Tag Archives: Virtual Assistant

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

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

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

Tuesday Quick Tip – Navigating Word 2013

navigating-frustration

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net and stockimages

 

 

If you’ve been using Microsoft®  Office Word 2003 for a long time, and recently upgraded to Office Word 2013, you may find yourself befuddled at all the new changes. I certainly was. Navigating the new menus was a challenge.

One thing I found helpful was this little chart in the Word 2013 Quick Start Guide. The one below is an overview of where to find different commands. The entire guide has lots more tips. You can read the guide online, or download it as a PDF.

word2013-navigationIf you’re a busy entrepreneur or small business executive who doesn’t have time or patience to deal with the learning curve, these guides from Microsoft® are a big help.

Another big help is a virtual assistant who already knows Word 2013 and can do the navigating for you.  Think of the time and frustration you’ll save!

Until later …

Toni

Need an Extra Hour? I’ll Give You One!

hour

Let Go and Grow!

I keep seeing comments on the Internet about entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who are hesitant to try a virtual assistant. I don’t blame them. When you work hard to build a business, it’s difficult to hand over a door key, even a virtual one, to someone you don’t know.

According to this blog post, (go ahead and read it … I’ll wait), the main three reasons for not contracting with a virtual assistant are:

  1. They feared their Virtual Assistant wouldn’t understand their client’s needs
  2. They felt since their Virtual Assistant didn’t have a vested interest in their business they wouldn’t treat their client’s as they were themselves; and
  3. They feared that there was too much for the Virtual Assistant to learn and it was faster to just do it themselves.

Before making the decision to provide administrative support from my home office, I worked for many years in brick-and-mortar offices, for companies large and small. Some key truths I learned over the years are:

1. Every business is unique, and it takes a little time to fully understand the needs of each person I worked for. Communication is the key to coming to this understanding quickly.

2. My philosophy was and still is: If I make YOU and your company look good, I look good, and that makes both of us feel good.

3. There is a learning curve in all new jobs, just as there is a learning curve when you get a new smartphone or upgrade the operating system on your laptop. Again, it takes a little time and good communication. Time and good communication are important whether your assistant is working from home or sitting right next to you in the office.

4. Once you and your assistant get more comfortable with one another, you will see how a virtual assistant truly is a part of your team of trusted associates.

To help you “test the waters,” I’m offering a “Let Go and Grow” special. It gives you an opportunity to work with a seasoned professional at a great price and get one hour FREE.

Just click on this link and fill out the form to get started: Let Go and Grow.

Until later …

Toni

 

How to Vet a Virtual Assistant Candidate

telephone_interview

U.S. Navy photo on Flickr

For a small business, especially a home-based business, there are many advantages to using the services of a virtual assistant. If you’re not familiar with them, go here. However, many people are hesitant to hire someone they have never met in person, much less trust them with confidential information. It’s a perfectly normal, understandable fear. Let’s explore some ways to mitigate the trust issues.

1. Before you start your search for a V.A., make a detailed list of the tasks you want performed. Write it down so you don’t forget anything when you prepare your job listing or interview. This way you will know exactly what you’re looking for as you review V.A. profiles, résumés or websites. Pay attention to the skill-sets the candidates offer.

2. Do your interviews by telephone or Skype. You will learn a lot about the person by hearing their voice, and have the reassurance you’re dealing with a real human being.

3. Ask a lot of questions, and let them ask you questions. Good communication is absolutely essential in a virtual work relationship, so establishing this connection early on is vital. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • How long have you worked as a Virtual Assistant?
  • What’s your background and experience?
  • What software programs do you like to use and are good at?
  • What tasks do you dislike the most? (Example: If you need someone to make or receive a lot of calls, and the person doesn’t like talking on the phone a lot, move to the next candidate.)
  • How do you track time you spend on client work?
  • What is your preferred communication method?
  • How quickly do you usually respond to emails during your working hours?
  • What security measures do you have in place to protect client documents?
  • Are you available during the hours I need you to be, and in my time zone?
  • You have a deadline when your computer suddenly crashed. What would you do?

4. Ask for references, and check them.

5. If you’re still nervous about giving out passwords or credit card information that the assistant would need to perform the work, perhaps you could set up a trial period where the V.A. did other types of work for you to develop a working relationship and trust. If that works out, and you still can’t let go of sensitive information, a virtual assistant probably isn’t the best choice for you.

6. Remember that no virtual assistant can do everything, but an experienced V.A. usually networks enough with other V.A.s to help you find someone who can tackle a job s(he) isn’t experienced enough to do. Since you only pay for the time a V.A. is working, it still can be cost effective to have more than one V.A.

7. There are virtual assistant staffing agencies that screen, and sometimes train, V.A.s.  The keywords “virtual assistant staffing” in a web search will bring up a big list of them.

Once you find a virtual assistant with the skills, work ethic and personality you’re looking for, everything will click, and the trust issues will disappear.

Until next time …

Toni

 

Target Your Market. Market Your Target.

Target Marketing

Photo via Wikipedia

I think it’s safe to say that most of us who are launching a new business or service usually operate on a tight budget, and need to start bringing in revenue as quickly as possible. It’s important to understand who is most likely to be a paying customer and direct our marketing efforts and dollars toward attracting that customer.

