Freelancing Mama: Amethyst Storey

The Freelancing Mama interview series features women who run their own businesses and balance working, often from home, with raising children.

 

I’m excited to kick off the series with Amethyst Storey!

Amethyst started her business, The Infinite Virtual Assistant, in December 2016 to provide medical billing, claims account management, scheduling, accounting, customer service, project management, troubleshooting, strategic positioning, and other virtual assistant services.

She has over 14 years of experience in customer service, billing, claims, and administrative work.

She is also a single mother of three amazing children, two with special needs.

1) What’s your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur/small business owner?

Amethyst: Setting my own hours and being able to work from anywhere I want and being able to spend more time with my children.

 

2) How has being a mother affected your business or drive to succeed?

Amethyst: Being a mother has given me more motivation than ever before. I want to spend more time with my kids so I work my business harder since I’m working to support 3 children on my own.

 

3) What challenges do you face as a mother and entrepreneur/small business owner?

Amethyst: I have 3 children and 2 have special needs so I have to balance raising my kids with working. I currently put in a lot of hours on my business because I’m a startup. I’ve been in business since December 2016 and am trying to build up my clientele.

 

4) Did becoming a mother change you? How?

Amethyst: Yes, it changed my entire focus in life for the better.

 

5) What is your favorite thing about being a virtual assistant?

Amethyst: My favorite thing about being a virtual assistant is that I get to help people build their business while earning an income and I get to network with some great people.

 

6) What’s your favorite thing about working from home/working remotely?

Amethyst: Working from anywhere I choose.

 

7) What’s the most challenging thing about working from home/working remotely?

Amethyst: Not letting myself get distracted.

 

8) Which tasks do you enjoy the most?

Amethyst: Graphic design and social media.

 

9) Which tasks do you dread?

Amethyst: Data Entry. I’m good at it but it bores me. I type at a rate of 85+ words per minute accurately.

 

10) Who could benefit from having a virtual assistant?

Amethyst: Anyone who has a business and wants to have more time to focus on what they are passionate about, wants to delegate out tasks that they aren’t great at because the right VA can get those tasks completed quicker, and anyone whose business is growing.

 

11) Why should someone hire a virtual assistant/hire you as a virtual assistant?

Amethyst: I offer a FREE 30 minute consultation to see why your needs are and if we are a fit. You can schedule a call on my website. I also offer package deals to keep my prices down and am flexible on pricing. I work with the client to meet their needs while staying within budget. Most VAs offer 2 revisions for free and I offer up to 5 because I want satisfied clients that will want to refer me to their friends.

 

12) What advice would you give someone who wants to start a virtual assistant business?

Amethyst: My advice would be to sit down and make a list of the softwares and online skills you have. Narrow it down to find your niche. Decide who your perfect client is. Choose a name for your company. Create a logo for your company. Get yourself out there on social media and network, network, network.

 

You can connect with Amethyst here:

Twitter.com/TheInfiniteVA
Facebook.com/TheInfiniteVA
Linkedin.com/in/amethyst-storey-6088613a
Instagram.com/the_infinite_virtual_assistant


Contact me
if you’d like to be featured in a future interview!

How to Handle Toddler Temper Tantrums

From 15 – 20 months old, my daughter was the sweetest little thing. She would follow basic commands without any complaint. She would happily go along with any plan. She didn’t mind sitting in the grocery cart for an hour or two and she didn’t need to be entertained. Car rides were painless and quiet.

Shortly after she turned two years old, I saw a shift in her behavior. Suddenly, she seemed to realize that she had opinions and wanted to share them. If she didn’t want to do something, I heard about it. She would yell, cry, and try to talk her way out of things.

If I don’t meet her requests in a timely manner aka immediately, she will have a meltdown. Sometimes she’ll cry or whine while other times she’ll have a full-blown temper tantrum.

Temper tantrums are very common and are a normal part of growing up. They usually appear between the ages of 1.5 and 4 years old. They can include crying, screaming, kicking, biting and rolling around on the floor. Even though temper tantrums are a normal part of development, it doesn’t make them easy to deal with.

Here are some ways I deal with my toddler’s temper tantrums.

1) Offer options or solutions

Sometimes temper tantrums are over something specific. She wants a certain snack, toy or book right now.

If I can’t or don’t want to give her the thing she requests, I offer another solution to her problem. I tell her what her options are and let her pick the one that sounds best to her.

For example, if she’s demanding a popsicle fifteen minutes before dinner, I tell her she can have two mini marshmallows or an apple slice. Sometimes she keeps crying, but most of the time she picks one of the choices.

Offering solutions or options doesn’t always work or isn’t possible in some situations. If I’m in public or stuck on a long car ride, I will give in to her demands on occasion.

2) Distract and redirect

If the tantrum has not reached full-blown levels, I try distracting her. “Oh, look at this thing” or “I think I have something for you in my purse” usually works. Most of the time the thing in my purse is random – one of her hairbows or a box of Tic Tacs for her to shake. Sometimes I offer my phone for a set amount of time – usually 10 minutes –  so she can look at photos of herself or play on the PBS Go app.

