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Four Tips for Hiring a Professional Virtual Assistant

My name is Alissa and I blog over at Rags to Stitches and I also run a blogger media marketing agency called Pollinate Media Group. I often get asked how I’m able to manage both the blog + the business…. to which I answer… with help! The key to running a successful business that can scale and grow truly is hiring help. I know that taking the plunge and hiring help can be a big decision to make so I thought I’d give you a tips I’ve learned a long the way that might help you determine if and how you could use a virtual assistant.

1. Be Aware of your Needs.
Take a look at all the things you need to accomplish each week both for your blog + in your personal life. Once you’ve made that list, figure out what things on that list you truly love to do and then hire help to do the rest. Here are some things that were on my list:

  • Social Media Shout outs?
  • Emailing Sponsors?
  • Filtering through general blog inquiries?
  • Putting together pictures and information for giveaway posts?
  • Emailing giveaway winners?

Four Tips for Hiring a Professional Virtual Assistant Once you determine your needs, then as you’re talking to different people about the possibility of being your assistant, you are able to be upfront with them about what you need and in turn they can come up with a cost (per hour or per month) for their services. If you don’t have a good idea of what you need before hiring someone, you may not hire the perfect person foryou. It’s so important that if you’re going to hire someone to help you with the day to day that your personalities complement one another. After all, they will be representing you and your brand and you’ll be working together closely each day.

“When you hit a point where you can’t find time to create great content, it’s time to hire help!”

2. Let’s Talk Budget.
So now you’ve determined you need help and you know what your needs are, let’s talk about the budget. I know, no one likes to talk about money, but it’s so important to face this issue. Here’s why: you can’t hire an assistant if you don’t make enough money to pay them and still cover all your other daily expenses. However, I will say it takes money to make money, so when you’re working your budget, figure out other places you can cut costs so that you can hire your Virtual Assistant. Hopefully having that person to walk alongside you day to day will help grow your business because your emails won’t be falling through the cracks. Know that you may break even for the first couple months between paying for sponsorships + your Virtual Assistant, but as you have more time to dedicate to content, your blog will grow and in turn you’ll have more sponsors. The end result? More profit. Before you begin the search process:

  • Have a budget in mind
  • If you find someone you want to work with + they have a preset hourly rate, find creative ways for you to achieve your goals and them to meet their hourly rate.
  • Most importantly remember it takes money to make money.

“Your business can’t grow if you’re doing it all, but it can grow with the right person on your team to help”

3. Understand the Value of a Virtual Assistant.
Now you’ve figured out your budget and found the perfect Virtual Assistant, it’s time to utilize your new assistant to help you with that list of tasks each month. As you do this it’s important that you remember you’re Virtual Assistants time is valuable as well, meaning they can’t just drop everything at the drop of a hat to help you with something you decide you need help with. I can say this because I’m totally guilty of doing this. When I hired Skye one of my biggest mistakes was that I didn’t make that list I just mentioned above and then when I decided I wanted to delegate a task I would text her or email her and ask her to do it. Then, when it didn’t get done “quick” enough I would do it myself. Let me tell you it was a disaster! Frustrating for me, frustrating for Skye. First of all, your Virtual Assistant has a life too, outside of working for you. So in order for her to be organized or effective, you need to be organized and effective! Second, don’t expect everything task you delegate to be done immediately. It’s ok if emails are returned in 24 hours. If you’re worried people will be frustrated by a lack of response, create an auto response email so people know you received their email and will be responding in 24-48 hours. Here’s what I recommend to help you get started with your VA:

  • Create an email account for your Virtual Assistant
  • On your sponsor page, communicate that you have an assistant that they can email with additional questions.
  • At the end of the month start looking ahead at the next month and figuring out your blogging calendar
  • Email or share via Google Calendar (or a virtual calendar) a rough outline of what the month looks like (you can always add to it)
  • Have template emails that you create together for welcoming new sponsors, group giveaway posts, individual giveaway posts, etc. These templates can always be personalized, but the general information is there so it’s not left out of important monthly communication with sponsors.
  • Give your VA usernames and passwords to any social media accounts you want them to have access to and set boundaries for what they can and can’t do when using your social media outlets

I’m sure there are plenty more ideas than the ones I’ve listed above for you, but there’s a few to get you started.

