For some time now there’s been one aspect of my work that has really frustrated me and I thought, why keep moaning about it? Much Better to write a blog post on the subject!
So here goes…
In my capacity as a VA, I have to carry out tasks for a range of clients situated all over the globe. That means working with individuals who are often in a different time zone to me, which can sometimes make communication that bit trickier.
Of course, modern technology has enabled me to work remotely on a full-time basis and I have plenty of tools to help me communicate effectively and efficiently. However, despite all this connectivity and all these communication channels, I hate it when I have to bother my clients unnecessarily – especially if it’s to ask them to complete a minor security check so I can carry on with my work.
You see, I often have to login to online systems and applications using the accounts of my clients and while this approach means I can happily and efficiently carry out my duties, it can also throw a spanner in the works when a security check pops up.
I have a list of applications and online services that do this, but the ones that immediately come to mind are Mailchimp, Hootsuite and LinkedIn.
For example, I was using Mailchimp the other day to create and schedule a newsletter for one of my clients. This is something I do on a regular basis and usually have zero trouble with. However, on that particular day Mailchimp decided that it would prompt me to setup some security questions – literally out of the blue and wouldn’t grant me access until I had.
I had to contact my client and get them to login to their Mailchimp account, setup the security questions and then give me the relevant information for future use. While this wasn’t really an issue, it still wasted some time (which I hate being a VA) and could have led to further delays had I not been able to contact my client immediately.
Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely all for security and when you think how many cyber-attacks and hacking incidents were witnessed last year alone – a record number by the way – you realise just how careful we have to be online nowadays.
What I’m proposing is a way for the primary account holder to appoint another individual to utilise their account on their behalf. The account would still obviously be owned by my client and I would effectively be using it in a kind of ghost capacity. Every account management decision, every payment requirement and every personal information update would still be up to my client, but the day-to-day stuff I could just happily get on with.
Location-based security checks are fantastic and undoubtedly add another vital layer of security to the whole process. But when you’ve got a few minutes to input a code that has been sent via a text message to your client and the two of you aren’t in direct communication at that moment, frustration isn’t the word.
Then begins the logistical nightmare of trying to get another code sent; your client to read the message; and pass the contents on to you before the short time window expires. Furthermore, the fact that these kinds of security check seemingly appear at random makes the chances of me catching my client at the right time even slimmer.
By providing a way to fully secure accounts and add users ad-hoc, companies will certainly make my life easier and reduce the need for me to bother my clients whenever a security check decides to appear.
My fear is that the situation at present doesn’t lend itself particularly well to outsourcing and as a result companies may be less reluctant to do it going forward. We now live in a world built on global outsourcing, remote working and effective collaboration, but if the systems and applications we utilise don’t enable us to operate unhindered, what could the future potentially hold?
One of the many things I have been meaning to do since starting my virtual assistance business is to put together a manual for clients, to give them as much information they may need when working with a virtual assistant. I don’t mean to suggest that everyone needs step by step instructions on how to delegate tasks to a VA, but I have found that many past and present clients could do with some guidance when working with a VA for the first time.
I have put together my list of the 5 top tips I think every Virtual Assistant would love their clients to take note of:
1. Use Project Management software
I have lost count of the number of times I have mentioned the PM software that I use with some of my clients. Asana is great, and it keeps both myself and my clients on track with tasks. I also use Asana with my own freelancers who I delegate work to. What I love about Asana is how I can have a conversation with my client (or team member) on a particular task and not receive a single email.
I wish that all my clients would use Asana, it would make my work day a lot easier to schedule. I would highly recommend anyone who works with a virtual assistant to stop sending emails and use project management software instead – it not only keeps your inbox from being bombarded with emails, but it also keeps everything nice and organised which makes it extremely easy to go back and search through older tasks.
2. Ensure tasks are clear, concise and with deadlines
If you’re already using PM software, then this may not be a problem. If you are still assigning tasks by sending an email, then ensure these three things are included. Make sure the task you have set is clearly and concisely written so minimum questions need to be asked about how the task should be handled. What I find most people do not include when assigning me tasks is a deadline… do they need it today, tomorrow or in a month’s time? This is really not helpful when I am trying to schedule my working hours. If I have clear deadlines for work then I am able to set out my day each morning (or evening) and make sure that all tasks are completed on time.
