So, what is a mentor and why do you need one? This is the topic of discussion today. Read the article or go to the bottom of the article to listen to the audio recording. You cannot know everything there is to know about how to get where you want to be in life. Am I right?
While it’s possible to learn the needed skills, this will take time and likely a lot of money. Instead, what if you had someone (or a group of people) who can help guide you to success? Wouldn’t you like that opportunity?
So, What Is A Mentor?
A mentor is someone who currently is where you want to be in your business. The relationship you have with a mentor can be an official one, or it can be informal such as following in the footsteps of someone you admire. Mentors have experience and have gone through the growing pains towards business success. They will know what kinds of training you may need help with or skills to develop.
What Do They Actually Do?
A mentor can give you needed feedback on what you are doing right and wrong during your development. This kind of advice is invaluable. Likewise, you don’t want a mentor who will hold back.
Make sure you give them full permission to be completely honest with you. Most worthwhile mentors will have no problems doing this for you. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but you will be better off than having a mentor who sugarcoats your progress. That won’t help you in any way, I know this from experience.
How You Should Choose One
The mentors you choose should have the experience or skills you desire to learn. Be sure to ask lots of questions about what they expect from you and ask what you can expect from them. This expectation is extremely important. Otherwise, you won’t have any means of knowing whether the mentoring relationship is working.
If someone you are considering to mentor you take issue with you asking these questions, this is a sign they may not be right for you. It can also be more difficult to sever the relationship once it has begun so remember that.
Paid or Free – You Decide
Should you pay for mentors? It depends on what you currently have available at your disposal. Also, what you intend to receive from this kind of arrangement. If, as previously mentioned, there is someone who can act in a mentor capacity and they are willing to do this for free, then consider doing it.
On the other hand, paying for someone to help you lets you hold them accountable. This is a crucial aspect of mentoring. Without it, you could be spinning your wheels, going nowhere. You don’t want to waste time as the entire reason to take on a mentor is to save time in getting you further in your development.
If you are looking for a mentor, I offer 1×1 mentoring services. Go here to look at what I offer and how you can get started.
Listen to the audio version of this article below:
You’ll hear people refer to routine as being dull or boring. It implies that life is the same from one day to the next. However, routines are a great way to get your work done.
It’s also a great means for teams to work together towards a common goal. When everyone has an understanding of what needs to get done, i.e., what routines each team member needs to perform, projects tend to run smoother.
We also have routines in our society. In some ways, laws can be considered routines. You know that you aren’t supposed to run a red light and that can be thought of as a routine.
When you come to a red light, you stop as best as you can. There may be instances when you accidentally go through one here or there. But, most people will stop for red lights. And this is good to reduce accidents.
You set up routines for your kids in the form of chores. You know that certain tasks need to get done each week. Many parents tie their kids’ allowances to these chores. When the kids finish their chores, they receive their allowances. It teaches the kids a work ethic. They need to perform tasks, and when they complete those tasks, they receive money for them.
When you pay bills, you tend to have a routine for this. Some people like to get everything sorted on one day and pay all the bills on that day. Others will pay them whenever they receive them. Others, still, will set up their payments to be paid automatically by their bank or brokerage.
There isn’t a right answer for how to do this. Whatever works for you is the right answer. However, the method you choose will be routine.
Contrast this to people who don’t have routines to manage their lives. They tend to handle tasks when the mood strikes them. These people are usually late with their bills and have messy environments. Some of these people will say that this way of life works for them. However, for most people this is chaos. It’s something that can easily be avoided by setting up routines for the tasks you need to complete.
Of course, people are not robots. Hence, they do break up their routines on occasion. You may use weekends to do activities that you don’t get to do during the workweek. Also, many families use vacations to help break up their routines.
How do you create routines for yourself? Do you have them? If not, you should acquire some routines, especially for your business. It can be as easy as what days of the week you do your invoices and banking. Keep it simple but make them a routine. You will thank yourself for this later.
There are a few things many online business owners struggle with and onboarding is one of them. So, we are going to discuss things to know about onboarding clients so YOU don’t struggle.
Just like the word “funnel,” this can mean different things depending on where someone is in the process. Onboarding new customers? Or long-term clients? Onboarding potential clients or prospects?
