Outsourcing Requires Organization

You can’t do everything on your own – and you shouldn’t.  As a solopreneur, you are not looking for employees, your solution is outsourcing.  To get the most out of outsourcing, it requires organization.  You have to be able to keep track of the jobs you have assigned to what people, when the requested work will be completed, how much you paid for the job, etc.  And you will also need to be able to tell the person what you want done, and sometimes that will require step by step instructions.  

I truly believe you will not reach your highest business goals without getting your business organized.  As your business grows, being organized will become even more important, the sooner you get on top of this issue, the better off you will be.  

Online, we use VA’s or Virtual Assistants most commonly for our outsourcing needs.  You can find lots of great VA’s and some that are not so great.  Like anything, you may not find the right person the first try, that doesn’t mean quit, hopefully you will learn something from the experience and you will use that information to make a more informed choice the next time.  The best way to see if you are a good fit with a person you wish to hire, is to start with small tasks, or smaller jobs, as they prove themselves a good fit, then continue to add to their workload as you see fit.   A great way to find a good VA is to ask other solopreneurs who they use and/or who they would recommend, this will often get you a better match with fewer headaches.  And a great place to meet these other solopreneurs is Facebook groups.

In addition to VA’s there are many sites that offer specific services by the job.  Fiverr.com is a site that allows people offer services starting at $5.  Other sites like upwork.com have various levels of service, from individual jobs, to long term commitments.  These sites work best if you are specific in your needs.  If you are vague, you will not likely get the results you are looking for.  If you are looking for research on a topic, be as specific as possible, if you like to include stats, ask them to research stats related to the requested topic.  If you want articles from popular publications and not lesser known places, or vice versa, say so in your instructions.  I have used Fiverr in the past and had mixed results, so I stopped using them, but they have worked on improving the site and I have been meaning to give them another try, so I encourage you to as well.

So, now you have hired someone, now you need to tell them what to do, the easiest way to do this is to already have step by step instructions in place.  For example, publishing a blog post, sounds simple, but there are several steps involved.  I need to have a topic or research a topic, then I need a headline, from there, I actually have to write the blog post.  I like to add images to most of my posts, so after I write the post, I pick out the images I would like to add.  If there are links to be added, I do that right about here.  Then I check the SEO with a plug in I have installed on my site.  I also add my tags and categories, then once everything is done, then I hit the publish button.  So if I was going to have someone help me in this process, I would need to be able to know which steps and so perhaps all I do is the actual writing and I have my VA do all the other steps.  I’m free to do what I do best and they do what they do best.  A win for everybody, but if you aren’t organized, you will not be able to relay step by step instructions and you will likely be disappointed with the results.

As you can clearly see, getting your business organized will help you increase your bottom line and help you to outsource tasks to keep you loving your business.  Please let us know how you do with outsourcing in the comments below.

What’s Going On Behind You?

Have you given any thought to what appears behind you when you are recording videos or making Skype video calls?  These days, you need to be able to go live – and sometimes unexpectectedly.  All too often we are so worried about how we look – am I right ladies? – that we forget to think about how the room looks.  Some great options are to clean and tidy the space, get a folding screen that you use when making videos or even create a permanent backround/recording area.  Just make sure to think about what is behind you before you turn that camera on yourself.

The obvious is to make sure the space behind you within camera range be cleaned up so that you are not embarrassed by what is behind you.  Now if your subject matter is model airplanes and all you see behind you is model airplanes that is fine, if they are all piled up in heaps you may want to fix that, but the idea is that your customers will expect an expert in model airplanes to have model airplanes in his office.  Personally, I talk about being organized or getting organized all the time and right now my back drop includes a shelf of binder folders.  This makes sense for me and my audience, now the bottle of lotion I set down there as I started to write, will be gone when I leave the room too.

