Archive for the Virtual Assistance Category

31 Tips For Successful Outsourcing

Posted in Business start up, Outsourcing, Virtual Assistance with tags , , , , on December 18, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Here are 31 tips to make your outsourcing experiences as smooth as possible.

Come to an Agreement

One of the most important elements of subcontracting is making sure you and the subcontractor are on the same page and that there are no surprises. Keep these things on your list to help facilitate a smooth working relationship:

1.  Use a contract
2.  Make sure you agree on payment terms up front
3.  Don’t pay in full until the job is complete
4.  Be clear on how and when you plan to pay the subcontractor
5.  Agree on a timeline for the work
6.  Include a non-disclosure/non-competition provision in your contract
7.  Determine how you will receive project updates
8.  Clarify confidentiality expectations
9.  Build in a “de-bugging” provision that identifies a specific period of time the subcontractor will be on call to fix potential problems that arise
10.  Clarify the ownership of the project in writing

Protect Your Business

When you outsource, you are giving up some of your control over the project. Consider these tips to help you protect your business, interests and reputation:

11.  Check references
12.  Review the subcontractor’s portfolio
13.  Verify skills
14.  Consider a small test project first
15.  Be prepared to review all work before turning it over to the client
16.  Be very clear about expectations
17.  Don’t leave any details out when relaying the project request to the subcontractor
18.  Send all work requests in writing
19.  Schedule an initial call and regular check-ins, if necessary
20.  Be available throughout the duration of the project
21.  Track all payments for your books

Client Relations

The goal of the project should be to meet and exceed the client’s needs. In order to do that, follow these tips to manage your relationship with your client:

22.  Be the middleman
23.  Tell your client you are using a subcontractor, if appropriate
24.  Pad the time estimate provided by the subcontractor in your estimate for the client
25.  Don’t forget to add in time for your management role
26.  Be accountable for your work AND your subcontractor’s work

Aside from the Work

Remember the importance of the personal side of your subcontractor relationship. Here are some ways to do that:

27.  Don’t overlook the importance of complementary personalities
28.  Respect the subcontractor’s time
29.  Make sure there are no communication gaps
30.  Give praise and appreciation for a job well done
31.  Ask the subcontractor how it went at the end of the project and provide feedback

What other tips would you add to this list?

Successful outsourcing will not only allow you to focus on what you do best, but also find other ways to satisfy clients and expand your business. By building relationships with your subcontractors that are based on trust and respect, you will be able to create a team that can accomplish just about anything…and give you a day or two off in the process.

http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2009/04/09/31-tips-for-successful-outsourcing/

Alyssa Gregory is the owner of avertua, LLC, a full-service virtual assistant firm. She has been designing websites since 1995, and has a passion for supporting small businesses. Alyssa provides business tips, advice and news through her Small Business Idea Generator blog.

Effective Email

Posted in Office Management, Virtual Assistance with tags , on December 15, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Email is a fundamdental part of our daily lives and it is important to communicate effectively via this medium without being misunderstood or misconstrued.

How to communicate powerfully by email

There are a few simple rules to ensure that your emails are read in the first place and stay useful to the recipient.

Subject Lines are Headlines

The headline in a newspaper does two things: It grabs your attention and informs you what the article is about so you can decide whether you want to read further. Email subject lines need to do the same thing.

Use the subject line to inform the receiver of EXACTLY what the email is about in a few well-chosen words. You might include a call to action such as “Please respond by 7 November”, and if your message is one of a regular series of mails, such as a weekly project report, include the date in the subject line too.

Because everyone gets emails they do not want (spam), appropriate use of the subject line increases the chances your email will be read and not deleted without so much as a glance.

Of course, just as it would be ridiculous to publish a newspaper without headlines, never leave the subject line blank.

Make One Point per Email

The beauty of email, compared with letters, is that it doesn’t cost any more to send several mails than it does to send one.

So, if you need to communicate with someone about several matters, write a separate email on each subject. That way your correspondent can reply to each one in the appropriate time-frame. One topic might only require a short reply that he or she can make straight away. Another topic might require more research. By writing separate emails, you get clearer answers.

However, as with traditional business letters, the email should be clear and concise, with the purpose of the email detailed in the very first paragraph. Sentences should be kept short and to the point.

The body of the email should contain all pertinent information and should be direct and informative.

Specify the Response You Want

Make sure to include any action you desire, such as a phone call or follow-up appointment. Then, make sure you include your contact information, including your name, title, and phone numbers. Do this even with internal messages: The easier you make it for someone else to respond, the more likely they are to do so.

