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Virtual Assistant

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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.  

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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.

how-to-build-your-career-as-a-virtual-assistant

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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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.

how-hiring-a-virtual-assistant-can-save-you-a-fortune-every-month

How Hiring a Virtual Assistant can Save You a Fortune Every Month

You should hire a Virtual Assistant if any of these incidents have happened to you:

  • You reconcile your books and realize you failed to collect a large amount of money for services rendered to clients the past few months because you forgot to send invoices.
  • You filter your e-mail and missed multiple job offers for your services that amounted to $10,000 in foregone earnings because you didn’t have the time to prepare and send a formal proposal.
  • You enter a dry spell because you couldn’t find the time to network regularly during your busy months.

Entrepreneurs are guilty of 2 things: micro-managing and working too lean. These are admirable traits but you can never do things on your own. And if you work too lean, eventually you’ll reach a point where your current level of scale can’t accommodate an extra output of productivity. You end up flushing thousands of dollars down the drain.

The best solution is to hire a Virtual Assistant and save up a fortune every month through the following ways:

Organize Your Business

Meetings, payments, follow ups, interviews, submissions of business proposals; the list just goes on and on. If you don’t organize your business, many of these tasks will accumulate, remain undone and result in opportunity costs.

A Virtual Assistant can organize your business by attending to the following tasks:

  • Calendar Management
  • Appointment Setting
  • Phone Handling
  • Follow Ups
  • E-mail Support

Your Virtual Assistant will constantly remind you of deadlines and scheduled dates at least 2 days prior or earlier depending on the level of priority.

Free Up Your Time

If you’re spending too much time attending to administrative duties and support services, you are working IN your business not ON your business.

As an entrepreneur, you should be judicious and strategic with your time if you want to succeed. Your time is best allocated to matters that readily translate to more dollars and cents to your bank account. How much time do you spend filtering e-mail?

By delegating administrative and support services to a Virtual Assistant, you can re-align your work hours and focus on functions that will fast track the success of your business.

Keep Your Payables Up to Date

How would you feel when you are in the middle of an important Skype call and then the Internet gets disconnected? What if you were printing materials for an important presentation then power shuts off?

You did not intend to but somehow the Internet and power bills went unpaid. Although there are ways to get through these inconveniences, it remains a hassle, a time killer and a source of stress.

A Virtual Assistant will keep a schedule of your payables, send you a copy as a reminder and still message you 2 days before the due date.

Streamline Your Business Costs

Hiring a Virtual Assistant will hardly move the needle on your monthly expenses.

The Virtual Assistant is self- employed; technically, he or she owns a business that provides virtual assistance services. Thus the Virtual Assistant is responsible for his or her costs of business.

You do not pay your Virtual Assistant benefits as mandated by the government or your company as he or she is contracted but not employed by your business. Your Virtual Assistant as a proprietor also has other clients to attend to and is not exclusive to you. For example, a real estate business, besides using a company like ForSaleOrRentByOwner can also use an experienced real estate virtual assistant. 

As an entrepreneur, learn to relinquish control and delegate work to your Virtual Assistant. Start out with the non-essentials and slowly transfer the more crucial aspects of your business. Contract another Virtual Assistant if necessary. By hiring virtual assistants, opportunity costs will be things of the past.

why-virtual-assistants-should-focus-on-right-fit-clients

Why Virtual Assistants Should Focus on Right Fit Clients

It is easier for virtual assistants to land clients now because of the great demand for virtual assistance services. But running a successful virtual assistance business isn’t just about having clients. You should focus on landing right-fit clients. These are the ones who are aligned with your values, subscribe to your purpose and share the same vision.

It becomes difficult to find right- fit clients if you are blinded by the prospects of making money. It is perfectly fine to focus on improving income but not to the point of clouding better judgment. A right- fit client will be a client for life.

Here are 4 ways to find right-fit clients:

Ask to be Interviewed. There are some clients who make the interview part of the selection process. And there are some clients who don’t. When a client does not request for an interview, consider this a red flag. E-mail and chat messages are fine but an interview is better.

If a client does not require an interview, request for one. An agreement is a contract between 2 parties with different interests. You should always know who you will be working for.

If the client agrees to an interview, do one better and make it an audio-video interview. This is less about trust than it is about transparency. Anyone can put up an account with a name on it. It is always advisable to see the person behind the name.

A client who does not agree for an audio-video interview or comes up with excuses is a potential red flag. You can take the chance but institute safeguards in the agreement such as conducting work through a bonded platform like Elance or a progress payment set up with an upfront.

Request for a Contract. If you are reaching out to foreign clients, you should be aware that there are nationalities where a “handshake” is considered a contract. They operate with the principle, “Your word is your bond”.

In the virtual world where a handshake is not possible, some clients believe an e-mail exchange should suffice as a contract. You should approach the job professionally by covering it with a contract.

A contract is a document with provisions that are designed to protect both parties which is why it is always negotiable. If the client does not have a contract, give a copy of yours.

Good clients know the value of a contract. It may not be enforceable but it is the legally binding reference point for both parties and keeps everyone honest.

Iron Out All the Payment Concerns. It is better to get out all the rough stuff in the open before formalizing any agreement. Oftentimes, payment concerns become a stumbling block during negotiations. Among the usual issues involve:

  • Negotiation of rates or fees
  • Payment schedule
  • Mode of payment
  • Payment of add-on charges
  • Interest on late payments

Money is not the root of all evil but it can throw a curveball in the proceedings. Finalize all payment concerns then put it in the contract and move on to the business at hand.

Be Tolerant….but Not to a Fault. There are clients who are sometimes delayed or remiss in payment. If a client does not pay you on time, send a friendly worded message:

“Hi! I hope things are going well with you. Would like to know the status of the billing statement I e-mailed 2 weeks ago. Kindly advise if you need another copy in case you overlooked it. Thanks!”

If the Client responds in the affirmative and guarantees prompt payment within 24 hours, e-mail your appreciation and hope for the best.

You should tolerate delinquency only to a certain point. If the client has not paid, terminate the agreement and move on. Chalk up your uncollected earnings to another one of life’s lessons.

The key take-away in finding clients is not to focus on which client will pay you the most money. Instead focus on clients whom you can build a long term relationship with. They may not pay you what you want at the start but that’s how it should be.

Before you demand, prove that you can deliver. If you consistently render high quality work, the right- fit client will not only pay you more he or she will give you more business.