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Communication: The Battle Cry of the Virtual Assistant

Communication: The Battle Cry of the Virtual AssistantJust as the famous chant of a real estate agent would be “Location, location, location!” – the battle cry of the Virtual Assistant is “Communication, communication, communication!” Really, it’s a biggie on the priority list to make ours a successful, working relationship.

I don’t hear you thump down your briefcase when you return to the office after a negative client meeting. I don’t see your rumpled clothing, the result of your spouse having been ill for a full week already. Even better – I don’t hear office gossip that would cause me to have any suspicions. So, when things happen, just let me know. I’m here to make your life easier, right? I’d be very happy to make a few excuses to your clients, move some meetings around and keep your website and inbox looking ship-shape. That way, you can give your spouse the rest he or she requires, and still be confident that your work is not taking the fall.

I have a really lovely partnership client who provides a quality service I believe in. We’ve been working together for a few years now, so I’m pretty familiar with both partners’ writing styles, preferences and response times. You can imagine how shocked I was when I received no answer to an email query sent to Partner Number One, who usually responds within a few hours. I waited. My client’s client, with whom I was corresponding, was also waiting. I was ready to call emergency rooms, when Partner Number Two let me know that Partner Number One was on vacation in the Ukraine. The communication delay caused their client understandable frustration, which I would have preferred to prevent. I schooled my client in the workings of autoresponders, and we can now work side by side to prevent mishaps like this.Communication, communication, communication!

I manage correspondence for a few different clients. Upon the commencement of a new working relationship, I “interview” my new client to make sure I’ve noted his or her work style, communication and hours preference (some folks are emailers, some are phone people, some early risers and some night owls) and any other relevant details (aisle or window? Chicken or fish?) As close as I’ve gotten to having ESP, however, there is always a learning curve present. Being a reasonable person, you probably know this, too.  Do us (and our working relationship) a favor – if I’m a little off on an assigned task, let me know, so I can re-adjust for next time!  I won’t see your grimace or that little eyebrow raise. Clear communication is key.

You could say (or write), “Aviela, can we tweak this a little?” I can do pretty much anything exactly the way you’d like it done. Okay, virtual coffee might not quite work, I’ll grant you that. Some clients are very particular and I respect that. Below is a list of items I might manage on your behalf. You may have developed a particular format, style or order of wanting them completed. Don’t keep your way a secret! Let me know, and I promise, it’ll look so good, you may think you’ve done it yourself:

  • Calendar, contact entries, confirmations
  • Correspondence
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Research
  • Spreadsheets
  • CRM documentation
  • Travel plans

I’ve even been known to do clients’ personal shopping, restaurant reservations and personal RSVPs. I bought one client’s wife flowers and wrote a lovely card to match.

So, not only do I wear many different hats, my hats are in all different styles. Friendly or formal, comical or casual, I can do it. The key is not to be scared of articulating specifics. You’ll be glad you let me know!

About the author: Aviela is a Virtual Assistant at Virtual Assistant Israel, a leading boutique Virtual Assistant firm based in Israel and serving clients throughout Europe and the United States. VAI employs American professionals who specialize in marketing, writing, administration and social media. Each VA has a U.S. phone line and works U.S. hours. Visit the VAI website to learn more and schedule your free consultation.

Virtual Assistant Services A Boon To American Real Estate Investors

Real Estate Virtual AssistantsA live interview with Elsa Olden of Virtual Office Staffing at the American Real Estate Investors radio show discussed how virtual staffing has helped small business all over the country, real estate investors in particular, grow their businesses without the usual risks involved.

Small businesses that don’t grow risk losing their market if they’re unable to keep up with the demands of their growing clientele. Businesses that grow to fast on the other hand, risk bankruptcy if they don’t have enough money or resources to support additional staff.

Olden explains in the American REIA interview how outsourcing staffing needs to virtual assistants can help business avoid these risks as well as providing tips to listeners on how to hire their own virtual assistants. The competitive advantages of getting virtual assistants over in house staffing was enumerated and discussed in detail. Not only is virtual staffing less capital and resource intensive than traditional house staff, business can scale the amount of work they can allocate to their workers depending on their needs and what the businesses can afford.

