July 19, 2011

Twitter Tips for Building Your Virtual Assistant Business

Posted in clients, marketing, networking, tools at 4:24 pm by rtuss13

Twitter Logo Speaking from experience, Twitter can be an incredible tool to market your Virtual Assistant business if used correctly. Here are some strategies that I found particularly effective:

Be willing to give it time to work. Networking effectively is does not happen instantly. It’s a process of building trust and rapport and developing professional relationships- and even some friendships. For me, it took about six months of regular Tweeting to consistently generate a significant number of prospects through Twitter. Your experience may be different, but if you’re expecting this to be an instant business builder, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Carefully choose who you follow. Those who follow you or are considering doing so can easily check to see who you follow. Be true to yourself but realize that those you follow may have an impact on how others perceive you professionally. I often follow those who are either experts in my field or are people who I think might one day be interested in my services (or know someone else who would be).

Show your stuff. No, not your body parts- that’s the last thing you should do. Establish yourself as an expert in your field. Post links to information that your target market might find helpful. ReTweet others’ Tweets that are informative or helpful in your area of expertise. Always give credit to your source- plagiarizers are not well-received on Twitter, or anywhere for that matter. No matter what you do, don’t repeatedly post only advertisements for your services. While the occasional shameless plug is usually not a problem, constantly Tweeting your own advertisements will most likely result in either losing followers or being ignored by those who do follow you.

Stay focused. Remember the reason you’re Tweeting. Keep the majority of your tweets related to business-related issues and topics. Use your best judgement to determine what is appropriate to post and what isn’t. Make sure to honestly portray yourself in the best professional light possible.

July 18, 2011

Free Printer Sharing with Clients

Posted in clients, tools at 10:30 am by rtuss13

PrinterShare.com allows you to share your printer with others. Imagine being able to print from your iPhone or PC to a client’s printer. It works with Windows, Mac and several mobile phone platforms. Just another free and interesting tool that may be of value to a Virtual Assistant.

July 15, 2011

Finding Your Niche as a Virtual Assistant

Posted in clients, general, marketing at 1:00 pm by rtuss13

If offering many different services seems to leave your prospects indecisive, you might want to reconsider your strategy. It may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes, offering fewer-but more targeted and specialized services can actually result in more business.

The reason? When you offer too many services, it’s sometimes hard for prospective clients to understand the value of your services. Being able to do “whatever” does not always present you as the solution that you need to convey that you are. Instead of a Jack or Jill of all trades, many small business owners are looking for an expert to assist them with a very specific task.

Years ago, I started off offering every service I could imagine in the administrative support field. While I did manage to gain a decent clientele, I noticed that prospects sometimes seemed lost in trying to understand exactly how they would use my services. I could make suggestions, but I didn’t know exactly what their particular challenges and goals were so although they were interested in the idea of having a Virtual Assistant, they just didn’t know how they would implement using one. The big problem: they were exploring a notion, not looking for a solution to a well-defined need.

It wasn’t until several years ago when I decided to offer one service and one service only that I began to understand that less was more. I decided to offer paralegal services in a very specific discipline of law. It was what I knew most about- and what I really loved to do. I had no idea how it would affect my virtual assistant business, but I wanted to focus my business where my heart was.

Because I know my field well and market only one service, prospects who contact me have already identified a very specific need in their practice and know that there is a chance that I could be part of that solution. Not only did I acquire new clients much faster but I was also able to charge more (although I believe in keeping my rates very reasonable) than one would charge for general secretarial work because I have a very specialized skill set. I had found my niche.

If you’re wondering what your niche should be, my suggestion is to ask yourself the following questions:

-What kind of projects/tasks do I REALLY enjoy?
-What areas do I consider myself an expert in?
-What areas am I most willing to further develop my skills and knowledge?

It probably won’t take long to determine what a suitable niche would be for you. It could be nearly anything. Here are just a few examples of successful Virtual Assistant niches that I have encountered over the years (obviously, these were not my niches, but certain other VAs seemed to have good success specializing in these areas)

-Digital Audio Transcription
-Email Newsletters
-Accounting/Bookkeeping
-Podcast Management
-Desktop Publishing
-Website Maintenance
-Website Creation
-SEO
-Writing

Have you found yours? Want to find yours? Feel free to leave a comment.

