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Strategies to Become a Better Decision Maker

good decisionBeing a good decision maker can help you in business and life. It’s been said that highly confident people make decisions clearly and stick to them rather than changing their minds or being indecisive.

And even if decision making doesn’t come naturally to you, it is a skill which can be built on. Here are a few tips to help you:

#1 – Start small. Even making small everyday decisions will help you accomplish the bigger goal. Small decisions such as what food to eat at a restaurant are not to be underestimated. A good way to start is the next time you’re eating out, look at the menu and decide what you’d like to eat. Then put the menu down and don’t change your mind. Don’t ask your companions what they’re having and base your decision on that - make the decision on your own and then stick to it.

Small steps like this can be empowering and help you to tackle the bigger decisions to come in the future.

#2 – Approach decisions logically. Many of us tend to make emotion-based decisions rather than logical ones. In business this can spell disaster. A good way to help you approach decisions in a logical manner may be to write down a list of pros and cons.

Simply grab a sheet of paper and label one side pros and one side cons. Then list all the good and bad points of your choice. Logically think through your comments and then make your decision. This way you can leave emotions out of the equation and concentrate purely on the facts.

#3 – Cut yourself some slack. Making decisions is a skill which can be learned but even pros don’t always make the right choices. Realize that making decisions effectively takes confidence and is a great first step, but your decisions may not always be the right decisions. If you happen to make the wrong decision, give yourself a break and take comfort in the fact that you thought out your decision clearly and logically and made the best choice possible at the time.

Being a good decision maker takes time and practice. However, it’s a worthwhile skill to develop. Making decisions regularly may help build your confidence level and also help people know where they stand with you – two great entrepreneurial qualities.

How to Get Low-Cost and Free Advertising for Your Small Business 

computer work

If you want your business to make you money or even just get off the ground, you’re probably going to have to advertise.  For many companies, advertising becomes a huge chunk of the overall budget, but it doesn’t have to be.  There are plenty of free or inexpensive ways to let people know about your business and get them coming back.

Email

Email is a great, cost-effective way for get your name out there, contact potential customers, and keep existing customers up to date and coming back.  And while developing an email list may take some time and effort, sending out an email once you have a list takes very little time.

You can get email addresses by simply asking for them on your webpage about a related topic to your products, asking for them from your customers when you take an order, or offering a free product or service in exchange for an email address.

Many people get emails by offering people products in exchange for the email addresses of their friends, but these are often far less useful than when people give you their email addresses themselves.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, the friends really aren’t going to be interesting in what you have to offer.

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is also a great way to get word about your business out there, and it generally costs you nothing.

The key to starting word of mouth business is not only to tell people to pass the word on to their friends, but more importantly, to treat the customer right so they want to spread the word.

Social networking sites are a great way to start a word of mouth campaign about your business.  These are sites like MySpace, Facebook, and other sites where people can ad their friends, bands they like, and businesses or products they might be a fan of.

Then, if someone is a friend, the site will often automatically suggest they become a friend with or a fan of the same things.  Soon, you’ll have a bunch of people who are all fans of your business - then you can use the page to send updates to all of them about new products, services, and promotions.  It’s all free and pretty simple to get started.

Blogs

Blogs are another way to get people interested in your products and keep current customers up to date.  Starting a blog is simple, there are tons of blog sites that will pretty much set the whole thing up for you.  The trick is actually getting people to read it.

You can use different SEO techniques including microblogs like Twitter, but you also need to provide quality content that people actually want to read.  Start your blog by not only talking about your business and ideas, but also those of other people.  If you refer someone to a good article or great deal, they’re much more likely to keep reading.

While you may decide to spend some money on your advertising, you can still supplement with these methods to boost your exposure even more.

Advantages of Webcasting (Video)

Webcasting

With social networking being at a high point and increasing steadily, the drive for interactive websites is on the increase.

A lot of people want a website that’s not simply static and they’re looking for interaction when they log onto the net – from Twitter to Facebook to YouTube – we want to connect.

As an online business owner this means that adding a webcast to your online business is a great move.

First, what is a webcast?

In simple terms it’s a video recording placed on the web. Just like a TV offers traditional viewing, a webcast does something similar - but the video is streamed on the internet rather than the TV network.

A webcast can be anything from a video of you explaining how to do something to your viewers, to a two (or more) people interview, to an interactive online class.

The point is that you’re adding an interactive feature to your website and making it easier for visitors to give their feedback and get involved.

