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.

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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.

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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.

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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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As a rule I try to give a little more to my clients than their contracts allow. I do this, because everyone likes to get his or her money’s worth and it’s great to get that something extra special along with it. I always complete my work on time without errors. I’ve always known that as a virtual assistant, I have to set myself apart from other virtual assistants. I don’t have much money for advertising, so I use my work ethic and I give a little more than expected to boost my business.


This usually works well and I get additional projects from my clients, but recently, I had a client that expected more than the contract stipulated. I did her project as directed and gave her a little more in the way of several samples for brochures.  While I usually give my clients a few samples of what they ask for, because it gives them more to choose from, this client was a little different.


Even with the extra work I gave her, she wanted me to re-work all of the samples I gave her. I tried to explain to her that the extra samples were just to give her some ideas. I had to explain to her that if she actually wanted to use all of the samples and have me re-work them, she would have to pay me extra for my time and work.

Sometimes, clients are so good at what they do that they have no idea how much time and work it takes to do other tasks. Just because I’m a professional, it doesn’t mean my time is free. I had to itemize in spreadsheet form, what the contract stated in one column and the extra things I actually did in the second column. Only after doing that did she realize that she got a lot more than she contracted for. After looking at the spreadsheet, she was more than willing to sign a new contract for the additional work and she understood the difference between giving a little more and expecting more work for free.

I learned a lesson from this situation. The lesson is: continue to provide more than the client asks for. It shows interest in their businesses and projects, but don’t go overboard. Explain at the initial interview that any additional work or projects are extra and need a new contract signed, dated, and payment received before any work can begin.


Giving a little extra may cross a fine line, but I still feel it is the best way to build up my client base and demonstrate that I am a professional and I really do partner with clients to help them develop and grow.

Virtual Colleague LLC 4

Do you know anyone who could use a virtual assistant?   Contact Virtual Colleague, LLC at

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Sometimes the answer is staring you in the face. How many times has this happened to you? You try so hard to do something and yet it was so simple. Lately, I’ve been so busy attending networking events and trying to advertise my virtual assistant business, Virtual Colleague, LLC, that I’ve overlooked an important part of the networking process.

Virtual Colleague LLC 4

I recently met with a group of my former co-workers. We get together about twice a year to catch up with each other and find out what’s going on in our lives. A few of them are still working at the company, but most of us have gone on to do other things.

When we first meet, we all seem to speak at once, but then, things settle down and we eat and talk about ourselves with each of us taking a turn to speak. We choose a restaurant, so we don’t have to cook or bring anything, and we can concentrate on spending time listening to each other.


Some people in this group think I am so courageous to break out and start my own business. I’m really not. It was created out of necessity, but I still like to hear the praise. As each of us took turns talking about family, friends, jobs, vacations, etc.,  I got lost in all of the new information presented, whether it was happy or sad news. We all try to be supportive of each other and offer suggestions to help with others’ problems or issues.

About three days after our get-together, I received an email from one of women in the group. She is happily married with one daughter and wants to work, but the employment situation is not great in Rhode Island. She always keeps physically fit and wants to work as a personal trainer.

At the restaurant, she told us she is trying to start a business as a personal trainer. She went into detail about all the training and certification she had to go through and why she wanted to do that type of work.  She also told everyone how difficult it is to start and run a business. I can certainly relate to that.




It was a subtle clue that she needed my expertise and I totally missed it. I was so busy socializing that I missed the opportunity to speak to her about all the services I had to offer. It wasn’t until I received her email asking for my help that I realized I missed a great opportunity to get new business.

She even told me she would pay whatever my fee was in exchange for help in several areas. She stated she was overwhelmed. She needs help with basic things as well as developing an ongoing plan to promote her business. I emailed her a detailed plan of what we could do for the next six months along with my contract and fee. I thanked her for thinking of me and my business and offered her my first time client discount.

She responded immediately and we are now working as a team. I will be going to one of her classes and taking photos for her Facebook business page and her personal page as well as photos to use on her brochures and marketing materials.


