Lessons from a Digital Marketing Virtual Assistant who actually does the work:
It’s mid-summer and we’re all still in Covid crisis mode. And if you’re a mom like me, you’re probably waiting with baited breath for the official announcement of what school will look like this fall. In-person classes? Online remote learning? Hybrid options where you have to keep track of some crazy alternating schedule? Who knows!?! So I wanted to check in with you and share a little about how I’m trying to stay sane, by keeping a balance of real life while working from home during a global pandemic.
We’re in for a marathon, and not just a sprint.
A little while ago, soon after coronavirus knocked us all for a spin, I wrote an honest post about how I was trying to keep my sanity and survive with my VA business intact. And now we’re still here. All around the country, pools are closed, summer camps are cancelled, and summer looks a lot like a frat house full of bored, restless kids who still want snacks 400 times a day.
And I am more grateful than ever that I work online. I manage my own schedule, and set my own hours. Sure, I have commitments to my clients and my students. But I’m the one that ultimately gets to make all the decisions. It’s no wonder that “work from home jobs” has been a trending keyword search on google since this spring. In fact, some of my clients in the online world are seeing huge boosts to their business as people turn to the internet more than ever.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Because it’s all on me. And that means I still have to show up and show out, even if my kids are whiny or it has rained for six days straight. And that’s why finding a healthy way to balance real life with work from home expectations is a must-do for any VA or work-from-home digital media marketing assistant.
Take the vacation.
Yep. I know. You’re too busy to think about a vacation. Life’s too crazy right now. But you know what? I don’t actually buy it.
Right now I’m soaking in a much-needed vacation with my family. We escaped the mundane daily life at home for some desperately needed time away together, in a new place, in the fresh air. Where we can still be safe and social distance and all that necessary stuff, but we can also actually feel normal for once.
Because when you work from home, you’re always at work. There’s always one more email to check, one last comment to post, one final idea to drop onto your Trello board.
But that’s not a good way to live, all the time, day after day. Your creativity is muted. Your ideas get dull. Your brain gets stuck in the cycle of same ol’ same ol’.
So figure out a way to (safely) escape. Head out for a week to an airbnb in a quiet spot. Steal away to a nearby cabin for a long weekend. Or even rent some kayaks and pack a picnic lunch at a local park.
At some point, you have to look beyond the crazy and just do it. There won’t ever be a perfect time, but now is a good enough time.
But keep your clients in the loop!
Yes – I’m taking a vacation right now! And – gasp – sometimes that even means logging off of wi-fi and putting my phone away. Crazy, right?
That doesn’t mean my work calendar isn’t packed full. Or that I have everything on my to-do list checked off and completed. Ha! That will never, ever actually happen. This is real life.
But it means I’ve checked in with my clients. I’ve looked ahead at what they need, and worked to make it happen. I’ve pre-scheduled social media content and written blog posts before they were due. And I still check in from time to time on my phone to make sure that there aren’t any big fires to put out or issues that absolutely can’t wait.
Always, always communicate with your clients. You never want to abandon them right in the middle of a big launch or the week before they transition to a new product platform. Find out what they need from you, and figure out a way to get it done before you go. Or identify those small things that can be put off for a week or so.
And guess what? Your clients are human, too. They get it. In fact, encourage your clients to schedule some time off for themselves! It’s good for you, too. You’ll show your value as a unicorn who can keep things running smoothly behind the scenes so they can take a few days to unplug or just breathe. And you will become even more invaluable to their team!
It’s just a matter of being open and honest, and keeping communication open. And that means I can afford some time right now to shut off my phone and focus on my family, and know that the rest of it can wait until I get back.
Reevaluate the work-from-home things that are really throwing off the life balance.
But let’s be real. There are always one or two things that make keeping the life balance especially hard when you work from home.
Maybe it’s a client that you’ve kept on for longer than you should. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that take more than they give, who leave you with a sinking feeling every time you start to open up their work files. The ones that spread toxic vibes and negativity all over your workspace that spill over into the rest of your life. Or the ones that have just always been a struggle because the work chemistry just wasn’t there.
Or maybe it’s a business plan or product offering that you’ve been holding onto for too long. You aren’t passionate about it. It has become drudgery and isn’t going anywhere. You’ve kept it out of habit or loyalty even though you know, deep down, that it isn’t working out anymore. It’s a big time-suck that just isn’t paying off.
They’re probably just not worth it.
This is the time to really re-evaluate all of those things. Because believe me – you don’t need them in your life. In the cliched words of Elsa – (is Disney+ running full-time at your house right now, too?!) – let it go.
I know it’s scary to give up a big client especially when they are helping to pay the bills. I know it feels uncomfortable to pivot from a business plan that you’ve used for years when that’s all you might know.
But in reality, those are the things holding you back. They’re taking up space in your schedule and your head for new clients, and new ideas, that could really move you forward. Look at the success stories of digital media mavens like Rachel Miller and Chanti Zak. They had to let go of old ideas, so they could embrace the new ones that rocketed them forward. They wouldn’t be movers and shakers if they had stayed in their (uncomfortable) comfort zone.
Because if you’re like me, you don’t have the extra emotional energy to deal with the negative and the drudgery right now. So it’s time to take it off your plate.
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The Takeaway: You get to set the rules about your work-from-home and life balance.
Think about all of the reasons that you signed up for this work-from-home biz in the first place. Flexibility, creating your own schedule, and setting your own rules. Plus the fact that “working from home” actually means working from anywhere you can get decent wi-fi or cell phone service. Don’t limit yourself to unnecessary boundaries and the endless monotony of a home office filled with uninvited family members for months on end.
It’s a stressful time. We’re all stuck in this pattern of fear and doubt and exhaustion and hope and gratitude that just seems to spiral non-stop around us right now.
But you’re in the perfect spot to rewrite the rules. To give yourself grace but also make the changes that need to finally happen. Hopefully this is a wake-up call to to just do it.
I won’t pretend I have the magic answers. Spoiler alert – I don’t. Just ask me about my recent misadventures with the hotel jacuzzi jets when I thought I could finally relax in a long hot bath on my vacation. EW.
But know that I’m right here with you. Looking ahead at the unknown with a sense of both anxiousness and curiosity. And I know we can do this.
See you when I get back!
-Emily, Digital Marketing Consultant and Implementer
“I help smart women learn the in-demand digital marketing strategies and profitable tech skills to get hired as a unicorn digital marketing assistant.“
3 ways we can work together:
1. Do you need to acquire digital marketing implementation skills and build your workflows so you can solidly put yourself out there for work? Check out the Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School. (It opens twice a year so jump on the waitlist now!… I also share job leads with my students so it’s a gateway for anyone who wants to build a freelance business that gives them flexibility and meaningful work). You can also choose to go through the self-study program now. Enroll here.
2. Already doing the work and have clients? But need more clients and a better referral network? Apply for my Digital Marketer’s Workgroup. This is a tight-knit community of freelancers like you, supporting each other. Plus I’ve shared 1,600+ job opportunities with this community.
3. Need to hire a Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant? Submit your job opportunity here. I’ll share with my workgroups totally free.
Yes, you really can work online.
Feeling overwhelmed and not sure how you can work from home and build your own online digital marketing business? Take a deep breath – you can do this. Start here with my list of 10 popular tasks that online businesses need help with the most!
These are the tasks that new clients are constantly asking for help with, and skills that they really need to find in a virtual assistant. Get access to this free download right now. Then make sure your own VA toolkit is up-to-date and relevant, and decide where you might need to invest in new growth and development for your biz.