How to get a grip on your inbox

How to get a grip on your inbox

If you dread opening your emails and one of your recurring task list items is an inbox detox you are in good company. Many of us have inbox overload nightmares but here are a few ways you can take back control:


Email is designed to be a timely way of communicating. That’s not to say you should be a slave to it (see below) but if you have emails that are showing as unread and are over a few weeks old ask yourself why you are keeping them. The chances are the pertinent reason for the email has passed so delete.

Empty your junk folder. There is a reason you have put stuff there, either manually or automatically. You might not ever intend to read those 4,237 (if you are lucky) unread emails but you still know they are there!

Delete the earlier versions of current email threads. Only the latest really needs to be kept. And while you’re at it do the same with the ones in your sent folder.


How many of us thought that post GDPR deadline day we would magically see far less newsletters, promotions and junk? I admit, maybe for a month or so mine did go down, a little, but as it write this mid December I am being bombarded with retail emails promising me huge discounts and Christmas Eve delivery!

There are programmes such as that can do this for you but if you prefer a little more say in the matter (you still have to promise to be ruthless) put aside time during a quieter period to manually unsubscribe to everything you do not read regularly.

Don’t be a slave!

Fix specific times through the day to open your emails. First thing, last thing and maybe a couple of other times mid morning and mid afternoon.

Close your email programme down. Yes really! If you have work to do hearing that ping and seeing the preview of an email pop up in the corner is distracting and you will be tempted away from the task you are working on. Unless you are waiting for an urgent response most email can wait a few hours.

Simply file!

There has been lots written about the best way to file your emails and I have seen some good and some very bad. The worst filing system will take longer time to maintain and use than it saves so think about it carefully. If your’s is not working well for you change it.

I find it best not to use subjects or senders as a filing system. Email programmes have great search functions and you can find most emails you need by searching using the senders name or the topic. These type of folder systems can end up very long and unwieldy.

Try using a simple ‘to do list’ type folder system with your overall inbox then file within that under when it needs to be dealt with:


‘This Week’

‘This month’

‘For information only’ (but don’t use this as another storage system for junk you never read!)

Get help!

Having a tidy and efficient inbox is vital. It is good for your wellbeing, one less thing to be thinking about and will ensure vital business is not lost through missing information or orders that have just disappeared in amongst the clutter.

However, if even the thought of doing the above housekeeping on your emails is bringing you out in sweats many virtual assistants, including myself, offer an inbox detox service, either as a one-off to get you in a good place or as an on-going maintenance or email management service.

Drop me a message and find out how easy it can be to get control of your inbox.


Are You a Grumpy Business Superhero?

Are You a Grumpy Business Superhero?

Whatever type of business you run there are times when you just need a little assistance. It may be a one-off to get back control or maybe just an hour a week to update your Facebook page. You may need proper business support.

*  Just because you run your own business doesn’t mean you have to be a superhero and do it all.

*  Just because you are a whizz with a drill, pen, wrench or pair of tweezers doesn’t mean you love hanging out on social media even though you know it’s where your clients are.

*  Just because you chose to go self-employed doesn’t mean you can’t spend time with the family at weekends.

*  Just because you love your work doesn’t mean you don’t worry at night about getting behind with the paperwork.

* Just because you can (after a fashion) ‘do the admin’ doesn’t mean you should have to.


There’s no point being a superhero if you are a tired, grumpy, resentful one!


Why not message me today and find out how I can help you.


September Resolutions & Why You Should Be Making Some

September Resolutions & Why You Should Be Making Some

For many small businesses the summer months are often a bit quieter. Lots of people are on their well-earned holidays or taking time off to be with their families. The weather is hot, the days long and suppliers have shut down for two weeks. It may be a time to relax a little, dress down in the heat and pick up a few of those tasks you’ve been putting off until the calmer days of August. September will soon be here though and, as someone who worked school terms for many years, to me this month is more like New Year than January. A time for a new pencil cases, clean notebooks and some September resolutions.

