Conversations Over Coffee

Introducing a new service to the HOPE family

coffee shopIt’s not coaching. It’s not consulting. It’s a conversation.

All that’s missing–is you!

Do you need someone to bounce ideas off of? Are you curious about what it means to be a virtual assistant? Do you want to create a better professional workflow and enjoy a less overwhelmed life? Do you need to vent about some issues you need to handle at work?

I can help!

Nearly 30 years of administrative, management and entrepreneurial experience, writing, speaking and a reputation for creativity and responsiveness position me to be an engaging and practical friend to overwhelmed professionals and entrepreneurs.

I can objectively consider your areas of frustration either as an individual professional or in the larger context of your workplace. I’m very familiar with personality styles, time management approaches, communication skills and office/operations management and am constantly learning how to manage my own professional and personal life in a more effective way, so always have ideas to share.

But I’m not a coach, nor a consultant. I don’t offer official credentials or extensive packages for coaching/consulting. However, I do have expertise and creative ideas to offer–the types of things that would be a great discussion over coffee to help you work through your questions and curiosities. And sometimes, those casual conversations are fantastic for “light-bulb” moments and that one suggestion that makes all the difference.

So, I offer “Conversations over Coffee” for overwhelmed professionals, on a variety of topics. For example:

  • What’s it mean to start and run a virtual assistance business?
  • How can I better manage my email?
  • What tools and technology might be good for me?
  • How can I better get along with my business partner?
  • How do you run your bookkeeping for your small business?
  • How can I handle difficult clients?
  • What steps should I take to make the transition out of employment into entrepreneurship?
  • Should I start blogging?
  • How can I live out my faith and values in my workplace?
  • I’d like to share what I’m learning out of my professional development reading.

These are just a few of the topics that we can discuss.

How Does it Work?

Conversations Over Coffee are held via Zoom video conferencing, a free and reliable service, or via phone call if that is more comfortable for you.

You can book a one-hour* conversation session for $50.00.  If this interests you, please contact me to request a time, and I will get in touch with you about scheduling a session. I will then invoice you and once payment is received, the session will be formally booked.

A few other things you should know:

  • Coffee Conversations are designed for those who want to talk directly with me for a focused session on professional topics of your choice. For those seriously interested in ongoing Virtual Assisting packages, I offer a free 30-minute consultation specifically about virtual assisting to determine if our team would be a fit for your needs. These two opportunities are unique and not interchangeable.
  • *A Conversation Over Coffee session is considered to be any amount of time up to, and capped at, 60 minutes.
  • Every attempt will be made to book the COC in a timely way in accordance to when payment is received.
  • This is a non-refundable service.
  • The coffee is symbolic, though I may very well have a mug of it while on the call with you and hope you will too (unless you like tea!)

To expedite a booking, you can use this button to pre-pay.

One Hour Coffee Conversation


 

 

coffee laptop

 

 

What You Should Do When Meetings Don’t Meet Your Expectations

A guest post from Quill.com

If you’ve got a job, then you’ve probably got one thing that’s guaranteed: meetings.  And if you’ve got meetings, there’s another thing that’s guaranteed: people complaining about having meetings. They take time, of course, and time equals money. And too many people—about one quarter—say that meetings are unnecessary.

But you don’t have to let meetings go out of control, and you can make that time trapped together productive and efficient. An agenda helps, as does an invitation list that doesn’t include any extraneous people. Set a goal from the outset, and include follow-up as part of the meeting wrap-up too.

Want more ideas to love your meetings more? Use this graphic.

What you should do when meetings don’t meet expectationsWhat you should do when meetings don’t meet expectationsInfographic by Quill

A Fun Announcement!

First for Women Magazine Appearance

I had the privilege of appearing in First for Women magazine, and the copies were on stands around the country in early January 2017. It was fun to talk about virtual assisting. My thanks to Millie Lewis Greenville for the styling, Spill the Beans, Greenville for the location, Fisheye Studios for the photography, Julie Revelant who interviewed me and wrote the article, and Amy from AT Your Design for assisting and taking additional photos.

Here are photos from the photo shoot in October, and a photo of the article that came out December 29!

photo-shoot

magazine

Coffee and More: The Most popular posts of 2016

And a one-question survey

005-rest-and-be-thankfulHello readers! THANK YOU for reading the blog here at HOPE Unlimited.  Be sure to read to the end to get the link to the Super Short Survey.

As we finish up the year, I thought it would be fun to look back and see what some of the most popular posts were for 2016.  There are a couple of different ways to measure this, including Google Analytics, and Mail Chimp reports (I use Mail Chimp to mail out the weekly post.)

Mail Chimp

According to Mail Chimp, the three most popular posts for 2016 (based on emails being opened) were:

Erasing a Mistake

I’m Back…Sort Of  

Introducing our New Logo! 

Google Analytics

When I checked Google Analytics, I found a fascinating fact.

Three of my most popular posts for the year (visits to the site) were actually posts I wrote in previous years! That means people are visiting pages from the past. So here they are:

An A t0 Z List of Important Characteristics for the Workplace

Should I Accept Your Coffee Invitation?

Five Cautions about Facebook

For 2016, the coffee theme stood out once again, so I am re-running the most popular site-visit post for this year below.

Enjoy, and I’ll see you again next year! I’ve got some ideas for the blog for the new year and look forward to continuing to bring you helpful, encouraging information.  Don’t forget to share your opinion via our Super Short Survey.

