Professional Virtual Author’s Assistant Training

March 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Announcements

Professional Virtual Author’s Assistant Training and Certification Program

jbk0008_virtualauthorassistanttraining_lo_rgb_final

Regular Course cost: $633.00 

RDC Graduates cost with discount: $519.00

To receive this discount contact michelle.jamison@rdc.ab.ca

For futher details click here

Thinking About the Unthinkable

March 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, This'n'That

I had to think the unthinkable last week.  What would happen if I had an accident that prevented me from working ever again?  I know, not a very nice thought, in fact it’s rather morbid, but as a business owner that solely depends on my ability to work to pay the bills….well it’s a something I had to face and plan for.

It’s not as if I have never thought about the subject, but as quickly as I’ve opened that door, I close it. Not a smart way to handle it, but it has never been a topic I’ve been truly comfortable with.  I’ve never been one to dwell on the “unthinkable.”  I’d say I’m your typical “take each day as it comes” kinda gal. And I’ve always been fine with that.

Yet, this shifted during a meeting with my insurance agent and I had no choice but to answer the question “What do you have planned if an unforeseen accident prevented you from working?”

Well, geezz… I don’t know (can we change the subject?).  The wheel in my mind began spinning and all those scenarios began playing in my mind and honestly —I didn’t have an answer.   I had no clue what would happen to my business, my home, my life, if I could no longer work.   I hadn’t prepared for that.  I mean, I have life insurance, so my family will have no worries when I drop dead…but be alive and not able to work…is that even possible for me…I’m sure that will never happen!

In a very tactful manner, my insurance agent assured me, that yes, although I may believe that I’m exempt from this possibility …Not so, this could very well happen to me as it happens to thousands of small business owners every year.   Every year business owners are faced with unexpected life altering moments.   Not only being faced with the impact an accident will have on them physically and the time and focus it will take them to get better, but how that accident will impact their business, their livelihood.

Talk about a slap to the face!   I was not at all prepared to hear that!

A huge reality check for me and a question I now have to have an answer to.  So I’m taking the steps now to put in place a plan.  A plan that will take care of my business, my home, my family if the unthinkable happens.  Between critical illness insurance and disability insurance

I have a lot to think about but the good thing is….I’m actually thinking about it.   Not simply closing the door.

The fact is as service providers, we depend on ourselves to get the work done.  Our livelihood depends on us being fit to do the job.

So, as uncomfortable the thought is — if the unthinkable happens –do you have a plan?

Written by:
Michelle Jamison
www.mjva.ca

Childproof that Office

March 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, This'n'That

As a mother of a 2 year old, I found out the hard away about what it means to have a “childproof office”.  At two, my daughter is at the height of curiosity; her little hands can find their way into the smallest of areas. To her, a computer keyboard resembles a piano, any piece of paper lying on the desk is fair game and needs a little red crayon,  even the garbage basket can become a little too tempting for my little munchkin to explore.

It was becoming a growing concern, I came to realize very quickly (when I walked into my office to find her under my desk with my computer power cord wrapped around her arm shouting “pull, pull” as she was yanking it from the wall) that it was time to take childproofing a little more seriously.

Now I do have childcare and for the most part my office is off limits, however in some cases having my daughter with me while I work is unavoidable and quite honestly often I enjoy the company.   After all one of the reason why I became a VA was to have more time with my family.

So I began the childproofing process, I read a few articles, did a little research and came up with my plan of action.

  1. Create a distraction. I wanted to ensure she had plenty of things to keep her occupied besides the “shiny” stapler.  I put together a box of toys that are only for the office.  Since she doesn’t play in my office too much, these toys are a new discovery every time she’s there.
  2. Give her, her own keyboard. She loves my computer keyboard and quite honestly what child wouldn’t. Instead of having her type away on mine and then having to figure out how to get rid of all those error messages, I found an old keyboard not in use and allow her to play with that.  She loves it!
  3. Outlet covers. Why are electrical outlets so attractive to a 2 year old? Well they are, at least to my 2 year old. I placed outlet covers on any outlet in my office that did not have something in it.
  4. Get rid of the wire. For the most part my office is a wireless environment. However I can’t get rid of 100% of the wires.  I neatly tied them up with cable ties and made them a little less noticeable.  Out of sight, out of mind!
  5. Lid the Garbage. I found a cheap little garbage with a lid on it. Not the most convenient for me when I have to throw something out, but worth the 2 extra seconds it takes to take the lid off in order to avoid my daughter picking out crumbled paper and chewing on it.
  6. Put the paper away. I have to admit I do not run a totally paperless office (I’m working on it though) so I have managed to become a little more aware of the amount of paper I have in my office and what I’m using.  I now try to file everything that isn’t “nailed” down.
  7. Little items, big problems. It’s amazing to me how even the littlest items can be so interesting to a 2 year old.  Again, I’ve been more conscious of loose staples, elastics, tacks, paper clips and appropriately store them out of little hands reach.  Desk drawers with childproof latches are great for this.  If you lack drawer space, Tupperware containers make great storage for little items.

