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Entrepreneurs on Vacation

by Dawn Martinello

At the market (2)

I just got back from a week away in Cuba with my son.  It was the first time I’ve ever taken a vacation to anywhere really special, and it was the first time I’ve ever locked up the virtual doors for more than a weekend since I started my business.  I was incredibly lucky that my biggest client happily slapped me on the back when I told her that I not only wanted to go on vacation, but that where I had planned on going didn’t seem to have reliable internet (and even when they did, it was at the speed of dial up).  That left one other large and a couple of smaller clients that needed some work to be handled. No worries there as I have an amazing VA that I feel extra comfy bringing in to help out.

But, shit happens even with the best planning.  Wanna know what went wrong?

Cuba has no freaking internet

I had the entire vacation planned out, told my clients that I was leaving (on my tentative dates), and promised my little boy a Cuban vacation.  Then I checked to see what I needed to do to access internet while I was away.  First, I found that my cell service had absolutely no international data, calling, or text plan.  I had to pay $3 to have the privilege to use my phone internationally and then I was looking at $2.50 a minute to make a call, .60 cents for every text message sent or received, and a whopping $10 per MB to access any internet.

Whoooaaa nelly.  It totally gets better.

Normally when I go away for a day or two, the plan is to work in the room after my kiddo hits the sack around 7:30 or 8:00.  No can do in Cuba.  If you’re in a newer hotel, you *may* find that there is WiFi available, but you have to be sitting in the lobby .. not over in your room.  Not such a great deal when you just promised your kid a week of Mommy and Kid time.  After asking around, I discovered that I could access internet through their machines in the lobby at a cost of around 5 pesos per half hour but it was dial-up speed … when it was working.  Welcome to Cuba.

You may not be heading to Cuba, but you may need to build in a back up plan because something may happen to your precious WiFi access or to your laptop.

My back up plan was putting someone in place to take over the duties for my clients that needed to be done.  For my own business, it meant working a few late nights so that I could get new blog posts scheduled, a couple of newsletters set up to send while I was away, and over a weeks worth of Facebook posts scheduled to show up on my Facebook page.

Last Minute WTF’s

On the day we were to leave, I sent my son to school so I could get some last minute things done without a very excited kid underfoot.  My VA fill in emailed me with a few problems .. there was no updated information for one of the tasks she needed to do.  Hmm, a quick email to the client and five minutes later and I had a face-palm moment.  The gal who normally preps that piece for us is also on vacation and the client was going to be in and out all day.  No worries.  10 minutes of searching on our older document storage page found the info we needed to get it done.  Fire out.  There’s a lesson to be learned here folks.  Keep an up-to-date document that describes how to do each of your tasks for your clients.  I have my own documents for times like these when I need someone to fill in, but with my two larger clients, this is actually a company policy we have in place.  Smart cookies.

There were a few mini tasks that needed to be completed last minute, but that’s only because the other VA on my clients team was swamped and needed a few tidbits taken care of before I rushed out to the airport.  Thankfully, I had everything prepped by the evening before that so handling these last few things was nothing.  The bigger problem actually happened when I picked my son up from school just before we needed to be at the airport.  Not only had I forgot to send him to school with his birthday thank you gift cards, but I forgot to bring them when I picked him up.  Rush, rush.

Technology Fails

Playing in the pool (10)After I came back, my Dad thought it was pretty cool that there were statuses being posted on my fan page while I was gone.  He gave my VA fill-in a high five but in reality, I had prepped everything in Facebook’s scheduler before I left.  Since I’ve been focusing more on Facebook this past month, I was beaming from ear to ear until I cracked things open later that night and realized that something went horribly wrong.  Half way through my week, my posts stopped showing up.  DRATS.  OK, nothing we can do about that, but let’s get these puppies scheduled to go out now.

Facebook threw a monkey wrench into that plan too because there’s no way to reschedule a post once it’s failed like that.  My option was “publish now” or “delete”.  That day, I went in every two hours and hit ‘publish now’ simply because I didn’t have time to revisit my scheduling there but eventually I had to manually add everything in going forward.  A bugger of a problem, but it was another fire out.

There’s been rumblings of late that this is happening more and more frequently with the Facebook scheduler, so you may want to see if you can find yourself an alternative.  I used to recommend Hootsuite, but apparently they’ve been a little wonky too.  Some big wigs have been shouting the praises of Social Sprout, but I haven’t used it yet.  Be forewarned, it’s not free but it has some sweet bells and whistles.

I promise you this.  It all catches up to you


Our vacation was pretty mellow.  It was a huge resort, but with a 7 year old, the only thing he needs is the pool and food – so we didn’t do a lot of walking but I was down right pooped when we got back.  Wednesday was my first full day back at work, but I called it quits at my regular time.  The next day I realized just how much stuff was piling up so I pulled an all-nighter.

I stayed up until 3am catching up on client work and then spent another 30-45 minutes working through some pay-per-click classes I was taking.  When 7am rolled around and I had already been woken up twice during that time, I was zonkered.  Not only that, but with an un-rested body, I ended up catching the mother of all colds.  So here I sit hunched over a warm cup of who-knows-what to make me feel better.

