How to be a Virtual Assistant

How to be a Virtual Assistant

The amount of reading I have done on “How to be a VA” is equal to a degree course in English!

The information available can be both awesome and overwhelming.

There are some amazing online VA mentors who offer courses and provide great support and help along the way. I have also connected with some great VA’s who have taken the time to help, encourage and support me. Without them, I would be losing my mind & soul within the 9-5 rat trap (virtual gratitude and round of applause!)

From what I’ve gathered most start their VA journey not because they want to become powerful, rich business people (it’s perhaps the dream – not the goal!) but to utilise their skills working for themselves to make a good income.

Given that Virtual Assistance isn’t an accredited industry and most people look bewildered when you mention the term (or pick up on the ‘virtual’ and ask “are you really here!”…hil-larious!) the VA journey can create a lot of doubt.

And not just doubt on whether being a VA will pan out – there are so many other challenges. And given there are no hard and fast rules to setting up your VA business there are also many questions with varying and often confusing answers, for example;

Do I need a business plan and/or a business coach?

Should I set up independently as a freelancer or work for an agency? Can you do both?

Do I need a website? Can I create one myself or will that look amateurish? Would it be better to pay a professional? Should I write a blog? What will I write about? Shall I list my prices?

What do I charge? Shall I start low and increase my rates when I am more established?

Should I network locally or go further out? Should I find a networking group and become a member?

Can I find clients via networking or Social Media? Which works best?

How do I find my niche? I enjoy working with individuals and small companies, do I have to choose?

Should I work as an Associate? How do I get to work as an Associate?

Should I get help setting up social media accounts? Which ones will work best for me?

Ultimately, the answer to these questions are for the individual to decide and anyone reading this at the start of their journey might now be having palpitations.

You can also get discouraged by posts and articles on how best to present yourself. Only this morning I read that using the terms “outsource” or “delegate” are detrimental and downgrades the work I do…I know I’ve used both terms in at least 2 blogs I have already written!

The thing to remember is mindset is everything.

There will be times when doubt and confusion take hold though a negative mindset doesn’t have to develop. The journey began with hope, desire and most of all belief – and this is what we need to hold onto as therein lies the answers we’re looking for. It’s hard work – really hard work, but worth it.

Being a VA means nourishing and nurturing a positive mindset.

The external conflicts of balancing life commitments, clients etc., are inevitable but internal conflicts are within our control.

Focusing on the belief and reasons for starting your VA journey can stop the negative tailspin.

In amongst the doubt and confusion, I’ve never forgotten the reason I started my VA journey. My ‘sense of self’ is more intact than it has ever been – financially poorer (at present!) but soulfully richer.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself George Bernard Shaw

5 Benefits of Social Media for Business

5 Benefits of Social Media for Business

When starting a business, the amount of social media platforms available can seem daunting. Social media is still relatively new phenomena and subject to so much change it can be overwhelming.

As with starting a business, you need a plan (a ‘marketing campaign’). Venturing into the world of social media requires a lot of research in establishing which ones are right for you and your business.

Having an online presence, however, isn’t just about setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account. Social media needs to be nurtured for it to grow. You need to understand what’s required to achieve your goals, reach clients and build relationships.

To benefit from social media, you need to know how to engage with your potential clients. Don’t expect overnight success once you’ve decided which platforms to utilise. To develop and grow your business via social media effectively takes time.

A well-structured social media campaign can also uncover a previously untapped market of opportunity with the capacity to reach customers not just locally but globally.

1. Affordability

Social media is cost effective. Even running targeted adverts can be an inexpensive way to promoting your business. Social media encourages business promotion and advertising at minimal to no cost.

There are also many online apps you can use alongside your chosen social media networks that can help with marketing your brand and increasing your online visibility.

2. Builds brand loyalty

An online presence paves the way to brand recognition. By engaging with your clients, you can increase awareness and generate interest.

Social media shouldn’t be about constant promotion and sales pitches. It’s an opportunity to develop and build relationships and nurture a good reputation. Engaging with your online community and sharing without the hard sell can develop trust and confidence.

3. Increased website traffic

Your website is the ‘home’ of your business – and social media gives you an opportunity to boost online traffic to your site. More visitors to your website will improve your online visibility and increase your website ranking on search engines.

