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.





Virtual Communication

23 06 2008

Good communication skills are the essential must-have in the toolbox of any good assistant, be they on-site or off-site, and for the virtual assistant you can't survive long without developing the art of communicating well.

In the traditional world of personal assistants, where the assistant is in the office, the boss able to check on progress every time he/she walks past their desk. As a virtual assistant, the "boss" is the client, and he/she doesn't have that visual reassurance that their work is being done and so relies totally on other communication means. It's quite common now for Personal Assistants to be delegated projects to just get on with, and they do just that – get on with it in a capable and adept way.

When a PA turns VA, even though they may still be entrusted with a project to "just get on with", they still need to very much keep the client in the loop with what's going on,whether it's good or bad. Sadly, I've heard stories of VA's not letting their client know that things were not happening according to plan or schedule, and in fear of letting their client down, kept quiet, in the mislaid hope that things would "sort themselves out", which invariably didn't and they ended up letting the client down anyway (who thought that silence meant everything was ok) and ultimately, loosing that client and tarnishing their reputation among that client's circle of contacts. Had they kept their client informed of what was going wrong, the client could then have taken an informed decision as to change tack or strategy, and ended up with a really loyal client rather than a disillusioned one.

So how does a good virtual assistant communicate well with their client? Here are my top tips.

  1. Never assume that your client knows you've received an email instruction – a quick email reply acknowledging that you've received the instruction or have done it or when you plan on doing it reassures the client that their instruction hasn't got lost in cyberspace.
  2. Don't go the other way and provide lengthy replies about more detail than is necessary – your client doesn't have time to read through long essays (or else they wouldn't need a VA!).
  3. Keep in regular contact, as often as you feel the client needs to be reassured things are going to plan. It might be weekly or daily – depending on the assignment.
  4. If things aren't going according to plan, let the client know immediately. Even better, make some alternative positive suggestions or proposed courses of action. 
  5. Get to know your client's preferred communication style. Some prefer email, as they can deal with it when they are ready and don't like being interrupted with a phone call or may not be contactable easily by phone. Some may prefer telephone calls, as it's more two-way and instant (and they may find typing email messages just takes far too long!) – get to know which they prefer.
  6. Book telephone call time with your client (an email setting out your intention for the client that isn't so easily available by phone) and make sure you spend their time (and yours) wisely and efficiently. Even if you are on really good terms and on idle-chat-about-personal-issues terms, it is a business call and sticking to your list of questions/queries when you do speak with them shows that you value and respect their time.

Composed by Vee Smith – My Super VA – helping busy business owners make effective use of their time.





Advice to virtual assistants on how to get your first clients

2 06 2008

I found a great source of information and advice for virtual pa's and virtual assistants at www.entrepreneur.com and in particular a fab article by Sean M. Lyden, that is topical to a lot of new virtual pa's and virtual assistants, including me when I first started.

Landing Your First Customers

Q: I'm still in the early stages of starting my business, but I don't know how to begin getting the word out to
potential customers. Should I take out an ad in the local paper? Do I
need to send out a press release? Help!

A: When I raised money for a dotcom start-up a few years ago, potential angel investors would say things to me like, "Your business concept seems sound and your marketing and
PR plans all look well and good, but tell me: Where are you going to
get the first five customers who will actually pay for your product?
Because until you have them, I don't see how you really have a business
here."

Strong words, but how true! We can talk about writing
press releases, taking out ads and sending out mailers. Yet, think
about it. In tangible terms, how are you going to get those first few
customers? Your first customers are so critical to your success because they:

  • Legitimize your offering, demonstrating that yes, there is indeed a market for your products and services.
  • Provide valuable feedback to help you improve your business operations.
  • Give you real testimonials, which you can leverage in subsequent marketing campaigns.

Tapping Your Warm Market

Where do
you find your first customers? Well, ask yourself this question: Who
are the people most likely either to buy from you or send you good
referrals? Yep, those are the people you know-your "warm market." How
do you approach them and get the word out? The first step is to build
your initial list of warm contacts. Here are 10 questions to stimulate
your thinking:

  1. Who are your personal friends-and their friends?
  2. What about your school connections? Brainstorm a list of classmates, teachers, fraternity brothers, club members and so forth.
  3. Who are your business connections? These include former employers, employees and customers.
  4. Who
    are contacts within your civic activities? Are you a member of any
    civic clubs like Optimist International, Rotary or Kiwanis? What about
    fellow church or synagogue members? Think of all the organizations you
    belong to.
  5. Who are your contacts in trade associations you've been a part of over the years?
  6. Who
    are the tradespeople you know? Include folks like your lawyer,
    pharmacist, doctor, dentist, plumber, insurance agent, hairstylist,
    mechanic and even your babysitter or nanny.
  7. Who are your neighbors-both past and present?
  8. Who do you know through your sports and hobbies, such as hunting, fishing, running and golf?
  9. Who
    are the people you know because of your home? These contacts include
    your mortgage lender, real estate agent, builder and so forth.
  10. Who are the contacts you have through you and your spouse's families?

