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.

It’s true: people work for money. Even people who love what they do and are willing to work for free won’t do it without a salary. The corporate world has always been perceived as a ladder with people climbing looking at the “carrot” or more money as incentive. However, there is a new generation of employees now filling up the workforce called the millenials. According to a growing body of studies, this generation is not just in cubicles for their paycheck. They are indeed looking for something more.
But with an equally growing evidence of more mature working generation’s working motivations, there is a higher demand for work and life balance, something that goes against the very nature of providing more money as it equates to more responsibilities.
What is an employer to do? Here are some ways to make a winning team that’s on the ball even without the pay increase:

1. Instead of a ladder, create a jungle.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s famous COO and author of Lean In said it best: think of one’s career and the rise to the top as a jungle, not a ladder. In it she explains that going sideways or learning laterally is the way to go, with different departments and different managers contributing to one’s capabilities.
One sure way to achieve this is by having a great mentorship program wherein managers are transformed into leaders, providing key insights to mentees when it comes to the industry. It’s true, not all employees will stay even after being mentored, but the act itself shows the employees how invested the company is in their growth.

2. Make them do personal projects—on company time.
Google is famous for their innovative nature, but innovation rarely happens during the throes of work, which is why employees there always have personal projects that they work on during company time.
For employees who have kids or who commute, money is not the problem—time is, so providing at least three hours from their 40-hour work week to work on personal projects is giving them ample time to rest and yet be productive at the same time, something that the company in the end will benefit from anyway.

3. Offer telecommuting as an option if possible.
Family first is a message every company espouses or at least they think they do. But like most mantras, this is easier said than done with a ton of deliverables on a person’s head. Telecommuting is a way to bridge the gap. This can be offered to employees who are parents to kids at least 10 years old and below for starters.
The great thing about telecommuting is that employees feel that their company values their families and at the same time trusts them to get the job done.

4. Have a cause.
Most employees spend most of their lives on the job, no doubt about it. And it is truly something that no salary can pay for. Having a solid CSR program then gives the employees the chance to work for something greater than themselves and makes all the hours worth it.
No matter what, a company’s vision to make a difference counts to attract and maintain employees who are determined to make it happen without the need for adding zeroes to their salaries.

Virtual assistants are on the rise. According to popular outsourcing platform Upwork (formerly known as oDesk), they have 3 million job postings per year amounting to $1 billion. It also has 9 million registered freelancers from all over the world. That’s 9 million competitors worldwide, and this figure doesn’t include yet the numbers from the other popular platforms like Elance or Freelancer.
With more businesses hiring virtual assistants, the industry is bound to grow in the years to come. So how do you make sure you get noticed in the midst of millions of virtual assistants who are probably offering the same services or even better skills than you do?

1. Have your own website.
Yes, that’s right. Have your own website. Most virtual assistants would have their profiles on their platforms, but only a few would think of setting up their own website with their own domain name. Go for paid web hosting. There is a tendency for people to not take you seriously when you don’t have your own domain name according to an article on Forbes. The website can showcase your portfolio and your services, too. You can also publish blogs, which can help you establish your credibility and expertise in your industry.

2. Create a winning LinkedIn profile.
Gone are the days where employers only ask for your resume. Oftentimes, they would check your LinkedIn profile instead. Your LinkedIn profile is not just your resume, it’s also your branding tool. Take full advantage of its features. Have a professional photo taken for your account. Maximize the headline space by not just writing your job title, but also a summary of what you are offering. Finally, the summary below must highlight your skills, goals, and accomplishments. When writing this area, keep in mind the keywords that your potential clients might use when looking for the kinds of services that you offer. Aim to have multiple endorsements from your past clients or associates.

3. Upgrade your skills.
Regardless of the industry, learning is an activity that shouldn’t stop if you want to stand out. Stay ahead of your competitors by keeping abreast of the latest trends in your industry and equipping yourself with skills that can make you more desirable as a virtual assistant. For example, if you are a graphic designer, you can upgrade your skills by learning how to use the latest software for designing or knowing how to do web programming, so your client doesn’t have to outsource this part of their business requirement to another freelancer. Ultimately, you are helping them save time and cost.

4. Treat your proposal as a business proposal.
When applying for a job, treat your cover letter as a business proposal. Don’t just say what you can offer. Understand what the company needs. They don’t always say this on their job requirements, but doing a little research like checking their website or asking the client for more information can help you determine needs that the company hasn’t even thought of yet. This also shows your resourcefulness and determination to win. Mention their needs and propose solutions that can help them solve their problems.
More than just hard work, the best virtual assistants who get noticed are smart and strategic. Take the time to plan for your career, work on it, and success will come naturally.

