How To Get Started Outsourcing With A Virtual Assistant

You’re buried in work and decide it’s time to hire some extra help. After much consideration you start searching for a Virtual Assistant to work with you. But before you make the call, you need to take some time and have an idea of what you’ll need help with. Taking the time in the beginning to plan what you will outsource will help ensure that you not only find the right person to work with, but also someone with the right skill set for a long term relationship.

Sometimes people make things harder than it needs to be…keep it simple but organized. Before you start on your search, take time to sit down and:

  1. Make a list. Take at least 1 week and start writing down the things that come up on a regular basis that you need help with or can’t find the time to do. If you are working with another party or employees, ask them to do the same. VA’s can not only be an asset to a solopreneur, but also in aiding your team in project assistance or other responsibilities they can’t find the time to do.
  2. From the list, decide which areas are teachable. If you can teach someone to do a task then you can outsource it and move on to bigger things.
  3. From what is teachable, find which is the most time consuming. There are many things we do on a daily basis that although they are important in the support of your business, may not be worth your time doing if it’s not directly related to generating income.
  4. Pick the tasks that you enjoy least. Why would you keep doing things you don’t like doing? If it falls into the category of being teachable then it’s a responsibility your new VA can do.

Having your list broke down into these four parts will help you to not only find the right Virtual Assistant with the background and experience you need but also give you a starting point for your VA to get to know you and your work.

Now that you have figured out what your VA will do, it’s time to start your search. Whether you’re looking for a freelance Virtual Assistant or you decide to use an agency, there’s still a process that you need to follow from the beginning for the relationship to be successful.

Once your VA is hired and her responsibilities are outlined, you need to make sure you have the following in place:

  1. Take time in the beginning to teach them or assign someone on your team to do this. Just because someone is a digital marketing specialist doesn’t mean they will know how you want your campaign run on day 1. Make sure all of your concerns are addressed in the beginning and you have a checks and balances in place to monitor progress from the start for less headaches in the end.
  2. Be reachable. Don’t let emails or messages go unanswered. From Day 1 have a system in place for how to handle questions that arise and emergency situations. It’s always best to have an instant messaging app in place for your VA or virtual team.
  3. Set up a time at the end of each day or week for an update on tasks or projects assigned. Having this in place from the start will help eliminate questions on where things stand.

Deciding what areas you can outsource is typically one of the biggest hurdles when someone is starting out with a VA. Taking the time in the beginning to make your 4-step list will not only give you a good starting point for your Virtual Assistant, but will also give you guidance once your relationship is established on the areas you can utilize to add to their responsibilities.

Laura is the founder of Elite Virtual Assistants. If you’re not sure how to get started, give her a call today for a free consultation at (440) 973-7005.

TIPS ON KEEPING YOUR INFORMATION SECURE WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

How can you trust a Virtual Assistant with your personal information when they’re so far away? It really isn’t any different than trusting an in-house employee with the same information, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Building trust with your Virtual Assistant seems obvious, but is something that is earned over time, not given up front.

While you’re waiting for that to happen, there are a couple options for sharing your important information with those who need it, and also keeping it secure.

Password Managers

There are many Password Manager programs that allow Virtual Assistants to login in to your account without seeing your passwords. The usernames and passwords are encrypted in the program itself, keeping all of your information in one place. Your Virtual Assistant can log into the program and navigate to the websites you have put in place.

This allows a VA or anyone you choose, including yourself, to login to your accounts without having direct access to your passwords (which also helps you have one place to go where all of your password information is stored). You can choose the level of access each user will have for the websites you load in the manager, from being able to view information or edit and make changes.  A few of these programs are:

Some Information you can store on these sites are:

  • Credit Card Information
  • Social Media Channels
  • Bank Information
  • Secure Notes
  • Email Accounts

Non Disclosure Agreement

Although most VA firms will have verbiage in their services contract on protecting clients information, many companies also opt to include a Non Disclosure Agreement with more specific information. An NDA is a legal contract between at least two parties that outlines confidential material, knowledge, or information that the each party wishes to share with one another for certain purposes, but restricts access to a third party.

There are 2 different types of NDA’s, a Unilateral and a Bilateral. Understanding and having an NDA in place is a good idea for companies to protect information and ideas, regardless of whether you have in-house employees or a remote worker like a Virtual Assistant.