Be a Good Correspondent

If you regularly correspond using email, make sure to clean out your email inbox at least once each day. This is a simple act of courtesy and will also serve to encourage senders to return your emails in a timely manner.

If a lengthy response is required to an email, but you don’t have the time to pull together the information required now, send a holding reply saying that you have received the message, and indicating when you will respond fully.

Always set your Out of Office agent when you are going to be away from your email for a day or more, whether on leave or because you’re at meetings.

Internal Email

Internal email should be checked regularly throughout the working day and returned in a much quicker manner as it often involves timely projects, immediate updates, meeting notes, and so on.

Nonetheless, internal emails, just like other emails, should not be informal. Remember, these are written forms of communication that can be printed out and viewed by others than those originally intended for. Always use your spell checker, and avoid slang.

http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/EmailCommunication.htm

Outsourcing To A Virtual Assistant

Posted in Office Management, Outsourcing, Virtual Assistance with tags , on November 23, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Outsourcing is the strategic use of outside resources to perform activities traditionally handled by internal staff and resources. Small business owners can outsource non-core functions to specialized and efficient service providers. The difference between simply subcontracting and outsourcing is that outsourcing involves the wholesale restructuring of the corporation around core competencies and outside relationships.

 As a consequence, a new class of skilled entrepreneurs has emerged — the virtual assistants.

What is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant (VA) is an independent entrepreneur providing administrative, creative and/or technical services. Utilising advanced technological modes of communication and data delivery, a professional VA assists clients in his/her area of expertise from his/her own office.

A VA completes your projects using his or her own equipment, and carries out the work through e-mail, fax, telephone and postal service. Therefore, the location of your VA is not important. This gives you the liberty to look for professionals best suited to your needs located anywhere on the globe. Since they’re paid only for time-on-task, businesses can hire several VAs in dispersed locations and have 24-hour support — paying far less than what a permanent or temporary employee would cost for such comprehensive assistance.

The services offered by each VA differ according to his/her skills. The list of services includes general administration services, database and Website development, graphic design, Internet research, sales support, presentation preparation, telephone answering, bill payments, travel arrangements, bookkeeping, desktop publishing, computer training, medical/legal transcription … the list is endless!

Why outsource the work to a VA?

The primary benefit of outsourcing is economising since the VA can do it cheaper. VAs only charge for actual time worked.

By outsourcing to a VA rather than hiring an in-office assistant, you will never need to pay employment insurance, vacation pay, sick pay, or contribute to retirement plans and worker’s compensation. A VA has his/her own hardware, software, training, etc., thereby reducing your capital investment. So there is no wear and tear on your office equipment or a need for special equipment.

Engaging a VA gives you time, allowing you to do what you do best. You can focus on delivering the higher value and service to your customers. As skilled VAs are chosen to perform particular tasks, they can do it better because they do it all the time. It is their business.

Like you, VAs are entrepreneurs and understand the needs of businesses today — ensuring the success of their clients. VAs value each and every client; it is because of these clients that VAs can ensure the success of their own businesses.

The resources of the VA can give your business access to technical advances you would not normally have access to. With modern day communication, projects can be accomplished without ever having to meet the client face to face. With the growing ease of the Internet, finding a VA almost anywhere in the world is quite simple to accomplish — more so in the developed nations like USA, Canada, Australia, UK and many other European countries where the VA industry is highly organised.

http://realtytimes.com/rtpages/20031027_va.htm

The emergence of Virtual Assistants

Posted in Outsourcing, Virtual Assistance with tags , , on November 19, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Virtual Assistants are typically professional level people who have left the confines of corporate business to start their own businesses. Virtual Assistants are independent contractors who work from home providing a variety of services to businesses.

This trend allows these highly skilled professionals to bring their knowledge to bear for a whole range of companies that would otherwise not have access. While VA’s were once limited to more administrative tasks, they now encompass the entire spectrum of professional skills. If it can be done from home, there is a VA doing it.

What companies are starting to appreciate is that Virtual Assistants cost companies a fraction of the cost of actual hires. A company employing Virtual Assistants can utilise the services of a whole range of professionals instead of having to choose which specialty is needed most as the company grows.

For the cost of one salaried Administrative Assistant, a business owner could utilise approximately 1400 hours of assistance divided among any number of top professionals. Utilising Virtual Assistants allows businesses access to the exact services that they need, it also allows businesses to shift gears more quickly and efficiently by investing in growth rather than payroll because they are paying only for the time spent on their project. There is no longer a reason to worry about taxes, benefits, vacation pay, and time wasted by the water cooler.