 

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.

+

 

When it comes to creating more business for a company, nothing beats the good old traditional business proposal. It contains the correct information as the basis of the decision to be made by the potetntial client. As a document, it provides a clear and concise opportunity for any company to present their products and services in a portable manner. It extends the opportunity to make a sale, even without a meeting.
Here are some tips to create one that not just gets kept, but more so, acted upon.

1. It comes in many forms.
Usually, the business proposals come in printed format all placed in one folder. But think of it this way: if every person in the world does it, imagine how many of those folders are found in one’s desk? Rise above the clutter by being creative. Choose other formats such as video. Not only is it environmentally friendly, it’s also more engaging and impressive.
Using other formats that are more digitally driven also gives the chance for the business development person to simply send a link to the decision makers in the company without hassle. This makes the proposal portable in different gadgets, increasing its chances of being seen in the first place.

2. Address the company’s goals.
Sue Clayton of Entrepreneur says writing a winning proposal should start with clearly understanding the client’s requirements. If the client has released a document called Request for Proposal or RFP, study it and the company’s goals, then dig deeper. Analyze what the company needs from an objective and unbiased outsider’s point of view.
What can you do to help the company achieve their goals? Do you have the experience, manpower, and other resources to meet the needs, or even better, exceed the expectations of the client if you get the project?

3. Copyedit the whole thing.
Proper grammar can make or break a business proposal. Coherence in text can make a big difference. Remember, it is this document that makes the meeting possible. The content must be therefore polished to perfection.
No matter how beautifully printed or creatively designed a document is, it’s still nothing without accurate and on point copy. Work with a corporate communication specialist who can help you better articulate your ideas for the proposal.
In general, great copy is one that gets the message across without the need for more words. Entrepreneur recommends the following format presented by Shervin Freed, co-author of Writing Winning Business Proposals:
a. Current Situation. – outlines the needs of the company.
b. Goals – explains what you want to achieve.
c. Proposed Methodology- presents the steps you will take to achieve your goals.
d. Time and Cost – shows a detailed list of the requirements needed to complete the project, including the timeframe and the resources.
e. Qualifications – lists your experience, expertise, and strengths
f. Benefits – explains the many ways your proposal will benefit the client.

4. The success relies on the follow through.
Even if you get out reams upon reams of business proposals, it would still be for nothing if there is no strong plan for follow through. To maximize this, consider hiring virtual assistants who can do the follow up and monitoring of responses. They can also update the leads list, which the sales team can refer to for selling communications. The virtual assistant also provides a human touch to the business proposal and the fact that there is consistent communications give the potential client the impression the company is really adamant in winning their business.

With these steps, a formidable list of business leads is not far behind.

When it comes to helping your virtual assistants stay productive, nothing would be better than gaining their loyalty. This is because loyalty from your virtual assistants or VA’s does pay. When your VA’s are loyal to you, they will be willing to go beyond the call of duty to finish their tasks, they will do their best to make you happy and you may never have to go through time-consuming process of looking for VAs ever again. But the question is, how do you make your VA’s loyal to you?
The following are ways to increase VA loyalty, wherever they are from.

1. Ensure good match between the job and their skills.
Building loyalty starts from the hiring process. When your virtual assistant has the skills to succeed at the job and the kind of attitude that will blend with the values of your team or company, it would be easier to find happiness at work. A happy virtual assistant, much like happy regular employees, will never think of leaving a job that makes them feel that they’re valuable to the company.

2. Give regular feedback about the job.
Offering feedback about their job, especially positive feedback, will make virtual assistants feel appreciated for what they do. Praising their efforts for a job well done or offering constructive criticisms that will help them learn from their mistakes builds trust and loyalty.

3. Be friendly.
Treat VA’s as friends and they will reward you with loyalty. Friendliness means you care about them, engaging them in interesting conversations, getting to know who they are beyond the skills they can offer at work, and treating them with respect at all times.

4. Help them create a path to career success.
Providing growth opportunities can come in many forms. You can pay for their training or further education. You can also give them a raise or a promotion, if you have a hierarchy in your organization. A good way to encourage growth is by setting goals at the beginning of job then reward appropriately. The key here is to help them find fulfilment in the work that they do for you.

5. Trust your VA.
Most virtual assistants and even regular employees who work in a physical office would hate micro-managers. While it’s important to oversee their progress, it is actually offensive to ask about how they are doing every hour they work for you. Aside from being offensive, this may actually be also counter-productive. Instead of letting them focus on the job, you are wasting their time by asking for unnecessary updates all the time.
Loyal virtual assistants are a gem. Build trust and loyalty, and you will see the direct rewards of having a dedicated virtual assistant to your business.

