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« Top 10 Reasons People Ask for Organizing Help | 10 Best Sources for Organizing Help »

Ask the Expert: Janet Barclay

Janet Barclay, Organized AssistantAre you ready for another dynamic conversation with our popular “Ask the Expert” feature on The Other Side of Organized blog?  This year, we’ve enjoyed inspirational dialogues about motivation with Dr. Shannon Reece, time management with Julie Morgenstern, clutter with Lorie Marrero, letting go with Geralin Thomas, next steps with Yota Schneider, and change with John Ryan. This month as we shift our focus, I’m thrilled to bring you virtual assistant and helper extraordinaire, Janet Barclay to share her wisdom about enlisting help.

Janet and I met through our social media channels about two years ago. Some of her friends knew some of my friends and our connection was born. Janet is a wonderful, generous promoter and people connector, hosting a monthly blog where she invites organizers to share their best posts on specific topics. My deepest gratitude and thanks goes to her for all that she does and for taking the time to join us. Before we begin, here’s more about Janet.

Janet Barclay was a professional organizer from 2002 to 2008, during which time she developed a passion for creating websites and newsletters and began providing these services to her organizing colleagues. When she realized her true calling was in the area of web design and virtual assistance, she stopped offering organizing services and now specializes in blog design and support for professional organizers. She manages and writes for several blogs, including Your Organizing Business, where she shares tips for new and experienced organizers and hosts the monthly Professional Organizers Blog Carnival. When she’s not at her computer, she enjoys reading, watching movies, and healthy cooking. You can connect with Janet on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, website, or blog.


Linda:  As a professional organizer turned virtual assistant you’re an expert on encouraging others to enlist help. What are some of the benefits your clients experience from outsourcing tasks and projects?

Janet:  Many clients have me proofread their website content, blog posts or newsletter articles. Even good writers make occasional spelling or grammar mistakes, and making sure these are cleaned up before the text is published ensures that they put forward a professional image and makes a better first impression to prospective clients, media representatives, and anyone else.

Some of my clients don’t have the technical skills required to build and maintain a website or blog, so by delegating that work to me, they don’t have to devote time and energy to learning how to do it themselves. Even those who are tech savvy benefit, because they have more time for serving their own clients, and can therefore earn a higher income and achieve greater satisfaction with their work.


Linda:  If someone is unsure about getting help, what do you suggest?

Janet:  Consider what will have the biggest impact on your time and stress management if you were to remove it from your own to-do list: it may be tasks that you dislike, those for which you lack skills, or those that will be least expensive for you to pay someone else to do.

It’s often less stressful to start with a small standalone project than to hand over responsibility for an entire part of your business all at once. That will get you used to relinquishing control, give you a taste of the benefits of outsourcing, and find out whether you and the service provider are a good match.

I realize that for a lot of business owners, outsourcing work for the first time can be as scary as a parent leaving a child with a sitter for the first time, but delegation is as vital to the growth of a business as time away from the parent is to a child’s development. I know how liberated I felt after deciding to outsource my bookkeeping, and many of my clients have expressed similar feelings.


Linda:  Finding the right fit when searching for help can be challenging. Do you have any tips?

Janet:  When you’re talking to different virtual assistants or other service providers, ask questions about your specific needs, such as "What experience do you have working with [a particular software program, online service, or industry]?" In many cases, it’s worth paying a higher rate for someone with expertise in a particular area, who can also offer suggestions to market and grow your business that you may not have thought of.

Even more important than cost is compatibility between you and the person you choose to work with. It's important to discuss expectations up front – both yours and theirs – including how work assignments will be handled, turnaround time, and communication during the assignment. If you're going to need same-day turnaround, or if you want to be able to contact your VA by phone or Skype without scheduling something in advance, make sure he or she will be able to accommodate that.


Linda:  What has been your biggest personal challenge around seeking help?

Janet:  I haven’t always been diligent about documenting procedures and carry a lot of information in my head. That makes it difficult to delegate certain tasks, because if I’m too busy to do them, it’s just as hard to make time to explain to someone else what has to be done or to write out steps for them to follow.


Linda:  Is there anything you’d like to share about enlisting help that I haven’t asked?

Janet:  Life is to be enjoyed, so if a particular task is draining you of energy, whether physically, emotionally or mentally, why are you doing it? There is someone out there who is probably better at it than you, and who even enjoys it, so do yourself a favor and let them take it off your plate!   

Thank you, Janet for your wonderful honesty, insights, and strategies about enlisting help. Your advice that “life is to be enjoyed” resonates with me. If we can delegate to free us up to do what we do best, and delight more in the time we have, why not relinquish control?  I invite all of you to join Janet and me as we continue the conversation. What are your enlisting help successes or challenges?

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Reader Comments (15)

Hi Janet and Linda,

What an informative post. It is sometimes hard for people to ask for help, as they want to take on the tasks themselves, but asking for help is always beneficial for all. If there's something that I have no expertise in, I will ask for help from someone who can show me the way! Thank you for sharing your insights!

August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElisa Cashiola

Hi Elisa- It's great that you are readily able to ask for help. It sounds like you've had positive experiences collaborating with others that have a different expertise than your own. Bravo to you for knowing when to reach out! Thanks so much taking the time to share with us.

August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

I especially love how Janet conveyed that relinquishing control and delegating is a large component of one's business growth. As a business owner, I find this to be one of the hardest challenges. We all cannot claim to be great at everything, and so I'm a huge advocate of working with your strengths and outsourcing your weaknesses.