Don’t Be Blind

Having a checks and balances system in place is always your best bet to stay on top of everything. When you’re getting started, always keep an eye on what someone is doing for you, whether they are an in-house or Virtual Assistant. You still need to take the time to follow up with your VA just like you would an employee in your office. If you’re allowing someone to use your credit card to make purchases, keep track of your card activity. If you’re allowing someone to post content on social media, make sure you’re monitoring what they’re posting.

If something doesn’t seem right or seems out of line, bring it to their attention immediately. Taking the time in the beginning to put some security systems in place and following up until that trust is established is your secret to virtual success!

Laura is the founder of Elite Virtual Assistants. For more information on finding a virtual assistant, you can visit their website or call Laura directly at 440-973-7005.

24 Tasks You Can Outsource To A Virtual Assistant

Working with a Virtual Assistant can be a rewarding experience. Typically one of the biggest challenges when people are starting out is deciding what tasks they can outsource. Everyone needs help in different ways; but whether you’re the CEO of a company, or an independent  Author or Blogger aching for more writing time, below I have broke down the 3 main areas that tend to cross-over between industries.

Here are 24 tasks you can outsource starting today:

EMAIL & CALENDAR MANAGEMENT

The wide world of email: it has a good side and an overused side. The problem is trying to filter & sort through what’s important, what’s not, and everything in between. For some of our clients this task can take away more than 5 hours a week of time that could be much better spent. A VA can help you:

  1. Sort through emails/mark what’s important/sort through spam
  2. Reply to customer/client inquiries
  3. Chat Support
  4. Calendar management/appointment reminders
  5. Schedule appointments

GENERAL ADMINISTRATIVE TASKS

Although the administrative list can go on forever, a sampling of some tasks our Virtual Assistant’s do that are “all things admin” include:

  1. Travel Planning
  2. Internet Research
  3. Client Gifts (purchasing & sending)
  4. Personal Errands
  5. Data Entry
  6. Database Management
  7. Task Management
  8. Event Planning
  9. Reporting
  10. Expense Reporting
  11. Bookkeeping
  12. Organize Meetings/Conference Calls
  13. PowerPoint  Presentations

DIGITAL MARKETING

The world of digital marketing is big, and only getting bigger. Just when you think you’ve mastered one social channel, there’s another one that is proving to be better. Trying to stay on top of learning the ins & outs of digital marketing, whether it’s the latest email programs, hosting platforms or the hottest social channel to advertise on, can be overwhelming. Some areas you can outsource to a Virtual Assistant that will help promote you and your business are:

  1. Create & schedule email campaigns
  2. Create & send newsletters
  3. Social Media Management (create campaigns for each channel/schedule posts)
  4. Moderate & reply to comments on different channels
  5. Help with blog postings (finding images, editing, posting)
  6. General Website management (html coding/manage subscribers)

There are many other smaller tasks that could be added to this list, but these are typically the areas that people are needing help with, regardless of your industry or company size. Once you have settled in on what areas you need assistance with and the tasks within those areas you’re able to outsource, you’re ready to start outsourcing some of that workload. Are you ready to bring the balance back to your life?

Give us a call at Elite Virtual Assistants…we offer a free consultation to get you on the right track and match you with the perfect Virtual Assistant.

3 Areas You Can Add a Personal Touch to your Automation

Automation has two sides…the good and the overused. I’ve never thought too much about it until I started using some different tools myself. I’m all for using automation…. in moderation.  It has become an essential tool for many businesses to help keep up with the digital marketing demands, and keep in touch with our prospects and clients.

The problem I have is when automation is overused and lacks the personal touch and feel of a human being. I’m still of the belief that nothing can replace a human, no matter where technology takes us. Below are a few areas that you can take steps starting today, to help personalize your automatic responses.

EMAILS

Email automation is a great tool, when it’s not meant to be personal. Sending an automated “thank you for joining” when someone signs up for your newsletter lets them know their request was received. How can you personalize that automated response? I go back at the end of each day or the next morning and send a personal email back to each person thanking them for signing up, and I include something that I feel is of use to most people. Right now I’m sending a social media calendar template that can be tailored to anyone’s campaign.

