Boost Your Business with Strategic Freelance Support

Strategic Freelance Business Support is more than you might expect. Far from being ‘just’ epic email management and diary organisation, the services we offer transform clients’ businesses.

In this blog, Steph Taylor does some straight talking about the strategic business support she delivers to her clients after a 20+ year career in Human Resources and Change Management.

FIND OUT ABOUT STEPH

Boost Your Business with Strategic Freelance Support

As an entrepreneur or executive, you need more than task completion from your freelance team members. You need strategic partners offering valuable expertise to accelerate your business growth. With over 20 years of HR leadership experience, I provide strategic skills along with hands-on operational support.

My extensive HR background has refined my ability to understand people, processes and operations. I now use these skills to collaborate with clients, optimising their businesses and driving results. My experience helps me identify their most valuable assets – engaged employees and satisfied customers – to boost retention and loyalty of both. I also have proven change management expertise to guide teams through change (big or small) smoothly.

In addition to strategic insights, I offer tactical support using project management, communication and organisational skills developed through a variety of HR leadership roles. I streamline processes to increase efficiency, I have strong analytical skills in gathering and interpreting data, and identifying actionable insights. My detail orientated mindset ensures clear, consistent policies, documents and procedures too.

My analytical thinking and critical evaluation allow me to objectively assess current processes and initiatives, revealing performance gaps and opportunities. I then help design tailored interventions aligned with my clients’ organisations and target markets. My project management skills ensure initiatives stay on track and on budget.

While I don’t offer formal HR services (there are plenty of companies that do that), I bring well-rounded expertise for value-driven support. My blend of people skills, analytical thinking, project management and passion for operational excellence is what my clients most value.

I can advise on workforce strategies, evaluate candidates, design onboarding programs, and more. I can assist with leadership training and coaching to build management capabilities. I can provide guidance on strengthening culture and engagement.

Operationally, I manage activities ranging from event coordination to streamlining everyday processes efficiently. I oversee special projects, gather and analyse data, manage communications between teams and customers, and keep initiatives progressing smoothly.

Strategic freelance business support is the rocket fuel you need to take your business to the next level. Let’s discuss your plans. 

You can find out more about Steph by clicking here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Want to improve your productivity and focus?

Steph Taylor is our Passionate PA based in Christchurch, Dorset. She joined us in November 2021 after a 20+ year career in Human Resources and Change Management.

In her role as a Passionate PA, Steph helps her clients manage their To Do Lists and create productive routines to help their businesses thrive.

In this blog post, Steph looks at the hard-finish technique – the idea of having a set time by which a task must be completed – and adds some tips to optimise your productivity.

Want to improve your productivity and focus?

Have you ever noticed how much work you can complete when there is something exciting waiting for you at the end? It could be a family outing, a date with your special someone, or a long-awaited holiday.

The anticipation sharpens your focus and drives your productivity. But you don’t have to limit this level of productivity to those special moments. By using the hard-finish technique, you can consistently achieve heightened productivity.

Set Clear Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries is the first step towards a successful hard finish. Before starting your work, or at the beginning of the day, establish a specific finish time for your tasks. Clearly communicate this deadline to your colleagues, team members, clients or even your family – and of course, yourself.

Pop that time on a post-it note and stick it in plain sight.

By doing this, you create awareness and external accountability, reinforcing your commitment to completing your work within a specified timeframe. Setting expectations and having others aware of your schedule will help you stay on track and encourage their support.

Use Time Blocking

Time blocking is a key part of achieving a hard finish too. It involves scheduling specific time slots for different tasks or activities – e.g. admin/email and ‘deep’ project work.

Multi-tasking is not productivity’s friend!

By allocating dedicated time blocks to your work, you create a structured schedule that creates focus and minimises distractions. Make sure you include breaks within your time blocks to prevent burnout and maintain mental clarity, and also add ‘creep time’ too – as things will inevitably slip into your day.

Experiment with different time periods to find what works best for you, for example, deep work is often best in the mornings when your brain is fresher. Consistency and discipline in adhering to your time blocks will enhance your productivity.

Prioritise Tasks Wisely

To achieve a hard finish, you need to manage your time and priorities effectively. Identify your most important tasks and prioritise them accordingly. Use time management techniques, such as Eisenhower’s matrix, to categorise tasks based on urgency and importance.

By focusing on high-priority activities, you will make sure your time is allocated wisely, allowing you to make significant progress toward your important goals.

Remember, not all tasks are created equal, so investing your time and energy in the right areas will deliver the greatest results.

Break It Down

Sometimes, large and overwhelming tasks can be a barrier to our progress and productivity. A helpful approach is to break down these daunting tasks into smaller, more manageable subtasks. This makes the task seem less intimidating and even allows you to measure your progress, gaining a sense of accomplishment along the way.

