How Do You Protect Yourself From A Potential ICO Threat?
Angela Brown | 2018
As a small business, you are registered with the HMRC and with the ICO as a data controller and/or processor right, RIGHT?
It is important to ensure that you have got your policies and processes set up and you have undertaken the necessary training and that your paperwork in order, that’s a given. If you need to, you can look for the necessary business contracts via KoffeeKlatch who are an excellent source for all your GDPR business matters are and have legal experts on board to guide you through all the legal jargon.
Only you, as the lead in your business and the expert in your field, know how to undertake your business to its ultimate, as a freelancer have to convey to your client how to proceed with a particular task, but they have been doing something one way, and you need to be assertive in doing that something a different way or enforce something, it can be a bit tricky.
Let me give you an example:
If your client was sending documents to a client (let’s say client A) with an attachment that contained sensitive data with details of name, date of birth and bank details etc, and your client happened to send the wrong PDF document to the client (let’s say client B), you would then be in an ICO breach position and have to report this incident as another client would have had access to another person’s data and you would have to write up a process of how the incident occurred and how you would rectify it, and how it would never happen again – all within 48 hours.
If you had a policy and process in place that you ensured that your client A (and their employees) had all of their PDF documents password-protected with each client’s own preferred passwords (by separate means, not via email), that if the wrongly-sent document from Client B with Client B’s password on was sent to Client A, if Client A tried to open with Client A’s password, and could not open because of the process in place. Then there is only an error made that needs to be rectified, and a breach avoided.
It is imperative that as a small business yourself you are following correct procedures and processes and ensure that as a data controller and processor that any work you undertake as a freelancer that you are compliant with work that you do not only for yourself but for others too.
If you need source PDF documents password-protecting then NottmVA can undertake that service for you. Please email for your enquiries.
Soooooo, you’ve got your client to agree to your business proposal – Hooray! Now, what do you do? You’ve taken the brief already, so you know what your client wants to be done, as you’ve sent a written proposal and it’s been accepted so you now have a starting point. You now need to formalise the proposal into your booking form or contract.
Preparing the Contract
You can now prepare your Booking Form. This is where you create your formal process. Your talking relationship and process now becomes the contract so to speak. Your finer points are now written down into your Description of Services within your Booking Form to be undertaken so it is clear what is to be provided between you and your client. As this is your document that will be signed, ensure that it is specific, or you can link it back to your proposal if you wish.
What Quality Standards are in place?
Have you provided a process as to how the work will be monitored or measured? How will you know well you are doing a job well done? There should be a provision in your contract to liaise with your clients regularly to undertake your quality standards of some description that will ensure that your client can review your work at regular agreed intervals.
What Terms have been specified?
It’s a good idea to specify what your hours of working are going to be and what your fees are. You will need to specify any Out of Hours charges, Urgent Work rates and Retainer fees too. Of course, do not forget that Retainer payments are to be collated up-front and ensure that your booking form reflects this.
Payment terms are a must here, along with your preferred method of payment. It’s important to specify all this information right at the beginning of your business relationship prior to commencing any work that you do for your client, to ensure that your contract is clear and precise. Have you specified whether any Late Payment fees will be incurred and whether you will charge for any Bank or PayPal fees/charges? Most freelancers do, it is a common practice.
Finding the right Contact
One thing that is important is to find out who is the bill payer. The person you are dealing with as your client is not necessarily always the bill payer. Make sure you ask. Are you dealing with a sole trader or a small business entrepreneur? If it is someone else in a small business or an accounts team, make the effort to make a courtesy call to them when you have taken on the signed contract and introduce yourself to them.
Send them some of your branded material if you have some, and get on first name terms with them, it is helpful later on down the line – if you ever come to need them to chase for YOUR money! It’s better to speak with ‘Jane in accounts’ than ‘Accounts’ when you need that £500 you need to pay your bills at the end of the month.
Ensure you have provided all your contact details so you are available by every way your client needs to get hold of you to enable the task/job to be completed. If they need your phone number, ensure they have it along with your email and your social media links. You do not want them to say they tried to get hold of you to try to pay your bill, and you could not be reached.
The Invoicing Process
So, you get your signed contract returned and this is now the appropriate time for you to send your invoice out. You can then send your invoice to the named ‘Bill Payer’. Remember it is to the bill payer, not the named client necessarily – there may be different people who are responsible for settling payment of your accounts, than those who deal with the purchase/sales of any business transactions.