This is another reason I love Asana, my clients can quickly assign a task to me and give it a due date – simple!
3. Send 1 email instead of 5
I don’t know whether this is just something I prefer, but rather than sending a different email for each different task or query, I would rather 1 email with all tasks/queries in one. That means I only get 1 email in my inbox, and only have to reply to 1 email rather than 5 (or sometimes more…).
It’s very easy to separate 1 email so that it’s still clear, you can use numbers or bullet points to distinguish between tasks/queries or even use a horizontal line or similar so it’s clear tasks are not related.
This tip (and in fact all of these tips) not only benefit the virtual assistant, but they also benefit you as the client… who wouldn’t prefer less emails to respond to?
4. Appreciate you may not be their only client
Virtual assistants don’t necessarily work for just one person (or business), although I am sure many do. Most VA’s also own their own business, they are business owners and not employees. That means that they will most likely have more than just 1 client, in fact I can be working with up to 10 different clients at one time.
When delegating tasks to your VA be aware that they may not be able to drop everything to complete your urgent task. In my terms and conditions I have a clause explaining that work needed to be done within 24 hours may come with an extra charge. I have never yet had to charge anyone, but if your VA is working for multiple clients, you are not going to know how big their workload is for that day, like you would if you employed someone who worked in your office.
5. Micro managing is not needed
As I said above, most VA’s own their own businesses, they multi-task clients and manage their workload themselves. We don’t need micro managing in the way that full-time employees may need. If we are given clear, concise tasks with deadlines, we will come back with any questions and then go away and carry out the task. Any problems along the way we will keep you informed and updated.
I have been very lucky and not experienced micro managing from my clients, but I do know some that have – many of us start our own businesses to get away from this sort of thing and become our own boss.
Do you work with a virtual assistant, what tips would you give to people and businesses who are looking at working with a VA for the first time?
Do you often find yourself with a list as long as your arm of mundane tasks to do? If so, then chances are that you’re not working efficiently and therefore your business is not operating to its full potential. If this is the case, you could find yourself struggling to be competitive in your marketplace and losing valuable business to your competition. The ultimate and most disastrous consequence of this is that your business will inevitably fail and all of your hard work will have been for nothing.
So what’s the answer? Keep persevering and hope that you get everything done? Unfortunately, a day is only 24 hours long and there’s nothing you can do about that. However, you can make certain adjustments that will ensure your time is used efficiently and only for the most crucial aspects of your business. For example, start by outsourcing the mundane, but ultimately necessary tasks to a virtual assistant.
Now you’re wondering what kind of tasks a virtual assistant can perform and the answer is… more than you can imagine!
Here are just five examples:
Ever wish you could just ask one of your employees to scour the internet and report back to you the latest trends, hot issues and consumer needs in your industry? Well, with a virtual assistant you can do just that. They will meticulously comb the internet and discover everything that your business needs to know, especially when it comes to digital marketing vehicles like social networks and how to take advantage of them to boost your brand’s image.
If you find yourself sifting through countless emails on a daily basis and filing most of them in the trash bin, is it really efficient use of your time? The answer is no and so outsourcing the bulk of your email management and filtering to a virtual assistant will make you a lot more productive. You will be able to focus on the emails that really matter and give them your full attention. Furthermore, important correspondence won’t be missed through overzealous deletions.
The beauty of the internet and modern technology is that it allows for virtual assistants to be an integrated part of your business. As with emails, they can answer and filter telephone calls coming into your office and even make calls on behalf of your business. This again allows you to focus on the more business-generating tasks and not have to worry about missed calls or forgetting to follow-up on a lead.
Hotel and Flight Bookings
Today’s busy entrepreneur will inevitably find themselves doing a lot of travelling, particularly at the start of a new business venture. However, booking hotel rooms and even flights can be a time-consuming process. Moreover, if your first choice hotel is fully booked, you aren’t left scratching your head for alternatives. You can rest assured that your virtual assistant will already be ahead of the game and find you a suitable hotel. The same goes for travel bookings like flights and train tickets. Basically, any job that requires a bit of thought and criteria-based searches can be performed by a virtual assistant.
