small business

How Technology Is Affecting The Future Of Small Business

Guest Blog Post By: Michael Deane

The future of small business is inextricably tied to modern digital technology. Thanks to modern tech, sole proprietors, startups and other small firms can go toe-to-toe with companies many times their size, and sometimes they can even come out ahead.

What technology offers to these companies is the ability to save on time, manpower, and resources, while maintaining high levels of productivity. The fact that most of these technologies can be used free of charge or for a small fee makes them even more attractive. After all, nothing beats free in terms of ROI.

With all that being said, the adoption rate of new technologies among small businesses is not as high as it could be. Many companies are still reluctant to start using these technologies for one reason or another. The famous adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is still the dominant attitude among small business owners.

But as old business models become obsolete, the transition towards modern technology is quickly becoming a necessity.

So if you want to future-proof your small business to give it a fighting chance, you need to start learning about modern technology. And we’re here to help you do just that. Below you will find an overview of some of the major ways technology has been shaping the world of small business.

virtual assistant business

1 Software Automation

As we’ve mentioned, small businesses have embraced technology because it allows them to work more efficiently without investing in additional resources. And software-based automation represents the next step in this direction. With the help of software automation tools small business can eliminate a lot of tedious busywork from their workflows. One example would be email marketing automation. By using tools such as ActiveCampaign or Zapier, small businesses can create email marketing campaigns that practically run themselves. Technology enables you to automate business processes which leads to increased productivity.

Lead scoring is another area where automation is showing positive results. App such as Leadformly can help you segment leads and send follow-up content without the need to look into each subscriber profile individually.

2 Cloud Based Sofware

Cloud-based software (also known under the acronym SaaS, for software-as-a-service) is the latest trend in software deployment, and one that is scheduled to grow further in the coming years. Cloud-based applications are not installed directly on your computer, but are instead hosted on powerful dedicated servers (the so-called cloud). Running resource-intensive business applications on the cloud is a more affordable solution for small businesses than buying expensive equipment and running on-site applications. There is also the matter of security. It might seem counter-intuitive, but storing your business data on the cloud is actually a safer alternative than storing it locally, the reason being that cloud servers have better security than your local computer network.

3. Customer Service Chatbots

Quality customer service is one of the costs of doing business in 2019. Without adequate care, customers won’t be inclined to do business with you. Providing customer service requires you to expand your staff with customer service agents, which is not something every firm can afford. Thankfully, there now exists a technological solution for the issue, namely chatbots.

Chatbots are automated conversation systems that can perform a variety of customer service tasks. They can answer frequently asked questions, direct callers to customer service representatives, provide product suggestions, place orders and reservations, and more. However, their two greatest advantages are their ability to scale (they can interact with multiple customers at once), and their cost (they can be built for free, or acquired for a small fee).

4 AI and Big Data

One of the most transformative inventions in the past few decades was that of artificial intelligence. By utilizing the concept of a neural network, an AI system can parse large data-sets (so-called ‘Big Data’) to produce conclusions and make predictions, without being explicitly programmed what to do each step of the way. This ability can be employed to solve a variety of tasks that would be too difficult, or too tedious to perform manually.

Predictably, AI has found a lot of uses in the world of small business. From email marketing optimization to screening candidates or generating reports in natural language, AI has enabled small businesses to compete with much bigger rivals without needing to expand their IT infrastructure.

5 Cybersecurity

Technology has empowered business in a variety of ways, but they weren’t the only ones to benefit from it. Malicious third parties now have access to the same kind of technology, which allows them to execute sophisticated cyber-attacks. Unfortunately, small businesses are frequently ill-equipped to handle such attacks. For this reason, cyber-security is quickly becoming one of the top priorities in the world of small business.

To combat this growing threat, employers are enrolling staff in cyber-security seminars, developing cyber-security protocols, and implementing technological countermeasures, including AI-based defense. And with the passing of the GDPR, these practices are starting to become codified into strict laws.

6 The Future of Business

Small businesses face many challenges in the digital age, from the way they approach customers, to how they handle standard business operations, to the precautions they take to protect themselves from tech-based crime. And only by grasping the extent that technology has changed the world can they rise to these challenges. It is therefore imperative to educate yourself on the impact of technology on business, so you can make good strategic decisions on how to prepare your company for the future.

More About The Author:

Michael is a small business consultant who also runs a small business blog; Qeedle.

influencer marketing

How Influencer Marketing Can Help Your Business

Running a small business is a challenging task, yet it can be very rewarding. The business doesn’t have complex structures and team sizes are small. In most cases, team members know each other, so the concept of working together for collective success is embedded in the culture of an organisation.

However, the lifeline for every business success lies in getting more prospects, which can be nurtured and converted into leads. This generates cash flow, keeps staff busy and pays for cheques each week/month.

influencer marketing

For this reason, businesses invest in marketing. A comprehensive marketing plan would use different resources and channels to get more exposure, increase brand awareness or get more MQL (monthly qualified leads) to turn them into sales. Some channels used could be:

  • Paid ads
  • Articles on industry outlets
  • Newsletters/Social Media
  • Local press
  • Business directories

All these channels will give you ROI (return on investment) which varies, however influencer marketing is a growing industry, which works very well with small businesses. More and more businesses are using influencer marketing to grow their business.

What is Influential Marketing?

