3 years ago today, I received my official business licence to operate as MSC Business Solutions, Virtual Assistant Service.  3 years!!

I’m sure you’ve heard people say this before, but starting a business is a crazy journey. A lot of ups and downs. So much to learn.  Some of it was pure luck, not gonna lie.  Meeting certain people at certain points through my journey, well if you ask me, it’s divine intervention.  You ask for guidance and assistance often enough, it will come.  You continue to put yourself out there and meet new people, you will eventually meet the ones that come into your life for a reason.

It’s not easy starting a business. It’s not easy starting a business while raising a family. It’s not easy starting a Entrepreneurbusiness with anxiety and depression.  Hell, it’s not easy keeping a business when you have anxiety and depression because your brain is telling you that you can’t do it, you’re not smart enough, people won’t hire you, you can’t make it work. But if you have the right people in your corner, you keep going. You hang onto them through the tidal waves of negative feelings, you hang on tight and when the waves subside you keep pushing and get back to work.

My first year in business, I didn’t make any money.  You know what? I didn’t matter to me one bit.  My husband will disagree, but money was not my main goal during that first year.  Money is great, and making some is even better, but that wasn’t my primary focus.  My focus was learning, meeting people and figuring this business thing out.

My first year was a dream and a nightmare, both at the same time.  I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know about any of the amazing resources available to me like the Small Business Centre or the Business Help Centre of Middlesex County.  I didn’t even know how to work “virtually” (kind of important don’t you think?).  All I knew was that I had a strong desire to make it work.

I made many, many mistakes, too many too count, but I also had some huge successes.  More importantly, I met amazing people that have been instrumental to my growth and success, and most of those people are still in my life today.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in my own journey:

  1. Find the people who will be (and stay) in your corner.  They may not understand your vision 100%, but they have your back regardless.  These people are my family and my close friends.  They get what I’m doing even though they may not understand exactly what I do every day. lol  My sister has talked me off of more than one ledge over the years.
  2. Hire a business coach. I realize that funds are tight at the beginning, but you don’t know what you don’t know, and a business coach will help you get on the right track and keep you there.
  3. Hire the RIGHT business coach for you.  I have met so many amazing business coaches, but you have to find the one that suits you.  Suits your personality, your learning style and (frankly) your budget.  I met my business coach Shelagh Cummins at the very beginning of my journey, but it took me 2 years to hire her.  Silly, silly me.  But it took me a few interactions with Shelagh to make sure it was the right fit for me. It’s not all about the money, it’s about the support you (should) receive from your business coach.  A good coach will get to you know you as a person, as well as your goals for your business.  They will get you on the right track and keep you there. I will tell you that the return on investment (not just financially), is more than worth it.
  4. Learn. Learn. Learn.  I’ve done online courses, webinars, in-person workshops, live conferences, you name it. Keep learning.  It keeps you relevant and keeps it interesting.
  5. Give back.  Even though my brain keeps telling me that I’m not smart enough or good enough at this, I’ve had enough clients over the years tell me the exact opposite.  One of the ways I keep my brain positive, is by volunteering and helping other people.  Currently I volunteer with IVAA (the International Virtual Assistant Association).  It’s just a small way I can help other VA’s get started.
  6. Don’t give up. If it is something you really love and really believe in, just keep going.  There are definitely a tonne more good days than bad days.

Through it all, the absolute best part is the people I have met along the way. For every one of you that has helped me, or supported me in any way, I deeply and truly thank you (I just got goosebumps when I typed that).  I hope that I have been able to give something positive back to you in some way.

Enough of my sappiness… now to the good part! My 3 Year Anniversary Special!

* Do you own a business?

* Do you do everything in your business?

* Are you excited for the kids to be on summer break, but not sure how you’re going to actually get any work done?

* Would you like to have some extra time off this summer?

If you have said YES to any of the above questions, then I may have the solution for you.

Let me do the work, so you can enjoy the summer.  

Starting today, June 16th, get 10 hours of Virtual Assistant support for the price of 7 hours!

You only have 3 days to take advantage of this amazing offer,

so contact me today to see if this offer is right for you!