You need to specify how many hours, products or services etc on your Invoice and what tasks/projects are going to be undertaken and for what costs were agreed in the contract on your Invoice and specify the date of the contract you are referring to so that it is all linking back to each document. You can see what is happening here, can’t you?
In summary: The Proposal links to the Booking Form/Contract. The Contract links to the Invoice. The Invoice links to the Client’s Order Number (if you have one). The invoice has your payment terms and preferred method of payment on it, which again should reflect what you specified in your contract.
In essence, make it easy for your client to be able to pay you. Is there a link to be able to pay you directly or is there a sort code and account number clearly identified on the invoice or other means to be able to pay you that you prefer?
You Undertake the Job in Hand
So, you get on with the job in hand and complete it to its satisfaction. BUT STOP! Was it a retainer? Was it paid up front? All retainer projects are paid up front, that’s a given. If that was in your contract why did you start the work without the payment? You don’t buy anything online without paying for it first do you? Well, most things anyway.
This is why you spend so much time on your contract. The detail is in the administration. If you do not think you can do this or are too busy to undertake these tasks, or it is out of your skill set, hire a Virtual Assistant to do this for you. These types of tasks can be one-off ad-hoc tasks that VAs can undertake for you. If you are undertaking tasks that are ad hoc and require manual timing and are going to be billed at the end of the month, then you can ask for a deposit which will be paid UP-FRONT and you can then invoice for the remainder accordingly.
If your client is a first-time client and your project isn’t a retainer, then you can word your contract accordingly so that you ask for a deposit also.
Waiting for the Payment
You have sent your invoice and wait patiently and have specified your terms. Whether it is Payment By Return, 7 days, 14 days or whatever your required terms are, and the time period has passed, and you have had no response. Yikes! You are providing a service or product that requires you to keep deadlines or time free for other clients too and this means that you are a) losing that time because you could have spent that time working on another client’s work b) produced another product for another client c) utilised/managed the time differently on other projects, accounts, social media marketing and so on.
Whatever the reason, you have put time aside in your month for this work and you have not received your payment, so what do you do?
If you have followed all of the steps above, and you have had a good relationship with your client and/or Jane in the accounts department then all should be well. Your preparation and administration should keep you in good stead. Speak to your client, your business-relationship should be your first point of call. Pick up the phone, a gentle nudge is maybe all that is needed.
A hectic lifestyle sometimes just gets in the way. Did an email go in the ‘junk mail’ perhaps, has someone had a bereavement and just not been around a computer to see any notifications, there are many reasons that someone may have reasons not to have paid you.
What if I Do Not Get Paid?
When you have had the obligatory phone calls, you’ve nudged and not had the responses that you need and you have asked for a payment by the end of the week as your invoice is still showing as unpaid and you need to diarise the work into your schedule otherwise you are going to lose the timeframe, are your doubts creeping in?
Have you looked at what accounting package you use? Can this assist you at all? Does it look professional? Have you sent a manual document or a slip of paper? Can your accounting package send reminder invoices to prompt your client so that you can create a little distance between you and your client so as not to ruin any business relationship you have? Have you considered sending a reminder letter if your gentle prompts and reminders are failing? There are invoice payment reminders and a series of reminders that can be sent, again another service that your Virtual Assistantcan provide for you and send on your behalf.
But what if I Fly?
What you’re really aiming for is to get your invoices paid. If you have done all of your groundwork and the preparation that is needed, then it really should be a matter of how you maintain your business relationships initially in the lead up to gaining your contracts and how you then pursue the process.
Once you have received the payment you can then undertake the job at hand.
Undertaking the Work
Hooray! This is the easy part, isn’t it? You get the work done and submit it. You ‘Wow’ your client and then ensure you get your repeat business and just do it all over again!
How Can I Help You, When You Have No Idea What You Want?
This is a regular topic that is mentioned to me. I know I need help, but I don’t know what I need! I approached someone only last week, to be told I’m so busy, I need your help, but how can you help me? Does this sound like someone that has contacted you? Oh yes!
I need to address this pretty darn quick otherwise I will have lost my lead that I have worked so hard to find and engage with. Of course, I don’t yet know their business, or do I? If they are in my niche and my target-market – and perhaps they should be – if I’m doing my marketing correctly, then I should know something about their industry, well maybe a little, then I will have a vague idea about something that they will need. So, we have a beginning to work from.
Where does my Client begin?
