Ready, Set … Get a Virtual Assistant

across the worldMost entrepreneurs are self-proclaimed “do it yourself-ers!” Although when they started their business they were excited about turning their passion into a business, many didn’t realize just everything that would need to be done. However because their business is their “baby” the thought of bringing someone else in on that dream and admitting you just can’t do it all yourself, isn’t always an easy idea to swallow.

Having worked with many clients now I know the top reasons people say they continue to do it all on their own …

  • No one does it as good as me
  • It’s faster to do it myself
  • I wouldn’t know what to delegate
  • I am just not a good delegator

Do these statements sound familiar?

Well you really need to stop if you truly want a successful, thriving and growing business. There is absolutely no way you can do everything on your own and achieve your dreams as you will quite simply, burnout! Believe me I have seen it happen.

So what is one to do?

The simple answer … get help!

For many the first help they get is a Virtual Assistant, someone who can assist with many of the administrative, technical and/or marketing tasks that are just not second nature to us as entrepreneurs and eat up most of our time … time we would much rather be using attracting new clients and fulfilling our existing clients needs.

So for those of you who are saying right now … “oh, oh that’s me, I need help” here are some very simple things you can start doing today to get ready for the Virtual Assistant (or other team member) you know you will need very soon.

#1 – Figure out what to delegate

First and foremost you need to have a conversation with your existing team (even if it is simply a team of one, yourself) and figure out where the “holes” are. By “holes” I mean the following:

  • What tasks do you no longer want to continue doing
  • Which tasks are eating up your time each day with little to no return
  • What skillsets are lacking in your team dynamic

Once you know this you will start to see the formation of your delegation list.

#2 – Start documenting the tasks to be delegated

Once you have the list from #1 above, now start to really flesh out that list into tasks. I suggest putting a sheet of paper next to your desk for the next two weeks and start to add tasks to the list as you do them and they fall under the different “holes” above.

#3 – Determine what parts of your delegation list can be automated

Now take that list created in #2 above and determine which of those items can be automated. Are there tasks that are easily repeatable?

There are many programs and tools that can assist in automation such as email marketing, social media posting, etc. and will mean simply entering the task once into the program and the program will rinse and repeat, saving you time and money on delegation.

#4 – Take stock of who you are and how you work

Before you can determine the person to delegate to, you need to take a good look of who you are and how you work (as well as your other team members). Take the time to answer the following questions …

  • How do you prefer to communicate (telephone, email, IM, etc.)?
  • What are your personality traits and do you work best with people with complementary or dissimilar traits?
  • What pet peeves do you have with other people?
  • Who do you work best with?
  • What is your working style?
  • What do you stand for in business (values, mission, vision, etc) and how does that relate to how you treat your clients?

#5 – Create your ideal candidate profile

Now that you know who you are, it is much easier to begin to develop an ideal candidate profile. When creating that profile look to the answers of the questions above, but also ask yourself a couple more important questions.

  • What are you willing to train on and what do you expect them to know?
  • Does location matter? (Most importantly location will matter when it comes to things such as country exchange rates, time zones, etc.)
  • What are the must haves in a candidate versus the nice to haves?
  • Do you want to work with someone who is like you or the opposite of you?

#6 – Figure out your budget

The next question you need to answer is what are you willing to pay for assistance? To learn more about how much a Virtual Assistant costs so you can determine a reasonable budget, click here and read my article “How Much Does a Virtual Assistant cost?

Once you have completed these 6 steps and you are ready to build a business that can sustain itself even in your absence, I invite you to talk with me about how we can get the right Virtual Assistant on your team! Contact me at Send Mail to or schedule a 30 minute complimentary VA Q&A call with me!

Help, I can’t afford a Virtual Assistant!

Getting your first Virtual Assistant can be very scary, I get it! It’s easy to simply say “I can’t afford it” rather than look for ways you can afford it. We convince ourselves when we have more money we will get one, but the more money often doesn’t seem to come and there is one very good reason for that. You are staying stuck in the statement of “I can’t afford it” rather than changing it to “how can I afford it.”

465239See here’s a little secret I am going to share with you … having a Virtual Assistant is definitely an investment, but it is probably one of the biggest ones that can have a positive return on investment. Done properly you will soon see your business can grow and prosper with a Virtual Assistant and it will be so much more than the cost or expense you see it as right now.

Think about it for just one second … how much time are you wasting right now on any number of the following:

  • Trying to figure out how to do things, especially technological things
  • Tasks you dislike doing so much they get put off until it is almost too late
  • Anything but the money-generating tasks and so at the end of the day your income for the day is near zero
  • Working endless hours in the evenings and weekends just to “keep up” and as a result you are starting to miss out on some of the things you would really love to be doing (especially with family and friends)

So hopefully you are starting to realize that there is a solution. There is a better way. Let me share with you three simple ways you can budget for a Virtual Assistant in 2016 without feeling you are going to break the bank.

