Productivity Interview: Erin Blaskie of BSETC and ErinBlaskie.com
- Danny Iny
A few years ago, when I started doing my entrepreneurial thing, I received a Facebook invitation to “like” this girl, Erin Blaskie, the owner of what seemed to be a VA (virutal assistance) firm. Her Facebook profile was interesting, her business was interesting, her website was well done — and she was kinda cute, so I did.
Fast-forward many years and I’ve watch this VA firm owner become an monster-implementer and dynamo. Every time I blinked she was launcing a new webinar, a new training program, a new community,or entering into a new JV. She was absoluutely fearless — she tried it all. Looking at her go made you wonder what the hell is stopping anyone, really?
Besides owning her VA firm Business Services Etc. and now an online presence consulting firm that serves everyone from solo-entrepreneurs to big name firms like Travelocity, Crystal Light, and Tassimo — just watching her is lesson in promotion. I’ve seen her speak at WordPress camps, she’s done interviews everywhere, and she also guest blogs on some pretty big blogs like Lawyerist and MSN’s Business on the Main.
Come listen and we talk about how she manages to do it all, being a new Mom, and the adjustments she’s made to her business and her life, as well as her solution to make it work…
- Q: How do you do it all? What do you think it’s all about?
- Q: How do you choose what’s important from your 50 to-dos and make sure they get done? (6:10)
- Q: In your “after baby” worklife, you have six fewer hours to do work. What took a hit for you? (12:31)
- Q: Given you still have 20 ideas a minute, how do do you choose which one you will spend time on? (13:11)
- Q: Do you have work/life balance? And if so what, and if so what do you do to make sure you keep it? (17:57)
- Q: We’re always told to keep work time separate from personal time. What do you do when your work time tempts you to steal from your personal time? (21:12)
- Q: Finish the sentence: “I spend waaaay too much time on..”? (23:34)
- Q: Finish the sentence: “I spend not enough time time on..”? (24:42)
Distilled wisdom from Erin Blaskie:
- Tip #1: Have that set, scheduled timeframe and the just CRUSH IT in that time frame.
- Tip #2: Ask: “what are my income goals every month?” and then piece together what you need to do to make that happen?
- Tip #3: A nice benefit of time constraints is saying no a lot more and leaving more time tp say “yes” to things that are truly exciting.
- Tip #4: When stealing personal time to do work, ask: Is it an absolute emergency? Or is it just a fake emergency?
- Tip #5: If you’re busy and you do get time — do whatever you can in that time that is income-generating and the rest of it, outsource whatever possible!
Peter: Hello everyone and welcome to Productive Marketing Month at Mirasee.com, this is Peter Vogopoulos your host and today I have with me Erin Blaskie who is a multi-talented, multi-faceted internet warrior, I can’t even begin to describe what this woman does, but I’m going to try. Erin I’ve been following Erin for some time now, she started her company Business Services Etc. Or BSETC which is a VA outsourcing firm for entrepreneurs and solo entrepreneurs, and she can pretty much do anything you want in terms of outsourcing your work to her — from a solo entrepreneur all the way to an bigger company. And she’s also just everywhere, this woman is so good at promoting herself, I’ve seen her talk at WordPress camps I’ve seen her do interviews every which way, and every time I blink she’s starting a new training program or new community, or even a new business, but that’s only a part of what she does. Erin is a really good online presence specialist, and that’s what really she’s best at and she does that for individuals all the way to high profile clients like Travelocity and Crystal Light and Taskmo and all sorts of other big names. She guest blogs also on some pretty big and popular blogs like Lawyerist and MSN’s Business on the Main, Microsoft’s business site, and we are really thrilled to have her today because we’re going to talk about how she manages to do all that and she’s a recently new mother too, so we’re going to talk about that, I’m really, really pleased to have Erin Blaskie with us today. Hi Erin, how are you? Welcome.
Erin: Good! Thank you so much, I’m so excited to be here and I’m a little nervous about sharing my business productivity secrets. I’m also nervous that I won’t have any, so sometimes I just fly by the seat of my pants, so hopefully I can share a little bit of how I get all this stuff done, because you’re right I am all over the place. Everywhere.