It can be confusing, but here are just a few ways to sharpen up your onboarding processes:
* Keep Your Promises – If you say something, not only should you do it and stick to it but you should also do it a little better than they expected. Don’t promise an easy refund and then make it hard. Don’t promise a “complete” anything that is not really complete. You want your new customers to trust you at your word, and the only way they can do that is by example.
* Respond Quickly – When a customer has a question, you need to answer them as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have an answer to the question, you can let them know that you’re researching it and you’ll get back to them in a defined time.
* Show That You Care – Whenever you can do just a little thing extra to let your customers know you care, you should. For example, why not collect phone numbers and call everyone who purchases your biggest product or package? You should do this within the first couple of weeks to ask them how it’s going?
* Price Your Products or Services Simply – Don’t confuse your audience by giving too many choices on prices and services or projects. Stick to a few simple ideas and steps. Your customers will be more likely to convert. Have only 3 to 5 package choices. Too many and it gets confusing.
* Make the Sign-Up Process Simple – The fewer steps you have in your onboarding process, the better. You don’t want your audience to get upset about what you’re putting them through to become your customer. Make it as easy as possible.
Relationships are the MOST important thing in this business. If you follow these best practices, you’ll be able to maintain your relationships with your customer and learn more about them so that you can create even more solutions for them. After all, as we all know, it’s a lot easier to keep a client or customer than to get a new one.
Check out our course on Relationship Marketing. It will help you make decisions for your business growth for your future.
Have you legally protected your freelance business? It’s a question that can send shivers down the most seasoned freelancer’s spine. In a previous FreeU blog post, we discussed ways to help prevent late or missed payments from clients. We also provided strategies for dealing with clients who don’t pay on time or have not yet paid you.
And we talked about how New York City became the first city in the United States to protect independent contractors and freelancers from these types of nonpayment situations. A recent Freelancers Union article celebrates the second anniversary of the “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act and invites freelancers who have successfully filed a claim to share their stories.
But not all of us are protected by a law like this, and nonpayment situations are not the only things we need to guard against. The number of freelancers has grown by 3.7 million in the United States over the last five years, according to the 5th annual “Freelancing in America” study, but it’s still up to us to do as much as we can to safeguard our businesses.
With that in mind, here are five ways you can legally protect your freelance business:
*Please note that this blog post is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Consult the laws of your particular region and contact a lawyer for specific advice.
“If you use a website or blog to promote yourself and your work, you need to make sure that you have legal protections in place. This is often the first place where potential clients will stop, so you want to give them a solid first impression and show them that you are a professional who is on the up-and-up regarding the legal side.”
“At its core, GDPR is a new set of rules designed to give EU citizens more control over their personal data. It aims to simplify the regulatory environment for business so both citizens and businesses in the European Union can fully benefit from the digital economy.”
If you collect data from clients or customers operating within the EU, you’ll need to make sure your website is GDPR compliant.
CHOOSE YOUR BUSINESS REGISTRATION WISELY.
In our Freelance 101 course, we discuss how to build your personal brand and set up your business structure. As FreeU co-founder and instructor Craig Cannings says, your personal brand “Determines the distinctive way you want to be perceived and remembered by others.” It also “sets you apart and makes you unique in the Freelance space.”
To protect this uniqueness, register your business name and consider trademarking it. As Nellie Akalp explains in an article titled “4 Key Tips for Legally Protecting Your Business,” it’s important to check whether the business name you’ve chosen is legally available to use. For example, in the United States, you can do a trademark search to see whether anyone else has trademarked a particular business name. You can also do a name search to make sure it isn’t already being used by another company in your state. She explains, “Registering your name allows you to operate your business under that name in the state legally, and it ensures no other business can use your name in your state.”
When choosing a business structure, you must determine whether you’d like to register as a sole proprietor or incorporated business. Our Freelance 101 course gives a comparison of the two structures. In a sole proprietorship, “YOU are the owner and personally liable for the business,” but in an incorporated business, “shareholders in a corporation are not liable for corporate debts.”
“An LLC and corporation, on the other hand, establishes your business as an entity separate from you the owner. Your personal assets and liabilities are independent of those of your business. So, in the event your business can’t pay its bills or gets sued by a client, your personal bank account, home, retirement funds, etc. will have some protection.”
But in an article titled “Branding Yourself: Why Freelancers Need a Personal Brand,“ Xavier Morales, Esq. warns that an LLC “doesn’t offer umbrella protection for your brand.” Consequently, he recommends trademarking both your logo and business name by registering them separately.
