My Blog

“Will we still be writing in approaching years, stifling yawns on Sundays as the weekend disappears?”
– Elton John

I Can’t Take it Any More! Or Can I?

It’s been a rough couple of years.  In every way.  My business nearly fell apart (more than once), I continued to battle health issues, my personal life rivaled any soap opera, and I said goodbye to a family member.  And in all that, I neglected my business, which lead to my business nearly falling apart…etc…etc…

This morning I lost a client.  And it hurt.  And I got scared.  And I cried.  All in the space of 2 hours.  And somehow I knew, I would pick myself up, stand tall, and keep on working the program.  But here’s the thing – I forgot the program.  It’s been a while since I worked it.  I’ve been focused on doing client work, and that’s only a small part of our business.  I’ve heard a statistic a few times that says only 25% of our work is billable.  Which means there are advantages to “going Corporate.”  I’ve been considering it myself.  And I still have this inner debate.

So what does mean for you, the reader?  Why read my tale of woe?  You’re a busy person.  OK – here’s why.  Chances you have been in the same place.  And I’m guessing that you sat down, re-worked your program, and implemented it.  And hopefully it worked for you.  So I’m doing the same thing.  And I wanted to thank you for all your blog posts, newsletters, social media posts, and any other way you made the effort to connect with me.  You’re my inspiration.  And I will be returning the favor.

3 Ways to Professionally Re-introduce Yourself

Hi there! I haven’t blogged for a while, and it’s good to be back. Blogging is fun (thank you, Tai Goodwin), it gets the creative juices flowing, and keeps me connected with great people. So the question is, if it’s so much fun to blog, why have I been away for so long?

Earlier this year I ran into a few health issues. Actually, they ran into me and knocked me on my rump. Not only did they take a physical toll on my body, they threw me for an emotional loop. Many days, all I could do was stay in bed (FYI – daytime TV is as bad as it ever was). I was 100% there for my clients, but everything else took a back seat. And like a lot of cars, that back seat had more and more stuff piled on it every day.

So what’s the point of this blog? It’s definitely not to gain sympathy! I’ve always been independent and strong. I knew I would get through this. But as with most life situations, there are a few very important life lessons that I learned regarding maintaining sanity through crisis. I’d like to share them with you, and I hope you find them useful.

1. Calendar everything. Yes, everything. It’s a great way to instantly see if you’re taking on too much in any one area. It also takes away the concern of forgetfulness. Dealing with health issues can make your life extremely busy. There’s doctor appointments, picking up prescriptions, home care (in my case, it was doing my physical therapy exercises)…etc…all that stuff takes time! Allow yourself that time, and calendar it into your schedule.

2. Take it slow. For the first couple of weeks, I assumed I could go at my normal pace. My body, however, disagreed – and told me so in no uncertain terms. By mid-day, I was completely wiped out and in a lot of pain. It’s kind of hard to be at your best when your body is screaming at you at the top of its lungs.

3. Be authentic. Let people know why you can’t attend their event, or why you need to postpone a meeting. Don’t whine about it, though. Take a “matter of fact” approach. Tell them you’d like to attend, but you’re having some health issues and can’t commit to anything right now. And let them know that you’ll tell others about their event via social media. A quick Facebook share or a re-tweet goes a long way with goodwill.

Interestingly enough, I didn’t feel the need to share my situation with clients. I was continuing to manage my client workload (client work was pretty much all I did). I kept this on a “need-to-know” basis. It’s possible to be authentic while still not disclosing to everyone.

So there you have it – life lessons regarding handling health issues (or any crisis, for that matter). As for me, I’m glad to be back. And I’ve been mentally writing this blogpost for a few months now. I just didn’t have the energy to type it and post it until recently (self-care is a good thing!) I’d like to hear your thoughts and comments – please feel free to share!

Three Ways to Get Your News from Twitter

A couple of years ago, we never would have thought news websites would be passé. But more and more, ‎people are turning to social networking sites such as Twitter to get real-time news and information. I’ve ‎had people ask me how that’s possible (hashtags). I’ve heard people say they don’t care what someone ‎three states away is having for lunch (the restaurant cares). And I’ve heard people say that Twitter is a ‎passing fad (like television). I admit that barely a year ago I was in that last group. Now it’s become my ‎first – and favorite – source of news.‎

So how does tweeting work? Let’s look at three strategies you can use to get up-to-the-minute ‎information about news, events, and the best deals in your neighborhood.‎

‎1.‎ Use “hashtags.” No, it’s not something you can get arresting for smoking. Hashtags are how ‎people on Twitter (Tweeple) find others with common interests/concerns. A hashtag is simply a word or ‎phrase (no spaces) with a pound sign in front of it. Hashtags are searchable on Twitter, and you can see ‎what everybody is saying about that particular topic. For example, the city of Minneapolis (where I live) ‎recently was hit with multiple tornadoes. By going into Twitter and searching #tornado I found that a lot ‎of people were using the hashtag #mnstorm. I clicked on that hashtag and I was able to get news and ‎information from people who witnessed the storms first-hand.‎

‎2.‎ Look at “trending topics.” I’ve heard people say they found out about Michael Jackson’s death ‎because all of a sudden he was a trending topic. Trending topics are subjects or people that have suddenly ‎become very popular in the Twitterverse (the Twitter universe). High-interest breaking news, whether it be ‎political, social, or entertainment, will be a trending topic.‎

‎3.‎ The “lunch thing.” You don’t care what the guy in the next cubicle wants for lunch? The nearby ‎restaurants care. And if cubicle guy sends a tweet like “hungry 4 #lunch 8th & Nic Mpls any ideas ‎‎#mplslunch” (see the use of different hashtags?), the nearby restaurants that are following the same ‎search strings or hashtags are going to tweet some coupons or specials his way. Don’t forget, Twitter is organic. The ‎way it’s used is determined by the users. Hopefully, after ‎his lunch he’ll tweet “#lunchbyjoe #mplslunch gr8 svc & food tkx 4 coupon” – and that tweet will be seen by other people who are looking for a good lunch in Minneapolis. No restaurant owner, or any business owner for that matter, can buy that kind of publicity.

