Virtual Colleague LLC 4

Change is good for the soul. When I started my Virtual Assistant business, Virtual Colleague, LLC. in early 2013, I wanted to conquer the world. I did not want to restrict myself to certain services, so I offered many services. Services like transcription, social media management, document preparation, etc. I wanted to come on strong and get my business up and running. I read that most virtual assistants have a niche and work within those parameters. I speak French, so I know what a “niche” is, but how do I find mine? A “niche” is a fancy word for “specialty”. Sometimes we know ourselves too well and don’t realize our strengths, but we all know our weaknesses.


I enjoy being flexible and performing a variety of tasks, whether it’s cooking, gardening, or writing; I enjoy the freedom to explore and learn something new.  That’s why it was so difficult for me to find my niche. I didn’t want to tie myself down to certain tasks or groups, but I knew I had to.

female executive

It didn’t take long to realize that I was a “Jill of all trades, mistress of none” meaning that although I can do many things, I really needed to specialize and stay focused. I had to do some soul-searching. One the one hand, I knew I loved to write. One the other hand, I enjoyed researching and learning new things. How could I marry these two loves?


I quietly honed down my services in my business over several months and focused more on writing projects and resume packages. The more I wrote, the more I loved it. I started researching what other virtual assistants were offering during this time. In my personal life, I always research everything before I buy anything. I check for quality, reviews, and pricing. When I do make the purchase, I am satisfied that I got a good deal. I then realized that I love to research. I will look up anything – an old classmate, a movie star from the 80’s, or travel destinations.


While meeting with a few friends for lunch, one of them suggested I learn to copy write. She told me that I have a great sense of humor, I can talk people into doing or buying things, I love to write, and I could make more money, if I focus on that part of my business. She advised me to learn more about it. I’ve done some copywriting, but not on the scale she was talking about. This idea intrigued me, so I researched it further. I decided to take an online course in copywriting, so I can learn from the masters and get a feel for this style of writing. I’m not quite half way through the course, but I’m really enjoying it. I find that I’ve been producing good copywriting, but this course offers so much more in the way of helpful tips and tricks, personal stories from successful copywriters, and samples of great copywriting work.


I’m grateful to my friend for suggesting this and I realize that this is a perfect fit for me. Not only do it get the opportunity to write, which is my passion, but also, I have to research new products and services for my clients and that makes the job fun, interesting, and informative. The fees are based on the copywriter’s experience, but if I really work hard, I can earn several times more than I’m earning now and not only get better at copywriting, but learn a lot about new products,  services, and what’s going on in the world.

Sometimes it only takes a few words from someone to point you in the right direction.

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RepetitionI wrote about this about a year ago, but I feel it is an important part of the learning process, so I’m writing about it again.  I recently started an online course. From time to time, I take online courses to keep myself sharp and learn new things, but this course is directly related to my virtual assistant business, Virtual Colleague, LLC.

Virtual Colleague LLC 4

The course I’m taking will make me a better writer, because it focuses on various aspects of the writing process and how to write effective copy. Having said this, I committed to this course and I’m going to see if through. There are five parts to this online course and I’ve finished Part 1. This course is a bit intense and sometimes tedious, but I need to press on to achieve better writing. Part 1 consisted of some reading – -easy reading – and then the repetition started. I had to read two sales letters ten times each and then copy each one three times.

Reading and Writing 2

Talk about tedious work and so much repetition! I started to question why I even signed up for this course. It was not what I was expecting, but after further reading, I realized that “rote” and “repetition” is the way I learned in school and almost mastered four foreign languages. It worked! I learned to sound out and spell my words. I learned to breakdown words into prefixes, root word, and suffixes to understand their meanings.

This course is like that. It starts with rote and repetition and then builds on other aspects of the writing business. It also presents commentary from other members of the group. This gives them the opportunity to express themselves and give tips and tricks on how to succeed to the newbies.


I honestly don’t understand how anyone can zip through this course, even if he or she is already a writer. There is so much to absorb and think about. On the surface, it looks like an easy course, but it requires hard work and dedication to get the most out of it.

