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. 

4 Of The Best Project Management Tools…but which is the best?

I’m starting this month’s exploration in to the many tools and technologies available to business owners in order to make their already hectic lives a whole lot easier, by looking at my most favourite of all topics…organisation. 

A friend of mine recently described his other half (incidentally, my best friend) as a ‘control enthusiast’.  As a self-confessed ‘control enthusiast’ this term brought me great joy and, I’ll admit it, a little sense of pride. 

Being a ‘control enthusiast’, not only do I like everything to be in order, but I also like to create ways for less organised (let’s use this word instead of controlling) people in my life to become more organised. 

Thankfully, some geniuses have created wonderful tools and this week we’ll be taking a look at 4 of these in a bit more detail – TrelloClickupTodoist and Asana

The first app I am going to talk about in this blog is one which I have been using a for a couple of years now… 


Trello

Cost 

Free with options to upgrade 

I have used Trello for teams of up to 10 people on the free package and it has worked well, but for a larger companies with multiple different teams, it could be worth upgrading. 

The first upgrade is to Business Class which is 10USD per user per month if you pay annually. If you pay monthly, this cost increases to 12.50USD. 

The highest package you can go for is the Enterprise package which is cheaper the more users you have. So, for 20 users, the cost is 20.83USD per user per month. For up to 5,000 users the cost is 5.92USD per user per month. 

How Does It Work? 

There is a dashboard

On the dashboard you can create boards. I have separate boards for different clients, each with their own personalised background. 

Within these boards, you can create different lists, each with their own cards

Within the cards, you can: 

  • Add a description 
  • Assign tasks to different members 
  • Add attachments 
  • Add comments 
  • Add members to the card 
  • Create coloured Labels 
  • Create checklists 
  • Set due dates 
  • Share and archive 

For me, I have 4 cards as standard:  

  1. Things to do 
  2. In progress 
  3. Done 
  4. Goals 

Once I’ve completed a card on my Things To Do list, I simply drag it across to the Done card and I can track my progress. 

Trello Mobile 

The Trello App is pretty much a mirror image of the website – clean, simply and easy to use but fairly basic. 

Best Features 

When I say ‘Best Features’, this is purely my opinion from use of the platform in my work and personal life. 

As a huge fan of lists and prettiness, Trello makes me very happy. 

The dashboard is really easy on the eye with plenty of white space. 

I love how you can create checklists and tick them off as you go along and it’ll give you progress as a percentage. 

You can also assign tasks to different people so they’ll get a notification on Trello itself and via email – great for letting clients know where I’m up to on a project. 

Worst Features 

As well as lists, I like to be able to see a calendar. 

With the free version of Trello, you get one ‘power up’ per board. This basically means you can add different apps to your board, of which a calendar is one.  

However, with one ‘power up’ per board and a LOT of choice (calendars, analytics, voting to name just a few), how do you get everything you want on one board?! 

I chose the Planway Calendar but only got a 15 day free trial (other platforms come with a calendar built in…read on for more details). 

Best For 

  • Making checklists 
  • General overview at a glance 
  • Keeping clients / projects separate 
  • People who don’t like fuss 

Clickup

Cost 

Free…forever apparently! 

The free package comes with 100MB storage, unlimited tasks and unlimited users. 

The upgraded package, ‘Unlimited’ comes with the above plus unlimited storage, unlimited integrations, unlimited dashboards and a couple more features. 

How Does It Work? 

First impressions after being a Trello user for such a long time….THIS LOOKS TERRIFYINGLY COMPLICATED. 

However, after watching the demo video and having a play around with it, Clickup actually seems to be extremely useful (if not a little over the top with the options and customisation). 

In a nutshell, you have a Space

Within this Space, you have ListsBoards and Calendar

In Lists you can create Tasks, assign them to different members of the team, set a Due Date, add Subtasks, add Attachments and Mark as Done when complete. 

Boards is a visual representation of Lists and leads you to the same options. 

Within the Calendar, you can set tasks with the same options as above. 

Clickup Mobile 

I LOVE THIS APP! So clean and simple (in comparison to the website). Everything is easily accessible and navigate. I would probably use the mobile app much more than the desktop version because it seems less overwhelming. 

