This week is my favorite subject to share, as I am sure you know by now I love being pampered even if I have to do it myself. In my house I am known as the king, and the saying goes, “It is good to be king”.

But enough of that, I am a true believer in taking care of you, this does not mean you have to go spend hundreds of dollars on a spa or take a long vacation. Do not get me wrong those things are important and should be done as a way to treat yourself. I recommend at least twice a year if possible.

But you can practice self-care and not break the bank. You like that? My human dad taught me that saying. You have to take time for you, you cannot work all the time and then take care of everything you need to do in your home life and not unwind. You will burn out quickly this way and in the end you will be miserable. Also both your home life and business will suffer.

Take a little time and do something for you every day, even if it is 30 minutes. You will find this will recharge you and gets you back in the groove. Be sure to set boundaries for what is YOUR time. Better yet, put on your calendar and mark the time off. In my human moms’ case, they take a coffee time after lunch during the week. They also have chosen to take a long self –care break on the weekends. They also had to set work boundaries. (Which they say have to be done) But we can talk about those later.

Not sure what you can do in such a short time to recharge, here are some suggestions:
• Read a magazine
• Watch relaxing movie or TV program that does not require brain power
• Take a walk
• Relax, sit and drink a tea or coffee and think about nothing, in others words empty your thoughts, I am GREAT at this by the way.
• Meditate
• Play some music and dance
• Exercise (at home or at the gym)
• Call a friend and share a laugh

These are just a few ideas. You know better than anyone what you need to do to get your groove back. Trust me if you try doing this for one week you will see how different you can cope with your business and life stuff.

Also make sure you plan longer self-care activities when you can. Things like manicures, spa day, getting your hair and makeup done, shopping trip (for you), hiking, family time and date night are just a few that come to mind. (My moms’ send me and my sister to the puppy spa once a week!)
So long story short if you do not take some time for self-care you are not able to give your true best to yourself, your clients, your business or your family.

Well I need to go because sharing all of this has reminded me I need to go self-care and get some sun.

Till next week.Emmy

Online communications are truly the wave of the present. Gone are the days when people would send a letter via a courier. Today, if you want to speak with someone or inquire about something, all you have to do is go online and everything and everyone is yours for the taking. Because of this, a lot of jobs and opportunities have opened up, providing people the chance to work remotely or from across countries, giving rise to virtual assistants who are hired online to do work for clients from any part of the globe.

But despite the lack of face to face communications, there is still a need to maintain a professional demeanor. In fact, due to the lack of context with the help of facial expressions and voice inflections, there is a greater pressure for virtual assistants to be clearer to prevent being misunderstood in their communications whether it is via email or social media.

Read up on some quick tips for a winning online communication tactics for virtual assistants:

1. Place a subject.

When writing an email, always put a subject and make sure that it is pertinent to the items inside it. Emails are not something that people log on to or check via their desktop computers. Emails are a way of life and placing a subject is a way of showing courtesy to the recipient as it makes them aware of what they are about to read.

Furthermore, on a more technical point of view, subject-free emails are redirected to spam or to the junk mail more often than not. So don’t waste that well-written email by placing a concrete thought in the subject line.

2. Use the reply all button with caution.

Nothing puts one’s career in jeopardy than accidentally replying to all. As mentioned, emails are a major communications portal and can be very intrusive. Imagine being inundated by replies going back and forth on a business that you had nothing to do with. So double check the recipient area.

Also, when replying to the sender to confirm understanding, click reply instead. This makes sure that the message is sent only to one person and not to everybody in the email trail.

3. Send big files using big file sharing sites.

Save people’s precious bandwidth and data plans by sending big files such as editable Illustrator files or high resolution photos via a link where they can access these instead of placing them as downloadable attachments. First, they surely would not download it and second, your email will simply clog their whole inbox.

4. Do not be passive aggressive.

When it comes to social media, there is no such thing as a private status update. And if you are friends with a client, then you have basically signed up your account as a professional account, even if it’s personal. All your words can be twisted and misconstrued. To prevent this, stop with the passive aggressive language. If you have a problem for example with a person, settle it privately instead of posting irate messages that other people (read: your client) may think is directed at them.

Mind the language you use and see for yourself how it directly affects your career as a virtual assistant.

Nothing requires more reading that virtual assistants. Being the go-to people for a gamut of tasks and requirements by clients in several industries, it pays very well for virtual assistants to be well-read. Reading itself opens the person’s mind to several types of information and turns it into a sponge. Being well-skilled and well-read makes for a person who is strategic and creative, both skills that virtual assistants can make use of as they tackle client requests moving forward.

But one of the main problems of being a virtual assistant is time. Being self-employed, work comes before self-improvement activities such as reading or even exercise. What’s the best way to resolve this? Here are some quick tips:

1. Have an entrepreneur’s mindset.

Company owners know what their biggest asset is and it’s definitely not their money, their company, or their connections – it’s them. They understand that their asset’s value is closely related to their value as a person, which includes their mind and body. There is a reason why CEO’s such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is known for his well-written and long memos, which is read by his team before any meeting begins and star investor Warren Buffet is well-sought for his reading lists. Reading in itself makes people think better and when they do, they do better.