Influencer marketing can be in any form which seeks endorsements for a product or service, by a person who has gained expert level and knowledge and has greater influence and a huge following. This could be following on social media accounts, any industry or space. Few examples can be journalists, academics, celebrities and social influencers on the web. It works for both B2B and B2C businesses and is being used by businesses of all sizes in both categories.

Influencer marketing industry size

Influencer marketing is a global industry and is present in every country of the world. “The business insider” states the industry is worth 9 billion dollars and brands are set to spend 15 billion dollars by 2022.

A testimonial CMOs and marketing professionals see it as integral part of their marketing for branding and willing to invest in influencer marketing.

influencer marketing
Example of a beauty blogger/influencer

One reason is just as you can find a Costa Coffee and a chicken shop in every UK high street, you can find an influencer for any platform and industry with small and huge following. If you’re looking for a fashion or a beauty influencer, Instagram will be a great platform for you to increase your reach and raise brand awareness.

However, if you’re into selling information products or run a small business, Facebook influencers can be a good fit for you. Both small and large businesses spend some money on influencer marketing and have seen a healthy ROI when worked with the right influencer.

Why use influencers?

You should be asking this question if you are not aware of influencer marketing and why you should use them. On average, businesses have received a value of 5 dollars on every dollar spend. That’s 5 times return on investment. Influencers can help you in 2 ways in growing business growth:

  • Reach
  • Niche

Reach

With huge followings on their social accounts, influencers can help you increase your reach to a wider audience by just sharing or commenting on your post. This means more people will be aware of your offer and will click on the post to read your message. You will get more traffic on your website and can re target those people to sell your product/services. Some businesses have seen their posts gone viral when shared by couple of influencers.

Niche

The influencers can also help you reach any niche to offer a more targeted message to an audience to meet your objectives whether it is to raise awareness, branding or increase your following.

This can be narrowing it down by demographics, location, industry vertical or business size. For instance, if you’re an accounting business, targeting self-employed people, you can work with bloggers and publications producing content for contractors.  

You will get more authority and chances of signing up clients if the message is endorsed or shared by those influencers, as they have gained the trust of their audience. Influencers in niche markets with a smaller following tend to give better ROI than influencer with general reach. A study conducted by influencer marketing hub found influencers with a following between 50000 – 250000 followers performs 30% better in campaign than influencers with over a million followers.

Builds your authority

Sales professionals will tell you the sales cycle has changed from what it was 20 years ago. With the ton of information available on the web, customers are more aware of the products/services they’re looking for which will help them with solving their problem. They perform their research and do read up on reviews and research for social proof. All clients want to know if the product/service provides a solution to their problem. They look for reviews left by other users in sites such as Google review, Trustpilot and Yelp.

Most businesses will place a review from an influencer using the product/service for credibility. For instance, Ninja Outreach is a blogger and marketing outreach tool that help you with finding influencers and lead generation. They have shared a testimonial from Matthew Woodward, SEO expert and influencer, on their website.

Picture credit: Ninja Outreach

How to approach influencers

You can outreach influencers by performing research on the web, forums and different social media accounts. Be clear with the objectives for approaching them. If you are looking to form a relationship with them than offer something appealing to them.

However, if you are approaching them for product endorsement or a branding campaign, make sure you say that in the email as that is the best way to approach them. Be clear and concise.

You could perform the task manually, which is time consuming and will require a lot of effort. The simpler and easier way is to use a tool like Ninja Outreach which gives allows you to find influencers by:

  • Industry
  • Location
  • Following
  • Platform e.g. Twitter/Instagram

The tool allows you to apply filters to make more targeted search for people you’re looking to work with to achieve your goals. You can sign up for a trial account to try the tool for yourself.

Challenges faced working with influencers

Some people face some challenges working with influencers. This starts with making the initial contact, to scheduling an appointment and then managing ongoing interaction for the duration of campaign. 

Influencers are approached by many people everyday and simply responding to every one is a job on its own. The primary reason for people approaching them is to sponsor a post, endorse their product or perhaps share their tweets/posts.

They can set up a structure and streamline the process by using an app which performs all actions required by them. Those can be:

  • 30 mins discovery call
  • Charge for the consultancy
  • Take payment
  • Monitor interaction

If the client has expressed a desire to work with you and accepted terms, the next step is to check your calendar, book a call and take payment for the service. They can do this by using the all-in-one small business app Grow in Cloud which automates the entire process.

Business owners can setup time their working hours, list the services and sync it with their calendar. They can send a link of their calendar to the client to schedule an appointment which will upload the booking page given below.

influencer marketing

The client will click on the “book an appointment tab” to schedule a call. It will upload a new page showing list of all services you offer. To book a discovery call, they would select “discovery call” tab. This will then upload a calendar and show availability in the time zone of their choice

influencer marketing
Example list of initial services seen by a client

Once the day and time is selected, the client will be prompted to type their name and the type of appointment they want; whether on phone, Skype or in person. The best part for you is they will be prompted to make a payment before completing the booking and will be able to read your cancellation policy before booking. This reduces chances of getting into dispute.

influencer marketing
Example appointment request dialogue

You can take payment by Stripe of PayPal. The payment will land into your account and the booking will be synched to your calendar. Grow in Cloud also enables you to set customised appointment reminders by SMS/emails to reduce chances of now show ups.

