My Tips for Newbie VAs

Tips

1. Keep a few business cards, brochures on you, in your briefcase, in your handbag, shopping bag, car etc as you never know when the need arises to hand a brochure or card to a potential clients you meet. You could be sitting at the doctors waiting and start talking, a good opportunity could be missed if you do not have business cards or brochures on you or with you.

2. Act professionally at all times
Have the determination to succeed.
Provide a Quality service to your clients at all times.
Speak to your clients on the same level; you are a business owner, not a PA speaking to a Boss. Be on the same level as your client’s; do not address them as Mr Jones etc address them as Peter etc. Use first names. This immediately brings you on the same level. If you address that client as Mr Jones, this is immediately putting the client on a level higher than you; they will assume that role and treat you as a PA/Secretary which you are not.
If you feel you can give the client good advice and ideas on the tasks they assign you, do so, there is no harm in doing this. Show the client you know what you are doing; you know what you are talking about. Be confident and assertive in your approach to your clients.
When you feel a deadline is not reachable, negotiate, you will be doing the work, you know how long it will take, give yourself plenty of time to do the work and be negotiable on a deadline that you can reach. It is up to you as a business owner to tell you client ‘this deadline is unreal’ explain what is involved within the job, a lot of clients have no idea how long a particular job will take. They will give you very unreasonable deadlines. Only you know what you are capable of and you know your limits. This is often a problem in Transcription, the clients do not know how long it actually takes to transcribe and often the deadlines are tight but its up to you, as you are doing the job to negotiate this with the client, not the client to set this deadline for you, simply explain what is involved.
Do not take on jobs you have no idea how to do, a client will quickly find out you can not do this job and they will not have confidence and trust in you again. Only take on the work that you have experience in doing, especially so when you are just starting out. If you take on a job that is new to you, let the client know it’s new to you, but that you are very willing to learn and try.
State your business hours, state if you want to be contacted after hours or weekends, have this visible on your website, in your brochure, part of your terms and conditions. If you do not do so, clients will and do take advantage and contact you out of hours; clients will expect the impossible from you. Be in charge; be in control of your business.
Have your prices/rates already set before you open your business. When a client contacts you, you need to be able to get back to them quickly with a quotation. Know how much you are going to charge for each service you are going to offer. You set the price, you can be negotiable if need be, but You, not the client sets the overall price of the job, after all you are a business owner.
It is not easy running a VA business but if you schedule your day and especially if you have small children things will be easier for you. This is an example of what I do, I start work around 7am when the kids/hubby leaves for school/work, I then work till around 1.30pm, have lunch, then its time for the kids to come home, I assist with homework, lunch for them and then return to work around 2:30/3pm and work till around 6pm ish. I will come back to work after the kids go to bed if I have urgent work. I work the hours I have to work, to get my work done. If you have a husband, get his support in helping with the children while you work.
Keeps logs of what you are doing, always know what work/tasks you have in at any one time, this is helpful when you need to priorities. Know how to prioritise your work. Know how long it will take you to complete tasks. I know I can type 20 to 30 pages of typing a day, but if that typing has in graphs, flow diagrams, then it will be less and I make sure my clients know this. Your clients must know what you are capable of so that they can judge when giving you work.
If you want to be a Virtual Assistant, most Vas are Business Owners around the world, take on this role. A lot of VA’s in South Africa are saying they are freelance contractors or independent contractors why I don’t know, if you are a VA and running a business, doing the work, doing your bookkeeping, marketing and networking etc, then surely that is running a business, not being an independent contractor, there is a difference as there is a difference between PA and VA, if you are working from a virtual location, running a business you are not a PA. A PA is someone who is employed and as far as I am aware a VA is not employed. Know these differences before you open your business so that you do portray yourself as a business owner and your clients will pick up on this and treat you accordingly.
If you can use free software to do your job, there is no harm in doing this; Open Office is compatible with Microsoft Office.
Make sure you have good virus protection on your pc..
As a VA you need to keep regular backups of your work and keep each clients work separate in different folders so that the work is easy to find when required.

Feel free to comment on any of these tips above, I am quite happy to discuss any issues further, if you need me to.

Written by Alison Fourie, AMF Typing Services cc, © Copyright 2001 Ck2001/083866/23. All rights reserved.

