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Edwin Alexander

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How to Let your Virtual Assistant Manage your Email

Many business owners have discovered that delegating email management to a Virtual Assistant is the most effective way to end their long struggle with their inbox.

A chaotic mailbox is a common scenario for busy business owners. At a quick glance it may seem easy but as the business grows and more people try to connect via email, it will be necessary to delegate this task to a Virtual Assistant.   

Going over mails can be stressful especially when left unattended, so it is wise to enlist the assistance of someone trustworthy.

Before you pass on this job to a Virtual Assistant, make sure that you have a system set up already. It would be easier for your staff to manage your email when you give them specific instructions. It is also advisable to get someone who is experienced in handling this kind of task.  

Keep in mind that Email correspondence is essential to the growth of one’s business so if you cannot handle it on your own, let someone else do it for you.  

Here are steps to take before turning over your email to your Virtual Assistant.

 

  • Set up a business Gmail account if you do not have one yet.  You can also use your domain name email account.  Grant your Virtual Assistant access to your account and share your username and password.

 

This will allow him/her to go through your mailbox to be able to read and reply on your behalf.  

Make sure that this account is dedicated solely to business and just set up another account that will cater to mail coming from family and friends.

 

  • Give guidelines on how to manage your email.  Do not just turn over your email account and expect your staff to know what is in or out.  It is best to prepare a set of rules on how to filter and organize your inbox.  

 

Determine what goes straight to trash and what goes to archive. You can set up a selection process based on sender. Group your contacts according to order of priority.  

For example, existing clients and prospects will be handled by you, while first time queries will be replied to by your Virtual Assistant.  

 

  • Set a fixed schedule.  This will allow your Virtual assistant to work on your inbox at a set period of time.  It’s standard practice to check email first thing in the morning so you may opt to schedule your email review at 9AM every two days.  Opening your email with a filtered inbox is surely a great way to start the day.
  • Give your Virtual Assistant the authority to delete mails.  Initially, it will be difficult to give someone else control over your email.  You have to fully trust your staff to differentiate beneficial from waste mails.

 

Allow him/her to make decisions, after all he/she will strictly adhere to the rules you set.  Do not think of it as an invasion of privacy but rather see it as a step to email freedom.

It is also important that your Virtual Assistant is well oriented on your business plans.  This way he/ she will be able to figure out what kind of email correspondence suits your kind of business.

Delegating e-mail management tasks to your Virtual Assistant may seem uncomfortable at first. But as long as safeguards and proper guidelines are established and clearly cascaded, you will be able to have more productive work days.  

5 Smart Ways to Price Your Home for FSBO

5 Smart Ways to Price Your Home for FSBO

FSBO or For Sale By Owner is an approach to home selling where the property owner does not contract the services of a licensed real estate agent to preside over the sale. By foregoing the services of a real estate agent, the property owner effectively improves his or her net return on the sale of the home by 2% to 3%.

More home owners are choosing FSBO over the traditional approach of hiring an agent not only because of the promise of high returns. It is also an approach that is doable. Marketing and promoting your home will take the bulk of your time. But once this is ongoing, you should shift focus to coming up with the price.

Pricing can be a deal killer if it’s not done with thought, strategy and purpose. Here are 5 smart ways to price your home for successful FSBO:

Visit Online Home Valuation Sites

Online home valuation and dedicated For Sale By Owner sites are great sources for getting ideas on how properties in your area are being priced.

Some will provide with information on number of visits per area and average sale price all in comparison with national statistics. There are also online valuation sites that can give you an estimate on your property.

Use Comps

Comps are summaries that show comparisons on home prices over the last 6 months. You can purchase the information from real estate agencies or some online websites.

With comps, you have to find properties that have similar features to yours so you can have an idea on how much a home like yours is worth to potential buyers.

Attend Open Homes and Auctions

Open homes and auctions are great venues to get more concrete ideas on pricing. Talk to buyers and brokers and find out how they arrive at their purchasing decisions.

