Posted By Aimee Wilson - Occasions To Savor

VA Blog Hopping and Podcast Tour (continues)

5. What are the challenges to not working face-to-face with clients that VAs work around?

 

One of the major challenges VAs face is feeling isolated, because they work alone, from home, without personal touch and “water cooler” conversations. This challenge is often combated by participating in local “Meet Ups”, chamber of commerce meetings, etc., and online networking. In addition, VAs may create “seat mate” relationships with other like-minded VAs.

 

Another challenge is the ability to “trust” that clients will pay for services provided, especially in non-retainer relationships. There have been occasions when VAs complete assignments and at their conclusion, clients claim to be dissatisfied and refuse payment. VAs often have a difficult time getting compensated, especially when they have do not have a signed written agreement that outlines the specific parameters of the relationship and tasks. At a minimum, I recommend that VAs obtain credit card details so they can assess the account for services rendered, if necessary (of course include this provision in the written agreement). Secondly, I recommend the VA forward “drafts” of the project and upon completion require payment before the final is delivered.

 

When completing “web-based” assignments; I recommend the VA perform work on their server or testing site (if possible) and allow client access to review the work before loading to their server. Again, collect final payment before release work. Of course, if the client makes payment on a retainer basis, the VA should already have, at minimum, a portion of the cost in advance of beginning work.

 

A third challenge is the client’s concern the VA is either overcharging or uneducated as to the amount of time or involvement it takes to actually complete assignments. While clients should not want to know all the “nuts and bolts” of completing an assignment, they may inquire, generally, in regards to your processes and technologies. I recommend the VA use a time tracking system, such as TimeTrax, myHours, etc., so all time spent on the assignment is fully documented. Some VAs submit a detailed report to the client that outlines the specific breakdown of time spent on each segment of the tasks; others only provide the combined number of hours and a general description of tasks performed. VAs determine which option to use, based on their own comfort level and the parameters of the written agreement.

 

Well Aimee, I’ve enjoyed my visit and hope my responses to your insightful questions shed a bit of light on the virtual assisting industry and a few of the issues VAs address when launching their practices.  Now, it’s time for puzzle clues. Friday, we stopped by Karen McGreevey’s blog, Kreative Ramblings, and tomorrow we visit, ah, our home blog – OIVAC.com. I always look forward to visiting home, and we’ll even leave a clue there too. Today’s clue is a great one: elkegwconda.

 

Thank you Sharon Williams of The 24 Hour Secretary and OIVAC.

 

Savor life's best,

Aimee

 

www.OccasionsToSavor.com

Follow me on Twitter!

 


 
Posted By Aimee Wilson - Occasions To Savor

VA Blog Hopping and Podcast Tour (continues)

 

3. What are the best ways to promote your VA services?

It’s difficult to identify “the best ways” to promote your business, as you have to determine what works best “for you”. However, I strongly recommend the VA utilize both on and offline methods. Popular choices include:

a. Networking – join on and offline industry groups and organizations your ideal clients are members of.

b. Social media – participate in discussion groups where followers can get to know you and you can showcase your area of expertise – LinkedIn, Twitter, Ning, Facebook, Myspace and others.

c. Volunteer – donate time, specialty service, etc. to organizations that fuel your passion and interest. Interact with the leaders of the organization and find ways to connect directly with the membership; let them get to know you, be authentic and you will attract like-minded people, and individuals who can help promote your business.

d. Blog – develop a business and personal blog, both of which can increase your exposure amongst net followers and increase your search engine placement. e. Article marketing – write articles showcasing your expertise, knowledge and skills and submit to popular article banks, niche-specific organizations, ezines you have developed a partnering relationship with, and local community media outlets.

f. Postcards – effective and inexpensive way to connect directly with followers and potential clients. Recognize them on special days, such as birthdays, anniversaries, important days significant to their business/industry, etc.

g. Ezines – Regular publication promotes familiarity and venue to showcase your expertise.

 

4. How do you determine what to specialize in as a VA business?

There are actually several trains of thoughts on this question. One is to identify your passion and determine if it is a good fit, in conjunction with your background and experience. Another is to begin by promoting your current skills and proficiencies, as a means to generate immediate income and once your business is established, consider specialization. The third is to become proficient in different niches, and then determine which best provides maximum reward (both professionally, personally and financially). Finally, a fourth method is to not specialize at all, stay a generalist, and offer administrative support services across numerous industries and client types. In all of the above scenarios, the VA should consider which option can generate profits necessary to sustain their lifestyle.

 

Sharon Williams is the president of The 24 Hour Secretary and founder of OIVAC. Stop by her blog and signup for the soon to be launched “Let Your VA Handle It” case studies series, where she identifies tasks and solutions VAs offer that save time and money and give clients time to handle responsibilities that fuel their passion.

 

Savor life's best,

Aimee

 

www.OccasionsToSavor.com

Follow me on Twitter!

