Online business can be a war zone for ethics and this is partially due to the nature of not actually being face-to-face. You don't see this happening much in the physical products world, you actually see the opposite. You'll notice that businesses are now calling on ethics in their marketing messages by using phrases like "Ethically sourced" or "Fair Trade".
An Online Business Manager, I want to say to all business owners that it doesn't matter if you are face-to-face or not. Everyone should be treated as if they just walked up to your cafe window, and if you come across a business that isn't doing this, feel free to share this manifesto with them.
- Strive to make decisions within your business that are fair to both yourself, your staff and your customers. This means having some boundaries and protecting your biz, and being honest and fair to your customers. If you are late delivering, be honest. If your clients aren't on time, be honest with them as well on how this affects your day.
- Do not steal copy, content or products from other business owners. It's ok to use someone as a muse, it's not ok to directly copy. No one is above the law on this one.
- Only form collaborations with people (staff, contractors, JV Partners) that match my ethics. As the Ethics Coach says, "It's a liability to hire someone not committed to ethical behavior." Even if you aren't technically hiring them, partnerships matter in the ethics department.
- Engage and empower anyone who works within your business. Make sure their job improves the quality of their life and doesn't unnecessarily stress them out. No 2 AM texts unless the world is going up in flames. Everything isn't an emergency to everyone.
- If you accept money from someone only do so knowing that you will deliver. I also suggest protecting your business with a strong refund policy that matches your ethics. Not all businesses should offer refunds, but all should re-evaluate their offering if they get too many refund requests.
- Keep your commitments. Danielle LaPorte presents this well in this video when she says, Do what you say you are going to do. In fact, in my not so perfect past, I was a flake and this video changed my world.
- Please don't pay people or bots to leave fake reviews or testimonials for your business or service. Instead think about offering FREE products or services, in order to obtain HONEST FEEDBACK. Asking friends to try it out and give you honest feedback works too.
In yoga they say that building your core is one of the most important things you need to do in order to keep going. I say, that if you are in business without a strong core, you are just asking the universe for chaos.
Core /kôr/ - The central or most important part of something.
Here is my list of non-negotiables in business aka my core builders. These are probably the ONLY things I believe EVERY single business must do. If you are exchanging money, honey, you need to pay attention.
Ask yourself, are my gates up?
This means paying attention to the legal and financial details that matter. For example: Are you requiring signed agreements in order to work 1:1 with you? Does your website have a terms and conditions that your customers see before they purchase? Do you have a refund policy that is clearly visible? Do I have signed agreements with the contractors/staff I work with?
Many newbies (and oldies who just don't know any better) will just skip over this part. Well, I guess you CAN skip over it but if you do, expect it to come back to you down the line in the form of a payment dispute.
Do you have a safety net?
For the first few months you are in business, you'll most likely be carrying your overhead and not making much money. My rule of thumb is to sock away 1/4 of all payments into a business savings account. Take the other 3/4's and pay taxes, bills/overhead and give yourself a steady paycheck. Your paycheck may be small to begin with but there should always be something you sock away for future expansion. Every single business owner should be doing this.
Here is a little biz secret. Businesses are NOT profitable unless you can pay the bills (taxes and overhead) AND sock money away for future use. Click here for an excellent and easy to understand explanation on this. Just like Stever says, profit is how much money you have left after you get your revenue and pay your expenses.
Another biggie to be aware of is your business Paypal account is NOT your bank account. It's also not for personal stuff. The reason? Well first, it makes it easier for your accounting system (aka Linda in accounting) to do her job. Second, is because the IRS loves to audit small businesses and the bigger the web, the harder it is to untangle from it. Part of putting on your big business pants is getting a business bank account and separating your personal Paypal from your business. It's about finally taking your business serious.
What else falls under my biz non-negotiables list?
- Getting Legal (Licenses, taxes, all the things you should know BEFORE you start.)
- Fences (Agreements for your clients and asking for them from people who provide a service to you.)
- Financials (Banking, cash flow, profit expectations, payments, fees and record keeping.)
- Business Model or Plan. (A post-it note or 10 pager will do, your choice)
If you want to be a magical friggen business unicorn, make sure your core is strong enough to bounce any enemy off your six-pack of business abs.
I may or may not have actual six-pack abs, but you better believe your hiney that my business does.
