Virtual Assistants on making Businesses more Profitable

9 09 2010

Lean and economic times call sometimes for desperate measures as business strive more than ever to streamline and increase profitability. In order to achieve this some business owners make the mistake of trying to do everything themselves, but is this wise?

The business owner is responsible for generating new revenue for their business. As the business grows, so do administrative tasks. The more time spent IN the business on administrative tasks, the less time spent ON the business generating more sales and planning its growth.

Surely the business owner’s time is not best spent on all the small (but important) administrative tasks necessary in running a successfully business. More and more prudent business owners are delegating the less profitable tasks by hiring a virtual assistant, whose hourly rate is somewhat less than the business owner’s real financial worth.

Virtual assistants are the 21st Century equivalent of the personal assistant of the 20th Century. They provide administrative and secretarial assistance, when required. they are self-employed, so there are no employer’s responsibilities like PAYE, National Insurance, tax, sick pay, maternity leave, paid holiday or benefits packages. Best of all, because they work from their own premises, there’s no need to provide virtual assistants with any office space, desk or equipment, ideal for small business owners and entrepreneurs who operate their business from their home which means they don’t loose privacy or space.

As more and more businesses move their marketing and communications to the Internet, Virtual Assistants are becoming the obvious solution to staffing issues. For an hourly fee often less than the cost of temps or the real cost of employees, businesses can take advantage of professional assistance and a variety of skills at the click of a mouse.

Work assignments are communicated through email. The use of telephone, fax or post and web-based tools is also a means of keeping in touch.

Typical tasks outsourced include returning telephone calls, answering e-mails and drafting letters. They also run their diaries, manage event bookings, run marketing and email campaigns, design presentations, source and book flights, proof-read and beautify documentation.

Some virtual assistants are highly specialised in particular areas including marketing support, e-newsletters, web design, squeeze pages and e-commerce.

There’s no doubt that having virtual assistance is a time-management tool. With the support of a good one, business image is enhanced, the business runs smoother and more efficiently which means greater productivity. Business owners can focus on what is important, rather than urgent, leaving them more time to work ON their business rather than IN it. For some it means regaining their evenings and weekends.

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Constant Contact v/s iContact

18 05 2009

I've been using Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com) for managing communications with large databases for a while now and I find it a fab tool for sending out newsletters and email campaigns, it's very intuitive and simple to use with professional looking results. I've recently heard a few people talk about icontact.com, so I signed up to a free trial account to have a look and compare.

What I like about Constant Contact is that you have loads of templates and graphics and layouts to choose from. In icontact, there doesn't seem to be as much a vaste choice in pre-designed images and layouts, which I suppose is fine, because once you've found one template you like, you should stick to it so your recipients get used to your look and feel.

One feature that icontact has that Constant Contact doesn't is that you can create more than one sign up box for different lists. In Constant Contact, it's just one form that subscribers can tick which list they want to subscribe to.

Pricing is different too. Both have a scale of monthly charges depending on how many contacts there are in the database. Constant Contact starts at $15 for up to 500 contacts, then jumps to $30 for up to 2,500 contacts. icontact starts at $9.95 for up to 250 contacts, then $14 for up to 500, then $19 for 1,000, then $29 for 2,500, so it works out slightly cheaper than Constant Contact and better value when you have less than 2,500 contacts.

Images are dealt with differently too. icontact allows you to store up to 500Kb for free, then you pay 10% to have up to 1Mb and 20% up to 2Mb. In Constant Contact, you're allowed up to 5 images for free, then you pay just $5 per month for unlimited images.

For usability, I prefer Constant Contact. It may be because that's what I'm used to and I know exactly where I'm at and there's no fear of sending out a half baked campaign unintentionally to the whole database!

I'll give icontact a fair trial and use the 15 days up and see if I can get used to how things are laid out there. I'm allowed to upload 250 contacts within that (Constant Contact only allow 100 in their free trial)