What To Consider Before Hiring a Virtual Assistant Through an Agency

If you decide to hire a virtual assistant, you have two main options. You can find an independent virtual assistant who works on their own and deals with clients like yourself one-on-one. The other option is to go through an agency. Agencies can be convenient since they already have a selection of staff from which to find somebody who meets your exact needs. Moreover, you have the comfort of knowing the agency has vetted those individuals to ensure they can be trusted with the kind of sensitive information they have to deal with for their clients.

There are both pros and cons to finding a virtual assistant through an agency. This blog post will go over a couple key things you should take into consideration when deciding where to find your new virtual assistant.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant Through an Agency Can Be Pricier

An agency comes with a certain degree of organizational support, which means added convenience for the client. If you need a virtual assistant who specializes in accounting the agency will likely have a reliable employee qualified in that area to help you, meaning you get the assistance you need rather quickly. An agency also means vetting the candidates has already been handled. But all of this added value comes at a higher cost.Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 2.54.04 PM

Hiring through an agency can be more expensive because not only are you paying for the labor of the virtual assistant – you are paying the overhead costs of administering those administrative assistants as well. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to use an agency and balance the benefits against the price. If you do not need the specialized services of an agency, and you think that you can find a suitable candidate on your own, then consider hiring yourself.

You Lose Out On The Personal Commitment of an Independent Virtual Assistant

As already mentioned there are a lot of benefits and conveniences that come with using an agency to hire a virtual assistant. But keep in mind that the agency is mostly focused on making sure the work you contract out gets done. As a result, you may not be able to build a one-on-one professional relationship with a virtual assistant. Instead, you may have to deal with a string of different personal assistants who handle different facets of the job or who are taken on and off your project. With a dedicated, individual personal assistant, you get the added value of somebody who takes the time to familiarize themselves with your company and how you work.

Using an agency can be a tremendous way to save time and give you a little peace of mind if you are new to the world of hiring a virtual assistant. Agencies eliminate much of the work involved in hiring (and even firing) a virtual assistant. If for any reason the virtual assistant you work with is not up to par, then you can alert the agency who will likely assign you a new VA. If you are a little more confident in your ability to find a candidate (and prefer to build a relationship with your VA in a way that makes them a team member as opposed to just a contractor) then hiring a virtual assistant directly may be the better choice.

How was Your Weekend?

Working as a virtual assistant means that you’ve got to constantly be ready to bring your A-game. When you’re completing tasks for clients, or handling emergencies as part of your day-to-day, there isn’t really much time for waffling during decision-making, or even feeling a bit of a slump.painting supplies

Yet slump we do. And be honest, who doesn’t? There are going to be periods of where we feel more or less productive (fun fact: statistically, Tuesdays are, on average, our most productive days). But we can minimize our “burnt-out” or “slum” feelings. How? By taking advantage of the weekend.

Now before you breathe an affirming sigh of relief at the prospect of sleeping in and catching up on your sleep debt, you should know I’m not talking about rest. Instead, I’m referring to what you do during your waking weekend hours. In Fast Company, Jarod Lindzen shares his thoughts on how you can make your weekday more productive by being more mindful when it comes to weekend hobbies. His suggestion? Think about whether your job falls into a more creative or routinely structured role, then engage in weekend activities that provide you with the opposite experience.

So, if you’re usually working with data entry, operations, or other administrative tasks, take up a more creative weekend hobby like painting, playing a musical instrument, video games, or my personal favorite, poetry. If your  job sees you in a more creative capacity, try doing something a bit more regimented on the weekends— like volunteering or household chores.

But your mindful hobbies shouldn’t be done mindlessly. Make sure it reflects what you actually accomplished during the week. If, one week, your normally routine job requires a burst of creative activity, then you should do something more structured to recharge. Stay consistent, too. You may not feel the benefits immediately, but with sustained efforts it will pay off!

How To Go From Virtual Assistant To Invaluable Team Member

As a virtual assistant, don’t settle for doing the bare minimum just to get paid. Aim to be viewed as an invaluable member of your client’s team – and it doesn’t matter whether you secretly plan to work for them for three months or three years.Woman at organized desk

When you demonstrate how precious you are as a professional, you gain more respect from your client, more flexibility in terms of your work arrangement, and achieve greater opportunity within their enterprise. Even if you only plan on staying with the company for a limited amount of time, if you ever do need to return they will be eager to hire you again. To become this kind of virtual assistant, you need to do the following things.