AnniversaryFinal

Terms and conditions: Special only available until midnight EST on Monday, June 19th.  Must be a new 10 hour package and paid for in full.  Package hours must be used prior to August 31, 2017. Special is also available to current clients!

Thank you again and I am excited to see what year #4 brings!

xoxo

Michelle

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workshop

 

I am a very lucky lady.  I just returned from a fun-packed 2-day business retreat with my client, the knowledgeable and inspiring Leigh Fowler, at the White Oaks Resort and Spa in Niagara.

I was hired by Leigh to act as her event assistant for this retreat and I enjoyed every moment.  As her event assistant, I was The Idea Loftthere to be Leigh’s right-hand. My goal was to ensure that she had as much quality time with her retreat participants as possible, and not have to worry about all the other “stuff”. I helped with set-up, I was the “go-between” with the event co-ordinator and a/v staff, registration of her guests, time-keeping to ensure the sessions stayed on track (that’s always a fun one right Leigh? LOL), assisted her clients with any questions about the event, the hotel and the area in general, among many other things.

I really enjoyed working with Leigh and meeting her attendees, and the White Oaks Resort is spectacular.

A few of my favourite things about being an event assistant:

1) Meeting new people and helping ensure everyone has a wonderful event.

2) Learning by accident.  As the event assistant, I spend most of my time in the room with everyone while they are doing their workshops. I am there in case the Event Host needs something. Therefore, I get to hear and see the actual training and workshops. Talk about a huge bonus!

3) Giving the Event Host peace of mind and helping ensure that their event is a success.

Why do you need an Event Assistant?

There are so many reasons you should hire an event assistant, so let’s play a little game of Would Your Rather (can  you tell I hang out with a 7yo):

Would you rather…

a) Fumble around with registration lists and name tags? OR

b) Greet your clients/participants with hugs and conversation?

Would you rather…

a) Spend time running around looking for the right cable for your projector or messing with the air conditioning because the room is too cold? OR

b) Get your workshop/seminar started while your Event Assistant connects with the a/v crew and the hotel event co-ordinator?

Would you rather…

a) Run around worrying about where the Coffee Break is being set up and if there is something available for your client who can’t have gluten?

b) Enjoy the coffee break while chatting with your attendees, or sneak off for a bit of rest.

Would you rather…

a) Worry about keeping your event running on schedule? OR

b) Enjoy your workshop and not have to worry about the time.

The main reason is this…

As the Event Host, your main focus should be on your participants, not on technical issues, catering, registration and finding extra pencils.

If you’d like to know more about how I can help you at your next event, just click here to schedule a quick call with me.

Be Flawsome Every Day!

Michelle

Not already receiving my monthly Tips directly to your Inbox? I have a gift just for you!  Click here to receive my free guide, 5 Ways to Free up 10 Hours a Week, So you can Increase your Revenue & Fall Back in Love with your Business!

 

businesscard

 

If you follow my blogs at all, you know I take issue with email address and business cards, and I’m going at it again.

As a Virtual Assistant, one of the services I offer to clients is business card cleanup and database management.  I take that stack business cards and put it into some sort of usable format for the client.  It can be a business database, a spreadsheet, a CRM system, a newsletter list (all with permission of course), whatever the client needs to help maintain that client’s information so it doesn’t get shoved in a drawer, forgotten about.

HOWEVER…

I really, really, REALLY wish people would think abbizcardpileout their business cards BEFORE they print over 1000 of them.  Here are my top pet peeves and my personal tips to go with them:

Pet Peeve #1:  Fancy Fonts – It may look pretty, but if I can’t tell an S from an F, then you’re just going to irritate me.  Chances are I won’t spell your name right or even worse, I won’t spell your website or your email right, and then I can’t get in touch with you, so you’re going to lose business.  How do you like your fancy-schmancy fonts now!

Tip: Fancy is overrated. Use a type font that is simple and easy to read.  I also recommend using at least a 12pt font size.  Anything smaller and us folks “over 40” have to go searching for our reading glasses and that ain’t cool.

