Just One Hour Can Make a Difference in Your VA Business

Just One Hour Can Make a Difference in Your VA Business

It is often said that time is a non-renewable resource, especially in your Virtual Assistant business where time is money.

If you waste an hour - whether it's an hour a day, a week or a month, you could be wasting valuable time.

Many VAs bill their clients by the hour, so it stands to reason that they are hyper-aware of time - but are still not always able to control it well.

When we don't have a lot of clients, we waste time doing research and setting up our website ... usually more time than we need to.

When we do get clients coming in, we often run from client task to client task and don't pay much attention to our own admin or marketing tasks.

What if I told you an hour can make a difference in your business?

It's true.

When you get really clear on what you need to get done - and you focus on just that, you can actually stretch that hour of time into what seems like a lot longer period of time.

Here are a few ways an hour can make a difference in your VA business:

One Hour a Day

I recently attend an event where Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Success Principles) was speaking. He shared one of his daily routines - he spends 20 minutes a day reading, 20 minutes a day meditating, and 20 minutes a day exercising. That's an hour. You may not think you have a spare hour, but if you realize that he says his best ideas come when he quiets his mind, the you realize what great advice this is. If you can find 20 minutes a day for each of these activities (and really, who can't?), you can set yourself up for Jack Canfield kind of success.

One Hour a Week

I am reading a book called Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz as part of my business book club. It is about how to put your business on autopilot (so to speak). There is a big framework, of course, but one of the most important pieces of information I have gotten from this book is to spend an hour a week 'designing' your business. That means looking at your numbers, considering your goals, and analyzing your strategies. Many VAs never do this, but it is so valuable. You want to make sure that everything you are doing is leading you towards your goals. Focusing on the design for just one hour every week is an excellent way to keep on top of your goals.

One Hour Whenever You Need It

I often tell this story about my cousin Justin. He gave me some of the best business advice I've ever heard (and he hates it when I credit him, but I do anyway). He told me once that if you feel like you are overwhelmed and too busy, take an hour and spend it in your project management system. Look for things that can be done more efficiently, delegated, removed completely, or completed quickly. When you have too much to do the sense is to run from one thing to another but it's much more effective to take another look at what you have on your list. It works, I tell ya! I do it all the time. Try it.

An hour is an important increment of time to Virtual Assistants. Many of us bill our clients hourly.

But don't forget about your own business. It's important to make sure that you are taking good care of yourself, and your plans.

Whether you take an hour right now, every day, or every week, you'll be heading in the right direction!

For more tips on time management, check out my free VA training videos on Youtube. There are more than 50 free videos there for you!

About the Author: Tracey D’Aviero is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Author. After operating a busy VA business of her own since 1996, Tracey began teaching others to run their VA businesses in 2010 through Your VA Mentor. In 2016 she purchased the CAVA and GAVA VA associations and now teaches and coaches VAs exclusively. She has a vast amount of experience working in a many different industries which helps her to offer her students and coaching clients a unique perspective and sound advice. She is a proud advocate of the Virtual Assistant industry. Learn more about Tracey’s journey in the VA industry here

5 Important Reasons to Document Your Business Procedures

Creating business procedures for your Virtual Assistant business helps you with more than just productivity.

"The only difference between a mob and a trained army is organization." - Calvin Coolidge

When I work with Virtual Assistants to help them make their business better, we often talk about developing standard operating procedures.

Many VAs don’t have something like this in their business. They often feel that if they are the only one doing things that it’s not necessary.

But I’ve got 5 reasons  that might change your mind!

1. Speeds Up Your Work

Writing out a procedure for how you do something might seem mundane if it’s something you know how to do, but it can actually help you get faster at completing that task. When you have to use brain space to think about what to do next, it can slow you down.

Okay, so it probably won’t take you an extra hour to do something without a procedure, but if you have even been distracted by something while you are mid-task, I bet you could be well served by having that process documented so you could just jump back into the step where you left off. Try it – you will be surprised!

2. Sets Standards In Your Business

Documenting what you do sets the standard for how you want it done in your business. Taking the time to write the steps out one by one when you do something the ‘right’ way ensures that you will not cut corners on the task.

Setting standards is a very professional thing to do and can set you apart from your VA colleagues. You can assure your clients that you take their work seriously and that everything will be done the same way, every time.

It’s like using a recipe when you cook. To make it the exact same way every time, you follow the recipe to a T (except for pasta dough and some bread, which depend on room humidity, but that’s another article). 😊

3. Determines Billable Time

When you have the detailed actions steps on how to perform any task (without missing any steps!), you can also set a standard amount of time to each of those steps. When you do things the same way and in the same order every time, it should take you roughly the same amount of time each time you perform that task.

