I can’t believe that I have been running my Virtual Assistant business for over eight years now. It has been a massive journey of empowerment and learning. I feel blessed that I have been able to work my business around my family, school drop offs and pickups, the endless sporting commitments, school holidays and of course to still be able to earn more than a full-time income with the flexibility of a laptop lifestyle.
I originally started my Virtual Assistant business as a bookkeeper. At the time, there were some legality changes in Australia for contract bookkeeping and of course further study would have been needed. I had just finished and had paid for the wrong course, spent $2,000 in advertising my new business which resulted in only one new client at 3 hours per month which certainly didn’t cover costs. So, I had a decision to make, do further study, do something else or go back to work.
These decisions are made when you least expect it. I went to a Mothers morning tea through my oldest son’s school (then 7 years old), I got talking to a Mum and explained about the bookkeeping situation and the dilemma of whether to do the study and extra hours or did I even like bookkeeping after all. She asked me about my Secretarial, Admin and PA background and asked me why I didn’t go into business offering those services and what I loved best. I asked, ‘Is there a market for that?’ and her response was ‘Yes definitely, I have been in business for 6 months and I am working full time, let me introduce you to a Liz Parker at 121 Temps.’
I went home, had a look at the 121 Temps website and signed up on the spot for the Premium Membership, it included everything that I needed to get my business started plus I could pay weekly which really helped with cashflow:
- Website URL and website creation course
- Marketing course
- Monthly Webinars
- Free Client Leads
- Mentoring and Support
- Plus a whole lot more.
And after just spending an excessive amount in advertising in the wrong place, I knew that this was the perfect investment to learn those things that would put my business in good stead for years to come.
From there it took me a little while to find my feet, I had three young boys, they were 7, not quite 3 and 18 months old (the younger two are only 16 months apart) so my life was hectic and filled with a school run and toddler taming along with trying to build a business. In those early days, I only had lunchtimes if the younger boys slept and after 7:30pm at night once they were all in bed. It was hard building a business on those limitations but definitely possible. Plus, I was dedicated and motivated, it was either build my business or go back to work and frankly I couldn’t afford to go back to work as the childcare fees were exorbitant especially times 3 children.
As my business grew, so did the childcare by one day a week for the two youngest children up to 3 days per week until they went to school. Eight years on I now have a 15 year old, 10 year old and 9 year old and I can say that they’ve never been in after school care or school holiday care, we regularly have their friends over during school holidays plus the boys all enjoy sporting activities most afternoons each week. I also love that I can still be there for them and earn a full-time income on essentially a very flexible schedule.
In those early days, I set basic goals, I remember my first goal being to earn $400 dollars in a month and setting tasks around what I had to do to achieve that. My mantra was ‘make this work or go back to work’ and ‘it is all up to me’. I had to get my services together and write them as benefits to attract a potential client and I found this to be one of the hardest things to do. Marketing really wasn’t my strong suit and I put my energy into learning as much as I could about it. My little hack was that once I worked out my target market which was quite tough in the early days, it was much easier to explain my services because I knew what appealed to that industry.
Eight years on, I still love what I do. I love the business and the clients I work with are amazing and inspiring. I love that if I get bored, I can change my services or do some further study to offer different services. My clients love this too and it means that they’re staying ahead of new trends as well. They love that I am innovative and nothing is too hard to do or achieve.
I have been working with my longest running client for seven years and I believe that the longevity is due to going above and beyond for my clients, along with adding value to their business. At the end of the day, I’m in this for the long haul!
If you’re a business owner, influencer or industry leader, we understand that you are already extremely busy and it is probably time that you look into outsourcing your secretarial services. While you might not notice it at the current moment, the truth is that outsourcing your secretarial services will do wonders for your overall productivity and profitability. It means that you can work on what you want to work on. If you find the right person, it is someone that you can run ideas through and also someone that can take care of your business while you are on holiday. It also takes the pressure off sorting the basic day to day things that can easily be outsourced. Here are some of the popular day to day services that many businesses outsource:
- Typing and Document Formatting
- Diary Bookings
- Appointment Setting
- Template Creation
- Customer Followup
- Travel arrangements
- Email replies and followups
Some of the above seem quite old school for 2017 but are still popular, below are some ways that these services have been rejigged into an online format, these include:
- Uploading Blog Posts to your website
- Social Media scheduling
- Transcription of podcasts and interviews into blog posts
- Email Newsletters
- Online File organisation
- Database updates
- Online training maintenance, followup and technical help
How It’s Done
Thanks to modern technology and ability, you can now outsource all of your secretarial work. In past decades, most of this work would have to be done in-house, but because of the new technological advances, it’s undoubtedly something that could be handled by an outsourced contractor. Secretarial services might seem like something that aren’t easy to outsource but the easiest way to think about it especially if you do travel alot is to consider the secretary being back in the office and you need to phone them or email them with the work to be completed. Other ways to assign tasks is to use project management software such as Asana, Trello or Slack. But what about File sharing, I hear you ask. Well, there are many file sharing options available including uploading to a project management software (as indicated), Dropbox, Sugarsync and of course google drive.
