When people ask ‘What do you do?’ the answer ‘Business Support’ doesn’t always answer their question. What do I actually do, each and every day? How do I spend a typical day supporting businesses?
The laptop is fired up around 8am, and my chrome startup automatically brings up certain websites – I log into Lastpass (which securely remembers all of my passwords) and Todoist, which shows my to-do list for the day. Google calendar pops up, so I can see any fixed calls or meetings (a meeting at 9.30am with a client’s client and a Team Call at 10am). My first task is always to complete any priority tasks on my to-do list for my own business prior to starting client work at 8.30am.
The first task for Client A is to check their enquiries@ email inbox.
There is an enquiry from a customer for my client to carry out a piece of work, which I deal with by producing an estimate for the work and giving a completion date – I manage my clients workload myself, with guidelines on how much work she can complete in any month I am able to secure work for her on a continual basis. A further email is confirming a piece of work for her, so I email her to advise her she should schedule this into her diary, email the customer to confirm we’ve received their confirmation email, and then create a folder within Dropbox. One of our suppliers has also sent in their invoice, so I check this off against their estimate, and file away in Dropbox.
After logging out of all my Client A programmes, I move on to Client B’s work.
This is a Project Management role, and I have my own inbox.
There are around 20 new emails which need to be prioritised, as I manage around 10 individual customer projects at any time for this client. The projects are tracked in Asana, and so this is updated continually throughout the day to ensure that the rest of the team are kept up to date on their tasks.
At 9.30am I have a call scheduled with one of the customers to discuss the progress of the project, and he has some feedback on some worksheets that are being designed for him. Once the call is completed, I’m straight on to a Team Call on Zoom with the team of freelancers that put together the projects for my client – these calls are to go over our successes, and issues that crop up and ensure that the whole team are working together. After the call, the recording is stored in Google Drive so that my Client B can listen to it if required.
I take 5 -10 minutes to check my own emails and then review recent content added to my Feedly – there are two articles that I think would be good for Client D to use on their social media feed, so I bookmark them to read later.
Time for a cuppa! – and a break………
(Part 2 to follow)
I hope that this gives you some idea of the kinds of support that I provide for my clients on a daily basis. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and every day is different.
If you’re getting bogged down with these types of tasks (or any other business tasks) get in touch for a no obligation chat about the business support I offer.
After putting the kettle on, I review my email inbox with Client C.
There is one email from my client with two action points to be completed. As both tasks are quick email responses, I am able to complete this there and then – one email chasing two outstanding invoices on behalf of my client, and another email to confirm an appointment time. I send a third email to my client to confirm both tasks have been completed.
As lunchtime draws close, it’s time to switch to social media.
I log into Canva and create some graphics for the social media testimonial posts for Client D. I already have branded templates set up, and I prepare different sized images for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I also read over the articles I saved earlier on Feedly, decide that they are suitable, and add them to my social media plan for the client, After drafting the social media posts, I schedule them using Buffer across the three platforms and then also schedule the testimonial graphics from Canva.
Time for lunch – some home-made vegetable soup – whilst sat at the breakfast bar overlooking the garden and listening to an audiobook (Rich Dad Poor Dad). After washing up the dishes, it’s back to the office.
Another sweep of the inbox for client A and there is just one email, requesting some information that my client needs to provide – as this is something I am unable to assist with I forward that email to my client. There are two completed cases which require invoices to be raised, so these are completed on Excel documents and are emailed out to the customers and the details are logged on a spreadsheet.
The last check of the day for Client B’s Project Manager inbox – there’s an email from a customer to confirm that they have made some edits to some copy on a Google document – our copywriter is advised in Asana that the edits have been made so she can review them.
End of the day review
Then it’s the last check for my own inbox, a quick check on Facebook and Linkedin notifications and responding to comments, the to-do list is reviewed to make sure all tasks for today have been completed and tomorrows priorities are noted.
The laptop is shut down, plugs are off and the office closes somewhere between 2 and 3pm.
I hope that this gives you some idea of the kinds of support that I provide for my clients on a daily basis. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and every day is different. If you’re getting bogged down with these types of tasks (or any other business tasks) get in touch for a no obligation chat about the business support I offer..
Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution – Brian Tracy
5 minutes planning (even just for your day ahead) saves 50 minutes – for larger projects the time-saving increases! It’s a worthwhile exercise.
Basic Project Management principles are often left for large projects, but are also relevant for smaller tasks, business goals, client work or even personal projects, such as a holiday.
Just being conscious of these principles in your mind is good practice and will help make sure projects/plans run smoothly for you.
The elements I will be covering are :
As we start to think about outlining our plan/project, we need to consider the WHY?, WHAT? and the HOW? of our project.
