Blog Archive: Uncategorized

15 Benefits of Utilizing a Virtual Assistant

With the new year around the corner, now is the time to launch your business forward! Here are just a few of the benefits of investing into a Virtual Assistant!

  1. Access to extensive knowledge and expertise
  2. Freedom to focus on priorities
  3. Cost-effective
  4. Efficient and reliable team member
  5. Business flexibility
  6. More time to focus on revenue-driven activities
  7. Option to tap into larger networks
  8. Value add perspective from a business owner
  9. Vested interest in your success
  10. Higher level of productivity
  11. High-level support
  12. After-hours support
  13. Reduced investment in recruitment costs
  14. No need to pay for benefits including vacation, sick or holidays, payroll taxes or administrative costs
  15. Additional time for personal pursuits

Kick-start the new year the right way by adding a Virtual Assistant to your team!

How to Stay Organized – Even on the Messiest of Days

Being organized is something that’s essential for you, the sales person, business owner, or entrepreneur. Days can be long, hard and not go as planned. After a long day out in the field, organizing the events from the day is not appealing. So to prepare you for those crazy days, I’ve come up with a few ways to keep you organized throughout your day.

Reminder Apps

Things can come up in an instant throughout your day so have a reminder app on hand. There are many apps to choose from, but I like this one I found, To Do Reminder app for androids. It’s quick and easy. Scheduled a call with a lead for later in the day and don’t want to forget, bring this app up and without typing, voice the activity you need to remember, and set the other features to your liking and it’s done! For the Apple users, try Alarmed – Reminders – Timers. This app has a lot of great features, especially the “Nag-Me” feature which allows for your reminder to go off at regular intervals for a fixed period of time! Now call me old fashioned, but I prefer to have a regular ‘ol paper and pen daily agenda with me, but do whatever works best for you!

De-Clutter On a Regular Basis

Every day we’re bombarded with “stuff.” That stuff could be emails, items in our mailboxes, voicemails, or paper on our desks. It’s important to keep up with the “junk” that comes our way, instead of letting old emails clutter up your inbox, create sub-folders in your inbox for difference subjects then move the emails over that pertain to the different subjects and voila! Your inbox becomes just that less crowded. How about the junk mail that arrives in your mailbox? Invest in a nice cross-cut shredder and keep it plugged in and ready to go! Instead of letting it pile up on your table or desk, discard it immediately. Not fond of de-cluttering daily, look at your schedule and find a time to organize. You must be intentional otherwise it will accumulate quickly.

Do Not Procrastinate

Part of staying organized is not procrastinating. Because life is fast-paced, the longer you put something off the more difficult it will be to get it done. Organize as soon as you can. As soon as emails come in, click and drag them under the appropriate sub-folder you created in your mailbox. I know Outlook has rules and filters you can apply to emails to have them appear directly in sub-folders. Get those filters in place now! If you put in the effort to get things done as soon as possible, you will be less stressed and life won’t feel like it’s a snowball growing and gaining speed down a hill! Putting in the effort now will lift the weight off of you from doing it later. So get busy!

*Article as appeared in Christine Harrington’s Sales Pearls Newsletter.

6 Mistakes To Avoid When Working a Virtual Assistant

For most, the Virtual Assistant world is new ground. Most don’t know how to find a Virtual Assistant and once one is found, the collaborating process can seem messy. Below I’ve highlighted several common mistakes that business owners make when getting started working with a Virtual Assistant.

1. Being Unprepared

Working with a Virtual Assistant is a good business decision, but one that can take some prep work initially. Prior to working with a virtual assistant you need to have an idea of what tasks you are needing assistance in, how many hours a month you will require, and instructions on how to complete the tasks. If you wanted to give even more detail, you can write a job description which should explain your requirements and describes your ideal candidate. As with most things, the gratification of this prep work isn’t immediate, but in the end, you will be glad you did.

2. Hiring Cheap

Looking to pinch every penny? The old adage, “you get what you pay for” comes in handy here. A virtual assistant for $2 an hour brings many disadvantages including:

  • Potential language barrier
  • Big time zone difference
  • Inability to understand your business concepts
  • Confidentiality issues

While you are looking to reduce employee-related costs working with an extremely low-cost virtual assistant brings too many disadvantages. These disadvantages could be disastrous for your business. A good, quality virtual assistant will be there to partner with you in your success. And true, the dollar-per-hour will be more for a quality virtual assistant, compared to hiring someone fulltime and in-house, BUT a quality virtual assistant will be most cost-effective. See the graphic below:

3. Some Assembly May Be Required

This is all-too-true! Bringing a new person up-to-speed with your business concepts will take some time. Issues like granting access to calendar, contacts, email, may require more work-arounds than you had anticipated; or getting your virtual assistant set up on weekly/monthly schedule of tasks, takes some tweaking as well. Allow your virtual assistant time to join your team. A virtual assistant has a lot to learn in regards to your systems and processes. With employees you have in-house, there was time before they reached their full potential, please allow the same for your virtual assistant.