4. Finding a Virtual Assistant.

  • Ask friends who have a Virtual Assistant
  • Craigslist
  • Don’t be afraid to interview multiple people – you need to find someone who is the best fit for YOU.
  • Be upfront about your expectations
  • Hire someone who can handle constructive criticism
  • Don’t hire someone you can’t be direct with
  • Try not to hire you friends
  • Don’t be in a hurry! You want to find the right person to work with. I had two Virtual Assistants before I worked with Skye.

My Virtual Assistant, Skye, also has a list of Virtual Assistants that can help you get started in your search process. I know that relinquishing help can be scary, but it opened up so many hours in my day that allowed me stress-free time with my kids + my husband. Time that I had lost before I had a Virtual Assistant and can never get back.

Alissa Circle - Rags to StitchesAbout the author: Alissa Circle is the woman behind her life and style blog Rags to Stitches where she shares her loves, dreams, struggles, and personal triumphs. She and her husband, Kyle, are the dreamers behind Pollinate Media Group. Alissa was recently voted as one of the Top 25 Mompreneurs 2012 by Circle of Moms. She also travels and speaks at conferences around the nation. Connect with Alissa, and Pollinate Media on Twitter and Google+.

Does a Virtual Assistant Need Candy Crush Saga Skills?

Does a Virtual Assistant Need Candy Crush Saga Skills?This is the first in a series of articles to assist new business owners and entrepreneurs with how to work with a Virtual Assistant (VA), from the perspective of a virtual assistant – me!

You’ve read the articles, guides and ebooks. You’ve listened to webinars, scrolled through tweetchats on Twitter and watched videos on YouTube to learn how to hire a Virtual Assistant. Still, you haven’t been able to find that “just right” individual to be your virtual office ace.

As your entrepreneurial endeavor is beginning to bear fruit, it’s important to know what office tasks should be assigned – and to whom. But first, you have to know what to look for in a Virtual Assistant.

Let’s remember that a Virtual Assistant is a business owner, as you are. He or she has bills to pay, profit to generate and often will have other clients to serve. A Virtual Assistant is a professional freelancer, working for you on an as-needed basis; bringing necessary skills for you to fulfill your business dream. The benefit to you is the opportunity to bring in a high level professional, without the annual salary, benefits and administrative costs associated with hiring an employee.

As you would take similar steps when seeking a contractor like a plumber, mechanic or doctor, let’s run through some of the basics of hiring a Virtual Assistant:

Experience:
Do not even think of hiring a high school or college student, or worse, invite an unpaid intern to become your Virtual Assistant. Would you use the same approach if you sought a plumber, mechanic, or a brain surgeon? Probably not. Your business is not a hobby or a college assignment. Your business is a revenue producing, always evolving and hopefully profitable entity. A teenager who knows how to play Candy Crush Saga on his iPhone is not a qualified, vetted Virtual Assistant. Your VA, especially your first, should have skills and experience performing the tasks you will assign. In fact, an experienced, high level VA can assist you with transitioning tasks by recommending what he or she can take off of your plate, so you can focus on more profitable activities.

Integrity:
How do you know your prospective VA’s background? Ask. Any pro worth his or her salt will have a web presence, or at the very least, a LinkedIn profile or Facebook page. If you can’t find it, you may want to skip that prospect and move on to the next. There are thousands of qualified pros who will partner with you to help you execute your plans and hit your targets. Surely you can find someone with references and that has a track record of work you can measure.

Skills:
Ask the prospective VA for samples of work. If you’re looking for assistance copy editing your blog posts, ask for links to past work – and check it. The same holds true for social media marketing assistance. My gauge is – if someone markets themselves as a social media marketing guru, maven or maverick and doesn’t have a Twitter feed, Facebook page or a LinkedIn profile – run, don’t walk, in the opposite direction. Not legit.

References:
As you would vet a prospective employee, ask for references and then follow up. Three is probably enough, even better if at least one is someone you know and trust.

We’d like to hear your comments about seeking or working with a VA. Would you please share in the comments?

