Parenting Through Slow Suicide:  Adolescent Anorexia

Parenting Through Slow Suicide: Adolescent Anorexia

{This is a different kind of post for my blog. It’s personal. And vulnerable. And 1000% related to how moms juggle life and business.
It’s also full of a new passion to bring awareness to a secretive topic. At the end, I share my thoughts on how we maintain our businesses when we are facing such crises in our homes. Skip to the end if you need to know that part ASAP. I’m grateful I do run my own business. Otherwise, I would have been fired from my corporate job because of all the time I’ve needed to care for my family over the past couple of years.}

The past few months we’ve been waking up everyday to slay a dragon. It’s name is Anorexia Nervosa.

That dragon analogy I learned from another parent in the eating disorder clinic where we’ve been spending 20-25 hours per week since early December.

Shocker right? My daughter doesn’t “look” like she has anorexia. (and if someone utters those words we understand it’s simply coming from a lack of education and awareness.) Forget all your preconceived notions form photos of Angelina Jolie in the grocery checkout line.

Also, please don’t say things like “She just needs to eat.” or “Can’t you make her eat?”

After keeping this sneaky and secretive disorder to ourselves for the past 3 months, my daughter is finally at a stage of her treatment that it’s ok to share. In fact, sharing with everyone now is easier than figuring out to whom we’ve already explained the complex eating schedule, lack of participation in sports and missing school days.

It’s timely too since this is officially Eating Disorder Awareness week.

So first of all, some education. Here’s an official website full of info: https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/anorexia

You want the short shocking version? It could have killed her.

Her body was in the process of shutting down. Anorexia is slow suicide. We were clueless. And it has a lengthy, regimented recovery protocol that Maya may need to follow for the rest of her life.

Here’s my short official version:

  • Anorexia is a brain disorder.
  • It is not something a person chooses.
  • It has genetic and personality ties primarily which are pushed by environmental triggers (everyone wants to know “why” and that’s the best answer)
  • It’s defined simply as any restriction of food of any kind and / or excessive exercising
  • It does not define the person. We still have our Maya but sometimes it’s the eating disorder talking to us instead of her.
  • It’s a disorder of the brain that is curable, especially when treated aggressively in adolescents

Here’s what our life has looked like the past few months:

  • Structured meal plans, 6 times a day, from a licensed dietitian
  • Me making and serving ALL of her food because any contact with food prep / grocery shopping even, is an unhealthy trigger for the noisy thoughts in her brain
  • Monitoring all meals and food intake, because eating disorders are so sneaky and will try to convince her to hide, discard and lie about what food she has / has not eaten
  • Encouraging her to eat food that literally does not taste good to her (the disorder changes the taste buds)
  • Teaching her digestive system to accept food again (think of painful your muscles are when you haven’t used them in awhile and start to exercise again. Same thing but her stomach muscles instead.)
  • Enforcing “supplements” and other consequences (bedrest) when food is not consumed completely and in the timeframe required
  • Endless appointments at the Children’s Hospital Eating Disorder clinic since December 6th. (partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, psychiatrists, medical doctors, therapists, dietitians.)
  • Inability for her to sleep through the night.
  • Making sure she isn’t secretly exercising at night.
  • Reminding Maya over and over that it’s the eating disorder telling her lies about her body, her weight, her talents and gifts in this world.
  • Navigating broken friendships, careless words from people who don’t understand and figuring out who will be the “safe” people in our life we can trust during this sensitive time.

How did we get here?

(Everyone wants to know why.  So do we but truly, we may never know.  Fact is we are here, may be forever, and so we take this trial and look for the blessings in it.)

All summer we admired and praised Maya for her work ethic and discipline around her work outs and healthy eating as she reached for her goal of making the high school soccer team.

(Looking back, you know we questioned how we missed this and if we were part of the problem.)

At points, I felt she wasn’t eating enough, and her brother noticed as well, and we tried to educate her on proper calorie intake for the amount of exercise output. She appeared to be complying. And she took an extreme interest in shopping for and making her own food. She also became very interested in very work out techniques, strength training and fitness equipment. Her dad beamed for having a girl who wanted to be strong. Awesome right? Nope. A sure sign of an eating disorder I now understand.

I knew something more serious was going on around late October when Maya confessed to me her obsessive thoughts about food and calorie counting. She was scared. She didn’t like that she couldn’t stop these thoughts.

Naively I thought we could fix this by reading a couple of books, praying and getting into a counselor.

By the time we finally found the clinic at Children’s Hospital and had our assessment on December 6th, here’s what was going on with Maya physically:

Her body was shutting down. She had been restricting herself to 500-800 calories a day since June. She was constantly cold because her blood was focused around her core organs. Her heart rate was only 50. She’d been light headed and passed out a couple of times. Her digestive system was not working (I’ll spare the details but how would you feel with only 3 bathroom events in over a month?). Her female cycle had stopped. Her hair was falling out. One by one her body systems were shutting down. And she had been playing soccer in this condition as recently as a couple weeks prior. She was severely malnourished and her brain was affected as well because it simply couldn’t function.

