Jun
27

Ruth Martin Interview

Ruth Martin, virtual assistant

Welcome to the Virtual Office Center’s 2nd virtual event of 2015. My name is Electra Ford and today I have the privilege of interviewing Ruth Martin.

Ruth Martin, the owner of Maplewood Virtual Assistance, an online business support services firm, started her business in August of 2000. She first contracted her services locally using her 25+ year background in administrative, business management and retail-influenced sales and marketing. She was the director of a non-profit organization and her responsibilities included operating a retail store, public speaking, live trade events and managing a 40 person staff.

Ruth is a contributing author of Virtual Assistant: The Series – Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA-4th edition. She is the author of Sweet Bites to Satisfy Your Marketing Cravings: Marketing Do’s Not To Be Ignored, Kindle version.

Colleagues and clients recognize Ruth. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Christian Work-At-Home (CWAHM) Blogger of the Week award. Also, her most recent acknowledgement is in the bestselling author, Brad Meltzer’s newest book, The President’s Shadow where she is listed as one of the consultants giving him a hand with plants and gardening.

Welcome Ruth and thank you SO much for agreeing to this interview. I’m looking forward to our conversation today.

Ruth: I am too Electra, it’s great to be here thank you so much for having me.

Electra: Absolutely. We have a lot to discuss and reading up a little bit about your background, I am excited because I have no idea where we may end up. I just know you have a wealth of knowledge so I look forward to these next 30 minutes or so. So I’ll get right into it.

Ruth: That sounds good. Just put your seat belt on we’ll just take off and take them on a ride of conversation.

Electra: Yes, exactly. I’m going to try to contain myself so people have a clean recording without me going “amen yes yes” the whole way through [the recording].

In the beginning, let’s start with the most general question, when did you become a virtual assistant and why?

Ruth: I became a virtual assistant by pure accident. I think working, marketing and managing have always been in my blood. I started working late in life more toward 22 to 25 and I’ve always been in something that was in marketing in retail and a right-hand to a manger. I’m very much a manager of my own. I’ve mostly managed in my business career.

What led me to virtual assistance was that I had a baby. I was working at the non-profit as their director and part of that role was also managing their retail store and all the other aspects that came with overseeing a staff of 40 volunteers in the mature age bracket.

I took a 3 month maternity leave then went back to work full-time with my new born. They set up a nursery for me. The board of directors were just insistent about me returning to work. They made it as easy as possible and everything was fine until my son began walking at the age of 9 months. I gave a 30 day notice and we left. Within two weeks, 2 different board members contacted me about working for them.

I was hesitant because I said I wanted to be a stay at home mom. I knew he [my son] would be in good care if I had my mother or in-law take care of him but I wanted to do it myself. I talked with them and they were insistent. I offered to do part-time work from my computer to your computer never realizing that I was cracking open the door to being a virtual assistant. I didn’t know there were others that worked this way. I didn’t know there were organizations, industries and forums.

We had been working together a few months and I happen to come across the community college program offering courses to becoming a virtual assistant. I had a light bulb [moment] realizing others do this. I went ahead and took the course learning about the organizations and the one that really clicked with me was VANetworking, by Tanya Sutherland, founder.

I got to know Tanya hung out [online] on the forum and quickly she turned me into a moderator. Everything just took off. I built my website. My husband has a background in IT work and website work. And now he has his own home business working full-time as well. Everything spiraled and took off from there.

Electra: Wow! That’s really a great story of how your life called and directed you to your next path as far as your work. That is neat.

Ruth: Absolutely. I have always said that God’s hand has been in it. He has led me. I can look back; particularly within a year or two of launching my business. And, in the early days I really only focused on those I worked with locally. I didn’t realize others were doing this and I had worked with local clients the first 6 to 7 years before I came to an online presence.

I can see every employment position I’ve had from the very first one working as a grocery store cashier until where I am today. God’s hand has been in it. The people that I’ve met and the networking -opportunities that have come. The doors that have opened and the skills I’ve picked up along the way have just continually built and grew. Being able to be a right-hand person to those managers and being in positions where they have given me a whole dept to run or given me front lead when I worked at the non-profit. I chose the direction and the development of where that non-profit was gonna go and what we would get involved in and the board trusted me with that fully.