TWITTER

What actually sparked me to write this were the automated direct messages I was receiving on Twitter. When I started getting a regular stream of connections, I couldn’t keep up with the direct messages that were coming in. I enjoy going through my new contacts at the end of the day to see who is following me. When I sat down and took the time to sift through my messages, I found they were all automated.  There wasn’t one message sent to me that was personal in any way. This is a good way for a possible good message to get lost in the shuffle. Based on my experience, if I’m trying to get someone’s attention on twitter I will @mention them in a tweet. I always read through my notifications before I look at my endless list of generic messages.

HOOTSUITE

Hootsuite is a great platform to use when you need to schedule your campaign days or weeks in advance, and when you’re utilizing different channels. But what you post on Twitter & Facebook might not be right for LinkedIn. Taking the time to post the right content on the right channels is something that you need to spend a little time sorting through.

Using automation in conjunction with some personal interaction can help you strike a nice balance with your audience. You can’t be on top of every new connection or subscriber right when it happens, and as we know our society today wants an immediate action or response locked and loaded. But showing that you took the time to really look at that person or their business and personalize your end-message or connection request adds the human element that has been lost in the electronic shuffle. In the end people want to know that they matter, isn’t that what’s important to you?

 

Inside EVA: Why I’m Passionate about Virtual Assistants

You would expect an article like this from me, considering I founded a Virtual Assistant Company. But what you probably don’t know is why I founded this company. Like many other entrepreneurs, it started with a passion to help others that led to its creation.

I’ve been a Virtual Assistant myself in many capacities for over 18 years, which started soon after my daughter was born. I needed to work AND be home with her. I had no idea how to do this or what I would do, until I saw an ad in the paper from a wholesaler who needed part time work, which I could do from home. My VA career started and blossomed from there.

It kept my skills sharp and also allowed me the flexibility to stay home and raise my kids for many years. I started out part time, but by my third child I was working almost full time as a Virtual Assistant, and eventually needed to send him to daycare a few days a week (funny how we change our mindset by the 3rd child…).

My passion was two-fold; I wanted other women to have the freedom and flexibility to work around their schedules, while staying on top of their skills. Unfortunately when women (or men) take a leave from work to stay home for even a year or two, it makes it difficult to get back into the workforce. It takes time to get up to speed on the changes that happened while you were away. I also wanted them to not have to search for work. That is a stressful time when you’re between clients, and probably the hardest aspect of working as a freelance Virtual Assistant.

The women we’re working with today at Elite, for lack of a better term, are awesome. They’re take-charge women who want the same things we want: to be recognized for their expertise, keep their skill set sharp and earn a good living, while still being able to be available to their families.  These women help us grow as a company with their knowledge and experience leading the way. It’s a great feeling to know that we’re helping each other on this path.

The second part was seeing how as little as 5 hours a week could benefit the clients I was working with. When someone can take even 2-3 tasks out of their daily or weekly routine (I call them the time-suck tasks), it makes a big difference. I found over the years that people take advantage of that time in different ways. Some used it to free up more time to spend with their family and some used it to allow them more time to work on other areas of their business. Regardless of the reason, time is time, and it’s not easy to come by.

One of my favorite parts of this job is the initial consultation with a client. Giving information via email is fine to start, but I always insist on a call. Yes, people are busy. But if you’re serious about getting some help, then I need to talk to you. Most conversations always start out the same, “I know I need help, but I don’t know how someone can help me”. By the end of the call, it feels great to have helped someone plan out how to get started, and discover the things they can outsource that they never thought of before. It’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

I made myself a lab rat.

I’m the perfect test subject: When I started using one of our VA’s, I was amazed at the weight that was lifted off my shoulders. I am someone who feels they need to do everything themselves, whether it’s for business or at home. What got me started was one particular project I had and just couldn’t find the time to complete. I had the bulk of it put together, but no time to implement it. I took my own advice and handed the entire project to a VA. Her help has been invaluable to me. That project has led to other tasks that I’m handing over, knowing we can keep moving our company forward with her by my side.

I never thought I’d become such a “business nerd”.  I am always reading and researching everything I can find on business. I laugh at myself on how many articles I find on different topics, and my first reaction is “that’s something a Virtual Assistant can do for someone”. It’s exciting and such a tremendous learning experience.