August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Borg

Hi Linda/Janet,
Janet's comment about energy drains and how someone else may even enjoy doing these tasks makes so much sense and has given me something to think about. Thanks again. Deborahx

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

Linda, thanks again for inviting me to take part in this series. It is such a pleasure to be here!

Elisa, you are smart to ask for help even when you are going to complete a new task yourself. So much time and energy can be wasted because we are too proud to ask! (I speak from experience here.)

Nancy, the best way to overcome that challenge is by taking a baby step. Choose one small project you've been putting off for months or years (admit it - we all have a few of those) and get someone else to look after it. Try it - I dare you!

Deborah, I'm glad you found my post helpful. I firmly believe that we do our best when we work with our natural strengths and preferences.

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

It's fantastic to have all of you here as part of this conversation about enlisting help. It's interesting how we respond to different aspects of the ideas.

@Nancy- The operative phrase you brought up...."relinquishing control!" I completely identify with that. Letting go and allowing others to step up or in so that we don't do everything ourselves is a huge. It's amazing the wonderful things that can happen when we get out of our own way.

@Deborah- I'm so glad that you discovered a perspective shift. I'd love to hear more about what transpires for you.

@Janet- How fabulous to have you with us as this month's "Ask the Expert" guest! It was so much fun doing the interview with you, learning from your wonderful responses, and getting to share all your great wisdom with everyone. Thank you for continuing the conversation.

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

What I love about your "Ask the Expert" series, Linda, is how it allows me to tune out the noise and focus on the valuable points your guests make on a specific topic. Your questions are thoughtful and meaningful and your guests are generous and caring.

I love the way Janet clarifies how we can work with a virtual assistant and her suggestions of easing into this relationship by starting with one project and making sure we communicate expectations clearly.

It's difficult to relinquish responsibility and quality control to someone else when we've been accustomed to being a "lone wolf!" Communicating expectations clearly is also a skill that many people - especially women entrepreneurs - have difficulty with.

Janet's point on taking a snapshot of all we do and visualizing the positive impact of giving up that which causes us stress is priceless.
Thank you both for another winner interview.

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYota

Yota, thank you very much for your kind words. It is gratifying to know that the information was helpful. I see you've been in business for over 12 years. What kinds of outside help have you used during that time? I'd love to hear about your experiences, both bad and good.

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

@Yota- Thank you for your encouraging words about the "Ask the Expert" series. It's wonderful people like you that make these interviews so engaging. I loved the interviews you and I did together back in March about next steps. You always add your special brand of wisdom and perspective to all our conversations. I'm grateful. With Janet's interview, I see that you picked up on two key concepts: communicating clearly and taking the "solo" out of entrepreneur. Both valuable lessons and essential for our continued growth and success.

@Janet- Love how you've asked more great questions. I'm thrilled that you and Yota have connected here. You are two dynamos!

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Janet Great question! I wear many hats:-). I do all my writing, editing and social media. I also design my flyers, postcards etc. I've often wished for a marketing / PR / spokesperson because that's my weakest area.

I've always worked with a website designer. Initially, I hired the wrong person. That was at the very beginning of Open for Success. Thankfully, I was able to face my wrong choice and stop working with him. It wasn't easy initially. We belonged to the same networking group, he lived in my area, and he was an alpha. Need I say more? Took a deep breath and just did it.

After that, I got lucky. I met Terry and I've been working with her for the longest time. She and I work great together and she understands my need for creative control and knowing how to do certain things. She's set my website, blogs, and newsletter templates in a way that I can do what I need to do without calling her every other day. We're good for each other:-)

I also work with an accountant whom I like and trust. There too, I had to try a couple of different people until I knew what I wanted and how I needed things set up so that business and personal don't get in each other's way.

I think, if I had a wish it would be for a "board of directors" ; a handful of like-minded people who understand what I do and can point me to different directions and challenge me.

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYota

@Linda Thank you for your kind words Linda! Can you see me blushing? :-) Becoming clear on wants and needs and communicating that with other people is a lifelong process, at least for me. The person who wants to get along, please, and make everything OK for everyone else is always with me. She's a valuable partner and good friend and she's learning her place and limitations:-)

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYota

Yota, thanks for sharing your experience and helping others to see that even if you choose the wrong person to help you, you can move on and move forward.

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

@Yota- I love the way you share how you've enlisted help and continue to invite various support people into your life. It's wonderful when it's the right fit. I can see the positive energy come across when you write about Terry or your accountant. I too have had some trial and error with finding the right people. When it clicks, there's nothing quite like it. In the best case scenario, they understand what you're trying to do, support you in that, but also add their expertise and suggestions to make our ideas even stronger. As a solopreneur, it's also valuable to bounce ideas off others. I can see a board of directors in your future. It's there for you.

@Janet- Important that you stressed about finding that right person. Like any relationship, it's essential to be involved in ones that are healthy and supportive. If not, in business or personal life, it's time to rethink and move ahead.

I'm truly inspired by both of you.

August 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

I've got clients I've been working with for many years, and others who were clearly not happy or who disappeared without a comment. If I didn't understand the importance of finding that right fit, it would be easy to feel I had failed, but I know I'm not the right VA for everyone, and that's okay.

August 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Here, here, Janet. That's what "right fit" is all about. It's mutually beneficial.

August 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

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