What is a Virtual Assistant
According to the balance small business website, a virtual assistant (VA) is a person who provides support services to other businesses from a remote location. The term originated in the 1990s as the ability to work virtually due to technology improvements, such as high-speed Internet, document sharing, and other advancements, made working remotely a reality.
Virtual assistants are especially in demand by entrepreneurs and online businesses that need help but don’t want to bring on staff in their location. However, many small and mid-size businesses use virtual support, especially for specific tasks such as social media management.
Earlier in 2018, I decided to kick the corporate bucket and venture on a solo career path. I just didn’t know what I was going to do though. It wasn’t the first time I’d tried my hand at entrepreneurship either. No, I’m a sucker for pursuing my goals, hopes and dreams. Have I failed and bumped my head? You better believe I have. Has my confidence wavered? Oh yes, many times. It still does. I have days when I sit back and question my choice, but usually, it takes a drive during peak hour traffic to reaffirm my belief in what I’m doing.
I knew I had to change what I was doing. There were a few personal reasons for my decision but the main driving force for me is the fact that misogyny is still rife in the workplace. This is a global phenomenon and a topic not discussed openly for fear of reprisal.
Working hard, long hours has always been a trait I’m proud of, but, as I approach my 50’s, I don’t gel with the rules. Not that I really embraced these to begin with. Boundaries create security, this is psychology 101 – but micromanagement and a draconian, authoritarian management style is on another level. One I don’t tolerate. Perhaps it’s just my personality, but I have a visceral dislike toward those who deploy this management style. Nor do I take kindly to whipper snapper millennials boasting their degrees and exploiting others, especially mature women in the workplace. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the fact that people work hard to attain their degrees. Point is, it does not entitle belligerence.
I am pleased to observe on many company websites, particularly the UK based companies that the gender pay gap is being addressed. These modern companies are also addressing their menopause policy for their mature female employees. This is liberating and makes us ‘oldies’ feel appreciated and still worthwhile in the office and not maligned for being female.
As I was planning my exit strategy, I researched online work opportunities. I wasn’t overly enthused at the ‘genuine’ options I found. Seems there’s many a scam artist out there preying on desperate and vulnerable job seekers. Scrolling through Google I saw the term virtual assistant. Intrigued, I read on. Yes! This was for me and rest as the saying goes, is history.
Another important factor that influenced my decision is my teenage son. It’s reassuring for mums of small children to be at home. Unfortunately, there’s not too many half day positions available and mums are forced to either take a pay cut, opt to work from home or find full time employment and utilise the primary school after-care facility. The assumption is high school kids have it all figured out and cope on their own in the afternoons. This is not the situation and left to their own devices, teens tend to not be as studious as we’d like them to be. Boys tend to take advantage of this fact… To this I can attest.
Where to from here
Setting up shop is not easy, and it’s become a competitive work arena out there. If starting and running a business is such a simple feat, everyone would be an entrepreneur. When I started out, I floundered for a while and was startled at my lack of up to date techie experience. This from someone who completed their A+, advanced networking and MCSE in the early 90’s. A lot has changed, and it can be daunting!
I wasn’t and am not deterred to work for myself and on my own. As a Virtual Assistant, you cannot offer everything skills wise and there will always be other VA’s who offer more than you do and are better at a task than you are. It’s about streamlining your skills and finding your niche. If you don’t know something, say so. But, turn your not knowing into a positive and learn how to do the task. There are many online resources to be researched and honing your skills is do-able, without breaking the proverbial bank.
Be honest and upfront with your client and with yourself. It’s no use struggling to fulfill a task or commitment you know full well won’t be done correctly. The concept of working online requires open communication channels and engaging regularly with your client or clients. Learn to manage your time. When you’re on the clock and responsible for task management and key deliverables, you quickly realize how valuable time is. There’s no chatting with colleagues round the coffee station or checking your social media profiles. Accountability is tantamount.
