Where to start in writing a blog post? This is how.

Where to start in writing a blog post? This is how.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Once I am clear about the topic I will start with research, making sure I know what I am writing about.
  3. Get some images for the blog and some for inspiration.
  4. Craft your headline that is preferably both informative and will capture your readers attention.
  5. 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.

#5 Optimize…

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.

What is your “what if” plan?

What is your “what if” plan?

What is your “what if” plan?

Now, what if is a very common and also important question in our industry. We should always assure that we have a
contingency plan in place for the majority of “What if?” moments in our day to day lives. This question could be interpreted in many circumstances in your daily lives as a virtual assistant. Today I will be discussing a few of these what if questions.

Scenario #1

For my first example, I would go with one of our latest and greatest fears that we currently have in South Africa and that fear is named “Load Shedding”. Hopefully, according to Eskom, this will not affect us much but if or when it actually happens that you mid-sentence loose power, all your unsaved work will be gone and your internet router will be of meaning that your internet access will also be gone for the +- 2 hours that the load shedding is going on. For you to be prepared for this “what if” moment, you should in case that you are using a laptop ensure that the laptop is constantly charged up fully so that you do not lose any mission-critical information. The full battery should allow you to save the essential files and also maybe finish the project that you urgently need to finish. If you are using a desktop pc my suggestion will be to invest in a good quality UPS of at least 1000KVA to allow you to save your work and safely shut down the computer. Some models actually have space for you to plug in your power supply for your internet router so that you can still have a few more minutes of internet.

For those of us that do not have the luxury of owning a UPS but are working on a laptop witch, I strongly suggest the internet router going down can be bypassed at least for a short while. You can invest in a small internet modem/router that works off a battery and a sim card and can also be charged on using the USB port of your computer. It works by creating a small range wifi network that allows you to still access the internet.

Scenario #2

Another “what if” moment is when you have to work away from home due to any reason. It could be that your child/spouse is sick or that you go out for an afternoon lunch with an old friend or whatever the reason may be. For situations like this, I will suggest a few things. Firstly as before I would suggest that you rather do your work from a laptop or notebook computer. Also as suggested before invest in the wifi modem that runs of a battery that you can quickly and easily charge from your computer.

Also what I suggest is that you and your client keep in continuous contact with each other and explain to him if you have to leave your house for any reason you can inform him/her that you will be working from a different location but you will still have your computer as well as internet access so that you can continue doing the work from a different location.

Now, “what if” this is not possible? Then it would be in your as well as your clients best interests to say to your client I will not be available during this time but will be back, however as soon as I am back again I will carry on with the work required of you.

A MAJOR “What if” moment and also very important is What if I lose all my data? I know it is a horrible feeling and inconvenience not only to you but also your client if something is to happen with your data. In this case, it is my recommendation, out of a personal experience, that you have the following in place: firstly do a regular backup of your most important documents and information to an external drive. Preferably not a flash drive as they tend to get corrupted, go missing or most often the capacity is not big enough. There is also another option that I suggest you have in place in addition to the external drive for backups and that is to have a cloud service in place. There are several ones available. Some are free like Google cloud, Dropbox and also mega.com and some paid cloud services like box.com.

Final thoughts

Lastly my final “What If” moment is what if you do not have enough time to finish your work or do not understand what exactly it is that your client wants you to do, then feel free to ask your client. Rather ask and make sure before you start than starting with something you do not understand and having to do double work. Remember, your client is also a person just like you and would be able to assist you with any queries that you may have regarding the assignments given to you.

To learn continuously is to be a successful Virtual Assistant

To learn continuously is to be a successful Virtual Assistant

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.

Remote Work: Tips to remain relevant in the Future Economy

Remote Work: Tips to remain relevant in the Future Economy

Remote Work: Tips to remain relevant in the Future Economy

Most of us are familiar with the changes that increase has brought. So it’s no surprise that in the last decade, the number of employees working remotely has increased over 100% globally.

Jobs ranging from salesperson to receptionist can be done from just about anywhere. Other roles, like customer service representative, are often exclusively remote work nowadays.

Onsite work has its time and place.

Companies are finding new and better ways of working. These ways now can save money and even give companies access to rare talent when they use remote workers, as they now have a global pool to source from.

Remote work doesn’t just benefit companies, though. Many individuals can’t afford or don’t want to live in a large urban city, where the best opportunities are. Remote roles also allow these people to learn more skills while earning wages well above what they could get locally.