My partner and I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to structure Elite and create a sustainable company. There’s a learning curve with everything in life, and we’ve had some bumps along the way. But we’ve found a solid foundation that we’re working on, and constantly working to improve. If I’ve learned anything so far, it’s to always be in student mode. If you’re not learning, you’re losing. You know the old saying, “you gotta work in the trenches…” Well we have, which I think is what has helped us develop our company to where we are now. Having been Virtual Assistants ourselves for so many years has helped us to understand what drives and motivates our team.

For our Virtual Assistants we strive to:

  • Have a caring, understanding and sustainable company to work for.
  • Offer good rates to keep our VA’s happy and turnover low.
  • Positions that challenge them and keep their skills sharp.

For our clients, we strive to:

  • Have a dedicated assistant who isn’t looking for a higher paying job.
  • Have an assistant who is experienced not only with certain skill sets, but also with working remotely. It may not seem like it, but it’s not easy having a flexible work schedule. It takes discipline, and a lot of it.
  • Be happy. You can’t put a price tag on a happy client.

When I first started this company I never thought about it being my passion. I was initially thinking about how I wanted to help not only other women, but also clients in need of assistance. Then I discovered what a great sense of satisfaction it’s been to create these scenarios for both sides, and that has become my driving force.

If you’re someone struggling with wanting to start a company or a business and you aren’t sure where to begin…think about what you’re good at, and what you enjoy doing. Now figure out how that can help others. This will help give you a great foundation to get started. If you’re struggling with too much work or need that driving force to keep you motivated, it might be time for you to hire a Virtual Assistant.

 

Freelance vs. Agency: 6 Benefits A Virtual Assistant Agency Provides

One of the big questions that come to mind when trying to decide on hiring virtual assistance of any kind is whether to hire a freelance VA or utilize an agency. There are pros and cons to both, depending on what you’re looking for, how much time you have to invest in the process, and how much money your budget allows.

The bottom line is that you’re going to spend a little more going through an agency than hiring a freelance Virtual Assistant.  If dollars are the biggest hurdle you’re encountering, take a minute to think about what you’re getting and what you’ll have to go through to get it. Pricing is typically the biggest hurdle in any type of purchase, whether it’s a service or good.  You know the old saying, “you get what you pay for”?

Freelance

I was talking to a colleague of mine who is a district manager for a cosmetics company. We were talking about wages and how the bottom line for many companies will always come down to the dollar amount they’re spending instead of the quality of work they’re getting. As an example, her company allowed her to hire a virtual assistant, but would only reimburse her for paying that VA for 8 hours a week at minimum wage. She is now working on hiring her 3rd virtual assistant, as the first 2 haven’t worked out.

She mentioned how much time she had to spend herself on finding the assistants, placing ads, interviewing and then training. The other hurdle was only being able to offer minimum wage; this didn’t bring in the experience she was looking for. Now that she is again looking for another assistant, she is feeling frustrated and has lost quite a bit of time through the process. This situation boils down to loss of wages and selling time for her, which in the end is less sales for the company. This isn’t always the case, but it is just one example of how this hiring process, coupled with the low wages can turn into a long, drawn out process.

If you tend to be a DIY type of person and have the time to handle this process yourself, the freelance option does allows you flexibility with pricing and the ability to look at a wider range of candidates. There are many different places you can look for a freelance Virtual Assistant like LinkedIn, VA forums,  or even placing an ad on Craigs List.

Agency

Using an agency to hire a Virtual Assistant may come at a higher price, but it also comes with some advantages. I don’t know about you, but when I am shopping for anything, whether a service or a good, and have too many options, it makes me feel overwhelmed. Using an agency takes that overwhelming feeling and brings it down to a much more manageable level.