Anyone can start a webcast with a simple video recorder. One of the easiest methods is the Flipcam. It makes getting your videos on the internet drop dead easy. You can also use more sophisticated equipment to create news programs on a very high-end level.

There’s a lot of different equipment you can use and a little research will help you find the best. Once you’re set up with your video recording mode you can take things a step further and use a video editing service to add features to your recording which will really make the video stand out. There are many services online and a simple Google search will help you find the right one for you.

Webcasting is a great addition to your website. You’re making it easy for your visitors to interact with you while offering valuable information. This will keep them coming back to your site over and over again.

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Do You Need Special Certification Or Training To Become A VA?

Virtual Assistants or VAs are in high demand. They provide administrative help to people around the world. It’s a growing field and a great opportunity. If you’re considering becoming a virtual assistant, congratulations. Being self employed offers a number of benefits.

Before you get started there are a few things you’ll want to have. One of those things may be a certification or specialized training. While you don’t have to have any formal training to succeed as a VA, it can certainly help.

The Benefits of Certification and/or Training

While VA certification and training isn’t required to start your own successful business it can help. Certification can:

Help set you apart from your competition. Some potential clients may choose you over your competition because you’re certified. You can use your certification as a marketing tool.

Help you establish a profitable business. Many virtual assistant training programs walk their students through the entire process of starting your own business. You’ll cover the skills and trainings clients want you to know. You’ll also learn how to market and grow your VA business. Your certification and training can help justify higher hourly rates.

Broaden your skills and knowledge. You may already have a few marketable skills. You can, of course use these to build your VA business. A certification or training program can help you add more skills and knowledge to your portfolio of services. Many training programs offer technical skills and training. You’ll be able to offer more.

Specialized knowledge means higher fees. Some VA training programs offer very specialized knowledge. This knowledge can mean you are able to demand a higher hourly rate.

Confidence booster. There’s just something helpful about going through a training program. When you pass your certification test you may feel more prepared to start your business. Confidence does matter when dealing with clients. If you’re confident in your skills, your clients will be too.

Networking. Some training programs offer you the ability to connect with other VAs. This can be extremely helpful. It’s nice to be able to connect with others who are going through the same challenges.

Choosing a Training Program

Because VAs are in such high demand, there are a number of programs to choose from. Make sure the program you choose:

* Fits your budget.
* Offers the training and information you want or need to learn.
* Is well-reviewed by other virtual assistants.

Do you need to be certified to own a successful VA business? No, absolutely not. VAs around the globe are making a good living without certification. Can certification help you achieve success? Yes. VA certification and training offers a number of business-building benefits.

How to Find Legitimate VA Opportunities

So you’ve just started a VA business and you need clients. Not to worry. You’re in a high demand business. The clients are there. You just have to know where to look. True, there are some scams out there. However, the legitimate opportunities far outweigh the scams. Here are three great ways to find legitimate VA opportunities.

Ask

In the beginning, there are a few key places to find legitimate VA opportunities. The first and often best resource is your connections. Ask your friends. Ask your family. And ask your business associates for referrals. Often, the best clients come from known sources.

Consider creating an email and sending it to the connections in your rolodex. Introduce your services. Stress the benefits you offer. And ask for referrals. You might even offer a referral bonus. For example, for each new client you receive the person earns a credit toward your services. You could really motivate people by offering cash. Just make sure that you can afford it!

Network

Another way to build your business and find legitimate VA opportunities is through networking. If you have a social networking profile, consider connecting with a few people you’d like to work with. Send them an email or a message introducing yourself. The worst thing that can happen is nothing. The best…you get a new client.

Don’t forget to promote yourself on social networking sites too. Offer promotions. Link to your blog and online content. Become a valuable contributor and help others as well. They’ll remember you and turn to you for assistance in the future.
Networking offline is great too. Join your local business organizations. Attend networking events. Bring a business card, confidence and a smile. You’re sure to meet a few new clients.

Job Sites

Finally, there are the freelance job sites and the job boards. These are full of legitimate opportunities. They’re also full of scams. Use them wisely. Make sure you research each potential opportunity thoroughly. Speak to a live person if you can.

And sites like Elance that control the payment, communication and delivery process are good. They can help you if there’s ever a dispute. And they require providers and employers to leave feedback. If the employer doesn’t have good feedback, don’t work with them.

There are legitimate VA opportunities everywhere. Market your services. Get out and meet people. And don’t be afraid to use the job boards. They do provide excellent experience, connections and profit potential. To your success!