Start Small

You don’t have to start with a really big budget when it comes to a lot of Virtual Assistants. With a lot of Virtual Assistants you can sign for as little as 5 or 10 hours a month. And here is the interesting thing … Virtual Assistants can get a lot more done in those 5 or 10 hours than you think!

Some Virtual Assistants are even open to working on an even smaller budget such as a project basis or an hourly basis for a single project as a “test” to show you what they are capable of. I say just go and do it to “get your feet wet.” If this is the way you want to go then think about something you have on your plate right now and experiment with the Virtual Assistant experience. Of course there are a lot of benefits to signing a long-term contract and it does open more doors, but just try it I know you will like it!

Commit to Increasing Your Sales

The biggest mistake I see entrepreneurs making is they hire a Virtual Assistant and then only look at it as getting back some of their time. This may be true in the long run, but in the short term when you initially work with your Virtual Assistant don’t change the number of hours you work, but instead change the way you work. For example, if you contract with a Virtual Assistant for 5 hours a month then commit to using an additional 5 hours a month for sales calls or attend a new networking event. You must use this newly “found” time in a productive manner that will affect your bottom line. When you can increase your income because you use the hours to increase sales you will not notice the cost of the Virtual Assistant as much because your bottom line will stay the same or increase.

Let me give you a little more clarity. What does one new client mean to your business on a monthly basis? With 5-10 hours of Virtual Assistant services you are looking at somewhere in the neighbourhood of $200-$500. For most one new client will mean more than this amount of money and I am sure if you dedicated 5-10 hours each month on this very thing you could increase your sales by the amount of the cost of your Virtual Assistant quite easily.

Hire for Automation

Another mistake many entrepreneurs make is they delegate tasks that could easily be automated. A good example is your client intake process. Does every step of this process need to be handled by a person because it is different every time? The answer is probably not. There are quite likely many aspects that are the same every single time. Start to look for these patterns and ask your Virtual Assistant which ways they can be automated.

A great example I use with every one of my clients is scheduling. This is one of the first things I suggest getting automated if it isn’t already. I personally use TimeTrade, but there are a number of other options out there. I (as well as many of my clients) used to spend a lot of time going back and forth with clients to try to schedule appointments. Now I simply share my online calendar and it does everything for me. My clients invest the time in the beginning to have it set up, but then once it is set up there is no more (or very little) investment of time from either my clients or myself as their Virtual Assistant.

So now that I have given you a few ideas of ways you truly can afford a Virtual Assistant, it is my hope for each one of you that you will look differently at 2016 and stop procrastinating. You can afford a Virtual Assistant and I am sure once you do you will be exactly like many of my clients and wonder why you waited so long.

For those of you ready to treat yourself to a Virtual Assistant, I would love to chat with you and help you work through exactly which tasks on your plate are best outsourced. Click here to schedule a complimentary 30 minute VA Q&A using my online schedule!

Make 2016 Your Best Year Yet … Here’s How

As a New Year quickly approaches many of us take the opportunity to review 2015 and begin to set goals for 2016. Many of these plans and goals will include new ideas, increased revenue targets and streamlining what we are doing right now. Many of us will take the time to review what worked in 2015 and make it even better and also to look at what didn’t and what lessons we can learn so we don’t make the same mistakes.

dreamstimesmall_16147684The only “problem” with this annual review and our 2016 goal setting is it usually will mean more work is needed in order to achieve those goals (because let’s face it the only way to achieve a goal is through implementation). Increased revenue targets, implementing new ideas and streamlining what we are doing in order to make 2016 great are all possible, but only if we are willing to put in the extra work to bring our ideas to fruition. It is for this very reason that many of us abandon our dreams and goals long before they ever go anywhere. They stay just that, dreams and by the end of 2016 we are in the exact same place we are today (and possibly still setting the exact same goals for 2017).

Don’t be that person who in December of 2016 only recalls excuses of “someday,” “if only I had the time,” “I know there is a need for this, but I don’t have the knowledge/energy/resources to make it happen” … and regrets that they have not moved any closer to their dreams and goals!

It is possible to reach every single one of the goals you set … you just need a little help and here are 3 simple ways to do just that.

