Independence to Thrive

Looking back on Independence Day (July 4th), I realize how fortunate I am to live in the USA, where I can do almost anything I want to do and improve my self-worth and career. I periodically look back on how I’m doing and how I can improve my virtual assistant business, Virtual Colleague LLC.

Virtual Colleague LLC 4

It’s not enough to just review my work and my mission statement and my marketing plan. While I spent July 4th with family and friends and yes, I did eat too much and stayed up late to view the fireworks, I realized what independence means.

Most people think it means doing what you want, when you want. That’s not entirely true. It means having the flexibility to achieve new goals, while working on the things that make you happy and bring you success.

Independence doesn’t mean staying in bed all day or doing nothing. It means getting out there and finding the right balance between your working life, personal life, and fitting in some new fun, activity or learning.

I truly enjoy working as a virtual assistant, but I also find time to write fiction. I recently published my first e-book “Everyone Evelon” – a story about faith, hope, love, and Divine intervention.  Writing this book was a lifelong dream and it also motivated me to do better in my virtual assistant business.

Everyone Evelon Cover

How? I had client deadlines to meet, so I found ways to work more efficiently, so I would have some spare time to write. I accomplished my 2 goals – working as a virtual assistant and becoming an author, while remaining calm and meeting all deadlines.

Independence is what our Founding Fathers wanted from England, because they didn’t want to be dictated to. They wanted individuals to be able to accomplish what they wanted to and not be saddled with other obligations.

I feel the same way. I’m able to service my clients and their needs, while living out my dream of becoming an author. The best of both worlds.

As I sat there on July 4th by the fire pot toasting my marshmallow, I realized how lucky I am to have this freedom, but I have to use it wisely. If I get caught up in doing only what I want and not considering others, it may lead to self-destruction.

Toasting Marshmallows

Balance is the key and while I don’t always feel like working for my clients or writing a manuscript, the discipline that brings has helped me to stay focus and achieve so much more than I expected. Balance keeps me mentally and physically healthy.

Balance

Independence gives me the right to pursue my dreams and goals. I can put as much of myself into my goals as I want and the end result is always a better me, a happier client, and a satisfied reader.

What are your dreams and goals?  How did you spend Independence Day?

 

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Take a Break: Get Some Inspiration

I’ve just spent a week in Maine – camping and I feel refreshed and ready to go. Before I left for vacation, I wanted to catch up on all my emails and correspondence. I made an effort to go through all of my emails and either place each email in a folder or delete it. I have 3 email addresses with difference internet providers. I wanted a clean slate for when I came back.

Campsite

It was a huge effort to get everything in order, but it was a great exercise. Why? Because while I was on vacation, my mind rested and I began to think of some of the things I read about. It seems like I read something and filed it away, and then, when my mind was clear and relaxed, I started to remember certain things I read about.

This is a good thing. I started to think about things in pieces and not try to link everything together. I was calm enough to re-think what I had read. I wanted to make notes on paper, but instead, I just filed my thoughts away until after vacation.

My best times for thinking are first thing in the morning or when I’m hiking. I thought I would be so busy watching where I was walking I wouldn’t be able to think of anything, but hiking is really my best way to re-connect with myself and my thoughts.

It’s a gentle exercise as old as man and yet, the rhythmic, flowing movement of arms and legs causes me to relax and focus my thoughts. Many times I sat at my computer holding my head in my hands trying to think something through and sometimes not succeeding. A gentle walk was all I needed.

Hiking

While I’m walking I think about my past – what I’ve accomplished in my business and personal life. Then I think about the things I want to do and start making a mental list of each thing. The good thing about walking is that I can plan and dream right up until I come to the end of the trail.

Going over things that I’ve read gives me a chance to digest those ideas and think of ways to use them in my business or my writings. I originally planned my vacation to get away from everything and just chill out, but my mind never stops working.

It was a very fruitful vacation after all. I got a chance to test my driving and camping skills, focus my eyes on all that nature has to offer, and take time to stop and enjoy my surroundings.  I also got away from the noise and hectic pace of life.

Lake Mountains Lake Mountains 2

Best of all, I got a chance to really think and analyze some of the ideas and issues that have been bothering me, but just didn’t have the time to do it. Now I just have to put them into practice.

What are your plans for your vacation this year?