How to Find Legitimate VA Opportunities

So you’ve just started a VA business and you need clients. Not to worry. You’re in a high demand business. The clients are there. You just have to know where to look. True, there are some scams out there. However, the legitimate opportunities far outweigh the scams. Here are three great ways to find legitimate VA opportunities.

Why Every VA Needs an Online Presence

Building a VA business? Great! Congratulations! Being self-employed is a fulfilling and rewarding lifestyle. Before you get too far into that business plan, are you planning on having a website? If you’re going to be a virtual assistant, you need one. Here’s why:

Your Clients are Online

You’re a virtual assistant. Emphasis on virtual. That means your business operates online. Via the internet, email and perhaps instant messaging and conferencing. If you’re without an online presence, you’re missing out on clients. The majority of your clients will be online business owners. That means they’re very Internet focused. They’ll turn to the internet first to search for a provider.

Now that’s not to say that you won’t have local clients. You might. However, they’ll still likely search for you online. It’s how our society buys products and services.

Your Website Establishes Your Credibility

Many VA tasks are focused on the Internet. You might be managing a blog or forum. You might be proofreading and uploading articles into article directories. You might be managing affiliates for a business. All of those tasks require a good degree of comfort using online technology. Your website helps demonstrate your ability to use the internet. It demonstrates that you’re comfortable online and skilled with using technology.

If you don’t have a website, many of your clients may wonder why not. They may simply disregard you because you’re not online.

Your Website Markets Your Services

Your website accomplishes a number of marketing tactics. It communicates your services and fees. It answers any questions a prospect might have about your services, practices and policies. It also showcases your personality. You’ll likely have an “About Me” page. This is useful for telling your story. However, the word choice, design and feel of your site also helps communicate your personality and brand your business.

Your website can also broadcast your successes. You can list your testimonials. You can cite awards you’ve earned. You can communicate organizations you’re a part of. You can also list the companies you’ve worked with. All of this helps establish you as a credible service provider. Your website can be used to build trust with your prospects.

Finally, you can use your website to facilitate many of your business functions. Communications, payments and even inquiries can be managed through your website. You can also use your website to generate more income by affiliating with products or services and by selling advertisement space.

In short, if you’re going to be a Virtual Assistant, do it the right way. Create a website that helps you build and grow your dream business.

Three Ways to Grow Your VA Business Quickly

Launching a VA business is a big step. It deserves a pat on the back and some recognition. However, once you’ve launched it, it’s time to get down to business. You need clients. Here are three ways to grow your virtual assistant business quickly.

Memberships

Consider offering a membership program. A membership program helps you establish a consistent cash flow. This makes it much easier to focus on your clients and their projects. Additionally a membership program offers value to your clients. They can sign up for regular tasks and projects. In return for their monthly payment, they receive discounted administration.

For example, you might offer a 10% discount for clients that commit to a membership that delivers ten administrative hours each month for a year. You could offer another level that delivers fifteen hours with a fifteen percent discount. And twenty hours with a twenty percent discount.

If you have five to ten clients at twenty hours a piece your schedule fills up quickly.

Referral/Affiliates

Another great way to build your VA business quickly is to let others promote it. You can create a referral program. With a referral program your customers earn credit towards your services for each new client they send your way.

You could also start an affiliate program. An affiliate program pays a commission to each new client a person refers. You could have a hundred affiliates working for you. Each time they send you a new client, you pay them a commission. The commission could be a set fee. For example, $25. Or it could be a percentage of the sale.

Referral programs can be a bit easier to manage. However, you’re a Virtual Assistant – you can handle managing affiliates no problem!

Partnerships

Finally, consider partnering with others to grow your business. For example, if you provide transcription you might partner with someone who moderates teleconferences and web conferences. Together you could provide a complete interview package. If you manage article submissions for website owners you could partner with an article writer to offer a complete package.

Partnerships can be simple too. You can swap advertisements with a complimentary company. You can work to cross promote each other. You can also guest blog for each other. There are many opportunities to partner with others. As you network and meet new people stay open to the possibilities.

Growing your VA business takes three things. It takes a plan. It takes a positive mindset. And it takes persistence. Get creative, embrace the opportunities around you. And have fun. To your success!

Professional Development Tips and Ideas for VAs

One of the best ways to grow your business and increase your profits is through professional development. As a virtual assistant, there are many opportunities. And often, through professional development you gain personal strengths too. It’s a win-win situation.