The best thing about outsourcing your secretarial services is that if you find the right person to handle the job, they normally offer a 24 hour turn around, which means that you can have the work back on your desk the next day. Too often, a lot of people that run businesses have way too much work than they can handle so by getting the initial steps completed, it frees up your time to focus on running your business.
Online Business Manager
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Many businesses hire employees to perform various functions within a company. Secretaries and administration assistants manage front office tasks which may include answering phones and offering customer support. Personal Assistants offer diary, meeting and office support to executives. The marketing department oversees advertising, social media and public relations. Bookkeepers or accountants take care of the finances, and so on.
Many small, solopreneurs and home-based businesses don’t have the luxury of being able to hire a staff of employees. There are many reasons for this, it could be cashflow, office space or requirements. However, that doesn’t mean you have to manage your business alone. By outsourcing to a virtual assistant or Online Business Manager, you can have specialised help when you need it and for a fraction of the cost of hiring full-time employees.
What does working with a Virtual Assistant mean?
Focus on your speciality instead: While understanding the basic concepts of what needs to occur in your business is great, there is no need to learn everything and this could include graphic design, marketing, website creation, etc. Hiring assistants who specialise in these areas will save you loads of time and frustration and this way you can focus on your speciality instead.
Balanced Home and Business Life: Business is important, but so is spending time with family and friends. Maintaining a healthy balance reduces stress, increases productivity and ensures everyone is happy.
Increased Productivity & Profits: Knowing your assistant is taking care of the time consuming tasks allows you to stay focused on more profit-producing business activities.
In a nut shell, outsourcing to a virtual assistant really does make good business sense.
Do you really need a Virtual Assistant?
Whether you are just starting your business or have been at it for several years, you will reach a point when you cannot, or do not want to do everything yourself. This is the time to outsource to a virtual assistant. Outsourcing does not mean you are giving up control. It simply means that you value your time and want to use it in the most productive way.
Signs that you need a virtual assistant:
You feel overwhelmed: Are you working long hours in order to get things done? Maybe you feel exhausted by the long list of tasks you need to complete. Feeling overwhelmed at times is natural, but if it happens often, it’s time to take action and hire a virtual assistant.
You dislike the work: Everyone is good at something, but nobody is good at everything. If you have tasks that you simply dread doing, perhaps you always put them off until the last minute; consider hiring an assistant to do them for you.
It takes you forever to…. If you burn up many hours trying to draft your weekly newsletter because you struggle with the design, stop! It is not worth it when you can outsource the task and have it completed quickly.
You don’t know how to do something. One great thing about virtual assistants is that many have knowledge in a lot of areas. If you’ve been doing without something because you can’t do it yourself,outsourcing it to a specialist is the best answer. This means that it will be completed quickly and efficiently.
Tasks are getting pushed aside. If emails and phone calls are going unanswered, then your customer service may be suffering. Poor customer service can lead to lost sales. Regardless of the task, if you do not have time to do it, hire someone to take care of it for you.
The family is unhappy. Take your queues from family and friends. When family members start migrating to your office, rather than you to the family room, chances are, you’re working too much.
You are tired of doing it alone. It’s tough operating a one person business. You have to be the creative thinker, implementer, follow-up person and more. While doing everything is great for the ego, it’s not always great for business. When you tire of doing it alone, call a VA. Remember, even superheroes call in reinforcements when they need it.
You need to take a holiday. As a business owner, when was the last time you took a holiday? Wouldn’t it be wonderful knowing that everything was taken care of while you take that much needed break from your business. Once a virtual assistant gets to know your business they can cover off most items while you are away.
When you work with a virtual assistant, you can still do the tasks that you enjoy most, but you also have a support system in place for things that cause you stress or take up too much of your time. Hiring a virtual assistant allows you to reach your goals more quickly, obtain skills that you may not have, take your business to the next level, and even enjoy some free time.
Contact us today to find out more about our services.
Online Business Manager
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Having the right Virtual assistant is the first step to a good partnership. I say partnership because as you work together to grow your business, it will start to feel like you have a partner, someone who wants to see your business succeed as much as you do. As a Virtual Assistant or Online Business Manager, I prefer to create that business partnership with my clients.