To work out what you need to start doing, there are three ways of doing this. What you need to do is look at which option you prefer – but essentially, they all work out the same to bring you to the same result. Then you will have ‘your beginning’.
So, let’s start: Firstly, you would need to undertake the following:
• Write down everything you would do for approximately 3 days
• Highlight in yellow only everything that you would do and only you can do
• Highlight in green only things that you would do and can keep doing but ‘could’ hand over to a VA later
• Then write down everything else that can be delegated and outsourced to your VA
• Take the time to put down everything that you would undertake that takes you more than half an hour.
• With your highlighter, mark-up things that you do not like doing or do not need to do yourself.
• When you are ready – you can then put down the things you do not ‘want’ to do or do not really have the time to get round to.
Let me know the following:
• Advise me what tasks are on your ‘long-term’ To-Do list. This is your shuffle list, your ‘I don’t get around To Do’ing’ list as other work gets in the way list (ha ha)
• What would you do immediately if you had more time?
• How many emails do you have in your inbox?
• Do you follow-up with your clients?
• Have you any testimonials or references from your clients
• How often do you connect with your clients/potential clients on social media or reinforce those relationships?
• How do you market your clients, and do you have enough of them?
• Do you manage your time effectively and do you apply your time to your clients appropriately giving them the best service and after-care they need?
• Can you delegate/outsource any of your tasks to your VA to allow you to undertake any of these tasks or to undertake any of these tasks?
Why do I need my Virtual Assistant?
As a potential client of a Virtual Assistant (VA), you need to return to your core business ethics. What it is you went into business for.
What is your passion?
What is it that you really love about your business.
What do you love doing?
As this is what you need to convey to your VA. You need your VA to share that passion and ethic and take it on board for you and treat your company as if it were their own.
You are working with a Virtual Assistant because you want to save time, reduce costs and possibly save your sanity, I think?!
It’s well-known that Virtual Assistants are time-served time-management ‘geeky’ organised people that just love to do all things ‘Virtual’ and are happy to help and get stuck in and organise, so what better to do this at a more cost-effective rate, freeing up your time allowing you to just get on with the matters at hand!
What are you waiting for? Block some time out in your calendar to undertake one of the options above, and contact me via email or Linkedin so that we can arrange a mutually convenient time to discuss what it is that YOU need help with. After all, you now know, don’t you?
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It’s common knowledge that as a small business everyone is striving to find that elusive client and you need to always be on the lookout for new ways to market your business. In the depths of Facebook and Twitter et al you can get lost in the algorithms whatever they are at any given time and who knows, they change with the wind, don’t they? Social Media sites also belong to someone else as well too. The only things that belong to you are your website and your mailing list.
Do you have a Niche?
Once you have determined who your target audience is for your business and you have defined your niche then you are on a roll!
What does your Client want/need?
This is when it becomes a little easier to target what your audience or your client wants or needs. How can you solve their problems? How can you ease their pain? What is it that makes their day so much more difficult to get through without you assisting them to glide through much more easily.
Now you can create your prize jewel – your Lead Magnet. This is marketing terminology for a free service or product that is given away for the purpose of gathering contact details.
Promote, Promote, Promote!
Yay – you’ve got your lead magnet – that’s it! You can now promote it. You can advertise it in your blog posts, social media, link it in your emails – get it out there!
Automate or Manual?
As you’re promoting your Lead Magnet you will now be gaining interest. If you use one of the programs to do this for you it can automate the process. This can be Aweber, Mailchimp, CampaignMonitor are just a few to choose from.
Of course, you need to ensure you gain appropriate permission-based email lists and use the correct opt-ins. If you use one of the automated email programs, then this is all done for you. Better still, use a double opt-in.
Have you got offers or discounts to advocate from time to time, this is a great way to promote your posts regularly and keep your traction.
Finally, do not forget your Call To Action. Ensure you ask your readers to subscribe to your email list.
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What do 10 Steps to a Perfect VA Involve? Well, 10 Steps of course!
The first one is self-explanatory, you need to introduce yourself to the big wide web or rather, market yourself. This means marketing yourself across all social media platforms, creating yourself a web presence, fully filling out your Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, Insta, Twitter, Pinterest and so on.
The next step is then the Team. Team? I hear you ask, there is no I in Team! Haha, well, of course, being a lone worker is no fun, is it? In my journey in becoming a VA, it was important to me to earn my stripes so to speak, so I undertook some Approved training, and this allowed me to join a fabulous group of VAs and an ongoing group afterwards which provides support, mentoring and social events too! There is, of course, the ultimate requirement for ‘getting yourself out there’, – Networking! You need to ‘be seen’. It is imperative to network with the appropriate groups for your niche, and I’ll come to that later.