Learn a new skill

As the internet will undoubtedly continue to grow and change you can too. You can keep your skills fresh. Establish your business first. Once you’re steady, take a class and learn a new skill. For example, you might learn how to manage an affiliate team. Or you could learn how to write small plug-ins for WordPress. Your skill will help you offer more value to your clients. And once you’ve obtained the new skill, you can market it to your advantage. You can use it to really grow your business.

Take a look at online classes, books, and workshops to learn new skills. Consider taking classes at your local college or community center. These classes are often packed with information and fit the budget.

Get a coach

Many people think coaching is only for those who are looking to solve a problem. Not true. A business coach can help you optimize your business. They can help you see opportunities and strengths. They can help you grow both personally and professionally. Perhaps most importantly, a business coach can help you profit.

Before you hire a coach, ask around. Ask friends, family and business associates if they can recommend a good coach. Before you sign up with a coach, research them thoroughly. Make sure their approach to coaching matches your personality and needs. If possible, talk with them on the phone before you sign up. That way you can tell if the two of you will work well together.

If a coach isn’t in the budget consider a mastermind group. A mastermind group is a group of likeminded individuals who meet to help each other succeed. They can be motivating, inspiring and of course educational. You can find mastermind groups online and off. Like finding a coach, take your time to find the right mastermind group for you.

Read

If you don’t presently have a reading practice, create one. Read industry blogs. Read industry publications. And read a book that will help you grow professionally at least once a quarter. If you don’t have time to read, download an audio book. Listen to it for a few minutes at the end of each day. Listen to it in the car when you’re driving. There’s a lot of wonderful information available to help you grow professionally.

If you don’t know where to start, ask around. Ask your clients what they read and if they can make any recommendations. Check out the bestseller’s lists. Even a book about productivity or better business will help you grow.

You owe it to yourself and to your VA business to develop professionally. Find a coach. Read a blog. Take a class. The world is waiting for you!

How to Choose a Niche and Why It Matters

Are you going to specialize? As a virtual assistant, will you offer specialty services? Or will you offer anything and everything? Experts strongly recommend specializing. Here’s why:

Specializing makes you competitive.

When you specialize in a service or an industry it helps set you apart from your competition. When a potential customer is looking for a virtual administrator chances are they have a very specific task in mind. If you provide that service or specialize in their industry then you’re going to make it to the top of their list.

Not specializing can make you crazy.

Choosing a specialty means you don’t have to juggle too many tasks and responsibilities. It’s challenging enough to own and grow your own business. The last thing you want to do is add more challenges to your day. If you specialize in a task or an industry then you can focus on being the best provider possible.
Specializing helps you raise your rates.

The truth is, specialists make more money. It’s not limited to the VA industry either. It’s everywhere. If you specialize, there’s a presumption that you have specialized knowledge and skills too. People pay more for that knowledge.

Specializing helps you market.

It’s tough to market your business to a target audience if you offer everything. However, if you offer forum moderation and blog management for the parenting and child care industry then it’s much easier to market your services. You know exactly who you’re marketing to and the benefit you can provide them.

So How Do You Choose a Specialty?

There are a few considerations when choosing a specialty. First, it should be noted that you can specialize in:

An industry. For example, parenting and childcare.

A task. For example, blog management and creation.

An industry and a task. For example, blog management for the parenting and child care industry.

You might think that this degree of specialization limits you. However, consider this. If there are 500 blogs on parenting and child care and you gain five of them as clients. You probably have a full schedule. There’s plenty of work to go around. Specialization simply makes your business easier to manage and grow.

Back to choosing your specialty…

Specialize in what you know. If you are skilled at transcription then specialize in transcription. If you’re an expert blogger or bookkeeper then specialize in those tasks. If you know the ins and outs of coaching then specialize in virtual administration for coaches.

Specialize in what you like and enjoy. If you love social networking then specialize in managing and creating social networking profiles. You’ll be much happier and productive if you’re doing something you enjoy.
Specialize in something that’s in demand. Take a look at the job boards. What jobs are commonly posted for virtual assistants? Chances are, that’s an in demand niche. If it’s also something you enjoy and are skilled in then you have a winner.

Remember, you can grow and change.

You might be worried about limiting yourself if you specialize. However, you can always add more services to your portfolio. Your needs, tastes, and business will grow and change. It’s perfectly acceptable to change your services as you grow. Specializing simply helps you attain the success you desire.