Now a nice folding screen can make a great instant backround.  If you have a large space you may want to do this even if the space behind you is neat as a pin.  You can find these a variety of folding screens at places like Amazon and Pier One Imports.  And if you are on a budget, you may be able to find one at a local garage sale or thrift store.  You can even use the screen to advertise your business if you want.  Make sure that what ever you choose is not too busy, you want a simple pattern or solid colors.  Another option is a white board as a screen, you can use it as a prop while talking or just have a message you want to share.  Again, the main idea is to be thinking about what is behind you when you are on camera.

Another option may be to have a specific recording “studio” or area that has a plain wall or minimal distractions.  We, myself included, often forget how mobile technology allows us to be.  We got used to working at the desk in the office and have often transferred that habit to our home based business, now we can change that habit.  Do you have a room that has a great place, that would look great on camera?  Then why can’t you make your video recordings there?   Have fun and get creative, you may have several wonderful spots that can be great for making your videos reflect your message, just remember to watch the light if you are recording near a window.

So, you have a great product to share with your customers, now you will be able to record videos that will look better that all those others that don’t take the time.  I know that you will not always be able to have the perfect back drop and you will just have to hit record on the fly sometimes, but the more you think about this, the more of a habit it will become.  

So share you best or worst video backround story in the comments below.

Are you Comfortable in your Home Office?

You want to be comfortable when you are working at home, but not so comfortable that you are falling asleep.  You want to make sure you have a comfortable chair, good lighting, and a productive environment to work in.  Having a comfortable space to work will help to make you more productive and help you to enjoy your solpreneurship even more.

A comfortable chair is so important when you are sitting in front of the computer or even having a detailed conversation with a customer.   If the chair you are sitting in isn’t comfortable, you want to put this at the top of your wish list.  You will be amazed at how much more you enjoy your office and your business when you have a comfortable chair in your home office.  I had a broken chair for several months and thought, it wasn’t all that bad and I got used to the game of trying to find a comfortable position each time I sat down.  Once I had replaced that chair and could now sit without a “process” I actually enjoyed my office more again.  I hadn’t realized how much it was bugging me until I replaced the chair, so yes it does make a difference.  I know that standing desks are very popular and if that is the way you prefer to work, you still need a comfortable work station set up too.

Lighting can be very tricky to get right.  A common issue for a lot of home based business owner is that we tend to have created our home office in whatever space was available at the time and very often this is in the basement or a corner of a bedroom.  These spaces are all too often dark holes, places that light can’t reach.  If this is the case for you, make sure you take make an extra effort to make sure that you truly have adequate lighting for what you are doing.  Personally, I prefer to work in bright light.  I have and overhead light and also a desk lamp, though in all honesty, I just changed to a new desk lamp and I’m not sure I like the way I have to face the light, so I may be changing again real soon here.

And don’t forget about what is happening around you.  Is your office a corner of living room where all the noise of the house gathers?  Do you have to wait for specific times of the day to be productive?  The environment that you work in can make such a difference.  I prefer to work in quiet, so I can hear the thoughts in my brain, so I don’t work much when my husband is home and awake, he just comes with noise, and I know that.  Some people love to work with music playing in the backround, if so then make sure your workspace allows you to hear the music easily.

Making sure you are comfortable while you are working will make you more productive and happier with your business overall.  While it may not be possible to get your home office set up just the way you want it today, make sure to have a plan to get the most comfort possible out of your space.

Set Office Hours For Your Business

So how does this get your home office organized?  Trust me, it makes a difference.

This is actually one of the hardest task for new solopreneurs.  You started this business so that you could have freedom and now I’m trying to clip your wings by making you commit to office hours.  Say it isn’t so.  

You don’t have to punch a time clock, but you do need to learn when and how you work best and make sure you are working at those times and under those conditions.  For me, I know that I’m a better writer in the morning, so I make sure that I get that done early.  Now, can I write in the afternoon and evening, of course, but it flows easier in the morning before my mind gets cluttered with thought of the day.  Coaching, I’m better in the late afternoon, early evening, so I schedule me clients accordingly.  Does this mean that if I have a client that can only meet in the mornings I don’t accept them as a client, not usually, we make adjustments.  