4. Share content faster and easier

 “Content is fire. Social media is gasoline.” – Jay Baer (Digital marketing & online customer service expert)

Providing information regarding your business is no longer the marketing challenge it used to be. Social media provides immediate access when it comes to promoting and distributing your business’s most up-to-date information regarding products, services, or upcoming events. All that is required is sharing content via your social network.

Content is key. Interacting and communicating with your online community via post, blogs or shares shouldn’t always be about marketing – sharing information can provide insights on a more personal level and provide a more enriching client experience.

5. Build client relationships

Social media not only provides access to your online community, it can also give great insights into your client base. You can access their status updates, read posts, tweets, blogs and articles. This can provide a better foundation for building or adjusting your marketing strategy and therefore provide a more tailored service. With greater bonds and more rewarding connections, you are more liking to gain work and/or referrals.

With its boundless functionality and unrestricted reach, an online presence can greatly benefit any business.

“Ignoring online marketing is like opening a business but not telling anyone” Anonymous

To Send or Not to Send?

To Send or Not to Send?

Automated DM’s & Newsletters… It’s like the old adage for Marmite – people either love it or hate it. Well, not exactly love it – unbothered by it. If there’s no interest, hit “unsubscribe” or “unfollow” – select, delete – move on.

It’s the same with canvassing/leafleting – I have friends who hate junk mail with a passion and have plaques on their front doors to attest the fact – and friends that just bin it.

Automated Twitter DM’s are also annoying for some – they will instantly hit “unfollow ” when they receive it.

I’ve worked with people whose blood would boil when receiving spam email – they saw it as a real invasion of their privacy.

There are also many posts on LinkedIn where people take severe umbrage to receiving newsletters from their connections.

On the other side of the coin, there are those who are sending newsletters and taking offence when they are blocked, unsubscribed or reported as spam.

Fact is – sending newsletters without the consent of the recipient is illegal.

Yet people still do it. Why? If it’s going to annoy and upset your connections and potentially threaten your reputation, why do it?

As a small business owner, I have toyed with the idea of a newsletter. I personally believe that it’s far better (and a more wholesome approach) to establish working relationships face to face. However, networking to build those relationships can take time. Though for some, as time ticks by and the funds run low, they question whether starting a business was the right decision – without enough money or clients they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. And therein lies a reason why many small start-up business owners and entrepreneurs send newsletters.

There are, of course, those that don’t even consider the offence they may cause and send them regardless of money/time constraints.

In amongst the spam of unsolicited messages from large (and many evil!) corporations, online retailers and unwanted subscriptions, etc., often lies a newsletter from someone who isn’t malicious. They realise what they’re doing may upset or offend some people but, they’re at a loss and they also don’t know how else to market themselves. They just want to introduce themselves and offer their services with the hope that maybe you, or someone you know will be able to help them as much as they genuinely want to help you. They just want to make that initial connection in the hope that they can then progress to something more personal. For them it’s a double-edged sword – they still believe in themselves and what they have to offer – it’s a risk they’ll take and hope for the best.

As with most things, it’s never as clear-cut as it may seem sometimes. There’s absolutely no desire to offend, just the hope for some success.

Yes, risk-taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking.

Jim McMahon

How to Delegate and Generate Growth

How to Delegate and Generate Growth

If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to learn to delegate.

Richard Branson

On the road to success, you should heed the advice of those that have made it – and Richard Branson epitomises success. He began as an entrepreneur selling records and magazines. Now he’s founder of the Virgin group which manages over 400 companies – need I say more!

Handing over tasks to others is a vital element in getting work done effectively yet many have difficulties delegating. How often have you thought “I know how to do this better than anyone else” or “I don’t have the time to teach someone else” or the ultimate excuse “I’ll save money doing it myself”.

Well, you probably could –  if time wasn’t an issue and you could freeze it! Truth is, you risk being locked in an endless cycle of too little time and too much to do. If you are undertaking tasks that don’t generate income and are time-consuming, then you’re not using your time wisely – you’re wasting it. Not the mindset of a successful entrepreneur! The hazards of ‘doing it all’ can be detrimental to your business, health and personal life.