Best Features 

I am a great believer in setting yourself goals. Clickup has a Goals section where you can set you goal and within this, create targets. 

You can track your progress and it’ll show you what percentage of your target you have reached. 

Worst Features 

While Clickup has A LOT to offer, it just doesn’t seem well structured or easy to navigate. 

There are too many customisable options which is distracting and you really have to go searching for what you need. 

Best For 

  • People who love detail 
  • Organising teams and events 

Todoist

Cost 

Free – for up to 80 projects with 5 people per project. 

Upgrade to ‘Pro’ for 3USD for up to 300 projects with 25 people per project plus comments, reminders, file uploads, labels, filters and productivity trends. 

For teams, you can upgrade to the ‘Business’ package for 5USD per user per month (if paid annually, otherwise it is 6USD per user per month). 

For this, you get up to 500 projects with up to 50 people per project, a team inbox, admin & member roles and priority support. 

How Does It Work? 

Todoist is basically a really simple To Do list (SHOCK!)  

You can add a task, set a due date and create subtasks in a checklist. 

Once complete, the task disappears. 

You can also create projects with tasks and subtasks

The web version is pretty basic and not too aesthetically pleasing, although it does the job. 

Todoist Mobile 

The app is surprisingly pleasant to use and to look at. The layout is much better than the web version. 

Best Features 

Todoist doesn’t really have that many features to choose from! 

It is a To Do list and it does what it says on the tin. 

Worst Features 

I personally feel that the layout of the web version is bland and a little message for such a simple platform and I can’t understand why it isn’t as neat as the mobile app. 

Best For 

  • People who just need a quick To Do list 
  • Small business owners who need a little help but don’t have lots of people to organise. 

Asana

Cost 

Asana has the most options of all 4 platforms we’ve looked at when it comes to pricing. 

The ‘Basic’ package is free – with this you can manage tasks and to do lists, view your calendar, assign tasks, collaborate with up to 15 members and integrate with some apps. 

The ‘Premium’ package is more project focused. For £9.49 per user, per month (if paid annually, otherwise it is £11.59 per user, per month) 

The ‘Business’ package is £20.99 per user, per month. For this you get all of the above, plus portfolios, workloads, proofing, the abilit to lock custom fields, and Adobe and more integrations 

How Does It Work? 

The dashboard is really clean and easy to navigate and split up in to: 

  • Tasks 
  • Inbox 
  • Portfolios 
  • Teams 
  • Reports 

The Tasks page is simply a list of tasks, what project they belong to and when they’re due. 

The Inbox shows you any tasks that have been assigned to you or any you’ve been mentioned in. 

Portfolios allows you to manage multiple projects and workloads but is only available in the Business package and above. 

Teams allows you to separate projects by team (I personally use Teams to separate clients). 

Reports shows you what tasks you’ve created, which have been completed and which you have assigned to others. 

Asana Mobile 

Really attractive app with options to view by Task List, Calendar or by Project.  

Best Features 

I’d say Asana is closest to Clickup in terms of the features it offers but the layout is so much better. It is so neat and I love how you can easily separate projects. 

Worst Features 

I haven’t found any yet! 

Best For 

  • Anyone who has at least one project they’re working on and wants to tick off task by task. 
  • Different teams with different responsibilities. 

So, as a loyal Trello user I didn’t think I’d want to make the switch.  

Todoist just seems a little too basic, Clickup has potential but I just don’t have the time to work out all of the different functions. 

For me, Asana is the clear winner. It is so easy to use, it looks great and makes it so easy to be organised. 

Do you have any other organisational tools you’d recommend? Please comment below if you have any suggestions. 


Get Organised in the Run Up to Christmas

Get Organised in the Run Up to Christmas

So, it’s that time of year again.

The time of year when you can’t go anywhere without a Christmas Countdown flashing before your eyes.

Panic and anxiety sets in…you know exactly how much you need to get done and you realise just how little time you have to do it.

And so, the nightmare begins…

But not this year!

This year, I am going to help you to get organised so you can relax and enjoy your Christmas. After all, ’tis the season to be jolly.

