The rise of small business is incredible these days! Only 3% of Australian businesses have 20 or more employees.
With the increased accessibility of technology comes to ease of creating, sharing and selling products and services online.
With the ever-popular emergence of the “side hustle economy”, and more and more people getting in the game, I am betting that many of you can think of a friend or family member that has a business or hobby that they can share to provide a product or service. We may not need there offering ourselves but how many times does the “word of mouth grapevine” get activated when someone needs to solve a problem. If you want to support your friends, there is no better way than to referring someone to them and I have a few simple things you can do that will make a big impact.
1. Buy. Use. Refer
It’s simple… become their customer or client! Does your friend sell hand-painted signs on Etsy, buy one. Does she make custom cakes, order one for your next celebration? Did she open her own spa, go get a massage. (Yes please!) Whatever your friend is up to, become a customer or client and refer others to do the same.
Now, I am not suggesting that you visit your friends business every day or buy every product they offer. Sometimes it may not be appropriate to use the services they provide, you may not be their ideal client or you may not be in need of what your friend’s business is offering. That’s ok! You may be able to refer other people to their business or when the time comes and you do need what they offer, you’ll know exactly what to go!
2. Like. Share. Post
If you’re not interested or able to be your friend’s client or customer there are other ways you can support. One of them is through social media. Liking, sharing or posting about your friends’ business is a huge gesture in this digital age. Most businesses use social media to build and gain trust with potential clients. You can help speed up this process simply by interacting with your friend’s business wherever they are.
Read their blog posts, check out their website, follow them on social media and most importantly like, comment, share and re-post whatever resonates with you and as often as possible.
3. Be like glue and stick people together
Having an understanding of what your friend’s business is all about will help you be a master connector. As you meet ideal clients or customers for your friend’s business it will be natural for you to suggest that they connect.
Remember, that the purpose of recommending that two people connect should be mutually beneficial. It feels amazing to be able to refer someone to your friend when you know it will genuinely benefit that person, as well as your friend. This is that magic of networking taken to a new level!
But wait… there’s something in this for you too! When you’re a person that actively builds your networking skills through connecting others, you remain top of mind for those people that you have introduced to one another. In turn, they will think of you like someone to recommend or connect to the right people when the opportunity arises. That’s what I call a win-win!
4. Ask what you can do
It’s not easy starting or running your own business, even a side business takes up a ton of time and energy! If you really want to support your friend in their new venture, try asking them how you can help.
You might be surprised at the simple answer you get back.
I have taken some of my friends up on their offer to help by asking them to look over my website and give me feedback before I launched it. They were happy to do that! I got some really awesome feedback from them. Typos that they caught, suggestions on style, colour or design, even some revisions of my writing. I was thrilled! I took many of their ideas and I credit their feedback to making the site better.
Ask your friend how you can help and if what they suggest is manageable for you then do it! They will appreciate that gesture more than you can imagine 🙂
5. Give honest feedback or just be a Cheerleader
This can be tricky, but true friends want you to know your opinion (usually!). If your friend asks you for your input, then share it lovingly. You probably know them better than most and that’s why they are coming to you for the feedback in the first place. Your insights might be just what they need to improve their products, services, business space or website.
If your friend has not asked for your opinion then you get the best job of all, Cheerleader! Be there to support, say nice things and encourage your friend as they navigate the crazy world of small business.
You can do it!
Don’t give up!
You’ve got this!
No matter how you choose to show up for your friend I am sure they’ll appreciate it. And a special shout out to my friends and family that continue to show up and support me every day 🙂
Even though small business owners and entrepreneurs are their own bosses, the job rarely comes without its fair share of stress and hard work. As any small business owner or startup can tell you, working hard staying motivated, and succeeding in your livelihood is critical for success and to meet your business goals. But it’s easy to go overboard sometimes – even with the best of jobs – and find yourself burning out, losing your motivation, and making mistakes. There is hope for the hard-working business owners amongst us though. Learning how to recognise the signs of burnout, and how to avoid it or get help (for example, from a virtual assistant), can help entrepreneurs stay on track and keep hustling.
If you recognise any of the symptoms of burnout in yourself, don’t worry yet. It’s not impossible to pump the brakes before you feel completely overwhelmed.
