SO MUCH TO DO, SO LITTLE TIME

 As I look at my calendar, I see it’s time to wrap up 2014 and anticipate 2015. My fiscal year runs concurrent with the calendar year, which makes running my business, Virtual Colleague, LLC,  so much easier. As I begin to gather my information for tax purposes and categorize my expenses, I realize how much work I’ve accomplished over the past 12 months. It’s not about how much money I made or how much can I deduct for certain expenses; it’s what I’ve accomplished for my clients.

This is my second year in business and of course, when I updated my business plan for 2014, I planned to increase my client list, my income, the hours I could work, but most importantly, to learn something new.

In this business, it’s all about being open to learning. Every client is different and want or need different services. They have different operating systems, so giving them directions on how to do something on their computers is sometimes a combination of patience and communication.

What have I learned?

  • Some clients take time to realize what a virtual assistant is and what they can do for them.
  • That working virtually is sometimes like working blind. I try to talk to my clients, but because I’m not sitting right there at their sides, they can’t seem to relate to some things I’m talking about.
  • To trust my instincts. If I have a bad feeling about someone or something, then don’t go there. As much as I want to expand my business, some clients just aren’t worth the time and effort it takes to make them happy. I could never do enough for them and they would never be satisfied.

I’m a forward-thinking person, so I’m starting to wrap up my work for 2014. I’ve archived my weekly blog posts and created a calendar for next year along with some ideas for those blog posts. I try to complete my posts a month before their due date. That gives me some flexibility to spend time on other projects.

I try to keep my pricing flexible according to the amount of work and degree of difficulty to complete it. I also give discounts for first-time clients and if they were referred by another client. It’s difficult to predict what my yearly income will be, but doing this has helped me gain clients, so it’s part of my business practices.

I also have to create spreadsheets and forms for the next business year to track all expenses, income, and possible tax deductions. I routinely update my website information and change the photos or theme of my blog.

Of course there’s the whole marketing aspect of my business. I changed my business address in July, so I need to create some new marketing materials with the correct address and any updates.

It is also time to look at the services I offer and decide if I should add or remove certain ones. I review my clients’ contracts for the past year and see what services they used, how much time I spent performing those tasks, and how much income was generated. I then decide what changes if any are necessary.

Another necessary part of being a virtual assistant is reviewing and updating my business plan. This may seem like a simple task or maybe even unnecessary, but it is a very useful tool. It’s similar to a yearly employee review.

I take my current business plan and go through it to see what goals I met and which ones I missed. It is a snapshot of my whole year and lets me know, if I’m on the right track to achieve my goals. My goals for 2014 are not necessarily my goals for 2015, but it is an indication of where my business is headed and at this point, the end-of-year evaluation, I get the opportunity to forecast my business growth and income for the next 12 months. It gives me a chance to re-direct my efforts to achieve new or existing goals.

So time is running out to finish and evaluate all that I have done. All in all, I had a good year and I look forward to another productive and prosperous year!

 

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GIVING THANKS OR THANKS FOR GIVING

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It is a day to reflect on all the good things we have in this country. It is customary as everyone gathers at the dinner table to list off many of the good things we have including gifts, talents, and family.

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This is an important holiday. Not only because we re-create history, but it’s a good idea to step back once in a while and remember all the good things in life. We will always remember the sad or tragic moments or the moments of failure, but we NEED to remember the good times and the good things we have.

Some people consider this a “food holiday” meaning that you just sit there and eat and watch the parade and football games all day or is it all about “Black Friday”?

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freedigitalphotos.net

This brings me to the title “giving thanks or thanks for giving”. I am starting to prepare my business for a new year and to closer out the present year. In my business, Virtual Colleague, LLC, I am thankful for the clients I have this year. I learned from them and they learned from me.  We worked as a team and accomplish our goals. I’m thankful that I got to know and work with them.

What about “thanks for giving”. It’s difficult for some people to acknowledge a good deed. Thank you seems to be one of the hardest words to say in the English language. If I work with a client long enough (some are only short term clients), they usually end up saying “thanks for giving” …so much of your time to this project. My clients appreciate the time I spend to make their jobs run smoothly.

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I think of giving thanks for things that I already have, but I think of thanks for giving as appreciation for my daily actions. In either case, thankfulness helps you to appreciate what you have and what you do. It makes some of the choices in life easier to make, because being thankful and giving thanks allows you to choose and evaluate what you will do.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving Day or not, it is a good idea to take one day a year and focus on the good things you’ve received and the good actions you’ve done. This resets your personal compass and motivates you to do even better.

What are the things you’re thankful for and how thankful are you for what others have done for you?

 

 

 

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WE SHOULD ALL BE VETERANS

According to Dictionary.com, there are 2 similar definitions for the word “veteran”.

The first one is “a person who has served in a military force, especially one who has fought in a war.”

The second definition is “a person who has had long service or experience in an occupation, office, or the like.”

