Tag Archives: Virtual Assistant

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.

tutorial-

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.

gardener-mowing-lawn-

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.

guide

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.

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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.

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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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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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Networking Through Press Releases

What is a press release?

headline

 A press release, also known as a news release, is a few brief statements that outline the major facts of a news story in journalistic style. It is also an official statement issued to newspapers giving information on a particular matter, such as a new product or service, a company sponsored event or employee promotions.

Social Media

With the explosion of social media, the press release is now considered a form of networking. Instead of creating a brochure, white paper, or advertising campaign, the press release provides the perfect opportunity to broadcast news, new products or services, personnel changes, company expansion, and a host of other newsworthy topics. Rather than going through the local newspapers, social media broadcasts the press releases in many forms and at lightning speed, so businesses can keep everyone up to date on changes within the business and any brand changes.

People Networking

Why is this considered networking?

Networking comes in many forms. Almost any type of marketing involves networking. You may think of networking as a business event “after hours”, but networking is any time information is exchanged between the company and potential customers or clients. Networking is meant to create a bond between the product/service/company and potential customers/clients, so anytime someone is interested in your company’s news, product, or information that is a form of networking.

Successful networking involves person-to-person contact as in a meeting, phone call, or event. Press releases used to appear only periodically and only for important events within a company. Now that social media has created an ongoing platform for all kinds of information, the press release is easily used to relate information as often as needed.

Can press releases really take the place of networking?

A true press release is more formal than a quick bite of text in social media and it is usually a page long and can contain photos, charts, or graphs. Pieces of the press release can be inserted into social media, so within a short period of time, the entire message or news is out on social media. Broken into small bites, it is sometimes easier for readers to understand. They can digest small snapshots of information, which makes them eager to read the rest of the announcement.

Virtual Colleague LLC 4

Virtual Colleague, LLC can get the results you need!

Press releases are easy enough to write up. After all, it relays information. You need someone, who knows how to write and get the message across briefly and succinctly, while creating interest in the announcement.

As a virtual assistant of Virtual Colleague, LLC, I can write press releases that not only convey the message, but also create the desire to know more about your product or service. Contact me today at 401-595-0087 for a free consultation. We will discuss your announcement and how I can relay more than just information to help your business grow.

 

Click here to link to my website for more information about Virtual Colleague, LLC.

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CHRISTMAS GIFTS AND PREPARATION

christmas Gifts

By now, I’m sure that most of us either have completed our holiday shopping or are at least half way through it. Of all the months in the year, I find that November and December are extremely busy, expensive, and time just flies.

ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS ARE IMPORTANT!

December Calendar

Around the end of October and beginning of November, I start making lists of things to do by certain dates. This is where organizational skills are very important. I always start my holiday shopping in November, but first, I have some research to do.

I always:

  • see if I can get some gift cards with my mileage points or credit card points
  • make a detailed list of what to get everyone including: size, color, style, and price
  • research which stores offer the best deals for the above mentioned
  • consider merchandise exchange policies
  • inquire if gift-wrapping is available
  • decide if waiting for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday will give me better deals

That takes care of gift buying. I only have to go out and pick up these things or order them online. This is one facet of the holiday rush.

PREPARE FOR SOCIAL EVENTS

Upcoming Events

I also have to make sure I prepare for all social events. Thank goodness, Thanksgiving is a food holiday! I just concentrate on cooking and socializing with family and friends. It is wonderful to sit back and catch up with everyone after a delicious meal.

There are so many other events to plan. There is:

  • the tree lighting on the green
  • school plays
  • finding time to decorate the house – both inside and out
  • baking the traditional Christmas cookies and then packaging them to send off to others

There’s also events at church and holiday parties with various organizations.

