Virtual Assistant Legal Stuff – What You Need and Why

pencils-21186_640There’s often chat in the virtual assistant world regarding contracts versus terms and conditions and whether the formal approach of issuing contracts actually puts off potential clients. Some hold the opinion that published terms and conditions are enough and that displaying these on your web site or issuing them to new clients should be sufficient. To an extent I agree that issuing a 10 page contract to a new client who is only looking to work with you for a few hours on a one-off project can seem a little over doing it. Of course in this instance you should ask for payment up front. But when it comes to long term clients, a word of caution…

Several years ago I had my first non-payer. We had worked together for several months and he had always paid on time. Then, over a period of a few months things slipped and he ended up owing me a couple of thousand pounds. When I had the audacity to ask when my invoices would be paid, his response proved that actually he no longer needed my services and was simply looking to get as much work as possible from me for free before the penny dropped with me that he was actually not intending to pay. The long and short of it was that I eventually got the money but it was after a lengthy court process and a lot of stress.

Lessons learned? I immediately took advice on what should be included in my contract because, although I had one at the time, it was nowhere near watertight enough and I hadn’t included things I could charge for such as penalties for late payment and interest. If at the time I could have produced his signed contract accepting these clauses, I could have been much more effective in collecting the debt before it went through the whole legal process. After all, if you were presented in an option of pay the invoiced amount today, or in 7 days it will cost you 15% more in penalties plus interest, wouldn’t you pay now?

I also now only accept clients on a pay up front basis and have never had any prospect or client comment or complain about this way of working. This in itself won’t cover you completely as there are always the extra hours you may work over and above what has been prepaid, and then of course there are the additional expenses which can mount up. But, in general, it does prevent a similar situation from occurring again.

In summary I would suggest you do both, get a proper, legally binding contract in place AND charge your clients up front for the hours you will work for them. Contracts for both short term ‘Pay As You Go’ clients and those on more long term ’Retainer’ arrangements can be found at the VA Success Group.

For a selection of templates you can use within your virtual assistant business, take a look at the Legal Templates Pack provided by the VA Success Group here http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk/products/virtual-assistant-document-templates/

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Becoming a Successful Virtual Assistant

calculator-178164_640Many Virtual Assistants start out in their businesses by working towards the finish line of what they perceive to be a successful VA business. They will research online what everyone else is doing and strive to achieve something very similar. They will spend time deciding what services they will offer, how they will offer them and going about finding the right clients. But before this process really starts, you should begin by defining what success really means to you. You need to drill down and establish the type of success that you want and how you want to achieve it.

Successful doesn’t necessarily have to mean the largest or most profitable VA business. It could be a business that fits in around your lifestyle, or one that develops a fantastic reputation within a very niche market.

It’s also important to understand that there are several levels or models of virtual assistant businesses you can operate. From the one-man band to the office based team, these can follow in sequence as you grow or you can start with you favoured business model in mind and develop that to its full potential. As you also develop with experience, practice and gaining the knowledge that you need for the job, you will be able to become more successful with your business. Continuing to define what you need and constantly growing into your virtual assistant business will help you to find your success.

The most important thing to keep in mind with your virtual assistant business is that the satisfaction should come from the process, not the goal. No matter what stage you are at, there is always room for growth. This may mean that you will grow into success by redefining the services that you offer or by continually refining your professional standards. Or it may mean developing your skills in certain areas or learning new ones to make you a well-rounded and progressive virtual assistant. The more you know and the more you can offer, the better of a chance you will have at continuing your success.

Becoming a successful virtual assistant simply means taking the steps that you need to be successful and achieve your own goals, whatever they may be. By beginning with your own idea of what success in your business would mean to you, and moving forward one step at a time.

To get your business off to a successful start, why not enrol on the online Start Your Virtual Assistant Business Online Course
http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk/products/start-your-virtual-assistant-business-online-course/

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The Secret to Successful Networking Is Following Up Part 2

The first step in this process is to say that you would like to meet with them again and that you will call to arrange a time and place to have a coffee and a chat. Then call when you say you will and make that arrangement.

When you meet for that coffee, make sure you have done some research about the business of the person you are meeting and prepare in advance ideas about how you can help them within their business.

Do they publish an online newsletter you can produce for them? Do they send out information packs or quotations to prospects and could you do this for them? Do they work away from the office most of the time, could you handle their telephone calls or check their email for them?

The more prepared you are the more you will be able to drop ideas into the conversation without sounding as though you are ‘selling’.

Don’t forget also to think about who you know that could potentially be a client or useful contact for your prospect. The whole point of networking is to give and take and if you start the relationship by giving something of value to your prospect, you will instantly win their respect and trust and they will see you as someone they would like to work with in future.