The big question is: What do I get for my money going through an agency? There are several benefits an agency provides, such as:

  1. Consulting. Most agencies will provide an initial consultation to help them place you with the right VA, help decide what types of tasks the VA can handle for maximum efficiency, and how many hours you should need on a monthly basis. At our agency (EVA) we provide ongoing consulting through the entire relationship with our clients.
  2. Experienced Virtual Assistants. Having experience working as a VA is important in understanding how a virtual relationship works, and the different programs and apps to use for virtual success.
  3. Back-Up. Life is not perfect; and neither is every virtual relationship. There are times that the relationship between a client and Virtual Assistant may not work out for whatever reason, or maybe they move on at some point to do other things. Instead of having to start from square one and begin the search, hiring and training process all over again, agencies will have other experienced VA’s that will be able to jump in as soon as the next day and get started.
  4. Training. Many times the agency offers training for their VA’s to keep up-to-date with the latest apps and programs.
  5. Contracts. You can come up with your own contract for your virtual relationship, but an agency will have a contract that is in place with both the VA and the client. This is not only to protect the VA and the agency, but also to protect the client’s information and maintain confidentiality.
  6. Happy VA’s. Does that sound funny? But YES, you want your VA to be happy, don’t you? Take a minute and ask yourself a question: Would you be happy making $8-10 an hour? People who are paid well for their experience and enjoy their work are productive, efficient and happy VA’s.

Agencies are a benefit not just to the client searching for a Virtual Assistant, but also for the VA’s themselves. It’s a challenging process looking for work as a Virtual Assistant, much like the process of looking for a job in a conventional office. Agencies allow VA’s an option of what clients to work with and even to choose the amount of hours they’d like to work.

If you have the time and patience to do the hiring process yourself, and your budget is the biggest thing holding you back, then using a freelance Virtual Assistant may be the better choice for you. When time is what you’re lacking, an agency can help you make the right choice in a more efficient manner.

When you’re searching for a doctor or lawyer, is your first concern if they’re the cheapest, or they’re the best? Why would you trust your business with anything less than that? Give us a call today at (440) 973-7005, or visit our website, and we can help you sort through the noise!

How I Ended My Struggle with Accountability

Do you find that you have the drive to keep yourself going, but lack the organization and follow up you need to be really successful? Do you tend to lend blame to others or even certain circumstances when you fall short? It happens to the best of us. If you’re a one-person show…who is making you accountable to get things done? And if you don’t get them done, are you taking responsibility or shifting the blame? Businessdictionary.com defines accountability as: The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.

Many people find themselves struggling with accountability, regardless of their profession. You may seek a business coach to help you, as they can guide you on the path for success, giving you the motivation you need. Many people, like myself, require that constant push to get ahead and keep moving forward. But what happens when the coaching is over? This is where having an “accountability partner” comes into play for me. Just like having a workout buddy helps you stay motivated and focused on getting or staying in shape, having a partner that can help you grow your business can work the same way.

I’ve made two changes over the last year to help me with my own accountability. The first was having a partner in my business. Danae and I talk twice each week; once at the beginning of the week to set our goals and decide on a game plan, and again at the end of the week to see where we’re at and what our results were. The second was hiring a Virtual Assistant to help us get the tasks done within our game plan, which helps to keep us both on track along the way. The rule we’ve used for our Virtual Assistant is to outsource what we can teach, and the rest we do ourselves. We make sure we’re clear with the results we’re looking for, and the time frame we need it done. Our VA is held accountable for her tasks, and Danae and I are accountable for ours.

I was listening to Jeffrey Hayzlett on Doug Sandler’s Podcast  the other day and he mentioned something that was funny, but true. He said we need to “get rid of the squirrels”. It’s so easy to get distracted and lose your focus, which many times means a task or project goes unfinished or is delayed longer than it needs to be. Personally, knowing that someone is holding me accountable makes me 99 times more likely to have that done than if I held only myself accountable for those tasks.

Whether you’re looking for accountability for yourself or for someone you’re working with, try implementing the guidelines I follow:

  1. Have a clear vision
  2. Understand the expected results
  3. Decide on your game plan
  4. Accept responsibility for your actions

If you find yourself needing that extra push, try finding yourself an “accountability partner”. It’s helped me more than I ever realized it would!

 

 

How A Social Media Calendar Can Help Your Digital Marketing Campaign Get On The Right Track

Do you find yourself scrambling at the beginning of the day or week wondering what you’re going to post on your social channels and what direction your digital campaign will take? What your blog will be about? What emails you’ll be sending out? Whether you’re a small business or 1-man show, we all find ourselves in this predicament more often than not.

