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Sarah

Keeing on top of legislative changes

KEEPING ON TOP OF LEGISLATIVE CHANGE

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3 questions to ask yourself

RMA Let’s Chat Discussion Group members often list ‘keeping on top of legislative change’ as one of the major headaches they have in their migration practice.

If this is one of your issues too, I invite you to consider and answer the three following questions that may see you wondering what the fuss was all about.

Question 1: Do I (want to) work in that area of migration law?

In recent years, there have been stacks of legislative change in migration law across a broad spectrum of visa types; from refugee to employment, parent to partner. Whilst it is good to have a broad understanding of a variety of visa categories, no one can know it all. That old adage, ‘Jack of all trades and master of none, applies here. If you are not presently working in a particular area of migration law, then ask yourself if you really need to understand the changes at all or in any level of detail. If you are confident to say ‘no’ to prospective work then I believe you do not need to know about any change in that specific area. If you receive an enquiry, you can pass it to a colleague or refer the enquirer to the MIA site to find a member in a particular practice area or to the MARA website. 

If, however, you are working in that particular area of migration law then, yes, you need to know!

Question 2: Do I need to be on top of it now?

Hopefully gone are the days of last minute legislative changes. Recently we have seen legislative changes  notified well ahead of time, giving time to consider the effect of the changes before they are implemented and allowing RMAs to advise clients to change strategies as appropriate.  But consider whether, in reality, you need to be on top of the legislative changes right now. Take for example the Sponsored Parent (Temporary) visa that was introduced in April / July 2019. Whilst you may practise in the area of family visas, did you need to know the finer details six months in advance? Now the answer may very well be yes. But not necessarily. So consider if you need to be on top of the changes immediately and if so, allocate the time to do so. 

Question 3: Where do I start? 

When new regulations come out, they are not yet integrated with the existing legislation. To read them, therefore, you have two options. If your answer to Q2 is yes, I do need to be on top of it now, then you will open the legislative instrument and have the existing regulations open on Legendcom and go through each provision one by one. This will take time and patience and is best done quietly and alone. 

If your answer to Q2 was ‘no’ then you may wait until they are incorporated into the main legislation, making it easier to read wholistically. 

In the interim, access news and updates on the DoHA website, skilled newsletters and industry newsletters.

And of course, liaise with your colleagues through the Let’s Chat Discussion Group’s FaceBook page and monthly meetings. During 2020, at each monthly meetings, we will have a 10-minute Masterclass delivered by a subject matter expert on different visa categories and topics. During the year, we will also hold Zoom sessions to discuss specific issues or topics arise that are of interest to members. 

By keeping focused on the work you do, by not trying to be all things to all people, and by accessing valuable resources (including yourself), you can address legislative change in a methodical manner, updating and integrating your knowledge and skills to be a valuable asset to your clients. 

Time Management: 101

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Ten steps to getting it all done

Are you always feeling like you don’t have enough time? Do you wonder how some people seem to manage to get it all done with time to spare?

Don’t despair!

We all have the gift of 268 hours in each week and we do have the power to use those hours in a way that works for us.
But before we get into the nitty gritty, consider, what does time management mean for you? Does it mean you have hours left over at the end of the week to put your feet up with a cool drink and magazine? Or that you complete a certain amount of client work each week? What are you trying to achieve when considering time management? What isn’t working for you at the moment. If everything were ‘perfect’ what would your week feel like?
Managing your time in a realistic way can ensure you get the most important tasks done, have less stress in your life, but still be productive.

Let’s look at the 10 steps to getting it all done …

  1. You will create and customize your own template week. Either go to your online calendar – 7 day view – or make a printout of a ‘7 day week’.

  2. On your week, block out days / times that you definitely are not available to work. For example school drop offs and pick ups, family and domestic time, study time, down time, whatever fills your life when you are not working. If you want to colour different types of tasks, go for it! You could make study blue, family green etc. (Save three+ colours for step 8!)

  3. How many hours do you have left for working? Write down this number.

  4. Open a new document in your word processing software. List the tasks that you undertake as a migration agent. Cover all aspects of your business from visa preparation to sending agreements, banking fees to updating your ASIC. Brain dump everything that comes to mind. It may help to review your activities over the past couple of weeks.

