Feature of the month August – Tanya Joubert – VOA

Featuring for the month of August:
Virtual Office Assistance – Typing and Transcription focuses its services on typing and transcription services and extends their services in a variety of secretarial services which include email management, diary management, appointment setting, electronic payments, debtor correspondence, etc. With ample experience in working with people who are visual impaired and blind, VOA can assist professionally to prepare documents for the visually impaired, prepare it for brailling or assist people who are visually impaired to have a more meaningful experience in the office, via electronic assistance. Please visit our website: http://www.typingandtranscription.com/ or contact Tanya Joubert, owner of VOA – Typing and Transcription, can be contacted on Tel: (083) 510 1181, email: info@typingandtranscription.com, or fax: (086) 655 4381.

What are we?

VA-Business Owner/Independent Contractor/Freelancer!
What are you?
I run a company with a name and many umbrellas under that company, I do accounting, marketing, networking, recruitment, deal with contractors, client liaison, debt collection, so therefore as I do all these tasks I am doing the same as any small business, as these tasks must be incorporated into that business therefore I operate as a small business owner which to me is what Virtual Assistants are. I assist my clients with various tasks and I work from a virtual office. So to me this defines what a virtual assistant is and what we do.
I am not a freelancer, if I was all these tasks above would not be incorporated into what I do.
I am not a independent contractor, contracting out my services to other virtual assistants.

Being a virtual assistant is about running a company/business and being the owner of that company/business and also doing the work to assist the clients but being on the same business level.

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Work at Home Moms

To me there is a good reason why we are called Virtual Assistants, the last thing we need to tell prospective clients is that we work from home, so having this title describes what we do and who we are, we are assistants to clients and work virtually.
Never tell clients you are a work at home mum, rather let them know you work from a virtual location in an office, this sounds better and makes what you are doing to be more real to the client. Work from home mums are not taken serious and surely if you are running a business you must be taken serious by other clients, business people, corporates etc.
Never tell the clients you cannot meet a deadline because your child is at home sick, the client is not interested, that is your business, all they want to know is can you do the work, can you meet the deadline, what happens in between this is not the clients business. Tell them a problem has arose that you need to take care of, they don’t need to know what it is.
Home, children, dogs, husband is your responsibility and not the clients so don’t tell them about these things.
Your office and company documentation must be professional, keep it fresh looking and your content and graphics business/company orientated.
Your aim is to project how professional you are in your business environment all the time and not to portray yourself as a work at home mum who plays at typing to earn extra money.

An Entreprenuer

An entrepreneur is a person who has initiative and a sense of inventing.
An entrepreneur is a person who identified a need or a niche in the market and then establishes an organisation to provide the necessary products or services to satisfy such need. This is to the benefit of both the client, who has their needs satisfied and the entrepreneur who makes a profit if the venture is successful.

The entrepreneur is therefore essentially a person who sees an opportunity in the market and thinks of a way to make money out of it.

An entrepreneur’s character:
· Strong leadership qualities
· Good communication skills
· Be creative and innovative
· Be hungry to succeed
· Strong commitment, high energy levels.
· Must be a good manager and apply strong qualities of competitiveness, decisiveness and problem solving.

Entrepreneurs
· Identify opportunities to make money
· Identify the various alternatives available
· Establish plan of action
· Identify possible barriers
· Determine resources and capital that is needed
· Implement an action plan
· Actively look for new ideas on a continues basis
· Put ideas into writing, writing things done makes an idea real and workable
· Research, all the time
· Make time for creative thinking.

An entrepreneur is a brave person who seizes an opportunity and works with it, towards a goal of making money and being successful.

This to me is what a Virtual Assistant can be and work towards being ‘an Entrepreneur’ in his/her industry.

Clients and payments

A good idea for newbie VAs and Transcriptionist while starting out is to charge clients 100% to 75% up front deposit for each job they do, especially so for adhoc jobs. When you take on regular clients for the first few months charge this deposit and when you get to know the client then move to a monthly rate. You need to ensure first you will be paid by your clients before comitting to monthy payments and providing monthly services for clients.

Tavasa 1 year old 8th August 2009

T A V A S A
Transcriptionists and Virtual Assistants of South Africa (Est 2008)

Birthday Celebrations – 1 Year Old – 8th August 2009

It is our first birthday, time to reflect, what about our success, and what next for Tavasa.

Tavasa was founded in October 2008 by Gaynor Paynter from Typewrite Transcription and Typing Services and Alison Fourie from AMF Typing Services cc. We have run Tavasa for a year without both of us ever meeting, we liaise by using online messenger services and email, it shows we truly are virtual and are able to run a successful group this way.

We were the first group of our kind in South Africa, a Tavasa 1st. Tavasa was formed as there was a need for a support group within South Africa for Virtual Assistants and Transcriptionists.

Tavasa is heading in many directions, Recruitment, Chat Room, Support Group, Twitter, Online Forum etc; we want to be a force within the industry in South Africa.

· Provide support for people in our industries
· Bring together a group of professionals who can support each other
· Set standards for our industries in South Africa.

