Sure, Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad was controversial and appeared as if Nike was taking a side. However, how much of this stance is simply a marketing strategy versus Nike actually taking a side remains to be seen. Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad, on the other hand, came across as disingenuous and an obvious marketing attempt poorly executed.
While large corporations choose their way forward, what are small businesses doing? Some more obvious ways include being a social enterprise or a certified B corp. But there are other ways your business can be socially responsible. For example, you can contribute a portion of revenue to and/or volunteer for causes you support.
Be genuine in your efforts
The key takeaway is to be genuine. If you try to incorporate social responsibility in your marketing and it is not genuine, can your business weather the fallout? Large corporations like Pepsi can, but can yours? I have used this example in the past. Large businesses like Nike or Pepsi are similar to aircraft carriers whereas small businesses are like speed boats. When you make a decision for your small business and take a turn, it happens quicker and is much more noticeable. With a large aircraft carrier, the turn is gradual and less conspicuous. When adding your social conscience or political belief into your small business, it will be noticeable so it is best to be genuine in what you are putting out there.
Match your values with those of your business
The easiest way to be genuine is to incorporate your values into your business.
First, what are your values?
Do they guide what kinds of clients you work with?
Does it make sense to fit them into your business?
Should you share them in your marketing?
In some ways, these answers may be cut and dry. For instance, a core value of mine--and Freedom Makers--is freedom. It makes sense to use that value to guide who we work with and include it in our marketing. I mean, it is even in our name!
But should someone consider social causes when determining who to accept as clients or include religion in their marketing? Those decisions may not seem so obvious to some as others. To some, these decisions may seem political and thus crosses a line. To others, they are so integral to who they are, it cannot be ignored. But again like a speedboat that makes a choice in direction, be prepared that it will affect your business and be noticeable to the public.
As long as you are genuine and it is not hurting your business, go for it. Phil Knight may have said it best, “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it. And as long as you have that attitude, you can’t be afraid of offending people. You can’t try and go down the middle of the road.”
For more tips on running your small business and how a virtual assistant can help your business, go to www.Freedom-Makers.com.
People start their own business for a variety of reasons.
Some grew up that way. Their parents may have been entrepreneurs or they started with a lemonade stand and never stopped. It is in their blood and they cannot think of anything else they would rather do.
Others get laid off. While dealing with the sudden impact of losing all their income and the emotions of a surprise attack, they respond by going out of their own. Perhaps, they were on the “older” side and struggled to get a new job (we can discuss the ridiculousness of ageism another time). Maybe they were sick of workplace politics or employee treatment. When at the crossroads of losing a job, some choose to use their expertise to start their own business. As I once heard, you can lose all your income in one day, but you likely will not lose all your clients in one day.
Solving a problem inspires others to start a business. They see a need that is not being met and create a solution. It is in their blood to be solvers and come up with the next best thing or a solution for the wrongs they see around them.
Flexibility can be an inspiration as well. A person’s spouse’s career may impact their own job, so they choose the more flexible route of entrepreneurship. Others choose the flexibility to balance their family needs, such as caring for kids or elderly parents. Many of our Freedom Makers are full time or part time virtual assistants based on the need for flexibility that goes along with the military lifestyle. They want to work and keep their working skills strong, but must find something that they create because 9 to 5 jobs at brick and mortar buildings are not ideal when moving every 2 to 3 years. They have gone out on their own. They work for Freedom Makers and have found meaningful work.
For me, I wanted the freedom to run a business in the best way I could think possible. At the same time, while I was in the Air Force, I knew I wanted to be in business but I wanted to do all of it. Indeed, I told a career coach during business school I wanted to be a CEO because they touch every part of the business including strategy and leadership. It took me a while to find the right idea for me but here we are, nearly five years in and I get to be involved in all aspects of business.
Share your story with the hashtag #iamsmallbusiness. The future of work is through entrepreneurship. Why did you start your business? Your story could inspire others!