I am going to let you in on my Step by Step Guide to Getting Organised for Christmas


Step 1 – Start now

Thinking about Christmas in October?! Yes, I know it is early, but if you have a business to run, a family to look after, a job to go to, dogs to walk, parties to attend, the next 8 weeks will fly by.

Before you know it, it’ll be the week before Christmas and you’ll be running around like a headless chicken instead of enjoying the festivities.

Step 2 – Use a planner

If you don’t already have a planner, be it an online planner or a physical one you keep in your bag, get one.

At this time of year there is so much going on; networking events, kid’s assemblies, party nights, etc, you need to jot these dates in your planner so nothing gets forgotten.

There are some fabulous planners out there. The Classy Planner have some gorgeous ones to choose from, including a handy, wipe-clean, magnetic fridge family organiser. There are even some free templates to download and print to help you stay on track. They’re as pretty as they are handy too!

If you prefer an online planner, there are plenty out there. I use Google Calendar because it allows me to create different calendars for different aspects of my life.

For example, I have a 9 year old step daughter, so I have created a calendar specifically to keep track of her events and appointments, as well as what days she is staying with us and who is picking her up from where. I share this calendar with both her mum and dad so we all know what is going on. It is a life saver!

You can also set reminders and, if you download the app to your mobile, you’ll get a notification so you don’t need to remember everything yourself. Perfect!

Step 3 – Batch cook

I really don’t know how I managed before I started batch cooking. By the time I got home from work and walked the dogs, there was never enough time to make a decent, healthy and hearty meal for everyone.

It was getting so stressful, we were all rushing our dinner so we could fit in homework, bathtime, reading, etc, with the hope of squeezing in half an hour of chill out time before bed! That’s when I bought my slow cooker. It wasn’t an expensive one but it has changed my life.

Every Sunday I find one hour to prepare meals for the week ahead. I mean, I’m no Nigella so it is never anything fancy, but it is so easy to heat up a stew, spag bol or a homemade soup at the end of a busy day. This way, I know exactly what’s in our food and it saves us so much time, we can have a chat over dinner instead of racing to get finished.

At this time of year life gets so hectic. Rushing around to different events and appointments, spending that hour on a Sunday can free up time in the week to get on with all of the others tasks we need to complete.

To make things even easier, I use the free printable template from The Classy Planner to plan our meals each week.

Step 4 – Work out your budget

It’s easy to get carried away at Christmas. I always strive to make the next Christmas more magical than the last, but my bank account was at breaking point so I had to take action.

I used Google Sheets to create a simple spreadsheet where I could list everything I needed to buy, what my budget was and how much I was actually spending.

If you don’t fancy creating your own, download my Christmas Budget Planner for free. Once you’ve opened it, just click File and Make a Copy or Download, then you can edit it however you wish.

Step 5 – Create a gift list

Once you’ve set your budget, you can start thinking about gift ideas.

I don’t know about you, but I am terrible for picking up little presents here and there which end up amounting to an absolute fortune!

Creating a list of gifts for each of my family members and friends helps me to not only stick to my budget, but it also gives me a wonderful sense of achievement when everyone has a tick next to their name.

I created a checklist in Google Sheets and, because I have the app on my mobile, I can tick gifts off my list as and when I buy them. Click here to get your free copy of my Christmas Gift List. Once you’ve opened it, just click File and Make a Copy or Download, then you can edit it however you wish.

Step 6 – Put aside some time to shop

Online shopping is your friend for many, many reasons.

  1. You can easily use search engines to find discount codes to ‘apply at checkout’.
  2. Signing up to a cashback site, such as Quidco or Top Cashback, can earn you a tidy sum which will come in handy in January!
  3. Using Google Shopping, you can find the best prices for the gifts you’re looking for at a glance.
  4. You don’t have to travel anywhere, fight the crowds or even get dressed!
  5. It can all be done in a couple of hours from the comfort of your home.

If you can put aside an hour or two over a weekend, armed with your Christmas Gift List and Christmas Budget Planner, your shopping will be done so all you need to do is wait for it to turn up on your doorstep.

Step 7 – De-clutter

Start with one room at a time, otherwise this may feel like an overwhelming task.

Take a look around the room. What have you not used in the last 6 months?

Take it to a charity shop, ask your friends and family if they can make use of it, or even pop it on a site like Facebook marketplace to earn some extra pennies ahead of Christmas.