Be Reliable

At the end of the day, people hire a virtual assistant because they want to pay somebody to do the things they do not want to worry about. In order to confidently do so and preserve their peace of mind, they need to trust their virtual assistant. If you want to be seen as dependable and reliable, respect deadlines, maintain confidentiality, and demonstrate that you treat your employer’s business interests the way that you treat your own. For a lot of clients, reliability is more important than skill level. If you can show they can count on you, that trust will go a long way.

Be Resourceful

A good virtual assistant knows when to ask questions and when to just figure it out.

If you are handling highly sensitive information or receive an email from one of your client’s important contacts and don’t have specific instructions on what to do, definitely consult with your client.

But if in the course of your day-to-day activities you come across a snag (i.e. there is something in WordPress you are unfamiliar with) this is an example of a problem you can solve with good old Google. Googling it is the most basic way to be resourceful, but go beyond this fallback. In other situations, use your prior knowledge, think back to previous ways you’ve been instructed by this client, and make sound judgment calls.

Of course, this largely depends on your client’s work style. Have they explicitly told you to never venture beyond your instructions? Have they requested that you consult with them if there is any confusion? Take these wishes into consideration. While you want to be resourceful, you do not want to compromise trust and reliability by striking out too far or too quickly on your own.

Add Value To The Work You Do For Your Client

This goes back to the idea of going beyond the bare minimum. Look for ways to go the extra mile for your client, whether it’s by providing insight on certain projects or teaching yourself new software.

Naturally, you do not want to start doing more than you are paid to do. Adding value does not equal taking on a bunch of free work. You can add value by taking note of a job that your client often outsources or struggles to complete on their own, teaching it to yourself, and then offering to take on that project for an additional price. Oftentimes, clients are more comfortable giving work to people they trust. If you have already established a relationship of reliability and dependability, they are more likely to assign a certain task to you if you prove you are competent.

Don’t be just any virtual assistant to go to. Be THE virtual assistant to go to. Remember: word travels fast. Once you build a reputation as a virtual assistant worth their weight in (digital) gold, you will find it easier to secure more clients.

 

How Can You be the Most Productive You?

Charles Duhigg, the author behind the bestselling The Power of Habit, is back at again with an exploration of productivity. Why do some people get more done than others? There are 24 hours in a day for everybody, it’s not like they actually have more time.

The answer, it turns out, my lie in the process. When we work, it is very easy to fall into our habits. Even if those habits are good, our autopilot mode may not be the most efficient in every situation. Through interviews with über productive people, Duhigg discovered that those who get the most done are constantly altering their work process. In some months, they’ll use one system for organization and output, but at the end of the quarter they’ll be doing something completely different.

Changing how you approach your work also means that you’ll be approaching it from a new angle when the switch happens.You’ll be looking for ways to make your work better and stronger. Executing even daily tasks will be fresh, as you have changed the order or timing of when it gets done. In Duhigg’s words, the most productive people “think about it deliberately”. You’re on the lookout for bad habits and finding ways that you can nip them in the bud or alter them for the better. It comes down to heightened self awareness and a distaste for complacency. Be the best you!

How To Avoid Administering Your Administrator

Hiring a virtual assistant can do wonders for your productivity and your bottom line. You can redirect your focus to things that only you can work on like your business’ future, direction, and strategy.

But if your administrative strategy is all over the place, hiring a virtual assistant can be more of a chore than you intended. You may end up removing administrative tasks like emails and paperwork only to start supervising the people who have taken over. Essentially, you begin administrating your administrator.

There are a number of strategies you can employ to guarantee you don’t end up hiring an endless string of virtual assistants to deal with your virtual assistants.

1. Develop a training manual

office items arranged nicely on deskIf you write a blog post or upload videos each week, the job of publishing them is a task that can easily be handed off to an assistant. Aside from recording your video or developing the content, your assistant can deal with everything else from the editing to the uploading. While you may have a particular fashion in which you like this job handled, they are probably straightforward systems that can be broken down and replicated. Maybe there always needs to be a caption. Perhaps you want the video to be published at a certain time. These are all things that can be written out in a step-by-step process. It can be a chore to develop a mini manual. “I can do this off the top of my head,” you may think. But once you’ve done the grunt work, you have a streamlined process that can be taught to just about anyone with the basic skills. This can save you a lot of time down the road, especially if you need to rehire.