WHY? – what is the point of the project? What is our mission? What is our desired outcome?
WHAT? – getting your thoughts in order. What exactly needs to be done.
There are two ways to tackle the WHAT? which will help get our thoughts in order, which will depend on whether we’re starting at High or Low level.
High level is goal orientated.
Low level is task orientated.
High level – If we have an overarching goal/final outcome, then we need to break this goal down into headings (major parts) and then each of those major parts into tasks or individual steps.
Low level – If we already have a list of tasks that need to be completed, then grouping those tasks into headings/major parts will help us get them into some kind of order.
Grouping tasks in this way – goal -> headings/major parts -> tasks/steps – will help us see how to move the project forward in a logical manner – and ultimately get a plan together in our Project Management tool.
HOW? – How is this going to happen? Within each task there will be more information about the specifics that we need to keep in mind – for example, minimum acceptance criteria, a QA process to ensure expectations are met, who could complete the task, costs. Noting these details down at the start of a project will ensure that we don’t forget any details further down the line.
Once you are clear on your goal, have a list of major parts and tasks and are clear on teh specifics, the fun part begins – the Project Management tool.
I really recommend using some way to keep your project on track – This doesn’t have to be electronic, it’s best to use something that’s easy for you to use and understand and will depend on how complex your project is and whether others are involved. It’s Ok to use more than one tool depending on the project – I use different tools for different clients (dictated sometimes by them) and use different tools for my own projects – some are monitored electronically and some might be simple tasks in my planner. The key is to make it work FOR YOU for THAT PROJECT.
Simple projects lend themselves to simple tools – a notebook, a whiteboard, a to-do list. There’s no need to make things more complicated than they need to be.
Complex projects can be tracked better using software (rather than manual methods) as can set reminders for due dates, allocating to others etc help us keep track of tasks.
Many projects will fall somewhere between the two, so personal preference on how you want/need to track the project come into play, and whether you find it easier to deal with a list or visual reminders.
Some ideas :
Simple Lists – – Notebook/whiteboard, Google tasks, Todoist , Wunderlist
While we are pulling all this together we need to take the following into consideration :
Your team is made up of the people that will enable you to achieve the final goal – these may not necessarily be people who work for your own organisation, your team can be made up of anyone who will have a responsibility for carrying out any of the tasks that will move you towards your project goal. This could easily be other freelancers, business people, as well as larger suppliers. It is essential that you build relationships with your team, making sure that they are clear on their responsibilities and deadlines. Some Project Management tools have the facility to allocate tasks to team members and to set deadlines (eg Todoist, Trello, Asana) – this is especially useful for complex projects
Keeping in touch with team members is crucial to ensuring that tasks are completed on time, and performance is monitored and feedback given. Share your success with team members!
This is one of the most complex aspects of managing a project but one of the most crucial to getting a project completed within your expectations. As you work through your tasks and setting up any project, be aware of the following :
Are we working backwards from a final deadline OR starting on Day 1 and setting a deadline based on the duration of tasks we need to complete
Are there any hard deadlines that cannot be moved? (ie a wedding date, lease ending, launch date of client)
Are there any restrictions on team availability (ie holidays or public/bank holidays or other projects they are involved in that mean they aren’t available)
What type of tasks we have? – Sequential or parallel – do the tasks run in a logical process and are dependent on each other to be completed before the next one starts OR can they be carried out at the same time?
Timescales – consider both Man Hours and Duration (ie a task that takes 8 hours won’t necessarily be completed in one day)
For each task, you need to define who is responsible and allocate an estimation of the time to complete the task taking all of the above into consideration. Adding deadlines to a project plan will make sure the team keep on track, and also ensure that any dependent tasks can be planned accordingly. Deadlines will also help with our risk management. Some Project Management tools can have reminders set for deadlines, and can also allow tasks to be allocated to team members so that they receive the reminder.
A stakeholder is anyone who has an interest in the project – team members, clients, financial interest, or the person with responsibility to sign off the work as complete. At the very least, stakeholders should be identified and prioritised. It’s important to realise the level of importance for any stakeholders .
A simple chart like the one I’ve provided can help you prioritise stakeholders dependant on their influence and interest, to identify the key players.
Communication is key to getting projects to run smoothly – for smaller projects which involve a few people there won’t be much communication to manage. For larger projects there could be both client and team members to manage – that is a lot of communication!
