This month's interview is with Jude Rush, a talented Certified Professional Virtual Assistant from Rochester, NY. I had a great time talking with Jude, and hope you'll enjoy getting to know her a bit better!
Meet Jude Rush
And you can also join in the conversation about Moxie posts happening over on my Facebook page
This month's interview is with Jude Rush, a talented Certified Professional Virtual Assistant from Rochester, NY. I had a great time talking with Jude, and hope you'll enjoy getting to know her a bit better!
Meet Jude Rush
In her book, One Day My Soul Just Opened Up. Iyanla Vanzant, wrote:
When are we taught that it’s ok to say what you feel when you feel it? Certainly not when we are children. As children, we are taught what not to say and what not to do if or when it will make others uncomfortable. The others are the big people. As children we are taught to take care of the big people, the adults, those in authority. Don’t talk when big people are talking. Don't express your ideas if they are different from big people’s ideas. Always accept what the big people offer you even if you don’t like it. In an insidious though not malicious way we are taught that big people matter and we don’t. Even when we become big people ourselves, there are those who are bigger, older, more important than we are. These are the people we must honor. In honoring the big people, we are taught to dishonor ourselves.
The first way we learn to dishonor ourselves is by not telling the truth. The truth about what we feel, what we want, and what we think. You shut your mouth and stuff your feelings because you know you’re treading on very thin ice. If the ice breaks, you could get yelled at, slapped, or punished.
As an adult, I continued to view my parents and elder relatives as big people. Eventually, this group grew to include employers and other persons in authority. I would do all in my power to honor the feelings and desires of these people, even when it meant dishonoring myself.
When you lie to yourself about what you need, you will eventually lie to others about the same things.
Lying to yourself and other people about what you need, want, like, or do not like is akin to having a bacterial fungus. It spreads quickly into all areas of your life and pollutes your very being. When you are polluted by the fungus of dishonor, it’s is difficult to speak up for yourself. The fungus seals your lips when people speak to you in inappropriate ways. The fungus clouds your brain when people behave toward you in an inappropriate manner. This lip-sealing, brain-clouding fungus always makes you doubt yourself. It makes you question what you are feeling when you are feeling it. It prohibits your finding the most appropriate way to respond when your sensibilities are offended by big people.
The fungus of not honoring what you feel when you feel it, or saying what you need to say when you need to say it, will pour forth as anger and pollute your relationships. None of the relationships you have are immune to the fungus that grows within you when you do not honor yourself every step of the way, along the way, in your relationships with other people.
I couldn’t figure out which felt worse – not pleasing the big people, or dishonoring myself by not speaking the truth about what I needed, felt or wanted.
Although it's possible that there are Virtual Assistants who struggle with how to deal with the "big people" in all areas of life, if it exists in a business context, it's most prevalent in how they deal with clients.
Especially for those VAs who either have been in corporate jobs for the duration and come to entrepreneurship late in life, or haven't had the benefit of good modeling of a way of being that doesn't reflect the "the customer is always right," theory, it can be incredibly difficult to move beyond seeing a client as "bigger."
What I know for sure is that your business success depends on your making a shift and moving beyond it to seeing clients as people – no more; no less, than yourself.
Ok, ok… let me stop and say that it's possible to be financially successful letting clients lead you around by the nose. What's not possible, unless you're an extreme masochist, is being happy with that kind of success. The reason is clear—no one was meant to live under the oppressive thumb of another. And, if you believe you need to let your clients call all the shots, tell you how to run your business, etc., make no mistake…you are living under that oppressive thumb.
When you do, as Iyanla said, you dishonor yourself. So, not only are the clients behaving toward you in ways that are inappropriate, the reality is that it's happening because you let it happen. Why on earth would you treat yourself that way?
You deserve to work with clients who are happy to work within the business standards you've set. They should be people who see you as a professional, providing a professional's value. They wouldn't tell a doctor how to doctor; they shouldn't tell you how to provide Virtual Assistance.
If you've backed yourself into this corner, first, you need to get straight with yourself. If I can help with some spot coaching, don't hesitate to be in touch. Once straight with yourself, you need to have very straight conversations with your clients—both about what you've done to yourself and your practice, and what the new standards are going to be. You will be calling them to step up and play bigger, and given that they were attracted to you when you were behaving much like a doormat, they may not be willing, or able, to do that. In that case, you have to be willing to let them go—without fear. Fear will hold you back in a different way, and prevent you from attracting new, better suited clients.