With this tool, you can also use the contact management function to better manage your relations with the clients. You can write progress, leave notes and get a 360 view of your interaction with the client. This helps when there are other people also involved in the team making contact with the influencers.

To set up a trial account for Grow in Cloud, you can click here.

Summary

Influencer marketing is here to stay and with the rise of social media and its impact, the industry is growing at rapid pace. More and more businesses will work with influencers in the days to come.

Any solutions, that reduces manual work, streamlines and automates essential admin can only help them to grow. It will also make communication and working with businesses a stress-free, pleasant and joyful experience.

schedule appointments facebook

Schedule Appointments From Facebook

We all agree Facebook has become a lot more than just sharing stories and pictures with our friends. It is a powerful marketing tool. It can help businesses tremendously increase market share and revenue. Businesses that tend to use Facebook frequently have a competitive edge over rivals that don’t. They give a much better customer service experience. This is done through monitoring post views and answering comments when necessary. They also provide the option of allowing prospective clients to schedule appointments there and then.

Facebook has been shaping the social media landscape, since its launch. It is continually evolving to meet its user’s needs. With over 2.32 billion active monthly users, Facebook remains the most widely used social media platform.

Research shows that the majority of small businesses that do have a Facebook Page, are not using it to engage with their customers. A study by Recommend.ly found that 82% of company/brand pages post less than five updates a month.

This is understandable. Creating a Facebook Page is free and while businesses don’t need to pay to keep posting new content, it does take time and effort to keep it current. However, to put it in perspective, businesses need to balance this use of time, against the benefits of having an ongoing dialogue with customers. The traffic coming on to the page needs to be engaged in order to maximise chances of converting it to sales.

Grow in Cloud

Grow in Cloud integration with Facebook enables you to schedule appointments/bookings from your Facebook page. It can also be synced to your calendar and working hours.

Online Appointment Scheduling is one of the best ways to connect with prospective clients and ending the “calling, chasing up and waiting” game, we all find ourselves playing, when trying to book an appointment the conventional way. Check out our blog post on how having an online booking system can save your business hours!

Adding a “Book Now” or “Book An Appointment” button onto your Facebook page is a great way to engage your clients through social media, who are interested right now! This integration works great for any business with a Facebook page.

schedule appointments facebook

Not only is it free to install and use, but also by giving your customers another way to book appointments with you online, you’ll most likely see an increase in new appointments overall.

For instructions on how to add your website to Book Me button on Facebook, click on Add Booking Link to Facebook Page.

With Online Booking through Facebook you have the potential to:
  • List your availability (classes, activities, courses etc.), key business information and details on your Facebook page
  • Display a booking calendar on your Facebook page
  • Track bookings made through Facebook
  • Give your customers the ability to ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ your activities, offers and more with their friends thus creating more potential clients
  • If you choose an inclusive web design and booking system package, Grow in Cloud can create customisable widgets linking your website to Facebook
  • Providing your customers with the option to book via Facebook puts you at the forefront of potential customers’ minds, maximising your sales opportunities and exposure
  • Maximise chances of tapping into the millennials and professionals market share

For a free, 30 day trial of Grow in Cloud, please sign up here. You can then start using the features, such as online scheduling for free, forever!

Related Online Scheduling Blog Posts:

Why Accountants Need An Online Appointment And Invoicing Software

Why A Therapist Scheduling Software Makes Sense

Schedule Tutor Bookings Online 24/7

Why Personal Trainers Should Have A Scheduling Software

Why Salons Should Have An Online Booking System

How To Become a Virtual Assistant/Social Media Manager

Businesses of any sizes need administrative help, but having a full-time employee on site can become costly. Nowadays, freelancers are becoming increasingly in demand, as companies are beginning to appreciate the flexibility and cost effectiveness of their services. Even personal assistants (PAs), traditionally the heart-and-soul of an office, are able to work out of the office. In fact, the virtual assistant business has been steadily growing since its inception in the 1990s. Over 90% of marketers use social media to attract new business, but less than 15% are confident in their execution. That has opened a huge market for interested social media marketing freelancers.

This digital transformation has created opportunities, for those who love being a PA, but not the lengthy commute or the long office hours. They can to do the same work as a virtual assistant (VA) or social media marketing manager, from the comfort of their home.  With internet based technology at their disposal, there is little that they did in the office that they can’t do remotely!

If you are thinking of starting a virtual assistant/social media management business of your own and have all the tools necessary to work with business clients, then there’s no time like the present!

virtual assistant social media manager business

Where To Start?

Whether you want to be a Virtual Assistant or Social Media Manager there are some common tips in order for you to get started.

Qualifications/Skill

Although formal qualifications are not necessarily required, some employers may expect you to have a degree or diploma. Relevant qualifications could include advertising, public relations, business, digital marketing, media and journalism.

To do a degree, you will usually need five GCSEs (A-C) including maths, English and science, plus three A levels or an equivalent level 3 qualification. No specific A levels are required, but relevant ones include: English literature, English language, media, psychology, sociology, communication studies and law.

Other related skills would also include:

Technical ability, time management, organisational skills, strong verbal and written communication, analytical eye, creativity, good customer service, excellent IT knowledge and strong interpersonal skills.

Your niche/services:

If you’re not sure what services you can offer as a Virtual Assistant, here’s an infographic highlighting 16 Ways a Virtual Assistant Can Help a Business to help you.