Okay, so I have writing hours in the morning and coaching hours in the afternoon.  Those are my set office hours, but that is not all the time I spend on my business.  I want you to be flexible with these blocks, but also protect this time you have set for office hours.  This right here will be the hardest thing for you initially, so don’t skip this step.  This is my most often ignored piece of advice, and it may be my best tip.

Now your office hours can also have an effect on your physical working space.  In the example above, I like to write in the morning, so I don’t want my desk placed where the sun is going to come blazing into my eyeballs while I’m trying to inspire to others.  This is how office hours have an impact on your home office organization.  

Another note about office hours while we are talking about this subject, other people will not respect your time working at home if you don’t.  For some reason, if you work from home people seem to assume you have all the free time in the world, but if you don’t actually get work done, then you don’t get paid.  When you have set office hours and you keep to that schedule then you will also teach others in your life to respect your working time too.  

Now if you struggle with time management, a great resource is Time Management Strategies for Entrepreneurs:  How to Manage Your Time and Increase Your Bottom Line.  There are lots of wonderful lessons in the book that will get your time organized quickly.

Draw a Diagram of Your Ideal Home Office

Now if you are artistically challenged like I am the idea of drawing anything strikes fear in your heart, don’t fear, this is very easy.

I want you to dream big here, this should be the home office that allows you to be the most productive version of yourself.  Put down on paper all the elements you want included in your ideal home office.  Don’t limit yourself by money or even by your actual physical space, that will come later.  The reason I want you to put down all everything you want now is so that you don’t start editing yourself before you even get started.  

For example, if you said I have $100 to spend to get my office organized, how should I spend that money to improve my home office.  Now you have a limit to how much you can spend, so your brain is going to think about solutions that are under $100, but if you just let your mind wander without the limits, you will be surprised what you may come up with.  

I will be honest, when we moved last year, my new office space was smaller than in our previous home, so I had to make some compromises and have already had a major rearrangement of furniture, but I made the space work for me.  But I knew in my heart that I really needed a better space to process the books that I sell on Amazon.  Recently, we made some changes in the our home and I now have a space near my office to process my books.  The point is that I figured out how to make due with what I had, but I also knew that I wanted something different, and when the opportunity presented itself, I was ready.  

Having created that ideal plan on paper will give you the ability to see what you need to take care of right away and what can wait.  

So now about that actual diagram.  As I mentioned, I’m not an artist.  When I have a picture in my head and attempt to translate that to paper, I don’t even recognize what it is supposed to be, so I keep my diagrams very simple.  I draw squares and label what the item is supposed to be, and put the square where I want the item.  My squares are not even to proper scale, I have some small items that have squares larger than my actual desk square.  This is not art class and you aren’t being judged on the artistic merit of your drawing.  Another great option here is to use sticky notes.  Write everything down on stickies and then you can easily move them around your “room” as you plan out your space.

Okay, so now you have a good exercise for your mind and you don’t have to become an artist to have a productively laid out home office.  Share your results and/or struggles in the comments below.

Identify Your Home Office Problem Areas

Sounds simple right?  But the truth is we get used to what we get used to.  

I will share an example from my own life.  My last office chair was often used for another seat at the table during family game night.  It ended up being broken, but still usable.  It was like balancing on a top – using the seat of the chair – so I told myself it was like sitting on a Pilates ball, it will work my core.  Haha.  Let just say it was not easy to get comfortable in that chair, so I intended to replace it right away.  I was actually at a Staples store and they didn’t have the chair I wanted, so I just kept using the chair – for almost 9 months.  I had gotten used to the process of finding the “best” spot to balance the seat for maximum comfort, it no longer seemed as uncomfortable, it was just part of my day.  So how many broken chairs are you sitting on?

Take a good, honest look at what you don’t like in your home office and why.  Now, in the example of my broken chair, it was obvious why I didn’t like it – I prefer comfort, but not everything is so crystal clear.  My problem can often be to get started.  Once I get going, I’m good, but if I let myself, I can be an excellent procrastinator.  Instead of writing my blog post, I can clean my bathroom, do a load of laundry, take the dog for a walk, rearrange furniture, you get the idea.  And I tell myself it’s okay because I’m getting stuff done.  