We could have lost her to heart failure. Or suicide. That’s how serious this disorder can be.

Now here we are, 3 months later and part way through the battle and ready to share. This article is therapeutic for me, and approved by Maya. Because, for me as the mom, how did we miss this? How many other parents are missing this? (I *need* to reach you all!)  How did her coaches miss this? (multiple athletes from our school system are receiving treatment at the same clinic.  I don’t blame.  I just *need* coaches to know.)

I’m good and angry at it now. There are not enough tools. It was barely mentioned in her freshman health class this past fall. And her AP Psych teacher told me she is going to add some resources I shared to her curriculum. None of the parent meetings for all the expensive travel sports we play have EVER mentioned this is a risk and something to watch for in people who are intensely focused on athletics.

The therapists at the clinic are desperate to get the word out to pediatrician offices – who are so quick to treat for food allergies (encouraging the fear of food, deeming it the enemy). Or to simply medicate for depression and miss this completely.

I am convicted to get this information into a nutrition program for all middle and high school coaches to share with athletes and parents.

If there’s one thing you all need to take away from this, it’s how we talk about food.

All food is good food.
(in the right moderation)

We need to stop labeling food as “clean” or “dirty” or “toxic”. Yes yes I know things have changed and I’ve done this before. But it’s being taken to an extreme that manifests in full on eating disorders.

Food is her medicine. A healthy well-rounded meal plan that includes milk (gasp! dairy?) and oreos (gasp! gluten and processed sugar?) and even fries and coke. Because that’s a normalized life…..in the right moderation.

To all my fellow moms who are obsessing over your bodies with instagram selfies and diet shakes, I’m still using duct tape so I don’t unfairly snap on you. I don’t have the right words yet except to know that what WE are doing in the name of “self-care” and “healthy lifestyles” can get so far off track.

Learning to control our urges in any direction (too much or too little) is imperative. (For those of you ready to argue with me about the all food is good food fact, please read more about Orthorexia (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/other/orthorexia) and reflect on your own habits a bit. I say this because I’ve been there myself and I care about you. We all hate that idealistic B word – balance. Yet there’s wisdom in it.

Every body is beautiful. All food is good food in the right moderation. Restriction is only a short term fix. (Note that on the flip side of anorexia are other eating disorders resulting in obesity that are equally damaging to the body. That’s not what I’m here to share, nor am I versed in it but if that’s you, please check out more resources here. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org)

{Short note to my clients who work in the fitness space, my experience is going to produce some breakthrough thinking for your marketing. We HAVE to look at things differently to get better results. You will get attention when sharing these counter-culture messages and your business will grow.}

So what does treatment and recovery look like?

At our intake visit, I pushed back sobs as the doctors told us they were debating sending her straight to the hospitalization program. For a few reasons, they decided to let us start in Intensive Outpatient treatment. They handed me the schedule and I cried again. These treatments require a lot of hands on from the parents. Because when you treat this aggressively in the adolescent years, you can change those neuropathways in the brain and basically beat the disorder into submission with structure.

So we immediately began. On her 15th birthday. With 8 hours of appointments, orientation and treatment.

Phase 1 is simply getting the body re-nourished again. Food is the medicine. It took us about 10 weeks to get there. Until then, there was little reasoning with that malnourished brain being led by eating disorder lies. We were living with an incredibly moody, unhappy teenager (don’t we all? but this was so different. so extreme. so scary in ways I can’t even put into visible words yet. scary in the worst ways you can imagine as a parent.)

Next, after the body is functioning from a nourished state again within an expected body weight range, you move into a phase where you fight those thoughts. And it’s a long one and requires still the constant vigilance with meals and eating. I’m anticipating another 6 – 12 months of this vigilance assuming we don’t have a relapse. (Yes, I’ve adjusted my 2018 business activities significantly and unapologetically and truthfully, guilt free. Nothing is more important right now.)

There is absolutely ZERO exercise of any kind allowed during treatment.

Some kids sneak in exercise in their rooms at night. For some time periods of treatment, you literally need to be with them 24/7.

We are not yet back to a point to reintroduce any exercise. In fact, even extra walking for example at the mall or an event, requires additional caloric intake…..or to be pushed in a wheel chair to not expend that energy….necessary especially when your metabolic system is trying to reset in crazy ways.

School becomes a secondary priority and for 5 weeks, she did not attend at all. (Praises to her awesome teachers for assisting thru all of this.)

There are new medicines, new ways to talk about food and eating, and a new bond with my daughter that is a beautiful blessing in the face of this challenge.

But why?

