Managing Your Own Workload – Admin Activities

Back everything up.

If you’ve ever deleted something accidentally or suffered a computer crash, you won’t need to be told about this. Back everything up at least once a day. I use Carbonite and it automatically backs up my whole system everyday at 6pm. Then if I lose something or my system dies, I have a copy of everything easily accessible online.

Managing Your Own Workload

When you are a virtual assistant, especially when your practice is becoming full, you spend a lot of time juggling your schedule so you can fit in all the needs and requirements of all your various clients. As you become more and more busy with client work, it is often easy to forget to schedule in time for the workload associated with running your own business. Tasks such as keeping up with your book keeping and invoicing, making time for your marketing activities and getting outside of the front door to do some networking often fall by the wayside.

If you let these things get away from you, they can quickly become the downfall of your business. I mean, there’s no point in working your fingers to the bone if you aren’t invoicing your clients, or lose track if you’re being paid on time. If you stop marketing your business, what happens if you lose your main clients? With marketing it takes a long time to build the momentum back up again. And if you have stopped networking, a lot of your old contacts will simply assume you have gone out of business. Not a great impression for them to have of your business.

The following series offers some simple steps that you can schedule into your working week to effectively work on your business so that it remains healthy and robust.

Freedom to Escape the Office

If you are anything like me, do you find that you get more done when you are sitting in a quiet cafe or hotel lobby somewhere with a pen and paper or bashing away on a laptop, than when trying to concentrate intently to complete the same tasks when you are in the office and being distracted by the telephone and constant ping of email alerts. I find that if I have a creative piece of work to complete, escaping to another environment helps me get everything done in record time. And now I’ve discovered how I can be in the office when I’m out of the office, and no, I don’t have a clone!

I’ve discovered Freedom, that is, Freedom4 Wi-Fi. Freedom4 Wi-Fi allows you to benefit from high speed wireless broadband wherever you are, using Wi-Fi hotspots. On the Freedom4 website you can type in details of where you are, be that at your home office or out on the road, and how far you want to travel, it will then locate the hotspots nearest to you. You’ll find it comes up with a whole list of cafes, hotels, bars, airports and stations where you can connect. It then gives you the addresses and a map of where they can be found and once you are there, all you need to do is enter your login details and you’re online. If you are already out and don’t have access to the website you can text for your nearest locations. So now you can be “in the office”, when you’re actually in the pub or cafe, genius!

For more information visit: http://clkuk.tradedoubler.com/click?p=64881&a=1264821&g=17222896

Do You Skype?

I’ve always tiptoed around using Skype for the simple reason that I have quite enough telephones to deal with already and when I first used it many moons ago, I would have the situation where I’d be on the office phone and during the conversation my mobiles would ring, followed closely by my PC speakers as someone else tried to get through on Skype. But recently I’ve thought it deserved a second look and now I’m converted. First of all I discovered that you can change your status so that you can appear busy or offline so no more multiple ringing telephones to raise my stress levels. When I’m busy or on another call I now just set the status to “not available”. Of course we all know that Skype to Skype calls are free, which is great when we are all feeling the pinch and trying to keep our costs down. Clients love it too, especially when they are abroad. Did you also know that for the minute monthly subscription of £1.95 plus VAT you can have free unlimited calls to all UK landline numbers? And with any subscription package you also get a free online number which means that anyone who doesn’t use Skype can call a normal number from their telephone and it comes through your Skype, so now you can go and work in your favourite coffee shop and still be contactable by telephone.Then I discovered all the other amazing other things you can do with Skype such as conference calls and video calling – great for client consultations. You can also forward your Skype calls to your landline or mobile. Now I’m asking myself, do I really need a landline?

 

For more about Skype click the link below:
http://www.ukava.co.uk/html/inthe_news_sept_08.html

Niching to Streamline Your Marketing Efforts

Many 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 you 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.

Copyright 2008 by Justine Curtis

http://www.ukava.co.uk

Justifying Your Rates

Did you know that according to a recent survey, the average office worker is unproductive for 960 hours a year? That’s over 50% of their working day spent chatting, emailing friends, surfing the Internet, anything but actually working. Now there’s a nice fact you can use when asked to justify your hourly rate!

Getting Those First Clients

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 who have 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.

If this 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? 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. Copyright 2008 by Justine Curtis http://www.ukava.co.uk

Fed Up With Receiving Files You Can’t Open?

If you are using Microsofts Office 2003 you may have started to notice that you are receiving documents ending with .docx. These have been made using the 2007 version of the software and can cause endless frustration as you can’t open them in previous versions of the programme. That is of course unless you have downloaded this patch!
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=941B3470-3AE9-4AEE-8F43-C6BB74CD1466&displaylang=en#QuickInfoContainer

Carbonite – online backup made simple (and cheap!)

Hands up who backs up all their data regularly? And as well as backing up everything onto another hard drive, memory sticks or CDs and DVDs, who also backs up online? If you don’t what happens if your office catches fire, or on a very topical note, if you have a flood? Aside from those catastrophes, how many times have you backed something up only to find that when your computer dies and you need those backed up files, the back has failed or you simply forgot to do it? Did you know online back up is easy, cheap and secure and once it’s set up you can forget all about it? Welcome to Carbonite, a genius little programme that backs up everything you need without fuss or drama. Install the software in minutes and tell it what files you want to back up and let it get on with it. Then once it’s completed the initial back up of everything you need, it just sits there in the background, updating files and documents in the backup folder as you update the files on your computer. You don’t have to remember to do anything, it does it all for you. And all this for just $49.95 per year, which at today’s exchange is a little over £25. Not much for complete peace of mind is it? Oh yes, and did I mention the free trial?

