A few years ago, Virtual Assistants were unheard of. Even two years ago when I started as a VA, I was asked “You are a what?”
Fast forward to 2020 and Virtual Assistants are taking on the world. The world is faced with a pandemic and now even companies who would never have considered a VA, are looking at their new world with new eyes and new ways of spending their resources. Time and money being the most prevalent. It has been shown that people can work from home and still get their work done, giving more faith in this system by producing the same results.
Smaller companies who do not have the desire nor the capital to rent office space can hire an Executive VA to assist with numerous tasks. This helps reduce overhead and HR costs as time bundles can be agreed on without having to deal with the stresses of employing permanent employees and adding to their head counts. It will be very interesting to see how many companies evolve into virtual offices in this new world of ours. I for one would also like to know the positive environmental impact this could have.
The list of tasks an Executive VA is able to assist with is tailored specifically to each client. Below we look at 5 of the most common areas of assistance we are asked for.
5 Ways A Virtual Assistant Is Essential To A Virtual Office
Let’s be honest, if you’re running your own business and putting all your time and energy into making it a success, mundane administrative tasks don’t sound very attractive and although time consuming, they are imperative to running a successful business.
Depending on the type of company, these tasks can include:
Managing your diary as well as for other team members. Scheduling, rescheduling or cancelling meetings can at times be challenging. Having an Executive VA do this for you takes the pressure off the organizer and makes meetings take place with no issues.
Preparing agenda’s, information packs and compiling attractive presentations also requires you to spend a considerable amount of time to do these right! An Executive VA who has these skills can produce high quality work on your behalf. They can also help by taking and distributing minutes allowing you to get back to work.
Shopping around for a good deal on flights and accommodation takes time and patience. There are so many websites available these days and one has to find and compare prices to make sure you are not over paying for something and that you are travelling within your means.
An Executive VA is able to do all the research for you, they can make flight and accommodation bookings on your behalf and arrange any transfers or other travel requirements you may have. They can also ensure that deposits, if required, are paid in time and apply for visas if necessary. An added bonus is that you don’t have to rush or be disrupted in your day to check in online, this can also be done for you.
An Executive VA could be the company’s point of contact and working within the agreed parameters and proxies allows the VA to make executive decisions so that owners and team members can do what they do best, run their business. The VA can focus on building client and stakeholder relationships for the company while always being available to your customers.
One of the most important fundamentals in any business, however, still one of the most mundane parts of the job for any boss.
Following up on payments, making online payments, logging urgent calls are all small tasks but can take up valuable time. An Executive VA is able to assist with these tasks as well as other perhaps more valuable tasks such as compiling databases and reports, doing market related research, reconciliations and generally be the go-to person to ensure all stakeholders are on the same page and ensuring clear communication between all of them at all times.
The list literally can go on and on… and the benefits to you and your company can too!
What you can do to get great work ethic
Setting boundaries and rules whilst maintaining good work ethic as a Virtual Assistant
As a Virtual Assistant we are sometimes so hungry to get that next client and maintain the best working relationships with the ones we have that we sometimes forget that the key to success is actually to set some boundaries. Setting boundaries and laying down some ground rules with your clients need not be a daunting, scary thing, in fact if anything it should be a relief to you and could even show your client a whole other side of your personality which they may love. Assertive and confident professional remote worker – THAT’S YOU!
Now although it may be a necessity to set these boundaries to avoid things like burnout and less than average work being handed over to clients, you need to be able to do it in a proper manner and without coming across as bitchy and condescending. You also want to make the rules clear from the get-go, so things like what hours you are available to one specific client, what your actual working hours are and so forth need to be discussed right in the beginning to avoid any awkwardness further down the line.
Below I will discuss a few tips for setting up rules and structure within your business which will ensure your success and success for your client.
Boundaries for you and me
Your phone – Now although you have a phone and the general idea of a phone is to take calls you do not want clients calling you all hours of the day and night and weekends expecting answers. So you need to be clear that, if you do not have a phone purely for business, that you tell your client you are available for calls between hours x and y and thereafter there will be no response to calls or messages.