Speaking of email…

Pet Peeve #2:  No email address on your business card – WHAT!!  I. Can’t. Even.  Why? Why isn’t your email address on your business card??  What’s that you say?  You’re more of a “telephone person’?  Ooooh, ok.  I get it. But guess what?? I’M NOT! And if I don’t have your email address, chances are I’m not going to do business with you. For the love of God, don’t make me search for it either.  Dislike my statement if you must, but I’m all about quick and painless.  If it’s not easy for me to get in touch with you, then I probably won’t.

Tip: PUT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS ON YOUR BUSINESS CARD!

… breathe Michelle, breathe….

Pet Peeve #3:  Using an internet provider email – I know, it’s a free email address, but what happens when you change internet providers?  Because at some point, you will change providers.  It’s happened to my dad TWICE, because he didn’t’ listen to me the first time, so now he has emails being sent to an email address that doesn’t exist anymore, plus there are certain websites he can’t log into (ie Nexus) because his email is no longer valid, AND he has 500 business cards that now have the incorrect email address.  Real Estate agents, I love ya (and I used to be one), but y’all are the worst for this.  Plus, I really believe that a domain email looks much more professional.  Just my opinion.

Tip: Don’t be my dad.  There are many other free email providers out there ie. Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo, just to name a few. Pick one.

Pet Peeve #4: Ridiculously long email addresses or website names – Ok, mine is a bit long too, but I did shorten it as much as possible.  However, if you are in business, please use a professional email address. for example, calliparirealestate@gmail.com. It may be a bit long, but I know who I’m emailing and what they do.  If you are a real estate agent (sorry I’m picking on you today), and your email address is Icansellyourhouseforless@rogers.com… you’re going to irritate me again.  Just use your name or your business name and be done it it.

Tip:  K.I.S.S – do I really need to spell it out for you?

Pet Peeve #5 – Super glossy cards that I can’t write on – This pet peeve may be specific to me, but when I meet someone at an event, I like to write something on the business card. Maybe the date or place we met? Or something that we talked about that I want to follow up on.  I can’t do this when the card is glossy and my pen won’t write on it.

Tip:  Front side glossy but back side matte so picky people like me can write on it.

Pet Peeve #6: Over-sized or odd-shaped business cards – Now you’re just being an ass. You are my OCD’s biggest nightmare.  Now I can’t stack my cards in a neat pile or put a tidy elastic around them, your card won’t fit in my business card holder… so guess where it goes… either shoved in the drawer or in the trash. Probably the trash.

Tip:  Please. Just don’t.  See the Tip for PP#4

I could probably keep going, but I’ll spare you any further ranting.  I’m just curious though, am I the only one here?  Do you have any pet peeves like this? I’d love to hear them so I don’t feel so alone.

Michelle

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Google Mobile-friendly image

I don’t know about you, but when I’m not working, I use my Samsung smartphone for EVERYTHING. Heck, even when I am working, I grab my phone to do a quick Google search for something (or if I’m honest… to check my Facebook lol).  I also use it to watch tv, do my banking, listen to music, hang out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, I can check my email for both my Gmail and my Hotmail account, and catch up on the news.

The statistics for the percentage of people that use their smartphone to search the web is very high and growing steadily.

Here are a few stats I read in an article from October 3, 2016:

80% of internet users own a smartphone

Over 50% of smartphone users grab their smartphone immediately after waking up

68% of companies have integrated mobile marketing into their overall marketing strategy

71% of marketers believe mobile marketing is core to their business

And this last one really got me thinking:

Google says 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead.

Whoa.  And those were only a few of the amazing facts!  You can read the full article here.

I guess my point to this is, is your website mobile-friendly?

I was switching browsers from Firefox back to Chrome today (because I now have a Google and Gmail for Business and want to be able to utilize all it’s capabilities… but I digress)… I was switching browsers and decided to clean out my Bookmarks Tab, and found this awesome tool, and I wanted to share it with all of you.

Yes, that was the point of my entire blog post today. To share this tool with you.  Just enter your website and hit “run test”.  If you have any errors, I recommend contacting your web developer and see if they can fix the issues for you.