Most Social Media Managers help businesses grow their online communities. This usually includes: writing and scheduling posts on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and/or LinkedIn, running ads on these sites, replying to fans/followers on these sites, creating graphics for posts. Some even venture into blog writing as well.

virtual assistant social media manager business

It is important to note, you are the voice behind the social profile/business in most cases. You are interacting with clients/followers and sharing interesting information. As well as this, you are keeping tabs on the latest industry news and passing it along to spark discussions and engagement on social media platforms.

Wrap your head around the legalities

First of all, as someone who is self-employed, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) need to be informed when you start getting paid.

Think about how you’re going to keep accurate financial records. Outsourcing an accountant can be pricey, but is advisable. There are also steps you can take to reduce their billable time.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) means that as of May 2018, all businesses, including the self-employed, have to comply with certain regulations to ensure the protection and security of personal information.

As a self-employed individual, you will need to ensure adequate security measures are in place, both online and offline, to reduce the risk of a data breach.

Consent is a key requirement with regards to GDPR. It is essential that your client both knows, and is comfortable with, how you plan to handle their data.

Your client is within their rights to either request visibility of, or even withdraw, their data from you at any given time. So make sure you have the organisational infrastructure to support this eventuality. See this for an in-depth explanation of GDPR and how it might affect you going forward.

Create a Website

virtual assistant social media manager business
Picture Credit: Pink Star PA

You do not need a fully-fledged blog like website to promote your services, but you do need a website to direct prospective clients to; to learn more about you and what you have to offer.

When you are starting out, you can simply include a page which gives information about you as well as another that lists your services, packages and contact information.

Your virtual self (i.e. your website and social media, such as Twitter and LinkedIn) is how your clients will get to know you, so make sure it accurately represents you and the assistance/support you can provide.

It’s important to look professional to be considered professional. Since a virtual assistant and social media manager is virtual/online, this means making sure that your virtual/online presence is just as presentable as you would be if you were going to an interview.

That being said, it’s also important not to get too hung up on making everything completely perfect before you get started. Waiting for website perfection could take too long, so get stuck in and make sure you’re always maintaining, updating and refreshing your “virtual professional self”.

Find out more about how to build your own business website here.

Finding Clients:

Before you can sign up clients you may need to have a thriving social media presence of your own and build your own following.

Create accounts on all the major social media websites and familiarise yourself with blogging, email marketing, SEO (search engine optimization) and graphic design. Though you may not offer services for all of them, these will be a place for you to learn and experiment before implementing them on your clients’ profiles. And, these are great places to start connecting with potential clients, too!

Social media, such as Twitter, is also useful for developing a professional network and for seeing what others in the industry are up to.

Add yourself to the local business directories:(Google My Business, UK Small Business Directory, Fiverr) and make sure you are regularly updating your LinkedIn profile, so potential clients know exactly what you can offer them.

Another good place to start is The Society of Virtual Assistants. As a strong and well established network, they provide good advice, support and information on finding VA work via their website.

Once you know where your ideal potential clients hang out online, then you can distribute great content and start conversations that will drive traffic to your website. This is a great post on how to use Facebook to drive traffic to your website. You should also attend networking functions, conferences and other industry events.

Resources/Courses:

There are many tools and software out there that can help you make your life as a VA/SMM easier. Check out our detailed blog post on Best Virtual Assistant Software and Business Tools. This post will also benefit those looking to become social media managers too.

Entrepreneur.com has put together the following resources, if you want to find out more about the virtual assistant industry:

Worldwide Organizations

Networking and Support Groups

Free Worldwide Directories

Certification Programs

Once you have your pages and profiles created, it’s time to start learning. Many of these courses are free.

  • Hootsuite offers a free course that covers the basics. You can also take their paid course if you decide Hootsuite is the social media scheduler you would like to use.
  • Constant Contact has a Quickstarter program that covers the basics of the major networks.
  • Buffer has a free email course that will let you Learn Social Media in 2 Minutes per Day. You’re not going to learn everything there is about social media, of course, but it’s a good starting point.

Buffer has another good email series that includes 25 strategies in 25 days. Experiment with these on your own profiles and keep the winners for your clients.

As a Social Media Manager, you’ll need some advanced skills if you expect to stand out! These advanced techniques include:

  • Optimizing YouTube videos with descriptions, tags, titles, annotations, etc.
  • Custom Facebook apps
  • Custom Twitter and YouTube headers
  • Knowledge of hashtag marketing

Knowledge of webcasts, email capture forms.

Working Out Pricing:

On average, Virtual Assistants could charge a minimum of £25 per hour. Higher price points will depend on skills, experience and the nature of the work that you undertake. Forums/networking groups are a great place to see what others in your experience bracket are charging.

Make sure your prices are competitive, but don’t undersell yourself. It’s much easier to lower rates. However if the skills you have are rare, they should come in at a high value.

Many SEO and social media marketing managers prefer to charge a fixed monthly fee for their services. This gives a consistent and predictable income, which is beneficial for both the client and freelancer.

When offering a monthly fee option, it is important to keep your clients happy if you want them to stay with you. You should set clear expectations and have an open line of communication as well as build a strong relationship with your client. You should also offer a good reporting strategy to show the progress you are making. Adopting these good practices will help increase your client retention rate over time. If you opt to charge by the project/package, you’ll want to put together an outline of the terms of the project/package and present it to the client before coming up with a rate. Make it clear that any additional work will cost an extra fee.

