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Tools for Business Owners Who Work With Virtual Assistants

Tools for Business Owners Who Work With Virtual Assistants

Tools for Business Owners Who Work With Virtual Assistants

Even though your virtual assistant will most likely never set foot in your office or business, there are countless online resources that will make it seem as if your VA is right across the desk from you. You’ll wonder why you ever thought you needed an in-house employee in the first place.

Following is a ‘short list’ of just a few of those useful, online tools for business owners, entrepreneurs, and executives who work with virtual assistants. Have a resource you think should be included? Please mention it in the comments and be sure to share a link!

EchoSign
EchoSign has revolutionized the way businesses get contracts, proposals, agreements and other important documents signed, sealed and delivered. With five free signatures per month in their free account, you can get started and take advantage of this forward-thinking service right away. Use the document library to store often-used agreements and other documents. It used to take days or even weeks to mail a contract to the client and wait for the signature and return of the document. EchoSign boasts an average time to signature of 42 minutes.

Google Docs
Google Docs allows you to upload and store files in the cloud. You can upload both files and folders, including an array of file types ranging from document types to image types to video formats. You can access your files and folders online from any computer, anywhere in the world by signing into Google Docs. Share files and folders, even photos and videos. Convert files to Google Docs format and collaboratively edit these files online.

FaxZero
Fax zero lets you send up to two free faxes over the internet to any fax machine, anywhere in the United States and Canada. No fax machine or number required for you to send, just an email address. Additional faxes and premium fax sending services are available for a small fee.

HootSuite
HootSuite is an online social media management dashboard that allows you to manage and interact with multiple social media platforms from one central location. Offers both a free (simple) account, and a paid (premium features) account for a small monthly fee. Provides analytics tools, scheduled posting to sites like Twitter and Facebook, and more – plus team access to your account so your virtual assistant can manage and grow your social media presence for you.

Send This File
Send This File is a file sharing service that allows you to quickly and easily send and receive large files (attachments that would otherwise be too big to send via email). The free account allows for files up to 2GB with unlimited transfers per month – perfectly adequate for sending large files to your virtual assistant.

ScreenHunter
Screenhunter is a free, easy-to-use screen capture program that allows you to take a still snapshot of all or a portion of whatever is on your computer screen including open browser windows/websites, and your own desktop.

LogMeIn
LogMeIn is the leading remote access software for small businesses. LogMeIn offers: remote control, file sharing, systems management, data backup, business collaboration and on-demand customer support of PCs, servers, Macintosh computers, smartphones and other connected devices. It makes it easy for your virtual assistant to manage your email, organize files, structure your accounting, and more – based on the permissions you set, of course.

We’ll be continuing this series with additional resources, so stay tuned.

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How to Delegate to a Virtual Assistant Part 4: Eight Steps to Effective Delegation

By following a series of steps each time you delegate you’ll achieve clarity in your requests and overall communication; avoiding unnecessary issues or misunderstandings. You’ll also feel more secure in the process of handing work off to someone else, and most importantly you’ll achieve better end results.

There are countless ‘Top Tips’ available online for effective delegation. We’ve put together our own list, relative to the unique nature of working with a professional virtual assistant.

Eight Steps to Effective Delegation

Eight Steps to Effective Delegation

1. Determine the task. Select a task that would ordinarily keep you busy, thus freeing you up to work on other, more important things. Or, choose to delegate something that will provide a launch pad or starting point for a larger, long-term project you’ve had brewing in the back of your mind but haven’t found the time to orchestrate.

2. Clearly define desired results. Obviously, the more clarity you can offer regarding your expectations, the better the outcome will be. Give your virtual assistant more than just a task to complete, attach attainable goals to work toward.

3. Provide direction. In most cases, a professional virtual assistant who is familiar with your business and/or industry is not going to need direction, so to speak. But do freely share specific information you’re able to provide and anticipate your VA will need to successfully complete the project.

4. Ask for feedback. Make sure your request and relative expectations are well-received. Also ask your virtual assistant for feedback or suggestions on how the project might be (better) executed, how he or she can help you achieve the results you’re looking for, and any other input they might have to offer. Remember, your virtual assistant is an expert in their own right, picking their brain is one of the perks! As Woodrow Wilson once said:

I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.

5. Determine a time frame. Before leaving the task in your virtual assistant’s hands, discuss the task’s projected time frame (be sure to clearly define any applicable deadlines). Allow for the fact that your virtual assistant likely has other clients to manage as well – don’t pressure for unrealistic turnaround times.

