‘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.

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!

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

The Power of Presentations!

The ability to get in front of a crowed and captivate them is certainly an ART! There is so much that goes into a good presentation. There’s the ability to articulate, the physical appearance of the presenter, the setting of the venue, the content of what’s being presented, and the visuals being utilized. While majority of attendees are ‘visual learners’, we often place too much emphasis on the visuals of our presentation.

Here are a few things to consider when creating and using a PowerPoint or any other slide presentation;

Include;

  1. A title slide – Show your audience who you are as you are telling them. This gives them the correct spelling of your name and company.
  2. An outline slide – This is a basic agenda of what is to be covered, it sets the expectations of your presentation early.
  3. Pictures and graphics – You’re creating a visual, so make it interesting, use images that correlate with the topics being covered.
  4. Bulleted lists – Organize your topics into short bulleted lists. Avoid paragraphs of text.
  5. Summary page – Finalize your presentation with a wrap-up slide and be sure to include you contact information at the end.

Avoid;

  1. Reading your slides – Your audience can read (generally), they do not need you to read the slides to them. Your slides should only be outlines of what you are covering.
  2. Alternating slide transitions – Don’t make your slide transitions so crazy that they take away from your presentation. Keep it simple, consistent, and professional.
  3. Clip Art images – Don’t use standard clip art just because it’s there, it will make you look generic. Find and use images that are unique and meaningful to your topics.
  4. Make it readable – Make sure that you use a font style, color, and size that the person in the back row can read easily.

Remember, a PowerPoint presentation is simply a fancy poster board; YOU are still giving the presentation!

If you have any examples or additional suggestions to add, please feel free to comment.

 

Don’t Waste Time on Social Media

Social Media Time Management

We’ve all been hearing about social media for a while now, and most of us agree that we should be using it in some way. After all, it’s FREE Marketing and Public Relations, right?
Well, almost… if time is money, then it certainly has a cost.

What are some of the ways to reduce the amount of time spent on social media?

  1. Spend less time.
  2. Become more efficient.
  3. Outsource.

Spend less time.
Yes, this sounds obvious and very simplified, but it’s true. For those that are already well versed and actively using social media, it may be a simple matter of limiting the amount of time spent per day/week. A great way to achieve this is to set a timer, or only allow yourself to access social media sites on certain days of the week.

Become more efficient.
Work smarter, not harder. This is my favorite answer.
There are many platforms available that allow you to integrate multiple social media sites. Platforms such as TweetDeck or HootSuite, allow you to view and update multiple social media sites at the same time. An RSS Feed on your Facebook page would allow Blog and Twitter updates to be viewed without any extra work by you. This and many other tools would obviously save you time.

Here are some great websites to help you learn more about using and improving social media efficiency;

Mashable
The Social Media Guide
Business Week
Wikipedia

Outsource.
This is not the answer for everyone, but if you’re not well versed in current media trends and technology (or you just don’t want to be), you can hire someone who is. This does require trust and communication by both parties, and when done correctly it has some great benefits.

Feel free to share some ways that you are currently saving time with Social Media? Or if you are having trouble with Social Media, feel free to post a question.

And for those still not convinced to use Social Media, may I recommend a video from David Meerman Scott at the 2009 Business Marketing Association National Conference.

8 considerations for a professional website impression

Does your Website give the best 1st Impression?

Your website can be crucial to the image of your business! In many cases, this is can be your first impression or a crucial follow-up. If done correctly, a website tells people what you do, shows people how you do it, builds confidence and credibility in you and your business, and encourages potential clients to contact you.

Tips to help you build/design a professional (virtual) first impression;

  1. Be crystal clear – make sure potential customers do not have to go far to find out what you do and what your business is about. Put your description on your home page, and make sure it’s clear and concise.
  2. Claim attention early – make your home page attractive to your audience, but not distracting. Use colors, images, fonts, and text that compliment each other. Remember, many visitors may not even scroll to the end of the page, never mind visit any additional pages.
  3. Look the part – you don’t have to be a web designer or HTML expert to make your website look good. There are many tools available to assist in basic creative designing. However, if you want something elaborate then it may be worth your money to outsource the task.
  4. Use testimonials – word of mouth works wonders. When asked, many customers will be glad to provide you with a short statement of satisfaction and praise. In turn, you mention them on your website with a link back to their site. This is a great way to help build credibility.
  5. Be easy to contact – offer a way to contact you on every page. Don’t make visitors have to search for your contact information.
  6. Be easy to navigate – don’t use more pages than you need, but don’t try to cram everything on one page.
  7. Don’t drive people away – be sure any external links open in a new window, so that visitors do not leave your website.
  8. Be honest – don’t go overboard, but do include Terms of Use and Privacy Statement. Let people know that you care about their privacy and what to expect when using your website or contacting you.

And if you don’t have a website at all, consider these factors…

  1. Some people will not do business with companies that do not have a website.
  2. A website is a great way for you to advertise your business and allow potential customers to ‘browse’.
  3. Cost should not be a deterrent. There are many web hosting sites that offer free and low cost basic accounts.

If you have questions or suggestions about establishing a website, I would love to hear them!