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Are you a VA who’s already working as an OBM?

Are you a VA who’s already working as an OBM?

I’m just going to say it: there is some serious confusion about the difference between a VA (Virtual Assistant) and an OBM (Online Business Manager) that I’d like to address.

In short: more partnering, less helping

The OBM partners with their clients on a strategic level.

They offer advice and support based on their own experience and the hours they’ve invested in training and self-development. In fact, they’re thirsty for knowledge and want clients to directly benefit from their ongoing curiosity and personal development.

They plug into the big picture of the business, have a clear understanding of where the client wants to go, and know exactly what pieces of the puzzle need to be in place in order to create success. And OBMs are often hired to project manage those moving operational pieces to ensure progress is being made.

The role requires total proactivity all round, particularly when managing team members. Personality-wise, they take personal responsibility for the client’s success so they truly thrive when treating the client’s business as though it were their own.

OBMs present solutions, not problems. Their ideas are heard because their knowledge is respected. And their mantra is: ask for forgiveness, not for permission…. Is that what you already do?

They help shape the marketing strategy and determine which metrics are to be measured based on their own experience of working with other clients, and what they know about their client’s business. They have sight of the financials behind the business and will creatively identify gaps in the current reality versus where the business needs to be to meet its goals.

It’s a chunky role that requires a lot of brain space to do well, so in terms of pricing, they charge a higher hourly rate than a VA, or perhaps a packaged-up offering that’s value-based rather than tied into trading time for money. As time progresses and trust is built with their clients, they feel so confident in the results they can get for their clients that they propose a base pay combined with an incentive structure directly linked to actual sales.

Because of the huuuuuge amount of information an OBM stores in their head about each client, their sweet spot in terms of productivity and mental capacity means they can only work with a select few businesses at any one time.

The problem

What I’m seeing more and more often is someone who’s marketing themselves as a VA, charging VA rates, doing the day-to-day doing, but then also assuming all or part of the role of OBM – ie adding masses of value to the client in terms of strategic planning, operational support and hiring team members, managing projects through to completion, and rolling their sleeves up in whatever area they feel they can step into. That’s a heck of a role when charging VA rates.

My experience of this icky-ness

I am sharing this with you because I used to be there myself. And the truth is, it was hard work working hard all the time, and it left me feeling frustrated, unfulfilled, and heading for burnout.

What was worse, because I was using so much creative energy on driving forward my clients’ businesses that I didn’t have the time or inclination to work towards my own dreams. I had big goals of taking on employees, buying myself a car so we could become a two-car family and I could gain some much-needed freedom, launching a podcast, helping more people step into their own big dreams through coaching, and actually having more time with my family.

The entire situation helped me stay small and far away from my income goals. I had zero time or energy to invest in writing the training course that safely remained in my head, or create and implement my own marketing strategy. It was flippin’ exhausting.

Please don’t let that be you.

If just one person reading this is inspired to take action — to raise their rates, ditch the high-demanding clients who want the moon on a stick for a fiver, or steps fully into their expertise — then this post has been worth it.

And, of course, if you’re working your socks off and would like to step into the shoes of the ambitious OBM you actually are, download my idea sparks here or let’s have a virtual cuppa to talk about how we can elevate your role.

The Real Danger of Comparison-itis

The Real Danger of Comparison-itis

Comparing yourself to others is a dangerous game in business. And it’s one that I hear from a lot of my clients that is holding them back. It’s also something that I can relate to quite a lot because I’ve done it myself. It’s known as social comparison bias, but I often refer to it as comparisonitis.

We live in a world where we only need to show the best bits of our life. We get to airbrush out all the messy stuff, our failures, and what life really looks like. But here’s the funny thing, while we all sugar coat our lives and business online, lots of us also compare our reality to others’ shiny rose-tinted view of their world.

Comparisonitis

This topic has been on my mind recently, from speaking with my clients, and more so since I came across this photo from 2018 on my phone.

The truth behind that picture from 2018 was that I’d been all-consumed by feelings of comparisonitis, jealousy, resentment, gap focus, call it what you will. It wasn’t fun and I felt pretty shit about myself. In fact, it was a picture perfect representation of how I felt at the time.

I don’t like telling people about this time in my life because I am afraid that people will judge me or think I can’t be happy for them when they share their successes.