Poll: How Long Have You Been a Virtual Assistant?

Posted in Polls and Surveys at 10:21 am by rtuss13

July 12, 2011

10 Free Online Tools to Start Your Own Virtual Assistant Business

Posted in general, tools at 8:09 am by rtuss13

If you are considering starting a Virtual Assistant business, you’ll definitely want to bookmark this post. There is no need to invest in a lot of expensive software when there is so much available online for free. Check these out- and save time and money without compromising on quality:

1. OpenOffice – A free open source alternative to Microsoft Office that includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and database applications. It’s also largely compatible with Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc and allows you to save your documents in MS Office formats. Try it- you’ll be impressed. www.OpenOffice.org

2. Freedcamp – Freedcamp is a free webhosted project management application. Collaborate with your clients and keep all of your projects organized and flowing. Similar to paid applications such as Base Camp, Freedcamp is feature-rich. Sign up for your free account at www.freedcamp.com.

3. StatCounter – Track your webstats free (and invisibly if you wish) with StatCounter. You can see visitor activity on your site, track where your traffic comes from and how long your visitors stay on your site. All you do is cut and paste simple code. Get your free account at www.StatCounter.com.

4. Primo PDF – You will probably use PDFs a lot in the course of running a Virtual Assistant service. Primo PDF is a free utility that allows you to convert nearly any document that you want as a PDF. Configured as a printer, you simple click print and then select Primo PDF as your printer. Choose from settings that make your document appropriately sized for web publishing, ebooks, print, etc. www.PrimoPDF.com

5. GIMP – GIMP is another feature-rich program that allows you to edit photos and create graphics. In my opionion, it is well-worth the bit of a learning curve (plenty of support is offered online through their website. Download your free copy of GIMP at www.gimp.org.

6. Dropbox – Access your documents from any computer and share those documents with others while always having access to the most current copy of that document. You have complete control over whether you share your documents or not as well as who you share them with. This is one application that you will probably use heavily with your clients. Dropbox offers a FREE 2 GB account (which holds an awful lot of documents). You can also get additional free space when others you refer sign up for a free account, too. For instance, you can sign up for your FREE 2 GB account by clicking here (my affiliate referral link) and see for yourself how easy it is to refer others and build up your free Dropbox space up to a limit of 8 GB! Please note that I receive no monetary compensation whatsoever for Dropbox referrals who sign up for any of their accounts.

7. LogMeIn – Remotely access your computer from anywhere that you have internet access. You can also use this to access your clients’ computers if they want you to work on their workstation(s) remotely. Why pay for similar programs like GoToMyPC when you can use LogMeIn for free? You can add several computers to the list of computers that you can access. I especially like their layered security measures. www.logmein.com

8. Express Scribe – Express Scribe is free digital transcription software. If you plan to get into digital audio transcription (which is in high demand, I might add), this is definitely an asset. You can use it with OR without foot pedals and it has a multitude of options to help you efficiently manage and transcribe your digital audio files. Learn more and download it free here.

9. 7-Zip – 7-Zip allows you to compress large files into .zip files (and other formats as well). You can also use it to extract the files from .zip and other compressed documents. If your Virtual Assistant business is anything like mine, you can plan on using this software on a daily basis. You can download your free version of this open source software at www.7-zip.org.

10. YouSendIt – Sending large files is made simple by YouSendIt. Your free account will allow you to send one large file at a time to your recipient, who will be emailed a link to download the file. Easy and convenient with an optional destkop application and Outlook plugin, sening large files becomes a breeze. You can get your free account at www.YouSendIt.com.

I have many other free applications that I regularly use and love. I plan to share those in the days ahead, so be sure to subscribe to The Virtual Assistant Connection blog and never miss a new post!

March 21, 2010

Slow Economy May Benefit Virtual Assistant Industry

Posted in clients, general, marketing, opportunities at 4:04 pm by rtuss13

Don’t think that the slow economy is bad for your Virtual Assistant business. In fact, it may provide a healthy boost, believe it or not.