Every year, around this time, I go through and look at the following things within my business.Read More
Today, a badass copywriter that I know reminded me of a simple, but accurate fact about working from home.
"Interruptions: On average it takes you 23 minutes to get back to the original task."
I've also read that it takes up to an additional 30 minutes to return to the flow of productivity.
Are you struggling with interruptions?
Try this article from the New York Times. It enlightened me on the psychology behind this theory or maybe this one from Inc Magazine about making your workplace a little more private ( works for home offices too ).
Need something with a little more depth? Try 9 Ways to Create Time, Space and Stillness for Meaningful Work from Ernest Barbaric.
Are your interruptions actually people in your house/office?
First, set boundaries. Tell everyone in your home that have set work hours or if you are a creative like me, have a way to notify them that you are working by using a sign or signal. I used to rely on just telling them verbally but we can all guess how well that worked. I would hold conference calls, tell everyone what I was doing, and then 15 minutes later my daughter would bust into the meeting screaming MOM I POOPED. Yes really.
Boundary setting can be tough but it's something every person who works from home has to deal with. This is a great article with practical advice about working from home and setting boundaries. How do I get through this? I struggle, daily, but I make it work by communicating with everyone in my home about how important it is that I have uninterrupted time to work. In the past I tried getting up early or staying up late, and well my 5 year old and I are in such a rhythm that most of the time she just adapts her sleep schedule to mine and it defeats the purpose. If I got up at 4 am, I'd hear the pitter patter of her feet as she ran into my office to see where I was. We've got creaky wooden floors from 1931, I can't get away with much these days.
What about you? Any tips or are you struggling with interruptions as well?
Business begins at the intersection of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and being serious. Business begins at the inception of an idea that you can now sell.
Business begins at the moment you realize that comparing your business to another business, is completely useless.
Business begins at half past your bedtime or in the shower, when your best ideas come to you.
Business begins when you realize your reputation is everything.
Business begins when you are present, and make conscious decisions.
@@Business begins when you are able to do what you love not just what you like.@@
Business begins when you accept that you are in the public eye, no matter how much you try and hide.
Business begins when you take care of yourself, and realize you don't have to be overworked to get things done.
Business begins when you invest, carefully, in the things you need for your business and not the things everyone else needs in their business.
Step back into my life about 5 years and you'll see me working my ass off as a Virtual Assistant (and making peanuts). Fast forward a few years and I made the decision to become an Online Business Manager or OBM for short. Every journey to becoming an OBM is different, and I believe that it's my crazy backstory that make me a great fit for my clients.
There was a time when I wasn't quite ready to be an OBM but because of fear that my VA business would not grow, I moved into the role anyways. I charged too little, and my confidence was low, two things that always seem to go hand in hand. As I realized I had been managing businesses for years, and had helped manage several successful 'departmental' businesses (Information Technology, Office Management and Human Resources in my day job), I finally threw in the towel and fully accepted that I was an Online Business Manager.
Here is my list of what I feel an Online Business Manager is:
- Owners second brain.
- Looks at the big picture, AND the fine details.
- More than just a task ticker.
- Higher level skill-set than a Virtual Assistant.
- NOT paid to say YES.
- Manages projects and staff.
Making the decision to hire an Online Business Manager isn't something you should do on a whim. Quality Online Business Manager's charge between $50 and $150 an hour, and if you find one for less you may want to ask about what types of businesses they've been running before hiring them.
So how do you know when to hire an OBM? First, if you find yourself feeling like your business is in too many bits and pieces, and could use some higher level automating, that is a big clue. The second is if you find that you are in a growth spot and have no idea what to do next. You'll usually find yourself thinking "If I only had someone to bounce ideas off of that really understood all the parts of my business and cared about it as much as I do!"... Yep that's a clue!
One question I get asked about all the time is, what comes first the OBM or the lower level staff? In my opinion an OBM is the first stop in placing the right people within your business. They can help you grow, hire, manage and just generally make shit happen.
This month has been explosive for my business. First, I've (FINALLY) built a dream team of higher level monthly clients, that I've fallen completely in love with. I have room for one more so I've been chatting with my waiting list, and a few other potentials and I think I've made made my decision. In reality, I could take on 10 more (And be pretty well off) but the quality of my work is important to me, and my business model isn't setup to just be service related offerings. I can't trade ALL OF MY HOURS for dollars, so the name of the game is LEVERAGE.