Here at The Passionate PA, we believe in celebrating even small victories as this can provide motivation and help to maintain momentum. Remember, progress is progress, no matter how small.

Include Transition Time

Transitioning from one task to another or shifting between work and personal life can be challenging and take more time than you think, leading to reduced productivity. It is useful to plan intentional transition activities. Allow yourself a short period to recharge and shift your mindset.

For example, taking a 5-minute break to step outside for some fresh air or going for a short walk can help clear your mind and prepare you for the next task or phase of the day – especially if you are shifting from transactional tasks to deep work.

Intentional transitions act as mental buffers; they enable you to detach from the previous task and refocus your energy on the next. By using transition periods, you enhance your ability to maintain a consistent level of productivity throughout the day.

Optimise Your Environment

Your physical environment can have a huge impact on your productivity level. Review your workspace and make adjustments that will help you to focus and concentrate.

Minimise distractions by decluttering your area and keeping only the essentials within reach – consider leaving your phone in another room whilst you are in deep work mode.

Also consider incorporating things that inspire and motivate you, such as plants, a vision board, or personal mementos. Additionally, ensure that your workspace is comfortable and ergonomically suited to prevent physical discomfort.

The hard-finish technique is a powerful tool to help you reach your productivity potential. By using this, and the top tips above, you can consistently achieve high productivity and build momentum towards achieving your goals.

Remember, the key lies in committing to a specific finish time and maintaining focus throughout the process. We encourage you to try the hard-finish technique and witness your productivity soar!

You can find out more about Steph by clicking here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

For business owners: The power of writing it down!

Steph Taylor is our Passionate PA based in Christchurch, Dorset. She joined us in November 2021 after a 20+ year career in Human Resources and Change Management.

In her role as a Passionate PA, Steph helps her clients manage their people through associate models i.e. where one or two directors grow their business and develop their client offering by outsourcing work to trusted consultants, associates or freelancers.

FIND OUT ABOUT STEPH

The power of writing it down!

One of the first things I was taught as a young, aspiring HR Manager was “keep a record… always write it down!”. As much as I now keep an electronic record rather than writing with a pen and paper, I still believe that this continues to be one of the best pieces of advice that was gifted to me.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners we make quick decisions. We have multiple conversations, with multiple people about different things and agree actions every day. This is just normal for us, but, without notes, there can be misunderstandings or confusion. This can be costly too, both financially and from a human impact.

We simply cannot remember everything but writing it down isn’t just about memory joggings. It’s also not about those pesky HR people adding to your workload. In this blog I explore why the simple HR advice “always write it down” can be invaluable to you in every aspect of your business.

Clarity and Accuracy

When you write something down, you can clarify your thoughts, ensuring that you deliver your intended message. This is especially important when communicating with employees, clients or freelancers. By writing down the details of a conversation including any actions or agreements that have been made, you can avoid misunderstandings that can lead to conflict. Writing actions down and sharing them gives everyone an opportunity to check their understanding.

Accountability

When you document important conversations or decisions, you create a paper trail that can be used to hold people (and yourself0 to account. This is great when making plans for the future or ideas sharing – and of course can be especially important when dealing with performance issues, disciplinaries or disputes. By having a written record of what was said or agreed upon, you can ensure that everyone is clear about their accountabilities and progress is made in the right direction.

Reflection and Learning

Writing things down gives you the opportunity to reflect on decisions and learn from experiences. By keeping a record of decisions, actions and outcomes, you can identify trends and areas for improvement. This can help you make better decisions in the future, replicate success and avoid making the same mistakes.

Litigation Protection

Finally, writing things down can also provide protection for your business. If you are ever involved in a legal dispute, having a written record of what was said or agreed upon can be invaluable. It can help you defend your position, prove your case and avoid costly legal fees.

Keeping a record doesn’t have to take a long time. It can be a quick note, an email or even a voice note. Just don’t forget your GDPR compliance (that’s a blog for another day).

And remember, it can be fun.

Our franchisor, Kate, once worked with an older chap who had a notebook for every quarter of every year of this entire career. They spanned a whole wall in his Dorset-based office and every single one was full to the brim of notes, drawings, musings, ideas and the full story of the multiple businesses he had run – each from inception to sale. It was fascinating to dip into these notebooks – for him, his family and friends, and for Kate! A very special way to honour a life’s work.

You can find out more about Steph by clicking here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Boosting Business Growth: Top Tips for Entrepreneurs to Enhance Productivity

As an entrepreneur, the desire to maximise productivity is ingrained in your pursuit of success. However, with numerous goals, ideas, tasks and responsibilities demanding your attention, it’s easy for your productivity to become inconsistent.

On the occasion of #WorldProductivityDay (20th June 2023), #TeamPassionatePA share some practical tips that can help you streamline your efforts, optimise your time and propel your business growth to new heights.