Why is having a mobile-friendly site so important? Because Google will penalize your site in the search engine if it isn’t.  I’m not an expert on this topic, but you can ask your web developer and you can read more about that here and here.

Have fun testing and I hope you don’t get addicted to it like me! Let me know how it goes!

Michelle

Not already receiving my monthly tips directly to your Inbox? I have a gift for you!  Just for signing up here, you will receive my complimentary guide, 5 Ways to Free up 10 Hours a Week, So you can Increase your Revenue & Fall Back in Love with your Business!  Enjoy!

Laptop

 

When I started my business 3 years ago, I honestly had no idea where it would take me. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I knew I had excellent computer skills, a strong willingness to learn, a pretty freaking awesome personality (if I do say so myself), and a huge desire to have flexibility in my life.

I had no idea how I was going to get clients. No idea what “working from home” looked like. No idea what I needed to do to get started.  But somehow I got started.  I hit a lot of bumps in the road, especially in my first year (my apologies to some of those first clients)., but through the years I’ve also had some huge successes. I have learned a lot, met amazing people, and have taken in as much information and guidance as I possibly can about being an entrepreneur, working from home, and the virtual assistant industry.

Fast forward almost 3 years later and I am almost at capacity for hours and clients. WHHAAAATTT?

My husband is a busy man and I like being the one home, doing the kid stuff, being the chauffeur for activities, etc., however I find myself at a crossroads… I LOVE what I am doing right now and I want to bring on more new clients, but how do I fit them into my current schedule?

The answer… do what I tell everyone else to do… hire a Virtual Assistant!  Duh Michelle.

Summer is coming and I want to have a thriving business, ensure my current client’s needs are being taken care of, PLUS enjoy summer with my family.  How do I do that? By getting my business some help.

Yes, even a Virtual Assistant needs a Virtual Assistant!  I started outsourcing last year when I was tasked with doing some large research projects.  I enlisted the help of a friend who was more than happy (and capable) of doing the work. I still outsource my research projects to her when necessary.

Plain and simple… outsourcing is necessary if you want to move forward in your business.  I know you probably CAN do it all yourself, but is that really what is best for your business?

Now sure where to start? Here are just a few things that you can outsource:

  • bookkeeping
  • graphic design
  • social media (this is a huge time-sucker for most people)
  • billing/invoicing
  • email marketing/online marketing
  • crm & database management
  • document formatting
  • sales funnels
  • website design & maintenance
  • customer appreciation & follow up
  • calendar & email management

*Note: As a VA, I do some of the above tasks, but not all.

The VA industry is HUGE and you can find an experienced, knowledgeable professional to do almost anything. It all depends where YOU need that extra set of hands the most.

Need some advice? You can contact me any time. I’d be more than happy to answer your questions.

Happy Outsourcing!

Michelle

Not already receiving my monthly Tips directly to your Inbox? Then I have a gift just for you!  Click here to receive my free guide, 5 Ways to Free up 10 Hours a Week, So you can Increase your Revenue & Fall Back in Love with your Business!

MSC_fbcoverSPRING

Spring is officially here! I love this time of year!  Do you spring clean your house?  I love clean windows and baseboards, and getting the cupboards cleaned out and organized.  I’m not afraid to admit that I gladly pay someone to help me do this. Remember the #1 rule to outsourcing… stop doing the things you hate doing!  Well, I hate cleaning windows and baseboards so I hire my cleaning lady to do an extra Spring Clean for me.  She rocks!

This is the time of year I also Spring clean my office space. Oh how I love to purge!

My Office HelperI did a very similar blog post this time last year and the “stuff” I continue to accumulate is ridiculous!  Again this year, with the help of my office buddy, I shredded an entire garbage bag full of paper.

I also organize my training materials from any workshops and courses I have taken. I make sure all my tax stuff is organized and ready to go to my bookkeeper.  I store any old client files in a locked cabinet and make sure any confidential information is either locked away or shredded.

