5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Virtual Assistant Business

5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Virtual Assistant Business

Are you feeling unprepared to start your VA business? If so, you are not the only one.

We all started the same way. With no real knowledge of how it worked, and how we were supposed to get started. I did, too!

How you proceed with your Virtual Assistant business will determine whether you can succeed or whether you will fail.

There are many things that you need to consider when you are getting started or are growing, and you will make mistakes.

Identifying mistakes that can be easily fixed, or avoided all together, is what will help you get past the tough times and on the road to success.

Here are 5 mistakes that you should try to avoid (or fix!) in your Virtual Assistant business:

Learning New Skills to Get Started

Finding clients is hard enough when you first start out. Don't make it harder on yourself by spending money on something that you don't even know you can do or sell. You will need to get comfortable selling yourself to clients, which can be very difficult - and this will be made more challenging when you are trying to sell them something that you have no experience doing for clients yet. Training is great, when it is timed right. But you should never start your business trying to market and sell a brand new service or skill. You have admin experience. Start with what you know.

Charging Rates That Are Too Low

Recognizing our value is always a challenge as Virtual Assistants. We feel like what we do is not as valuable as what other people do. We struggle with selling our value to clients. And that translates to setting prices that are not high enough to sustain our business. When rates are set with intention (and by doing math!) and you know the value that you are providing the clients, they are probably going to be higher than you thought. But your business will thank you. Don't be afraid to set rates that earn you a profit and reflect your expertise.

Getting Stuck in the Research Phase

There is a lot to learn when you start a VA business. Probably more than you thought there would be. But many VAs get stuck in the research phase - looking for advice or simply Googling things and taking free trainings. I've seen VAs spend weeks on their logo and company name, or more than a year on their website. You need to get out of research phase and make a decision. Your business is a living, breathing thing - and it can (and will!) change. Your business name and logo are decisions. Your website should be simple. It will change. Don't let it hold you up. You need to get started to get clients, and you will never start if you keep researching. 

Never Saying No

Clients will ask you to do whatever they need. It is up to you to say yes to things you want to do. It is also up to you to say no to what you don't want to do. You are a business owner and the client does not get to decide what you do for them. If you have a client contract, it should include a scope of work that you discussed before starting to work together. If the task they request is not on that list, you can say no. Saying no is your right, and you need to exercise it so that you stay happy in your business. Your clients will be happy when you are clear, and you can always help them find someone else to do the tasks you don't want to do.

Not Setting Boundaries

Boundaries are a very big part of being a business owner and yet they are grossly overlooked, especially by Virtual Assistants. We are helpers by our nature as support professionals, and so saying no and setting boundaries can be difficult for us. But setting things like business hours or work time helps everyone know when you are working and when you are not - so that you can balance everything in your life. Just because you are at home doesn't mean you are available to everyone all the time. Set boundaries and be sure you follow them yourself. Again, clarity is the key, and it keeps everyone happy.

Are you currently doing any of these things?

Avoid these mistakes or fix them if they are part of your business right now.

I challenge you to identify what you are doing that could use a change.

Get help with something if you are having making the change yourself.

It's your business - and your health, and your life. Setting yourself up for long term success helps everyone around you. But especially you. You are worth it!

For more tips on how to take action and get moving, watch this free video: Take Action and Stop Making Excuses on my YouTube channel. There are more than 40 free training videos for VAs there!

What You Need to Know About the GDPR (and Why!)

Is your business GDPR compliant?

Unless you've been hiding under a rock lately, you have probably heard about the GDPR.

The GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulations that are coming into effect for people living in the European Union (EU) beginning Friday, May 25, 2018.

Here is what you need to know*:

What is the GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for anyone living in the European Union. (Which countries make up the European Union? Click here). The regulation also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU - so, wherever you live.  The GDPR gives control of their personal data to the citizens of the EU. They have the right  to know who has their data, why they have it, what they are doing with it, who they are sharing it with, and how to access it and delete it.

The GDPR actually came into being in April 2016, but there has been a two-year transition period in place. It becomes enforceable on May 25, 2018.

Why is it important?

The GDPR is important to residents of the EU because of the rights they will now have regarding their own personal data worldwide. It is important to those outside the EU because if you are collecting, processing or holding the data of someone in the EU and they have not consented for you to have it or use it, you could face stiff fines (up to $20 million pounds or 4% of your company's worldwide income). This is a law, and it is enforceable, so that is what makes it so important to understand. 

What kind of data is included?