So as you can see my plan didn’t take too long to implement, the cost was very minimal, and all worth it to spend a little more time in the day with my little girl.  Of course, she was right about one thing, a little splash of red crayon can make a huge difference.

Written by:
Michelle Jamison
www.mjva.ca

Procrastination – Strategies that worked for me!

March 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, This'n'That

I have to admit, some days I am a procrastinator, not every day, but some days. In the past I was a much bigger procrastinator then what I am today. If I didn’t like to do something I would just keep putting it off until I finally got tired of seeing it on my “to do” list after a few weeks, “bite the bullet” and finally get it done. Once it was done, I would have a huge feeling of accomplishment and wonder why I just didn’t take care of it sooner.

My procrastination was never about client work as those were tasks I always loved to do; it was always about “my stuff”, certain projects I had to do for myself or for my business. For instance, tax time was always a huge source of procrastination for me, getting my paperwork and electronic files together to bring to the accountant were one of those items I always seemed to have left for the last possible moment.

Now as I mentioned, I’ve gotten much better over the years and have learned a few strategies to help me get through those moments when procrastination tries to creep in. Maybe they’ll work for you too!

  1. Break the task down into smaller, manageable pieces. Large projects can be a little overwhelming and can trigger the “procrastination gremlin”. Break your larger project into smaller pieces, and work for shorter periods.
  2. Get the hardest or the easiest over with first. I have always preferred to tackle the most difficult pieces first to get it off my plate, however other’s work much better by taking on the easiest pieces, building momentum then working on the most difficult.  Whatever works best for you is the way to go.
  3. Have someone hold you accountable. Share the details and goals of your project with your Coach, a co-worker or a friend who is willing to hold you accountable for getting the work done.  Have them send you weekly check in emails to discuss your progress.  My Coach has been an amazing source of support during these times.
  4. Reward yourself. This has to be my favourite strategy.   I don’t think we reward ourselves enough for a “good job done”.  For me, a reward is a source of motivation, it does not have to be anything elaborate, it could be just taking a few hours off earlier from work.  If a reward would motivate you, then treat yourself to something that really gets your gears in motion.

The one thing I realized about procrastination is that putting things off till later eventually rolled into the “now”.   So there really isn’t a later.

Written by:
Michelle Jamison
www.mjva.ca

Building Community

March 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Resources

I have to honestly say that the Virtual Assistant Profession has to be one of the most supportive professions there is.  The feeling of community is one of the reasons why I love being a VA.  Being a part of a community, whether it is a person-to person community or a virtual community, for me is really the “heart” of being a Virtual Assistant.

As an instructor for Red Deer Colleges’ Virtual Assistant Certificate Program where I teach marketing, I am sometimes asked the question, “What does building community have to do with building a business, where is the connection?”   So, I’d like to share with you what I share with my students:

Building Community is about Building Relationships
Building relationships is key to any business’s success.  By being a part of a community, you are building much-needed relationships to help your business grow.

Building Community supports Referral Generation
By being a part of a community, you are opening yourself up to possibilities of referrals from colleagues.  If you build those relationships and build the trust within your community, others will be comfortable referring your services.

Building Community increases Knowledge
Knowledge sharing is a huge benefit of building community. It’s about sharing opinions, ideas thoughts and different perspectives.  It provides a venue to ask questions, and give answers.  Learn from others who “have been there, done that!”

Building Community adds Credibility

By being an active participant in your community and let your voice be heard. Everyone has something to contribute, get involved and become a leader in your field.

Building Community keeps us Sane
At times we feel very isolated from the rest of the world sitting alone in our home office.  By being part of a community, you are surrounded by others who deal with the same issues and experiences.  Extend yourself to your community.

