6 Tools to Get You Writing: Which Do You Need Most?

A wrap up of 6 tools to get you writing instead of whimpering in the fetal position on the closet floor.

Resistance the AmygdalaHere they are again:

  1. Environment—Make the place you create your art a place you enjoy being.
  2. Schedule—Habit and ritual give you power when courting the Muse.
  3. Timer—You can do anything for 5 minutes.
  4. Prewriting—Starting comes before finishing.
  5. SMART Goals—You know what they are, but you don’t use them in your writing—yet.
  6. Finding Why—Knowing your true motivation for writing and keeping it top of mind is like having motivation on tap.

Does one of them jump out as something you could really use? Do any seem simplistic, pointless, wrong? What’s missing?

I’d love to offer some free coaching in the comments below. Answer any of those questions or ask any of your own, and I’ll spend however long it takes to help you use those tools to get yourself writing.

Interview: Amy Kazor, CPVA of Amy Kazor VA

Amy Kazor

I met Amy online a few years ago. She was very helpful to me at one point when we were traveling and I didn’t have a printer and needed some work done, printed, and mailed to a client. Amy did it for me. 

Why did you start Amy Kazor VA and when did you start it?

I opened my practice because I wanted to achieve three major goals in my work life:

  • I wanted more control over the type of work I was doing, with whom I worked, and have that work make a greater impact in the lives I touched.
  • I wanted to help more people than I was able to in my corporate job (and in my mind, any corporate job).
  • I wanted the freedom to work from anywhere and not be tied to a single office location and someone else’s business hours.

I started my practice part time in January 2008. I didn’t know I was doing the work of a ‘virtual assistant’.  I just knew people who needed help and I started helping them on the side. In 2010, I was ready to quit my J-O-B and take what I did to full-time, and wanted to be prepared for that, so I researched programs to help me properly set things up and leverage what I was doing to more than 2-3 people.  I found the Virtual Training Program (now known as the Virtual Mentoring Program (VMP)) at AssistU, applied, and was accepted. I quit my job to focus on my two clients and the training program. I graduated from the program in May 2011.  Then, upon graduation, I began working on filling my practice and working full-time as a VA. I have been full-time in my practice since June 2011 and just recently rebranded from Accomplish VA to Amy Kazor VA.

What is the purpose of your business?

I work with a small, select group of clients from a variety of business types. Each of my clients focus on helping others achieve their life’s purpose.  I partner alongside them in long-term, collaborative relationships. My primary objective is to help them leverage the content they work so hard to create. This might be repurposing a body of work into a new product or service, or even into other avenues for them to engage with their market.  I try to tackle the things they never seem to have time to do, but ultimately need to tackle to reach their goals.

Helping others is truly at my core. As my practice has grown, I have also discovered that my love for what I do and my previous training experience translates well into mentoring and helping aspiring VAs. I do this within the AssistU community and have been blessed to be the lead/senior VA for two internships there.  I was also chosen for the AssistU mentoring team, where I will be working as a mentor to new VAs while they work complete the Virtual Mentoring Program (VMP) and launch or improve their own practices.  This work is more rewarding than I would have imagined and is a wonderful way to give back to the community that has really given so much to me in so many ways.

Amy Kazor VA logoWhat challenges did you face starting Amy Kazor VA and how did you overcome them?

I knew how to support 2-3 executives and multiple departments, create processes and procedures and leverage work product into new materials for marketing and internal training purposes within one organization.

My challenge was to take this knowledge and leverage it myself to multiple clients and across many coinciding deadlines all while running my own business.  This was where the training program at AssistU became important to me. I knew that I needed to have a well-researched, thought-out, and documented plan for how I was going to manage my own service business before I could really focus completely on helping clients within their own.

I knew it was going to be hard to talk about myself and market myself without a firm foundation.  I also knew that working from home was going to be a lonely thing for me if I didn’t have a positive, up-beat, and helpful community to align with.  I was able to achieve all of this through the programs and courses I chose at AssistU and then within that community.