So the problems can be physical or mental struggles as well.  Sadly, our culture has helped to become great identifier of problems, but not very good at solutions.  I want you to be able to get rid of those problem areas for good, so dig a little deeper, don’t just write down the obvious, be  honest with yourself.  You are your own worst critic, so use that critical voice and let it run free, but for every problem there has to be a why or a solution.  Even if you can’t come up with a solution, if you identify the problem with a why, the answer will come, whether from within yourself or from an outside source, and you will know it when you see it. Because you had identified the problem and why it was a problem, the solution will be easier to identify.  

So this is all still part of the planning process, don’t get discouraged, you’re changing your mind just by doing this exercise, and this will have longer term benefits than if you had just bought a new filing system.  Don’t get me wrong, you may need a new filing system, but until you can see the big picture, you can’t create a lasting result.  Try to have fun with all your problems, they can be silly problems too – like I don’t like that my office window allows me to see my dog do his business, but I do love my large window that looks out into my backyard.  This a a problem I have no immediate solution for, but I have identified the problem, so eventually a solution will come.

Oh and by the way, I did get me an awesome new office chair that is so comfortable – I’d love to know if there are any problem areas I can help you with – just leave a comment below.

Schedule the Time to Get Organized

This is really your first organizing test.  To make the time to get organized takes a bit of organization and more than a bit of commitment.  

Now, before you add the time to your calendar, I want you to think about the size of the project you’re committing to and how you work best.  If you have years worth of paper to go through, you may not be able to do it all in a day, especially if you insist on going through every single one, so you may need multiple days.  If you need to move furniture, you may need assistance, so make sure to schedule time when you will have help, not an afternoon when you are home alone.  And if you know you will get bored after 1 hour of sorting through stuff, then schedule several appointments with yourself to get the job done.  And really don’t force yourself to sit at a task for 8 hours when you know your mind quit at 1 hour, that is a real waste of your time.

So now that you have put some thought into how much time you will realistically need and how best to schedule your time, you can are ready to make the commitment to your calendar.  

Don’t forget to check in with yourself and make adjustments as needed.  This is where people really get lost in the organizing process.  You make a plan and then you execute the plan – right?  Yes, and no.  So I want you to have a plan, but don’t be rigidly committed to the plan if it isn’t working for you, but don’t use this as an excuse, not to get organized.  Have I lost you yet?  Be committed to the time and the tasks, but if you find that 1 hour sessions really dip after 35 minutes, then maybe 2 30 minutes blocks of time during the day is better than one long hour session.  If you find that you moved your physical layout around and now the sun is in your eyes during your best working times, move the desk again.  

Don’t stick with a plan that isn’t working, but don’t abandon your goals either.  I know that once you start to see results it will help to motivate you to do even more.  Please share how you are doing with the scheduling time to get organized in the comments below.

Make a Decision to Get Organized

Getting organized is a great idea and I commend you for making the decision to get started, now I want to make sure you reach your organizing goals.

Since you have come to a website about organizing you realize that you have an area or areas that need improvement.  You already know that being unorganized is costing you time and money.  But did you know that if you don’t work on your mindset along with making the actual changes, you are very likely to end up with the same piles of clutter and maybe even more – you know like when you go on a crash diet and end up weighing even more than before you started the diet – your clutter will do the same thing.  

Your clutter is just a physical (and sometimes digital) sign that there is a problem.  So while you need to fix the problem, you first need to identify the problem.  Sometimes the answer is as simple as adding a [simple solution].  But if the problem is reoccuring or is reflective of other areas of your life you really need to look past the pile of papers and find out what is really underneath.

So now you know that making the decision to get organized is a great first step, but you also need to commit to looking for “deeper” solutions.  Spend some time paying attention to when you add to that pile of clutter, what sort of items are they?  Do they not have a permanent home?  Are you unsure if you need to keep an item or if you can just throw it away?  Has this pile of stuff just become a habitual dumping place?  Looking at our habits can be a great way to identify what needs to be changed.  One of my favorite books on the subject is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.   It may help you discover why you struggle with your current habits.

