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Free eBook: Smart Guide to Virtual Assistance

The Smart Business Owner’s Guide to Virtual Assistance is our gift to you! This 48-page guide will teach you:

Free Guide to Working with Virtual AssistantsWhy a VA is not an employee (and how this benefits you!)

The best places to find a virtual assistant online.

How to maximize your RFPs (Requests for Proposal) so you get the best responses from the best VAs – every time.

The ten most important questions to ask when first speaking with a prospective VA.

Tips on the art of delegating so that you and your VA get the most out of your working relationship.

The differences between a professional virtual assistant and an offshore VA call center.

The Smart Business Owner’s Guide to Virtual Assistance is our gift to you. Enter your email address below to receive your free copy of our 48 page eBook!


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

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 VAs.

10 Tips to Maximize Your Partnership with a Virtual Assistant

10 Tips to Maximize Your Partnership with a Virtual AssistantAs an entrepreneur, your success depends on you, your time and your efforts. Yes, you have heard me say this before, but when we choose to manage every task or project that comes across our desk, we become less efficient, effective as well as stressed out because things are not getting done. Our high priority tasks fall by the way side while we end up doing busy work or more mundane tasks that are essentially a waste of our valuable time.

The actions you take today determine the outcomes of tomorrow.

Delegating the non-income producers is a sure fire way to strike up your productivity and output, generating a spark in your bottom-line. Your virtual assistant can be a tremendous asset to you and your company. Starting with a strong foundation and understanding is key your mutual success.

When partnering with a virtual assistant:

  1. Know your core genius and delegate other low payoff activities, leveraging your valuable time on essential business functions
  2. Share your long term and short term company goals as well as those for your VA partnership
  3. Provide a clear outline of project details, expectations and deadlines
  4. Define your most desired and effective means of communication
  5. Utilize your virtual assistant as a brainstorming partner, your own personal sounding board
  6. Understand that a virtual assistant is not an employee but a business colleague, a collaborator, helping to ensure your business goals are met
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask about other service solutions just because your need is not listed on their website
  8. Be prepared to use a variety of web-based tools that will help streamline your communications, social media and project management
  9. Develop a rapport and positive working relationship with open communications and accountability
  10. Provide feedback on all projects

Your turn!! What do you feel is most important when working with a virtual assistant?

About the author: Suzie Kummins-Poirier, a.k.a AceConcierge, is a virtual assistant working with entrepreneurs and Suzie Kummins-Poirier, Virtual Assistantbusiness 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.

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The Benefits of Hiring Virtual Assistants Versus In-House Employees

The Benefits of Hiring Virtual Assistants Versus In-House EmployeesAs a business owner, your main goal is to create a successful business, providing a great product or service to satisfied and loyal customers. In the journey towards doing so, it is imperative that you think smartly in the way you spend your money and your time. Deciding on final decisions in these two areas of your business can sometimes lead to stress and anxiety, with the fear of having to change so many things. However, there are ways that you can do so without pulling all of your hair out.

Saving money and time is crucial for every business owner, especially in today’s economy, but actually identifying the problem areas can be a bit daunting for some. So, to help, here are a few ideas.

Some common business expenses; the actual costs of running a business or trade that most business owners have to account for including:

  • employees’ pay
  • retirement plans
  • office supplies
  • insurance
  • taxes

Some common time vampires; processes or people that take time from your business day that most business owners have to account for including:

  • meetings
  • administrative mountains on your desk
  • call-backs
  • e-mails
  • invoices
  • and much more

To decrease or eliminate the majority of those expenses and time vampires, a lot of entrepreneurs are now joining the Virtual Assistant movement to save both time and money, while growing a more profitable business.

Check out the three top reasons as to why you should consider partnering with a Virtual Assistant as opposed to hiring new or more In-House employees.

