Profile Photos: Best Face Forward

 

If You’re A Mystery, You Could Be History!

silhouette_question_markI spent some time recently on Twitter® and LinkedIn® looking at profiles of Virtual Assistants. Sometimes I’m approached about projects that I don’t have time in my schedule to do, or requirements that are outside my area of expertise. In these instances, it’s good to have a name or two I can give to a potential client, and feel confident that the people I recommend have the experience and professionalism to get the job done right.

Frankly, I was appalled at the number of people who have no profile photo. This doesn’t apply only to Virtual Assistants, either. I’ve seen lots of social media profiles with no photo.  Someone can have the best résumé in the universe, but I’ll never know. When all I see is a silhouette on LinkedIn or an egg on Twitter, I keep scrolling. I wonder how many potential clients do the same.

Put Your Best Face Forward

Your profile photo is the first thing people look at to determine whether or not they want to interact with you and your business. Whatever social media network you use, if you want your business to be taken seriously, a good profile photo is a must.

If you have held off uploading a profile photo because you weren’t sure whether a photo you have is the “right” one for you, Top Dog Social Media lists five elements of a social media profile picture.

1. The background should be clean and either monotone in color or blurred. You want people to see you, not be distracted by the background.

2. You should always present yourself at your best. Photos of you with other people are confusing and won’t show up well. Photos of you with your pet may work if your business is pet-related. Otherwise, it’s not a good idea. Don’t crop other people out of a photo and post it on your profile. It may look good to you, but you run the chance of having someone else’s shoulder or hair showing. Don’t use photos of anything other than yourself, especially on LinkedIn. A long time ago, I used a computer keyboard as my profile photo. In those days, when people were extremely wary of revealing themselves online, it worked. I wouldn’t count on it working today. Who wants to hire a computer keyboard?

3. Keep it to a nice head shot. Let people see your eyes. It’s amazing what people perceive from a photo — kindness, honesty, sense of humor, intelligence.

4. Wear bright colors. You don’t have to dress in a clown suit, but you don’t want to blend into the wall, either. Keep reading for some clothing tips below.

5. Smile! A genuine smile attracts people. Yes, you’re serious about your business, but you don’t have to frown or be stone-faced. Think of it as meeting a potential client in person for the first time. What do you do? You smile and shake hands.

Dress for Success

Whether your profile photo is a selfie, a snapshot taken by a friend, or a photo done in a studio by a professional photographer, how you dress is important. Here are some tips from Deutsch Photography:

  • Wear solid colors. Patterns and prints are too busy. Big buttons can be distracting.
  • Make sure your clothes are pressed and clean.
  • No white shirts if you are Caucasian or have very light skin.
  • No bright red clothing. If you have fair skin and blue eyes, blue, pink, or gray work.  Browns, greens and oranges work well for people with green eyes. If you have medium or dark skin and brown eyes, most colors will work, but don’t wear clothes that match your skin too closely. Contrast is key.

You are Beautiful!

If you haven’t put up a profile photo on all your social media networks because you don’t think you’re photogenic, I understand. There are many of us who feel that way. If you can’t seem to get a photo you like well enough to share with the world, do some research on photographers in your area, and have a professional head shot done. They will bring out the best in you! Don’t believe me? Read this, from a professional photographer. Everyone is Photogenic.

Twitter_egg_who_are_you

 

 

No more silhouettes or eggs, OK?

 

 

 

Until later …

Toni

Mindfulness about Money = Stylish, Ethical Fashion

Wednesday WomanAnna Moody, founder and creator of British Brazilian has been an entrepreneur and business owner for the last 25 years.

Anna launched her signature label British Brazilian in 2012. British Brazilian is dedicated to offering women a structured, no-nonsense approach to getting dressed for work or daily life, focusing on high quality fabrics, elegant designs and high level workmanship.

According to the Daily Echo, “She started her first business at just 17, making clothes in her parents’ living room and putting on fashion shows.”

It wasn’t until after her daughter was born that she became mindful about money, and decided to start a clothing line for women offering quality, classic styles that wouldn’t wear out.