Now more than ever, small businesses are in need of competent professionals who can get their important projects done on time- and correctly the first time. The fact that they only pay for work done is sure to be an attractive aspect for working with a Virtual Assistant.

Now is the PERFECT time to get your name out to your target market. Two strategies that I recommend are calling/visiting prospects to introduce yourself and sending postcards via http://www.VerticalResponse.com. You can design your own postcard and send it for about one dollar a piece. Incredible!

November 6, 2008

Your Competition Can Help You Grow Your Virtual Assistant Business

Posted in general, networking, opportunities, tools at 5:29 pm by rtuss13

Looking to build your VA business fast? You might just want to get to know your fellow Virtual Assistants. Yes, “the competition“. If you haven’t noticed already, the VA industry is a world its own unlike any other.

VAs have forged their own online community- one that you’ll want to be part of if you’re going to give your business the best possible advantage. Virtual Assistants are, by nature, supportive people (go figure!) and not just when their pocketbooks benefit from their contributions. In general – and to a surprising degree- they are more than happy to offer advice and save newer VAs from learning some of the toughest lessons the hard way. VAs also like to pool their knowledge and share helpful resources, understanding that by strengthening the industry itself, they all benefit.

A great way to connect with other Virtual Assistants is to join a forum made for VAs by VAs. Personally, I like <a href=”http://www.virtualassistantforums.com/. It’s free to join and offers a tremendous amount of information, resources and support.

VAs also frequently work with each other, either assisting with overflow work or teaming up on larger projects that they wouldn’t be able to take on by themselves. They also refer prospects to each other, if a task is beyond their area of expertise. Of course, to use this strategy with your own business, it helps not to be a stranger to other VAs. They’ll want to feel familiar with you and trust your work ethic before teaming up or referring their own clients to you.

So get to know your out-of-office mates. You’re certain to benefit from the experience, and you’ll probably make some great friends in the process!

October 10, 2008

Virtual Assistants Are an Asset in Any Economy

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:05 pm by rtuss13

I have heard the question posed:

Will the slowing economy hurt your Virtual Assistant business?

My short answer is no. But if you’d like to know how I arrive it, please read on.

In a slower economy, more than ever, small businesses and entrepreneurs need to become more value-centric. Every dollar counts and has to deliver maximum benefit.

Well, that is what being a Virtual Assistant has always been about. VAs provide excellent value by providing expert support and billing the client only for the time spent doing so. For many small businesses, teaming with a Virtual Assistant can save them a ton of money over the prospect of hiring an employee (who may not even be as qualified as a VA) and incurring the additional costs of payroll taxes, sick time, vacation pay, office space and equipment allocation, and then some.

If you have been reluctant to market your VA business because the economy hasn’t been so great, it’s high time you start doing so. Small businesses still need expert support and exceptional value, two things that have been the hallmark of the VA industry since its inception.

April 16, 2008

Will Work for Money

Posted in clients, general at 1:02 pm by rtuss13

There is a myth out there that in order to grow your business, your services have to be cheaper than your competitors. If you want out from under the pressure of this untruth, read on.

I was talking just the other day to a prospect. He said he was very impressed during our initial consultation but that he was also considering another VA whom he had been speaking with whose rates were lower than mine. He said he’d let me know in the next few days whom he had chosen.

When I had first gone into business years ago, hearing this would have prompted me to immediately try to beat her rates. Instead, I followed up with an email thanking him for the opportunity to discuss his administrative support needs. I acknowledged that I am not the cheapest VA out there but that my focus is on providing exemplary quality and service to my clients. I take a personal stake in their success and if he chose me to provide VA services, he would receive that same treatment. I attached a copy of my contract for his consideration and two days later, he returned it to me signed.

I am not saying that it’s always wrong to compete on your rates. But the sooner you realize that there will ALWAYS be someone who is cheaper than you are, the better off you and your business will be. So if there will always be someone who is willing to do what you do for less, you can’t compete on that level unless you are looking to become an administrative support charity instead of a business. And what would the point be then?

What you must do is compete on a different level- one that should matter to your client even more than price. Quality and value. Start selling your prospects on that notion and you’ll become an indispensable part of their businesses. Instead of providing cut rate services, you will be offering your clients a true partner in their success — someone they can depend on to get the job done correctly and on time every time.