The interview also covers the potential risks and pitfalls with hiring virtual assistants, especially for business owners who are not used to this non-traditional work arrangement.  In spite of these risks, the benefits of getting virtual assistants greatly outweigh the costs. In fact, is the safest investment investors can make for their business. Josh Caldwell of Caldwell Holdings LLC, a Pittsburgh real estate Investing company, is well aware of this and have utilized virtual assistants regularly for his company. “My home buying business in Pittsburgh would never be able to function at the level we are at without the use of virtual assistants.”, says Caldwell.

Why You Need to Delegate to a Virtual Assistant

There will come a time in your business when you feel plagued with the never ending amount of tasks and projects required to successfully operate your company.  In a state of overwhelm, there is simply too much for one person to achieve while remaining efficient, effective and balanced. You may find that you have numerous responsibilities to complete but not enough hours in the day.

  • You don’t have time to focus on your core genius
  • Low income tasks usurp your valuable time
  • Your work/life balance it out of whack
  • You have a set of tasks you need completed that are outside your skill set or expertise
  • You have missed deadlines or appointments
  • You spend hours updating your social media platforms, taking you away from your high payoff tasks and projects
  • You are having trouble finding time to research, update and syndicate your blog posts
  • You haven’t published a recent e-newsletter
  • There are 5424 emails in your inbox
  • Your You Tube channel is collecting dust
  • You consistently procrastinate on tasks because you simply don’t enjoy doing them
  • You don’t have the time to devote to working ON your business rather than IN it

“The first rule of management is delegation. Don’t try and do everything yourself because you can’t.”Anthea Turner

Why Delegate to a Virtual AssistantIf Chris Ducker can outline 101 Tasks that you can outsource to a Virtual Assistant, can you just imagine what you are holding on to? For example, he listed categories ranging from email marketing, administrative and blogging, email and schedule management tasks, to content writer, SEO and graphic design.  Under each category there were bulleted lists of tasks/projects to be delegated. It was quite extensive and really makes me think about all of the daily non-income producing items that you don’t delegate.  I understand you may get into the groove and just keep going with a project, but at what cost to the rest of your business?

Ask yourself:

  1. Is delegating a logical next step to help grow my business?
  2. How much time am I spending on tasks that impede my progression and waste my time?
  3. What are my most pressing issues or pain points that command most of my time?
  4. Have I been able to accomplish ALL of my daily To Do list items?
  5. If I delegated tasks, how would I utilize an additional 5-8 hours per week?
  6. How would I feel if I only worked on income generating tasks and released the more administrative projects to a virtual assistant?

The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels. Eli Broad

There is no need to struggle with your business operations and daily tasks when you have the opportunity to outsource. It will save you time and money. With 168 hours in the work week, it is important to choose your activities and projects that make the most sense for yourself and your business. If you find yourself in floury of needless activities that aren’t producing desired outcomes or generating revenue, then it may be time to consider working with a Virtual Assistant to give you back your time and passion to focus on your business. If you are still teetering on the fence a bit, you might enjoy reading: 5 Mental Roadblocks to Partnering with a Virtual Assistant

2014 is here. It’s time to do something different. Make new inroads; greater progress.

The Sales Blog: “Successful people spend their time where they create value. They delegate, eliminate, or defer activities where they cannot create value.”

Outsourcing is a low cost, high payoff tool to assist you with your organizational growth. There are only so many hats we entrepreneurs can wear at one time, before our do it all mentality ends up costing us either lost time, opportunities, accounts, business development or free time. Why aren’t you delegating?

“When I am speaking with new business owners, or ones that can’t seem to find the time to get everything done, the very first piece of advice I offer is to partner with a virtual assistant.” M. Shannon Hernandez

Suzie Kummins-Poirier, Virtual Assistant

About the author: Suzie Kummins-Poirier, a.k.a AceConcierge, is a virtual assistant working with entrepreneurs and business people who care to focus on their core genius by delegating the much-needed but time-consuming everyday tasks of managing business. With 30 years experience within corporate and working remotely with clients, Suzie has built a career supporting hundreds of business professionals in propelling their businesses to increased income and laser-sharp focus. Follow Suzie on Twitter, via her blog and on Facebook.