You
know quite a few people, don't you! Now, how do you leverage this list
to land your first customers? Here are a few cost-effective ideas to
get you started:

  • Send a personal letter and follow up with a phone call a week to 10 days later.
    In this letter, announce your new business. Offer a free consultation
    or a special discount, something to create interest and excitement in
    what you're doing. Perhaps you could offer to pay a "bird-dog" fee to
    those contacts who send you referrals who buy from you.
  • Use the telephone. Call some folks to "catch up." Find out what they're doing and then share about your business.
  • Set up breakfast, lunch or coffee meetings.
    Set it up as a "feedback session" where you present your product or
    service in a low-key manner as a way to solicit feedback from the
    person. At the end of the meeting, ask the person for referrals to
    people who might benefit from your offering.

Link to the original article: http://www.entrepreneur.com/marketing/marketingbasics/article57382.html





How Virtual Assistants can make the most of strategic alliances

27 05 2008

Today at Athena Kings Langley's meeting, the business support topic was about how small businesses can team up with with other complementary businesses and extend their product/service range. It's called Strategic Alliance Partnerships. This works well with Virtual Assistants. Virtual assistants usually bill by the hour, so, on your own, the virtual assistant's earning capacity is limited by how many hours you are available. Entrepreneurial virtual assistants recognise this and strategic alliances are a way of augmenting their income. Instead of just offering admin services, virtual assistants can be likened to the project manager in the corporate world who delegates tasks to the most appropriate person. So become the one-stop virtual business service for your clients by teaming up with other businesses who might have the same client profile as yours. You suddenly open yourself up to more prospects, as well as offer more services to your existing clients, that you wouldn't have the skills to do on your own, for example, web design and telemarketing are two disciplines that I don't have expertise in myself, but on my team are 3 experienced telemarketers and a web designer. Today at the Athena meeting, there was a brilliant copywriter who would be a great addition to my services, and we're going to meet up. So watch this space…..





Why did I become a Virtual PA?

28 04 2008

I often get asked why I became a Virtual Assistant. I’d spent over 20 years working as a PA (Personal Assistant) to  various  Directors, and probably  a third of that time in my car travelling to and from work, dropping off my girls at the different places they had to go, nursery, childminder, hitting all the school runs on the way to work, then same again back home, frequently getting back home around 7pm. I loved my job, but hated the journey and how tired it made me, and that I hardly had any quality time with my girls, let alone me. A good chunk of my salary went on childcare. I really wanted work that was much closer to home without dropping my income, was as fulfilling, and, be able to pick up my girls from school and have dinner at 6pm not 8pm. I read in various PA magazines about virtual assistants and that seemed to fit in with the lifestyle that I wanted. I did my due diligence, called a few VA’s to check how they were doing, and more importantly, did it pay, how soon was it before they started to get clients and earn money. So, then an opportunity arose, that usually most people would think of as a major stress causing catastrophe…. Redundancy!

Read the rest of this entry »





National VA Conference 2008

27 04 2008

I was one of the many Virtual PA’s that descended on Milton Keynes for the 2nd National VA Conference and Awards ceremony on 19th April 2008.  Virtual PA’s from as far as Ireland, North of England and South of England joined together for a day of workshops, networking and speakers about topics every virtual pa is interested in. "Confident and Powerful Networking for
Women in Business”
by Karen Skidmore, Can Do Can
Be,
"Creating a Synergy Between You and Your
Clients”
by Susie Barron-Stubley of Castalia Coaching, "Take Control, Make More Money & Set
Yourself Financially Free"
by Nicola Cairncross, The Money Gym.
Last year’s winner, Alexia Padgham, gave an inspiring talk about how winning the award had impacted on her and her business.
And then we had time to network. Among many, I met Angela Dawson, who’s a fellow member of the IAVA and regular CyberChatter, Athena members – Ingrid Griffin (North Cotswolds), Gerry Hyde  (Maidenhead), fellow Herts VA XChange – Kim Norris, newbies from Herts – Mary Moody & Alison Murray who are going to join our VA XChange group.

Came away feeling somewhat exhausted, much enlightened, goody-bag in my paw and a very sore bum from sitting still for so long!