Lower costs.
When hiring In-House employees, expenses can increase drastically depending on the size of your team and the benefits that you decide to make available to them. However, when you partner with a Virtual Assistant, there’s no sense in worrying about equipment costs, employee taxes or any other employee-related expense. If you want to create more time for productivity and grow your business — while not breaking the bank — then partnering with a virtual assistant is the best solution, especially in this current economic state.

Spend more time growing your business, instead of micromanaging your staff.
Virtual Assistants understand, respect and appreciate your position — they’re business owners, too! They must be just as proactive, productive and professional as you. Great Virtual Assistants look for more ways to assist you, even on their down time, as they are aware that it takes a lot to run a business, especially a successful one. So, if you’re looking to become more focused, consider working with a team or an assistant that can not only relate, but will be especially considerate of, the needs of your business’ time and budget.

Stay informed with updates hot off the press.
Whether you’re tech-savvy or not, your Virtual Assistant will definitely be! Hence the obvious clue — virtual. That being said, with the help of a Virtual Assistant, you will always be in the loop about the newest and most efficient technology, business practices and neatest tools to help you stay proactive, productive, professional, and organized. Get up to speed on the newest in your industry with the help of a Virtual Assistant.

If business is overwhelming you mentally, financially or even physically, then you should seriously consider partnering with a Virtual Assistant. You’re only one step away from making this year truly yours.

Long Distance AssistantsAbout the author: Long Distance Assistants contributes 15 years of combined skills including administrative, web design and maintenance, concierge, time and money management, as well as our strong belief in team synergy, to help you succeed for many years to come. We specialize in catering to the ‘busy’ entrepreneur in need of administrative support, website services, time management, client and vendor relations, and concierge tasks.

MailChimp versus Aweber – Which one is right for you?

MailChimp versus Aweber – Which one is right for you?After reading the two previous posts, you’ll have now well and truly stepped off the fence regarding sending e-newsletters, haven’t you?

Brilliant, so pleased to hear you’ve understood the benefits, you’ve brainstormed 12 months’ worth of content and you’re ready to get started but…

There are so many email marketing platforms, how do I know which one is best for me and my company?

You’re absolutely correct, there are lots including Constant Contact, iContact, Benchmark Email, Campaign Monitor, MailChimp and Aweber and so on.

I’m going to compare MailChimp versus Aweber:

Why? Well, because they’re the two email marketing platforms that I’ve used and have experience of, both for myself and for my clients.

Let’s start with a description from both platforms taken from their websites:

Mailchimp versus Aweber

MailChimp helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results. It’s like your own personal publishing platform. 2.5 million people use MailChimp.

There is a free version of MailChimp for up to 2,000 subscribers with a limit of sending 12,000 emails per month. The subscribers total is across all your lists. You do not need to provide credit card details or sign up for any length of time. While this may sound tempting, there are a few restrictions:

The two main restrictions I believe most companies would wish for, are, you cannot schedule an email to be sent on a specific date and time and you are unable to set up and send autoresponders, A further restriction includes not being able to access their delivery doctor feature (this tests your campaigns for potential problems).

If you wish to have access to the extra features, the cost per month is based on the number of subscribers as follows:

MailChimp versus Aweber

There is no free version with Aweber but they do offer a one month trial at $1.00, followed by subsequent months starting at $19.00 for up to 500 subscribers. The $1.00 month trial does give you access to all their features, the ability to send unlimited emails and a 30 day money back guarantee.

The price is as follows for each level of subscriber numbers:

MailChimp versus Aweber

Mailchimp is therefore cheaper until you get into the higher subscriber numbers.

Interface

Both platforms have a user interface with lots of features, tools and functions and there is a steep learning curve for both. They both offer videos and tutorials to get you started.

Aweber frequently hold free webinars too. Subjects include how to set up your campaigns, get more subscribers, combine email with social media, create effective newsletters, and more.