I’ve been in those 6 figure earning situations managing staff and it’s just incredible how it has all played together to bring me to today.

Electra: It is; I’ve heard people’s stories and that’s one of the great things about doing an interview. You get to hear a person’s journey. As you explained it I can see that your life called and guided you through easy and smoothly.

I understand that your first clients came from your working relationships with some of the board members at the non-profit so you started doing their administrative support in their businesses? Is that how your business originally started?

Ruth: I did. They knew me for marketing. My first services kind of centered around all of the things I’ve always performed as an employee. I had been project management – Marketing – Business development – Administrative support.

Over the course of the years, I’ve really stayed true to those core services. If I’ve expanded in something it’s because I’ve been blessed working with clients very long-term. Since going online, my longest client has been with me now 7 years and continues to be with me. Others have been with me for six and four years. As we get to know each other and we get into our working groove they will say “I’m interested in such and such.”

A lot of times we’re reading the same publications and attending the same seminars and have a lot of similar interests that really click. I’ll say “I’m interested in that too.” They will ask “can we do that in my business?” I’ll say “sure.” So you roll up your sleeves digging in working shoulder to shoulder learning that new skill whatever that item may be. I apply it to my business they apply it to theirs. We keep broadening and expanding based on our interest our time developing things that are natural that we see client’s requesting and seeking; filling gaps as we go.

Electra: That is truly building a long-term business working relationship. And you are the second seasoned VA that I’ve heard tell a little bit about their background and working with clients that demonstrates how they have something in common with their clients. One of the best ways to find your ideal client will most of the time be people that you have something in common with in general. Your story reminds me of this.

Ruth: Exactly. Like people hang out with like people. If you find one you really click with chances are they will tell their friends. And their friends are often interested in doing the same things or complimentary things. And the complimentary things are kind of nice because you build and that again expands the skills and services I go into.

The one thing I want to back up to say I really don’t like the thing called ideal client and here’s why. With my strong background in marketing and retail prior to being a virtual assistant, you learn to serve a wide variety of people. Like you walk into Walmart the cashier doesn’t say “you’re not my ideal person you can’t go through my check out line,” that’s absurd. I get that virtual assistants work with people very closely and you certainly do want some compatibility.

I think some people misrepresent when they say is you want an ideal client when you truly want compatibility. You don’t want a passive personality with an aggressive personality because that would be friction and you wouldn’t work well. You would be sandpaper people – you’re gonna rub each other the wrong way. But as far as the ‘ideal’ part you can learn to work with people. You can see their strengths and their background and knowledge that they have and your services can come in and compliment that and do tremendous things for them. So I am kind of wishy when it comes to ‘oh it has to be an ideal client’ [because] you can learn to work with a lot of people.

Electra: I like your spin on that because in this business another conversation virtual assistants go through a lot is, ‘know your niche.’ That will guide you to how you write your website content and connect to your clients. So people will know your services and who you are talking to you need to know your niche and these types of things [ideal client profile] and it’s true.

Ruth: Absolutely. I’ll see people and they will say that “my niche is working with a coach author or speaker and that’s one of the big ones you hear pretty commonly and that’s fine. I look at niche as two things:

  • You’re either in an industry niche where you’re working with a specific group. You would know all of the types of things they would anticipate your service to provide
  • You have a niche that is a particular service layer. In essence the marketing on my side. I know all types of marketing so therefore I can have a wide variety of a client base. For example, I have:
    • An orthopedic surgeon
    • contracts through US Department of Education with Scientific researchers
    • Bankruptcy attorneys

I have a broad range client base but all of them have the commonality that their coming to me for:

  • marketing services
  • consulting
  • project management
  • administrative support.

And we also do some product development for some of those as well. I think a niche can be industry or services driven.

Electra: Yes, I get that; it makes a lot of sense. Speaking of that ; your wide variety of industries and different people that you’ve worked with over the years. I understand that you started your business basically with clients coming to you.

Now once you took this course and learned there was a whole community, an industry out there how did you begin to market your service online? Did you first join the organizations or did you take the knowledge from the course? Did it advise you to get a website and have an online presence?

How did you expand your business from local to online?