You will also get a feel of how a real estate transaction takes shape. You can observe and note down the typical behaviors of buyers when inspecting homes.

Hire a Property Appraiser

A good option is to hire a Property Appraiser to give you an assessment of how much your home would be worth in the real estate market.

It may cost you $400 to hire a Property Appraiser but in return you will get an authenticated document to support your asking price. Of course, be wary that buyers may have their own appraisers as well.

Contract the Services of a Desk Appraiser

A Desk Appraiser is a much affordable option than a Property Appraiser. He or she will not visit your home. Instead the Desk Appraiser will pull together a comp summarizing the sales prices of homes in your area within the last 6 months.

The Desk Appraiser will assign a range value and it will be up to you to figure out where your home falls in the price range. A Desk Appraiser will typically charge you $80.

The price of your home will determine whether you register a sale or you will stay in the property market longer. Keep in mind that it is better to have your home sold as quickly as possible in order to get the price you want. The longer it stays in the market the lower becomes its perceived value.

A good idea would be to hire the services of a Virtual Assistant with the experience and expertise in the real estate industry. The real estate VA may be able to put together comps, make a CMA or research pricing at online home valuation and FSBO sites.

When it comes to pricing, do not identify a price range based on how much you want to earn. It must have good basis and references in order to make it more realistic and enticing to prospective buyers.

8 Steps to Selling Your Own Home

8 Steps to Selling Your Own Home

Selling your own home will help you generate a higher return on your property because you don’t have to pay the real estate agent’s commission.

And it is not as difficult as you may think!

With a bit of planning and organization, you may sell your home faster than any real estate agent.

Write Down Your Home’s Selling Points

Conduct an overall assessment of your home and write down the features that would make visitors interested in buying it.

Among the important things to consider:

  • Swimming pool
  • Number of rooms
  • Number of toilet and baths
  • Size of garden
  • Capacity of garage

The idea is to pinpoint features and amenities that would make your house an attractive option compared to others in the neighbourhood.

Create Marketing Copy

Using the assessment you made on your house, try to create compelling marketing copy. This is not a particularly difficult task.

But if you are not confident of your copywriting skills, hire a Virtual Assistant.

Virtual assistants are highly skilled and proficient in creating marketing copy. They know the best keywords to use so your marketing copy can easily be found online.

Take Photos of Your Home

Good quality, high- resolution images are a great way to attract more interest in your home.

Hiring a professional photographer is always a good idea but they could be expensive.

If you have a friend who dabbles in photography in his spare time, ask him to take the photos as a way of getting more practice and experience.

Research Online for Comparative Pricing

Pricing is often the deal breaker in many negotiations. While buyers are open to adjusting their bids, your selling price must not be unrealistic.

You can check out a number of home value sites online to get an idea how much property in your area has been selling the last 6 months.

You can also ask a property appraiser to give you an estimate on your home based on current market values.

Sign Up in an FSBO Site

One of the most effective ways to get your house moving in the market is by listing it in a For Sale By Owner or FSBO site.

Thousands of people visit these FSBO sites to look for the best homes at the most affordable prices. You will definitely get a good number of visits in your FSBO page.

If you opt for the free membership, you will have to update the images and text content yourself. Or you could simply designate this task to your real estate Virtual Assistant.

Utilize Social Media

Find out if your neighbourhood has a community page in Facebook or other social media. Ask the administrator of the page if you could join the community.

It is possible that one of the members would know someone interested in buying a home in the neighbourhood.

Remember to link your social media page to your FSBO account.

Schedule Open House Visits

Open House visits can draw in a large number of interested buyers. Do the following before opening up your home for inspection:

  • Conduct general cleaning
  • Remove all personal items
  • Open up spaces
  • Have marketing materials printed out
  • Have the contract of sale ready

Be ready to negotiate at any time during the Open House. You should already have a price range in mind.