“When she started researching the business, she was horrified to discover the huge mark-up on clothing and felt that many brands were founded on exploitation – something she was determined not to be part of. Her fabrics come from Italian mills and her clothes are made by a small group seamstresses in Athens who had been put out of work by the country’s economic crisis.”

“Mindfulness is important to Anna – from her company investing a quarter of its profits into charity to encouraging people to spend less time thinking about acquiring shoes and more quality time with their families – it is something she lives as well as preaches.”

And that’s why Anna Moody is our Wednesday Woman this week. (Plus, her clothes are beautiful.)

You can follow Anna Moody on Twitter @I_AM_BB_LTD and Facebook.

Until later …

Toni

How to Know Which Tasks to Delegate

task list

Photo by stockimages

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

Have you reached a point in your business where you know you need help, but you can’t think of what you can hand off to someone else?

Here’s a quick way to find out what you should and should not delegate

Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Draw two lines down the page so you have three columns. Label them “Daily” “Weekly” and “Monthly.” Now answer these seven questions.

  1. What tasks do I do daily, weekly, and monthly?
  2. What needs to get done but is not getting done?
  3. Can someone help with any of these tasks if you explain to them what you need done?
  4. What parts of your business are things that only you can do?
  5. What tasks are things that you love to do and don’t want to give up?
  6. What tasks are things you hate doing? (Are you putting them off?)
  7. Who suffers if I continue trying to do everything myself?

“No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself ….” Andrew Carnegie

Now that you have identified what can be delegated, don’t hesitate. Start your search today for a virtual assistant that will be a perfect fit for the tasks you have chosen to delegate.

If you need help with that process, let me know and I’ll provide some resources to help you get started.

Until later …

Toni

Digital Aids like Siri are not Virtual Assistants

digital virtual assistant

Photo by Victor Habbick

 

As a Virtual Assistant, and a real human being who provides professional support services from my home-based office, it ticks me off a little bit that Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nuance and others call their voice-activated digital aids “virtual assistants.” Siri, Cortana, Google NOW, NINA and others are smart-phone technology with voice recognition, and good ones at that. But they are not true “virtual assistants.”

A little history:

  • Before there were Virtual Assistants, there were secretarial services — independent businesses with brick and mortar offices that provided administrative support services to the public.  I owned one for years.
  • Early in the 1990s, Anastacia “Stacy” Brice began working virtual as a full time home-based contractor with an international client providing administrative support, travel planning and personal assistance.
  • In 1996, life coach Thomas Leonard coined the term “Virtual Assistant” in a telephone conversation with Stacy Brice.
  • In 1997, Stacy formed the first professional organization for virtual assistants, AssistU.

As Mike Elgan wrote in this article from Computerworld:

“Real personal assistants don’t just do what they’re told or answer the questions they’re asked. They intelligently anticipate potential issues and prevent things from falling through the cracks. A real personal assistant is not a tool, but an ally. (Emphasis mine).

Real personal assistants pay attention to what’s important. They proactively bring things to your attention that would otherwise go unnoticed. They plan and prioritize.

Siri can reschedule your dentist appointment, but only if you discover that you need to change it and remember to ask Siri to do it.”

A real Virtual Assistant cares about your business. As smart as smart phones are, they couldn’t care less if your business fails, or you get lost, the restaurant has crummy food, and your plane is delayed. Like spell-checkers and auto-correct, they don’t understand context.

Artificial intelligence has come a long way. I admire everyone who has spent incalculable hours making it happen. I love smart phones, Google Maps and voice navigation. However, these digital aids are not true Virtual Assistants any more than my cat’s laser mouse is a brain surgeon.

I wish they had called them something else.

End of rant.

Recalculating …

Toni

3 Women Entrepreneurs Offer Advice: Know Your Stuff. Persevere. Get Help.

women entrepreneurs

Photo by KROMKRATHOG

Today’s Times-Pacayune (New Orleans) tells the stories of successful women entrepreneurs who overcame financial and gender barriers to build successful businesses in oil and gas staffing, event planning and mortgage lending.