  5. Now, group these tasks together into work groups.

    For example:

    Client tasks – answering enquiries, preparing applications, Operations – preparing and sending agreements, invoicing, managing IT, renewing subscriptions, insurances and registrations
    Strategy – updating business plan, marketing review, financial reports



  6. Assign a percentage to each work group to represent, on average, the percentage of time spent each week doing these tasks, as a group.
    You may come up with a spread like this, for example:

    Client 60%
    Operations 25%
    Strategy 15%


  7. Using the number of working hours you calculated in point 3, calculate the number of hours for each work group based on the percentages you worked out in step 6.

    For example, if you work 30 hours per week, using the percentages in our example in step 6 you would have the following hours:

    Client – 18 hours
    Ops – 7.5 hours
    Strategy – 4.5 hours


  8. Now is the fun part of planning your week.

    When do you like doing what tasks? Do you prefer to do some times of tasks in the morning and others in the afternoon?

    It has been proven that there is more efficiency in doing similar tasks together. For example, having a specific client appointment day. Or doing your marketing activities on one morning each week.

    Assigning a colour to each of your work group types (in my example client, ops and strategy), mark out / colour in your weekly planner, on what days and times you will do the number of hours you have calculated for each group of tasks.

    In our example above, you might do your client work across three days of six hours each between 9am and 3 pm.

    Now, your highly coloured week is your road map of what you are going to be doing each and every day. Of course you need to build in some flexibility, but sit back and take a look and consider how you feel about your week. Adjust as you need to. Hang in there! Only 2 more steps to go!

  9. Back on your computer, make a list of your current to do items, all the tasks you currently have on hand in relation to each of your work groups. For client work, don’t list each and every activity (!!) but you could put for example– prepare 186 visa and documents, draft GP statement, prepare LMT. For other work groups you may want to be more specific, for example, write wording for website home page. You now have a gigantic list of all the stuff you need to get done.

    Don’t panic, the final step will help you get it all under control!

  10. From your big list, choose the TOP 3 priorities for each work group. Write these tasks either in your online diary, or I like to use a big square colourful post it note (I will tell you why in a minute!).

    Now, when you turn up for your next work day, you can see in your calendar what type of work you are doing during those hours. And, you have your first 3 most important tasks clearly written down. Do those tasks one by one until they are done. Yes, you will have interruptions but don’t be distracted! The key to success is sticking to your guns and keeping the end in mind.

And why do I love post it notes?


I stick them on my monitor so I can stay focused on my three important tasks. And then, I get immeasurable joy out of crossing out each item as I finish it, then scrunching up the post it note when I am done and throwing it in the bin. Get out the next post it and write the next most important 3 tasks down until your block of time for that work group is finished!

Put these steps into practice and really give them a go.

Try it out for a week. What works and doesn’t work? Do you need to jiggle any of the blocks of time, do you need to spend more time on one work group and less on another?

Turn off the phone, tell colleagues / family that you are unavailable and head down tail up and get that stuff done!
Attract the right clients

MARKETING 101 for Registered Migration Agents

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6 Steps to get More of the Clients you Want (and less of those you don’t want!)

As a registered migration agent, we know you want more clients. It ain’t easy out there, but it is possible to align yourself so that you can attract more of the clients that you want.
Clients come from two sources: existing and new. 
Existing clients are ambassadors for you and your brand. They may be repeat clients themselves (think chain migration) or may be a great source of referrals. They are easily accessible and you don’t need to convince them about how fantastic you are: they have already experienced your service. Existing / former clients are a gold mine. Access them first.
The other source of clients is people you don’t know and who have not been referred to you. They are cold prospects. They will take more time (and your time = money) to convince that you are the registered migration agent for them. Your conversion rate will not be high unless your marketing messages are spot on. 
The good thing is that you can simultaneously market to both groups. The cold prospects may be a slow burn whilst the existing clients may provide you with more immediate, direct or referral business. 
In this article, I have the cold prospect in mind however you can still use all the steps to address the needs of your existing / previous clients.
In this 101 lesson, we start at the very beginning and run through the six basic steps you must complete to form the basis of a successful marketing plan for your business.
Here are the six steps: 
  1. Decide the type of work you want to do
  2. Define your target market
  3. Find their watering holes
  4. Identify their pain point or aspiration
  5. Consider your response to their needs
  6. Plan your compelling content
So, let’s look at these in more detail.

