. Here’s an excerpt:

I emailed her, and she wrote me back personally! It truly means something to know how much she cares about her subscribers.

So in your own business, brainstorm what type of offer would make it worthwhile for people to join your email list. And at the same time, think about what offer best fits your brand and services. Here are some examples:

– Infographics, mind maps, or checklists

– Written or video tutorials

– PDF e-books or reports

– Weekly, biweekly, or monthly newsletters

– Online classes or webinars

– The list goes on….

And in an article titled “20 Great Lead Magnets to Build Your Email List,” Leslie Truex also describes how bloggers can build their email lists using “content upgrades.” These types of lead magnets are niched or specific to a particular blog post. So, for example, on this blog post we could offer a free checklist people receive as a content upgrade when they sign up for the Freelance University email list.

#3. Establish your credibility and position yourself as an expert in your niche.

Now, this is something that won’t happen overnight, but is important to keep in mind. When people opt in to our email lists, we hope they aren’t doing it just to receive the free offer before hitting “Unsubscribe.”

To help new subscribers join with the intention of staying on the list, it helps to be a visible and active presence online. You can do this by consistently sharing valuable content that lets your expertise (and your personality) shine.

After all, many of us still receive emails in our inbox from friends and relatives, so we appreciate a bit of personal connection when receiving emails from businesses too. And we like to feel secure that the people sending us email know what they’re talking about.

Here are some ways you can establish your credibility:

– Consistently publish content in your online network of choice (e.g. regular blog posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, social media posts).

– Host your own online events like webinars, teleseminars, Facebook Live videos, Facebook Watch events, or Instagram Stories.

– Connect with your target audience by sharing valuable social media posts and participating in Facebook or LinkedIn groups.

– Write guest blog posts and participate in other live events.

#4. Make it easy for people to opt in to your list.

No matter how much people value your content and expertise, your email list won’t grow if people either don’t know about it or find it too hard to join. Thankfully, technology makes it possible to place lead capture boxes in many locations to collect people’s names and email addresses.

For example, Optin Monster is a powerful tool that allows you to create customizable forms using templates.

Image of a blue t-shirt with a light green monster with one large eye on the front.

This tool can use “smart triggers” to display the form according to certain visitor behaviors, such as exiting your site, scrolling down the page, or returning to your site.

And opt-in boxes on your freelance website are just the beginning. Ryan Pinkham shares some more great options in his article “15 Creative Ideas to Grow Your Email List. He suggests adding a sign-up button to your email, collecting emails when people sign up for an event you’re hosting, putting a sign-up form on your Facebook Page, or running a Facebook Ad.

When promoting your email list through buttons and opt-in boxes or forms, remember to keep the experience as pleasant and unobtrusive as possible so people aren’t turned off (by multiple garish pop-ups, for example). At the same time, don’t miss an opportunity to place an attractive lead capture box or sign-up button in as many places as possible.

#5. Start gradually and keep at it.

Building an email list from scratch can seem like a daunting task when you’re just starting out in your virtual business. But with an attitude of generosity and caring toward your subscribers, it can be a rewarding experience, not just in list growth but in relationships.

When you’re starting out, you may need to experiment with different ways of promoting your list. Thankfully, email isn’t going anywhere soon, so don’t worry about starting gradually and refining your approach as time goes by.

As Kali Hawlk says in her article,

“Remember that there is always a person — and probably a busy, stressed-out person desperately trying to clear the clutter out of their inbox — on the other end of your email messages. Keep that in mind and always ask how you can add value to that person.

“Use that philosophy for your email list, and you’ll not only build it from scratch, but you’ll turn it into a highly valuable database of happy, engaged, and loyal consumers who actually enjoy seeing your messages pop up in their inboxes.”

That’s a great goal to have when developing an email marketing strategy for our virtual businesses. Generosity and authenticity apply to the way we interact with our email list, as it does in any of our interactions online.

If you’ve been a freelancer or virtual assistant for a while, how did you start building your email list from scratch? And if you’re just starting out, what strategies do you think might work for you?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.