Whilst it can be difficult to hand over the reins to someone else, many of the best leaders, business owners, and entrepreneurs have grown their businesses to amazing levels by delegating and outsourcing as much work as possible. Time management and researching cost effective business solutions, however, can be a fulltime task all on its own. Luckily, there are many options available to business owners today.
The focus of marketing has gone digital, and to maximise this properly it requires a specialised skill set but your business may not have someone with the know-how to ensure that you can make digital marketing work for you. Even if you can write great blog posts or the office manager knows how to manage social media, that’s probably not the best use of your or their time. Furthermore, when individuals with multiple responsibilities are handling the marketing, when an urgent matter arises in another area of the business, marketing efforts often end up taking a back seat or get abandoned altogether. This stopping and starting of marketing campaigns can sink even the most well-conceived strategies and make it difficult to assess whether a campaign is even working.
Here are a few steps to help determine the best way to outsource your organisation’s marketing:
Outsourcing and delegating work is an investment in your business’ future, and it isn’t just reserved for large businesses. Small businesses, start-ups, and independent entrepreneurs are taking full advantage of it too. Even if your business is your “baby” or a labour of love, letting go of the compulsion to control or oversee every aspect of it will ultimately help you reach your goals.
Even in today’s digitally focused world business is still principally about personal relationships. Many businesses still rely on word-of-mouth and customer referrals to grow their business. Whilst the need to develop personal relationships is important so also is how people search and evaluate products and services. If people are having difficulties finding you online, then you’re missing out on business opportunities. But building an online presence does require you have to have knowledge of digital marketing activities such as social media, search engine optimisation, online advertising and content creation. Many small business owners don’t have this specialised knowledge and don’t have the time and resource required to build an online presence. Hiring a virtual assistant is a cost-effective and productive way to delegate your business’ marketing so you can focus on managing your company.
• Blog Management
You probably have a long list of ideas for blog posts, but not the required time to write them. Putting together a proper blog requires research, drafting, finding images to go alongside the blog, editing and more. This is a perfect marketing task to delegate to a virtual assistant who has blogging, writing or content marketing experience. Let your VA know what kind of content you would like them to assist you with and the timeline you need. In the beginning, as you build the relationship you will want to be involved and to review the content before it is published, but eventually, they may be able to let them take over this task completely. You can also work with your VA to draft and submit guest blogs on your behalf to help increase your SEO, visibility, and online reputation.
• Social Media
As a small business, being on social media is incredibly important. But productive and beneficial social media use requires regular and relevant posts and interactions, which many business owners don’t have time to do themselves. Instead of trying to squeeze in a bit of social media when time allows, turn to a virtual assistant for help. Give your VA access to all your current social media platforms and determine a posting schedule for each platform. Provide your VA with the information of who your ideal customer is and let them know the style of content you’d like to see posted. Use scheduling software such as Hootsuite to set up drip campaigns. Make sure you VA also links back to your blog posts and any guest blogs you have done for additional visibility.
• Search Engine Optimisation
It has been quoted that “the best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 of Google”. This concept is absolutely true. If your business cannot be found by Googling key terms, you might as well not exist. With all the competition for valuable Google real estate, it can be difficult to get your site ranked anywhere near the top. A critical way to make your website searchable and rank higher is with search engine optimisation. Given the complex nature and constantly changing nature of Google’s search algorithm, utilising the knowledge of a virtual assistant with SEO skills is of critical importance.
• Email Campaigns
You know that you should be building an email database and reaching out to them with regular email newsletters, but it is just another task on your ever-growing to-do list. Your VA can take over this task for you. Share the lists you have begun building and have your VA manage them for you. Your virtual assistant can also create newsletters, marketing emails, call to action buttons, and landing pages for other email campaigns. Most importantly, they can track the numbers and report them for all your campaigns.
Marketing is a fundamental component for companies small and large, old and new. Because it is so important it can often feel stressful to find time to do what needs to be done in what is already a busy workday, but it is also scary to hand over the reins to someone else. However, if you select the right virtual assistant, the process of successfully integrating a VA into your small business operations will be far less painful and difficult than you might think, and additionally, you will reap some serious productivity time management and financial benefits to not only you personally but to your business overall.
As more businesses start to take advantage of such tools as cloud computing, file sharing, and the range of communications platforms available such as Skype, Zoom and Slack, the ability to seamlessly integrate virtual workers with onsite employees has become so much easier and more the norm. Having a virtual team has also led to an increase in outsourcing of many functions, including such areas as marketing and administration to third parties like freelancers and virtual assistants. But although this is being embraced confusion still reigns between the terms outsourcing and offshoring. Although is some areas an overlap does exist, the two really are distinctly different.