For more information visit:
http://www.tkqlhce.com/click-3154309-10544221

Who answers the phone for you?

Do you offer your clients call handling? And if you do, do you answer the calls yourself or do you use a third party? And who answers your business calls when you are not in the office?

Would your business, or that of your clients, benefit from a polite, efficient team of 3 receptionists?  All calls are answered in your company name, or that of your clients, giving you a professional look as well as taking away the worry of what calls you are missing while you are out of the office.

For more information visit: http://www.officefront.co.uk/

What a Palava – Your Event – Your Team

You have been given the task of organising the next gathering of important clients or colleagues. You rightly demand the highest levels of quality and service to create that special atmosphere that will impress every guest. It could take hours, even days, to source the caterers, flowers and many other services that are needed to create the right mood…and you still have your day to day responsibilities… but help is now at hand…

A new service has been launched specifically for Personal Assistants and Virtual Assistants, with the aim of making your lives easier when faced with the task of organising that important drinks reception or dinner. whatapalava is a service with a difference. You will maintain total control of your event, whilst having complete access to every member of the team. This allows you to be confident that your detailed requirements are being attended to by each of our specialist team members. This approach during the build up to the event enables any changes to your original specification to be incorporated, whilst the budget remains firmly within your control.
Leon Warner, co founder of whatapalava explains…

Throughout over twenty years of personally performing at high profile corporate events, it has become apparent that the unenviable task of organising the Summer drinks party or Christmas event usually falls in the lap of the assistant to the CEO or MD…and a major task it always proves to be. It can take hours of internet searching and dozens of phone calls to suppliers in a quest to obtain a quality of service that your company wishes to portray to its guests. And handing control over to an outside party may not always the best approach. Through many years combined experience of high profile corporate events, we have formed “Your Tried, Tested & Trusted Team” of suppliers that work as one unit to create your perfect event. Catering, Flowers, Music and Master of Ceremonies are all available. Our personal and dedicated team have joined forces and pooled their collective knowledge and experience to ensure that any event – your event exceeds all expectations.

Just one phone call gives you access to the whatapalava team who will work to your specification and budget. You will have access to each team member who will be available to offer advice to complement and enhance your ideas where appropriate. You will also be able to keep up-to-date with your project online through your unique iBusiness project folder. You will have secure access to every aspect of your event, including team members, financial matters and all communications.

Because of our unique position in providing our dedicated team…continues Leon…we know that there will never be an issue of one team member tripping over another if your plans unexpectedly change. We will provide a cohesive unit which will deliver results that go beyond your expectations rather than a list of random suppliers. Additionally, by giving you, the organiser, access from day one to each team member, you are ensured peace of mind when it comes to attention to detail that will impress your clients.

whatapalava have a special promotion throughout October and November – all bookings made during October and November for any event held before the end of 2008 will receive a free case of champagne for their event.

For more information, visit www.whatapalava.com/ukava_form.html or call 0844 800 2304.

Calling All Wannabe Virtual Assistants

Are you looking for a training course that will answer all the vital questions such as “is this virtual assistant thing for me and how much money can I make?”

Would you prefer not to be charged the earth for such a course?

Would you be more confident learning from those who are actually running their own successful virtual assistant businesses, those that have been there, done it, and are still doing it every day? We don’t claim to be coaching gurus, we’re real virtual assistants, running real businesses, teaching real strategies to help your create YOUR perfect VA business just as we have.

There is now no need for you to start at the very bottom and find out everything for yourself. We will give you everything you need to know to get started, simply follow the Action Plan you create during the course, use the resources and systems we will recommend to you and you’ll hit the ground running straight away.

To find out more visit: http://www.becomeavirtualassistant.co.uk/

How to Avoid Fatal Virtual Assistant Website Mistakes – Mistake 10

Mistake 10: A website that is “me” focused.

While back in part 1 of this series we talked about personalising your website, don’t spend all of it talking about yourself and how wonderful you are? Although your visi­tors need to know a bit about you, what holds their interest is the knowledge that you understand their problems and issues and have ready-made solutions that resolve those problems. Your visitor will always ask, “WIIFM?” (What’s In It For Me). Answer that question by making your web site about your visitor, not about you.

If you are not sure how to WIIFM your text, hire a professional sales copy writer if you can afford it or try the following format:
Do you struggle with getting your VAT return in on time? We offer a full book keeping service which means that your VAT return will never be late again and you will save expensive fines and a whole lot of stress.

Replace the italics with their pain followed by your solution and the bold italics are your WIIFM.

In summary: Your web site can function as an attractive online brochure, or it can be a client-generating tool to help you grow your business. As a virtual assistant, you need to generate clients from your website in order for your , make the necessary changes and you will get more clients online.

For more tips subscribe to UKAVA: In The News at the top right of this page.

How to Avoid Fatal Virtual Assistant Website Mistakes – Mistake 9

Mistake 9: No testimonials or case studies to demonstrate your expertise.

One of the easiest ways you can create customer confidence in you and your business is to post testimo­nials on your web site. Don’t even think of writing these yourself (I’m sure you wouldn’t) but ask your clients to write something that clearly states what you do for your client and how working with you has improved their business or life, etc.