Email Design

I think this is where MailChimp really does excel and their choice of email templates is growing all the time and they now have an enormous number of templates, many of which are designed around themes, such as holidays, Christmas, sports, events, products and so on. You can choose from dozens of designs starting with their basic to pre‑designed templates, or use their new drag and drop template builder for more customisation. If you’re an HTML expert, you can code your own.

MailChimp compared to AWeber

Whether you’re a beginner or expert or somewhere in between, MailChimp will have an email design for you.

Aweber on the other hand have 150 templates in 1 column and 2 column designs. They also offer a drag and drop editor, which does take a bit of getting your head round! I’ve not found the Aweber pre-designed templates to be as interesting or as imaginative as Mailchimp, so I tend to use their drag and drop feature instead.

During the design process both platforms offer a pop up test feature which provides a brief overview of how your email will look. They also offer the option of sending a test email – please don’t skip this part thinking your email looks great in the pop up window, as invariably it looks nothing like it when delivered! Just my observation from designing many email newsletters.

In terms of choice and ease of use in designing email newsletters, MailChimp would be my preferred option.

Form Design Tools

MailChimp advise on their website that they’ll help you customise your signup form to match your brand, so you can share it on your website and integrate it into your Facebook page. You can easily add images, drop‑down boxes, radio buttons, phone‑number fields, and any other information you’d like to collect.

Personally, I didn’t find designing the opt in form within MailChimp particularly easy to set up at all. It took a few frustrating attempts to understand how they work and design the form. I got there in the end though!

Aweber advise that you can create a beautiful web form in just 3 clicks and offer:

  • Flexible designs which let you adjust your form endlessly
  • Multiple colour schemes for each template
  • Co-ordinate with their matching email templates
  • Choose from a selection that’s constantly growing

You’re also able to collect name, email and up to 25 more fields with their drag and drop interface. Aweber also offer the feature of hosting your web form on its own page for you.

I found designing the opt in form for my website really straightforward and there are a wide variety of templates to choose from and customise. I also found displaying the form on my website was really easy to do. Any changes I make to the form from within Aweber are also automatically updated on my website. I thought this was a really cool feature.

Another reason for using Aweber when it comes to designing and using opt in forms is that I can use different forms on my website, these all then track separately. So, I can see on my website which pages or posts people subscribed on and which are the most popular.

 MailChimp versus Aweber

Aweber win hands down with regards to designing and integrating opt in forms, they offer more templates than MailChimp and personally I found them easier to design and get to grips with.

Autoresponder Management

MailChimp’s autoresponder features are more basic than Aweber but if you’re just starting out, they may be sufficient for your needs. MailChimp doesn’t have the flexibility which Aweber offers.

If you’ve set your sights on growing your list with targeted marketing, Aweber has so much more to offer. Aweber incorporates some excellent features for managing your autoresponder messages and your list.

With both platforms there is a learning curve and setting up to do, which all takes time.

Performance Tracking

Both MailChimp and Aweber offer tracking reports telling you who’s opening, clicking, and coming back for more. Their interactive graphs show you how many emails were delivered, how many people and who opened your email, which of your subscribers clicked on your links and which links they followed and more. You’re also able to see who didn’t open your email. You’re also able to view where in the world your subscribers are located and track engagement by country.

Analyse stats that tell you how many people your email reached, including social channels, all in one convenient spot.

Aweber also incorporate a feature of how much revenue your message generated, particularly useful if you sell products.

Aweber’s tracking also go deeper than MailChimp including opens, clicks, and revenue over time graphs, along with new subscribers broken down into daily, weekly and monthly and graphs showing subscriber growth, subscriber autoresponder totals and email newsletter totals and more. While MailChimp offer some deeper tracking, it’s not as in-depth as Aweber.

Customer Support

In terms of customer support MailChimp provide an email contact form to send your support query, whereas Aweber are available Monday to Saturday via phone, email or live online chat.

I’ve not requested any support from MailChimp so cannot comment on how quickly they respond or how quickly they solve your problem. Only offering support via an email contact form doesn’t impress me much though.

