Staying Focussed On Your Virtual Assistant 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.

Staying Focussed On Your Virtual Assistant 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.

Staying Focussed On Your Virtual Assistant 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, here are a few tips that will help you stay focused:

Stay Focussed Tip 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 Part 2

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 and 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.

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. It could simply be making an introduction to another of your contacts that could 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 you are memorable to your prospect.

Do What You Say, When You Say You Will

It sounds obvious but make sure you follow up. If you have said you will send through a contact’s details, make sure you do it. If you have arranged to send through more information by the end of the day, make sure you do. Nothing will kill a relationship faster than not following up as and when you say you will.

Creating the Right First Impression Part 1

As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to create a good first impression. When you are running your own business, it’s imperative that within the first few seconds of meeting you or being introduced to your business, you create a great first impression.

In this article we’ll give you some simple tips that will have the prospects that you meet being impressed by you, liking you and, critically, wanting to do business with you.

Looking Good?

Is your blouse ironed or are your shoes in need of a polish? It may sound immaterial but in the eyes of your potential client the care you take over your appearance symbolises the level of care and attention to detail you would take over their work. If you turn up with chipped nail polish and lipstick on your teeth they may wonder if you going to send out their letters with spelling mistakes or send emails to the wrong people. Make time to check your appearance before meeting your prospects.

Oozing Confidence?

Now you’re sure you look the part you can walk into any room with your head held high and confidence intact. Arrive in plenty of time for any appointment as you don’t want to be rushed. Stand up straight and tall and look the other person in the eye when introducing yourself, and don’t forget to shake hands firmly – no-one likes a limp lettuce handshake!

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.

Look out for part 2 of this article coming soon.

Turn Your Virtual Assistant Clients into Raving Fans!

We all hear about branding and how important it is to your business. But branding is not just about your web site or logo, it’s also about the associations your clients hold with you and your company name. The more positive that association, the more likely they may be to remain loyal to you when times get hard or competitors start knocking on their (virtual) door!

So how do you know how you are perceived by your clients and prospects and how can you set about improving or building on your brand:

What do your existing clients think of you?
The best place to start is by sending a questionnaire to your existing clients and anyone on your prospect list. It’s a good opportunity to ask for their opinion on what they like about your service and what improvements could be made. You should begin to see some similarities in the responses which will give you an idea of how your brand is perceived.

What Do They Like?
When you have identified the similarities, have a close look at what your clients and prospects love about you and your service. These are the positive aspects or your brand and are what you need to be communicating in all your marketing information.

What Weaknesses Can You See?
Some of these may be related to the industry as a whole, for example it may be that as you work remotely you can’t make the coffee ;o) However, be aware if things crop up that you can do something about. Perhaps you have missed deadlines or you are not up to speed with particular software that your clients use. Think about how you can improve on these for the future.

How Can You ‘Delight the Customer?’
Years ago I used to work for a holiday company who used the line ‘delight the customer’. The idea was that you don’t want the customer just to be satisfied with what you have produced for them. In order to get them singing your praises you really need to ‘delight’ them. So what can you do to delight your clients? Where can you add that little bit of extra value or really show some initiative? If you are seen to be going that extra mile, your clients will love you for it and that’s when they start to become your raving fans and tell everyone how great you are.

Better Than Advertising
As you can see, creating your brand or the ‘image’ for your company isn’t about expensive graphic designers or advertising experts. It’s about identifying what’s great about your business and communicating that in a clear and consistent way. If you can turn your clients into raving fans, they’ll not only stick with you through these turbulent times, they’ll also recommend others to you. Now that’s got to be better than spending a fortune on advertising!

Virtual Assistant Business Make-Over Tips

You know how it is, you’ve been in business for a few years, you’ve got a few clients on your books, but things are feeling a bit stale.

You feel that your business needs a Gok Wan style make over, but where do you start?

Virtual Assistant Business Make-Over Tip 1

If you’re not already doing it, create pre-paid packages to entice clients to pay in advance for blocks of time. They benefit from a small discount, you benefit from not having to chase overdue invoices and increased budgeting capacity.

Internet Marketing – Getting Inbound Links, The Testimonial Way!

So we’ve already established that getting quality inbound links to your web site from industry related web sites is brilliant way to leapfrog your way up the search engines rankings. But how can you also get noticed specifically by potential clients within your target industries?

Testimonials. How does it work? Simple.

