Archive for August, 2013

Selecting a Writing Topic

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Question-MC900441902So, you’ve finally decided that you will begin to write professionally. Although you prefer to stay in the background, you’ve given in to the suggestions and prodding from close friends and family members who know you best. They’ve been reading your material for years as they offered you encouragement to use your gift. You’ve denied it or run from it for as long as you can. You decide to answer the call of your heart and inner and outer prodding and have decided to write!

You would think that committing to writing would be the most difficult step. In some instances, this is the most difficult step. Some writers can come up with an idea and like magic; their fingers glide across the keyboard and don’t stop until they have a finished product. I can identify with that writer sometimes.

Most often, I can identify with the writer who stares at the blank document or blank screen willing my fingers into action. I’ve yet to figure out why all of the data in my head does not connect with my fingertips.

Here are some steps that help me to select a writing topic:

  • Take a walk. – Walking is therapeutic. It’s relaxing. It can clear the cobwebs in the head. Walking also takes you away from the frustrating task of finding a topic.

*While walking, look around at your surroundings. What do you see? Could anything that you’re looking at right now become a writing topic or the topic of your next book?

*You don’t want to or can’t walk outside? Walk around your home. Look at family photos. Is there a family member that you would like to write about? What about last year’s vacation? You are literally surrounded by writing topics.

  • Read a book. – Is there a topic that you’re interested in, but you need more information so that you can write about it? Good writers are generally good readers first.
  • Read your emails. – I have hundreds of emails – many of which I am not interested in reading at the time. I file those emails in a folder that I visit on a regular basis. Some of those emails will be used as writing topics.
  • Read a magazine. – I subscribe to several magazines simply to scan them for possible articles.
  • Remember when? – Many of us enjoy talking about the good ole days. Many also enjoy reading about those days. Take a trip down memory lane and write about it.

Selecting a topic can often be the most frustrating step in the writing process. Can you think of any other places to find and develop your writing topics? I would love to hear from you. In the meantime, Happy Writing!

Lorraine Castle is a virtual assistant who works with authors, coaches, trainers, attorneys, and speakers to get speaking engagements, write their books, publish their books, and market their books. Contact Lorraine for a free consultation to find out what she can do to help you develop your gift.

You can download Lorraine’s free eBook “Turn Writing Your Book Into a Marketing Success” here.

Written by Lorraine Castle ©2013 www.castlevirtualsolutions.com

The Organized Virtual Assistant

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

The Organized VA (3)Guest Blogger – Moreen Torpy

Virtual Assistants are invaluable in today’s online world. While the profession is still new to some, I’m sure those in the front lines are well aware.

Being organized is one of the most important attributes for a VA. You need to organize your marketing to recruit clients, invoicing, retention of client data, and so on. What if you lose your database?

Emergencies happen all the time, whether natural disasters such as floods, fires and the like, to theft, and computer breakdown. How do we deal with all or any of these? Here are some tips:

1. Backup your computer files. I can’t stress this enough. Simply having an external hard drive is not sufficient. What if you lose it in any way—fire, theft, another disaster? If you need the physical control, have two. One you’re using and another in your safety deposit box at your bank and exchange them regularly. In addition, I recommend an off-site service such as Mozy (http://bit.ly/12w6XYv). It’s affordable and you can schedule backups as frequently as you wish and recreate your business easily by accessing this backup. With different backup methods in place, you will protect your data under nearly any circumstance.

2. A good filing system is crucial. Whether you keep only digital files or a combination of digital and paper files, they must be organized. If you have a combination, name files the same way in both places, using the words that come to mind when you think about that topic. This personalized method will help you easily find the document you’re looking for without wasting time searching.

For paper files, I recommend listing them on a spreadsheet with keywords in addition to the file name so it’s easier to easily find what you need by doing a keyword search. Use as many keywords as you can think of when setting up the spreadsheet and add more as needed. This way you can find the file regardless of the subject you’re searching for. There may be a small detail you need that would not be obvious from the file’s title.

Use your computer’s search function to search by keyword and the file names will auto-populate. So much easier than trying to remember where something is saved!

Begin by creating master files with the client’s name, then specific project names for that client as sub-files. You might keep that client’s invoices with their personal file, or in a master invoice file, or both.

3. Schedule time to do all those tasks that fill your business and personal life. Without a schedule, you may forget to take breaks for meals, family time, social life away from the computer. You may also wish to schedule your time on social media (set a timer) so you don’t get lost socializing there to the detriment of your billable time.

4. Downsize the non-essentials. It’s too easy to accumulate non-essentials in our space. For peace of mind, eliminate them. Clutter takes different forms, from physical “stuff” occupying valuable space, to mental clutter and negative self-talk chattering away in our mind, distracting us from the task at hand. Eliminate them and focus on the positive. This can take effort, however it’s worth doing that work to be able to do your other work.

How will you organize your workspace to be more efficient? What can you downsize out of your office to increase the space you have to spread out what you’re actually working on?