How Your Virtual Assistant Can Help Maximize Social Media for Your Small Business

Your virtual assistant can help you set your small business apart from the competition by helping you solidify your business and brand. Building a positive image for your company will help you expand your own service market and reach additional potential clients.

You and your virtual assistant can use this infographic, packed full of information, on how to maximize your efforts on the various social media platforms.

How to Promote Your Business on Social Media

In today’s crowded digital world, you need to put yourself out there to be noticed. Creating business pages on social media is a great way to do just that. Here are three ways your virtual assistant can start promoting your business on social media now:

1. Get Online

If you don’t already have a website you’re missing one of the key components for how your target market can find and contact you (no matter what you do). Most skilled virtual assistants have at least some experience building a website – if the VA you’re working with doesn’t know how to work with WordPress, you can submit an RFP for free here to find one who does.

2. Network

Once your virtual assistant has created a page for your business on Facebook and/or Twitter, have your VA start reaching out and networking with other businesses, entrepreneurs, or groups in your industry and in your target market. You’ll find that many people are willing to help and interact with your social media presence if you show an interest in helping and interacting with them as well.

While you can (and should) network in person, don’t forget that social media is a great way to start these conversations online!

3. Build Your Reputation and Credibility

Your virtual assistant can jump start your social media efforts by helping you get content onto your blog – this creates a place where you can showcase your expertise and business acumen. Your VA can then share these posts on social media to start building a reputation for you or your company as a credible source for information, resources, solutions, and answers.

4. Run a Paid Campaign On Social Media

Once your VA has successfully started to grow your social media presence, you might consider running a paid ad campaign on your social media platform of choice. When properly targeted, these campaigns can provide a huge return on your investment. The right VA will have experience and knowledge in this particular area of social media marketing.

The infographic below, with various image specs and posting guidelines for the main social media platforms, can help you and your VA power up your social media efforts!

Social-Media-Image-Sizing-Cheat-Sheet (6)

4 Steps to Finding Your Ideal Virtual Assistant

4 Steps to Finding an Ideal Virtual AssistantIf you’re considering hiring the services of a virtual assistant these tips will help make sure they’re the right person for the job.

I believed for a long time that as a soloist I couldn’t afford a virtual assistant (VA). After all, I am a soloist so I should look after all aspects of my business, shouldn’t I?

However, one of the reasons I became a soloist was to have the type of lifestyle that I wanted with a good work-life balance. Yet I found that I was working long hours and there just weren’t enough hours in the day. Finally I made the decision that I should at least look into the possibility of a VA.

Here are four steps that I found useful in finding my ideal VA.

Step 1.

It’s important to know what you want your VA to do for you. Almost anything you do in your office can be done virtually so you’re only limited by your imagination.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of tasks that you could outsource:

Office support

  • Diary management
  • Sending contracts and information packages
  • Routine paperwork and online file organisation
  • Emailing customer invoices
  • Managing your e-newsletter list
  • Data entry
  • Formatting your presentations and documents
  • Identifying and implementing office processes to help save time and money

Bookkeeping

  • Following up on late payments
  • Keeping your financial records up-to-date so that you’re fully prepared come BAS and tax time
  • Reconciling bank statements

Marketing

  • Lead generation
  • Social media management
  • Managing your company’s online identity and branding
  • Providing regular reports that detail how your marketing plan is progressing

Website management

  • Helping to choose a web host
  • Ongoing web support and assisting with changes and updates

When you’ve decided upon the specific tasks that your potential VA will do for you, you’re then able to focus on finding the right one for you.

Step 2:

Decide how you want to employ their services.

  • Will you be going through an agency?
  • Will you be hiring them directly?
  • Will you be hiring someone from within Australia or overseas?