The services of a competent Virtual Assistant will often pay for themselves in terms of increased opportunities created for their clients by allowing them to effectively leverage their time and focus on growing their businesses. Believe me, once they experience working with a professional VA who can make their administrative headaches a thing of the past, they’ll be happy that they decided to pay a little more to get an experienced Virtual Assistant.

Set your rates honestly and stick to them. If you have a prospect who seems disproportionately focused on price, chances are they will become a Pandora’s Box of constant complaints, issues and conflict as a client.

April 10, 2008

Virtual Assistants Can Manage Their Workloads Better With ClientSpot

Posted in clients, tools at 12:25 pm by rtuss13

Virtual Assistant project management has just soared to a new height with the web-based application, ClientSpot. It’s designed to help Virtual Assistants track projects, files, deadlines and time. If you have ever tried to manage all of your pans in the fire with a generic project management program, you may have been left with a number of work-arounds that you had to create in order to make it work for you. Not very efficient, is it? Especially when efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to being a successful VA.

ClientSpot is different because it was developed specifically with Virtual Assistants and freelancers in mind. It allows you to handle multiple remote clients effectively, not to mention almost effortlessly. In addition, it provides great value to your clients by providing them with a single place to assign tasks, upload and download files, discuss projects, and monitor progress.

I think what makes ClientSpot unique is that it’s really focused on the needs of virtual assistants. For example, a major focus has been making sure the system is easy enough for clients to use without getting overwhelmed. We’ve also added features like tracking retainer hours based on feedback from VAs,” says Dave Churchville of ClientSpot.

If storage or security is a concern to you — as it is to all VAs — you will be thrilled to know that they have generous file storage allotments included in their cost-effective plans as well as the option to enable SSL for all communications. It’s one way that they enable you to further safeguard your clients’ sensitive information.

Another impressive thing about ClientSpot is that they really listen to the feedback they get. They are always in search of ways to make their application even more indispensable to busy Virtual Assistants and their clients. In fact, when you email them, someone actually gets back to you promptly- and not by generic form emails. Yes, real professional contact from a software development company that really cares about its customers!

Now you are probably wishing I would hurry up with the rest of this post so you can try it out for yourself. Oh, did I mention that you can set up a free account to see why I am raving over this software? Simply go to http://www.myclientspot.com.

You can also see a short demo video (with sound) at http://www.myclientspot.com/tour/.

March 24, 2008

Are You LinkedIn?

Posted in clients, networking at 11:50 am by rtuss13

As you know, I am big on networking — and for good reason. It works. When it comes to online networking, there are a lot of great options available. From time to time in the weeks ahead, I will be filling you in on some of my favorite online business networking sites.

LinkedIn is a very popular site that is powerful yet easy to use. You will find some of the most respected names in business networking there- a testimony to the value of LinkedIn.

Start with a free membership that has plenty of functionality. Connect with your existing clients and contacts — and develop new ones as well. LinkedIn allows you to search your existing Outlook contacts to identify people you aready know who are also members of LinkedIn. With just a couple clicks of the mouse you can invite them to join your LinkedIn network. You can also invite people who aren’t yet members to join and link up with you.

LinkedIn also allows you to ask questions to your network, fostering a collaborative environment that can be so beneficial to your business. On the flipside, who knows, you just may have an idea that can help one of your contacts or a member of their network. LinkedIn offers you a place to really shine and show that you know your stuff!

As you know, it is all about visibility when it comes to running a VA business. The more places you can be found online, the more avenues you have to finding new clients.

March 13, 2008

Get Out to That Next Business Mixer

Posted in clients, marketing, networking at 12:05 pm by rtuss13

I love networking mixers. Almost enough to order a bumpersticker that says so. If it has been a while since you have been to your last business networking mixer, now is the time to plan for the next one that you’ll attend. If you have never been to one, you’re really missing out on some phenomenal opportunities for your VA business.

Networking is important. Virtual Assistants are often good at networking online, but face-to-face networking should be equally important to you. Business networking mixers are great because you get to meet other professionals in a relaxed and casual environment. You will be amazed at the phenomenal contacts you will make at a mixer.