If we’re at home, I redirect her to another activity or location. If she’s having a meltdown over watching TV, I’ll tell her we’re going to go outside and draw on the driveway with chalk. If it’s cold or raining, I’ll take her down to the playroom in the basement and ask her if we can have a tea party. Sometimes changing location is enough to stop the tantrum.

3) Talk it out

Most of the time I talk to my daughter in my normal voice. When a tantrum starts, I go into a serious, deeper voice.

If we’re at a restaurant and she starts melting down, I will say “Listen to me. We’re at a restaurant, we don’t do this behavior here. If you keep doing this, we’re going to go to the car and not get our food/lemonade/toy.”

Most of the time, if I remind her that I expect good behavior when we are somewhere, she behaves. I’ve explained many times that good behavior means eating her food, not throwing anything, and using an indoor voice.

I also use language that shows I understand her feelings. I’ll say, “You’re very upset. You really wanted to dance on the booth, but mommy said no. That’s really frustrating.” Usually, she will respond by echoing that she’s upset. At that point, I’ll try to distract her or offer some options for things she can do.

4) Comfort and hug

A little love and affection can go a long way when a tantrum is starting. I usually stay silent when I hug and comfort her. If I say anything, I’ll repeat “It’s OK, it’s OK” in a soothing tone. I’ve been comforting her with that phrase since she was born and it seems to work.

I can tell right away if she’s feeling upset and wants the comfort or if trying to hug her is going to make it worse. If she is not responsive to the hugs or pushes me away then I move on to the next option.

5) Let her cry

If I’ve offered a solution or option, tried to distract or redirect, talked it out, or offered comfort and she’s still throwing a fit, I let her cry. I tell her that it seems like she needs to cry it out and she can go ahead and do that for as long as she wants.

Obviously, this method is a little trickier in public, but ultimately I am not concerned with what people think about my parenting. They are only seeing one frame of the movie and that’s not enough to judge the whole thing.

As she’s gotten a bit older, she will say “I don’t want to cry it out” and get control of herself. We’ve also told her she can hug her “Sad Bunny” when she feels bad and the bunny will help her feel better.

The crying usually doesn’t last long especially if I act like I can’t hear it or it’s not happening. If the crying escalates then I try my last option.

6) Ignore her and walk away

**Note: I don’t do this in public. If the other options haven’t worked, we will leave or wait in the car until she’s calm.**

Finally, if the tantrum is epic, I ignore her and walk away. I start washing dishes, answer an email, or eat a snack. I go about my business as if I can’t hear the crying and screaming.

I only use this technique if all other options have failed. Sometimes she needs to work through her tantrum on her own. She has never cried, screamed or whined for more than 10 or 20 minutes while being ignored.

Toddler tantrums can be stressful for both child and parent. When your toddler throws a fit, work through these options. Keep in mind, the most important thing you can do is keep your cool and act in love. Adding your own crying or screaming to the tantrum won’t help. Your child needs help navigating his or her emotions. Guiding them in a loving way will set them up to better handle their feelings when they are adults.

How to handle toddler temper tantrums

Freelancers & Mamas, Work When You Can

As a freelancing mama, it’s hard to find time to get everything done. During my first year freelancing, I struggled to find a balance. I was working when I should have been doing other things like cleaning, exercising, relaxing, or spending time with my family. I didn’t get to enjoy my self-made schedule.

I thought that working from home meant I needed to be working every moment that I was at home. This was exhausting because I’m home 95% of the week. I couldn’t possibly work during all of my waking hours. That wouldn’t be fair to my husband, daughter, or myself.

After a year, I got into a better routine and became more comfortable with the idea that I didn’t need to constantly work. I realized work was always going to be there. I wasn’t ever going to reach a point where I completed absolutely everything, emptied the 4-6 inboxes I manage, and wrapped up all of my personal projects and goals.

Instead of worrying about working all the time, I started working when I could.

I used these methods to find a better work/life balance.

Wake up earlier

One way to I was able to get things done without feeling the panic of needing to do other things was by waking up earlier. Sleep is very important and I make sure to get at least 7 hours per night, but I didn’t need to get 9-10 hours every day. Instead, I would wake up before my daughter and get some work done in complete silence.

I found that 1-2 hours of concentrated work, without my daughter, was often more productive than 3-4 hours of work with my daughter around.

I don’t particularly like getting up earlier, but I know that I always have the option especially when my workload is heavy.

Dedicate one evening per week to working

Thursdays are usually my working nights. I go down in my office around 7 pm and stay there until 10 or 11. I don’t do this any other day of the week (unless there’s an urgent request or emergency).

Only doing it one night per week makes it tolerable. If I did this every night, I wouldn’t have any time with my husband. I chose Thursdays because my husband and I stay up later on Fridays and spend time together. Even if I’ve had a frustrating night working, I always go to bed thinking “It’s OK, tomorrow night I’ll relax.”