Then you can take your procedures and assign billable time to those tasks. This is a good way to bill your VA clients – instead of billing them by the hour you can charge them per task. That way the faster you get at something, doesn’t affect the revenue that you make to do it.

Who wants to get better at doing something and then make less money to do it? Not me!

4. Allows You to Bring in Help

When you have procedures that are set to your standards, and that you know are accurate, you can bring in help anytime you like. If you want to have subcontractors do work for you, you can provide them with the documented steps on how you want the task done, and you can tell them how long that task should take them to complete.

Procedures are very important when other Virtual Assistants are doing work for you. You have less to check when you know that they are doing things exactly the way you want them to. And you have better control over your expenses when you can tell them how long something should be taking them to complete (if they are having trouble adhering to your timing, have a conversation about it and make adjustments where necessary).

5. Helps You Take Time Off

Along the same line as getting help, you can actually take time off more easily when your business tasks are documented.

When you have your clients look after a couple of things (I always have my clients run customer payments as necessary if I’m out of the office long term), you can provide them with a detailed how-to so they can get things done. Or if you have another Virtual Assistant acting as backup for you, you can also provide your procedures to them and you will know that they are doing things the way you would if you were doing them.

So, what do you think?

As much as developing the actual procedures takes time and might seem like a boring or time-consuming task, it is really an important part of your business. It is helpful in many ways and it’s something you should really consider doing.

You can start slowly. Whatever you plan to do next, write it down as you go. Continue with the next task, and before you know it you’ll be on your way to a full fledged binder of procedures. Have fun!

For more tips on getting good business foundation in place, watch this video on Boundaries and Procedures on my YouTube channel. There are more than 50 free training videos for VAs there!

About the Author: Tracey D’Aviero is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Author. After operating a busy VA business of her own since 1996, Tracey began teaching others to run their VA businesses in 2010 through Your VA Mentor. In 2016 she purchased the CAVA and GAVA VA associations and now teaches and coaches VAs exclusively. She has a vast amount of experience working in a many different industries which helps her to offer her students and coaching clients a unique perspective and sound advice. She is a proud advocate of the Virtual Assistant industry. Learn more about Tracey’s journey in the VA industry here

How to Stay Committed To Your Business

YES!When starting your own business it’s often easy to get yourself started, but a lot harder to keep yourself going when things get a bit more tough.  Here are ten tips to help you stay committed.

Set goals.  Without goals, there’s really not much reason for you to be in business.  If you want to stay connected to your business, it helps to make yourself realize why you’re in business to begin with.

Keep goals in mind.  You started your business for a reason.  You need to keep that in mind so you don’t get weighed down by the day-to-day of your work.  Keep little pictures or other memorabilia around that remind you of why you’re doing this is the first place.

Be flexible.  There’s not a one-size-fits-all method to success; you might have to try a lot of things before you find what’s right for you.  The key is to be flexible and willing to try new things when things aren’t working for you.

Be persistent. While you may want to change when things aren’t working, you can’t give up on everything so quickly.  You have to be willing to keep trying and keep going even if things don’t go well.

Make it fun.  We all want to do things that are fun, and shy away from things that aren’t.  Make sure the avenues you pursue are not only profitable, but enjoyable to you.  If you have stuff you need to do that isn’t as fun, try turning it into a game, just like you probably do with your kids to get their chores done.

Find supportive people.  It’s a lot easier to stay committed to something if there are people on the sidelines cheering you on.  Take time to talk to people who are supportive of your business.  If you don’t have many, try finding people like you online and at local classes so you can encourage each other.

Get help.  If you’re like most people, you probably think you can get your business going on your own.  And if you’re like most people, you probably can’t.  Starting your own business is a big job, and it’s perfectly normal to need a little help or guidance.  Try to find a mentor who has already been successful in your area to guide you and give suggestions.  They will also be a constant reminder that what you’re

trying to do is achievable.

Review what you’ve done.  If you’re feeling like you want to give up or just feel beaten down, take out a pen and paper and write down what you’ve accomplished since you started your business.  Even if it’s just little stuff, write it down.  By the time you’re finished you’ll probably feel better realizing how much you’ve accomplished.  Then keep the list and review it and update it every so often to keep yourself going.

Expand yourself.  You’ve probably found that when you have a new idea or project, you get very excited about it.  Try to constantly expand yourself by going to seminars, reading ebooks, getting newsletters, and doing other things to keep yourself coming up with new ideas and getting new projects.  The more new things you do, the more excited you’ll be about just doing your work.

Stay positive.  A positive attitude goes a long way in keeping you motivated.  Take steps to keep yourself looking on the bright side of life and work and it will be easier to keep yourself going.

Expanding Your VA Business

TeamAs a virtual assistant it’s very easy to fall into the trap of working around the clock and doing everything all on your own. If you’re getting lots of clients and repeat work, that’s fantastic and speaks dividends about your services. How about now using that to your advantage?