I have had a need to contact Aweber and they responded to my query within a few hours and then solved it within minutes. The person who responded was extremely helpful, very courteous and I was impressed.

Conclusion: MailChimp versus Aweber

In conclusion, MailChimp would be perfectly adequate for your needs if you’re just starting out and won’t be requiring autoresponders or believe your subscriber list will grow beyond 2,000. Therefore, their free version might give you all the features you require. In its favour, MailChimp allows greater email design flexibility.

If, on the other hand, you require those features either now or in the future and think you will move on to a paid version, Aweber is my preferred choice. I was sold on their opt in form design tool alone, not to mention their autoresponders and in-depth tracking capabilities.

Something else to think about, is if you believe that at some point in the future you will be incorporating opt in forms and setting up autoresponders or your subscriber list will grow beyond 2,000, then please do think very carefully which email marketing platform you choose from the start. Moving from one provider to another is not an easy task, particularly if you wish to move to Aweber, as they will require you to have your subscribers double opt in.

Choose the platform from the start which will provide all the features and benefits you require now and cater for future growth.

A word of caution is that MailChimp’s terms of service does not allow you to undertake affiliate marketing and promote affiliate products.

Anne Headen owner of Acusmart PA is a Virtual Assistant based in the UKAbout the author: Anne Headen owner of Acusmart PA is a Virtual Assistant based in the UK. Anne works in close partnership with her clients, helping them to grow and develop their business. Along with admin and business support, she provides event organisation, WordPress website design and maintenance, email marketing and social media management.
Follow her on Twitter @AcusmartPA.

Using a Virtual Assistant to Build Your Business

Using a Virtual Assistant to Build Your BusinessThere are only 24 hours in a day and only seven days in a week. You can’t increase the number of hours in a day or days in a week, so you can’t increase the time you have for work. You can, however, accomplish more if you rely on others for certain business tasks. One great way I’ve found to use my time more productively and to get more work done is to use a virtual assistant (VA).

What Is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant isn’t a computer-generated graphic, or avatar. A virtual assistant is a real person who can work remotely to handle the tasks you need to get done. Picture having an executive assistant sitting next to you or in the adjacent room and you are can better understand the relationship with a VA.

A virtual assistant can handle a variety of work, such as:

  • Creating multimedia presentations.
  • Doing bookkeeping entry of your income and expenses in your accounting software.
  • Handling concierge-type chores, like booking your travel and scheduling your calendar.
  • Managing social media, including posting on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • Providing special project management or assistance, such as helping you do research for a book or other project you’re working on.

A virtual assistant usually is someone with his or her own business. The VA may be an independent contractor or have a corporation or limited liability company. This means you pay for the hours arranged for (usually a set rate per hour, often with a minimum number of hours per month). Because the VA is not your employee, you do not have to deal with any payroll taxes or benefits for the VA. If the VA is an independent contractor, you’ll have to issue a Form 1099-MISC each year to report payments of $600 or more to the IRS and to the VA.

How Do You Find a Virtual Assistant?

Like finding a family doctor, the best way to find a VA is to obtain a referral from another business owner who uses one. However, this may not be possible for you. Don’t worry; you can still find someone who is qualified for the work you have.

Here’s how it works. Using one or more of the sites that follow, post your needs for a VA. The more detailed you can be about what you want the VA to do for you, how many hours needed each month, what experience you’re looking for, etc., the more likely it is to receive a response that will help you find the right VA.

Add any limitations or special requirements you may have. For example, if you only want a VA within the same time zone as you, be clear about this. If you need someone who is bilingual, say so.

Resources for Finding Virtual Assistants:

AssistU allows you to post your needs if you’re looking to create a long-term relationship. You can then arrange to interview (typically by phone) those who indicated an interest in your position. You can also negotiate a rate of pay. (I found my VA through this site.)

Craigslist for a local VA (enter craigslist.org and your local site will pop up).