I also sneak in a little more office time when my husband travels. He travels for work anywhere from 2-10 days per month. When he’s gone, I typically spend the evenings working after I put my daughter to sleep.

Do a little work on the weekends

Most weekend days, I go downstairs and shut myself in my office for two hours. I typically do this as soon as I wake up.

I do my 30 minutes of writing and then tackle client work for 90 minutes. I can get a surprising amount of stuff done in that time because I’m 100% focused on completing tasks. When I come back upstairs at 10:30 or 11 am, I don’t feel like I’ve missed any of the day and my stress levels are decreased because I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Work in spurts

It will be years before I can work for an uninterrupted eight hours again. I plan on continuing to grow my business and work for myself for the rest of my life. This means that I probably won’t be working eight hour days until my daughter goes into kindergarten in three years. At that point, I hope to have more children that would still be home. With the amount of children I’d like, I estimate 3 – 10 years from now before I would work full-time hours again.

Instead of worrying about how much I’m working, I grab 10 minutes here and there throughout the day. My daughter can entertain herself long enough for me to respond to a few emails or jot down some thoughts for a future project or blog.

My brain has learned to run on spurts. I’ve gotten so much better at getting focused immediately. In college, I would sit at my desk for hours before I began writing a paper. Now, it’s do or die. I use the 10 minutes or I waste it. And I don’t want to waste it.

Take on less

At some point, you may realize that you have too much to do and not enough time to do it. As my daughter has gotten older, I had to become comfortable with taking on less. This has many perks. I’m able to take my daughter to lessons, mom’s groups, playdates or the library in the middle of the day without worrying about not being able to finish my work.

Having a decreased workload means that I only take on high paying, quality work. I’m no longer pitching for things on Upwork or accepting content mill jobs because it’s not worth my time.

It’s hard balancing a business and a family. Much like running a side hustle when you’re a full-time employee, you just have to find the time where you can.

You won’t always work a consistent schedule each week. Some weeks you’ll find more time and other weeks will be so packed with personal obligations that you may feel like you’re getting nothing done.

When you look at your accomplishments, try to take the long view. It doesn’t matter if today was unproductive if the past two weeks have been great. One of the greatest benefits of working for yourself is that you decide when you work – and you work when you can.

work-when-you-can

Announcing Baby #2

This fall, we got some wonderful news. We’re expecting baby #2!

Due to my miscarriage, I wanted to wait to announce this pregnancy until I was sure everything was going well. I also wanted to inform my clients before I let everyone else know.

We had our anatomy scan on February 15 and found out we’re having a boy!

The baby looked great and everything is on track. We should be expecting the new baby around July 4th!

I’m so excited to have both a daughter and a son! I imagined myself a mother of girls so I’m a bit nervous about this new adventure.

My husband grew up with one sibling and I grew up with three, so we always knew that we wanted at least one sibling for our daughter. We are very excited to welcome this new life into our home and become a family of four!

I will also be navigating running a business and a household with TWO small children. I won’t lie, I’m a little scared. I plan to talk about my maternity leave, informing clients about a life change, and how it’s going during each developmental stage.

Thank you for sharing this happy moment with me!

Announcing Baby #2

7 Lessons I’ve Learned from Two Years in Business

On March 1, 2015, I made a life-changing decision. I started my business, The Sturm Agency. My first day, I had one virtual assistant client and two marketing clients. Two years later, the business has grown to support nine clients and numerous one-time projects.

Here are seven of the most important lessons I’ve learned from two years in business:

1) Get a contract

I did a few deals early on without any formal contracts. The end result was not good for my business.

Contracts keep you safe as a freelancer. They help add a small element of security into an otherwise insecure job.

Contracts should include the following:

  • Your payment schedule and what happens if a client pays late
  • Your cancellation policy and how much notice a client is required to give you when they want to move on
  • Your terms and agreed upon duties/tasks

2) Expect the best, prepare for the worst

One of the most challenging things about being a freelancer, or someone who owns a small business, is the unpredictability of income.

In a traditional workplace, you can lose your job at any time, but usually you’re spoken to about the status of the company or your performance before that happens.

I’ve had a few issues with clients who refused to pay me. One client owned a particularly large sum and was 2+ months late with payment over the holiday season. They eventually paid up, but it was a stressful situation.

This year, I lost my largest client due to restructuring in his business. I have to admit, I wasn’t prepared for this. I let myself have a few days to mourn the loss and then sprung into action. I began submitting proposals for new positions and created a pitch log in Google Drive. Even though I remained optimistic, the hits kept on coming and I lost another long-term client that same month!

I needed to make up a certain amount of income per month to match what the clients were providing. I knew this would be difficult as they were two of my largest clients. However, I had always known that it wasn’t a great idea to have one or two clients constituting around 45% of my monthly income. I wanted that number to be no higher than 30% for one client, going forward.

Preparing for the inevitable loss of income, or lean times, is something you should do as a business owner. You don’t want to be left surprised and unable to pay your bills.