JENNIFER JEANSONNE, CEO AND OWNER OF EAGLE CONSULTING

Jennifer Jeansonne led her company through the stringent process of becoming a Certified Woman-Owned Business, a designation that opens doors to more opportunities. Eagle Consulting matches oil and gas companies with project management and engineering consultants. Because the oil and gas industry traditionally is a “man’s world,” Ms. Jeansonne faces gender discrimination in getting new clients.

“Jeansonne recalls approaching a potential customer with a business pitch at an industry conference shortly after taking over Eagle Consulting in 2005. The executive heard her out and smiled before launching into a rapid description of his company’s needs peppered with complex industry jargon and acronyms. Jeansonne said the man was taken aback when she not only understood the lingo, but went on to explain how Eagle Consulting could help. ‘It was a little test, but I got past the test,’ Jeansonne said. ‘Then he was totally open to talking to me.'”

“Attitude is everything, right?” Jeansonne said. “When people underestimate you that’s when you can really impress them because they don’t expect it.”

PATRICIA HIGHTOWER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, BAYOU EQUITY MORTGAGE

Ms. Hightower saw a need for low-income mortgages and other specialty financing, but couldn’t find training.  She said, “”I basically studied, took the required tests and had to teach myself.”

 “One of her biggest challenges has been learning when to stop handling day-to-day tasks and start thinking of long-term goals for the company, though she said she’s getting better at it.

“I think that women have a hard time thinking of themselves as the boss or as the CEO,” Hightower said. “When you don’t think of yourself as the CEO sometimes you wind up multitasking and doing way more than a man would do because he would delegate more.”

DIANE LYONS, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF ACCENT ON ARRANGEMENTS

Mrs. Lyons saw a lack of planning services for New Orleans’ convention and meeting venues. She quit her teaching job and used the equity in her home to finance her startup.

She emphasizes the importance of not trying to go it alone.

Lyons said it took her two years to realize she couldn’t do everything on her own and needed to hire help. Her first hires taught her the value of outside input, she said.

[She] said it’s easy for women to keep any problems they have close to the chest because most have faced some sort of skepticism about whether they can actually run a business.

Lyons said it’s important to find a non-competing peer to talk to about problems, even financial ones.

“Don’t be afraid to fail, just don’t lock everything you’ve got into that failure,” Lyons said.

There’s more good information in the article, plus you can “meet” them in the video at the link below.

Women in business: When did you know you were an entrepreneur?

Until later …

Toni

 

Do You Need A Virtual Assistant? 5 Clues

need virtual assistant

Photo by David Castillo Dominici

In some cases I’ve seen, by the time a solo business owner or entrepreneur gets around to finding a virtual assistant, they have built up quite a backlog of tasks they simply didn’t have time to do.

Molly Baker of Sound Administrative Solutions came up with a good list of “5 Signs You Need an Administrative Consultant,” (Virtual Assistant).

  1. You want your business to grow, but you have no time left in your day to work toward that growth.
  2. Personal stress and anxiety – this can manifest itself on your mood (lack of motivation, irritability), your behavior (over or under eating, angry outbursts) or your body (headache, sleep problems).
  3. Missed opportunities – are you so busy with the day-to-day obligations that you don’t have any time for long-term planning, networking, etc.?
  4. You are neglecting certain aspects of your business. Are you forgetting or running out of time to return phone calls or emails? Doing things poorly because you’re so rushed for time? Missing deadlines?
  5. You are struggling with tasks that you aren’t very good at. In this case, it would be well worth your money to pay an Administrative Consultant who is a pro at the admin things you hate, freeing up your time to focus on aspects of your business that actually make you money.

Do any of these resonate with you?

If somewhere in the back of your mind, you think a virtual assistant can’t really save you time and money, check out this first-hand account of an entrepreneur who agreed to try a virtual assistant for a week.

Are you ready now? Contact me (or Molly) today for more information, and have a more productive tomorrow.

Until later …

Toni

 

3 Keys to Marketing a Service Business

marketing

Photo by KROMKRATHOG

When I first began to market my virtual assistant services, I worried that it would be more difficult than marketing a product. After all, people can see, touch and sometimes even test the product before they make a decision to buy, but they can’t see your expertise or experience.  I wondered if there were any special secrets or methods to marketing a service.