When you start seeing your clients as equals, and not as "big people," everything about your practice will change, and so will your success.
Don't believe me? Come coach and let me prove it to you. :::challenging grin:::
Let me ask you a couple of questions:
If so, join the club of other right-brained (or fairly balanced-brained) VAs who struggle with the same things.
Let me get a couple of things out of the way:
1. Most organizing methods (including those that help with time management) are written by left-brained people for left-brained people. If you're right-brained, or balanced-brained, they don't work for you because they tend to be rigid, and therefore don't allow you enough creative freedom. If you've been struggling with GTD, or any other "system," stop. The system isn't meant for you.
2. Regular office hours are nice, in that they allow a client to feel safe that you are a serious business owner and take your business seriously. Otherwise, they serve little real purpose; you really can work when you want.
3. Your time can be as flexible as you want or need it to be.
Now, about handling those three things to bring some peace to your practice and life, in reverse order:
3. See #2, below
2. It's fine to choose office hours. As I said, they make clients feel safe, and that's a good thing. But in order to set them, and have the flexibility you crave, all you have to do is add one word to your description of your office hours. Instead of saying, "I'm in my office, Monday through Friday, between 9a and 5p," say, "I'm generally in my office, Monday through Friday, between 9a and 5p." "Generally" makes all the difference in the world, because it conveys that you're not always there during those hours.
If you explain your business well to your clients, they'll naturally understand that since they aren't paying you to sit there, eight hours each day and be instantly available to them, you might, in fact, not be there eight hours each day. Only a dolt would assume otherwise, and you don't work with dolts, right? ;)
Then, you can work exactly when you most want to work with one caveat: you can't set hours and then never be available during those hours. That would actually damage trust. So, set them when you are most likely to be around in your office, but let your clients know that's not carved in stone.
Oh, something else about hours. They don't have to be in one stretch, they don't have to be eight hours/day, and you don't have to work five days/week. It's perfectly ok to be off every Friday (I haven't worked Fridays since 1992, and no one has ever had a problem with that), or Wednesday, or … well, the point is you don't have to work five days/week. You can also have hours like 9a-11a and 2p-6p, or, again, whatever suits you.
See how this handles both #2 and #3?
1. My personal fav.
The bottom line is this: All the Do, Ditch, Dump, Delegate, blahblahblah systems in the world aren't going to work for you if you can't manage time. And you can't manage your time if you aren't using a clock and calendar to do it. Fact.
There really are only so many hours in a day. And if you don't assign everything you do a date and time to be done, you'll never know how much you can do in any given time, or get a handle on getting everything done in the time you have available to you.
In case you feel like I'm caging you already, hang on. Yes--this is a fairly left-brained way of handling it, but the right-brained part comes up in a minute, so do keep reading.
A quick story, to help explain the concept…
Have you ever wondered why you'll see a couple of horses in a reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally large pasture? It's because horses need lots of room to run around. As important as the space, though is that they also need to be able to see the pasture fences so they know where the boundaries of their space lie. When they know that, they feel free to run and gallop and play. When they have no fences, they don't feel safe.
You already have the pasture. What you're missing are the fences. When you have that, you know what you can and cannot do, and can then relax in to the doing.
For the sake of our discussion, your business is your pasture. The fences—your clock and calendar. You can feel free to do whatever you want, as long as you can point to a time and date on your calendar and block off the time for it.
Have a client who needs some research done but doesn't say by when? Ask! If the client says, "Can you do it by the end of the day tomorrow," you go to your calendar, look at what's scheduled, and *if* you can easily make it happen, say, "I'll have that to you tomorrow (a specific date) by _____ (name a specific time)." If you already have tomorrow booked, say, "I can't do that, but I can get it to you _____ (pick a day/date), at _____ (pick a time). If the client isn't ok with that, you either find a time that works for you both, OR you suggest that you find someone else to help. If the client is ok with the date/time you've suggested, you block off the work time in your calendar, do the work, and deliver it on time…or early.
Don't explain why you can't get it done in the client's first timeframe—it's frankly none of his/her business why you can't, and it makes it sound like you feel you have to justify your busy-ness (remember, although clients on retainer buy a chunk of your time, all you've committed to is having that amount of time available during the month to do the work. You don't commit to when, because "when" is up to you, and only you).
If you schedule everything, you'll never overpromise or underdeliver. You'll also never feel overwhelmed with all there is to get done—it's impossible because you simply cannot over commit when everything has been assigned a date and time.