I tend to look at my business as several chunks that make up a whole cookie.
On the creative front, I've booked in three websites this month. I'm excited, and honored to work on these projects. If you want to talk about a future web project, get in touch. More on that later, and for now I have a ton of even more FUN things coming up. Speaking of creative.....
Today I'm featured over at A Freaking Great Company's blog as their Playlist Guest DJ.
Seriously, how freaking cool is this??!?!? See when I said this MONTH was MY MONTH. I meant it. InI was also asked to write for a famous newspaper and I'm just digging to find the time to do all of this!
Whenever I find myself feeling like my walls are expanding, I always try to do a business gut check, which consists of:
- Doing a check in with myself, and my business or marketing plan
- Making sure my decisions in the past few weeks have kept my big goals in mind
- Making sure I celebrated every little accomplishment
- Making sure I learned from every little mistake
- Looking at my work billed, income and spending to make sure it's in balance
Doing this often helps my business so much.
On the last business gut check, I had to make some decisions such as letting go of older clients who didn't fit within my latest business model. It had been over 3-4 years since I had began working with some of them. I carefully approached each one and proposed a future working relationship. I let them know what I wasn't going to be doing work wise, where my rates were going and how our relationship would change. If my business changes weren't ideal for them, as sad as it made me, I needed to go ahead and accept this. This process was heart wrenching for me, and in the past, I would have avoided it and compromised my big goals. Doing this basically lead me to be broke and exhausted. Something I've promised to never ever do again.
So tell me, no matter where you are in your business or blog adventure, do you ever do gut checks? If you don't I highly suggest it. If you do, let me know down in the comments below how they work for you.
Sometimes I can't believe I've managed to get such a cool business off the ground. While it's been pretty bumpy, it's also been 5 years of mad personal growth. Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me of why I do this. I mean, of course it's also because I get to work with some killer people, and make an infinite amounts of money. That's great stuff, but yesterday I locked my whole family out of the house, and let me tell you, it became pretty stressful. While it was happening I went into a panic thinking oh my god what is going to happen while I'm away from the computer ( and my phone was about to die). Then it happened. I realized that I had plenty of room to breathe and deal with it, which was nice.
Five years in and I can tell you that my business looks nothing like it did when I began. I'm stronger, it's stronger, and together we make nothing but pure rock and rock.
Over the summer, I toyed with several ideas of how I thought my business should continue to evolve. I replayed the times I went running from my desk in tears, over and over again in my head. I asked myself, how do I avoid this in the future? The funny thing is, the answer was always inside me. I just didn't have the guts to figure it out.
I've been both the driver, and the passenger in my business, but it's always been my car. Anytime I pulled over to rest, it was well deserved, and even the times I felt like I was going to have a business breakdown, I knew I had to keep going.
Strip it all away and I have worked bloody hard to get here.
[Tweet "'I have worked bloody hard’ - Richard Branson "]
So tell me, right now, right this second, how do you feel about your business?
This is a guilty thought that runs through my brain often. I posted here a few weeks ago and said I'd do income reports monthly, and weekly updates at the very least. Did it happen? Nope.
My income from the blog has been minimal, and it's been mostly because of my lack of posting. You have to have content to have readers, and you have to have readers to make money. Now I'm lucky to still have my readers, so that's a cue to write more.
Why haven't I been posting? Well I have written several drafts and clicked save for later. That counts for something right?
The truth is, I've been happily consumed with paying work and this has changed my focus. In the past I spend most of my days filled with overwhelm, exhaustion, and dread. I was taking on the wrong work, and not focussing on my talents. I gave myself wholeheartedly, as I always do, but sometimes it just wasn't a good match.
So I've decided to let it go, and not in the annoying Frozen song kind of way, I mean for real. I've hired back in one of my bestie's to help me with internal work. I've shaken up my core offering and had a chat with my waiting list to see who was ready for big things. I've also opened back up my creative boutique, and good god it feels amazing. I'm mentoring brave new souls and it almost feels like I'm somehow giving birth to the next generation of big business.
