This morning WooThemes notified customers that it has launched a bookings plugin for WooCommerce. (WooCommerce is a free e-commerce product for WordPress websites.) The new plugin is called WooCommerce Bookings. Click here to watch a video that explains WooCommerce Bookings.
WooThemes makes good products. Its Canvas theme is one of my favorite WordPress themes. I have no doubt Bookings will be worthy of consideration, if you’re in the market for an online-booking tool.
Bookings costs $149 for a one-site, one-year license, which seems steep. But I currently pay $19 per month for my booking service, Bookingbug, so the WooCommerce Bookings pricing is competitive.
If you decide to use Bookings, let me know what you think of it.
For more information, read the post I wrote in 2010 on my search for the perfect online scheduling app.
In a typical day, how many times do you swing back and forth between loving the stuff you’re working on and hating it? Two times? Ten times? Fifty times? I’ve never kept track, but I know there can be a lot of love/hate for me, even within an hour.
But that’s the nature of the work. And it’s why we love the solopreneur life — it’s never dull and it’s seldom predictable.
With that, let’s look at 21 things we love and hate about being solopreneurs.
1. You LOVE Not Having This Guy As Your Boss
2. You HATE Your Inner Taskmaster
3. You LOVE Coming Up With Brilliant Ideas
4. You HATE When Your Ideas Don’t Work
5. You LOVE Getting Paid
6. You HATE When an Account Goes Past 60 Days
7. You LOVE Being Productive
8. You HATE When Your Computer Crashes
9. You LOVE Whipping the Competition
10. You HATE Anxiety Attacks
11. You LOVE Feeling Appreciated For Who You Are
12. You HATE When Nobody’s RT’ing Your Tweets
13. You LOVE Landing a New Client
14. You HATE When Your Biggest Client Dumps You
15. You LOVE Being Your Own Boss
16. You HATE When Your Website Breaks
17. You LOVE Your Staff
18. You HATE Being Bone Tired and Working Against a Deadline
19. You LOVE When Criticism Rolls Off Your Back
20. You HATE When Your Kids Have a Day Off From School
21. You LOVE It When a Plan Comes Together
Working as a solopreneur has its ups and downs.
The benefits of working alone are great. You have fewer distractions, you can plan your day however you so choose, and working out of a home office affords you the right to wear what you’d like. Still, this type of work can get a bit lonely and with the quiet days and lack of water cooler chat. When it does, it’s not uncommon to lose your energy and excitement about the work you usually are so passionate about.
A lack of energy in a home office means a lack of productivity. You struggle to focus and every little task becomes increasingly difficult to finish. If this sounds like you, here are three easy ways that you can get more energized while working as a solopreneur in your home office.
1. Tap into a natural resource. According to the rules of Feng Shui design, adding natural elements to your office is a terrific way to streamline your focus and improve the energy in the room. Whether you open a window for some fresh air, add a plant, or light a candle, putting something natural in your home office is a great way to add some natural energy.
2. Change your position. A simple change in posture can do wonders for your mindset. Now, professionals at large corporations and in home offices alike realize the benefits of standing while working with a standing desk. When you sit for long periods of time, the electricity in your leg muscles shuts off, you burn fewer calories, and your body starts to work just a little bit slower. Standing frequently while working allows you to combat this and revitalize your body giving you the energy you need to thrive in a home office. This is the stand-desk that I use.
3. Take frequent breaks. You have a lengthy to-do list and want to tackle everything you can, so taking breaks on a regular basis seems counterproductive. But surprisingly, taking breaks can actually help you become more productive. When you get up, stretch, and step out of your office for a few minutes, you reenergize your brain. When you’re ready to step back into your office, you feel refreshed and more focused.
What do you do to stir up more energy in your home office as a solopreneur?
Kimberly Crossland is a solopreneur who works out of her home office in Tucson. She frequently shares what works for her on other solopreneur blogs.
Solopreneurs frequently ask me questions about virtual assistants. I turned to Amy Wright, CEO of AmyWright.biz for answers.
Larry Keltto: What kinds of services do virtual assistants typically provide?
Amy Wright: Oh, it runs the gamut from basic calendar management, customer service and scheduling all the way up to super techie things like adding a shopping cart to a webpage or setting up applications like Infusionsoft and everything in between. I think the better question is what do you need in your business that will make you more efficient? That’s what VAs do.
Larry: Why do solopreneurs hire virtual assistants?
Amy: There comes a point in every startup business where the owner just can’t do it all, and that’s a good thing, it means you’re growing. Most of the time VA’s are hired to take the “mundane, administrative” or the “behind the scenes” off of the shoulders of the solopreneur so that they can do what they do best… create and market their products or services.