If you are new to virtual assisting and don’t yet have clients you can ask for testimonials, prepare some case studies outlining a problem and how your ser­vice helped solve it. These case studies are also very powerful in convincing a potential client that you can do what you claim.

For more tips subscribe to UKAVA: In The News at the top right of this page.

How to Avoid Fatal Virtual Assistant Website Mistakes – Mistake 8

Mistake 8: Lack of additional resources and links.

One way to gauge the usefulness and helpfulness of a business is to have a look at their websites resources and links section. For example, the Resources and Links section of the UKAVA website lists a whole range of resources to help new and established virtual assistants and they are often featured in my email newsletter. In many cases the Association receives no compensa­tion for the resource I recommend-I just know that it’s the best source to do a particular task.

Your clients want the same help and advice from you. The more you know about your industry, its problems, and how to find solutions – whether you offer the solution or not – the greater the perception of your expertise and, consequently, the greater value you offer your client.

For more tips subscribe to UKAVA: In The News at the top right of this page.

How to Avoid Fatal Virtual Assistant Website Mistakes – Mistake 7

Mistake 7: Copying every other virtual assistant web site.

As part of vetting the websites that we list on the UKAVA Directory, I have the job of personally checking every potential members website before it is added. It is quite obvious in a lot of cases that virtual assistants have simply visited the websites of their competition and formatted their own site in a similar fashion, but with their own information. I have found elements of my own VA website and articles on many of them, one time even finding a whole website that contained nothing but my website text added to a different design. The designer was blamed for this and it was soon changed but you see my point.

Don’t fall victim to such behaviour and make sure you pique your readers interest by injecting your personality throughout your site. Give visitors a great experience of “you” when they visit. And, flagrantly flaunt your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), so that your visitor instantly realises why they should do business with you instead of your competitor.

For more tips subscribe to UKAVA: In The News at the top right of this page.

How to Avoid Fatal Virtual Assistant Website Mistakes – Mistake 6

Mistake 6: Not mentioning what makes you different, your USP.

When I’m doing online research for a particular product or service, I want to know right away what makes any company unique or different from their competition. Most virtual assistant websites just display a whole list of services they provide. While I agree that you do need to let your prospects know all the bases you can cover, if you love designing databases or have a passion for project management, tell the world about it on your website.

The beauty of this is that you will then tend to attract clients that need those services so you will be doing more of what you love. How great is that?

For more tips subscribe to UKAVA: In The News at the top right of this page.

How to Avoid Fatal Virtual Assistant Website Mistakes – Mistake 5

Mistake 5: Missing or hidden contact information.

Have you ever visited a web site that you think offers the ideal solution to your problem, but you’ve got one question to ask before mak­ing your purchasing decision? You go to the Contact Us page to look for the phone number or an email address, and all you find is a contact form to send your question. How annoying is that. There you were, credit card in hand, and already to buy and now you have to fill out a form and wait…

Web site owners are often reluctant to have their contact info readily available on the web site, as they fear having their email address harvested by spam­mers or having their phone number added to a telemarketing list. There are ways to lessen the likelihood of either issue by using an email spam filter on your computer and, if you a residential line for business, registering the number with the Telephone Preference Service.

For more tips subscribe to UKAVA: In The News at the top right of this page.

How to Avoid Fatal Virtual Assistant Website Mistakes – Mistake 4

Mistake 4: Not Turning Your Website Visitors Into Prospects.

Lots of virtual assistants complain that they get a lot of visitors to their website, but few of them convert into customers. Most marketing texts will tell you that it takes approximately 7 ‘touches’ for a prospect to decide to buy something from you. A visit to your website is just one touch. If you don’t have a system in place for capturing information about your website visitors so you can keep in touch with them, when they are ready to buy they will simply purchase from someone else they have got to know, like, and trust online.

The best tool you can have in place for this purpose is an email newsletter. You can create a regular publishing schedule to be in touch with your contact database, and you can easily demonstrate your expertise via the articles you write and resources your provide.

For more tips subscribe to UKAVA: In The News at the top right of this page.

How to Avoid Fatal Virtual Assistant Website Mistakes – Mistake 3

Mistake 3: Nothing to demonstrate your expertise.

Virtual Assistant websites often boast about how profi­cient they are at solving their clients problems and I’m sure that they do, but where’s the proof?

If you’ve been in business for awhile, you’ve got a good idea of the many problems your customers face, so providing relevant content that addresses these problems moves you into “expert” status. If you are an expert prove it by publishing articles, free downloads and resources for your prospects and clients.

Don’t think of it as giving away your expertise for free — think of it as developing a better educated consumer for your services and products. Will you lose customers because they read your information and implemented the solution without hiring you? It’s possible but unlikely because most prospec­tive customers are unable to do it on their own and will need your expert assistance to help them solve their issues.

For more tips subscribe to UKAVA: In The News at the top right of this page.

How to Avoid Fatal Virtual Assistant Website Mistakes – Mistake 2

Mistake 2: A Lack of a clear call to action on each website page.

Have you ever been to a web site and been completely overwhelmed with all the directions you can go from the home page? There’s navigation buttons left and right and so many options you don’t know where to go next? Then in frustration you click back to the search results and go on to another website. Sound familiar?