Create a Short List of Prospects

If your efforts have allowed you to generate a considerable number of bids, review all of them carefully and identify 3 of the best prospects.

Schedule a day in the week to meet with each prospective buyer individually.

When it comes to selecting the best bid, it’s not just the price that should be considered but also the terms and mode of payment.

It’s very important to keep in mind that it is best to sell your home within 4 months. Otherwise the perceived value may drop.

This is another advantage of selling your own home. You can devote 100% full attention while a real estate agent with all of his or her clients cannot do.

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How to Build a Solid Foundation for Outsourcing Services

Outsourcing services to a third party provider has been proven strategy for businesses to survive, and even profit during a turbulent economy. Proof of this is the continued uptrend in global outsourcing beginning the year 2000. The last 15 years of the world’s history has seen turmoil at an unprecedented stage.

Wars, global recessions, collapse in equity markets, bankruptcies, massive unemployment and changes in political structures have made business become more unpredictable. Outsourcing gives businesses the best option to adapt mobility and flexibility in their strategy design.

But despite the continued growth of the global outsourcing industry, there have been instances where the arrangement did not benefit either party. Like other methodologies, you have your fair share of detractors of outsourcing services. And while they have valid points, rather than getting sold on them, you should learn from their experience.

If you want to adopt a successful and profitable business model, you should first build a solid foundation for it.

Here is how you establish an effective outsourcing model for your business.

Research on Outsourcing

The biggest mistake clients make is not undertaking the required amount of research on outsourcing. You should learn everything that you can about outsourcing. Go beyond the Internet and talk to qualified resource people and those who have previous experience, both good and bad. Prepare market studies and financial studies and use these as immediate references.

Identify the Tasks You Need Outsourced

Review your current business model and create a summary or matrix on all the tasks that are involved. Categorize the tasks to essential and non-essential. Determine the number of hours in a day you will need to manage the essential tasks. The non- essential tasks should be your outsourced services.

Assess Your Level of Commitment

What will be your level of involvement when you outsource services? This is an important question especially for the first 2 quarters of the arrangement. You have to spend some time with the service provider to make sure the quality of deliverables is consistent with your standards. It may not seem like you have more time for the essential tasks but it will be time well spent to get the working engagement right.

Find Your 3rd Party Services Provider

As big as outsourcing has gotten, there are many 3rd party services providers in the market. You have to be careful when choosing your outsourcing partner. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Conduct due diligence
  • Get referrals or recommendations
  • Create a short list of 5 prospective service providers
  • Ask for references and endorsements to contact them
  • Subject the candidates to interviews and testing

Set the Guidelines and Expectations

Once you’ve found your outsourcing services provider, discuss the work guidelines and share expectations. Outsourcing is perpetually a work in progress; it should only get better. Outsourcing is effective but it is not a cure-all. There will be problems but as with all relationships, both parties should work toward resolving them.

Outsourcing services will continue to become a relevant strategy over the next few years. Your business will greatly benefit from it but you have to set the foundations for its success.  

will-artificial-intelligence-replace-the-human-virtual-assistant

Will Artificial Intelligence Replace the Human Virtual Assistant?

With the largest technology companies investing in Artificial Intelligence, will the AI soon replace the VA or Virtual Assistant?

Apple started the AI revolution with Siri in 2010. Understandably, there were many faults and errors in the initial programming which was to be expected with new innovations. Siri’s issues which included voice recognition and problems conducting specific search queries led to a number of class action lawsuits in 2012.

But technology companies were undeterred and followed Apple’s lead. Over the last few years, other technology companies have followed suit.