 

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New Branch of My Virtual Assistant Business

Honestly, business has been a little slow lately and with summer coming on and those hot, humid days, I decided to create a new branch for my business. In addition to the services I now offer, I have decided to write a novel.

I know this is a stretch from what I normally do, but I’ve always had a penchant for writing. I continue to do resume packages, training manuals, product descriptions, etc, but I wanted to try something different to augment my income.

Virtual Colleague LLC 4

I actually wrote this story several years ago, when I worked as a temp. If you’ve ever worked as a temp, you know that you are not always included in certain activities and events and sometimes find yourself alone at lunch.

I grabbed a notebook and started getting creative. I wrote during my lunch hour for 4 months. Then I put the notebook away and went on to do other things. Back in December, I wanted to do something different with my business and thought about the notebook.

One snowy day, I took it out and re-read it. I needed to tweak the story a bit and correct some of the errors, but it was almost ready to go. Not trusting myself to find my own errors, I sent it to a copy editor. She suggested a few corrections and I made them.

I was then faced with the prospect of finding a literary agent or publisher. I sent out many query letters, but no one wanted to publish this great work of art?!, so I looked into e-publishing. I finally settled on Book Baby and on May 1st, my e-book, “Everyone Evelon” was published.

Everyone Evelon Cover

I am so excited to share this news with all of you. It is fiction. I spoke about God in it, so it is listed as Christian fiction with a subcategory of romance. It’s a realistic look at young people, young love, career aspirations, and life’s choices.

 

Download a copy of my e-book from these booksellers:

Amazon.com –   http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field- keywords=everyone%20evelon&sprefix=every%2Caps&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Aeveryone%20evelon

Barnes & Noble.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/everyoen-evelon?store=allproducts&keyword=everyoen+evelon

Scribd.comhttp://www.scribd.com/search?query=everyone+evelon

Blio - https://www.blio.com/blio/actions/searchHandler.do?userType=MLB&tabID=BOOKS&itemNum=ITEM%3a1&key=0015008270&nextPage=booksDetails&parentNum=12848

E-sentral.com -   https://www.e-sentral.com/search/q/everyone+evelon

Kobohttp://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/everyone-evelon

TheCopia.comhttp://www.thecopia.com/catalog/details.html?catId=1605348

 

**After reading the story, please post a review on any of the above sites or on Goodreads. Thank you!

There is so much to do to promote a new book, I will be posting to this blog every 2 weeks instead of every week. To learn more about my e-book, go to my book blog at Write, Read, Delight, Indeed!

 

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Planting the Seeds of Growth

I started earlier this year to plant some seeds in pre-treated soil and containers. I don’t have much faith in this method, because for me it’s a hit-or-miss activity. I’m either very successful with many tiny plants or they die from cold or overwatering.

Garden

Even though my last name is Plante, that’s “plant” with an “e”, it doesn’t mean that I have a green thumb. I have to work just as hard as everyone else to ensure my plants will grow and give something back to me in the form of veggies, fruit, or flowers.

Running a virtual assistant business, Virtual Colleague, LLC, is just like gardening. Some of the seeds I sow will not bloom into clients or prospects, but some of the seeds will not. I have to treat all seeds the same and wait to see which ones will grow and prosper, so I can pay more attention to them.

Virtual Colleague LLC 4

One of the problems I have with seeds is that they don’t all grow at the same rate. Sometimes, it takes 3 months for seeds to start growing, where other seeds are starting to open in 2 – 3 weeks. Keeping an eye on the moisture in the soil and the amount of sunlight they receive is key to continued growth.

I do the same thing in my virtual assistant business. I nurture every potential client. Sometimes, I have to wait months for them to become interested or refer someone to me. Some clients start right away and see the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant versus hiring a permanent employee.

Business owners all have their own way of communicating. While some want to keep in constant contact with me, others are content to touch base once a month. I try to accommodate everyone’s tastes, while still maintaining contact. If they need someone or they know someone who needs someone, I WANT to be that someone they contact.

Communication

Just like planting the seeds, I never know if the seed will prosper, but I still give it my utmost attention. Most of my time is spent networking and trying to attract potential clients, not really doing the work. That’s the easy part. Sitting at my computer and assisting my client’s business to grow.

By the end of this month, I will know which seeds are growing strong and will produce results for me. I will also know how many potential plants I’ve lost. The key is to figure out why I lost them and how to change the way I care for them.