A lot of overstressed business owners and professionals have never heard of a Virtual Assistant, much less considered the benefits of teaming with one. It’s a great opportunity to introduce an option to them that can have an exponential impact on their success and dave their sanity at the same time. And by building a professional relationship with the businesses and people in your area, they develop a favorable impression of the VA industry.

If you are looking to get all you can out of the next business networking mixer that you attend, you may want to try the following:

  • Offer your hand. Not sure how to start up a conversation with the person next to you? It’s simple. Initiate a handshake, smile, look them in the eye, say hello and introduce yourself. It really is that easy. Be happy. Be enthusiastic. Be yourself (unless you happen to be neither happy nor enthusiastic, in which case you should be anyone but yourself.)
  • Bring plenty of business cards. Pass them out to everyone you meet. Don’t be shy. Going without business cards is like going without pants — and every bit as bad. When you hand someone your card, ask for theirs if they don’t immediately present it.
  • Dress conservatively. Many mixers are casual, but you still want to appear professional. This is not the time to show up in cut offs and flip flops. My advice is to dress in “business” or “business casual” attire. People will make judgements about you before you ever meet them, so make sure that you appear to be someone that they can benefit by knowing.
  • Engage the other person in conversation about their business. It’s easy to keep the conversation going when you ask someone to talk about themselves or their business. What do they do? What do they love most about it? What are their challenges? How is business currently? What is the next step that they plan to take? Pay special attention to everything they say because you will learn specifically how they could best benefit from your services.
  • Share what you do. Chances are, when you say that you are a Virtual Assistant, a lot of people will ask, “What is that?” What a great opportunity to share how you partner with other business owners and busy professionals to help them leverage their time and increase their productivity! Open their eyes to the possibility of what a VA can do for them. If they seem interested in working with you, schedule a time for an initial consultation.
  • Follow up with the new contacts that you made afterwards. Now that you have a stack of business cards from all of the people that you met, don’t just let them sit in a drawer collecting dust. Give them a phone call, send them an email, or mail them a card and let them know that you enjoyed the opportunity to talk to them at the mixer. They will be impressed with your initiative and will be reminded of the services that you provide.
  • So look in your local paper, call your chamber of commerce, read your local business publications and find out when the next business mixer is being held and make plans to attend. You will be glad that you did.

    March 3, 2008

    Real Business Insight From a Monkey

    Posted in clients, tools at 10:41 am by rtuss13

    SurveyMonkey
    SurveyMonkey2

    Do you ever wonder what your clients really think about your services? Maybe you should enlist the help of a monkey – SurveyMonkey, that is. It may have a cute little name, but rest assured, the folks here don’t “monkey” around when it comes to providing priceless insight into what your clients are thinking about your services.

    SurveyMonkey allows you to create and distribute dynamic surveys that get to the heart of what is really important to your clients. Clients receive their survey via email and follow the simple instructions to access their secure questionnaire online where the results are collected and stored.

    This clever little monkey then compiles the survey data and helps you analyze your results far more in-depth than if you set out to do this on your own with a paper survey. From collective graphs and charts to individual responses, SurveyMonkey provides the results in every format you could dream of and even allows you to download the full report in just seconds.

    Just imagine what you could do with all this information! Perhaps the best part is that they offer an extremely functional FREE package. It’s a great reason to visit SurveyMonkey today!

    February 26, 2008

    Spring Cleaning for Your VA Business

    Posted in clients, general, marketing at 3:09 pm by rtuss13

    Spring is just around the corner (I am pretty sure it’s in sight, anyway), and many of us engage in our “spring cleaning” rituals around the house. It’s such a good feeling to have everything in order and to check those elusive tasks off your list that you hadn’t found time to do in the weeks (okay, let’s be realistic- months) past.

    While you are enjoying the fresh start at home, why not carry that same mindset into your VA business? Plan to set aside a block of time in the next 30 days to improve your organization as well as tackle some of those tasks that you haven’t been able to get to recently.