Or perhaps you have found a website that had some interesting content or answered some of your questions but you weren’t ready to buy what you were researching just yet. You want to remember the site for future reference but you’re not sure if you’d find it again. You may bookmark it but if it had a newsletter or a free download of some kind you’d sign up just so that you know they’d contact you from time to time and you wouldn’t have to go looking for them next time.

The most effective call to action you can have on your home page and every other page of your website is to offer something for free, whether it’s an eBook, Newsletter, White Paper or Report, but something useful that’s attractive to your target market so that they’ll be eager give you their name and email address to receive your offer.

Many times the call to action is to telephone or email the business for a free consultation. That can be effective to some degree, especially if someone is shopping for an immediate solution to their problem. Overall, however, people want more time to make a deci­sion about doing business with you. They want to determine your credibility and make a decision about whether or not they trust you before deciding to have a personal conversation with you. Expecting someone to call you upon first meeting you (viewing your web site) is not very realistic. However, if they’ve seen enough on your site to want to know a little more, there’s a greater likeli­hood they will part with a tiny bit of personal info (first name and email address) to get a better sense of who you are while still staying anonymous and without making a commitment. Once you have their contact information, they then become a prospective client, and you can market to them as you would to any other prospect in your business.

For more tips subscribe to UKAVA: In The News at the top right of this page.

How to Avoid Fatal Virtual Assistant Website Mistakes – Mistake 1

As part of running the UK Association of Virtual Assistants I spend a lot of time researching online and checking other virtual assistant’s websites. Occasionally I see an outstanding website, but what I usually see is a whole range of similar sites, each one fairly indistinguishable from anther. When a potential client is shopping around online to find a virtual assistant they want to work with, the last thing you want is for that person to be bored in their search from continually reading the same thing over and over again and leafing through the same old format as virtual assistant’s ‘borrow’ from each others websites! If you want to get more clients from your web site, what follows in this series are 10 common mistakes to avoid: 

Mistake 1: The business appears as a nameless, faceless corporate entity.

People do business with people, not websites. This is particularly true when working virtually as your potential client may never meet you in person but will always benefit from ‘putting a face to a name’. Before doing business with you a prospect will want know, like, respect, and trust you in order to let you lose within their business. I become very frustrated when I can’t find any information on the virtual assistant behind a company name, and it often leaves me wondering what they have to hide. Are they actually a full time VA or are they hiding behind a website so their employer won’t find them? I realise many VA firms employ this strategy to appear bigger than they actually are, but don’t you prefer being able to pick up the phone or drop an email to someone you can identify within a company, rather than trying to penetrate a faceless corporate facade. Guess what, so do your prospects.

Put a photograph and a bio about yourself on the website and if you still want to maintain the illusion of size, put yourself as the Founder or Managing Director of the company and use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ in your text.

 

For more tips subscribe to UKAVA: In The News at the top right of this page.

The Importance of Client Consultation

When I first started out as a virtual assistant, more years ago than I care to remember, there weren’t many other VA’s around and therefore not much competition. Nowadays, a sizeable proportion of the clients I take on have worked with at least one other VA in the past. When I ask what differences they notice between how we work and what they have experienced in the past, it is often commented on that what they like more than anything is that we work as a partnership with our clients, being proactive in their businesses and looking for opportunities for them and suggesting ideas, as opposed to those VAs that just sit and wait for work to be delegated to them. So how do we achieve that distinction? Part of it is the mindset. When you make the leap from being an employee to a sole trader or business owner you will quickly realise that if you sit around and wait for work to be delegated, you won’t get very much of it. At that point you learn to make yourself an active member of your clients ‘team’ very quickly or you will soon start to flounder. To give a great impression straight away it’s important to ask the right questions at the first meeting with your potential client, before they sign up. You need to ascertain where you can be most useful to them. What are their weak points? What work they have to do that they continually put off either because there is no time or because they don’t enjoy it? Find out what their plans are for their business. What do they want to achieve? Once the client has come onboard you need to maintain the momentum with scheduled meetings as an ongoing process both with regular and ad-hoc clients. By having detailed monthly catch up meetings, either in person or by telephone, you can identify what is coming up in their calendar and how you can help them by sharing some of that workload. For some really great documents to help you both with initial client consultations and ongoing client reviews, take a look at New Client Pack and Client Management Pack Copyright 2008 by Justine Curtis About the authorJustine Curtis is the Director of My Virtual Assistant and the founder of the UK Association of Virtual Assistants. Justine is the author of Setting Yourself Up As A Virtual Assistant and is co-founder of the VA Success Group along with Emma Walker of CKPA Office Solutions.

Adding In Extra Help By Hiring A Virtual Assistant?

Whether you are a solo entrepreneur, a small business or a large corporation, the question often arises, should you hire a virtual assistant? In this uncertain financial climate, you don’t want the commitment of taking on an employee, but you know that there are a large number of tasks that need to be done. Often these tasks are not a good use of your time, so they keep getting put to the bottom of the pile where they sit becoming more and more urgent. However, you know that working with a virtual assistant or virtual pa is a large leap into a new way of functioning for your business.  If you are determining the best business moves, you may want to evaluate your reasons for getting involved with extra helping hands. The most common reason for hiring a virtual assistant is that there is too much work to be done on the day-to-day running of the business that is taking you away from things that you should be doing.  The best way to evaluate whether or not your business could benefit from using a virtual assistant is to take a look at what you are doing all day.  Keep a record of everything you are doing during your working day, every day for a week, and see what it tells you. If you are spending time on administrative correspondence and not your vision, then a virtual assistant may be a good answer.  This is especially important if you have noticed that your business is beginning to grow or expand or you would like it to but you simply haven’t got enough hours in the day to make it happen. 