The above is an article based on the foundations of the book The Virtual Assistants Guide to Marketing by Michelle Jamison.

Michelle is owner and operator of MJVA (www.mjva.ca).  While managing her company, Michelle is also an instructor for Red Deer College’s Virtual Assistant Certificate Program, where she teaches, Marketing, Starting a VA Business and Office Management. She is the author of The Virtual Assistants Guide to Marketing which is the basis for the MJVA Strategic Marketing Package, a unique offering for Virtual Assistants who need one-on-one support with marketing their business.

Computer Ergonomics

March 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Resources

If you work on a computer as much as I do, which means approximately 40+ hours a week, you really need to be practicing good computer ergonomics.  How many times have you thought your wrists were just about to melt off?  Or your shoulders and neck are so sore; you’re starting to look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame?

If so it may be time to put in place a computer ergonomic plan.  Ergonomics is the fit between the people, the tools they use, and the physical setting where they work.  A favourite definition of mine is… it’s about fitting the work to the user instead of forcing the user to fit the work.

There are few items you can put in place to prevent or at the very least ease the strain of working on a computer for hours at a time.  How many of these ergonomic tips are you currently practicing?

  • Use indirect lighting so there is no glare on the screen and insure your computer screen is turned away from any windows to reduce glare.
  • Keep the top edge of your monitor at eye level or below so that you are able to look down slightly as you read copy from your monitor.  Your monitor should be 20-30 inches away from your eyes.
  • Use a pneumatically operated ergonomic chairs that are fully adjustable for seat height and tilt, back height and tilt, and arms that continuously height adjustable.
  • Your wrists should never be higher than your elbows and they should be straight, not flexed upward or bent downward. If you cannot achieve this, your desk may be too high or your chair seat is too low. Adjust the height of your chair.
  • Your feet should touch the floor.
  • Keep your mouse close to the keyboard so you do not have to reach far to use it.
  • Rest your eyes periodically, every 20 minutes or so.

Check off the ones you are currently doing and put a plan in place to work on the others.  Trust me, you’re sore wrists and back will thank you!

Michelle Jamison is owner and operator of MJVA (www.mjva.ca).  While managing her company, Michelle is also an instructor for Red Deer College’s Virtual Assistant Certificate Program, where she teaches, Marketing, Starting a VA Business and Office Management.

Marketing 101 – Customer Service

March 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Resources

As a Virtual Assistant, providing great customer service is the most effective and least expensive way of marketing.  The majority of your marketing time and budget should be spent on building solid relationships with clients.

You can spend thousands of dollars marketing your service but if you are not good at what you do, your clients will not come back.  Worst of all, they will tell others that your services are not up to par.  Word of mouth travels fast.

Even if you are a new VA starting your practice, you should still be thinking of the value that you will be bringing your potential clients.  As a VA, at least 70% of your business will be and should be from past clients and their referrals.

Some things to think about:

  1. It is more expensive to get a new client than to keep an existing client.
  2. You work more efficiently with existing clients since you are already familiar with their situations.
  3. In order to produce superior customer service you must love what it is you are doing.

Adding Client Value

Yes, the little things really do mean a lot. The smallest gestures made on your part can make your clients feel special and coming back for more.  Deliver an “above and beyond the call of duty” service to all your clients.  By doing this you will be adding value to the relationship and intensifying that customer loyalty.

If you haven’t yet, incorporate a few of these ideas in your business:

  • Without them asking for it….send your clients resources, articles, information that they would find useful.
  • Promote your clients service/product whenever there is an opportunity to do so.
  • Call your clients just to say “Hi”, so they know you are thinking of them.
  • For special occasions, send your client a card or small gift.
  • Always provide opportunities for your clients to use you as a sounding board.

This is only a short list of the items you can implement in your business right away. The cost is either free or very minimal and will make a huge impact on the Client/VA relationship.

The above is an article based on the foundations of the book The Virtual Assistants Guide to Marketing by Michelle Jamison.

Michelle is owner and operator of MJVA (www.mjva.ca).  While managing her company, Michelle is also an instructor for Red Deer College’s Virtual Assistant Certificate Program, where she teaches, Marketing, Starting a VA Business and Office Management. She is the author of The Virtual Assistants Guide to Marketing which is the basis for the MJVA Strategic Marketing Package,  a unique offering for Virtual Assistants who need one-on-one support with marketing their business.

