Being a Virtual Assistant, managing 2 other other Virtual Assistants as well as tackling all the biz tasks and admin can become very busy. If you’re anything like me, you like to nose around too, and see what other biz owners are doing to keep themselves on track – today I’m sharing my strategies with you.
This post is actually inspired by a discussion that emerged in one of the Facebook Groups, so thanks Bella for admitting you’re as nosy as I am. You asked, I deliver, so here’s what happens in this house.
My Work Week
Since I just recently quit my job, I put a lot of thought into my work week. I’m aware that I have good and bad times in a day. I’m usually most useful between 8am and 11.30am and between 3pm and 8pm. Realising that, I created a bit of a schedule for myself that I decided to follow. I know myself quite well and if I don’t have a plan I can get really carried away doing something I love to do, but it’s not what you’d call a money-making activity (designing cute graphics on Canva anyone?). So I do have to make sure I schedule these things in. I also like to leave space for Discovery Calls, as these are the sessions that are available through my booking system. If I have calls great, if not, I use this time to get some other outstanding work done – I just try not to pre-plan too much during these times, as every time I do, a booking comes in and then I have to scrap the plan anyways.
My Actual Work Day
I get up at 6am because my other half does have to go to work. I then normally enjoy my coffee in the mornings. Nothing works without that usually. Then I wait for the man to get ready and leave the house. I usually check with my helping hands first to make sure everything is on track and then stop by in Teamwork to see what tasks are coming up for the day. I then usually head straight to work. I stop by inside the emails and Facebook messages, but only to see if any work has been sent. I also see if all projects are on track. I then normally shower and get dressed in something comfortable. I don’t usually eat breakfast (I know.. naughty, but I often don’t feel like it).
Next I tackle whatever task I had in mind for the morning that takes a lot of brain power. Sometimes these are things for clients and sometimes these are things for the biz. I could be working on content for the next month, creating content upgrades, working on Facebook ads, preparing a new course or anything else.
When I start getting tired around 11.00am I then go and actually check emails and respond to all of them. I try not to do this first thing in the morning anymore, as it takes a lot of valuable time from my prime time of the day. And this is also the first time I end up doing admin in the day (yes you read correctly, first time). There are usually things that I need to do for clients. I normally invoice in advance, so if someone is booking extra hours, I need to invoice them. Then there are often new quotes or contracts to send out and check if they’ve been received back. I also go into PayPal and check for any payments, but more on that later. After I’ve done the admin stuff I tend to have lunch and I do take a break. If I have any errands to run, this is the time I do it. I like to listen to Podcasts and read articles and I also stop by on Facebook.
I then get back to work by about 2pm, once I’ve woken up. I get very tired after I eat and there is no point in me doing any work, because I make so many mistakes, I have to re-do it later anyways. I then tackle the next big thing on my list in the afternoon and that is usually client work or Discovery Calls, follow ups and deciding on the next stage in different projects. I like to feel that by them time 4.00pm hits I’ve cleared most of the things off my plate that are urgent or important (or both). I then tackle some things that require less brain power but are still good to do (eg. social media scheduling). Then around 5pm I sit down for the second round of admin! Yes…I know, but if I don’t do it, things will pile up and then I will waste a whole day getting back on track, so for me it’s easier to tackle these things every day. I then check again for new tasks as well and add them into Teamwork. Many of my clients are based in the US or Australia and they have just started work, so a lot of new things arrive in the evenings.
A topic that comes up a lot is bookkeeping. Initially I tried using the integrated system inside 17hats (the tool I use to handle most invoices and pretty much all of the contracts) and then I tried to use Quickbooks, but these systems are not working for me at all. They usually are unable to pull my transactions from my bank, as there always issues with the authentication process, and then I need to export and import my statements, which is a waste of time. Also, since I get paid through Paypal/Stripe these transactions are not clear on the bank statements. So I then need to work out who paid me what, and when. I also can’t see how much I paid in fees, to keep a record of that I need to sign into Paypal/Stripe anyways. So I found that this was too much back and forth for me. And it really didn’t work – it just meant I would put all of this off and become the procrastination sensation.
