Are you busy? I know I am. That’s why I hired Susanne as my VA. At the time I thought it was highly indulgent but now I don’t know how I coped without her.
See, we’re all busy, all of the time. But as Susanne so beautifully explains, just because we’re busy doesn’t mean we’re being productive. And that’s such an important point. As leaders, we’re supposed to set the vision for the company and then employ the right people with the specialist skills to get the job done – just because it’s our company, doesn’t mean we need to do everything (and I say that as a company of 1!).
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, CEOs work on average 9.7 hours per weekday, an additional 4 hours per weekend day, and 2.5 hours per day when they’re supposed to be on holiday…
And yet only about a quarter (28%) of this time is spent actually getting things done, the rest of it is a wash of meetings, admin and fire-fighting – another study by breatheHR shows that CEOs of small and medium-sized businesses are losing a fifth of their working week to HR admin alone.
The good news is that venture capital and private equity firm, First Round Capital, believes that you can reclaim 70% of your time – just imagine what you could achieve if someone gave you back 39.5 hours every week…
This is why I want to introduce you to Susanne…
She’s the VA that’s capable of picking your admin up and just getting stuff done. From my own experience of working with Susanne, it’s not just the fact that she’s doing the work, it’s that I don’t have to constantly think about doing the work and then feeling guilty when it inevitably gets pushed down the priority list. She frees both my to-do list and my mind so I have space to focus on my business and how to best serve my customers.
Here I spend 5 minutes talking to her about her business…
What do you do?
‘VA’ is a broad term and I see it as a way of working rather than a type of work, so being that person’s assistant. In an ideal world, yes, it would be nice to meet my clients face-to-face, but the whole point is that they’re busy people, so being ‘virtual’ works much better.
Typically, the work I do falls into 3 categories:
- Marketing support.
- Community co-ordination.
- Project and event admin.
And within each of these categories, it could include specific tasks like updating WordPress, Mailchimp, social channels, CRM, cloud storage, data and document handling and general support.
I really like helping people and getting stuff done. Before turning freelance 10 years ago, I worked in customer service and hospitality, so I’ve always been quite service-orientated – it’s always been at the forefront of what I deliver.
Who do you help?
Primarily I work with communities or creatives because that’s a world I know and understand well. As well as being a VA, I do a fair bit of copywriting so I understand that creative process and know the value I can add by taking certain tasks off of people’s hands.
The relationship I have with some of my clients is quite transactional, where they’ll ask me to do certain tasks. While others I’m working with on a daily basis, so it becomes more like online business management.
It’s all about identifying what each client needs help with and then understanding their preferred working style so I can adapt to it.
What do your clients value most about your service?
Where my clients see the most value is when I become a part of their team, so it’s not just a case of passing work over. Here I’m acting on their behalf and in their best interests so I’m able to be proactive in my approach.
I’ve also been told that the reliability and consistency of the work I deliver is welcomed, because my clients know exactly what they’re going to get, and trust me to get on with the task at hand without feeling like then need to get involved.
And accountability is huge. We all have tasks in our businesses that need to get done, but perhaps they fall down the priority list, get lost or forgotten. In outsourcing these tasks to me, they actually get done and the client has the space and time they need to get on with the more pressing matters.
When is the right time for someone to contact you?
With the clients I work with on an ongoing basis, I know exactly what’s coming up and can plan appropriately.
But if someone’s talking to me for the first time, it all starts with that important initial conversation where we can have a chat about how I might be able to help. Some of the time, people come to me not knowing what they need help with – only that they’re constantly ‘busy’.
I’m really honest about what I can and can’t help with, and through that initial chat I can help the client to figure out how a VA can help – even if it means that I don’t end up getting the work.
If someone was in this position of not knowing what to outsource, I’d always advise taking an analytical approach to figure out what you spend your time doing. Often, we’re busy but not necessarily productive and when you lay it down, you start to realise that you don’t have to do it all.
One of the trickiest bits is letting go, but as one of my clients said, ‘you’ve got to rip that plaster off’, and it’s really not as painful as you think. Initial teething problems are completely normal and part of the process of learning how to adapt to the way you prefer to work. It’s why it’s so important to find a VA you feel is the right fit.
When I work with my clients, I facilitate the relationship by setting expectations from the outset and then making sure we have something like a shared spreadsheet or system in place to track process. And I’m as transparent as they need me to be – I time track everything so if someone wanted me to account for every hour I can quickly run that report and show them the detail.
What is it like to work with you?
It really does depend on the client and what I’m doing for them.
For example, if it’s a fixed project we’ll agree the timings and scope of what’s to be done upfront and then I simply report on progress. But for ongoing clients, I know that they have X, Y or Z coming up so can plan. And I know the elements that then need to do, so can offer additional support if necessary.
I use pretty much every system to work with my clients, from Trello to Asana, Freedcamp and Slack. As well as various cloud storage systems, like Google, Dropbox and OneDrive. And some clients are happy with good old-fashioned email.
If it works for you, I’ll fit into it. The way I see it is that you’re busy, hence the need to outsource, and you don’t need the headache of learning a new project management system. You’ve hired me for my skills so the last thing you want is for me to put an obstacle in the way – particularly if you’re not technically minded.
What’s the best way for someone to contact you?
Email is always the best way to reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org
But you can always:
- Check out my website: http://writecloud.co.uk/
- Connect with me on LinkedIn…
- Follow me in Twitter…
-  Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/markhall/2018/06/25/how-ceo-spend-time/#9463be847286
-  Source: https://www.personneltoday.com/pr/2017/09/ceos-of-small-businesses-spending-a-fifth-of-their-working-week-on-hr-time-spent-on-hr-by-ceos-equates-to-18700-21-per-cent-of-the-median-average-salary-for-a-ceo/
-  Source: https://firstround.com/review/70-of-Time-Could-Be-Used-Better-How-the-Best-CEOs-Get-the-Most-Out-of-Every-Day/