Ruth: Primarily once I started networking, connecting and building friendships. I hung out on VANetworking.com. Through that they had the RFP system. And I submitted to five RFPs and out of those I landed 4 clients. They were my core four and three of them are still with me today. And, from those 4 clients, the word of mouth started and the referrals started. The rest of my business has primarily grown from referrals. Over the course of the years, I’ve picked other local clients that have phased in and out for different periods of time. For the most part, my client base is more online clients. Only because virtual assistance in our local community are still a bit obscure and people haven’t fully embraced it. I still have some people that want to drop something off at your door.

I have an aluminum mailbox on my porch so they can drop off work if someone needs to come.

Electra: Excellent! How did you decide when and how to add more services?

Ruth: A lot of times it will come from getting to know the individual. I had one client that I used to tease her by saying she had “shiny syndrome object.” Somebody would talk about something in a group and she would say to me, “we’ve got to try that.” And I would reply “but what we have is working just fine and she said “yes, but maybe it’s better.” It was amazing. I got used to that with her personality. And I really liked her and we worked well together so I would say “ok, let’s give it a try.” I learned that was just her.

She really did push my boundaries sometimes with “what if we do this?” And I liked that it was a true partnership. She would say “I’ll figure out this part, and you figure out that part then we’ll get together on a conference call in a couple of days and put our parts together and see. Sometimes whatever the new shiny was, was really better than what we were doing – better process system. Or other times we were like “we really like the old way; it works so much better.” So, it was just kind of a meeting of the minds in a mutual direction that we liked to explore and enjoy. Not every client works that way.

My preference is to work with retainer clients because it gives me the opportunity to learn their business well so that as we’re working on things, I can offer expansion ideas based on my experiences that I know will work, would this work for you? My clients know that I always offer suggestions or have you seen it from this perspective.
Other clients just want a task master. I just need someone to execute the task and I don’t need a lot of collaboration. I have those in a different tier and I work with them differently. I also have project clients in between the retainer projects. They fill in the gaps in between the retainer projects. A lot of times we can set some tasks and forget it then they will touch base when they want to do some product development.

We have our routines based on our business and goals that we have made. I do this also with my own business. I have my plans to set something and come back and check it out to see if it is working. Check the analytics to see if it is working. All of that kinds of happens very naturally and it’s an easy flow to follow.

Electra: Listening to you describe it, I see how the workflow has developed based and moved in that direction depending on your relationships and what they need and the ways they want to grow. Or the things they want to try in their business for their own expansion and growth. I see that clearly.

Continuing on with that a little more; you have these 4 core services you provide. When and how did you decide to expand your services? For example, I know you also do the digital publishing so you help authors get their published books on Amazon’s Kindle.

What led you to expand your services in that way?

Ruth: That came out of a marketing development consulting call. One of my long-term clients had written a book. Her goal was to become a published author in her field so it could position her as the expert that she is and share her knowledge base. Her goal was to always do it in a print or hard back edition and we accomplished that for her.

The industry kind of peaked around Kindle publishing. She said people are starting to ask do you have a Kindle version and I don’t want to do that; I want to only print paper backs. We back ‘burnered’ the conversation for a while but in the meantime I got a Kindle. I said to her “there are a lot of things you can do with it why don’t we revisit this again.” She agreed and I started reading up on how to do the Kindle conversion. I started developing my processes not realizing there was other course work and other proper coursework to do the conversions. I learned I could do it through word and it was more accurate than some of the converters that were out.

I signed up for the VAClassroom’s [digital publishing] course and much of what they were teaching I had already learned but they did teach some shortcuts. From there, I learned about some other resources from classmates. I got more referrals from classmates that decided this skill was not for them. So much of it [referrals] spurs out of those relationships with the clients and the interest they are going in or that I have; I am a firm believer in continual education. Honing your skills to keep yourself marketable. Keep up with the trends that others may be interested in.

For me project development is very much part of my schedule and I make time for it just as if it were a client project. It is equally important to mind my store first because if I’m not doing well and thriving I won’t be here to support my clients.

Electra: Yes, especially in the industry of marketing and now expanding online things change constantly. I completely agree product development is if it is mandatory being in business as an entrepreneur.