Each of these questions help to clarify the options available when employing a VA. Consider though, the advantages and disadvantages of each of the options.

Step 3:

Conduct an informal interview with the VA. This can be carried out via the phone, Skype or face-to-face if you’re in the same city.

At this time, find out their areas of expertise. Do these areas complement the vision that you have for your business?

Check:

  • The hours available for your work
  • Their rates and how you’ll be invoiced
  • How they will keep you up-to-date with their progress on tasks
  • How often and by what means you’ll be communicating

Step 4:

Clearly communicate your requirements and set up a system that works for both you and your VA. As in any working relationship, communication is the key. As the trust and the relationship develops you may find that more opportunities arise by which you can utilise your VA’s skills.

In my case, I now can’t imagine running my business without my VA. Her skills and expertise have allowed me to develop my business. With that, I’ve been able to pursue new opportunities that may not have previously been possible. Employing the services of a VA has been a good business decision.

Has outsourcing tasks to a virtual assistant helped your business? What are your tips for finding the ideal VA?

About the author: Maria Pantalone is the director of Infinite Growth, a Sydney-based company that works with individuals and businesses to improve their communication skills so that they can professionally present their products and services with maximum impact. Her areas of specialty include presentation skills, business writing, customer service and leadership development. For more information about Infinite Growth’s programs visit www.infinitegrowth.com.au.

What is a Virtual Assistant and How Can a VA Help Your Business?

In the normal office setting, you will find a versatile group of employees who take care of day to day tasks. Entrepreneurs that work online for themselves, do not have this luxury. This makes Virtual Assistants or VA’s a perfect fit for the online business model.

Work duties can be handled by Virtual Assistants via the Internet. They are located all over the world and they often are overseas because of the cost. Choosing a Virtual Assistant means you can have the entire workforce of the world to meet the needs of your business.

What is a Virtual Assistant? video

The Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant

One of the biggest reasons to hire a Virtual Assistant is to eliminate the repetitive tasks that take up your time. A VA can take over items that may be frustrating to you in your business. A Virtual Assistant can also run your business while you are away on a trip. Many are skilled in a variety of niches and can take over tasks that you may be unable to perform.

The Disadvantages of Working with a Virtual Assistant

Along with the positive, there are also some negative aspects of working with a VA. Often times, the daily management and training portion of working with a Virtual Assistant can be a huge task. Keeping in touch with someone located in a different location can also be challenging for you. In addition, you may have to deal with communication barriers if your Virtual Assistant is located in another country. Lastly, sharing your confidential business information requires a level of trust that must be established.

The fact that your VA can take over such a large variety of tasks for you will generally overshadow any potential issues that you may face.

Information Gathering and Internet Research

One task you may consider turning over to your Virtual Assistant is the gathering of info and research duties. You may hire your Virtual Assistant to locate speaking engagements for you, find forums that you can contribute to, or check out bloggers that you may want to put on your blog roll.

Management of your Email Inbox

A VA can step in and take over the duty of handling your email inbox. They can do things like: emptying out your inbox and creating folders for your messages and sending clients general communications and requests for payments. Another handy task would be setting up routine messages ahead of time. Then, all your VA would need to do is cut, paste and send.

Social Media Management

It is becoming very common for many entrepreneurs to have a Virtual Assistant take care of routine social media duties. Many VA’s take care of setting up social media profiles, researching and locating connections for you, and managing daily updates. This way, your business is active on social media but you aren’t spending all day taking care of this task.

SEO Support Needs

Entrepreneurs may find a Virtual Assistant who can take care of SEO duties for their businesses. These VA’s may have a package of SEO tasks they offer. SEO can be very time consuming and a Virtual Assistant can take care of this task quickly and easily.

Finding the Right Help

A Virtual Assistant can be a great asset to your online business. It would be a very good idea to research several different Virtual Assistants ahead of time. Then, if you do end up needing a Virtual Assistant, you will already have an idea of the type of VA you are looking for. Save the information to get in touch with them and be sure to reach out when your business is ready.

