Website 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.

Website 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 our email newsletter. In many cases the Association receives no compensation for the resource I recommend—I just know that it’s the best product or service 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.

Website 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.

Website 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?

Website 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 use a residential line for business, registering the number with the Telephone Preference Service.

Website 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.

Website Mistake 3: Nothing to demonstrates 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 a while, 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.

Website 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 call to action is 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 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.

How to Avoid Fatal Virtual Assistant Website Mistakes

As part of running the UK Association of Virtual Assistants I spend a lot of time researching online and checking other virtual assistant’s website. 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.

Online Book Keeping With Kashflow – Accounts Made Easy!

As a virtual assistant, we deal with many different customers, using varying systems and programs 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

Successful Small Businesses Keep a Close Eye on Cash Flow

Business advisors will tell you that one of the main reasons small businesses fail is cash flow. That is either they are not financed correctly in the first place, with sufficient funds to see them through the start-up phase, or that slow paying, or worse non-paying customers are destroying the financial health of the business.

When running a solo or small business there are two main reasons given as to why collecting payments from your clients can become an issue. Firstly it may be that you are so busy doing whatever it is that you do in order to make money, that you simply lose track of who has paid and which payments are late. Secondly, particularly if you are a solo business, there can be a level of embarrassment when the only person that can call the customer asking for the invoice to be paid, is the same person who provided the service.

Whatever the reason, it is imperative that you manage your cash flow effectively or you will soon be out of business. You should have a cash flow forecast that is made up of expected receipts and disbursements for the following 3 months (as a minimum) with some room for the unexpected factored in. With this information to hand you can easily see any potential difficult spots.

Once you have put together your cash flow forecast, it’s a good idea to take a close look at the expenses part of the forecast. Look for where you can cut some costs or find alternative suppliers, and think about what items are ‘nice to have’ but not essential to your business.

With the expenses under control you must make sure that the receipt part of the equation is taken care of with an effective collection system. Whichever system you use for issuing your customer invoices, set up a system for following up late payments. Get into the habit of issuing statements and following up by email, telephone or letter depending what is appropriate for you and your business.

The Secret to Virtual Assistant Success is in the Numbers

So here we are, fast approaching another financial year end. It’s around now that I run a bit of a review of how we’ve done over the past year. What has worked and what hasn’t, what’s up and what’s down.

So if you haven’t done it yet, why not spend a couple of hours reviewing how you have done, and decide what changes you want to make in the coming 12 months?

Being a Virtual Assistant, just like any other business, is a numbers game. How many contacts you have made over the last year? Of these, how many have you turned in to prospects? And, how many clients you have secured as a result? You should also know the average value of your clients and their average lifetime value. These figures can tell you some really interesting things.

For example, if you know that over the previous 12 months you made:

  • 300 contacts, of whom
  • 100 became prospects (by showing a real interest in what you offer), which resulted in
  • 15 new clients, each of whom spent an average
  • £15,000 per year, and stayed with you for an average duration of
  • two years

You will know that your clients have an average lifetime value of  £30,000. And, to generate each client, you need to make 20 new contacts (15 clients from an original 300 contacts: 300/15). Suddenly, the prospect of attending a few networking events over the next couple of months to find 20 new contacts does not seem such a drag, as you know that, on average, you will make  £30,000 for your efforts.

What you can also do is add up what you have spent on marketing, networking and other business-generating tools during the year. This will show the return on investment these have made. If you spent  £2,000 on marketing your business and generated 15 new clients (with an average lifetime spend of  £30,000), you know that that  £2,000 has resulted in £450,000 worth of sales. That’s a return of £225 for every pound spent. Excellent! You can break that down further if you have monitored where these contacts learned of you. You can then identify exactly which marketing, networking and advertising methods have given the greatest returns.

When it comes to planning for the next year, armed with this information, you can invest more in your most effective marketing methods, and less on the less effective. So, if you spent  £1,000 on a networking group, which achieved one client, but only  £50 advertising in an online Virtual Assistant directory, which resulted in three new clients, it does not take a genius to work out that spending more on advertising in the directory might be a better idea than renewing the membership of the networking group.

Also, take a long hard look at your ‘sales funnel’ – the process that people go through from being contacts to becoming clients. What are your conversion rates from contact to prospect and from prospect to client? Where are you losing people? If you find that you have lots of contacts but few prospects, are your contacts fully aware of what you do? Are you tailoring your offering to appeal directly to these people? If you have lots of prospects, but they are not turning into clients, are you following up properly? Do you need to set up a better relationship-building system to develop their confidence in you? As you identify these gaps and plug them, you will need to spend less on generating contacts, as more of your existing ones will become clients? Happy days!

File-Sharing Made Easy

As a virtual assistant you need to share files in some way with your clients. Often you will find your clients are happy to email latest versions of documents and spreadsheets backwards and forwards and some even have a file-sharing system in place that you can have access to.

But what happens if your client doesn’t have their own systems and you will be both updating a ‘live’ file such as a contacts database or an expenses spreadsheet? How do you both have access to the same current version of the file? You can purchase file sharing software such as Microsoft’s Sharepoint, or you can use free software such as Google Docs which, not very helpfully, interferes with the formatting of some documents and limits the size and/or formats of the files you can upload.

Well now, there’s a free option that not only works brilliantly, but also has many other features including access to 30 days worth of back up copies, in case you accidentally delete or ruin a file. You can also access your files remotely when you are out of the office so there’s no longer a need to take that laptop on holiday!

Click here for more information and an extra 500MB of space free!

Staying Focussed On Your Virtual Assistant 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.

Staying Focussed On Your Virtual Assistant 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.

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 Tip 3

Join at least one online networking site, which can be a strictly business site like LinkedIn or more social site (but often equally effective) such as Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget as a ‘virtual’ worker you can work with anyone, anywhere!

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

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.