If your small business needs some extra hands, so that you can focus on your mission, contact Freedom Makers today. We can find the right virtual assistant to help your business grow!
When talking with potential clients, we hear time and time again that they love our structure and the virtual assistants we provide. It is our goal to provide excellent, customized service to small business owners, so that they can focus on their business rather than support tasks. Freedom Makers also aims to support military spouses and their families by creating a path to stable, uninterrupted employment and income.
We know what it is like to be a small business owner and need some extra help. You are not wanting to hire someone full time, but need assistance with keeping things running smoothly. This is where Freedom Makers comes in. We have a pool of military spouses with diverse experiences and backgrounds. When you contact Freedom Makers, you will start with a conversation about your business and your needs. We will then create a description of what you need and send it out to all of our Freedom Makers. If they are interested and qualified, they let us know and then we choose up to 4 with whom to have a conversation.
When talking with potential Freedom Makers, we encourage you to be open about your business and your needs. It is important to ask about them as well to learn how they could enhance your business with skills they might have that you never thought about. Once you select the Freedom Maker that is right for you, we will set you up with a “Kick Off Training” or KOT. This is a recorded Zoom session with you, your new Freedom Maker and our success manager. The expectations of the work will be discussed and your systems will be shared. After the KOT has passed, we at Freedom Makers believe in making sure all continues to go well. Our success manager will continue to check in with both you and the Freedom Maker to ensure no issues arise. It is our goal to ensure a smooth transition and an ongoing successful working relationship.
We know that there are many virtual assistant companies out there that might meet your needs. Freedom Makers knows you want to grow your business. We provide reliable, highly skilled and trustworthy virtual assistants. We also provide resources and assistance in determining what you need for your business if you are unsure. Perhaps, you feel overwhelmed and know you need some help but not sure exactly how. Potential clients are encouraged to take our Task Audit Quiz which will examine your business and areas where you can get help. We also have a weekly blog that provides tips and guidance for your business.
Laura Renner founded Freedom Makers out of a passion to help small business and military families. As a small business owner herself, she understands the stress and challenges that come with being a business owner and also the difficulties that military spouses have in building a career when they may be transferred at a moment’s notice. As someone recently told Laura, “… this is in alignment with your soul and the universe.” By founding Freedom Makers, Laura is able to create freedom for business owners AND military spouses.
If you know your business needs some extra help, contact Freedom Makers today to learn how a virtual assistant can help you find more hours in the work week for you!
As a small business owner, you may never take vacation. It can be hard, if not impossible, to shut down your business, even if just for a few days. If you can and are willing, great! There is nothing better than changing your scenery and routine to give you a refreshed perspective, energy, and rest.
If you cannot, consider taking what we call a Workcation. Travel somewhere, do work that cannot wait, and have fun otherwise. Here are some tips for taking a work-cation.
Figure out what cannot wait, what can wait, and what can be delegated
Maybe you want to keep up with email while you are traveling but drafting content for marketing can wait. Maybe you want to have sales calls but everything else can wait. Maybe you will only take emergency calls.
Before you book your trip, determine what you will need to do yourself while traveling, what can wait until you return, and what you can have someone else do. Make sure it is clear to your team and your clients who is doing what and what your availability will be.
What you want to do while traveling will also be a factor.
Are you visiting family and thus will have a lot of downtime? Are you on a tour and with little say over your schedule? Are you winging it with friends? What time zone will you be in?
Plan the work, work the plan.
Work for a couple hours in the morning while everyone is still getting ready for the day, then head out. Or work during down time on your tour or in the evening after everyone is in for the night.
Remember though, you have put a lot off or already delegated it, so you are only doing the bare minimum to keep the business going while enjoying your time off.
Tools for traveling abroad.
Running your business while traveling internationally can get quite expensive. Here are some tools for running your business while minimizing costs.
VPN: VPN lets you log in as if you were still in the U.S. If you use a service like Google Voice, your calls are free (from your computer).