In case you don't yet see it, here's the right-brained creative piece: Within your calendar, you can fee free to move things around at will to make room for something else.
Surprised? The coolest thing is that you don't have to keep commitments to yourself about scheduling. You are free to cancel, reschedule, move… do whatever you want with the stuff you've put on your calendar. What I'm saying is… just because you scheduled time from noon to 1p today to do some research that you've promised to a client by 10a tomorrow doesn't mean you actually have to do it at noon. Get a better idea? Just don't feel moved to do it? Don't!
Instead, do whatever else you want, as long as you can move what's on that date/time to another open space on your calendar and still meet the deadline you agreed to with the client.
The same thing goes for a long lunch with a friend, a massage, a run, a nap, time to write or paint—whatever it is that YOU need or want to do, if you put it on your calendar with everything else, it becomes just a part of your day. In the example a couple of paragraphs above, you could have hours that were 9a-11a, and 2p-6p to make time to go to the gym every day at 11 and get a massage and have lunch with your husband between 11a and 2p, OR you could just say that your hours are generally 9a-6p, and just leave your office, as if going to an appointment, or working on a client's work, between 11a and 2p.
The point is, however you want to frame it, it's really ok to skip out of your office, midday. It may feel a little naughty in the beginning, but in time, it will feel absolutely appropriate and beyond ok.
Now, because I didn't actually say this, let me: If having free time in your week to do "stuff" is important to you, block that time on your calendar, first. Then block your client work around it.
The moxie here this week is in how to make things work in your practice so you can lead the high-quality life that, presumably, was part of what you wanted that led you to become a Virtual Assistant to begin with.
Your practice. Your way. What could be better?
I'm just back from nine days with the AssistU VAs. Throughout my time with them, I overheard conversations and was involved in others that were about growth, working smart, having high standards, learning plans, profitability...but it wasn't until I sat down this afternoon to work through some email that's come in in my absence that I heard about burnout--and that wasn't from an AssistU VA, but it made me want to write about it anyway because if one person is dealing with it, many are.
I'm a huge advocate for knowing what your capacity is (the point where all the balls you're juggling would hit the floor if you added just one more), and staying far away from it. That, by itself, can prevent burnout. But if you're feeling like you're already there, or you want to just absolutely avoid being there, do less. If you don't do so much or push so hard, burnout shouldn't be an issue.
Here's another one: As you use great systems and tech to make you more productive and efficient, don't fill up the time you reclaim with anything work-related. Fill it with your personal life…with things that nurture you.
I hear from Virtual Assistants all the time who want to understand how to maximize their time and be as efficient as possible so they can work with more clients and make more money. Although I coach them to take more time for themselves, I get what they're talking about—that urge to leverage the time they have. To somehow make more, or contribute more, or.. well, it's just about the "more."
Sure, sure, they can do that by creating additional revenue streams. But each stream requires time, energy, attention, marketing—or it'll never be a "stream" at all—just be a trickle. Creating the streams can be a joy for some, but for others, it's a path straight to hell burnout.
The thing is; you don't need more "stuff" going on in your life in order to get the leverage you want. If you want to leverage yourself, your time, and you want to avoid burnout, here's the formula you've been looking for:
Assuming a full-time, 30 billable-hour week, instead of a ten-hour retainer, require 25. That instantly takes you from 10-ish clients to four (with overages). Instead of $40/hour, charge $55 (or more!). That instantly takes you from $62K to $86K (or more!). If you can't get $55 from your existing clients, get new ones. And remember, if you don't believe you're worth the fee, no one else will. Conversely—if you do believe it, clients will, too. What you get is an easier client load, plus more money, without working one second more than you do now. If that ain't leverage, baby, I'm not sure what is! ;>
And burnout would only then come if you choose insane clients who press you into insane situations where you're stepping over your own standards to keep them happy. And you wouldn't do that, would you? :)
I can't tell you how many times I hear VAs lamenting something that's happening with a client.And often, the latest lament is just a refrain of an earlier one I've heard from the same people.
For those of you who feel frustrated or pissed off even once a month….tell me true… do you actually like the drama, or would you rather have things going wonderfully well and have nothing to lament?
If you like the drama, by all means, have at it. But if you're tired of it all, the good news is that you can make it stop.
As you know ('cause it's not as though I don't harp on it!), it's all in the standards. The higher your standards, the better you'll interview. The better you interview, the less you'll step over (meaning ignore). The less you step over, the better choices you'll make about who to work with and who to let walk on by. The better choices you make about the clients you work with, the easier you'll find your work, and the better your life will be. It just works that way.