Instead of thinking how busy they are, making time for what matters such as reading can exponentially improve the business of a virtual assistant.

2. Read everything.

Most people think that reading only involves thick books. On the contrary, reading can happen in the most simple of ways and can start with just opening a newspaper. Opening one daily can be a great start until the habit is solidified.

Love for reading can be espoused by following one’s interests. Do they love cooking? Are comics engaging for them? It doesn’t have to Leo Tolstoy or an Economics book right off the bat. Doing so also makes the whole activity more sustainable as it comes from a place that is driven by one’s passions. Forget the bestseller lists and what’s popular! Read what makes your heart sing.

In fact, it also can be not just about books. Reading materials such as magazines also count and can add to one’s knowledge.

3. Read depending on the industry you are in.

Once the habit has been formed, move on to reading books that were written on the industry one is in. Business books can be quite expensive so starting off with borrowing from libraries or downloading electronic books can be a better option.

In terms of recommendations as to which titles to get, why not get it from the person who knows it well – your clients. They have the most experience in the industry plus knowing that the person they hired is willing to study more deeply into their business is a big boost to your reputation and standing.

So start cracking a reading material, and see where life as a virtual assistant who is well-read takes you!

Let’s face it: there are a lot of virtual assistants today. Due to cheaper laptops and PCs as well as more reliable web connection right at the comfort of one’s home, setting up practice for virtual assistants is very easy. But still, not all can maintain their practice and there is more to having a slew of clients to keep one’s business sustainable.

This is where the benefit of having a strong personal brand as a virtual assistant comes in. Having one makes the person not just a producer but also an expert in the job – one that ensures clients will always choose them over everyone else. Personal branding elevates the person into a different level of providing service to someone who is also a great strategic partner for several projects.

How does one even begin? Let us count the ways:

1. Find a niche.
For beginners, it’s understandable for a virtual assistant to accept every project that comes their way. However, creating a list of clients who pay well should also serve another end: finding one’s real passion. From this, the virtual assistant can find out which type of work they will be more than happy to extend their names to and do for a very long time. Passion fuels interest and this leads to one being willing to studying that field until he or she reaches the expert level.
Then once that is established, getting more projects in that line of work makes him or her attributable to that field. Finding a niche can also come from careful study of what is in demand; this ensures lasting demand for one’s services in the long run.

2. Start a blog and have social media presence.
Having a blog and writing about the topic further, beyond the needs of the client, establishes one as a go-to person. This also makes one’s name stand out on search engines as clients search for people to connect with to help them with their needs.
Having social media presence also makes the person more reachable. With a carefully curated posting schedule, social media can work wonders for one’s reputation. At a glance, client will know the kind of person they are dealing with.

3. Let them talk about you.
Good PR is talking about one’s self, great PR is other people saying good things about you. Just like that famous saying that what people say when you are not in the room matters, working on one’s PR always makes for a fantastic business. Testimonials from clients matter and sharing these on Facebook or Twitter are not in bad taste at all – it is simply about letting people know of the good you do.
Connecting with local media and the community is a good strategy as well in getting the word out when it comes to one’s practice.

4. Network.
Being a virtual assistant can be home-based but it does not have to 100 percent home bound. Attend conferences and network. Meet people in the same business. Effective networking makes one aware of the latest in the field. At the same time, it is the best time to know more about the competition.
The best of them, with the strongest personal brands, are always ready to tackle it head on.

 

Virtual assistants are at the forefront of the so called New Economy. Their ability to leverage their skills set and at the same time take advantage of working on their own terms is a dream come true that most corporate fiends can only wish for. They own their own time, they work on their own terms, and they manage their work load, making them the masters of their own fate.
But not all is rosy as the next problem faced by virtual assistants is the load of work they receive from various clients and how they can manage their time efficiently. Versus their employed peers who can leave work at the office by 5 p.m. or during the weekends, virtual assistants basically can work overtime just to be able to reach the amount of money they want to achieve to live. But it does not have to be that way.

Here are some ways to beat the non-stop working hours and live more as virtual assistants:

1. Carve time for exercise and leisure.

Having all the work at home and without the need to commute or the time clock to look at, virtual assistants can literally overexert themselves. The best way to eliminate this is by setting vacation leave schedules, and setting specific time for exercise, hobbies, and entertainment. Like work deadlines, the schedule for these activities should be non-negotiable.
Although it may be sort of counterintuitive, having a set number of hours for work can save a virtual assistant’s sanity and establish limits.

When it comes to keeping a healthy body, virtual assistants should invest in exercise. This is because all that sitting can really wreak havoc to their health. Also, especially for those in more creative industries, having a life can be a good way to make them more competitively advantaged. Investing time and energy on enriching activities such as reading and painting for example, makes them more in tuned with their creativity, resulting to better output for client.

