2013 Goals Exposed

2013 GoalsHappy New Year! For the first time, we have decided to make our annual goals public. Lucky for you, this is an abridged version.

We have two primary goals for 2013:

  1. Rebranding – we are transitioning from Office Solutions ME to Strategic Office Support, offering Virtual Business Management needed to build, manage, and maintain all of your business ideas. This creates all sorts of goals and opportunities for change. We will share more about this very soon!
  2. Partnering – we are excited to have initiated many great partner relationships in 2012, including web designers, graphic designers, copywriters, bookkeepers, marketing and social media consultants, and other virtual assistants.  In 2013, we want to take this to the next level!
    1. We want to keep our partners and sub-contractors BUSY, allowing us to attract and assist more clients. Our goal would be to utilize our partners and sub-contractors on at least 50% of our 2013 contracts.
    2. We’ve also started a new joint venture with Luma Coaching to offer business coaching support in addition to our implementation skills and support services. Click here for more details.

Secondary goals include:

  • Redesigned client intake process – still working on the details
  • Attend Be the Change April 2013 in Orlando Florida
  • Increased media exposure – radio, TV, local events, and social media
  • Product development – trainings, reports, and guides for entrepreneurs
  • Launch BecomeAVA.com – resources, training, and coaching for aspiring Virtual Assistants

So, there you have it, a basic outline of our goals to be accomplished in 2013. Now, please share your goals for the New Year, and any comments; we would love to hear from you!

‘Virtual Assistant’ Re-Defined?

Administrative Office AssistantFor years now Virtual Assistants (VAs) have tried to get away from the term ‘Assistant’. They fear that the term ‘assistant’ cause’s potential clients to see them as a remote employee with minimal skills, instead of a professional partner and business owner.

While there are some VAs out there that work for $10 or $15 an hour and may have limited skill sets, there are also many of us that are true business owners and professionals with years of professional experience and training.

The struggle lies in how our potential clients find us on the web. If we change the name of our profession and the wording on our websites, will we still be found by potential clients? So, we need to come up with a term that potential clients will recognize, understand, and search for.

Is there a phrase or category that encompasses what we offer and how good we are? Take our poll to let us know what you think.

We’d love to hear any thoughts or suggestions from current VAs, Clients of VAs, and potential clients of VAs.

Get what you pay for?

I recently asked the question on LinkedIn, “Why wouldn’t you hire a Virtual Assistant?”

BusinessWhile a few of the answers were typical, there was one comment that really stood out. Maria Marsala provided the following comment;

“Some don’t take themselves seriously as a business owner. They need to create contracts, etc. 
I didn’t hire a VA once because her prices were way too low. Since I didn’t know her work, I didn’t know if she was just broke and needed the money or unskilled.”

I found this interesting and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much this statement  and the reality of price actually encompasses.

Think about it, if you are truly running a Virtual Assistant business, then you would be concerned with security (a major focus), reputation, customer service, continuing education (a huge differentiation), proper accounting, confidentiality (another major concern), legal protection, and efficiency.

In comparison, if you are just trying to make a few extra bucks on the side, then you really only care about income and keeping your overhead as low as possible, usually at the expense of building the necessary infrastructure to support and sustain the needs of your customers.

This all comes back to the issue of cost. Someone who is truly running a Virtual Assisting business, and investing both the time and money necessary to ensure the quality and security that their clients can depend on, will generally have to charge a higher price in order to remain in business. Here’s a post about what qualities to look for in a Virtual Assistant.

The next time you are considering outsourcing, think twice before you hire the cheapest person you find, after all it’s often true that “you get what you pay for”.

A rather simple example that comes to mind for me is travel coffee mugs. I bought a travel mug for $5 at a major retailer; it seemed like a good mug, at a great price. However, it didn’t fit in any of the cup holders in my car. I went back and bought a different mug for about the same price. This one didn’t hold a full cup of coffee without leaking. I bought a third, this one didn’t keep my coffee hot for more than 30 minutes. Finally, I broke down and bought a $20 mug from Starbucks. It’s perfect, holds a full medium coffee, without spilling, fits in all of my cup holders, and keeps it hot for hours. Had I done this to begin with, I would have saved $15 and a lot of space in my cabinet. Lesson learned.

QuestionsDo you have an example of how paying more actually saved you money in the long run?

Check out this post for ideas on how a Virtual Assistant might be able to help you in your business.

Still have questions? Contact Us!

12 Days of Virtual Assisting – Happy Holidays!

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12 Days of Virtual Assisting - Happy Holidays!