Here are some tips designed to help you market your product/service effectively.

  • Define your market segment. Will your initial focus be on your local geographic area, or on a particular type of customer? In some cases, it could be both. Obviously, a dog groomer will want to focus on dog owners who also are in their geographic area. If you’re selling the latest fantastic widget, will it appeal to the world on the Internet, or to specific people, like tourists, or senior citizens? Once you have honed in on the most specific target area and/or customer, then you can decide what approach to take in marketing.
  • Narrow your focus. Avoid the scatter-shot approach with your products or services. Keep your product line narrow and specialized. If you’re the only business in town selling “X,” everyone who wants an “X” has to come to you. The same rule applies to services. Don’t try to be all things to all people. A high-quality service or small service package will do better in the long run than a broad range of services that don’t provide the return on investment (ROI) you need to survive.
  • Define your prices. Depending on what you’re offering, a lower price can mean higher volume, but how will it affect your bottom line? On the flip side, a higher price may mean fewer customers, but a high quality product or service will keep those customers coming back and result in high quality referrals. For virtual assistants, pricing can be tricky, especially when one is competing globally with people who are willing to work for as low as $1.00 an hour. Additionally, fees for similar services vary widely across the U.S. Therefore, it’s important to understand what a fair price is, both for the customer and for the business owner who needs to keep a roof over her head.
  • Promote your business. Unless people know you’re out there, what’s the point of being in business? No longer do we have to spend a small fortune to advertise. If your business is local, networking in the community is vital. Join a service club, volunteer, find networking events in your area, attend charity dinners where you can meet new people, or, if you live in a small town, drop in at shops and introduce yourself. Follow local businesses on Facebook and comment on their pages. If your market isn’t confined to a geographic area, social media marketing is key. Get active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all the others where people gather. Devote some time every day to interacting with people online so you can build a community of like-minded people and potential clients.

Have you found the marketing approaches that work best for you? If so, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

Until next time …

Toni

 

Tuesday Tips: Bookkeeping from the Get-Go

Messy DeskStarting a new business is exciting! You’ve made the big decision to get out there and be your own boss, and decided what kind of business you’re going to have. There are so many things to do, and so many things to acquire in order to get your business going. It’s easy to focus on getting everything ready to open the doors, as you rush around buying supplies, equipment and inventory. A month goes by, then two.

You notice that your desk, kitchen table, counter top, and car are cluttered with receipts from things you’ve bought. Perhaps you gather them all up and put them in a drawer to go through later. More months go by, and the drawer is getting stuffed.

Finally you decide it’s time to hire a bookkeeper and/or accountant to set up your books, or maybe you buy software so you can do it yourself. That’s good!

So you get down to it, and reality sets in. You pick up a receipt that has some obscure description on it. You can’t tell what the heck it is, but the amount is high enough that you really need to know. Welcome to Bookkeeping Hell.

As a bookkeeper for some years, I can attest to the agony of trying to track expenses for people who bring in shoe boxes full of crinkled, coffee-stained, almost unreadable receipts. I would enter everything I could, but there were always some that neither I nor the business owner could decipher. That’s a tax deduction he didn’t get to take. “What about your mileage?” I ask. “I didn’t keep track of it,” he replied.

So here’s today’s Tuesday Tip:

  • Get a receipt for every purchase. Little things add up.
  • Before you call it a day, each day, take a few minutes and gather up all receipts from that day. If you can’t read the date or the item description, write it on the receipt. Make it a habit.
  • Get a mileage log book from office supply store, or make your own in a small spiral notebook, with hand-drawn columns labeled “Date” “Destination” “Start” and “End.” Keep it in your console or on the passenger seat. Before you start the car, enter the date, destination and start mileage. When you get back to your home or office, before you get out of the car, enter the “end” mileage. Make it a habit because it’s money in your pocket. All business trip miles are tax deductible.
  • Keep ALL receipts. If you buy something that allows you to get a rebate if you mail in the original receipt, make a copy before you mail it.

If you do these four things consistently, you will be rewarded at the end of the year with a pile of tax deductions, and your bookkeeper will LOVE YOU!

If you decide that doing your own bookkeeping takes too much time, don’t hesitate to hire a bookkeeper or virtual assistant with bookkeeping experience. That expense is deductible, too, and is well worth it.

Until next time …
Toni

Drum Roll, Please – Let the Blogging Begin!

BlogHello to the one (so far) person (me) who is reading this post. It is my hope the numbers will grow, but for now, I will be content to get the blog rolling and let it be known what this space will be about.

My virtual assistance service is what is commonly known as a “micro-business.”  A micro-business is defined as one which has five or fewer employees. I am known as a “solopreneur” because until I decide to expand, I’m CEO, COO, and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. If your business fits into at least one of these labels, you and I have something in common. The focus for this blog will be those of us who are trying to get, and keep, our feet in the door to customers/clients.

I’ll be throwing out ideas about the whole spectrum of operating a micro-business, from launch to marketing to growing pains, and everything along the way.

There will be serious discussion, as well as humor (because who doesn’t need to relax and smile in this crazy world?). I hope you will follow along and participate with your comments. Just click the feed button or sign up to get notifications.

Until next time …
Toni