Community is the foundation for using social media. It is with the power of community that you cultivate meaningful relationships on your social media platforms. I’ve built a wonderful relationship with Anna Scheller who runs a weekly Twitter chat, USABizParty. It happens every Tuesday at 1 pm Eastern and I hope you’ll join us sometime.
USABizParty is hosting their inaugural telesummit on the topic “Power of Community.” Anna invited me to be one of the eight speakers. My topic: Engaging With Your Community Using Social Media. You will learn:
Benefits of using social media to build a community
The importance of engagement
Dos and don’ts
Join us and discover the power of community and engage with like-minded entrepreneurs. Networking opportunities and prizes await you on December 15th! Get your ticket here.
My 10th book was released July 27th. It’s called You Don’t Want a Job: Why Self-Employment Reduces Your Risks & Increases Your Rewards. If you’re already a self-employed, it contains loads of information from great psychological resources that’ll make you feel good about your choice, and help you make the most of it. Here are a few of the ideas from the book, which you can buy from us right here.
[S]ince no one else is going to take the trouble of making sure that we enjoy our work, it makes sense for each of us to take on this responsibility. — Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, p. 101-2
Self-Employed Doesn’t Always Mean Entrepreneur
Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.
Some are cut out to be freelancers.
Entrepreneurs want to create. They want to be in the driver’s seat. They do not fear the fires of risk. They like finding new people, making connections. They want to choose their own deadlines and make their own way.
Some folks don’t fit that description. That doesn’t mean they should get a job. It means freelancing instead of entrepreneurship.
Freelancing is hiring out your talents to a number of different people. It’s like having lots of bosses. Except you get to choose them, not the other way ’round.
Working freelance (the word comes from “free lance,” as in, a mercenary who was good at one thing: fighting wars, whoever was paying for it) means you don’t have to convince clients they need your help. Your clients are entrepreneurs who appreciate the skills you bring to their business. They understand you. Your marketing is simpler because it’s aimed at other business folks, not end users. Your pricing is less subjective. You don’t have to set your own deadlines. You know what needs to be done every day.
Entrepreneurs and freelancers get the same benefits despite their different personalities.
You Have Control
One objection I hear to the concept of entrepreneurship is that “you’re just trading one boss for a whole bunch of bosses: your clients.”
Well, sure, if you’re doing it wrong.
Control is not a gift you’re given, it’s a power you wield.
When you’re the boss, you have control over the 4 Ts.
You control what tasks you do.
You control the techniques you use.
You control the time you work.
You control the team you work with.
I can hear you yelling about the last two from where I’m sitting. “My buddy is never around because he’s always rushing to meet a deadline.” “My sister’s clients are all jerks, but she needs the money.”
Covered in my other books, I’ll briefly dispel those here:
If you schedule properly and maintain good client relationships, you should rarely, if ever, be forced to work at a time you’d prefer not to. I keep my goal dates (I don’t even call them “deadlines”) flexible enough that if I want a day off, I can take one. What that also means is that if I wake up at 4am and feel like working, I can, because then when I’m tired at 9:30 I can take a nap.
Working for jerks will make you a jerk. It is an immutable law that we become like those we associate with. Choose clients you wish you were more like. It takes guts to turn down money from someone you don’t want to work with, and I’ll admit to making this mistake more than once — and regretting it every single time.
You do not have to work 88 hours a week, nor do you have to work with jerks. You are the boss. If you work too much or with the wrong people, it is because you chose to, not because you had to.
Autonomy Over Balance
Anyone who always chooses the 4 Ts entirely at their own whim is going to struggle. We live in a complex intertwangled society, as gregariously social creatures. It goes against nature to seek total independence.
Another autonomy is over the balance of autonomy we choose.
When the economy shifts, I focus more on one type of project than another.
When I’m partnering with someone I want to build a working relationship with, I’ll use the tools they’re familiar with, at least at the outset.
When a beloved client really truly needs it now, I usually choose to pull out all the stops to deliver for them.
While I won’t work with jerks, either as my client or as a co-worker on a project, I have worked with folks who didn’t light my fire in every interaction. I’ve asked advice from folks who seem incapable of tact. I’ve read great information in deadly dull books and blog posts.
And every one was a choice. My choice. Choice to balance how much autonomy is right for this time, this day.
A Job Is Simpler
Life is complicated and messy. We tell ourselves stories to simplify it, to get a handle on it, to teach our children.
Oversimplification can be a useful teaching tool, a beneficial coping strategy. It can also fool us into believing that simple is better in cases where it’s not.
Having a job is simpler, tidier, than the messiness of creating your own business, whether entrepreneurial or freelancing.
