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Virtual Assistants Must Plan for Work/Life Balance

Boundaries of All Kinds

Boundaries of All Kinds For All Needs

Tracey Osborne has a blog post at BusinessSolutionsMadeSimple.com that reflects and discusses a big thing in Entrepreneur Life — balancing work and family and just plain LIFE. 

Entrepreneurs in every field will encounter the Big Balance thing during their business development.  Some will begin their endeavors in a home office. Some, who work virtually as, dear readers, most of you do, have a perpetual balance project going on.  Tracey addresses the aspects of working virtually more in her post than the issues that other entrepreneurs may have.
One of the five points that are brought out in the blog post entitled “Go Away….I’m Busy!”  features SETTING BOUNDARIES.   The importance of setting boundaries for clients and team members  regarding office hours, delivery schedules, ethics and EXPECTATIONS.  These boundary items are all out-going in Tracey’s post. There are some in-bound things that can be real bug-a-boos or can make working from home really special.   Working virtually has a special appeal to mothers of young children because it combines work and daycare beautifully….on paper.
To many well-intentioned people, ‘working from home’ means not working or not scheduled.  This is not all the fault of the well-intentioned. I know people who drop in on me because they aren’t mind readers.  They are always accommodating to either check my flowers on their own for awhile or come back another time.
Plan ahead when setting boundaries for the family and friends — “I work from home; in fact that is what i am doing now.” to make yourself clear that even small errands require ‘appointments’.
“Yes, Darling Child, I can bring your forgotten lunch, but I’m going to finish a small project before I can leave.”  “No, Darling Child, you cannot count on me to take your friends to the mall right now.”
“Dearest Sister/Friend/Auntie, I will call you back at 2pm, but I cannot talk at the moment.”  Or tick the little key that says “I’m in a meeting” on your phone. 
“Dearest Dearest Neighbor,  Here’s a glass of sweet tea.  Enjoy watching the birds from the deck while I set up a recording. I may get back to you before the tea is gone. If not, it’s been great.  I would love to join you for a walk about dusk.”
None of those scenarios will work well for a baby or toddler.  When they need attention, they’re serious.  Most of the time,  Mom/VA can close the timer and go meet a ‘child need’.  Where do the boundaries blend for clients and calls and calling/crying babies?  Does the ideal client have a sense of humor and compassion for a little person?  Stuff — exasperating, exciting and unusual stuff happens when you’re an entrepreneur working in a home office.
Being candid with both clients and family about expectations and being realistic about delivery and performance would seem to be the best support for boundaries both for family and clients.  It can be no secret that we have a life…we have to ‘fess up and work things around that.  With a plan, delivery seldom has to be accomplished yesterday.  With a plan and decent notes and communication, an interrupted phone call can be taken up at a later time.  With a plan and scheduling, communication can occur during nap times or when someone else is available.  It is not WRONG to make arrangements for a ‘sitter’ to come by or to take your child for an hour.  I know of virtual professionals who do this quite a bit.  That boundary is where your family is part of everything that goes on, each and all in their place. That place might be with a sitter.  Choose a safe and fun sitter for a win-win.
Read more of Tracey’s commentary on other balance points entrepreneurs face at “Go Away…I’m Busy!
  • Boundaries
  • Office Hours
  • Family Time
  • Weekend Breaks
  • Put the Phone Down
  • Take a vacation
  • Delegate

What are some of your balance management techniques as a virtual professional or entrepreneur in other fields?

Podcast Launch | John Lee Dumas, author | Belongs in Your Library

 

podcastcoverWhen I began reading Podcast Launch, it was another business book, part of a group recently installed on my Kindle Fire. I thought it sounded kind of interesting. I work with clients who do podcasting and I enjoy listening to the broadcasts at BlogTalkRadio as well as participating as a caller on the live programs. Boy, did I get a surprise. Author John Lee Dumas is a podcast enthusiast; before I had read far, I was too. I was traveling while I read and though I made a determination to look deeper and more seriously into podcasting when I got home, I developed allergies that interfered with impulsive and immediate plans. This has been fortunate because I am taking the ‘quiet time’ to develop a sound plan, practice and follow a reasonable and sincere plan to be ready with all things in order.

If you are at all interested in podcasts or have questions about how they work, Podcast Launch will be helpful. The author uses his experience with podcasts, first as a listener, then as a broadcaster and coach to newbie broadcasters, to illustrate his recommended process.