Larry: What services do solopreneurs typically purchase?
Amy: Again, I think it depends on what they need and sometimes they don’t know. They only know that they are overwhelmed and feel like their day is spent chasing their tail. It’s a great practice to spend 2-3 days logging their daily tasks, to see what’s eating the most time. If it turns out that they’re spending a ton of time answering email, in social media and in customer service…it’s probably a good time to consider outsourcing.
Larry: How much do virtual assistants cost?
Amy: You can hire a VA for as little as $15 per hour, but that would either be an inexperienced newbie or someone overseas typically. Not to say that, that’s a bad thing. Everyone has to start somewhere, right? I was a waitress when I was recruited as an assistant over 12 years ago. Someone took a chance on me and look at me, I’m amazing. (Laughter).
In all seriousness, VA’s make between $25- upwards of $65 per hour. Don’t let that scare you. Would you rather spend $30 per hour for someone to handle the details for you or spend your time doing it when you could be making your hourly rate doing what you are great at?
Larry: How many hours per week should I purchase from a virtual assistant?
Amy: Some VAs work on a weekly retainer and some just bill by the hour. It’s always recommended that you discuss your expectations ahead of time, start small and make sure that he/she has the ability and time to grow with you. If you track your time, like I recommended early, you should be able to see how much time daily you think you’ll need someone.
Larry: How realistic is it for a new solopreneur to hire a virtual assistant if there’s no revenue yet (or not much revenue)?
Amy: It’s not. You don’t want to hire someone just so you can say “I’ll have my assistant call you”. If you are just getting started and you can handle everything on your own, you should. There are tools to get you by until you can afford to have help, like Hootesuite for social media posts, Tungle or Timetrade for scheduling and canned responses in Gmail. Those are great timesavers for any business owner. Not to mention, you should always understand every working part of your business, down to the last detail. I believe that’s really important. How can you ask someone to help you if you aren’t clear on the details yourself?
Larry: Do virtual assistants go by any other names?
Amy: Oh God yes. Some people are really funny about it too. Almost cult-like (laughter). Sometimes it depends on the specialty of the VA, like someone specializing in paralegal work may refer to herself as a VLA (virtual legal assistant) or one specializing in SEO may call herself an SEO assistant, you may hear terms like Administrative Consultant , Virtual Office Manager, Business Consultant…I say, call it what you will, your bottom line is getting your client relief from their administrative (and sometimes even more than that) tasks. One of my clients called my his Right Hand Gal. Suited me fine.
Larry: How are these services purchased — ala carte, packages, or something else?
Amy: Most of the time, there is an agreed upon hourly rate, the VA keeps track of hours and you pay her invoice. Some choose to work off of a retainer model, like an attorney and some have packages that you can choose from based on their scope of work for you. Obviously it’s completely up to the VA since she is a business owner herself. Just like you, Larry may charge hourly while a competitor has a package model.
Larry: When I hire a virtual assistant, am I hiring one specific person to serve my business?
Amy: Typically, yes. That’s a great question to ask while interviewing though. “Will you be doing all of my work yourself, or do you subcontract help?”
You’ve worked hard to get your business where it is. You don’t want to just hand passwords and trade secrets over to anyone. It’s kinda like taking your kids to daycare for the first time. You want to know who’s handling things, right? It can be nerve racking in the best of situations (both business and daycare). Be certain to get an NDA (Non disclosure agreement) signed before you hand over anything about your business.
Larry: There seem to be a LOT of virtual assistants. How do I know I am hiring someone I can trust, and someone who will do a good job?
Amy: There are a lot. It’s a growing field since the economy tanked. Anyone can throw up a website and call themselves whatever they want. Get referrals. Testimonials. Do your research. Any good VA should have clients who can vouch for them and give you first hand experience on what it’s like to work with that person. If they are new to the field (remember that’s not necessarily bad), check references for past employers.
Larry: Off topic slightly, but are the oDesks and eLances of the world hurting VAs and the rates they can charge?
Amy: Not off topic at all, Larry! It’s a very good question. It depends on what you are looking for AND who you hire. I don’t think they are hurting VAs. In fact, I know of many VA’s who get work from services like these as a starting point. Many “Admin workers” in Odesk are overseas workers that you can hire for $3-5/ hour. That’s great for small jobs that don’t require a relationship like transcription, logo design or little jobs like that.
