Working Relationships Drive Results

I’ve had a number of potential clients ask whether I’m on freelancing sites such as Freelancer, Fiverr, or Upwork. Though I have created a presence on some of them, I do not actively court clients in those locations.

It may seem to run counter to logic that a service company such as Cirrus VA would avoid sites that are filled with potential clients looking for able bodies to complete basic tasks. The problem lies within the expectation set forth by those sites that a simple request will be submitted, the project bid, and the best bid will get the job. In the eyes of the potential clients, the “best bid” is typically the cheapest. That cost savings, however, can come at a price.

Often, Cirrus VA takes on projects where some piece of legwork completed by an independent contractor from one of the top freelancing sites. What we quickly discover is that, despite the task having been completed, no thought was given to the usability of the end result.

There are some things a business owner can do to avoid these potential pitfalls.

Clearly Define Your Project’s Scope

  1. What do you need done? Example: Compile contacts into a list
  2. How do you plan to use it? Example: Sort contacts into categories for marketing purposes
  3. What format will help you achieve your outcome? Example: A PDF list will meet #1, but is it useable? An Excel spreadsheet will give you greater function. You can upload it into your company’s CRM platform, sort by category, and add notes IF it has been set up properly. Can your chosen vendor provide the necessary end product?

Choose Someone Who Asks the Right Questions

Sometimes the “What” seems clear to us, but we haven’t considered the “Why?” or the “How?” The right partnership will help to define those things before the project commences and refine them as it is underway.

Perhaps those questions are straightforward:  “Are you looking for a master list that can be sorted, or would you also like the categories separated out?”

They may offer insights: “I notice that there is no category for [X] contacts, but you have a significant number that would fall into it. Would you like them divided out further so you can target them more directly, or do you prefer to keep only the categories previously outlined?”

Know the Process for Oversight

It’s tempting to set a project deadline with the expectation that said project will be completed with no further interaction until the final submission. That is the reason you handed it off in the first place, right?

It may be possible if there is an established relationship and the project is standard protocol within that relationship, but if this is a new working situation, you should know that the vendor will follow up with you for any necessary clarifying information and keep you informed on progress. The last thing you want is a completed project done incorrectly or in such a manner that you will not be able to make use of it.

What is the vendor’s manner of communication? How will you be notified of progress? What sort of flexibility do you have if things need adjustment after work as been completed?

Look ForSomeone Who Can Think Globally

Sometimes what seems to be a simple project isn’t. Have you hired someone with the skills to recognize the potential complexities? There are individuals who are very good at data entry. They are fast. They are efficient, but they give no thought to the use of the data they are entering and the real world applications of it. If you know exactly what you need, they may serve a purpose, but if you do not have every portion of your project outlined clearly, they may end creating an end product that looks right, but is unusable when it comes to execution. If you hire someone who has the necessary data entry skills, but can also look at how that data affects your project’s “big picture,” you can avoid potential pitfalls and end up with a better result than you imagined. That individual can also flex the work, should a redirection or a change in scope be necessary.

Remote Work Should Not Equal Remote Demeanor

Even though you may never meet the individual completing your tasks face-to-face, you should never feel disconnected from your assistant. Communication should be consistent; protocols for follow up should be in place, and you should be able to feel that your project is getting the attention it deserves. Is your vendor accessible when you have questions? Are you getting regular updates on progress? Have you established a working relationship?

Remote workers are a great resource for small business owners, as they allow flexing of staff to the fluctuating needs of a business, but not all are created equal. Before engaging someone, ask questions. A strong working relationship will drive you to greater results than you may have originally imaged, because you have gained a partner in success.

Want to know more? Email us with any questions:

Making Your Time Away Work For You

Time away. It is the double-edged sword of being a small business owner.

Many of us start our businesses to provide schedule flexibility. Many achieve it in the day-to-day operations. Where we fall short is the ability to completely unplug from our business so we can recharge our batteries.

Taking a sabbatical, a vacation, or even a long weekend away is a great way to increase focus, maintain your physical and mental health, and simply get some time for yourself without the daily stressors that come from operating a business.

This is easier said than done, however. Many small business owners worry that if they step away from their phones or emails that they will miss out on business, alienate existing clients, or simply find themselves walking back into an insurmountable pile of work.

In a larger business there is someone to whom you can delegate those tasks, but what happens when there is no one to step in or step up?

Why not hire a short term service to answer the phones, filter the emails, and serve as a point of contact while you are away? Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break and return with your messages in order and knowing which communications need to be addressed immediately or have your calendar already filled with appointments that were taken in your absence?

It is possible, but it does require a bit of planning. Think about what is currently keeping you from taking time away. List out the tasks you need handled, then look objectively at whether they can be addressed with direction.

Don’t quite know where to start? Give us a call. We can look at your needs and craft an individual and affordable plan that will keep your business moving in the right direction while you take the necessary steps to recharge your energy and renew your focus.


Taxing Situations

Another tax day has come and gone. If you are like many, you waited until the last possible moment, then handed over hastily compiled information to your preparer and crossed your fingers that nothing was forgotten. Perhaps you filed an extension.

If you found yourself muttering “Never again” at some point during the process, it may be time to review how you stay on top of your business’ books.

Short of turning all day-to-day operations and invoicing over to your tax preparer/CPA, there are a number of things you can be doing to make tax time less of a hassle.

  1. Track your mileage on your smartphone. If you travel between offices or to business meetings, an app that uses GPS will keep you on track. Bonus points for getting periodic reminders to categorize your drives. Try something like Mile IQ.
  2. Do your bookkeeping online. This will allow you to sync your business bank and credit card accounts, upload receipts, and share information with your CPA, all from one location. We have services that can help you get things started.
  3. Create consistent policies. If you consistently utilize independent contractors, get their W9’s and any insurance information when you engage them. This will have you ready should you need to provide 1099s at the end of the year.
  4. Scan receipts and get rid of the paper! Having a good digital filing method will ensure that you have your information at the ready.

Do you need help getting started? Contact us to find out how you can get going on getting organized.