Still that question.  I understand.  I’m wielding it from family members over and over.  Many of you have thoughts in your own minds about this. Likely uneducated judgments. I used to be there too.

For a minute, I did blame myself for not seeing it and potentially encouraging bad food behaviors – calling a shake breakfast and a protein bar lunch. Working to eliminate the “toxins” from our food and eat more “clean”. These CAN be contributors with people at risk for an eating disorder.

Ultimately, it is “just” another mental illness, which some people are more genetically and / or environmentally predisposed to. 50-80% of the risk for anorexia and bulimia is genetic. (Trace, S. E., Baker, J. H., Peñas-Lledó, E., & Bulik, C. M. (2013). The genetics of eating disorders. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9, 589-620.)

We crave to know more of the why naturally so we can get to that root cause and eliminate it right?

Here’s one more shocking (I’ve used that word 3 times in this blog and I’ve maybe never used it before in anything I’ve written) fact for you:

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

(mink, F. E., van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H. W. (2012). Epidemiology of eating disorders: Incidence, prevalence and mortality rates. Current Psychiatry Reports,14(4), 406-414.)

It’s aggressive. And so sneaky.

Did you know there are actually instagram accounts and forums where people with eating disorders will help each other with ways to HIDE anorexia?

(I won’t even share the names but if you suspect your child is struggling, message me and I’ll give you some ideas of what to look for in their instagram account.)

What parents should look for…. (I’ll share a few interesting unhealthy eating behaviors)

  • Dresses in layers to hide weight loss or stay warm
  • Is preoccupied with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting
  • Refuses to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g., no carbohydrates, etc.)
  • Excessive use of napkins
  • Micro-chopping of food
  • Focus on eating only “clean” (right? some of you are going to lose your mind when you read this!)
  • Refusing sweets
  • Reasons to skip meals
  • Skipping breakfast
    • (innocent…we all do it but do you know if they’re eating lunch? Maya was only eating a reasonable dinner with us on many days…and only on days we actually ate dinner as a family which is approximately twice a week.)
  • stomach aches
    • (you know my first thought? oh you must have a gluten or dairy allergy. what should we cut out? Wrong. So freaking wrong. Don’t get me started.)
  • Maintains an excessive, rigid exercise regimen – despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury
  • Withdraws from usual friends and activities and becomes more isolated, withdrawn, and secretive
  • Seems concerned about eating in public
  • Has limited social spontaneity
  • Fainting
  • Feeling cold
  • Hair loss
  • Depression, self-harm and high anxiety.

The full list of symptoms is here: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia/warning-signs-symptoms

That list may scare you. Perhaps it even triggers some warning signs for your own unhealthy relationship with food? I saw it too late. In hindsight, she was doing so many of these things and we chalked them up to “normal” teen behavior.

Here’s what I’ve learned after 12 weeks and counting of being at the eating disorder clinic on average 4 – 5 days a week.

Us parents are in this battle together. I’m grateful for the bonds we have inside the clinic that are confidential, raw, vulnerable and exhibiting parenting strength we never knew we could muster.

Good things can go bad in kids who are prone to eating disorder. For example, training hard out of determination to make the high school soccer team. Then, being around a bunch of calorie-counting upperclassmen that have a stronger influence than they realize with their words.

Or starting a work out program with a team mate to gain muscle. The team mate does great. But your child’s obsessive thoughts become an eating disorder monster from following the identical routine.

The Eating Disorder convinces these kids they are not skinny enough (and if you ask them what their goal weight is, they irrationally don’t have one because they feel they will never be skinny enough).

Eating disorders thrive in smart, high-achieving, perfectionistic students and athletes.

There is no stereotype of course but runners, soccer players, dancers, gymnasts, etc, have surrounded us in this program. Straight A students, some of them already committed to collegiate sports.

It takes a good thing – a desire to achieve and perform well – and twists it into completely irrational thinking.

If you have 10 minutes, this TED talk is the best description of what an eating disorder biologically does to the brain.

 

Support for coaches…..

I want to help you. A few of Maya’s coaches don’t even know this yet. They don’t know they coached her through complete seasons where she was barely eating.

I’m working on some resources and a plan to circulate them through our school district at a minimum.

How has this changed my view on our diet-obsessed culture?

Mostly I’ve bit my tongue and kept my hands away from the keyboard. The nicest way I can say this is that we’ve got some serious issues and I’ve been right there in that race with you all (bullet proof coffee, paleo diets, the vegan green smoothie phase, Shakeology and yes an advocare regimen of countless pills.) In case you wondered, now is 1000% not the time to come at me with why your pink drink or other magic potion is “different”.

I believe we’ve all been fed a pile of lies. And this post is not big enough to dig into that.

Where do we go from here?

A few requests straight from the heart of the one fighting this battle head on, my daughter.