1. Prioritise with Purpose:

A key ingredient of productivity lies in effective prioritisation. Start by identifying tasks that contribute directly to your business’s growth or profitability and align with your long-term goals. Focus on completing these high-priority tasks first, as they often yield the greatest impact. Consider using productivity frameworks such as the Eisenhower Matrix or the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) to identify and focus on the most critical activities that will drive your business forward.

2. Master Time Management:

Time management is a skill that successful entrepreneurs swear by. Start by setting clear goals and breaking them down into manageable tasks. Utilise time management techniques, like time blocking, to allocate specific periods for focused work on key tasks.

Avoid multitasking at all costs as it hampers efficiency and increases errors. Additionally, leverage technology tools such as project management software, calendar apps and automation tools to streamline repetitive tasks, enhance collaboration, and make the most of your valuable time.

3. Embrace Delegation and Outsourcing:

Recognising that you can’t do everything on your own is so powerful. Doing something about that is a gamechanger!

Entrepreneurs often fall into the trap of micromanagement, which inhibits productivity and growth of their business but also themselves. Delegate tasks that don’t require your direct involvement or the things you don’t love and consider outsourcing non-core activities to trusted professionals or agencies (like us 😊).

Delegating frees up your time to focus on strategic initiatives that drive business growth. Prioritise your strengths and expertise, and allocate resources wisely to maximise productivity across your team.

Check out our free Delegation Tool to get started with this point!

4. Cultivate Effective Communication:

Clear and efficient communication is vital for productivity in any business. Streamline internal communication channels with your employees or freelancers to minimise your distractions and avoid information overload.

Utilise collaboration tools, like project management platforms or instant messaging apps, to enhance communication within your team. Encourage regular but scheduled check-ins and team meetings to align objectives, address challenges and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Effective communication fosters transparency, minimises misunderstandings and facilitates streamlined workflows – ultimately fuelling productivity and accelerating business growth.

5. Continuous Learning and Skill Development:

Investing in personal and professional development as an entrepreneur can significantly enhance your productivity. Stay updated on industry trends, attend relevant webinars, workshops and events, and network with peers and mentors to gain fresh perspectives and insights.

Develop skills that directly impact your business such as leadership, negotiation or digital marketing. Embracing a growth mindset improves innovation and adaptability, allowing you to navigate challenges more effectively and seize new opportunities – ultimately driving your business towards sustained growth.

 

#WorldProductivityDay is a great reminder for business leaders and entrepreneurs to seize the opportunity to optimise their productivity to propel their businesses to greater heights. By prioritising purposefully, mastering time management, delegating wisely, enhancing communication and embracing continuous learning, you can cultivate a highly productive business environment, accelerating you path to success.

You can find out more about our talented team by clicking here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Busyness vs Productivity

When asked how business is, we often respond with “busy”. We live in such a fast-paced world and it has become very easy to define our success by how busy we are – it has almost become a status symbol.

As business owners, being busy means that there is a lot going on. Work, and importantly money, is coming in which will keep everything moving forward.

Or will it?

In this blog, Steph Taylor provides her top tips for getting productive rather than busy!

FIND OUT ABOUT STEPH

Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean that you are being productive – it certainly doesn’t always correlate with the bottom line in our experience as freelance business support to entrepreneurs.

Being busy means that you don’t have much free time. You have a lot on your plate and, sometimes, might mean you are feeling overworked and overwhelmed.

However, productivity is all about being efficient and effective with both your time and resources. It’s about focussing on the things that will help you achieve your end goal (or big vision as we like to call it).

Being productive rather than busy is about prioritising your time, focussing on outcomes and eliminating distractions. The tips below can help you make some changes to work smarter, not harder.

9 tips for being productive and rather than busy:

TIP 1: Clarify your big vision

Write down what your ultimate goal is in business and identify the tasks and projects that are needed to get there.

TIP 2: Prioritise aligned tasks

Before you start your day, make a list of the task that align with your big vision. Focus your time and energy on them before moving on to less critical work.

TIP 3: Avoid multitasking

Multitasking is counterproductive as you end up juggling too many different things, splitting your attention and brain power. You are more likely to make mistakes or become overwhelmed and so you will then waste time fixing the issues or errors created.

TIP 4: Rhythm and breaks

Identify your ‘deep work/admin rhythm’ – for example, some like to do their most important work within 30 minutes of getting up and then have the morning on more administrative tasks. Some are night owls and like the peace of the evenings for deep work. Whatever rhythm is most productive for you, know it, understand it and harness it!

Taking breaks can make you more productive too. Your brain has a chance to rest and recharge, which can improve your focus and concentration when you return to work. It also helps when switching from one task to another.

TIP 5: Remove distractions

Distractions can be a significant barrier to productivity so you need to remove as many as you can. Turn off your phone, turn off email notifications or choose to work in a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted.

