Virtual Assistant Interview: Leigh Anne Aston

February 16th, 2015 by Sue L Canfield

I've known Leigh Anne Aston for several years and we've worked together on many different projects. Among other things, Leigh Anne is my primary account manager for my social media management services. I interviewed her and here are her responses.

  1. Leigh Anne AstonWhen did you start your business?

Officially 2007

(Unofficially 2006 – I was still working full-time in the corporate world and doing some VA items on the side.)

  1. Why did you choose to become a Virtual Assistant?

To have more control over what I was doing. I felt this was the best next step in my career.

  1. What advice would you give new and aspiring VAs?

First, contact Joel and Sue for a consultation. (That’s what I tell everyone who asks me.) Then, set a schedule and stick to it. You’ll want to try to be everything and do everything for everyone in the beginning. Set your goals AND limits and then go from there. Make sure you leave time for yourself.

  1. What resources have helped you in your business? Forums, blogs, coaching, books?

First and foremost, Joel and Sue.

I do a lot of internet research when I need to try to figure something out – utilizing LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, as well as just plain old internet searching. I also belong to the International Association of Administrative Professionals, which is a wonderful place to exchange knowledge with members from all over the world.

  1. Share a success story or something about yourself – a hobby perhaps.

My main hobby these days is reading. (I read trashy romance novels with happy endings, in case you’re wondering.) Up until a few years ago, I absolutely hated reading. I was good at it, but it was always (and I mean from the time I learned how, always) a chore. A few years ago I was prescribed progressive bifocals. That’s when we found out I have “double vision” and things didn’t line up for my eyes the way they do for most other people. One eye is higher than the other. After having prism adjustments added to my prescription, I was looking at things completely differently. After getting the new glasses, I remember the first time I read a letter Jesse brought home from school. I was about half-way down the page when I realized I wasn’t using my finger to keep me on the right line of text. It was “eye-opening” and so exciting to know there wasn’t anything wrong with my desire to read, it actually was truly a chore all along. I read practically nonstop in my spare time now. Although, I will say, I read almost exclusively on my tablet (love those e-reader apps).

  1. Additional comments you'd like to share.

Just to always, always be true to who you are and do the best your are capable of doing.

  1. Links to any online profiles you want to share.

@leighanneaston

http://www.linkedin.com/in/leighaston

https://www.facebook.com/AstonAdminServices

https://www.google.com/+LeighAston

http://community.iaap-hq.org/people/leigh-anne-aston

(and my website is www.astonadminservices.com)

 

How to Ban Someone from your Facebook Page

January 12th, 2015 by Sue L Canfield

Every once in a while someone will like your business page just to start spamming their business. And no matter how politely you ask them to stop, they won't. So you decide to ban them. But how do you do that? Here's the answer directly from Facebook as well as a screenshot of how to go about doing that.

  1. Click Setting sat the top of your Page
  2. Click Banned Users in the left column
  3. Click Banned and select People Who Like This
  4. Clicknext to the person you want to ban and select Remove
  5. Click to check the box next to Ban Permanently and click Confirm

Click on the image below to see an enlarged view.

ban users from my Facebook page

6 Steps to Better Decision-Making

January 9th, 2015 by Sue L Canfield

6 principles for better decision makingSometimes all we need to overcome inertia or fear is a plan. There are no step-by-step rules for making good decisions, but there are guidelines which will help reduce the fear and increase your chances of success.

Is it Your Decision to Make?

The easiest way to improve some decisions is to realize they’re not ours to make. Sometimes that’s obvious. You can’t sell the book you borrowed from a friend, the house you rented or the Brooklyn Bridge.

Sometimes it’s not so easy. If you know what your boss wants you to do and you know the right thing to do and they’re not the same, you have an authority dilemma. While proper business administration ties authority and responsibility, in the corporate world it doesn’t always work that way. Even if you feel you’ll be held responsible for the outcome, the decision may not be yours to make. (Though you may find yourself facing an employment decision: whether or not to continue working someplace where decisions like this even come up.)

One particularly challenging arena I have entered recently is the way my senior citizen mom manages her money. Frankly, I think she wastes quite a bit of money and spends much of it only half wisely. Thing is she’s not mentally or emotionally incompetent. She’s completely alert, in possession of her faculties. She just makes decisions which I find financially disagreeable.

Because she’s my mom it’s occasionally a subject of conversation. But it’s not my decision to make.

Sometimes we get ourselves in trouble by skipping this first step. Before you invest time and effort in the other 5 decision-making steps, ask yourself if this decision is even yours to make.

Research

Now that we’ve decided this decision is our responsibility we have some work to do to prepare to make the best decision.

Some decisions are childishly simple. Most of us can pick what to wear, what to eat, where to go on vacation without much mental or emotional stress. Choosing who to marry, where to work and live, what to believe–these decisions warrant deeper investigation. Most decisions fall somewhere between these extremes.