The step-by-step examples, related in a conversational manner, are joined throughout the book by links to resources and the Dumas websites where he has additional video tutorials that readers can use. I liked the book from the beginning, but was doubly impressed when I went to the author’s website and listened to the podcasts he has available. His style involved an interview with an entrepreneur within a consistent process. The same points are covered for everyone, with the individual stories making the difference. Dumas keeps the information conversational, yet flowing.

When I went to Amazon to write a review, I read some of the 280+ reviews. I found even more helpful information there on some positive and profound reviews. My review on Amazon: “Helped me Turn a Corner Toward a New Direction“.

Learn more about John Lee Dumas and podcasting at EntrepreneursOnFire.com

 

Hello world!

Welcome to Bar JD.  We’re down, but not out as we go forth in a new redesign and reinvention!.  Join us for the trail ride. Or make yourself comfortable in the rocker and absorb the view.

It’s going to be a hot day today.

Say “Cheeze!” | Newz about Getty Images!

compact_camera_400_clr_8668Have you heard about Getty Images’ new EMBED option? I first learned about it through a message from StudioPress Themes for WordPress referring a link to TheVerge.com and a post that goes into the thoughts behind this new wrinkle for Getty Images.

There have been horror stories all over the internet of the hostile correspondence from Getty Image with a bill for the unauthorized use of an image. I’m sure these ‘pay-up or be sued’ billings are justified in many situations. But the ones that aren’t working for Getty are the ones that are non-profitable blogs and websites for whatever reason — places where a $750.00 bill is impossible. Some are truly for pleasure-not-profit. Some are blogs by authors or artists that may appear to have profit goal which hasn’t been achieved. People who admittedly know quite a bit about copyright for their type of work, but truly don’t ‘get it’ about images on the ‘free’ Internet. know a starving author who took a boring image from someone else’s blog whice she felt had application on her post and who travels in the ‘dummy lane’ about images on the internet — that is until she got the bill from Getty Images. At the last update, she had tried the ‘dummy’ story with apologies and removal of the image with pleading explanations of her profit-less status, while contemplating spending money she didn’t have to spare to consult an attorney for stress relief OR spending money she didn’t have to spare to cave in and pay the billing. If she were going to pay, I wish she had used a more interesting image…a simple glass of non-fizzy, non-alcoholic beverage such as you might have at lunch seemed such a waste. The sort of thing that is easy to set up with your own camera! And very much the sort of thing that seemed kind of silly to get excited about the copyright.

Back to Getty Images’ new way of treating this issue to the benefit of all. The Embedded Viewer is a handy, dandy option, but you should be aware of ‘side-effects’. The images can be removed from the Embedded Viewer, leaving your blog post high and dry….this could be taken as a ‘sign’ that the content is stale. When an image ‘disappears’ you’ve received a signal to delete the stale post or page content. Your use is limited to a blog or website or ,interestingly, a social media platform…sharing on Facebook and Twitter. BUT, as I understand this, we can’t mess with the images, especially making them part of a frame or meme without express written permission. That covers the paid images too and is a fair boundary that Getty Images chooses to set. The Embedded Viewer can and will be tracked by Getty Images or a 3rd party. There may be some ads involved (I haven’t tried embedding many images to see where this goes.)

Images on our blog posts give character to the story we are trying to get across. They are pleasant eye candy and distraction. The image adds that ‘bit of spice’ for both reader and writer. ‘Bit’ is a serious word here because it is still only a bit of spice and to pay for an image in a blog that is ‘gamble marketing’ or simply a journal of thought, either or both without traceable ROI. I use my own cameras for many images and have accumulated several DVDs of excellent images from Serif.com. I subscribe to PresenterMedia for graphics that fit the posts.

I found the post at The Verge highly informative about this process and the possible goals of the Embedded Viewer. Because so many blogs are for informational pleasure and not profit, there is seldom any funds to be tapped by Getty Images. Since the images are being used anyway, Getty Images saw the handwriting on the wall for images which reads similar to the message left for the music industry. The Verge sees the new move as an effort to stay ahead of that train wreck, keep potential customers and have a way for the images to ‘work’ for the copyright holders other than a purchased use license.