TIP 6: Reward productivity

You’ll know when you’ve had a productive day, it feels different from “busy”. Reward these by recognising them in your own mind or treating yourself to something special.

TIP 7: Say no

This can be a challenge for some but learning to say no is essential to maintaining productivity. Saying yes to everything will lead to overwhelm and overload. If a request doesn’t align with your big vision or personal rhythm just say no. It’s nowhere near as hard as you might think.

TIP 8: Focus on the outcomes, not the activity

Rather than focussing on completing tasks, think about the outcomes of those tasks. Ask yourself whether the outcome is truly driving your big vision, if not, why are YOU doing it? Does it need to be done at all?

TIP 9: Self-care

To stay productive, it is essential that you look after yourself. Healthy habits will take care of your body and your mind. Sleep, good nutrition, hydration and exercise are a great place to start. You will then have the energy and focus you need to be successful and productive.

You can find out more about Steph by clicking here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

When is it time to outsource?

This is such a powerful question for solopreneurs, SMEs and all ambitious businesses wanting to grow at pace. In this blog, our director (and seasoned freelancer) Kate Chastey, reveals how you will know when the time is right to start outsourcing.  

“If only I had more time, I’d be able to do everything myself”.

If you’ve said this sentence recently, chances are you are NOT ready to outsource. Let me explain; the real value with outsourcing comes from enlisting the help of people that can actually do things better than you – it’s a mindset shift. Only when you really grasp this will outsourcing be a decision you thank yourself for.

Sure, there are many tasks you can outsource that, on the surface, seem likely to save you time (email management or appointment setting being just two examples) but, I encourage all business owners, and especially Passionate PA clients, to think beyond simply time saving and onto where the real value will come.

A valuable outsource solution is one that adds something to your business that you cannot. This might be as simple as efficiency, but it might also be special expertise, knowledge, customer insight and so on. Ultimately, any outsourcing solution should not be seen as simply a cost to your business, but as an asset as it can actually improve your bottom line.

So, how will you know if outsourcing will add real value to your business now?

If you answer YES to any of these questions, now is the time to start outsourcing.

Has overwhelmed and/or overworked become the norm?

  • Do you or your team talk frequently about how busy you are, how overwhelming the to do list is and how you just wish there were more hours in the day?
  • Does this mean that you or your people are not focusing on the elements of business that only they can do?
  • Are errors being made or is customer service falling short?
  • Are you missing opportunities to upsell or drive profitable customer engagement?
  • Is there an over-reliance on one person who is performing most functions or tasks within the business?
  • Are you missing deadlines (even self-imposed ones)?

Are there knowledge and experience gaps in your business?

  • Are there tasks or responsibilities being managed by those with inadequate skill and experience?
  • Do certain tasks take far too long?
  • Are you missing opportunities to automate functions?
  • Is there a lack of fresh ideas and perspective?
  • Do you often have internal projects that overrun or get put on the backburner as there just isn’t the time to complete them?

Is your business in need of a flexible growth strategy?

  • Is your business ready for growth but you are not ready for the commitment of an employed team?
  • Or, do you personally not want to become an employer but still want to grow your business?
  • Have you tried recruiting but you just can’t find the right skill, expertise or personality?
  • Are you craving a consistent partnership that can grow with your business, something flexible rather than over-reliant on you?
  • Do you know there are more opportunities to be had for your business, if only you had the right support around you?

If you answered YES to any of these, it’s time to step back from the frontline and invest just a few hours in finding, speaking with and initiating a working relationship with an outsource service provider.

The most incredible thing about outsourcing is that it gives you power. It allows you to create the time and space needed so you can concentrate on the things you got into business for… the things that are uniquely you and the things you love.

Everything else can (and should!) be outsourced. Yes, everything.

If you would like to hear more from Kate about preparing to outsource, listen to Solopreneur SOS Podcast, episode 49, where Karen Murray interviews Kate to explore all things outsourcing.  

In our next blog, I’ll share with you how to go about finding the right solution for you, and how to start the outsourcing partnership. If however, you are ready to discover what you personally could outsource, we have a super tool to help you decide what you can delegate, and when. Just pop your details below and we’ll send it straight to you. 

 

Request your free Delegation Tool today to help you prepare to outsource. 

The 7 most common mistakes when outsourcing

Kate Chastey is the Franchisor of The Passionate PA and after nearly 15 years in business, it’s fair to say she is an incredibly experienced freelancer in her own right. She has worked with hundreds of ambitious business owners on an outsourced basis, and she now mentors each of our Passionate PAs to help them build successful and rewarding client relationships too.

A huge part of Kate’s work is talking to potential clients. It’s a pleasure to meet such a variety of business owners and whether they have already harnessed the power of freelancers in the UK, or whether they are brand new to the idea and don’t know where to start, there are common pitfalls for all.