Example social media monthly packages

Budgeting

Sourcing, maintaining and invoicing clients take time. Remember that you’ll be working for yourself, so a regular salary is down to you to secure. Having a buffer is a good idea. Or, you could stay in full-time employment and run this business on the side, until you’ve accumulated enough potential clients to smoothly transition into the world of self-employment!

Hear From The Experts:

For further advice and tips, two experienced Virtual Assistants an one Social Media Marketing expert, have come together here to answer our questions and share what it means to be a VA/SMM and explain how they started. We welcome Jay, Rosely and Melissa.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Jay Guest.  I am 37 years old and from Basildon, Essex.  I live with my husband and 2 children.  Originally from Wales and I moved to Essex when I was 21.  I run a Virtual Assistant business called Pink Star PA.

My name is Rosely Werner, a Virtual Assistant from Essex.  I am an introvert-extrovert type of person (not sure if you could fall on both categories!) I have a very active social life and love to be surrounded by either like-minded people to share valuable discussions or hang out with outgoing and happy souls over good food!  Whenever I am not on my desk, I love ‘wheeling’ with my husband who is a professional unicycle rider and exploring places I have never been to before!

My name is Melissa and I run MinaMax Business Promotions offering social media management and blog writing services. I am also a mum to a daughter and son. So, along with my husband I’m kept fairly busy! I have quite an unconventional background for the job I do. So, I started off doing a degree and then PhD in a branch of Biology (Immunology for any science fans reading this) before taking up a job as a science writer. I acquired lots of skills during my PhD, which I’ve carried throughout my life – in both MinaMax Business Promotions and even being a mum!

2. When did you start your VA/Social Media Management business and what made you decide to start?

Jay: I started my VA business in May 2018 after having my second child.  I decided that childcare was too expensive, and it would mean putting my 6 year old into before and after school clubs too.

I have always worked so the thought of not contributing to the household bills was a daunting thought.  I decided that I wanted to work for myself.  Having had previous PA experience and knowing what my capabilities were, I decided to look into seeing if there was such a role in the virtual world. After a lot of research, I realised that this could work.

Rosely: I started my VA Business in August 2018.  I decided to take the plunge into being self-employed, as I was not happy with my previous part-time job.  I know I have lots to offer to the company and I was given a fair chance by our Managing Director to create a new entire department and I could say it was a success, given the short period of time. 

In order to be control of the decision making and progression (which was limited in my job) I looked into what I could do from home, utilizing all my skills as well as be my own boss!

Melissa: I started my business coming up for a couple of years ago now. I decided to start up ‘officially’ after running a franchise, running events that relied almost solely on social media. I then realised that I enjoyed the social media aspect more than running the events! After working on a couple of businesses and having success I decided to take the leap and start up on my own.

The blog writing aspect ties in nicely with my background as a professional writer too, allowing me to utilise more of my skills. I wanted to start a business that catered specifically for smaller businesses. I tried to think of the kinds of things that would benefit me being a small business and realised that not having to commit to a service/sign a contract would be a big plus for me. This means my clients are under no obligation to work with me for a set time period or spend a minimum amount, although I’m very fortunate as many of my clients end up staying with me for the long haul!

3. What qualities or skills do you need in your line of work?

Jay: I would say the skills you need are: an eye for detail, efficiency, good telephone manner, admin experience and forward thinking.

Rosely: In my line of work, two most important qualities are reliability and integrity.  It is very important that when I am given a task, I finish it on time and always update my client of the work progress.  My aim is to make my client’s life easy, without having them to check up on me and chase the work given to me.  I value honesty and having strong moral principles.

Skills-wise, for myself, I offer general administration services and creative design; therefore, there is a need for competent IT skills, especially being able to use Microsoft office programs. Good oral communication and written skills are also important.  As mode of communication is frequently done through emails, one must be able to communicate clearly and effectively with their clients.

Melissa: There are lots of qualities and skills that I think you need to be a social media manager. You need to be a good writer, be able to think creatively and outside the box when required, have good people skills and patience too.

Organisation is also a big one – sometimes when you’re working with several clients you need to make sure you’re on top of things at all times. Being flexible to accommodate clients’ timescales/when they are available to get back to you is also a big plus for this type of business.

4. What services does your particular VA/Social Media Management business provide?

Jay: My services include: Telemarketing, Email and Project Management, Data Entry, Research and Customer Service to name a few.

Rosely: I offer a complete range of services, including : Data Entry, Creating and Updating Spreadsheets, General Typing, Formatting and Updating Documents, Microsoft Office Work (including Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Publisher), Managing and Scheduling posts to Social Media Accounts, Online Research, Creating Newsletters, Email Management Branding, Creative Design for Social Media posts.

Melissa: I offer general social media management services, including content creation, posting, scheduling and watermarking. I basically try to free up your time by managing your social media platforms, and doing everything that that entails.

I also offer social media training and writing services too including blogs and content for websites.

5. What is the best part of your job?

Jay: Having freedom.  I have my son at home for 3 days of the week and we work around each other.  The other benefit is, if my daughter has something on at the school, I am able to attend.

Rosely: The best part of my job is being my own boss! I can also be selective with my clients, by identifying the ones that best suit my skills and personality. Most of all, the best thing is the time that I get to spend with my family, especially my young daughter, so that I can be with her as she grows up. This time is precious!