Working as a Subcontractor

March 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Feature Articles

What you need to know

Many virtual assistants share that one of the biggest challenges facing their business is getting that “real-life experience” working in a client/VA relationship. Especially for new VA’s, just having the option to work in a client/VA scenario to gain experience would be a great opportunity.

As with any decision, a careful analysis should be conducted. So…keep this information in mind if you are thinking about working as a subcontractor to a multi-VA business.

1. Find the right mix

What are you good at? What skills do you want to market? Searching for a multi-VA business that you can connect with is like finding that perfect pair of jeans; they fit, you feel good in them and the price is right! So do your research:

  • Search the web and online forums to find those businesses that interest you.
  • Find out what niche they serve, or if they specialize in certain skill sets for their clients.
  • Find out how long have they been in business?
  • Inquire for more information by sending them an email or filling out their online application.

2. Hiring – What questions to ask

Let’s say you’ve found a multi-VA business that you’d like to work with. What do you need to know before joining the team?

  • Do they have a contract?
  • What do they pay their subcontractors?
  • How do they pay – will you be paid via PayPal, bank transfer or cheque?
  • When can you expect payment?
  • What happens if the client you are working with does not connect with you or you with them?
  • What type of help can you expect from the multi-VA team environment?  How many hours can you expect?
  • If you wish to dissolve your VA contract – how many days notice do you need?

3. The pros and cons

There are always advantages and disadvantages to any choice you make in life and working as a subcontractor is no different.

Pros:

  • Ability to work in a team environment
  • Free training
  • The chance to work with real clients
  • No marketing needed – resulting in more time to spend on client work
  • No billing to client and negotiating terms and prices with client – your multi-VA business owner is responsible for this

Cons:

  • Possibly making less money that having your own clients (most subcontractors should be making between $20-30/hour)
  • Takes time away from building your own business
  • Possibly experiencing a delay in getting paid (you may get paid only after the multi-VA owner is paid)
  • Possibly having less direct client contact (the multi-VA owner may be responsible for client relationship management)

On a personal note:

To say that I like being part of a VA team is an understatement. Having a group of VA’s that work alongside of you, support your efforts and build you up has been a rewarding experience.

Secondly, the skills I have gained from working with experienced VA’s is insurmountable. I know these skills would have come in time, but I was able to cut that learning curve short by months, maybe years by really plugging in.

Thirdly, my own business is now starting to bloom with the added confidence, skills and enthusiasm that I credit to working as a subcontractor.

In short, do consider the idea of being a VA subcontractor; the obvious and hidden benefits are there for the taking.

About the Author

theresa-retouchTheresa Scholes, B.Com. Certified Virtual Assistant and Owner of “Click Virtual Assistance”, helps busy entrepreneurs manage the demands of a growing online business. Theresa works closely with coaches, consultants and internet marketers to manage the e-commerce, marketing and administrative aspects of their business allowing them time to focus on what they do best. theresa@clickva.com

Owning Your Value as a VA

March 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Feature Articles

For many VA’s, especially those starting out, it can be difficult to own and honor the value we bring. While we may know and understand it, owning it is a whole different story. So how can you really own the value you bring to a client?

What Value Do I Bring?
For starters there is the savings of not hiring a full or part-time employee. This includes no overhead, such as, office space, computer equipment, software, office supplies along with soft skills or computer training. In addition there is no payroll, benefit plans or other contributions required on behalf of the client. Keep in mind that whatever wage an employer is paying it costs about double to actually maintain that employee.

For the serious VA who is interested in not only providing admin services but strategic and collaborative business support, however that may look for the client, the value scale jumps tremendously.

The Partnership
The biggest value any VA can bring to their client relationships is the collaborative partnership in the success of the client’s business. This is about paying careful attention and listening to the client for challenges, dreams and ideas for growing their business. It’s about seeing and communicating possibilities from a solution standpoint. Having the courage to present ideas, solutions, or a different perspective that the client may be unable to see or hadn’t thought of.

The VA takes on the responsibility of knowing what is going on in the client’s industry and staying on top of the latest trends and technology. Only then can you offer and implement the right solution for your client.

This is what sets us apart from strictly office support services and makes our VA/client relationships so valuable. We are there to support our clients in the growth and success of their business however that may look. You only find this in the Virtual Assistant profession.