T A V A S A

The Transcriptionists and Virtual Assistants Forum of South Africa

T A V A S A http://www.tavasa.blogspot.com/

http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/tavasa/

Email: alison@amftyping.co.za, gpaynter@telkomsa.net

From Wikipedia:
An Internet forum, or message board, is a bulletin board system in the form of a discussion site. People participating in an Internet forum will usually build bonds with each other and interest groups will easily form around a topic’s discussion, subjects dealt with in or around sections in the forum.

I wonder if any of you belong to Internet Forums, I belong to 2 South Africa Internet forums and quite a few overseas forums for Virtual Assistants.

Belonging to a forum is like being part of a family, you get to know everyone on the forum and it is a great place to discuss work problems, issues, advice, software problems, advertise events, courses etc. It is a great place to spread industry news.

Our forum was founded by Gaynor Paynter (Transcriptionist) and Alison Fourie (Virtual Assistant). This forum is very chatty with Vas and Transcriptionists asking many questions.

An example being;
Question: What in your opinion is the best digital recorder to advise a client to buy?
Answer: I think the most used one is Olympus, anybody have a closer idea than that? Thanks.
Other forums members will answer with their options and often a discussion will ensure. It is also a great place to vent your frustrations on when you have a bad day, there is always someone on the forum who will reply and give you encouragement that things will get better.

Forums are an excellent way of communicating with groups of people, especially so in the working environment.

The benefits of forums:
1. Working from a virtual location, you can keep in touch with what is happening with the industry you work in.
2. No need to get lonely as often there is always someone around on the forum who will reply.
3. It is an excellent way of passing information around a group of people.
4. You can use the forum for pc problems, questions you need to know about the industry you work in.
5. A means of communicating.
6. A forum is an excellent support tool.
7. A good networking tool for small businesses.

Since the creation of Tavasa, we have helped many people working from home with questions and answers that they do not know. The more established people on the forum have been able to answer questions which helps the newbie members and assists them in setting up their own businesses.
Tavasa has been successful in that it also provides job leads and contractor positions, anyone who is part of the group can apply for a contracting position if they have the skill needed. It is a great way of getting help with projects that you need and it’s a good starting point for newbies contracting out, as they grow their own businesses.

Written by Alison Fourie, AMF Typing Services cc, © Copyright 2001 AMF Typing Services cc®, Ck2001/083866/23. All rights reserved.

VA versus PA

This is a question I am asked continually.

Worker classifications
· The traditional employee is managed and directed by the employer they work for. They are paid a salary with employment taxes deducted by the employer. Work is directed, managed and supervised by the employer.
· A temp worker is an employee of a staffing agency who goes on-site to employer (customer) premises. They are paid by the staffing agency they work for, while their on-site work and activities are managed, directed and supervised by the employer, who is a customer of the staffing agency.
· A virtual assistant is an independently contracted business owner, not an employee. They work out of their own offices, manage the work from their clients and how it is carried out, set their own rates, as well as operating standards and policies, and pay their own self-employment taxes.
· Virtual assistants help small businesses expand their businesses as well as dealing with administration duties. Virtual assistants are cost effective because you only pay them when they work. Since they are independent contractors they are tax deductible.

Personal Assistant, PA:

· A Personal Assistant is an employee who works for a Boss, he/she is EMPLOYED, this is the difference.
· Pas are employed to perform secretarial and administrative tasks for somebody such as an executive (Boss) who has many responsibilities.
· A personal assistant, or personal aide, is someone who assists in daily personal tasks for a busy or successful person. For example, a businessman or businesswoman may have a personal assistant to help with correspondence and run errands. The role of a personal assistant has expanded as the business environment has required more responsibilities. Today, a Personal Assistant may be responsible for screening incoming calls, checking emails, reviewing documentation, sending mail, doing research, scheduling reservations, booking meetings, etc. The term is often used to describe roles which would previously have been referred to as secretary. The title is often shortened to “PA“.
· Personal Assistant job duties can range from menial tasks such as picking up the dry cleaning to more important tasks such as attending contract negotiations, briefing journalists on which questions can and can not be asked during interviews, travelling etc. A Personal Assistant is their employer’s “go to” person. The position normally covers a variety of positions. They are receptionists, administrative assistants, runners, managers, publicists, agents etc. The job has a wide range of requirements and can often be extremely demanding as employers normally expect their assistants to be there whenever they need them. An older term for Personal Assistant was a “Girl Friday” or a “Man Friday“.
· In fact, to do their jobs well, Personal Assistants must apply excellent organizational skills, tact, diplomacy, effective communication skills, maintain confidentiality in sensitive matters, and display excellent judgement. These are the same “soft” skills required for many other professional roles, such as middle management, public relations, and high-level administrative assistance. The best Personal Assistants have the ability to anticipate their employer’s needs and take care of them before they are asked to do so. There is always the possibility for advancement and some Personal Assistant jobs may “morph” into other positions within the organization. Some Personal Assistants are asked to consider full time positions elsewhere in the company depending on the level of ambition and education required/desired. It is true that many employers will not see the potential for a Personal Assistant immediately and thus the Personal Assistant will remain in that position until other positions become available.
· Retrieved from “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_assistant