Your Job My Office Virtual AssistanceAbout the author: Sonia Schenker has more than 25 years experience as an administrative assistant and executive office support professional, specializing in transforming chaos to cadence by assisting new and experienced entrepreneurs identify and implement timely, effective and necessary tasks that become the support structure of their profitability. She founded Your Job My Office Virtual Assistance in 2009. Sonia is a life-learner and recent college graduate (with honors), having majored in business management. SoniaSchenker.com @YourJobMyOffice, @SoniaSchenker, Sonia on Facebook.

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How To Work With Your Virtual Assistant

How To Work With a Virtual AssistantObviously, I’m a huge advocate of hiring your own Virtual Assistant for obvious reasons as I’ve listed here, here, and here. But, might you ask, how do I manage my VA? What are the “best practices” to manage them? Great question, and to that end, I asked my own Virtual Assistant, Angeline, to write a short article on her views and ideas regarding managing VAs, so that you might have a better idea on the best ways to manage your own VA. So, without further adieu, here’s what Angeline had to say:

You need to PRIORITIZE so that you can reach your goals. You need to alleviate many of the jobs that are not cost effective for you to perform – in other words, you have to cross out some things from your to-do lists and learn to delegate. Why would you do some menial tasks that are clearly hindering you from doing the most important things to improve your career or business?

It is indeed a fact that most of you are afraid to delegate tasks because you know that only YOU can do those things right. However, each time you do a mindless task yourself you make a statement about the value of your time. Always remember the basic rule in running your own business: learn to reinvest your earnings back into your career if you want to see some progress. In your own case, hire someone like ME – a personal assistant to work on your minor tasks so that you can focus more on your own BIG GOALS.

VA [off-site] versus PA [on-site]

The use of internet has been widely known to operate major business ventures around the globe. However, recently the internet is used not only for inter-company communication but also for hiring or staffing purposes already. One of the most popular jobs that are already utilized across the NET is the Virtual Assistant job.

A virtual assistant is an independent contractor who provides administrative services to clients while operating outside of the client’s office through phone, email or instant messages using different internet platforms. A VA usually works off-site, but is still able to have access to the necessary documents required to keep the business running. Its use has become more prominent because of its contractual nature – thus, relieving the client from paying the “would-be” monthly office’s rents, equipments and benefits required by the law as opposed to the benefits and rights that are indulged by full-time onsite personal assistants.

Best Practices to Manage a VA

Yes, we know that ONLY YOU can make meet your own expectations. We also know that you are the boss and that you are always right. But you’ve got to learn to trust and delegate the tasks that are not part of your major goals. Having a virtual assistant will save you time, money and headache. We, the VAs are like virtual superheroes and we can both reach your goals to the optimum level if you follow some of these:

  • Don’t limit the tasks you delegate. We can make your life more convenient by booking your tickets, hotel rooms and meeting appointments. But you’re definitely missing a lot when you LIMIT the tasks you delegate. Most virtual assistants are highly educated and are skilled in various areas like customer service, content writing, lead generation, human resource, social media, marketing, event planning and research. Make use of their skills that are necessary to your career or business. You will be surprised that some of them can do magic.
  • Be available. One downside of offsite virtual assistance is the absence of constant communication between the assistant and the boss. Sometimes, time differences can be a hindrance too. But having the multiple lines of communication such as email, Skype and other instant messaging business channels are good communication tools. Make use of them.
  • Set deadlines, priorities and expectations clearly. Explain to them your reasons why these are tasks are important and urgent. However, you will also need to give your VAs the chance to agree, refuse and voice out their opinions regarding your standards. Giving us this privilege to form an opinion and share them to you makes us feel important and respected. And in that way, you could both come up with something that is more agreeable – thus, you could both work efficiently on the project.

We all understand that a long distance professional relationship is never easy. It needs a lot of time, patience, practice and most importantly – a stable internet connection to make it work. But a virtual assistant can definitely save you time, money, and possibly your career one day.

Great tips from Angeline on how to manage a VA from a VA’s perspective. I think she’s spot on with her management tips, and my personal take on these tips is that its essentially just the same as managing anyone else in your office, with the twist of doing it online. If you same rules about treating on-site office staff apply, i.e. the Golden Rule, and treat your VA well, he or she can help maximize your time so that you can unlock and liberate the perfect life inside you.

If you’ve found this information helpful, please share it with your friends, family, and colleagues via Facebook Google Plus, Twitter, or another favorite social network.