Because we like to have immediate access to queries that arise from our members, and because many people in South Africa still find it easier to access email on a regular basis as opposed to accessing an internet browser regularly, our main means of communication is an email discussion forum, and you can join our group at http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/tavasa/

Our benefits to members include:
· Potential employment – preference is given to our TAVASA members for any leads we may have.
· Information on How to start a Virtual Assistant / Transcription Business
· Templates as requested, including financial, business, etc.
· Business contracts and forms such as agreements
· Business Contracts and forms such as
· Work Templates as requested
· Private help with rates calculations
· Exposure by publication of your articles and names on our blog.

You can also have a look at our blog at www.tavasa.blogspot.com.
Clients are very welcome to contact us too! We can meet any transcription or virtual assistant requirement.

Tavasa is successful. There certainly was a need for it in South Africa. Now VAs and Transcriptionists have a place to go to look for advice, mentoring, job leads, contractor leads, letting off steam, laugh and interact with each other. It is a place for everyone to let them know they are not sitting in their offices alone/lonely, there is support in the form of Tavasa.

The Virtual Assistant/Transcription Industry’s are growing daily within the country. Our aim is to spread news about the industries within our country and to make Tavasa a household name for people who work from their own offices, within their own environment.

We provide Virtual Assistant and Transcription services to clients, entrepreneurs, and business people.
We have a lot of experts aboard Tavasa in their fields.
One of our skills is we can provide a group of expert VAs or Transcribers for larger jobs that one VA/Transcriptionist cannot provide.

We provide the following services within our group, these are some of the skilled people within Tavasa, but there are many more of us:

· Transcription Services, Contact Gaynor Paynter at http://www.typewritetranscription.co.za/, Typewrite Transcription and Typing Services CC for more information on Transcription. Dictaphone typing used to be provided by the Boss recording his documentation into a cassette recorder using a cassette tape and now technology has moved forward. This service is growing The following clients are using Transcriptionists: attorney’s, doctors, firemen, conference venues, audio visual recording companies, insurance, students, corporates with disciplinary hearings and board meetings and there is now a lot more companies beginning to realise that they can also use our services.

· Virtual Assistants (VAs), Virtual Assistants work from virtual offices providing office administration, secretarial services to clients, entrepreneurs, and business people. Many offices are downsizing due to the recession, you will still need your office documentation typed, your meetings, and appointments arranged, your telephone answered, your invoices dispatched to your clients monthly, we can provide these services and more. For more information on Virtual Assistants contact Alison at AMF Typing Services cc, website: http://www.amftyping.co.za/ and http://www.vaforhire.co.za/ Cell: 082 871 3452, Office: 011 768 5028, email: amftyping@mweb.co.za and alison@amftyping.co.za.

· Damaria Senne is an Independent Writer based in Johannesburg. She used to specialise in the ICT field, writing news articles, features, case studies, web copy, and press releases on ICT-related topics. She has now broadened her scope to include relationships, HIV and AIDS, as well as career development. Client blogs that she works on daily include the OneLove Regional Campaign (www.onelovesouthernafrica.org) and The Software Engineer, a blog for software developers run by the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (www.jcse.org.za) Email damariasenne@gmail.com Learn more about Damaria and her work at http://damariasenne.blogspot.com.

· Virtual Office Assistance – Typing and Transcription focuses its services on typing and transcription services and extends their services in a variety of secretarial services which include email management, diary management, appointment setting, electronic payments, debtor correspondence, etc. With ample experience in working with people who are visual impaired and blind, VOA can assist professionally to prepare documents for the visually impaired, prepare it for brailling or assist people who are visually impaired to have a more meaningful experience in the office, via electronic assistance. Please visit our website: http://www.typingandtranscription.com or contact Tanya Joubert, owner of VOA – Typing and Transcription, can be contacted on Tel: (083) 510 1181, email: info@typingandtranscription.com, or fax: (086) 655 4381.

Tavasa is free to join and we welcome all new members: http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/tavasa/.

Rates and knowing how long it takes to do a task

These are things to think about when you begin to set your rates:

What rates are being charged in your area/location, what rates are being charged around the country, check out Durban, Cape Town and Joburg.
Check with other VAs what their rates are, some VAs will be open with you about rates some not, dont take that to heart, that is just the way some VAs are and after all we are competition to each other. Look towards the older established VAs for this info, they will be more helpful.
Know what amount you would like to earn at the end of the month and work your rates towards that point, know what your monthly expenses are.
Know what hourly rate you will charge.
Have all your services you are going to offer ready with rates before that first client calls. I work from a basic rate for each services then look at each job individually and price accordingly depending on what is involved against my basic rate.
It is important to know how long a job will take you, know how long it takes you to do transcription and typing, time doing a data entry on a few basic pieces of info. Time how long it takes to type a page, statistics are always helpful when doing quotations. Time how long it takes you to transcribe 10 minutes of transcription.
Know if you can meet your deadlines, you will have interruptions during the day, the phone rings, callers visit. Always add interruption time to your overall time. Always include this little bit of extra time in each job. If you have no interrruptions when doing a particular job all well and good, its always good to finish way ahead of a deadline. Just know your time limits.