The key communication strategies to have in place are:
Contact details – for all people involved in projects
Scheduled meetings – clear who is organising, how often they will take place with stakeholders
Updates – who is updating whom, how often and by what means (phone, email etc)
Day to day communication methods – with the team and key players/main point of contact
Sharing info – how much and how often and how (Dropbox, Google drive, email)
Risk management is planning for unexpected events. This can be both :
Positive – Opportunity (to be maximised)
Negative – Risk (to be minimised)
For smaller projects, there may be few risks – for larger projects with more risk, it is worthwhile logging any identified risks on a risk register. EIther way, there should be some consideration given as to WHAT risks and opportunities might arise and what actions would need to take place.
Identify the risks (impact on project, probability of happening, manageability)
Set actions for if the risk manifests itself
Update project plans accordingly
Whether our project is complex or simple, for us or for our clients, business or personal, applying these principles should help us keep track of tasks and see our projects through to successful completion.
Whilst some entrepreneurs have been using virtual assistants for years, there are many business owners who don’t know that the option to have remote support even exists. This often leads to questions about what I do and how I do it, so I have compiled the top 10 questions I get asked at networking events.
1. What could I outsource?
It’s always useful to have a rough idea of the types of tasks you want to outsource. As an experienced VA, I will sit down with you and discuss your business to identify what your focus is, what plans you have to put into action and how we can work together to achieve your business goals. I offer a one-hour free initial consultation to discuss these things and to find out how I can support you.
2. Would Virtual Support work for my business?
For the majority of businesses, distance really is no object. I work with both local clients I see regularly and clients from further afield that I have never met. Technology is readily available to ensure that we can work as if we are together – Skype, Whatsapp, text, email, Project Management software, Dropbox and Google docs all make it an effortless task.
Whilst there is a possibility that ongoing support might not be a viable option for your business, because I can work flexibly you can pay for as much or as little as you need using a Pay As You Go agreement or a one-off project rate. My minimum charge is one hour per month, and anything above that is charged in 15-minute increments to ensure that you only pay for what you use. Alternatively, you can pay in advance and pre-book a set number of hours each month allowing you to budget the costs for support.
3. How will you understand how my business works?
Trust is a major part of what I do. There will always be a learning curve, while I get to know your business but without that understanding, I can’t focus on what works best (or better) for your business. From the outset, we would set boundaries to establish how much I am involved in your business, and how much I need to know to carry out the required tasks. I appreciate that it can be hard to ‘let go’ of some tasks, but I am happy to start small and take on more tasks as we develop our working relationship, I learn more about your business, and we develop an increased mutual trust.
4. What are the costs for virtual support?
There are a few ways I determine costs, depending on what you need doing and how often it needs to be done. For client flexibility, I offer pre-booked hours, package or project rates as well as Pay As You Go hourly rates. It’s important that you are comfortable and happy with this, and that the costs are within your budget. Pre-booked hours start at 5 hours per month for £140, and this would be a great solution if you require a regular task completing each week, or daily email checking. Pay As You Go is £28 per hour and is suitable for one-off tasks or less regular support. Package and Project rates are also available.
5.How can I budget for the support I need?
My time can be secured for a set number of hours each month in advance if required. This enables you to budget and be confident that I will be available to carry out your work each month. Package or Project rates enable you to work to a set budget. For smaller projects or PAYG work, I can provide a weekly update if you prefer to pay by the hour.
6. What do I do if I don’t have regular work to outsource?
That’s fine. Not every entrepreneur wants or needs ongoing support. The great thing about virtual business support is that you only pay for what you need without the associated overheads of hiring a member of staff. The flexibility that this brings is a big bonus for entrepreneurs looking to grow their business.
7. How can I ensure you are available to give me regular support?
Regular support benefits from pre-booked hours – this works by paying for a set number of hours in advance to guarantee my availability (usually, but not always, pro-rata’ed down into daily or weekly allocated time). This enables you to budget each month, as well as guaranteeing my availability over the course of the month.
8. How does GDPR effect virtual support?
I have a Data Processing agreement for each of my clients, which outlines both of our responsibilities under GDPR. I act as a Data Processor for you, you act as the Data Controller for all of your own clients. All the software I use is compliant, and I am working with my own clients to ensure that their processes are also compliant.
9. What do you actually do for your current clients?
The list of tasks I could complete is pretty lengthy – I like to think I have experience and wisdom, I have been working in various sectors for A LONG TIME. I have worked in offices for over 25 years, mainly in client-facing operational roles. Over this time I developed a wide range of skills and knowledge in general admin, operational procedures, project support and business development. Since starting my own business in 2016 I have expanded this knowledge and also have access to entrepreneurs who introduce me to new apps, tools and practices regularly. You can read a bit about my experience and some of the work I have completed on my About Page and some of the services I could offer on my Services Page.
Current tasks include: Project Management (client and inward facing), Case Management, inbox monitoring (including responding to queries), social media posting, research, database updates, data entry.