Phone: Thankfully, many international places offer lots of WiFi which I recommend you use as much as possible. Also, carriers offer an international plan where you can use a small amount of data for a flat rate and lowers the cost of text messages. You can also use apps like WhatsApp, Skype, or FaceTime/iMessage for iPhones to communicate with your team and others for free while on WiFi. *I strongly recommend turning Cellular Data off. This will prevent accidentally using data instead of WiFi, which will get expensive very quickly.
Most electronics automatically adjust the volts for charging, but be sure to check to be safe. Items like electric toothbrushes, hair dryers, shavers, etc. do not. You can get an adapter to convert the plug but will need a transformer for items that do not automatically convert.
Here are some examples: Sometimes, I go to Europe to visit family. During the day, I hang out with my family. While the kids are napping or at school, I may sit down for an hour or two and work at the computer. I leave my calendar open for people to schedule calls with me, but limit it to two hours each day. Those two hours are in the evening when everyone has gone to bed, but it is still the workday in the U.S. So I only work a few hours per day, but am able to keep the business going. Because I go anywhere from two to six weeks at a time, it is important to keep working. If I were to go for less than two weeks, I likely just take the time off.
A few years ago, my one employee at the time and I went to New Orleans for a few days. We would work for a couple hours in the morning and then head out to explore or visit networking groups. We were able to enjoy the city while also keeping our business going.
With some planning, you can enjoy time off without hurting your business! Now, where is your next work-cation going to be?
If you enjoy traveling but would like to delegate some work at home, hire a Freedom Maker to keep the wheels turning at your business while you are away. Contact Freedom Makers today!
Hiring a virtual assistant requires some work that you must do up front to ensure a successful working relationship. When describing the work you want done and how you want it done, it is important to determine whether you are looking for time based work or task based work. Once you have determined your structure, your virtual assistant will know what is expected of them and, ultimately, your working relationship will be stronger.
We often advise business owners to build systems with automatic triggers, so that their Freedom Maker can get to work without the business owner needing to do anything.
A favorite example is a client who needed orders processed. He could have said, I’ll forward you every order that comes in, etc. Instead, we set it up so that the Freedom Maker logged in every weekday at 10 am and 1 pm to see if any orders had come in. If orders did come in, she processed them right then and there. If there hadn’t, she was done until the next log in. The business owner did not have to do anything to trigger his Freedom Maker into work and the Freedom Maker had a relatively predictable schedule (versus processing orders as they came in).
This example is a form of task-based delegation. The Freedom Maker worked on a specific task as it came up.
The benefits of this structure include:
You do not have to worry that tasks are getting done
Your virtual assistant only works when there is work to be done
You and your virtual assistant do not have to prioritize; they only focus on specific tasks
You can be hands-off with your virtual assistant
Another example is time-based delegation. In this example, your virtual assistant may work on tasks set by you every Tuesday and Thursday from 11 - 2. They will take care of assigned tasks during the shift and answer any calls that come in. They may not work at all outside of those shifts.
The benefits of this type of set up include:
You have multiple tasks that may not be systematized
You can have your virtual assistant also answer live calls during the shift
You just want to be able to call your virtual assistant and know they will answer
You know for sure how many hours they will work each week
At Freedom Makers, we recommend systems, because it benefits all facets of your business. But it is your business and however it succeeds is ultimately in your hands. These two types of delegation are ways to implement your systems or ensure that your work gets completed. When hiring a virtual assistant, it is best to be clear on how you want them to work. Is it task based or time based?
To start a discussion about how a Freedom Maker could help your business. Schedule a time to talk with Laura. Hiring a virtual assistant for your business can help you find more hours in the week and reduce your stress. We are here to help!
There is a lot of freedom to owning a business. You can hit the grocery mid-afternoon when there are no lines; you can get your nails done or schedule wellness appointments midday. There is also a lot more responsibility that comes with being a business owner versus an employee. You alone are on the hook for customer satisfaction and the viability of your business. Because of that, more and more business owners are running their business from their car, coffee shops, and waiting rooms. As technology has developed, working while on the road is becoming ever easier. Below are some tips and tools for working while away from your desk.