Step 1: Identify the work you want to do

As the saying goes ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. To stand out and offer services above and beyond others, I recommend becoming a master of no more than a handful of different visa categories. So, what to focus on? Take a piece of paper – yes, pen and paper! – and make a Q&A table then answer these questions for yourself:

  • What type of migration work do I like doing? Make a list.
  • What work do I want more of?
  • What am I good at?
  • Which area is most profitable for me?
Take a look at your answers; where is the intersection between all these factors?  List the top five types of matters that meet your own criteria. Imagine getting more of these types of cases. Will you be happy with that? If so, these are the services that you will target in your marketing.

Step 2: Define your Target Market


– nationality
– age (range)
<- occupation (either be specific or identify on which list their occupation should fall eg MLTSSL / STSOL / ROL)
– location (are they onshore or offshore)
  • Marital status
  • Educational qualifications held
  • Employment experience 
Consider these attributes for each of the visa types you will be working on.
You can now create your ideal client avatar (join Let’s Chat Discussion Group for free access to a resource which will help you do this), even giving him/her a name! Labelling your target client will make him/her easily identifiable and you can start building a relationship with your hypothetical client!
By now you will have a matrix like this:
Work I am seekingTarget client
Partner visaName: Jane  

Age: early 30s Nationality: British Occupation: marketing Location: UK/ Europe

482 visaName: Avnesh  

Age: 26 Occupation: ICT Professional Employment: 4-6 years

Step 3: Find the Watering Holes

You can only communicate with your ideal clients when you know where to meet them. Whether you wish to meet them in person or online, you still need to know where to find them.
In person you can meet new prospects or referral partners through networking in business groups, chambers of commerce, industry associations, cultural organisations and even in RMA or Education Agent networks where you may be referred work in your specialist areas.

Online, you can study your demographic to find out where they hang out. Which social networks do they access? Is it Twitter, Linked-In, FaceBook or WeChat? Drill down, for example in FaceBook, are there any particular groups that exist for your client avatar. Or access discussion for a such as reddit, Quora, and Digg.

And there still remains a third option of accessing prospects through newspapers and magazine  – both hard copy and virtual. These could be ethnic media, industry newsletters or publications or mainstream newspapers. Each publication will have a circulation and reader profile which you can access to see if they are a match for your target client.
Spend some time working through the options of where your clients hang out, where they are asking questions and where they are seeking answers. Identify which watering holes are relevant to each of the client types you have identified in Step 2. 

Step 4: What are their pain points or aspirations?

Now you know where your target client is hanging out, you need to listen to them to find out what are their top of mind pain points or aspirations. What are they always asking about? Where is there uncertainty lurking? What are the main problems they are trying to solve. What are they hoping to achieve? What will it mean for them or their family to achieve an Australian visa?
Take the time to be a fly on the wall and listen to the interactions between your prospects and others. Delve down into their questions and identify the gaps in their knowledge. 
reate a table like the sample below and, for each of your client avatars, list their questions, pain points or aspirations.
Client avatarWatering holePain point or aspiration
JaneFacebook Confused about documents to provide
AvneshLinked InWants to know about pathways to residence
In the next step you will be starting to provide answers and identify what resources you have available to solve their problems. 

Step 5: How can you respond to their needs?

Now that you know what the pain points or aspirations are, consider what you can offer your client avatars. 
If, for example, your target client group is always asking about how to prepare a statutory declaration for a Partner visa, consider what service you offer, or what information you can provide, to solve that issue for them. 
For each client avatar, complete an additional two columns in your table for your offer and any resources you can provide to entice the prospect. 
Here is our example, updated: 
Client avatarWatering holePain point or aspirationMy offerSupporting resources 
JaneFacebook Confused about documents to provideConsultation

 

Visa preparation service

Checklists
AvneshLinked InWants to know about pathways to residenceConsultation

 