10. I could do these tasks myself – Does virtual support benefit a sole trader?
I work with virtual teams as well as sole traders – there are no limits or set rules as to who benefits most from the services I offer. Basically, if you are spending time on non-income generating tasks (particularly ones you don’t enjoy) then working with me could benefit your business and give you time to focus on what really matters.
If you have any more questions about what I do, let me know. Business support isn’t an exact science, it’s about working together and teamwork, having that extra pair of hands (and eyes), working to your strengths, providing the time and breathing space to focus, putting plans into action and achieving your business goals.
If you would like to find out more about how I could support your business, please do get in touch and let’s have that chat .
Originally, I found this amusing but then realised that actually, this is a great way to explain what I do. Indeed, providing the support that allows entrepreneurs and business owners to get on with serving clients and developing new business (ie making more money) is exactly what I do. Whether this is managing operational processes on a day to day basis, keeping databases up to date, monitoring an inbox, posting on social media, all of these tasks are the very things that entrepreneurs get bogged down with, keep them away from more cash-rich tasks or just give up on as they don’t have the time.
Increasingly, entrepreneurs are realising the value of having that secret weapon. Someone to watch their back, clear up the to-do list and lighten the load. And get the entrepreneur back to their ‘Why’ – the reason they started this in the first place (You’ve all seen the video right?)
And the beauty of this is my ‘why’. I love to help people, I really finish the day in a good place by knowing that I made a difference. Not only for my clients but for the difference that they have made on their clients too. There’s a whole long line of feel-good that radiates out to many, many people.
I particularly excel in ongoing support to clients keeping their operational side working smoothly – I can offer ongoing project or case management support including inbox monitoring, database updates, and working internally with virtual teams.
In addition, I can offer support for one-off tasks or project as well as general administrative support, such as invoicing and credit control. If you think that a secret weapon might be something that would be of benefit to your business, let’s have a chat.
Feel free to take a look at all the testimonials I have received here.
November 7th 2017 is my first Business Birthday. Quite an achievement for a self-confessed introvert with a dislike for blowing her own trumpet and little experience of running a business – but guess what? I did it!
In October 2016 I was given notice that my role as Project Co-ordinator was at risk of redundancy. It wasn’t a surprise. There had been signs that things were changing. I had also been thinking about setting up my own business part-time, but I lacked the courage to go down the route of uncertain-income. And then I was called into this meeting, accepted the news in a calm manner, collected my things and silently went home to start my garden leave.As someone who thrives on order, process and (dare I say) control, this wasn’t an easy few weeks. I made plans while I went through the redundancy consultation process, and even though I knew 100% that I wanted to set up my own business I was still an emotional wreck when the final blow was given.
In retrospect, I wasn’t scared or worried about what was to come – I was grieving what was left behind. I was worried about losing that feeling of being part of a team, of losing friends and connections to strike out alone In those early weeks, I hadn’t got into my freelance groove. The days seemed to revolve around a lot of ‘setting up’ and not actually much ‘doing’. I was living off my redundancy payment as I had no income to speak of. Slowly, I started to make progress with contacts but I didn’t feel like I ran my own business. And although I was always thinking about the future, I wasn’t directed fully towards it. Thankfully, I signed some great clients towards the end of 2016 and in early 2017, and I was finally up and running. But there is a whole different mentality to running a business than that of an employee. The buck stops with you. That kind of responsibility isn’t for everyone. Thankfully, I’ve met some great business owners during this last year, and have been able to draw on many of these for various types of support when needed. And that thing that I mourned when I lost my job? That feeling of being part of a team? I may be a sole trader, but I am far from alone. If I need advice, I can consult with more experienced VA friends, more experienced business owners and a whole network of experts. I am part of a networking group that not only offers training, coaching and practical services but social gatherings……. even a Christmas get-together. I’ve learnt so much from so many people and received so much direction, positivity and inspiration. I am humbled by the open and honest way fellow business owners selflessly help each other, and I no longer mourn being part of an employed team. I’ve found something much more wholesome.
On top of this, helping my clients to serve their clients each day gives me a satisfaction that is unrivalled in any of my employed roles. Each day brings new challenges and new successes, each met with a passion to help my clients achieve progress in THEIR businesses as well. It has taken this whole year to get to a point where I feel that I run my business (rather than my business running me) and to be looking forward, making goals and action plans. This business birthday gives me the perfect opportunity to reflect on the last 12 months and how I have grown – not just as a business owner, but as a person. Change is scary. It’s easy and safe to stick with what you know and many of us go through life settling for what is easiest and safest. Sometimes we don’t get a choice and the change is thrust upon us. Others bravely choose to make the change for themselves. But whatever the catalyst, don’t spend too long looking back as you never know what the future holds for you.