More and more businesses are coming round to the idea of Virtual Assistance; it’s a win-win for everyone involved. It gives businesses the help that they need without the hassle of hiring a full-time employee.

www.powerhomebiz.com/082005/va.htm

Corporate Travel

Posted in Event Management, Marketing, Virtual Assistance with tags , , on September 1, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Corporate travel is a time consuming and logistically testing proceedure. Jigsaw Conferences highlight the nuances involved in this piece.

Corporate Travel is one of the leading sectors of the travel industry today. Business people are constantly flying around the country and indeed around the world to attend conferences, meetings, PR events, training courses, team building events, annual general meetings, parties, seminars, exhibitions, corporate hospitality events, product launches, award ceremonies and so on.  

Where vacationers have the flexibility of waiting for off-peak days of the week to arrange for their flights and get the lowest rates for that season, business people have fixed schedules. Travel agents recognise this important sector and make special arrangements to improve their market share and competitiveness in the industry.
 
An organisation staging an award ceremony or an annual general meeting, for example, at a central location, would need to provide transport and accommodation to their VIP guests. Corporate travel agents help ensure that details like these can be taken care of smoothly and efficiently.
 
Corporate travel planning can be a task on its own. Rather than have one of the company’s head secretaries spend all of her time on the arrangements, many companies prefer to hire corporate travel planners to take care of event management, and meeting planning in addition to making all necessary travel arrangements.
 
Many corporate travel agencies offer specialised services for their clients. They offer to track and report the company’s travel expenses, negotiate special rates, track air miles and reward points and offer 24 hour support from corporate travel agents. Each individual agency would have other benefits to attract clients to their program.
 
As a result of their daily negotiations and partnerships with travel suppliers, like airlines, car rental agencies and hotel chains, a corporate travel planner has the ability to use their discounts to offer the lowest possible rates that are usually not open to the general public. Contracting the company’s corporate travel department to an independent planner can produce large savings for a company whose representatives need to travel as part of their job. More time could be afforded for sales presentations, PR events, product launches, exhibitions, seminars, conventions and parties anywhere in the country or around the world.
 
Corporations have the added advantage of receiving heavy discounts and rewards for making bookings for large groups or making several bookings within a period of time. PR events, product launches, exhibitions and conferences would require large groups of staff and guests to be invited to a central location. Travel, transport and accommodation arrangements would all be necessary for these kinds of events and tend to solicit lower rates due to the large number of attendees.
 
Corporate travel agents who offer event planning services will often locate the right venue for the organisation’s event through a comparison of all appropriate venues that fit your budgetary and space requirements. They would arrange for the catering, accommodation, set up of equipment and business centre. Many times they also offer on-site support. Other services could include meeting and greeting guests, distributing event-related portfolios and other relevant material, registration and so on.
 
Some agencies are further specialised and work with specific types of industries. For instance, the pharmaceutical industry may have special requirements for some of their seminars and events, requiring a certain layout or special equipment. By providing detailed attention to these, corporate travel agents are at the forefront of the competition in the travel industry.
 
Corporate hospitality events, annual general meetings and product launches each have different aspects that need special attention and must be taken into consideration in order to ensure a successful event. Hiring an independent agent, who is an invaluable source of information and advice, saves both time and money, whereby the management is able to spend more time concentrating on more pressing matters. Thus, corporations are poised to receive the best value-added services from a full range of options in travel solutions and event management which caters to the event’s specific requirements for the most competitive prices.
 
Corporate travel has also spawned a new industry in the way of corporate travel safety. Seminars are available to advise individuals of the best way to protect themselves and their belongings to ensure a hassle-free journey. 
For a businessman, protecting the information he’s carrying can be of vital importance. Numbered locks, security waist packs and portable travel safes are all available to the cautious traveller.
 
With the high level of importance given to the corporate travel sector, it’s little wonder that corporations receive premium services and excellent rates. Travel agencies are all vying for their business and outdo each other with the nature of the services and rewards they provide. With competition fierce and demand strong, the quality of service provided is easily world-class.
 
Copyright © 2007 Jigsaw Conferences

Efficient office moves

Posted in Business start up, Office Management, Virtual Assistance with tags , , on January 18, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Office moves are certainly an area where virtual PA’s can help to smooth the transition by getting systems in place ahead of time to avoid costly disruption to everyday business. This article from http://www.allbusiness.com documents the stages well regarding what needs to be done.

Moving your office without a checklist is asking for trouble. Instead of planning as you go — which is really not planning at all — create a checklist that will help you stay within budget and on deadline.