Owning and Honoring Value

So the key question is…what can I do to own and honor the value I bring?

First of all be very clear on what rate you are charging. Define your ideal rate and then what the lowest discounted rate that you could live with is. Never, ever, ever go below this rate! Don’t be talked into it. Stand firm and remember the value you bring. If the potential client doesn’t get it, try to educate them, if they still try to negotiate you lower, run the other way.

I know, I know how can you possibly do this when you have bills to pay and a family to feed? The answer is to trust in yourself, believe in your abilities, honor the value you bring and you will automatically attract those clients to you. When one door closes another door opens. When working with less than ideal clients you do not have the space to open the door for your ideal client to come in.

Come from a place of abundance versus scarcity, from a place of choice rather than need. Keep in mind that the VA profession is still very much in it’s infancy therefore potential clients are almost limitless. Always remember that you are a business owner not an employee and as such have a choice in who you work with and financial compensation. Get out of the employee mindset.

Have confidence in yourself and your abilities. Debrief and analyze all that you do in order to grow and make changes. The right clients will pick up on this and be willing to pay for the right person.

Use the amazingly support community of VA’s! Many have gone before you and will guide, support and celebrate with you, especially when you have to make some of those tough decisions. Work with a coach or mentor. Having someone in your corner to remind you of who you are and what you bring can be priceless!

About the Author

ml-ashton2Mary-Lou Ashton has been a pioneer in the Virtual Assistant profession in Canada since 1997. She has developed a training program and a coaching practice to support other VA’s in being successful. Her passion for the profession continues to grow and Mary-Lou strongly believes in giving back to the community. Visit Mary-Lou at www.vatp.ca

Trade Show Survival Strategies

March 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Feature Articles

Much has been written about preparing for trade shows where you will be an exhibitor, but since most small business owners will be visiting booths at least as often as they’ll be hosting them, here are a few tips to help you make the most of those occasions. Some are more obvious than others, but sometimes the simplest ideas can be the most useful.

1. Dress for Comfort
You will want to look your best, so dress as you would for any business meeting, but keep in mind that you will be on your feet for a long time, and wear sensible shoes if at all possible. If you are uncomfortable, you may find it hard to engage in conversation with exhibitors and other people attending the event. Similarly, avoid bulky coats that will cause you to get overheated. If the weather dictates that you must wear a coat, look for a cloakroom or other place to leave it so you can move about unencumbered.

2. Travel Light
Avoid bringing anything with you that you don’t need. By the time you’ve walked around for an hour or two, five pounds will feel like fifty, so if you typically carry a large purse, leave it at home and use a small one that holds only the essentials. A shoulder bag will keep your hands free for picking up brochures and other materials, and of course, for shaking hands with people that you meet.

3. Speak to the Exhibitors
Don’t help yourself to giveaways such as pens and other gifts without stopping to talk to the exhibitor. Yes, they brought those items in order to give them away, but they have paid money to be there in order to promote their products or services, so at least stop and say hello. Even if you’re not in the market for what they offer, you may know someone else who is, in the future, if not now. It’s all about growing your network!

On the other hand, if there are a lot of others waiting to speak to the exhibitor, don’t monopolize his or her time, especially if you’re only making casual conversation.

4. Be Prepared to Talk About Your Business
Many exhibitors will ask what you do, so make sure you’ve prepared your 30 second self-introduction, just as you would before going to a regular networking event. Maybe that business doesn’t fit into your target market, but it’s said that every one of us knows 200 people, so you never know where that brief conversation may lead.

5. Think of Others
As you meet new people, think of those you already know who might be good contacts for them. Don’t limit your thinking to potential customers – maybe you know someone who offers a complementary product or service who might be interested in joint venture, or even just a conversation to share ideas. Offer to introduce them – and then do so.

“You can have everything you want in life, just as long as you help enough other people get want they want in life” ~Zig Zigler

Keep the above pointers in mind before heading out to your next trade show, and you’re bound to come away with more great connections, and less strain on your feet!

About the Author

janetJanet Barclay, Master Virtual Assistant and founder of Organized Assistant, provides administrative assistance and website services to coaches, professional organizers and other small business clients.

Learn more about Janet and her business by visiting her website: www.organizedassistant.com and her blog: www.janetbarclay.com

Next Page »