Tag Archives: Client

CREATING BLOG POSTS

What is a blog post?

A blog, a mixed word version of weblog, is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web consisting of entries (posts) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). A blog is also described as a frequently updated online personal journal or diary. It is a place to express yourself to the world. A place to share your thoughts and your passions. Really, it’s anything you want it to be.

Why is blogging important?

According to BlogBasics, “…the answer lies in the fact that every human has a voice and wishes their voice to be heard. The Internet is a medium that is unparalleled in its reach. Never before have average people been able to reach a global audience with so little trouble. Bloggers have the opportunity of reaching hundreds or even thousands of people each and every day.

There are still many people who like to share the details of their days. On the other hand, there are bloggers who give almost no detail about their lives, but write instead about a hobby or interest of theirs. They may dedicate their blog to something they are passionate about.

In fact, today’s blogs can provide hair tips, up-to-date news, technical information, celebrity scandal, political rumor, gets people involved in volunteering, advice on investments as well as there being blogs on cooking, health, gardening, sport, blogging blogs (this blog) and of course many personal blogs and quite a few strange blogs.

What is business blogging?

According to HubSpot:

1) It helps drive traffic to your website.

2) It helps convert that traffic into leads.

3) It helps establish authority.

4) It drives long-term results.

 

Did you know that 25% of all blogs are on WordPress?

Virtual Colleague LLC 4

Virtual Colleague, LLC handles all blog topics. I discuss the topic with my client and find the uniqueness that my client has to offer. Then I research the web and other materials to compare and contrast my client’s product or service with the competition. At that point, I am able to write a compelling blog post that emphasizes the qualities, strengths and uniqueness of the product or service and my client’s business. I sometimes use graphs, charts, or images within the post to create a visual image of what the post is trying to convey.

Blogging enhances websites and calls attention to whatever the business wants to highlight. Put a certified writer to work for you. Contact Virtual Colleague LLC today to find how I can help you grow your business.

Toll Free #: 401-384-0257

Local #: 401-595-0087

Email: JPlante@VirtualColleagueLLC.com

 

 

 

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PICNICS ARE TIMES FOR STRETCHING

picnic-at-the-park

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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

holiday-time

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.

campfire

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!

sun-and-moon

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.

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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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YOUR FRIEND COULD BE YOUR NEXT CLIENT

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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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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HOW TO ADDRESS YOUR CLIENT?

2 women talking

I always find it awkward, when addressing my client for the first time. While everyone seems to think that addressing someone by his or her first name is the norm, I’ve found that assuming that’s how the client wants to be addressed is not always true.

I’ve worked with several clients since I started my business Virtual Colleague, LLC in 2013. When I network or speak to a potential client on the phone, he or she lets me know how they want to be addressed by how they introduce themselves to me.  I always use both of my names and let the client decide how he/she wants to address me.

Business Card

For example, my company slogan is “partnering with the client”, so if we’re partners we should address each other by our first names. Right? Some of my clients do not feel comfortable doing this, especially because I do not work in their offices, so they feel we have an extended connection. Although they’re very satisfied with the work I do, they don’t feel a close connection or bond. Therefore, they address me as Ms. Plante.

I don’t really care how my clients address me. I am in partnership with them and I let them decide how they want to interact with me and how we address each other. I want them to be comfortable working with me and sharing ideas and information. As long as we connect on a business level, I let them dictate how we communicate (emails, phone calls, Skype, etc.) and how they want to be addressed.

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I’ve found that sometimes my clients’ titles call for a more formal tone. For example, some clients prefer to use their professional titles: Doctor, Vice-President, Director, etc. If they ask me to use those titles, it’s usually to distinguish themselves from the others in their fields and usually I’m asked to use these titles, when working with larger companies.

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One rule of thumb: I NEVER use nicknames. I believe they can be demeaning and show a lack of respect for the client. On the other hand, if my client’s name is Richard, I let him tell me how he wants to be addressed: Rich, Richie, Dick, or Rick. If he or she asks me to use a more familiar name like the ones I mentioned, then I would do it, but I would still refuse to use a nickname.

