My Home Office – Get the Look

With nearly half of us now working from home in the UK, having a calm space where you can focus and be productive is now important than ever.

Throughout lockdown, my partner and I were working from the dining table, a dressing table, the sofa and even occasionally from our bed!! It got to a point where I just couldn’t deal with it – my back was killing, I didn’t feel focused anywhere and everything just seemed chaotic.

My partner’s office finally reopened so it was just me working from home, but living in a tiny millworkers cottage, my options for a workspace were very limited. With my step-daughter only being here half of the week (and being at school whilst I’m working), I decided to replace the dressing table in the corner of her room (which only I used because she is far too young for makeup – my thoughts, not hers!) with a proper desk and chair (which I was informed just had to be pink…I wasn’t ever going to argue with that!)

As soon as IKEA opened I was there, and within 2 hours the back of the car was full with everything I needed for my workspace:

  • A desk (small but with storage)
  • Shelves
  • Storage boxes
  • A clock
  • A fake plant
  • Mirrors


I got home and promptly set it all up but it still didn’t feel right…I needed a few more bits and bobs to make it feel like my own space. So, half an hour online shopping at Next, Sainburys and Not On The High Street and I was sorted with:

  • A lamp
  • (another) fake plant
  • 2 pin boards
  • A desk protector
  • Some inspirational prints

And that was my home office complete…

But then…working on a laptop started driving my CRAZY so I started looking at getting a new one. Having only recently started out in business it seemed silly to fork out for a new laptop when I had a perfectly good, albeit HUGE in comparison to the students’ laptops next to me in Starbucks, laptop in working order.

So, as soon as Black Friday came around I jumped on the Currys PC World website and ordered myself a new screen, keyboard and mouse for an absolute bargain!

The final addition to my workspace is a back massager from Snailax that my wonderful financé bought me as a Christmas present! Now I have no excuse not to work all day!

So there you have it, my home office project is now complete! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading…

Michelle xx


Get the look:

Shelves from £5

Grey storage boxes from £6

Alarm clock £4.50

Artificial hanging plant £6, and pot £3

Mirrors £12 for 2

Artificial plant in pink pot £20

Cork board £8.99

Pink dog print memo board from £30

Desk protector £13.99

Green motiviational print £9.50 and photo frame 50p

Pink motivational print £3.23 and photo frame £1.75

Office chair £100

No longer available:

Desk – similar at IKEA

Green box file – similar at Sainsburys

Desk lamp – similar at Next

Pencil case

5 FREE Apps Every Small Business Owners Needs In Their Life

Apps make life easier.

When you’re a one-man band, you need all the help you can get, so today I want to share with you 5 of my favourite FREE apps to help you to run your business…

1 – Trello

Trello is a virtual To Do list.
You can create ‘boards’ where you can list tasks to be completed, assign tasks to other people, set deadlines and add attachments. Boards can be shared with members of your team, or with clients, so everyone knows what is expected of them.

2 – Canva

Ahhh…my favourite app of all time.
Canva is a design app which allows you to easily create graphics for social media, flyers, posters, invitations…basically any document you can think of!
There is a paid version which gives you more options but with the free version, you get plenty of photos and graphics to choose from and can set your brand colours to quickly create branded items.

3 – Later

Later is a social media scheduling tool. Again, there is a paid version which gives you access to analytics and insights.
But, if you’re just looking for a simple scheduler, Later is a great option!
For those who like an aesthetic Instagram feed, you can preview, and click and drag your posts around until you get a beautiful grid!

4 – Google Drive

Google Drive is fab for storing documents and photos. You can create documents (using Google doc), spreadsheets (Google Sheets), presentations (Google Slides) and forms (Google Forms) and store and share them all from Google Drive.
Files and folders can be made private or can be shared with other members of your team, or even with clients.

5 – Hubspot

Hubspot is a great CRM to store contacts, create landing pages, set tasks to follow up potential clients, track deals…the list goes on!
The free version is perfect for anyone just starting up in business who wants to keep their leads and sales organised and in one place.

So, there you have it! 5 of my favourite free apps to help you to run your business.

If you need a hand getting organised, get in touch today to find out how I can help!