Peter: You know what I found and I picked up we’re probably going to validate this again today. I’ve interviewed a few people now on the topic of productivity, people who we look with bewilderment, much the way I look at you with bewilderment – how she manages to do all that, you usually do more in a year than most people do in five. But it seems like that there’s really not a lot of deep trick to it, it’s just a lot of hard work and a lot of, a lot of “okay, just stay focused”. So how do you do it all, if just high level, what do you think that’s all about.
Erin: You know, it’s so funny, I think it’s changed. I think that how I’ve got all of this stuff done over the course of time has totally changed. I mean I look back at myself in the beginning of my business, I was 21, I had all the time in the world, you know, then it was easy. And I say it was easy — I mean, it had its challenges, but then It was so easy — I had literally like 14 hours every single day. And all that open space, you know? So that time it was definitely easy, but I realized that for the majority of entrepreneurs, they’re probably more likely to be in my situation now, which is limited work time — and now that I have a new baby — and so now I think I feel like I’ve gotten more strategy around how I get a lot more done now than I did back then. Because back then it was just like, I’ll wake up and I’ll do a bunch of work today — and that was my strategy. So now it’s a few things, I mean it’s definitely setting aside some really clear boundaries. So every single day from 9 till 2 is, my work day and I know that when I enter that 9 to 2 space that that’s all I’ve got, in that day. Guaranteed. So I don’t waste a single second. And I think that’s really important, you need to have that set, scheduled time and then you need to just like, CRUSH IT, in that time frame. Do as much as you can, as quickly as you can, and what I focus on in the 9 to 2 time is, I focus on a lot of billable work because that’s income generation. And then what I tend to also do is I, I’m very scheduled in even in all my marketing activities. So I’ll have Monday for example, I’ll prep blog posts. Tuesday, I’ll prep all my social media updates, and yes, I pre-schedule. There are a lot of social media purists who are like: “don’t do that!” But I mean –
Peter: Whatever — let them have a baby first and then we can talk about that.
Erin: Yes! Exactly. So, you know, I’ve got set days where I do very specific things, and that really, really helps. But mostly, I have to sit down with myself every once in awhile and I need to make a list and I say to myself like: “what do I want to achieve this year? What are my income goals every month?” and then I kind of like piece together what I need to do every single month to make that happen. So, most of the time it’s you now I just do my billable work and that brings me closer to those revenue goals, but then I am infusing, you know, new products, new programs etc to help elevate those income goals, so yeah. Just really crushing it in the time you’ve got, a good schedule and good planning — is how I do most of it. And then some of it’s just magic and luck. That’s just the rest of it.
Peter: So, how do you then, when it comes time to figuring out okay, this is my 9 to 2 when I’ve got 50 different things that I could possibly do —
Peter: — what keeps you focused on putting on the most important things? How is it, how do you choose A, B C out of those five hundred things, and then how to you make sure those things are the things that get done during that 9 to 2 time. What do you do for yourself?
Erin: Yeah, that’s a really great point. So I have a lot of to-do lists… I’ve got to-do lists for clients and I’ve got to-do lists for my own business and then I’ve got my personal to-do lists, so and I usually track them all in either “TeuxDeux” which is spelt t-e-u-x-d-e-u-x, it’s a free to-do app, it’s absolutely amazing. I track them in there or I track the in BaseCamp. And then the way that I prioritize is really, depending on how busy I am. So if I am just swamped, if I am absolutely crazy busy and there were a thousand things I need to do, I do the things first where I have to put out fires. So that means that if a client’s like: “I need this email to go out today!” obviously, they take priority. And then I kind of like, I’m fairly good at just kind of surveying the whole landscape and saying like: “alright, here are the things that I need to do to keep my clients.” – literally, keep them — and then: “here are the things that would be great to do,” to again, keep clients happy, and then generally speaking, the majority of the stuff that gets put off to the very end is stuff that I do for myself that isn’t really income generating but it’s nice to do. For example I’ve been meaning to put together a mobile site for my blog forever and finally last night was caught up enough to be able to do that. So the stuff for me that’s not going to generate revenue, I just push it off till later. But It really it’s just kind of like, I don’t know, I don’t really have like a system, I just kind of survey the whole landscape and I say: “No, what do I need to do to keep my clients happy?” and then “what do I need to do for me, to line myself up for the revenue goals?” and of course, I outsource. I outsource some of my own work too, because I can’t do it all. You know, I certainly can’t get it all done in a timely fashion, so – and you know.