2. Have a hero client

Virtual assistants still need to make a living. But instead of taking small projects to achieve the amount of money needed for needs and wants, look instead for a hero client who can provide the most salary for the effort exerted. Think of it as applying the Pareto principle. This ensures a steady and reliable paycheck and helps the virtual assistant focus on providing great service versus constantly looking for clients.

3. Work to your strengths

Another way to make more time is by choosing projects that play to the strengths of the virtual assistant. Not only does it shorten the learning curve, but it also makes the output faster to make since the virtual assistant has a natural affinity to the job at hand.

Aside from one’s strengths, choosing jobs that are related to the person’s passions can be a great productivity boost. Because of the inclination to the work at hand, procrastination is prevented and learning further on the topic makes the virtual assistant a thought leader on it as well.

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Hiring a virtual assistant (VA) is a smart move because having an extra hand to help you in your business means less stress for you and greater productivity for your company. When you hire the right person for the job, you’re not only freeing up more of your time to attend to other important matters, but you are also giving your business the opportunity to grow with the unique set of skills and expertise they can bring to your company.

However, sometimes, it’s hard to decide which tasks you should assign to your virtual assistant. Here are some nifty pointers that should help make this decision easy.

1. Give them tasks they are good at.
It may be tempting to just assign tasks that are lying around without considering the skill set of your virtual assistant. This will result in low productivity and low-quality output. If you want to maximize your VA’s, give them tasks that match their interests and skills. This can be easily determined during the hiring process. Outline your job requirements and ask the potential VA what they can accomplish. Ask for work samples or offer to conduct a trial period where you can both see whether the person is the right fit for the job.

2. Delegate tasks that are you cannot complete on your own.
What are tasks that you cannot complete on your own? These are tasks that you don’t enjoy doing, repetitive tasks that will take away too much time from focusing on growing your business, or tasks that are too far from your expertise and will require intensive learning. It takes time to master a skill and it is always more cost-efficient and effective to hire someone else who can do it better and faster than you.

3. Don’t assign tasks that are part of your main responsibilities.
If you are the manager or the owner of the business, avoid assigning your key responsibilities to your virtual assistants. These tasks include setting goals for your business, formulating strategies, and other tasks that would set the direction of your company. If the VA leaves and you have been dependent on him or her to work on your main responsibilities, it might be difficult for you to adjust and catch up at work. Also, you are giving the VA the opportunity to start a similar business after learning the trade secrets from you.

4. Never assign tasks with sensitive information.
When assigning tasks to your VAs, make sure these are tasks that don’t contain too much sensitive information such as access to your financial accounts, trade secrets and operations, and client lists. While the best and most competent VAs can be trusted, it is still a prudent move to keep confidential matters safe. It is better to err on the side of caution than risk losing money and your reputation in case your VA’s computer gets hacked or he loses your confidential files and falls into the hands of unscrupulous people.

Know What to Delegate
The most common mistake that entrepreneurs commit when delegating tasks to their VAs is delegating blindly. They delegate almost everything they believe they can make their life easier, without considering the capabilities of the VA and without complete and clear instructions on what should be done. Before you delegate, determine beforehand what you want to accomplish with the task you are assigning to your VA. Save time and effort by clearly explaining your expectations and instructions for the task. This is the most important step that can help you truly boost productivity at work

1. Take a vacation—the kind that matters.
It seems like a counterproductive advice for ambitious and wired 24/7 business professionals, but vacations are part and parcel of a life that’s balanced and yes—productive. If you have been cancelling that trip to Napa for wine tasting, take it now and make it two weeks. Being enriched through travel provides unlimited opportunities for more business ideas that you may have been missing because you have been so focused in your line of work. Also, travel makes way for more ideas that can be applied into operations or marketing.
Travel in itself is always a win-win situation—it brings back the professional in you more refreshed and more eager to take on more challenges.

2. Work on your personal brand.
Sure, your Facebook page is well updated with news on your business, but how about you? People are keen to know the people behind the brand they buy and even consider that in buying it in the first place.
Work on your LinkedIn profile and blog. Consider guest blogging and contribute to websites pertinent to your line of business. Also, change your profile pictures into something more professional and representative of who you are as a professional especially on your LinkedIn account. Thought leadership is the name of the game and you can now use the time to work on your influence.

3. Read up and get updated.
Reading is the most underrated bullet in the business arsenal. But as the industry giants such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and famous capitalist Warren Buffet make us known, reading is the secret to great leadership.

It does now always have to be a business book. Polish up on your fiction by picking titles that are into fantasy, suspense or even romance. Magazines are great too for quick reading. The thing with reading is that it makes you more of a logical and critical thinker in general, the top two things that many decision makers lack today. It helps as well in making you a better writer and communicator. Reading also updates a person quickly and with many titles going online, there is absolutely no excuse as to why you would not know the latest news.
Enjoying your free time? Use it wisely by relaxing, building your personal brand, and updating yourself with the latest developments in your industry.