This time consuming task can be overwhelming, but with the right planning and template in place, you can organize your ideas a week or a month in advance to help keep your campaign consistent and running smoothly.

Using a template not only helps you plan your theme for the week, but also gives you easy access to look back and see what you’ve posted in the past. When you’re short on time or just need some extra posts to fill, go back a few months or even a year and reuse something you used previously that’s relevant to what you’re doing that week. I have found this to be the easiest way to save time on my weekly campaigns. Write out your blog first, if you don’t blog (which you really should!), write out the ideas or theme you want to use for the week. Then take pieces of that to plan the posts for your social media channels. You’ll be surprised at the time this can save you.

Download your free social media calendar template here

The template I use and have shared with you is adapted from Andrew Macarthy’s template that he offers on his website, and is broke down into the different channels. You can adjust this to fit your campaign accordingly:

Blog. Let your blog idea set the theme for your social media campaign that week. Make sure you have several ideas you can pick out and share on your different channels.

Social Media Channels. Once you have your blog done or theme in place, you should have plenty of pieces you can take out and use for your social media postings. Depending on how often you post, the calendar may be enough to log all of your ideas and links. If you post several times a day on different channels, you can use the calendar to plan out your ideas for the week, and then schedule your posts to run through a social media management platform like Hootsuite or Buffer.

Email. If you send out a weekly or monthly email, you can use one of your blog topics to create your email campaign.

If you have someone helping with your marketing campaign, you can put your ideas down for each channel for the week on the social media calendar. This will give them direction for the campaign and they can start doing the research to find the images, ideas and posts.

Digital marketing is not something you should be doing…it’s something you must be doing to keep up these days. It’s not a magical marketing tool that will produce overnight results, but it is something, that used consistently over time with proper planning, will build a relationship with your target audience.

If you already have a system in place that you’re using, how is it working? If you need help implementing your campaigns, give us a call!

3 Systems To Put In Place For A Successful Virtual Relationship

You’ve made the decision to hire a Virtual Assistant…you’re excited. You are finally going to be able to free up that precious time and really get your business going. But you still have some questions that are burning in the back of your mind, like:

  1. What is the best form of communication for a quick response?
  2. How do I know what my VA is working on?
  3. How do I know how much time is spent on each project or task?
  4. What if I need an update and can’t reach my VA?

Well, there’s apps for all that! And if you’re not the most tech savvy person out there, you can always use a more traditional plan. The key to a successful virtual relationship is to have a plan in place allowing for some flexibility, and be sure that it’s communicated well.

The digital age we’re in today lends many options for a successful and productive virtual relationship. When looking into sharing apps to keep a steady workflow, be sure to discuss all options with your virtual assistant or team first, and decide which applications will work best for both sides (taking into consideration the MAC/PC compatibility issues).

Successful virtual teams need to be transparent…you need to be able to check on things at any given time without having to wait for an update or response. Having a daily or weekly check-up call is a great way to stay on task and in touch, but sometimes you need information in-between those times. Try these sharing apps to stay productive and in-the-know:

  1. Progress Tracking. I put this one at #1 because I feel it’s the most important. This is one that is instrumental in the beginning to building a healthy virtual relationship. It helps both sides understand how much time is being spent on a task or project. This not only allows you to see where the most time is spent, but can help you plan better in the coming months. You can try Process Street to manage recurring checklists and procedures, or a time & project tracking system like My Hours.
  2. Instant Messaging. This is a big plus when you’re working with a virtual assistant or team. If you’re waiting on a text or email response, which can easily get buried throughout the day, having an instant messaging system that is used solely for your virtual team is a great way to be able to get a quick message out or response back. You can try Slack or HipChat, which can both be used on mobile devices, and for free international messaging you can use Whatsapp or FB Messenger.
  3. Document Sharing with Google Docs. This is a great way to share, edit and collaborate with your virtual assistant or team. By sharing the files, you have access at all times.

Whether you’re working with a Virtual Assistant or an entire Virtual Team, planning, communication and organization are keys to a successful relationship. If you have a hard time with any of these areas in general, utilizing one or all of these systems will help you stay at the top of your game.

If you’re currently working with a Virtual Assistant or Team, what types of systems and apps are working for you?