Ruth: It is always keeping our eyes up. Our clients come to rely on us as a valuable resource to their business. They can’t be everywhere. We are that second set of hands and knowledge base that they come to depend on. The beauty in being a virtual assistant is that maybe you’ve done whatever that next step is for client A you’ve done for client B. So you can say, “this is what we’ve done and these are the results we’ve reached. I think if we can modify it a little and tailor it to your goal we can get these results for you.” And it’s wonderful. It’s truly a pretty incredible thing being a virtual assistant and being able to peaks into so many different businesses and business models. I mean talking colleague to colleague with my virtual assistant friends. I can learn from them shortcuts tools websites or whatever they may be using and they can learn those things for me. I love getting together and talking with my other VA buddies exchanging ideas. We are like irons, sharpening irons – we both come away a little better afterwards.

Electra: Exactly: As an entrepreneur another thing in addition to product development being mandatory or a requirement in being business or staying in business do you have a system in place when you see business maybe slow. Like I know some VAs sell products or they will have another service that they provide. Whether it’s coaching or consultancy; do you have anything like that in place?

Ruth: I do have things like that in place and I can also say that I have been fortunate that I haven’t gone through the slow periods that I hear so many talk about. I think that has been primarily based on the types of services that I offer and the people I’ve connected with and we’ve been working together for so many years long-term.

Like I said I prefer retainers because it’s steady. I get to know them and they get to know me. We put a lot of things in place. For example, if I’m doing their social media scheduling for them, I know that’s continuous work month after month. You always want to be marketing. Marketing is not something that you turn on and turn off. You can scale up or scale down to expand. I’ve had clients I’ve marketed on their behalf and I’ve put their processes in place and picked up the different marketing mediums and their businesses have grown so much that they stopped. Because they are to the point where they will have to hire more employees, subcontractors or turn people away and I lost one of my favorite clients that way. She didn’t want to grow her business anymore. She was comfortable with the size and income level that she had achieved.

She [client] cut back all of her marketing then later she contacted me because some of her clients had phased in and out and she had to start over. I always say “don’t stop marketing ever.” You can scale down and do less but don’t ever every stop. So I think in that case I don’t really have slow periods.

I have gotten to the level with my clients that they vacation a lot because they are earning so well and doing so well. Everything is running behind the scenes with me; I’ve got it all under control. In 2011 – 2012, I started to notice in the previous years, I had three or four clients from 1st of November or the latest Thanksgiving until the 1st of the next year, I was running everything in their business and I was running it while they were taking all that time off in vacation time. That didn’t mean that my workload decreased but I do have my systems in place so if I’m doing your social media scheduling I’m scheduling that for the entire month or the entire period. Unless something is happening in between, my responsibilities and income remain the same but I did have more free time on my hand.

With this time, I opened a seasonal business called U Write Santa. I am Santa’s number one helper located here in western Maryland. As children write their letters to Santa, I am Santa’s virtual assistant and we write letters back to them sending them up to the North pole to be postmarked and they go out to the US and Canada to be delivered. It was an income layer that I could add to myself. It was a time occupier and it was fun. I had a Facebook page with 1000+ fan and when Facebook algorithms changed to the pay to play to get ads in front there was not a lot of extra income in Santa letters. They were less than $9.00 to purchase a letter so it didn’t give me a budget to do a big market splurge. So Santa’s letters does well with my subscribers but I did take down the Facebook page.

I’ve kind of scaled up and did things like that and those are the times I look at scheduling my skills/learning classes. This past fall I took another VAClassroom course in podcasting. I had some clients showing a little bit of interest in that; so I scheduled my classes during that time.

Slow times aren’t really slow unless you want them to be. The nice part with being in charge of my time and scheduling is that I’ve been able to chaperon my son’s field trips since he’s been in school. He’s now in high school. I just went with them for a week at the outdoor camp. I like it.

Electra: Perfect. Another thing I was thinking about and I did get a chance to read about your Santa letters but I also know that you mentor aspiring VAs. You volunteer through IVAA’s mentoring program and you also mentor in your business as another layer of your business.

