Sometimes, the only time we have to get anything done is while our kids are napping. Check out the 9 tasks that will help you leverage this precious time, as well as 13 ways to keep older (or more stubborn) kids occupied.


5 Steps to Customer Loyalty

Marketing quote Quote from Glen Urban – Picture by[/caption%5D

So you’ve got customers now. But how can you keep them? While there is no way to guarantee you’ll keep customers, some things can certainly go towards improving your odds.

Be loyal to your customers. Recently my family & I were at a car dealership trying to purchase a new vehicle. While there, we contacted the credit union that our last car loan was through. First we were told our loan officer was at lunch. Later we called back and found that to be untrue. In fact she was busy dealing with walk-ins. We called a little bit later, and we were told just to leave a voicemail. Everytime we called, we had to explain that we were 2 hours ahead of them, and we were sitting at the dealership with 3 small children. Did I mention we spoke with the same lady each time we called? One of the phone calls, she even sighed dramatically at my request that she let our loan officer know were were trying to reach her.

I understand the need to gather new clients, but ignoring long standing members in order to get said clients isn’t wise. So here’s 5 things you  can do, to retain your customers loyalty.

Sighing and being dramatic is not appropriate or professional. Even if you believe the customer is wrong, even if they are downright rude, you maintain professionalism. No swearing, sighing, or excuses. Find a way to keep them/make them happy.

2. Make them feel special.

Your mileage may vary, depending on your business. If you know their birthday, send them a handwritten birthday card (professional content please!). Address them as Mr./Mrs./Miss unless they specifically request otherwise. If they’ve been a customer for a while, offer them a small free service, or give them a discount in their birthday month.

3. Be quality.

Where I live, we have a grocery store called Publix. Growing up in Texas, I’d never heard of Publix. But here, people may shop at Krogers, or Wal-Mart, or Publix, or Aldi. Those who shop at the other stores, will often switch which store they use, based on convenience. But we know loyal Publix fans. Ones who have liked them on social networking sites, and who will drive all the way across town to shop there. Why? It’s not their prices. Frequently they are more expensive than the other locations. It’s not their location..they literally have the most inconvenient location in my town. It’s their brand. They are quality. Their store is cleaner than any grocery store in its price range. It’s got produce that always seems fresher than the other locations. They have a wider selection of produce, and meats, and specialty items. And those who have experienced them, usually love them.

4. Stay true to your brand.

Your best customers will be those who connect with your brand. You’re also far more likely to attract the customers you want, if you stay true to what you/your company represent. If you want to be a clown, you’re probably not going to dress like an attorney. If your brand is professional, maintain that through & through. Have professionally taken headshots, of you in professional attire. Keep the website clean & crisp. If your brand is meant to attract teenagers, keep it bright & funky. Have a silly bio. Keep the language low key & casual. Embrace you!

5. Ask them what you can do.

Periodically, select a few of your best clients & ask them what you can do to improve things. Maybe there’s a new service they’ve really been wishing you’d offer. Maybe they want incentives for referrals. Maybe they think you’re perfect, in which case you’ve gained an encouraging word for yourself. Maybe they’ll even write you a testimonial. At the very least, they will probably be flattered that you asked their opinion. (See step #2)

What are your favorite tips to encourage customer loyalty? Please share them in the comments!

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The Hard Lesson I Learned About Productivity

Two or three months ago I had a brilliant idea to increase productivity. In order to keep up with homeschooling my daughter, housework, cooking, my business, and family life, I decided to move my office into the living room. Either you’re wondering why you never thought about this brilliant idea, or you’re laughing your butt off because you know it won’t work. For the first group, you will be disappointed with my story. And the second group you are absolutely correct.

As great as it sounded, it turned out to be terrible idea. My daughter thought that my being in the living room, meant that she could come in whenever she wanted. I can’t count how many times I was asked the same questions over, and over, and over. The other unintended consequence was that I was working almost nonstop. I was working while cleaning, while eating, while watching TV. The only thing that escaped, was my daughters homeschool. I take my time with her extremely seriously, and won’t handle work while I’m teaching her.

So after trying this for two months, I reached the conclusion that I needed to move back into my office. After we cleared out the office (which had inadvertently turned into storage), I pulled everyone into the living room for a family meeting. I let them know that (hooray!) I’d be fully present for meals & family time. In exchange they promised that my work time is MY time; we’re still working on the 7 year old with this concept though, lol. The other thing I’ve done to boost my productivity? I started my editorial calendar this last weekend! What’s your hardest productivity lesson? Share it in the comments below!

If you’re in need of help with your productivity, now that I’ve cleared the bumps out of my road, I’m ready to help you!