Barbara Taylor, Virtual AssistantAbout the author: Barbara Taylor has been working from home since 2007. She provides support options to businesses in several areas including: Social Media Management, WordPress Assistance, Customer Service and Telephone Support, General Administrative Support and more via her website: Admin by the Hour. Removing the burden of routine daily tasks from business owners is one of her favorite past times.

7 Ways a Virtual Assistant Can Save You Money, Find You Money, and Earn You Money

7 Ways a Virtual Assistant Can Save You Money, Find You Money, and Earn You MoneyIn the 21st century, the Internet has become the basis of identifying information and advancing in all fields. “To Google” is now an acceptable verb (i.e. “Google it!” or “I Googled it and I found…”) The information superhighway, however, is often viewed as a time consuming distraction – Facebook, Pinterest, games, chatrooms and gossip columns galore are considered time-sucks. Let’s get back to the ideal purpose of the World Wide Web – if you don’t focus on its business-enhancing potential you may be missing essential and money saving information, thereby putting yourself at a disadvantage in this technologically advancing society.

Your Virtual Assistant can perform all of the Internet research that you could possibly need, ultimately saving money, finding money, and earning money:

Market Research
Your Virtual Assistant can do what we call a “verbal dump” with you – she spends an hour on the phone with you at the beginning of your relationship, after she’s reviewed all of your published material (your website, any whitepapers, your publications or marketing material.) She focuses on really learning about who your clients are and what their purchasing profiles might be. Then, she sets to work researching where they are online, what they read, what they buy, how they make decisions and can draw conclusions and make suggestions from there on where you need to situate yourself to get in front of them.

Finding the best deals on the services you need.
There are countless product and service options for everything procure. Are you getting the best deal on your cell phone and data plan? Could you possibly use an alternate email marketing (e-blast) provider and save some money each month? Are you using WebEx for your promotional webinars while you’ve heard that LyncOnline might be cheaper, better and faster? Assign research projects to your Virtual Assistant and she will save you money every time.

Identifying Help or Funding
Whether you are a non-profit looking for funding or a new business trying to network and grow, you always want to identify any free assistance available. What do you need to learn? How can you go about that for free? Are there organizations which award grants or funding assistance to a company like yours, including entrepreneurial assistance, financial assistance or executive coaching? Your Virtual Assistant can do the necessary research to identify and contact organizations like these and get you some free support.

PR and Self Promotion Opportunities
One of the ideal ways for small businesses to self-promote is through public speaking opportunities. An accountant gives an hour-long free seminar on how to file for the child tax credit (a genuine and informative talk, not a used car salesman pitch on his services) and then signs up three new clients after the talk. His hour of time spent speaking on something which he A) likes and B) is an expert on demonstrated his value to an interested audience. Although he didn’t earn a paycheck for speaking, he earned new clients and that is earning money.

Finding newspaper, magazine, trade publications and journal articles that are relevant to your business. As is imperative in any social media effort and at the very least to keep abreast of your field, you need to be on top of relevant, current articles and business trends. Not only can your Virtual Assistant learn enough about your business to proactively determine what is relevant, she can also skim “the dailies” and summarize relevant content for you, so it only takes you 10 minutes each day to stay current rather than 2 hours that you simply don’t have.

Shop your competition.
It’s always advantageous to know who your worthy competitors are whether is it merely to compare services and pricing or to get better ideas and help you expand. Either way, your Virtual Assistant can find all of the necessary information for you.

The possibilities of utilizing your Virtual Assistant for research projects are endless and not only save you time and money, but can actually earn money as well.

Hilary Flaverman - Virtual Assistant IsraelAbout the author: Hilary Faverman is the Marketing Director of Virtual Assistant Israel, a leading boutique Virtual Assistant firm. Based in Israel and serving clients throughout Europe and the United States, we employ American professionals who specialize in marketing, writing, administration and social media. All of our employees are educated, experienced and available on a part time basis. We all have American phone lines and work American hours. You can hire a Virtual Assistant without a long term contract, purchasing blocks of pre-paid time, or scary cancellation fees.