It’s one of the most mundane office tasks that there is, but data entry is a necessary evil that has to be done. You obviously don’t want to do it yourself and it can take up a hefty chunk of one of your regular employee’s time, so the perfect solution is to get your virtual assistant to do it. After all, data entry follows a pretty repetitive pattern and often takes very little explaining. This makes it a perfect task for your virtual assistant and their ability to focus, free from distraction, means that the accuracy is always excellent.
What tasks do you wish you could outsource to a Virtual Assistant? Are you looking to create some balance in your life?
Get in touch with me to find out how I can help you utilise your time more efficiently.
One very good thing about the world we live in right now is that the more we grow, the easier our lives get. And this is only made possible by the various advancements we experience, especially in technology and every other aspect of life.
New innovations spring up regularly, previously untapped knowledge forts get unlocked, and revolutions surface at different facets; business, health, education, etc. even governance.
Over the past years, there has been a revolution online, especially in the way and how we get things done. Every business person wants to cut costs – and time – at different levels of their businesses, where possible. This has led to the positive surge of some particular set of people that tend to make work – and ultimately, life – easier.
I’m talking about the ‘Virtual workers’. They’ve come – and keep coming – in different forms. We know some as Virtual Assistants (V.As), and some are simply called Freelancers, among other names.
Some of us are probably already familiar with these guys. But a lot of people do not even know how to use these guys and the benefits attached therein. Some other people are just skeptical about entrusting these guys with their ‘lives’.
It’s normal to feel this way, but I’ll tell you these guys are the best thing that can happen to any business.
Entrepreneurs are already busy enough with doing what they do best; that which their businesses originally require. Yet, there are a lot of ‘other’ activities and tasks incidental to your business’ success, which are sometimes boring, take a lot of quality time doing or require a lot of time learning.
These ‘other tasks’ are the major jobs of some people, and they are out there to help you do them, so that you can spend more time on what you do best and become more creative and productive. These people are, of course, the Virtual Assistants.
Those who use VAs often talk about how good the experience always is. One common thing among these beneficiaries’ testimonials, is that they ultimately experience an increase in income in the long run, which eventually justifies their hiring of a V.A. And most of them say outsourcing to a V.A is something they’d love to do over and over again.
Chris Ducker of @VStaffFinder recommends business owners make a list of the things they hate to do. Then everything they can’t do. Then the things they should not be doing. That grocery list is the to-do-list for outsourcing.
Now all you need is a virtual assistant to do it.
I sometimes feel V.As are omnificent and omniscient, because it seems like there’s no limit to what V.As are capable of.
A V.A can do everything that could possibly be done without his/her physical presence required.
Nina Feldman lists 101 ways to use a Virtual Assistant. Even though I’ve not used a V.A that much –because of the financial side of the story 😉 – I have a list of my best tasks to outsource to a V.A, many of which I’ve done and enjoyed doing. Some I still do.
My best 10 (in no particular order) are:
- Reminder: appointments, meetings, calls, emails, tasks, anniversaries, events, ANY other thing you need to remember!
- E-mail Services: email screening, sorting, reply, sending, scheduling, autoresponders and newsletters, every other thing related to emails and emailing.
- Events planning: meetings, conferences, webinars, teleconferences,
- Internet marketing: SEO, marketing strategy, content marketing, guest posting, social media,
- Social media: profiles creation and writing, marketing, management and engagement, SEO,
- Research: market, competition, information, article content, keywords, data & statistics,
- Secretarial & personal assistant services: appointments, making calls, bookings & reservations, payments, accounting and book-keeping, auditing, human resources, public relations, this is really unlimited!
- Transcription and translation: audio to written, recording – and later transcription – of calls, interviews, webinars, inter-languages translation,
- Writing and Editing: articles writing, eBooks writing, design, editing, proofreading, eBook formatting, keywords research, articles spinning, submission, blogging, PRs, copywriting & SEO copywriting, guest blogging, newsletters and autoresponders,
- Websites: design, development, maintenance, marketing, critiquing & auditing, SEO,
These are simply the top 10 tasks I’d always love to outsource, out of the seemingly countless outsource-able tasks.
Talk about keeping the best for the last. Websites (design and maintenance) is something I cannot stop outsourcing. I’ve not had time for my blog in the past and would just be taking it seriously soon, now that I’m through with school. However, it’s not without commendable beauty and smooth functionality.
I only have Jo to thank for this. She has been my omniscient life-saver. And through her, I enjoy the benefits that come along with outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant. I’ve been able to present myself as a professional freelance writer to my clients and earn more as a result.
