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What freedom means to me as an entrepreneur.

What freedom means to me as an entrepreneur.

Today is the 4th of July. The day that marks our freedom and independence as Americans. Yet, the words freedom and independence are actually quite loaded and their meaning varies for the people who make up the fabric of our country.

As I reflect on these two words, I have many thoughts swirling around my end regarding the inequities and inequalities that continue to exist within our borders. I also think about the current divide in our country between those who choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and those who don’t. Divides caused by the tragic downside of living in a country that values personal freedom and independence over consideration of the collective good. These realities are important to note and each could be developed in their own series of posts. But, they are not the focus of this post.

Today, I want to take a moment to reflect and share what the word freedom means to me as an entrepreneur.

Freedom as an entrepreneur means opportunity and impact.

Let me unpack this a little more for you…

Freedom as an entrepreneur means that I have the opportunity to create and build a business of my own choosing that is designed around my dreams, goals, passions and strengths. It means that I have the opportunity to create something out of nothing, take risks, try, fail, learn and grow. It means that if I think I have a shot, I can take it. The opportunity to try – regardless of the outcome – is one of the greatest gifts of entrepreneurism.

Freedom as an entrepreneur means that my end goal is to build a business that makes an impact. To transcend beyond survival – beyond myself – to contribute to the greater good of this world through. Being an entrepreneur allows me to navigate my way through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – finding creative solutions to meet my own needs and giving me the space to continually find meaning and purpose in the work I do. It means that, in the end, I can discover a way to live out my values and build something that has potential to last beyond the brief years I have available to me on this planet. 

In a nutshell. Freedom is not just about me, but also what I can do for the good of others.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

As I ponder this particular 4th of July holiday, recognizing that I have the freedom to think these thoughts and share them publicly without fear of retribution due to the sacrifices of many that have gone before me, I am thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to become an entrepreneur. Thankful for the chance to create meaning for myself. Thankful to the ability to leave an impact of good on the world.

What does freedom mean to you?

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entrepreneur self-care solopreneur Uncategorized

How to Take a Vacation As a Business Owner

How to Take a Vacation As a Business Owner

My husband and I just returned from a week long vacation in Mexico. I did not take my laptop. I did not check messages. I did not do any form of work for the entire week. It was glorious, restful and energizing!

As entrepreneurs, we often struggle to take time away from our business or go on a fully unplugged vacation. Yet, one of the greatest benefits of having our own business is the ability to create our own schedule – which includes how and when we take time off. For me, this is also part of my self-care basket.

Is this an underutilized benefit in your own business? If so, I am going to break down some practical steps to help you prepare to take a vacation, the kind where you don’t check your inbox or Slack and leave your laptop at home.

Some of the reasons I often hear from other entrepreneurs (especially newbies) as to why they aren’t taking time off include:

1. I won’t get paid if I’m not working.

2. I am worried my business will fall apart.

3. My clients expect me to be available.

4. I am afraid of experiencing overwhelm when I return.

Let’s take a closer look at the points above and adjust our mindset around time off as an entrepreneur.

I won’t get paid if I’m not working.

This is true if you are an hourly contractor, which is why I advocate for transitioning clients to a retainer/project based pay model. However, what this means for those who bill by the hour is that you will need to set some money aside to cover the pay that you would normally receive that week (or pay yourself that week). I would take some time to look at your finances and determine what that dollar amount is and what you would need to set aside each week for the next 6 months to cover a week off for yourself. If you are on a retainer, your clients are paying for you and the space you hold for them. There is no need to adjust your retainer for a vacation.

Additionally, I use and love the Profit First model in my business. I pay myself a regular salary each week and set aside enough money so I have at least a 6 weeks of pay saved. This allows me to keep getting paid even if I take a week off for vacation.

I am worried my business will fall apart.

#truthbomb If your business unravels while you take one week away you have bigger issues in your business than your inability to take a vacation. I am currently a solopreneur and do not have anyone working inside my business. Therefore, when I go on vacation there is no one to cover me. Yet, I still take worry-free vacations multiple times per year and my business is just fine while I am away. Feel free to skip to the bottom if you want to start grabbing my tips for how to keep your business intact while you are away.

My clients expect me to be available.

If this is the case you either a) need different clients OR b) need to create a new set of expectations for your clients AND c) need to set expectations with all new clients that you bring on.