Elance connects you with a VA when you have freelance projects you need help with. Candidates bid on the work you post.

International Virtual Assistants Association lets you post a request for a proposal from a VA.

Twitter taps your network of followers for VA leads.

How Do You Manage the Work Arrangement?

The arrangement can work seamlessly, if you set parameters and expectations up front. Points to cover:

  • What work needs to be done?
  • By what time?
  • Will there be regular phone chats to review upcoming work or discuss problems?
  • What will the pay be?

Communication today can be done on many levels – by phone (with or without Skype), text, and email. Find a qualified VA who meets your needs, keep the lines of communication open, and watch your business grow!

 Barbara WeltmanAbout the author: Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as “J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business,” and trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of “Idea of the Day(R)” and monthly e-newsletter “Big Ideas for Small Business(R)” at BarbaraWeltman.com and host of “Build Your Business” radio. Follow her on Twitter @BarbaraWeltman.

Article originally published at eCommerceBytes. Republished with permission.

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Top Five Traits of a Professional Virtual Assistant

Top Five Traits of a Professional Virtual AssistantContracting with a professional virtual assistant should be viewed as an investment in your business. VAs, business owners operating as independent contractors, work from home providing business, office, and even personal support services ranging the gamut from: product launches and virtual event planning to bookkeeping and billing. While most virtual assistants offer a fairly standard set of general administrative support services, many are also skilled at providing more technical services to their clients such as: website development and maintenance, social media marketing consulting, and more. A skilled VA can assist with virtually anything you would expect an executive assistant to do. He or she can write a press release, create and manage databases, do market research, handle project management, and initiate as well as answer business correspondence.

Because a professional virtual assistant is ready to handle the most time consuming aspects of your business you are left with more free time to work on ‘big picture’ projects and meet with clients. The best VA for you and your company is one who already possesses the skills, experience, and professionalism you need and expect. Below are five highly desirable traits of a virtual assistant:

Professionalism

When first communicating with the virtual assistants who have responded to your Request for Proposal (or RFP) look for evidence of professionalism. Does he or she respond and/or follow-up in a timely manner? (Hint: a true professional *always* follows up, even if it’s just to say ‘Thank you for your time.’.) Does he or she use professional language and approach the situation as you would approach your own potential clients?

Communication Skills

Because virtual assistants are of course virtual , you will likely never meet him or her in person. This makes it even more imperative for a VA to have excellent communication skills. Articulate, direct communication is essential to the success of your working relationship. (Hint: It’s equally important for you, the client, to communicate directly with the virtual assistant.) Poor communication is the number one reason why most relationships (business or otherwise) fail, so learn from each prospective virtual assistant what their communication methods are, and how available they are relative to your own needs and expectations.

Technical Skills

A professional virtual assistant will have all of the software, hardware, and skills that are required for your project or general business support needs. It is useful to realize that because a virtual assistant relies on technology to run their own business and provide services, they are often well-read in cutting edge software, websites, marketing methods, and other business resources.

Computer Skills

Because 99% of the work a virtual assistant will perform must be done on a computer and/or online, excellent computer skills and the ability to effectively navigate the internet is a cornerstone of any VA’s skills. Your virtual assistant should have basic computer maintenance skills and understand how to use various software programs and online services. A virtual assistant who is also experienced enough to provide basic maintenance and updates to your website will be even more in demand. Whether your virtual assistant will handle posting entries to your company blog, answer customer service inquiries by email, or set up and administer your company Facebook page (or all three) he or she will need strong computer skills in order to do so.

Time Management

A savvy virtual assistant uses his or her time wisely by prioritizing tasks and objectives in order to maximize productivity and results. Good time management (and organizational) skills are particularly important because he or she is often likely working on different projects with several clients at the same time.

Working with a professional virtual assistant is a worthwhile investment in you and your business. The virtual assistant with a high index of these five traits will be able to assist you in bringing projects to fruition and ultimately, contribute to the growth and development of your business.

