‘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.

Advertisements

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!

Navigating Excel

The cells found in Excel, or any spreadsheet program, are very similar to a table in Word. You can add text or formulas to these cells, and you can manipulate their appearance as needed.

In order to effectively use a spreadsheet, you must be able to access the information and navigate through the cells.

Here are a few basics of spreadsheet cell and page navigation;

Basic Cell Navigation

Action Key Stroke option 1 or Key Stroke option 2
Right One Cell Tab or Right Arrow
Left One Cell Shift + Tab or Left Arrow
Down One Cell Enter or Down Arrow
Up One Cell Shift + Enter or Up Arrow

 Basic Page Navigation

Action Key Stroke
Beginning of the Worksheet Ctrl + Home (I use this a lot)
End of the Worksheet Ctrl + End (I use this a lot) 
Beginning of the Row Home or Ctrl + Left Arrow
End of the Row Ctrl + Right Arrow
Beginning of the Column Ctrl + Up Arrow
End of the Column Ctrl + Down Arrow

In addition to using key strokes to navigate through Excel, you can also use your mouse to move to or select individual cells and groups of cells.

Single clicking on a cell, selects the cell, creating a thick black boarder around the cell it’s self.

Select Cell

Double clicking a cell, causes the cell to go into ‘Edit Mode’, inserting an I beam in the cell and allowing for typing directly in the cell.

Edit Cell

Another way to navigate to a cell is by using the ‘Name Box’. This is located directly above the Column ‘A’ Heading, and it tells you the name of the cell that you currently have selected.

Name Box

Selecting multiple cells

Action Mouse Mouse & Key Stroke Name Box
Adjacent Cells Click in the 1st Cell and Drag to the last Cell Select 1st Cell,
Hold CTRL Key,
Select last Cell
Type Range in the Name Box separated by a Semi colon
Non Adjacent Cells N/A Select 1st Cell,
Hold SHIFT Key,
Select next Cell
Type Range, or specific cell, in the name box separated by a Comma
Entire Row Click on the Row Heading (i.e. 1, 2, 3, etc…) Click in the cell at the beginning of the Row
Hold CTRL + SHIFT + Right Arrow
N/A
Entire Column Click on the Column Heading (i.e. A, B, C, etc…) Click in the cell at the beginning of the Column
Hold CTRL + SHIFT + Down Arrow
N/A

Also keep in mind that each Workbook can have multiple Worksheets. These sheets are shown as ‘Tabs’ at the bottom of your Worksheet. These ‘Tabs’ are only visible if your Workbook is maximized (small Center button in the top right of your screen, to the left of the close button).

Hopefully this information was beneficial to you. If you need more guidance with Excel Spreadsheets, please contact Office Solutions ME!

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!

Mail Merge 101 – Easy!

A Mail Merge is a way to create a document once and then easily recreate the document with alternate information in specified locations. For example, the most commons use of a Mail Marge is a letter that is being sent to multiple recipients. The contents or body of the letter is the same for everyone; however the recipient information needs to be customized for each letter. 

A mail merge allows you to create a letter for 500 recipients as easily (or easier) than you could create one for 5 recipients.

  1. Create the letter that you intend to use in Microsoft Word
  2. Create a spreadsheet that contains all the information that needs to be substituted.
    For example; First Name, Last Name, Company, Address, etc…It may look something like this –

    Suffix FName LName Company Street City State Zip
    Ms. Jane Smith ABC Corp 123 C St Portland ME 04101
    Mr. John Smith 123 Inc 456 N St Portland ME 04101

    Hints: All column headings should be a single word, The ‘Zip’ column may need to be specially formatted if the zip codes you are using start with ‘0’. This can be done under the cell formatting options, Remember the name and location of the spreadsheet when you save it