Before I sign any agreements with my new clients, I shared a document with them outlining how I work. This includes my standard time off each year (all holidays, 3 days at Thanksgiving and a week or two between Christmas and New Year) as well as letting them know they can expect me to take another week or so of additional vacation at some point during the year. So, when I add my vacation to my client’s calendars (usually 1-2 months in advance) it isn’t a surprise to them.

I am afraid of experiencing overwhelm when I return.

This is legit for both employee roles and entrepreneurial roles. For the most part, this just requires some pre-planning to set yourself up for success on the back-end of your trip. Block your calendar so that you don’t have any meetings scheduled on your first day back. Make sure your loose ends are tied up before you leave. When you open your inbox, immediately delete all of the emails that are not relevant and then skip to just reading the ones from your clients (all those emails from the lists you subscribe to can wait). Add the new work that came in to your project management tool or to do list. Allowing for a transition/catch-up day once you get back is super helpful. Oh…and don’t work longer hours to make-up for your week away, there is no greater way to lose the benefits of your time off than jumping back in at double time.

Now that we’ve addressed some common concerns, let’s get to the part about HOW to take that vacation you’ve been dreaming about. I’m going to provide you with a simple checklist for how to make this happen in your business, but THE KEY IS PLANNING. The better you plan the easier it will be to step away.

Be mindful of when you take your vacations. If you have a vacation planned already when taking on a new client, let them know on the front-end. If its a client you’ve been working with for awhile, avoid planning vacations during their launches or busy times. It will put both of you at greater ease.

Tell your clients 1-2 months in advance for any vacation you plan that will take you out of their business for one full week or longer. Add these dates to their calendar. 2-4 weeks in advance start reminding them and asking them what they feel they need to have in place while you are away.

Block the time on your calendar so no calls can be scheduled during the time you are away. Also block the day you return so you can have a transition day.

Expect to work a few extra hours the week before your vacation. Anything that can be done in advance, take care of it. Anything that can be scheduled (like social posts), schedule it. Update your calendar to cancel any recurring meetings for the week you are away. If there are tasks that MUST be done while you are away, provide your clients or their team members with clear instructions for how and when to do them (and keep them to a minimum). Set everyone up for a successful time away.

Turn on your autoresponder. Let your autoresponder work for you in your inbox. Let people know how long you will be away, when you will return and when they can expect a response from you.

Schedule a social media post on the platforms you use. Let your people know you are taking a vacay and that you’ll be back in a week or so. Feel free to schedule another post or two for while you are away if social media is a big part of your business. Or not, most people probably won’t even notice or, if they do, it won’t matter to them. This is really about your peace of mind.

Turn off your notifications. Hit snooze on all your work apps. Turn on vacation mode. Set yourself as away. I also move my apps to their own folder on my phone and set it a couple swipe screens back so nothing pops up when I grab my phone or something personal.

Leave your laptop at home. Sure, you may want to watch a move on the plane – bring a different device, book or magazine (I always treat myself to a magazine on vacation). You might have better boundaries than I do, but as long as it’s nearby I am tempted to check-in. Remove the temptation.

Let go. Enjoy your time away. Fully step into and fully trust that the sky will not fall down while you are away.

If you have never taken a vacation since starting your business, ease your way into. Consider starting with an extra long weekend or a 2-3 day trip to see how that goes and build yourself up to a full week or two.

You can do this, in fact, you need to do this.

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Pandemic-Sized Gratitude

Pandemic-Sized Gratitude

I’m going to join the chorus with everyone else this year and just acknowledge that this has been a hard year. However, that is not where I want to camp out. Rather, I want to focus on what I am grateful for during this pandemic season.

First, let me give you a little background about myself. I am a high-achieving, over-achieving, first-born, {mostly} extroverted, Enneagram 3, ENFJ, people-pleasing perfectionist. That’s a mouthful. Even more than that, all of these labels produced in me a kind of drive that has motivated me to work without ceasing but has often left a play-sized void.

The fact that I love to work and find both pleasure and satisfaction in it doesn’t help my cause.

So, you might be wondering what this has looked like in my life. Well, it looks a lot saying yes to everything and everyone regardless of how exhausted, depleted, overwhelmed or overbooked I may be. It means giving 110% when I only actually have 70% left. It means ignoring my inner self to just keep going, going, going like that faithful old Energizer bunny.