Melissa: The best part of my job is working across such a wide range of industries and with lots of different clients. I’ve learnt so much along the way, and love to be there when my clients realise the benefits social media can have for their business.

I’ve even managed to show a social media cynic the benefits of this type of advertising and managed to prevent them from closing down their platforms…and even better, they’re now getting clients from social media too! 

6. What tips would you give for someone who is thinking about starting their own VA/Social Media Management business?

Jay: Do your research.  Don’t head into the industry thinking it will be a quick fix.  It took me 9 months before I could say that I was established.  It’s worth it in the end.

Rosely: To those who are thinking of starting their own Virtual Assistant business, you have to make sure that you educate yourself about building a business.  Carry out lots of research, to find out the tools that you need to deliver the work virtually and understand how to manage different types of clients. 

It is also important that you have to look at your finances as it will take a while before you could earn a living from your business.  I am grateful that I have a very supportive husband who helped me financially when I set up my business. If you think you don’t have enough resources to start up your own Virtual Assistant business, I suggest you find a part-time job- at least it will help to cover some costs.

After you decided what you want to do, list your set of skills that you are confident and comfortable to offer to clients. Being your own boss, you also decide what to charge, but make sure your charges are within the standard of what the Virtual Assistant industry offers (again do your research!).  Do not undervalue yourself just because you are starting, you know your worth and your capability.  Surely there are paying clients out there who are willing to pay for your skills and expertise.  You can start creating the name of your company, create a decent logo and sort the legal stuff that you need to run your VA business (registering with HMRC whether you decided to be a sole trader or limited company). 

Lastly, keep on marketing!  Tell all the people you know what you do, even they are not a potential client, you may never know who they know that might need your services.  Market your business online and offline, whichever you think is more productive and could get the results that you need.  If you are able and you have a budget for a professional website, I suggest you do it and have your business cards ready and always with you wherever you go. Don’t stop learning – keep yourself on top of new developments in the VA industry.

Melissa: Tips would be to have a clear idea of what it is you’re offering and why someone would get value from choosing you over someone else. I would also say that when it comes to business, anything goes! Nothing surprises me anymore.

To find out more information about our experts, you can find them here on the following links:

Name: Jay Guest
Company/Business Name: Pink Star PA
Email: info@pinkstarpa.co.uk
Business Website www.pinkstarpa.co.uk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pinkstarpa
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pinkstarpa/
Name: Rosely Werner
Company/Business Name:
Email: info@themoderndeskpa.com
Contact Number: 07951 037715
Business Website: www.themoderndeskpa.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rwerner.themoderndeskpa/
Instagram: www.instagram.com/rwernerpa/
Name: Dr Melissa Fletcher
Company/Business Name: MinaMax Business Promotions
Email: minamaxbusinesspromotions@gmail.com
Contact Number: 07814221714
Business Website: www.minamaxbusinesspromotions.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/minamaxbusinesspromotions
Instagram: www.instagram.com/minamaxbusinesspromotions/

Summary:

Here is a list of the key 13 tips on how to become a VA/SMM; not only mentioned by these experts, but also other pointers raised in this blog post:

How to Become a Virtual Assistant/Social Media Manager

  1. Determine your niche and what skills you can provide
  2. Create a website describing your service packages and experience
  3. Ask yourself- who is your ideal client? What are their struggles? How can you help?
  4. Find your market – Where are they hanging out? Which social media sites will you more likely find them in? LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest?
  5. Offer expert advice – If your ideal client is hanging out in Facebook Groups, use the opportunity to offer helpful advice in a way that doesn’t make you look like you are trying to make a sale!
  6. Search online on recruitment pages that are looking for virtual assistants/social media managers and register as a member.
  7. Apply for virtual assistant/social media management jobs, send in your CV and covering letter providing your best pitch.
  8. Conduct an online interview to determine if you are a good fit for the company. You also want to check if the client is a good match or you!
  9. Sign a contract with the company/business owner, outlining the job description and agreed payment terms.
  10. Get to work! Try to get the tasks done, before the deadline initially, to show your efficiency, as well as ensure future work with them.
  11. Provide best quality results.
  12. Ask for testimonials to add to your website. Have these available for other prospective clients.
  13. Keep learning! With the world of digital transformation it’s important to be a step ahead of latest trends and tools. For example, video marketing or SEO.

Finally, don’t see other virtual assistants or social media managers as competition. Instead, see them as people with whom you can have a healthy professional exchange, share ideas, resources. There are many social network groups you could join to help you along the way. This will help to both grow your knowledge base and also more importantly avoid feelings of isolation, especially if you work from home.

Good Luck! Hope your career as Virtual Assistant/Social Media Manager becomes a success!

Related Blog Posts:

15 Productivity Tools To Help Small Businesses

Best Virtual Assistant Software And Business Tools

16 Ways A Virtual Assistant Can Help Your Business (Infographic)

Benefits Of Hiring Virtual Assistants Using The Cloud

We would love you to ‘Like and Follow’ us on Social Media

grow in cloud

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/growincloud

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cloud_grow

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/grow_in_cloud/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/grow_in_cloud/

small business challenges

How To Overcome Key Small Business Challenges

There are a number of key small business challenges which recur over and over in business.

As every small business knows, the reality is that there are tonnes of issues facing them on a daily business. However, we have focused on two of those, so that you can take definite action on and set out ways to overcome them.