The Embedded Viewer is attractive. It permits the resource a label saying “Getty Images”, names the photographer and offers social share buttons for Twitter and Tumblr. Plus the embed code is available from your blog to anyone else who wishes to have that image on their blog. Getty gets to serve up images without having every user log in and find images and the blogger benefits. The links may create some small SEO gain. Risks include the tracking, the removal of the images (disaster for a post that is nothing but images), general ‘link rot’ across the Internet from the impulsive shares and other uses. Link Rot is already a part of the Internet due to sharing videos and images from YouTube, Twitter, Twitpix and maybe Instagram. Then, there are the pictures on Flickr and Picasa which are ‘sorta public’ and shared with a link. Anytime someone removes a file from any of these services, there is a potential down the line for a hole in blogs. The best solution is to shoot your own images or use paid images that you can download and save to your computer for future use. It really isn’t something that lies at the top of most bloggers’ minds.

Getty Images has a policy in the terms of use to let copyright run both ways. They will get serious about someone abusing their copyrights or those of the photographers and graphics artists who license images with Getty. They will also listen if you find someone has added YOUR work as their own to the Getty files. When I’ve gotten a good camera shot or graphic put together, I try to name that file so that any use will put my name out there along with the image. There are other identification options for images, but the file name is the one that is most inconvenient to change and one that is most often missed or ignored. The use becomes a situation of “Go ahead and talk about me; just spell my name right.”

I commend Getty Images for their creative approach to a potential lifetime of small courtroom experiences when they would much rather be looking at pictures. Not all of their images are available through the Embedded Viewer, but the ones I’ve seen are very good. I’m sure the selection is generous for the needs of most bloggers.

A Game of Good Numbers | Social Media Strategy

When I’m looking at my own Facebook Business page and working with clients for strategy on their pages, I first encourage them to concentrate on Good Numbers. That may be large or high numbers, but perhaps not.

Bar JD | Marketing

In order to accomplish a culture of quality without pressure on quantity, we concentrate on building community. When someone becomes active on Facebook, the list of personal friends is a trusted group. We talk about the best place to build the trust because the natural reflex is to post on the personal page. Personal pages are fine to add to the mix, but we really want to be adding updates to the business page encouraging the trusted group to interact with the business page even more than the personal page. “Why?” you ask.

In the beginning days of Facebook, we did a lot of ‘business’ conversation on our personal pages because they were our only choice. We made added colleagues and clients to our FRIEND list along with family and classmates from the good old days. When Fan Pages became available, we were torn between changing our style to put business information on the Fan Page (Today’s Business Pages) and try to keep most updates on our personal page ‘family appropriate’. The Business pages are followed by search engines. The more activity that goes on there, the better for us. We can add a good link to our website and write a HUGE description, add tabs and keep the conversation focused on our business purposes with transparency and authenticity about ourselves to keep the community connection growing. Activity is a priority to attract the search attentions of Google and Facebook. To get the kind of Activity that works, those who LIKE the page should really CARE about the page.

Large LIKE numbers made up well-intentioned people who’ve exchanged LIKES with us through special groups at Facebook and other Social Media resources, but who really don’t give a hoot about us can actually hurt us in the search game. The same for those who will party with us on Fridays or Mondays or whenever someone begins a Like Day Party. The greatest thing you can do for your page and for your client’s pages is to put some decent information on them that make people want to be part of your community and learn more about what your have to say.

There is little that gratifies as much as checking your page and finding an organic ‘LIKE’ from someone who found your page and is interested.

To keep your delightful LIKES engaged, offer them information…not stupid, boring INFORMATION, but a touch of YOU. A bit of your essence telling your community about YOU and your business. Make it so good that they tell their friends and share or comment about you on their personal pages or business pages. Nothing sugars the LIKE cookie as much as having people ‘talk’ about you.

Three things to do to increase quality of LIKES and increase the chances of winning the Game of Good Numbers: Engage

Are You Serious About Winning? | WINNER CULTURE Review

Set in the business world of Denmark during the early 21st century with emphasis on how the companies which were clients of the author, Lars Neilsen,adapted to the economic disasters occurring around 2008 along with the author’s experiences part of an ongoing Gold Medal Olympic rowing team. According to Neilsen’s experience with the rowing and with his business consulting company, Olympeak, the formula for a winning culture is P=S+C Performance = Skill + Commitment. The skill level of each and every team member or employee plus the commitment level for each and every one of these people equals the performance of the entire company. Higher skills and commitment result in higher or better performance.