6. Recap. Once all of the information has been shared and thoroughly discussed, issue a brief recap of your understanding of what will be done, how it will be done, and when it will be done by. This will help bring up any lingering questions or items that still need to be addressed and ensure a smooth start to your project.

7. Let go. Congratulations! You’ve just delegated a task that was otherwise going to eat up your schedule, and created more time for yourself to focus on something else. Now, let your virtual assistant run with it. Assuming you’ve put all the correct and necessary pieces in place (competent service provider, clear task description and expectations) you can now anticipate a successfully completed project. It’s also a good idea to invite your virtual assistant to feel free to get in touch with any questions or issues that might crop up during the course of the project.

8. Show appreciation. All service providers enjoy positive feedback from their clients for a job well done. If the project is delivered as expected (or better) and on time (or sooner) let your virtual assistant know that you see it as a success.

How to Delegate to a Virtual Assistant Part 3: Determining Which Tasks to Delegate

Determining Which Tasks to Delegate

Determining Which Tasks to Delegate

We’ve already stated that delegating is the art of working smarter, not harder – but in order for that to prove true, delegation must be more than assigning random tasks or dumping lingering to-do’s on a virtual assistant.

Before you can begin delegating aspects of your business administration you must determine which tasks you’ll pass on to your virtual assistant to complete. When you’re first beginning to work with a VA, you should plan to start small.

1. Plan to delegate tasks that will free up measurable time in your daily or weekly schedule. Routine tasks are ideal for this such as recording and managing new client data, recording and maintaining sales records, or researching and preparing content for the company news or sales letter.

2. Plan to delegate tasks that are not immediately time sensitive. By all means, delegate tasks with deadlines, but when you’re first practicing the art of effective delegation spare yourself the worry of an immediately crucial timeline.

3. Plan to delegate tasks that don’t require you to provide access to company information, files, or processes you are not yet comfortable sharing. The whole purpose of delegating is to alleviate stress in your life, not add to it. Allow yourself a reasonable amount of time to get accustomed to and comfortable with delegating to your virtual assistant. This will allow you to practice the art of delegating without putting a lot at stake. Assume that as time goes on and you and your virtual assistant come to know and understand each other and as a result you’ll more easily think of tasks to delegate as well as more readily pass them off.

Of course, once the working relationship has matured and trust has developed, you’ll more readily delegate more important, crucial and time sensitive tasks to your virtual assistant. Also, at that point, invite suggestions from your virtual assistant on what he or she sees as tasks that could be delegated to them. Your virtual assistant will have a unique perspective of your business and how it functions on a day-to-day basis and will undoubtedly be able to suggest numerous tasks that could be successfully delegated.

Refer to our list of Tasks Your Virtual Assistant Can Accomplish in One Hour for further ideas. No one knows your business routine better than you, so take the time to brainstorm which tasks, once delegated, will best serve your own goals and needs.

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How to Delegate to a Virtual Assistant Part 2: The Benefits of Effective Delegation

Benefits of Delegating to a Virtual Assistant

Benefits of Delegating to a Virtual Assistant

Effective delegation can be much more than just moving tedious administrative tasks off your plate – both literally and figuratively. In this article we’ll look at the benefits of delegating to a virtual assistant.

There are a whole host of benefits enjoyed by small business owners, entrepreneurs, and busy executives who have learned to delegate to a virtual assistant, including:

– Increased time available to work on other things (or, not work at all, for a change). By delegating administrative tasks to a virtual assistant you’ll have more time available to work on the things that make you money such as: making sales; connecting with existing, new and potential clients and customers; planning your next book/product/speaking engagement/event/sale, etc. Delegating to a virtual assistant means more time for the things that are important to you.

– Decreased stress levels. When you delegate tedious tasks, projects you’re not skilled at or don’t enjoy working on, or other items that keep you too busy and overworked you’ll decrease the amount of stress in your life. In doing so you’ll also find that non-work hours, weekends and holidays are more enjoyable because you’ll be able to stop worrying so much. Delegating to a virtual assistant frees you from the vicious cycle of stress and worry that plagues many business owners who try to do it all on their own.

– Increased productivity. With all of that extra, stress-free time available to you, you’ll get more done, feel and be more creative, and approach the work you do enjoy doing with a new sense of commitment and enthusiasm. Delegating to a virtual assistant means increased productivity on a daily basis, but also in terms of those longer-term and future business goals.

– Increased efficiency. Imagine what it would be like to have a partner of sorts, a virtual assistant, committed to the growth and development of your business, even for just an hour a day. How much more work would get done? How many of those pending tasks that never seem to come to completion could you wipe off your to-do list? Delegating to a virtual assistant means increased efficiency in your day-to-day business operations.

