VA on the Bay

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A New Look for Amanuensis

Everyone needs a bit of a lift every now and then and I decided that it was time to take the plunge and give the Amanuensis website a new look.

The old version was one that I had put together myself to get a web presence back in 2004, it was Ok, but website creation and management are not my forte and it wasn't projecting the image I wanted. So I started talking to other small business owners that I know and trust and I found a wonderful 'solopreneur' to work with me on this project. She owns a business called Inastyle. Her work has made me realise that we all have areas of expertise and we should really work with them and exploit them. The difference a professional web master can make to your business website and ratings is huge. I have to say that I am thrilled with the new look, which has rippled through every aspect of my business.

I guess like all small business owners the temptation is to do everything. It also gives you a false feeling of being in control. I of all people should understand this trap as, being a VA, part of my role is offering to take away some of the tasks a business owner is doing that is not a good use of their time. We all need to have a good look at what we do on a daily or a weekly basis and ask the question 'am I focusing on my business, or am I spending valuable time doing things that I should either delegate or outsource?' Whatever your expertise you should keep focused on that and far less of your precious time should be spent doing things that are not in your area of expertise. Often this is the admin and book-keeping required to run your business, the 'nuts and bolts'. These are things that are easily outsourced freeing your time to work 'on' your business.

So try and take the time out on a regular basis to just check that you are making the best use of what your business needs most - you!

Feel free to check out my new look website on

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Girls and Boys Come Out To Play

I have been to two networking events recently. One with the Frankston Business Chamber and one with BNI. I was very nervous at the first one as I didn't know anyone and working at home, I don't have that much contact with people these days. Also I know I am not really good at marketing and selling myself.

My coach had been telling me that I shouldn't be at all nervous, it was just like kids in the playground. If they didn't want to play with you, there probably wouldn't be there. Of course he was right. It wasn't long at all before someone came up and introduced themselves. I decided that honesty is the best policy and confessed that it was my first meeting. By the end of a very interesting evening, I had explained to several people what I do, and what a VA is and each time it got easier and I felt more confident.

This proved to be very helpful, as when I went to the BNI meeting, the person who had invited me had forgotten to mention that you have to stand up and do a one minute presentation. In retrospect I am quite glad she did forget, because it meant that I didn't have any time to get nervous and just stood up, again being honest saying that I hadn't prepared, but it was fine.

If anyone had told me even 6 months ago that I could stand up in front on a room of strangers and talk for a minute about my business and what I do, I would have laughed out loud, but I did it, and it was Ok.

I have had several leads from those two meetings and one potential new client. There's another meeting of the Frankston Business Chamber coming up and I am taking my IT guru as a guest.

I can't wait to play with all the other kids

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Blogging is Fun!!

A light-hearted post this time:

I have been tagged by Kathie Thomas who is the founder of 'A Clayton's Secretary' here in Australia and who was recently nominated for Australian of the Year.

Before I get started, here are the rules:
1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
3. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
4. Tag seven random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.

The game is to write 7 weird facts about yourself. Here goes:

#1: I love old movies. Every Tuesday when my husband takes my son to Scouts, my daughter Holly and I sit down to watch vintage movies. We have worked our way through 'An Affair To Remember', 'African Queen', 'Roman Holiday', 'Charade', 'The King And I' - I could go on but we would be here for hours. Suffice it to say that we have a lovely girls night in!

#2: My perfect car is a Karmann Ghia. It is my dream once I no longer have to transport children, dogs, tonnes of shopping I can zip around in this beautiful car.

#3: I can't sleep unless I first face to the right for about 10 minutes. Once I have 'settled' I can then turn over to the left. Drives hubby mad - even more weird apparently my sister does the same thing.

#4: I can remember faces, hopeless with names, but I can remember faces. It doesn't matter if I saw them years before, maybe an actor/actress in a movie or someone from school/work who was years younger/older the first time I saw them I can place them from when I first saw them.

#5: Like Kathie I am a hopeless chocoholic. Happily my children don't seem to have the same gene so Easter is always a great windfall.