I clean my desk.  I mean REALLY clean my desk. I take everything off, clean out the drawers, throw away anything that I haven’t used in ages, and give it a good dusting.

The last thing I do is take stock of business cards.  I actually do this quarterly because if you’re like me and you attend a lot of workshops, conferences or networking events, you have probably accumulated a lot of business cards.   My question is… What do you do with them?  I ask this question a lot, and these are the top three answers:

  1.   I keep them in a drawer in my desk.
  2.   In my purse.
  3.   I enter them into a spreadsheet.

Well, at least person #3 has some type of a system.  I’m not gonna lie, I still have a pile of cards, wrapped in an elastic, in my desk drawer, but these cards serve a purpose. These are cards of people that I have contacted to either utilize their service or buy a product, or I have referred them to someone else (have I mentioned that I am an awesome connector of people).  However, ALL of these contacts have also already been entered into my CRM System.

I use a program called Insightly, which is a cloud based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Insightly has free and paid versions. The free version works well enough for me and allows me to enter the card information into my contact manaInsightly2ger, and then I track them as Leads, Opportunities, Projects and of course, the ultimate goal is to convert them into Clients. Once they are a client, I can then add tasks to their client files and track their projects and progress.  My Task list is my daily/weekly/monthly To Do List.  Here is an example of what mine looks like.  *Names have been blacked out to protect the privacy of my clients.

There are a lot of fantastic CRM systems out there. Some are basic like Insightly and Asana (although I haven’t figured out how to enter in full client contact information into the free version of Asana), and some are more complex and have added functionalities, like 17 Hats, Salesforce and Infusionsoft.  It is up to you to decide what you need most and then you can start doing your research.

Sounds great, right?!  But does researching and setting up a CRM system also seem daunting and too time consuming?  Well, this is where a Virtual Assistant can help you.  CRM Setup and Database Management is  a service I offer. I can do this for cloud-based apps like Insightly, or I can even set up your specialized CRM system. I had a wonderful client last month that needed help setting up and figuring out a CRM system that was designed for music teachers.  I took some to play around with the system, upload her current student database, organize it, and then I even created a training manual for her to refer back to. I’m not gonna lie… I had way too much fun doing it! LOL

So tell me, do you use a CRM system? If so, which one and how do you like it?  If you don’t use one, how to you keep track of your connections, your clients, your leads?  Comment below as I’d love to hear about your processes.

Want to know more about what I do as a Virtual Assistant? Click here and let’s have a coffee chat!

And remember, be Flawsome every day!

Michelle

Not already receiving my monthly Tips directly to your Inbox? Then I have a gift just for you!  Click here to receive my free guide, 5 Ways to Free up 10 Hours a Week, So you can Increase your Revenue & Fall Back in Love with your Business!

beboldforchange

 

March 8th celebrates International Women’s Day around the world, and this years’ theme is #BeBoldForChange.

I want to honour this day, so I’m writing a quick blog to briefly tell you what IWD means to me.

I spent this past weekend in Toronto at the National Mompreneurs Conference, celebrating with over 300 women entrepreneurs.  The two days were packed with inspiring speakers, exhibitors, vendors, laser coaching, networking and more.  But my favourite moment of the entire weekend was sharing an unexpected and spectacular “moment” with my stepdaughter.

I bought her a ticket to join me at the conference for the Saturday and a fabulous speaker, Laurie Joy, asked us all to stand up at our tables and join hands.  Then she asked us to gently squeeze the person’s hand to our left and silently tell them how much we believe in them and in their success.  Well… I lost it. I started crying, cuz guess who was on my left.  It was my stepdaughter.

She and I have a great relationship, but as her stepmother (or step-monster as I like to call myself), I always wonder if she really knows how invested I am in her, her abilities and her success.   I don’t think I even realized how much until that exact moment.

She is smart, she is funny, she is beautiful and witty (a nice way of saying she’s a smartass) and she continues to inspire me on a regular basis with her determination to succeed.  She tells me she will own her own company and charity one day, and I believe her.  She is THAT determined.

So today, I celebrate and fight for her and for those of us working our assess off to ensure doors open for her, and other other girls like her, so they can indeed succeed.