3) Get your systems in place

  • Use a project management system

I use Wunderlist for keeping track of my client’s tasks. I copy and paste each task into their list and give it a due date. Each morning I look through my Wunderlist tasks and make a paper list of what I need to do for the day. This ensures that nothing gets overlooked. It also keeps me from using my inbox as a to-do list.

  • Have an onboarding process

I onboard my new clients with a 20-30 minute introductory phone call. I get to know their needs and how they like to work. From there, I send an email that says how I work best, how to get in contact with me, and what my hours and turnaround times are. I also send over an engagement contract.

  • Use an organization system

I keep everything in Google Drive. This frees up space on my computer and allows me to access my files anywhere, should I need to.

I organize my folders this way:

Main folder: Current Clients

Subfolder: Client Name

Subfolder(s): Documents, Projects, Contracts (all with their own folder)

I also keep a Former Clients folder and a Potential Clients folder for people who decided to go with another person for the job or put the job on hold for the time being. These connections may come in handy in the future.

4) Get help from professionals

Although I have an MBA and could do my taxes and accounting, I choose to hire this work out to a CPA. I want to use my time to further my talents, not do work that I dislike. This minimal expense saves me a lot of time and frustration.

If you don’t like marketing, hire someone out. If you don’t do graphics or images, find someone who does. Trying to do everything in your business will cause burn out. One person cannot do everything.

5) Ask for reviews/testimonials/referrals

For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to ask for reviews or testimonials with my first few clients. I only recently started chasing people down for reviews after we completed work together.

Testimonials and reviews strengthen your brand and legitimize your business. The more you can get, the better. Start a reviews/testimonials page on your website and begin adding them as soon as you start working with clients.

6) Make it easy for people to find and contact you

You need a website. It should look good and be easy to navigate. You should have a place where people can easily find your contact information.

Recently, I added a contact form to my website. I should have done it a long time ago! Within one week of adding it, I had two clients contact me asking about my services. I can only assume it was because I made it very easy to work with me.

Create a separate page for contacting you titled “Hire me” or “Work with me” and have an easy-to-use form. People don’t want to have to copy your email address, open their email, and write up a message.

7) Stay grateful and humble

On a more philosophical note, I feel that having the right attitude does a lot for your business and your success.

There are a lot of people who are running their businesses with massive egos. These people are very difficult to work with. Often the biggest egos are the easiest to bruise.

I credit a lot of my success to staying grateful and humble. I am so thankful every time a new client reaches out to me. I think my appreciative attitude, both in my heart and outwardly to my clients, is something that sets me apart.

Running a business is no easy task and I’m proud to say that I’ve done it for two years. I hope to continue running my business for the rest of my working life.

Seven Lessons I've Learned From Two Years in Business

February 2017 Business Report

I’m pulling the curtain back on my small business!

Starting this month, I’ve decided to share my monthly business reports. In these reports, I’ll discuss the month’s positives and negatives as well as progress I’ve made towards my 2017 goals. I’ll also give a snapshot my earnings.

Although I’m starting the recaps this month, I have to admit, it’s been one of the worst months I’ve had since I started my business in 2015.

Here’s what happened.

Positives

I should have done this so much sooner! Within a week of adding an easy-to-use contact form to my Squarespace website, I received two client requests. Ultimately, one did not work out, but the other did.

I got a brand new client without the effort of pitching or self-promotion. I have always had my email address in a visible location on my page, but adding the Work With Me contact form made a huge difference. If you don’t have one, get one!

  • Raised client rates

I had two long-term clients (1.5 years and 2 years) who had not had a rate increase since I started working with them. My work load had changed and my experience had grown so I knew I needed to raise my rates. I wrote about this topic as I was doing it so saying “feel the fear and raise your rates anyway” was as much for readers as it was for myself.

  • Started regularly cold emailing

As you’ll read in my negatives section, I unexpectedly lost two clients this month. Although, this was a negative, it led to a positive. I began cold emailing local businesses and organizations on a daily basis. I set a goal of sending out five emails/messages per business day. I began this practice near the end of February and have not had sales yet.

  • Set daily social media goals

I know how important an active social media presence is for small businesses, but I’m often so busy doing client work that I don’t practice what I preach and put time into my own business. In February, I set the goal of following 10 people on Twitter and pinning 10-20 things each day. I’ll continue to up my social media game once The Sturm Agency site is live in March.

I decided to shift some of my attention to making this blog more successful. I enrolled in Elite Blog Academy and have started working on the lessons. I’m really excited to see where this takes me!

Negatives

  • Loss of two long-time clients

A client that I’d be working with since Zirtual days (August 2014) who was also my highest paying client, made a business change and no longer needed my services. The announcement was a bit of a shock, but I had noticed a slowing down in usage over the past few months. There was a sudden problem with paying my invoices on time. This client ultimately refused to pay me for my last month of service.

Although this is not the only client I’ve lost, this experience was a learning lesson for me on several fronts. I was given no notice that work was ending, but was simply told “don’t work from today on”. That day happened to be my birthday.