Being on the cutting edge of technology and offering a bespoke service will ensure the global Virtual Assistant market succeeds. This is an exciting career path and the industry is set to grow, exponentially so.
Follow these great benefits to improve your blogging
Blogging can help drive internet traffic to your website. A blog gives you the chance to create original and relevant content to your customers, which can be a tactic to drive traffic to your website.
Blogging also helps your SEO or Search Engine Optimization. By consistently putting out new content in your blogs, you boost your rankings in different search engines, making you and your business more visible on the internet. You can also include various keywords, topics, and categories that you want to be found with your business when you write your blog. That way, when someone searches something related to that word or phrase, you will come up in earlier in search engines.
Blogs are no longer just an expression of an individual or a platform to share one’s ideas and thoughts. Blogs have started to be one of the most influential and useful tools in the market space. It’s an excellent way to showcase thought leadership as well as keep consumers updated on what’s happening in the company
Companies that maintain a blog seek:
- Brand awareness and visibility
- Authority and trustworthiness
- Site traffic and higher SEO ranking
- Leads and sales
The 4 benefits of blogging
Blogging drives traffic to your website
The content you create for your blog can be shared on all your social media platforms. If it’s good-quality, valuable information, people will be encouraged to click through to your website to learn more about your products and services.
Blogging can increase your SEO
If you use keywords in your blog posts, you can enhance your organic search results. Search engines use content to help them determine the subject of web pages. By continually adding fresh content to your site, you make it easier for these search engines to index your page correctly.
Blogging establishes you as an industry authority
Sharing industry information with your customers is the perfect way to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. It sets you up as a leader in your field while giving you the opportunity to market your product or service in a subtle way. With a blog post you can simultaneously educate your customers and provide them with useful information about your business.
Blogging helps you build a community
Your blog provides your customers with a place to ask questions, share opinions and engage with you. This makes it the ideal place to build a loyal following. All the comments remain on your site permanently, which means that new visitors will be able to see them. Compare this to social media where any posts or comments are quickly lost in the ever changing newsfeed.
A blog is much more than a way to share information and ideas. It is also a marketing tool and a very powerful one at that. If you have yet to start a blog, it’s never too late to get started. There’s really no excuse why you shouldn’t start one today, whether it’s a business, corporate, or a personal blog. Somewhere out there, someone is waiting to hear from you.
Where to start in writing a blog post? This is how
They say writing blogs are important in the success of your marketing. I get that… BUT I have not done this a lot. I wrote lots of stories as a kid, but since I grew up my imagination and creativity…went in hiding.
I have not been challenged in years to write, so I myself had to go back and learn. As I was doing my research I decided to write about it as I go and share it with you.
I hope this will help you 🙂
This is what I normally do to write a blog.
- Coffee is my breath, my “haaa”, it takes me to that place of ease. So I will make myself a warm cup of coffee, clear out my desk and sit back, close my eyes and think of the topic ahead or a topic.
- Once I am clear about the topic I will start with research, making sure I know what I am writing about.
- Get some images for the blog and some for inspiration.
- Craft your headline that is preferably both informative and will capture your readers attention.
- Type away! Just let it “flow”, remembering this is only a draft, it does not need to be perfect. Not even close.
7 other tips to help you write a blog
#1 Own your first paragraph and the title
Having good compelling titles and introductions will make your readers want to read more. It wil inspire them. Wishpond contributor James Scherer says, “recent studies show that while 80% of people will read headline copy, only 20% will read the rest. This is the hidden importance of great titles, and why getting them right is so vital to a successful blog.”
#2 Be the expert not the bragger
Build a trusting relationship with your audience, make it seem that you are a expert in this, not just bragging about it.
#3 Focus on a specific audience
When drafting your blog, think and focus on a certain audience. They say that good blogs are targeted to a particular audience.
#4 Be informative
Don’t just tell a boring story, tell your audience something that they can learn while they read your blog. Educate your reader.