TR and PR services

Advisory service to companies

Visa Information sheets

Step 6: Plan & write your compelling content

You are clear about the clients you wish to target, where you can find them, what they are asking and what solution you have to offer them! Great! You are ready to bring it all together into your content marketing plan. That is, exactly what you are going to say and when.
At this point you might start getting very excited! Yes, excitement is good! But remember, start slowly and don’t over-reach. Consistency is key. By starting small you can build and build. That is much better than doing too much and flopping.
Using your online calendar or a print-out of a ‘month’, create a three-month plan as follows:
  • Consider if you will have a theme for each month or if you will address two or more client avatars across each month. Write this focus area at the top of the month
  • Consider the frequency of your activities and schedule them in your planner. Again, don’t overdo it. You might for example start with three Facebook posts a week and one networking event per month. For networking events, specifically decide which you will attend and find the next date and slot it into the planner
  • Schedule time to create your content! Set aside enough time to create any written content. Especially once you start keeping a notebook of ideas, you will get quicker at this, but initially you may several hours to get your ideas down. And remember, every picture tells a story, so keep time to find great images. Of course, at this step (or any of them), you could hire a marketing gun to help you. Consider students and new graduates for cheap enthusiasm.

Et voila!

You have a customized quarterly marketing plan that targets the clients you want by providing useful and appropriate information and resources to meet their needs.
Whilst there are many other elements to consider in marketing – pricing, service suite, pipelines,  – the above six steps are a fundamental starting point that will see you becoming visible and approachable. Meaning more prospects crossing your threshold ready for you to make a sale.
For your free marketing planner and other useful marketing tools, join THE RMA NETWORK’s Let’s Chat Discussion Group.

5 Items to Unpack Before you Take Your Dream Holiday

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Did you recently enjoy the Easter / Anzac Day / School’s-out combination of holidays? Do you feel refreshed after a couple of weeks ‘on leave’?
I’m joking, right?
Yes, just kiddin’ ya! You had to check your emails morning and night, clients were calling you not realizing it was a Public Holiday or you were still had to work on an urgent RFI.
What if I told you there is a way to have a real holiday break, keep your computer turned OFF and return to work refreshed and with your business intact? Imagine how relaxed you would feel…
Well let me share the 5 ‘Must-Do’s when it comes to taking your dream holiday.

1. Plan Plan Plan

Just like you plan your holiday, working out where you will stay, what you will see and do, working out your budget, so you also need to plan your absence from work.
This will require you to be organized, and have systems in place to allow you to quickly analyse your current and projected workload, deadlines and expiries. Whether you use a bespoke system such as Migration Manager, Officio or other specialist migration software, or you just use a spreadsheet to keep track of your client files, ensure that you have a system that captures factors such as visa expiry, English language test expiry, age and other deadlines and proposed lodgement date. Ensure that you have a status field that you keep up to date so that you can see whether you are on track to meet your deadlines.
Regardless of you taking a holiday, this system is basic to the administration of your migration practice but comes into its own when you want to take a break.
With all data recorded for each file, filter your data and see whether any deadlines fall within the period covering one week before your holiday to one week after your return. Highlight these files for action. Determine what actions you must take and what actions you require your client to take and mark it out on a planner (I find handwritten best).

2. Communicate

You work like a superhero but you are in fact human, and it does not hurt your clients to realise that!
When you communicate proactively with your clients about taking time off for a holiday, they will (ok sometimes grudgingly) respect your space and leave you in peace. Communicating early will mean that you can allay your clients’ concerns well in advance and let them know the plan of action in relation to their file.
Create an email responder that warns the sender of your intended absence. Do this one month out from your holiday. Invite clients to contact you should they have any concerns so that you can deal with their questions early.
On your last day at work, update your email responder to indicate whom the sender should contact in your absence, providing full contact details.

3. Act Early

Avoid the last-minute rush to lodge applications before you go on leave. Small fires are sure to pop up that will demand your last-minute attention. So, deal with what you know is on hand as early as you can.
Remind clients to provide you with the documents or information that you need to prepare their application for lodgement prior to you going on leave or after your return.
As per your plan (step 1), determine which files you can start and finish before you go, which you can do your part and leave the rest to the client (eg giving them a checklist, sending them to do LMT) and which you will start on your return.