1. Hire a Virtual Assistant 
For those of you who are still trying to do it all and haven’t yet learned just how wonderful a Virtual Assistant can be for your business, this is the perfect time to start looking. Take a really good look at your goals and be honest with yourself as to how much really only you can accomplish. Sure it is important that you are the one doing certain parts of your business (especially the money-generating ones), but there are many tasks that truly don’t need your attention and input. You don’t have to do this alone … so why do you continue to try? I know some of you are caught up in excuses like:

  • I can’t afford it
  • It will take longer to explain it then just do it myself; and
  • No one can do it as well as I can

Well just stop it … you can afford it, there are ways to explain tasks quite easily and actually there are many out there than can do almost as good a job as you (if not possibly better – I know gasp!)

2. Give your Virtual Assistant even more responsibility
So maybe you have completely skipped #1 because you already have a Virtual Assistant, but there is definitely a way for you to make 2016 even better than 2015. With many of my own clients (yes I still do Virtual Assistant work too) I take this time of the year to ask my clients their goals for the upcoming year so I can let them know what extra responsibilities I am open to taking on. If you already have a Virtual Assistant and you aren’t quite ready to expand your Virtual team, maybe this is the best route for you to take.

Each year many of us create more goals and have dreams to expand our businesses, but we get so caught up in what our Virtual Assistant is doing we forget to ask them where they would like to go in the next year (or even where they have gone in this current year). Perhaps your Virtual Assistant learned a new skill this year or has had a recent change in their business that will allow them to take on a little more responsibility for you.

3. Hire another Virtual Assistant
Okay so you are saying to yourself, I already have a Virtual Assistant and my Virtual Assistant is stretched to the limit, there is absolutely no way I can add more to her plate. If this is the case then now is the perfect time to start thinking about adding another Virtual Assistant to your team. If this is the direction you are headed than I suggest start first with a conversation with your Virtual Assistant. Ask them to help you create your new Virtual Assistant model by asking them the following:

  • What tasks would you like to keep for yourself and which would you like to give away
  • Are you open to “managing” the new Virtual Assistant or would you rather me take that role
  • Do you know anyone you feel would be a good fit for our team

Don’t make the same mistake that many business owners make and simply bring a new team member on without the initial discussion with your Virtual Assistant. Let them know you value them and why you are bringing someone new onboard. The more they are a part of the process the less likely they will create friction at the new team dynamics.

So I guess you get the idea. A Virtual Assistant is a must-have if you want 2016 to be different. Not having a VA or not allowing your Virtual team to expand may hold you back from achieving those goals in 2016.

Your dreams and goals can be achieved this year and if you are ready to make them happen I currently have only two openings left in my calendar for Virtual Assistant matchmaking. If you schedule a call with me right away I still have time to help you to get a Virtual Assistant in place for the beginning of January. This is your last chance to start 2016 right with a Virtual Assistant (or another Virtual Assistant) on your team!

Here’s the link to get your Virtual Assistant search started!

The 4 Critical Factors to Discuss in a Successful Production Call

For those of us who began our careers in a corporate setting, many will recall having team meetings. The really successful companies were those who figured out how to do these meetings effectively enough it would encourage the team to improve the business and ultimately the bottom line.

One of the biggest factors I found from my days in Corporate was that the more they encouraged each team member to participate the more “buy-in” they would get from the individuals. It’s the same in any business; how can you expect someone (ie your Virtual Assistant) to get as excited about your success as you if you don’t bring them in and make them a part of that success.

Production Template Dec 4

A Production Call Template

This is why production calls are so important to the success of your team and ultimately of your business. Perhaps the biggest reason many people don’t have these calls with their teams (even when that team is simply them and a Virtual Assistant) is they just don’t know what to cover to make it successful.

Preparation is the key to your success in making sure you are moving the business of your dreams to a reality and as such there are four critical factors (or areas) to consider and discuss in each production call with your Virtual Assistant. I would suggest that you make an agenda based on each of these critical factors such as the template I have created (shown to the left).

Critical Factor #1 – What are we doing well? What are we not doing as well?

The first thing you need to discuss is existing and outstanding tasks. Start by first looking at each task from your previous production call and ask yourself these questions:

  • For the completed tasks …
    • What did we try new that really worked well and we could implement again in the future?
    • Is the process for this task documented? If so, does it need updating or was the process easy to follow? If not, who can create this process before we “forget” how to do it?
  • For the outstanding tasks …
    • Is anything or anyone holding up the process or are we on track to meet our deadline?
    • Do we need to bring in someone else to assist or reassign the task to someone else or are the appropriate parties still involved?
    • What changes need to be made to move this task forward again if it is “stalled”?
    • What changes need to be made to our current policies/procedures to ensure the task is completed more efficiently the next time?
    • Were our deadlines met or are our deadlines still realistic or do they need to be adjusted?

Once you have the answers to these questions you will begin to see patterns (especially after several weeks and months of doing the production calls) as to common strengths and weaknesses of your team. Changes, improvements and enhancements can be made to ensure everything is working well.