2. Establish a good working relationship with your virtual assistant

Even though your virtual assistant is hired to make your life easy, don’t forget that they have a life too. Recognizing this will allow for a smoother working relationship. Here’s the thing: finding a competent assistant is difficult. There are so many VAs out there, and winding up with a not so great assistant is a possibility. So when you do find a decent VA, make sure you treat him or her with respect to ensure they don’t pick up and leave. You can do this by getting to know your employee. Ask them about their own life so that you are not sidelined by personal issues or requests for vacation time. Additionally, be sure to pay them promptly and respect their time.

3. Introduce additional responsibility and compensate accordingly

Once you’ve spent a certain amount of time with a VA, you will slowly build more trust when it comes to their character and what elements of your company they can competently manage. Part of showing someone they are valuable is extending more responsibility and authority to them. If you have cultivated a good relationship, demonstrate this by either giving them additional, more higher-level tasks or reducing the approval process.

But remember: do not just throw additional work on a VA. The terms of their employment were more or less decided when they were hired, so be certain to make sure this is something they are interested in, and if so, compensate them accordingly if their job starts to creep outside the realm of what they are being paid for.

Building Your Virtual Assistant Brand

These days the marketing buzzword is “brand”. Every fifth article talks about how to develop a strong brand concept or how to build your personal brand, and it may have you wondering: what the heck is a personal brand anyway?

Your personal brand consists of the values and associations people have when they think of you. What do you represent as a professional and what can they expect when they work with you? You may think this is something only big time professional speakers and high-powered CEOs need to worry about, but as a virtual assistant, building a personal brand is a terrific strategy.

 

Your Personal Brand Makes You Distinctive

Think about it: there are so many virtual assistants out there that there are websites where you can select a virtual assistant like choosing from a catalogue. And while there are definitely a number of bad ones, you can be sure there are many more virtual assistants who are just as competent as you. The trick is developing a narrative about your unique offering.

An easy way to set yourself apart is to find your niche. Some virtual assistants specialize in real estate while others may be specialized in helping start ups deal with the administrative tasks required to get their company off the ground. Differentiating yourself in terms of the services you offer helps you build a reputation as the person to go to for specialized administrative services, and it also gives you more ground to stand on for demanding higher prices as well.

But you can even take it one step further. Carving out a niche is a great step towards building your personal brand, but it’s just that – a step. The next thing is fleshing out your personal values. What is it about the way you go about carrying out your duties that makes you the kind of professional worth working with? For some, it’s their creativity. For others, it’s their fierce focus and determination. By demonstrating these characteristics, you will draw clients who wish to do business with like-minded people.

How Do I Go About Building My Personal Brand?

Your next question may be, “Well, how do I go about doing this?”

Fair question. To be honest, you cannot simply start cold emailing potential clients with emails that read, ‘I’M CREATIVE AND FOCUSED” in all caps. Instead, you have to demonstrate these qualities in the way you advertise yourself. The easiest way to broadcast your unique personality as a professional is through social media channels and a professional website.hand rests on computer, next to scattered notebooks and a pen

Build a professional website that includes all of your credentials, experience level, and other information that a potential client would need to ascertain whether you are qualified. The next step is to write blog posts on lessons you’ve learned as a virtual assistant, whether they are time saving tips or ways you maintain a work life balance even while working from home. Sprinkled throughout these blog posts readers should find insight into your personal interests and an indication of what brings you joy.

The same idea applies to your social media channels. On Twitter, talk about the topics that will draw clients to you while also discussing hobbies or activities that are important to you. If you are an avid baker, share favorite recipes or articles from culinary sites on your Facebook page. Think of the real world. Oftentimes, people do business with people they know, trust, or like. The same idea applies here. Companies or individuals that share interests with you will be more likely to pick you once they need your services over another individual in your industry.

Carefully curating these facets of your personality and broadcasting them to the public will help you build an audience that speaks to your specific brand as a professional (your personal brand) and likely draw clients that fall in line with your core values and your core interests.

How Hiring A Virtual Assistant Can Boost Your Blog

Content marketing is quickly becoming the most relevant advertising tool. Large billboards and paid ads are no longer the only way to get your business’ name out there. Instead, developing an engaging online presence and cultivating a community have become the preferred ways to attract clients and customers.

But blogging is not as simple as banging out a post about your company’s latest activities and hitting “Publish”. While blogging sounds like an easy advertising strategy, like most things in life it is only effective when done well. In order to make the most of any content marketing strategy, business owners have to plan interesting posts, review their analytics, share their content on social media, and keep their site up to date.

And then of course they have to actually write.