The message in all of this? It's ok to evolve, and it's ok to morph. Both of those things breathe life into your business ( soul, self, whatever you want to come alive ).
About 2 years into my Virtual Assistant stint I realized that I was destined for more. I remember chatting with a friend (mentor really) who grew her biz from being a VA, to a Multiple VA firm, to an Online Business Manager, about how she got where she was. She mentioned Tina Forsyth's book, Becoming an Online Business Manager, and recommended that I have a read. A few days later I bought the book and when it arrived I flipped through anxiously awaiting the wealth of magic I was about to learn. As I read through the book, I ended up not connecting with it and put it down only to let it collect dust.
Fast forward to the future and I was cleaning out a box of business books when I came across it again. I started reading chapter 1 which was titled "To be or not to be" and it hit me. The first time I read the book not only was I not ready for it, I was clearly looking at my business from the wrong angle.
Since then this book has sat on my desk and become a reference for my daily ops as well as my clients. It also serves as a wonderful tool in my mentoring sessions.
When I read the book for the first time I can recall thinking "is this all?" and "I'm already doing this stuff" so I totally blew it off. The truth of the matter was, I may have thought I had all the answers but did not. It actually took me failing as an OBM in order to see those things. Around that time I was juggling the wrong clients, as well as the wrong type of work for the wrong amount of money. I began to dislike all that was my business.
Around that same time I also struggled with combining my business entities into one. I was highly technical, but didn't want to create a stuffy old business. I wanted to be sure everything I was offering was cohesive and something my ideal clients would want. It started with branding and everything just fell into place. I often had to remind myself that I am building my own thing, not copying anyone, so it's OK to do things differently.
[Tweet "I am building my own thing, not copying anyone, so it's OK to do things differently."]
Ok back to the book.....
Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from Tina Forsyth's, Becoming an Online Business Manager.
- Becoming an OBM requires you to ask yourself "How can I help grow this business" rather than "How can I make this business owners life easier". This is 100% true.
- Client's determine where the bus needs to go, it's the OBM's job to make sure we all get there. It's called driving the bus. I'm a bus driver are you?
- All business owners want to make money but most are allergic to managing it. There is an entire insightful chapter on this. All gold.
So if you are looking for a little direction, even if becoming an Online Business Manager isn't in your realm of thinking, this book will help. I pretty much recommend it to any of my Administrative/Executive Assistant, Virtual Assistant, Online Business Manager or Administrative Consultant type friends and clients.
P.S. I have used my affiliate links in this blog, but know I wouldn't promote anything I don't feel 100% confidence in and only promote things I've personally used or experienced.
Jumping in to take a quick look at my business over the past month and I'm quickly identifying a hole. You see business was so good I had zero time to write. Zero time to write means no quality content and probably no increase in traffic. (We'll see!)
I plan to look at the numbers and publish my monthly income report by the end of the week.
In the meantime, I'm going to revel in the fact that I have absolutely the greatest clients on the face of this earth and that my entire course class asked to purchase mentoring sessions from me. I also booked in two additional mentoring sessions and had an absolute blast meeting with the clients. I didn't work any more hours, I just managed to take on the work I love most. Now it wasn't all cake, I did have some really heavy projects I worked on ( some still in progress ) and I'm ok with that too.
One thing I think that happens when you run any kind of business is you can easily get caught up in the daily grind. You can start to feel like you aren't moving enough and it can affect your attitude as well. The truth is if you get a chance to really have a blast and make a difference in people's lives, it stops feeling like work.
No matter if you run a tire shop, or you are a hairdresser, or if you run an online business, you deserve to spend your days doing whatever the hell it is that pleases you most.
Really trying to build habits here. Friday is now my dedicated day to do client reporting ( this is a struggle ) and I've decided to also start reporting back to my readers. So, recap.
Once per month I'll do an income report.
Weekly, most likely on Friday's, I'll do a report of what's going on in my business and what tweaks and changes I'm working on.
I decided to do the weekly thing because on my monthly income report I'm not reporting income related to clients (YET). I realized that I needed to change that or at least find a way to report what I was up to while keeping my clients privacy. I also forgot to add my payment processor fees to the income report so still figuring it all out.