Another factor to consider with a virtual assistant is your workload pattern.  If you don’t know how much work you will have, of if your workload is erratic, a virtual assistant is also better option because everything is more flexible.  If you don’t have much work, and you have nothing to delegate, you can usually cancel your contract at fairly short notice and then unlike an employee you don’t need to pay your VA. Your VA is also likely to still be there when you are busy again and want to take up their services .

By hiring a virtual assistant, you will be helping yourself with both time and money.  The simple thing to do is to evaluate your situation.  If you could use some help, but are not ready for the larger step of taking on an employee, or if your home is your office and you simply don’t have the space for an assistant, hiring a virtual assistant is the best option.  This will ensure that you will get the best professional administration support, while saving time and money in the long run.  

For more information about virtual assistants visit: www.ukava.co.uk

To investigate the possibility of hiring a VA for your business visit: www.my-va.com

Advertising Your Virtual Assistant Business on a Budget – Lesson Six – Test Everything

As much as is possible, you should always test your advertising and marketing efforts. You might want to jump in and try a range of different ideas and formats and that’s great, but try and keep tabs on where each enquiry comes from, and which enquiries go on to convert into paying customers.With this data to hand you can then look at has been cost effective and what has not. For example if you paid £500 to join a networking group and attended 50 breakfast meetings costing £10 each over the course of a year, and as a result you got one new client, that client would have cost you £1000 to source. If you put an advert in the UKAVA Directory for £49.95 and over a year that advert resulted in 5 new clients, each client has cost you less than £10 to source. In this scenario you may decide to drop the networking group and advertise more widely in the Directory.

The important point is that you can’t improve on what you don’t measure so if you don’t know what is working for you, and what is not, how can you expect to improve your results next time around?

Sometimes you may find that your lower cost advertising and marketing strategies are the ones that bring you the most business.

For a listing in the UKAVA Directory visit:

http://www.ukava.co.uk/html/join_the_uk_association_of_vir.html

Advertising Your Virtual Assistant Business on a Budget – Lesson Five – Online Presence

 It goes without saying that as a virtual assistant you need a website. But have you really thought about the best way to use it? Some visitors will arrive at your website as result of you telling them about it or seeing the URL on your business card or marketing material.What you really want though is the visitors who have arrived at your website because they are actually searching for a virtual pa. These are not just visitors these are prospects. They have actually gone to the trouble of going to a search engine and entering a relevant term into the search bar and are busy looking through the results to find someone they want to work with. So how do you make sure your website ends up in front of them?

Well search engine optimisation (SEO) companies charge a small fortune for ‘optimising’ your website in an attempt to make is appear at the top of that search engines results. And with good reason. The search engines constantly change their indexing criteria to keep out the spammers so the SEO companies have to consistently keep one step ahead. If you don’t have the budget to compete with the big players the best thing you can do is get listed on their websites. Visitors to their websites will then see your information and click through to your website.

There are several directories advertising virtual assistants and their services in the UK. Ours consistently appears on the first page of Google and can be found at http://www.ukava.co.uk/

Advertising Your Virtual Assistant Business on a Budget – Lesson Four – Press Releases

 Press Releases are useful for generating a buzz about your virtual assistant business. The business editor at your local newspaper will always be on the lookout for a good business story to fill the business news section of the newspaper.

Of course, the business editor understands the economics of running a paper and is more inclined to run your story if you buy advertising in his/her publication, but will still print
stories for special events and openings. Think of an angle, could you offer a competition prize, could you help a local charity.

The important thing to remember about Press Releases is that it must be constructed in the form of a news story. Even if you are a sole proprietorship, quotes from you should be written in a third person format: Jane Doe said, “Your quote here.”

A Press Release should pack the most important information at the beginning of the copy, and leave extra details towards the end.

You should always provide the reporter who gets the task a simple and easy way for him/her to contact you directly. Often the reporter will want to contact you to get details that will enhance their take on your story.

For more information about How To Do Your Own PR visit:

http://www.doyourownpr.com/SJSE-4500/products/do_your_own_pr_ecourse.asp

Advertising Your Virtual Assistant Business on a Budget – Lesson Three – Networking

If up until now you’ve been an employee, you might never have been to a networking event before. The whole idea is that everyone who goes along is a business owner or key decision maker in their business and is there, like everyone else, to promote their product or service. The beauty of networking is that if you attend groups regularly, people get to know and trust you and are happy to work with you if they need a virtual assistant or refer business your way.Now I could write a whole series on the subject of networking alone but these are the basics. If it is your first time networking I would initially go to an informal group as this will help you get your confidence and see how they work. Do an Internet search on networking and you town and you should find a whole range of groups in your area. Have a look for one that takes your fancy and book on. Most groups will let you attend one or two meetings before asking you to take out a membership so make full use of all the free trails until you find a group that you like. Some groups are free but you will find that those that charge a membership fee are often more formal business networking groups and produce more clients and referrals.

Again don’t forget that anyone you speak to may know someone who needs a virtual assistant so don’t dismiss anyone on first impressions and also remember that networking is two way so if you can put those you meet in touch with anyone they would be interested in, do it. You will be remembered for it and that’s the first step in getting referrals.