Ask the kids to pick out a few toys or games they no longer play with to give to less fortunate kids for Christmas. It helps you to have a clear out and you’re all doing something great by helping others. Win win!

Step 7 – Check what decorations & tableware you have

You don’t want to get to Christmas day to remember you accidentally smashed two of your serving dishes last year! Nor do you want to spend a fortune on decorations at the local garden centre, only to find you don’t have enough branches on the tree to fit all of your baubles.

Take a look at what you already have and, if you do need anything, make a checklist that you can tick off as you go.

Step 8 – Have a festive family prep evening

One of my favourite night’s of the year…Christmas Prep!!

This is usually the day / night we put up our tree – 1st December, or as close to this date as we can get!

Getting the whole family together makes this a lovely, yet productive evening to help you get organised…

  1. Get a selection of festive nibbles on the go;
  2. Put your pjs on (festive or otherwise);
  3. Pop on a Christmas film;
  4. Let the kids decorate the Christmas tree (I will admit, I do re-dress the tree once the small one is in bed but so far I have got away with it and she is super impressed when she remembers what a great job she’s done!);
  5. Write your Christmas cards and start your gift wrapping.

Tree up, cards written and presents wrapped…3 big jobs done in one night!

Step 9 – Prepare your food list

If you have already filled in your Christmas Budget Planner, you’ll have already made your food list but it is always worth double checking in case you have missed something.

Now, I love most things about Christmas, but the Christmas food shop is not one of them. The supermarkets get too busy, the car parks are a nightmare, everyone fights over the best looking veg and I just cannot be bothered with it.

Last year, for the first time ever, I pre-ordered our Christmas food. PRE-PREPARED CHRISTMAS FOOD.

All I needed to do was pick it up on December 23rd and shove it all in the oven on 25th!

I can hear a few gasps from the cooks amongst you, and I know this approach isn’t for everyone.

For me, it saves me the stress of the shop itself, the worry of keeping on top of my timings on the day and, most of all, gives me more time to spend with my family and friends with a glass of fizz.

Step 10 – Finish your wrapping

We’ve reached Christmas Eve.

Almost everything is done. The kids / dogs / other half are asleep and there is one last job.

It’s time to finish those last bits of wrapping you weren’t able to risk up until this point.

If you’ve got time, set the table in preparation for tomorrow.

And, you’re done!

Now all that is left to do is to relax and enjoy Christmas.


Do you have any tips you’d like to share? How do you deal with the stress of Christmas?

If you need an extra pair of hands in the run up to Christmas to help out with any admin, marketing or even personal tasks – fill out the form below and I will be in touch to discuss your requirements.

Why Hire a Virtual Assistant?

Why Hire a Virtual Assistant?

One of the main issues holding small business owners, sole traders and entrepreneurs back from success, is trying to do EVERYTHING themselves. 

Wearing too many hats often means not having time to build your business. 

Delegating and outsourcing can free up valuable time to concentrate on building a successful business, and that’s where hiring a Virtual Assistant can help. 

If you’re spending time supporting your business rather than building it, you’re not spending your time wisely. As the old saying goes…time is money! 


How hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) can benefit your business… 

Cost saving 

As Virtual Assistants work remotely, you don’t need to free up office space or provide extra equipment for them. There’s also no need for recruitment costs, NI contributions, tax or pension. 

Organisation

As your business grows, so does the need to implement processes and procedures. A Virtual Assistant can set these up for you to help your business run smoothly. 

You may also need a social media presence. Some VAs, like myself, specialise in social media and digital marketing, so can set up your social media profiles AND schedule content so you don’t need to worry about doing it. 

The power of delegation 

No one likes to admit they can’t do everything. But, learning to delegate tasks can be the key to a successful business.  

Why cause yourself stress when you can put your trust in a VA to carry out those essential, but time-consuming tasks, giving you time to focus on the bigger picture? 

Support when you need it 

You may only need extra support for a specific project or task, in which case it isn’t cost-effective to employ someone to sit in the office waiting to be needed. Nor is it productive to wait until you need help then start a recruitment process.  

Your VA can be on hand for ad hoc tasks that need to be done quickly and efficiently. You only pay for what you need so this option can be both cost-effective and productive! 