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© 2013 Moreen Torpy

We would be honored for you to reprint this article. If you do, please include the resource box below with the hyperlinks intact.

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Moreen Torpy is the De-Clutter Coach, a Trained Professional Organizer, Author, and Speaker. Her new book is Going Forward: Downsizing, Moving and Settling In. See http://www.GoForwardDownsize.com for more about the book including where to purchase it, and http://www.decluttercoach.ca to learn about her organizing services and other books.

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P.S. To purchase Going Forward: Downsizing, Moving and Settling In, visit one of the quality booksellers here: http://www.goforwarddownsize.com/about-the-book/buy-the-book/

What God Has for You

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Cut Out Cross with Purple Shine (2)What God has for you is for you. As writers – Christian writers in particular – many of us believe that statement. I firmly believe that what God has for me is for me. That doesn’t mean that the path leading to what God has for me will not be winding, rough, and sometimes elusive. A difficult journey is not always designed by the enemy.

When I am writing and operating within my gift, I am in a blissful state. I know that I am where the Lord wants me to be. While the gift becomes obvious to me when I’m writing, the road toward accomplishing that gift or bringing it to fruition may be full of highs and lows, peaks and valleys, rain and sunshine.

I remember being told by several mentors that we never know what someone went through to reach their destination. That destination could be anything from writing a book to giving a presentation, or anything that we are attempting to achieve.

When pursuing a goal, certain roadblocks or distractions will present themselves. When that happens, we have a choice. We can give in to the distraction or we can address the distraction – recognize it for what it is – and continue toward our ultimate goal.

There are different levels of distractions. When I’m writing, I can do so for hours without stopping for anything except the call of nature. However, I’ve learned to address different levels of distractions. For example, if the distraction is a close friend or family member, I will put my goal to the side. Friends and family are a pleasant distraction that will fuel my goal. We were not meant to operate in total isolation.

On the other hand, if the distraction is from a source that will drain my goal – gossiper, telephone calls with blocked numbers, even at times, that favorite television show (I use DVR to control this compulsion) – it’s important to place the distraction on the proper level and address it.

What God has for us is for us. No one can take it from us. It can be delayed by our actions or inactions, but it will not be denied. In a society that thrives on technology, it can become difficult to keep distractions to a minimum. We must keep our eye on the prize – the goal – taking it step by step. Remember, it may be delayed, but it will not be denied. What processes do you use to address and control your distractions?

Lorraine Castle is a virtual assistant who works with authors, coaches, trainers, attorneys, and speakers to get speaking engagements, write their books, publish their books, and market their books. Contact Lorraine for a free consultation to find out what she can do to help you develop your gift.

You can download Lorraine’s free eBook “Turn Writing Your Book Into a Marketing Success” here.

Written by Lorraine Castle ©2013 www.castlevirtualsolutions.com

The Power of a Team

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Wooden mannequins pushing puzzle pieces into the right placeMany virtual assistants and anyone who has his or her own business working from home often work in isolation. This is your business, your baby. You make the rules and you’re loving it. You are your own boss and you’ve living your dream. I’m living my dream, as well, but there are times when I would love to just bounce an idea off someone else. Sometimes just verbalizing the situation will result in a light bulb experience that solves the problem in an instant.

That is the beauty of working within a team. As a solopreneur, it’s important to maintain communication with the “outside” world. Otherwise, you risk the danger of tunnel vision when all interaction with your clients is based on your perspective. Having a team to support your ideas allows you to gain perspective from other individuals who are supportive of you and want you to succeed, but at the same time, they will let you know if your idea is way off course.

While it’s nice to draw family and friends into your business circle and bounce ideas off them, our family and friends love us (for the most part), so their main concern is that they don’t want to hurt our feelings. Their advice and suggestions may not be objective. Finding a good team will connect you with individuals who will be objective in their suggestions to improve your business.

I belong to a wonderful Mastermind Team of virtual assistants. We all have our individual businesses. We serve many different industries. The common thread is that we are all virtual assistants. Because of this team, I’m able to stay on the edge of technology. We share ideas and we support each other.

My team is a closed team. Our team members have all gone through Expert VA Training with Kathy Goughenour. Be sure to check out Kathy’s site if you’re interested in training to become a virtual assistant. Some Virtual Assistant Teams that are open are www.ivaa.org and www.vanetworking.com. There are more teams that can be searched on the Internet. The importance is to find a team that works for you.

There is power in teamwork. Becoming a member of a team will help avoid the feeling of isolation that a solopreneur sometimes experiences. What are your thoughts on becoming a part of a team? Do you consider becoming part of a team a pro or a con?

Lorraine Castle is a virtual assistant who works with authors, coaches, trainers, attorneys, and speakers to get speaking engagements, write their books, publish their books, and market their books. Contact Lorraine for a free consultation to find out what she can do to help you develop your gift.

You can download Lorraine’s free eBook “Turn Writing Your Book Into a Marketing Success” here.

Written by Lorraine Castle ©2013 www.castlevirtualsolutions.com