George Smolinski, M.D.About the author: George Smolinski, M.D. is a physician, father, husband, athlete, and entrepreneur who has worked diligently to achieve what so many search for: true work-life balance. Spurred by major life-changing events, he has revolutionized his life, leveraging the best mental and technological tools available to maximize his personal efficiency. His mission now is to help his fellow physicians and medical providers embrace these same techniques to liberate their own perfect lives. Visit his blog at Four Hour Physician.

Why Virtual Assistants Won’t Respond to Your RFP (and a FREE eBook to help you solve that problem)

True story:  My client’s friend Carol called me the other day.

Carol:  Hi Janine. Dr. Smith mentioned that you could help me find a virtual assistant. I need someone to handle my website.

Me:  Thank you for calling Carol. Let me ask you, did you submit an RFP (Request for Proposal) on Virtual Assistantville?

Carol: Yes, I did but only one virtual assistant replied.  I did not bother getting back to her because her proposal seemed confusing.

I asked for a copy of Carol’s RFP specs.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the problems I saw in Carol’s submission:

Title:  Virtual Assistant Wanted

Problem:  What type of virtual assistant did Carol desire? A Social Media Virtual Assistant? A Bookkeeper? A Graphics Designer?

It’s imperative to specifically state in the title exactly what type of virtual assistant a client is seeking. If she wanted the best possible candidates, Carol needed to narrow-down her needs starting with a well-crafted title to capture virtual assistants’ attention.

Using a vague title, ‘Virtual Assistant Wanted’ is like posting for a Repairman when what you really need is an Auto Mechanic.

Skills Required:  To “handle” her website

Problem: What does Carol mean by ‘handle’. Is she looking for someone to upgrade her WordPress website? Is she looking for someone to post to her blog? Is Carol seeking a virtual assistant to revamp her site entirely?

It is imperative to specifically state what needs to be done for the business owner. What goals does the client wish to achieve?  The client needs to describe the skills required and the timeline allotted to complete those goals.

Using vague work descriptions in the skills required section of an RFP is like casting a large-holed net and catching absolutely nothing. Carol needs to close the holes in her net by dialing in specifically on the virtual assistant skills she needs.

There are a number of other reasons why Carol was unable to secure any qualified virtual assistants for her opportunity. I suspect many virtual assistants passed over her RFP for the following additional reasons:

  • Carol omitted a personal aspect to her RFP such as describing the ‘type of personality’ she prefers to work with.
  • Carol was seeking an employee rather than a partner. She didn’t understand that a virtual assistant was a business owner.
  • Carol did not understand the true value that a virtual assistant brings to their business and therefore the budget she requested did not compensate qualified VAs properly.
  • Carol did not understand how long it takes to perform a service and was asking for 10 hours per month when the work she wants completed takes 20 hours per month.
  • Unsure of the candidates’ qualifications, Carol asked for free or trial work. No reputable business owner works for free (unless there are special circumstances).

rfp tipsIf you are looking for a qualified virtual assistant-partner to work with you, take a little extra time to write a well-crafted RFP.  You can save yourself a good deal of time not having to sort through ill-matched proposals.

To learn how to write the BEST RFP to draw in the BEST virtual assistants, enter your email address below to download a helpful (and free!) eBook called RFP Creative Writing Tips for Clients.

I WANT MY FREE COPY!


Ready to find a professional virtual assistant to help you grow YOUR business? Submit your RFP, for free, right here to our extensive network of virtual assistants.

About the author: Janine Gregor is the leading Request for Proposal (RFP) authority for virtual assistants asking, “How do I find clients?” She created a thriving business using RFPs and devised a unique proposal system for VAs who desire stability in their businesses.  As author of “The RFP Transformation“, Janine has been recognized and awarded for her contributions as a community leader in the virtual assistant industry.

Janine also offers coaching services to clients who need assistance with writing Request for Proposals. Stop by www.WinningRFP.com to learn more about working with Janine!