Here is a short list of AI Assistants developed by select technology companies:

  1. Siri – Apple
  2. Cortana – Microsoft
  3. M – Facebook
  4. Braina – Microsoft
  5. Alexa – Amazon
  6. Google Now –  Google
  7. BlackBerry Assistant – BlackBerry
  8. Duer – Baidu
  9. Echo – Amazon
  10. Assistant – SpeakToIt

These AI Assistants offer users the following advantages:

  • Reduced probability of errors
  • Higher precision and expected level of accuracy
  • Not subject to physical afflictions as human Virtual Assistants
  • Incapable of emotional instability as human Virtual Assistants
  • Can work 24/7 without issue

Some of these AI Assistants such as Duer will complete your tasks without having to notify you. It knows what you like to order from your favorite restaurant and will find ways to have your food delivered by coursing it through the technology companies contracted courier services.

But while these AI Assistants are providing a convenient service, it is not without cost.

For these technology companies, every time you use their AI Assistant you are giving them more information on your behavioral traits. They have information on what you like to eat, the movies you want to watch, the places you frequent for vacation and the airlines you often patronize.

Information that translates to big money for these technology companies; they will send you coupons and offers that match your consumption behavior.

Many will probably agree to this as social media remains popular despite becoming an efficient lead generator for the likes of Facebook and YouTube.

On the other hand, Virtual Assistants will just work to get the job done for you. You pay exactly for the service that is rendered. It is an amicable arrangement not parasitic where one feeds on the needs of the other.

The criticism that human virtual assistants make mistakes completely misses the point. Virtual assistants have the power of foresight and rationale. They have the ability to anticipate potential risks in the horizon. And if they make a mistake, they can remedy the situation by running down prepared courses of action.

If you have customer service, the last thing you would want is to automate the process. Successful customer service is all about creating a feedback loop where clients or subscribers and the Virtual Assistant can bounce off ideas to arrive at an immediate resolution. An irate customer will only get more frustrated dealing with an automated system.

An AI does not have the ability to understand urgency but human Virtual Assistants do because they can empathize with you. If you have an important presentation, an AI can get you accurate facts but content is not just about precision. The material must be compelling enough to solicit the desired emotional response.

While AI Assistants have their purpose, they cannot supplant a Virtual Assistant. It is through their imperfections that the Virtual Assistant reveals their true value to the client.

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How to Build Your Career as a Virtual Assistant

As a Virtual Assistant, you are not stuck where you are managing work for your current portfolio of clientele. You are a business owner; a proprietor offering virtual assistance services. You can build your career and build your business just like every other entrepreneur. Here are 4 tips you should consider:

Expand Your Scope of Services. Initially you should focus only on your core competence; the skill or offering wherein you can guarantee quality and timely submission of projects.

For example, if you are a good writer you may start out by offering blogging services. As you gain traction and confidence, you should slowly expand your scope of services to include the following:

  • Web Copy
  • Short Form Articles
  • Marketing Copy
  • E-Books
  • Resumes
  • Market Research

Each type of writing has its own style and set of nuances. This is why slow and easy does it when expanding your scope of services. E-books for example can be more informal in tone and content.

Keep in mind that these types of content will have different time tables for delivery. Short form articles, resumes and web copies can be daily while market research could be bi-monthly. Expanding your scope of services demands expert time management.

Focus on Volume of Work. The ultimate goal of every Virtual Assistant is to land long- term engagements. But this takes time and consistency in the quality of deliverables. Also, clients may like your work but depending on the status of their own business, job orders may be sporadic.

If business remains inconsistent, focus on increasing your volume of work. There are many online job market websites such as Fiverr that offer short term work but provides a source of steady income. You can land 5 to 7 short term writing jobs per day such as 500 word articles, 200 word web copies, and generate an additional $700 to your monthly income.

It will also increase your portfolio of market and gives a large market to promote your skills and services.

Create a Virtual Team. It’s hard to say “No” to additional work. After all, why should you decline an opportunity to add to your coffers right? Logic states that you should only accept work you can accommodate without compromising quality and timely submissions. But it’s hard to decline an offer to make extra money. The best recourse is to create a virtual team.

Before you seek out more clients, build your network of virtual assistants. Keep in touch with them and come up with an agreement that if you have additional work, you will hire them. But it would be best to discuss with them your proposed payment structure.