Expanding your VA business makes sense on all levels – you’ll have the ability to grow a client base, you’ll have a pool of other VAs to help you on a regular or as-needed basis, and you can slowly make the transition into being more of a manager rather than doing all the work yourself.

Here are a few tips to help you expand your business.

Don’t turn down clients.

If you’re getting so busy that you’re turning down clients, it’s time to expand. Find a VA or two to start which you know provide quality work. Contract work out to them on an as-needed basis. This means that you deal with your clients and they remain your clients at all times, but you sub-contract some of your work out to other virtual assistants. The VA’s deal with you (not the client) at all times and you pay them for their services.

The best way to do this efficiently is to systemize the process right from the start. Set up a simple yet efficient billing system so that you pay subcontractors on the same day each month. Ask your subcontractors to submit invoices to you to help make record keeping easier, and keep track of all assignments so that you can check the accuracy of all hours billed.

It’s also important you keep efficient records of all projects. You can use an online system like Basecamp to help you do this or a simple calendar – it’s really up to you – just make sure that you can easily track all projects.

Drum up new business. 

As you build up a database of VAs who are available to take on new work, start drumming up new business. Market your services online and offline to gain new clients. Use online forums to let business owners know that you’re available. Advertise your services strategically both online and offline. Write and distribute articles on topic with your business. And basically let potential clients know that you and your team can help them with their projects.

A professional, well-laid out website will play an important role in helping you build your business. Include a full FAQ about your business and services. Let clients know that you have a wide pool of assistants that can help with a large number of tasks. And give them a detailed list of all your services. And don’t forget to make contacting you easy – include an email address, postal address and telephone number where possible.

Build up a great team. 

The key to making your expansion a success will be a great team working in the background. To do this, ensure that you treat your subcontractors fairly – offer good rates for their services, be respectful and try to give them new projects as regularly as possible.

Communication is also extremely important. Set up a system so that there are no chances for miscommunication. Ask your subcontractors to confirm new projects. Set clear turnaround-times and ask them to notify you in case they can’t meet their deadlines as soon as possible.

Building up your VA business is possible. It’s just a matter of thinking “big” right from the start. Good luck!

Fear Is Good ... Here's Why.

Guest Post by Tina Forsyth
www.OnlineBusinessManager.com

Fear is getting a bad rap.

Fear is often the reason a virtual support professional does NOT do something … versus the reason for them TO DO something.

Would you agree? As a Virtual Assistant, freelancer or other virtual support professional, you likely experienced some fear when you decided to officially open your business doors.

For me, fear is a big indicator that I need to do something. If I’m scared, it means I most likely need to go in that direction.

My personal believe is, that as human beings, we are meant to grow. We are meant to take on new stuff. Learning new things, supporting clients in new roles and new challenges – it’s natural to feel fear when you step into these areas – especially when you haven’t explored them before.

Fear itself can take many different forms, and will vary by individual and situation. Here are a few fears that many virtual support professionals face”:

  • fear of looking like a fool
  • fear of losing money
  • fear of not making money
  • fear of upsetting people close to you
  • fear of not knowing if you can do what you want to do… etc.

Which of these can you relate to?

My previous mentor David Neagle calls this the “terror barrier”. The “terror barrier” is a natural part of life and growth.

We all come up against our own terror barriers – especially in business. And we have to decide whether we want to work through them or run away.

A word of caution - even if you run away from those terror barriers, they will follow you. And the longer they follow you, the bigger they get – darn them!

So, you may as well face the fear … right?

I’ve done my fair share of having to ‘stare fear in the eye’ and put plainly, it can suck at times.

For example, a few years ago when I decided to sign up to work with a mentor, that was a HUGE fear moment for me. I was terrified to take that step, as I knew it was a commitment to me and my business to play a bigger game. Quite honestly I didn’t know if I could do it.

Want to know what thoughts crossed my mind? You might be able to relate

  • Who am I to create a super cool and thriving biz?
  • What if I fail and lose oodles of money?
  • What if I suck at it and people point and laugh at me?
  • And many more other crazy thoughts

Here’s what I believe: Fear is an invitation. It’s an invitation for us to learn a lesson.

Whatever it is that we fear, there’s a gift waiting for you on the other side … but only if you’re willing to step into it. If you don’t step into it, you don’t get the gift. It’s as simple as that.

Facing fear is like building a muscle, the more we do it the more we are able to do it.

Fear doesn’t always get easier as there is always a s-t-r-e-t-c-h required when facing fear (and it can be uncomfortable!). However, I do believe that half the battle is actually resisting our fear – running away takes a lot of energy! If you stop resisting fear and instead step into it then the entire process could be much less painful in the long run.

Fear acronym positiveNow, when I reach that that “eek!” moment – that nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach – I know it’s something that I need to do. This is the main indicator for me of what I need to do next in my business.