4. Don’t Micromanage

Ahhhhhh! This one can be difficult for the person who has “done it all” for years. I get it. I understand. Letting go of things is hard to do. You’ve done it the same way for years and your business is your baby. But one of the reasons you want to work with a virtual assistant is to save you time. Micromanaging will only continue to eat your time, but will also serve to frustrate your virtual assistant. If it calms your fears, why not ask for weekly progress reports. Not being able to go down the hall and ask where your virtual assistant is on a project can create some fear so put in place checks and balances. Not only will that calm your fears, but miscommunications will be caught sooner as well.

5. Wanting It All

While it would be great, to have a one-stop shop virtual assistant, please don’t expect that out of yours. When calling your bookkeeper, you don’t expect them to be a content-writing, appointment scheduling, customer service pro do you? You may need SEO help, web-developing help, graphic designing help, bookkeeping help, but how good is your virtual assistant going to be if they’re a jack-of-all-trades? If you need web developing help, go to a web developing specialist, if you need bookkeeping help, go to a bookkeeper – those who specialize in those areas to give you the best help that you need. What is the phrase, jack-of-all-trades, master of none?

6. Unrealistic Turn Around Time

While your business is the most important thing to you, and what you’ve got going on is uber important, be considerate of your virtual assistant who has other clients. Your dedicated virtual assistant is no doubt busy and is taking care of all of his/her clients with care. Expecting immediate turn around time is not fair to your virtual assistant who is running a business themselves. You wouldn’t go into your lawyers office and expect them to drop everything and start working on your case, would you? Probably not. You would expect them to give you an idea when they’ll be able to get to it and when you should hear from them. Of course, if there is something urgent, make the request known to your virtual assistant. As for me, I am always open to hearing the needs of my clients.

I am the owner of SwansonSimpleSolutons, LLC, a virtual assistant business. I have been working to give my clients back time that they so desperately need. Please contact me if you think you’re in need of administrative help, but do not want to hire a full-time employee!

Best wishes,

Christine Swanson, Virtual Assistant

 

Virtual Assistance – The Most Frequently Asked Questions

As a Virtual Assistant (VA), I get many questions. Most people I interact with do not know what a Virtual Assistant is or what one can do for them. I come across very few people that know what we do! So I decided to put together a list of the most frequently asked questions I get.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

A Virtual Assistant is a person who helps other business owners with their administrative tasks, but helps the business owner from their home office. Virtual Assistants are business owners who use technology to support their clients. If you are in need of administrative support, but are not able to hire a full-time employee, don’t have the office space or equipment, then using a Virtual Assistant is your answer!

What does a Virtual Assistant do?

There are a myriad of ways a Virtual Assistant can help you. I will list a few of the things a Virtual Assistant can do for you, but in short a Virtual Assistant does all or most of your administrative work that you don’t want to do or don’t have time for. Here are a few specifics:

  • Data Entry
  • Calendar Management
  • Social Media Maintenance
  • Bookkeeping
  • Meeting & Event Planning
  • E-Newsletters
  • Internet Research
  • Database & Contact Management

Why would I work with a VA, when I can do everything myself?

You simply can’t continue to do it all yourself and enjoy life! Working with a VA will give you back time so that you can concentrate on reaching your goals. Instead of being bogged down with the daily nitty gritty work you can concentrate on parts of the business you love! This new found time will give you space in your life which may include:

  • Increasing your revenue and profits
  • Increasing your productivity and stability
  • Stress is reduced and deadlines are met

Also, what is the monetary value of your time? Got the number? Whatever that is, that’s how much it is costing you to do your administrative tasks. A VA is much more cost-efficient and can probably do those tasks more proficiently.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant looks more expensive than hiring an employee. Is it?

No it’s not. For an employee, not only do you need to pay an hourly wage, but you have to pay for benefits, payroll, taxes, time not worked (vacation, holidays, sick), and administrative costs of recruiting, hiring and training not to mention purchasing equipment and furniture while adhering to mandates such as OSHA. While working with a VA is not intended to be a “cheap” alternative to getting support, it IS intended to be a convenient, cost-effective solution to your needs. A VA, like myself, sets fees based on the value they bring to you. I personally offer clients “ad-hoc” hours which means my clients give me only the amount of work they have for me during a month. I also offer retainer packages where clients can buy a set amount of hours each month for a set fee.