Want things to change? Start by examining who you are, and what your standards are. You want to look at who you are, because who you are attracts what (and who) comes to you--every bit of it. If you're attracting liars, or deadbeats, or people who rush to deadline and want you to deal with their emergencies, there's something about you that's pulling them toward you. Figure it out, end it, and you'll stop attracting them.
You also want to look at your standards. Look at all of 'em. It's great to look at your work hours, your fees, how you handle your invoices, etc. Those are the standards most Virtual Assistants think of when they hear "standards." They're the easy ones. But also look at whether you use inferior vendors who don't deliver as promised. Look at what you're willing to change about yourself and your business in order to accommodate (read: "please") someone else (or flat out land the client). Look at how different (and less great) your practice is now than when you were new and idealistic. Your ideals weren't unreasonable, you know. All of the stuff I talk about, and that we train around at AssistU is absolutely within anyone's reach (ok -- not anyone's reach, but anyone who wants to work for it).
But look at how you've sabotaged yourself over time. If you destroy your standards, you destroy your practice. Destroy your practice, destroy your dream (You did, at least for a time, actively dream of what you could have with your own business, didn't you?). Destroy your dream, and you may as well be making $5.10/hour slinging burgers in a fast-food joint for all the good it's going to bring to your life.
In reality, all of your standards need to be high—much higher, probably, than where they are now. Your fees need to be higher, your moxie greater, and your willingness to morph into something you don't really want to be gone, gone, gone! If you need help making that happen, get some support from a coach with high standards of his/her own. If you've thought that coaching isn't something you can afford, consider that it's more likely something you cannot afford to be without. This is not a place where winging it, or trying to get support from other VAs who haven't been successful or have drama in their own lives makes any sense at all.
And don't think you can do it alone; if you haven't been able to do it on your own up till now, what makes you think that's going to change?
Stop whining and lamenting. Stop settling for what you're getting, and repeating what makes you unhappy. Get off your ass and DO something about it. MAKE it different. BE different. You can, you know…it's all in your standards.
I remember a few years ago, I was watching D get his ears candled.
Shahnaz, our wonderful esthetician, mentioned that I could do it, and I thought, "Hmmm, sure looks simple enough." But as I sat there and watched, I had this thought: Emulating is one thing, knowing is another.
I certainly could do it. But I'd be emulating what I saw Shahnaz do. The gentle back massage, the pressure applied along the underside of the cheek-bone… all easy enough to do. But I wouldn't have a clue about what I was really doing, or why.
Shahnaz, trained in anatomy and physiology, as well as being specifically trained to do candling, knows what she's doing. As a result, she's more effective and efficient, and D's result would have to be better than it would have been if I did it, emulating what I'd seen Shahnaz do.
In life, there are many things we learn to do by emulation, and some of it is perfectly fine; emulation often helps us find what matters to us, and how we want things to be for us. But when it comes to professional skills, we can fall for thinking that emulation looks good because it gives the sense that it's a faster (and often far less expensive) path to the desired end result. In reality, it's not good, because there are far more things to figure out on the back end to make what's being emulated look good/right/appropriate/professional.
In reality, emulation is a very backwards approach for getting to a desired end point. When you emulate, instead of feeling confident, there's likely to be a piece of you that will always feel like a fraud. Who wants that?
Instead get in there and learn/train so that you can know what you're doing, and more importantly why. When you have the moxie to get trained in something you want to do (become a VA, become proficient with a tool or some software, add a new skill to your offerings), doing that thing ultimately takes less time because you understand it at a different level.
Additionally, there's a shortened learning curve, potholes and roadblocks are more easily moved out of your way, and you see more success, more quickly. Moreover, the people you do it for will have a better experience of it, be happier, overall, and the value you create will be higher, and more valuable.
We must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.
For me, that's the most powerful part of the quotation.
As a VA, there's a whole big wide workd out there waiting to know you and to thrill about what you can do. But none of that will have any value if you don't first cultivate yourself, and set your heart right.
The reason? The only way to create a business the likes of the VA practice I talk about, is to have a good life, to know who you are, and to absolutely know what you love. If you don't do that, you won't see success in the way I've been talking about it, and that you probably want (because if you didn't, you wouldn't be attracted to what I write each week and you wouldn't even know what I'm writing about today!).
Who you are matters far more than what you can do. While you're working on your business and raising your marketable skills, don't fail to work on yourself. In the end, nothing matters more to your business, or our world.