Blogs, motivation memes, business articles will all encourage you to take a look at yourself closely in January and to set your goals for the year. Of course New Year is a brilliant time to assess where you are and where you want to be, but I find taking stock in the autumn is also vital and it’s why I think you should be making some September resolutions too.

Mid year reality check

We’ve all made those promises to ourselves early in the year with the support from everyone else who is also trying to loose weight, stop smoking or become a millionaire. Some of us may even make it to February before reality sets in. Life inevitably starts getting in the way and good intentions get left behind as spring marches on! A year is a long time for a lot of us to commit to, especially if it means getting out of bed an hour earlier to hit the gym, or write a new blog post every week.

Autumn targets

It may be your family have a new routine in September due to schooling, or you may have had the best extended holiday for many years and come back totally chilled and determined not to get so stressed again. Setting some new targets now, or relooking at those you wrote down in the dark days of January, means you only have to commit to four months before you have a good reason to rejig them again. And, although some accountability is important, you won’t have the pressure of the ‘New Year Resolution Police’ checking up on you and watching your every failure to tick DONE each day! You know the ones!

Seasonal changes

Autumn also a great time to look carefully at those processes you have put in place that just aren’t working efficiently or for trialling new ways of working. It is easy to get to this point in the year and put off starting something new or innovative ‘until after Christmas’. Take advantage of post summer enthusiasm to implement change, but more importantly if you, or your staff, have returned with post-holiday blues, take the time to find out why and what you can do to ensure next year everyone returns fired up and ready to make a difference to your business.

So grab a new pen, maybe some highlighters, a sparkling new notepad and get ready to start the new term revitalised, energised and with some great September resolutions and achievable goals for the rest of this year.

Why a Virtual Assistant is a Great Idea If You Are a Writer

Why a Virtual Assistant is a Great Idea If You Are a Writer

If you are a budding writer, published author or a student with a dissertation to submit, you may find the task of typing up your manuscript or notes daunting. Not everyone who writes is a typist and many people in this field hire someone else, such as a virtual assistant, to get their work ready for publishing.

However many virtual assistants offer a writer service and can provide much more. They have skills and experience in many areas, lightening your load and freeing your time and mind to write more.  Outsourcing to a VA is getting more and more popular as freelancers and small business in all fields begin to understand the advantages to working with a flexible and affordable professional administrator.


7 reasons why a virtual assistant is a great idea if you are a writer:



Of course a lot of writers like to visit the places they write about. They need to feel the atmosphere and the sights and sounds. But somebody else can easily research some of the more mundane details you may require. A virtual assistant will understand the need to research carefully, using multiple sources, and report the information found clearly with references. They can also research potential interviewees, sources and reviewers.



From formatting your work to specific publisher guidelines to getting your manuscript ready for publishing to Kindle, a VA can take on this time consuming task.


Proof reading and editing

Depending on your VA’s skillset this could just be an initial read through for spelling, grammar and/or readability while others may offer an editing service.


Emails and fan letters

Monitoring your inbox for standard queries and requests, responding if appropriate, is an easy but vital service and provides a buffer against these daily distractions. This service, along with monitoring your social media (below) could be used continually or just during your intense writing periods.


Social media

If you aren’t already promoting your writing on social media your VA can set up the relevant accounts. If you are, but you don’t have the time or inclination to keep uploading, monitoring and responding, your pages will go stale and loose interactions. A virtual assistant can do as much or as little of your social media as you require.



Setting up interviews, talks, meetings and reading events can be fiddly and can eat away at your day. Why not allow your VA to access your online calendar and schedule some of these for you.



As I mentioned at the beginning, not all writers use a keyboard. Some well known authors prefer to write long hand or to dictate their thoughts, but of course at some point these all require typing up.  A lot of VAs have worked previously as typists and secretaries and have experience of copy or audio typing. They also have the skills to do it accurately and quickly.



Why not drop me a message and take advantage of my free consultation to find out about my writer service and how I can help you.