10 Days of Social Media Content for December

A little gift from me to you 🎁


Last month I shared some social media ideas for November and it went down a treat! So…I’m doing the same for December 🎄

#givingtuesday
#nationalgriefawarenessweek
#illuminationstreetweek
#humanrightsday
#christmasjumperday
#festivalofwinterwalks
#wintersolstice
#christmaseve
#christmasday
#nye2020

There you have it, 10 ideas for your December social media content calendar.

If you’d like some help with planning and scheduling your social media, get in touch with me to find out more about how I can help.

A Quick Guide To The Best Times To Post On Social Media

Here’s a 𝑔𝑒𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑙 guide to the best times to post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn.

𝐼 𝑤𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑑 𝑎𝑙𝑤𝑎𝑦𝑠 𝑟𝑒𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑑 𝑐ℎ𝑒𝑐𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡𝑠 𝑟𝑒𝑔𝑢𝑙𝑎𝑟𝑙𝑦 𝑡𝑜 𝑓𝑖𝑛𝑑 𝑜𝑢𝑡 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑛 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑎𝑢𝑑𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑜𝑛𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑒𝑛𝑔𝑎𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑔 – if you don’t know what I am talking about, get in touch and I will happily point you in the right direction.

Instagram

Best TIME: 11am

Best DAY: Wednesday

WORST day: Sunday

Facebook

Best TIME: 11am – 1pm

Best DAY: Wednesday

WORST day: Sunday

Twitter

Best TIME: 9am

Best DAY: Wednesday or Friday

WORST day: Saturday

LinkedIn

Best TIME: 8am – 10am

Best DAY: Wednesday or Thursday

WORST day: Sunday

There you have it – a quick guide to the best times for posting on social media!

If you’re swamped by scheduling your social media post, have you considered outsourcing it to a lovely Virtual Assistant like me?

Message me today to book in your FREE discovery call to chat through what help you need.

8 GREAT Things You Can Do With A Spreadsheet

Bear with me…I know this doesn’t sound like a very exciting post, but spreadsheets are SO versatile and I absolutely LOVE them!

You don’t have to be a formula whizz, there are plenty of things you can use a spreadsheet for without being a mathematical genius.

Here are my Top 8…

1 Content Calendar

Mapping out a content calendar for your social media or website can be done using a spreadsheet! Use Google Sheets to share with other members of your team.

2 Accounting

If you don’t use accounting software, spreadsheets are a great way to keep on top of your accounts, create budget plans, forecasts, etc. You will even find some ready made templates in Microsoft Excel.

3 Inventory Tracking

Again, using simple formulae, you can set up an inventory tracker to help you to stay organised.

4 To Do Lists

I am a sucker for a To Do list…I have a notepad on which I write the next day’s To Do list every evening, as well as three different project management platforms that I use!
But sometimes, it is easier just to do it on a spreadsheet.
This week I have created my Christmas Shopping To Do list, with a different tab for each recipient, tick boxes and links to every present I want to buy. And it only took a couple of minutes to set it up!

5 Calculator

If you have to do the same calculations over and over again for your business, you can simply save your formula in to a spreadsheet and every time you need to run the calculation, just enter your figures!

6 Time Log

A lot of virtual services rely on time logs – spreadsheets are a great way to do this. There are lots of time tracking apps out there, but spreadsheets are free!

7 Mailing List

Spreadsheets can be great for keeping on top of your mailing list, especially if you use an email marketing platform like Mailchimp or Mailerlite.
If you do use these platforms, subscribers will often sign up directly from your website or social media, but what about those people who want to join your mailing list another way?
Simply pop them on your spreadsheet, then upload the sheet weekly to your mail provider.
That way, your mailing list will be up to date without you having to keep going in and entering new subscribers manually.

8 CRM

This is only really suitable if you only have a handful of clients. You can easily create a simply CRM to stay on top of your clients using a spreadsheet. But, if you’re dealing with larger numbers, I’d recommend using a pre-built CRM system or app.

So, there you have it…8 AMAZING things you can do with a spreadsheet.


If you need some help with any of these things, or you just want something setting up…get in touch today to find out how I can help.

10 Days of Social Media Content for November 2020

Trying to come up with fresh new content for your social media can be tricky. You may not be feeling very creative, you might feel that you have nothing else to share with your followers, or maybe you just CAN’T BE BOTHERED.

