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Busy mum expands booming business thanks to the help of Virtual Assistance Services

Janell Fowler is a superhero mum with a successful full-time business thanks to the help of virtual assistant services. She began BabyButton in 2010 when she spied a niche in the mum-and-baby market. Being an industrious sewer, she crafted a few items that made her experience as a mum so much easier, and soon the mums around her and their friends began asking for her clever solution items as well.

With orders upon orders arriving, Janell perfected her unique pattern for a breastfeeding cover and other ideas like a non-leaky bib … and BabyButton took off! Thanks to her clever crafting and the help of some savvy virtual assistance, BabyButton is now the number one go to store to find everything you need to create the ultimate bond between you and your baby.

BabyButton is the essential baby collection that offers practical solutions to real problems that enhances your Motherhood experience.

Janell’s top tips for hiring virtually:

•  Don’t settle on the first VA you find
•  Getting help from a VA is a positive sign of business success: don’t let it hold you back
• Check your VA’s work schedule so you have a good idea of how much time they have and when you can expect to receive completed tasks

1. What inspired you to start hiring virtually?

I own a Handmade Mum and Bubs business I began when my daughter was just 6 weeks old. The product that started the business is our breastfeeding cover which I sew from start to finish. As my business grew from being word of mouth and only a few orders a week, to large quantities of orders a day, I found I had less time to work on the business aspect of my business. Instead, I was constantly in the business through sewing. I knew there were many items that needed to be completed but I also knew if I didn’t make the products, there would be no business to do.

Often I would find myself up late at night or as soon as bubs went down for a nap I would sew more. Then I would be up late the next night working on computer stuff or on my phone all the time. I finally knew I had to start asking for help in order to complete all the tasks at hand. I tried to hire someone to come in and help here in house but found it wasn’t working out and instead I could be smart and have the work done even if I was around or not through virtual assistance.

It was foreign but it sure did work from the beginning on. I saw the positive impact on myself and my business immediately with the amount of work I was able to outsource.

2. When did you start hiring virtual help?

A year Ago

3. What were some of the challenges? How did you overcome them?

I had trouble letting go of control. I like to be in charge and know what is happening all the time and think I am super women who can do it. Getting a VA meant I did need help but it also meant the business was growing well enough that it was important.

I also had challenges with timeframes. I like to get everything done right away and sometimes your VA might be busy or have other client work to do. So I try to plan ahead better now and write up at the beginning of the week, what task I need completed by my VA. Then, if a project comes up that is needed to be done right away, I will email and ask but also set aside time to do it myself if she is unable to help.

I also struggled with the cost of outsourcing and whether it was worth it. I had to sit down and look at exactly what I was outsourcing and write out the value of my time if I were to have sat down and done it myself. In the end, it worked out that my time was more valuable being utilised elsewhere within my business (or family) and the amount of money spent, was well spent.

4. How has hiring virtually supported your business and you personally?

I feel I am actually able to grow my business further and take it to the next level. Minor things are no longer holding me back and the to do list is not a daunting sheet I dread to see.

I feel I have more time to sew and provide more options and products to my customers. I also am able to reach my customers through different avenues such as newsletters and more social media that I was not as clear on how to manage or run but was platforms she was quite clear on how to use.

The best part of having a VA is the time it has given back to me that I can now spend with my family instead of in front of the computer or on the phone. I am able to run my business more efficiently and in the timeframe that suits my family life. I no longer have to work 24/7, I share the work and get even more done each week.

5. What advice would you give to someone thinking about hiring virtual support?

Three great Tips:

•   Don’t settle for the first VA you meet if it just doesn’t click. There are a lot of VA’s out there and if you feel they are not up to your standard or simply have a personality clash, move on. Don’t feel you are required to stay with just one.

•   Write up everything you do each work day. Then workout exactly what you can outsource to the VA and the timeframes you would need it completed. It is a way for you to see how much you are doing on a daily basis and what may be time consuming but could be done by someone else.

•   Make sure you find out their work schedule. Some have set hours and days and it may not work with your own work schedule. If your VA only works 3 days a week but you have work that needs to be done 4 or 5 days a week, its time to either find another VA to give ALL the work to, or find another VA to delegate the additional work to.

6. If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Not have stayed with the first VA I found. We had personality clash and she didn’t believe in my products and said so. It didn’t make for a conducive work relationship and we should have parted ways long before we did. I also think I would have asked pricing/invoice breakdowns. I know how long a task can take and sometimes the hours being sent back don’t add up to the amount of work completed.

About the author Sandra Lewis is the Founder and CEO of Boldly. She's passionate about helping Businesses, Organizations and Executives increase productivity and move their work forward with the right skills and resources. Setting an example of the efficiencies gained working remotely, she’s been leading her entire team on a virtual basis for the past decade.

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