5 Outlook Email Tips


Outlook is a widely used Microsoft Office program, however many people could still use some tips and tricks. Here are a few of my commonly used tactics for using Outlook more efficiently and effectively for email;

Email Flags

1. Flags – Flag important emails to come back and read them later.

How to – Click on the ‘flag’ symbol all the way to the right of the email

2. Sorting – Sort emails by sender or subject to quickly find a lost message.

Email Sorting

How to – Click the header that you would like to sort by.

3. Folders – Use folders to organize emails of similar topics. This helps keep important information together.

How to – Right-click over the ‘Inbox’ icon to the left, Click New Folder

Email Folders4. Drafts – Create and save drafts of commonly sent emails to easily use and resend regularly.

How to – After creating and formatting your email, click the Save button. Now a copy of this message is in the ‘Drafts’ folder. To reuse the content, copy and paste it to a new email.

5. Signature – Create a professional signature to include at the bottom of all emails

Email SignatureHow to – From your Inbox, Go to Tools, Click Options, Click the Mail Format Tab, Click the Signatures button at the bottom. Then, click new to create a new signature file.

For more help with using Outlook or general email, please contact Office Solutions ME!

How can a Virtual Assistant help thee? Let me count the ways…

Get an Assistant!Want to know how a Virtual Assistant could help your business? Here are a few ideas to consider;

  1. Software & Program Set-up – A virtual assistant can set up your social media profiles (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc…), newsletter templates, contact management imports, Blog widgets and applications, and more.
  2. Small Event Planning and Execution – A virtual assistant can advertise your event, book an appropriate location, collect RSVPS, send out event reminders, help prepare and format your presentation, compile survey results, follow-up with attendees, and in some cases even show up with the refreshments.
  3. Print Mail Campaigns – A virtual assistant can create and format your mailing list, create a mail merge file, prepare (stamp, stuff, and seal) the envelopes, and send your mailing for you.
  4. Data Input – A virtual assistant can input contact information, type meeting minutes,
  5. Research – A virtual assistant can perform internet research for you, such as; a competitor analysis, mailing list creation, market research, report research, and more.
  6. Word Processing – A virtual assistant can assist with editing and creating documents
  7. PowerPoint Presentations – A virtual assistant can format PowerPoint presentations for a branded professional look, ensuring appropriate font and transitions for viewers.
  8. Webinars – A virtual assistant can help with the set up and facilitation of webinars, including event promotions and reminders, performing the speaker introduction, assisting in facilitating a question and answer portion, dictating the Q&A, acting as a narrator during the presentation, and following up with attendees.
  9. Spreadsheets – a virtual assistant can create and format spreadsheets for sales tracking, inventory control, schedules, budgets, cost estimates, and much more!
  10. Customer and Prospect Communication – a virtual assistant can assist with reaching out to prospects, sending birthday wishes, sending holiday greetings, sending and receiving surveys, routine customer follow-up, preparing and sending collections notices, and more.

Get a Virtual Assistant!While we couldn’t possibly list all the services that a virtual assistant could provide, however these should get you thinking… about how a virtual assistant could make your life easier!

For more information on virtual assisting and for a free consultation to see how a virtual assistant can help you and your business, contact Office Solutions ME Today!

5 Qualities to look for in a Virtual Assistant

A Virtual Assistant (VA) is an offsite administrative and business professional that can be contracted to assist you and your business needs. Some of the qualities that a business owner or manager should look for in a VA include;

  1. References – like any competent professional, a VA should come with quality references that can speak of the type of work they have completed and how satisfied the client was
  2. Examples of Work – while some work may be confidential, any competent VA should have examples of projects the they have completed or assisted with
  3. Education – if a VA does not have an official degree, the VA industry has many options available for certifications
  4. Contract – a relationship with a VA is a professional contract and should be treated as such. A VA should draft a contract that outlines the scope of work and payment that are to be expected by both parties
  5. Follow-up – as in any business contract, a VA should have good communication skills and keep their clients informed of progress

The concept of Virtual Assisting is very new to the state of Maine, but it is an idea that could be extremely beneficial to the business community.

Maine is a state full of innovative entrepreneurs that are great at what they do. Many of these companies are owned and operated by a handful of individuals that specialize in the field that they operate. A VA can offer administrative and business expertise as a contracted partner, allowing the company to maximize its resources. A VA also allows the company to avoid expensive, time consuming employment expenses that are generally associated with hiring additional employees.

For more information on Virtual Assistants and to review the education and qualifications of Office Solutions ME, feel free to visit our website and learn more!