As I look back on this, I can’t believe I was so blind to a new opportunity. I realized that marketing and networking are much more than showing up at events. It’s listening to the people around you, putting yourself in their situation, and being able to speak up and offer your services in a way that will help them and you to succeed. It’s listening on a regular basis and not just at specific times or places. This was an embarrassing lesson to learn and I have changed my mindset about networking and marketing.

Have you ever missed an opportunity to market your business?


Check out my website at Virtual Colleague, LLC  to see how I can help your business grow.


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Does the Weather affect your Work?


Here in New England, we have a unique phenomenon. We not only have four distinct seasons, but we have several changes of weather within those seasons. As we crawl out from a long, arduous winter with more snow than we could have imagined; we look forward to open windows, springtime smells, and much warmer temperatures.

To Do List


As I sit here making my list of “springtime things to do”, I realize that my work habits change with the seasons. Incidentally, on my springtime list, I have an outdoor and indoor list of things to do.


In winter, I focus on keeping warm, sleeping as long as I want to, spending time on my computer, reading, and eating comfort food. My outside chores include shoveling snow and bringing in wood for the fireplace, and scraping the snow and ice off my windshield. Winter is a simple time and a time for me to catch up on archiving emails, taking online courses, and listening to podcasts and webinars as well as working for my clients.


Spring is a time of great expectation for me. Somehow I believe that all of the outdoor chores will be completed before it gets too hot and humid. The inside chores are a problem for me, because I don’t want to spend time indoors like I did during the winter. Instead, I want to open the windows, go outside, and do things in the sun. The new weather outside tempts me during the spring time. If I go outside, I can watch the grass turn green, check out the new weeds growing where they’re not supposed to grow, and just sit outside and relax. This is a season of conflict for me and it takes all spring season for me to develop a new schedule. I have my clients on the one hand that demand my attention and time, but the change in season makes me want to stretch myself and include both indoor and outdoor activities.

Summer at the beach

By the time summer rolls around, I’ve got my schedule down. I wake up much earlier than in winter. I’m a morning person, so I work for 4 – 5 hours in the morning. It’s amazing how much work I can get done when I put my mind to it. I actually enjoy eating a salad for lunch, because the ingredients are so fresh. I don’t have to bother with a jacket or sweater, so I’m free to just go for a walk or cut the grass. In the afternoons, I run errands or do some gardening.

I get a lot of exercise in the summer months and I find that I network more. Because the weather is so mild, I want to stop and talk to people. It’s easy to strike up a conversation when the wind isn’t howling and the snow is hitting your face or the rain pelting you with hail. Farmer’s markets and yard sales are great places to meet and interact with people and who knows, you may get a new client from just talking to people.


Fall is a sad time for me. The brilliance and warmth of the summer is gone and things start to shrivel and fade away. I find that the colors of things change, too. The shed looks so white and clean in the summer, but in the fall, it just look old and faded. I have a schedule change in the fall, too. Due to the change in the weather, I don’t always go for a walk. Instead of cutting the grass, I start to put things away for the season and prepare for the next season. I spend more time inside on my computer, so I catch up on things that I’ve been putting off all summer.

I’m happy with the change of seasons, because it adds balance in my life and in my work. My clients NEVER suffer, because I always put them first. The season changes keep me alert and focused on what’s at hand and what will come, so it’s a natural way to stay on track, get tasks completed and project what will happen in the future. It also provides me with exercise and a change of scenery.

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Since I started my virtual assistant business, Virtual Colleague LLC., I’ve had time to do more, learn more, and accomplish more, because I’m free to create and adhere to my own schedule, while still remaining accountable and responsible to my clients.

I like living in New England and I don’t think I would be happy anywhere else. I can’t imagine the fall without the leaves changing, the winter without the snow and cold, the spring season never really contrasting a snowy winter, and summer 365 days a year!


How do you feel about the changes in the seasons? Does it affect your work?

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