1. Cash Flow Issues

Money problems, in their various forms, are top of most lists of small business challenges. This can include issues such as clients stalling payments, unexpected outgoings as well as outstanding bills that need to be paid.

small business challenges

Using online invoices and automated reminders is a powerful way to persuade clients to part with money quickly and efficiently. Invoicing software, such as Grow in Cloud, provides customised invoice templates and can accept payments online as well as automatically charge clients upon booking.

2. Tiredness

It’s tempting to try to do everything if you’re a small business owner. In fact those who have left full time work to start up their own business, have found they are actually working more hours than before! One of the main small business challenges faced.

However, long hours add pressure. Fatigue, one of the most commonly overlooked small business challenges, can leave you disorganised, forgetful and cranky!

You end up not paying as much attention to your family and even clients. This is where you could start making mistakes. Small business owners have to pace themselves. This includes prioritising and delegating.

Prioritising And Delegating

small business challenges

Start by identifying business tasks that don’t require your expertise, such as social media posting, emailing reminders, making/scheduling appointments. Once you have identified these, take on an assistant, even part-time, to help out. There are many virtual assistants out there that can help. Check out our blog post on how virtual assistants can help you in business.

You could also consider delegating tasks that are outside your skill set to specialists, such as accountants or legal experts.

If you have budget constraints and cannot afford an assistant at the moment, you could look into using a software to automate simple functions. For social media posting you could use tools like Hootsuite. For all other business admin tasks, you could use “all-in-one business management software”, such as Grow in Cloud.

small business challenges

With this tool, clients could make/schedule appointments (without emailing each other back and forth) and be sent automated appointment reminders via SMS and/or email.

small business challenges

It’s important to get on top of challenges. Taking time out is critical for your health and well being, not to mention family and client relationships. Get into the habit of segmenting your day; analyse when and how you work best, the time you’d like to put into leisure or family. Then create schedules that identify key activities and how long they’re likely to take.

Overcoming the main small business challenges involves the following key actions:

  • Use software to manage your cash flow and keep money rolling in
  • Delegate, automate and set aside time for yourself
  • Target your most profitable customers to maximise your returns
  • Work hard to create employee satisfaction
  • Ruthlessly cut back your overheads
  • Keep your finger firmly on the pulse of your sector

To try a free 30 day trial of Grow in Cloud and see how we can help you reduce some of your small business challenges, please sign up here.

Some Related Small Business Blog Posts

15 Productivity Tools To Help Small Businesses

5 Ways No Shows Affect Service Based Businesses

Why You Should Automate Your Business Processes

productivity tools

15 Productivity Tools To Help Small Businesses

This blog post not only highlights the different tasks needed to be carried out by small business owners, it also lists some important productivity tools that can help them.

Small business owners face different challenges on a daily basis, when trying to keep their business running. This can be anything from responding to customer queries via phone/email/ text, absent employees, rescheduling client’s appointments, chasing late payment and placing orders for low stocked items, to name a few!

Small businesses do not have adequate resources like their larger counterparts. At times, employees may have to perform various roles. This can have an impact on productivity of the business, if the right systems are not put in place.

Thankfully, there are many productivity tools that small businesses can use, to make their job easier and make inefficiency a thing of the past.

Here is a list of some of those productivity tools that could help:

1. PandaDoc

productivity tools

PandaDoc is a proposal and document management software. You can create, send and track quotes and proposals sent out to the prospective clients. The drag and drop feature of the software makes it easier to prepare a proposal. Their e-signature function makes closing the sale simpler too. When the clients receive the proposal and review it, it can then be signed off.

Your sales reps work hard to nurture leads and turn them into customers. They don’t have to spend hours creating their own quotes and proposals from scratch. They can streamline the entire process with PandaDoc.

2. LastPass

productivity tools

Take a second to think about how many passwords you have for your various accounts. The answer is probably at least half a dozen, even if you are working as a solopreneur.

If you have a few employees, then the number increases. If you or your employee has forgotten the password, you’ll have to go through the whole process of setting up a new password, which results in wasting time that could have been spent on something productive.

Good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. LastPass can take care of this problem. You can store passwords to any account on this tool, whether it is email, bank account, social media profiles or software login passwords. You can manage your passwords from a central dashboard and can also remove passwords for inactive or deleted accounts.

3. Grow in Cloud

productivity tools

If you are running a service-based business, you don’t need to be reminded that time is money! The more people you book for your services, the more revenue you will generate.

Grow in Cloud is a small business CRM software which also enables you to automate appointment bookings and invoicing. Your customers can view your team availability, schedule and reschedule appointments. You can also issue invoices to clients and take payments online to for the issued invoice. The software also sends out email and SMS reminders to client prior to the appointment. This avoids the risk of no show ups, which cost you time and money (especially if you have had to book a meeting room!) You can spend more time with clients, without having to worry about missing phone calls from clients who want to make or reschedule appointments.

You can also use its tasks management module to set tasks, task due dates and reminders for deadlines. It also allows you to assign tasks to staff members and collaborate with them.

4. Canva

productivity tools

There is no need to hire an expensive graphic designer to design images for your website or social media posts. If you have social media profiles and use it to promote your business, you need to be using eye catching images. This will help to increase your post reach and engage prospects.