DETERMINE WHETHER YOU NEED A BUSINESS LICENSE.
This section of our blog post will be shorter than the others because business licenses are not always needed. It depends on what type of service you provide. A Freshbooks article titled “Freelancing 101: 7 Legal Documents All Freelancers Need” recommends checking with your city, county, or state’s websites to determine what permits or licenses are required. It explains,
“Business permits and licenses come in many different forms. In some areas, you may be required to have a general business license from your city or county to run a company. In other cases, your profession may dictate your licensing requirements – plumbers, contractors, estheticians, and accountants are just a few of the freelance occupations that require a permit to demonstrate proficiency.”
In my home province, I’m able to go on the provincial website, indicate what city or municipality my business operates in, enter a keyword to describe my business, and then select from a number of permits or licenses that may apply to me. If you’re unsure of whether your business needs a license, check your local website for more information.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT TYPE OF INSURANCE FOR YOUR BUSINESS.
When it comes to insurance, there are many companies and many different options. I recommend doing research in your area and sitting down with an insurance expert to determine what’s best for your business.
If you’re renting an apartment, you may need to include terms in your tenant insurance giving you permission to conduct business on the premises. If so, the insurance agent could ask whether you’ll have clients on-site and whether you’ll have merchandise on site. For example, a guitar teacher may have clients come over to her apartment for lessons, but a freelancer or virtual assistant can conduct business through video chat or by meeting at a coffee shop. You may need to ask for special insurance if clients will be coming to your house to do business, or if you’re selling merchandise.
Some other terms to consider including in your insurance policy are
Professional Liability Insurance (a.k.a. Errors and Omissions insurance) General Liability Insurance Commercial Property Insurance Cyber Liability Insurance
As an example of Professional Liability insurance, the Insureon website says a client could sue a web designer, claiming that a project was delayed by errors in technical plans and resulted in lost revenue. Professional Liability insurance could then pay for an attorney and judgments if the case is lost, even if the designer didn’t make an error.
Similarly, Cyber Liability insurance can protect you from a data breach lawsuit if you collect sensitive customer data and your electronic data is stolen. As the article says, the type of work you do will determine the type of coverage you need, and letting your potential clients know you are insured can give you an “edge over your competitors.”
PROTECT YOURSELF THROUGH YOUR CLIENT AGREEMENT.
In a moment of naivete, I once asked a client, “Would it be better for you if I have a contract?” To which she wisely replied, “Actually, the contract will benefit you.”
“A contract is not a guarantee that nothing bad will happen or that you are absolutely guaranteed to get paid (always a big concern!) but they can certainly help you to avoid issues and resolve disputes. Worst case scenario: if either of you needs to take legal action, the contract can be good evidence of what you both agreed to at the outset.”
Consult a lawyer for more detailed advice on what to include in your contract. For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll highlight the following elements to consider including:
Payment schedule Termination Copyrights Ownership of Ideas
Creating a payment schedule can help prevent nonpayment situations. For example, my contracts typically state my rates, when I’ll invoice the client, and when the client’s payment is expected.
A termination clause can prevent you from being left high and dry by a client, or give you an escape hatch if you’re in an unhealthy client relationship. You can decide how much notice will be given for the contract to be canceled by either party.
Copyrights and ownership of ideas are especially important for freelancers who do creative work. An article titled “The Complete Guide to Freelancing” stresses that it’s important to specify who owns the work once it’s finished. Do you own it? Does your client own it? Can you display examples of the work in your portfolio? Consult the copyright laws of your region for more information.
In his article, “Essential Clauses All Freelancers Must Remember About Copyrights,” Abdullahi Muhammed warns that unfortunately, it’s impossible to protect ideas with copyright. For example, if you talk about an idea for an article with a potential client, you can’t prevent them from using your idea with a different writer. So, the key is to be careful about pitching your ideas before securing the project.
And there you have it – five ways to legally protect your freelance business. This is not an exhaustive list, but a guide to inspire your research so you can determine whether you’re doing all you can to protect yourself.
Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments below. What tips or strategies have you used to legally protect your business as a freelancer or virtual assistant?
Coming up with a name for your virtual assistant business can be stressful and agonizing for some people. You brainstorm and come up with ideas, but nothing seems right to you.