Even though I want to work with them, I also have my own business and reputation to think of. If I’m too casual with my clients, they may not see me as a true professional and my business would suffer. In addition, getting too close or familiar on a personal level with my clients would change our business relationship and the lines of communication may start to blur. It’s important to strike a balance between professional courtesy and personal involvement in business.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

 

Click on Virtual Colleague, LLC to find out how I can help your business grow.

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Honesty Is the Best Policy

I recently had a client that wanted me to do a few “simple” projects. This is how he described his projects – simple. He was partially correct.

The first few projects were documents that either required research, product descriptions or how-to explanations, but the last project on the list was a real challenge for me.

He wanted me to create some kind of infographic. I don’t possess any of the software tools needed to do that kind of work, so I did some research. I finally decided to use Canva, because it’s free and easy to use.

Infographic

I have to stop here and tell you that the client didn’t exactly know what he wanted, but he gave me a brief description. I worked diligently on several images for the infographic. He was very vague, so I used my creativity to come up with different images and styles.

I sent them to him, so he could get back to me and I would correct or tweak anything he didn’t want. I want to add that this project was supposed to have a fast approaching deadline. He waited 2 days to get back to me and rejected all of my samples. I was a little upset with him, because we had worked so well on the previous projects. I listed a series of questions in my email to him about what EXACTLY he wanted me to do.

Clarity of Ideas

Usually my clients have a clear picture in their minds about what they want and how they want it to look. They just don’t know how to get it to look the way they want it to. That’s where I come in. As a virtual assistant, I find a way to make their projects come to live and make them successful.

He was very vague with his answers, so based on what little information he gave me, I started in again to design some samples of work for him. I got the feeling that either he really didn’t know what he wanted or he wanted me to copy someone else’s work and wasn’t sure if I would do that.

I would never just copy someone else’s work. I might use it as a base for my work, but I would never copy something and then just change the labels. A few days went by, I emailed the samples to him and again I got the same reply. Only this time, he was irate, because I was supposed to be a virtual assistant and I should know what he wanted. He told me that in the email.

After I got that email reply, I calmed myself and phoned him. He answered and I asked if it was a good time to talk. He said yes, so I continued. I explained to him what a virtual assistant is and what they can do to help business owners.

I then explained what they can’t do. Mindreading is one of them. I then went over with a polite, but firm voice, the emails he sent me and the samples I sent him. I wanted him to know that I was trying to accomplish the goal, but he was not specific enough. I didn’t want to alienate him, but I did want to emphasize my point.

Virtual Colleague LLC copy

In my business, Virtual Colleague, LLC, I partner with clients, who become colleagues. That’s my slogan, so what the client wants/needs becomes what I want/need. The client’s goals are my goals.

He listened patiently, but then said that he was trying something new and wasn’t sure how to use an infographic and how effective it would be. He thought I could just “whip something up” and it would be done.

I reminded him that I had created several samples, but without his input of percentages, totals, and estimates, the infographic falls flat and doesn’t convey any message.

He let out a long sigh and I realized that I could not continue to work with him on this project. The other projects were very successful, but I simply could not work with him under these conditions and take the blame for things beyond my control.

There was silence on the phone and I wanted to take the lead on this. I told him that maybe he should shelve this project until he had time to think it through. I assured him that no business person should blindly do something, because other businesses were doing it. It just doesn’t make good business sense.

He agreed with me and I told him that because he had already paid for my time, he could use the time for another project. He thanked me and agreed that that would be the right thing to do.

One of the most difficult things to do is to tell a client you can’t help them. This was the first time I ever had to do that, but it was the right thing to do. I usually find a way to do the projects, but I would rather give up a project than do it and alienate my client and others that hear about his dissatisfaction with me.

Have you ever had to refuse work from a client?

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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!

 www.freedigitalphotos.net

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.

 www.freedigitalphotos.net

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.

 www.freedigitalphotos.net

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.

 www.freedigitalphotos.net

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.

 www.freedigitalphotos.net

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.

 www.freedigitalphotos.net

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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