New Virtual Assistants

Firstly I would suggest you do a google search on ‘virtual assistant’ from here you will see that it is a thriving industry worldwide. Being a VA is about owning a business, not just about sitting at home and typing, its about running a full time business. Being a VA you will take part in every aspect of running your business, typing, transcribing, marketing, networking, admin, client liaison etc. Its daunting, scary but if you feel you can do, go for it. I will support you and give you help if you need, I will answer questions you need answers to.
Attitude also plays a huge role in whether you will succeed or drowned. You have to be able to multitask, be able to prioritise, deal with clients on an ongoing basis, be friendly, and have excellent time management skills. You have to have the right personality to do this type of job. You need self discipline, you need to have it in you to get up every morning and physically go and work at your computer as you are doing a job and running a company.The VA concept is taking off in leaps and bounds within South Africa at the moment; there is still lots of work out there for everyone. The word is spreading and more and more clients are moving towards VAs and are learning about our concept. So there is work available but to get that work ‘you have to do the work to get the work’, it is as simple as that, the work will not just fall into your lap.
Today becoming a Virtual Assistant is a safer option for a women; you work from home, therefore cutting out the risks of travelling to work re high jacking, car breakdowns, traffic etc. Being your own Boss means you can schedule your work around yourself. Being a VA can become a hectic full time job working from home. If you are thinking of moving out of the secretarial arena, becoming a Virtual Assistant could be the position for you, if you would like to work from home. It could be the next step to take.

Newbie VAs do’s

Newbie VAs need to be professional from their very first day. Having a website or blog is so important for advertising, marketing and letting people know about your company but if your content is wrong it will reflect on you and clients want call.
Another point, answering email a day or so later, well if i was your prospective client I wouldnt work with you. Email, Skype, Messenger, SMS are part of your job and if you dont answer your email for 24 hours that is saying, your really not that interested, read the email send a quick I will get back to you shortly and do so. I am hectic, run a business full time, have a family and a dog, look after my house and I can answer email as they come in, I run deadlines but to me emails are important as the next potential clients could be in the next email, an email take a few minutes to open, scan and reply quickly, then print it out for further investigation when you are ready.
My last point here is don’t open your business until you have taken all the steps first, have your documentation in place, have your price list ready, have contracts ready, you dont want to come across as unprofessional to your first client as that will seal the way for the rest of your clients. You want to come across as professional and ready to do business.

Its hard being a VA starting out but if you put all your ducks in a row, do the research, get everything ready then take that important step and open your business, things will run better and you will be better prepared.

Lower Rates/Overseas

At the moment there is a big issue about rates, VAs are charging very low rates. Why! to get the job, they think if the rates are low they stand a better chance of getting the work. But what they are not realising is its not worth doing it. You can spend ages on a job and if its not priced right you are the looser in the long run, any job you do, you are using electricity, telephone connections, printer ink, time, all these factors come into play when pricing work, also what about your experience, your skill, surely that is worth something to the client. Your prices must cover your overheads surely. Why would anyone want to sit for hours on end typing up a book for say R5 to R10 a page, that is ridiculous, you are working at a loss, do the sums.
Here is something, you go to the doctor, you are in there 10 minutes at the most, when you get your doctors bill you are charged at an hourly rate, he certainly does not charge you for the seconds/mintues you were there only, no way he will charge you for the hour, whether you sat for the hour or not with him. You dont quibble about the price after all you visited the doctor and got what you went for. Dont do charging by the second billing, round off your figures, the supermarket certainly round off there pricing, look at the mark up on prices for food and clothing the things we need, Im hoping by giving you fair examples this will make you think about your pricing and not charge such low prices. Be competitive within the industry. Show the client you are worth every penny you charge, sell your skills and experience to the client, show them you know what you are doing, show you can assist the client and be dependable, trustworth and efficient. Let the client know they are getting value for money by using your services. Let the client know you can provide a much better service then the person who charges R5 per page for typing or charges very low rates for transcription.

This is not always so.

Selling yourself as a VA

As a VA, to get clients we need to really sell our skills and services. I come from a secretarial background where the staff were my clients, so I always had work. I am now in a position whereby I run and own my own company and if I dont sell my skills and services I simply want get clients. I am a shy person, I hate talking on the telephone. Marketing is not my thing and yet I can market my services successfully.
When clients ring to ask for pricing/rates I need to convince that client to stay with me and not move onto another VA for pricing/rates, to do this I had a quickie speech ready that I give and by the end of it I usually can tell, I have hooked that client and its a matter of getting details and getting the work. It only takes a few minutes to convince a potential client that you are the person for the job. Selling yourself in marketing must be part of your VA business, people contact is a major playing in being a VA, that is our way of getting clients and work. If a client has trust and confidence that you can do the job they often will stay with you and become regular clients.
A piece of advice I can give is have a quick speech ready for potential clients, practice it till you know it, write it down if necessary. Use it to good affect. I enjoy the challenges of marketing and selling my skills and services and I must be doing something right as once I hook the clients they dont want to leave me.
If I can get my marketing right then so can you.