Why should I work with you and not outsource my work to an overseas Virtual Assistant?

Well if you’re looking for a cheap Virtual Assistant, you can find one for a few dollars an hour overseas. If you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys! Yes, you can find a Virtual Assistant cheap overseas, but you will have barriers like the ocean for one, as they cannot come to you if needed, communication barriers, and an overseas Virtual Assistant may not understand your U.S. business practices. With an overseas Virtual Assistant, you may spend more time (which equates to money!) managing that person as you try to convey what your business needs are. Also with an overseas assistant, you don’t really know who is working for you. Because most overseas Virtual Assistants work for an outsourcing company, you may very well spend time managing your Virtual Assistant today only to have them be replaced tomorrow. You cannot feel confident knowing where and to whom you are sending your important business information.

Working with a local VA could mean one in your neighborhood or a VA on the same continent as you. If your Virtual Assistant is truly local, he or she may offer to come to your place of business should you have that need. Instead of mailing documents back and forth, your local VA can come to you! With a local Virtual Assistant there will be no language or communication barriers and he or she can be available during your business hours as there shouldn’t be a huge time zone difference. Unlike utilizing an overseas outsourcing company, a local Virtual Assistant is a business owner who invests time in your business to help you reach your goals.

Those are some of the most frequently asked questions I receive. I plan on doing another post for a few questions that pertain more to my particular services. But do you have a question for me? Did I not answer one of your questions? If so, please feel free to send me a message on LinkedIn so we can connect!

Best wishes,

Christine Swanson, Virtual Assistant

SwansonSimpleSolutions, LLC

15 Benefits of Utilizing a Virtual Assistant

With the new year around the corner, now is the time to launch your business forward! Here are just a few of the benefits of investing into a Virtual Assistant!

  1. Access to extensive knowledge and expertise
  2. Freedom to focus on priorities
  3. Cost-effective
  4. Efficient and reliable team member
  5. Business flexibility
  6. More time to focus on revenue-driven activities
  7. Option to tap into larger networks
  8. Value add perspective from a business owner
  9. Vested interest in your success
  10. Higher level of productivity
  11. High-level support
  12. After-hours support
  13. Reduced investment in recruitment costs
  14. No need to pay for benefits including vacation, sick or holidays, payroll taxes or administrative costs
  15. Additional time for personal pursuits

Kick-start the new year the right way by adding a Virtual Assistant to your team!

Best Wishes,

Christine Swanson, Virtual Assistant

5 Tips for a Successful Relationship With Your Virtual Assistant

Because we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world, the relationship with your Virtual Assistant may not be what you expected. Since you are no doubt working online, you may not be able to meet to ensure a smooth working relationship. Here are 5 tips to help you have a successful relationship with your Virtual Assistant:

  1. Give valuable feedback. Since your Virtual Assistant will probably have more clients than just you, it’s always helpful to offer feedback on how he/she is assisting you. Provide insight by explaining the purpose of giving the feedback which should point him/her to help assist you better. Be positive and constructive, emphasizing on strengths and simply point out areas of improvement.
  2. Good Communication. It is essential for the success of any relationship, but may be more so in cases of working online. Not being able to communicate face-to-face eliminates facial and body nuances which we unconsciously pick-up in conversations, so please be concise, clear, and ready for questions from your Virtual Assistant. Your VA should be asking lots of questions to ensure that your instructions are understood.
  3. Trust. All relationships need a measure of trust to work. After finding a quality Virtual Assistant trust him/her as they are a business owner as well. An excellent VA wants what’s best for your business too. Not sure where to find a VA? Ask around. Personal referrals have an added trust benefit.
  4. Set Goals. Don’t Micromanage. Providing clear instruction is necessary, but don’t overdo it. If you micromanage it defeats the purpose of having a VA! Your precious time is now tied up instructing a person you hired to free up your time! So make sure you set goals regarding the quality, amount of work to complete, and the required completion date and time.
  5. Create a Schedule. Typically the first 3 months are the “getting to know you phase.” I encourage clients to choose from a monthly retainer package after the first 3 months because by then a groove has formed and what can be expected from both parties is made known. Your Virtual Assistant will have a better understanding of your business practices and you will know what to expect from your VA after 3 months. Make sure your VA understands how many hours a month you expect from him/her. Create a schedule so the fluidity of virtual assistance can shine!