If you would like more advice about networking, check out the Networking for Virtual Assistants Online Course from the VA Success Group http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk/products/networking-for-virtual-assistants-online-course/

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The Secret to Successful Networking Is Following Up Part 1

contentWe have all heard that networking is a successful strategy for gaining clients for your virtual assistant business, but why are some people very successful at it while others wonder if they’ve just wasted their money and eaten too many fried breakfasts?

One of the most common reasons for the divide between who is successful at networking and those who are not, is those that are successful follow up.

By following up I don’t mean saying hello again at the next networking event, I mean actively keeping in contact with the people you meet outside of the networking event. How often have you met someone at an event who has expressed some interest and could use your expertise, but you never heard from them again? Did you follow up with them after the event, or did you leave it to them?

You are the service provider in this relationship so it’s up to you to get in contact with that prospect and tell them, in whatever way is appropriate, how you can help them.

Look out for part 2 of this article coming soon.

If you would like more advice about networking, check out the Networking for Virtual Assistants Online Course from the VA Success Group http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk/products/networking-for-virtual-assistants-online-course/

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Building On Start Up Virtual Assistant Success

picjumbo.com_IMG_4340Any successful Virtual Assistant that’s been bouncing around the industry for a while will tell you that the road to success in virtual assisting can be a bit of a bumpy ride.  Becoming a self-employed business owner can often be a scary prospect as suddenly, there’s no-one to ask. No-one to tell you what equipment you need, no-one to ask how to best protect yourself with your client agreements, no-one to ask about the best way to grow and expand your business.

The VA Success Group was set up to deal with these issues and you probably already know that there’s a hugely informative Start Your Virtual Assistant Business Online Course to teach you all the basics and you can download all sorts of Document Template packs to help you with the legal aspects and client management.

But what happens when your business is up and running and you decide that this year is going to be the year when you really push your business forward. What do you do?

The first thing is to identify what ‘success’ really means for you. It sounds simple but it is different for everyone. Do you want a six figure income, or do you simply want to replace your old full time salary and only work part time hours? Or do you even want to build a highly successful business that you can then sell on as a going concern and retire on the profits?

Once you’ve decided what you want to achieve, the next step is to decide how you will get there. You need to set out your objectives, define your marketing strategy, set your budget and organise your operational process to take it all into account.

You’ll also need to decide if you already have all the tools you need, or if you need some training or professional advice in order to achieve your goals. You may also need someone to hold you accountable as without it, it’s all too easy for the big goals to get lost in the minutiae of the day to day.

Keep your goals written down and place them somewhere you will see them every day, if they are in the forefront of your mind you will be more likely to take advantage of any unexpected opportunities that come your way. Also remember that there are many paths to reach your goals, and if one goes a bit off track, try another.

If you would like advice and support from two of the most successful virtual assistants in the UK today, people who have really been there and done it’, along with the feedback and accountability of a whole group of VA’s dedicated to building their own successful businesses, the VA Success Groups Mentoring programmes could be just what you need.

If you would like some 1 to 1 help from Justine with moving your business forwards, take a look at the mentoring calls available here: http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk/products/virtual-assistant-mentoring/

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Gaining Control of Your Social Media

hootsuiteAre you spending hours a day posting Tweets and Facebook updates, or more time than you can spare on keeping up with LinkedIn and the like?

Have you heard of Hootsuite? Hootsuite will allow you to post social media updates across multiple accounts and even schedule them in advance. There are analysis tools, so you can see your success and you can even have multiple contributors to your social profiles without sharing passwords (so great for nervous virtual assistant clients!).

The basic package is free so get yours here today!

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Virtual Assistant Marketing – Niche to Streamline Your Efforts

contentMany Virtual Assistants shy away from the idea of marketing to attract a particular niche as they are concerned that they will be turning away hoards of prospects from other industries. But if you have ever tried to be everything to everyone, you’ll soon learn that you end up appealing to no-one and as your marketing efforts are spread too thinly, you end up out of pocket and frustrated by poor results.

When you market to a niche you are targeting a very small select group of people. With research you can identify what that group of people have in common and in what areas where they will all be struggling. This way you can tailor your marketing message, the words that you use, to suit the target market. For example, if you were to target a group of individuals that were constantly away from home due to their line of work, you could say something in your marketing material like ‘Are you constantly away from home and worrying that the post is not being dealt with or you’ll come home to find that your car has run out of tax or the boiler has not been serviced?’ Do you see how someone who was away all the time would identify with that question? They may well have already experienced a situation like that or know that it will happen at some point.