The regulations include what is called "Personal Data". Basically, the main purpose of the GDPR is to protect the personal data of EU citizens. Personal data is anything that is identifiable to a specific person. It's not just about email addresses. It's about IP addresses of computers, names, addresses, credit card information, and more.

How will it affect my business?

If you are not connecting with or marketing to residents of the EU, you could be safe. However, this doesn't mean that you have EU customers. This includes your customers, your email subscribers, your website and blog visitors, anywhere you have contact with EU citizens is affected. If you are using custom audiences for your Facebook Ads, you will need to be sure your mailing list knows. And if you are using Google Analytics or Facebook pixels on your website, you are collecting cookies and that needs to be made compliant (for EU citizens) as well. 

The GDPR regulations are for data processors and data controllers. , etc. the basis of the GDPR is that it includes data processors and data controllers. The official definitions of these two are:

Data controller:  Article 4 (7) ‘controller’ means the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which, alone or jointly with others, determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data; where the purposes and means of such processing are determined by Union or Member State law, the controller or the specific criteria for its nomination may be provided for by Union or Member State law;

Data processor: Article 4 (8) ‘processor’ means a natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which processes personal data on behalf of the controller;

Data controllers are you, and anyone else who works within your company who has access to the data that is being collected. 

Data processors are the businesses or services you might use to process the data that is being collected.

Simple example: If you have an opt in on your website, and you use Aweber as your email service, and you have Google Analytics activated on your website, YOU are the data controller. Aweber and Google Analytics are the data processors. Make sense? So your data processors are your ecommerce/bookkeeping systems (or services), your email system, etc. 

What do I need to do to comply with GDPR?

Review your processes and update as necessary:

  • Maintain records of the data you are collecting and processing (or having processed on your company's behalf). 
  • Make a list of those who are processing your company data for analytics, mailing lists, marketing, payment processing, online storage systems, web hosts, website, etc.
  • Ensure that you have proof of consent for personal email data (ie mailing list). If you can't prove consent, obtain fresh consent.
  • Implement a system for people to choose the way you can use their data (ie allow them to opt out of any and all forms of retargeting, marketing, segmentation, and communication).
  • Develop a plan to remove stale data from your company's records.
  • Be certain that your business's data processors are GDPR compliant.
  • Educate your employees, subcontractors and partners on your procedures if they are handling your data in any way, or provide a Code of Conduct for them to adhere to.
  • Update your Privacy Policy on your website to include GDPR compliant language (or add a special GDPR addendum to your existing Privacy Policy if you prefer and link it to your existing policy). Add a link to this page on every page of your website, and on your data collection forms (order forms, email opt ins).
  • Update your Terms of Service on your website to include GDPR compliant language. Link your terms page to your Privacy Policy page.
  • If you do use analytics or a Facebook pixel, install a notification (pop up) to tell people their data is being collected when they visit your site.
  • Ensure that your contacts are able to contact you easily if they have they questions about their data that you may be in possession of, or request for their data to be deleted from your possession ('the right to be forgotten').
  • Develop a system to handle a data breach, should it occur.

Get more information:

If you want the whole shebang in plain English, this is the best article we have found to explain it clearly: Varonis (Michael Buckbee): GDP Requirements in Plain English

Suzanne Dibble is a UK lawyer who provides excellent information about GDPR compliance. She has a free checklist here: http://globalava.org/gdpr . She also runs an excellent GDPR specific Facebook group (download her checklist to get an invitation to join it), where you can get specific help.  She also sells a GDPR Compliance Pack that provides all the forms you might need to become compliant, if you want a handy little package (the webinar is very helpful too!) 

The Bottom Line:

Whether you are actively marketing to EU citizens or not, these are good changes to make to your business. It probably won't be long before something like this is rolled out by other countries as well. Data protection is a huge topic of discussion in all areas of business. Don't avoid the whole thing and hope you don't get caught. Do what you need to, to become compliant. Know what data you are collecting, develop good procedures to handle, process and store it, and make sure your connections know that too, and you'll be just fine. 


Disclaimer: The Global Alliance of Virtual Assistants (GAVA) is not an official GDPR resource. GAVA is a educational website and blog, and the information contained within this site in no way constitutes legal advice. Any person who intends to rely upon or use the information contained herein in any way is solely responsible for independently verifying the information and obtaining independent expert advice as required to become GDPR compliant.

*Article sources: Suzanne Dibble (UK Lawyer), Information Commissioners Office (ICO), Varonis Systems Inside Out Security, Europa EU, Wikipedia (definitions), 

Ten Ways To Balance Work and Family

balanceBalancing a work life and a home life can be difficult, but with a little knowledge and planning, you can make it work for you.  Here are ten tips that will help you balance your work life and home life.