  • Don’t give me “pity eyes”. I’ve got a curable sickness and want your support.
  • Don’t talk about food and dieting around me. (And please clean up your own eating habits.)

And requests from this mama who’s weary but stronger now as a result:

  • Catch this when they are young. Before they are on their own in college and beyond. (It’s considered “curable” in adolescents.)
  • Reach out to me if you need support. Please don’t hesitate. Support groups seem few and far between even in a large city like we live.
  • Reconsider your own views around food, dieting, exercise and what it means to be “healthy”. We are setting examples for those around us.

Now, for those of you who normally hang around here looking for online business advice, entrepreneurial wisdom or to start or grow your own work from home business….. you need to hear this.

To support my daughter, I had to cut my work back to 15-20 hours per week. What does that even look like and do to a business?

The message out there is hustle.  Find the time.  Your business grows as much as you put into it.  (I don’t subscribe to all those philosophies anyhow.  It’s always been a family first thing for me.)

How do you navigate your business when facing a family crisis like this?

A few reflections (because we are still in the trenches)

 1. A whole new level of Flexible

Virtual professional / freelance work is rather flexible.  You can flex not just work times but also flex the type of work and clients you take on and don’t take on. I intentionally did not take on certain types of projects and clients in this season.

2. Pick good clients

From the start pick good clients.  Most of my clients are other parents.  Most of them are Christian believers and we pray for each other’s businesses and families.   So when crisis comes, we adapt and adjust with grace and understanding.  (Since we are coming out of the darkest valley, I do now have 2 client spaces open for March & April)

3. Do only the essentials (you’ll figure that out quickly)

Drop the “shoulds”.  Stop following other people online who don’t have children (and stop comparing yourself to them!)   This is a big chant of mine anyhow that’s become so apparent in this season.

4. God will provide.

Plant seeds throughout your years of business. They will bring a harvest when you most need it.

5. Follow a financial system (I like Profit First).

Have a game plan where you have back up savings in the event you are unable to work for a season.

6. Drop the guilt and be with your family in need.

It could be easy to mega-stress load and try to keep up with everything.  But what your family needs most is the BEST you.  Calm, confident, caring and on top of it.

7.  Don’t stop self-care.

The #1 cause of relapse for eating disorders? Parent burn out. We are simply exhausted from the treatment protocol and begin to cut corners. The eating disorder sneaks back in wherever it can.

8. These seasons bring insights that can be game changers for your business

One bright light through all of this is since my client load is smaller, I’ve been able to really pour into my How She Quits Community and launch a new membership community.

B-School launch happened throughout this time period and I intentionally set a small amount of marketing I’d do for that (some emails and posts, no ads, no lives, etc.)  And still, the right people were there and ready for it.

Having this break in “normal” work has given me perspective on what I truly enjoy the most in my business.  I am certain I wouldn’t have had that perspective if I had stayed in my normal flow of client work (even though I sincerely enjoy all of my clients!)   This is good news for my clients too because I come to them refreshed and renewed with these insights on our projects.

9. If I was still in corporate, this would be the second time I was fired in a year.

Last year we found out my dad had a cancerous brain tumor and we lost him in 10 weeks.   I spent so much time with him and mom – which is the only way I wanted it to be.  6 months later I’m in eating disorder h-e-double-hockey-sticks.

If I was still in corporate, the stress would have been unbearable. And quitting would have meant instant zero salary.  Instead, I cut back, delegated my team, had lesser revenue but let’s be realistic….I worked 15-20 hours a week max and maintained a 6 figure revenue business (plus a 6 figure non-profit).

Can I encourage you to have a plan B outside of the day job?

If you are new here, I teach that freelance work is the fastest path out of a day job

But don’t drop that dream of building a longer, slower growth online business (blog, author, speaking, online training, coaching, etc).   You can be up and running with your freelance work in 60-90 days.   That leaves flexibility to keep building your passion business on the side.

More info at “start here” and “HowSheQuits.com” or if you’re ready, join us in the Collective.


Now, set all that business talk aside for a moment.  Because you’re talking to a normal, regular, real mom who’d do anything to help her daughter through a battle like this.

For those who are walking this path, I’m praying for you.

 

 

 

Short Time Offer – The Complete Simple Online Business Program for Busy Moms

Short Time Offer – The Complete Simple Online Business Program for Busy Moms

B-School Registration is Open Only Through March 1

As an alumni and partner who believes in the value of the program, I want to extend you a special offer.

For those who register for B-School with me, you have 2 BONUS options depending on your business needs.