  • Backup your computer files (but PLEASE don’t let that be a once-a-year event!)
  • Update your website.
  • Launch a new client referral program.
  • Evaluate your marketing plan. Find a creative way to advertise your services that you haven’t tried before.
  • Reorganize your filing system.
  • Send out thank you notes to all of the clients you have worked with in the past year.
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation for your VA business.
  • Identify one area of your business that you would like to improve on in the months ahead, map out your strategy for success and implement your plan.
  • Rearrange your workspace for better efficiency.
  • Whatever it is that you have had on your list or in the back of your mind, now is the time to invest in your Virtual Assistant business and plan to do a little “spring cleaning”. Chances are you will stumble upon some great ideas in the process!

    February 23, 2008

    Creating a Client Referral Program That Really Builds Business

    Posted in clients, marketing, networking at 10:52 am by rtuss13

    It is quite possible that there is no better, more effective method of advertising than referrals from your clients. They have experienced firsthand the value of teaming with a Virtual Assistant, and their respected word and opinion almost instantly propels you into a “trusted agent” status with the associate whom they are sharing the benefits of a VA with.

    Think about it. Others see your clients’ success and satisfaction, and they naturally start to want that for themselves. Once they hear about your services, they are many times more likely to sign on with you than the average prospect who just happened upon one of your advertisements. They have already been sold on your service. They just need a place to sign.

    Referrals are tremendously powerful and offer your business a chance to grow like no other, but there is one significant caveat. If you don’t ask for them (and do so properly), you are never going to be able harness their full potential. Creating a referral program is a great way to do that. By incentivizing your clients to provide their glowing testimonials of your services to others, they will actually seek opportunities to spread the word about you!

    Here are three tips for developing a business building referral program:

  • The incentive should have real value to your clients. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank, but you should offer something that is substantial enough to sincerely reflect your appreciation for new business directly resulting from their referral. My experience is that a discount or credit to their account works best.
  • Make sure your program results in new business from both the referred party and the existing client. It is quite obvious to focus on the first part, but if you leave out the latter, you are missing out on half of the benefits of the referral process. A good way to do this is to offer a discount that will be credited towards the referring party’s next invoice. This encourages your referring client to continue to find new ways that their business can benefit from your expert service.
  • Announce your referral program in a variety of ways. Telling your clients about your it is not a one-time event. Send them postcards periodically to remind them of it (Personally, I favor VerticalResponse to do this). Post it on your website. Mention it in your email newsletters. Include a brief reminder about it on your email signature with a link to your website where they can get full details.
  • Starting a referral program was by far the most effective business building strategy for my business. I was amazed at the response and the enthusiasm of my clients to refer their friends, family and associates to me. The benefits have greatly outweighed the costs, and I couldn’t have gotten the same results from spending the same amount on other forms of advertising. Of course, other methods of advertising have their place, but a referral program is at the top of the list for me.

    February 22, 2008

    The Best Marketing Tips of Top Virtual Assistants

    Posted in clients, marketing at 9:04 am by rtuss13

    New Virtual Assistants often ask how they can effectively market their businesses. Afterall, what would a VA be without clients? I am always happy to share the way I do things, but I know that marketing a business has endless possibilites in the methods that are used. So I decided to ask some other VAs what their best marketing tips are.

    If you are looking to get the word out about your business, here are some great ideas for you:

    My favorite marketing strategy is what I call ‘internal marketing.’ Letting your current clientele know that you’re graciously accepting their generous referrals is a great way to bring in new, ideal clients. And, referral clients have already been ‘educated’ as to what it is you do as a VA so all you have to do is WOW them!
    – Tess at the Virtual Assistant Forums

    When you decide you are serious about becoming a VA, tell everyone you know. It seems like such a little thing to do, but it can make a huge difference. Think about how many people you know and how many people they know and so on and so on and so on (like the Pert commercial). It is a huge market, so be sure you don’t miss out on a free opportunity to land that valuable first client.
    – Kate at Kerans Virtual Assistance

    When sending out a postcard mailing, I print my business card on the back of the postcard as my return address with a dashed outline and a note underneath it “please cut out and keep my business card for future use.”
    – Lily at The Virtual Office Goddess, LLC