For more information about virtual assistants and pas visit: www.ukava.co.uk

VA Entrepreneurs Group – Your Last Chance To Find Out More

Tuesday 12th August is your last chance to take part in our free interactive group telephone call to find out more about the VA Entrepreneurs Group. This is your opportunity to hear all about this exciting and inspiring opportunity and ask all the questions you may have. In addition there is a special £250 bonus offer for everyone who attends the live call.

Do you:
Have big ambitions?

Want to have a 6 figure business?

Want more clients?

Want to work with a fantastic group of supportive people?

Register your interest now and we will send you the call info: http://www.vasuccessgroup.co.uk/vaeg.htm

Advertising Your Virtual Assistant Business on a Budget – Lesson Two – Referrals

Sometimes it’s not about whom you know, but about who they know. We’ve all heard the theory about the six degrees of separation, that you are only six people away from anyone you want to get to know. Well the same applies to business. The person you are talking to may not have any requirement for a virtual assistant but who do they know that might?If you make an impression on the person you are talking to they will remember you and possibly refer on to you anyone who may need your services. This is particularly true at networking events, which we’ll cover next time. But how can you make sure that they will remember you and refer you when appropriate. How about offering a referral fee?

A referral fee can be a gift or cash and is usually related to the amount a referred new customer spends. You only pay out on the referral if the potential new client signs up so you have nothing to lose. You may want to offer a free bottle of champagne or gift vouchers for each new referral or perhaps 10% of the first invoice total. It’s up to you but it can be a very effective way of getting your contacts to refer their contacts to you.

For more information about virtual assistants visit: www.ukava.co.uk

VA Success Group Launch Website Design and Hosting Packages for Virtual Assistants

Following the hugely successful launch over the last few weeks of their very useful Document Packs and the extremely exciting VA Entrepreneurs Group, the VA Success Group has this week launched another much needed virtual assistant product to their arsenal, Website Design and Hosting Packages for Virtual Assistants.

With an individually designed 6 page website from just £300 and hosting from as little as £6.99 per month it’s every start up virtual assistants dream. With none of the mystery and vagueness that so often surrounds website design, you get a great Internet presence with everything you need for one very affordable price.

Justine said “We wanted to offer an individually designed website at a reasonable price. So often when you are starting out as a Virtual Assistant the only options that are open to you are off the shelf template sites that are sold over and over again or a site designed by the friend of a friend who never really delivers what you want or simply takes forever. What we are offering allows the VA to have considerable design input so they can express their individuality and develop their branding, and with reasonable timeframes and an affordable price it’s a real winner.”

The hosting packages are scalable too, so when you want to launch your blog or add in a series of auto-responders you can. You can even add a shopping cart so you can have your own online shop.

 

For more information or to get your website underway please contact Emma or Justine on 0844 357 6279 or visit http://www.vasuccessgroup.co.uk/products.htm

Advertising Your Virtual Assistant Business on a Budget – Lesson One – Word Of Mouth

If you’ve just started out as a virtual assistant and you’ve done a piece of work for a client who is pleased with the results, they will talk about it. If you’ve completed a piece of work for a client and they had cause to complain, they will talk about it a lot more.

My advice in the early days is to under promise and over deliver. Think about how you can ‘delight’ your customer. What can you add or improve that would really ‘wow’ them? Could you deliver the work early, could you suggest some ideas that might improve it, could you put them into contact with a potential new client that you know? Anything that is seen as going the extra mile and helping your client within their business will be appreciated. When they thank you for it, ask them if they know anyone else who might need your services. Put it in their mind that you are looking for new clients in this way and they may send you referrals. More on referrals next time!

 For more information about virtual assistants visit: www.ukava.co.uk

Calling All Virtual Assistants – A Brand New and Unique Programme to Totally Transform Your Business

Do you want to have a six figure income but wondered how on earth to get there? Do you dream living the entrepreneur life and working when and where you want to, safe in the knowledge that your business is still growing and thriving without you? If you have big ambitions and are prepared for an exciting and challenging journey, you need to be part of the VA Entrepreneurs Group. This is a unique and exclusive development group of seriously ambitious VAs designed to help you achieve the loftiest of business goals.

From joint ventures and strategic alliances to outsourcing and leveraging your time, join us to make them a reality. To learn the secrets of how we can help you create YOUR perfect VA business visit http://www.vasuccessgroup.co.uk/vaeg.htm today. Places are strictly limited so don’t miss out!

For more information please contact Emma or Justine on 0844 357 6279 or visit www.vasuccessgroup.co.uk

Practical and Invaluable New Document Packs for Virtual Assistants

Following the launch this week of the VA Success Group by Justine Curtis (My Virtual Assistant and UKAVA) and Emma Walker (CKPA) today sees the launch of the first in a range of totally new practical business building tools, the VA Success Groups Document Packs.From terms and conditions and contracts for both clients and associates, to client satisfaction surveys and policy manuals it’s all there. Bundled in convenient packages, and available for a fraction of the cost of hiring a solicitor, Virtual Assistants can now get their hands on all the essential documentation they need to run their businesses.

Emma said, “These Document Packs are ideal for start ups and established Virtual Assistants alike. There are all the basics for those just setting up such as Client Contracts and Welcome Packs and more advanced information for established VAs like Associate Contacts and Policy Manuals. There really is something for everyone”.

Justine added, “We are launching with a great competition where you can win the Document Pack of your choice, so what ever stage you are at with your business, it’s a terrific prize”.