Most of us think of the military definition first, but let’s take a look at the other definition. Many of the virtual assistants in today’s industry are veterans of the administrative professional world. These virtual assistants have been in the trenches, so to speak. They’ve had to adapt to constant changes in schedules and calendars, learn new technology quickly, and deal with many different personalities in the workplace.

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Most virtual assistants have battled with scheduling multiple events or meetings within a small window of time. They’ve also battled with travel plans, time zones, canceled flights, and last-minute hotel arrangements, not to mention dinner reservations.

All veterans rely on their initiative and past knowledge to get through difficult times, but not only get through them, but succeed and conquer. Most virtual assistants wearing business attire don’t look like they’re ready for battle, but the real battle is in their ability and capability to accept all challenges and complete the mission or goal.

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Freedigitalphotos.net

The virtual assistant takes on the goals and missions of everyone she works for and it is her efforts and coordination that result in success – completing the project(s) on time or failure – lack of leadership on her part to fuse everyone together and meet the goal.

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Freedigitalphotos.net

This month we celebrate Veterans Day. I believe this day should be dedicate to the military veterans, who gave so much of their time, talent, and lives to ensure peace and prosperity for all of us. Many of them died or received serious injuries, but they still believe in what they did and would probably do it all over again.

While I’m not comparing a virtual assistant’s day to a day of fighting on the combat lines, I am drawing some similarities between the two. They share many of the same traits.  Perseverance, patience, perspiration, preparation, partnering, providing, planning, and pursuing their missions are key to their success.

There are no pins or medals for virtual assistants, but they continue to provide services, because they enjoy the challenges and have a strong need to assist businesses to grow and develop. They are committed to providing specific services that businesses need saving business owners money and equipment fees.

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Freedigitalphotos.net

I urge all of you to take time on Veterans Day to extend a “thank you” to those, who have served us well during difficult times. I also encourage you to reach out to virtual assistants. They have expertise in many areas. If you’re looking for help on a project, they can facilitate the project. If you’re looking for a new career, speak to a virtual assistant and they can tell you about the benefits and perks of being a virtual assistant.

 

 

 

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LET THE CLIENT SET THE PACE OF THE PROJECT

I don’t know about you, but when I get involved in something, I go into it heart and soul. As a virtual assistant at Virtual Colleague, LLC, I do this with my clients, because I see them as colleagues, I want to share my ideas and creativity with them.

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While this is an admirable trait, clients have many things on their minds. They have deadlines for projects, budget constraints, employee issues, etc.  I may be involved in much of what goes on in the business, I’m not involved in everything.

Recently, I was really enthusiastic about a project my client was undertaking, but he seemed somewhat uncommitted. I tried to push things along, but he kept tabling our discussions on that topic. Finally, I realized that in this case, I must let the client set the pace. I have several great ideas for this upcoming project and I’m sure we will get to it soon, but apparently, my client feels that other issues must take priority and this particular project is on the back burner. Realizing that this is the case, I advised him that I will continue with our scheduled work and he will decide when we start the new project. I could hear the smile in his voice. He told me he has so much on his plate right now that he needs to handle his immediate priorities and worry about the other things later on.

 

Sometimes it’s difficult to work with someone, who doesn’t share your work ethic or your drive and enthusiasm, but as colleagues, working together to accomplish the goal is the most important thing.

In a later conversation, he told me that he appreciates my dedication and knows that I will be ready to work on that project when the time comes. I told myself that I would not think about it and just focus on the tasks at hand. I’m finding it hard not to think about it. I am a forward-thinking person, so I like to anticipate and research to make the projects easier to do, when the time comes.

I have to bear in mind that in this case, my client has to set the pace. Unless, the deadline is usually short, we should be able to work together and accomplish our project by the due date. Some of my clients are less time-conscious or last-minute people. In those cases, I micro-manage them by constant reminders consisting of emails and/or phone calls. I also gently remind them that I will have to charge more for my services, if we cannot meet the deadline due to lack of effort on their part. I rarely have to say this, but some of them think that you just wave a magic wand and the work gets done. It can be especially stressful, if I have to wait for others to turn in their information on the project.

My advice for virtual assistants – let your client set the pace unless the pace is unrealistic.

 

 

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WHY CHANGE CAN BE GOOD FOR YOU AND YOUR CLIENT

Tired of the same old routine? We call get tired of repetitive tasks or adhering to the same schedule day after day, week after week. Change can be good and it may even be necessary.

As a virtual assistant, I need to stay sharp and on top of new technology. Performing tasks the same way inhibits my creativity and gives me tunnel vision, meaning I can only perform this task in this way. This is a dangerous mindset!

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http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

You need to keep finding new and different ways to learn new things and use what you’ve learned. My clients are amazed that I always come up with at least 2 solutions to every problem and I am able to speak about those solutions in-depth. I’m not single-minded, but rather, I have the best interest of my clients at heart, so I stretch myself to learn new things and to “think” my way out of problems.