    Let’s not forget networking forums! Industry related forums are a great way to let your target market know you’re there. Go to where your target market hangs out. Trade shows, conferences and other industry events are also a good way to mix with your target market. Just be careful not to be a *schmaltzy* salesperson. Make friends first. Strike up a conversation and ask *tell me about your business*. People love to talk about themselves.
    – Shari at Modern Marketing Support

    Having an online presence, getting your name out there is big. I think having a website, blog and belonging to social networking sites helps tremendously.
    – Dawn at A Virtual Assistant in Paradise

    Networking in person and online is very important. I have met a lot of good contacts who love to recommend and refer! This can be done by joining VA forums, industry forums that your target market belongs to along with your local organizations such as your Chamber of Commerce!
    – Doreen at Virtual Business Partners

    I always like to remember that my next client could be standing in front of me. Maintaining a professional demeanor and appearance is one key to gaining new business and preserving a good reputation. Also, carry business cards with you and give them to everyone you meet.
    – Jenifer at Administrative Support Group

    There you have it- great marketing advice from experienced Virtual Assistants. Please feel free to add your own favorite marketing strategies in the comments.

    February 20, 2008

    My Favorite Five Online Tools for Virtual Assistants

    Posted in clients, tools at 4:28 pm by rtuss13

    There are a lot of web-based programs that can help Virtual Assistants make the most of their workday and provide over-the-top service to their clients . You probably have your own list of favorites, so let’s compare notes. (Please feel free to post your top favorites in the comments.)

    Okay… drum roll, please….

    5. InstantConference.com
    This is a great application that allows you to host conference calls. Their basic plan is FREE. Unlike many of their competitors, they allow you to record your conference calls without charge- even on their free plan. Stay connected with your clients and show them how effectively an office can be run virtually. InstantConference.com also has a handy Outlook plugin available for download.

    4. Stamps.com
    Stamps.com can help you to save time and make your mail look more professional. In case you missed my recent post about this handy service that allows you to print your postage at home, you can read it by clicking here. Give them a try- you’ll be glad you did.

    3. Support.com
    Imagine this. You are up against a big deadline and your computer has chosen this precise moment to revolt against you. Even been there? It’s not the most comfortable feeling, but the tech savvy folks at support.comare ready 24/7 to provide troubleshooting and tech support at a moment’s notice. They can log into your computer, diagnose the issue and fix many problems right on the spot!

    2. MyFax
    Every business should have a fax number, and your VA service is no exception. MyFax offers a better solution than using a traditional fax machine. You get your own fax number and your faxes are delivered to your email inbox. You can print them if you like or save them to your hard drive. And yes, you can send outgoing faxes as well. If you are new to internet faxing, you will wonder how you ever lived without it. Visit MyFax.com for a full listing of service features!
    Special Offer: Buy 2 Months Get the 3rd FREE

    1. Mozy.com
    If you have less than ten dollars this month to invest in your business, this is where I would tell you to put it. There is nothing more critical to the success of a Virtual Assistant service than the security of your files. Backing up regularly is the single most important thing that you can do for your business. Mozy makes it automatic, so you can set it up once (in under 5 minutes) and then never have to think of it again. There is no reason to ever tell a client that you have lost your files (or worse yet, their files) as a result of a computer crash or virus- because you have your hard drive backed up by Mozy! For more information, click here:
    Mozy.com

    So there you have it, my top five list of online tools that can help you run a great VA business, provide exceptional value to your clients and maintain your reputation for reliability.

    February 19, 2008

    Stay Virtual With Stamps.com and Get Free Postage

    Posted in tools at 10:59 am by rtuss13

    As Virtual Assistants, we make our livings on the computer, so time out of the office to do things like run to the post office translates directly to money out of our pockets- and not just for the postage we purchased! That’s why I use Stamps.com for all of my postage needs.

    When I signed up for their free trial which included free postage, I admit that I was waiting for the catch. (You know me, I am a skeptic when it comes to unbelievably good “free” offers.)

    I was pleasantly suprised that Stamps.com did everything they said they would. Their service was so reliable and easy to use that I am still with them, long after my free trial period. In fact, on my list of “must have” tools for Virtual Assistants, this ranks in the top five.