Gather information pertaining to your decision from reliable sources. The weightier the decision the more information you want to gather and the more time you want to spend pondering it. During this stage be especially aware of the scientific fact that decisions are made in the emotion centers of our brain, not the logic centers. Your goal here is to create an emotional attachment after you’ve done research. If you have a gut feel for what you want, your research will be biased toward the decision you’ve already unconsciously made.

For some decisions this is the stage to ask for help. Seeing ourselves clearly is like reading the label when you’re inside the bottle. Qualified outside help can read your label to you. Consult with a friend who knows their stuff. Pay for a professional opinion. Hire a coach to work through a particularly important decision.

Pareto’s principle, the 80/20 rule, applies here. You will get nearly all the relevant information with a very little amount of research in most cases. You may know if you’re the type who has an itchy trigger finger or are more likely to research the decision to death. (The latter is much more common.)

Make a chart with clearly stated pros and cons on either side of the page. When you realize there aren’t any more significant pros or cons to add to the list it’s time to be done with the research phase.

Finding Why

We’re almost ready to make the decision. One last thing: finding why.

Remember I mentioned that decisions are made in our emotions centers, not our logic centers? This is your chance to be excruciatingly honest with yourself about what you want and why. Telling yourself that you’re buying the house you can barely afford because of the neighborhood or the schools when it’s really because you’ll finally have space for a workshop will be backfire in the long run. We’ll endure a tight budget if we have a good reason to. If we’ve lied to ourselves about our motives, about the why, when times get tough we’re more likely to bail on a decision which may in the long run have been right for us.

Know that it’s okay for decisions to be emotional instead of logical if they still make logical sense. Sure, a nice neighborhood and a good school are great aspects of a new home. But if you’re choosing between two homes that both have all the basic requirements, know you’re real reasons. Life’s big decisions go through a dip; a point where we can push through because we truly believe or give up and back out. Knowing your motives will give you the strength to push through when it matters.

Of course, knowing your motives might also move you to act like a grown up and make the right choice, the best choice, instead of the one you’re secretly wishing for.

Make the Decision

Yes, deciding is one of the steps. It’s human nature to reach this point and then waffle. What if there’s something we’ve overlooked? Maybe more research will help. Maybe someone else should decide. Maybe we can ignore the whole thing.

The longer you wait to make the decision the more likely you are to find reasons to choose the most comfortable option or to choose simply not to choose. (Not deciding is a decision).

Resistance wants you to make decisions based on fear. Even if you are being chased by a hungry lion, fear is not a good decision-making tool. Don’t give Resistance time to wear you down and frighten you into submission.

You see the target. You’ve drawn the bow. The arrow is aimed.

Let it go.

Take Action

Decisions happen inside our heads. Like the arrow there must be action for decision ever to mean anything.

Resistance isn’t finished with us yet. If we’ve decided to start the healthy habit of walking every day but we never set an alarm, don’t buy decent walking shoes, don’t go to bed early enough, don’t make plans to meet with a friend, we may kid ourselves that the universe is conspiring against our decision.

During your research phase you should have seen what resources (time, energy, attention, finances) will need to be allocated to implement your decision. Their availability will affect the decision you make. Now you just have to be willing to spend what you promised yourself when you made the decision.

The biggest decisions meet the strongest Resistance. Sometimes “biggest” means bearing the greatest risk. Often though, “biggest” means carrying the most emotional impact.

If this decision is about creating something remarkable, unexpected, personally important, creative, Resistance will work hard to stop you from implementing it. Your unconscious will protect you from the perceived risk of emotional exposure the way a mother bear protects her cubs.

Keep your copy of The War of Art handy. Review the underlined, dog-eared, highlighted, note-covered passages. Don’t let Resistance make you back down.

Reflect and Adapt

Decisions worth spending time and effort on are rarely “set it and forget it”. During and after implementation, review the decision. Does it still make sense? Once again, expect a fight from Resistance. Know your enemy. Look him in the eye and push him out of the decision.

If new information comes to light, revisit the research phase. Check again to be sure that the facts support your decision.

Ask yourself why for the hundredth time. That vague feeling of unease may be the conflict between your real motivation and the lie you told yourself.

Some decisions are fundamentally empirically right. Some decisions we know should never be unmade. When facts or feelings seem to challenge these, know that it’s Resistance trying to ruin your life. A sword through his liver does the trick nicely.

Most of life’s decisions aren’t necessarily permanent. If new facts, greater awareness, or new circumstances warrant a change, don’t let stubbornness, our innate need to appear consistent, prevent you from humbly acknowledging the changes and making whatever adjustments are necessary to be true to the right decision–even if it turns out that’s not the decision you made.

Decisions rarely involve life and death. But any decision requiring more than a moment’s thought probably involves risk. Your goal in this decision-making process is not to avoid risk, but to understand, minimize and accept it. Growth and change always involve risk.

It’s my experience that the bulk of bad decisions are caused by fear-driven inactivity. Most of life’s regrets come, not from what we’ve done, but what we’ve failed to do.

