What Are Social Media and Why Are They Important to My Business?

How Can Social Media Help My Business?

There are various social media platforms you can use to deliver messages to your readers and followers. But, before embarking on any marketing activity, it is important to know why it is useful.

Social media are instant, so your messages are delivered immediately. And, most importantly, they are interactive – you are actually inviting comment and suggestion. Of course, the most important point to remember is that search engines love social media because their content is current and fresh. So, your comments will be picked up by search engine. How exciting that is!

More on this topic on 10th April.

What Are Social Media and Why Are They Important to My Business?

We have all heard the phrase ‘social media’. But, what actually are social media? And, how can you use them to help your business?

In short, social media is a term that encapsulates a number of online communication platforms that make it easy for people to publish their own news and views, as well as comment on those posted by others.

Why Are Social Media Important?

Social media have provided platforms for people to air their opinions, views and grievances with anyone around the world. People who use social media often become highly influential, are seen as experts in their own spheres, and can develop large audiences around their areas of interest.

Communities of like-minded people are forming around common interests on the web, regardless of where they are based in the world, because traditional geographical restrictions no longer apply.

More on this topic on 5th April.

Working From Home Makes You Better Off!

Ever fancied dumping the 9-5 and starting your own business working from home? Well now it’s official, what we all suspected has finally been confirmed, working from home makes you better off!

According to recent research conducted by Homefinder UK, having an office in a your home can add up to £28,000 to the value of your property. In addition the AA estimates that the average commuter could make travel savings of around £2000 a year by working from home and save between one and two hours a day in travelling time – that adds up to nearly a whole extra day per week! Time that could easily be spent with the family or building a new business.

President of The AA Edmund King comments: “Our figures show you can save £8.40 per day by working from home. That adds up to more than £2,000 per year and if you can do without a second car, that leads to annual savings of in excess of £6,000. These are cost savings that any family would be pleased to see. What we like to see is that not only are homeworkers saving costs, they are also saving the environment.”

So is this time of economic turmoil the right time to be starting a business? With job uncertainty higher than ever and everyone interested in saving on everyday costs, there’s never been a better time to make the leap into working for yourself from home. The opportunity to make and save more money, and spend more quality time with family or friends instead of simply commuting to and from your workplace makes more sense than ever.

About the Author:
Justine Curtis is the director of her own successful virtual assistant business My Virtual Assistant http://www.my-va.com and founder of The UK Association of Virtual Assistants (UKAVA) which offers free resources and information to its subscribers – sign up at http://www.ukava.co.uk. Justine is the author of Setting Yourself Up As A Virtual Assistant and is delighted to be able to pass on the benefits of her vast experience of the VA role to aspiring and progressive virtual PAs as a co-founder of the VA Success Group. If you are thinking about starting a virtual assistant business, visit http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk

Virtual Assistant Marketing – Niche to Streamline Your 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.

About the Author:

Justine Curtis is the director of her own successful virtual assistant business My Virtual Assistant http://www.my-va.com and founder of The UK Association of Virtual Assistants (UKAVA) which offers free resources and information to its subscribers – sign up at http://www.ukava.co.uk. Justine is the author of Setting Yourself Up As A Virtual Assistant and is delighted to be able to pass on the benefits of her vast experience of the VA role to aspiring and progressive virtual PAs as a co-founder of the VA Success Group. If you are thinking about starting a virtual assistant business, visit http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk

15 Tips to Build Your Newsletter Subscriber List Tip 6

It’s simple but very effective, include an opt in form on every page of your web site. It’s also worth checking your web statistics to see where people leave your web site. Check the last page they view before they leave and make sure there is a note asking them to sign up for your newsletter at the bottom of this page.

15 Tips to Build Your Newsletter Subscriber List Tip 5

Run a joint venture with a complimentary business. Chose a business that provides services to a similar target market, for example small businesses. Include a link in your newsletter for readers to opt into the other businesses list, in exchange for their running an opt in for your newsletter on theirs.

15 Tips to Build Your Newsletter Subscriber List

We all need to fill our marketing funnel with the contact details of potential clients and referrers of our business services. The following series gives you some ideas about how to collect contact details, and in particular email addresses, so that you can begin to build relationships with your prospects.

Put an offer on the back of your business card to get people to sign up for your newsletter. For example, “Visit www.mywebsite.com/freereport to download 20 Top Tips for Outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant”. When they land on your page, ask for their email address in order to receive the free report.