CLIENTS AND VIRTUAL OFFICE PARTIES

Office party

As a virtual assistant, owner of Virtual Colleague, LLC,  and copywriter, I don’t have an office party. I’m the only employee, but I do send a little something to my clients, especially those I’ve worked with this year. My clients are never forgotten and they all receive an ecard for the holidays, but I like to make my clients feel special, so I give them something extra. It may be a gift card or something small like a calendar or pen light, but I want to reward them for giving me projects through the year.

Then there’s the writing and mailing holiday cards and packages. While some people prefer a digital holiday card, most everyone on my list prefers a traditional card. This is more time consuming and expensive. I also feel I have to put a personal note inside every single card and   purchase holiday stickers, address labels, and postage stamps. All of this takes time to do!

Christmas Card

IS IT WORTH IT?

YES! I am busy throughout the year, so why shouldn’t I find and take the time to acknowledge the people in my life, who have worked with me, advised me, and assisted me to become the person I am. At no other time of the year is it more appropriate to show your kindness and gratitude to everyone – my clients included.

So while I may be stressed from lack of sleep, lack of money, and lack of time to do everything – the holidays are a wonderful time of the year and should be savored and enjoyed like fine wine! Taking the time to slow down and enjoy the atmosphere is one of the best presents you can give yourself.

How do you handle the holiday rush?

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Online Image is Everything

 You now have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place.David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy

 It is so true that we judge and are judged by our appearance. Not just by our physical features, but by our cleanliness, attire, and attitude. That’s why it is so important to create a brand that works for you. You must be true to yourself or else the brand you choose will betray you. For example, if I enjoy the outdoors, I can still dress to the “nine’s”, but that is not a true picture of what I like and enjoy. Jeans, boots, and a baseball cap would be a better representation of my true self.

young-woman-cycling

Branding can be a tricky business, because most of us want to be all things to all people, but in business that is simply not possible. We have to select a niche and stick with it. This makes us experts in this area and we can then impress our clients.

Niche

As I labor through my online copywriting course, the leaders in this field of writing are convinced that your business brand is extremely important. Why? Because as a copywriter, you cannot hide behind a team or group. YOU ARE the copywriter and are held accountable and responsible for all of the words on the page.

writer

If you’re a good writer and bring in money for the company, they will ask you back again and again. If you express mediocre talent and don’t show potential, your assignment will be a one-time event.

I think of “image” as the description of “you” without words. When I see you, I can guess what mood you’re in, if you’re tired or energetic, if you want to be in another place at this moment and many other things about you without either of us speaking a word. When I think in those terms, I realize how important my brand or image is to my business, Virtual Colleague, LLC.

Virtual Colleague LLC 4

I am in the process of transitioning from a variety of virtual assistant writing services to specializing in clients, who need copywriting. I will still be a virtual assistant, but copywriting is something that comes naturally to me and satisfies my creative juices.

I expected the copywriting course to cover the basics of copywriting and give a few specifics, but this course examines the whole spectrum of skills, business, and marketing strategies to become successful. It’s a lot more than I bargained for, but it is exactly what I needed.

The information I’m learning in this course can be applied to almost any business. In the course, the leaders talk about branding and its effects on the marketplace. They also talk about the art of selling and how to persuade clients and customers to buy something they don’t really need or want.

Selling

It’s not aggressive sales techniques or sales quota strategies. It’s just a step-by-step way to find what the student does best and encourages each of us to work on it and improve. I thought my brand was solid, but after reading a few chapters, I have revamped my image and changed a few things. I’m more aware of my social media presence and I look forward to posting something every day. This course is giving me a lift for my business and a personal challenge to do my best every day. I look forward to completing this course and learning so much from reading and doing the exercise.

 

It confirms the motto, “if you do something you like to do, it’s not work.”

  Do you have any questions or comments about copywriting?

 

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WHAT IS A NICHE AND HOW TO FIND IT?

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.

Niche

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?

strategy

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.

Salad

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.

copywriting

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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REPETITION IS THE MOTHER OF KNOWLEDGE

 

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.

Ideas

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.
gear-brain

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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WHAT IS VALUE?

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.

value

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.

Balance

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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