Tag Archive | Virtual Assistant

Career Focus: Work at Home as a Virtual Assistant by Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated

  by Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated

 

You’ve worked in an office for years.  You’re good at your job, but dread the morning commute.  You long for a flexible schedule that works with your family needs, not against them.  If this sounds like you, you could work at home as a virtual assistant.  Virtual assistants provide administrative services to their clients via the Internet.  Though not required, experience as an administrative assistant can be helpful. AdirondackSchirs

 

The Technology

 

To work out of your home, you will need a telephone line, personal computer, printer, and Internet access.  A fax machine is also helpful.  If you would rather not invest in a fax machine, try an online fax service.  For a monthly fee, you can send and receive faxes by email.

 

Certification

 

Some virtual assistants find certification helpful in keeping their skills at peak performance.  The skills improved upon through certification include executive support, business decision-making, customer service, and project management.  Certification is also helpful in gaining credibility among your colleagues, and potential clients.  Try vacertification.com for more info on becoming certified.

 

Pump Up Your Resumé

 

Is your resume looking a little thin in the experience category?  If you are willing to volunteer your time, you can quickly gain the experience you need to succeed.  There are a number of websites available to connect you with a nonprofit organization in need of your skills.  Try idealist.org, volunteer.gov, or volunteermatch.org.  Beneficial to your career and the charitable cause of your choosing, this match is a win-win situation.  Work hard and you will likely accumulate some professional references as well.

 

Choosing a Niche

 

Once you have established yourself as a virtual assistant, you may want to consider choosing an area of specialization.   Most virtual assistants choose to specialize in a field of interest, such as real estate or medical transcription.  Make the most of your expertise and interests when choosing a niche market.  Specializing will help you gain credibility with your clients.  Over time, you will become an expert in your field, all from the comfort of your own home. 

 

 

Sources:

(2007). The Media’s Virtual Assistant Survey Results.  Retrieved March 7, 2009 from VA Networking Website:

http://www.vanetworking.com/survey/virtual-assistant-statistics.htm.

 

(2004). Virtual Assistant Skill set.  Retrieved March 7, 2009 from Virtual Assistant Certification Website:   http://www.vacertification.com/skillset.htm

www.sandrabeck.com

www.motherhoodincorporated.com

 

 

 

Career Focus: Work at Home as a Virtual Assistant by Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated

  by Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated

 

You’ve worked in an office for years.  You’re good at your job, but dread the morning commute.  You long for a flexible schedule that works with your family needs, not against them.  If this sounds like you, you could work at home as a virtual assistant.  Virtual assistants provide administrative services to their clients via the Internet.  Though not required, experience as an administrative assistant can be helpful. Buntstifte

 

The Technology

 

To work out of your home, you will need a telephone line, personal computer, printer, and Internet access.  A fax machine is also helpful.  If you would rather not invest in a fax machine, try an online fax service.  For a monthly fee, you can send and receive faxes by email.

 

Certification

 

Some virtual assistants find certification helpful in keeping their skills at peak performance.  The skills improved upon through certification include executive support, business decision-making, customer service, and project management.  Certification is also helpful in gaining credibility among your colleagues, and potential clients.  Try vacertification.com for more info on becoming certified.

 

Pump Up Your Resumé

 

Is your resume looking a little thin in the experience category?  If you are willing to volunteer your time, you can quickly gain the experience you need to succeed.  There are a number of websites available to connect you with a nonprofit organization in need of your skills.  Try idealist.org, volunteer.gov, or volunteermatch.org.  Beneficial to your career and the charitable cause of your choosing, this match is a win-win situation.  Work hard and you will likely accumulate some professional references as well.

 

Choosing a Niche

 

Once you have established yourself as a virtual assistant, you may want to consider choosing an area of specialization.   Most virtual assistants choose to specialize in a field of interest, such as real estate or medical transcription.  Make the most of your expertise and interests when choosing a niche market.  Specializing will help you gain credibility with your clients.  Over time, you will become an expert in your field, all from the comfort of your own home. 

 

 

Sources:

(2007). The Media’s Virtual Assistant Survey Results.  Retrieved March 7, 2009 from VA Networking Website:

http://www.vanetworking.com/survey/virtual-assistant-statistics.htm.

