Pembrokeshire Business Review

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Information Management for Freelancers

In order to manage information effectively & efficiently as a freelancer, a system is (usually) needed.  Whether your system of choice is “old school” (pen & paper) or “new age” (cloud-based) the system itself is only as good as the person using it, something to bear in mind when making that all important decision to buy.

Tools

With the growth in popularity of affordable cloud-based information management tools, it is very easy to find something to fulfil that important role within your freelancing business.  There are alot to choose from however, so this ‘review’ (in the loosest sense of the word) should save you time and time (as we know in the Freelancing world) = money!

In my previous blog, I introduced the deceptively simple financial management slash information management tool Invoice Ninja.  We’ve been working together for over a year now so, I thought I would explain in more detail why I think it’s so great and why I’m highly recommending it to you, my fellow freelancer!

It is difficult to quantify the benefit of this system to my business but in terms of time (money) saved, it’s absolutely priceless!  Designed specifically for freelancers, it has everything I need to run my Virtual Assistant business and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering going down a similar route to me.  It can also be used by sole traders or SME’s however my review is from a Freelancing perspective.

Tasks

One of the main functions is timed task tracking which is self explanatory however with a cloud based secure portal your client can view the tasks remotely and see what you are working on and how much time has expired on each task or as an entire project.  Adding an extra layer of security and transparency into your business model and definitely adding value.

Invoicing

The process from task to invoice is so simple and with a few clicks the invoice is done and can be sent using the built in email system electronically to your clients inbox.  The client can pay online via a secure payment gateway clicking a link in the email OR direct into your bank account if they prefer to forgo the fee.  It’s quick, efficient and accurate which is great for your business and great for your clients.

Cash flow

Automated reminder emails for outstanding invoices are easy to set-up and can include the addition of late fees which in my experience is enough to instigate immediate payment!  No more awkward conversations with late payers – also time saving and great for cash flow completely removing the need for ‘chasing’ clients for payment!

Reporting

Reporting functions are included to enable the annual production of figures for the tax man or download and send to your Accountant plus the real time dashboard means you can see exactly where you are and how your doing (this single thing is what keeps me moving forward with my business)!   An array of standard functions that you would expect from a financial management system are included plus the ability to produce wonderful looking graphs.  You also have the ability to use Kanban for planning and recurring invoices for saving time but I have not personally used these as yet.

I am thoroughly enjoying my experience so far but I still have a lot to learn and I’m excited to find out more about what it can do for me and my business!  If you have any questions or experiences that you would like to share, please don’t hesitate to contact me via my website or social media links.

Disclaimer – This is an accurate representation of my personal experience of using this product since January 2018. I am not being paid by Invoice Ninja to write this testimonial. I do have an affiliate link which discounts my monthly membership for sign-ups to the Pro version of the website – to find out more please click the logo below.

 

My 1st (successful) year in business

Why

Prior to starting my Virtual Assistant venture in January 2018, I had no experience of being financially self-sufficient or running my own business, relying on a regular monthly salary for the best part of 30 years!  So, with a modest buffer from a recent redundancy payout and considerable support from my family, I made the decision NOT to look for a 9-5 in the New Year and set up on my own!  With a solid background in management, operational and office experience, I have successfully completed my first year of trading as a Virtual Assistant and generated sufficient turnover to keep a roof over my head, food in my fridge, a car on the road and clothes on my back!

How

So how did I do it you may ask?!  Crucially, I secured my 1st client, Sarah, a very well established Pembs based landscape artist, within the first 2 weeks of trading, through a mutual friend and we are still working very happily together!  I went on to acquire 11 further clients in 2018 (an average of 1 client per month) mainly referrals/WOMM*.  I worked extremely hard, networking, phone calls, emails, working late into the night which is absolutely ok when it’s MY business that I’m building.  I also did my research, began to really understand my worth and priced myself accordingly and always presented myself professionally to the world whether online or in person!

*Word of mouth marketing…the best, and most affordable form of marketing in the world!