Peter: And you know the right professionals to do it with!
Erin: I’ve got a team, so. But yeah, and I don’t let go of everything. I can’t, I’m too much of a control freak, but I do let go of some pieces that it doesn’t really matter if I do them or not. You know, so I outsource what I can.
Peter: When you — and boy can I relate to this — you know: Before Baby, “BB” and After Baby “AB”.
Erin: (laughs) Yeah.
Peter: So Before Baby, much like you, my wife would leave the house at 7am and I could count on being able to work until 6pm when she’d get home and I’d get a whole bunch of stuff done. Now, you know, we’ve cut days because we don’t have babysitting every day and we really brought the time down – so much like you, you’ve got a 9 to 2 schedule, so I mean, that’s six hours less then what you had before.
Peter: What took a hit? What took a hit for you? In my case it was marketing and business development time was slashed radically, and um, you now so there was not as much generation, what took a hit for you in those six hours?
Erin: Yeah, that’s a great question. So for me, what really took a hit was my ability to just freely schedule new training programs. That really, to be honest is what is the most challenging, because for me, a large part of my passive revenue would come from like doing micro-coaching programs or training programs or teleseminars – all of those things are so much more difficult to schedule right now, because you get higher attendance for them when you schedule them in the evening. But for me, I only have 9 to 2 and then my husband goes to work, so he goes to work from 3pm till 1am which means I’m…
Peter: You’re on.
Erin: I’m alone, right, with the baby. So for me, like I can’t do evening stuff anymore, unless I get super creative, and like get my mom and dad to come over, or whatever. So that took a huge hit for me. I found myself like, and people with children will understand, I just find myself more tired. You know? Just more tired. So even, once I put her to bed, and I try to kind of work in the evening, I used to work till like 3 o clock in the morning, you know, and it was quiet time, I loved that time, and it was, for me, my most productive, because my clients would be in bed, and I could just like, fire a bunch of work off and it would be awesome. Well now, I’m tired. So I need to go to bed, and so I don’t get that kind of sweet spot working time anymore, either. And then I’m also like, my most creative at 1, 2 o clock in the morning, probably it was because it was like, I was on sixteen cups of coffee by that point, but I was just the most creative, and I feel like that kind of, you know took a little bit of a hit too, so. But you know– you make do, but yes, there are definitely areas where I don’t have as much leeway to do some of the things I used to do.
Peter: I can relate to being tired. I only look like I’m sitting, but I’m actually propped up.
Erin: (laughs) I know, and really, it’s like taking everything even to keep my eyes open. I’m just joking! I’m not that tired but, oh goodness! And for the first six months of her life like – I didn’t, I just took time right off, like I didn’t even do – maybe not six months, maybe more like four months — but I didn’t even do new business calls, so like I couldn’t bring in new clients for the first four months. Luckily I had someone else who could step in and do those calls, but it’s not the same because it’s not me and people at the time really wanted to work with me, so they’d say “well we’ll wait till you’re back” so you know – yeah, it’s definitely, definitely different. Definitely.
Peter: You’ve always been really creative, and I’ve seen you also be fearless when it comes to trying new things, because all the skills that you bring to your clients — putting together a website or a business and attaching your cart to it, and writing the copy for it, and floating the idea out there — is nothing for you. Implementation was a snap and you know, anybody who hasn’t gone through that process and thinks of it as a mountain and probably looks at that and goes: “Wow.” But you can’t do that anymore. Or at least not as much, because of all the constraints that you just talked about. So, how, how do you finally distill down, you as an entrepreneur, okay, I’m still creative, I’m still coming up with 20 ideas I can’t do all 20 even though I have a team. What makes you choose, I’m going to do *this* one and *this* one — and you’re going to try to squeeze that in the little bit of time you have — other of course then just, obviously, which one is revenue generating. How do you make that decision?