You may be concerned that your business is too small to benefit from delegating tasks to a virtual assistant, or that you may not be able to find enough tasks to keep a VA busy. But the reality is that businesses of every size can benefit from delegation, when managed effectively. In the next few articles we’ll discuss the key steps of effective delegation, including how to identify what should be delegated and how to ensure each task is handled and completed the way you expect.

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How to Delegate to a Virtual Assistant Part 1: Delegation does not mean giving up control of your business

How to Delegate to a Virtual Assistant

How to Delegate to a Virtual Assistant

Delegation is perhaps one of the most difficult things a small business owner will have to learn how to do. Simply, it can be very hard to let go, especially if you are a solopreneur and used to doing things for yourself, by yourself. On the one hand, it’s quite rewarding to build something for yourself, from the ground up and the sheer satisfaction of do-it-yourself success is likely one of the reasons you went into business in the first place. But if the administrative management of your business is eating up all of your spare time, or cutting into time that could otherwise be spent on your own sales, clients, and/or billable hours; if you’re suffering from stress or you feel like you’re just spinning your wheels to try to get everything done, it’s time to consider delegating to a virtual assistant.

Before we explore the process of effective delegation, it’s necessary to dispel a common myth:

Delegation does not mean giving up control of your business.

When you delegate, it can feel as if you’re giving up control of your business – and it’s true that on some level you are; you’re relying on another person to effectively execute something for you. But practice and the right virtual assistant can help alleviate that fear of loss of control. (Use our Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant to help ensure you do find the right VA for you and your business.) When you’re working with someone who knows what they’re doing, and can consistently meet or even surpass your own results, delegating will no longer be a challenge, but a relief.

Andrew Carnegie may have said it best:

The secret of success is not in doing your own work, but in recognising the right person to do it.

Delegating gets the ‘clutter’ – the tasks that eat up time in your schedule – out of your way; freeing you up to focus on other, more important tasks that make you money. When you delegate, you practice skills inherent to business success: forethought, organization, communication, management, and teamwork. Most successful business owners and executives would argue that learning to delegate effectively has further empowered them and actually helped facilitate reaching the greater heights of success.

Delegation is the art of working smarter, not harder.

In this series of articles we’ll discuss how to identify and delegate the business administration tasks that are cluttering your own schedule.

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Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant #10: How do you stay up-to-date on new technology, software and resources?

How do you stay up-to-date on new technology/software/resources?

How do you stay up-to-date on new technology/software/resources?

Naturally, you’re going to want to hire a virtual assistant who works to stay on top of the latest developments in technology, software, and small business resources. That’s where Question #10. How do you stay up-to-date on new technology, software and resources? comes in.

A professional virtual assistant worth his or her fee will have an immediate and thorough response to this question. If he or she specializes in a particular industry or field the answer should include industry-specific sources.

The last thing you want is to hire an ‘outdated’ or ‘outmoded’ virtual assistant, so look for clues to active participation in the various social networking platforms, reference to industry-relevant feeds, blogs, forums and newsletters, as well as mention of recent or current applicable learning pursuits.

This is the final question in our Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant series, but is by no means the last question you should ask. As you move through each of your questions with a prospective VA you’ll naturally come up with new questions to ask and new tangents to explore. We’ve provided these ‘Top Ten’ as thinking points to help you get started.

You should ask as many questions as you need to during your initial consultation with a virtual assistant. (Most virtual assistants will offer a thirty or sixty minute consultation prior to engaging in a contract with a new client.) Remember, a professional virtual assistant is ‘interviewing’ you as much as you are them.

A professional virtual assistant is looking for a client who will be a good fit for his or her skills, business philosophy and work style, among other things. By being communicative about your own hopes and expectations and clearly discussing each of your questions and concerns, you’ll help yourself and the virtual assistant in question determine if you’ll be a good match for each other.

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Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant #9: What types of projects do you most enjoy?

What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

If you want to get real insight into what a virtual assistant does best, find out what they most love to work on. Asking Question #9. What kinds of projects do you most enjoy? will get you the answers you’re looking for.

This question will help you uncover a prospective virtual assistant’s greatest strengths, which will also ultimately be your greatest assets. Human nature dictates that we spend more time and effort to truly excel at doing that which we love. When a service provider is enjoying what they’re doing, they do a better job, provide better results, and take more care arriving at the end result (in this case, your company’s white paper, bookkeeping, newsletter, marketing campaign or customer service, etc.)

Asking this question will also help you fine tune and expand the list of tasks you wish to delegate by bringing forth ideas for projects you may not have thought of yet.

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