Sending you joy, happiness, love and success, today and every day.

Michelle

Not already receiving my monthly Tips directly to your Inbox? Then I have a gift just for you!  Click here to receive my free guide, 5 Ways to Free up 10 Hours a Week, So you can Increase your Revenue & Fall Back in Love with your Business!

womanoverwhelmed

 

Last week, I was having a rough day… a rough week… ok a rough month actually, and I wrote a post in my coaching support group and this is what it said…

Doors closing… booo.  Doors opening… YAY!  Doors closing… booo.  Doors opening… YAY!

There can be times in my business when there are so many ups and downs that I feel dizzy, and January and February were those times.  Between some shake ups in my personal life and trying to balance that with my business life, I was frustrated, overwhelmed, under-producing, lacking confidence, but still somehow managing to do great work for my clients.  But I did make some costly errors too, and that’s what hits you the hardest.

We all know when we’re doing a great job, and we feel good. We’re sailing along nice and smooth, getting a bit complacent, but it’s good.  Life is good.

But what happens when we mess up… cuz guess what… it’s gonna happen whether you like it or not.  And it’s how we handle those mess ups that count the most.  That is where our true character and abilities come out.  This is when you need to face it head on and not only admit your mistakes, but fix them… QUICKLY!

But whoa baby does your self-confidence take a shot… and it hurts.  If you are an entrepreneur, you need to get back on that proverbial bicycle and keep peddling.

We all know this image, right? A Day in the life as an Entrepreneur

One of my goals this year is to gain consistency in my business.  As a Virtual Assistant I tend to take on a lot of “projects”. I have to admit, I love doing projects because it keeps me on my toes, always doing something different, no monotony. The downfall to this is an inconsistent revenue and an inconsistent schedule.  It’s these inconsistencies, along with those costly, but hopefully rare, mistakes, that tend to make us feel scattered and frustrated.

I’ve also learned that doors are going to close in my business.  And it sucks.  It has taken me a long time, and a fantastic business coach (thank you Shelagh Cummins), to shake this off and realize that this can actually be a great thing!

I never realized that by someone leaving my business, it’s actually opening the door for a new client to walk through.   Someone that I may never have met or had the opportunity to work with if that first client didn’t leave. Brilliant right!!

Now, I’m not saying that it still doesn’t leave a mark, but coming to terms with it and turning it into a positive is the best thing you can do for yourself, your mindset, and for your business.

So, if you’re having a bad day, week or even month, don’t fret because something good is coming.  Save the image above and look at it when you’re feeling in a slump.

So tell me, currently where are you in this image?

Want to know more about what I do as a Virtual Assistant? Click here and let’s have a coffee chat!

And remember, be Flawsome every day!

Michelle <3

Not already receiving my monthly Tips directly to your Inbox? Then I have a gift just for you!  Click here to receive my free guide, 5 Ways to Free up 10 Hours a Week, So you can Increase your Revenue & Fall Back in Love with your Business!

I love finding my clients (and myself) new ways to save time and work more efficiently.

May I present to you “Canned Responses”.

According to Wikipedia:

Canned responses are predetermined responses to common questions.

… canned responses to frequently asked questions may be quick and convenient for both the customer and the technical adviser. In text-based technical support systems, the operator may insert a canned response triggered by keystrokes or from a drop-down menu, rather than typing the same answer repeatedly or pasting from some other resource.

In a nutshell, Canned Responses help you save time.  Rather than typing the same reply over and over, you can save it to your Canned Responses and drop it in when you need it.

If you have Gmail, here is a quick guide:

  1.  Go to Settings and click on Labs
  2.  Make sure your Canned Responses are EnabledCanned Responses1
  3.  Save your new settings and then Compose a new email.
  4.  Type the body of email that you want to save.  Remember to proof read for spelling and grammar!
  5.  At the bottom right in your email, you will see an arrow. Click the arrow and a new menu will appear.
  6.  Click Canned Responses and a second menu will pop up. Click on New Canned Response.  Here you enter the name of your Canned Response (this name will appear in the subject line of your email, but you can change that if you want), and click OK.Canned Responses2

When you need to use that particular Canned Response, all have to do is Click Compose, click the arrow, click on Canned Responses and Insert the Canned Response you want, and it will automatically populate into the body of your email.