I’m writing about this in this blog, because I feel this is one of the best ways to learn anything: repetition. While it’s not a glamorous way to learn something new, like playing games on the internet, it is a direct, concentrated way of making you focus on what is in front of you. Because you don’t know the end result, you have to learn every piece as it is presented to you, so the sum will equal all of its parts. Skipping to the middle or the end of the course leaves learning gaps that will get you later on as your career progresses, so taking time to learn the old-fashioned way is your best bet.

pie chart

How does this apply to my virtual assistant business? It’s so easy to look up how to do something online.  You simply follow the instruction and there you go. You can solve almost any Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, or any other software program problem in a few minutes. What most of us do not do is go back and practice, practice, practice, so we can learn this new skill and never have to look it up again.

Woman and Computer

This is one of the things I realize about this course. The repetition pays off. I can almost repeat verbatim the three sales letters I’ve read and copied. That’s what repetition does. As the wording became familiar to me, I started to notice an invisible outline of facts and information. I also noticed how some information was described in several places within the sales letters, but with different emphasis and words.

As I go through this course, it is a reminder of how easy it is to learn something new, if you learn it in the right way. Repetition and practice might be boring, but doing it creates an imprint in your brain and once you learn it, you may never forget it. It also allows your brain to think about what you’ve learned and how you can apply it to other tasks or projects.

Learning is fun, so why not make the most of it!


What are some of the ways that you learn new things?

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Value is defined by Dictionary.com as “relative worth, material worth, or estimated worth of money, material, services, etc.” This definition does not answer the question.


Ask anyone what “value” is and they will give you their version of what is important to them. In the virtual assistant world, value can be described in several ways.

  • Value is a job well done, completed before the deadline with no mistakes.
  • Value can be troubleshooting issues for your client, so if they occur, the virtual assistant is prepared to correct the inconsistencies.
  • Value can also mean the price of services. A virtual assistant might think she is worth a specific hourly fee, but the client may not be so sure. If the client thinks the fee is fair, the client considers the partnership good value.

How can a virtual assistant be sure that value is included in every project and with every client?

virtual assistant

Value is determined by the client, not the virtual assistant. The client sees how a virtual assistant works regarding meetings, assignments, questions, suggestions, etc. This can be seen as value. The virtual assistant is showing the client that the value is in the details and workings of the project.

Value is also in the fee for services. Clients know how much their employees are paid, so when a virtual assistant submits a fee for services, there might be sticker shock. Virtual assistants are usually paid by the hour or project, but employers are used to having their employees there for 35 – 40 hours. Employers might find a virtual assistant’s fee a bit exorbitant. This is where the virtual assistant has the opportunity to sell their skills, expertise, and educate the client on what they will do and how they can save the employer money and expenses.


So value is anytime someone sees they’re getting more for their money or more work performed. It’s up to the virtual assistant to make this happen. That’s why I schedule a meeting with my client, so we can get to know each other and the client’s needs.

I also assess the client’s management style and expectations. This is crucial, because personality plays in role in any working relationship. Management style is important, because this will determine how well you both work together. Being able to work with difficult people or people, who don’t share your work style, will ensure that you will attract and retain clients.

Value for me, as a virtual assistant, is being able to complete a project before the deadline. Doing this saves time to do other things. Value, in my opinion, is being able to complete a project by knowing some shortcuts and achieving all that the client wants. Saving time is like saving money. It allows me to market my business, network, write my blog posts, or do other things without diminishing my time for my client.

Most people look for value in the things they purchase. Value is in the eye of the beholder.

What does “VALUE” mean to you?

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I’m the type of person who loves a schedule. I feel in control, when I see my day planned out and know that I will get all or at least most of my tasks completed by the end of the day. This can sometimes lead me to overload myself. This is especially true during the summer.


I find that summer is a time for relaxing mentally, physically, and daily. When it’s too hot, I can’t seem to function well. I get lethargic, hot, irritable, and sometimes lazy. Although as a true New Englander, I love the change of seasons, summer can be stressful for me.