There are many benefits to outsourcing; fresh talent, highly sought-after skills, commercial experience and new perspectives are just a few. But, these are not always obvious if the business owner is not prepared.

So, today Kate shares the 7 most common mistakes she sees when a business owner begins to outsource, and gives a little advice on how to avoid them!

FIND OUT ABOUT KATE

7 The 7 most common outsourcing mistakes

1: “I want someone to save me time!”

This is the biggest, most common mistake. Time is so precious and there is so much talk of ‘saving it’ on social media and from self-proclaimed productivity gurus. But here’s a newsflash – nobody can save you time. What they can do is help you change how you spend it. This happens by helping you understanding what ONLY YOU can do in your business and then helping you delegate all other tasks and functions – whilst keeping a keen eye on profitability.

2: “I just need a bit of admin done!”

‘Just’ is a dangerous word as this undervalues the tasks and responsibilities in your business. If it needs doing, it’s important. If this is a phrase you’ve caught yourself saying, perhaps it’s time to really review what you mean by ‘admin’ and if repetitive tasks need outsourcing, investigate the zillions of automations and process streamlining tools available. Simple admin is not something to be outsourced to skilled professionals like Passionate PAs. 

3: Poor Scoping and Briefing

Taking the time to scope your outsourcing requirements fully will ensure the whole process is more successful. Good briefing is about clarity, collaboration and knowledge sharing so be prepared for questions from your freelancer as this is how they determine value in both sides of the partnership. 

4: Poor Research

Once you have scoped your requirements fully, find the best person for the job rather than simply someone with availability and a willingness to learn. Ask the powerful questions every freelancers should have the answers to – see this great blog for ideas!

5: Confusing Price with Value

As the saying goes, price is what you pay, value is what you get. Focus on what you will receive from your outsourcing partnership and be really clear from the outset what success looks and feels like to you before saying £35, £45 or even £50 per hour is simply too expensive. If a skilled freelancers can improve the momentum and results in your business, in just a few hours a week, surely that’s worth every penny? 

6: Understanding it’s business!

Most successful freelancers are running business selling their skills and knowledge. It’s not a side hustle or something to earn a bit of extra cash – it’s business. This means clients will be expected to make a commitment, adhere to T&Cs and behave in a professional manner at all times. Oh we’ve got some stories of clients who just didn’t get this – adding us to their family WhatsApp groups, asking us to do inappropriate work (stop it!), or simply not respecting our time and remit. 

7: Understanding the power of a partnership!

This is key to outsourcing being the best decision you’ll ever make. Your professional, well chosen freelancers can and should become invaluable partners to you and your business – with a partnership mindset, truly exceptional things happen.

 

Want to find out how we do things at the Passionate PA? Meet the team here or book a call with Kate to start scoping what you need and who from by clicking here


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

How to find the right business support for you

Freelancers, or business support professionals, can be the solution to many modern business problems. There is no shortage of skills and experience available to businesses large and small, through the army of freelancers available in the UK and further afield.

However, a question we hear so often is “how do I find the right business support for me?”

The blog below has been created to give you an insight into finding the right solution for your needs. However, if you’d prefer to listen to a podcast, our director Kate Chastey was recently interviewed by Karen Murray and they discussed all of the below, and more!

TAKE ME TO THE PODCAST (APPLE)

Or to Spotify to listen there

 

Ok, on to the blog…

First things first

As the business owner, you need to determine what ‘right’ looks like to you.

What problem do you need to solve?
Be clear on the challenge you are facing and your desired solution. Is this challenge the result of an immediate or ongoing resource shortage? What skills and expertise are required?

How do you want your freelancer to work/deliver services?
Are you needing to physically meet with your freelancer or will briefing/communication all be done via technology? If you are looking for a long-term business relationship, consider how you want this to take shape.

When do you need work completed?
What are your timescales/deadlines and what working routines are you hoping for?

Who is the person you are looking for?
Or, more to the point, what characteristics and personality traits matter to you?

Why is a freelancer the best option?
Are you looking for flexibility or a skill you don’t have in your team?

With all that clear in your mind, finish this sentence; the perfect scenario is…

Check this is realistic by discussing it with trusted business colleagues or a seasoned freelancer (we are always happy to talk 😊).

 

Then comes the research

The next step is to start looking for the freelancer you need. The best places to do this are:

  • Your personal business network – ask for recommendations and referrals from people that know you best
  • Social media (particularly LinkedIn if you are keen to find a professional)
  • Internet search using key words (skills and location)
  • Then there are, of course, some big listing websites that will introduce clients to freelancers. These have their plusses and their minuses – but that’s probably a different blog altogether!
     

7 brilliant questions to ask your potential freelancer

So, after you have made it clear what you’re looking for – preferably by email so the potential freelancer has time to digest and you both save 15 mins on the next step… a Zoom call – then, it’s time to really get to know each other.