With so many virtual assistants to choose from, finding the right one is not always easy. Many times, business owners wait until they are desperate before they start looking for help. They end up hiring the first virtual assistant they find, normally based on the cheapest price but can also be on location and skills. While selecting an assistant this way can work, it can also lead to the business owner hopping from one assistant to the next and getting frustrated with the process and finding that a virtual assistant is not the right fit for them.
There’s a better method to finding the right Virtual assistant and it requires a bit of research and thought. Here are some things to consider before searching for a virtual assistant.
What skills are required of the Virtual Assistant
Before you begin your search, have an idea of what kind of assistant you need. Make a list of the tasks you want to outsource to the virtual assistant. What skills or knowledge should the VA have to complete those tasks? Do the tasks require special software or equipment?
In most cases, you will want the Virtual Assistant to have everything he or she needs to complete the work and if they are a viable business, they should have the basics set up already unless you have a specific software that you use. In this case, it might be more beneficial to train your current virtual assistant on how to do these tasks.
Depending on the tasks, it can also be helpful if the Virtual Assistant has experience in the industry that you work in or already offers the services that you require to other businesses.
What characteristics would you like to see in your assistant? Which are most important to you? Here are a few to get you started:
- Forward Thinker. They see the whole picture & offer ideas to help you reach your goals.
- Self-Motivated. They are go-getters. They don’t wait until the last minute to start a project.
- Takes Initiative. If they see something needs to be done, they do it.
- Resourceful. If they don’t know an answer, they know how to find it
- Organised. Disorganisation leads to frustration and potential mistakes
- Good Communicator. Good communication reduces confusion and errors
- Professional. They conduct themselves in a professional, self-confident way
- Dependable. They complete work as requested without having to be monitored
- Trustworthy. If they cannot be trusted, the contract should be cancelled
You may not find someone who possesses every characteristic on your list or you may just want to make sure the important ones are covered and then you can work with the rest.
Online Business Manager
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Making a decision regarding the types of technology and software you will be using in your business is an important decision that much thought must go into. There are hundreds or thousands of different software programs out there and many aspects of each to consider based on what the software is, what you need it to do, and what features it has to offer.
I recently held a webinar for 1-2-1 Temps (Virtual Assistant network) discussing many types of technology that a Virtual Assistant can use to help a client in their business. Here is a replay of the webinar and some of my favourite that I use and recommend to help build a virtual relationship with a client.
In this webinar, I take you through all the different types of technology including Skype, Dropbox, File sharing, basic computer maintenance and a few other technical tips and tricks. If you are a client, looking at working with a VA (virtual assistant) these are the types of technology that you can use to build your team and work with a virtual assistant. They are also some of the technology that you can expect that a Virtual Assistant should know about and can use. If you are working with an Online Business Manager, the OBM will be able to advise you on the types of technology as well as show you how to set some of these up, depending of course on their expertise.
The software discussed during the webinar normally has a fantastic help section, videos or you can find a host of tutorials on YouTube that discuss in depth how to use the specific technology. We hope that you enjoy the webinar as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you.
Software Links and References from the video
If you would like to attend a future webinar, sign up here for further information
So you have decided that you need help in your business but what sort of help do you really need? Are you after basic administration assistance or do you need someone to assist running your whole business.
An Online Business Manager and Virtual Assistant are very similar in nature. Although, there are a few differences and understanding these differences will help determine who will be able to most assist your business.
||Online Business Manager
|The Big Picture
||Understands the big picture and works with the business owner to outline & oversee the steps necessary to get there.
||Typically aren’t concerned about the big picture; instead they focus on doing the tasks.
||Responsible for ensuring the business runs smoothly, by creating operation manuals, training assistants, managing assignments, schedules and staff.
||Responsible for completing tasks assigned to them – i.e. formatting ebooks, conducting research, sending newsletters, working in shopping carts.
||Success is achieved when the business is operating efficiently & the entire team is happy.
||Success is achieved when the work is completed & delivered in a timely manner
||To build long-term, trusting relationships with business owners who value the working relationship and compensate accordingly.
||To increase their work hours, thus income, for each client without having the added responsibility of managing others.
||OBMs are hired when business owners have grown beyond the startup phase. They simply cannot manage everything and still continue to grow; or perhaps, they’ve grown tired of managing the day-to-day operations.
||VAs are typically hired during the early stages of business. They help set up websites & shopping carts, create mailing lists, and so forth. Once the business is going, they continue to work on individual tasks.
So after looking at these differences, you might actually decide that you need to hire both an Online Business Manager as well as a Virtual Assistant to handle different tasks. This is also a great way to build a virtual team.
If you would like to understand more, download our Free Guide ‘What an Online Business Manager Can do for your Business‘