Outsourcing is defined as the act of moving an internal function to a third-party vendor or individual. Whereas offshoring is moving operations to an entirely different geographic location, most often with much lower labour costs, like India or the Philippines.
For certain basic tasks, like pure data entry, offshoring may be the best option. But thinking about outsourcing in this way limits the possibilities and return that a business can make on using a virtual workforce. Instead, businesses should think more outside the square and consider outsourcing complex and operationally important processes. Even at a what can appear to be a higher cost, the returns are greater, making outsourcing truly transformational for business rather than just a time-saving option.
When thinking about what you can outsource, it’s natural that you gravitate towards the routine administration type tasks that seem to take up the most of your time. But you should also be looking at the operationally significant areas of your business that require skills and sound judgement. If you are currently experiencing growth, you may have areas of your business or team members that are drowning in work. Get them help! Examples might include getting your marketing team assistance executing content marketing or email marketing campaigns.
Similarly, you’ll want to outsource those projects for which you don’t have the required skills for in-house. If you have an overstretched CEO moonlighting as the marketing manager bring in extra help to get this under control and allow your in-house staff more time and flexibility to complete the work that is required of them.
Those projects which require specialist knowledge and collaboration can be done by virtual assistants (just not any old virtual assistant or the cheapest VA option).
One advantage of hiring a virtual assistant with specialised knowledge and experience in a field like marketing is that the virtual assistant doesn’t need additional training. Additionally, by outsourcing it allows your business to access a much larger talent pool by not being limited to the smaller, local selection of available skilled workers.
When you’re thinking about outsourcing, it’s a mistake to not consider Australian based virtual assistants. Utilising an Australian based VA provides important advantages over offshoring.
There are many ways outsourcing work can provide extra assistance to your business and whilst it certainly makes sense to outsource basic, administrative work – making the decision to outsource entire areas of operational responsibility can help your business expand and flourish with the right virtual assistant. Australian based outsourcing allows you to collaborate with a skilled professional who can manage significant projects and free up internal resources, allowing you to grow your business and achieve your goals sooner.
Stress management is probably one of the most important yet least talked about topics in the small business arena. It often feels that you need to just put up with it as stress just comes part in parcel with being an entrepreneur. If the business is booming, you experience stress from all the orders you are receiving, dealing with the clients, and getting the funding that you need to expand. Alternatively, if the business is slow, you are stressing about whether or not your company will recover and how you pay your bills. But stress is not the inevitable lot for the small business owner. The trick is to try to stay in the middle ground of avoiding the 16-hour days whilst still maintaining a steady revenue stream.
During busy periods, the feeling can be that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done that you need to. If you are feeling this way, then you are probably taking on too much yourself. Part of the key to growing your business is sharing responsibilities and delegating work to others. Even something as simple as handing over your company bookkeeping or scheduling to an Executive Assistant is one less thing you have to think about, so you can focus on the big picture of running your business. What if there is only you? Then consider hiring a virtual assistant. The time you invest in delegating projects, so you can focus on steering the company will pay off much faster than you might think.
Most businesses though don’t experience relentless unending growth. Sooner or later, your business will hit a slower period, whether it is due to a seasonal or derives from a situation beyond your control. Small business owners naturally get stressed if they are experiencing a decline in business or customers. Utilise this downtime and turn it into an opportunity to work on the many projects that you’ve put on hold during the busier months. This may be an ideal time to put together some blog articles or review your marketing material or give your website a refresh. Reconnect with existing or past customers by reaching out to them with a thank you card or sending an email marketing campaign advertising sales or new offerings. Follow up with those leads that may have seemed promising but didn’t come to anything at the time. Attend events to network and reconnect with others in your industry. If you don’t have a clear idea of what to do to generate more business, it may be time to revisit your marketing strategy to figure out if you are targeting and attracting the right customers to your business.
Nothing can eliminate the anxiety associated with entrepreneurship out of the life of the small business owner but that is part of the challenge of why we do what we do. By its nature, entrepreneurship has its associated risks and all small business owners learn how to embrace it and take on the rollercoaster. However, learning how to be resilient and pull yourself back from the two extremes of over and under work, will ensure that you are able to weather the storm.