#6: Whilst we are on addictions I love books. We have books everywhere in our house! I love English classics, Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope, Hardy and also modern literature and belong to a book group. I always have at least 3 books waiting to be read and get through one at least every one to two weeks.

#7: I love to walk in the rain. There's nothing better than splashing through puddles, I guess I am still a kid at heart.

So who do I tag? Here goes:


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Always Read the Fine Print

Well I promised to be honest about things that have gone wrong and this one is a big one.

I, like many other small, home-based businesses registered my business as a sole trader. It is the easiest and cheapest way to start a business here in Australia. Being reasonably new to the country I tend to forget that Australia is effectively lots of different countries held together with red tape. When I picked the name Amanuensis, it was because I felt it reflected who I am and what I do. I was thrilled when I saw that it was available here in Australia. Amanuensis, or amănūĕ΄nsis means, 'one who writes from dictation or copies manuscript; assistant
[Latin: (servus) a manu secretary + ensis belonging to.]'

Although family members and some friends said, 'oh it's too hard. People won't know what it means', I felt it was right for me. I thought it didn't really matter whether people knew what it meant or not, it sounds polished, professional. I loved it.

For the past 4 years I have been building up my business and this year I wanted to take things to the next level and register the company as a "pty ltd" company. Imagine my horror to find out that in April last year someone in Queensland registered the same name. I rang up Consumer Affairs immediately and yes, that's quite correct. Anyone in a different Australian state can register exactly the same business name as someone in another state. As if that wasn't bad enough, it means that I can no longer change from being a sole trader to a pty ltd with Amanuensis. I was devastated.

It just doesn't seem fair to me that you can find the right name, register it, start a business and effectively someone can copy your idea. I am not suggesting that this is what this person has done as I don't know what she is using the name for, however I feel like someone has stolen something very precious. I felt I had something unique and special, something that reflected who I am and what I was doing. I am sure all of you out there feel the same about the names you have chosen for your businesses.

So ALWAYS read the fine print. It is there on the website, I just misunderstood. I am registered for Victoria, but thought that because it was entered into the Australian Business Registry I was covered for the whole of Australia. After all you would assume that you can't just start up businesses with the same name willy-nilly, however I am wrong. So if you are thinking of starting your own business, make sure that you are prepared to share the name that you have invested so much time in, otherwise make the jump and register it as a pty ltd company.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cold Calling Versus Networking - Making the most efficient use of your time.

I have just finished reading "Cold Calling Techniques (That Really Work!)" by Stephan Schiffman. As part of this year's goal to increase business it was recommended that I read it, and I must say that there are some parts that I think might be useful. One was 'the status quo is your main competitor', a great concept when you think about it, we all dislike change. There were also some methods on what to do with negative responses during a business call that may work. However when I had finished it I felt intuitively that this method, which has been used so extensively for so long, is not perhaps the best one for the 21st century. It seems to me that you have to put in an awful lot of effort to get maybe one appointment, who is probably a tyre-kicker anyway.

I can remember from my own office days when salespeople called, I really wasn't interested. If I wanted to buy something I would be calling them. I don't think I ever bought anything from someone who cold called. In fact, part of my role as an Executive PA was to protect my employers from people they didn't want to see, trying to sell them something they didn't want to buy.

There is an interesting ebook on this subject called "Cold Calling Is A Waste of Time:Sales Success In the Information Age" by Frank Rambauskas. Whilst I can't recommend or endorse his products, I have read the free first 10 chapters of this book (rather thin at 37 pages), but it does seem to resonate with me that people do not want to stop what they are doing in their business day to answer a call from someone they don't know, telling them about a product they probably don't need.

I think my preferred option and the way I want my business to go forward is through active networking and personal introductions. If someone is in the market for your products or services, they will be receptive to you. What you need to do is to make sure that they include you in their quotes, not just your competitors. By building a good network you should make introductions that will not only get your company name out there, but people start saying, 'oh I know someone who can help you with that.' I do agree with Mr Rambauskas that it is far preferable approaching another business as an equal, rather than appearing as someone coming cap in hand begging for your business.