I also lost a client who decided to use another company. This client loss surprised me because we’d also been working together for two years. Unfortunately, I’d made a small error about a month ago that the client was very upset about. I have to believe it contributed to my dismissal. This client gave me a week’s notice, but then canceled payment three days later.

Here’s what I learned:

1) Always have a contract in place. I had never put together a formal contract with these clients and I wished I had. It may not have gotten me anything more than 30 days notice or an extra payment, but that would have made a difference.

2) Don’t have too much tied up in one client. I preach diversification and am working towards that model, but one particular client still held too much of my monthly income (around 45%). Their leaving caused me to scramble for new clients.

3) Don’t assume that small business owners or entrepreneurs will give you the same courtesy that they’d want. I was very surprised to find that both clients ended the relationship with very little notice and showed a lack of caring, respect and integrity during our final interactions. These clients are entrepreneurs who have fluctuating incomes based on booking gigs or securing projects. This experience made me vow to have a more compassionate approach should I ever hire someone and need to stop services.

Progress towards business goals

1) Increase my income by $10,000

The goal took a hit with the loss of two clients. I think I can recover from this, but it will be a bit of a struggle. I’ve had to look for more opportunities and ask for more subcontracting work in the meantime.

2) Get another local client

I’ve begun the process of seeking out new local clients through cold emailing and word of mouth, but have not secured one yet. I hope to have at least one new local client in March.

3) Launch The Sturm Agency website

I think we’re going to use Squarespace for The Sturm Agency, but I’m not sure yet. I really love the simplicity of it and because I don’t intend on monetizing the site. I intend on keeping it as a “business information only” site while maintaining Freelancing Mama as my blog and future monetization opportunity. I plan to get something live by the end of March.

4) Launch my freelancer idea

I have not made any progress on this goal yet.

5) Sponsor something in the community

Nothing jumped out as the right opportunity in February, but I will continue to keep looking for possible sponsorships in the Roscoe, Rockton or Rockford, IL areas.

Income Snapshot

untitled-presentation

I may eventually share the actual numbers associated with my income, but for now I’m not comfortable doing that. I will be sharing this income snapshot to show a trend of my income throughout the year.

This income came from a mixture of social media management, virtual assistant work, one-off organization projects, and content writing.

Overall, it was a rough month, but I’m confident that March will bring better luck.

feb-2017-business-report

How Freelancing Can Help Boomerang Millennials

My generation has been called the Boomerang Generation. People from the ages of 22-33 who went to college, graduated, and moved back in with their parents indefinitely.

There are people who enjoy their families so much that they don’t want to leave. There are also cultures that expect children to live at home until they are married. Then there’s another sector of Millennials who are too intimidated, scared, unsure or apathetic to strike out in the world.

The Boomerang generation has a negative connotation of not wanting to leave home and grow up. It’s been suggested that the idea of committing to a full-time job scares this generation. This is where freelancing can help.

Freelancing gives the Boomerang generation the freedom to move around and be a bit unstable while still earning an income and supporting themselves.

If you’re a Boomerang Millennial by choice or circumstance, here’s how freelancing can help you launch from the nest.

Freelancing doesn’t have to be a 9-5 job

If you’re hesitant to commit to a traditional 9-5 job then freelancing is a great alternative. Put together a budget of how much money you need to live on. You may be able to find decent housing and pay all your bills for less than $2000 per month depending on where you live. With some effort, you could make $2000 per month freelancing without working the traditional 40+ hour workweeks.

For example, if you’re a website designer, you could make $2000 per month from 1-2 clients. As a writer, it may take several clients or jobs to make that amount. A virtual assistant could reach that goal with 2-6 virtual assistant clients.

Figure out how much you need to make by using this cost of living calculator then use this rate calculator to figure out how much you should be charging.

Freelancing keeps you location independent

If settling down in one place freaks you out then freelancing could solve that problem too. As a freelancer, you can do your work anywhere. The term digital nomad refers to freelancers/entrepreneurs that have embraced a lifestyle of traveling while working. There are many successful freelancers who are traveling all over the world while freelancing. They support their lifestyle through their work.

Freelancing can get your foot in the door

If you having a hard time finding a traditional job with benefits, freelancing could bring you closer to that goal. You can gain experience doing freelancing work that would boost your resume while you try to find a full-time job. Sometimes freelancing opportunities turn into bigger jobs. Numerous freelancers have been asked to take on full-time roles within the company they are freelancing with.

Freelancing can build your confidence

Freelancing can build your confidence. If you didn’t have much work experience prior to college than freelancing can help build your confidence. You got a degree in something. Besides the skills related to your major, you learned valuable skills like project management, organization, and self-sufficiency. You wouldn’t have graduated from college without being able to get your work done. You are already qualified to freelance in your field. Start with small projects and work your way up. Set a goal of sending out proposals and applying for 2-5 jobs per week.