That investment has carried me into my sixth year in business and allowed me to grow in ways I never expected when I entered the program.

Why did you choose to complete the work for the Certified Professional Virtual Assistant (CPVA) designation at AssistU?

Initially, I wrote it into my 5-7 year plan as I completed the coursework to graduate at AssistU.  I am a planner at heart and in the beginning it was something I might want to do and it went into the plan as an option.

A certification is certainly not required to be a Virtual Assistant, but I have a love of learning and growing, and like challenges. I knew that completing the work for the CPVA would offer all of those experiences and make me better at what I did each day.  I believe that any chance we have to learn and grow is a valuable part of becoming who we are meant to be.  This was a logical step in that process.

It did not disappoint. I completed the work for the certification while managing 7 client relationships and their work. I learned a new level of organization and work/life balance. I also learned more about the types of clients I want to have and the work I love doing.  While it was challenging at times, it was absolutely the best next step I could have taken for my practice, my clients, and my life.

What advice can you offer someone looking into the world of Virtual Assistance?

Honestly, my first piece of advice is to take the AssistU training. There are two options.  If you are great at self-study, the Virtual Basics Program will work. If you want more one on one and interaction, a guide through the course, I recommend the AssistU Virtual Mentoring Program. You will have an established VA come along side you to mentor you through the coursework and guide you as you establish your foundation.  The AssistU courses provide the framework and help you answer the tough questions so you have the best possible chance for making it past the first, the fifth, and even the tenth year in business.

While training is not required to do the work, an education on establishing and operating a virtual service business provides the solid foundation you need and helps you develop the support structure that is vital as you do work for others.

When I did the research, I found for myself that there was no other choice than AssistU to gain the footing I wanted to see this business through the long-term.  In the program I was able to determine my core needs and develop a strong business plan, boundaries, and standards.  Graduation allowed me to be involved in a community where I am able to glean from and provide support to others who are similarly aligned in business.  For me, going it alone was not an option, and I don’t recommend any VA try to do that.

Really taking the time and effort to think through what it is you are going to do, and how you are going to do it to be profitable, is sure footing. If you aren’t profitable you will expend a lot of energy and time trying to make your business work only to end up back in a corporate job. If the corporate world isn’t the life you want, pave your way to success with more than good intentions, get the skills necessary to be a successful business owner and understand what it means to support the same.

My second piece of advice is to invest the time and money into a real business coach who works with VAs.  No offence to the peer coaches and mentors out there (I am a mentor myself) but the business coaching I have received has helped shape me as a VA beyond what I would be now without it. After AssistU, it has been my most invaluable investment.

Your coaching relationship will help keep you on task with the most important decisions you will make within your business and with clients.  When times are tough, a great coach will not only help keep you on target, he or she will ask the hard questions and get you to answer them.  When you aren’t getting clients or when you are unhappy with a part of your business, it’s those hard questions and that feet-to-the-fire coaching that will get you through.

Advice from VAs who are not profitable or happy in their practice will not help you.  My coach is part of an amazing foundational support team in my practice. That team consists of coach, accountant, attorney, IT professional, and insurance agent.  I can then rely on the AssistU community for answer, suggestions, and filling service gaps as well.  It makes me a much better VA.

Do yourself a favor in a world where most businesses fail.  Build your foundation.  Know what you are doing within your own business so that as you support others in theirs you are able to focus on them and not worry about yourself.  By taking the time up front to prepare and get supported, and then work your plan and engage with your community, your business will thank you by sticking around for years to come.

Choose Additional Education Carefully

Technology changes and new technology may require additional education. Many virtual assistants are adding new skills to their portfolio so they can offer more services to their prospects and clients. If you have chosen to add to your skill set with additional education, please choose carefully.

There are many programs and coaches for virtual assistants including virtual office professional community college courses and online skills training. How do you know which one to choose?