1.  Set realistic goals.  It's pretty much a given fact that if you want to achieve something big, you have to make some sacrifices.  While the select few can manage, most people can't become a CEO and run a successful household.  When setting your goals, be realistic and don't stretch yourself too thin.

2.  Make schedules.  Keeping track of work and your family can be difficult to plan.  Try to keep a set schedule from day to day and week to week if you can.  Always remember to make a written schedule and give everyone a copy.

3.  Take time for yourself.  It's a natural instinct of mothers to sacrifice themselves for the good of their family.  However, it's important to remember that if you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else.  Try to schedule in at least a few minutes of "you time", whether it be going for a run, watching your favorite TV show, or just sitting in a room by yourself to relax for a few minutes.   

4.  Work from home.  If you can do your work over the Internet or phone, you may be able to swing working at least part of the time from home, giving you more time to spend with your family.  Just remember that there are a lot more things at home to distract you from getting your work done.

5.  Get some exercise.  Working out is not only a great way to stay healthy and gain energy, it's also a great way to spend time with your kids.  Instead of hitting the gym, go play ball in the park or take them for a walk.

6.  Take advantage of leave.  Most jobs allow you a certain amount of leave, but a lot of us end up not using it.  Make sure you know how much time you have and take it, whether you go on a vacation with your family or just use it to take a well-deserved rest day every so often.  

7.  Prioritize.  When making your to-do lists, figure out the things that are most important for you to do and get them done first.  If there isn't enough time to do everything, you won't feel as bad about what you have to cut.

8.  Take classes.  As many people will tell you, there's no manual on how to be a good parent and have a successful career.  But if you search around your community, you can find classes and seminars from people that have been where you are and managed to do well.  They can give you inspiration along with helpful tips and tidbits to get through your day.

9.  Watch for burn out.  Even if you schedule everything, take breaks, and do everything else above, what you're doing may just be too much for you.  Watch yourself for changes in mood or physical problems.  They could be a sign that you're burnt out and need to make some changes to your plans.  Remember, your health is important too.

10.  Learn to say no.  If you want to have a successful career and family life, you will have to learn to say no occasionally.  If you try to do everything, you're going to burn yourself out and not be able to take care of anyone.  Being a good employee and a good parent doesn't mean you need to do everything you're asked.

Breaks Increase Productivity

take a break

Are you working and working but just can't seem to focus and get stuff done?  You might even be considering seeing a doctor, but the solution may be much more simple than that - just take a break.  Taking short ten minute breaks throughout the day can help you refocus and re-energize so you're more productive once you get back to work.

Scientists and psychologists have actually done many studies that show how effective breaks can be.  In fact, many large businesses have now started adopting break times into the course of the regular day.  Employees are actually paid to sit at their desk and read, research topics they enjoy on the Internet, and do other things that interest them.  It's been shown that allowing these breaks actually increases productivity and employee satisfaction enough to compensate for the lost time plus some.

To get the most good out of your breaks, try making your activities something that will help increase production when you return to work, rather than something that simply distracts you.  Some great options include aerobic activity or relaxation exercises.  They'll clear your mind, while producing chemicals in your body that will boost concentration when you get back to work.

If physical exercise isn't your thing, or you just don't have the chance to do it at work, there are other things you can do to relax and clear your mind so you can get back to work.  Meditation or other breathing exercises only take a few minutes, but can help you feel better mentally and physically.  Not only does it help you focus, it can also lower your blood pressure and help reduce the physical signs of stress.

The biggest danger in taking breaks is not getting back to work when the break is done.  A lot of people will try to skip breaks because they're afraid they won't get back to work and the work won't get done.  But when you skip breaks, you can significantly decrease productivity and actually end up getting less work done.  The key is setting a time limit to your breaks and sticking to them.  If you have trouble, try setting a timer when you take a break, or having someone back you up by making sure you get back to work.

If you've been pushing too hard and have reached burnout, a ten minute break just isn't going to be enough.  If you are finding yourself feeling sick, tired, and only ever in a negative mood, especially about work, you are probably burnt out by work.  In this case, you not only need to incorporate short breaks into your day, you also need to alter your how and when you work and may even need an extended vacation.

Breaks are an easy and effective way to increase your results and become more successful with very little effort.

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.

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.

LeadPages Step-By-Step Guide

Step-by-Step Guide to LeadPagesWorking with LeadPages for your clients? It's definitely not completely intuitive, is it?

Well, you're in luck!