As an example lets say that you have chosen to work with aromatherapists. Have a chat with your aromatherapist client (or potential client!) and explain that you are intending to write a testimonial about them that they can add to their web site. Customer testimonials on a web site improve the credibility of any business and they will be glad to include your unsolicited one. Book yourself an aromatherapy massage and then write a testimonial saying how great the experience was. Don’t forget to include at the end of it your name, business name and WEB SITE ADDRESS. Send it in an email to your client so that they can easily cut and paste the testimonial onto their web site.

You can also ask for reciprocal testimonials. If your web site could do with a few more client testimonials, ask your clients for a reciprocal one in an “I’ll write one for you if you write one for me” fashion. If they are too busy, ask if you can write both, yours and theirs, and send them back to the client for approval before publishing “their” testimonial to your web site. This is great as you can highlight any service or industry you want to focus on within the text, and the client can just approve the content and their quote before you add it to your web site.

Inbound links to your web site keep the search engines happy and testimonials are great for establishing credibility with any potential clients visiting your web site so using testimonials for inbound links is a real win-win.

For more information, hints and tips for virtual assistants visit www.ukava.co.uk

 

PostureMinder – My Saviour!

Anyone how knows me well will tell you that I spend quite a bit of time and money various treatments to ease my aching back and correct my appalling posture. There’s nothing particularly wrong with my back as such, it’s just that I sit at a desk for many hours a day working at a computer and as you will know, as a VA there’s nothing unusual about that. This month details of a new product landed in my inbox and as it struck a chord with me, I thought I’d give it a try. Boy, has it changed the way I work.

PostureMinder is a piece of software you download onto your computer that works in conjunction with your web cam. Once installed it takes you through a series of set up steps to help you sit in the best position possible and then captures the image of you sitting correctly on the web cam. Then the fun begins. Every time you hunch, slump or lean a witty little pop up appears to let you know you’ve slipped and immediately reminds you to sit properly. There are many, many features including break reminders that remind you to take a short break, which help to relieve eyestrain, reduce the risk of headaches and even RSI. You can set the intervals to suit you and during the breaks a window opens to reveal a series of exercises, all demonstrated by real people, that you can do in your chair to relieve aches and pains associated with working all day at a computer.

I’ve become an addict and with a fantastic 14-day free trial and a 15% discount for UKAVA blog readers, what could be better. Go on; treat yourself, your back will thank you for it!

For more information, visit: http://www.posturemindershop.co.uk

Online Book Keeping With Kashflow – Accounts Made Easy!

As a virtual assistant, we deal with many different customers, using varying systems and programmes to complete all sorts of tasks. If you offer book keeping services you will have come across everything from basic spreadsheets, to complex systems such as Sage, we’ve seen it all. My personal favourite has become Kashflow. It’s incredibly simple and designed specifically for small businesses.

Kashflow is an online system which has several overriding benefits, firstly your accounts are held online so you can access them from any computer with a browser (after entering your secure login details). This means several things; if your computer should crash you haven’t lost everything, you can give live access to your client and you can give access to your clients accountant to compile their required information. As there is one live copy of the accounts, the changes are available instantly to everyone given access so you don’t have multiple out of date copies everywhere.

Secondly, as you pay a monthly subscription for Kashflow, rather than a large upfront software cost, it is easier to budget as a small monthly fee. Critically within this fee the software upgrades are included. Anyone who has purchased accountancy software in the past will know that purchasing upgrades is necessary when you have several people updating your accounts at different locations. Generally the software is not backwardly compatible so as soon as one person upgrades, you all have to and upgrades can be very costly.

What is more, you get to try before you buy. You don’t even have to give a credit card number that you might later forget to cancel should you decide to use an alternative program.

Try it today completely free here

Home Office Tip 10 – Investigate insurance and make sure you’re covered.

Does you have sufficient insurance cover you for your business activities? It’s important to consider if your household insurance covers you for public liability, particularly if you allow clients to visit your home.

In addition you should look at profession indemnity insurance to protect yourself and your business in the event that a client should have cause to take you to court.

For lots of advice and free tips, check out the FREEBIES page at the VA Success Group

Home Office Tip 9 – Plan your time around your body clock and lifestyle.

Are you a morning person? Some people work better in the mornings and some are more effective later in the day. What’s your best time?

Also consider your household. What’s the normal routine? Does the postman always knock the door around 10am or do the kids come home mid afternoon?

Working for yourself means that you can be flexible enough to schedule your day around your most effective times. If your concentration is better in the mornings, use that time to work on projects that require concentration. If you know you will be interrupted at certain times, use those times to complete low concentration or quick tasks.