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! So, to save you some time and energy, here are 10 days of social media content to help you on your way in November…

Sunday 1st November

#worldvegan day

Thursday 5th November

#bonfirenight

Sunday 8th November

#cappuccinoday

Monday 9th November

#freedomday

Wednesday 11th November

#remembranceday

Friday 13th November

#worldkindnessday #wkd

Thursday 19th November

#internationalmensday

Thursday 26th November

#nationalcakeday

Friday 27th November

#blackfriday

Monday 30th November

#computersecurityday

Do you have any tips for creating social media content? Share you ideas in the comments!

If you need help with creating and scheduling social media content, get in touch today to find out how I can help.

 

Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant

For those of you who have never outsourced, the idea of hiring a Virtual Assistant can be a scary prospect.

How do you know you can trust them? Where do you find someone who can do what you need? What are the benefits?

The first thing I would say is, do your research! Ask for recommendations and read reviews. Look for reviews that mention the type of work you need doing and find examples of previous work.

Check trusted directories – The Society of Virtual Assistants has a great database of insured VAs who comply with their UK Virtual Assistant Standards (https://www.societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk/find-a-va/)

What are the benefits? Well, where to start…

Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Increased productivity

Research has found that the average office-based 9-5 employee only gets through 3 hours of productive work in a day! Virtual Assistants are self-employed so customer satisfaction is our number 1 priority. Being self-employed also makes us pretty motivated to do a good job!

Improved quality of work

Would you rather spend your time responding to emails, teaching yourself how to use the latest technology, or updating your website? Or would you prefer to focus on what you know and love?
By hiring a VA, you can free up time so you can work on growing your business.

Flexibility

Virtual Assistants don’t have to work 9-5. We can fit work in around your schedule.
Finding the right VA who can carry out tasks when you need them doing can be a game-changer for your business, and allows you to concentrate on the parts of the business you excel at.

Reduced costs

When you hire a Virtual Assistant, you don’t need to worry about tax, NI or pension contributions, or even holiday or sick pay! VAs are usually self-employed so take care of their own expenses, tax and insurance!

Business growth

No one can do everything in their business – and you don’t have to! By outsourcing tasks to a VA that you either don’t have the time or skills to do, means that you can focus on what you are great at. With strategic partnerships and collaborations, your business can grow to the next level.

So, what are you waiting for? Get in touch today to find out how we can work together to grow your business.

Top Tips to Writing Great Marketing Copy

Following on from my FREE 7 Day Mailchimp for Beginners course which I launched last week, I thought it might be useful to offer some guidance on actually writing email marketing copy.

My Mailchimp for Beginners course gives you everything you need to set up your Mailchimp account, audience and email campaign but what about actually writing it?

Well, here are a few tips to get you started…

Step 1 – What is your goal?

You should have a set goal for each email you send out. What is it you want to achieve by sending that email? Do you have a new product you want to generate X amount of sales for? Do you have a course launching that you want to sign up X amount of people to?

Once you have established your goal, you have a starting point and can build your marketing copy around that.

Step 2 – Create a fascinating subject line

We touched on subject lines and preview text in my course but there is so much you can learn and test with subject lines to really improve the performance of your email campaigns.

If your subject line isn’t interesting, intriguing or engaging, your subscribers aren’t even going to open the email. So, all of the time you have put in to creating it will have been a complete waste of time and effort.

There are a few ways you can get people to open your emails.

  • FOMO (fear of missing out)
  • By giving them a way they will benefit from opening the email
  • By providing compelling evidence about why they should open it

If you’re still struggling to get creative, there are some fab subject line generators out there to do it for you:

Step 3 – Get personal

People buy from people. If you run a small business, chances are you are either the only person in the business, or you’re the person your clients and customers have the most contact with.

The more of a connection you can build with your subscribers, the more business you will generate.

Write your marketing copy from the heart. You know your business better than anyone and your passion, knowledge and experience will come through in your emails if you write as though you’re speaking to someone.

When you send the email, make sure your name is in the ‘To’ field so that people start to know you by name.

And use THEIR name in your emails. Mailchimp gives you the option to add a name tag in the email campaign which will automatically insert the name of your subscriber in the email (if you have included names when importing your database).