Disclaimer: Due to a few personal things going on, this week isn't one of my typical work weeks. I took some time off to grieve and help support some of my friends who are going through a lot at the moment. Having a business like mine has been wonderful for life events like this. There was no one to 'ask' for time off that I needed. I just had to be sure I was on top of client work and made everything work. At the end of the week I also found out my grandmother is very ill, and this weighs very heavy on me.
So the short update to my short week...
- 1 new 3 month client slipped into an Ontraport support slot.
- 1 freelance gig to write an HR report.
- 13 inquiries about my services or mentoring.
- Contacted all of my waitlist clients for Office Autopilot / Ontraport to get an idea of who wants a slot in Sept. I had originally froze this as many of the people on my list were waiting for the *new release* to be ironed out OR they were going on summer vacation.
- Helped publish 4 client blogs & 2 youtube episodes.
- Helped a client design his Mailchimp.
- Helped come up with a few project plans for live events & webinars.
- Helped a client launch a group coaching course.
- Moved a client website off of GoDaddy and on to a better host.
- Did lots and lots of research on Google Analytics, Keywords and SEO.
- Chatting with my client who is in China working on a cool business venture.
- and much much more.
This week I took a step back and decided to figure out where I could improve my services. It meant doing lots of reading and research
- Implemented affiliate income streams into my website. Can't wait to look at the numbers on this at the end of the month.
- Decided that I will sell ad space on my website. (holla!)
- Committed to writing a book in the next 30 days.
- Had 7 enrollee's for my Gypsy Summer School e-course.
- Created a new e-course.
- Got my guest blog for a major website approved on the first go. (more on this later)
I also refined my summer reading list. I can't believe how many books are on this list now. I need to stop adding more and actually read a few. Best part is I have two amazon accounts and my other wishlist has over 50 books on it.
Here are the latest books that are sitting on my desk:
Mouthwatering Vegan: Over 130 Irresistible Recipes for Everyone (A personal read. The photos just looked amazing!)
I'm working on building my full reading list and I'll share it with you soon. I also plan to review all books that I will be reading.
So there you have it. This was my week, now tell me about yours?
It’s that time again, Big Top Thursday! Where we take a look behind the scenes of a small business, writer or blog. Today's interview has me squealing with delight. I give you Paul Jarvis, bestselling author & web designer!!!
I first heard about Paul Jarvis a few years ago via Danielle LaPorte. He had designed several of her websites and I remember thinking "This is someone I want to remember". I immediately fell in love with his writing style. His writing made me feel like I was sitting in a dimly lit coffee house listening to him speak. His advice is always practical and he
wears writes his heart on his sleeve - as all good creatives should. Aaaaand did I mention he has killer tattoos?
The first book I read by him was "Everything I know" and since I've bought it, I've read it about 10 times over. It's an easy read and I was excited to see that he has a new book out.
Basically I help creatives do better with sales/marketing, even if that isn't their typical jam.
What motivated you to start your business? I wanted to help creatives do business - so I started a web design company. Then I started writing books to help more of them (since I can only work with a few dozen a year for web stuff).
What was the first step you took to start your business? I quit my job as a creative director because I loved the clients but hated my boss (he was also a coke-head but that's another story). I was going to get another agency job, but the day I quit all the clients from the agency called and asked where I was going to work next, since they knew I did all the work. Boom - instant freelancer.
Where do you work from? (Work from home at a desk? Work from Cafe's? Travel the globe?) Spill it! At my house, with my rat buddies in a home office. Sometimes I work at a coffee shop, but I don't tend to like being around groups of people, so mostly from home, by myself.
Tell us, how do you make it all work? (home, work, day job, kids, pets, obscure hobbies... how do you balance it). that's laid out here: http://pjrvs.com/a/productivity
If you could go back in time via the Movie Back To The Business Future, what ONE piece of advice would you tell your newbie self? I'd rather go back in time to give myself a high five. Although that'd create certain irreversible paradoxes in the time-space continuum. So maybe I wouldn't...
Where do you recommend others getting started in your industry turn for help? I have no idea to be honest, I started in the web world when the web started... it's different now so it's hard to say.
What is your most favorite technology related biz tool these days? Our own brains, these possess the critical thinking required to pick whatever tool is best for us specifically :)
Thanks so much Paul for answering my interview questions!