The lesson:  don’t do it all at once.  Add an hour or two on to each day with the understanding that your first week or so back is going to be a little hellish.  Think of it as entrepreneurial tax on vacations.

Tools + Resources


This isn’t something I’d do a lot.  It was pretty taxing despite all the planning and back-ups I had in place.  But we’ve been bitten by the travel bug so it’s going to be a yearly event.  So let’s make sure you have a few tools and resources at your fingertips for your next out-of-town adventure.

1.  Have a back up VA.  Need a few names of people I trust?  Christina Nelson and Michelle Millichip.  If I get hit by a bus, I’d want one of them to step in.

2.  Schedule, schedule, schedule.  If you aren’t using something already, try Hootsuite or Social Sprout a try.  Now, keep in mind that a few folks have run into the same problem that I mentioned with my Facebook scheduled posts when they were using Hootsuite.  You’ve been warned.

3.  Set up an autoresponder for your incoming emails, but only if you need it, and only include the information that is needed.  It doesn’t need to be a huge drawn out story.  Mine read:

{this is an automated reply}

For the first time ever, I’m taking a vacation.  The virtual doors will be re-opened on March 12th – see you then!


There you have it.  A few common sense tips to put in place when you’re closing shop.  Have you taken a vacation in your business?  How did you manage it?

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If you haven’t snagged your copy of The Virtual Assistant Business Plan, you should grab it soon.  Now that I’m back in the office and on the mend, I’m going to be tossing the introductory price on on March 20th.


making it happen

by Dawn Martinello

I can’t remember if it was late 2011 or early 2012, but someone posed a question on Facebook wanting to know the one concrete goal we were shooting for in 2012.  I replied and said “I’m going to get 5 of the seemingly billion products I have been writing or sitting on up for sale”.

First, I’d like to point out that it took me another 2 years to get that first product out.  Second, why’s there so many products-to-be floating around?

Glad you asked.

There’s two amazing highs for me – one when I say I DO and get the party started and the other is when I’m in the thick of creation and reach that finish line. The problem? Everything in between. See, I’m a procrastinator. I have been since the day I was due to be born but didn’t show up for another week. Don’t fret. It’s not a hindrance once you learn how to work with it instead of against it.


that you can do it. Nah, it’s not a bunch of woo woo, but if you don’t think that you can create something fabulous in a short amount of time, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.


even if they seem absurd. Do whatever it takes to make it happen. You’d be surprised at what you can really accomplish when you get down to business. When I was in highschool, I popped out essays and short stories that garnered A+ marks on the first draft – partly because I hated doing homework, but also because I wanted to see if I COULD do it.


I’ve never driven a race car, but I’m pretty sure that they have to focus a hell of a lot more than my Grandpa did when he pulled onto the highway and drove in the slow lane with his blinkers on. Focus. Like a laser.


It’s easy to be sure when the only person involved is you. When you add another person in the mix, it can get complicated. Partnering with friends can show you a side of them you’ve never seen – but don’t take it personally when your BFF wants the equivalent of a matrimonial pre-nup.


I started doing this after I realized that it was just as ridiculous for a procrastinator to begin working on a multi-faceted week long project as it was to have my 4 year old go clean his playroom. When you have toys that are a foot deep, that kid has not clue where to start and chances are – he’ll never finish. But if I tell him to go down and put all his toy cars into the bucket, it’s a cinch. This works everywhere – 3 floor house that needs to be vacuumed? Tell yourself that you’ll JUST get out the vacuum and put it on the first floor. Chances are, that little jump start is all you need to get moving. If you’re like me – once you start, you’ll need someone to pull you off the project later.

It doesn’t matter if you’re starting your business, building a website, launching a product or you’re trying to organize your office. What are your tips and tricks to making things happen?


After sitting on a project for 3 years, I finally launched my first product last week.  Once I had everything written and ready to go, I was able to launch the product within a half hour and at a cost of $5.00.

The first thing you’ll need to do is get yourself an E-junkie account.  Now the account itself is free, and they do have a 1 week free trial to test out their services.

For as little as $5.00 a month you can upload your multi-media books to e-junkie’s server to start creating some passive income. E-junkie does NOT take a share of your profits.  It’s a flat fee and you don’t have to worry about how many sales you have because they don’t charge for additional bandwidth.

There are a lot of great features that will help you protect your work – like an expiration on the download link to prevent theft and sharing.  Say goodbye to sharing copies of your hard work.

They even give you the ability to send out free expirable download links to anyone you want – friends, reviewers, or as a bonus for another product.



Tip 1:  The big thing you need to remember is to set up your profile and include your PayPal email address to accept payments.  Getting paid is good.

Tip 2: The product name will actually be seen by the customer, so be sure it’s indicative of what you’re selling and not just an internal code

Here’s a quick screencast on how to load up that first product.


That’s it.  All that’s left is to write up your sales page and pop in the bits of code for your new product and you’re ready to launch it out to your list.