Most great blogs will follow basic SEO (search engine optimization) rules, using relevant keywords and anchor text. Using SEO practices will make your blog more relevant to your targeted audience.
(Moz has some free tools which can help you with that)
#6 End your blog with a trigger
So this blog you are writing, you write it for a reason – mostly this reason is to connect with the readers.
Try ending a blog with something that moves or motivates the reader to action. In this case it would be to motivate readers to write a great blog.
#7 Be consistent
You will need to be consistent in writing, you will need to write blogs on a regular basis. This is especially important to grow your audience.
If your audience sees you writing a blog every week, you will get more and more website crawls which will improve your SEO.
In other words, blogging successfully takes a lot of work. But that doesn’t mean blogging has to be difficult.
Being a woman is a superpower. Let’s celebrate this!
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fall. Failure is another stepping stone to GREATNESS – Oprah Winfrey.”
To all the queens in my life, and to the queens of this world! Do you know why we are celebrating women’s month? I didn’t….
So we “have” Women’s Month as a tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched the Union Building on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.”
I know the Women’s in my life weren’t part of that, probably not yours either. However, Women needs to be honoured, we need to celebrate womanhood!
“Being a woman is a superpower”
To my granny – being selfless, and giving up what she wanted.
My Grandmother would have turned 95 a few days ago, can you imagine what their lives have been like? In her young days? What has she gone through? She had 5 other siblings, she was very young when her mother passed. She had to eventually start working when she was 13 years old to help care for the family. She mostly did needlework for the wealthy peoples’ towels, blankets and clothes with her initials. I have yet not met someone else, who is so kind and selfless. She always gave and never wanted anything in return.
“The world needs strong women. Women who will lift & build others. Who will love & be loved. Women who live lavely, both tender a fierce. Women of indomitable will.”
To my mom,
To the woman who loves me unconditionally, who always puts us before herself. To my mother who can take the place of all others, but whose place no one else can take. She is patient, she is selfless.
She is the strongest woman I know, having to put our wants and needs before herself. Having courage when we were scared, even if she was scared she never showed. Teaching us that even if we don’t know what is next, to step forward with grit anchored in grace. My mom is my superhero, being able to juggle life, a job, a husband, three children, a household. Not too long ago, she had to start doing all of these alone, and here she stands still strong and fierce.
To all the other woman in my life, my sisters, my mother in law’s, my work colleagues and clients. For being strong, for fighting for what you want in life, for fighting your rights as a woman. To never being afraid.
This month, I will be celebrating all the woman in my life. For us still facing the hurdles of being a woman and being under-appreciated. Celebrating the strength and courage our ancestors passed on to us. We are forged through all the challenges in life, however, we move through these challenges with our heads held high. We are mom’s, we are wives, we have careers, we are cooks, we are maids, we are sisters, daughters. With these multitudes of roles we have in life, we are independent, strong, confident, loving and kind.
“When life gives us a challenge we wink at it and say bring it on.”
This month, we celebrate “womanhood”. In any age, a woman is to be loved, to be admired, to be loved and honoured for all we are and all we do.
Finding inspiration from this strong businesswoman
It was no easy feat choosing a Woman Entrepreneur that has inspired me the most. There are so many wonderfully successful women these days and they all inspire me constantly. Consistently it is their drive and perseverance together with a passion for what they do that leads to their success.
The journey of Maria Ramos
Maria Ramos is one of these women that really inspires me personally. As a South African, I am so proud of what South African women are achieving.
Maria moved to South Africa as a child from Portugal. She studied at University of Witwatersrand and gained a Bachelor of Commerce degree. As a student she heard about a men-only scholarship offered by Barclays Bank, where she worked as a clerk and she herself lobbied for the prize and won!
Maria worked in banking and finance and taught Economics. I graduated with a major in Economics and have a passion for investment banking myself. So.. Maria’s drive and ascent in her career have been a source of inspiration for me.