For example, if you charge a client $12 per 1,000 word article you can pay your Virtual Assistant associate $7 for the article and keep the $5. You may not have earned your usual rate but at the same time, you still add to your income.

Diversify Your Services. Once you have your team of virtual assistants running efficiently, you could now look at diversifying your services.

If you are currently focusing on writing services, you could look at other projects such as website design and programming. You just have to make sure you have a good website designer to rely on.

You can charge $1,500 to the service and pay the website designer $1,000 while you keep the $500.

Growing a business is a process that takes time. But with planning and determination, you can dramatically increase your income levels and sustain earnings over the long haul.

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Whether to buy or lease expensive medical equipment

Investing in expensive medical equipment is one of the major decisions hospital administrators have to make. The decision can affect the cash flow of your business. Hospitals can either purchase the equipment or lease it. The decision depends on various factors, and these are discussed below.

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Leasing the equipment

When thinking of leasing equipment, you must find out the length of the lease period; whether the lease period can cover the life of the equipment; and how much it would cost you if you decided to buy the equipment after the lease period is over.

Short-term leases

These are appropriate when the technology is expensive, and there is a chance that it may change often. For example, imaging and lab equipment have short life spans in terms of technology. In this type of leases, you don’t have to buy the equipment at the end of the lease period.

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Lease-to-own contracts

This is a suitable option for equipments having a longer lifespan. So, you don’t have to purchase the equipment right away. So, you don’t need to pay any amount upfront. At the end of the leasing period, you must pay a fixed amount to buy the equipment.

Daily rentals

There are equipments that you don’t need to use very frequently. You can rent them on a daily basis. If you need the equipment for five days a week, then this option won’t be appropriate.

Choose these leasing options carefully depending on your need, type of equipment and budget. Don’t take the decision hastily as it might significantly affect your business.

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Buying the equipment

Whether to buy equipment or not depends on the frequency of its use. Once you decide to buy, you must check the interest rates. You must then decide how long it might take for new technology to replace the existing one.
Before making the decision of whether to lease or buy expensive medical equipment, the owner of the clinic or hospital must discuss the issue with a financial officer.

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5 early signs of breast cancer that can save your life

Breast cancer is such a serious heath care issue now that we even celebrate a ‘breast cancer awareness month’ every year. Doctors are encouraging women to do mammogram screenings. These are some early signs of breast cancer detecting which can save your life.

Red and itchy nipples

If you see any reddening of the skin on your breast, then it’s a sign of breast cancer. You might feel itchy around that area. You may feel pain when touched, and the area might swell as well. In some cases, you might see something that resembles bruises.

Pain in the upper back region

If you have pain in your shoulder or upper back area, then it’s a symptom of breast cancer. This pain is similar to the muscle pain you experience after exercising. This pain will not go away by stretching, like in the case of muscle pain. Instead, the pain will extend to the bones. This happens when cancer spreads to the spine ribs.

Nipple appearance and size changes

If the cancerous tumor happens close to the area of the nipple, then it can easily be identified as the shape and size of your nipple changes very fast. The nipple tends to get flattened. You may also feel decreased sensitivity during sexual activity in your nipple area. If there is any discharge from the nipple even if you don’t press it, then it’s a sign of breast cancer.

Size of breast changes

The breasts change to an uneven shape. If there is a visible swelling of the breast, then also it’s a sign of breast cancer. In such case, you need to consult a doctor.

Lumps, swelling and pain in the armpit region

The lymph nodes present in the armpit is primarily affected by breast cancer. If you feel any pain in the armpit, then you must consult a doctor.

Whenever you notice any of these symptoms, consult a doctor immediately. Do mammography and show the results to your doctor. If detected early, breast cancer can be treated.

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Top 5 most expensive medical equipments in the world

Medical equipments can be very expensive. That’s why you won’t find all hospitals having certain equipment. People get admitted to expensive hospitals so that they can get access to the best doctors and facilities there. Here are five most expensive medical equipments.