4. Delegate

Sharing the load, before you go as well as while you are away, will give both you and your clients peace of mind, knowing that the work will be done and there is someone managing it and is available should an urgent matter arise.
If you have staff, consider their capacity and delegate work to them based on your plan in Step 1. And remember to delegate early to them too so that they have time to ask you any questions before you go.
If you don’t have staff consider asking a colleague or a locum to manage your files in your absence. Consider whether you need someone to prepare applications, manage phone calls (can these be diverted to a service?) and emails (forward them to …?), or just be a point of contact. Will you share your immi account log in (consider using a password sharing service such as Lastpass) so that they can check the correspondence and outcomes? Will you forward emails to them?
You may feel uncomfortable leaving your files with another agent however, if your database / spreadsheet is in order then you should easily be able to highlight those files that may require attention and on which the agent may be able to respond directly. They can always contact you on the phone as required – perhaps set up a designated time every couple of days to have a catch up. In that way you still have your finger on the pulse but don’t need to worry about the nitty gritty of the day to day.

5. Wind Down

We all know that a high percentage of us get sick as soon as we go on holiday. The build up of stress prior to taking a break suddenly implodes and our immune system can’t cope.
In the week before your holiday, start winding down. By now you should have managed the bulk of all your work and put out any major fires. You should be spending your time tying up loose ends, working on smaller action items and delegating to your team or locum.
Consider taking some vitamin or mineral supplements at this time. Especially if travelling overseas, speak to your health professional or compounding pharmacist about what supplements will support your immune system.
Get yourself in the peak of health so that you can enjoy your holiday to the max!
If you are willing to plan your holiday absence from work, I am sure you will reap the rewards from these 5 steps. Try them before your next holiday and let me know how you get on!

 

The ART and SCIENCE of PERSUASION

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The Advanced Evidence and Advocacy Practicum organised by Legalwise which I attended on 2 March, did, I was pleased to discover, turn out to have content that I could re-shape from the litigation context and consider within our migration context.

Many elements addressed by the speakers (I heard: Sydney Jacobs, 13 Wentworth Selbourne; John-Paul Redmond, 53 Martin Place; Zoe Hillman, 8 Selbourne) replicate elements we use when submitting applications, responding to RFIs and on appeal. We use these elements to create persuasive and supported arguments to achieve the positive outcome our client desires.

The art of persuasion can only exist, however, when we can first persuade ourselves. If you believe in the justice of your client’s situation and believe that your client’s application falls within the rules, then you are more likely to be able to persuade the decision-maker to your point of view.

Once convinced yourself, you then need to build a strong case theory. ‘What is case theory?’ I hear you ask. It is the logical, persuasive story of what happened. Laying strong foundations from the beginning using your case theory, provides a structure within which you can develop your arguments and prepare your evidence, respond to an RFI, or later lodge an appeal.

When developing your case theory ask yourself these questions:
– What is the legislative criterion?
– What is in dispute?
– What is the evidence?
– How does the evidence match the criterion?

From there you can structure your argument:
– Identify the issue in contention
– Take a position (there could be one or more options here)
– Put forward your position supported by relevant evidence
– Identify the opposing view (eg Departmental policy, or contentions raised in an RFI)
– Propose an argument to counter that opposing view.

Clearly, then, your argument must be based upon evidence. Let’s review some key rules about evidence:
– Evidence should be relevant to the issues in contention
– Evidence should be accurate
– Documentary evidence should speak for itself ( your role is to explain how it fits your case theory)
– Witness statements should be relevant, non-argumentative, accurate and based on what they have witnessed with their sense

When using experts to support your client’s case (for example to show psychological distress, relating to medical issues, addressing financial matters), consider the following:

– Qualify your expert. What is their precise discipline and is it relevant to your client’s defined issue? What training or study have
they in this area? How much experience does he or she have of similar situations?
– Does your client’s case rest solely on this one expert’s evidence? It shouldn’t. Rather, the expert’s evidence should be supported
by other pieces of evidence.
– Is the expert’s opinion relevant to the issue?
– Is the expert’s report persuasive, logical and understandable? Consider it from an outsider’s point of view – use the ‘would my
grandmother understand this’ test!

Recommend your expert provides his / her report with a clear structure such as:

Bio
Outline of the question being addressed in the report
Assumptions on which the report is based
Opinion

Slotting your evidence into your case theory, you will lead the decision maker step by step to the inevitable conclusion you wish them to draw. Using a structured approach is a practical tool to help you move from the quagmire of a position under attack to an unassailable argument in your client’s favour.