Erin: Yeah. That’s another great point. I actually have found that having a baby and having time constrains, so even if it’s not a baby, let’s just say somebody else has time constrains whatever their time constraints are – I’ve actually found that it’s been better. So BB, “Before Baby”, I was, I could like create whatever I wanted, right? Like I had all the time in the world I could develop all these ideas, I was all over the place, for better or for worse, right? I mean I tried everything and it was good. I mean it gave me the experience and the expertise to try all these different business models in these different industries, these different niches and try it all. But that said, now that I’m, “After Baby”, what I’m finding is that I’m, since I’m a lot more aware of my time constraints, I’m saying “no” a lot more, and I’m saying “yes” to the things that are really exciting. And the things I’m saying no to I’m not feeling it’s a loss, and actually, like I’m feeling okay. Now I know what my business is. I know what I want to focus on, I know people I want to serve, and so now I’m saying yes or no to things based on whether or not it’s a good fit for my business. So I actually find that it’s like taking me from being completely entrepreneurial ADD, which — let’s be honest — I was the poster child, to being able to really take a good look at everything I’m doing and say: “does this fit?” I’ve been able to sell some of my sites, and I’ve been able to like, just really like simplify. But not in a way that, like, cause I’m sure a lot of people are thinking like, you know make it does simplification mean less revenue or less, you know, exposure, or less whatever, but it actually hasn’t. It’s been quite the opposite. I’ve been able to simplify and it’s simplified things for my clients and my potential customers. They’re not like: “where do I engage, Erin?” there’s a clear path. So I’ve actually found that it’s been super helpful and now when I look at things and when things come across my desk, or if I get an idea what’s been really exciting is I’ve actually been able to funnel some of my ideas to my clients, you know? Which I never did before because I was like: “I can develop it, I can build it, I can do it, so I will!” And now it’s like, “well, I could do that, but, let me instead pass the idea on.” So, I’ve enjoyed the transformation, myself. But, I know for some people it would be very difficult, it would be more difficult, but for me I’ve actually liked it. I’ve quietened myself down a little bit, which is good.
Peter: It’s amazing how, you know, when we get busy all sorts of things that used to be important suddenly aren’t. I wrote about that recently in a blog post recently when I talked about how I went back to work after having the baby, and I said: “okay let’s get ourselves situated here.” And I said: “this project, hmm, that’s not important any more hmm this one’s not important anymore this one’s not important anymore.” And I just focused on the really, really important things, like you just talked about.
Erin: Yeah, and you know, not to go in a completely different direction, or you know, derail this, but another thing that I find too is what when you undergo a transformation of that type, like for me it was having a baby, for other people it could be anything, a sickness or whatever makes them really stop and take pause and figure out what’s important. For me having my daughter allowed me to sort of heal, some of the things that were happening within myself. So, and then, just like you said, like figuring out what’s important. No longer was I like — for example pre-child, I probably was trying to like, you know, be everything to everybody, to sort of gain that acceptance. Whatever was going on with me, pre-baby was healed in having a baby. So now it’s – I’m not doing my business for the same reasons that I was pre-baby, you know? Now instead of like, driving a fancy car and like all this materialistic stuff, for me now, it’s like building a future for her, which, like I said I don’t want to go, I don’t want to derail it, but it’s a lot deeper than just, you know, then just like, I don’t have time anymore. It’s like — you really evaluate what’s important. So…
Peter: I would completely say that it is not derailing at all, in fact it’s fundamental. It’s fundamental what we’re talking about here is being productive, and being productive means focusing on the important things and what, everything you’ve talked about there is so critical to focusing on the important things. Since you’ve brought it up, let’s talk about that, I mean one of the whole topics that gets mixed in with the topic of productivity is work-life balance and you know prioritizing and doing things. Sounds like you have it. Do you have it? And if so what, and if so what do you do to make sure you keep it?
Erin: Yeah. I’m not perfectly balanced yet.
Peter: Who is?