It was also at a time in my career when I was doing pretty well to the outside world. But inwardly, I felt like crap.

My way of coping with this has been to hide and withdraw from social media. I reasoned that if I stopped looking at what others were doing then I couldn’t work myself into a tizzy. And that if I kept playing small by staying behind the scenes, then I wouldn’t feel so rubbish about myself.

In fact, I still have those feelings sometimes, even now! It took me years of practice to ensure that I don’t let this mental comparison game completely take over what I think and do.

Stay in your lane

Slowly but surely, I no longer felt so left behind — I felt catapulted forward with speed and badassery.

Here’s how I managed to overcome this: I played a little game of Stop, Start Continue.

If you haven’t used this tactic yourself, you simply think about the situation you’re currently in, and figure out your next moves in terms of:

– what isn’t working and needs to stop
– what changes you need to make and start doing
– and what’s already working that you need to continue

Mine looked like this:

STOP:
– I stopped following whose social media accounts made me feel less-than.
– I stopped staying subscribed to email newsletters that kept on telling me that I needed to be performing at 110% every single day.

START:
– I started to list all the unique qualities I have and why I am the best person to help my clients succeed.
– I started to map out meaningful goals for ME, not ones based on what others had achieved.

CONTINUE:
– I continued to remind myself why I’m here and what I’m working towards.
– I added these to a post-it note and stuck it on my desk as a visual reminder.

Here’s how to get back in your own lane:

  • Play your own game of Stop, Start, Continue
  • Revisit the reasons why you set up this business in the first place. Remind yourself why you’re here and what you’re working towards
  • List all the unique qualities you have and why you are the best person to help your clients succeed
  • Temporarily unfollow people whose social media accounts make your feel less-than
  • Unsubscribe from email newsletters that kept on telling you that you need to be performing at 110% every single day.

Set your goals

The most important tip here is that I mapped out meaningful goals for me, not ones based on what others had achieved.

Finally, the only person I am now comparing myself to is yesterday’s version of me.

Protecting your mindset and wellbeing is important all of the time, but it really is even more crucial right now. And it all starts with surrounding yourself with the right people.

Sometimes people think that I have it all together… but in reality, I am human too! I actually have quite a number of secret fears that I had (or still face) when it comes to running my business, and I look forward to sharing more of them with you.

Work with me

I transform ambitious OBMs into well-respected business consultants who feel more fulfilled and energised by their work. Fancy a virtual cuppa? Feel free to book in here.

I kinda have to address this: daily habits

I kinda have to address this: daily habits

There has been something that has been bothering me a lot, and I feel a very strong need to address it officially.

Here are some thoughts I have about daily routines and why following someone else’s Insta-perfect-early-alarm-brush-teeth-chug-water-make-bed-drink-green-smoothie ideology is the key to… well….nothing but feeling pretty crap about yourself.

Just a few days ago, I read yet another post from a thought leader (who I hugely admire) about how there were six things he did every day without fail, and how he believed that ticking through those tasks meant he was guaranteed to have a productive and successful day.

He kept going on about how his routine would, ultimately, save the reader from a life of unfulfilled potential (a pretty bold statement, don’t you think?!).

Now, I have nothing but respect for this person, but I disagree with him that following his exact daily routine will help you achieve your biggest goals and dreams. Now, let me explain why…

My thoughts about daily routines

First, a disclaimer:

I feel that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with exploring what habits and routines work for other highly successful people.

After all, turning to an expert for their tried and tested methodology often means there’s less of a learning curve for us novices.

So please don’t start throwing eggs at me if you don’t share the same opinions as me. You know I’ve always been 100% authentic with you in my emails, .

However…

Personally, I do not believe that one-size-fits-all daily routines actually exist.

I urge you to find a routine that works for YOU.

Instead of setting the alarm at 5am for a prescribed hour of yoga followed by journalling because that’s what one of the gurus does, I say you’re better off turning inwards to figure out whether you’re even a ‘morning person’ at all, or whether journalling is even important to you.

To give you an example, pretty much every daily routine I read about involves getting up early and making the bed. Both of those small things, so say the experts, will give me a sense of pride and set me up for success throughout the day.

Here’s my issue:

✅ I am a morning person so getting up early works really well for me (I’m writing this email at 4:22am and the silence in the house makes this quiet time at the desk feel indulgent – I LOVE it). I know I’m most productive at this time. I know I’ve had enough sleep to wake up refreshed, and I also know I do my best creative work around this time.