Here are 7 questions, with talking points, that will sort the wheat from the chaff. Remember, the beautiful, valuable, amazing thing about freelancers is that each one is unique. It’s hard to find the perfect fit but, once you do, that’ll be partnership power like you’ve never known before.

1. Tell me about your background and your skills and experience as a freelancer

  • Ask how long they have been freelancing – just starting out or seasoned pro
  • Discuss why they choose to freelance
  • Talk about what skills and experience they have to share

2. How could you add tangible value to my business?

  • Discuss what they know that you don’t
  • Ask what efficiencies they could introduce
  • Talk about the software/tools they are confident with
  • Ask whether they are an ideas person or a completion expert – or both!
  • Really delve into whether they understand your target market and sector

3. What does a successful working relationship look like to you?

  • Investigate what kind of personalities they like working with
  • Ask for clarity on what they need from you to get started, and then what they need from you to achieve the results you have set out
  • Discuss what sort of work/responsibilities you can outsource to them, further than the initial brief
  • Also clarify whether they will be doing all the work themselves or if they outsource/have employees

4. How would we communicate during our project/work/relationship?

  • Ask what their preferred communication channel is
  • Talk about how they manage workflow and deadlines
  • Understand their boundaries – when are they contactable (business hours/working days etc)
  • Discuss whether they work virtually or are they happy to meet in person

5. Tell me about your clients…

  • Who is their favourite client right now and why?
  • Talk about who their ideal client is, and is that you
  • Ask for the back story on a testimonial you have found – talk about tangible value and timescales
  • Discuss how they monitor results and client happiness
  • Ask how many clients they work with at any one time and how this looks in terms of weekly/monthly contact
  • Ask how close they are to capacity and whether there really is space for you
  • Discuss whether it is possible to speak with a current long-standing client

6. Tell me about a business challenge you’ve had, and how you overcame it?

  • Ask them to tell you about a time when they have missed a deadline or underdelivered to a client’s expectations
  • Discuss what their clients like most/least about working with them
  • Ask whether a client has ever ended a relationship with them abruptly – if so, why
  • Ask whether they have a contingency plan for emergencies (power cuts, equipment disasters, illness etc)
  • Delve into their business ethos – who supports them in their business development and growth

7. Tell me about your contractual terms, GDPR compliance, fee structure etc.

  • Understand the hourly/project rate and how this is tracked, plus, other than that are there any additional charges
  • Discuss contract terms, notice periods, service level agreements, invoicing procedure etc
  • Talk about how they will they keep your business information secure and confidential, whether they are registered with the ICO and their understanding of GDPR
  • Are they insured, registered with HMRC and fully aware of IR35 legislation

Seven key questions to really get beyond the fluff and into the value. Freelancers can add so much to your business and/or team but, as you can see, it’s not always easy. The perfect freelancer for you is likely to be someone who will help you create the momentum and results you need to thrive. Finding them can be tricky but it is worth putting in the time so that the relationship gets off to a flying start and your business feels the benefits quickly.

Happy searching!

You can find out more about our team of business support professionals by clicking here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Making numbers simple for business owners

Kara Birrell is our Passionate PA based in Southampton. She joined us in August 2022 after a 20+ year career in Operations Management and Hospitality.

Kara has always had a passion for numbers… more specifically, profit! In all her previous roles, she has been responsible for margins and, in the hospitality sector where margins are notoriously tight, Kara relished the challenge of not just knowing the numbers herself but inspiring those around her to care about them too.

In this blog, Kara shares her top three tools for making the numbers in your small business simple and meaningful.

FIND OUT ABOUT KARA

Making numbers simple

Everybody knows it’s vital to have a handle on their business’s numbers, but why? How can a small business owner with responsibility for everything from service delivery to marketing, IT to strategy planning, be expected to know one end of a P&L from another?

I get it. And here’s the truth… a lot of people do not understand their numbers.

However, getting a handle on them at an early stage will be the difference between a profitable business that allows you to live the life you desire, and a self-employed “job” where you become trapped.

In my many years of working in hotels and restaurants, and running my own hospitality consultancy, it was very common to find business owners who ran their business finances from their bank account. But this is just a daily snapshot of where your business is, it doesn’t give you a full picture or a forecast for what’s to come.

It is vital that all small business owners have their finger on the financial pulse to:

  1. ensure that they can afford to pay their bills when they are due
  2. ensure they can pay staff and freelancers for the value they are adding to the business, and
  3. (most importantly) ensure the business is actually making a healthy profit.

As a small business owner or sole trader, you might well be thinking I don’t need big profit margins – just enough to pay yourself is plenty?

But, hold up… what about planning for your future and the growth of the business, paying taxes and saving for a rainy day – that will require investment and nobody wants to be a busy fool!