Set working hours – Most VA’s have more than one client and therefore would want to have specific times scheduled in order to provide the best most focused work to each individual client. This can be tweaked according to the workload of course as sometimes one client has nothing for you to do on a specific day, but another may have a mountain of tasks which are all urgent, you can then use your discretion, but setting some sort of guideline around this with your client is very important.
Treat your business like a business – All business’s have hours where they open and then the same for when they close, you as a virtual assistant are essentially running a business and should do the same. Business’s have rules and regulations, therefore so should you. A virtual assistant is not an employee and therefore does not have to adhere to the management from a client.
Having a task list – A task list is also great as you and the client can set up the tasks together that are needed for any particular day, if the client then tries to deviate from this you can respond by saying that because the list has being drawn up in a specific way you have planned accordingly and unfortunately any extra’s would have to wait for the following day. If you are unsure of what the priority task is it is always best to communicate and find out, this is also a good way of setting the rules that priority tasks are completed first but whatever falls outside of the normal working hours will be added to the following day.
At the end of the day we all want to be able to deliver top-notch service as a VA and we want to have as many clients as possible and keep everyone happy – but happiness comes from being honest and upfront about things. You never want to find yourself a few months down the line, when you realise you cannot handle the workload, telling a client you need to set boundaries, it will probably not end very well.
Be assertive, have a clear idea of what you can and cannot do in any one day and then have that chat with those clients and you will flourish.
Happy Virtual Assistant = Happy Client
Tactics to Positively Overcome the Difficult Client
Irrespective of what industry you are in, there is always that odd difficult client that as a result of various factors can leave you feeling frustrated, angry, unmotivated and possibly even full of self-doubt. For some of us, the reaction to a difficult situation can be defensive for others it can be offensive which can have either positive of negative outcomes regardless.
Stepping out of your comfort zone to establish smart habits
The fact remains that there will always be clients that are a little harder to please than others, so the question at hand is, how do you handle those situations in a way that will have a positive outcome for both you and the client? Well, while in my previous role, I had done some research on the topic and I came across an article by Barbara Markway (Ph.D.) who has some excellent insight into handling difficult clients, which I will delve into a little further, but one of the factors she mentions amongst others is going about things in a way that may seem unnatural to you as first. What does this mean? Well simply put, we all have our ways of doing things, and sometimes it works other times it doesn’t but if your finding your not getting the outcome you want from a difficult situation – perhaps its time to step outside your comfort zone, try a new approach and create smart habits.
Some Tactics to be Used with the Client
Out of the many tips given in Barbara’s article, the following tactics on how to handle a difficult client stood out to me:
- Listen & Stay Calm. Listening is the number one step in dealing with “unreasonable” people. Everyone wants to feel heard, and although staying calm can be extremely difficult in an emotionally charged situation, real progress can’t take place until the other person feels acknowledged. While you’re listening, really focus on what the other person is saying, not what you want to say next. I have often said to people in the past, “I know your hearing me, but are you listening to me? There is a difference”. Taking the time to really listening to what someone else is saying, can give you a fresh perspective and clarity on a situation at hand.
- Reflect respect and dignity toward the other person. You don’t know what the other person is going through. Chances are, if a person is acting unreasonable, they are likely feeling some sort of emotional or mental strain for whichever reason and showing contempt will not help productively resolve the situation.
- Saying, “I understand,” usually makes things worse. Instead, say, “Tell me more so I can understand better.” This for me was an interesting point, because I personally have often used the term “I understand” countless times with clients and looking back it wasn’t always well received, looking at this approach has given me a new perspective on how a client would possible react to the situation differently.
- Saying, “I’m sorry,” or, “I’m going to try to fix this,” while establishing boundaries can go a long way toward defusing many situations. This tip can be quite difficult to follow when you feel your not the one in the wrong and are feeling defensive. Sometimes by being humble in the situation and saying the words “I’m sorry” or “I’m going to fix this” can completely diffuse a situation, and in turn can give you the opportunity to establish the hidden need. The client could end up disclosing what they are really trying to gain or avoid within the project/ task and positive outcome can take place for both parties. Having said that, you will also need to assess the situation, while some of the above tips have encouraged listening and letting the angry person vent, you also have the right to be assertive and say, “Please don’t talk to me like that.” if the situation is gets out of hand.