Managing Your Virtual Assistant Workload – Tip 14

Keep on networking
This is often the first thing that gets dropped when you become busy with clients work. I know; I am guilty of it myself. But when you suddenly disappear from groups in you have been a regular, the assumption can be that you are no longer in business. Accept that networking is part of the ongoing development of your business, choose one or two groups in which you will remain a regular, and keep going. Even if you are not looking for more clients, you will still establish relationships from which you will benefit later on.

About the Author:

Justine Curtis is the director of her own successful virtual assistant business My Virtual Assistant Limited http://www.my-va.com which is now recruiting a team of virtual assistant licensees and founder of The UK Association of Virtual Assistants (UKAVA) which offers free resources and information to its subscribers. Justine is the author of Setting Yourself Up As A Virtual Assistant and is proud to be able to pass on the benefits of her vast experience of the VA role to aspiring and progressive virtual PAs as a co-founder of the VA Success Group. If you are thinking about starting a virtual assistant business, visit http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk

Managing Your Virtual Assistant Workload – Tip 13

Happy New Year!

A very apt tip for the New Year today. All about reviewing and setting your activites for the coming year.

Review your marketing activities
Set aside time each month to review your marketing activities. How many enquiries have you had in the previous month and from where have they come? Have a look at what is working for you and what could be improved.

Managing Your Virtual Assistant Workload – Tip 12

Social networking
If you have a profile on sites such as Ecademy and LinkedIn, it is easy to spend hours each day responding to requests to link. Set aside some time each week for social networking and respond to invitations then. Also, use this time to seek out new connections of your own, join and post to groups, etc.

Managing Your Virtual Assistant Workload – Tip 10

Writing your newsletter
If you write a newsletter, be it weekly, monthly or whatever, try to write in blocks. It can be hard to find a quiet time to sit and write, but, when you do, you often feel like you could write for hours. Do it whenever you feel inspired, and then split the content over several newsletters.

Managing Your Virtual Assistant Workload – Tip 8

Create checklists
Have checklists for every process in your business. For example, when you take on a new client, have a checklist which prompts you to check that: you have received the signed contract, you have sent your Welcome Pack, you have set up an appropriate email address, and you have their stationery. This saves time and prevents things being forgotten.

Managing Your Virtual Assistant Workload – Tip 5

Back up everything
If you have ever deleted anything accidentally, or suffered a computer crash, you will probably not need to be told about this. Back everything up at least once a day. I use Carbonite, which automatically backs up my whole system every day at 6pm. So, if I lose something or my system dies, I have a copy of everything easily accessible online.

Managing Your Virtual Assistant Workload – Tip 2

Sort your emails
Do you have an inbox with more than 10 emails in it? If you have, it can be a huge waste of time trying to find what you are looking for, and the clutter can be overwhelming. Have files for incoming email, and set up rules for all mail that can be dealt with later, so that it goes directly to those files.

Managing Your Virtual Assistant Workload

When you are a virtual assistant, especially when your practice is becoming full, you spend a lot of time juggling your schedule to fit in all the needs and requirements of your various clients.

As you become busier with client work, it is often easy to forget to schedule time for the work associated with running your own business. Tasks such as, keeping up with your bookkeeping and invoicing, making time for your marketing activities, and networking, often fall by the wayside.

If you let these things get away from you, they can quickly become the downfall of your business. There is no point working your fingers to the bone if you are not invoicing your clients, or if you lose track of whether you are 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 work effectively on your business, so that it remains healthy and robust.

Building a Top Notch Virtual Team – Tip 6

Don’t forget to show gratitude. If you have found an outsourcing partner that is more interested in getting it right than just getting it done, you’ll want to hang on to them. These people will foresee obstacles and devise solutions before they even occur. When they do have challenges, they present them with potential solutions and a recommendation.

When they do go that extra mile, don’t forget to thank them. It’s up to if you want to send flowers, cash bonuses or bottles of champagne, etc. Often a sincere thank you is all the appreciation they need.

One thing to be aware of – outsourcing is addictive. There’s something oddly satisfying about that lovely soothing feeling that comes when everything is just getting done, effectively and efficiently and without any effort from you.

About the Author:

Justine Curtis is the director of her own successful virtual assistant business My Virtual Assistant http://www.my-va.com and founder of The UK Association of Virtual Assistants (UKAVA) which offers free resources and information to its subscribers – sign up at http://www.ukava.co.uk. Justine is the author of Setting Yourself Up As A Virtual Assistant and is delighted to be able to pass on the benefits of her vast experience of the VA role to aspiring and progressive virtual PAs as a co-founder of the VA Success Group. If you are thinking about starting a virtual assistant business, visit http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk

Building a Top Notch Virtual Team – Tip 5

Manage your virtual team effectively.