You can check out her handiwork on my blog Lucrative Pen.
P.S: Which tasks do you outsource most? And which would you love to outsource more in the future? Kindly share with us in the comments section.
Yomi-Alliyu Oludami is a professional freelance writer and the founder of www.lucrativepen.com, a blog that teaches how to write for money and traffic. You can visit his website to learn more or hire him for your writing projects.
You can also follow him on twitter @oludami_LP.
Since writing A Day in the Life of a Virtual Assistant and A Different Day in the Life of a Virtual Assistant very early last year, a lot of things have changed for me. I know how some of you enjoy reading about my life as well as the tips and advice I give on this blog, so I thought it was about time for a little catch-up.
As I wrote these posts such a long time ago (it doesn’t feel that long) I’ve just had to re-read them, just to remind myself of my life back then. It’s amazing how things can change and move on so quickly.
I think I’ll start just after March 2012 when I wrote the second post. In June last year I decided that I was spending too much time indoors working, sat at my computer all day and not getting out in the fresh air. I was telling everyone on my blog to get out and about, take a break, go for a walk and I wasn’t living by my own advice. So I got a puppy!
This is Hatchi, when I got him in June 2012 he was already 5 months old (which in hindsight was a huge nightmare!). Hatchi is a Breton Spaniel and needs LOTS of exercise and LOTS of attention. When I got him I didn’t take this on board, I just kept thinking that we’d go on lots of lovely walks together, he’d get me away from my computer and I’d be all healthy and slim. How wrong could I have been! I love having a dog and wouldn’t change him for the world, but he’s a big responsibility, he needs walking three times a day, I can’t do anything without considering what will happen to the dog.
I could write a whole series of blog posts on owning a dog, and about all the antics Hatchi gets up to, but as this is my business blog I might save that for another day.
If you read my previous posts you will also have seen there were plans to move to a farm and spend my day with cows and sheep and various other animals. Well back in June this year when the farm was nearly habitable I separated from my boyfriend. His French way of life just didn’t suit me, there were things I loved and there were things I hated, and the anxiety about all that just wasn’t going to work out.
Since then I’ve started new French lessons, 5 hours a week and also just this week I have found a new house to live in. The apartment I have been in for 2 years is just not working anymore. I don’t have enough space outside for the dog, and as I was no longer moving to the farm I have been on the lookout for a new place since then. My tenancy starts on 1st December but I have lots of cleaning and decorating to do before I actually move in. I will have a field of 2000m2 for the dog, as well as plenty of space indoors for an office and a guest bedroom – I may need to invest in some extra furniture to fill it though.
This is my new house…
Now my work day looks like this…
So as you can imagine, my working day is slightly different from when I wrote the other posts back in 2012.
I get up around 8am, no alarm clock which I love! I might sit at my computer and check emails while eating breakfast, or sometimes I watch the news.
Around 10am I will take Hatchi for his morning walk, I try to alternate the walk I go on so he doesn’t get bored. We’re usually out for around 30-45 minutes.
I have my one and only cup of coffee of the day when I get back, it helps get the brain going for the official start of my working day. I spend a couple of hours doing client work, making sure I prioritise the important things for this time of day which means I can have a more relaxing afternoon.
Sometimes I have lunch at my desk, other times I will sit and catch up on a TV series I like to watch. Then after lunch spend another couple of hours on client work until around 3pm when I take Hatchi for his afternoon walk.
That just leaves a couple more hours for client work, and anything else that needs doing business related. Just recently I have been working in the evenings for a few hours as I have been very busy with eBook formatting, but as a rule I will switch my computer off around 6pm and do something un-work related.
I used to spend my evenings on my iPhone searching for articles to share on social media, and generally continue working. I don’t tend to do this as much now, I have managed to separate my work and life a little more now my business has grown. I now have my very own virtual assistant who takes care of the little jobs I used to struggle to keep up with myself.
This Christmas I am actually switching off for the whole time, from 23rd to 27th December, no work, no business related activities. It’s going to be hard, but I am adamant I will have a proper rest from work.
And in 2014…
Well I have some ideas about where my business will be going in 2014, and if you are signed-up to my newsletter (you can sign-up at the top) then you might just hear about my ideas later this week when that’s published.