Tag Archives: Outline

Write it, Read it, Do it!

As part of the services I offer in my virtual assistant business, Virtual Colleague, LLC, I create training manuals and instructional material. Now, this sounds easy to do. Right? All you have to do it just take it one step at a time and write down what you’re supposed to do. Whether it’s hit a specific button on a computer, pull on a lever, or speak in commands; this should be very simple to create. Not really!

Scrabble Guide

There is more to writing training manuals and instructional material than just writing down step-by-step tasks. Let’s take each project one at a time.


An instructional manual can be a booklet, card, or video, sometimes written in different languages, that describes how to use a widget. The manual starts with how to unpack the widget and tells the user how to get it ready for use, if that needs to be done. The manual also gives step-by-step instructions on how to use the widget with many caution and safety comments interspersed between the steps. It also lists do’s and don’ts and gives advice on how to care for the widget, warranty information, where to find replacement parts, where to take it for service and other information.


Examples of manuals are how to operate a lawn mower, how to connect your television to your computer, and many other things. Pinterest is a mini-instructional guide to how to do things including shortcuts.


A training manual is very different. The purpose of a training manual is to describe to the user how to actually use it to do the work. For example, if you want to create an excel spreadsheet and you’ve never used excel before, you can find instructions online that describe each step and click to create a spreadsheet. Training manuals teach without bringing in all the safety and cautionary advice. It is a clear-cut systematic description of what to do and how to do it.


There may be times when the user has a choice about certain options. For example, in the spreadsheet, the creator may want to change the font. This action is described, but the user is told that the change can be made at any time. It is at the discretion of the creator. Training manuals are geared to quickly learning how to do something without distracting details. It is clear, simple, concise steps to achieve the end result. Examples of training manuals are SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), logging in to a specific software program, creating a blog with WordPress or BlogSpot.

What starts out as something simple can turn into a complex project in minutes. I always start with an outline and then write up one section at a time. Then I condense or expand each section according to difficulty or available options. Formatting and visual presentation is not so important, because my client usually has a specific font, size, and format in mind for the project.


As always, I try to offer my client more options, so they can choose what is right for them, whether it’s formatting, word choice, photos, and graphics; I always try to present the project from different perspectives.

The take-away is this: always hire professional writers to do your work. It may seem simple to you, but a professional writer will have an in-depth look at the project and may suggest other topics to cover. Your project will be written in a clear, easy-to-read style and contain all of the information needed, because the writer looks at your project with a new set of eyes.

To find out more about what Virtual Colleague, LLC can do for your business, click here.


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Why Your Rates need to be What Your Client Expects Them to Be

Recently I took on a new client. I find it a “best practice” to discuss rates after I know what type of work the client wants, the software programs involved, the research needed, and the deadlines. Although I have a rate chart and stick to those rates, there are times when I need to deviate from those guidelines.

My new client was referred to me by one of business associates. He contacted me by phone and laid out what he wanted me to do. He didn’t know that much about me, except that the person that referred me raved about how knowledgeable I was in several areas and I was a virtual assistant.

If I have to reach out to get clients, I stick to my rate schedule, but in this case, I gave him a discount, because he contacted me. I enjoyed our initial consultation, which is always free. He knew what he wanted, when he wanted it; he just didn’t know how to do it. That’s where I come in.

After speaking with him, I told him I would draw up a contract and outline what I could do for him, my fees, and state the deadline in the contract. He liked that idea and I got to work on the contract right away. He seemed eager to begin.

I emailed the contract to him. He signed it and returned it to me almost immediately. He emailed me some of the documents he wanted me to work on, but he also made a comment. He told me that he had contacted several virtual assistants prior to contacting me. He said a few were unprofessional and didn’t follow up with him as I did with a contract. He felt very comfortable signing a contract, because each of us knew the expectations and limitations of the project.

He also told me that my rates were very reasonable. To tell you the truth, I really hated to give him a discount, because I could really use the money, but he did contact me. He was straight-forward about the work to be done and the deadlines.

Dollar Sign

I don’t regret giving him the discount. He has given me more work and promises to give me more work in the future. My rule of thumb is to have a new contract signed for every new project. It keeps things simple and in order and there is no confusion.

Many times in internet groups, I’ve seen posts about what to charge for rates, how to determine your rate, and are your rates comparable to other virtual assistants in your area. I think honesty is the best policy and if someone reaches out to you, they should be rewarded with a discount. You should have a rate schedule for services, but there should be room for discretion.

If I had not given him a discount, he probably would have only given me the one project. Because I showed him my professional demeanor, treated him to a special discount, and then got the project done correctly, on time, and within his budget, he felt valued and told me he would like to do business with me in the future.

Rates can be a sticking point. You have to determine the amount of time it takes to complete the work, what’s involved with the assignment, and then determine how much to charge. Setting your rates is a comprehensive process, because a new client can become a retainer client, if the rate is right. If not, you run the risk of losing a client and future business.

You may believe your rates are fair, it’s really your client that judges your business by your rates. That’s


Why Your Rates need to be What Your Client Expects Them to Be

For more information on my virtual assistant business, click on Virtual Colleague, LLC.

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