What I’ve learned is that marketing a service can be more difficult, and I haven’t found the “secret sauce” to gaining clients. Marketing a product and marketing a service both take hard work and time. It’s all about showing your potential customers that you have something that will fill a need they have, whether it’s the latest gadget, the guidance of a counselor, or the office management skills of a virtual assistant.

There are three fundamental steps that, if pursued diligently, will bring in business. Those steps are laid out in this short video from Entrepreneur.

Did you catch the cautionary advice at the end?

So there you have it:

  • Become a pillar of the community you wish to serve, whether that’s local or global. Where do your ideal customers hang out? Conferences? Meetups? Twitter Chat? The gym? The local coffee shop?
  • Content marketing: Publish articles, make videos, offer email tips, build an email opt-in newsletter list, offer value and stay top of mind.
  • Build Social Proof. Get and publish testimonials on your website. Write and publish case studies about results you got for clients.

These three keys will show your competency and build trust. Once that trust is established, get ready to grow!

Do you have a service business? If so, are there any special marketing tips you can add to this list? Lay ’em on us in the comments.

Until later …

Toni

Need a Host for Your WordPress Site? This One Checks ALL the Boxes!

sitegroundSiteGround® Rocks!

When I set out to re-brand my virtual assistant business, I knew I would use WordPress®, but choosing a host took some research. I had used traditional hosts before, and they were affordable and offered extras, but they were not WordPress®-friendly. As I looked around, I found quite a few managed WordPress® hosts. I read the information on their websites and read reviews by other people, both pro and con. My decision to go with SiteGround® was a difficult one, but I’m so glad I did!

Their hosting is fast and secure. The price is right, their security level is unmatched, and their support is awesome! Unlike some hosting sites, I can use any plugin I want, and I can choose to upgrade WordPress® myself, or let them do it automatically. They always make a backup before they do the automatic upgrade, and ensure that everything is working right after the upgrade.

UNMATCHED SECURITY

I am impressed with their philosophy about security.  They fix major security issues on the server level. They monitor the general security status of WordPress® and the most popular plugins. If a major vulnerability appears, they investigate it and develop fixes on the server level, with minimal intrusion in their customers’ websites. And, unlike some hosts, they don’t force a user to stop using a plugin.

They also have measures in place that separate the accounts on a shared server, so even if there is one account that is vulnerable, the other WordPress® sites on that server are safe. There is no additional charge for this service!

SPEED

When people click on a link to come to your website, they want to see it NOW, or they will move on. They will not wait forever for it to load. SiteGround® excels in speed! Check out the results of their benchmark tests below.

siteground speed

SiteGround® upgrades hardware regularly and entirely, so customers benefit from the latest technology and the best speed at all times.

They have three data centers on three different continents, so customers can choose the best location for their websites based on where their visitors are. To make sure the WordPress® loading speed is great everywhere, they have added free CDN service in partnership with CloudFlare®. It distributes a copy of my website to 23 additional data centers all over the world, and serves my site from the closest possible location.

siteground data centers

They also provide a caching service they developed, called SuperCacher, which accelerates the website by caching content to optimize its performance.

OUTSTANDING CUSTOMER SERVICE

SiteGround® has 24/7 ticketing, phone and chat support. They overstaff all shifts so there is not a long wait for the next available operator. There’s no extra charge for any of this.

I had a little problem a few days ago that turned out to be a user error (yes, that would be me), but the news had just broken about the Heartbleed situation and I was nervous. It was my first time to contact SiteGround® support. I am super-impressed with their response time! I was on a chat with them within less than a minute, was advised to submit a support ticket, and had a response back within less than 10 minutes! My experience with other hosting services was never this good!

siteground_customer_service

I also learned that many of their support team members are WordPress® fans, and they all receive continuous WordPress® training, so they often can resolve WordPress® challenges easily. How many other hosting companies can say that? Again, that’s all included in their low prices.

