Tag Archives: Ideas

RESEARCH VERSUS WEB RESEARCH

As a virtual business assistant, I do research on almost everything I work on. For my own business, I research my competition, rates, offers, services, and many more things. I like doing research, because it’s a learning tool. I always learn new information and ideas, when I’m researching.

I always research with a purpose.

Because researching is fun and interesting, I could spend many hours just looking up and reading, but that doesn’t get me where I need to go. I always research with a purpose – a clear purpose. That keeps me focused on what information I need to find and prevents me from wasting time reading information that I don’t really need to know.

Blog Search Engine

Web research is the most expedient way to find information.

 It’s fast and links to other pertinent information. It’s better than reading a book or magazine to extract information. Web research has all if not most of the information at the push of a button and the copy and paste feature ensures that I’ve captured the source and quote correctly.

Researching for my clients helps me to understand their businesses, products and services, and what makes them unique or stand out from the rest. I put myself in their shoes and look at their business offerings. Then I try to find the differences between the businesses themselves, the products and services, and their target markets. All of this factors into the way I research, the depth of research, and the type of research I perform.

Man posstive negative

For comparison research, the method and time involved is minimal, but for research that compares other businesses with my clients business. It is a long and tedious process. I have to not only find the information, but also verify that it is real and true. Many website today post information about other companies, but is it true? Maybe yes, maybe no.

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It falls to me to provide accurate and honest information to my clients. They depend on me to site my sources and to provide multiple accounts of the same information. Businesses that take the easy way of researching or failing to verify the information, run the risk of losing their credibility and over time, the business usually dissolves for lack of trust and honesty.

global-education

Researching also provides me with an education. I may not always have an interest in the topic I’m researching for a client, but I will learn about it anyway. Who knows, somewhere down the road, I may need to use this new information for another client. I have to put myself in my client’s shoes, so I immerse myself in the research needed to provide reliable information for marketing and blogging purposes. When it’s an interesting topic, the time flies by, and I’m entertained. When it’s a little more intricate or technical, I have to put my full concentration on it and look up any words or terms I’m not familiar with.

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Contact me at Virtual Colleague, LLC for a free consultation on how I can research for your business and products/services.

 Toll Free #: 401-384-0257

Local #: 401-595-0087

Email: JPlante@VirtualColleagueLLC.com

 

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PROOF IS IN THE PROOFING

Proofreading

I write this post, because yesterday I had a lot of writing assignments to do including emails and I had typos and misspellings in every piece I wrote. It was a bad day, but it was a great day to learn a BIG LESSON.

Computer desk

Always Proofread Your Work Before Posting Or Sending It Out!

I was overwhelmed yesterday by the amount of work I had to get done and I skipped the Spellcheck feature as well as re-reading my work. At the end of the day, I felt I had wasted my time. The emails I sent out were not my usual, carefully crafted work. Typos, in my opinion, are inexcusable. Did I keep up my work schedule? Yes! But at what cost?

 Lesson Learned

It’s not the quantity of the work; it’s the quality of the work that matters. Thank goodness, I didn’t have to submit anything for a wide audience, but every member of your audience deserves your full attention. Your work should contain new ideas or at least another way of looking at existing ideas. That makes you and your work stand out.

Virtual Colleague LLC 4

My virtual assistant business, Virtual Colleague, LLC, specializes in writing projects. Yesterday was the worse day I’ve had at the office in quite a while, but it will never happen again. I’ve put measures in place, so I will never rush through a project or skip steps to get everything done on time. I usually finish my projects ahead of schedule. I pride myself on doing that, so any last minute changes will not keep me from submitting my work on time. Skipping steps is not one of the ways to meet deadlines.

Proofreading Girl

What Exactly Is Proofreading?

According to https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/Proofreading, “proofreading means examining your test carefully to find and correct typographical errors and mistakes in grammar, style, and spelling.”