Previously I discussed how helpful it is for virtual assistants to find their niche. Blogging and content management can be one of those specialties. Hiring a virtual assistant can help take your blog from an obscure diary someplace on the web to a thriving community hub for readers and clients. Virtual assistants help you do this by assuming several key roles.

Publisher

Sounds like something you can do on your own, right? Not so fast. Publishing a post takes a lot of additional work that can be a time drain for a busy business owner. Before an article is made public it needs to be formatted, the in-text links must be checked, and pictures have to be inserted to make the text less intimidating. And that’s just before you hit publish!

After that is done, links to the post have to be shared on social media to ensure your writing reaches the widest audience. All of these steps are vital for making your site look professional.

Community Manager

A blog is much more interactive than a spread in a magazine or a TV advertisement. You’re not just building an audience – you are cultivating a community. To do this, you need active engagement. Most business owners would be happy to do this, but in addition to running a business, writing blog posts, and living their personal lives, there simply is not enough time.rosemary-sauter-frett-assistant

Virtual assistants act as community managers in a sense. They can approve comments on your blog, engage with regular readers, and answer or screen your emails. You reap what you sow, and if your blog audience notices you taking an active interest in them, they will reciprocate by sticking around to participate in your growth.

Staff Administrator

Perhaps writing is not really your thing and you have some room in your budget. This means you may want to hire ghostwriters and guest bloggers to contribute to your website. Sure, this removes the creative burden, but it does add an administrative layer. Freelancers need assignments, direction, questions answered, and payment. All of these are menial but necessary tasks that use up valuable time.

Instead of answering the same questions multiple times, relay your expectations to a virtual assistant and let them take the reins when it comes to coordinating with your freelancers. If there are any concerns, you only need to communicate with one person – your virtual assistant – who can handle the rest.

Technical and Analytical Whiz

Running a successful website means having one that is operational, and this requires a decent amount of updates and tune-ups. Your virtual assistant can keep tabs on plug-in updates or address specific bugs. Additionally, virtual assistants can compile reports on your site’s analytics. Many bloggers have access to extremely useful data about their site’s performance, but do not have the time to look them over which prevents them from acting on helpful insights.

Your company website and blog are vital tools for your business’ success. Leverage them to the best of your ability by hiring a virtual assistant that can help facilitate a smoother operation.

5 Ways To Conquer Your Fear Of Judgment

Question-mark-person-imgIt’s easy to allow other people’s thoughts and words to hold you back. Sometimes, other people’s judgment can shape how you feel about yourself. Over time, this can affect your relationships, your jobs, and many other aspects of your life. If you don’t have guidance, it can be hard to figure out how to overcome the fear of judgment. Here are five tips that can help you overcome your fear of judgment.

1) Be aware of your strengths and limitations.

The more self-aware you become, the less likely you are to be affected by what others think about you. Be confident in what you are good at, and know your shortcomings better than other people do. If you become truly aware of your strengths and your setbacks, the judgments other people make about you will be irrelevant. Own your qualities and don’t allow anyone to take your individuality away from you.

2) Don’t allow others to define you.

People are bound to have opinions. One key step in moving past the fear of judgment is to understand that people are entitled to their own thoughts. If you are largely affected by other people’s judgment, it’s a good idea to take a look at your own self-esteem. Once you are able to process how you truly feel about yourself, you can work on the things about yourself that you don’t feel satisfied with.

3) Stay aware of your inner critic.

The first step to overcoming fear, self-sabotage and self-doubt is recognizing any negative thoughts that creep up on you. In order to improve your beliefs about yourself, you must know the role that your negative thoughts play in your life. Once you get control over your thoughts and beliefs, you can make shifts in your thinking that will allow you to be more positive without worrying what others think about you.

4) Prioritize yourself.
When you allow someone’s else’s judgment to affect your own self-perception, you make other people a priority and give them power in your life. Remember that you know yourself better than anyone else. You need to trust yourself and your abilities. Let go of the desire to be perfect. Above all, prioritize your personal needs.

5) Invest in your well-being.

It’s important to invest in your own personal growth and well-being. Get support for the areas of your life you wish to improve on and do more of what you enjoy doing. A few things you could do to take care of yourself could be finding a therapist or personal coach, taking a vacation, joining a gym, or reading a book on personal development. If you aren’t taking the necessary steps to overcome your hurdles, you can find yourself feeling hopeless. Go out and live your best life.

Other people’s words and thoughts about you can have a lasting effect, but they don’t have to. Follow these steps and you’ll be able to lose your fear of other people’s judgment and move forward with your life.