Critical Factor #2 – Time to look at the next week and what is on each of our plates and how best to finish the projects that have been started.

The process is only as good as all of the moving parts in any situation. It is critical that you are always setting realistic deadlines and not setting yourself up to fail. Many of us get excited about a new idea and want it to happen right now without any regard for timing. The other thing to remember is often this particular project is not the only thing on your plate and so you need to understand and ask each team member what is on their plate for the upcoming week. Do they have the time available to allocate to this project and/or what deadline should be set that realistically reflects their available time.

Another mistake entrepreneurs make is often referred to as “shiny object syndrome” where we have too many ideas going at any one moment. I was at a business conference a few years ago for Virtual Assistants and the speaker was telling us that as Virtual Assistants the best thing we can give our clients is to help them complete their many unfinished projects. It is best to see a project from start right through to completion so that you can start making money from that project. If you are a shiny object type person then make sure you ask your Virtual Assistant to hold you accountable to getting each project done before moving to a new project.

Critical Factor #3 – You have to make sure you have all the tools needed to complete the project in a timely manner

Nothing will stop a process more than when someone is waiting on someone else for something so they can move forward. As a Virtual Assistant I often found I was waiting for passwords, newsletter content, … the list goes on. If your Virtual Assistant (or in some cases your client) doesn’t have what they need to move forward on a project, the entire process will stall and very little progress will be made.

As my business coach told me, ‘only you can hold yourself accountable.’ In other words way too many of us look to others to hold us accountable. If you are going to tell someone on your team you will have something to them then make sure you have it to them. Don’t be the one who is constantly stopping up the process.

When it comes to this part of the production call it is important to write down, verbalize and share what those tools (passwords, resource links, etc.) and deliverables (newsletter content, website copy, etc.) are, who will be responsible to provide those and most importantly when they promise to deliver.

I can’t say it enough … don’t be the one responsible for stopping the process! Commit to getting what you say you will and when you say you will.

Critical Factor #4 – Upcoming events and promotions are an important thing to discuss as preplanning means greater success!

One of the tips I love sharing is about events and conferences. If you are planning to attend an event or conference and want to have the greatest success, share it with your Virtual Assistant. There are a few things your Virtual Assistant can do to help you have greater success at these events.

Each of us has (or should have) goals when we choose to attend an event. For most it is the same goals:

  • Education and learning
  • Meeting potential clients
  • Meeting possible joint venture partners
  • Researching potential markets

When you share your goals with your Virtual Assistant they can actually help you to achieve your goals, even if they aren’t attending the event. Get your team to do research ahead of time on attendees so you know who you MUST reach out to. Often these events have facebook groups and/or a hashtag on social media they are using. Utilizing these tools your Virtual Assistant can start to put together a “must meet” list of attendees for you. Using this list they can arrange coffee and/or lunch dates with these people even before you leave home.

Creating the Virtual Assistant You Want (and Need) in 5 Easy Steps

Virtual AssistantOne of the things that frustrates me more than anything is when a Virtual Assistant/Client relationship breaks down. Whether it be because the Virtual Assistant decides to move on saying it wasn’t the “right fit” or the entrepreneur “gives up” on their Virtual Assistant it is equally disappointing. Why? Simply because I believe a lot of these relationships could be “salvaged” with a little bit of work. [Of course there are some that can’t, but I believe for the most part given a little extra work they could turn into long-term relationships.]

Many entrepreneurs have the misguided notion that it’s up to the Virtual Assistant to make sure the relationship works because after all they have experience working with other clients. This is so not true. You are the key to making sure the relationship with your Virtual Assistant grows and prospers.

Before I share with you some ideas for “turning your relationship around” you first have to decide you want that relationship to grow and prosper and deserves your time. To do that ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Do I genuinely like this person and would like a long-term relationship with them?
  2. Do they have the gumption and smarts to figure things out given the right environment?
  3. Do they have the program skills (Mailchimp, Infusionsoft, etc.)  that can be built upon and support my business needs?

If you have answered yes to these questions than it is good to know that most situations can be salvaged and ultimately turned around when you follow these five simple steps!

#1 – Share your vision

When your Virtual Assistant can connect everything you do to your “bigger why” then everything (no matter how big or small the task) starts to make sense. It is when your Virtual Assistant doesn’t understand why you are doing certain things that the day-to-day simply become tasks and the implementation of these tasks become “robot-like.”

For most Virtual Assistants it is when they start to understand your passion and your drive and the why behind everything that the relationship can begin to grow and prosper. I suggest not only sharing your long-term why and vision, but share your goals and shorter term goals that will fit into that long-term picture.