  • 6 Months Access to How She Quits Collective Membership Community
    • Including our library of online marketing resources – offer design, naming, funnel design and more
  • Three 1 hour 1-on-1 Coaching Calls
    • March, April and June to carry you through B-School
  • Design of your high-converting freebie offer opt-in (copy, graphics and freebie naming and content outline)*
    • *If you need implementation help, we’ll offer discounted implementation hours too
  • 6 Months Access to How She Quits Collective Membership Community
    • yes, including our resource library
  • 6 Weeks To Clients VIP Edition (our premier course for becoming and growing your Virtual Professional busines)
    • Includes your own Professional Website + Hosting
    • 1-on-1 strategy calls
    • Complete Course Access
  • Verified Virtual Professional Training Center

Is B-School for me?

Are you seeking a structured, proven system to rapidly learn good online marketing AND business strategy?  Then yes.   B-School teaches high quality lessons in an efficient, easy to learn format.

It is for:   anyone wanting to run an online business – coaching, consulting, blogging (we’ll make a business out of it for you!), online courses, memberships and any service based work such as – virtual professsional services, web design, VA, copywriters, graphic designers, social media managers, book keepers, etc.

Are Lori’s bonuses for me?

I offered 2 bonus options, depending on your type of business.   My philosophy comes from 20+ years of business strategy and over 10 years in the online marketing space working with big and just starting baby brands.   If you have questions about that, just ask.

If you want to start or grow your VA or Virtual Professional business, the 6 Weeks To Clients track is perfect for you (and includes a website – hello!)

If you want to move into online course / info product or other coaching options, then our new How She Quits Collective PLUS my 1-on-1 coaching including a funnel design, is the right bonus for you.

Can I do B-School at a later time?

It’s only open once a year.  Which is right now.  I’m not into pressuring people into doing anything.  It has to be the right timing.  But honestly, March – April is a GREAT time to dive in. While the new year is fresh, goals are still in eye sight, and summer hasn’t side-swiped all your free time.

Is the price worth it?

Loaded question right?  This is a $1999 program.  Not the cheap by any means.  And a scary number to commit to for many!   This is one reason I offer my bonuses like I do.  It basically makes it a 2-for-1, a BOGO, an unbeatable offer to get my programs as well as the amazing B-School.

If I didn’t believe in the ROI (return on investment) of this program, I would not be a partner (there are currently only 2 things I respect enough to be a partner for.  B-School and 90 Day Year.  Both game changers in my business.)

At the end of the day, math is not emotional.   Can you show the math that will pay back the value of this course?   For me, it paid back immediately as I opened a new membership program that raised $5000.  In other years, I’ve invested in programs that brought me 2 new clients, worth $2000 each initially and more over time.    What does your math look like?    If it’s not clear, then consider this a training investment.   A place where you will get highly valuable strategic guidance to save time and money as you design your business.

How much time does this take?

While you can pace yourself, I recommend trying to stay within a week or two of the program schedule to get the most out of it.  Calls are recorded so you can always go back and listen.  With 2 hours a week, you can really get a lot out of this program.  With more, you can get more.

Want to hear more?  Here’s my story of how B-School helped me quit my corporate job (including my intervew with Marie Forleo herself.)

Or you can grab some time on my calendar to talk more.

 

5 Small Mistakes that Cost You Clients (and How to Fix Them)

5 Small Mistakes that Cost You Clients (and How to Fix Them)

Welcome to The How She Quits Show – Episode 2

As a busy business owner who both hires my own VAs and places them with others, I can tell you that good quality VA’s are tough to come by.   I’m not talking about even the whiz-bangy tech skills or the creative geniuses.   I’m talking about a reliable, accountable, going to do what they say they will do kind of person.   Crazy huh?  $20+ / hour is nothing to sneeze at but perhaps there is a misconception in the VA world as to what a business owner really expects and needs for that $20 / hour.   And it doesn’t take a lot of extra time on your part as a VA.

These 5 things might seem small and minor but when done by a VA, they frustrate the client and begin to make them doubt your abilities in other areas.

When these things are avoided, is when you move into the higher pay scale of professional VA services….even if you don’t yet have a ton of strategic skills or marketing talent. Because reliability and thoroughness are surprisingly difficult skills to find these days.

When you can avoid these small things, you become a reliable, dependable, detail oriented VA who is looking to be a partner in business for the long haul.


DON’T: Show up a little late for meetings.

Better late than never just doesn’t cut it in the life of a business owner.  Even if they are habitually late, you need to be there on time.   A few lost minutes at the beginning of a call can really set back the mood immediately.   And, if they are always late, it demonstrates even more how busy they are and must rely on your accountability and willingness to be there no matter what.  A late, busy business owner almost always has more work they can delegate.

DO:  Show up a few minutes early, with all resources ready for action

When you are having meetings with someone who is always on time, it makes you show up better on time!   And when you are having meetings with someone who is always late, it gives you that extra 5 minutes to grab another coffee thinking “oh, they’re going to be late too.”    So just by showing up early and prepared you are subconsciously adding value to your client’s workflow and day.