 

(2004). Virtual Assistant Skill set.  Retrieved March 7, 2009 from Virtual Assistant Certification Website:   http://www.vacertification.com/skillset.htm

www.sandrabeck.com

www.motherhoodincorporated.com

 

In Praise of Podcasting, by Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated

by Sandra Beck

in praise of podcasts by sandra beck, motherhood incorporated

in praise of podcasts by sandra beck, motherhood incorporated

In Praise of Podcasts by Sandra Beck, Motherhood IncorporatedIn praise of podcasts A plethora of cliches often signposts a kernel of truth. Take your pick: women are good at multitasking; there aren’t enough hours in the day; I feel torn in two. Time is tight if you’re juggling motherhood and working. Add in any vague ambitions at maintaining broader interests or world awareness – and you’re stuffed, aren’t you? I laugh at the idea of old me, feet up, reading the newspaper. I used to enjoy settling down with a good non-ficton book to really get myself informed on an issue. My friends and I debating over black coffee and pastries – we could have been in Paris. For me, podcasts are an amazing shortcut. Simply browse, pick the ones that interest you, and subscribe to them. That ensures that I always have the latest edition on my iPod. I always have an ear in when I commute. I’ve been known to stay listening if I’m walking with the buggy. It gives me an hour each day out of nowhere, that very nearly meets the definition of ‘me time’, At least, I feel a little more like ‘me’ if I can make informed contributions to conversations. Being a London fan. I’m a big fan of BBC output. However, the real joy of the podcast can be in its accessibility to the amateur broadcaster. A high rated contributor on a podcast directory can often combine reasonable ‘listenable’ production values with some sharp commentary that the mainstream networks wouldn’t dare broadcast. I think that this anarchist iconoclast edge takes me back to my student days. We all know how seductive it is to feel young again. For Christmas, we got a radio which can be connected to an MP3 player. Now the kids are getting into podcasts too. They enjoy all the songs and jokes from their favorite characters, without needing to be glued to the TV. I thought I was being especially clever when I put a ‘tidy up song mix’ on my iPod. The kids loved it – they twirl and dance while I’m crouched on the floor picking up the toys. Never mind. Some interesting sites to browse: http://www.podcastblaster.com/directory/ http://www.podanza.com/podcasts/kids/ http://www.motherhoodincorporated.com

Have a Clear Cut Strategy for your Small Business, by Sandra Beck

by Sandra Beck

Having a clear cut strategy for your small business will save a lot of headache in the long run. I see many small businesses trying to be everythign for every customer thinking that they will get a wider income stream. Most of the time, they end up doing a lot of things not very well.  Knowing what you offer and focusing on how or why your product is better than the competition is key to giving value to the client and having them come back again and again. Using the Internet and some online services at a fraction of the cost can keep your overhead down and your profit marging high.  Studying other companies like yours in other cities can also help you devise your strategy for success. Keeping your small business on target with your strategy will ensure success!

Juggling Work and Motherhood

by Shannon Penrod

Being a Mom who works from home is a lot like learning how to juggle.  Years ago I was taught how to juggle by the head instructor of the Barnum and Bailey clown school, that’s true, not a joke.  Learning to juggle is not an overnight process.  First you have to get used to the feel and the weight of the balls, then you get a feel for the rhythm of a three ball juggle by rolling the balls on the floor with a partner.  Eventually you start to toss the balls into the air, at first there is a lot of dropped balls but you stand close to a wall to minimize drops and bending over time.  Gradually you get the hang of it. 

Once you have the three ball juggle you learn passing with a partner and then you begin adding more and more balls in until you loose your desire for complication.

It occurred to me today that this has exactly been the arc of my working as a virtual assistant for Motherhood Incorporated.  I started out slowly and got a feel for what I was doing. Gradually I started to handle multiple projects, getting a sense for the necessary timing so that everything could be completed in a timely manner while my household continued to function. 

The three balls were my work, my house and motherhood.  There are times now when I can get all three balls smoothly in the air. Sometimes I even get oohs and ahhs from the crowd; but I’ll be honest I still have balls drop from time to time.  I know from learning to juggle from the best that this is to be expected. Balls will drop, but they must be picked right back up.  No one learns to juggle without dropping balls.