  3. With your letter open and your spreadsheet closed, navigate to the ‘Mailings’ tab (5th from the left) at the top of Microsoft Word toolbar (or Ribbon).
    Choose the ‘Select Recipients’ option (4th from the left)
    Choose ‘Use Existing List…’ (Second option). This will open another windowMail Merge Select Existing Source
  4. Navigate to the location where you stored your spreadsheet
    Select your saved spreadsheet, Click ‘Open’
    Mail Merge Choose Database
  5. This will give you a list of the sheets available in that file, generally yours will be ‘Sheet 1’ unless you named it otherwise
    Mail Merge Select sheet
  6. You now have some additional options available to you on the ‘Mailing’ tab on the top of the page
    One of the new options is ‘Insert Merge Field’ this should give you a list of all of the column headings in your spreadsheet.
    Mail Merge Insert Fields
  7. Now you can insert the desired fields from your spreadsheet into your letter template by clicking on them

    Here is an example;

    Hi «Fname»,
    I hope business is going well at «Company»!

    Hint: Any blank fields in your spreadsheet will be skipped in your letter

  8. Once you are done adding your merge fields, you can ‘preview results’ or ‘Finish & Merge’
    Both options are also found on the ‘Mailings’ tab toward the right side of the menu

Hopefully this quick Mail Merge 101 tutorial helps you become more efficient and effective!

For more help with your mailings or any other word processing and administrative functions, contact Office Solutions ME!

5 Characteristics of GREAT Clients!

We generally work with small business owners in Maine, Companies with 1-15 employees that need a little more help or some specific expertise. We provide administrative help and expertise with no overhead costs, no employment costs, no benefit expenses, no HR headaches, and for as little as 2 hours per month.

So, what makes our clients GREAT? Here are a few things that come to mind;

  1. They trust us – Our clients have welcomed me as a part of their company, a virtual partner in helping them succeed.
  2. They value us – Our clients often call us about new projects or ideas. They use us as both a partner and a consultant. As a part of their virtual team, they see us as a resource.
  3. They don’t micro manage – Our clients understand that we are running a business, in the same way that they are. We negotiate terms, use technology, and time frames that allow us all to be efficient.
  4. They are open-minded – Many of our clients need help in an area that they are unfamiliar with. So, our tasks often include; educating, locating deficiencies, and helping to implementing new ideas.
  5. They pay us (Seriously!) Our clients have been diligent in paying us in full and on time, some are even on pre-payment schedules.

And, how do we get GREAT clients?

  1. We’re honest – We start every relationship with a contract of expectations and we stick to them. If for any reason these must be changed, we always notify our clients prior to the change and get their approval.
  2. We’re valuable – We take the time to learn our clients business and how they operate. Then we apply our own expertise and education to the needs that they have.
  3. We’re efficient – We use time and technology to deliver on or before negotiated time frames.
  4. We’re creative – We enjoy bringing new ideas and concepts to their projects and goals.
  5. We’re economical – We help our clients save time and money! We don’t use their resources and we only help when they need us!

Feel free to share your best client characteristics and what you look for! And if you think we could help you and your business, feel free to contact us!

Thank You!

1stCelebrating 1 Year!!

It’s official! As of June first, Office Solutions ME has officially been in business for 1 full year!

This first year in business has really been a year of exploration, discovering business needs, networking and meeting fellow entrepreneurs, and developing partnerships in our community. We have truly enjoyed developing and building our business and look forward to the many years to come!

We have had the opportunity to learn so much about our clients and their businesses as we have assisted them in a vast array of support services. We have helped over fifteen different companies, with services ranging from data input, to small event planning, to Facebook training sessions. No two projects have been the same, and we have appreciated every opportunity to assist our clients!

We have recently had the pleasure of joining the Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce and the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce. We regularly attend networking events held by such groups as Maine Successful Thinkers, Freedom Networking of Maine, and the Maine Women’s Business Center. We have also shown our support for such organizations as the Maine Women’s Fund – Women Standing Together, Pecha Kucha Night, the CLIMB Good Friday Breakfast, and the Maine Women’s Network, through sponsorship opportunities.

So… Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Thanks to everyone that has contributed to the success of Office Solutions ME!

Thanks to our clients! Thanks to our supporters! Thanks to our coaches and mentors! Thank you for helping to make our first year in business a fantastic one!

Want to learn more about Office Solutions ME and what we’ve been up to this year? We’d love to talk to you, feel free to contact us!

Kathrine Farris
Owner & Virtual Professional
Office Solutions ME