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!

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Independent Contractor vs. Employee… The Basics

There has been a lot of talk this year around the classification of independent contractor versus employee. While independent contractors can have some financial benefits to businesses, misclassifying can have some very large disadvantages.

Here are some websites and articles to help better define the difference between an independent contractor and an employee;

http://www.maine.gov/labor/labor_laws/publications/indcontrbro.pdf
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203278404574417193684754878.html
http://www.business.gov/business-law/employment/hiring/independent-contractors.html

The Basics…
Independent contractors are responsible for their own taxes and are not protected by employment laws. They have many clients and their work flow and tasks are not managed by any one client in particular.

As a virtual assistant with multiple clients, Office Solutions ME is considered an independent contractor. We complete 95% of our work off-site, at our own office. And we have the skill and expertise in our field to complete majority of our work without the guidance of our clients.

For more information about independent contracting or virtual assisting, please feel free to contact us or post a comment!

Entrepreneurs Getting Started, Getting Organized!

What better time to talk about Entrepreneurs, with EWeek right around the corner! EWeek Maine, February 20th through 27th, encourages and supports entrepreneurs with panel discussions, workshops and networking events, designed to foster entrepreneurial education and lifelong learning. Go to http://www.eweekmaine.com/  for a complete listing of events.

Not many of us have one-dimensional lives. Most of us have expectations and requirement coming from many directions; bosses, employees, spouse, children, parents, teachers, students, neighbors, etc… In order to ensure all of these responsibilities are fulfilled and expectations are met, we have to be organized. This holds true, and is even multiplied, if you are the business owner.

Business owners now need to consider not just how to complete an order and the process of making the widget, but also the marketing, security, finances, regulations, taxes, etc… that go into running a company. While these tasks may grow with regards to the company size, they exist on some level at any size. So what is an Entrepreneurs or Solopreneurs (single person company) to do? How can you effectively wear all of these hats?

Here are some options/suggestions;

  1. Take the time to learn all of the functions of running a successful business. Just bite the bullet, take classes, attend seminars, and make time to learn the material.
  2. Find a mentor or business counselor that can help you find resources and give you tips. It’s important to find someone that will be honest with you, someone who continues to expand their knowledge and share that with you.
  3. Hire a consultant or business coach that has experience in running a business or in a particular aspect that you are struggling with. Again, It’s important to find someone that will be honest with you, someone you can trust to help keep you on track.
  4. Get a partner or hire an employee to help share the work load. When choosing to work with others, you add the human resource function to your plate, so be sure that is something you are prepared for.

Here are some websites that I have found helpful as tools and resources for getting started, getting organized, and learning how about the many aspects of running a business;

National Resources

Local (Maine) Resources

If you are not already a member of the Maine Entrepreneurs Group or the Maine Successful Thinkers Group on LinkedIn, I would highly suggest it. There are some great resource discussions.

Feel free to comment on additional resources that you have found helpful!

If you are looking for local places to network, check out our newly created Maine Networking Calendar.

 
 

3 Tools for Your Virtual Image!

Dress for Success in a Virtual World

The corporate world is no stranger to phrases such as “Dress for Success” or “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have”. So, what happens when corporate goes consultant? What happens when the Internet becomes our primary interaction or at least our 1st impression? Do we toss these mantras out like last night’s pizza box? I say, “We adapt.”

In a virtual world, we are not judged on our physical attire, but rather our virtual one… does your virtual wardrobe consist of the following?

  1. Website – listed 1st for a reason, this is imperative to almost any business these days and the quality of various websites varies greatly!
  2. Blog or Vlog – a weblog or video log is an increasingly popular way to improve credibility and be heard. If you don’t have your own, consider posting comments on other professional sites.
  3. Social Media (Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook, MySpace, etc…) – a virtual networking source, a way to share ideas and ‘meet’ others.

If you already have these virtual necessities, how successful are they for you? If not, what’s holding you back?

I hope this was helpful and look forward to hearing from you! Stay tuned for more thoughts on virtual image!

What is a Freelance Administrative Professional?

When you don’t have time to do EVERYTHING!

When you need professional results from part-time help.

When your creativity doesn’t include ‘sitting behind the computer’!

When you just need someone to ‘make it look good’!

When you aren’t comfortable ‘doing it yourself’.

 

Have you ever tried to add just one or two sentences to a document, and the whole file rearranged? Then you spent the next two hours just trying to ‘fix’ what went wrong! Do you need professional sales presentations or reports? Are you unorganized? Do you need help with scheduling or calling clients?

What if you could just tell someone what you wanted added or changed, and in less than 30 minutes it was done and looked great? All the while, you were able to keep focusing on your own important tasks. What if you could just call someone and tell them when you were giving your next presentation, and trust that you would have tailored professional material ready to go?

What if you didn’t have to commit to even a part-time employee and could avoid paying employment costs, benefits, taxes, etc…? What if you didn’t have to buy any equipment or give up any office space and could guarantee greater productivity and professionalism?

Sound appealing? You should consider a Freelance Administrative Professional! Within the industry, these entrepreneurs are known as ‘Virtual Assistants’ or ‘Virtual Consultants’.

Yes, these freelance ‘gig’ seekers are entrepreneurs! They are here to help you improve your productivity and share their expertise!

Why hire a temporary employee or commit to a part-time administrative assistant, when you can get the benefit of a knowledgeable professional that truly has your best interest in mind? When you succeed, they succeed! They are business owners in the same way that you are, so they understand your needs better then the average employee. And the best part is that you only pay them when you need them!

So, you may be wondering where the ‘Virtual’ part comes in… In addition to avoiding the complication of employment costs, Virtual Consultants also have the ability to complete their tasks without taking up your precious office space and resources! They have implemented such tools as Phone, Fax, E-mail, and even Online ‘Workspaces’ that allow them to be an integral part of your team without ever stepping foot in your office or using your stapler.

In this economy, saving money has become a necessity, yet sacrificing quality can be detrimental! This makes the partnership between ‘freelancers’ or ‘consultants’ and businesses a growing trend full of benefits!

Do you have questions or comments? Can you think of ways that you could utilize a Freelance Administrative Professional?

I hope this was helpful and look forward to hearing from you!