Erin: But, yeah, exactly, right? Who is? But I mean, I definitely now that I’m more scheduled and I say to myself “okay, 9 to 2 is my work time. 2 to 7:30 is Willow time”, I’m able to be fully present, you know? Like I show up for work, I don’t get distracted by Facebook I don’t get distracted by all the other things I could do instead of working. I work. And for that, my clients are getting quicker responses, they’re getting — they’re getting me. They’re getting more of me. And because I now have a daughter, and you know now I need, and I own a home, and all these other things, responsibilities. I now have to you know be, not that I didn’t care about my business before, I mean, obviously I did, like that’s what I did, but it’s just different. It’s different now because I have a child and if something happens to my business and I run out of work, we’re on the street, so it’s just different. So I’m more present there. And then between 2 and 7, I can be fully present with her. So, I’m not concerned about the work, I’m not concerned about checking my phone for emails, I’m fully present with her. So I just feel that once you define your work time, your work space, your life space and you have that definition, the two don’t start to meld together – for the most part. Obviously things happen, and you know a day could get derailed anyway even if you have 9 to 2 scheduled. A perfect example is last week I had a funeral to go to so, Tuesday, Wednesday was completely blown out of the water, so it was a little bit unbalanced that week. But I don’t know, I think just defining your space, for everything makes you just be more, way more present when you show up for each of those times.
Peter: For everybody who tries to do that, you know, and that’s one of those things that we’re all told to do, let’s keep the personal time and the work time, but you said some things happen and the boundaries get kind of overlapping. What do you do to make sure that that doesn’t encroach upon your personal time off? I guess in your case, you don’t have a choice, eh? Cause Willow is there and she needs attention between 2 and 7 and Steve is gone.
Peter: But what about like time on the weekend or something, is there a temptation to, well I’m behind on this, I really should catch up, I’m going to steal some time away from this?
Erin: Yeah. And you do. You do it. You know, and even in the 2 to 7, or the 3 to 7, you know 2 to 7 what happens sometimes. For example a clientwqas launching a website a couple of weeks ago and it needed to go up before 5pm Central. And my normal programmer that normally does all like my site conversions to move WordPress from one folder to another, was away. They were not available. So, here I am in the basement, we have like kind of a rec room area, and I’ve got her set up with toys, I’m on my laptop and I’m on the phone and I’m trying to get in touch with another programmer, I’m Tweeting: “who can help me!”.
So you know — you do it. And sure it might mean throwing a cartoon on for 20 minutes, which, I know there’s going to be mom purists out there who are like: “Ahh! No TV!” — but you do what you gotta do/ So it’s not always perfect and sometimes it looks absolutely messy and it looks not so fun. And sometimes it means putting her to bed and then coming and working until 2 o clock in the morning, and definitely it means sometimes like getting Steve to just take her for the weekend or for a couple of hours to go do whatever. So yeah, it happens. But I think you’ve gotta pick and choose those moments, and you have to really say if I am taking time away on the weekend, or if I’m working in the afternoon when I’m supposed to be with Willow – “Do I have to? Is that an absolute emergency? Or is it just a fake emergency, you know?” Can it really wait? So you have to choose that and realize that if you do have to step into your personal space to put out a client fire, then it’s going to mean some other things get pushed back or pushed aside and you just have to kind of start to be okay with it. Yeah. You have to be okay with a lot. And knowing that be really flexible, because it’s the only way you’re going to be able to survive, is to just go with it.
Peter: Completely. I’ve got two sentences here that I’m going to start, and I’m going to ask you to finish. A bit of a game. So here’s the first one: “I spend way too much time on…”
Erin: Ohh, goodness. Everything? (laughs) Twitter? Actually, I’ve been better on Twitter. I spend way too much time…
Peter: You have been.
Erin: Yeah, I have been — although that’s a whole other conversation, we won’t even go there. I spend way too much time probably on email. Yeah. Email, Twitter, Facebook, — (laughs) all those things. Although between 9 and 2 I’m doing great. I’m golden. I’m like client-focused and the other times I’m on my phone none stop. So, yeah it’s bad.