Business owners that I’ve spoken to want a VA they they can build an ongoing relationship with. Someone who knows the intimate details of their business. A partner, if you will. That’s hard to do when there’s a language barrier or huge time difference. I’ve tried to work with overseas contractors in my business. I’ve had a few good ones and a few bad ones. So far my overall experience has been negative on more complex things.
Larry: What other comments do you have regarding virtual assistants?
Amy: Think through the process before you get started. This is not a shoot, ready, aim type A personality thing. You should prepare, which takes time. I do offer free 15-minute consults for anyone who is thinking that it might be time to duplicate themselves. Here to help.
Amy Wright is a business nerd who rocks out to 80’s music, loves the color purple (not the movie, but the actual color) and her lovely family.
Amy explains her business: “Sometimes you need to hire someone… just to hire someone. Ads, resumes, references, background checks, phone calls and emails trying to find that “perfect fit”… it’s a pain for a busy entrepreneur. I use my HR ninja, virtual-assistance magic, and administrative moxie to virtually duplicate you in a matter of days. Cool, huh?”
I want to give you a heads-up regarding a free email-reminder tool that I’ve begun using. It’s called FollowUpThen.com and so far I really like it.
If you struggle with remembering to get back to people on anything in your business or personal life, FollowUpThen makes it possible to easily schedule email follow-up reminders.
I’m using the free version. A premium version ($24/year) is available and it enables you to schedule SMS notifications.
This is a video demonstration of how FollowUpThen works.
Here’s an example of how I’ve used it.
Today I had a conversation with a friend. I scheduled a FollowUpThen message, so I would be reminded on February 12 to reconnect. To schedule the reminder, I sent an email that was addressed: email@example.com. I filled in the subject line and included a note in the body of the email, and I sent the message. FollowUpThen confirmed receipt, and on February 12 the reminder will be delivered to me.
Do You Use FollowUpThen.com…
…or a similar product? What’s your opinion?
I woke up Tuesday morning with soreness in my lower back, and it got worse throughout the day.
I visited my chiropractor Wednesday, and he said that the amount of sitting that I do is affecting my back.
So I’m wondering: Do you stand while you work? What are the positives and negatives? How is your work space arranged? Please leave your comments below (and photos, if you have any, of your workspace).
FWIW, famous people who supposedly preferred standing up while working include: Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon Bonaparte, and William Gladstone.
Last week I went in search of an online scheduling application. I thought I would find the perfect scheduling app for my business within an hour or two. Sigh. That was not nearly the case.
I needed a more efficient method for my solopreneur coaching clients to book appointments, because I didn’t think my “system” of setting up appointments via e-mail was adequate anymore. Plus, I wanted to give clients the ability to book online without leaving my Web site.
I signed up for and tested six online applications, and this my report. (Keep in mind that these aren’t full-blown reviews based on the use of the apps; these are the impressions of one person who is trying to make a buying decision for a solo business.)
All of the applications I considered have an impressive list of features, so my buying decision was based on these criteria:
This is the first in an ongoing series of interviews with experts who work in fields that support the solopreneur life. Today the topic is virtual assistants, and my guest is Deborah Reynolds, the owner of DediKated Resource Virtual Administrative Solutions.Virtual assistants can be a big help for solopreneurs, but how do you know if you should hire one? This Q&A will help you determine whether hiring a virtual assistant is the right move for your small business.
Larry Keltto: What kinds of services do virtual assistants typically provide?
Deborah Reynolds: Virtual assistants can provide all types of administrative services, such as contact and e-mail management, presentations, research, database set-up and management, scheduling, and document and spreadsheet preparation. They also provide specialty services such as graphic design, Internet marketing, social media marketing, virtual events, and Web site design and maintenance.
LK: How are these services purchased—ala carte, packages, or something else?
DR: Services are typically purchased by the hour, by the project or on a retainer basis. Specialty packages may also be offered.
LK: How much do virtual assistants cost?
DR: The cost depends on the service and specialty requested. Virtual assistant rates for administrative services can range from $35 to $50 per hour. For specialty services, the rates can range from $40 to $100 per hour. Retainer and specialty packages are usually offered at a discounted rate.
LK: Why do solopreneurs hire virtual assistants?
DR: Solopreneurs work with virtual assistants for several reasons:
1) They cannot hire a full-time employee, but need assistance.
2) They work from their home and do not have the equipment or space for a temporary or full-time employee.
3) They do not have the time and/or skills to handle the task themselves. Solopreneurs do not want to spend their time “in” their business. They want to spend their time with their family, taking vacations and on the aspects of growing their business that they enjoy. After all, that’s why they started their own business…for more flexibility!