I’ve gone to counseling, read all the books, received coaching, and created all kinds of “rules” for my life to help me slow down. Yet, nothing has truly stuck or helped me get out of the “can’t stop, won’t stop” mindset…until I found myself in the midst of a global pandemic.

Sometimes, the only way to truly change is to be forced into kicking and screaming. Just like everyone else, I was not at all excited about cancelling my honeymoon to Mexico and my daughter’s first birthday party (we had rented a pool – she loves swimming). I was sad to cancel all date nights with my husband for the foreseeable future and disappointed that our neighborhood parks would be closed just as my toddler was getting her bearings on navigating the world on two feet. I had big plans and a full calendar – until one day I didn’t.

However, I found that what once filled me with dread – days and days at home with “nothing special” to look forward to – started to become rather enjoyable. I created a slow morning routine with my toddler that allows me to enjoy time with her, reading together and drinking a cup of coffee (I’m still amazed we can pull this off most days). My husband and I watched all 22 Marvel movies. I chatted with my neighbors (from a distance) outside. I was able to focus on building my business to the next level because I wasn’t running in a million directions. I spent time everyday just doing nothing and letting that be okay. I breathed. I played. I enjoyed the scenery.

“Slow living is a curious mix of being prepared and being prepared to let go. Caring more and caring less. Saying yes and saying no. Being present and walking away. Doing the important things and forgetting those that aren’t. Grounded and free. Heavy and light. Organized and flexible. Complex and simple.”

-Brooke McAlary, Slow Your Home

Without having a social calendar there was little to say yes to except myself and my family. Being forced into semi-social isolation for months allowed me to break the biggest, baddest habit of my life and now I can’t imagine going back to my pre-COVID pace of life (my husband – who is the king of relaxation – couldn’t be happier about this version of me).So, on this Thanksgiving, I have some pandemic-sized gratitude for the gift that was given to me – the gift of slowness and simplicity.

I’m not sure when this pandemic will end and I don’t quite know what “normal” will look like on the other side of this. As with most things, I’m sure we’ll all forget a lot because that’s what humans do. But, this is one lesson I won’t forget.

I’m still me. I still have a crazy drive and insane ambition. I still have grand plans and big dreams. Those things aren’t going away. But, hopefully, the way I pursue them will be a little different. Whatever life looks like on the other side of COVID-19 I know that I will be living it with greater simplicity and at a pace that allows me to get off the highway from time to time and enjoy the scenic route.

I’d love to hear about your pandemic sized gratitude. Feel free to comment below.

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solopreneur

4 Steps to Creating Routines in Chaos

4 Steps to Creating Routines in Chaos

Routines have been on the forefront of my mind lately. My husband is about to have knee surgery next week. I thought it would be no big thing (denial in full force here) but after he met with the surgeon we found out that he would be in a straight-leg brace and on crutches for 2-3 weeks. So, now it’s legitimately a big thing and I’ve been just a little bit stressed about it. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’ve been making lists daily of everything we need to do before his surgery to ensure the house is in order, the Christmas decorations are up, and the fridge is full. I make lists for him as well (he may not love this) and then he starts to become just a little stressed out.

Part of what is so stressful is that this surgery is going to shift our established routine into a new, temporary routine while he is home from work for two months recovering. You see, I’m really good at creating routines and pretty terrible at being flexible. In my mind, I live my life according to the “c’est la vie” philosophy. In reality, I love to be in control. The struggle is real.

Alas, this is the reality of a #solopreneur and #mompreneur who runs a lifestyle business. So, I’ve been evaluating our routines and embracing the fact that I won’t really know what our temporary routine is going to look like until my husband has the surgery and I can assess what kind of support he is going to need. At the bare minimum, I’ll know I’ll be taking on all of the household chores, driving, and care of our puppy and toddler for a few weeks – in addition to serving my clients and running my business.

In my most recent blog post, I shared with all of you my morning routine and how transformational that has been in my life. As promised, I’m following up that post with a few more insights about creating routines that work for you, your life and your business. Even in the midst of changing and unknown circumstances routines can continue to be created.

“Routines allow for a sense of structure and predictability that everyone can lean into and depend on – no matter what is happening around us.

Sometimes, these routines may need to be adjusted to accommodate for life but, in the end, having a plan will help you to feel better about the day and

week ahead and leads to a greater sense of optimism.”