Ruth: That is correct. I had seen an announcement come through; the IVAA emails saying they had a shortage of mentors and [asked] would someone with 5 years or more experience be willing to answer questions and guide aspiring VAs or work with seasoned VAs to be a confidant to bounce ideas around with them. I thought I could do that and I have had many people help me and it wasn’t a formal relationship but they made themselves available for my questions. I thought I could do that and give back. The other thing about the IVAA mentorship program is that it is a 6 month commitment and we go over a lot with individuals that I partnered with; I am very transparent and I will share resources.

I also make introductions between them and other colleagues that I think they would be complimentary toward one another or the possibility that someone that is looking for a good fit subcontractor and I feel that they would fit personality wise.

I purchased business books that I thought would be beneficial for them with congratulatory messages. This is just me. We have developed friendships and keep in touch. Some have developed VA businesses and some have decided “you know what, this is hard work and this is not just a hobby. This is not just supplementing income in between; so it hasn’t been for some. They have decided to go back into the employment work force. That was the whole point of the mentorship; to get to know and understand asking questions. Explore and decide if it is for them because it’s not for everyone.

Electra: In researching and preparing for our conversation I read and listened to some of your previous interviews I like the fact that you clearly state in these interviews that there is a different mindset between being an employee and being a business owner.

Speaking as a person who transitioned from being an employee to becoming a business owner that is huge..I think it becomes most of the work. Especially when listening to your story. You had been in management and you understood the different areas of the business and the level at which you have to work and have focus in order to meet goals. You are used to looking at numbers and meeting those goals. But, coming from a support staff mindset, it can be a large learning curve because ok you have to think about:

  • Results
  • your time differently.
  • It is a completely different way of being and working

Ruth: Absolutely. I think that is one of the hardest things for emerging virtual assistants to understand. They can be top notch when it comes to skill and anyone can learn skills I’m not discrediting what they bring to the table. But when it comes to operating a business, that’s not something that is intuitive for everyone. One of the biggest things we drill down on is how to make a strong foundation to grow your business. Don’t just think about that first client. Some people are fortunate that their first client is still with them many years later.

But with that first client you learn so much about yourself. You learn about how you’re gonna do business. Every policy that has been written has been written after something has gone awry and therefore a policy was born. You know what I mean Electra?

Electra: I’m doing all I can to keep a clean recording because I’m over here Yes and amen.

Ruth: Well give me those yes. That’s alright.

Electra: Yes, it’s good for the moment but I’m going to transcribe our interview and as the transcriptionist I’m going to think “why do they talk over one another?” And then I do the same things in my interviews.

Ruth: I know some transcriptionists if you want to pass that off.

[laughter]

Ruth: I am well connected. We’ll have a moment where you can pass that one off and give some subcontracting love.

Electra: Yes, that’s so true. I agree that’s the biggest when you come to the realization that if you are going to make it as a business owner you have to change your mind. There are a lot of speakers and life coaches that say this phrase but I think Wayne Dyer has a book on it when you want to change your life Change Your Thoughts. Until you get that mindset change going in the direction of alignment with the goals you are setting, it is a mute point until that happens.

Ruth: A lot of time they set their goal and work backwards. They set their goal then think what are the steps to reach this goal? Next what are the micro steps of what I need to do in:

  • A month
  • Two weeks
  • A week
  • Today

Ruth: You can apply that to anything. You can apply that to fleshing out a new service or your marketing plan. I recently had a new client said they need to have a marketing plan because it’s so much. They said I am a visual learner. I can work with that. I asked if they used Google calendar. I proposed that I put together a marketing plan. We did a several hour marketing consultation and from that they had multiple divisions within their business.

I offered to put their marketing plan on their Google calendar for them. If you’re blogging weekly or twice a week, chances are your blogging on the same days so you can enter it in the calendar say Tuesday and Thursdays then hit repeat. You have your system and routine and you can certainly change it. You follow it but it doesn’t mean that you can’t vary from it but you do need a ground work.

I like clients that know what they want. It’s ok that they know what they want but don’t know how. I will take care of the how but you bring me your what. If you are wishy then sometimes I can offer ideas and I don’t mind if they come back to me saying that’s not for me because I don’t take it personally. You have to have something to start with that you can build off to get to the core of what you are looking for.