WHAT

So what else did I personally do to give myself the best chance of success – as well as registering my business with HMRC and setting up my social media channels, I also;

spent 2 weeks deciding on a unique business name and purchased my domains & a web-hosting package

researched and selected an online invoicing/task tracking CRM system specifically designed for freelancers – I use this to run my whole business (click the image for my referral link)

joined my local BNI networking group – a very good place to build your network, gain free advice, training, establish local business relationships and if your lucky (which I obviously am) – acquire some clients (click the image for info)

joined a closed facebook group of 10,000+ virtual assistants from around the world who share advice and resources and are on hand to answer ANY questions I have – (click the image for info)

purchased GDPR/Data Protection/legally compliant Terms of Business, a client booking form & data processing form – another important move on my part to ensure I am covered in the event of any legal issues (click the image for info)

paid for professional coaching (click the picture for info) – and guidance, support, advice & genuine words of encouragement from international results coach, mentor & no 1 amazon best selling author Rachel Jenkins, who has helped me from the very beginning of my journey of self discovery &  independence.

paid for these beautiful & professionally designed business cards (click the image for info) – this investment was essential if I was to be taken seriously in a room full of business owners and an easy referral into the room!  It also meant I had to be really clear about the services I was offering to any future clients.  As it turns out…everything I enjoy doing and I’m really good at!

Crucially, I have also teamed up with a web expert and his incredibly talented designer girlfriend, expanding my client offerings to include all web services & design.  I have outsourced a small amount of work to them both, which we are now hoping to build on with a collaborative approach to eCommerce in 2019 (watch this space!).  I continue to be blown away by the advice and support I have received from Ken and I feel very lucky to call him a friend and confidant!

2019 has got off to the best possible start with a contract for 6 months of regular VA work days away from final contract completion.  My future plans now include investment in a MAC computer, joining the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA), investing in additional qualifications and training with the International Association of Bookkeepers (IAB) and I am lining up an Associate VA to ensure I don’t overstretch myself as my diary begins to fill up fast!

I have no doubt that the transition from regular reliable income, to being self-employed, has been the hardest challenge of my life however, I also know that its the BEST decision I’ve ever made for my physical, mental and emotional health.  I now have the professional FREEDOM that I’ve wanted all my working life and you just can’t put a price on that!  I hope this inspires someone – if your dreams are bigger than what you currently do or don’t have – just go for it life is too short to have regrets!

Please share or leave your comments below or get in touch via the website/social media channels.

Focus 2019

Click on the image to find out more

Priorities

Focus is a key word for my business in 2019.  Time management is therefore a key priority to ensure I don’t spread myself too thin while trying to achieve a work/life balance!  Music and horses bring me the most joy so I will be prioritising those two things outside of work to ensure I am in the healthiest mindset to achieve my personal and business goals.  Click on the image above to find out more about time management from Everwise on Pinterest.

This is me dressed and ready to go horse riding!

Goals

Setting goals and achieving them is different for everybody but for me it means writing it down and setting a target date then celebrating and setting new goals.  I use a tasks app on my phone so that I can check off all the steps I take towards my goals which keeps me focused and on track.  This year I have a big milestone birthday in September so everything is set to be achieved by then – only 9 months to go…so wish me luck!

Click the image for more info

Scheduling

I currently use Google Calendar for scheduling and use it to block out time for work and personal commitments.  Using reminders keeps me on track and ensures I don’t forget what is important to me.  Personally I would recommend using your smart phone if you have one as you always have that with you and means you won’t forget what you are supposed to be doing next!

Click image for more info

Business Planning

This is essential to ensure the future success of any business.  Having a trusted colleague or friend to bounce ideas around with is useful if you share the same values and can decide what the priorities are!  Having different skills to bring to the table means a fair distribution of effort and you stand a much greater chance of getting things done.  I am very lucky therefore to have the support of my business partner, Ken who is very experienced in his field of expertise primarily websites and Olga who is hugely talented designer.

Click on image for more info

Project Management

Using a project management tool is a great way to take scheduling to the next level.  I personally use Freedcamp.com which is a free tool but there many others including Asana, Monday.com, Trello, Workflowy.  The key thing to remember is its got to be cost effective, easy to use and does what you need it to do!

Please leave a comment below or send me a message via the contact form.