-Vanessa Anne

So, then, the real question becomes – How do I create a routine in the midst of chaos?

I should probably also give a little more insight into how I define chaos. For me, chaos is anything that is random, unexpected or deviates from the norm. Change and transitions are a form of chaos.

Step #1: Write down your current routine (even if you’ve never intentionally set a routine, just write down what you do in a typical day). Even though I have this written as a schedule, I don’t aim to have routines dictated by time as much as by flow.On a typical weekday, this is what our daily flow looks like…

5:45 AM – Wake-Up + Feed Dog + Grace & Joy Routine

6:00 – 7:00 AM Client Work

7:00 – 7:15 AM – Little L Wakes Up + Get Dressed

7:15 – 7:45ish – Read Books on Couch + Drink Milk (Little L) & Coffee (ME!)

7:45ish – Start Making Breakfast + Quiet Play Time (Puzzles or Blocks)

8:00 AM – 8:30 AM – Eat Breakfast

8:30 – 9:00 AM – Clean-Up Breakfast + Morning Chores

9:00 – 10:00 AM – Focused Play + Learning Time with Little L

10:00 AM – 11:30 AM – Open Block

(If I need to work during this space, Lyla watches a show. If I don’t need to work, we play some more, take a walk, go outside, run errands, etc.)

11:30ish – Lunch + Clean-Up + Read Books

12:30 ish – 3:00 ish – Lyla Naps + I Work

My husband is home from work most days by 3:15. I usually keep working until about 4. Then, we move into our nightly routine of dinner, playtime, and bedtime.

Other than a punctuation for gymnastics once a week and the occasional playdate. This is pretty standard for us. We keep our lives simple and slow but this gives Little L needs the space she needs to grow and play and the space I need to serve my clients and manage my business.  

Step #2: Determine what parts of your routine can stay the same in the midst of your chaos. For me, this means that my morning routine can stay as is. This isn’t going to be impacted by our current circumstances. If you need a refresher on my morning routine or what to implement a similar one, check it out here. Little L’s nap time will also remain the same. However, what I do during her nap time may have to shift. Pretty much everything else will be up for grabs right now until after surgery.

Step #3: Focus on your mindset. For me, this looks like setting a relevant, weekly affirmation during my morning routine that I write on a white board in my kitchen that I say out loud multiple times throughout the day and anytime I’m feeling anxious or stressed.

Step #4: As you begin each day, follow your “normal” routine as much as possible, accommodating where you need to and as you need to. Each time you deviate, keep coming back to your routine and pick-up where you left off and assess what the ONE thing is you MUST DO and then let the other things go for now. During times of chaos, we focus on the MUSTS (I must make sure my husband takes his pain meds on time.)

During chaos, our bodies need extra time to rest. So, once all of the MUST DO’s are taken care of, take a moment to sit, breathe and do ONE THING that is restorative to you and possible in your current circumstance. For me, that might look like taking a bath after Little L goes to bed or having a glass of wine with dinner. It might even help if you write down a list of self-care ideas that you can stick on the fridge or mirror so that you don’t even have to think about it, you just pick the one on the list that sounds good and is possible.

The chaos won’t last forever. The change will take place. The transition will become complete. My husband will return to work following his surgery.

Throughout this season (however long or short it may be) continually ask yourself what you need and find ways to have those needs met as much as possible. If you have someone else going through this season with you, check-in with them to ask them how they are doing and what they need. Offer what you can and feel free to say no to the things you can’t do.

As a BONUS STEP, be sure to ASK FOR HELP! Be vulnerable and let others know what you need. For me, that looked like asking for meals so I could cut-down on cooking. I love to cook but I’ve found that to be one of the more difficult tasks to do with a toddler running around the house. I also asked my parents to keep Little L and our puppy the day before, day of and day after my husband’s surgery to help us prepare and for me to gain an idea of what he was going to need without having to attend to their needs as well.

How do you handle chaos in your life? I’d love to hear from you what your best piece of advice is for staying calm and carrying on?

C’est la vie. 

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solopreneur

My Secret Sauce

My Secret Sauce

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of coaching, tips and advice that exists in the world for how to do pretty much everything – especially being a mom and running a business?