Entry is free and the winner will be drawn on 31st July 2008.

What are you waiting for? Visit http://www.vasuccessgroup.co.uk/ to enter now!

Create YOUR Perfect Virtual Assistant Business

VA Success GroupTwo of the Biggest Players in the UK Virtual Assistant industry have joined forces and this week launch the VA Success Group, a totally new and unique range of products and services to help you create the Virtual Assistant business you’ve always dreamed of.Justine Curtis, Director of her own successful VA practice My Virtual Assistant Limited (http://www.my-va.com/) and founder of the UK Association of Virtual Assistants (http://www.ukava.co.uk/) an organisation set up to raise awareness of the role of virtual pas, provide a Directory of UK Virtual Assistants and an information resource for both VA’s and their clients has teamed up with Emma Walker, another hugely successful VA and owner of CKPA Office Solutions (http://www.ckpa.co.uk/). A true entrepreneur, Emma also became involved with The Athena Network in June 2007 bringing the women’s networking group to the Black Country.

Emma said, “We are really excited to be launching such a unique service to new and established Virtual Assistants throughout the UK. We wanted to offer practical business building tools and services to help VAs create their perfect business without having to go through the steep learning curve that we did. It’s amazing that they can now benefit from our years of hands on experience”.

So is this just another training course? “Absolutely not” says Justine “this is unlike anything else available”.

The hub of all the activity is the web site at http://www.vasuccessgroup.co.uk/ where exclusive products and services are being added as soon as they are released. Justine said, “The best decision you can make for your business today is to go over to the web site and sign up for the free newsletter. That way you’ll be the first to know what’s happening and be best placed to take advantage of some very special limited offers”. To sign up for the newsletter visit: http://www.vasuccessgroup.co.uk/

Justine added, “We are also running a spectacular competition where you can win some incredible business development tools”. What are you waiting for? Visit http://www.vasuccessgroup.co.uk/ now!

Advertising Your Virtual Assistant Business on a Budget

When you are starting out as a Virtual Assistant and no one knows who you are or what you do, one of the biggest challenges you will face is how to drum up new business.

You probably have already done some research and already know that there are people who need your services or you would not have started your business in the first place. But once you have spoken to those you already know who may need you, your next task is to find others who will help you make your business a success. At this point most people turn to advertising. If I had a pound for every VA that has said to me, ‘There’s a little local magazine that comes through my door each month. Should I advertise in it?’ I wouldn’t have to run a VA business myself; I could retire on the proceeds. The answer, by the way, for many reasons is no. There are many better ways to spend your limited advertising and marketing budget.

It is a misconception that you have to spend lots of money to advertise your Virtual Assistant business. Unless you have some sort of financial backing, it is unlikely that you will have a huge budget so it’s better to get a little bit creative and use what you have wisely.
 
In the rest of this series, I will be letting you in on a few tips and some of the lessons I’ve learned on how to advertise your virtual assistant business on a budget.

 For more information about Virual Assistants visit: www.ukava.co.uk

The Average Employee Spends 95 Minutes a Week Surfing The Net

The CBI announced this week that the average employee spends 95 minutes a week surfing the Internet for personal use at a cost to the economy of £10.6bn a year.

Its research showed that while many organisations are supportive of staff visiting non-work related websites, and view it as a motivational perk or a modern-day tea break, others are troubled by the amount of use, or have had to sack staff for serious abuse.

The survey of 503 organisations, which together employ over one million workers, also revealed that nearly two-thirds (60%) of employers think staff regularly use office time outside of lunch hours and formal breaks to look at non-work sites, like those involving social networking, web email, shopping and holidays.

Employers across the public and private sectors estimate that 4.4% of working time is lost in this way, which accounts for 95 minutes a week, or ten days a year, at an average annual cost of £939 per employee.

So if potential employers want to get an extra 10 days a year of real work from each member of their team, isn’t it about time they thought of employing a Virtual Assistant? As we all know, with a virtual assistant you only pay for the hours worked on your business, no personal web surfing, no downtime, no holiday pay, sickness pay, maternity pay, training or equipments costs. What do you think?

Source: CBI.Org

Spare Room Start Up by Emma Jones

 Spare Room Start Up by Emma Jones is a friendly and stylish, full colour guide which focuses on the specific issues that affect home business start ups.Have you ever dreamt of starting your own business? Dreamt of working from home, a ten second commute, the flexibility to work when you want to, and the joy of being your own boss? This book can show you how to turn those dreams into reality in just a few simple steps.

With serial entrepreneur and home business expert Emma Jones as your guide, you will discover just how easy it is to start and run a successful business from your spare room.

Organised by three key themes – business, lifestyle and technology – Spare Room Start Up provides you with simple solutions and demonstrates the ease and low cost with which a home business can be started. Find out how you too can enjoy the rewards of running a home business whilst leading a happier and healthier life.

Advice and suggestions are interspersed with quick tips, illustrations and real life case studies from successful home business owners. Uncover the lighter side of working from home as well as the benefits and rewards of becoming a Spare Room Start Up!

Get your exclusive discount here:
http://books.global-investor.com/books/254182.htm?ginPtrCode=22138

Offer Your Clients the Very Best with a Typing or Audio Certification

With the use of Virtual Assistants increasing rapidly in the UK, businesses looking to outsource are becoming ever more savvy as to what a VA can offer and what to look for when choosing a VA.  So how do you make sure they choose you?Your service list, experience and client testimonials are all good ways to demonstrate to a potential client, however, qualifications and certifications also show that you are measurably and provably competent in the certified skill.