Step 4 – Reward your subscribers

Give them a reason to read on.

Follow through with whatever you have used as your subject line. If you’ve given them a reason for opening the email, show them that reason straight away.

If you’re promoting a product or service, offer a promo code to use to get a discount. Rewards like this keep your subscribers on your mailing list because they want to be the first to get access to special offers and discounts in the future.

Step 5 – Don’t forget your Call To Action

Readers of any marketing copy, be it an email, social media post, search engine listing, need a Call to Action (CTA).

They need to be told what to do next. Think back to what your goal for the email was and use this when creating your CTA.

If your readers have read the email, and believe it is beneficial to them, they will follow your CTA instruction.

  • Create a sense of urgency (remember FOMO?)
  • Focus on the benefit to the reader
  • Use action words
  • Use intrigue and curiosity

If you put these tips in to place, you’re on the right path for a successful email campaign. If you want more help with your email marketing, please contact me and we’ll have a chat.

Until the next time, stay home and stay safe! Michelle

How To Work From Home

So, here we are….week four of lock down. Even longer for some.

No picnic working from home is it? It sounded like a luxury when this first began but now the reality of trying to work, trying to keep the kids occupied, getting your daily exercise, sitting on seats which weren’t made for 8 hours of sitting on, trying to stay away from the fridge, counting down the minutes until wine o’clock…the list goes on…is setting in.

Having been at this for a few months now, here are my top tips for working from home…

1. Set a routine

As tempting as it can be to have a lie in, don’t!

Get up at your normal time, get showered, get dressed. Do exactly what you would normally do before travelling to work. This way, you feel ready for the day ahead.

Lying in bed, then staying in your PJs doesn’t put you in the right frame of mind for work and you just won’t be productive.

Stick to your hours of work too, if you can. If you normally work 9am – 5pm, do this at home.

Clear everything away at the end of the day so you have a clear line between ‘work’ and ‘home’. It will be much easier for you to relax in the evening if you’ve cleared away your work things. If you leave them out, you’ll be tempted to carry on working and it is really important to switch off at the end of the day.

2. Communication

If you’re used to working in a team, stay connected with them. Using software like Microsoft Teams or Zoom allows you to video call, have group chats, direct message and call your colleagues. Keep it open on your computer all day so you can keep chatting to each other.

Organise a ‘works do’ every other Friday night. Get some music on, pour yourself a drink and have a good chat with your work mates! It’ll make you feel connected to the ‘normal’ world and, at times like this, feeling connected is essential for your mental well being.

3. Create a Workspace

As comfy as the sofa or your bed is, it’s no place to work. If you don’t already have a home office or desk, use your dining table. Sitting up at a desk helps you maintain good posture, puts you in the right mindset to work and helps you leave your work behind at the end of the day.

4. Stay active

Working from home means fewer steps throughout the day.

Make the most of your daily exercise and go for a good walk, run or bike ride.

If you do this in the middle of the day it’ll break up your work day, gives your eyes a rest from the screen and getting fresh air will give you a boost to get through the afternoon.

5. Write a To Do list

At the end of the day, write down everything you need to do the following day. If you can allocate time frames for each task, even better!

Doing this at the end of the working day means you won’t be thinking about tomorrow’s work all night.

When you get back to your work station the next morning, you’ll be prepared for the day ahead and, ticking off everything on your list will give you a great feeling of achievement!

6. Distractions

When you’re at home, it is so tempting to put a wash on or have a quick tidy up and, although taking a short break can be a good thing, allowing yourself to become distracted can really have a negative affect on your productivity. If you wouldn’t do it normally, don’t do it now.

If you have kids at home, distractions are going to happen! As much as school may set them work for the day, or you might have prepared plenty of activities for them to be getting on with, they’re going to need your help, or have questions and that is just something you’re going to have to deal with.

Prepare a timetable for them with a variety of activities (school work, creative time, play time, reading time, exercise time, etc) and, if they’re old enough, ask them to stick to it as best they can.

If this won’t work for you, you may need to adjust your working schedule. Try getting up a little earlier to get in a couple of hours before the kids wake up and work in the evening to give you time with them throughout the day.

So, there you have it. My top tips for working from home. If you have any tips of your own, please share them. We all need as much help as possible at the moment.