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10 iPad/iPhone Apps I Use To Increase My Productivity

iPad (Photo credit: Yagan Kiely)

As an entrepreneur, student & mother my time needs to be budgeted carefully.  2 years ago my husband gave me an iPad during tax season, and my life has never been the same. This year, I joined the ranks of iPhone users. Having that wealth of assistance by my side has been unbelievable! So here’s 10 of the apps that I’ve found to be incredibly helpful in the quest to manage my time wisely. Warning: You have to be careful not to get sidetracked by the other things on your phone. (I’m looking at you Words With Friends & Draw Something!)

1. Skype

I have the Skype app on both my iPad & iPhone. For my iPad, I have it set on my personal Skype account. But on my iPhone (which pretty much never leaves my side), I have it set to the business Skype account. This allows me to field calls/chat messages, until I’m willing to add a 3rd phone to my phone account.

2.  WordPress

I can’t smoothly do my entire post from the app, but I can get a hefty chunk of it. I can’t always add pictures, because sometimes I use pictures from Zemanta. I really use it for getting the major portion of writing done, and then I do final editing/tagging/pictures from my computer.

3. HootSuite

Admittedly, I haven’t figured out all the ins & outs of this one yet. I use TweetDeck on my desktop, but the reviews for the HootSuite app beat the TweetDeck ones, and I’m all about good reviews baby. 🙂 I’ve heard you can schedule tweets with HootSuite, and if I start utilizing that, I’ll definitely have it made in the Twitterverse!

4. Dragon Dictation

I just used this one for the first time last week, and oh my goodness. I’m. In. Love. It took some getting used to, because you have to speak all the punctuation and paragraphs. Once you get used to that, it’s amazing. I finished an entire post in less than 10 minutes. Now, there is a disadvantage to this software (besides the odd way of speaking); you have to be somewhere quiet to use it. Sometimes that’s harder than the length of time it takes to type up a post.

5. Dropbox

I personally use this for all the helpful ebooks I collect. Hubspot puts out great books for explaining how to use Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. I also have several books from ProBlogger.

6. Flipboard

This is a visual RSS feed. You subscribe to your RSS feeds, as well as Twitter, Facebook, etc. Then, rather than wading through tweets w/links, you can see the pictures/excerpts from those links & decide if you want to dive in. You can reply to posts from inside Flipboard, as well as share them with social media, and it’s all laid out like reading a magazine. I love it!

7. Pandora

You can set yourself up with some brain-food (classical music), or rock it out to some energizing tunes. Or you can just use it shut out that noise of kids at play. Not that I have any personal experience with this. 😉

8. Pinterest

Pinterest can certainly be applied to a range of businesses, but let’s face it. Sometimes you need a burst of creative energy, or a good old-fashioned break. Pinterest is a great way to just take a moment, but be careful not to get too sucked in! It’s extremely easy to spend hours on that website. And having the app just adds to that.

9. Mail/Calendars

It’s not technically in the same category, since it’s standard to the iPhone/iPad, but it’s extremely handy. I have my posts set up in Google Calendars, and they’re synced to my phone, so I get an alert reminding me what posts need written/posted/marketed. I also have photography challenge reminders in there, and my email is synced to both devices.

10. You Tell Me

Surprise! You didn’t think you could just read, and not participate did you? Well you still can, but it wouldn’t be as fun. I’d love to know, what’s your favorite time saving app? Or if you don’t use apps for that, what’s a great “taking a break app”? 🙂

Okay, now here’s where it gets really fun! I want you to make your own post, and link up with Angie at Many Little Blessings. She’s the new host of the Top Ten Tuesday carnival, and it’s a lot of fun. Hope to see you there!

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Love Your Brand!

Creative Branding
You Are You!

I struggled with this for a while, I really did. Ever since I started researching how to start my own business, one word surfaced again & again…professional. And the way professional was described it ended up equaling serious, boring & calm. I envisioned my future website being in corporate grey & business suit black. This made things really hard on me…I’m fond of color combos like lime green & purple, or turquoise & brown, or punching up my black with some red. I’m not calm (especially after too much coffee!), and I’m definitely not serious. Oh I’m serious enough if I need to be, but life doesn’t always require serious now does it?

My heroes are Abby Sciuto on NCIS, Penelope Garcia on Criminal Minds & Claudia Donovan of Warehouse 13. You just learned a lot about me right there…you now know that I’m quirky, offbeat & I like geeky sci-fi shows. And here’s another fact about me…I’m fond of smiley faces. 🙂 A month ago, I would have typed that smiley face, and then backed off & deleted it. After all it’s not professional. But then I had some flashes of realization while surfing people I want to work with & people I find inspiring.