Freelancing doesn’t have to be forever

Freelancing has a less “sign an agreement and sell your soul” feel than the traditional 9-5 job. Yes, you can quit a full-time job, preferably with at least two weeks notice, but the stigma is greater. Freelancing jobs end for a variety of reasons, often not related to the freelancer at all. The project can have a natural ending point, the department could cut the budget, the company could decide to hire someone full-time, or they could give the responsibilities to someone already on staff. Quitting can be your decision too. You could finish up a project and let your client know that you don’t want any future work. The beauty of freelancing is that it is inherently temporary. As a freelancer, it’s easier to change your mind and pivot course, whether that change is going to a traditional job or continuing on with another client.

Freelancing can keep your life (relatively) the same

If what’s turning you off about the working world is getting up early, wearing business casual clothing, commuting, and spending all your time in a cube farm then freelancing is a great alternative. You can keep whatever hours you want, dress however you like, and work from home or anywhere else you want. Your life could look a lot like college, if you want it to. You’ll have the same freedom as you had when you were going to classes for a portion of the day and spending the rest of the day doing what you wanted.

Freelancing could be just what Boomerang generation needs to get on their own two feet and gain the confidence to participate in the working world.

boomerang

Batching Your Work for Greater Productivity

Is time getting the best of you? Do you want to work less while maintaining your current income? If you’re nodding along, then batching will be your new favorite thing.

One of my favorite productivity hacks is batching. Batching is the process of grouping similar work together and completing it in one sitting. Batching your tasks can free up your time and mental energy.

As a freelancer, here’s how to realize the benefits of batching!

Find your batchable tasks

Think about the types of tasks you do. Which tasks do you need to do frequently? Which tasks are similar in nature? Your batchable tasks can be for the same client or for multiple clients.

If you can’t think of any tasks that you could batch off the top of your head, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you use the same program/application/software for several clients?
  2. Do you write content for multiple clients?
  3. Do you invoice clients at the end/beginning of each month?

How to batch

  • Gather all similar tasks
  • Figure out what you should work on first
  • Complete all like tasks before moving on to another category of tasks

For example, if you write copy you could batch it in the following ways:

  • Complete all first drafts before making any edits or doing read-throughs
  • Write all call-to-action prompts in one sitting

Benefits of batching

1) Your brain loves batching

  • Batching forces you to single-task

Our brains aren’t very good at multitasking, but we’ve tried to force it on them for a long time. Your brain will thank you if you can stay on one task for a few hours. It may get a bit boring, but you’ll get faster at doing the task and stay more productive.

  • Batching reduces stress and anxiety

Every time you open a new browser window and follow a new whim, you get a tiny dose of dopamine. It may feel awesome at the time, but doing it throughout the day can cause you to feel flustered, disorganized and overwhelmed. Staying on one task gives your brain space to relax.

  • Batching helps you enter the flow state

If you keep doing one thing eventually you’ll reach the elusive flow state where your work seems easy and effortless and you’re completing things more quickly than you normally do. This is especially true for writing or any other creative pursuit.

2) Batching saves time

Even though it seems like the seconds it takes to open a browser window, login to a program, refresh your email or check your Facebook feed don’t add up – they sure do! A minute here or there ends up being hours of unproductive time at the end of the week.

Doing your work in batches saves time logistically as well as mentally. You don’t have to get focused and refocused on the same task several times. You complete them and move on to something new.

3) Batching increases energy

Jumping in and out of work wastes your energy. It can take an average of up to 25 minutes to refocus on a task once you’ve been interrupted. In an office setting, you don’t have much control over other people interrupting you, but in any setting you have control over interrupting yourself with distractions.

Batching your work and staying focused will give you a jolt of energy and pride once you finish a group of tasks.

Batching for increased productivity

Some things we do on a daily basis are complete time wasters. The greatest one of all is email. Batching the tasks that tend to waste time is a great way to increase your overall productivity.

Batching suggestions

  • Answering all emails at set times per day

Three times per day, set your timer for 30 minutes, get in your inbox and clear it out. Answer all emails, delete all junk, forward, and delegate. Once you’re done, do another task. Don’t check your email again until the next designated time. If you use less than 30 minutes on this task, great! Move on to your next task or take a break with your remaining time.

  • Writing all blog posts in one sitting

Once you’ve figured out a blog posting schedule, hunker down and write all of that week or month’s blog posts in one sitting. Even though the topics will differ, the process will be the same. Doing this without interruption could help you get ahead in your content planning.

My habit of writing for 30 minutes per day has helped me plan out and write content through August 2017.

  • Doing all the work you have in one program

Whenever you go to a website or login to a program, take a moment to list all the tasks you need to do in that website or program. Then do them all in one sitting. This saves the time of opening the program, logging in and getting set up and it also keeps you in a state of flow. For example, if you need to edit images in Photoshop for several clients, stay in the program and edit all items before moving on to another task.