Particle Accelerators

particle

This machine costs more than $100 million. This machine uses proton therapy that is used to treat cancer. This therapy is better than the traditional chemotherapy as it can treat some rare cancers that the traditional chemotherapy cannot cure.

CAT Scanners

cat-scanners

These machines look like a huge doughnut. These are digital imaging equipment that cost $2.7 million. It delivers 150 images of body organs per second. This machine is faster than MRI. While MRI takes a long time to diagnose, with a CAT scanner, the diagnosis will be made in just five minutes.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

magnetic-resonance-imaging

MRI uses high-field magnets for imaging patients. It costs about $2.3 million. You can find some machines that cost roughly $1 million. Common MRIs are for head, brain, spine and neck. It takes about 30 minutes to complete the procedure. There is no radiation risk with MRI.

Robot Surgical Machines

robot-surgical-machines

This machine will cost $2.3 million. However, it will reduce the patient’s health care costs. It is a less invasive surgical procedure. Less damage occurs to tissues and organs. So, patients recover faster, thus reducing their medical bills.

3-D Mammography machines

mammo

It uses three-dimensional imaging. It costs about $760,000. This machine increases the chances of breast cancer detection. So, breast cancers can be detected at an earlier stage and can be fully treated.

The good hospitals are investing in these machines to attract patients. Many cannot afford to buy the new machines, so they depend on buying the used ones from auctions.

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5 Successful Entrepreneurs who Have Virtual Assistants on their Teams

If you think virtual assistants are only limited to providing support services, think again! Many of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world owe a great deal of their success to their virtual assistants. Having virtual assistants onboard their business meant more than delegating non-essential tasks; they were able to fine- tune operations, improve the quality of work and of course, streamline costs.

Tim Ferris. If there was a jump off point that heralded the value of the Virtual Assistant, it would be Tim Ferris’ breakout book, “The 4-Hour Work Week”.

In it, Ferris details his struggles of running his first company on his own. Ferris claimed he was putting in 14 hours of work every day with nothing to show for it.

When he hired a team of virtual assistants, he was able to focus more on the tasks that matter and become more productive.

“What if you never had to check e-mail again? If you could hire someone else to spend countless hours in your Inbox instead of you. This isn’t pure fantasy.”

Ramit Sethi. According to Sethi, he made every mistake in the book when he first started hiring virtual assistants. But once he was able to get organized, understand what he wanted and moderated his expectations, the Virtual Assistant became an integral component of his success.

Sethi is a New York Times Bestselling Author and founder of IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com.

Working with a skilled virtual assistant – and using a systematic approach to save time has been the best investments I have made in my life.”

Michael Hyatt. Hyatt is a popular blogger, writer and Founder of 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever, Platform University and Get Published.

He is an active proponent of hiring virtual assistants. Hyatt credits his team of virtual assistants for helping him manage his time for writing, speaking engagements and consultations.

“I am convinced that virtual assistants are the future.”

James Schramko. After spending days as a General Manager for Mercedes Benz and nights as an online marketer, Schramko decided to go full- time with his night job.

His company SuperFastBusiness helps entrepreneurs grow their business using Internet marketing. He has regularly advocated the use of virtual assistants as one of the first steps to take in growing your business.

“One of the best things you can do is to hire an Assistant. These days you often hear of a Virtual Assistant or a VA.”

John Lee Dumas. A daily routine of listening to podcasts during long drives while starting a career in real estate, Dumas realized none of the podcasts offered content that interested him.

Dumas started his own podcast EOF or Entrepreneur On Fire which featured various successful entrepreneurs. One year after its launch, EOF was named Best of iTunes. EOF earns 7 figures in annual income.

“Do away with the robot act and get to know your Virtual Assistant! They are real people with families, hobbies and passions.”

If you are planning to expand your business, follow the lead of these successful entrepreneurs and hire a Virtual Assistant. You may be surprised at the significance of the assist they can give your business.

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