 

Home Office Tip 8 – Schedule your household chores so they don’t interfere with your work schedule.

When you work from home make sure you don?t get drawn in to doing all the household chores when you should be working. Now I?m not saying leave a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, or damp washing in the machine but fit it in around your working day.

Going to put the kettle on for a cup of tea? While it?s boiling do the dishes. Stopping for lunch? While it?s on the cooker or in the microwave, hand out the laundry.

If you start each working day running through the chores before you start work, it?s very easy to become sidetracked and not get any work done before lunchtime!

 

Home Office Tip 7 – Set up Specific work times and create boundaries

Although one of the joys of working from home in your own business is that you can work whenever you choose, unless you set specific work times, one of two things will happen. You’ll either spend all day dipping in and out of work and end up achieving very little, or, you’ll find yourself working all the time.

Set specific hours of work and concentrate on work only during that time. Make sure your family and friends know you’re working during those times so that you are not disturbed. Also make sure that your clients know your hours of work so that they contact you when appropriate. If you have different working hours to the standard 9-5 that’s fine, just make sure your clients are aware so you are not constantly interrupted outside of your work time, or they are frustrated if they can’t get hold of you.

Home Office Tip 6 – Additional Equipment You Will Need

Consider an all in one printer, scanner and copier as it saves space. You can also get one with an integral fax machine, although you can also use an online fax services from your 0844 number provider or Efax if required.

You will also need a shredder for confidential documents and you may need a transcription pedal if you offer the service and are asked for it and potentially a binder, laminator and guillotine again only if you need them for a specific job or your own use for marketing materials.

Home Office Tip 5 – Research and purchase your Computer.

When deciding which type of computer to buy, consider how you will be working and which option would be best for you. If you are going to be working away from the office from time to time, you might choose a laptop. Make sure when you are using if for extended periods at your desk that it is on a stand with the screen at eye level and use a proper keyboard and mouse.

Consider a large external hard drive for making mirror back-ups and storing large files and make sure you also have an online back system such as Carbonite.

 

Home Office Tip 3 – Set up your telephone system.

Firstly you need to consider if you will use your home telephone number, set up a new line just for business use, perhaps use Skype (providing you have excellent broadband) or register a non-geographic or 0844 number that will divert to your home number during office hours.

There are benefits to all options so consider each one carefully before making your choice. Don’t use more than one or they WILL all ring together!

Just a note about using a mobile telephone number, don’t use one for your main business number as it will destroy your credibility. It screams ‘one-man-band’. If you want to use a mobile, divert your landline to it using BT Call Divert.

Home Office Tip 2 – Create a permanent, comfortable and healthy desk space.

When choosing a desk make sure it is large enough area to accommodate the work you will be completing. It is tempting, particularly when using a small space, to go for a small desk or one of those cupboard work stations. Just make sure you have enough room to spread out.

Make sure the chair you choose is fully adjustable and comfortable. You will be spending a lot of time at your desk so ensuring a healthy sitting posture is essential.

Tips For Setting Up Your Home Based Office

One of the fun parts of setting up your home business is setting up your home office. Here are some hot tips to make sure you invest wisely in everything you will need.

Tip 1 – Create a dedicated space that is your ‘office’.

Ideally this should be a dedicated space, an entire room if possible or at least a sizable portion of one. You will need a clear space to work that has sufficient power sockets and a phone line connection nearby. Make sure your work space is clear from noise and distractions like a t.v. or washing machine.

Also think about the additional room you will need for other furniture you will need including a filing cabinet, stationery storage etc.

How Working From Home Makes You Better Off

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.”

When you add to this, that according to Homefinder UK having a home office can add up to £28,000 to the value of your property, working from home certainly seems to make you better off.

So is this time of financial uncertainty the right time to be starting a business? With job security more ambiguous 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.

If you’re interested in starting your own virtual assistant business, working from home during hours that suit you, with the full back up and support of an established business behind you, why not find out about license opportunities with

My Virtual Assistant at www.myvirtualassistant.co.uk

Why 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 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.

If you’re interested in starting your own virtual assistant business, working from home during hours that suit you, with the full back up and support of an established business behind you, why not find out about license opportunities with

My Virtual Assistant at www.myvirtualassistant.co.uk

How Can Social Media Help My Business?