Showing up ready to work (let’s assume this is an online meeting using video conference) means this:

  • Your microphone and camera are working
  • All the right files are open and ready for screen share on your computer
  • You have a clear agenda of things to talk about —> Busy business owners often want a VA to guide them through the work.  They’ve delegated it and it’s out of mind for them as they trust you will get it all done.

I just had a meeting with my assistant today and I said “I don’t have a lot for you.” and her answer to me was “Ok, good because I have a lot for you.”  That’s the sign of someone who is staying on top of everything and I’ve successfully removed it from my mind.   She was early and prepared and quickly settled my mind that was bouncing in a million directions.


DON’T: Leave small things undone

The devil is in the details right?   Our team has a process each time we enter a new blog like this one.  It includes quite a few steps but it’s clear and easy to follow.   And when it’s time for me to review a post for publishing and I find one of those things undone, it makes me wonder…..are they paying attention to all the details?   How much more should I quality review?  And if I’m quality reviewing this much should I just do the work myself?

Examples of small things I find left undone:

  • Not using agreed upon naming conventions
  • Not moving a task all the way through to completed in our Asana board
  • Leaving a blog post in their name as the author
  • Forgetting to add the right tags to a post
  • Not updating the subject line when an email is prepped
  • (oh this is a biggie that drives me crazy!) Not putting the final files in an organized way, with the proper name, into the shared team folder where we can all find them

DO:  Be a Finisher through every last detail

As a business owner paying $20+/hour, I don’t want to have to go back and check the small things.  That’s why I’m hiring you and not a $3 / hour overseas VA.

It’s such a good feeling when I go back into a project or file a couple weeks later and find things all buttoned up with a neat little bow.   Files are where we need them and easy to locate.  Everything is spelled correctly.  Instruction trails are left behind.   It’s easy to take that work and reuse it for the next task.

As a business owner, I pay you to be my detail person.  Because quite often, business owners, CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs….they are those visionary types of people doing amazing things….but details don’t come easy to them.   Details aren’t their zone of genius, but it is for a VA.


DON’T: Not follow-up

Everything is done from your end.  Whew!   Check that one off.  It has moved onto to the next person’s plate. Do you:

a. Sigh with relief! You’re free!
b. Fret and worry if it’s going to be done
c. Pass it on with a lot of detail and check back in a day or so to be sure the next person is making progress

I see so many VA’s live their day choosing “a” and live to check things off their Asana or Trello list.   But your client isn’t paying you to check things off the list.  I know those red overdue notifications drive you type A’s crazy but checked off lists don’t bring complete results.

DO: Handoff and then follow up, especially for your busy business owner.

If the next step is for your client to complete, your work isn’t done.   Follow up with them regularly so it doesn’t fall off their radar.  Suggest another way you can expedite that to completion more quickly even.

If it’s someone else’s turn (a graphic designer, web developer, etc) follow up with them.  You don’t have to know all the tech details to follow up on progress and see how things are going.   This saves a ton of back and forth time for the client themselves.

See the difference there? And it barely takes anymore effort to follow up. It demonstrates that you are a forward thinker, see the big picture and adding value your client will recognize and think “I can’t let this one go. She’s G-O-O-D.”

If you need motivation remember this, the client does not see results until every last step is done, not just yours.  Results are what brings them revenue and allows them to keep you on contract.


DON’T: Make typos and grammar mistakes – You ARE a Detail Person!

Do I need to explain further?  I don’t know a single VA who says “I don’t care about the details.”   All VA’s out there are advertising this skill yet I find mistakes even on their own posts, emails and websites. Yikes!   This one is obvious so let’s move on.

DO: Review every word, sentence and paragraph in every blog post, email and social media post you create

A busy business owner is going to BRAIN DUMP raw creative content to you that isn’t polished (maybe unless they are an author themselves right?)  But I meet a ton of business owners who want you to grab the magic inside their brain and make it look pretty.   This is my dream by the way but I just haven’t found a VA who can totally capture my voice.  But they can polish up raw words into well formatted content.  And that means they better find my typos and correct some grammar mistakes along the way.

This one is easy folks.  If you don’t like this aspect maybe you should rethink being a VA?


DON’T: Not speak up when you notice something

So you’re in there poking around on a website and …. you see their credit card is about to expire or … the wrong link is used … or a reader made a comment about an issue.

Or let’s use this example.

If your task was to audit a library of blog posts to be sure they were all categorized properly, and you uncovered an issue with image formats on each post, what should you do?

a.  Assume your client already knows

b.  Update them automatically without asking

c. Make your client aware, get approval to do the work and finish all the details

C is my preferred answer for VA’s I hire so that I’m completely aware of the issue, their experience to fix it and how many additional hours I’ll be billed.

DO:  Add value by finding other things that need correction or updating

When you can save your client time or money in advance, with just a few extra moments, you’re golden.  This is that level I describe as “reading their mind”.   You truly become invaluable when you know your way around their content and assets and have taken pride in ownership with what you do there.