Top Business Tips From Leading Virtual Assistants

Guest post: In honor of last night’s

Top Business Tips From Leading Virtual AssistantsIn honor of last night’s Academy Awards celebration, I’ve gathered together an ‘Academy‘ of Virtual Assistants who I consider to be the cream of the crop.  I’ve asked these “Oscar-Worthy” ladies to give their ‘Best Supporting Advice” for new and aspiring Virtual Assistants.  So without further adieu, let’s allow these experts to strut-their-stuff on the red carpet and share their greatest tips. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with:

Oscar-Worthy Tips from Leading Virtual Assistants


 

mom headshot“The best advice I was ever given came from my uncle who is a Business Professor at Boston University and a Business Consultant world wide. He said there were two parts to his advice. When I took this advice and applied it my business grew so fast it blew me away. He said, “The first thing you should always do when you make any money is to #1 put 25% towards marketing right off the top (after taxes of course). This will help your business start growing fast.” Then he said, “#2 is always invest in yourself and your business. Now you will have business coming in and you will be trained and ready to serve them well.” I find that the VAs I work with most of the time are not investing in marketing or in themselves. I guarantee you that if you do these two things together, your business will be hugely successful!”

Sheila J. Davis, Business Consultant, Marketing Strategist, Speaker
sheilajdavis.com


 

diana ennen from kellyX2011 -188x300 (1) (2)“To really succeed in your VA business, you need to continually market your business. Don’t just market when you need a new client or are looking for more income. Make marketing part of your business and schedule it in as you do client work. You never know when you have finally peaked a potential client’s interest and they are ready to connect, but then they get radio silence and don’t hear from you again for months. Also make marketing fun. If you enjoy it, you will do it more often. With so many ways to market, find what works for you and then do it consistently. Also, learn from your marketing efforts. Look back over the previous year. What worked? What didn’t. Obviously do more of what worked, but be willing to tweak what didn’t. Sometimes just a little change can make a huge difference and because you already have done it, it might be easier to implement doing it again.”

Diana Ennen, Publicist, Author, Speaker & Coach in the PR and VA industry
www.virtualwordpublishing.com


 

RuthMartin300x400“Develop a branding strategy – a consistent mood/theme for all marketing efforts. Documenting your colors, font styles, preferred headshot photo, logo, etc. and get in the habit of referring back to this document any time you’re setting up an online profile or creating a fresh marketing piece. This small effort will help you keep your brand consistent…and recognizable. Make it easy for someone to see certain colors, styles, or images and think of you. When you see a maple leaf I hope you think of Maplewood Virtual Assistance. Any time you see burgundy and gold together, if you’re from the Washington, D.C. area, there’s a high probably you will immediately connect those colors to the Washington Redskins football team. See the connection? Be intentional and aware when you plan your profiles and marketing pieces. Each effort strengthens your brand and aids in being more memorable.”

Ruth Martin,  Award Winning Virtual Assistant, Author and V.A. Mentor
www.MaplewoodVA.com


 

Headshot small“My best tip for Virtual Assistants is to find your niche and specialize. Don’t try to be Wal-mart, be you, be unique! Offer specific services to a specific target market.”

Alyssa Avant, Veteran Virtual Assistant, Coach, Author & Speaker www.alyssaavant.com


 

DAviero-TraceyHeadshot“Learn what you don’t know, at any stage of your business. If you don’t know about business, marketing, networking, or analysis, get some training in those areas. You will only need to learn these skills once and they will sustain your business forever when you start to use them correctly. A successful business starts with a small business owner!”

Tracey D’Aviero, Virtual Assistant, V.A. Trainer and Mentor
www.yourvamentor.com


 

Elayne-dark-glasses-sm-frame“When starting your business do your research and find out how to start right. It’s very costly, in terms of lost business and have to start over if you don’t. In my experience, small businesses that rush into starting their business without a plan and a strong foundation for all aspects of their practice either, flounder and fail or eventually start over and do it right.”

Elayne Whitfield, Master Virtual Assistant, Author, Trainer, Speaker, Coach
www.globalava.orgwww.canadianava.orgwww.executive-assistance.cawww.ommsolutions.comwww.elaynewhitfield.com


 

Tess Strand“I always tell aspiring Virtual Assistants to treat their business as if it’s already in full swing. If you’re going to be working 6 billable hours a day (on average) but you don’t have any clients yet, invest those 6 hours (or as many as you possibly can) in the startup process. Use those hours to get your website designed and copy written. Have your marketing collateral printed. Get your business cards ordered and your social media platforms underway. Start writing great blog content to showcase your expertise and skills. Begin to communicate and interact with your target market in whatever ways you can. Find local and online networking events and learning opportunities to participate in. Join Virtual Assistant Forums and start networking with your peers – these relationships will pay off in the long run. Get a really good headshot that showcases your personality and use it on everything. Get your policies and procedures written up. And draft your contracts!!