I just got a question from one of my readers and I thought it would make a fabulous blog post. Reader asked: Hey Dani, I'm starting a new blog and everyone keeps telling me to use WordPress. What exactly is WordPress and why should I use it?
Ok let's start off with Wikipedia's office answer..
WordPress WordPress is a free and open source blogging tool and a content management system (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL. Features include a plugin architecture and a template system. WordPress was used by more than 22.0% of the top 10 million websites as of August 2013.
Now here is my non-techy definition:
WordPress is a tool you can use to get a website (or blog) online. It is also considered what people call a CMS, or Content Management System. What is a CMS? It helps you manage the content, aka your writing, photos, video's, images, or whatever you are giving birth to in the world.
How I explain WordPress.org in one sentance?
WordPress.org is my go tool for creating websites and publishing blogs.
My favorite WordPress.org feature?
The numba's, or more specifically how easy it is to see what's happening in terms of readers, clicks and purchases.
You see you don't want to just get a blog or website online. You want to be able to track your progress and implement any other tools you can use to make sure your hard work is paying off.
Getting started with WordPress
Well, you can do like me and just try to piece it all together. Or maybe take a course or two. I'm in the middle of developing a super easy quickie starter course at the moment. If you want to find out more just sign up for my list. I'll be announcing the details soon.
I built my first blog using the now defunct Homestead. It was a hilarious blog that included some music by Tool. Thankfully WordPress makes it super duper easy to get started.
If you want to get started right away I recommended watching a few YouTube vids and then maybe having a chat witha hosting company and buying some space to host your website or blog. I recommend Bluehost for those who are just starting out. More on that later.
This weeks lovelypreneuer is Brandy Morris. I met Brandy through some mutual friends/fb groups we belong to and she immediately stuck out from the crowd. She has the same love for rap and hip hop that I do!
Brandy is a Possibility Scout & Brilliance Instigator. (Is that a cool title or what?!!) Not only is she super witty, she is one smart cookie too. You can find out more about Brandy's business by clicking here.
Tell us a little about your business.
I help service-providing solopreneurs instigate and implement fresh new ways to serve their people. Whether it's amping up offerings in a Dynamite! Service Boost or keeping brilliant minds in check as a Partner-in-Implementation, I am all about helping people find their unique brand of brilliance and then sprinkling that shit on everything.
What motivated you to start your business?
Way too many people mistake their brilliance for common sense! I've always had a knack for showing people how damn brilliant they are and helping them work that goodness to their advantage. Working for other people put restrictions on when and how I could use that skill so I figured it best to start my own biz and make it my main thang.
What was the first step you took to start your business?
Ha! Creating business cards. I ended up throwing away 450 of the 500 I printed because that was *not* the right first step.
Where do you work from? (Work from home at a desk? Work from Cafe's? Travel the globe?) Spill it!
I've got three offices! My main spot is my trusty little home office where I'm surrounded by things that keep me connected to my brilliance. I've also got a portable office that can be set up in my lusciously green backyard (when the bugs aren't too wild) and the Brown Dog Cafe when I need a complete change of environment.
Tell us, how do you make it all work? (home, work, day job, kids, pets, obscure hobbies... how do you balance it).
My to-do list consists only of specific tasks. I keep my big, overarching projects mapped out in Trello and then pull my to-do items from there. It helps me to avoid overwhelm because I don't get wrapped up in the big picture of what's on my plate- my daily list only includes what can happen in a day. Also, I am OBSESSED with the Pomodoro technique. It is amazing what you can get done with 25 minutes of truly focused action.
As for balance,I mapped out 5 areas of my life that I would most like to keep in check: mind, money, spirit, health, and space. I do one small thing everyday to nurture each area.
If you could go back in time via the Movie Back To The Business Future, what ONE piece of advice would you tell your newbie self?
No matter how many blog posts you read and or how many gurus you listen to, you're still going to make mistakes. Might as well get into action and get them out of the way early- you'll learn so much faster this way.
Where do you recommend others getting started in your industry turn for help?
Find a mentor who does business in a way you admire and an accountabilibuddy who is just as driven about creating their dream biz as you are.
What is your most favorite technology related biz tool these days?
Remember my Pomodoro obsession? I use tomato.es to time my sessions. It's super dope! You can log what you work on and look back to see how you're spending your time.
Thanks for sharing Brandy!