#2 – Model the behaviour you are looking for

The best way to have someone work efficiently and effectively with you is to model the behaviour you are looking for. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you get things to your Virtual Assistant when you promised?
  • Are you respecting your Virtual Assistant’s time?
  • Do you take the time to make sure your communications are understood?
  • Do you ask questions to make sure you understand everything clearly that is needed from you to move closer to your vision?
  • Are you allowing others to do what they do best or are you micromanaging?

If you expect your team members to act a certain way you first have to check that you are acting the way you wish them to act. Don’t become a “do as I say, not as I do” type client.

#3 – Check-ins are important

Nothing is more important than checking in with your team members from time to time. Make sure there are no bottlenecks in the process and if there are ask yourself “what do we need to change to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

The biggest mistake you can make is to assign a project and forget about it. In no way am I suggesting you micro-manage the project, but you need to have a system for checking in to make sure everything is moving forward. Perhaps the best way to do that is by scheduling weekly check-in calls to ask the following questions:

  • What have we accomplished since the last time we spoke
  • What tasks are at a stand still and why
  • What systems do we need to change or tweak to make sure we don’t run into this problem again in the future
  • What is the next step we need to take to progress closer to our vision

#4 – Give praise where praise is due

Nothing makes someone want to do better than to be complimented and appreciated for the work they have put in to date. Each person on your team needs to be made to feel as important as the next member and seen for the contributions they bring to the table.

It is important to remember that everyone (no matter how big or small a role they play) plays an important part in the big picture. Think of and picture your car; every part of that car from the engine down to the oil that is running through the engine is important to ensure the car continues to keep moving and operate like a well-oiled machine. The same is true in your business and of your team. When one team member stops moving in sync with the others it can throw everything off.

Appreciation goes a very long way … it doesn’t have to be big and a simple “Thank you” will often suffice!

#5 – Stay on your Virtual Assistants “A” list

Just as I am sure you have an A list of clients (you know the ones you absolutely love and would do anything for) so too does your Virtual Assistant have a similar list. The best ways I know to stay on your Virtual Assistants “A” list is to:

  • Pay them when you promise to pay them
  • Commit to the hours you “promised” them
  • Work hard to grow your business
  • Don’t fall victim to “shiny object syndrome” and continually change directions
  • Love your business more than they do and stay close to your passion every day

Implementing these five steps will get you well on your way to creating that relationship you are looking for. It will take some work, but I guarantee it will be so worth it in the end!

10 Ways Photographers Can Utilize the Services of a Virtual Assistant to Create a Thriving Photography Business

16785474_sRecently I met with a photographer friend and we were discussing my business. As we talked I thought about the benefits that a photographer could gain from partnering with a Virtual Assistant. Our conversation opened my eyes to a whole new market I had never considered, but the more I thought about it, the more excited I became by the prospect. I started to make a plan and make a list of the ways that such a partnership could be best utilized.

1. Website Maintenance

Utilizing a Virtual Assistant to upload recent photographs, set up client galleries and maintain pricing and availability schedules on a photographers’ website is an invaluable service. Many photographers spend so much time maintaining their website; time they would much rather be utilizing behind the camera. Other photographers utilize their web designers and find that the prices are much higher than a Virtual Assistant’s price and the turnaround time is often longer than a Virtual Assistant’s is.

2. Blog Maintenance

Many photographers have begun to blog about their experiences and share their personalities with prospective clients. Virtual Assistants could easily upload articles, photos and stories to the photographer’s blog and also insert links to helpful information for the photographer’s prospective clients. For those photographers that are not as computer savvy, but realize the advantage of the personal contact a blog can provide, can use a Virtual Assistant that can provide services to, not only maintain your blog, but install a blog as well.

3. Client Contact and Follow Up

Virtual Assistants are a great asset in maintaining client contact on your behalf. A simple greeting, sent in the photographer’s behalf, on a wedding anniversary is one of those touches that not all photographers have the time to provide. Your Virtual Assistant can keep track of the important dates and make sure that your clients are never forgotten. Christmas cards, thank you notes and birthday greetings are just a few other contacts that your Virtual Assistant can make on your behalf. Perhaps you have always thought of sending a survey to your clients. Wouldn’t it be great to have this taken care of for you? Your clients are more likely to provide honest feedback to your VA and your VA can provide you with a summary of the survey results for future marketing and business operation decision making.

4. Email Management

Many photographers would love to have someone reply to the many inquiries they receive via email. Simple messages of unavailability, directing potential clients to online portfolios and a thank you for inquiries are just some of the emails that could easily be answered on a photographer’s behalf. Imagine only having to deal with one email each day with a summary of the emails received and how they were handled on your behalf.