Once you decided who you want to work with on a regular basis, make sure there is a system in place to effectively manage your team. Staying in regular contact with your virtual team is vital, especially because you’ll rarely, if ever, see each other. It is important not only to be in contact when there’s a new project to pass on, but on a regular basis to keep them up to date with what’s going on in your business. This way they will be aware of up coming projects and your clearly defined goals for your business so that they can assist you more effectively.

Decide on which means of communication work best for you and arrange how often and when you will communicate.

Building a Top Notch Virtual Team – Tip 4

Be clear and concise in your delegation.

Something you will learn from outsourcing your test projects is how to delegate effectively. If you don’t ask for exactly what you want, chances are you won’t get it.

Good outsourcing companies will have a format for gathering this information, or will ask very specific questions in order to get all the detail they need. However, in the first instance be clear about the result you want to achieve giving as much detail as possible, any direction about how you want that to be achieved and give your project budget or time allowed, and your deadline.

Building a Top Notch Virtual Team – Tip 3

Look for outstanding communicators.

The secret to a successful virtual relationship is excellent communication. If the company is in a different time zone, or takes days to respond to your messages, you may have problems. If you’re outsourcing a test project, do they ask sensible questions for more clarity, or guess and get it wrong? Communication is key; make sure it’s prompt and effective.

Building a Top Notch Virtual Team – Tip 2

Look for professionals.

Look for companies that have been around for a while and that have a proven track record. Is there a portfolio on their web site, are there genuine customer testimonials. Whilst start ups can be equally good, if the business is established, they have obviously established a solid business model and are likely to be around for some time to come. Once you’ve established a great relationship, you don’t want to be looking for an outsourcing partner all over again in a few weeks time because the one you chose set their rates too low and went out of business.

Building a Top Notch Virtual Team – Tip 1

Invest in your outsourcing education.

If you’ve never outsourced before, or you’re not sure what you can offload to someone else, experiment. Invest a small amount of cash in outsourcing something small. If you don’t have anything small, make something up. If it’s admin, get someone to put all your business cards into a spreadsheet or database, if you’re looking for design work, get someone to design a logo, if it’s proof reading, send over a short document with deliberate minor mistakes. You get the idea. The point is to see what works for you, and to get used to letting go.

Building a Top Notch Virtual Team

Whether you run a business from the comfort of your own home office, or you have a ‘real’ office and operate with a team of outsourcers, subcontractors, home based or office based employees, chances are you will be working virtually with some of your team members.

Outsourcing to an experienced professional makes perfect business sense. It’s easy when you first start out to try and save every single penny by doing everything yourself. Then when the cash flow has improved, you might try outsourcing on the cheap, a project to a student, an everyday task to an admin service in India, a design task via an outsourcing bidding site such as Elance. Been there? Ever done it again? I thought not.

Trying to do everything yourself, or outsourcing to the cheapest option is false economy. In your business you need hire professional outsourcers who are experienced, skilled and proficient at the services they provide. Established businesses who thrive because they take a vested interest in producing high quality work for your business.

The point of outsourcing is not always to find someone to do the task better than you or even cheaper – it’s to offload the majority of your daily required work so that you can focus on the core portion of your business where you add unique value. Think of it as the 80/20 rule. If 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort, then spend all your time on that high yielding 20% and outsource the rest.

So how do you go about building a top notch virtual team? The following series of tips will help.

Virtual Assistants – How to Stay Focussed On Your Own Business Goals – Tip 5

You should allot a certain portion of your day to email and to regular mail. For example, allot one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon to handling all your written communications. Unless you dedicate specific time slots to the handling of email and post, you will soon find yourself on the downward slope of decreased productivity as you constantly check and respond to email to put off whatever you should be doing.

In a nutshell, the success of your VA business is entirely and completely reliant upon you and the decisions that you make. Success is within your reach, if only you can stay focused on your goals. You must decide to reach for your goals, and then, you must have the discipline necessary to reach them.

About the Author:

Justine Curtis is the director of her own successful virtual assistant business My Virtual Assistant http://www.my-va.com and founder of The UK Association of Virtual Assistants (UKAVA) which offers free resources and information to its subscribers – sign up at http://www.ukava.co.uk. Justine is the author of Setting Yourself Up As A Virtual Assistant and is delighted to be able to pass on the benefits of her vast experience of the VA role to aspiring and progressive virtual PAs as a co-founder of the VA Success Group. If you are thinking about starting a virtual assistant business, visit http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk

Virtual Assistants – How to Stay Focussed On Your Own Business Goals – Tip 4

Don’t permit your friends and extended family to put on you. Many people are under the misapprehension that if someone works from home then they are not actually working. They may believe that you are fair game for a social call during the day or that you may be able to run errands that would otherwise mean them taking time off work.