All that said, remote work isn’t simply a nice option to have or a way to make/save a few extra bucks. It’s the norm now, for both job seekers and those trying to grow a company. Which means that learning how to conduct remote work is not so much about bettering yourself or your company as it is about survival.

The future of our economy dictates that we stay relevant, if we want a part of it.

Some things to consider:

1. As a remote worker you need collaboration tools

Your survival in this area depends on two things: mastering the basics and learning the tools your company or clients use.

The basics are tools like Google Docs and Calendars, project-management software like Trello, and communication platforms like Slack.

Company- or client-specific tools are a little more varied and are industry specific, such as accounting software.

Take the time to master the basics and give yourself an idea of how collaboration tools generally function.

2. The importance of Relationships

You have to connect and sometimes it will be necessary with strangers online, whether that’s through cold email or reaching out to people via social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter – you will need to be comfortable in doing this.

You never know what doors these conversations can open. And the bigger the company, the greater the chances you won’t get to meet everyone in person.

The same rules we use in offline relationships apply: be thoughtful, ask questions, and try to add value. Just because Slack makes it easy to send a bunch of dopamine-fuelled responses in a hurry doesn’t mean that’s great behaviour to adopt. If you want to develop strong relationships online, you have to treat those conversations with as much importance as you would a face-to-face one, and know when to move the interaction to a different medium.

3. Time Management

There are news stories out there about larger companies using things like motion sensors and wearable devices to manage their employees’ whereabouts. Besides being completely creepy and possibly unethical, it also feels counterintuitive to the idea of remote work, where knowing how to manage your own time is crucial for success.

There’s no one trick here. Put parameters in place that will help manage your time.

Many companies help their remote employees with remote work through metrics, which track numbers and other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Some also set incremental goals for a project. Measures like these allow a company more visibility into their employees’ progress; they also help individual workers feel more on track with their work.

But at the end of the day, if you can’t get work done without having a manager looking over your shoulder, you won’t be able to find or keep a job for long.

4. You never too Old to Learn

The world is changing faster than ever before, and it’s only going to keep speeding up — especially where our work lives are concerned. If you stop learning, you’re going to fall behind. The only hope to get work in the future economy is to keep learning and embrace change.

And change….can be good for you.

The top 3 things to do in Gauteng, with young children!

The top 3 things to do in Gauteng, with young children!

The top 3 things to do in Gauteng, with young children!

Having 2 young girls who are as active as they are vocal about what they want, like and need (their needs are more like wants, but to them it’s a need) means that I need to ensure that there is always something fun and exciting, active and hopefully educational for them to do!

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens

Just this past weekend, with winter on its way, I decided that some fresh air was just the thing we all needed. Along with a great friend and her two young children we set off for the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. The goal was to hike to the top of the water falls. I remember this hike, from back in the day, however on this day I was put to shame by a 4 and 6-year-old, who led the charge up the precarious 3.5 km hike to the water fall. This hike was not what I recalled, and though the struggles were real for me, not having exercised in longer than I can remember, the fun, the perseverance I saw in these young children reminded me that giving up was not an option!! This fun journey should be one that everyone should try at least once. The tranquil gardens, the educational aspect, the fresh air and the quality of time spent with my daughters was an amazing experience.

Pretoria Zoo

Second on our list is the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa otherwise known as the Pretoria Zoo. What can I say but WOW. Animals for Africa, huge. A great time out for the entire family! My daughters were able to spot animals all over the place! Unlike the Johannesburg Zoo which feels very run down and desolate, you will find every animal imaginable!! Even the Kangaroo! and leopards, Guerrilla’s, tigers. A fun time, also walked for hours, a gold cart may have been better, but the chance to spend that time enjoying the looks on their faces was the highlight of my day. Revisits are definitely in the cards!

For the young at heart where coordination is not a problem, we Roll eGoli! Roll skating! Not for the feint hearted as demonstrated by myself, where my butt was more on the rink than my roller skates. An immensely fun time, learning a new skill, the music is great, the friendly staff are amazing and the pizza to die for! Parties, or just a casual visit will have you revisiting the 80’s!

I’ve learnt the hard way that trying to find things that we all enjoy need not be the most exhaustive thing to do! With google only a tap away, and my daughters eager and excited faces as we head off on yet another awesome journey is worth more than words can ever tell!

And I did have an ice-cream or 2! How can I not!