I do the same thing in my business. I try to do my best, but hard economic times contribute to some potential clients backing away from taking advantage of my services. Like growing plants, they don’t know if a virtual assistant is right for their business and they’re not willing to take the time to see if it will work.

In another month, the landscape in my yard will look completely different. Flowers will be in bloom, trees and shrubs will be full of leaves and buds, and I will be picking some vegetables from my garden.

Garden Flowers

I hope my virtual assistant business will be blooming as well. In any case, I will continue to put in the effort necessary to be proficient for my clients and my business.

 

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Memorial Day: A Time to Remember

Let’s take time out on Memorial Day to remember our friends, relatives, neighbors, ancestors and others who came before us and fought for freedom. I usually write about being a virtual assistant or about my business as a virtual assistant, but sometimes, we all need to stop thinking about ourselves and focus on the bigger picture.

Amer Flags

In this case, the bigger picture is taking time to reflect on all those people, who gave up so much for a better country and a better world. They fought for and died for a cause they truly believed in.

Sometimes, I spend many hours working on something for my business and yet, when I think about the commitment of these brave men and women, there is no comparison. They gave their all with no expectation of success or wealth. They fought, because they believed in what they stood for and they backed it up with action.

US Army

I attend the Memorial Day parade in my town every year. I am always struck by the dwindling number of spectators. Some spots along the parade route have no spectators at all. It is sad that many of us have forgotten about the sacrifices of others. Even if there is a family reunion or picnic on this day, everyone can take an hour or two to remember those who came before us and those who have taken up the cause to represent our country in the world today.

Every so often, we should stop thinking of ourselves and remember those who came before us. If we live in a free society today, we can thank those who fought and died for that freedom. I look forward to the parade and applaud, when the military pass by. It is a clear reminder that the true meaning of success is achieving a goal or dream. It is giving your all to a cause or belief and willing to suffer the consequences to achieve it.

Mem Day Graves

I am so proud of our military past and present and I will continue to support those who choose to follow in the footsteps of our freedom fighters. So this Memorial Day, if you get the chance to go to a parade – do so. It is very uplifting for the active and retired military to see the support from the people they are serving.

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TAKING TIME FOR TEA TIME

Recently I went to tea with my friend in Massachusetts. It’s a very beautiful tea room owned by a husband and wife. They have the usual tea room gifts along with certain loose tea selections. As any business owner will tell you, you need to offer something that no other competitor’s business offers. This tea room offers “Downton Abbey wine”.

Downton Abbey

I don’t go to tea very often. I try to go once a month, but lately, I haven’t kept to that schedule. As we sat there catching up on what’s been happening in each other’s lives, I felt calm and relaxed. I took the time to enjoy my meal, which is always a treat no matter which selection I pick.

Why do I enjoy going to tea? Is it the food, the surroundings, or the company I keep? For me, it is the whole experience. As you walk into a tea room, you can feel the outside world drifting away.

Tea Room

The careful placement of the sitting area as well as the gift selection gives the appearance of a quiet, peaceful, calm atmosphere. Everything has a place in a tea room and that quiet, peaceful order adds to the ambience. The small tables and table settings make you feel special as if they are there especially for you. No matter what I choose to eat or buy, I always enjoy that special time to sit back and be served. I enjoy the personal attention and the fact that someone is there to please me.

I try to do the same to my business clients. As a virtual assistant, I am there to facilitate their tasks and projects. I try to make them feel comfortable working with me and they need to feel that I will accomplish all activities we’ve agreed on.

Just as the tea rooms make their customers feel special or pampered, so too, does the virtual assistant need to make their clients feel valued and confident in the virtual assistant’s abilities.

Business Card

Going to a tea room not only refreshes and revitalized me, but it also reminds me that my clients deserve this same kind of treatment. It is my responsibility to make sure that all transitions are smooth and seamless. I have the responsibility to ensure that all tasks and projects are completed according to specific instructions.

The tea room owners take satisfaction from satisfied customers, so should a virtual assistant get satisfaction from a job well done and satisfied clients.

 

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A Day to Celebration My Mother’s Purpose

My Mom is still with me, so every Mother’s Day is a special day for us. As I get older, I realize all he struggles and problems she faced during her life. She really wanted to be a mother and had to wait almost 6 years after her marriage to have me. She tells me she has enjoyed all of it. Even though she went without many things, so my father, sister, and I could have the things we needed.