  • Katrina Sawa‘s testimonial page includes a line where someone refers to her as “serious and fun”. That’s perfect!!!
  • Erin M. Gile‘s page used to mention “spontaneous haircuts, gummy bears + glitter.” How can you not love her?
  • Pioneer Woman‘s recipes all ooze quirk & fun. She jokes about Hail Mary’s before putting butter in her food, and tells you to add whatever spices make your skirt fly up. Love that!!!

There’s so many more sites I could show you, but the point is this: It’s okay to be yourself! Did you just cringe? No seriously, come back, it’s okay I promise. Not only will you feel better being who you are, but your passion will come through so much more authentically. Additionally, it’ll be easier to maintain consistency throughout your business because you won’t have to remind yourself of what your brand is. This is probably super obvious to most of y’all, but if this helped you at all, or if you have more thoughts to add, please drop me a line. I don’t bite, but I’ll definitely reply.

I leave  you with the wise words of Dr Seuss: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

If you’re not totally in love with how your brand is represented, contact me! We can get you rocking your business, as yourself!

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Right Brain Organizing

According to the theory of right brain vs. left brain, the right side is free-flowing & visual. The left side is supposed to be more organized & auditory. We all use both sides, but in varying degrees. Both sides can be used simultaneously, but one will likely be much more effective. The teenager who listens to music while studying, is using both halves of his brain. But either he’ll pay much more attention to the music, and the studying will go slower, or he’ll focus on the homework & the music will truly be background noise.

Given the abstract & visual nature of the right half of the brain, it’s no surprise that a lot of the creative industries are right brain focused. Both halves of the brain are capable of creativity, but it takes different forms. My Mom is more right brain dominant, and she used to doodle cartoons in high school. I’m more left brain dominant, so even though I’m very creative I dislike cartooning. I prefer to draw things that are more “photo-realistic“.

For people that are more right brain dominant, organization can be a hassle. Aesthetics are important, and filing cabinets & office furniture usually aren’t all that interesting.

Your best bet is to find creative organization, that satisfies your need for beauty but tames the chaos around you! Hat boxes can be used to store papers, nick-knacks, or office supplies. If you’re an artist, why not store brushes or small vials of paint in one? Are you a scrapbooker? These can hold stamps, ink, embossing supplies, paper punches or any number of things. Maybe you’re a stay at home Mom…you could hold makeup in here, or have one to hold the many creations your little darlings generate, or maybe just your secret stash of chocolate. I won’t tell anyone I promise!

Maybe you really do want to use a filing cabinet. But from a textural standpoint, I find these wicker file boxes to be much more appealing than your standard metal cabinet. I’ve seen cloth file boxes in an array of colors & patterns, I’ve seen wood filing cabinets (maybe a nice cherry?), I’ve even seen seagrass file boxes.

If you’re looking for places to get inspired, Tuesday Morning, Pier 1 & Pottery Barn all make excellent places to start looking. Another great place for ideas is Pinterest. For those who don’t know, Pinterest is like sort of an online scrapbook. You can save pictures of things you like onto boards. The boards are divided into the category of your choosing. You can make anything from a board of artists you adore, to a board of musical instruments you want to own someday. Well I hope this is helpful for kick-starting some ideas. If you know of other places to get creative organization supplies, please leave a comment to let me know. And if you start a neat Pinterest board, leave a comment with a link and I’ll go check it out!

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Let’s Launch This Blog!!!!

*taps the mic* Is this thing on?

Hello all you wonderful people! If you are reading this, then I am excited to meet you! I started this blog, so that you could stay updated on all the great things going on  here.

Why should you listen to me? Because I’m here to help you take care of the nitty gritty details that can block creative flow. I’m not going to give you a sales pitch, because that’s what my home page is for. Instead I’ll explain very quickly how this came about.

In 2009 I was coming to the end of my military adventure, and I had to figure out what to do with myself! Don’t get me wrong, I was plenty busy with a military husband, 1 child & another 1 on the way. But I’ve loved working at/from a computer for years. Customer service, debt collection and freelance secretarial work all laid the foundation for what is now this virtual assistance business.

In early 2011 I learned about the virtual assistance industry, and realized that my background was a perfect fit. From there, I had to figure out who my target market would be. One day while talking to my mama, she pointed out the creativity that’s rampant in our family. We have photographers, painters, writers, singers, radio personalities….aren’t mothers great for those “well duh” moments in life?

So that ladies & gentlemen, is how we came to be here! It’s been awesome so far, and I’m excited to get to know y’all as we work together!