Hot sun

My schedule takes a hit on days, when the heat is over 90 degrees or when a friend comes by and says let’s go out for the day. It takes real discipline to be a virtual assistant. It takes a firm commitment to hold yourself to a schedule to get work done and find time to market/network your business.


I think my body just demands that I take is easier in the summer and not keep a schedule. I often resist relaxing or not following my schedule, because I feel it is a weakness not to just keep going. On the other hand, I usually feel much better and refreshed, when I do take a break from my schedule.


A perfect example of this was the NEVA picnic last July. I wanted to go, but I knew it was a whole day event. I had to travel over an hour to get there and then find the place. After I got there, I could feel myself relax and the girls were great company. I didn’t know any of them, so I didn’t know what to expect, but they were so friendly and welcoming to me and the others.

NEVA Kayaks

I actually needed to relax and get away from work and I didn’t even realize it. By going to the picnic, I had a chance to just sit there and breathe in the clean air. I just sat there, admired the view, and spent the afternoon with some wonderful people. I didn’t have to impress them or compete with them. We were all there to relax and have a good time.

Driving around

As I drove home, I realized that I felt much better than I had in a long time and vowed to take time to relax and become refreshed more often. I think I should schedule some time each month to get out, enjoy myself, and detox from my work and all the electronics. There goes my need to schedule things!

I guess summer is a time to relax and the autumn is a time to refresh. I am planning to take an online course in September. I can’t image doing it in the summer with the heat and all of the distractions, so I will spend the rest of August relaxing and then refresh my skills in September.

Girl Relaxing

Relaxing doesn’t come easy for me, so I will have to work on it. I like to read and I like to walk, but some people say walking is not relaxing; it is work. I don’t like to just sit there under a tree sipping lemonade, but that’s exactly what I should be doing. Maybe something stronger than lemonade would help me to relax?

I’ve also noticed that my workload slows down a bit during the summer, so maybe nature is trying to tell me to relax and refresh.

How do you relax?

To learn more about my business, click on Virtual Colleague, LLC.

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Are Branding Colors Important?

Virtual Colleague LLC 4When I started my business, I didn’t know anything about color and its significance. Colors have always been an important part of my life, because I’m partially colorblind. This means that I don’t see certain shades of color and I have difficult reading a sign that contains certain colors. It also means that I can never get certified in public transportation, manufacture any kind of chemicals, work as an interior decoration or indeed, work in a party store filling multicolored balloon orders. I used to argue with people about the color of an object, but now I just let them say whatever they think. I KNOW what I SEE!

color wheel

I have certain tricks to determine what a color might be. For example, if I pick up a pair of pants, I move the material and if the light catches it, it is navy blue. Black will never reflect light. In my closet, I have my shoes in boxes and they’re clearly marked: black pumps, navy pumps with bows, etc. I never buy paisley or light colored clothes. I can never tell if a blouse is tan, light pink, ecru, etc. I stick with solid colors and I can’t go wrong.

As I started to create my virtual assistant business, Virtual Colleague, LLC, I realized that I needed to choose a few colors as part of my brand. The first thing I did was research everything I could find about color and their meanings. Some of the statements I believed and some I didn’t.

First I had to decide the tone of my business and try to imagine what the website would look like in certain colors. I wanted something professional-looking, but still I wanted it to have a woman’s touch. I finally decided on brown, gold, and white.

I created all of my marketing materials with these colors and I was satisfied with the way everything seemed to fit together. I started my business and many people commented on how well my website looked. Then I ran into trouble. The website company I chose to do my website changed some of the themes and I had to choose another theme.

This really messed me up, because I couldn’t find another theme I thought was appropriate and the colors didn’t appear the same in this new theme. I think the new theme looks plain and dull compared to the one I had before, but I really can’t tell about the color scheme. What looks good to me usually looks bad to everyone else. I am currently trying to tweak the theme and the colors.

If you think this is tough, you should see me try to choose nail polish color! I never change shades of makeup without getting a second opinion. Color is important in my personal life and in my business.