With word processing and digital transcription being a core service for many VAs, it would seem that one way to get noticed is to become certified (if you aren’t already).

With that in mind, Tesla Typing was created to provide its customers with a recognised typing and audio certifications that the end user can take online and receive a professional certificate from, upon completion.

You can choose the type of test you wish to become certified in, have one free practice test, take three evaluated and scored tests and then choose the best one for your certification.

Tesla Typing, is the first online tester of typing and audio skills, of its kind, in the world, and can also guarantee the quality of their service with ISO certification. 

Not only that but the price for one test is just £9.95 – extremely good value for money considering the competitive advantage it will give you and the reassurance to your clients that they are working with one of the best!

To find out more visit: www.teslatyping.co.uk and register to take your test now.

Ecademy VAC Club and Finding Potential Clients

So now you’ve joined up you need to know how to get the most out of Ecademy.
(If you still haven’t joined you can do it here: http://www.ecademy.com/?xref=103223)

Firstly you need to spend a bit of time completing your profile. It’s a cliché, but a true one, that people do business with people, not faceless businesses. Upload a photograph, write your ’50 Words’ and put a bit of your personality into it. I’ve previously got business through the fact that ‘yoga’ and ‘horses’ were contained in my 50 words, not because they have any relevance to my business, but because the persons reading the profile identified that we have something in common and that moved them to contact me over a competitor. Do bear in mind that in this profile you are trying to present a professional image so avoid anything that may be misconstrued by your clients, for example, how many times have you read a CV and found under hobbies ‘socialising with friends’? An employer might interpret this as ‘gets drunk and turns up to work with a hangover’ and so might a potential client. Also consider that these profiles can end up being listed in Google, great if you remember to include a link to your web site as Google loves inbound links to web sites (more info), but worth remembering that anyone who ‘Googles’ you may see this profile.

Once you’ve completed your profile you need to join some clubs. Firstly, of course, you need to join the Virtual Assistant Club, not run by the UKAVA or me but by fellow VA Kerry Anne Orr who does a sterling job of welcoming newcomers and keeping us all in order. The VA Club is a great place to start networking with other VA’s, are you looking for associates for holiday or sickness cover for example, and to find out what’s going on in the industry. Join up, click on the Forum button and introduce yourself – you’ll find a warm welcome: http://www.ecademy.com/module.php?mod=club&c=4450

Next I would suggest you find a local Ecademy club. Local clubs usually meet up monthly for face-to-face networking and you can also access the list of club members, great for introducing yourself and making contact either prior to or post face to face networking events. Under the search tab (under My Settings and Help on the right of the page) select Clubs and search for your town or city. Then keep your eye on the club to see when the next networking meeting is taking place and get along to it.

Finally I suggest you join some clubs that relate to your niche. Now this is a bit of a trade secret and I’m not sure if I should be sharing it but now it’s too late now! Again under the search box, search for clubs and enter a word relevant to your target customer, see what groups appear and join some. Before making any posts in these groups, read the Home page of the club to make sure of the etiquette. Some are business clubs and are therefore happy for you to tout for business, others are more for information sharing and they will frown upon you openly asking for referrals or advertising your services in an upfront way. When you know what you can and cant post, get in there and start networking with your niche.

To find out more and claim your free basic membership, visit: http://www.ecademy.com/?xref=103223

Networking With Virtual Assistants AND Potential Clients

We all know we should network and most of us manage to attend some events and network a bit online through various groups. We also like to have a bit of a chat with other virtual assistants to find out what is going on in the industry, occasionally pick their brains and share experiences. With Ecademy you can do both. In the comfort of your own home in front of your pc you can network with both potential clients and fellow VA’s. It’s simple and free to join and you can join clubs such as Virtual Assistants Club and others related to your client niche.

Sign up today and stay informed of all the VA industry’s latest news and find yourself some new clients while you’re there!

For more information, visit: http://www.ecademy.com/?xref=103223

Networking – Using Your Web Site

Most of us know that in order to attract new business through our web site, it has to be professional, attractive and present all the information our potential clients need, or do we? 

A web site is your tool for presenting your business. You network online and offline, you hand out cards with your web site address on, you include your web site address in all your offline marketing information, advertisements, flyers, leaflets, headed paper etc. You do, don’t you?

The logical first step for any potential client is to check out your web site before picking up the phone to you to make an enquiry. In many cases this can be as far as the enquiry goes. Until you meet your potential clients in person, your web site is the only representation of your business they see, so if its looking a little bit out of date, is missing some vital information (pricing, customer testimonials?) or has (gasp) spelling or grammatical errors, what impression does that give about you and the quality of your work?

A full Web Site Audit from Enable UK is certainly a really good start at getting your web site into shape, and once you are happy that its giving a great impression of you and your business, don’t forget to include it everywhere: The ‘signature’ at the bottom of your emails, all of your printed materials, a sign for the window of your car, sign up for Smart Stamp from Royal Mail and add your web site address and strap line to your postage label, everywhere and anywhere you can think of.

For more ideas and guidance, why not download the series of Internet Marketing Guides from Enable UK?

For more information, visit:
http://www.enable-uk.co.uk/html/diy_internet_marketing_guides.html