Meanwhile, I’m going to twalk to my tweeple. One of my tweeps – @taigoodwin – posted a comment on Twitter, and she’s so brilliant I had to do a RT and reply.

Next up – RT, follows, and @mentions. If you don’t understand what that means, it’s ok. You will, I promise.

Find me on Twitter at @SherylSnitkin. Bye for now!

Five Ways to Manage Your Projects

As a small business owner/solopreneur, you welcome the ‎opportunity to collaborate with other professionals. However, sometimes you might be overwhelmed ‎by project deliverables. The more you take on, the more time seems to escape you. Proper planning ‎and time management will help alleviate a lot of that stress. Here are a few tips to gain control of your ‎projects – and your time.

1. Look at the project in its entirety. Plan your timeline from the end ‎date to the beginning. What materials and information will you need? When will you need it? What ‎resources do you need?

2. Calendar everything. What do you need to do and when? Add ‎tasks to your calendar reminding you to get the materials, information, and resources you need for the ‎project. Don’t get caught saying “I forgot to get/do that.”

3. Allow people enough time to ‎provide you what you need. Don’t catch someone at the last minute with an urgent request. ‎‎

4. Allow for the “25% rule.” If you think it will take you an hour to write something or ‎compile data, allow 1 hour and 15 minutes on your calendar.

5. Excel is a great tool to keep a ‎project on task. You can create a nice Gantt chart in Excel. Alternatively, you can outsource it to a ‎Virtual Assistant!

As administrative experts, we can get things done quickly and efficiently – ‎allowing you to focus on your clients on a level that will amaze and delight them. Are you ready to ‎‎“wow” your clients?

The Benefits to Paying it Forward

One of the great things about being an AssistU virtual assistant is the incredible community. We share best practices and support each other professionally and personally. Although I’m a home-based solopreneur, I’m never alone.

As a newbie graduate in 2009, I looked up to the more experienced VAs. They had thriving businesses, seemed to know everything about everything, and were more than willing to share their expertise and ideas. One of the ways they did this was with the AssistU Internship program. A new graduate has a full year to participate as an intern working with a Senior VA.

Fast forward to 2011, and I’m now a Senior VA! I’ve put in my application for an intern to help me with my business. The eight-week, unpaid program allows a new grad to learn new skills while observing how an experienced VA successfully runs a business.
I don’t know yet who my intern will be. I know that we have an amazingly talented group of newbies in our community. I’m compiling a project list and looking forward to learning how to be a great Senior VA!

It’s All Good!

What can I say?  I’ve been busy and life is good.  I was at a GLBT conference most of last week, making great business connections and learning lots of great stuff.  Bonus – I met some pretty incredible people!  The GLBT community is a strong target market for me, in honor of my moms who were together for 40 years before one of them passed on.  The work I do for GLBT businesses and GLBT advocacy organizations is my way of keeping my moms’ legacy going.  They were pioneers in the gay rights movement in the late 60s and early 70s, and I’m so very proud of them.

Now I’m at a retreat in Central Minnesota, connecting with some amazing women business owners and getting a lot accomplished.  We have a “quiet room” where we have tables, chairs (very comfortable) and wi-fi.  We’re sitting here with our laptops knocking a ton of things off of our task list.  But I have to admit, we’re doing a lot of socializing in the very large, well-equipped kitchen.  We all brought food with us, and we’re sharing in the cooking/cleanup duties.  I’m cooking tonight, so I hope there’s pizza delivery nearby!  We also have a massage therapist here with us, so some of us are getting massages also.  What fun!

Meanwhile, I’m still focused on my education.  When I get back to my office, I’ll have a ton of catch-up to do with my various classes.  But that’s ok – it’s all good.

Blogging and Education

I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about how I should kick off my blog. I think I was looking for a “stellar moment” – something that would stop traffic. But life isn’t about stopping traffic; it’s about keeping things going on a steady pace. So here I go!

This year for me is all about education. I touched on the importance of continuing education in my recent newsletter. Currently, I’m taking Alicia Rittenhouse’s Geek Goddess training and completed Mia Chambers’ Thrive Online training.

With Mia, I’ve learned how to use Facebook and Twitter in-depth, and she took us through a detailed maintenance formula – maximizing our time in social media while not spending actual hours each day in the addictive world of social media. With Alicia, I’m learning shopping carts, merchant accounts, product launches, WordPress, and a myriad of other geeky/techie skills that clients are looking for in their VA.

I’m also looking forward to (finally) taking the self-paced VA Classroom classes that I signed up for. I’ll be learning internet marketing, Camtasia, and furthering my education in social media.

No matter what business you’re in, continuing education is one of the biggest keys to keeping yourself current about business trends. Invest in yourself – you’ll definitely see a strong ROI!