❌ I don’t give a crap about whether or not the bed is made. I just roll out of bed and don’t give straightening the duvet or plumping pillows a second thought. Shock horror, right? The truth is that it’s totally meaningless to me and it absolutely does not have any bearing on how productive the rest of my day is going to be.

I can’t preach to you about how getting up at 5am and leaving my bed a mess is going to help you feel more fulfilled in life if you’re a night-owl who gains a sense of pride when you see your nicely made bed.

What works for me, isn’t going to work for you. And that’s why we can only ever turn to other people to gather examples of habits, and then create our own plan.

Honestly, sometimes it is hard to look at someone who’s highly successful and not want to emulate them in some way – it can feel like a fast-track way to their levels of achievements. But what works for them isn’t always going to work the same way for us mere mortals.

Oh wow, I sure am on a roll today! Let’s end off by super-charging this with value for you.

Instead of following someone else’s daily routine, what about cherry-picking their ideas to create your own routine? It then becomes a plan that contains elements within its structure that work with your own energy levels and lifestyle.

 Here are some mix-and-match elements to use as ideas to get you started:

  • Set the alarm an hour earlier
  • Make your bed
  • Move your body
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Plan one business development task you will do without fail
  • Journal how you see the day going
  • Journal how the day went
  • Meal plan for tomorrow
  • Get your clothes out ready for the following day
  • Use a sleep tracker app to monitor your sleep quality

Have a great day ahead, stay amazing and start creating a routine that works for you.

 And if you need help with creating an individual masterplan for greater levels of success in your own business, my six-month mentoring and coaching programme is now open. WOOT! Feel free to book in for a discovery call.

 

👉 PS – if your inbox needs weekly inspiration like this, feel free to sign up for email updates here.

COVID-19 and the Invisible Increase in Mental Load

COVID-19 and the Invisible Increase in Mental Load

Like most women, I assume many different roles; mother, partner, business owner … the list goes on. This means that I’m constantly being pulled in different directions, each of which feels equally worthy of my (often limited) time and energy.

To wear all the hats and handle all these diverse responsibilities, I’ve learned hard lessons in order to balance that ever-present mental load so I can focus on the right thing at the right time. (Note: multi-tasking is most definitely a modern-day myth.)

Wrangling the invisible yet constant to-do list in my head can be pretty darn tricky (as I’m sure many of you will agree) but during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and in between those super fine margins between working/parenting/adulting/staying sane), there’s an increasing chatter of STUFF going on in my head, more so than ever.

Sometimes I can silence that voice. Sometimes it goes to frickin’ town…

When is life going to get back to normal? How do I explain this situation to my daughter? When will a Tesco delivery slot become available? What else do I need to do to make my Facebook group members feel more supported? When will the shop ever have eggs? Am I spending enough time on marketing? Am I on-brand but not tone deaf? Am I over-servicing my clients because I’m worried they’re not going to see the value in what I do? Where are the dog biscuits? Who has the energy for car insurance renewal comparison sites right now anyway? Do I have enough client work? How can I keep my daughter connected to her friends? What day is it? When will I see my parents again? What’s the weather going to be like so we can play outside? Did that invoice get paid? Is everyone in this house taking their bloody vitamins? Is that a tick on the cat’s ear? What the fuck does a tick look like anyway? Can we google it? Can we afford it? Who has the energy for car insurance renewal comparison sites right now anyway? What beige meal can I concoct based on what little we have left in the freezer? Do we have any veg? When will we finish that bloomin’ jigsaw? Can everyone wash their hands? What games can my daughter play while on a video call? Where are the missing jigsaw pieces? What beige meal can I concoct based on what little we have left in the freezer? Lather, rinse, repeat!

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Being a businesswoman during COVID-19

I’ll be honest: I had a bit of a wobble last week.

This situation is scary, and it’s difficult, and we don’t know what’s going to happen next. The constant barrage of bad news and negativity is hard to wade through. I’ve gone from the frustration and denial phase slowly into acceptance and far more level-headed thinking. But my head has been getting so full in the process that something had to break, and I’m sorry to say that it was me last week.

I thought about how weird this all is and just sat… and cried… and cried.