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http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

By making an effort to keep learning something new, I am prepared to step up and give my opinion on many things that may impact any decision. I also garner respect for my can-do attitude, research skills, and knowledge of other options. I become part of the solution not part of the problem.

Just a word of caution! Change for the sake of change is NOT good! We’ve all heard the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” That may be true in some cases, but in the business world, knowledge is power and knowledge provides constant growth without making dangerous mistakes or miscalculations.

Also, true is the fact that some clients prefer their work completed in specific ways. An example of this is when a client insists that everyone uses google docs and Gmail instead of using their own preference. The client wants continuity and to streamline the work flow. While some colleagues may not want to do the project this way, the overall effect is a single method of communication.

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http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Change is most welcomed, when it improves efficiency, effectiveness, and provides better communication and cohesion for the project. Like the Refresh button on your computer, change can be beneficial to both clients and assistants, because it causes everyone to re-think the process and provides room to think and grow.

 Think about how you do certain things, whether it’s housework, your job, or something else in your person life.

How can you change your routine to make your life more enjoyable and still have time to do the things you enjoy most?

 

 

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DO YOU BELIEVE IN OMENS IN BUSINESS?

As a Christian, I believe that God directs my life and the things in it. I was asked the other day, if I believed in omens, especially in business. My answer is not a simple one. While I do believe that things happen to us for a reason, I also believe that we can shape our own destiny by doing certain things that lead us in a particular direction.

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http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Here’s an example. As a virtual assistant, I specialize in writing projects, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t or won’t do other general tasks. If my client needs other tasks completed, I feel it is my responsibility to service those needs. I may not enjoy doing those tasks as much as the writing projects, but it is part of the business relationship. My client and I signed a contract and we are now colleagues.

The definition of the word “omen” is “an event regarded as a portent of good or evil”. Some people look for signs in everything they do. I may post an email or advertise and get a good feeling about it, but it takes hard work and determination to success in business. I don’t believe depending on signs and wonders is a good foundation for decision-making.

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http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

On the other hand, you should never ignore your gut feeling about something. This happened to me about a month ago. I went out on a Saturday. I wanted to go to the lake and just relax and enjoy summer. While I was there, I got a feeling that something was not right. I didn’t know what it was and certainly nothing was wrong at the lake. It was a perfect day. When I came home, I found out why I had that sinking feeling.

Omens can be also be good ones. As in meeting someone and immediately bonding with them and then establishing a business relationship. Some people just call it good luck and don’t read too much into signs and feelings. It’s easier to deal with good omens as opposed to bad ones.

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http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

So to answer the question, I would say that I’m cautious about “omens”, because although it may be a sign of things to come, it is no substitute for common sense, good judgment, and dealing with the facts.

 

Do you believe in omens?

 

 

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REAPING THE FRUITS OF MY LABOR

At the beginning of this month, we celebrated Labor Day. While it’s not only a “day of rest” for most workers, it is a time to reflect on our jobs and career goals. Everyone enjoys a day off to pursue our other interests, but what about recognition of our accomplishments?

As a virtual assistant at Virtual Colleague, LLC,  I have the ability to perform a variety of tasks for my clients. From simple tasks to project management, I love the variety and learning this job brings to me. Every now and then, I sit back and review what I’ve accomplished and what I’ve had to learn. Working with clients puts me in the driver’s seat to get the projects completed, but…I have to know how to run the car. What I mean by that is that I need to know WHAT TO DO and HOW TO DO IT, but if I don’t, I also have to LEARN IT FAST!!

Every client is different and every client is unique, so finding a one-size-fits-all is not possible, if I want to truly service my clients’ needs. For example, I may perform only one specific task for a client, but perform 3 or 4 different ones for other clients.

So I excel at the things I’m good at, explore some other tasks that I’m vaguely familiar with, and then learn some totally new software programs. Taking time to periodically see where I am and where I’ve been is in fact REAPING THE FRUITS OF MY LABOR. I realize what I have accomplished and that gives me more to offer my present or future clients.

Every learning opportunity is a chance to increase my offerings. How many ice cream shops do you know that only offer 3 flavors? They usually offer at least 20 different flavors and some will mix them for you. This idea works the same way for virtual assistants. While you may want to specialize in certain areas of your expertise, you always need to keep the door open for business by learning new skills as they present themselves.

I recently met with a client that has suddenly acquired a new line of work in addition to what he already does. Due to my proven ability to get the job done on time and within his budget, he wants me to undertake this new venture with him. This is an area that neither of us have a great deal of expertise in, but my enthusiasm and can-do attitude will get me through it. It will require my full attention and excellent communication to make sure we are both in sync with the project.  I had continued to learn new software or new ways of doing tasks and when we (my client and I) start this new project, I will definitely REAP THE FRUITS OF MY LABOR!

Do you take time to review what you’ve accomplished or completed? Tell me about it in the comment section.

 

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