Now you can follow up that question with your solution, something like, ‘Our Mail Handling and Lifestyle Management services mean that we can run your home and life for you while you are away meaning that you will never have to be reliant on public transport or have a cold bath ever again!’ Do you see how that would appeal to them?

You can of course use the same approach with any niche market. With a bit of research you can establish where you might be needed and what services you can offer to add value. So don’t forget next time you are out networking, chat to people in niches that interest you, find out what they struggle with and if these are general issues for people in their industry. Then even if that particular person doesn’t need your services yet, you can still tailor your marketing message using what you have learned and target others from their industry.

A little bit more research will also tell you where you can find these people, what publications do they read, what groups or associations do they belong to? When you know what message to put before them, and you know what channels you have available to get in front of them the rest is child’s play. So as you can see, marketing to a niche is an effective way of streamlining your marketing efforts and achieving better results.

If you would like some 1 to 1 help from Justine with moving your business forwards, take a look at the mentoring calls available here: http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk/products/virtual-assistant-mentoring/

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Virtual Assistant Tips – Getting Those First Clients

Face of beautiful woman on the background of business peopleWhen starting your virtual assistant business, after getting together all you equipment, getting excited over your business cards and web site, there comes the sudden realisation that here you are, all ready to go and there isn’t actually a queue of people knocking down your door to work with you. Yikes!

One of the questions I’m asked most often is ‘Where do you get your clients’. Usually the question is asked by new start up virtual assistants, but more recently I’ve been asked by more established VA’s who have started to struggle during the recession. Newbies have generally spent lots of time putting together their business by purchasing equipment and organising their office, but have forgotten the fundamentals of putting together their marketing plan. Then when they are all set up and ready to go and have opened their virtual doors to the world they find that the phone isn’t ringing and the email Inbox isn’t full of enquiries. More established VA’s, once they have enough clients, put marketing on the back burner until such a time as they need to look for new clients again.

If either of these sounds like you, you need to develop a marketing plan, and fast.

Firstly take a long hard look at your contacts and include everyone you’ve ever worked with, all your contacts through previous businesses if appropriate and family and friends. What contacts do you already have that you can ask for referrals? If you are already running a VA business, when did you last ask your clients for referrals? Don’t discount anyone because you think they wouldn’t need your services. They may well know someone who does.

Next take stock of all the skills you have and the industries you have worked in or that interest you. Consider what services can you offer and to whom? If you have been a book keeper with an IT firm for many years, you are going to find it far easier to offer your virtual book keeping services to other IT firms as you know something about their market and their ‘language’. If you target an industry or sector you have experience of, you will be seen as the virtual assistant who is an expert in this field and have an advantage over any other VA.

When you have decided on your target market, or niche, think about how you can reach them. Do they belong to particular organisations, read certain publications or as is the case with one of my niches, do they all drink on a Thursday afternoon in bars within a square mile of a certain point in London?

When you know where to find them, consider how you can get your message to them. While advertising in general is expensive and often pointless unless you can afford to take out a run, perhaps you could write an article for a trade publication, or give a presentation at an event your ‘suspects’ will attend. Think outside of the box for some interesting and inexpensive ideas that will have impact on your particular target market and keep you stimulated and motivated.

Above all, keep marketing as a continual process and recognise that although you may not get clients immediately from you efforts, in time your consistency will pay dividends.

If you would like some 1 to 1 help from Justine with moving your business forwards, take a look at the mentoring calls available here: http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk/products/virtual-assistant-mentoring/

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Your Own Virtual Assistant Business – In A Box

Logo tmHave you always wanted to start your own business as a virtual assistant, but have been put off by the idea of starting from scratch?

Not sure what you need to know, how to avoid all the pitfalls, what to charge or how to make it all a success?

How would it feel if you could just click your heels together and land in your very own successful business that is up and running with all the tried and tested systems and processes already in place? And wouldn’t it be a dream if your business was already a market leader, with a raft of very happy clients and an enviable reputation for service and professionalism.

Click here for your own virtual assistant business in a box

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List Building to Fill the Sales Funnel Tip 10

People magnetPaid advertising. Advertising online is very simple with tools such as Google AdWords. It allows you to appear at the top or side of the main search results for a fee. Be careful with your budget and again, make sure you get these visitors on your list to be really cost effective.

When you’ve implemented a range of these activities to build your list, look at which ones are producing the best results for your particular business. Then step up those activities and let go of some of the lower performing options.
For more information about how to market your virtual assistant business, take a look at the VA Success Groups Marketing for Virtual Assistants Online Course

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