Moving to 10 Steps to a VA – Point 3, we have a ‘Problem’. What is the problem that you are trying to solve for your client? Is it really a problem, or is it just ongoing work that needs doing? You need to discuss with your client what their requirements are and what you can do for them.
On to Step 4, we have the Advantages. This is where you can make a difference. How are you special? What makes your service a ‘cut above the rest’? What can you do that is that little bit extra, what do you do that goes the extra mile? There are many Virtual Assistants nationwide and we all work remotely, so our client base can and do choose VAs from any location, so you need to have something that comes from your advantage-base.
Step 5 of the 10 Steps to a VA gives us the Solution. A solution already? Well, you need to let your client know how you are going to solve their problem, or at least come up with some proposals in the discussion. This will be the format of the proposal prior to your booking form, terms of business and if necessary your data processing form.
Your product in Step 6, goes on to you showing how your product or service actually comes into play. How do you undertake your services? Are you on-site? Are you remote? Is it both? What services do you offer, what don’t you offer and so on.
Your market – Step 7 – You need to know your market or your audience. This seems to be a bug-bear for many new VAs. It is important to try to find a niche or target-market for yourself. You need to look at your skill-set, previous employment sectors, interests etc and hone this down as to who you would LIKE to work with and it will come eventually. You need to create your niche then marketing to your target market becomes easier as the ‘big wide web’ is too big to market to everyone!
In a way, Step 8, Competition is a little like Step 4 looking at how you are different to others, but here you need to look at your competition with more focus. Once you have established your difference from step 4 then you can see how your competition applies it, and become competitive in your own arena and marketplace and now you have created your niche, (you have got your niche, now haven’t you?) you are in the perfect place to hold your own.
Step 9 – The Business Model. This is where you look at how you are planning to make money. You will have looked at your rates, broken down the value of your hourly rate, what percentage is going to pay for your taxes, holiday pay, insurances, training, registrations and so on and so on. You then need to create a schedule for when you expect your revenues to come in – your business plan.
Finally, Step 10 – Investing. What are you planning for? What are your budgets? What finances are your looking for? You need to have planned for all of this. If you had planned well, and like myself, had taken some training, this was all covered in your VA training modules, so you will be fully prepared to be set on your way by now.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed reading through my 10 Steps to a VA and it has prepared you to venture out to make the appropriate moves in your ongoing journey to becoming a great Virtual Assistant.
If you need any help in anything Virtual Assistant, please comment or email me for further information.
So, what is a Virtual Assistant, as people often look at me quizzically, so I thought I would try to explain it a little.
I’m not ‘almost’ or ‘nearly’ there, as the Oxford dictionary describes ‘Virtual’, but an online self-employed version of the traditional PA who provides business support to SMEs and sole traders.
A Virtual Assistant or VA generally works from a home office or remotely and the services provided vary from VA to VA depending on the skill-set but are usually social-media led, administration or technological based.
How Many Clients does a VA have?
A Virtual Assistant would only hold a small number of business clients so as to ensure that the number of hours provided to each are provided professionally, with clear set boundaries and delivered on time.
What Skills does a VA require? The skill-set that each business would use would depend on their need at any one time. The business may have a secretary in the office, but may have sickness, annual leave and/or surplus work at the time – that’s where a VA comes into play. Or indeed, you may just utilise a VA permanently and only outsource your work for the set hours you need. Skills such as audio transcription, social media management, event planning, website monitoring, document creation, presentations, mail merge etc. Which VA you decide to work with will depend on the skill-set you choose.
How Do You Keep In Touch? How do you keep in touch? Well, technology is great these days, isn’t it? Each client has their own preferences, so it is entirely up to you. You can choose; email, telephone, Skype, a Zoom call or even face-to-face if you prefer to work with a VA in your local area – however, face-to -ace meetings will be at a higher rate for onsite help, of course.
There are other services such as proof-reading available, along with the face-to-face meetings which do demand a premium rate along with the standard rate skills mentioned above.
I hope this has made things a little more clearer and you now understand the workings of a Virtual Assistant. So in essence, you have a remote online freelancer for a VA who is technically skilled to work on your tasks that you have outsourced to allow you to focus on more cost-effective matters in hand.
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