Some Tactics to be Used with Yourself
Handling a difficult client with some of the tactics, may be draining for you which would defeat the purpose of positively overcoming difficult clients, that’s what there are also a few things you should do:
- Debrief. After the situation is over, talk to someone about what happened, take 5 minutes to make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and just allow yourself to process the situation.
- Discharge your own stress. You had to put your natural reactions on hold for a while. Now is the time to discharge some of that pent-up adrenaline. Go for a run. Take your dog for a walk. Don’t let the emotions stay stuck in your body.
- Give yourself credit for getting through an uncomfortable situation. It takes a lot of energy not to act like a jerk when someone else is behaving badly. Don’t skip this step!
Positive Outlook, Positive Outcome
Remember these tactics are simply guidelines to help you along the way. How you implement these tactics is up to you, and maybe they won’t give you a positive outcome every time, but its all about trying and keeping at it until you establish smart habits that work for you. If you do not have the time or cannot see yourself dealing with difficult clients that’s ok, perhaps consider getting a VA to deal with your Client Relationship Management and can implement strategies for you! I have seen how these tactics have worked for me, and to this day some of the best connections and relationships that I have established in my career have been as a result of a rocky start with some pretty difficult clients. The key to all of this however is to always have a positive outlook, and having said this I will end with a quote by Lailah Akita “Our reaction to any situation will determine the outcome”
The year that was 2018
A new year has started, for many, it represents a fresh start, a chance to pursue new opportunities or it may even mean time to finally get training for that big race you’ve always wanted to do. As the saying goes “new year, new beginnings”, and boy are new beginnings exciting! My question however is, have you taken a moment to take a step back in order to reflect on the year that was? To appreciate your successes and be thankful for the obstacles that taught you some great lessons?
Looking back in order to move forward
The minute the clock struck 12h00, on the 31st December 2018, my brain went into automatic mode planning and thinking up all the things I want to get done in this year and I was full of adrenaline, ready to take on 2019. I kept saying to my myself – “This is going to be “my” year”, which considering I am expecting my first child in a couple of months, is already making this
year AMAZING for me. I quickly saw however, I was not alone in saying, this was going to be my year – numerous family and friends shared the same sentiment, combined with the fact they were glad 2018 was over with. This got me thinking was 2018 that bad? I mean, it was the different challenges and life lessons that I experienced in 2018 that had fueled my ambitions
and plans for 2019. I then remembered a quote I had read not so long ago by an unknown author that says “If you want to move forward, often look back. Otherwise, you’ll forget where you came from and where you need to go” Reflecting on 2018
All of this got me thinking, and I decided to take a step back and really reflect on my life during 2018. 2018 had started off quite roughly with my fiance being hospitalized for a lengthy period of time, I was in a work environment that I did not enjoy, was in over my head with assignments due for varsity and was planning a wedding amongst other things – a true mix of highs and lows.
Giving new perspective on life
But looking at all of this carefully, these very things that had me experience a mixture of emotions both negative and positive, turned out to be the best possible things that could have happened to me in 2018. Why? Well, On the 14th April 2018, the most beautiful and magical day of my life thus far surrounded by the people that mean the world me, I married my best friend. My now husband who thankfully is back to full health, learned to take a step back every now and then, now lives by the motto YOLO – you only live once, something that rubbed off on me. His new outlook on things gave me the courage to make the changes I wanted to make in my career, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur but was always too scared to take the risk, in
June, I took that risk and even though it’s been challenging, I am now my own boss, doing what I love daily. The hard work on my studies during the year last year will allow me to make my dream of graduating this year a reality. Above all, I rediscovered the power of faith & gratitude and how lucky I am to have the family and quality of friends I do in my life.
Grateful and Blessed
Personally, I am glad I reflected back on the amazing year that was 2018, I am so grateful for all the lessons and blessings I received during the year. Looking forward to 2019, I know I am going into it a stronger, happier, healthier and humbler person and for that, I say thank you to the year that was 2018.
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.