Working with a Virtual Assistant should surge you forward to the next level of your business! Putting into practice these 5 steps, you and your VA should have a smooth working relationship.

Best Wishes,

Christine Swanson, Virtual Assistant

How Can You Afford “Not” to Have a Virtual Assistant?

Many people tell me that they are skeptical of utilizing a Virtual Assistant or don’t know how it’s more beneficial than an employee. I understand the idea of utilizing a Virtual Assistant is a foreign idea to some (or many) for the small business owner or non-profit! So let’s compare an employee to a Virtual Assistant.

Employee

So on top of your already big “to-do” list, you now add “hire an employee.” To find an employee you need to advertise so you put out an ad and interview candidates for the job hoping you’ll find one that fits the bill. This, of course, takes more valuable time away from your business. Then you need to set up the office space for your new employee PLUS buy all of the equipment including furniture and of course supplies and training. You must pay a decent wage to recruit good talent and the cost of the employee’s hourly wage is hardly just that – don’t forget there are other expenses! When hiring an employee there’s also insurance, vacation pay, sick pay, workers compensation, taxes, health and all on top of the administrative costs already mentioned (recruiting, hiring, and training). You also pay an employee for the time they are working for you, productive or not! Whew! I’m getting tired just thinking of it all! Oh yes, and don’t forget about complying with OSHA!

Virtual Assistant

A Virtual Assistant is someone who helps business owners with his/her administrative tasks, but does it via a home office. Keep in mind a Virtual Assistant is a business owner as well so the hourly cost of a GOOD Virtual Assistant is going to be more than the hourly wage of an employee BUT it’s nothing compared to the overhead of hiring an employee. A Virtual Assistant is there to provide you with a much needed service. Unlike an employee, a Virtual Assistant only charges for productive time worked for you and there are NO costs like insurance, vacation pay, sick pay, workers compensation, taxes and administrative costs of recruiting, hiring and training. You also are able to tap in the Virtual Assistant’s experience and skills along with his/her network of business people. You are actually saving quite a bit of money and because a Virtual Assistant is running a business, they are there to provide quality work.

So it’s not a question of, “How can I afford a VA?”, but it’s a question of, “How can I afford NOT to have a VA?”

Best Wishes,

Christine Swanson, Virtual Assistant

SwansonSimpleSolutions, LLC

10 Signs You Know You’re In Need Of A Virtual Assistant

With so many parts to running a business, you need the right players for each part to keep your business healthy and strong. Struggling to do it all yourself creates shortages in your business. As you wander through the maze of what it takes to sustain your business these shortages create gaps that you cannot fill by yourself and eventually will lead to the death of your business.

If you can say “yes” to one or more of these items, then you may have a need for a Virtual Assistant:

  1. Ordinary or routine tasks take up too much time.
  2. Business opportunities are lost because you don’t have time to seek new opportunities.
  3. Long nights, weekends and even some holidays becomes routine.
  4. Social media is something you’d like to market your business on, but you have no idea where to begin.
  5. New and exciting ideas have no room to grow because you don’t have the time to dedicate to nurturing them.
  6. Your inbox is full and out of control. Too. Much. Email.
  7. Your website and blog are rusty, dusty and old.
  8. Piles on your desk get higher and higher and nothing is organized.
  9. You’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know how you’re going to get it all done.
  10. Burned out. You do not enjoy life because your business consumes you.

Did this ring a bell or sound familiar? If so, seek out a Virtual Assistant for your business. The results? Stress reduction, more productivity, business growth, extra time for family and friends, stability and a thriving business!

Best Wishes,

Christine Swanson, Virtual Assistant

The Best Investment You Can Make

Being a Virtual Assistant, I’ve heard a range of reasons why business people put off utilizing a Virtual Assistant. I’ll briefly address some of them here:

  1. I don’t know what tasks to give to a Virtual Assistant. Think of four or five things that you can do well and are valuable to your business. What’s NOT on that list, you can surely delegate. Do what you do best, and delegate the rest.
  2. I don’t know how many hours the work will take. You really don’t know how many hours certain tasks are going to take, but you can estimate how long. Once your Virtual Assistant gets in the groove of your particular business, he/she will probably be more efficient than you at those tasks anyway.
  3. How can this be done virtually? Most business owners are used to dealing face-to-face with the people they work with, but in this technologically advanced era, more and more people we interact with are through virtual means – phone, Skype, email, webinars, etc. Many new doors can be opened when you eliminate the requirement of physical closeness.
  4. My Virtual Assistant can’t be involved in the day-to-day business. You just have to be intentional about involving your virtual team. I schedule weekly update calls with my clients to make sure we are on the same page. Try using Skype as a way to get face-to-face contact. You can also invite your Virtual Assistant to corporate retreats and other gatherings.
  5. Will this improve my bottom line? Sure, it’s money spent on overhead. But you have to think of it like this:
    • How is being pulled in many directions effecting your productivity and focus?
    • What could you be doing with your time instead of administrative tasks?
    • Utilizing a Virtual Assistant eliminates employee-related expenses.