What tasks can I outsource to a Virtual Assistant? 

Not all VAs have the same skillset, so you need to find someone who fits what you need.  

20 tasks that can be outsourced to save you time… 

  1. Document Creation (templates, spreadsheets, presentations, etc) 
  2. Typing
  3. Editing
  4. Proof reading
  5. Data input
  6. Setting up / cleansing and maintaining databases
  7. Report creation 
  8. Email monitoring & management
  9. Record keeping
  10. Invoicing & bookkeeping
  11. Process & procedure setup and implementation
  12. Office setup & organisation
  13. Social media profile setup
  14. Social media content scheduling & management
  15. Website creation
  16. Website management & updating  
  17. Email marketing creation, distribution & management
  18. Travel arrangements
  19. Event planning
  20. Personal tasks & diary management

Not sure if you need a Virtual Assistant? For a free discovery call, please complete the form below and I will be in touch to chat through your requirements. 

The Rise of Airbnb in the UK

The Rise of Airbnb in the UK

Last weekend I had the chance to get away for a couple of days. I took this chance to visit my families’ glamping site in Cumbria. Unfortunately (or, should I say fortunately) I couldn’t stay on the site as it was fully booked so I stayed with my parents, but it got me thinking…

How has Airbnb changed the way we travel? How have ‘normal’ people benefited from Airbnb? What does the future of Airbnb look like?


My story

Two years ago, my dad (life-long joiner and builder) built a Shepherd’s Hut using locally sourced materials and asked me if I would advertise it. At the time, I didn’t know much about Airbnb but after a little bit of research Airbnb was the obvious choice. As a techie, it was easy to set up and cheap to advertise.

Since then we’ve had amazing success and have since put up a gorgeous Nordic Tipi which is proving to be even more popular!


Airbnb popularity

So, there are currently 223,200 active UK listings on Airbnb (10,200 of which are in the north-west, my neck of the woods) with an average annual income of £3,100.

58% of these active listings are entire homes, but a whopping 48% are private rooms!

In this world of economic uncertainty, an average ADDITIONAL annual income of £3,100 is not to be sniffed at.


The future of Airbnb

In February 2018, Airbnb Plus was launched in Edinburgh and London. These listings are visited by Airbnb in person and are checked against a 100-point checklist.

Airbnb Plus homes are nine times more likely to be seen by Airbnb guests and hosts are earning an average of up to 75% more than other listings!

When will it be rolled out to other UK cities? Watch this space…


Are you thinking of advertising your space on Airbnb? Not sure where to start? Already got an Airbnb listing but need a website? Take a look at the Airbnb services I offer or contact me for help and advice.

Email Marketing Made Easy

Email Marketing Made Easy

By the end of this year, it is estimated that there will be 5.6 billion active email addresses, according to Statista.

99% of consumers check their email everyday (DMA) and 73% of millenials prefer to receive business communications via email (Hubspot).

If you’re not already email marketing, what is stopping you?

  • Not sure how to organise your database?
  • Content writing not one of your strengths?
  • Haven’t got email marketing software?
  • Don’t know how to monitor or analyse engagement?

In this blog I will give you some pointers so you can start your own email campaigns.

Step 1 – Establish your goals

Before you even start to think about putting an email marketing campaign together you need to decide what you want to get out of it.

  • Do you want to drive traffic to a particular page on your website?
  • Do you want to spread the word about your latest product or service offering?
  • Do you want to entice people to attend one of your events?

Establishing your goals at the outset will make it so much easier to put your content together and choose who you want to send your email out to.


Step 2 – Organise your database

What if I don’t have a customer database?

If you don’t already have a database of potential customers to send your email campaign to, you can start to build this by asking anyone who contacts your company or who you communicate with to ‘opt-in’ to your mailing list to be kept up to date with your latest news and offers.

My customer database is just a list of names and email addresses…

Although it can be a time-consuming and labour-intensive job, transferring your contacts to a spreadsheet with clearly titled columns is invaluable.

Most email marketing platforms, like Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor, enable you to easily import your contacts from a spreadsheet. You will also be able to keep your database up to date as these platforms will remove any ‘unsubscribes’ from your list automatically.