Peter: Yeah, I remember, BB, I remember I used to get more real time Tweets from you. Not so much anymore.
Erin: No, now I know, I’m, I know, some people give me so much trouble for it, but I’m like: “I’m doing what I can do!”
Peter: Well, that’s the way it is, priorities change. Here’s the second sentence: “I spend not enough time on…”
Erin: Oh, marketing, for sure. Yeah, marketing, and new, like, new products and program development I need to like, I need to get my butt back into that gear for sure. Yeah.
Peter: Maybe when Willow is in daycare, is that in the works or not really?
Erin: Oh, we tried it and she hated it! She has severe separation anxiety, and like two days and she was hysterical. The day care person couldn’t calm her down and then of course, I’ve lost all faith in, and like, comfort in the daycare person and, you know, when *she* can’t calm your kid, you’re like “ahhh.” So no, we tried it. So we have a Daddy Nanny in the morning and, and a Mommy Nanny in the afternoon. That’s how we’re doing it.
Peter: Maybe when she’s a little older. They tend to grow out of it when they’re a little older the whole separation thing t. My son has that too, particularly with me, especially if it’s starting to get towards the end of the day, if I’m not around he gets really nervous. I think they grow out of it.
Erin: Yeah, hopefully. Fingers crossed. Maybe, she’ll be in school in alike a year and a half, right, two years. Isn’t that insane?
Peter: Oh, my god that’s true eh? That’s pre-K.
Erin: She’s a November baby, so she’ll probably start out early, at least I did, I started when I was like three and a half, so she’ll probably do that too, and that’s like a year and a half away.
Peter: Then we’ll see Erin start building up her programs again and being more active.
Erin: I need to – no! Don’t let me!
Peter: Alright, no problem. I’ll send you this video and say: “Hey Erin, remember this?”
Erin: Yes, this conversation is going to be very therapeutic for me in a few years.
Peter: Well this was great. I really want to thank you, we’ve reached the end of our time together, I want to make sure you go off and you do what you need to do. It was really nice talking to you, really nice sharing stories with another parent, who I can identify with and just anyone else, we’ve got a lot of people who identify a lot with the constraints of parenthood and will love this interview I’m sure. At least to make them feel less… pressure, and that’s the sort of thing that I’ve seen. It seems like we’re putting all this pressure on ourselves and you know it, I think, in sharing your story, you know and having done what you’ve accomplished and making all these people who are sort of starting out, wondering if they’re going to get it done, I think they’ll take a lot of heart to what you’ve said and they’re going to say: “okay, you know what? I’m normal.”
Erin: Yes exactly, I know in, in just and the thing is if I can leave one last tip, it’s just, if you do get time, and you have that little bit of time, do whatever you can in that time that is income-generating and the rest of it, outsource whatever possible and I’m talking like everything, I mean outsource even your housekeeping,etc. Because in those two hours if you can work instead and generate revenue, you can pay for the housecleaner and make a profit. So, like, just like really look at it. And I’m not even saying that to be like, self-serving…
Peter: “Hey , cause I’m an outsourcer.”
Erin: But seriously, it’s so important, just like really look at where you can outsource things, or whatever you need to do because even spending some money sometimes means making more money in that time.
Peter: Completely. Everyone should do the exercise calculating what their hourly worth is and what they can make earning and really start comparing. Should they be raking their leaves or not — and if you like raking your leaves, that’s great and you can do it still — but if you’re really pressed for time, then outsource the heck out of it.
Peter: And if you do, Erin Blaskie at BSETC or Erin Blaskie dot com.
Erin: Yep – well they all know, yeah. You can find – just Google me. That’s the easiest way.
Peter: I’m going to put up a link here as well so everybody will see it.
Peter: Erin – thank you so much, it was such a pleasure talking to you.
Erin: You too!
Peter: Thanks again for doing this. Best of luck to you. I always look forward to seeing videos of Willow on your YouTube Channel and we’ll talk again soon.
Erin: Alright, sounds good.
Peter: Bye, Erin. This is Peter Vogopoulos at Mirasee for Productive Marketing Month. Thank you all talk to you next time.