As I mentioned, I’m not happy about the current look of my website, but I obtained several new clients since I changed it, so I don’t know if it’s the website or my hard work at networking that brought them to me. When I asked them, they had no comment about the website and told me they were impressed with my credentials and references via word of mouth.

I know from personal experience that color does matter and colors speak volumes. I am actually thinking of changing my branding colors. Brown, gold, and white may not be strong enough to attract potential clients’ attention, so I will have to go back to my research and see which colors are appropriate to a virtual assistant business.

Which colors do you like and why?

Check out my website at Virtual Colleague LLC

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Strange title for a blog post, but it’s true. Recently I attended the first-ever New England Virtual Assistants picnic at Myles Standish State Park in Massachusetts. For most people, a picnic is a chance to commune with nature, relax, and enjoy themselves.

Mt Blue 2015 015


I especially enjoyed this picnic, because it was a group of my peers. There was no competition for business clients. Instead, we could relax and truly be ourselves. Networking can be stressful and sometimes very competitive. I always have to maintain professionalism and try to promote my business to every potential client in spite of the fact that I’m not familiar with their businesses and they don’t understand what a virtual assistant does or can do for them. This picnic provided me with an escape from the weekend chores and neighborhood noises. It gave me the chance to “get away close” and still feel like I’ve gone away for the day. All of the NEVA members received an email invitation. It wasn’t the format of the invitation that hooked me, it was the message. “Let’s get together.” One of the members even offered to bring kayaks and life vests.

NEVA Picnic 2015 002

The other thing that I liked about the invitation is that members were told to bring their own food. I can’t tell  you what a relief this was, because so many times, people bring food to a gathering and you have no idea what’s it is or what’s in it. Sometimes, you can’t even tell what it is and face it; some people are not as hygienic as others are. The fact that we could bring our own food gave me the chance to indulge myself in some goodies that I normally wouldn’t eat.  I also didn’t relish the idea of cooking or preparing food for 20 – 50 people. I had no idea how many people would be there.

The organizers of this picnic thought it all through. They planned to bring a grill, desserts, and paper goods. They asked us to bring games and set no time limit on the event. The weather was perfect, but the chance to meet like-minded individuals was invaluable. It was a fun day and enticed me to attend some of the quarterly meetings held in restaurants around New England.

NEVA Picnic 2015 007

So where does the title “PICNICS ARE TIMES FOR STRETCHING” come in?  Just as I stretch out to take a nap on the patio or stretch when I wake up in the morning, I stretched myself to go the distance and meet my peers. I stretched myself and allowed me to be ME and not the PROFESSIONAL ME. It was fun to just be ME for a day. As a virtual assistant, I am constantly focused on the mindset of my clients. I am also an author and when I write, I have to get inside every character’s head, so on picnic day, it was fun and a little strange to just be ME.

JoAnn Mt. Blue 2015

I hope this event becomes an annual one and I also hope that we, as a group of VA professionals, can reach out to others and attract new members. This organization is growing and has so much to offer.

If you’d like to know about my business, click on Virtual Colleague, LLC.

If you’d like to learn more about the New England Virtual Assistant group. Click here.

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This sounds like a gardening commercial, but in reality, this is what you should be doing if you work as a virtual assistant. As owner of Virtual Colleague, LLC, I try to stay current with new technology.

Virtual Colleague LLC 4

I’ve been working in my yard to get it ready for summer. I live in New England and the weather can be tricky. If we have hot weather in May, everything starts to grow including the weeds. If we have a lot of rain and then it turns hot, there are all kinds of green vegetation growing everywhere.

As I was weeding some of my flowerbeds, I realized that in order to grow new plants, I had to make room for them. As I was working to clear the debris, I started to analyze which plants had started to grow and which ones would not return. I thought about what I would put in the empty spaces. Do I want flowers, ferns, or foliage plants?


I systematically worked on each garden bed until they were all weeded. Then I had to do some research to determine which plants do well in the sun or shade and how tall they would grow. It took a few days to gather this information and lay out what I wanted to do. I decided that starting the plants from seed would be a waste of time as the summer season is upon us.