Virtual Assistant, VA:
· The difference here is a Virtual Assistant works for herself and runs her own business, she is not employed. She works on an equal status with her clients.
· Virtual Assistants (typically abbreviated to VAs), are business owners who provide professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients — usually other independent entrepreneurs and consultancy small businesses. Virtual Assistants work from their own office (hence “virtual”), thus making it a fairly popular (and growing) profession in centralized economies with “fly-in, fly-out” (FIFO) staffing practices. It is estimated that there are as few as 5,000-8,000 or as many as 35,000 Virtual Assistants worldwide. Common modes of communication and data delivery include the Internet, e-mail and phone call conferences,online work spaces, and fax machine. Professionals in this business work on a contractual basis and a long-lasting cooperation is standard. Typically 5 years of administrative experience in an office is expected at such positions as executive assistant, office manager/supervisor, secretary, legal assistant, paralegal, legal secretary, real estate assistant, et cetera.
· A VA can perform the same duties as a PA but the overall difference is one is employed and the other runs her own business.

There is a difference as to what a client would like from a VA and to what a Boss requires of his PA. Although both can perform the same tasks, a VA will liaise with her clients on an equal status and a Boss will simply tell his PA what he wants doing, I cant define it any better, if you can let me know? A VA has the freedom to know she works for herself and is her own Boss. That’s power! And the difference in the two roles. A VA has ‘the say in what she does and does not do’, its as simple as that. No matter how you look at it a PA is employed.

Business Plans

If you want to run/own your own Business, one of the best ways to start, is to create your Business Plan. Sit and write/type down your idea.

Write down all the steps it will take to make your idea work, put them into order and start to organise your Business Plan.

Writing down a plan/idea is being constructive and putting your idea into writing, is a positive step to making your business real. You need to list all the steps it takes to start your business, then write down the way you are going to run your business (your procedures), your networking/marketing plans, your bookkeeping, your goals and values, a mission statement, etc put it all down in writing. This is your working Business Plan.

You will look at this document often, updating it as your plans change and they will, as you learn more and more about running your business. Your Business Plans should be one of your first tools you start to do, to run your business. Without a plan your business could be already up for failure. Document and make it real, this should be one of your first steps to starting up your business and this is for all businesses.

Searching the Internet you will find lots of templates and details available about Business Plans, lots of people have wrote steps that you need/can follow to write up your plan, details that you need to include. Do the Internet research about Business Plans and you will find it is not a difficult task but rather an easy task to complete and it is one step closer to running your own Business. I think this is a task that puts people off starting their own businesses, they think it is difficult but once started, it soon becomes easy.

You need the following within your plan:

· Start up structure, office set up, launch business, organise press release, advertising etc.
· Business Structure, how you are going to run your business, procedures. A business runs better when there are steps and procedures in place. (Steps to do your work, steps to do your books, steps to actually run your business).
· Steps to obtain Clients, how are you going to obtain clients, what steps do you need to take. Target Market, which type of clients are you going to market your services too, have some idea of this. How are you going to do this, A business will not run with no clients.
· Mission Statement, logo, bi-line
· Goals, Values and Objectives
· Marketing Strategy
· Networking Strategy
· Advertising Strategy
· Products and Services, what services will you offer clients, list your services.
· Pricing Structure/Budget
· Skills, Training, Education, Resources
· Back up plan for failure of equipment that you will use to run your office
· Contacts, keep database of all your contacts and clients. Build this up over time.
With a business plan in place, it gives your business structure and a starting point.

Alison Fourie (Virtual Assistant), AMF Typing Services cc, South Africa. A Virtual Office providing Typing Services