Another way to identify problem areas is to pay attention to your wishful thoughts. You know that little voice that says “I wish…”  as you go throughout your day.  For example, if every time you sit down at your desk and your think “I wish I had a more comfortable chair.” We all have these thoughts all the time and often dismiss them, but they provide us with so much information, don’ t just let them go anymore.  Now, I’m not suggesting that you will fulfill every single wish, I’m telling you to pay attention to the wishes, you will ultimately have to decide what “wishes” to fulfill and which ones remain with the fairy dust.  

So you need to pay attention to your habits and your thoughts and you will be so much better served when you actually get to the actual task of organizing.

A Planner with a Purpose

So this is my 3rd year using Leonie Dawson’s Shining Year Workbook Planners – and I love them more and more each year.

2017 Shining Life Workbook Set

2017 Shining Life Workbook Set

These planners are so much more than planners.  Leonie calls them workbooks, and they really work.  The basic premise of the books is that you review the previous years success and failures and then use that information to plan the upcoming year.  I used these planners last year and attribute using them to being able to buy our own house this year.

Can I just tell you, the planners are even better this year than last year.  The artwork is always amazing, and inspiring.  Leonie is great at using color and words to keep you inspired.  There are 2 options for the workbooks, Life and Biz, you can order one or the other or both, as you can see in the picture, I got both :).

Just to give you an idea about the level of detail, just look at the packing tape:ld-planner-packing-tape

 

Can you see it?  And each year she has improved the planners, this year they still maintain great quality and are lighter in weight, so easier to be able to use on the go.  I actually pre-ordered my set in July, so I was able to get mine if the first shipment, and she does usually run out each year, so if you want yours, don’t wait. Click here to get your own.

This is inside the Life Planner:

ld-inside-shining-life-workbook

 

Isn’t is welcoming – don’t you want to create you own Shining Life?

She created these workbooks for herself several years ago, and others noticed and wanted it too, so the workbooks were born.  As I mentioned above there have been improvements, and additional products each year, so that is a real bonus.

Hint, Hint – these will make great gifts also.

Oh, 1 more thing – included with both the Biz and Life workbooks is a wall calendar.

ld-2017-wall-calendar

 

 

ld-wall-calendar-top

 

As you can see the wall calendar is large, and supports all the work you will be doing in the workbooks.

I hope you love these as much as I do.  Enjoy.

Please comment below when you get your own copy.

 

Oops – I Missed Posting Yesterday

As you may or may not have noticed, I did not post here on this, as I had promised to do for 30 days in a row.  But the truth is, I totally forgot.  My stepson arrived last night for a 2 week visit, the house was full of family, and even though it was an early night, it never once crossed my mind.  This morning though, I suddenly remembered that I had a mental plan to write a post, and then came home and just like that poof – all thoughts just vanished into thin air.

But you see I’m right back here, admitting to my humaness, and getting right back in the saddle so to speak.  I would have loved not to have missed my first blog post on the 3rd day, but it happened, and I know the perfectionist in me says, I have failed and I need to start over or just abandon the idea.  I’m not doing any of those things.

Honestly, when I realized I had missed the blog post, I was going to try to write a post this morning and another one tonight, as a way to stay on track, but it didn’t happen.  I had other plans for today, and while my blog posts are important, it wasn’t so important that it needed to disrupt my other work.  What that really means is, this is the only blog post for today.

I also had prepared a list of topics to make sure that I had something to say for 30 days, and when I read over what I planned for yesterday, I found I was having trouble warming to my topic.  I had no idea why I choose that topic, so maybe I was having an SEO moment and found a commonly searched term, but it wasn’t me, so maybe I didn’t just forget, maybe I forgot on purpose.

What I really want you take from this confession is that you don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to keep moving.

I’ll be back with a new post tomorrow and I hope you finish what you start.

Be sure to share any struggles or comments in the section below.