We've created this step-by-step guide with screenshots, to get you quickly "in-the-know" about LeadPages: LeadPages™, LeadBoxes™, webinar pages, 404 pages, and more.

Table of Contents

Guide Table of Contents

A great guide to add to your VA knowledge library, ready to access as soon as your next client says, "I need a LeadPages opt-in form created!"

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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!

Success Tips for Virtual Assistants

successful virtual assistantThere is no doubt that being a virtual assistant has many perks – you get to work from home, you do a variety of interesting and challenging work, you have flexibility to set your own hours and to take as much or as little work as you can handle, and you make a nice sum of money in the process.

However, with all those perks means there is also great competition. Luckily, there are some things you can do to stand out from the competition. Here are our top virtual assistant success tips:

#1 – Handle constructive feedback and learn from it.

It’s tough to have anyone scrutinize your work, but in this field you’re just going to have to get used it. Your clients will undoubtedly come back to you at times and want changes. In some cases they may not be happy with the work you have produced.

It’s important that during these times you remain professional – accept the feedback and learn from it. Try not to make the same mistakes twice and see this feedback as a crucial part of growing as a professional in the industry.

#2 – Be reliable.

A reliable VA is like gold dust on the internet. It’s very easy to not meet deadlines or delay answering emails when you work from home, but it’s also extremely damaging to your reputation. Business owners have strict schedules and if they rely on you to meet a deadline, you may put them in a difficult situation if you don’t.

And because you’re both working virtually there is the issue of trust – your client may feel like they can’t fully trust you if you disappear for a few days or constantly don't meet your deadlines.

Avoid this trap by answering all emails in a timely manner. Meet all deadlines – it’s best to give a later date of completion than not meet the earlier deadline. And finally, do what you say you’re going to do.

# 3 – Have a good attitude.

People like positive people. If you’re the type of virtual assistant that communicates with clients in a cheery positive manner and has a “can do” attitude, you’ll go far. Entrepreneurs tend to be self-starters and have the ability to overcome many hurdles. These will be your potential clients, which means they would most likely prefer to work with similar like-minded people.

If you’re given a task that seems mountainous at first, take a few steps back and think it through. It may be that you can do it and it’s not too difficult after all. If you really feel it’s too difficult, then communicate professionally with the client. Be honest without making excuses – remember you are a professional. Perhaps you know another VA who can help them instead. In other words, think like a problem solver and be proactive wherever possible.

Becoming a sought-after virtual assistant isn’t difficult when you regularly show all the traits mentioned in the above article. Being able to handle feedback, being reliable and having a good attitude will pay you back in dividends in this field. It means that you may have more regular work and possibly be able to charge higher rates for your time. Word-of-mouth will also spread quickly about your skills and services – what a fantastic position to be in.

Avoid "Burn Out" by Balancing Work and Family

work-lifeMany people turn to a home business in an effort to be able to spend more time with their family while earning an income. While it is never easy to be a full-time working parent outside the home, it can be just as hard, if not harder, to be a full-time working parent from home.

When your family sees you at home, they may automatically feel that you are at their service. One child may need a ride somewhere, another child wants you to find something they are looking for, and your spouse wants you to run to the store and buy something for dinner. On top of all of that, you have clients expecting you to complete various projects for them, as well.

You may want to hold a family meeting and explain how important it is to your family that you have time set aside for your business. It doesn’t matter if you leave the house and work from an office, or if you work from the kitchen table, work is work. Your family wouldn’t come to an office outside the home and ask you to do all those miscellaneous tasks, working from home should be no different.

Of course, you will want to set aside time for your family, just as you would for your clients. Working from home will allow you to have a flexible schedule and that gives you the opportunity to attend school functions and other activities.

While it can be easy to procrastinate and not get your work done, it can be just as easy to over schedule yourself and spend too much time working. Your family needs to have some quality time with you; and you will need their support, too. Starting a new home business can be draining.  It will be a lot easier with the support of your family.

You can also ask your family to help you with the household chores. Set up a schedule where everyone pitches in with various tasks. Depending on the age of your children, they may be able to help with things such as emptying the garbage, vacuuming, doing laundry, preparing their own lunches for school, or even preparing dinner for the family. If you have a spouse, make sure that they are involved, too.

Another option is to ask a young teenager in the neighborhood to come over and “entertain” your children while you work for a few hours. A younger teen without a lot of prior babysitting experience will charge less than an older teen. Since you will be in the house, you can take over in case of an emergency. Your young sitter can play with the kids, read stories to them, etc – and you can have three or four hours of uninterrupted work time.

Balancing work and family will never be easy, but with practice – and patience; it can be done.