Yes, it really is that easy.

Canned Responses can be an amazing time-saver.  However, you do have to be careful when using them.  Why? Because they can sound, well… canned.  Robotic.  Cold and unpersonal.

People do business with people they Know, Like & Trust... therefore, when using Canned Responses, I recommend you personalize the message before sending.

For example, I created a canned response for when I meet a potential client at an event.  The body of the email is the standard Canned Response, which includes a bit about me and my business, a link to my appointment scheduler and my newsletter, but the introduction is personalized.

Hi Sarah! It was great to meet you at XX event last week! I’m glad we got a chance to chat about your Personal Training business.  You sure are a busy lady and I believe I can help you with that.

Then I add my Canned Response and my friendly close.

I also have a client that sends reports to her clients every month. I was able to create a Canned Response for her that is perfect for that particular task.

Go ahead, give it a try and let me know what you think?  Don’t have time to mess around with this kinda stuff?  I can help you with that too!  Click here and let’s have a coffee chat!

Not already receiving my monthly Tips directly to your Inbox? ThenI have a gift just for you!  Click here to receive my free guide, 5 Ways to Free up 10 Hours a Week, So you can Increase your Revenue & Fall Back in Love with your Business!

Be Flawsome Every Day!

Michelle

Abundance

This day is actually more difficult than I thought it would be. I’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks, being an advocate for mental health, supporting people with mental illness.  I just didn’t think that reading so many people’s stories would hit me so hard.  I’ve found myself very distracted today.  Staring off into space a lot.  Taking deep, cleansing breaths, staving off the anxiety.  I even went out to run errands so I could get some fresh air.  I can’t focus.  Can’t do my work. Why? Because it’s a lot to take in.  It’s a lot to remember.  It’s a lot to realize how many people out there are suffering.

Ever since I was “officially diagnosed” almost 7 years ago, I have been fairly honest and outspoken about my journey.  I joke about it a lot with my friends and family, because that’s my personality. I like to joke.  I had forgotten how to joke for a while… Anyway, I guess we should start at the beginning.

I had always known that I was a bit different than my family and friends.  I was a “follower”.  Always worried about what other people thought about me.  I suffered from extremely low confidence (and still do). I wanted to be popular, but blend in with the walls at the same time.  I had amazing friends but never felt like I fit in.  I wasn’t smart, I wasn’t athletic, I just… was.  I struggled with my weight. I cried a lot, but I just thought that was teenage angst.  I drank a lot too.  The weekend binge drinking started in high school and continued into my 30’s.  I moved apartments, I changed jobs, I moved cities and even countries. I was always looking.  I was always searching. But for what? For love?  For some kind of validation that would make me feel “good”?

Don’t get me wrong, my family is friggin amazing! Always have been. They are my biggest supporters. They love me with all their hearts and I love them right back.  I had a great upbringing, I really did.  I will tell you that mental illness runs on both sides of my family, but that’s their stories to tell.  My immediate family is very close even though geographically we are quite far apart.  My siblings are the best brother and sister that a gal could ever ask for. My parents are still together after over 55 years! And my friends… don’t even get me started.  They are completely amaze-balls!  My husband is my rock.  My kids are my life.  My village is top notch!

So, why did I feel so alone all the time?  Why did I cry all the time? Why was I always looking to feel validated?  Why did I change jobs constantly?  Why was I always searching for the “perfect love”?  Why do I STILL find myself searching endlessly for these same things?  What am I missing when I have everything?

Turns out I’m not missing anything.  I have everything I’ve ever wanted and much, much more than I need.  What I do have is Depression, Anxiety and mild OCD (my family and I have a good laugh about that last one).  In a nutshell, my brain likes to play tricks on me.  That bastard.