The best way to avoid moving pitfalls is to be prepared. The list is likely to change
over time, and that’s OK. The goal is to have before you a blueprint that you can refer to again and again. Here’s a model to work with. You checklist may look slightly different depending on the size and type of office you’re moving:

• Create a moving task force. You don’t have to shoulder the entire burden of a move. Indeed, that could be an impossible task and, therefore, a guaranteed failure. Establish a task force consisting of key employees who can offer assistance and guidance during the entire moving process.
• Meet with a space planner and/or interior designer. Trying to fit everything into a new space with little or no expertise is asking for trouble. Make sure you enlist the help of professionals.
• Take inventory and discard what you don’t need. Moving can be an excellent time to clean house. As you’re taking inventory (do this so that you can make sure everything has arrived safely following the move), consider getting rid of extraneous equipment, papers, and other items that the office has amassed.
• Interview moving companies. It’s never too early to begin collecting information about moving companies and then following up with interviews. Be sure to thoroughly check references, too.
• Meet with communications staff. Knowing how the phone system and computer facilities will operate at the new location is a must. It’s incumbent on you to make sure that service will not be interrupted. The best way to ensure minimal disruption is to meet with communications staff on a regular basis.
• Contact appropriate utilities. You’ll need to contact your local utility companies for various services like phone, electricity, and water. Provide them with stop and start dates and schedule any necessary appointments that will require your presence.
• Take care of the details. Remember to make changes to office stationery and alert your customers that the company is moving with change-of-address cards. This is an excellent opportunity to remind your customers that the company is always looking for ways to improve and this move is just one example of the firm’s commitment to excellence. Let your vendors know about the relocation as well.
• Provide employees with orientation. Meet with employees before, during, and after the move to explain how any new functions such as the security and phone systems work. Also, offer guidelines for any new procedures that will be put in place as a result of the move.
• Arrange for new services. You want the transition to occur as smoothly as possible, so try to make move-in day easy and stress-free. Make sure, for example, that ample parking is available for your company’s employees. Order new keys, too, so that people can actually get inside!
• Meet with movers to review plans. Stay in close touch with your movers as move-in day approaches. Make sure you set aside enough time to actually sit down to review and confirm furniture and floor plans. Waiting until move-in day will frustrate the movers, your colleagues, and you.
• Conduct a walk-through. On move-in day (or before) walk through the new space with staff to indicate new work areas. Make them feel welcomed and respond to any questions they may have.
• Plan a party and celebrate. Don’t forget to reward yourself and other employees with a move-in party. Celebrate the success of the move and congratulate everyone on his or her contribution.

When moving your office, advance planning, clear communication, and a willingness to live with a little chaos go a long way.

Should you need help/support or advice regarding your office move please do not hesitate to ask on 0844 884 3890 or email enquiries@virtualcitypa.com

Case study: Using a Virtual Assistant

Posted in Office Management, Outsourcing, Virtual Assistance with tags , on January 11, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Desmond Turner is in a quandary faced by many small business owners. He has so much work he can’t focus on minute details, but he’s not at the point where he needs a full-time office assistant. Turner, owner of A+ Landscaping, is a perfect candidate for virtual assistance.

Hiring a virtual assistant (VA) is a practical and affordable solution to helping manage many small but growing businesses. Thanks to speedy advancements in technology, entrepreneurs have access to highly-skilled professionals.
A VA is someone who handles administrative functions such as e-mailing, faxing, database management and bookkeeping from a remote location. Highly skilled assistants can also offer help with website maintenance, customer and client contact and even marketing material, all services that would greatly benefit Turner’s business.
“Because I’m in the landscape industry, I spend the majority of my time outside of the office, which means I don’t really have time to devote to answering e-mails and sending faxes,” said Turner. “Having a professional who could serve as a liaison between me and my clients would be invaluable.”
Invaluable indeed, since not having an assistant means late nights spent catching up on paperwork like contracts and bookkeeping.
Virtual assistance companies often span several industries, and some assistants even offer help with the clients’ personal lives by organizing social gatherings, making doctor appointments and arranging travel plans.

Virtual assistants offer several advantages over do-it-yourself practices or temporary and part-time workers, the main benefi t being that they’re cost-effective. The employer has no payroll taxes, workers’ comp or temp agency commission fees. Small companies could also save money on offi ce space, equipment, pensions, insurance and the like. Another advantage for business owners is that they would have full access to assistants while only paying for work that was actually done.

Employers who are thinking about hiring a virtual assistant are urged to do research beforehand to ensure a profi table match. A good VA may be instrumental in helping with the mundane tasks while business owners focus on advancing the company’s goals.