5. Scheduling and Appointment Setting

Virtual Assistants can maintain a calendar on your behalf of availabilities, bookings and appointments with potential clients. By allowing someone else to schedule your appointments, you can spend more time being creative. Your Virtual Assistant would simply work with an online calendar of which you would both have access and would also provide you with daily, weekly, monthly and yearly agendas. Reminder calls are just another way that your Virtual Assistant can assist you in making sure that potential clients are never left waiting and appointments are never missed.

6. Marketing Materials

A Virtual Assistant can work with you to create a portfolio, promo package or other marketing materials required for meetings with potential clients, trade shows and networking events. Virtual Assistants can also create and maintain a newsletter to update past clients and provide potential clients with great information on what is happening in your business.

7. Basic Administration and Research

Typing of contracts, filing, proofreading services, formatting documents and voice mail management are just a few of the many secretarial type tasks that your Virtual Assistant can provide on your behalf. Your Virtual Assistant can also conduct market research to see what your competition is up to and find out what potential clients are looking for.

8. Database Management

A Virtual Assistant can not only create a database of your past and present clients, but they can also maintain this database. They can track important dates and maintain contact with your clients. They can also track prospects and leads, as well as referral partners and potential joint venture partners. Other things that can be maintained in a database are inventory, pricing and promotions. Any data you would like to maintain a list of can easily be accomplished by your Virtual Assistant.

9. Bookkeeping

Even those Virtual Assistants that don’t specialize in bookkeeping services (and several do), can still provide bookkeeping services such as creation of invoices, tracking of deposits paid and accounts payable management. Your Virtual Assistant can work hand-in-hand with your accountant or bookkeeper to ensure that your financial matters are kept up-to-date and worry free.

10. Organizational Tasks and Business Support

Just having a partnership with a Virtual Assistant provides you with the ability to bounce ideas off someone for future development and growth of your business. Your Virtual Assistant will be open to offering you feedback and suggestions in how to better organize your files, time and business for even greater success. After all, if you don’t succeed, neither does your Virtual Assistant.

Remember, the single most important thing about partnering with a Virtual Assistant is that you are gaining an invaluable member of your team. Your new partner will be there only when you need them with invaluable expertise and a drive to succeed and make your business thrive.

3 Steps to Getting Started with Your Virtual Assistant

First and foremost congratulations! One of the best things you have done for your business is hire a Virtual Assistant (and if you haven’t yet then these steps should be filed in an important place for when you do take the leap in your business). If you are like most, hiring your VA was just the first step and you are left thinking “now what?” So let’s get you started!
Step #1 – Get it in Writing
Without a doubt protecting yourself is as important with your Virtual Assistant as with any other business relationship you enter. If your Virtual Assistant hasn’t already provided you with a document outlining his/her expectations for your relationship, be sure to ask. This will ensure there are no surprises in the future. For most this document is a simple agreement, but for some it can be a formal contract. Ensure that both parties have signed the document and agree to all of the conditions. You will want this agreement to outline the following critical success factors:
  • Pricing – this should not only include the actual price, but also pricing policies such as how time will be calculated, when billing will be done and how, and what guidelines are in place for price changes.
  • Responsibilities of Each Party – this should outline exactly what each party needs to “bring to the table.” For example who is responsible for final proofs? Does the Virtual Assistant need anything from the client to get started or proceed with a task? Outlining this in advance is important so nothing is overlooked.
  • Working hours – What hours will the Virtual Assistant be available? This is especially important for those working across time zones and you need to be aware of what time zone the working hours are being “quoted” in. Working hours should also outline what holidays the VA will be taking, including both statutory and personal holidays.
  • Communication – How will you communicate (telephone, email, skype, etc.), How often and how quickly will communications be returned? It is important that all of these factors be clearly outlined.
  • Standards – What will the average turnaround time be? What constitutes a rush job and are there extra fees for this? Some VAs charge a premium if a project is expected returned quicker than their usual turnaround time and it will be important for you to know this in advance.
  • Termination – how can either party terminate the contract? Just in case things don’t work out it will be important to know your “escape” clause!
Some like to also add in Non-Compete and Confidentiality clauses and if you are working on a project that this is important for you be sure to get it in writing. If you truly want to ensure your rights are protected consider having the agreement/contract written or reviewed by a lawyer.

Step #2 – Establish Tasks
As with any new relationship the biggest mistake we make is jumping in with both feet. I always suggest starting out small and as your relationship strengthens and you are ready to go longer term then add more tasks.
A great analogy my business coach once used was, it’s like dating. Way too many of us go for the gusto right away and get “married” immediately. Then when it doesn’t work out it is messy! Instead try a “blind date” this is the equivalent of a small project. If that works then go on a second date until you are ready to take the relationship to a more permanent commitment.