As much as financial reporting may well be seen as ‘over kill’ for a small business, it can be a doddle. I promise 😉

Here’s a simple guide to a few basic financial reports that are easy to produce in excel yet essential for the success of your business.

TOOL #1: Sales Forecasts

This is a simple projection of what business you currently have secured on your books or in your sales pipeline, and then what further sales you hope to make.

‘Secured’ means deposit paid, full amount paid or purchase order received.

‘Hope’ means exactly that; you think it’s going to happen based on an intelligent estimate, but there is absolutely no guarantee yet.

A simple excel spreadsheet with the months listed at the top, and then your projected sales figure underneath is all you need. All your figures should be excluding VAT, if this is applicable to your business.

Top Tip: It’s great to look back on your forecast at the end of the month to see how close your forecast was. This review, which should only take a few moments, will give you a good guide as to how much you understand your sales pipeline. If both figures are very similar, you’ve nailed it!

TOOL #2: Cashflow Forecast

Simply put, your cashflow forecast will give you an indication of how much you should have in your bank at the time when bills need to be paid.

Again, a simple excel spreadsheet will suffice with your outgoings and actual/anticipated income in different columns.

Top Tips: Your sales forecast will help with your income figures, but you also need to take into account the following:

  • If you don’t take payment at the time of the service/sale, put in strict credit control procedures and make sure that your customers are fully aware of your payment terms before the service/sale is agreed. Make sure you have a procedure for chasing payment when it’s overdue!
  • Negotiate good supplier terms. Make sure there is no big difference from when you pay your suppliers, to when your customers pay you.
  • If you need to hold stock, it is vital that this is tightly controlled with regular stock takes. Cash in the bank is far better than products in your stock room. It’s a fine balance to get stock in at the right time, at the right price, while avoiding having cash tied up in it.

TOOL #3: Profit and Loss Account

You can easily produce a basic monthly profit and loss account for your business. The point of this is to understand your profit margin. In simple terms, it is your turnover less all your expenses and you want it to be as high as possible otherwise your business may not be viable.

A simple guide:

Once you have the above reports in place, it should give you a far better understanding of how your business is performing on a weekly or monthly basis. Doing this review yourself also means there are no nasty surprises at the end of the year from your accountant.

Making margins matter

Now that you have a way to track your numbers, you can ask yourself whether your margins (gross and net profit as a percentage of turnover) are close to your industry’s recommended margins.

A quick Google search will tell you roughly what these are, but a great accountant will also be able to advise.

If your margins are far higher or far lower than your industry’s recommended figures, then it’s time to dig a little deeper into your numbers…

  • Can you control your spending?
  • Can you cut supplier costs?
  • Is it time for an efficiency review?
  • Can you increase your selling price, without over pricing yourself against your competitors?

Numbers are the life blood of any business. People only really find them boring when they haven’t fully understood their importance. It is essential for any successful business owner to know where their numbers are likely to be at any given time and these tools should help you do that.

If you would like help in setting up these financial reports for your business, or digging deeper into the numbers to determine what they really mean for you, then please get in touch. Profit is my passion so I would love to help!

You can find out more about Kara by clicking here!


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7 steps to happy, productive OUTSOURCED team

Steph Taylor is our Passionate PA based in Christchurch, Dorset. She joined us in November 2021 after a 20+ year career in Human Resources and Change Management.

In her role as a Passionate PA, Steph helps her clients manage their people through associate models i.e. where one or two directors grow their business and develop their client offering by outsourcing work to trusted consultants, associates or freelancers.

Today, we thought we’d share her top tips for creating happy, productive outsourced teams.

FIND OUT ABOUT STEPH

7 steps to creating a happy, productive OUTSOURCED team

You’re running your business and it’s going well. You’ve started to build a team around you using the associate model – choosing people for their skill and knowledge, adding value to your end clients. Things should be getting easier, right?

Ahh… but what if they are not? Creating happy, productive outsourced teams seems like a lot of hard work, and a spoonful of magic sometimes. In this blog, Steph sheds some light on the 7 things you need to consider when building the right associate team for your business.

TIP 1: Invest your time in your people

There is no CRM in the world that can replace the value of your time – so invest it in your people. Get to know them as humans, as well as for the skills and experience they can bring to your business. Setting time aside to collaborate and discuss long-term visions and relationships will lead to improve understanding and rapport.

TIP 2: Be clear on roles and responsibilities

You know exactly what you want these humans to do, but do they? Being clear from the outset (and as you progress) what skills and know-how your business needs will ensure there are no niggling feelings on either side. We advocate going so far as having a Team Handbook so that all the ‘rules of play’ are written down and easy to understand. If your team members know what’s expected, they will find it easier to deliver – and if they don’t, because you were clear, you’ll find it easier to manage their exit! When everyone is clear on what ‘good’ looks like, it’s also easier to see ‘exceptional’ (see point 7 below).