So I did what loads of people told me not to do – I went back to using a spreadsheet. I’m happy with this arrangement and it’s really working for me. I check for payments when I do the first round of Admin, I move the money to my bank account immediately, so it all lines up and then I enter the payment into my spreadsheet, straight away. I also include how much fees were taken, so I can keep a tab on that too. At the end of the month I then set time aside to update the spreadsheet with all the expenses. At the moment this is a bit messy and I am working on changing things around. Currently all of my payments come into PayPal and I move them to my business account. Some services I pay for though (eg. CoSchedule, Teamwork, 17hats etc.) still come out of my personal bank account. Some of them are taken via Paypal, some directly from the bank. I also pay for my helping hands through Upwork, so this is all a bit messy. It takes me a good 2 hours to update all the transactions and I’m working on fixing that.
PayPal fees are much higher than Stripe, but Paypal pays out immediately whereas Stripe holds my money for nearly a week! So while I’m in the early stages of running my business, it’s more important for me to avoid cashflow issues, so I’m using PayPal, as soon as I have a bit of a buffer built up, I am moving back to Stripe to cut down on fees.
I also have a habit now of adding all the quotes I’ve sent into my spreadsheet straight away. I just note that the person is at the quote stage. This helps me to see how much money we are currently bringing in and what is still to come. So I usually know that any day I check the spreadsheet I can tell you, if we’re on track to meet our goal for the month, or not. This has helped me immensely to decide on whether I really need to squeeze this new project in now or whether it can wait a couple of weeks. I also enter all the pre-booked and paid projects into the correct month. So for example, if I have a contract signed for a project in January and it’s currently December, I will add that into the spreadsheet for January straight away. I will then be reminded to invoice that person nearer the time and I also have a correct forecast for the income currently predicted and I can market more or less based on what the next few months are looking like.
Tasks and Client Projects
Initially we were using Asana to handle all the client tasks, but it got really messy and the notifications were playing up, so as we are growing so quickly, we decided we needed more flexibility and some more advanced features. We trialled Basecamp, but some important features were missing, so we ended up using Teamwork. It’s a great tool and if you have many projects on the go or work with a group of different people it’s really helpful. I am intending to write a full review of Teamwork shortly as I do think it’s one of the best tools out there for task management.
We are currently still using Toggl to track time for all of our projects and clients, however we are aware Teamwork does have this feature and we may use it in future. I like Toggl because it’s easy to generate the weekly reports for our clients and they look pretty and are easy to understand, so I’m reluctant to move away from it.
Planning for the Biz
I try and spend time every week to plan for the business. I normally review the week on Friday afternoons and decide what went well and what we need to do more of and what didn’t go so well and what we can do to improve that. This includes any challenges with clients, any quotes that were incorrect as well as the way we handled things internally. I then also look at content and what’s coming up for the next few weeks. This is a time I have never had before, as I was still working and doing the business stuff on top of a job. So I’m really glad that I can spend more time planning and executing those plans.
I use a bullet journal to plan, so I have a spread in the bullet journal now to track the stats for 2017. I also have an editorial calendar for every month, followed by my 90-day-plan. I use the bullet journal more for planning than I use it for actually writing my to-dos or appointments. My appointments need to be accessible to my scheduling tool as well as to my assistants, so that we don’t double book me, so a paper diary is totally pointless for me. I also have all of my client-related to-dos inside Teamwork, so there is no point to write them twice. Once I’ve decided on posts for the following month, I then add them into CoSchedule and start looking at information to produce that content.
Phew! Now that I wrote down everything that I do every month I almost feel dizzy! It’s frustrating when we have those feelings where we seem to think we haven’t achieved anything, but looking at this I do realise how many great systems we have in place and how much we are getting done every day! I’m really looking forward to the next few months to see how things will grow and develop.