Step #3 – Sharing Files and Documents
Inevitably you will need to share documents and passwords with your Virtual Assistant so that he/she can do their job properly. This is a scary thought for a lot of people, especially before trust is really built. Here are my best tips for sharing with your Virtual Assistant.
  • Document sharing – use an online tool such as Dropbox or Google Docs. Make sure you maintain control of the Dropbox folder or the Google Doc ownership. This way if you sever the relationship you can simply stop sharing the files with your Virtual Assistant. Of course this will not stop your Virtual Assistant from keeping copies of your files, however what it will do is give you access to any files he/she creates on your behalf without worrying the VA will disappear taking your documents with them.
  • Passwords – without a doubt I would suggest using a password management tool such as passpack, lastpass or roboform, to name a few. These programs can allow you to share the usernames and passwords, but it can keep them hidden for your safety. Another good tool to use if you are having your VA do your social media is hootsuite. This way you only have to share a hootsuite login and not your personal passwords for your social media platforms.

Following these steps will definitely give you and your Virtual Assistant the best chance for success, but one last word of advice … open the lines of communication with your Virtual Assistant sooner rather than later. Ask them which of the three steps listed here they already have in place. After all there is no sense in recreating the wheel!

About the Author:

Yvonne WeldYvonne Weld is a Virtual Assistant matchmaker and she helps entrepreneurs find their ideal Virtual Assistant so they can have more time to focus on making more money in their business.

If you are having difficulties getting started with your Virtual Assistant or have questions simply about Virtual Assistants in general, schedule a free VA Q&A where I can help you navigate the Virtual Assistant world!


Good luck!

Virtual Assistants Lend Virtual Hand to Event Planners

Although many Virtual Assistants are offering event planning services, when Virtual Assistants are able to team up with Event Planners, the events that they can produce together are phenomenal. Rather than viewing Virtual Assistants as “competition”, Event Planners need to realize what a valuable asset they can be to the success of their event planning business. By having a Virtual Assistant working on the administrative tasks, it frees the Event Planners to focus on the actual event and co-ordinating all the components necessary to make event day run smoothly. Here are samples of some of the ways that Virtual Assistants and Event Planners are able to work together:

1. Mailouts – A Virtual Assistant is able to handle all aspects of your event mailouts including creating the invitations, coordinating the printing, preparing the documents for mailing and ensuring the documents are mailed on time.

2. Database Creation and Management – A Virtual Assistant can prepare a database and maintain that database including organizing the data by event and/or by client and can also maintain your personal contacts as well as business contacts. They can input all the data in one location so that you no longer need to shuffle through several spreadsheets trying to find just the right information.

3. RSVP Tracking – Once the invitations have been sent, a Virtual Assistant can track your RSVPs and call those that do not respond so all you are left to worry about is the actual number of attendees at the event.

4. Research – A Virtual Assistant can research any and all things that you might need researched including possible locations, data for handouts, possible attendees, and the list goes on.

5. Compilation of Giveaways/Gifts – Not only can a Virtual Assistant make phone calls to collect items for you to give to your attendees, but he/she can also put those together and make them look awesome!!

6. Attracting Sponsors/Speakers – A Virtual Assistant can make calls on your behalf to potential speakers or sponsors and take care of sending them information packets about your event.

7. Preparation of Materials for the Event – From information packets to handouts and other materials, a Virtual Assistant can not only prepare the documents, but can also arrange for printing and compilation of the documents.

8. Follow Up – A Virtual Assistant can take care of following up with your attendees, speakers and sponsors with thank yous and surveys.

9. Marketing Assistance – As an Event Planner, you not only have to worry about the events you are planning, but also about your business and attracting new clients. A Virtual Assistant can help you with preparation of marketing materials such as newsletters, blogs, a web site, marketing packages, etc.. He/she can help you attract the clients so you can concentrate on impressing them and landing the next deal.

10. Writing/Editing/Formatting – A Virtual Assistant can be a second set of eyes for all the materials that will be provided to your attendees. He/she can make them look nice, check for errors and omissions and make sure that you are putting your best foot forward.

Once you begin to see a Virtual Assistant as a team member as opposed to competition, you will soon see how your business can blossom and thrive.

Six Keys to Ensuring Your Subcontracting Experience is Positive

Many business owners of thriving businesses describe their experiences with subcontractors as disappointing and frustrating. Although their thriving business could continue to blossom and grow, they choose to step back and halt their growth rather than deal with the issues of employees or subcontractors. So what is a business owner to do to ensure that their subcontracting experience is positive?

