One year down the line.

One year down the line.

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.

Refresh your business

Refresh your business

Often, business owners lack valuable time to step back and review their business. Quieter periods allow for some reflection and a chance to  refresh business practices.

Technology changes on a regular basis, and as a business owner it is important to make sure that you keep abreast of the changes in society and social media.

A SWOT analysis is the perfect way to review your business and look at opportunities to move forward. Templates are available to use, but basically, you will be looking at four elements to your business :

Internal factors : Strengths/Weaknesses

External factors : Opportunities/Threats


These are all quite broad points, so breaking them down, some of the types of things to consider could include :

  • Internal strengths

    • Unique Selling Points – are you getting these across on your website and social media?

    • Advantages that you have over competitors

    • Things that your customers need to know about

  • Internal weaknesses

    • Improvements needed within the business – research could be required

    • Things you want to avoid (as a business)

    • Causes of lost sales – customer service issues, slow responses to email, inadequate responses on social media

  • External Opportunities

    • Trends within your sector – do you need to research?

    • New technology –  using apps, new programmes, writing blogs

    • New markets – do you need to research?

    • Social changes – do you have an online presence? , is your website mobile responsive?

  • External threats

    • Competitors – do you need to research what they are doing?

    • Changes in sector standards and technology –  are you getting left behind? , do you need to research?

    • Cash flow

business developmentBy carrying out an analysis of where you are and where you want to be,as a business owner, you will start to see what changes need to be made to your business and be able to identify tasks that need to be completed in order to facilitate this.


If you have taken the time to look into refreshing your business, let me know how it went.

If you feel that you don’t have the time to carry out these tasks, why not visit my services page which details my skills? As a freelance Virtual Assistant I am sure that I can help support you in taking your business forward. I am experienced in Business Development support as well as general administration and have supported projects for tender bids, service launches and new business strands. You can read a little more about me here.

Contact me here, or connect via Facebook or Twitter.


Five quick and easy ways to get organised

Five quick and easy ways to get organised

Everyone is short of time, so finding ways to get organised and make life that bit easier are always welcome.

Here are 5 quick and easy ways to bring some order into your life:

EmailGmail really has everything you need to organise your emails. Although you may roll your eyes at the professional image portrayed by an @gmail email address, you can check email from other accounts you own through a Gmail account inbox. Therefore you can have the functionality of the Gmail inbox with any other email address – I have 4 addresses currently coming into my inbox – only one is Gmail. From Gmail you can also choose which email you send from, so the potential from just the one inbox is huge. In addition, you can set up filters and labels onto any incoming emails, for example, all emails from Amazon go into a file called Amazon. You then only need to check that file when you have ordered from Amazon. I have set up a label for all the emails from my clients, for example, so I can easily see them and give them priority.

There is also the possibility of adding an out of office, and also canned responses, which are useful when you send a similar response out to certain queries. Employees often have to use Outlook, but Gmail is so much better and easier to use for those who have the choice, with the added ease of all your accounts and emails being in one place. By filtering or labeling emails, you can streamline your inbox and make sure that you only spend time attending to the emails that really do require your attention.

calendar organisationCalendar synchronisation – For me, the ease of the Google calendar is that you can link it to your Google accounts and it is available (and synchronised) with any other devices that also have your Google account linked to them. This ensures that the appointments and reminders that you put into your calendar on your laptop at work, also show up on your phone. You can also share calendars with other people, enabling an assistant to also schedule into your calendar from their devices as well.

Document sharing – Filling up your inbox capacity with giant documents is not cool. Using either Google Drive or Dropbox to share documents is much easier. With Google drive you get 15GB of free storage for photos and documents with the option to share these with others, choosing to give read-only, editing and commenting rights. The documents are available across all devices. A free Dropbox account allows for 2GB of free storage which can also be shared across devices (with the relevant app downloaded to the device). Don’t forget that documents can also be shared during Skype calls, removing the need to email documents across prior to calls.

social media sharingSocial media scheduling – No need to log into all your separate account  to post, you can do all this through a scheduling tool. Personally, I use Buffer for organising my social media posts. The free version allows one account for each of the social media platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+) and provides basic analytics. There are paid plans available for businesses with multiple social media accounts. I also use Hootsuite for monitoring Twitter list. Hootsuite also offers a free option across three social profiles, with paid plans available for those requiring more profiles. I found it a less user-friendly for posting and use it generally to manage my own Twitter lists on a dashboard. I would suggest that new users try both Buffer and Hootsuite, to see if they have any preference to one over the other.