Tips for Staying Organized

Chances are you’re a busy person, and chances are you have areas of your life that could use some more organization. Whether your house is a mess, you procrastinate things or you just can’t keep track of everything you have to do, there are probably some ways that you could get your life more in order. Here are a few tips to help you get more organized.

1) Observe your own behavior

The first step is to become self aware. If you pay attention to your own behavior, you will be able to pinpoint actions that contribute to your issue of being disorganized. Some common problems can include procrastinating, plopping on the couch or bed without taking care of things, and avoiding things that need to be done. Once you identify the behaviors, it’s time to commit to changing them.

2) Put 3 Important Tasks On Your To-Do List

We have all heard of the concept of writing a to-do list. To-do lists are a great way to remind yourself of everything you need to do throughout the day. But if your to-do list is too long, it cannot always serve its purpose. The best thing to do is to write down three things that you need to accomplish in a day. If you get these three things done, the rest will fall into place.rosemary-sauter-frett-office-594132_960_720

3) Find time slots to do organizing tasks

If you’re in work or school, or have any kind of routine, you will be able to arrange organizing tasks around your other scheduled obligations. For example, you can find a window of time in the morning to load the dishwasher. When you return home, take some time to look through the mail or check your email. Staying organized can be especially difficult if you are self employed or retired. If this is the case, make sure you commit to getting routine chores done at specific times. In fact, it’s a good idea to incorporate the most crucial organizing tasks into your routine.

4) When your behavior starts to change, reward yourself

Commit to a new behavior that will keep you organized. Make sure to repeat the behavior 21 days in a row, because it takes 21 days in a row of performing a behavior to make it a habit. You are likely to resist new behavior, and if you find yourself going back to old habits, you will have to start over again. When you reach the 21st day, reward yourself with a nice purchase or meal.

5) Have realistic expectations for how organized you can be

If you have a busy life, it can be hard to keep your house and your life entirely in order. If you have children and a job outside of your home, this can be especially challenging. Make sure that you aren’t afraid to ask for help from paid professionals or other members of your family. As long as you are regularly picking things up in the home and getting help from your other family members, you will probably be able to function just fine.

 

So, You Want to be a Virtual Assistant…

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Getting started in any industry can be extremely challenging. Paying your dues, networking, and expanding your skill set are just three ways to get ahead, but they won’t always guarantee you success. That’s why becoming your own boss allows you the flexibility to create your own success on your own terms, sometimes in unconventional ways.

Most don’t realize that virtual assistants are entrepreneurs in their own right. According to Entrepreneur.com, an entrepreneur is:

  • A starter, “an initiator, a challenger, and a driver.”
  • The ones in charge, “the leader and the person to look to for leadership.”
  • Accountable and responsible, as they are “the one that has the highest stakes at the venture, thus the one that needs to be empowered to fully direct the endeavor.

Now, for those just entering the industry, thinking of your virtual assistant work as an entrepreneurial endeavor may be a bit overwhelming. However, starting off with this perspective will serve as an invaluable tool to gaining lasting success in the industry.

So, where do you begin?

1. Understand the power of marketing

Before you’ve even signed a contract with your first client, you need to be a virtual assistant. Update your social media profiles and email signature, create a LinkedIn update to spread the word throughout your professional network, let your friends and family know the next time you see them, shout it from the rooftops, WHATEVER! The sooner your name becomes synonymous with “virtual assistant,” the sooner you’re on your way to building up a portfolio of clients.

To learn more, check out this excellent resource, “Marketing 101” from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

2. Build a website

As a virtual assistant, people are going to look you up on the internet, and they better like what they find! This means having a professional and up-to-date online presence, from fully-optimized LinkedIn profiles to a professional website. If you aren’t necessarily equipped to build a website from scratch, never fear, there are plenty of affordable and user-friendly ways to get it done! Pro tip: create a professional email handle to go along with your professional online appearance, nobody will take you seriously if you’re communicating from sunshine123@yahoo.com

For the inexperienced web builders who are hoping to create a professional website, check out this excellent resource from Forbes.com.

3. Find your niche

Virtual assistants can be utilized in–essentially–every single industry, so your greatest chance of success is finding an area of focus and becoming a true expert in it. Have experience in real estate? Are you great with accounting? Use that to your benefit! Once you’ve established your niche, break it down into specific tasks that you can accomplish, and make it known that nobody can do it better.

Having trouble figuring out where you fit best? Read this excellent blog from The VA Handbook!