Flowers 002

I decided to buy starter plants and simply put them into the ground at strategic locations. This would not only make the gardens look different, but would add a splash of color and definition to those areas.  After I finished planting, the gardens looked totally different from last year and I had a mix of perennials and annuals. Perennials come up every year, but annuals appear only one time.

Yard Flowers


After sitting back and admiring my work, I had to develop a schedule for watering and caring for all of these plants. With a little more research, I created a spreadsheet with all of the pertinent information about each type of plant and then pinned it to the back of the door of my gardening shed. My “Weed, Seed, and Feed” was finished. All I have to do is stick to my schedule.

I thought about my virtual assistant business. I’ve offered the same services for quite a while. Maybe it’s time to “’weed, seed, and feed” my business. I looked at my list of services and decided that some of them will not appearance on my services list. I will still offer them, but I will not promote them.


Instead, I need to sow some new seeds in my business. This means doing some research and finding out what services are in demand. There are some skills I am not capable of doing, but I’m sure that if I look at my existing skills, I can find some other services that I can offer to diversify my offerings. These are the “seeds” that I must plant in my business from time to time.

I did find a few other services I can offer and I know with a little practice, I will be as strong in them as I am with my current offerings. This is “feeding” my business. I will admit, I’ve become complacent with my services and that needs to change. By “feeding” my business on a regular basis, I will be able to adjust my services and skills to acquire and accommodate new clients.

Just as the new plants look fantastic in my gardens, my business will be refreshed and attract new clients. Never be afraid to change things up for the better!

Do you change your services from time to time?

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Getting Back to Basics

Every spring I plan my summer vacation. As a virtual assistant at Virtual Colleague, LLC, I have some flexibility in my schedule to plan my vacation around holidays and events. That’s one of the benefits of being a virtual assistant.


One of the ways I de-stress is to go camping in a tent. I like the relief that comes from getting away from everything and being surrounded by peace and quiet. As I network, I get to know people and sometimes the conversation leads to personal interests and hobbies. I get a mixed reaction, when I tell people that I love to go camping.


I guess they figure I must be so tech savvy that I couldn’t part with my phone, computer, and other devices. On the contrary, that’s exactly what I need to do. I enjoy all of the technology that out there, but there is such a thing as overload. That’s what happens, when I have a full client load on top of other commitments. This winter was long and cold here in Rhode Island and many times, I had to shovel out before starting my work.  It got a bit stressful at times, because it snowed every 3 days and I wanted to just sit there and work and not bother about other things. Shoveling out the driveway in care of fire or rescue was a priority. I vowed that when the snow finally melted, I would get outdoors and enjoy the peace and quiet of the woods and not the roar of the snowplows or sand-and-salt trucks. I’m keeping my promise. I have already planned a 4-day getaway.


While camping does not appeal to everyone, it is an inexpensive way to get away from everything and relax. Putting up a tent, carrying water back to the campsite, and collecting firewood gives me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. There are times, when I’m working with a client, and I feel that I’ve done my best, but the client is not totally satisfied. When I go camping, I only have to please myself and I can do things according to my own plan. There is nothing better than waking up to birds chirping and the quiet whistle of the wind through the trees. Whatever I cook for breakfast seems to taste better when I’m camping. Even the coffee smells and tastes better.


When hiking on the trails, I can go as fast or slow as I want and can stop to look at nature along the way. The sun is my clock for the entire trip, so I get away from watching my watch and timing certain things I do. I wake up by the sun and go to bed by the moon. It’s detox in its simplest form!


Physically working to cook, clean the camp, walk to get water/shower are all things that help me relax and appreciate my surroundings. Of course, I can always read, if I just don’t want to do anything, but it can’t be work related. For me, camping is the best stress reliever and detox solution.


I would encourage anyone looking for something natural and calming to do to try camping. It brings out your survival skills and teaches you to live with a lot less and appreciate more. It changes you, so you return to work refreshed, renewed, and mindful of all of your skills and abilities. You leave the campground with a strong sense of accomplishment.


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