Mom on Bench

I asked her one day how she had the strength and fortitude to go without so many things for us. She explained to me that she loved her job as wife and mother. When we were happy, she was happy and her joy was seeing that all of us had what we needed in order to succeed.

Sure, from time to time, she wanted new things too, but we were living paycheck-to-paycheck, so she had to make decisions based on need not want. I was really touched that my mother valued us and that she was able to sacrifice so much for the good of others.

This made me think about my own virtual assistant business. I sacrifice a lot of time and money to reach out to others. Whether it’s attending a networking event, fundraiser, or community event, I always clear my calendar for those events and make it a point to arrive early.

Virtual Colleague LLC 4

I put myself out at these events, so I can help my business to prosper. My virtual assistant business is like my child. I have created it, continue to nurture it, and get great satisfaction out of watching it grow and develop.

When there are problems or issues with the business, I double-down like my Mom did and try to fix them as soon as possible. I realize that I give more than the usual 40 hours per week to my business, but for me, it’s not a job, it’s a part of me.

I guess my Mom felt that way about us. She would do almost anything for us, but within reason and according to our means. She stayed up nights with us, when we were sick and always prepared healthy, balanced meals.

She had 2 heart attacks by the time I was 9 years old, but with positive thinking, she got well slowly and is still with me today at the age of 87. She once told me that positive thinking is what got her through those dark days. She was determined to get out of that bed and continue caring for her family where she left off. She was not going to settle for less.

Thinking

That positive thinking comes in handy, when business is not at the level I think it should be. Positive thinking keeps me networking and searching for new ways to improve my business.

Mom never uses the ATM and she is very tentative about pushing the buttons on the microwave, but she is mentally strong and keeps telling me that great things are possible if I work hard. Mom always had a purpose and so do I.

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WHY I LOVE THE MAY BREAKFAST

As a virtual assistant, networking is a huge part of my marketing plan. I try to use every opportunity to promote my business to the locals. While it can be fun and interesting, it can also be stressful, especially if the crowd I’m in doesn’t seem too receptive to my pitch.

Networking 2

I try to focus my marketing efforts on food events. Why? They seem to host a happier, friendlier crowd. That’s why I never miss going to a May Breakfast. I’m from Rhode Island, so many of my readers may not know what this is or why it occurs in May. This is a Rhode Island tradition.

Pastry

Betsy Wade of the New York Times describes it like this: “May is to Rhode Island what July is to the rest of the country. On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island beat the other colonies to the punch by two months and declared itself independent of the British crown. To mark the event, and possibly to help everyone ignore its record as the last of the 13 original states to ratify the Constitution, the smallest state is host to celebrations all through what it calls Heritage Month.

The state’s annual May Breakfasts, which begin at the end of April and continue into mid-May, are usually fund-raising events. Sometimes talks or nature walks are added. The purpose has become more diverse in other ways, too. On May 1 the Governor always invites every Rhode Islander over 100 years of age to breakfast with him at the Capitol. Those who are over 60 are invited to senior nutrition centers in their communities for what is called a Governor’s May Breakfast, but without the Governor. These events, at 11 o’clock, have a standard menu and accept contributions, however modest.

Beyond the Governor’s breakfasts, the state estimates that 60 private organizations, schools, clubs, churches and philanthropies hold fund-raising breakfasts, some with simple menus, some more elaborate, all with hot food that sticks to the ribs and that no one, not even in a moment of carbohydrate overload, would dare call brunch.

Menus may include baked beans, pie, clam cakes, scrambled eggs, pancakes, doughnuts, muffins, French toast, sausage, ham, coffee and all the rest. Jonny cakes or johnnycakes (griddle-baked cornbread), a Rhode Island tradition, are served at many breakfasts.

Adult prices range from $2.50 to $12, the higher price for “classier places” in Newport.

Many breakfasts are scheduled for weekends, unless May 1 falls on Sunday, conflicting with religious services. The Oak Lawn Church in Cranston generally acknowledged to have begun the custom in 1868 as May Day.”

People Eating Breakfast

Best advice: Get out and attend food events. They offer great networking opportunities, good food, a chance to reconnect with acquaintances and interact socially, which is missing from your home office.

I can’t wait for the May Breakfast!

 

 

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