 


 
Posted By Aimee Wilson - Occasions To Savor

Occasions to Savor Hosts VA Blog Hopping and Podcast Tour

 

Hi Aimee, I’m pleased to kickoff the 2nd week of the VA blog hopping and podcast tour by visiting your marketing and events planning blog today. I’ve reviewed your questions and am ready to begin.

 

1. How do you get started as a VA? Training or Experience:

 

It would be great if an individual interested in becoming a VA had both training and experience. However, if a person has a minimum of 5 years in managerial, supervisory or executive assistant experience, they should be able to transition and utilize those skills into becoming a professional virtual assistant. On the other hand, for individuals aspiring to become a VA but lack the prerequisite knowledge and experience, there are numerous VA training programs, some providing general VA training and others niche-specific, to enroll in. A list of VA training programs can be found at the Alliance for Virtual Businesses. No matter which option you choose, I strongly recommend that the aspiring VA create a written business plan and marketing strategies to assist them in planning and implementation, both of which will help them achieve their goals.

 

2. How do you get paid as a VA? There are three standards payment options that VAs offer.

 

• Pay as you go – VA is not committed to setting aside and being available for a particular number of hours per month. They provide services only on an as needed basis. Clients are charged premium rates for services. Drawback: Client nor VA have established a committed block of time set aside to work together.

 

• Retainer - VA contracts to set aside a specific number of hours per month to provide services for client. In exchange, the client pays the agreed upon fee in advance – usually around the first of the month. If hours are not used they are usually not carried over to the next month. Note: Normally, VAs may offer a lower rate to clients who sign a retainer agreement.

 

• Project or Special Activity-based – VAs charge a flat rate for a project; or handle one-time only or infrequent assignments.

 

• Deposit – Client pays an amount, in advance, and the VA draws down on the payment, on a regular basis and/or to cover expenses, until the full amount is expended. If assignment is completed before all funds are expended, VA may return the balance to the client. Note: This method is seldom offered by VAs, as it contradicts traditionally effort to attempt to establish long-term relationships with clients. 

 

Sharon Williams is the president of The 24 Hour Secretary and founder of OIVAC. Stop by her blog and signup for the soon to be launched “Let Your VA Handle It” case studies series, where she identifies tasks and solutions VAs offer that save time and money and give clients time to handle responsibilities that fuel their passion.

 

Savor life's best,

Aimee

 

www.OccasionsToSavor.com

Follow me on Twitter!

 


 
Posted By Aimee Wilson - Occasions To Savor

Since owning my own business, people often talk to me about what it is like working from home or their perception of what it is like.  Prior to starting my business, I worked from home with my job.  Working out of my home was nothing new for me.  Here are 5 quick considerations for people thinking about working from their home:

 

1. Do you work well independently? If you need someone to supervise your every move, then, working from home may not be for you.

 

2. If your fashion sense is what defines you, then, the dress down, work from home dress code is not for you. Unless you are meeting clients, comfortable dress makes sense and it is a fringe benefit, so, claim it!

 

3. If having a kitchen as an extension of your work area is appealing to you and your lunch budget, then, consider working from home where you save big time on eating out.

 

4. Freedom...yes, freedom, like the decision to determine when you work and where you work. You set your goals and pace yourself.

 

5. How appealing does picking out a desk, computer, printer, fax, or multi-function machine sound to you? You don't need much space. You do need convenient equipment and someone has to pick it out.

 

I must say working from home is not for everyone. Recently, I met a woman, who worked in sales and does not like working from home. She wished she had the office atmosphere. So, I asked her how long she had been working from home. Her reply was nearly 4 years.  I recalled it took me that long to get adjusted.  After 11 years, I cannot imagine going to an office everyday. Some of the things I did not initially like is what I absolutely love now.

 

Choosing your line of work for your work from home venture is not the only consideration. The 5 quick considerations for working from your home is a great start, especially before you quit your day job.  Let me know if you have any questions for me.

 

Savor life's best,

Aimee

 

www.OccasionsToSavor.com

Follow me on Twitter!

 


 
Posted By Aimee Wilson - Occasions To Savor

Working from home is a great way to be available to your children, create flexibility for you and your family, and reduce work-related expenses like travel, clothing, and meal expenses incurred at a higher rate when you work outside the home. 

 

I have been working from home for my full-time position from the beginning.  That's over 11 years.  It took some getting used to and I was not aware of many resources to help me get comfortable iwith a non-traditional work arrangement.  I certainly could have used a course called Work at Home 101 to help me adjust to working at home.  Adding my part-time business required additional adjustments, including the balance of my work and personal time. 

 

Finding a way to make the transition to working at home could take trial-and-error, lots of research, and many hours of legwork.  Christian Work at Home Moms are providing the help you need to succeed at working at home.  So, help is on the way!

 

Savor life's best,

Aimee 

 

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