Thanks for reading, Michelle.

Email Marketing – Mailchimp vs Sendgrid

Why send email campaigns?

There are so many benefits to email marketing…they can increase brand awareness, build stronger relationships with existing customers, boost sales, increase traffic to your website…to name just a few! 

We know that millennials spend approximately 6 and half hours a day checking their emails (source: Adobe). I mean, ask yourself, how often do you check your emails? Thanks to mobiles, we are constantly checking our emails, wherever we are! 

Email marketing is a great way to keep in touch with your customers, and customers love it when they’re looked after, so…where do you start? 

Fortunately, there are platforms out there which allow us to easily create attractive marketing campaigns and send to a database of opted-in customers for free! 

This week we’re looking at two of the most popular platforms out there – Mailchimp and Sendgrid


Mailchimp

Mailchimp logo

Cost 

4 pricing plans available: 

Basic: FREE 

With this plan you can send to up to 2,000 contacts (in one ‘audience’) with a range of templates to choose from. 

Essentials: 9.99USD per month 

Send to 50,000 contacts (up to 3 audiences) with access to all available templates, A/B testing and custom branding, as well as 24/7 support. 

Standard: 14.99USD 

Everything you get in Essentials, plus advanced insights, retargeting ads, customer templates and automation. You can send to up to 100,000 and 5 different audiences. 

Premium: 299USD per month 

All of the features in Standard, plus advanced segmentation, phone support, send up to 200,000 contacts and unlimited audiences. 


What’s to like about Mailchimp? 

Well, it’s really easy to import your contacts. 

As long as they’re saved as a CSV file (if they’re in an Excel spreadsheet, just go to File > Save As > change the document type to CSV (comma-separated valued). 

Alternatively, you can manually enter the contacts directly in to Mailchimp. 

There are some great templates to choose from, even on the basic package. These templates make it easy for those who find it difficult to get creative. 

Know HTML? Mailchimp gives you the option to edit in HTML which, if you know you’re stuff, can make your marketing campaign more customised and professional. 

You can also schedule your email marketing campaign. This is great because you can schedule your emails to be sent on a day, or at a time you know your customers engage the most. 


What’s not to like about Mailchimp? 

The image resizing tool seems to be a little temperamental and doesn’t resize images automatically.  

Other than that, there isn’t much to get frustrated about with this tool. 

Why not sign up and have a go yourself? 


Sendgrid

Costs 

As with Mailchimp, there are 4 pricing plans to choose from. 

Free: Free (obviously!) 

You can send 40,000 emails for the first 30 days, then 100 emails a day. Forever. 

Essentials:  

14.95USD per month for up to 50,000 emails 

29.95USD per month for up to 100,000 emails 

Pro

89.95USD per month for up 250,000 emails 

249USD per month for up to 650,000 emails 

449USD per month for up to 1.3 million emails 

749USD per month for up to 1.5 million emails 

Premier

No prices online, you need to give them a call to discuss your requirements. 


What’s to like about Sendgrid? 

Although Mailchimp appears to be very user friendly and is an attractive platform to use, I have to say that Sendgrid, once you’ve got to grips with it, is SO much easier to use! 

Everything just seems much neater and AND, unlike MailchimpSendgrid allows you to do some A/B testing with the FREE package. 

For those that don’t know what A/B testing is, it is basically just testing two different versions of a campaign to find out which works best.  

With the paid plans, you can send one version of a campaign to 25% of your database, the other version to another 25% and Sendgrid will work out which version has been the most successful, and will send that version to the rest of your database! 


What’s not to like about Sendgrid? 

Sendgrid isn’t as ‘pretty’ as Mailchimp to look at, but the email campaigns you can create appear to be more professional, and they’re definitely easier to put together. 

Sign up to the FREE plan today to have a go. 


So, which is best?

After having created marketing campaigns using both Mailchimp and Sendgrid, I’d have to say that Sendgrid has my vote. 

Easy to use, professional looking emails and the ability to A/B test for free just pips Mailchimp to the post for me. 

Ready to start your own email campaign? Take a look at our blog – Email Marketing Made Easy – for some useful tips!

What email marketing platform do you use? Are there any others you’d suggest giving a go? Drop your comments below.