Working with a Virtual Assistant is less expensive and less uncertain than hiring a full-time employee. Granted, I am a Virtual Assistant so it may seem like I’m tooting my own horn, but I cannot stress enough to get to the next level, you must delegate your work. You can only do so much. This is one of the best investments you can make.

Best Wishes,

Christine Swanson, Virtual Assistant

Want The Secret to Success?

It’s simple really. No 5-step process, no best-selling book to read, or product to buy. All you need to do is delegate your administrative tasks. Even if you are faster than everyone else, you will still be better off paying someone to do your tasks for you. Now you may be wondering why pay someone to do tasks that I can do myself, and that’s a good question, but there’s a cost for every hour for these tasks. The cost is opportunity. There are some tasks you could and should be spending your time on instead that are higher in value.

In this D.I.Y. world we live in, it’s often looked down upon to have someone helping you. Shouldn’t a successful business person be able to do it all themselves? Isn’t asking for help a sign of weakness? No, it’s not. It’s smart business practice. It’s investing in your future earning potential.

Most business people don’t understand the value of their time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, what more productive work could you be doing during the hour or two you spend on bookkeeping, social media, and emails? Paying someone to do those tasks isn’t money down the drain but is good for business if it means spending time on closing in on a sale instead.

Delegating your tasks may initially mean more money out of pocket, but in the long run, spending several hours a day on more meaningful work is better for your business earnings than spending those same hours doing administrative tasks that are less in value. Agree?

Best Wishes,

Christine Swanson, Virtual Assistant

SwansonSimpleSolutions, LLC

Why You Should Give Up Control And Partner With A Virtual Assistant

I know, I know, giving up control is really hard to do, especially for type A personalities, like myself. If you’re trying to grow your business alone then you aren’t going to get very far. There’s just not enough hours in the day to get everything done.

Running around, like a chicken with its head cut off, to put it mildly, will run you down and your business growth will eventually stop (like a chicken with its head cut off).

After working with one of my clients for several months, I asked him how he liked working with a Virtual Assistant and he said despite having initial reservations, he was glad he took the leap to partnering with me because he was able to get things done that had been sitting on his desk for months. You see, when you partner with a Virtual Assistant, you can delegate tasks to keep your business running smoothly which inevitably brings business growth.

Not sure what tasks to give a Virtual Assistant? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Social Media Maintenance
  • Bookkeeping
  • Email/Calendar Management
  • Data Entry
  • E-newsletters
  • Internet Research

Giving up control of your administrative tasks frees your time up to pursue more clients which will increase your revenue and profits, which leads to business growth.

If you are a business owner struggling to grow or overwhelmed with the amount of “stuff” you need to get done, then I suggest you partner with a Virtual Assistant today! Doing so will change your life and the life of your business!

Best Wishes,

Christine Swanson, Virtual Assistant

 

Skyrocket Your Personal and Business Goals With A Virtual Assistant

Would you like to reduce your daily workload and increase your business revenue? I’m sure the answer is “yes”! As an entrepreneur, the success of your business (or failure) depends on you! But it also depends on how you manage your time.

Before you burn out, restructure your business to include utilizing a Virtual Assistant. Doing everything yourself is poor business practice and won’t get your business to the next level. Utilizing a Virtual Assistant will give you more time each day to focus on what matters most in your business. Spending time updating your social media, filtering emails, entering data and managing your calendar doesn’t make you money. It doesn’t make you anything. It takes something instead – your time. Why not delegate those tasks, the unessential tasks, to your Virtual Assistant so that you can dig in and get going on the essential tasks.

I like how Liz Strauss featured in a smallbizsurvival.com article justifies utilizing a Virtual Assistant, “The principle is that people with the highest level skills should be doing the highest level work. You, as CEO of a Fortune 100 Corp, making coffee might be nice, but you’re a very expensive coffee maker. Let’s say the main work you do is worth $100/hour. If you can pay someone to write your bills $20/hour for 3 hours and you stick to what only you can do, you’re not spending money, you’re making it so that you can earn $240 more in those three hours.”

I couldn’t say it any better!

Best Wishes,

Christine Swanson, Virtual Assistant