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.

]The biggest misconception that people who work from home such as virtual assistants and freelance writers and designers have is that they do not need to work on their leadership abilities compared to their 9 to 5 warrior counterparts.

But they are the very ones who have the most opportunity to maximize their leadership due to 1) their lack of a superior, 2) lack of hours they need to strictly lock in, and 3) their ability to change their workloads as they wish.

Here are specific ways for virtual assistants to take the next step when it comes to leadership skills:

1. Read more books

Sharpening the ax never ends and reading is one of the best ways to do so. Every article on executives lists reading as their number one activity that helps them be a step ahead of the pack and be aligned with their purpose.

Business books such as those that are into customer service or even biographies can help them be inspired to take stock of their lives and provide better output to their clients. Magazines and trade-specific literature is also a great way to stay updated in the industry they are in.

2. Attend seminars on leadership and finance

Attending forums and talks are always a networking opportunity aside from the learnings that they can glean from the speakers. Being out with people in the same industry provides them with an idea as to their hours and pay. Think of it as benchmarking to ensure that they are at par with the rest of them.

Finance seminars are also important as it creates in them the idea that there is more to life than simply doing the work that pays weekly or monthly. Creating wealth is the name of the game of leaders and virtual assistants and they can tap into this power for themselves as well.

3. Outsource their work

Creating more leaders is the best way to be one. Virtual assistants, especially those who have been in the industry and have a cadre of clients, can create jobs for other people as well. They can hone others into becoming successful virtual assistants as themselves and they can also become thought leaders in the subject by coming up with blogs or webinars.

Doing so is a winner in all aspects: they get to provide job opportunities to other people and at the same time, increase their profile, making them the virtual assistant of choice – something a great leader is ought to do.

Outsourcing to virtual assistants or VAs has becomes popular among business owners in the recent years. This is because many businesses in various industries have experienced the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant, including saving time and cost and generating more income for the company. If you haven’t tried working with a virtual assistant and you are considering hiring one to help you with your day-to-day operations, it would help to know the types of tasks you can outsource to a VA.
Tasks that You Can Outsource to Virtual Assistants

Michael Hyatt, virtual mentor and one of the leading business bloggers in the world, says that a virtual assistant can do anything for you, as long as it does not require physical presence. If you think of jobs that don’t require a person to be physically present, you’ll realize that there’s a lot that you can outsource—from accounting to marketing, to recruitment.

You can outsource almost any kind of task to a virtual assistant. Gregg Landers, CBIZ MHM director of growth management says in an article published in Entrepreneur that there are three categories of tasks that are best outsourced. These are: specialized knowledge, expertise, and highly repetitive tasks.

Expertise tasks are those tasks that require a high level of skills such as management of legal matters, analysis of your sales and financial performance, and other tasks that require executive-level expertise. Highly repetitive tasks are those that include data entry and general administrative work like responding to emails or organizing your inventory. Commonly outsourced tasks like blogging, graphic design, and web development all fall under specialized knowledge, or those tasks that require a specific set of skills.
Here is a list of tasks that are commonly outsourced or assigned to VAs:

1. Blogging and Blog Management – Writing blogs and ensuring that your blog is regularly updated can be done by a VA who has the writing skills and a working knowledge of blogging platforms.

2. Graphic Design – Tasks that involve designing corporate identity materials, marketing collaterals, product packaging and the like can be performed by VAs with graphic design skills.

3. Website Design and Management – VAs can also design and manage your website, as long as they have designing and programming skills.

4. Video Creation and Editing – Another technical and creative task that you can outsource to VAs is creating and editing videos. This can be done by VAs with the creativity and knowledge of video editing software and media production programs.

5. Social Media Management and Marketing – A social media-savvy VA can help you set up and update your social media pages. VAs can also create a social media plan for your business.

6. Email Management – You can ask your VAs to respond to incoming messages and filter your emails on your behalf.

7. Transcription – A VA with excellent typing, listening and transcription skills will be able to accurately transcribe audio and video files like interviews, podcasts, etc.

8. General administrative work – General administrative work that are usually done by executive assistants like scheduling, answering phone calls, taking down notes during meetings, and even doing personal errands for you online can also be done by a VA.

9. Research – Work that requires research like reports, product development, and strategies can be done by a VA.

10. Marketing – All marketing tasks, as long as they can be done online, can be performed by VAs with sales, marketing, or advertising background.

Defining Your Scope of Work
Before hiring a VA, the first thing you should do is to determine what you need to outsource. What will be your goal for hiring a VA? After determining your needs, define your scope of work. Specify your job requirements, including the skills you are looking for. Doing these will help you attract the right candidates for the job.