The Writing Center of the University of Wisconsin also lists some “helpful tips, when you proofread:

  • Work from a printout, not the computer screen. (But see below for computer functions that can help you find some kinds of mistakes.)
  • Read out loud. This is especially helpful for spotting run-on sentences, but you’ll also hear other problems that you may not see when reading silently.
  • Use a blank sheet of paper to cover up the lines below the one you’re reading. This technique keeps you from skipping ahead of possible mistakes.
  • Use the search function of the computer to find mistakes you’re likely to make. Search for “it,” for instance, if you confuse “its” and “it’s;” for “-ing” if dangling modifiers are a problem; for opening parentheses or quote marks if you tend to leave out the closing ones.
  • If you tend to make many mistakes, check separately for each kind of error, moving from the most to the least important, and following whatever technique works best for you to identify that kind of mistake.
    For instance, read through once (backwards, sentence by sentence) to check for fragments; read through again (forward) to be sure subjects and verbs agree, and again (perhaps using a computer search for “this,” “it,” and “they”) to trace pronouns to antecedents.
  • End with a spelling check, using a computer spelling checker or reading backwards word by word.
    But remember that a spelling checker won’t catch mistakes with homonyms (e.g., “they’re,” “their,” “there”) or certain typos (like “he” for “the”).”

I usually proofread my work at least 3 times before submitting or sending it out. Yesterday was the exception.

Upset Girl

Why Am I So Upset About This?

Perception is everything, when you’re in business. Potential customers and clients see your work as in indication of what THEY can expect from you. If there’s typos, misspelled words, or bad punctuation; then they will look to another business to fulfill their needs. That’s why it’s so important not only to make a good first impression, but to consistently perform at a high level, so your business persona shines and stands out from the rest.

Perfect Pose

No One Is Perfect, But Practice Makes Perfect!

That’s why it’s so important to do your best at all times. As a virtual assistant, I strive to maintain high standards and share those standards with all of my clients. Proofreading makes perfect!

Did you ever have a bad proofreading experience ?  Share it below. 

 

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2015 Year in Review

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At this time every year, I take time to review everything that happened in my business. I look at the good as well as the not so good. Why? This tells me where my successes have been and where I need to work harder to round out the areas that I don’t do well in.

LET’S START WITH THE SUCCESSES!

3 business people

I had three new clients this year that produced quite a bit of income for me. Each client allowed me to learn something new and to troubleshoot solutions to their problems.

3rd year

This is my third year in business and I’m still working hard to attract new clients and retain the ones I have now. My expenses were less this year, because I’ve already purchased all the marketing materials and software that I need to do the projects.

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I took my top three skills (research, writing, and creative thinking) and used them to expand my services. I love to write and you can’t write without doing some research. I love the creativity of finding new ways to write something or present a different point of view. I’ve done some copywriting and I felt that it was time to take it a step further. I enrolled in a copywriting course and I found that I knew quite a bit about doing it correctly, but I also learned some tips and tricks of the trade.

NETWORKING

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I’ve networked more this year that the past two years combined. I’m getting better at meeting and greeting people, so I’m stretching myself and seeking out places and events, where I can meet new people and tell them about my business. I still panic when I walk through the door, but once I’m in there, I start to relax and mingle and I think I’m getting the upper hand in this.

I may never fully conquer this fear, but at least, I’m working toward that goal. I’ve met some great people and learned a few things from them. I always eat something before I go to an event, because I don’t want to feel hungry or faint. That little burst of energy gets me started and by the time I am hungry, I’ve met some people and relaxed a bit. This is part of my 2016 business plan. I want to network more, but also, get more out of networking and I believe practice makes perfect. The more I do it, the better I will become.

NEVA

 It’s always a great idea to socialize with like-minded individuals. I’m so happy I joined NEVA (New England Virtual Assistants). They’re in the process of changing the name to NEVBO (New England Virtual Business Organization). This is an exceptional group of business professionals, who want to learn new ideas and trends, but also want to learn to succeed. The monthly conference calls feature guest speakers and the in-person quarterly meetings at restaurants around New England gives members the opportunity to network and exchange ideas and plan for future events.