There are various social media platforms you can use to deliver messages to your readers and followers which we’ll look at through the remainder of this series. But before embarking on any marketing activity, it’s important to know why it’s useful.

Social media is instant so your messages can be delivered as they happen, and most importantly, it’s interactive – you are actually inviting comment and suggestion. Of course the most important point to remember is that the search engines love social media is its content is current and fresh. Your comments will be picked up by the search engines – how exciting is that?

 

What Is Social Media and Why Is It Important to My Business?

We’ve all heard the phrase social media, but what actually is social media and how can you use it to help your virtual assistant business?

In short, social media is a term that encapsulates a number of online communication platforms which make it easy for people to not only publish their own news and views but also comment on that posted by others.

Why Is Social Media Important?

Social Media has provided everyone with a platform to air their opinions, views and grievances with anyone around the world. People who use Social Media often become highly influential and are seen as experts in their own sphere and can develop large audiences around their area of interest.

Communities of like-minded people are forming around common interests over the Web regardless of where they are based in the world because the regular restrictions of geographical locations do not apply.

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 the 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 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?

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: John 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.

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.

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

Sometimes it’s not about who you know, but about whom 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.

Tips For 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 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.

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

If you’ve just started out and you’ve done a piece of work for a client who is pleased with the results, they will talk about it. 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!

Virtual Assistants and the Importance of Client Consultation

screenshakeWith a large number of virtual assistants to choose from these days, how can a potential client select who they want to work with? How can you project a professional image and create synergy with someone you’ve never met? What can you do or say to make them think ‘I’ve got to work with this person’?

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 mind-set. 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 do 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 on board you need to maintain the momentum with scheduled meetings as an on-going 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.

Want To Be A Virtual Assistant?

ebook cover publishSetting yourself up as a virtual assistant is an exciting step but one which should not be taken without some serious consideration. Starting any new business, particularly one where you work from home, can appear either a stimulating or frightening prospect, or both, depending on your perspective and experience. Breaking out from the ‘employed’ world and into one where you are your own boss is an exhilarating prospect, but being responsible for that business and solely reliant on yourself to generate your income can be a very daunting reality.

We have published a guide designed to raise some points you may not have considered and pose a series of questions you need to ask yourself in order to decide if setting yourself up as a virtual assistant is really for you. If you decide it is, what follows is a list of steps to help you navigate your way through this new alien self employed environment and put you firmly on the road to success – all for just £9.95

Click here to get your copy today!

How To Work With Virtual Assistant Associates

You can work with Associates in one of two ways, or indeed, a combination of both.

Firstly you can retain all the client contact so that he/she never knows that the work they are sending you has been completed by a third party.

The plus side here is that you will never have to worry about unscrupulous associates who may attempt to take the client from you, or underhand clients who think they may save a pound or two if they cut you out of the equation and work directly with your associate.

The downside is there will be inevitable delays as you send work back and forth, and you will have to be not only very aware of every piece of work as you will have to discuss it with the client where necessary, you will have to double check everything that goes out. All this additional admin can become very time consuming.

The second way to work with an associate is to effectively pass the client over to them and allow direct communication.

This frees up much more of your time as all discussions about the tasks performed are direct between the client and the associate. However, do make sure that you have very solid contracts in place with both your associate and your client to prevent them working directly together.

Also bear in mind that associates will not be with you forever so make sure you keep yourself up to speed with the clients account information, that you have access to all their files and the work completed by the associate, and that you maintain a relationship with them have contacting them regularly to check in and see how things are going.

It’s imperative to have an Associate Agreement in place so that everyone understands the boundaries of the relationship.

Expanding Your Virtual Assistant Business with Associates

office group2When you have filled your virtual assistant business with clients, you will soon run out of time that you can sell to new prospects. After all, you only have so many hours in the day that you can work. So how can you expand and take on more business without the overheads of getting an office and taking on staff?

It’s time to introduce you to the Virtual Assistant Associate.

Working with associates is a very popular business model in several industries as it works in much the same way as working with a virtual assistant. When there is work you don’t have the time to complete, your clients outsource it to you. When you have an excess of client work you don’t have time to complete, you outsource it to an associate.

Associates work at a reduced hourly rate to that you have charged your client, as they have been handed the work ‘on a plate’ without having to do all the marketing and relationship building associated with bringing that client on board.

You also continue to manage the client relationship and invoicing, and the client remains a customer of your business rather than becoming a direct customer of your associate.

It’s imperative to have an Associate Agreement in pace so that everyone understand the boundaries of the relationship.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.