Hiring a Virtual Assistant? What Questions You Should Ask

Hiring a Virtual Assistant? What Questions You Should Ask

You and your business have come to the point where you need some help. You’ve asked around at some network groups, mentioned your lack of free time to a business friend and decided the best option for you would be to outsource some of your admin to a virtual assistant.

Congratulations! You have certainly made a great decision, one which will allow you to spend your valuable time more wisely. However, before you rush in and hire the cheapest VA you can find on a freelancer marketplace site, think about what you want your virtual assistant to do for you. Make a list. (If you don’t know what you need your VA for ensure you tell them this at the start. A great VA will help you determine what she can do to support you best.)

So are you looking for a one off easy data entry task or are you hoping for a long term professional relationship where your VA is invested in making your business successful?

It is important that you do some research and choose a virtual assistant that is right for you. This may mean a trial task or time period. You may want a face to face consultation, either over coffee if local, or via Skype. Either way a good VA will have a few things they will want to ask about you and how you work. Don’t be afraid therefore to ask plenty of questions of your own to ensure you are confident you are hiring the right person for your business.


Questions you should ask a virtual assistant


Essential and legal

Insurance. A professional VA should have business insurance. If she is working remotely from her own premises then professional indemnity will suffice, If she is coming to your place of work or working away from her premises then she should also have public liability cover. If the VA employs other assistants then she would need employer’s liability insurance. Whilst this shouldn’t have a direct impact on you it shows that the VA takes her business seriously.

Is your VA GDPR compliant? Unless you have been living on another planet for the past few months you should know all about GDPR. Your VA is like any other business in that they need to be compliant about how they handle, store and share identifying personal data. That includes data about their own clients, AND the data they will have access to that you hold.

Your VA should have a Privacy Policy available to view (normally on their website) and if you agree to work together you should expect to be asked to sign a Data Processing Agreement outlining your responsibility as the Data Controller of your client data and the VA as the Data Processor. Your virtual assistant could also be required to register with the ICO for data protection (some exceptions apply).

Will your VA being handling your financial admin, book keeping or payroll? Although there is a bit of a grey area around what is covered under financial administration, and some professional VA organisations are trying to get clarification, essentially if your VA is expected to do any financial work over and above logging your expenses then it is likely that they need to be registered with HMRC under their money-laundering regulations.



Skill match. Depending on the tasks you want your VA to do, you need to ensure she offers these services and has the skills and experience to do them. Sometimes your tasks could be particularly role specific so is she willing to be trained?

Where in the world is your VA? By definition your virtual assistant normally works remotely from you, but do you mind if they are in another country or timezone? Is the work you need completing time or location specific?

This is also a good time to discuss availability. Some VAs work around family commitments. Some work late in the evening or early mornings. Some work more over the weekend. Other VAs have specific ‘office hours’ and may only work 9-5 during the week. Again, depending on the type of work you want them to do, this will determine the working pattern that will suit. For instance if you want a VA who will take your calls during business hours you need to find one who offers this service and is available when your phone rings the most. However, if you have a huge report that needs transcribing then you probably don’t mind if your VA does this late in the evening, as long as it is done by the deadline.

Availability may also depend on the type of contract you have, ie if you have a retainer type contract you have purchased a set number of hours each week or month and your VA could block out certain days or times for your work.

It is also good to check what the VA’s terms are regarding urgent work. Unless you are hiring your VA for a 40 hour week if is probably safe to assume she has other clients. If your type of work often means tasks need doing at short notice ensure your VA has the scope for this. And don’t be surprised if your VA charges extra for urgent work although this should be clear on her pricing policy.

Communication. Whether or not your VA keeps set hours you do need to ask how you will be communicating with each other and what her expected response time is to your emails.

Tools of the trade. Check the tools and software your VA uses for project planning, task management, file transfer etc. Are these compatible with your own business tools? Will they be using time-tracking software? Do you use specific software that they will need access to? How will passwords be handled and stored? Are they happy to have a company credit card if you are expecting them to make purchases or book travel?