After having my son in 2009, I suffered from postpartum depression (PPD).  All the years of not understanding my brain finally came to a head.  I was miserable. I cried constantly. Every day, multiple times a day.  I felt heavy.  That’s the best way for me to describe it… heavy.  I felt like I couldn’t stand completely upright because of the constant heaviness I felt. I felt like Pigpen from Charlie Brown, except the cloud above my head was sadness not dirt.

I never wanted to hurt myself or my son, but I was convinced that my new baby boy and my husband were much better off without me.  I was weighing them down.  I was a horrible mother and wife. They would be so much better off without me. I fought every, single day to stay.  Just one more day I’d keep telling myself.  One more day.  You can do it.  Get through one more day.  Every night, I would lay in bed thinking up my escape plan.  Where would I go? How would I get there?  Should I leave them a note and explain?  No, they’d be better off not knowing. Let me get Sam off breastfeeding (which I was “failing” at btw), and then I can go. Once Sam is on a bottle, I can go. Just one more day.

My brain didn’t stop… which is interesting because my memory was gone. I couldn’t remember anything from my childhood, my teenage years, nothing. No one tells you that your memory goes when you’re depressed.

It was during a routine baby wellness check for Sam that my Nurse Practitioner looked directly in my eyes, put her hands on my shoulders and asked me how I was doing. ” I’m great!”, I said and then immediately started to cry. I use the term cry very loosely.  I’m pretty sure I was hysterical and I’m eternally grateful that she didn’t commit me right then and there.  All I remember is that I could barely string a sentence together and I blubbered something about “one more day” and needing a shower and a plane ticket.  That was the beginning of my “awareness journey”, as I like to call it.

We talked.  I went waayyyy over my half hour appointment time, but she didn’t care.  We talked. I blubbered.  She handed me tissues.  She offered medication, I turned it down.  I wanted to try “other methods” first.  It started with just talking, her and I, on a regular basis. She would actually call me on the  phone to see how I was doing (I told you my village is amazing).  My journey led me to yoga, mindfulness and meditation (which I continue to struggle with, but keep at it).

Fast-forward to a year and a half ago and I was still really struggling.  I wanted out of my marriage, out of being a mom, out of being anything with any responsibility for anyone or anything. It was too much.  I just wanted to be somewhere no one knew me and just be alone.  The responsibilities of caring for people and my family depending on me… it was too much.  One day I noticed that I said to myself “just one more day”… I immediately called my doctor and she saw me in right away.  I had cried every day for a full year. Every. Day. It was time to get the help I really needed.

That day I walked away with a prescription, an appointment with a Psychiatrist, and a lot of fear.  But at this point I wanted to save my marriage, save my family… and save me.  I just wanted to feel real happiness again. I wanted to really laugh. I wanted to enjoy being with my husband again.  I wanted to enjoy my kids, my family and my friends. I wanted to enjoy life… and I wanted to enjoy living that life.

After 3 days of feeling like absolute crap (I was told some meds will do that to you at first), I actually started to feel noticeably “better”.  I’m not sure how to describe it, but I started to feel “lighter”, the “fogginess” was lifting. I didn’t cry. I didn’t even feel like I wanted to cry.  I actually smiled a real smile because I didn’t want to cry. Ironic right?  I felt BETTER!  Wow, who knew I could feel this good!

This is when I finally opened up about my struggle. I told my husband. I mean REALLY told my husband.  Everything.  It was scary.  It was liberating.  Kudos to my hubby for sticking with me all this time.  My son knows a little bit, but not too much for his 7 y/o brain to handle.  THIS is the real love I had been aimlessly searching for all my life.  My family, my friends, I started sharing it around because who knows, maybe someone else out there is struggling too.

I still have bad days, and some very bad days (those are the days I allow myself to stay in bed), but I’m here and I’m fighting.  And most of my days are good.  And some are very, very good.  I have my monthly appointment with my Psychiatrist.  I continue to learn. I am here. I am living.  And I am enjoying living.

Please, if you feel sad, helpless, hopeless, tired of life, please reach out and talk to someone.  Talking really does help.

I don’t know if this blog post even makes sense to most people, but please know that you are not alone. I am here. I am here for you.