There is so much to be consumed in our digital world – a lot of it good and helpful. In some ways, all of this information makes starting and running a business easier than it ever has been because the amount of resources are nearly endless. However, all of this goodness can also become a huge source of distraction and, if there is one thing I have found that can quickly halt just about any of our plans from moving forward, it’s allowing ourselves to become distracted. I get it though, it’s so easy to just scroll down the proverbial internet rabbit hole and come out a few hours later wondering what just happened and shocked that an hour (or three) has just passed by. It’s like time stops in the land of scroll and click.

As a #solopreneur and #mompreneur I don’t have the luxury of wandering through the rabbit hole and I can’t afford to visit the land of scroll and click (which doesn’t mean I don’t still try to go there).

One of the most frequently I asked question I see posted from new business owners with littles at home is some version of this:

How do you get any work done with the kids around all day?First of all, let me just acknowledge that it’s not easy. However, I assume that most of us who started a business with our kiddos at home want the life we have. We want or need to bring income into our household AND we want to spend more time with our kids. So, I am going to write the rest of the post based on the assumption that we all want to find a way to make this arrangement work.

Now that we’ve established that, I’m going to let you in on my secret sauce and the answer I give every time I see the above question posted by a fellow #mompreneur.

MY SECRET SAUCE IS ROUTINE!

When I go throughout my life haphazardly, I sit down (or crash on the couch) at the end of the day and am left wondering what happened to all those hours and if I accomplished anything. Sure, on a day-to-day basis I did successfully keep a small human alive which is HUGE, yet that alone doesn’t help me ensure that my little human is learning how to conquer the world or that I am moving toward the goals for my business. Can you relate?

The way that I meet my goals as a mom and a business owner is by creating routines in my daily life for myself, my business and my child. However, it must also be noted that the creation of the routine is part-one. Part two, and admittedly the more challenging part, is following the routine (which means saying no a lot of really wonderful things…but that is another post).

If you are struggling to manage it all, I suggest getting started with just one routine. For me, the most important routine in my life is my morning routine. If my day is set-up for success from the moment I get out of bed I find that I am much better equipped to both rock the plans I have for that day as well as adjust for the unexpected when it comes up.

I’d love to help you get a jump start, so here is a breakdown of my actual morning routine…

5:45 AM – Wake-Up, Feed Dog, Grace & Joy Routine

6:00 AM – 7:00 AM Client Work

7:00 AM – 7:15 AM – Little L Wakes Up, Get Dressed

7:15 AM – 7:45ish – Read Books on Couch + Drink Milk (Little L) & Coffee (ME!)

7:45ish – 8:00ish – Start Making Breakfast + Quiet Play Time (Puzzles or Blocks)

8:00 AM – 8:30 AM – Eat Breakfast

This is what our typical day looks like Monday – Friday with some slight tweaks to the weekends (mostly snuggling in bed while my husband is home ). Let me go ahead and fill you in on a few more details.

The Grace & Joy routine has transformed my morning! This is a one-hour Morning Makeover course by Whitnee Hawthorne over at The Savvy Working Mom. She helped me create a morning routine that energizes me for the day in 7 minutes! This is absolutely worth the $27 investment.

One of the recommendations I tell all new moms who intend to work from home with their kids is that it is ESSENTIAL to develop routines for their children so they can anticipate when they will have space to work, can also better anticipate their child’s needs throughout the day and their child can anticipate when they will have mom’s full attention. From the day we brought Baby L home we began building our routines, especially for sleep. Sleep deprivation is a no-win situation for anyone so I prioritized that above just about everything else. We followed an eat, play, sleep cycle and within a few weeks had a groove that enabled me to have an idea of when she would eat and sleep (and when I could anticipate a much needed postpartum nap). I learn best by reading, so here are the two books I used as Lyla was an infant to build our routine – On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep and The Happiest Baby on the Block. (Note: Babywise has some mixed reactions from folks, I followed their routine but I also paid attention to Baby L’s cues and adjusted accordingly to her needs). 

Lastly, I need my own morning time but I also want to teach Little L the importance of a morning routine as well. So, we snuggle together and read books until my cup of coffee is finished. Sometimes she looks at her own books while I read mine, sometimes I read to her. Either way, we start our day from a place of peace and connection and it makes everything else go that much more smoothly. It’s the perfect start to our day 

This is what works for us. I’ll be sharing more about the rest of our routines in my next post but until then I’d love to hear about your routines! Drop a comment below and let me know what is working for you.