Compatibility. You may not be sitting next to each other in the office but, if you are hoping to work with your VA for a while, it is good to know a little bit about her personality. Some people thrive on business relationships which are chalk and cheese with each person bringing different traits and priorities to the job. Others prefer to work with like-minded people.

Try asking your VA what she likes about her job, why she decided to be a VA and what she does outside of work. This will help you get a feeling for whether she is your sort of person. However, do remember you are not recruiting an employee you are outsourcing to a fellow business owner. Don’t ask too many typical interview type questions.


Hopefully by knowing what questions you should ask a virtual assistant, and by the end of your research, you will find a VA you feel happy with and who wants to help you. You will both know exactly how each other works and what to expect going forward. Keep communication open, ensure you are clear about task details and deadlines and above all enjoy the freedom you will now have to pursue your business goals and better work life balance.


If you would like to ask me any questions or find out how we can work together please drop me a message today.

10 Customer Service Tips for Small Businesses

10 Customer Service Tips for Small Businesses

It doesn’t matter how many customers your business has or what service or products you supply, great customer service should be your number one priority. At all times. However, small businesses need to be extra vigilant about their service as they don’t necessarily have a brand name and reputation to fall back on. Here are 10 customer service tips you can’t afford to ignore:

1. Experience counts

Make sure your customer experience is spot on from the very first enquiry onwards. Don’t zone out once the sale is complete and don’t be lax in following up and keeping in touch.

2. Make social media work for you

Interaction is key here. Show your customers you are a real person and you think of them as people rather than just potential profit. Feedback, reviews, recommendations and complaints are all very visual and a growing number of people use these platforms as a guide when choosing which company to use. Give the best customer service you can, outshine your competitors and make your clients feel extra special and you will win in this highly competitive arena.

3. Rapid response

Whether it is a letter, email or a comment on your Facebook page ALWAYS respond. And do so in good time. There is no excuse for leaving a question about your product unanswered on your selling site or not replying to an email within day or so. Not bothering to reply promptly looks like you don’t care about your customer. Customers want to feel valued. Make sure you have someone on your team checking your accounts and notifications regularly.

4. Be friendly

Make sure you interact with your followers on social media, talk to your customers, smile if you are customer facing (or even if you are on the phone). Get to know a little bit about them and remember their name and what they have purchased from you. There are various ways you can keep this information including CRMs or spreadsheets but do make sure whichever method is GDPR compliant and you have a data privacy policy in place.

5. £1 or £1000?

Treat all your customers the same regardless of how much they are spending. £10 spent on your product may have been harder to come by for that customer than the £100 or the £1000 another customer spends that day. Remember they have chosen to give their money, however hard earned, to you.

6. Promises promises

Don’t promise what you can’t fulfil. Always promise less and deliver more. Complete the work a bit earlier, add a small packet of sweets or a pen in the delivery box, do a little bit extra for free. All these ensure your customer feels special.

7. Say thank you

Always thank your customer for spending their money with you. Everyone expects an automated ‘thank you for your order’ email but a personal thank you, either as a hand written note in the delivery box or a personal email, goes a long way. What you can stretch to time and money wise will obviously depend on the size of your customer base but remember this is also a good way to ask for feedback and reviews.

8. Listen and acknowledge

Always listen and read feedback. Proactively respond highlighting something specific they mentioned rather than just a standard generic reply. For less favourable feedback ensure you acknowledge the issue and feedback to the customer what steps you will take.

9. Hire people people

Employ those who have high customer service experience and values. All your team members should have the same care and attitude for your clients whether they are standing in front of them, on the phone or miles away buying online.

10. Don’t forget the oldies

Don’t fall for the highly irritating sales ploy some big names go for by giving all the best deals and service to new customers only. Value your existing clients as much if not more. You want them to leave you great feedback, refer you to their friends and buy again. A study by The Nielson Company found people are 4 times as likely to buy something if it is a recommended by a friend. Try a loyalty incentive or a referral scheme with rewards, or ensure you send them details of latest offers earlier than they are advertised – again be clear on GDPR and ensure they have signed up for these type of emails before adding them to any mailing list.