When was the last time you did something that scared the pants off of you?

What is it that you are most afraid of doing right now, in this moment, for you and your business? Please share your comments … I really would love to know.

How To Prove You Are the *Right* Person For the Job

Guest Post By Tina Forsyth www.OnlineBusinessManager.com

Over the last years I’ve spoken with a lot of business owners who are searching for a new virtual team member. One of the questions I get asked all the time is “Tina, how do I know if the person I’m hiring can actually do the job.”

Young Woman Working at Home, Small OfficeToo often, business owners jump into a relationship with a new virtual support professional after just two brief conversations. After a few short weeks, things start to crumble – leaving the business owner (1) unsure of how and why things started to crumble and (2) feeling a little ‘gun shy’ about working with virtual support professionals moving forward.

So how can you, the Virtual Assistant, freelancer, virtual support professional of any kind, prove that you are the BEST person for the ‘job’ and are worth hiring? If you feel confident in your skills and abilities, you know you’re great at what you do AND you can clearly and concisely communicate this – you will make it super easy for clients to make a decision to hire you.

Here are three things you can do that will help you prove that you’re “the one”:

Get Testimonials

Most virtual support professionals don’t do this enough. When you do great work for your clients, ask them for a testimonial that you can post on your website and use in other marketing materials.

Here’s a tip to make it super easy: Draft the testimonial on behalf of your client and give it to them to edit. Business owners will often have a tough time coming up with a testimonial from scratch … but if they have something to edit, they will realize what they really want to share.

Keep Track of Your Own Successes

What successes have you helped your clients create? Those are your own successes as well, and are proof of your contribution to the business.
Keep track of these successes so that you can share these stories/examples when talking to new clients. If you offer visual/graphic services, create a portfolio of your work so people can see what you do.

This exercise is also a great confidence builder for YOU. You will likely be surprised (and very proud) to see how much you actually contribute to the success of your clients.

Date Your Clients First

There is no better way to prove yourself then to actually jump in and do some work for the client.

Offer to help out with a project before you commit to a longer working relationship -- I call this ‘dating’ the client. Make it clear that in the dating stage there are no strings attached – either you or the client can decide to discontinue at any time during the dating stage without any hard feelings.

If things go well, you can both jump into a longer term relationship with confidence.

By implementing these three simple steps, you will not only boost your own confidence, but also the confidence of the business owners you want to work with.

I’d love to hear from you – what else can you do or have you done to prove that you are great at what you do and are worth hiring? Please share your thoughts.

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!

Rewarding Current Clients

Customer ServiceDon't you hate it when you see those commercials offering new customers huge discounts over what you are now paying as a long-term customer? Apartments, cell phone companies, and cable companies are especially guilty of this practice. This is why people often do not live in apartments long term, like to switch cell phone companies, and move back and forth between cable companies. They want the best deal.

Your customers are no different. If they see you offering new client deals often, but never any loyalty discounts or rewards to current clients, they might decide it's time to move on to someone who is offering new client rewards rather than stick with you. Thankfully, if you want to you can build in client rewards to your business model and keep your current clients happy.

You don't have to break the bank to reward your customers either. You can create simple reward programs that both value your time and your customers' loyalty.

* Create a VIP Program - Create a VIP program that is only open to current customers. You can actually charge a sign-up fee for your VIP program. Once someone is signed up they can earn valuable discounts, freebies and special access to customer care.

* Send Cards/Gifts Regularly - Current customers will love getting cards and thank you notes. If you send cards on their special days such as birthdays, anniversaries and more, they'll feel rewarded. Ensure that you've included a small discount on their special days or exclusive package deals just for them based on their preferences.

* Deliver Exceptional Service - You can reward your customers simply by giving them outstanding, exceptional customer service each and every time you deliver their product or service. Remember, you are here for them, not the other way around.

* Host a Free Webinar - Make this for customers only, and allow them to ask you questions that you answer live. You can do this on Google+ Hangout, or via a service like GoToWebinar.com. What's more you can record it, and then transcribe it to reuse later and perhaps add to your FAQ or knowledge base.

* Provide Advance Notification - If you're getting ready to launch a new product or service, always notify your current customers first, giving them an opportunity to grab the new items at a special discount before offering it to the general public.

* Offer Unannounced Premiums - When your customers put things in their shopping cart, it's always nice to throw in something they didn't expect for free. It doesn't cost you much to throw in a free eBook or eReport. If they spend enough, even sending them a free T-shirt is a small price to pay to make them feel appreciated.

The main thing to keep in mind is that customer acquisition is very expensive compared to customer retention. Any small thing you can do to up their perception of your value will be something they won't soon forget, especially in this age of rewarding new clients over current. Be different, stand out, reward current clients first.