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Categories
solopreneur Virtual Assistant

How I started my VA biz {and how you can, too}!

How I started my VA biz {and how you can, too}!

When people ask what I “do”, I tell them I run my own business from home. The natural follow-up question is “Oh, what kind of business?” To which I respond, I run a business as a Virtual Assistant (or VA). Cue quizzical expression  I usually go on to say that I provide administrative support to online business owners…or at least that is the nutshell definition I offer.

To be completely transparent, I had never heard of VA prior to 2019. It wasn’t until a friend of mine posted on Facebook about how much she loved working from home and I inquired about what she did that I began my journey into the world of VAs and online businesses. As my friend described the work she did AND shared that she was able to do this work for a COMPETITIVE WAGE with LITTLE OVERHEAD while RAISING HER BABIES at home I began to hinge on every word she said.

You see, at the time, I was about 7 months pregnant and working for a major retail coffee shop. I knew that 4:00 AM shifts, managing a team of 20+ people, and waking up to nurse a baby during the night was just not the combination that was going to create the life I wanted professionally or personally. I had spent months preparing for a four-month maternity leave and was confident that I needed to pursue a different path professionally following my leave. I also knew that I did not want to send my child to daycare for 40 hours a week (for all those mamas who do, I support you – this was just not the right choice for me). Yet, when my husband would ask what I wanted to do nothing really excited me. I am not one of those people who wants to work just for the sake of an income. I need my work to carry some sort of meaning and purpose and as the birth of my first baby approached I also knew that I needed a career that would allow me to prioritize my family without repercussions or guilt.

After hearing my friend’s story, becoming a VA seemed like the best of everything I wanted and needed – a flexible schedule, the ability to stay home with my baby, and an income stream that could meet our family’s financial needs on a part-time schedule. Even more, I could continue to develop myself professionally. Through my diversified work experience over the past couple of decades I’d gained a unique skill set that never quite fit into any job description I’d come across. Yet, as a VA, I could build a business around this skill set, focusing on the WORK I LOVE DOING while using my STRENGTHS. It really seemed like an all around WIN.

The only hiccup was that I never considered myself an entrepreneur and had no idea how to start or manage my own business. I talked about my concerns and hesitations with my friend and, as it turns out, there are people who’ve gone before me and paved the way for budding entrepreneurs like myself. In fact, my friend had gone through a course that walked her through setting up her VA business step-by-step. I wouldn’t need to do hours of research online or navigate my way through the entrepreneurial forest without a map. Someone had already done that work for me and was willing to share all of her knowledge and expertise so I could get my business up and running within a matter of weeks.

My friend introduced me to Abbey Ashley, the Virtual Savvy, and her course called The Savvy System. I downloaded Abbey’s VA Checklist, joined her free Facebook group for VAs and tuned in for a free 5 day biz planning crash course she was offering at the time. I loved her vibe and the way she broke everything down into easy, manageable steps. Most of all, I felt like Abbey and her team were my biggest cheerleaders and the community I was becoming a part of was supportive and so knowledgeable! I was hooked! I took the plunge and signed up for The Savvy System.

Ba-da-bing – fast forward one year…I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl and, with the support of The Savvy System course and community, I launched my business while I was on maternity leave. Within one month I had my first client and within three months I had earned back my investment in The Savvy System and had built a PROFITABLE, SUSTAINABLE business. One year later, my business is BOOKED OUT and FLOURISHING! I love the work I do, I have clients I adore working with, and I get to enjoy days at home playing with my baby. It turns out I also love being an entrepreneur and building a VA business gives me so much room to dream about how I want to grow my business as my baby grows. I entered into all of this thinking that this was a great option while my baby was at home but it turns out that IT’S JUST A GREAT OPTION ALL AROUND!

This is our home-based “coworking space”

Do you have the entrepreneur itch? Are you a mama looking to bring in income while you stay home with your babies? Do you have a skillset that you’d like to build a business around? Leave a comment or connect with me on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. I’d love to help you start building the life you want and a business you love through becoming a VA! 