I recently joined LinkedIn an amazing business tool. In the past 2 weeks I have added 6 connections, which means that with their friends and business contacts, then one level down again I have potential access to introductions to over 8,000 people. It just makes sense to me. I know that personally I am going to be far more receptive to someone that a friend has recommended than a complete stranger. Not only that, I am probably seeing this person because I have mentioned that I need a certain product or service, and that friend or business college has said, 'I know this fantastic ...' So I am already much nearer to a potential sale than someone who has been cold called. I will keep you posted on whether this approach works, but it's one that I feel far more comfortable with.

So I don't think cold calling is for me, but 'the status quo is your biggest competitor', I do like that Mr Schiffman. Never underestimate a person's resistance to change. They are far more likely to buy from someone they trust or has been recommended by someone that they trust.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Pushing past your comfort zone.

As a new year begins it's a good time for reflection and goal setting. It's important to have goals that are realistic but are things that you want so badly you will push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to achieve them.

When I was discussing 2008 with my coach, he asked me to imagine that it was 31 December 2008 and to write a diary entry for that day saying what had happened in the past year. All the things that I wanted had happened, and I was looking back over the year. It was a great exercise and by putting it in writing, as if it had happened already, made it seem achievable.

At our next session I arrived feeling pretty pleased with myself, after all I had done my homework and felt ready for the challenge. My coach read my entry and then asked me, 'how much do you want this?'. I said, 'it would be really nice.' He told me to go back and rethink the goals and outcomes. It had to be something more than 'really nice', because when things weren't going well during the year, or the 100th person has thanked you for calling but doesn't want your business, what is going to make you call the 101st person?

That made me think again and I realised he was right. The driver for everything that I am doing is my family. My work allows me to be at home and available for the children. My work has allowed us to select the schools that we want my son and daughter to attend. My work frees my partner from the pressure of being the sole breadwinner. I said, 'the biggest driver for me to make that call, schedule a meeting or answer my mobile at 5 am, is to see my autistic son leave school in Year 12 with his VCE.' My coach said, 'that's it. I can see it. Go back and do it again.'

I went home and wrote a diary entry for 31st December 2016, reflecting back over the last 8 years. The image was strong enough and I want it to happen so much that I can picture it every time I pick up the phone to make a cold call or network to find a new client. I find it very difficult to sell myself and my business. I am not a great salesperson by any means, but I realise that I have to learn to do this, to push out of my comfort zone to achieve my goals.

I hope this helps anyone thinking of goal setting this year. Remember if you want it badly enough you can achieve almost anything!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Life Coaching - Is It For You?

This is an area that I had never considered exploring until a friend's husband left his job to work full-time as a life coach. What I have discovered is that it is something that I think we could all use to some extent. Most of us are being held back in some way or another from achieving our best. The reasons vary from lack of confidence, emotional baggage, not trusting our instincts. A life coach can release you from these bonds and let you soar into the future.

Certainly my sessions have offered me ways of taking my business to the next level as well as clearing out and getting rid of personal baggage that I didn't even realise was there, holding me back. Confidence and belief in yourself and your business is the only way forward. Networking is a get way to get your business noticed. Being a virtual assistance and freelance translator it is easy to become isolated. You are working at home, running to tight deadlines and it is easy to forget the need to promote your business and actively seek new clients.

BNI is a networking group for businesses that meets once a week in your local area. It is a great way to start meeting people who could become future clients, or finding people whose services you need. Talking to people. Making sure that you always have some business cards with you to give to people who show an interest in what you do. All simple things, but easy to lose sight of when you are busy. Taking your business to the next level means taking some time out and actively marketing yourself in order for it to grow.

It is easy to stay in a safe little rut with your existing clients, but for your business to become a success you need to move forward and sometimes that means taking a good look at yourself first and finding out what it is that is holding you back. So if you have ever thought about talking to a life coach, now is the time. Who knows where it will lead you.