Step 3 – Choose an email marketing platform

There are lots of email marketing platforms out there, but you need to find one that works for you, so do your research.

If you’re just starting off, lots of email marketing platforms allow you to send to a couple of thousand emails a month for free.

I’d suggest giving them all a try to find which one works best for you. Here are some suggestions: Mailchimp, Mailer Lite, SendPlus, sendinblue and Zoho.


Step 4 – Keep it simple

Now that you’ve established your goals, determined your audience and chosen a platform from which to send your email marketing campaign, you need to create it.

It is best to keep the design simple, give clear calls to action, use good design to focus the readers attention and create an engaging subject line.

The subject line is one of the most important elements of your email marketing campaign. If it isn’t enticing, no one will even open your email.

  • Keep it under 50 characters (including spaces);
  • Include your company name;
  • Avoid ‘spam’ words like free and urgent.

Step 5 – Monitor, test and refine

Once your email has been sent, you need to monitor open rates, clicks and conversions.

If you can, setting up tracking will allow you to monitor your statistics through Google Analytics.

Most email marketing platforms will give you data on how many people have received your email, how many have opened it and how many have clicked on a link within the email.

From this, you can play with the layout of your emails and change up subjects lines to find out what works best. This is ever changing so the key is to test, test and test again!


If you still need help setting up and delivering your email campaigns, I can help. Fill out a contact form or email me for more information.

Organising your workspace

Organising Your Workspace

A tidy desk is a tidy mind. 

This is true – there is scientific evidence! 

Scientist have found that people who work in chaotic surroundings find it hard to focus as the clutter can confuse the mind. 

If you’re one of these people, and you don’t know where to start, I’ve put together a handy guide to organising your workspace… 

Step 1 – Declutter 

  • Take a look at your workspace – what can you get rid of? Remove any unnecessary furniture, gather similar documents and place them in a folder, invest in an office waste bin (remember to recycle what you can!) and get some storage boxes.  
  • Give everything a place – Although I try to be as digital as I can, I still couldn’t live without trays, folders and a desk tidy. Everything should have a place so you can find it easily when you need to. 
  • Minimise personal items – These only serve as a distraction. Keep it work-related and you’ll be more focused on the job at hand.  
  • Go digital – The more ‘digital’ you can be the better. There are plenty of free organisation tools available (Trello is one of my favourites!). You can store documents using a tool like Google Drive or Dropbox) and keep on top of appointments using Google Meeting Scheduler or, if you use Microsoft, use Teams to organise your company workload. 
  • Keep on top of it! At the end of each working day, put everything in its ‘place’ – when you go back to your workspace in the morning you’ll have clear mind ready to take on the day! 

Step 1 – Motivation and Inspiration

So, you’ve tidied up your workspace…now what? 

You need some inspiration and motivation to get you through those challenging tasks… 

  • Inspirational quotes – Stick some inspirational quotes on the wall for those times when you feel like you just can’t complete the task at hand. You don’t even need to buy them, just Google ‘inspirational quote’, find something that speaks to you, print it out & stick it on your wall! 
  • Feng shui – Whether you believe in it or not, surely it is worth a go? Don’t place your desk so that your back is to the door as this will distract you but do place a plant on your desk – this can apparently improve productivity by 15%! 
  • Light – Whatever your office space, making it light and bright is an instant mood-lifter. 

Step 3 – Organise your desktop 

Your office is now a clutter-free haven of calm and focus, but you turn on your computer and yet more chaos awaits! 

It’s time to sort this out… 

  • Clear out unwanted files – Create folders (with names that mean something) and place all of those files in to the appropriate folder. It’ll make things easier to find when you need them in a hurry. 
  • Sort out your inbox – I have seen so many business owners with 100s, sometimes 1000s of unread emails and it gives me palpitations. Create folders within your inbox and either set up rules or drag emails in to those folders as soon as your receive them. You’ll quickly realise which emails you need to read and which can be saved until later on. 
  • Declutter your bookmarks – Periodically check your bookmarks and delete any that you no longer need. This will make it so much easier to find what you need in a hurry. 

Do you have any more tips? How do you keep organised at work? 

If you still need help, take a look at the services I offer and feel free to send me a message if you think I can help!