Maria worked in banking and finance, she taught Economics, and served as an economist for the African National Congress’s Department of Economic Planning. In 1996, she was appointed the country’s Director General of Finance. Here she worked closely with Finance Minister Trevor Manuel whom she married in 2008. These two people effectively guided South Africa toward a free market economic model.
In 2004 she moved to Transnet, on operator of ports and shipping, bus and other passenger transit systems, rail systems and fuel transport lines. This seems an unlikely choice, but the sheer size of the firm and its monopoly on transportation within South Africa, allowed her an opportunity to transform the country’s economy by reorganizing one of its most inefficient and debt-ridden companies. She was CEO and embarked on a campaign of privatization. Unions resisted and there were strikes, but she persevered. In 2009 she moved from Transnet to ABSA as CEO.
Maria’s influence in the banking sector
I read an article recently that specified the earnings of Maria Ramos currently and it is astounding what she has accomplished.
‘Absa CEO Maria Ramos was paid a total package of R37.6 million for the 2017 financial year, almost matching what Nedbank CEO Mike Brown earned.
Brown is typically known as the highest-paid CEO in the retail banking space, which covers the country’s ‘big five’ banks, including Capitec. He earned R38.1 million last year. Ramos’ total pay package was made up of a basic salary of R8.23 million, benefits of over R328,000, bonuses of R12.5 million and deferred income from previous years totalling R16.6 million.
Absa paid its top five executives a combined total of R123 million for the year. David Hodnett, deputy CEO for SA earned R33.2 million, and Peter Matlare, deputy CEO for the rest of Africa, earned R20 million. Financial director Jason Quinn scored R16.2 million and Nomkhita Nqweni, chief executive of wealth, investment management and insurance, earned R16.4 million.’
A powerhouse woman
It is women like Maria who fight for what they believe in and know their subject and believe in themselves, that have paved the way for so many after them. I find her so awe-inspiring! To say the least!
Continual learning as a Virtual Assistant
The world is always changing. New technologies offer new challenges and new methods. Clients have different needs as their business changes and grows. A Virtual Assistant must keep up with all these changes to deliver the best service to their clients. Apart from this working for a variety of businesses also exposes the Virtual Assistant to new industries and markets.
Doing research is a great part of learning
My first assignment with VA Connect was research on Smart Home products. I was amazed at how a Smart Home works. There is a huge range of products available which makes life easier and safer and they are integrated to varying degrees. In many cases the system is controlled by a smart speaker which is voice integrated systems from e-commerce providers. The irony is that such a system is also known as a Virtual Assistant. Many people already rely on artificial intelligence systems which remind them of appointments, book a restaurant or orders food based on what stock there is, or isn’t, in the smart fridge. I could give many more examples but cannot list them all. The most interesting product I learnt about is a device which releases a scent upon request. Various aromas are available which create the mood required. Because this costs around US $400 I am not interested in buying one, but it would be nice.
Being a Virtual Assistant also teaches me life skills such as managing my time and prioritising. On a typical day I have a routine so that I can do the necessary chores and fit in my client’s work as planned. Of course, there are days when my plans don’t work out and I need to get up early and put in a few hours before breakfast. At other times I work late into the night, but the work gets done and I meet my deadlines.
Learning new life skills
What I have also learnt is that I can be disciplined as well as flexible. I perform better when I don’t allow myself to feel stressed. There is no manager or colleague anxiously hovering over my desk, breaking my concentration and slowing my down. I have also learnt how to manage my family’s needs and we are all more organised as a result.
The new technology I have been exposed has opened my eyes to the wealth of products which I would never have known about. My confidence has grown as a result.
Because clients rely on their assistant for help it is also important that I acquire skills and learn how to use new technology. There are many, many options for learning on the internet – YouTube, online courses and help forums are some examples. If I cannot manage, there is always the team at VA Connect who can point me in the right direction.