And, when you do this it’s job security.  You are creating your next project (that’s needed and valuable, not just making up work.)


See how that extra 30 seconds of notifying, noting and following up can completely change the results you bring to your clients?  And in turn, bring you higher rates and income.

There’s never been a better time to be a High Quality Professional VA.

10 Ways to Market Your Business for Free

10 Ways to Market Your Business for Free

Certainly, you can spend Facebook Ad money to grow your following.  But you’re growing it with strangers. Organic growth is slower (usually) but more personal and effective.

Here are 10 ways to share your dream, offer your services and grow your following without spending a dime.

Although Facebook pages are slower to develop than they were a few years ago, having an official Facebook page for your business and not using your personal profile is the professional and expected way to run a business.

Consider this your dynamic, interactive business card. When used interactively with a Facebook group and your personal profile (in appropriate ways), it’s still the platform where all the eyeballs are looking.

#1. Create a Facebook page for your business and link it to your personal Facebook profile.

Your personal profile is used to connect to Facebook groups and yes, people will stalk you and find your business that way. Invite people you know care about your mission to your Facebook page. Stay on mission and post once a day.

#2. When someone comments on your Facebook page posts, invite them to follow your page.

#3. Link your Instagram to your Facebook so you are covering 2 platforms with one post.

You’ll need to do this from your Instagram account on your mobile phone.

#4. Use relatable #hashtags on your Instagram posts.

Comment and like on people in your family for reciprocal follows and likes.

#5. Create a Facebook group and link it to that Facebook page.

Be active in it! Invite people to join your group. Start with a closed group. Use the “Ask Pending Members Questions” feature to learn about your audience.

#6. Create a graphic about your mission & make it the”featured photo” on your personal Facebook page

Utilize the description on your featured photo to talk about your business.


#7. Share, but don’t overshare, what you’re doing in your business on your personal Facebook page.

Make it personal, clear & relatable. Those who care about you will want to know, what you’re up to. And they will all “know someone who needs this” and share it or bring it up to them at some point.

#8. Go Live!

Live video gets more views on the Facebook feed. People buy you and your message. So be you. Be brave. And get your message out there.

#9. Schedule your live videos 3-6 day in advance a Facebook event.

The Facebook event should be co-hosted by your page and your personal profile. Share with your Facebook group and on your pages, on your page and profile, will get the most views. And people will need advance notice to plan to be there!

#10. Get in front of people in person!

Go to networking events, conferences and any live event in your industry. In person, relationships are always more powerful than another like on your Facebook page.

Did Your Black Friday Promos Flop?

Did Your Black Friday Promos Flop?

Timeline:  Written Post Black Friday 2017.  Applicable for anyone disappointed in how their online promotion went.

Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday. There’s a name for EVERYTHING now in the marketing world. But that doesn’t mean it has to be for you.

I was scrolling through some of my favorite online business Facebook groups this weekend after doing my on online shopping and seeing post after post of business owners disappointed in their Black Friday sales results.

After putting hours and hours of work into graphics and copy and emails and setting up special sales pages, their results were dismal. 1 or 2 sales only. Or just like any other day.

It can really crush your spirit to put so much into a big promotion only to have it flop.  I know.  I’ve been there too.  In fact, you can’t really call yourself a business owner unless you’ve ridden that ride.

During the holiday season, the pressure is ON for businesses to sell, sell, sell and, presumingly to even HAVE a special offer.   So it’s natural to feel like “Oh my goodness!  I need an offer!”

But, maybe you don’t even need an offer?  Maybe this isn’t the best way to promote your business?  Maybe an offer can actually HURT your business?

Here are some ways to help you make that decision.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Preparing a Special Offer

  • When reading about how to promote on Black Friday and feeling all convinced you need to do it, stop first and ask yourself…..what is the intended audience of that article?  What types of businesses are they targeting?  They may not directly state it but look at their demographic and decide if you fit it before following their advice.
  • Where did most of my sales come from in the past year?   It can be easy to get caught up in the rush of prepping those specials (at the expense of extra time from your family by the way) and forget that this weekend won’t make or break your business.
  • Think about what happened on your past promotion weekends.   That same feeling of “everyone is prepping Black Friday so I should too” can give you amnesia about your past year’s results.  Look them up and trust your gut!
  • Do I want to cheapen the value of my products and services with a special?  How will everyone who paid full price feel about my sudden price drop?  Like they were cheated?
  • What will my audience expect from me on this weekend and how should I talk to them about it?  (whether I plan an offer or don’t!)
  • Will my audience even be online during this time?  Or will they be focused on family, friends, food and fun?   Maybe it’s better to NOT contribute to the noise in their inbox and pay double for Facebook ad traffic during this weekend.

Who does Black Friday – Cyber Monday work well for?