Why I’ve Cut Back on Coffee Shop Work

 

Beth at coffee shop

Since I spend many hours by myself, I sometimes work at a coffee shop as a way to get out among the “land of the living.” Being in the presence of other people in a unique environment expands my perspective, supports my creativity, and gives me lingering time to think and create.

But it’s not always the most effective way to run my business.

I still make time for a coffee shop work session (sometimes referred to on my calendar as a “Writer’s Block”) almost every week. But recently, I have made it less of a priority as my hands-on commitments to clients have increased. I’ve had to ask myself if this practice was really a good fit for my current business responsibilities, and have discovered that it sometimes is not.  Here are some reasons I’ve made the change. When I’m at a coffee shop, I find that:

  1. I don’t accomplish as much billable time. HOPE serves VA clients via a pre-purchase bank system. Our typical client usually has a few random tasks per week, so I don’t always work a straight 2-3 hours at a time. By the time I add in travel time, purchasing and consuming my snack or food (unless it’s JUST a cup of coffee), I really don’t accomplish much billable time in a coffee shop session.
  2. I can’t guarantee an effective environment. I’ll admit it. I’m kind of picky when it comes to what environment I want to have when working. I have my favorite spots at various coffee shops, and I feel out of sorts if one of those tables aren’t free. In my home office, I am in control of where I sit or stand to work!
  3. It costs money. I believe that if you are going to camp out at someone’s business, you should at least make a small purchase. Thus, every time I go to a coffee shop, I am spending $3 to $10 depending on what time I go and what I get. This adds up. I have the same access to coffee and snacks at home.
  4. It can be distracting. I must have earphones and music ready because it’s too easy for me to pick up on conversations around me. This is easily avoided at my home office.
  5. I have less freedom. At home, I can sing or process out loud, walk around, or even scream at my computer. (Hypothetical of course.) At a coffee shop? Not so much unless I want weird looks.
  6. I can effectively multi-task. Yeah, I know. Multi-tasking is taboo now. But there are some things that can be done in the background at home that can’t be done at a coffee shop. Laundry, for example.
  7. I’m limited in the types of tasks I can do. My trusty Chromebook doesn’t owe me a dime. However, it just doesn’t replace the ease of my desktop set up for all kinds of tasks. There are certain ones I can pull off at a coffee shop, but not the quick administrative things that a VA often has to do such as set appointments, screen email, organize calendars, etc.

Now there ARE pluses to working at a coffee shop. A fresh perspective. The opportunity to have a casual conversation when crossing paths with someone. A change of pace. I’ll probably blog about that at another time because I still do visit coffee shops regularly. But for now, the thoughts above help me decide when and where it’s best to utilize them.

Photo taken at Spill the Beans.

SUPER SHORT SURVEY: Please click here to help me know what types of blog posts you are most interested in. Thank you!

 

Five Ways to Make Your Email Signatures Work!

Use that valuable space wisely

Appetizer

When you sit down to a full-course meal, you start with an appetizer. This small plate awakens the taste buds and is an enjoyable opening to an entire dining experience. In fact, you can find restaurants that specialize in “tapas,” or small plate appetizers.

You have an opportunity to provide a professional “appetizer” nearly every day, in the form of your email signature and auto-responder messages.

Email signatures and auto responders are a great way to communicate to colleagues, clients, and those in your network–if they are done well.  Even these pieces of automatic communication reflect on your professionalism. Are you using them effectively?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Make them complete but uncluttered.  Include your name, title, phone number if you feel it would be wise, and company URL. A copy of your company logo is also a nice touch. Add other links (i.e. to your social media profiles) carefully because it’s easy to make a signature too cluttered.  You might want to just simply direct people to your website and have all other connection points listed there.
  1. Promote with grace. Your signature is an opportunity to gently point out a product or service that may be of value to others, or share links to your latest blog posts. Keep it streamlined though…don’t add a half page of sales copy. Sometimes signatures end up being longer than emails!

Recently, I’ve been on a quest to try a dynamic signature that automatically provides a link to my latest blog post. Since I use the desktop version of Outlook (via my Office 365 subscription) I was unable to use a cloud-based service such as Wisestamp. (But I recommend it if you use Gmail or other cloud-based email.)

Right now, Live Signatures is working for me. It gives me a quick prompt when opening a new email to download my latest RSS feed so my business signature can look like this, and include links to the most recent three blog posts.

signature download

email-signature

  1. Be warm. Some auto responders (i.e. for vacation) are clipped and cold. I once saw one that didn’t even spell out the message but used acronyms like “I’m OOTO.” (“out of the office.”) That type of response doesn’t communicate a desire to serve customers upon one’s return and is too casual for professional use.
  1. Connect without cliches. One of my colleagues offers an easy link on his signature to set up a brief phone/video appointment with him if the person feels the need to take the conversation further. I don’t see that often, but it’s a unique reminder of his willingness to serve, and stands out from the typical list of links and social media profiles.
  1. Be creative.  Sign your emails professionally but with sincere warmth. Avoid using a standard closing line like “Sincerely” on every email, and instead, add one unique to that particular email. Here are some other possibilities, depending on your industry:
  • Take care,
  • Blessings,
  • Warmly,
  • All the best,
  • Let’s talk again soon,
  • Regards,
  • Best wishes,
  • Enjoy your day,
  • Sincerely (can be cliche),
  • Gratefully,

Use your email signature as a valuable communication appetizer to showcase your personal brand and the ways you can help people. Just remember…it’s an appetizer…not the main course, and share it tastefully.