    After the free trial period, their services are very affordable and they offer fantastic value for your membership. I have even received a free scale to weigh my mail and additional free postage. I couldn’t be happier with their service because it saves me time and money- both of which are important to the success of my VA business.

    The Stamps.com software is very simple to use, and it also integrates seamlessly with Word so you can print your envelopes and your postage at the same time. You can also print postage stamps separately or mailing labels for larger packages with postage included.

    You can try it for yourself risk free. Sign up for Stamps.com and learn for yourself why it made it to my top five list of “must haves” for a Virtual Assistant. (If you would enter code C-73CV-DND when it asks for who referred you, I would greatly appreciate it.)

    February 16, 2008

    Five Reasons to Always Use a Contract When Providing Virtual Assistant Services

    Posted in clients, tools at 3:20 pm by rtuss13

    A contract is an essential tool for any Virtual Assistant is a contract. If I had a nickel for every new VA who has asked me if it is really necessary to use a contract with every client, I would probably be on a sunny beach in Hawaii right now instead of writing this. The short answer is yes, it really is necessary.

    If you remain unconvinced, please read on. There are many, many reasons why you should have a written agreement with every client, no matter what the size of the project is. Here are just the top five on my list of why a contract is so important:

    1. It helps you to be perceived as the professional you are. Chances are that you may never actually meet many of your clients. Having a professional-looking contract adds to your credibility as a professional. Real businesses use contracts, and you are running a real business.

    2. It defines your responsibilities to your client as a Virtual Assistant. This helps to foster a strong business relationship because at a glance, they can see the plan you have set forth to support and benefit their business. It gives your client a sense of security in knowing what to expect from you. A secure client is a happy client, so this benefit of a contract is priceless.

    3. It defines your client’s responsibilities to you as a VA. This is very important, and many VAs who neglect to use a contract fail to see the importance of this aspect in how it can help protect them as service providers. Both parties in any relationship bear responsibility in its success. The same applies to a VA-client relationship. By setting the expectations for the client in writing, they will know better how to help you to help them, so to speak.

    4. It sets forth the terms of payment. This can include fees, payment schedule, methods of accepted payment, etc. Ultimately, this is why you provide the services that you do, so it is best that you have all payment matters addressed and agreed to in writing in advance of the project. Your client won’t be surprised by your fees, and you won’t be caught off guard that they have tried to pay you in pesos. (Go ahead and laugh at me, but stranger things have happened!)

    5. Without a contract, you may be unwittingly donating your time and services. Fortunately, most of your clients will probably be professionals who hold up their end of the bargain, but sooner or later, you can almost bet that you will have an unfortunate experience. All you need is one non-paying customer without a contract to learn this painful lesson. When it is your word against theirs, how hard will it be to prove exactly what the fees and terms for the project were? A well-written contract signed by both parties can help establish that for you, should you be forced to turn the account over to collections or seek other legal recourse.

    Hopefully, if you thought that a contract for Virtual Assistant services wasn’t necessary, you are starting to see the light now. If you aren’t sure of exactly what should go into a contract, this is one area where it will certainly be worth it to enlist the services of an attorney who can draft a basic template for you. In my opinion, it’s money well-spent.

    As I mentioned, there are many reasons to use a contract. What are your top reasons?

    February 11, 2008

    Want to Easily Add Forms to Your Website? Jot This Down

    Posted in clients, marketing, tools at 8:55 am by rtuss13

    You don’t have to be some HTML guru to create great forms for your Virtual Assistant website. (Although I strongly recommend that you take the FREE HTML e-course for basic understanding that I mentioned in a previous post.) Enter JotForm, the answer to your free form needs.

    JotForm is a web-based application that makes creating forms and inserting them into your site a real piece of cake. They offer a variety of impressive features and allow an unlimited number of forms that you can create under their free version. Of course, a Premium package is available if you need it for less than $10 per month.

    Unlike a lot of their competitors, you won’t find any third party advertising on the forms that you create with JotForm. So go ahead and create some forms to bolster your marketing list, connect to prospective clients, and get helpful feedback from your website visitors. The possibilities are endless, and so are the rewards for implementing well-designed forms into your website!

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