Get the boat away from the dock. Head out into the blue. There will be hard work, challenges, perhaps storms, maybe even shipwreck. A life worth living can’t be lived sitting on the dock.

This post was contributed by Joel D Canfield.

How to Write Interesting & Attention-Grabbing Blog Posts

January 5th, 2015 by Sue L Canfield
attention grabbing blog posts

Does this grab your attention?

Online readers like to quickly scan blog posts. You need to be able to quickly grab a reader's attention. Not only does your information need to be interesting, a reader needs to find it visually appealing.

Here are some ways to be sure your blog posts are intersting and attention-grabbing:

  • Use subheadings (like the one above)
  • Use bulleted or numbered lists (like this one)
  • Always include an image
  • Caption your images
  • Include links to relevant information
  • Include a video
  • Write "How To" or "Tips" posts
  • Create a weekly themed post. Choose a particular theme to write about on the same day each week so your readers are looking forward to next week's installment.

What other ideas have you used to create interesting and attention-grabbing blog posts? Please share in the comments below!

4 Steps You Can Take to Increase Your Business

December 29th, 2014 by Sue L Canfield

4 steps you can take to increase your businessAs we approach a new year it's time to think about how you can increase your business and increase our clientele. In order to choose the best strategies for you and your business, you first need to define your specific goals. It's not enough to say "I want more clients" or "I want my business go bring in more money this year." How many new clients do you want to add to your business this year - 1, 6, 12? How much more income do you want this year - $1,000 more per month, $10,000 more this year? Write your specific goals down. Now you need to decide on the strategies to meet those goals. I've used many strategies but t there are four specific strategies I've found most successful.

1. Network in person.
Networking in person has always been a very successful way to grow my virtual business - particularly when I was new to the business. Many times virtual workers find this strategy challenging. They chose to work from home because they didn't want to go out to an office or wanted to stay home with their children. So going out to networking events and having to find someone to watch the children when you do so may not be something you really want to do. However, until you establish your business, and if you want to continue to grow your business, meeting people in person will be immensely valuable.

People want to work with others that they know, like, and trust. Or at least others that have been referred to them by someone they know, like, and trust. The best way for someone to get to know, like, and trust you is to meet you i person. We can tell a lot about a person when we can see them face-to-face and watch their facial expressions, eyes, and mannerisms.

Even if the people we meet in person don't need our services, they may know someone else that does. When I first started actively networking in person I only had a couple of clients. In less than six months I added another six client and within a year over a dozen. Those were all people I'd either met in person at networking events or people who had been referred to me by those I met at networking events. One of those people I've been working with for over six years now. I've also had four generation referrals (the initial person referred me to someone, who then referred me to someone, and that person then referred me to someone, and so on).

To find networking events, check with your local Chamber of Commerce for networking mixers. Online you can check meetup.com for local groups that meet regularly. If you can't find anything, you can start your own group.

2. Network online.
Online networking can also be very successful. I've had some great clients I met online and never have met in person. It's important to do this right if you want the best results. When you set up your online profiles, be sure to be as detailed as possible in your bio, description, education, and work. LinkedIn is a very good place to create a detailed online presence. There are groups you can join related to your specific skills. When you join these groups, share in the discussions and add value to the group. Don't just promote your services. That's going to turn people off if they don't yet know you well.

When you do reach out to connect with other people in the groups to add them to your network, make the invitation personal. Don't just use LinkedIn's automated invitation. In the message let the other person know why you want to connect. You may say something like, "Hi Donna. We both belong to the Social Media Networks group here on LinkedIn. I saw in your profile that you specialize in Twitter management. I'd like to learn more about that. Let's connect. Sue". This message lets them know how you know them and that you're interested in them - it's not just all about you!

Other online networking can be done by joining appropriate Facebook groups and Google+ communities. Always reach out by sharing something of value - a tip, a short report, your current blog post, etc.

3. Ask for referrals.
Most of my clients are word-of-mouth referrals. Don't underestimate the value of referrals. You may be hesitant to ask for referrals. But if you've done a great job for your clients, you'll find they want to refer you. Let your clients know that your business is based on referrals and ask if they would mind referring you to someone they know. I don't pay for referrals but I have offered a discount on a client's fee for a referral. Plan to ask your clients every six months if they know of anyone they can refer.

4. Work ON Your Business
This may be the most important strategy you can implement to increase your business. Too often we get so wrapped up in doing client work that we forget to work ON our business. This is essential for business growth. I take time at the end of every year to work on my own business. Clients are informed that I'll be taking time off and I put into place a backup plan if they need something urgently. During this time I review what worked best the previous year and what didn't work well. Then I create a plan for the new year. Write a one to two-page business plan with your specific goals and the strategies you are going to use to reach those goals in the new year. Now is the time to find those in-person networking events and scheduling to attend one or more monthly. Update all of your online profiles. Reach out to new connections. Ask for those referrals.

These are just four strategies that have worked for me and that you can use to increase your business. There are many more. Take some time now before the new year begins to decide what your successful strategies will be and then put a plan in place to succeed!