LK: How much time in a week could a solopreneur gain by hiring a virtual assistant?
DR: This depends on what tasks are outsourced, as well as the task frequency. When first starting with a virtual assistant, a solopreneur will most likely gain several hours per week. As the relationship grows and the solopreneur is more comfortable with virtual assistance, it could easily increase to 10 or more hours per week.
LK: When I hire a virtual assistant, am I hiring one specific person to serve my business?
DR: In most cases, yes. Some virtual assistants have a team they work with and there are also virtual assistant companies. For solopreneurs, I believe it is best to work with one specific virtual assistant so they get to know you and your business and can be more of a partner.
LK: Which services do solopreneurs typically purchase?
DR: Initially, solopreneurs purchase administrative type services. Other specialty services are usually requested as trust is established and a partnership is developed.
LK: When are virtual assistants “on call”?
DR: Typically virtual assistants are not “on call”. They are also business owners and have set business hours. However, their clients can arrange specific hours if needed.
LK: There seem to be a lot of virtual assistants. How do I know I am hiring someone I can trust, and someone who will do a good job?
DR: Excellent question. Unfortunately there is no way to know, just as there is no way to know with an actual employee. I recommend reviewing the virtual assistant’s Web site, read their testimonials and look for credibility. Contact one or several of the clients who have provided testimonials on the Web site.
Additionally, a professional virtual assistant will provide a Proposal and/or Agreement detailing the services requested, timeframe, cost, plus a confidentiality clause protecting the client’s information. You can also interview several virtual assistants to determine if they have the skills you are looking for and if it would be a good personality fit.
LK: What other comments do you have regarding virtual assistants?
DR: Virtual assistants are administrative professionals who start their own businesses because they want to continue doing what they enjoy and support the growth and continued success of other entrepreneurs. We are experienced administrative professionals, and because we have our own business and reputation to protect, we have a vested interest in providing excellent service to our clients.
Deborah Reynolds, owner of DediKated Resource Virtual Administrative Solutions, provides Internet marketing, social media marketing, and virtual assistant services to coaches, solopreneurs and small business owners. She is a Certified Social Media Specialist, Internet Marketing Virtual Assistant, and featured writer for Wise Woman Magazine. For more information on her services, please visit www.dedikatedresource.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever employed a virtual assistant?
Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Two years ago I decided that I wanted my business computer to be a laptop. My reasons were: I didn’t want to be tied to my home office and my desktop computer anymore; I wanted to have my business computer with me while traveling; and I wanted to be able to work at night in the den of our house, in my favorite chair.
I bought a Macbook for my solo business, and I bought the 13-incher because I liked (and still like) the portability of it. But I foresaw one problem: I’d go bonkers if I had to work at that tiny screen all day! So I bought a second display.
I think I’m like most people: I love having two displays! I can’t imagine working without two displays. For example, as I write this column I have my text editor on my big screen, and my second screen is displaying my Safari window, which I am using to refer to I articles I am citing. Not having the second screen would annoy me. The annoyance would make my back hurt. And a sore back would have forced me to stop working two hours ago.
So I’ve taken it as fact that my productivity has increased with the two monitors (and hey, 2008 and 2009 are my two best years for revenue!), but this week I was pondering whether my productivity belief was true. I did some digging and the consensus seems to be:
• The experts disagree about whether (or how much) two displays increase productivity.
• The experts agree that if having two displays makes you a happier worker, then you should have two monitors— or three monitors!
Increase Your Productivity by 50 percent?
An oft-cited bit of research conducted in 2003 by Microsoft says dual monitors can increase productivity by 9 to 50 percent. One of the researchers, Gary Starkweather, who also invented the laser printer (cool!), enjoyed telling colleagues that the average display size is not much bigger than an 8-by-11 sheet of paper. He would ask, “What if I took away your desk, and gave you one that was only 8-by-11? How easy would it be for you to work?”
Gary makes a great point, and I can’t argue with it.
But people have questioned the Microsoft study, including Patrick Dubroy, a blogger who writes about computer programming. Patrick studied the data and concluded that average productivity gains across all industries are more like 2.5 percent:
I think it’s fair to say that some tasks can be made significantly faster if you have more screen real estate. On the other hand, I think it’s clear that most programmers are not going to be 50 percent more productive over the course of a day just by getting a second monitor. But if you just can’t live without your dual- or triple-monitor setup, fine! I definitely agree that it can be nice sometimes.
That’s what I say, too! Two monitors make me happy, and it should be whistle while you work, right?
Do you use one display or two for your solo business?
Please share your thoughts in the comments.