My take-away — Skill and Commitment can be subjective — if the WRONG skills are selected or if the commitment for destruction is high, the performance quotient may not be profitable for the company. My understanding — the planning systems that Neilsen helps each company develop are aimed at the desired performance, key people plan goals around desirable skills and commitment levels, then go forth to select people who have the necessary skills and commitment potential to accomplish the performance.

Skill and Commitment can be learned; Performance cannot. P=S+C Performance = Skill + Commitment.

The rowing training and winning taught the team members that they MUST concentrate on their individual skills and talents while respecting the other team members. Their goal was perfect and successful teamwork focused on the race at hand.

Using the principals of leadership that he observed and learned on the rowing team, Neilsen has developed individual processes for each of his clients. The application of these strategies demanded that the company leaders be leaders, that they help employees become engaged in the strategy and the all stick with the plan in their ‘winning culture’.

I enjoyed reading about Neilsen’s experiences working with PANDORA Jewelry, a fascinating and inspiring company from its beginning. I found the philosophy that results cannot be planned while performances can encouraging and applicable in the things that I do. Making the most of the skills available in the employee pool and encouraging commitment from everyone involved with the business.

 

The Perpetual Student Rocks With Techie Mentor Labs Classes

Hiding in plain sight — a classroom. Typical mental image of the perpetual student who studies but doesn’t learn to produce.

A little condescending criticism might be justified when that person is clearly using their hiding place to escape reality, production and some maturity. Usually, they aren’t paying the bills.

My virtual assistant or virtual professional peers, I encourage and even challenge you to make an honest statement of the term perpetual student. Bring it into the legitimate realm by investing in your business and expanding your skill set through some training. Why training when we can get into the software, service, or technology ourselves and learn how to get around? You know we all do that and enjoy it. I often do just that when there isn’t time or opportunity for training. I’m not afraid to take on a ‘guinea pig’ client at a low rate ‘because I’m learning’, then get into the product at hand to perform some on the job training.

But, there are some little nuances of so many of the tools we use for the benefit of clients that can be missed when learning them ‘the hard way.’ And bigger opportunities for us to have a problem, especially with time, working to deliver the quality work that our clients need and are promised. “I’m just learning to run this,” is not an excuse to deliver poor work. When it takes all day to do something that should have taken no more than an hour because I have to ‘fall’ into the right way to use the product, my profitability and sanity go down the drain.

I’d determined to get into the online learning this year at several skills that I had been dodging — shopping carts, customer management systems, membership websites. I found that much of the long distance information is not especially useful. I have been able to access the real product just enough to learn that the tutorials are behind the new innovations being offered the consumer of these services. Training for some of them is more expensive in terms of money and time than I feel comfortable with at present.

Through an exceptionally strong virtual assistant group on Facebook, I was introduced to the training offered by Techie Mentor and Techie Mentor Labs by owner, Susan Merchon. A generous ‘free’ webinar demonstrated the training and communicating skills that I saw would help me learn more and be able to offer more through Techie Mentor Classes. The ‘introductory’ webinars are offered as part of the rotating schedule of classes that will follow; the free webinars for several courses are available at Free Training Webinars on the Techie Mentor Labs website. Prospective students can try the courses on for size before signing on.

Techie Mentor Labs classes are LIVE webinars which are recorded for students who cannot attend. We know we aren’t in a ‘canned’ class as we get to enchange chat messages with Susan Merchon and hear her plan to note questions or information that we contribute during the live webinar to be answered in a future class or by email. Each course will have multiple class sessions including informative webinars as well as a question/answer webinar to close that class.

Each topic has more than one level of difficulty from Beginner through Intermediate on to Advanced and in come topics, Expert. Students can to as far as they wish or step in at a level that permits expansion on current skills. Each class is priced and purchased separately.

I began with 1ShoppingCart, an excellent service for both e-commerce and contact/customer management. I appreciate the process putting these options and more into one package. There are more robust options that combine the options. There are excellent services which offer e-commerce and other excellent resources for contact/customer management. The combination system at 1ShoppingCart works well for a business getting ready to step out with product and desire for customer community.

I like to think I know a lot about WordPress, but after seeing the quality of the classes, I decided to attend the introductory webinar for WordPress. I came away from that session convinced that I could benefit from the Techi Mentor Labs Advanced WordPress classes. The very first class had a tip in it that I considered to be well worth the entire price of the class!