And now I am learning how to pass and add other balls into the mix.  Some days it seems more like a shower of balls cascading onto the floor, but I have seen the future and it is a sea of well juggled balls, smoothly sailing past my head, in and out of my hands, past my clean kitchen, into the hands of another mom, past my smiling child and into a client’s computer.  MMMMM!  I like the picture.  Surely it’s worth a few dropped balls to get there.

Late night makeovers and StumbleUpon.com by Tia Peterson/All American Admin

I think it’s so funny that Sandra just recently posted about getting a lovely long night of sleep, because it’s after midnight at the moment (on the East Coast) and I’m still awake, day-dreaming of sleep…

I just gave my company website a quick makeover. Not in terms of design or personality, but in content. I was finally able to streamline what I do into something I can “talk about at parties” (that was a nod to Jack Nicholson’s monologue in A Few Good Men…)

Seriously, though, I was able to spend some time while my son is down for (half) the night refining and describing my service offering in a way that finally makes sense. Being a virtual assistant is a wonderous and mysterious thing: people love what you do while at the same time not quite understanding what you do, no matter how many times you explain it.

On a totally different note, I want to brag that I was the first to “discover” Motherhood Incorporated and the Mother Incoporated blog on StumbleUpon. If you don’t know what StumbleUpon is, you should find out soon.

The main reason is that you should at least look to see whether someone has already discovered your site (it makes you feel good) and secondly you should know whether you’re getting thumbs ups or thumbs down – because your approval isn’t warranted with StumbleUpon. Your website could be getting rated and you wouldn’t be the wiser unless you are part of the StumbleUpon community.

It’s really a website ratings tool – people involved in StumbleUpon spend time “stumbling” websites that are presented to them based on a set of preferences. Then, we give the site a thumbs up or thumbs down. The more thumbs up a site is given, the more it is presented, thereby increasing the daily hits to that site exponentially.

If that kind of thing strikes your fancy, I say give it a try. I like it so far, but I caution against spending too much time “stumbling” – it’s very addictive!

Ciao,

Tia

All American Admin

10 Tips for Working with Virtual Assistants by Sandra Beck / Motherhood Incorporated

by Sandra Beck/ www.motherhoodincorporated.com

At www.motherhoodincorporated.com we hear this all the time.   I have been through 5 virtual assistants this year alone!  I found a great virtual, but then he or she disappeared.  I paid my virtual and now I can’t find him or her.

These are all too common stories in the virtual assistant industry – and virtuals – like employees are both responsible and irresponsible.  So how do you find the good ones?

One route is to go to a company like www.motherhoodincorporated.com who pre-screens virtuals before passing them on to you.  Yes, you will pay a little bit more per virtual job for someone else to administer the job, but in the end you get what you need done.

If you are choosing to hire a virtual on your own, here are a few tips that can help make the working relationship smoother and more effective for both of you.  I am sure virtuals will get up in arms about what I am writing, and maybe so will the clients reading this – but this is what I hear – the good, the bad and the ugly.

And, you may think that I spend way too much time keeping my virtuals happy, but they come to work for me and stay for years.  Can you say the same about your virtual assistants?

1. Pay Virtuals Fairly — and give them a bonus for a job well done or done before deadline.  You many think that you are getting a great deal by underpaying a virtual for a job you know on the public market pays twice what you are paying them, but the message it sends to the virtual is that you are cheap and all you care about is the bottom line – and what they do – a good job, a mediocre job or a barely passable job is all the same to you. You are what we call Bottom Line Joes.  Most virtuals leave clients because they are underpaid and the virtual is not dumb. They might take the job out of desperation one month, but they high tail it out of there for cheap employers.

 

2. Communicate Clearly What You Want Done:  You need to be very specific in what you want a virtual assistant to do for you. They are not in your office. They do not know your day to day operations.  They do not read minds.  And, if you yell at them for not understanding what you did not explain clearly in the first place, then they won’t want to work for you.  If you are impatient and don’t want to take the time to clearly explain what you want, don’t expect great results.  You are what we call the Impatient Joes.  Many virtuals leave Impatient Joe’s because it is just not worth the time because Impatient Joe’s usually dispute the bill in the end anyway. 