Passwords – Do you have lots of bits of paper with different passwords scribbled on them? Do you have to click on the ‘Forgotten password?’ Link? Or do you use the same password for everything? Well, that could all end if you go along to Lastpass.  Lastpass has actually changed my life – it is the only login I need to remember. Lastpass remembers all your passwords – I have business and personal ones in there. Once you are logged in to Lastpass,  you are presented with a list of websites with a saved password, you follow the link and Lastpass  fills  in the password for you. If you set up a new login or change a password, it notices. It has saved me so much time every day.  I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. And the best thing? It’s free!

So to recap, bring some order into your life by:

  • Sorting your inbox

  • Synchronising calendars

  • Using free storage solutions

  • Scheduling social media from one place

  • Organising passwords

I would love to hear if you have implemented any of these time-savers after reading my blog post – let me know in the comments below.

Of course, I am available to help with any calendar management, email management or social media scheduling.  Get in touch with me or check out my services page to see how I might be able to help.


My Top 5 surprises as a freelance virtual assistant

My Top 5 surprises as a freelance virtual assistant



I’ve spent a month working officially freelance as a virtual assistant – a virtual PA if you like. Having spent the previous 25 years working for other people, and being office based, the transition hasn’t been completely without surprises.

Here are my top 5 surprises during this first month working freelance:

Biorhythms and Chronobiology

(or variations in biological activity)


It seems that I have spent more than 25 years being totally unaware  of my natural biological rhythms. The institutionalisation of 9-5 office work beats it out of you.

Within a week of working from home, I had discovered that I don’t work well in the afternoon. I know lots of people who ‘don’t do’ mornings, but I could work quite happily at 8am, and I could work happily until 10pm. But between the hours of 2-4pm you can find me staring out the window, pacing the house, lurking on social media and generally finding anything to do that isn’t work related.

The solution? Work until lunch and work in the evenings. Afternoons are for more ‘creative’ tasks, or for running errands and popping to the shops.

Sorted !

And the great thing is that I can do it, it’s my choice. As long as everything I need to do gets done, nobody needs to know what time I am working.

The 9-5 mentality

It is natural that at first, I wanted to work a 9-5 day. It’s what I’ve had to do for 25 years, and it’s hard to get your head around the possibility of working any other way. But why not? As long as all your tasks are completed, they can be done at any time – and any day of the week. There is no reason why Saturday and Sunday have to be the ‘weekend’ (unless you have family commitments), why not have a midweek day off? If you fancy popping to the park on a sunny Thursday afternoon, why not?

The key to freelancing is making it work for your life. And that is very liberating (and awesome).

Dogs do nothing

I presume that the increased appearance of pet-cams recently means that people are interested what their pets get up to when they are at work. Well, save your cash, because I can tell you exactly what they do all day – absolutely nothing! Or maybe that’s just my dog?

My dog sleeps all day. She sleeps all night, gets up for breakfast, goes back to bed, sleeps all day and gets up when my daughter comes home from school.

That is it!

Although she is quite old and has always been lazy, so maybe it is just my dog after all.

Everything is better mid-week.

working freelanceBeing around in the week is great. If you have rejigged your work patterns to fit in with your life, and have time to yourself mid-week, it’s great.

The shops aren’t as busy, the roads are quieter, the car parks are quieter, you can get into the dentist sooner, no need to wait longer or pay more for weekend deliveries. It’s all good.


It takes a while to get used to

There’s a video somewhere on the internet of some cows being let out of a barn after the winter, that’s what  it feels like when you start working freelance. Frustrating, but exciting, and scary. And all these feelings are normal.

It sounds strange, but it is hard not having anyone to tell you what to do . It’s all down to you. You make money (or not) for yourself, the buck stops with you. You get out of it what you put in.

After years of having someone looking over my shoulder, it can be hard to get used to being both top-dog and general dogsbody rolled into one. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I am a business owner. But it has only been one month – it’s all very new and shiny.

The journey has just begun.