Accessibility Ensure you can run as much as possible while on the go. Make your files accessible via the cloud. Download apps for the software tools you use on your laptop. This will help you automate as much as you can.
Go paperless Using the Cloud is going paperless. Use an app to scan and upload any paper Notes or documents, so that you can access them while traveling light. Use a tool like Docusign to fill out forms and sign them without having to print.
Connection The latest cell phone plans include using your phone as a hotspot for wifi access; use if wifi is not available. Some cable companies have created wifi spots all over town. Wifi is even available on most flights these days for a fee depending on your flight status. Furthermore, many airlines include charging outlets at every seat. And if you are traveling abroad, VPN and VOIP services allow you to make calls for cheap without the person on the other end even knowing where you are!
Other factors While working on the road, it is very important to have a good headset. If your mic picks up more background noise than your own voice, it can be very irritating and distracting. For video calls, some think it looks bad to be in your car (on the other hand, it could just show how dedicated you are!). If you are not comfortable taking video calls from places other than your desk, consider services like Zoom that offer a “green screen” option. If you work from your car, you can purchase a desk that fits over your steering wheel for working while parked.
Ultimately, the key to success while working on the road is setting everything up, so you can seamlessly transition from your desktop to your laptop to your phone and vice versa. With all the tools available these days, the sky is no longer the limit! Do your research prior to heading out and you will have increased success at a mobile work lifestyle.
For more information on tips for small businesses, visit www.Freedom-Makers.com. Freedom Makers offers solutions for small businesses and solopreneurs looking for extra assistance.
As technology progresses, the trend towards bigger products waxes and wanes. I remember in college, poking fun at the upperclassmen for how small their computers were compared to mine. As desktop computers became mainstream, the bigger they were, the more powerful they were. Then we began to switch to laptops. They were big, clunky, and heavy. As more people wanted the mobility and ease of a laptop, the smaller they became and the better. Just a few short years after laptops became more mainstream. I am still astounded at how light the newer laptops are! Tablets also were introduced as a sleeker replacement for a laptop.
Around this time, the smartphones led the mobile technology revolution. Over the past decade, we have seen smartphones get more slender, but then get bigger and bigger again with each new release. They are sleek yet offer screens slightly larger, so more work can be done on them.
What does all this mean for us small business owners? Sometimes, we think we need a certain tool to do our job but we wish we could use another. Wish you could break free from your laptop and run your business entirely from your phone? Wish you had more space on your phone screen?
Two factors likely determine the best mobile hardware for your business:
1. Your personal preference 2. How you interact with clients
Some people prefer to work on their phones. I prefer my laptop. I like to be able to see the whole week when I pull up my calendar. More importantly, a lot of templates and settings I use are not available on the phone versions of my apps. Even I, though, sometimes wish I did not have to lug my laptop everywhere (the whopping 3 pounds of it).
Some business owners have set up their business to primarily interact with clients via texting or through an app. These may be service based businesses like landscapers or dog walkers. Apps are readily available for reservations, scheduling teams, checking in, and communicating with clients. I have noticed these types of business owners run their business almost entirely on their phone.
If you would like to be able to do more on your phone and there is no app readily available, think through your daily work processes and how to structure them, so that you can complete them with your phone. Otherwise, get a good bag for transporting your laptop. With all of the technology available for both our phones and laptops, where there is a will, there is a way!
In the end, it really depends on how you like best to work and what is best for communicating and servicing your clients. It would be great if our smartphones could do everything, but the reality is there are still limitations to what they can do for our businesses. We certainly have come a long way in our ability to run mobile businesses, but there are times when a larger screen is necessary. The great thing is technology is changing all the time, so who knows what else is around the corner!
Freedom Makers provides tips for small business owners who wish to be more productive in their work weeks. Check out our blog for a variety of small business topics. If you are interested in hiring a virtual assistant for your business, contact us today!