Good business acumen requires the ability to delegate. In fact, business sectors and teams exist for this purpose –  to delegate tasks that are too large, complex or ever-changing for one person to handle on their own.  Effective delegation is a time-saving roadmap which leads to greater productivity. Once you rewire your approach to outsourcing, your quality of life improves – and you focus and channel your efforts into the things that matter most in life. By streamlining your tasks, you have more time and energy to grow your business.

There is an art to delegating successfully and it involves more than hiring and managing people and telling them what to do. Delegation is a balancing act that requires commitment and preparation. It also involves guidance and motivation. Delegation will challenge your abilities to communicate as well as your skills in problem-solving, planning and decision-making and will, therefore, help develop better working relationships.

Start by establishing the tasks and deciding which ones you need to delegate.

Learn to let go and collaborate by agreeing on timelines and targets and follow-up systems to check progress.

Discuss with team member’s ideas and suggestions to ensure everyone is aware of what is involved. Decision making as a team results in a higher quality of work, harmony and motivation.

Work through how the tasks will be undertaken with clear instructions and steps on how the task will progress.

Acknowledging variables in work styles can lead to better teamwork, commitment and productivity. We all work differently – for example, some people can multi-task and some like to focus on one task at a time. Collaborating as a team to establish how each member will contribute will create a better focused and a more productive outcome.

As your business develops, so will the need for delegation. Evaluating task ownership will evolve with changes in business so provide a ‘delegation check-up’ to anticipate and handle any changes. Ongoing project team meetings are vital.

Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.

Steve Jobs

 Delegating to a Virtual Assistant

When you hire a VA, an integral and fundamental part of the process is delegation. During the consultation process, it is important to have faith in the collaboration. An experienced and responsible VA knows what it takes to run a virtual office and can recommend various apps and software to help you run your business more efficiently.

It’s vital you are clear on every task you are delegating and that you outline your expectations – the most competent of Virtual Assistants still needs you to outline the parameters. Ensure they know what you expect, for example, if you require weekly or daily reports, just ask.

A VA can become a great business partner –  giving you the freedom to focus your time and talents on other areas of business.

Essentially, lack of time is why you need to delegate to a Virtual Assistant. Time is infinitely more valuable than money… so spend it wisely.

Why you need to hire a Virtual Assistant…effective immediately!

Why you need to hire a Virtual Assistant…effective immediately!

If good organisation is fundamental to success, it naturally follows that writing a ‘to do’ list is key. But if the list is getting longer and very little is getting done, success becomes less likely.

It doesn’t necessarily mean failure is inevitable but it does beg the question, without help, are you making things more difficult for yourself? Is your focus on business development being compromised?

Delaying tasks only increase their size and urgency. There’s also the very valid question, can I really afford help? If you’re feeling overwhelmed and have a backlog of admin tasks, can you really afford not to?

It used to be up until only recently that Virtual Assistance remained an overlooked commodity and most businesses didn’t really know what a VA was or the benefits of having VA services. The norm was recruiting employees on a full or part-time/temporary basis. But finding the right employee is time-consuming and not always successful. You also pay more for an employee than just a salary.

Many entrepreneurs & SME’s are now working with Virtual Assistants to establish their goals and do what needs to be done.

VA services are both cost-effective and time-saving as you pay for what you need when you need it – you buy the time you need to get the job done.

The advantages of hiring a VA:

* VA’s are skilled organisers and multi-taskers. They know how to prioritise to get things done. They have a wealth of experience in admin processes and procedures and will manage their time, and effectively your time, wisely.

* VA’s have their own resources so there’s no need to provide equipment or office space.

* VA’s are experienced, independent contractors. You don’t pay for holidays, sickness, training or national insurance.

* VA’s are task-focused and don’t have the distractions of an office environment.

* VA’s are highly motivated – it’s essential to their success and reputation. They’re driven and dedicated to providing the best possible service.

* VA’s have a wealth of skills and experience, therefore don’t require training.

* VA’s have developed expertise and abilities that span many industries and working environments and can provide a fresh perspective on business practices, providing you with more time to focus on the more pressing tasks of bringing in new business.

What is fundamental to success is having time to focus on areas of development and growth – creating building blocks to successful business strategies… a good VA will be the glue that holds those blocks together.

“The best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now…”