  • Scheduling/posting/moderating social media

If you are moderating several Facebook groups, set up a schedule for responding. Go into each group, answer questions and comments then stay out until your next designated check-in time. And, turn off notifications! You don’t need to be interrupted by someone asking what time a store opens while you’re doing a batch of unrelated work.

Keep in mind: batching goes beyond a single client’s tasks.

When batching you want to think about the big picture. What else could you be doing in the same vein for someone else? Once you get used to batching and realize the benefits, you won’t want to work any other way.

batching

Need a Virtual Assistant Job? Try Subcontracting!

As a virtual assistant, you can find clients on your own or you can choose to subcontract under another virtual assistant or agency.

The process for subcontracting is simple:

  • Find someone to subcontract with
  • Discuss your rate
  • Sign an agreement
  • Get tasks and complete work
  • Invoice and get paid

Find someone to subcontract with

A great place to start looking for subcontracting opportunities is Facebook. There are many great virtual assistant Facebook groups.

Some of my favorites include:

Often someone in these groups will post that they need a subcontractor. You can apply and see if you’re a good fit for the company.

If you already know someone who has a virtual assistant or marketing business, you could reach out and ask if there are any opportunities for subcontract work.

Subcontract work is very low risk for the company or person participating. They are under no obligation to send you a set amount of work and can end the contract at any time.

That’s not to say that subcontracting work isn’t good for freelancers too!

It gives freelancers another income stream and helps diversify their client base. It ensures that one client cannot end your business by moving on. It gives you the opportunity to gather more positive testimonials/reviews for your website. It also allows you to peek inside someone’s else’s successful business to see how they run things, what their pricing structure is like, and how you can grow your business to their level in the future. Subcontracting can be a great learning experience as well as an income generator.

I currently have three subcontracting positions. One is with my former employer and two are opportunities I found in Facebook groups.

Discuss your rate

The person who needs a subcontractor must be making enough to pay your rate. If you want to earn $30 per hour, you’re not going to be able to subcontract with someone who consistently makes $20 per hour.

Don’t be afraid to suggest what you think you’re worth. Remember, on average VAs are making $15-30 per hour. When you’re first starting out, you may want to ask for $15 per hour, but don’t go too far below that. Keep in mind, there are VAs making six figures per year.

The average amount I’ve seen for subcontracting jobs falls between $18-25 per hour.

That said, I’ve had to turn down a few subcontracting opportunities because the pay was too low. In one instance, I was told that the person couldn’t afford me, but would circle back as soon as they could because they wanted me on their team.

There’s no harm in pursuing as many leads as you have time to follow up on. They can often plant seeds that grow into business opportunities, partnerships, or relationships in the future.

Sign an agreement

When you subcontract with someone, you should be asked to sign a subcontractor agreement. If the person does not ask you to sign one, I would question whether it was a legitimate opportunity.

Typically the subcontractor agreement includes information on your pay, hours, confidentiality and noncompete disclosure that prevents you from poaching clients.

Get tasks and complete work

You will be assigned tasks by either the owner of the agency/company or the client themselves. It depends on the agency/company’s policies whether you will have direct interaction with clients.

When you receive a task, complete it correctly and efficiently. You want to make sure that you are using your time wisely so you don’t bill the agency/company unnecessarily.

Be honest about your skills. If you don’t know how to do something, ask the VA for help or instruction. You can also offer to research the topic on your own time.

Invoice and get paid

The company/agency will have a schedule for submitting invoices and receiving payment. Most companies use Paypal, but you can ask if you’d like to use another method. I’ve worked with subcontractors that pay weekly and some that pay monthly. It’s more common to be paid monthly.

Becoming a virtual assistant subcontractor is a great way to learn about someone’s else’s best practices and procedures. The process will make you a stronger VA and give you an idea of what else you can be offering. I’ve been able to learn a variety of programs that my current clients don’t use that may come in handy with future clients one day. If you’re looking for more work, you should consider subcontracting.

 

va-job

10 Things I Did Before I Was 33 (And You Should Too)

I celebrated my 33rd birthday on February 1st. I’ve always used my birthdays as a reset button for the new year. I set goals on January 1st, but usually don’t get motivated to pursue them until my birthday rolls around and it’s officially a new year for me.

In honor of my 33rd birthday, I’m sharing 10 important things I’ve done in my short time here on Earth.

1) Expanded my palette

The first twenty years of my life I subsisted on chicken strips and fries. I was scared to death of flavor, intolerant of spice, and happy to live in my mashed potato bubble. My ex-boyfriend’s father was an excellent cook and I tried many new things at his house with the sole motivation of looking good in front of his family. Even though the relationship didn’t last, I left with a love of avocados, Peking duck, and Indian food. There is so much good food out there, try it!

2) Got over my childhood (for the most part)

I quietly carried the brunt of my dysfunctional family until my mid-twenties. At that point, it came to a head, I was regularly crying and raging over what had happened during my childhood. I had flipped the switch from “everything was cool” to “everything was horrible” and I couldn’t get out of the funk. Thoughts about my past encompassed 90% of my brain space and even crowded into my current situation and made me doubt my present relationships. I came from a we-don’t-need-help family and when I was able to break that stigma and talk to a therapist, the relief was nearly immediate. After several months of therapy, I gained the tools to deal with my past and present. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad about things or have times when I wallow in it, but I’m a lot better off than I was before. My past doesn’t dictate my future and neither does yours. Get help if you need it.