As a small business owner, having affordable and easy-to-use tools is critical to running your business successfully. So many are on the market these days with more coming online all the time. As of May 2019, these are our personal favorites that we use internally at Freedom Makers.
Our 3 criteria for making the list:
-Must have a free version. Small business owners don’t have time to waste with setting up a program just for a free two-week trial. All of these software have a free version you can use until the time is right to upgrade. -Must be subscription based. Cash is king for small businesses. While a monthly payment is more expensive, it’s nice to have the flexibility if necessary. Furthermore, with new software coming available all the time and with the constant adapting and changing small businesses go through, it’s imperative to have the flexibility subscriptions provide. -Must be easy to use and quick to set up. Most small businesses have limited resources (time, money, and energy.) Anything that makes it easier for small business owners--like quick setup--is a win in our books.
Check out our winners below. Those listed below with a * in front are new ones that we have added for 2019.
Process Street Keep all your business processes in a checklist format, so nothing falls through the cracks. Using a checklist allows you to serve your clients more quickly and fully. It also makes it a lot easier for your team to collaborate. See our video about Process Street.
JotForm Use online forms to collect information and requests from clients and subcontractors. JotForm offers a lot of flexibility in how to build these forms, including conditional logic, notifications, and integrations with many other apps for seamless process flow.
Calendly Why do people still tolerate the back and forth of email for scheduling? We like Calendly for its user friendliness and simplicity. You can customize meeting types and availability as well as what type of information you need before the call or meeting. To see our discussion on Calendly: click here.
*Loom We have added Loom to our list of tech tools because it is a great way to interact, train and teach instantly. Loom can be used in a variety of ways. It is a free program that allows you to record your voice and computer screen and then share with others. For example, if you want to show someone how to add users to a website, you would click on the Loom extension that you add to your browser. Up pops prompts that tell you when to start recording. You speak into your microphone and instruct. The video captured includes both your voice and what you are doing on your screen. You can also include a video of yourself with the instruction if you so desire. Here is a short example of a Loom video that could be shared. To get started, go to the Loom website and you can create your account.
Slack I’ll admit when I first was introduced to Slack, I didn’t get why it was so special. Now I can’t imagine how we lived without it. Imagine a text messaging system with subjects and the ability to mark the message as unread. It’s the best of both worlds!
Zapier Zapier is like the middle man for apps. It lets you connect apps in ways they don’t naturally do. For instance, when a team member makes a comment in Process Street, I won’t necessarily know due to the way they have it set up. I have a Zap when someone makes a comment in Process Street, it then shows up in Slack for me to see instantly. Zapier has done a lot of work to make this easy on business owners, but it still may take some practice. Check out our summary video here. And a How To here.
Streak Streak is a customizable CRM that sits within your Gmail. Let me say that again, it sits within your Gmail, meaning no more switching between windows! Not only do we love the ease of having a CRM within our email, but we also love the simplicity of it. It’s very easy to customize for your needs. We use it as a CRM for prospective clients, active clients, and inactive clients. We also use it as a database for active and inactive Freedom Makers. Others use it to track tasks for customer support, project management, or applicant tracking. It’s super flexible and super easy to use.
Zoom We use Zoom to help our clients train their Freedom Maker. Zoom allows attendees to share their screen and to record meetings. We like Zoom because their connection quality is great and it’s relatively easy for attendees to figure out how to share, how to record, etc. You would be surprised how many software programs make that difficult. Also, it’s easy for non-Zoom subscribers to log in to the meeting, even if they haven’t downloaded the program.
Lumen5 Lumen5 turns blogs into videos. Video is a hot marketing tool these days. Furthermore, it’s better to provide your audience with multiple media types, so they can review your content in a manner that works for them. With Lumen5, you can fairly easily turn your blogs into videos. Admittedly, it’s a bit clunky. But once you get the hang of it, we feel it’s worth it. Check out our discussion here.
