‘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

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!

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!

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

5 Cool Tools for Business

Every business (and business owner) needs tools to get the job done. Small businesses need especially versatile tools, that they can easily master and that offer the necessary value.

Office Solutions ME provides Virtual Administrative Support, so many of the tools that we use are software based or allow us to access the software that we use.

Here are 4 of the tools that we use most often, and really couldn’t operate without;

  1. Smart Phone – Not just a phone, but a miniature computer! We use the iPhone. It allows us to access the Internet, e-mail, social media sites, and so much more from almost anywhere! We can download applications that allow us to view and alter Microsoft Office documents, make calls via VOIP, scan QR Codes, and an endless number of other geeky yet useful things.
  2. Laptop – A notebook computer is really essential for any company, but completely unavoidable for a virtual assistant! To be able to complete client work virtually, you have to be accessible and able to respond efficiently. A laptop ensures that it is possible to meet your client’s demands from (almost) anywhere. This was our most recent purchase, as we upgraded from a 6-year-old Averatec to a Sony Vaio.
  3. Scanner – Green is gold! Being able to scan and e-mail documents, instead of faxing or snail mailing is another necessity. This improves productivity and creates less waste. Plus you can then store your documents electronically and save valuable office space. We choose the Canon MX860.
  4. External Drive – Back-up is King! With all of our electronic documents and important e-mails, we need to make sure we are protecting our assets appropriately. With an external hard drive, we can create protected and encrypted back-up files quickly and easily. We chose the Western Digital My Passport Elite.
  5. Blue Tooth Headset – Multi-tasking is easier when your hands are free, so our 5th and final cool tool for this post is the hands-free blue tooth headset. There are many versions, at various prices, but they are an essential for note taking, typing, driving, and other tasks without missing a call. We have a very basic Jabra that does the trick.

Please feel free to share if you have any other business tools that you can’t live without, or if you have questions about any that we have listed.

For product reviews and prices, we recommend cnet.com.

Need help getting organized and being productive? Please Contact Us for help with Administrative Support and Business Developement!

iPhone: 4 Apps, 7 Features, 3 Wishes

iPhone

I’ve owned my iPhone 3GS since August, and have yet to share my favorite applications (apps) or my review of the phone overall.

In a nutshell, I LOVE IT!

My favorite  apps;

  1. TweetDeck – Twitter (social media) platform that allows me to manage multiple accounts at once, post Tweets, attach pictures, etc…
  2. Word Press – allows me to manage multiple blogs at once, update posts, attach pictures, read comments, etc…
  3. Facebook – (social media) keeps me informed of new messages and information as needed, allows me to update, add friends, etc…
  4. Conquest – a mobile version of Risk that allows me to spend my down time conquering the world.

My favorite features;

  1. Access to the Internet virtually anywhere! – even without an app, I can access e-mail and websites any where that I can get a cell phone signal, priceless especially for a virtual assistant!
  2. Calendar – I live by a schedule and having an easy-to use calendar at my finger tips is essential!
  3. Maps – this is almost as good as my GPS and it’s free.
  4. Cut, Copy, Paste – this is such a time saver. I can copy a name or an address and then paste it to a contact or calendar item
  5. Screenshots – by pushing the ‘home’ and ‘power’ button at the same time, you can take a picture of your screen, very helpful.
  6. World clock – with friends and family all over the world, I can now know exactly what time it is and avoid call them at 3am.
  7. Being able to look up a business on the Internet and then just touch their phone number to call them.

My wish list;

  1. Spell check – while there is a sort of predictive text feature, I am a terrible speller, and a built in spell check would be amazing.
  2. Record phone calls – there is a record feature and many downloadable apps, but none of them seem to work while you are on a call. I would find this useful during a business call, because I wouldn’t have to take as many notes.
  3. Camera flash – while this is trivial and not standard on most phones, there have been occasions of dim lighting that were photo worthy.

Overall, this is an amazing piece of technology and I continue to find more ways to utilize it. And as a virtual assistant it has been invaluable as a business tool, saving me time and making me money.

If you have thoughts on the iPhone or additional features to add, I would love to hear them!



Bookmark & Share