Clearly there are BIG REVENUES made on this weekend.   But for who?

  1. Large audiences, large volume of eyes on your products.
  2. Physical products with enough margin to withstand the price cut
  3. Someone strategically using this weekend to fill up a services queue and not market again for the rest of the year (i.e. booked ahead services so YOU can holiday over the holidays)  —–> Virtual Professionals this is you!

Most of those who are striking it rich on Black Friday have been planning their Black Friday promos for months in advance.   Not just the couple weeks before.

If you’re feeling the pressure suddenly only a couple weeks before, it’s probably not the right promotion season for you.

If you are running a Virtual Professional, Coaching or Consulting Business and feel like you need an offer during this season make sure you do the following:

  1. Align it with what is going on in your audience’s brain during this weekend.  They may not be ready for an intense decision on a high end program.  But they may be ready to commit to a lower dollar service to “try out” your programs.
  2. Don’t eliminate your profit UNLESS you have a great upsell offer behind that in December to convert them into.
  3. Don’t attract a different low-pay audience that will never opt-in to higher dollar services.
  4. Open it for a longer time period that just Black Friday
  5. Make it SIMPLE on you and on them.  These services should make someone’s life easier and better and that starts with how they get in on your offers.

See how this article wasn’t about what to put in your ad copy?  Or the best converting offer page?   Those are VERY important IF you decide to run a promo.   But the first step is the decision.   Make smarter decisions by first thinking of the strategy and approach.

This method is at the heart of my Holiday Business Accelerator program as well.

It’s not a Black Friday offer.  It’s a holiday program of hope and help for online business owners like you.   You can join until December 10th.

We’ll walk through my methods of strategy and business design and THEN with the right strategy get on into implementation.  Because, thinking and not getting stuff done doesn’t get you anywhere!

So relax about those holiday promos.  Maybe it wasn’t right for you?   It’s ok.  Fail faster and move forward to what DOES work.  And accelerate into the new year with the right plan in place for your business.

Why This Busy Holiday Is Your Season to Break Free from the Cubicle Cell

Why This Busy Holiday Is Your Season to Break Free from the Cubicle Cell

What if you started the new year knowing you were weeks away from turning in your 2 week notice?

Or having the biggest revenue month ever in your online business?

Working moms like you are looking forward to being released from the chains of your day job for 5 or even 10 cubicle free days over the holidays.

And those of you already in the online business world are being bombarded with end of year planning wondering if this is going to be your year.

Enjoy some holiday cheer with your family. And then use that mental freedom to get serious about your business.

(The one that you can do from home every single day of the new year.)

After 20+ years in corporate, I used to LIVE FOR holiday breaks.

I had lists and lists of things I wanted to get done while the boss and team were away and the PRESSURE WAS OFF.

It was during some key holiday break seasons that my businesses made the biggest breakthroughs.

Now I run my own Virtual Professional agency and train other women like you who want to escape the corporate rat race and use your talents in a more meaningful way that includes flexibility for your family.

There’s a very scientific reason this season puts our brains in the right place for a business breakthrough during the busiest time of the year.

You are out of your normal routine.   This triggers old memories (good and bad) and opens new neuropathways that aren’t often explored.   It’s also a time of very reflective, introspective thinking.   Did I do what I wanted this year?   Wow the years go by so quickly!  I can’t let another year go by and be stuck in this office again.

It can be difficult to address some of those emotions.  I get it.  Disappointment can take over.   Or, determination can take over.   And you commit to not waiting until January 1st to start fresh.   Start right now.

The break from the pressure of the day job, or school or whatever is in your normal routine, frees up space in your thoughts.  And some amazing new ideas are born.

Now, most people fill that space with more gingerbread, more shopping, more parties and more of the mess, clean up and effort that goes with that.

I’m not saying to skip the holiday fun.  I’m saying to tame it.  Don’t let it rule you. (it’s about presence not presents, right?)  Choose to use this special season and channel that effort into making a final exit plan from the day job.

This year my gift to you is a free Holiday Breakthrough Guide.   It’s a workbook and a video workshop you can do at your pace that will walk through business strategy planning in a way you’ve never seen.   It’s not all dreamy and unrealistic.  It gets down to the right products, services, pricing and approach to grow your meaningful business in 2018.

What if this holiday season you took that extra brain space and a couple hours alone and found your business breakthrough?

You could end this holiday break much differently.  Not with the holiday blues and, even though looking forward to routine again, not looking forward to that same old cubicle.  Same old commute.  Same feeling of weariness, missing your family and just knowing you were made for something more.

What if instead of being excited about 2 weeks off this holiday, you went with a plan to free yourself from the corporate chains forever?

The holidays are a time of magic. For children. For families. For anyone with a dream. I believe that. If you have a side business that you are working on it is time to make a huge shift in your business.

Download the Holiday Breakthrough Guide here.