Do Your Homework
Take the time to get to know potential subcontractors. Conduct interviews and obtain references before agreeing to work with them. Never, ever be afraid to test the waters with a “test project” to ensure that the outcome is in line with the standards you have set for your business. Even more importantly, find someone that you feel comfortable being a representative of your company.

Get it in Writing
Even more important than getting a signed contract (which of course I knew that you would do), each and every project should be outlined in detail with no room for interpretation. Make sure that you provide clear and concise instructions and do it in writing. Have the subcontractor review the terms of each individual project and return an acknowledgement to you. Don’t be afraid to ask them to summarize the project in their own words to you and ask probing questions to ensure that they understand what is required of them.

Set Deadlines
When setting a deadline for your subcontractor to complete a project, be sure to allow yourself enough room to correct any errors or omissions that may be made. Many times business owners fall victim to cleaning up subcontractor “messes” at the eleventh hour. Also, don’t be afraid to check in periodically for an update as to the progress of the project and, if at any time you are concerned, let the subcontractor know and never be afraid to “pull the plug” on the project if things are not living up to your expectations.

Set Quality Controls
The most important key to a successful relationship is to set good quality controls. Although it might seem like more work for you, from time to time, ask your subcontractor to show projects to you prior to submission deadlines. If your subcontractor is dealing directly with your client, have them send you copies of the projects when they are complete and, if they are to have no direct contact with your client, make sure that the work is proofed and approved by you.

Honesty is Important
Don’t try to hide subcontractor relationships from your clients and potential clients. In many cases, potential clients will respect you even more if you can admit you can’t do it all. After all, isn’t that what they are admitting by contracting for your services?

Treat Your Subcontractors with Respect
Ensure that you always treat your subcontractors with the same respect you expect from your clients. Give them adequate deadlines and pay them within their payment terms. Once you find quality subcontractors, you will want to do everything you can to keep them.

By putting these six keys in place within your subcontracting model, I am sure that you will quickly see that subcontracting can be a wonderful opportunity to grow your business into the thriving business it is meant to be. Good luck!!

Help!! I Need to Find a Subcontractor I Can Depend On

Congratulations! Your thriving business has been so successful that you can no longer keep up with the demands of your clients. You now have two choices: 1) start turning clients away or 2) start looking for subcontractors that you can honestly depend on. As small business owners, we invest ourselves into our business so how could we ever find someone that will have the same qualities and work ethics that have made our businesses so successful?

Develop a Model
Just as any successful business or product needs a working prototype, so too do you need a “prototype” of what your ideal subcontractor will look like. Start writing a wish list of the qualities you want that subcontractor to have: honesty, solid work ethics, skills, etc. If you are having problems with determining which qualities are important to you, take a different approach and start by deciding what it is you definitely do not want. For example, I don’t want someone that is lazy, turns in below par work and misses deadlines. From determining this you will know that you are looking for a subcontractor that works hard and produces quality projects on time.

Interview Your Candidate
You wouldn’t think of hiring a new employee without an interview, so why is it that many business owners don’t feel it is necessary when hiring a subcontractor? By interviewing your candidates, you have an opportunity to ask those tough questions that probe into the qualities of the candidate. Ask probing questions that are based on real-life experiences and ask the candidate to provide examples based on situations they have dealt with. Describe a situation where… Tell me about a time when… How would you handle…? These are all examples of probing questions. Another good idea is to have a trusted colleague interview your candidates on your behalf as well and offer their opinion. They don’t have as much at stake and are likely to give you some real honest opinions.

Give a Test
Don’t be afraid to test the waters by providing your new subcontractor a small task or project to see the results. Perhaps you have completed a project in the past that you know what the results should look like and the approximate time it should take to complete. Maybe a project needs to be complete for your business that you can have them tackle. Before you have them work on projects for your clients, it is good to have a solid understanding of the quality of work they are capable of providing.

Personality Clashes
Personalities are the key reason that most subcontractor/contractor relationships fail. Take a good long hard look at yourself and figure out what is going to work for you. If you are the type of person that finishes projects well ahead of deadlines, how will you work with someone that works better under pressure? If you are a morning person, can you work with a nighthawk? If you are single, can you work with a mother of young children? For many it works best to find someone with similar personalities and values and for others it works to find someone that is the polar opposite to you.

Get References
Last but not least, the most important step to finding a good subcontractor is to get lots of references and follow up with those references. Look at past projects they have completed and talk to others that have worked with them. The best indicator of future performance is past performance so it is very important to know how they have performed on similar projects, in similar situations and for other clients.

Now that you know the best approach to finding subcontractors, you can truly take your thriving business to the next level and ensure it continues to thrive. Don’t look at success with fear and trepidation. Look at it as the honor and joy it is meant to be. Good luck!!