Putting up a website and waiting for the clients to come to you is going to go nowhere fast. Treating your business like a business from day-one is going to get you from where you are to right where you want to be, faster. You’ve got to hit the ground running.”

Tess Strand, Founder: Virtual Assistant Forums and Virtual Assistantville
www.virtualassistantforums.com and www.virtualassistantville.com


 

IMG_4953“A couple of tips I like to share with people who express interest in becoming a Virtual Assistant:

1. Get training! There are thousands of people online who are calling themselves ‘Virtual Assistants’ with zero skills or experience to back it up. You MUST invest in yourself and your business to be successful. If you get trained properly in a highly sought-after skill, you can practically guarantee you’ll be a very busy V.A.
2. Set proper rates and boundaries from the very beginning. If you aren’t getting paid a fair amount for your services…or if you are letting clients walk all over you with unreasonable deadlines or after-hours requests, then you quickly become resentful. Being a Virtual Assistant is the best career in the world if you are able to charge a good price and set your own schedule”

Lisa McDonell, Virtual Assistant, Online Business & Marketing Expert, V.A. Coach
www.thebrainygal.com


Do you have some “Oscar Worthy” advice of your own to share? We’d LOVE to hear it! Feel free to leave your own best tip in the comments.

This article is a guest post authored by: Lisa McDonell. Lisa is a Virtual Assistant and V.A. Business Coach who inspires and empowers women to launch and grow their own businesses online. Sharing her wise and witty advice, she shows both aspiring and seasoned V.A.’s how to take their ‘big dreams’ and transform them into profitable companies. She is also a Certified Health Coach with expertise in Business Development, Marketing, Coaching and the science and art of personal transformation.   Lisa is a self-proclaimed ‘Brainy Gal’. You can find her hanging out at www.thebrainygal.com.

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Virtual Assistant Hiring Template

Virtual Assistant Hiring TemplateThis is the exact same template I used to hire my own Virtual Assistant. As you may have heard on my podcast, a lot goes into hiring a VA, and creating this template alone took about 20 hours of my time. I distilled down the most useful tips I could find on hiring VAs and compiled them into this template which is brief but to-the-point.

I’m offering it here to you for FREE if you want! Seriously, this is a “Pay What You Want” download. My mission is to help you increase your efficiency, not to make a killing!

Oh, and one other bonus: In case you didn’t know, on most blogs they limit you to downloading a purchased product to 1 or 2 downloads. Again, you can download the Virtual Assistant Hiring Template 50 times to share with friends, family, dog, cat, whatever!

So, save yourself the trouble of starting your search from scratch and use the template that works!

George Smolinski, M.D.About the author: George Smolinski, M.D. is a physician, father, husband, athlete, and entrepreneur who has worked diligently to achieve what so many search for: true work-life balance. Spurred by major life-changing events, he has revolutionized his life, leveraging the best mental and technological tools available to maximize his personal efficiency. His mission now is to help his fellow physicians and medical providers embrace these same techniques to liberate their own perfect lives. Visit his blog at Four Hour Physician.

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Our Smart Guide is FREE on Amazon for Kindle through Saturaday!

Free Guide to Working with Virtual AssistantsThe Smart Business Owner’s Guide to Virtual Assistance lays out the professional expectations for both small business owners and virtual assistants in an eBook that will also teach you:

– Why a VA is not an employee (and how this benefits you!)
– The best places to find a virtual assistant online.
– How to maximize your RFP (Request for Proposal) submissions so you get the best responses from the best VAs for your project – every time.
– The ten most important questions to ask when first speaking with a prospective VA.
– Tips on the fine art of delegating so that you and your VA get the most out of your working relationship.
– The vast differences between a professional virtual assistant and an offshore VA call center.

This introduction to the world of virtual assistance will leave you better equipped to find, select, hire, and effectively work with a professional virtual assistant for the growth of your business.

Get your copy FREE via Amazon, for Kindle now!