I was skeptical about joining, because I didn’t know anyone and didn’t know what to expect, but this group has so much to offer in the form of education, speakers, and possible job offers. It is a wise investment in my business!

MY BUSINESS PLAN FOR 2016

 So what does my business plan for 2016 look like?

  • I am pursuing copywriting, because I believe it is a perfect fit for me. I will take another copywriting course early next spring.
  • I plan to meet with someone from the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center. They offer free workshops and I can learn so much from them.
  • I also plan to contact someone at SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), a national group that also serves Massachusetts and Connecticut. They offer mentoring and one-on-one meetings to help small business thrive.
  • Do more networking and try to enjoy doing it. Work on my elevator pitch, so the words will flow out of my mouth and attract everyone’s attention.
  • Get more involved with NEVA/NEVBO. Try to attend more of these events and attend more of the conference calls.

 

If I can accomplish most of this, I will have a great year. If I only accomplish some of these ideas, my business will still be better off than just hoping or waiting for something good to happen.

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GIVE MORE AND GET PAID MORE

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.

bonus-award-

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.

sample-stamp-on-boxes-s

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.

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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.

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Do you know anyone who could use a virtual assistant?   Contact Virtual Colleague, LLC at JPlante@VirtualColleagueLLC.com

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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.

trendy-corporate-guy-

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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GIFT BASKETS: PART OF NETWORKING EVENTS

almond-milk-chocolate-dessert-giftbasketEveryone likes freebies or at least the chance to get a freebie. That’s why I always offer a raffle item, when I’m an exhibitor at an event. As a virtual assistant, I have so much to offer businesses with regards to completing projects and saving them money. I just need to get their attention.

Exhibiting at an event is a great way for me to present my business and stand out from the others. I really enjoy thinking of and creating the perfect give-away prize. I don’t repeat what I’ve already given away. In my opinion, it displays a lack of creativity. How can I convince business owners to give me a chance, when I can’t even get creative with a give-away prize?

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Virtual is a concept and not a concrete form, so in one way, my creativity can flow in many different directions. On the other hand, I do want the prize to somehow mirror or explain what I can do for their businesses. I’ve come up with a few ideas that I will share.

My business name is Virtual Colleague, LLC, so I want to capitalize on the “virtual” and “colleague” aspects. For the virtual aspect, I offered a pair of men and women’s sunglasses. They were stylish and I presented them in gift boxes. People asked me what that had to do with my virtual assistant business and I told them that the sunglasses allow people to look at the world with ease and eliminate any glare. The sunglasses assist them virtually, so people are comfortable using them and get great results. I’ve also given away smaller items like keychain flashlights that don’t require batteries, those purse-size little note pads with matching pens, etc. All of these items are small, inconspicuous, but produce great results.

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For the colleague aspect, I always thing in two’s, pairs, or groups. The most expensive prize I’ve ever given away is a massage for two people. I’ve also given away movie ticket packages for two, a few different his and hers gifts to signify that the colleague part of my business is a partnership and not just boss and worker each doing their own thing. A few times, I’ve given away group gifts such as coffee and donuts for their office, a pizza party, or lunch for the office.

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These give-away prizes can be expensive, but I’ve found that the contacts I make and the interest they generate in my business more than make up for this cost and some of this cost can be used as a tax deduction.

2 sided VC business card

If I’m just networking at an event and I’m not exhibiting, then I make sure I create an exceptional business card. The quality of the print, color, size, and paper quality are important. I use both sides of my card to put out as much information as I can and I give them to everyone I meet. Some may just throw it away, but many hang on to it as a reference and that’s how I get many of my clients. I achieve great results through networking, demonstrating style and professionalism, and showing the uniqueness of my business.

 What type of give-aways do you have at networking events?

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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.

Business Card

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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