*Toggl Toggl is a time tracker that many of our Freedom Makers use to track their hours. It has an easy push button time tracker. There are tons of ways to breakdown your data into reports. Toggl can be used on your computer through a browser extension as well as on other devices. It gives you a glimpse into how you spend your time each week. The Basic Plan is free, but it does offer other plans for a fee with more capabilities. Overall the feedback and reviews for Toggl are that it is super easy!
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Since 1984 when President Ronald Reagan issued the first proclamation for a day dedicated to military spouses, the Friday before Mother’s Day has served as the day we honor the contributions and sacrifices made military spouses. We recognize Military Spouse Appreciation Day because of their commitment and support in keeping our country safe.
To discuss the employment issues military spouses face further, we spoke with Libby Jamison and Josie Beets, co-founders of MissionLicense, which aims to help all professionals dealing with occupational licensing barriers, these services are particularly valuable to military spouses seeking to continue in a regulated occupation after a relocation to a new jurisdiction.
Libby Jamison is an attorney and a Navy spouse. She’s lived in Washington, California, Florida, Rhode Island, Virginia, and now California again. Four of those moves happened in six years, so she’s felt the impact of her husband’s career on her own professional ambitions, especially with the requirement for a new bar license in each state. Josie Beets is an Army spouse who has been stationed at Fort Polk, Fort Campbell and Fort Belvoir. She is also an attorney who has faced career obstacles due to licensing restrictions.
They have both been personally challenged by the multiple moves that military spouses face and have also benefited from programs that support military spouses in professional careers. Because of the upheaval in their professional careers due to moves, they both reached out for support and found an incredible tribe of fellow military spouses dedicated to changing the rules. They have been particularly active in efforts to improve the occupational licensing landscape for military spouses.
When asked about what hurdles military spouses face today, both Libby and Josie stated, “Military life can be incredibly rewarding -- being part of a family dedicated to serving the nation is an honor, and one we do not take lightly. But military life presents a ton of challenges. The single challenge that has been most disruptive to our careers is the repeated moves.” They go on to explain that military families can expect to move every 2 to 3 years. These moves are generally disruptive for careers, but even more so when your chosen profession requires a license where the requirements change from state to state and the cost and time associated with re-licensing can be prohibitive.
Libby and Josie explain that many of the challenges experienced by military spouses, including occupational licensing barriers, access to affordable childcare, and returning to the workplace after time away, are also experienced by our civilian counterparts as well. The hurdles are heightened for military spouses who often face these problems in remote locations, without family nearby for support, and with a spouse that is frequently absent for training and deployments. “We believe that our efforts to solve these problems for military families are important, not only for our military community, but for all Americans in the workforce dealing with similar challenges.”
There are many tools out there to help military spouses. For jobs and professional connections, Libby and Josie recommend Hiring our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Networks and the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN). Both offer peer and spouse connections that help you network and find a job at a new duty station. They also recommend the following:
Onward to Opportunity (From the Institute of Veterans and Military Families which offers free trainings for certification tests)
Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership
According to Libby and Josie, a lot of money and time has been put into helping military spouses navigate a difficult career environment. According to the DoD Demographics Survey, the spouse unemployment number remains largely unchanged from 2010 (26%) to 2017 (24%), despite significant investment in spouse employment programs by the DoD. At the same time, non-profit organizations like MSJDN have made progress in making a more work-friendly environment for spouses. But Libby and Josie point out that “While much progress has been made to bring attention to the issue, there is still work to be done when it comes to educating employers and removing employment barriers for military spouses as they transfer alongside their service members.”
We at Freedom Makers encourage you to learn more about programs that support military spouses, check out Libby and Josie’s MissionLicense and support military spouses through businesses like Freedom Makers.
Not all marketing is created equal. You need to choose the best marketing tools for your business. Learn the different way to attract clients and what your business should be doing through the Freedom Makers Marketing Decision Tree.
This FREE marketing guide will show you how to market in a way that is most appropriate for your clients and business. Ultimately, this will help you determine the best marketing strategies to get the most bang for your buck. Click here to get started.