Before addressing that question, let’s step back and consider if choosing additional education is right for you or not. Ask yourself:

  • Why do I want additional education?
  • Do I have the time to invest in additional education?
  • Will the cost of additional training fit my budget?

Let’s consider your answer to that first question – why? Why do you want additional education? If it’s because something new has come along and you feel the need to be an expert on all new technologies, you may want to reconsider. Do you really need to be an expert on everything? Is your plumber an expert electrician? Of course not! Each is a specialist. If your specialty is bookkeeping, don’t distract from your focus by thinking you need to become an expert web designer as well. It may be best to hire an expert in the field and be less costly in both time and money than spending your time and money learning a skill you may only use once.

However, if you’ve found a new skill that really excites you and you’re eager to learn it, getting additional education in that skill may be just what you need. You may already have clients that are eager for you to learn that skill as well.

What about your time? Do you have the time to invest in additional education? If your schedule is already filled to the brim, it may not be the right choice to add to your schedule. You may find you’re unable to put your all into it and don’t get the full benefit after you spent all that money on the program. If you really want to invest the time, look and your schedule and see if you can add the time by letting go of other tasks for a while.

What’s the cost? Some additional training and coaching programs can be quite expensive. Do you have the budget for it or should it wait? Are there other options that will give you the education you need at a cost that fits your budget? Make sure the investment you make is well worth it.

How do you know which additional education to choose? Once you’ve determined why you want it, whether you have time for it or not, and if the cost fits your budget, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what program will work best for you. The one you choose needs to:

  • add value to your business
  • fit your schedule
  • fit your budget

Carefully research your options. Talk to others who have taken the additional education you’re considering.

Intensive 5-Month Training Course for New & Aspiring Virtual Assistants

Calling all new and aspiring virtual assistants!

  • How do you find your first client?
  • What are affordable and effective ways to market your services?
  • How can you attract and educate prospects with your website?
  • How can you develop a business plan, blogging strategy and article writing strategy?
  • How do you determine your rates and pricing structure?

Chief Virtual Officer offers an intensive 5-month course customized to your specific needs. Each month focuses on a specific area of your Virtual Assistant practice. Each week you will receive homework with specific strategies to implement in your business right away. In addition to two monthly coaching sessions via telephone, we will reply to all your questions via email as often as you like.

We are currently taking on new clients. Use the Contact Form to schedule your free 30-minute coaching session so you can determine if this is the right program for you.

Get all the details on our Coaching page.

Virtual Assistants in the Vancouver Area: Let’s Meet in Person

The Client Communication Clinic we hosted in Vancouver last Friday was great! We finally met Renee Shupe, The Redhead VA, in person. We also met an aspiring virtual assistant and are meeting again this coming week while we’re still in the Vancouver area.

Joel and I will be in the Vancouver area until August 23rd at least. We’d love to meet other local virtual assistants in person and chat with you about your business. If you were unable to attend the Client Communication Clinic and would like to receive the instructional materials, we’d love to meet with you and provide you all the materials for the same cost as the Clinic.

We will meet with you in person anywhere within the Vancouver area at a time convenient to you for up to 3 hours and provide:

1. Client Communication Clinic CD package ($100.00 Value)over 5 hours audio and 7 Special Reports on the following topics:

  • Identifying Your Ideal Client and Target Market
  • Networking Creates Word of Mouth Referrals
  • Converting Prospects to Clients
  • Effectively Marketing With Your Newsletter
  • Bonus Tips: Grow Your Business as a Chief Virtual Officer
  • 7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success by John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing

2. Building Blocks: Succeed as a Chief Virtual Officer, a 72-page action guide. ($19.95 Value) We use this action guide during the Clinic. You will also receive an Implementation Checklist to help you implement what you learn from the CD and Action Guide  in your business right away!

3. Personalized business advice and answers to your questions about your Virtual Assistant business.

All this for $100.

If you’d like to take advantage of this special offer, use our contact form and let us know where and when you’d like to meet and we’ll work out all the details.