Common Virtual Assistant Misconceptions

Common Virtual Assistant MisconceptionsPlease don’t get the wrong impression about Virtual Assistants. My fear is, if you are on Twitter, you may.

There are many newbie Virtual Assistants who are so anxious to get experience and get clients that they do nothing to eradicate some people’s opinions of Virtual Assistants as employees or subservient secretaries.

Or they engage in “bidding” for “jobs” and almost “solicitation like” wooing of fellow Tweeter’s who are seeking Virtual Assistance. Some of the sales pitches are so heavy that they’d sink a ship. Worse yet, they offer to send their resume to a prospect (Virtual Assistants should use client testimonials and their website as a “resume” as well as a “reference”). Regarding bidding, I realize that businesses do bid for jobs, but the type of bidding I am describing involves competitive low balling so the Virtual Assistant can get some work and outbid her fellow VA. This only serves to demean our profession and undercut our highly professional level of skill and business management expertise.

I’ve seen so much of this lately on Twitter that it really disheartens me. I LOVE what I do as a professional Mac/Eco/Social Media Virtual Assistant and I want the world to know that we are not “secretaries”. We are a business entity. Like IBM, Apple or Microsoft.

I also hear of Virtual Assistants succumbing to what can only be described as abusive behavior by clients. When I hear their stories, it is clear to me that the client does not consider them a collaborative business partner. Instead, they are most likely thinking of them as a subservient clerk. A role in which, sadly, abusive behavior may be tolerated.

I am distressed because I think this can be avoided if Virtual Assistants would do more in the way of using Twitter as a medium to empower our profession. The public needs an education on who/what we are and how we can enhance their business and give them the most precious gift – free time.

A Virtual Assistant is an ideal solution for an entrepreneur or small business. There are no “carrying costs” associated with working with a Virtual Assistant, like health insurance, office space, 401K, etc. The VA pays his/her own taxes.

So by collaborating with a Virtual Assistant, the entrepreneur can benefit from what I hope would be a VA with a finely tuned business acumen and a bevy of administrative skills. There is no “boss/employee” scenario. It is more of a marriage between two business persons. Two people, collaborating together, where one person, the VA, is working to get to know the other (the client). Over time, in good “relationships” this knowledge of the client and their way of working can benefit both people. It benefits the Virtual Assistant as he/she has a loyal and steady client and income. It benefits the client as they have a vested trust in their administrator and enjoy handing off more tasks and projects as time goes along. The client knows that a trusted professional is handling their day to day administrative needs, and should have an ever increasing sense of confidence in the VA. At the end of the day, they should have more free time to do with as they please.

There are many new Virtual Assistants who either choose to run their business in a different manner to what I describe above, or they are so desperate for clients they are not concerned with how they or their business is perceived. They give a rather negative name to me and my trusted peers, as all a prospective client needs to see is a few Tweets from “a new and desperate VA” to form an opinion of our profession.

So my advice to you, if you are seeking to work with a Virtual Assistant, is to do your due diligence. Talk to as many VA’s as you can. Ask a ton of questions. Research the Virtual Assistant profession on Wikipedia, Google, etc. Most importantly, realize the difference between a Virtual Assistant and an employee. Know what you will be potentially gaining from the relationship. And lastly, realize that the cheapest Virtual Assistant is not always the best solution.

Are you seeking a Virtual Assistant? What ways have you researched the profession?

Taryn Merrick - Mac Virtual Assistant and Online Business ManagerAbout the author: Taryn Merrick is a Professional Mac Virtual Assistant and Online Business Manager (OBM). As Principal of Merrick Management And Media Services, she has over 20 years of administrative management experience. Taryn works to promote the Virtual Assistant industry and to make it stand out as a true profession of excellence. Her style is easy going, yet precise, with emphasis placed on exceeding customer expectations, client communication and satisfaction.