Electra: Absolutely. Staying on that a little bit more, after listening to you I know you have a marketing plan and a business plan so do you revise your plan annually or semi-annually?

How do you do that process?

Ruth: I’m going to surprise you. I am a fan of At-A-Glance calendars; I have the large one, 11 X 14. I go through my calendar and I block off my time but I don’t make it big heavy and formal. Prior to ever taking that virtual assistant course, my husband had a dream of opening his own business. I launched mine years before he did. But as a newlywed couple, we had been married 2 years, and we took a how to write a business plan course. And let me tell you the instructor was phenomenal. She’s well-known in the community. She consults at the White House and she knows her stuff.

My eyes glazed over at the thought of writing this business and marketing plan that she was advising. I know marketing is in my life blood. Some people read fiction and romance, I’m reading marketing books. The instructor said you have to do this formal plan so I did it for the course but for my own business, it’s enough of what I’ve been doing over the years. So I don’t have anything formal done except what I write in my calendar.

A lot of my business comes from referrals and I have my marketing in place and I don’t have to vary from it too much.

Electra: That is….

Ruth: Surprising.
Electra: A little bit but even though you don’t have a formal document you still do something. You have some sort of gage and plan. You spoke earlier about your project and professional development. You schedule that in and that’s a part of it. It is done in a more relaxed pace and still there and it is ongoing. Not so much one time a year or twice a year. It’s an ongoing process that you’re doing month after month with where you want to go.

Ruth: It is always ongoing and I’m always looking ahead. One of my larger clients are scientific researchers and the projects we work on but it comes from the US department of education. Whenever I’m contacted by that client I know I’m going to have a huge amount of hours coming of:

  • Proofreading
  • Editing
  • formatting the research and documentation that they do.

That just comes in. So I’m always kind of keeping flex time built into my client base and other things going on because when that comes in that can be an extra 60 to 100 hours coming in for a 30 day period on top of what I already have scheduled.

I’m committed to that I have to do that; we’ve been working together a little over 2 years and I know when that comes in I know I’m going to be working earlier and later. My family is phenomenal. My son is now in high school. He’s grown up not knowing mom to do anything but work, whether we were in the office at the non-profit or if he was at the other end of my desk with his leggos. My office was the playroom. My husband understands with him having his business as well. Many hands make the jobs light. We help each other with cooking, cleaning, laundry yard work and gardening. I love to flower garden so everything is scheduled. I live by my calendar. What’s coming up and what’s going there. If someone refers a project I can look at my calendar to see if I can do that contract. If not I can refer them because like I said I know a lot of people.

I do subcontract but that is rare. I like to keep it in house. I think for me it’s a personal decision. I have managed a staff of 40 before and I’ve managed teams. I’ve been project manager for VA teams. In essence, I am running their team and I decided I didn’t want to work that hard in my business for myself. I’ve hit those 6 figure salaries and it’s not what I want for myself right now.

Electra: That’s another thing listening to you talk. Not only your business but your life and what was important to you and important to your family. I think that’s another core that has to be decided as an entrepreneur. Becoming an entrepreneur does require you to know what you value. Know what’s important to you. Because what you do in your business as an entrepreneur is a reflection of you. Like we were talking about the terms ideal or compatible clients. In order to be compatible with anyone you’re going to have to know yourself.

  • What makes you come alive?
  • What inspires you?
  • What motivates you?
  • What encourages you?
  • What drains your energy?

If you don’t really have that sense of yourself, that’s going to be another learning curve being an entrepreneur.

Ruth: Also, what is your personal definition of success? For some people, success may be driving the red sports car. For others it may be affording the home. For other people it may be large dividends in your bank account. Everybody’s personal definition of success is something different. We are as unique as our personalities and as unique as our business model.

Electra: Yes and that is a core; it’s part of building a business. It is part of that foundation. You have to know what’s important to you. You have to know what you value. That will help you in making good and healthy decisions for you and your business.

Ruth: I think as well as having a support system around you. Whether that be your immediate family if you’re blessed to have family that have some good business sense and experiences that you pass ideas around. I am blessed in that my husband does. You can find us many a night on the glider hashing out the day. I’ll tell him “I really want to take this in this direction.” We will go back and forth and he’s phenomenal that way. Not everyone has that person in their household.