It’s really important to set the ground rules early and then stand firm. You must make certain your friends and family understand that when you are working, then you ARE working and that when your time is interrupted, you will not be earning. You are the only one who can stand up for you. Your friends and family will seldom be able to appreciate your dedication to your business, unless you make the effort to make sure that they have the same respect for your business that you do.

Virtual Assistants – How to Stay Focussed On Your Own Business Goals – Tip 3

When you are dealing with family in the course of your workday, it is important to schedule your activities as much as possible. With small children, you must take time when you need to, but you should also work hard to make sure you dedicate a specific number of hours to your workday.

With older children, it is much easier to tell them that you will be working between the hours of x and y. Then your children, and even your friends, must understand that certain hours of your day are devoted to the activities of your business.

Virtual Assistants – How to Stay Focussed On Your Own Business Goals – Tip 2

Remember that owning your own business is not the same as being employed in a job. Some people go to work and coast along, playing games or enjoying online social networking (Facebook and the like), some socialise over the kettle or printer, and others, most often those who are paid in a commission or tip environment, go to work to work to make money. When you work for yourself, what you make in terms of income is directly proportional to your productivity. Therefore, wouldn’t it make sense to stay focused on getting as much done in as short of a period as possible? Go to work to work and to make money. Leave socialising for when your workday has ended.

Virtual Assistants – How to Stay Focussed On Your Own Business Goals – Tip 1

As the owner of a Virtual Assistant business, you will find that hundreds of distractions that vie for your time, energy and focus. Common distractions can include children, family and friends, neighbours, pets, constant telephone calls, post and deliveries, household chores, television (Lorraine Kelly or Loose Women anyone?) and so many more.

As the owner of your own Virtual Assistant business, you must always remember your purpose in bringing your profession home. What was your reason for wanting to own your own home based business? Was your goal to work from home so that you can share more in the lives of your children? Was your goal to be out from under the rule of a dictatorial boss? Was your goal to have the freedom to work when it is convenient for you? Was your goal to reap the rewards of your efforts and make lots of money working for yourself?

Whatever your reasons for starting your VA business, the following series of tips will help you stay focused.

1. Whatever your reason for going out on your own, you must keep your reason in the forefront of your mind. If you forget your reason for starting your own Virtual Assistant business, you will not be working for yourself for long. It is far too easy to let circumstance drive you and when circumstance is in the driver’s seat, you are more likely to crash and burn.

Creating the Right First Impression Tip 6

Do What You Say, When You Say You Will

It sounds obvious, but make sure you follow up. If you promise to send a contact’s details, do it! If you arrange to send more information by the end of the day, make sure you do! Nothing will kill a relationship faster than not following up by the time you say you will.

About the Author:

Justine Curtis is the director of her own successful virtual assistant business My Virtual Assistant Limited http://www.my-va.com which is now recruiting a team of virtual assistant licensees and founder of The UK Association of Virtual Assistants (UKAVA) which offers free resources and information to its subscribers. Justine is the author of Setting Yourself Up As A Virtual Assistant and is proud to be able to pass on the benefits of her vast experience of the VA role to aspiring and progressive virtual PAs as a co-founder of the VA Success Group. If you are thinking about starting a virtual assistant business, visit http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk

Creating the Right First Impression Tip 5

What Else Can You Add of Value?

When you are meeting a prospect, or attending a networking event, you will, understandably, be focused on what you can get out of the experience. But be prepared to give a little, too. This could simply involve making an introduction to another of your contacts, who may be useful to your prospect, or offering a free piece of advice or your expert opinion. Small, helpful acts like this will create a great impression and ensure that you are memorable to your prospect.

Creating the Right First Impression Tip 4

Make Yourself Clear

Make sure you are prepared for the specific situation. If you are attending a networking group, make sure you have perfected your one-minute presentation, are prepared to speak to prospects on a one-to-one basis, and have a ready answer to the inevitable question, ‘what do you do?’. If meeting a prospect who knows a little more about you and your business, make sure you are clear on what you are offering and how your service works, and be prepared to explain this in simple terms without jargon.

Creating the Right First Impression Tip 3

Are You Interested?

As well as having the opportunity to speak about yourself and your business, it is equally important to show interest in your prospect and their business activities. You will create a great first impression if you listen carefully and ask questions. By doing this, you will be able to find common points of connection, as well as identify areas where you will be able to help them professionally.