This is not an affiliate post; I am writing as a super satisfied Techie Mentor Labs student. You can view my Class Completed Badges here! I recommend that you check out the Free Webinars to learn more for yourself. I am, as my version of the perpetual student, already enrolled for Advanced 1ShoppingCart in 2014.

 

I went to the woods to live deliberately, to front the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.

~ Henry David Thoreau

Good Morning, Critical Thinking

Came so close to being sucked into the vortex of an old phish this morning. Gotta remember to press that Critical Thinking button right out of the box!

An email regarding Dropbox.com (which I recommend and love) popped up in my Outlook. If the button had been engaged I would have noticed the message came to an email that I don’t use with Dropbox. I would have observed the little warning icon that this could be something ‘bad’.

I was fortunate that the button did kick in when a site began to slowly open that wasn’t sensible. I slammed it shut and didn’t wait to see what might come next. Belated due diligence led me to some former hacking issues with Dropbox and phishing activity with the ‘proper’ isp addresses.

Changing passwords for the accounts that I have connected to Dropbox made me feel better. While I love it, I don’t keep confidential information if a hacker were to get into my files. I am more concerned about being a conduit for malware on my computers and a tool for the phishers to get at others.

Dropbox was the ‘hook’ used to phish this time attempting to topple the blocks. But there is something almost every day from a place that gets our attention…PayPal, the bank, the hospital, the online retailer. We have some responsibility to tell the phishers to take a hike and not cooperate with them in any way. The best practice is to have that Critical Thinking and Pay Attention reflex turned on…don’t even open the email.

After a season of marketing, my calendar is filling. As the tasks find their places, the Critical Thinking is pulled in different directions. A warning has come to Bar JD and we’re on track for the future. So long, phishers…we’re glad to see you go!

Write Well U and The Naked VA on Comparisons.

Write Well U Discusses “Comparison” on The Naked VA

The Naked VA features an article from Dawn Goldberg of Write Well U and an ‘expanding’ interview with Ms. Goldberg. Incorporating Galatians 6:4 “Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don’t compare yourself with others.” into the article discussing comparisons for the virtual assistant business.

Of course comparisons are wise in the view brought forth by Ms. Goldberg. The scripture admonishes us to do our own work well and not ‘compare’ or be in competition with others who may have other businesses or similar businesses

The points of comparison that can keep a virtual assistant business on the high side of sanity have application for other businesses, but we’re talking about VAs today. Virtual Assistants will benefit from some comparisons in their business if they can tell the difference between an apple or an orange. apples_to_oranges_150_clr_5502The intent is to have a business that offers solid service to clients and fulfillment to the owner. Being the business that ate all the other businesses doesn’t fit our comparison model.

Why do you want  be virtual?

  • Must you work virtually?
  • Are you driven to work with the outsourcing aspect, especially utilizing the Internet?
  • This virtual format works so well for people who want to be independent and niche service oriented.
  • The virtual assistant is the shining star of outsourcing.

BUT — oh, that ubiquitous BUT — whether done part-time or full-time, this virtual stuff is WORK. Now, as noted earlier, you may love doing every service you offer, which comes close to my personal view of a ‘hobby.’ Hobbies are usually followed for other reasons than profitability. When we start working with something we love and receive compensation for that activity, it is no longer a hobby; it has begun to be either a business or a job.

Within that description, the virtual assistant dreamer will be more professional and more content in the choices to do some comparisons.

  • What service should be offered?
    • What am I good at that I enjoy
  • What will the business model be?
    • What details have been missed?
  • What are my rates?
    • How will I be paid?
  • Where are the clients?
    • What ways can I use to network and connect with them
  • What will be the marketing process?
  • Who will I listen to?
    • Who will be able to sell me on new or next things?

The article includes seven wise comparison tips. Number seven comes back to the scripture reference. Compare your business with that of others VERY carefully. Examine theirs and see if there are things you want to add or change, but don’t kill yourself arguing over whether your business is as good as theirs. It isn’t that kind of competition, my dear.

Comments after the article expand on joint ventures and some of the things that a virtual assistant should watch when considering them.

Ruth Martin, owner of The Naked VA frequently has a solid interview with other business people. The conversation is profound and sensible with many applications that readers can learn, then put to use. I really liked the way The Naked VA formatted the article and the Interview together for a better understanding and ‘acquaintance’ with Dawn Goldberg and Write Well U.