Their free WordPress® support services include free WordPress® transfer, free installation, and basic troubleshooting of WordPress® related problems.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a reliable, secure and totally awesome WordPress® host, check out SiteGround®. They check ALL the boxes! Click here to get started!

Until later …

Toni

Top photo: “Programmer with Cloud” by watcharakun

6 Steps to a Marketing Plan that Works

marketing planWhen you have a product or service that you know is great, it is tempting to think that all you have to do is tell people about it and they will buy.  A marketing plan is not simply a matter of handing out business cards, placing some ads, or sharing information on social media.

People usually don’t have a “buying plan” unless it’s for something big, like a house or a car. They make decisions to purchase based on an immediate need or want. Because people often buy on impulse, it’s important that when the time comes, your business name pops into their head.

While a marketing plan isn’t brain surgery, it’s worth taking a little time to think about your market and write it all down. Call it a blueprint for action that will bring you better results. Here are six steps to get your marketing rolling in the right direction.

1.    Who is Buying What You’re Selling?  Identify the person who is most likely to want or need your product or service.  Be as specific as possible.  What is their age group, income, gender? Yes, others outside of your target market may be interested, but you want to direct your efforts to the greatest number of actual potential buyers. There is a reason you don’t see many ads for jock straps in women’s magazines.

2.    What Makes Your Target Market Want to Buy? There is always something that causes the buyer to pull out the plastic. In my business, it is usually the realization that they are spending too much time doing back office work and not enough time growing their business or spending time with family. What set of circumstances has to happen for someone to feel they want or need what you are selling? Knowing this will help you design appealing promotions, ads, brochures, website copy, and social media posts.  Remember “Got Milk?” and “Can You Hear Me Now?” These are Step 2 in action.

3.    Consider the Buyer’s Friends and Family. Buyers do not live in a vacuum. They have friends and family who affect their buying decision in some way. Whether a purchase is a gift, clothing that will impress their peers, or signing up with a coach to improve themselves, and thus their career and family income, buyers have a reason to buy that exists outside themselves. Point out these benefits in your marketing materials.

4.    How Will You Provide Information About Your Product or Service? Obviously, getting your message out through social media is a given these days, but what other ways will you reach your target market? If you have a local market, submit an informative article about your business to your local newspaper. It will help elevate you to expert status so you can become the “go to” place for your product or service. When it comes to advertising, studies show it takes someone seeing an ad at least seven times before the information registers in his or her brain (the age-old “Rule of 7.”). When that happens, they will notice it more, and think of you when the need arises. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. How would you go about finding you?

5.    Determine the Buying Timeline.  The answer to “When will someone buy?” depends on the type of product or service you have, and your marketing plan must consider this. If you have a sandwich shop, local advertising that includes your shop hours is the logical choice. If your sandwiches are good, you will have repeat customers and word of mouth will bring more people in. If you are a business consultant, it could take months of consistent networking, article writing and social media communication to cultivate the awareness and trust you need to get clients. Knowing the buying timeline helps you estimate not only the cost of advertising, but also the hours you must spend cultivating clients.

6.    Determine Your Marketing Budget. Many new businesses operate on a shoestring. Social media marketing is great because it costs next to nothing. Still, it is important to allocate some portion of your operating budget for marketing. Business cards, brochures, websites and other collateral materials are not free, even if you do them yourself. If you have followed the first five steps, you will have a good idea of the kind of marketing you must do. With a little research, you can come up with an estimated cost.

Once your plan is in place, follow it for a few months and note the results. Remember that nothing is chiseled in stone. As you gain more knowledge of your market, adjust your marketing plan accordingly.

I wish you all the best in your marketing efforts!

Until later …

Toni

Wednesday Woman: Is Your Repeat Business Holding Up Like a Stick-On Bra?

wednesday womanI always enjoy the work of Natalie MacNeil and She Takes on the World, and this video of hers really takes the cake! She’s today’s Wednesday Woman.

The title, of course, is the eye-catcher, but there’s some meat in here, too. If you want some good tips on how to keep your customers and clients coming back, take a look.

 

Thanks, Natalie!

Until later …

Toni