You can use Canva for this. Canva is an easy to use graphics design tool, which allows you to create images and infographics. Its drag and drop feature makes it user-friendly. It can be used by a non-technical person with ease. Canva has thousands of free images, which you can download from its resource library and use for free. Plus, you will find it has a selection of premium images which can be bought for $1 each.

5. Toggl

productivity tools

Toggl is a time tracking tool. You just have to click on the start button for it to start tracking your work. There is no need to fill in time sheets and then get them double checked and signed off, before you send them out to clients for billable hours.

It also lets you make simple and powerful reports, which can be used to analyse performance and boost productivity. You can use Toggl on all your devices.

6. ezClocker

productivity tools

An alternative to Toggl is ezClocker-an easy to use time sheet and scheduling software that will save you money and time by allowing you to view your employees’ timesheets in real time.

This is ideal for employers with remote employees or if you are always on the go and need to monitor your business away from the office. Employees can use their own mobile device as a time card and it has GPS support where employee’s GPS location is captured when they clock in/out , so you can verify their location.

7. Hootsuite

productivity tools

Running multiple social media profiles can be time-consuming! It is essential to have an online presence these days. You also have to worry about making sure you post content regularly, to increase social engagement, shares and a following. Hootsuite is a social media tool that enables you to run all social media profiles from one platform.

You can monitor all your social media accounts and schedule posts in advance, which can be sent out on a set date time. You can also review all comments and respond to them, without having to leave the software.

8. Slack

productivity tools

Slack is a team collaboration and communication tool. It is great for bringing teams together. You can use the platform to create groups, share files and send/receive messages.  It can be set so that certain groups are only accessible to certain staff members.

Slack increases productivity because it reduces the number of emails that need to be sent to individuals or groups. Also, it is also a place to post announcements to staff in one go, without the need for meetings, as information can be accessed from everyone who is part of the group.

9. Evernote 

productivity tools

Evernote is an amazing app which can be used to perform different tasks and keep your notes in one place.

With this app, you can set and take notes (audio and text), take photos, clip web articles and upload files/attachments.

10. Pocket

productivity tools

Pocket is an app that enables you to save blogs and articles that you can read later.

This is useful for example, if you come across a good piece of content, whilst doing research.  However, you do not have time to read at the moment, but interested in checking it out later to help you with your research.

You can then save it in Pocket and check it later at a convenient time. For reference purposes, you can keep all useful links here, to use for the future.

11. Dropbox

productivity tools

Dropbox is a cloud storage solution which can be used to upload and store files into various folders. It can be used as a central point to store all your company files. You can send and share files with team members.

The admin controls let you check who has accessed the file and who has added something new. It simplifies team management and enables employees to access files when required, anywhere and anytime.

This helps with those that might work remotely and productivity. It saves times having to ask someone to email over a particular file, wait for them to respond then carry out task. This way anyone can access the desired file.

You can also send a unique link for each file to clients, for them to access the file also.

12. Vocus.io

productivity tools

Vocus is a chrome extension for your Gmail account. It brings tremendous productivity to your email account. You can track open/ links click rate and send out automated emails to prospects as part of your outreach campaign. The emails can be sent in form of a drip market. You can also set the data and time for these emails to be delivered.

It comes with a lot of email and poll templates which you can use to prepare emails for your campaign. It can be integrated with leading CRMs.

13. Grammarly

productivity tools

Grammarly is a free cloud English grammar app. It detects spelling mistakes, punctuation and grammar errors. This app is particularly useful, especially if English is not your first language. Grammarly is free to use and can be added as an extension to Google Chrome.

You don’t have to worry about spelling mistakes in your emails or blog posts, as it has spelling auto correction.

The time you used to spend to get your tasks proofread can be saved by installing this helpful app.

14. Expensify

productivity tools

There are many business expenses which can be off set as an expense, when filing end of year accounts. However, you must keep records in case the tax authorities ask you to provide evidence.

Most businesses struggle to keep accurate records and receipts in one place. Business expenses can be incredibly hard to track and record. When you sell goods or services, there are often costs associated with delivering the services/goods. It could be travel expense, stationery, internet or postage.

Expensify makes it easier for you and your employees to track expenses on the go, so you can pass correct expense report to your accountant. The accountant can then present correct profit/loss account.

By tracking your expenses, you will get a better picture of the outflows and can work on reducing unnecessary expenses.

15. Zoom

Productivity tools

Zoom provides remote conferencing services using cloud computing. It is a real powerhouse tool that can accommodate up to 500 participants to collaborate seamlessly. Its top features include: HD video and high-quality audio and screen sharing and full suite of collaboration features. It is easy to start and join. It is definitely a suitable alternative to Skype and allows you to send links to clients for professional online discussions.

Summary

There are many more productivity tools and resources out there, that can be used to help small businesses. At the end of the day, there are only a certain number of hours in a working day and all these productivity tools can help make life a lot easier for you as a small business owner.

Some Related Blog Posts:

Social Media Management Tools For Your Salon/Spa (And Other Small Businesses)

Best Virtual Assistant Software And Business Tools

Invoicing And Online Appointment Booking Software For Salons And Other Small Businesses.

Why Accountants Need An Online Appointment And Invoicing Software

We would love you to ‘Like and Follow’ us on Social Media

social media grow in cloud

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/growincloud

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cloud_grow

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/grow_in_cloud/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/grow_in_cloud/