3. Pay a Deposit to show Good Faith.  Most virtuals tell me they hate real estate agents because they don’t pay or they wait to pay a virtual when something closes.  Knowing this, pay a small deposit upfront to show good faith and cultivate trust at the beginning of the working relationship.  Most virtuals come to me because they know I will pay them EVEN if the client does not pay me.   Virtuals get $100 or $200 and can’t wait two months for a close that supports you for 3 months.

 

4. Find Out WHY Your Virtual works Virtually – I found in forming my business www.motherhoodincorporated.com that the only real group of people I could count on to get the job done were moms who NEED money.  Free lancers, people who have a full time job and only work side jobs – they can blow you off because they have money coming in from other sources.  When a mom comes to me and says her husband hurt his back and they can’t make their mortgage on his disability and she can’t afford childcare to go to work – it tells me that she HAS to work and I have a very good chance of getting the work done early because she needs money NOW!

 

5. Develop a Relationship with Your Virtual – take the time to get to know them as a person. You wouldn’t expect to garner a client for life without getting to know them – so why would you expect a virtual to hang around because you dangle the occasional $100 bill.   People in relationships have a less chance of blowing each other off, not paying or treating unfairly the other – if there is a quasi-friendship/relationship there.  At www.motherhoodincorporated.com we know our moms have kids, dogs, husbands and families. We get to know them and as such they are PEOPLE not just someone at the end of an email doing something you don’t want to do.

  

6. Create Reasonable Timelines: when you give a virtual a job to do, make sure that your timeline is reasonable for the work to be done.  Give yourself a buffer between the end time of the job and the window for late virtual work.  If you need something by next Friday, ask for it next Monday – if the virtual hits it or earlier great! If they are late or flake, you have time to get someone else to do the job.

 

7. Shower a Great Virtual with Love, Praise and Bonuses – like anyone, virtuals stay where they are appreciated, paid well and respected.  I am often criticized by other professionals for “spoiling my virtuals” but when I was an office manager I was criticized for “spoiling my assistants.”  The end result is I have not had to “hire” someone in decades – people come to me on a regular basis wanting to be part of my personal admin team or my company www.motherhoodincorporated.com.

 

8. Don’t Be a Jerk – I can’t believe I have to say this, but again, my virtual moms come to me again and again with horror stories about people who call them at home at 6 in the morning because THE CLIENT had a thought – or at dinner time because THE CLIENT can’t wait until normal business hours.  Just because a virtual works at home, like our mom’s, doesn’t mean they are available 24-7.  And if you want to have your virtual disappear like a puff of smoke, call them names, berate them, insult them and take out your bad day on them.  Treat the virtual the same as you would a client – because in a good business – you need both the client and the support staff.

 

9. Pay as You Go – if you have a large or ongoing or complicated project to do, it might be better to split up the work between virtuals and create like what I have which is my virtual team.  In cases like this that are more than just a one time job, I parcel out payment over time.  When my team hits benchmark 1, I pay 25%…when they hit the midway point, payment #2 goes out at 50%…the remaining 25% goes out on COMPLETION DAY – not after.  My teams know I give a reward for a job done under deadline – makes me look good, we can take on more work and we all win.

 

10. Pay for All Virtual Time – most virtuals resent training time or “client talk time” that is excessive and not paid for.  You are buying their time – and because you don’t pay payroll taxes, the virtual provides most if not all of their own supplies and equipment – and you are usually paying lower than employee labor – you need to compensate them for the time you use to talk or email – especially if you are a talker or major emailer. For this reason, we often charge a client a setup fee because it takes them so long to get to the point.  

 

It’s all a trade off, if you want to have the luxury of having people waiting for work at your fingertips – when, where and how much you want it – and not pay benefits, payroll taxes, sick days and vacation time, then something has to come from your end.  As JW Marriot coined – take care of your employees (virtual) and they will take care of your business.

 It may seem that they hold all the cards, and in essence they kind of do – if you don’t want or can’t afford a full time employee then you have to take care of them.  Good virtuals are in demand – and they can always walk away and find more work quickly and often for more money – and believe me they do.

So take this advice in the spirit it is given and from someone who manages 87 virtuals on a daily basis – take good care of them and you won’t be sorry…

www.motherhoodincorporated.com

 www.sandrabeck.com