Is it time to outsource?
Have you ever spent 10 hours trying to work something out for yourself, to then turnaround and pay someone to do it anyway? We have. Multiple times in fact. We would love to say that with 'hindsight' we would have gone straight to outsourcing it - however, we get it, for small business this is ALWAYS a learning.
With fluctuating incomes, many business owners are becoming aware of the upside of engaging a virtual assistance vs' actually employing someone. Some of the benefits can include not having to provide office space, flexible hours, specialised skills and pay often on a sliding scale (i.e.; the more hours you buy, the cheaper the hourly rate), and not having to cover the cost of employment benefits and insurance.
We like to think we coined the phrase 'multi-disciplined VA' - when in actual fact, we are sure we didn't - but for those that weren't aware, not all virtual assistants were created equal. You may have noticed a significant rise in the amount of virtual assistants popping up on your social feed spruiking their wares, and like us this might have sparked a very keen interest into how you can offload some stuff, so you've got more time to work on other stuff!
After meeting Karen Vivarelli (aka. Karen the VA) online, we were keen to interview her to provide some tips and also insights for our community on how a VA can support small business.
You’re celebrating a year into your small business gig, a huge congrats. We’d love to hear more about your background what got you into becoming a virtual assistant.
That's right, I'm one year into my biz and it's honestly been the best year. Before becoming a VA I spent over 12 years in the legal industry as an executive assistant. And in the last 5 years I specialised in creating legal templates, document management systems and office procedures. I also had a side hustle going on with my sister and mum developing a mindfulness website and app. Although this never came to fruition, it was this project that helped me discovered what a true digigeek I was! I loved learning about all things digital, marketing, graphic design and online business. Then one fateful day I was made redundant from my legal job, along with a bunch of other people, and I knew it was now or never to start my VA business. It was a no brainer - with my EA skills, my love of helping people, together with my tech and design skills - it was the right time.
Before you launched your business, how did you quantify there was a market for it and how did you determine what would make your business unique ?
I did A LOT of research! And I started listening to podcasts about business. One in particular was a podcast by the Merrymaker Sisters called Merrybiz and they spoke about getting a VA for their business. Well that was it, hearing that was enough validation and inspiration to become a VA.
I also kept hearing and reading that many small biz owners were struggling to find the time to do all of the admin tasks to run their business on their own. They felt trapped working 'in' their business instead of being able to work 'on' their business so they could move forward and grow it.
I then started researching who my competitors were and what they were offering as a service. It was from this research that I noticed no one had great visuals on the socials or their websites. This was great for me as I love digital design and getting creative. And I've always loved dabbling in Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and PhotoShop. From this I decided I had to use my design skills to create a killer aesthetic that would make me stand out.
We’ve spoken to a number of clients recently who need help with streamlining their operational processes in order to free up time (and enable them to scale). Can you give an example of how you’ve done this for a small business to give our readers an idea of what they can expect for $$ invested?
Getting your business processes streamlined is one of the smartest productivity hacks. Making the time to do this should be a top priority. It saves precious time and means that being organised reduces stress and overwhelm - a huge win for any biz owner.
An example I've done recently for one of my clients was when she needed to employ another staff member. All of her processes and business info was either in her head or scattered around on post-it notes. We devised a plan to gather and share this information, and then combined it all into one neat document by creating a business operations manual. This document became a handy training reference for her new staff member and it saved her asking a million questions. From this manual we then created branded templates and checklists and set about automating a few of her systems and processes with the added assistance of tools and apps.
We’ve heard that some small biz owners are a little reluctant to use a VA out of fear of handing over their passwords and sharing their IP. What are your thoughts on this and what do you put in place to assure your clients IP and privacy?
I completely understand these concerns because I'm a business owner myself. Your business is like your baby. And it's hard to let go of the reins. But having worked in the legal industry, I know the importance of confidentiality and privacy. I've got my client's best interests at heart and if sharing passwords is a concern, we can share them via Lastpass. I love this handy tool!! Lastpass encrypts passwords and this means I can access their accounts without actually seeing their passwords. It's the best!
With the new year here, what's your word for 2018 (or what will you be your focus in 2018)?
Last year was a growth year for me and this year my word is CREATE. With video on the rise in 2018, I'll be working with my clients to create branded videos and animations for their socials. I'm super excited about these projects!
We say that Mini Driver would play Helen and Uma Thurman would play Jacqui in a movie, who would play you on the big screen (it's ok to go big here!)?
I love this question! I'd have to say Anne Hathaway would play me in a movie.
And finally, the question we ask all of our guests - how do you manage the juggle between motherhood and business?
It certainly is a juggle let me tell you! I'm all about providing a high-quality service to my clients and so for me the key is to make sure I don't have too many clients at the one time. I have two little girls, Giselle's almost 6 and in Year 1, and Chloe's 3 and in Kindy. With both being in school it means I have some extra time to work. I also have my Mum to help out with babysitting when I need it (thanks mum you're the best). I also work at night after I've put the girls to bed and I usually get a good 5 hours straight to really focus and get things done. And of course my husband helps out where he can if I need a few extra hours to get some work done. It's all a juggle but I really love it!
About Karen Vivarelli
As a Virtual Assistant, Karen is here to help you get the work done so that you have more time to focus on growing your business and your client base. Think of Karen as your VA in shining armour, ready to whisk your business tasks away and return with the jewels.
Based in Perth, Western Australia, don’t let the west coast fool you – Karen assists business women with digital design and admin tasks right across Australia. Skype or Google Hangouts make a working relationship so simple (plus you don’t have to wear pants… if your camera is set up for a head and shoulders shot!)
Karen loves creative collaborations, business development and seeing the satisfaction people get from quickly crossing off items on their to-do lists.
As a business owner herself, she admires people just like you who have taken an entrepreneurial leap of faith and are juggling so many balls to make it happen every single day.