The uncertainty of lockdown means that a lot of people need more support than ever. I desperately want to be there for my clients, while also continuing the education for my daughter Freya, figuring out how to explain a global pandemic to a seven-year-old who just wants to play at the park with her friends, and feeling like an utter failure when I put yet another beige freezer meal on the dinner table because we don’t have any fresh food in the house.

The new normal

Having a bit of a cry did make me feel better (who doesn’t love a good cathartic cry?) but it also made me realise that I was trying to do too much.

In normal circumstances, I thrive when wearing ALL the hats and I lap up ALL the responsibilities.

But these aren’t normal circumstances for any of us, and we have to remember that not living up to our normal expectations does not make us a failure or bad or lazy or selfish.

Absolutely nothing in the world is normal right now, so we can’t possibly be expected to carry on as normal! It’s important that we learn to adapt to the situation and do the best that we can – and cut ourselves some slack when things get too much.

Tips to balance your mental load

As much as we’d all love to just hide away for a few months, the world keeps turning and our responsibilities don’t just go away.

Here are some ways to better balance your mental load during this difficult time.

Focus on what you can control

For many of us, we’re used to being assertive and in control within our own little life bubbles. If you’re anything like me, the feeling of not being in control of what happens next in the world is quite frightening at times.

But there a lot I can still control – my thoughts and my actions.

I choose to stay at home, to limit trips to the shops unless it’s for essentials, to do my daily walk with my family and the dog because it brings me joy to be outside in the spring sunshine for just a little break each day.

And I choose to limit my media consumption.

Don’t get me wrong, there are people who I love dearly. But their constant negative doom and gloom attitude and latest conspiracy theories of 5G radiating into bats that are then telepathically programming toilet roll spies that are infiltrating our households? Nah, I can’t take it right now. I don’t have the mental capacity.

Consider this to be the permission you didn’t know you needed to temporarily unfollow people on social media, remove news apps from your phone, silence notification pings. Do whatever you need to do to reduce the amount of stuff that’s only going to add to your mental load.

Establish your Minimum Effective Dose

Author Dan Meredith talks about the Minimum Effective Dose. It’s about figuring out the bare minimum amount of effort to scrape by for a short amount of time. If you do anything over and above that minimum, then great – that’s a bonus. But otherwise, you’re doing just enough to keep your head above water. Nothing more.

To-do lists

Write down everything you need to do so you can keep track of your tasks. Scraps of paper, electronically, heck, on the kitchen blackboard. It doesn’t matter. Just get all that crap out of your head to lessen the mental load.

Separating tasks into categories or even allocating jobs/chores to the rest of your household will help you to focus on what’s essential right now, and figure out what can be left until you’ve got enough mental space to deal with it.

Honest, open communication

Give people honest, realistic expectations so they understand what they can and can’t expect of you right now.

This is particularly relevant in client relationships if you’re now working slightly different hours to accommodate children being at home. Perhaps you’re not checking emails as often so your clients need to text or call if they need your support. Maybe you use the out of office function to let everyone else know when you’re next going to be online. Maybe you need more scheduled calls. Maybe you need less because email is a better way to communicate for you right now.

In households, introverts are struggling with being around more people than normal, and extroverts aren’t used to working alone.

Maybe you’re more teary than normal, feeling particularly overwhelmed or disconnected.

We’re all needing to adapt as we work our way through this, so keep up the communication – whether that’s telling your household that you’re going to have 30 minutes to yourself, or deciding to organise a family Houseparty video call for everyone to get together as one, albeit virtually.

Take a moment to be present, be mindful… and breathe

If you’re feeling the anxiety rise inside you, or you notice yourself feeling more stressed/short-tempered/frustrated, take a moment to turn inwards.

Where possible, go somewhere quiet for just a couple of minutes, focus on the steady rhythm of your breathing or use a meditation app to centre yourself and allow time to process those emotions.

Be kind to yourself

Forgive yourself for not being your usual high-performing-5am-start self right now. You’re still doing your best in our current new normal. At least that’s how I’m looking at it.

Celebrate all of your victories and achievements, no matter how small. Sure, you just cobbled together the World’s Most Bizarre Yet Beige Dinner out of the freezer, but your family is safe and well and happy.

Most importantly, remember that this isn’t forever; it’s just for now.

We are in this together.

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