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entrepreneur solopreneur Virtual Assistant

Mastering Your Gmail

Mastering Your Gmail

I remember life before the internet was a thing. I also remember the internet being birthed into existence. The days of sitting in front of my family’s Apple computer screen – listening to the dial tone and waiting for the internet to connect – were exciting times! The world was on the brink of something that would eventually change the way we do just about everything. As a high schooler, I primarily used the internet for IM chats, email and MySpace to chime in with music creators and other angsty teenagers sharing their feelings in the digital space for the first time (Did you know that MySpace is still around?!?! Yeah, I didn’t either. However, it turns out they didn’t save my high school MySpace account. Anyone else have memories like this?

My first email account was sessa7@aol.com (Vanessa is hard for a toddler to say, so Sessa was the nickname my brother coined me with when he was learning to talk.). It turns out AOL.com is also still around. OK…I really need to stop distracting myself with all these trips down my digital memory lane! Anyway, I moved on from AOL and eventually adopted a Yahoo email account, which I still use today for my personal email. At this point, every account I have is associated with this email so the idea of changing feels a bit daunting to me. But, since using Gmail exclusively for my business I’m getting closer and closer to being ready to make the switch and go all in.

Gmail has 1.5 billion users and counting. Not only that, but all Gmail users have access to GSuite which has a host of features that we aren’t going to get into in this particular blog post. I often hear the question from new VA’s (and other small business owners) if using the paid version of Gmail is worth the cost. YES…100% YES! Using the paid account with a customized domain name (I use GoDaddy but there are loads of options most of which are less than $5 your first year) for your business is huge value for $6 per month (if you do a quick internet search so you can also usually find a coupon code for 20% off your first year making it only $4.80 per month). BAM! For less than a fancy beverage from Starbucks you now have a professional email account that gives you room to grow as your business grows.

I’m sure that every one of you reading this has an email account and knows how to send emails like a BOSS. In today’s post we are doing to dig into a few features and add-ons that I have found to really help you master your inbox and maximize your flow.

#1 Templates

Did you know that you can create template emails in your Gmail account. This is a lesser known feature but if you are finding yourself sending the same email more than three times, this feature is AWESOME because it keeps you from having to draft that email over and over again or from having to copy and paste it from a Google Doc. I have a series on my IGTV called #featurefridays where you can check out my video on how to create templates in Gmail. This feature will literally change your life!

#2 Schedule Send

Do you have reminder emails that need to go out, want to send a birthday message, or information that you want to make sure gets sent at a certain time? You can schedule your emails to be sent at your preferred schedule day and/or time. This is also a great feature if you are working through emails after hours but want them to hit your coworkers’ or clients’ inboxes during normal business hours. You simply click on the arrow next to the SEND button and select Schedule send. Once your email is scheduled you can find it in the left side bar of your Gmail account. 

 #3 Send Safely

If you are a #mompreneur or solopreneur like I am, you probably aren’t part of a secure network. Yet, sometimes, you need to send information or documents securely. I use a free program called Send Safely. You can download a Chrome extension and you can also have it overlay in your Gmail account so using this feature is as easy as sending any other email.

#4 Streak

Do you need a way to manage your prospects and emails coming in from your clients but aren’t ready to make the investment in a paid CRM (client relationship manager)? Streak is a great option! Streak overlays in your Gmail account, kind of like a spreadsheet, and can house all of your emails from a particular person, business or organization in one place through creating “boxes” and tagging them. You can also track where your prospects are in their process by creating pipelines. In the pipeline you can add To Do items to automatically add to your Gmail calendar which will remind you when those tasks are due.

You may also want to track if an important email has been received and/or read. Unfortunately, Gmail doesn’t offer read receipts as a built-in feature. Streak allows you to track if an email has been viewed or not and when the last time it was viewed was so you can decide the best way to follow-up.

Streak has a slight learning curve but their support team is really helpful and their tutorials are great! If you happen to have a team working alongside you, Streak also allows team members to view the same boxes for your prospects and clients so you can all be in the know without having to forward and cc all those emails. One of the best features about Streak is that is works entirely in your inbox so you don’t have to leave to go to log into another site to get the information you need

#5 Wisestamp

Looking for a beautiful custom email signature? I use Wisestamp. Wisestamp will integrate with your Gmail account and plug-in your custom signature directly into your account. You can even add an animated closing remark!

Those are my top 5 favorite features for making the most of my Gmail account. I’d love to know what features you use to optimize your Gmail account. Share in the comments below. Maybe I’ll even add it to one of my #featurefridays on IGTV!

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