TIP 3: Don’t skip the legals

It’s all too easy to get swept away with the hubbub of the day-to-day business but contracts and Letters of Engagement are vital and should be done before any work actually takes place. These set the boundaries, ensure understanding and give everyone peace of mind. The timely production of contracts also sets the tone for the level of excellence at which your business operates.

TIP 4: Culture doesn’t happen by accident

The culture of your business is a direct result of your communications and behaviours. If you want an autonomous, responsible, proactive team then micro-managing isn’t going to get you there. Encouraging all team members to make time for each other, learn from each other and seek best practice not just motivates your people, it creates great results for your business too!

TIP 5: Clarity of communication

Whether it’s an internal 121 email, a company-wide announcement or a quick conversation, being clear, consistent and honest at all times will allow your team to trust you, even with the not-so-good news. Being open about the direction of the business is also key to building a happy, productive long-term team.

TIP 6: Know your weaknesses

A good leader will know where they are not so good. Get the right people in your business to support in these areas. For Passionate PA clients, we are often the conduit for great comms – never instead of the business leader, more a buffer/filter/positioner. There really is nothing more valuable that a seriously great PA who understands your business vision and works with you to achieve that (but we might be biased, of course!).

TIP 7: Feel good factor

Showing appreciation and recognition goes further than just paying your teams’ invoices on time. Kind words, constructive feedback, referrals for other work are all ways in which people can feel valued. And, back to Tip 2 – if you have been super clear what a good team member looks like, recognising excellence and building further on that relationship is easy.

If you’re not natural leader of people, outsourcing the task of bringing your team together through a people-centred project manager or business support professional can be an ideal way to reap the countless rewards of the outsourced team. If you’d like to have a chat about how this might work for you, book a call with Steph today.

You can find out more about Steph by clicking here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Choosing the right CRM for your business

In this blog, systems specialist and Passionate PA, Louise Cummins (pictured) shares her top 5 tips for choosing the right CRM system for your business.

There’s no shortage of business owners who want to be more efficient and provide their clients with an awesome client experience. Are you one of them?

But, do you feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work in your business and it’s growing faster than you can keep up with?

Implementing the right CRM system into your business is a gamechanger.

As Passionate PAs, we work with our clients to decide on the system that suits their needs and not just to sign up with the latest system to hit the market. As, let’s face it, what one person is using is irrelevant to the next! It’s all about identifying what YOUR business needs, implementing that system effectively and ensuring it’s embedded in your daily routine forever more.

We know it’s a challenge. You might well be thinking…

  • How do I know what I need?
  • Will it connect to my other systems/apps?
  • Will I have to change everything I already have in place?
  • Will the free version fit my needs?
  • How long will it take to implement?
  • Who can help me with that?
  • and most importantly… Will it actually do what I want it to?

Firstly, you need to know where you want to take your business. Then, follow Louise’s 5 simple steps to choosing the software that’s right for you and your business to create a seamless customer journey for your own clients and ultimately more efficiency and profit!

  1. Brain dump a list of the essential elements your CRM system has to include and then a ‘would be nice to have’ list too (such as integrations with mailing and accounting software, video hosting, branding etc).Don’t start with Google – it will throw up thousands of suggestions which just creates noise and confusion! Start with your own head and your knowledge of your business.
  1. Ask for recommendations and pros and cons of each system. Liaise with clients, suppliers, networking buddies etc and ask the same questions so you can make a comparable list.Then do some Google research and see what other systems match your spec.
  1. Create a short list of the systems that fit best with your requirements including the price of each level of access.You’ll now need to strike off the list those that aren’t of interest or giving enough value for the investment. Ensure you look at all price points to ensure you do a true comparison.
  1. Trial the system you think most suited and make use of all the features. We’d suggest this trial is done over a month! Things change in business and doing just a week’s trial won’t really give you a good indicator as to whether the system will suit your business in the long term.Ensure you keep all your ‘must-haves’ at the forefront of your mind when carrying out the trial.  All systems have a support team that can help you through the trial too.
  1. Analyse the results of the trial and make your decision to go with it or start another trial.Did it meet your requirements? Is the price right? If not, set up another trial until you find the correct system for you. Keep going until you find THE ONE! We know this sounds really time consuming, but, the rewards are great. The right CRM will be a total gamechanger for you.

If implementing a CRM system into your business is something you are considering but need someone to support you and keep you on track with trialling and through to implementation – then please do get in touch. Louise has huge experience in this area and takes on project work to help ambitious business leaders achieve their CRM goals.

You can connect with Louise on LinkedIn or, why not book a Discovery Call to see how you could work together – email her directly on louise@thepassionatepa.co.uk.

You can find out more about our team of business support professionals by clicking here!


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