You want something that reflects you personally as well as your business and what you do. It’s this big, important thing. It will be the name of your website and social media profiles. You’ll write it on tax forms, business plans and your email signature. So you want it to feel and sound good.
And, for most virtual assistants, this will be the beginning of it all for you, the way that people will come to know you and your business.
So, it’s only natural that it’s a place where many VA’s become stalled when it comes to setting up their virtual assistant business.
Don’t make it so hard and here are some great tips for you:
Know the rules and laws
Your business structure and where you are located may affect what you use for a business name, such as using part or all of your own name or certain terms. Make sure to check first. Better safe than sorry.
Don’t make it too hard
Don’t use something that’s too hard to spell. People will find it difficult to find you and your website. Just because you know how to spell it, if it’s not a common word or phrase, others may type it wrong when searching for you.
Play with words that relate to your services
Consider using a name that relates to the services you provide for your clients. Use a thesaurus to come up with different words that have the same meaning.
I didn’t want to use my name so I took the term, “Executive Functioning,” and put a spin on the words. Executive Functions, simply put, is a term used for the cognitive skills a person needs in order to plan, organize and complete tasks. My business name is “The Functioning Executive”. I function in a support role to busy executives!
Don’t pigeonhole yourself with a name
While I do encourage you to brand your business based on your services, don’t niche the name down too much. For example, maybe right now you offer social media services. That’s your main focus. So you call your business Susan’s Social Media Boutique.
Six months into working with clients, you decide that you are really much better at—and love—project management. But your business name says “Social Media.” Now you need to start a full rebrand, purchase a new domain name, and possibly pay to change some business paperwork.
It’s not that you CAN’T change your name. It’s certainly not impossible. But it’s best to think ahead about your business plans and goals, and create a name that encompasses that.
Focus on the outcome of what you do for clients
What kinds of results do your clients get from working with you? Think about physical as well as emotional outcomes. If they can relate, they’ll want to know more about you and be interested in working with you.
My business name is Virtual, At last! As in “my business is goin’ virtual, at last!” I decided on it since it has the word “Virtual” and I figured it might be good for SEO. I also wanted my clients to feel relieved and thankful that their business is finally launched online; my customers are usually non-tech savvy female entrepreneurs. It represents the feeling of triumph after all the hard work.
I started by writing down all the words that I wanted to be associated with my business. When I think back on it now, it was really a list of values that I wanted my business to be founded on.
Then I started thinking of experiences I had in the past when dealing with service providers and wrote down the good and the bad about those experiences – those were mostly emotions of how the experiences made me feel.
After that, I looked at the lists and started to think about how I wanted my future clients to feel when they interacted with me and worked with me. I want them to have a unique and specialized experience, because we are all different in what we need/want/desire for our businesses.
Keep it simple- Use your name or initials
If you’re really struggling and nothing sounds right to you, then keep it simple and use your name, initials or some variation of that. Again, just keep in mind the rules and regulations for where you live. In Georgia where I live, if you’re a sole proprietor, you don’t need to register the name if using your own name in your business name. In other states, however, if you brand your business with your name, you can’t sell it in the future.
Here’s what Jessica Scotten, Owner at Pineapple Relations, had to say about this when she was coming up with her business name:
I have no idea if I want to sell in the future, but future me can’t make decisions like that today, so I’ll plan on being prepared.
Never underestimate the power of a great tagline
If you decide to use a simpler name or your own name, use a tagline to explain more about what you do. Sometimes coming up with the tagline makes figuring out the business name easier.
And, if you change up your services or your market over time, you can tweak the tagline to match while keeping your business name the same.
Make sure the name is available
When you come up with something, Google it and perform a business name search to make sure it’s not already being used. Then search to see if the domain is available.
Here is how Julie Hoflin, Owner at Your Versatile VA, handled it when setting up her business:
I checked the free trademark search websites to ensure it wasn’t already trademarked in either the US or Canada, and once that was done, I officially registered the name in my province. In my jurisdiction, by registering the name legally, a deeper trademark search is completed and I felt so much better knowing if/when granted, I could rest assured I wouldn’t suddenly be told to stop using this name after investing time, money and effort into branding and establishing my biz under this name.
So there you have it. My best tips for coming up with your virtual assistant business name. If you’re working on your name, or if you’ve already established your business, comment below and share your process!
I want to give you one more reminder to always check the laws for your area—depending on your business structure and location, different rules may apply when it comes to naming your VA business.