Even though you know who I am, we’ll say it again, a little differently:
After losing two jobs in a row because companies went out of business, Joel D Canfield resurrected Spinhead, the web design company he’d founded in 1998. In the six years since his last job, Joel and his family have traveled full-time throughout the US and Canada for 18 months, created and refined multiple businesses, and spent nearly all their time doing exactly what they wanted to do instead of what they had to do. Read more about his newly released 10th book “You Don’t Want a Job” at http://JoelDCanfield.com
Yes, it’s Saturday. No, I did not write this post today. I scheduled it a day or two ahead of time. Since my goal is to have a blog post every day this month, I need to schedule some ahead of time. And I don’t think any of you will really mind.
Today I say it’s time for a break. It’s Saturday and though we entrepreneurs often use our weekends to work in our business, once in a while we need to take some time for ourselves in order to rejuvenate. So I’m going to spend some time today with my six-year old outside raking leaves.
Several virtual assistants have said that they just couldn’t get their businesses off the ground. Some even decided to quit and go back to work outside the home. I asked some of these VAs to share what their challenges were so I could address these when coaching new and aspiring virtual assistants. It’s very helpful to know what obstacles are faced that discourage us from pursuing a certain course.
Challenges faced by some virtual assistants and Sue’s thoughts on them:
1. Feeling unappreciated by family and friends who were also clients.
Sue’s thoughts: Often virtual assistants do get started working for family and friends. This can be a trap since family and friends sometimes think we will work for them for free or for a very low rate. Also, if there are any challenges, feelings can more easily be hurt.
Sue’s suggestions: If you do choose to start working with friends and family, it is still very important to set clear expectations. I suggest you have even friends and family sign a contract clearly stating what tasks you will do, rate of pay and payment arrangements. You can simply let them know that this helps you both to understand exactly what is expected and helps prevent misunderstandings. If you set the right expectations clearly upfront, the situation will be much easier to handle. If your friends and family do not want to follow your business procedures and policy, perhaps they aren’t the right client for you. Isn’t better to have happy family members who aren’t clients than clients who are unhappy family members?
2. Working outside the home and not having time to market effectively.
Sue’s suggestions: It can be very challenging trying to start a business while working full time. There are those that have successfully done it. I suggest before starting your virtual assistant business that you find some of these people and talk with them about how they succeeded. You need to know before starting down this path that it really is the one for you. Some have chosen to cut back to part time work while pursuing their virtual assistant career.
To find time to effectively market, I strongly suggest putting together a marketing plan and calendar. It doesn’t need to take as much time as many think. Even spending 15 minutes each day to do some sort of marketing can be very effective. Networking groups found at Meetup.com can be a great way to market yourself and many are held one evening a month. It’s well worth spending one evening a month at a networking function to get to know people that could be potential clients.
3. Not believing they could succeed.
Sue’s thoughts: This is a trap many entrepreneurs face. Can I really succeed? If our business doesn’t reach a certain goal by a certain date, sometimes all our beliefs in success fly out the window.
Sue’s suggestions: Find a mentor or business coach who can help you realistically assess your business and marketing plans and who wants to see you succeed. Surround yourself with people who cheer you on, whether it be at communities like FindVirtual.com or a local Meetup.com group. I highly recommend reading Seth Godin’s book The Dip. As Seth himself says, “this fun little book will help you figure out if you’re in a Dip that’s worthy of your time, effort, and talents. If you are, The Dip will inspire you to hang tough. If not, it will help you find the courage to quit-so you can be number one at something else.”
4. Lack of marketing skills.
Sue’s thoughts: Two things can be done. Hire someone to market for you. Or learn the basic skills before you start your business. Online marketing and social networking are both tools we now have available that we didn’t have a few years ago. Used correctly they can be so effective. Unfortunately, too many people use them incorrectly and just make it harder for those trying to do it right.
Sue’s suggestions: Take some time to do some research. Read blogs about marketing. Again, being a huge fan of Seth Godin, I encourage you to read one of his books, Permission Marketing.
It’s important to have a marketing plan and calendar in place before you begin your business if you want to succeed at marketing. You don’t have to know everything or do everything. But do have some specific actions you take each and every day to market your business. A business coach can help you in this area as well.
5. Feelings of loneliness.
Sue’s thoughts: One of the cons of working as a virtual assistant is that you are working alone much of the time. You may miss the camaraderie of working with others. This is a factor to consider before launching a virtual business – can you work successfully alone or not?
Sue’s suggestions: Joining online communities such as FindVirtual.com can help combat the feelings of loneliness. Here in Northern California there’s also a local VA meetup and that’s helped me tremendously. I also helped co-found the Northern California Association of Entrepreneurs to help alleviate the loneliness. We meet monthly and brainstorm business ideas.
These are just some of the common obstacles virtual assistants face. Meeting these head on and taking action to overcome them, virtual assistants around the world have succeeded in business.
I’d love to hear about other challenges you face. Please share also how you have overcome any challenges in your business.