That’s when you have to seek out those trusted colleagues. You surround yourself with your support circle that you can really be near and talk with. I think those that overlook are missing out on something that’s really key. Some can find it in a master mind group. Some find mastermind groups outside of their industry because it’s nice to have ideas coming from a different perspective.

Electra: Exactly. Well time is doing what time does as a friend of mine says on his radio show. One more question that I do want to ask that I think will be valuable to people and to me you are excellent at this; I’ve appreciated this in getting your feedback when you the mentoring in IVAA’s mentor program. You are great with putting numbers. You can tell you’re a marketer. You believe in putting numbers. One of the things I got a chance to read in one of your previous interviews was how you said it can take 6 months to 1.5 years depending on your business to start working with that first client because there are a lot of things that come into play.

I wanted to get your time management and for you to give people an idea of how much time does it take you to do your marketing in your business. Do you set this up as you look in your calendar? Do you plan for the month – I’m going to do 10 hours of marketing or do you think about the actual marketing activities?

How much time and how do you plan your ongoing marketing for your business?

Ruth: I started out with my blog that I was going to commit to weekly and after 2 years of weekly I got burned out then it became more than I could handle. I would do an interview on my Naked VA blog then I would do a topic blog post. I also incorporated a book review post. I had my blog theme outline. When I started writing I keep a file folder that I keep ideas and scrap sheets of paper and napkins that I’ve written on at a restaurant. My son and husband chuckle when I reach for a napkin “there she goes again.”

However, as an entrepreneur you live and breathe this stuff you can’t turn it off. You can turn it down you can’t turn it off though so whenever the idea strikes that’s when it strikes. In between, projects or if I’m listening to a podcast I’ll take notes and that will spiral into a post or write an opposite view. I may want to write a punch list. Sometimes working with my clients inspires a blog post.

I really mark everything in my calendar. If I lose my calendar I’m lost. When I’m working n social media, I’ll try to schedule for 30 days but sometimes just one week in advance. I am active in the social media mostly in groups. Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups and I do that mostly selfishly because working at home can be isolating.

I used to have very strong friendships in the workplace with my co-workers. We would get together socially and to lunch outside of the office. But as a virtual assistant I can’t pop down the hall and invite someone to dinner with their family. So now I socialize through social media for personal satisfaction and to build genuine relationships. The referrals come from those relationships even though that’s not the aim of those relationships so I am grateful.

I like them and I like what their business is doing. In my newsletter I’m very intentional trying to get that out monthly. My philosophy with the newsletter is that it’s newsworthy and not sales letters disguised as newsletters. I send a monthly newsletter and each Tuesday I start to do little sound bites of tips whether they be marketing or business related because I would get a lot of ‘how-to’ questions about the business and marketing. The business is just as important as the marketing.

Electra: Yes! As you explained earlier you have to get a sense of what is going to take in order to maintain and sustain a business or that’s another huge learning curve that you’ll have to go through to continue to make it.

Ruth: If your foundation is not strong, you won’t be there when your clients are ready to depend on you. You owe it to them to have the best business you can and maintain.

Electra: Yes! You owe it to yourself and you owe it to your clients and your industry.

I thank you SO much. This has been a pure delight. I was excited talking to you; looking forward to talking to you and I’m still excited. I’m going to go on social media and let everyone know that I’ve just interviewed Ruth this week. If you want some good tips on how to build a sustainable business yo

u need to listen to this honey.

Ruth: Thank you so much you made it pain free. You never know what are they gonna asked and how are what are we gonna do but you made it easy.

Electra: Yes, it did. Thank you again Ruth for your time today. To learn more about Ruth or to receive her marketing and business tips like the ones discussed in this interview, sign up for Ruth’s newsletter, at MaplewoodVA.com. That’s http://www.maplewoodva.com/. You can also click the link at the end of the text below this audio.

 

 

Electra Ford imageElectra Ford is an online marketing strategist that helps business get noticed on the Internet. She specializes in online marketing plans that connect entrepreneurs, companies and organizations with their audience to get traffic to their websites and make qualified connections. To learn more about implementation subscribe to my email list above.

 

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