3) Took a big risk

I wouldn’t say I’m risk-adverse. I was always the friend convincing her more cautious friends to do something daring. One boring evening, I led the charge to go get something pierced, just for fun. However, when it came to my work history, I followed the straight and narrow. I had one career after college and I intended to stay there indefinitely even though I wasn’t able to express myself creatively and it wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life (though I enjoyed the work). During bed rest and maternity leave while pregnant with my daughter, I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. This led to me resigning from my job and beginning a work from home career. That blossomed into my own business and led me to where I am today. I was scared to take a risk, but if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have experienced the happiness, excitement and career satisfaction I feel now. Make a plan and then make the leap, it’s worth it.

4) Cut out toxic people

I’ve made the tough decision to have limited or no contact with several people in my life. I agonized over these decisions and kept expressing my hurt, waiting for the person(s) to change. Spoiler alert – they never did. Don’t give your time to people who make you feel bad about yourself. Just don’t. It’s better to have no one to talk to then have someone who makes you feel worse every time you talk to them. This advice even applies to family. Just because someone has known you for a long time or is related to you doesn’t mean they deserve a place in your life. You don’t have to know someone forever, so don’t. You can stop talking abruptly or do the slow fade, but just get the people out of your life. Your deserve to be happy.

5) Made a commitment

I said I’d never get married until I met my husband. When he proposed, it felt right and I wasn’t worried about the lifelong commitment any longer. Making a commitment is hard enough to keep without forcing yourself into it in the first place. Being committed to something has made me a better person. I was flaky and hard to reach when I was younger and being with someone for an extended length of time bored me. Obviously marriage isn’t always perfect, but I know that hanging in there through the tough times leads to some of the best times. You don’t have to get married to make a commitment, vow to do something that you want to do and see it through. It will give you the same satisfaction.

6) Saw some of the world

It took me into my 30s to realize I don’t really like traveling. So many people feel that traveling is THE thing to do. If you can see the world then you’ve made it and you’re a more fully formed human than those who stay in the same place for their entire lives. While I love the idea of traveling, I don’t enjoy the actuality of it. I’ve seen around 15 states, been on tropical beach vacation, saw some ancient churches, and flown internationally – for now, I’m good. So, maybe I’ll be a less cultured person that someone else, but as they say, is the juice worth the squeeze? And for me, it’s not. If traveling makes you happy, do it. If you prefer to stay local, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

7) Forgave

Anger is a smooth talker. It will always make you feel that you are justified in your feelings. When someone wrongs you, whether they did it on purpose or not, whether they are sorry or not, whether they will do it again or not, just forgive. Holding onto anger is toxic. Forgiveness takes nothing from you, it doesn’t prove the person was right, it just allows you to move past the event. I spent a lot of my youth raging at machines and it ultimately just wore me out. It gave me a hard shell that made me distrustful of anyone’s intentions. Once I figured out that my reaction to the situation mattered more than the actual situation, it became a lot easier to choose peace and forgive. Let go of a grievance and your soul will feel lighter.

8) Got my sleep

I’ve always loved sleep. Even as a child, I was slow to wake up and could stay in bed until the afternoon. I enjoyed my time sleeping in until I turned 30 and had my daughter. Once that happened, sleep became something that was less controlled by me and more controlled by the whims of a tiny dictator. Enjoy your sleep, revel in your sleep. Get your sleep while the sleeping’s good. I’m sure I’ll sleep soundly again…someday.

9) Experienced unconditional love

I don’t think I could have ever experienced true love had I not had my daughter. I love my husband, and I’ve loved men before him, but it’s not the same. The love I have for my daughter could move mountains. It has changed my life in the best possible way. I am kinder and braver than I was before she was born. I was petrified of having children, possibly intuiting that some core part of myself would break loose when it happened, but it was the best decision I have ever made. Having children is not for everyone, and I don’t doubt that a person can find the same type of unconditional love for an animal, significant other, or even career, but for me, it’s my daughter.

10) Shared my light

I’ve bailed two ex-boyfriends out of jail, picked people up in the middle of night when I was barely able to focus my gritty eyes on the road, taken someone to a concert at the last minute when their other friend bailed, given dozens of people money (overtly or secretly), complimented strangers, hugged people who were crying in public, left giftcards on car windshields, sent anonymous Valentine’s, donated my time and money to local charities, and sincerely told no less than 30 people that I thought they were beautiful. Kind actions are always out of my comfort zone and they always take bravery, but I know these actions make an impact. The world needs all the good we can put into it, especially now.

I’m not afraid of aging, I’ve only become more confident, less concerned about people’s opinions of me, and happier as I’ve gotten older. I wish the same for you.

33