Until recently many entrepreneurs and businesses in general have viewed using the services of a Virtual Assistant as a luxury more than a necessity. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 has changed the way people view working from home and thrust the Virtual Assistant role into the limelight.
I am not a ghost
I find that when you start working with a new client there are always a few teething problems, given that you are asking two or more people to work together who in all probability are sitting in different areas of the country or even the world and there are different personalities that need to gel. It is a tad difficult as you cannot have a chat in the kitchen while you make your first cup of coffee for the day. A VA is to all intent and purposes a “ghost” employee, and it is important to remember that although I do not physically sit in the office, I am a person. So many times, I have heard other remote assistants say “My client has no idea who I am.”
It sometimes takes a while for clients to get their head around the fact that you as a VA are an individual who works remotely on tasks and projects that you have been assigned by the client. Very rarely is there that personal connection.
My working hours
Utilising the services of a VA is the best way to move forward. I find that one of the first issues to address is working times. Clients sometimes need to be reminded that you are a “free-lance worker” and as such you will normally have more than one client, your priorities will be slightly different to an office-based employee.
I need it in writing
Communication is key to a long term, successful working relationship. I always remind my clients I am not physically in their office and therefore unable to raise concerns face to face. It is always good to give written instructions. This way I can revert to this document should I need clarity on what you expect from me. It helps to provide me with a timeline. It is a way of holding everyone accountable for their actions. With working from home becoming the new norm, there are plenty of online management tools and apps that one can use to assist with managing both client and VA expectations. It is a matter of time and trial and error to see which one works best for you.
How am I doing?
I have found in the past, that the more detail I am provided with the better my performance will be. Certain clients that I have worked with have provided specific feedback along the way and this has always been a good way of getting to know one another and addressing areas that might need to be changed.
My theory is simple, I will work hard for my clients, if we keep the lines of communication open and we regularly check in with each other, we will become an awesome team. I will be able to assist you in the day to day management leaving you free to grow your company and move from strength to strength.
Photo by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels
Event Management was always something I thought would be an interesting career, so I studied Tourism Management with Event Management as a subject. Only when I moved to Johannesburg and started a job as an events co-ordinator did I realise how much I would love it. The satisfaction of a successful event was addictive and pleasing the clients was the goal. I enjoyed getting to know people from all walks of life.
Fast forward a few years and my first role as a virtual assistant assisting my client with events. It was meant to be!
Events can be stressful. There is no doubt about it. The fear is real – no one wants to be responsible for ruining a brides wedding day or a company’s product launch.
Here are a few tips to help you plan and execute a successful event without loosing your hair or sleep.
1. Never say never
Never say it won’t happen. If it can happen, then it will. Murphy’s Law is widely practiced in the events world. There is a great unspoken respect for this. Always plan for the worst. If it doesn’t happen, then at least you were prepared for that possibility.
2. Attention to detail
This is a given. The best way to not miss a thing in planning for the event is to write EVERYTHING down, put it in writing and email it to your client so that they know you have remembered their requests. In some occasions, this can also cover your back, if anything goes wrong and you can’t prove you’re innocent, it could end up as a “he said she said” scenario and this is not where you want to be. Always have a notebook and pen handy no matter where you are, don’t always rely on your memory.
3. Talk, talk and talk some more
I cannot stress how important communication is. Never underestimate the role communication plays. As an event manager, you have a few role players involved in an event. The client, the caterers, the venue staff, the technical team, perhaps a florist, a DJ and a décor team. Keep everyone on the same page, and never make assumptions – hold weekly or even daily meetings with those involved. Create a shared document so that any updates can be seen at all times, leaving less room for error.
4. Have Fun
This may apply to many industries, depending on your definition of fun, but events take the cake. Event management is fun! If you have planned meticulously and feel confident in your work, the best you can do is have fun and enjoy what you have helped create. The smile of joy and success on a client’s face is priceless.
Despite Covid, the events world is very much alive and well. It hasn’t missed a beat and has almost immediately got back on its feet and channelled itself into a technical space. Some say virtual events are here to stay post Covid. It is easy to see why as there are a number of advantages:
- Huge budget cuts – no flights, accommodation, venue hire or catering costs to name a few
- Wider audience reach – attendees from all over the world are now able to log in online
- Economical for attendees – attendees can now include those not able to afford the costs of travelling
- Positive environmental impact– less people travelling means less carbon footprint
As with live events, there are always going to be challenges.
No matter how well prepared you and your technical team are, there are sometimes gremlins that could completely ruin an online event. Do your homework finding a reputable, experienced technical company. Arrange a dry run prior to the event so that any issues that may arise can be eliminated.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
It is also essential to ensure that the facilitator, all speakers, organizers and attendees are on the same page. Use an easy to use booking system such as Eventbrite. Attendees are able to register on this platform and will automatically receive reminders and log in details on the day of the event. If there are any queries these can be resolved prior to the event.
People enjoy networking and mingling at live events. The buzz at an event can be electric and give the audience a sense of excitement. This also provides an energy for speakers to feed off. It’s a huge challenge for the event facilitator as well as the speakers to create this kind of energy from the solitude of their home with very little interaction from the audience. Make sure you have an experienced facilitator who has enough energy and confidence to fill a virtual room.
There have been some very embarrassing videos of Zoom meetings doing the rounds on social media. To avoid this, Zoom has published their very own meeting etiquette guidelines. Have a look at the link below for some very useful tips. These should be shared with all attendees prior to the event.
The future of events
I personally feel that smaller, less social events can benefit by going and staying virtual, but there is no replacement for a live sporting event, a festival, a music concert, or a wedding where friends and family reunite from all over the world. If the coronavirus is here to stay, a few years down the line it will be common practice to hand sanitize and take precautionary measures and the event organisers will add coronavirus protection to the health and safety checklist.
But the show must and will go on!
Photo: Courtesy of Event Farm
Virtual assistants are fast becoming the new norm in many industries. A virtual assistant is a location independent service provider who can provide a myriad of different services to your company from a remote location. Virtual assistant work has grown to include many different positions that can be utilized to ensure that your company runs like a well-oiled machine and saves your company costs at the same time.
The top 5 reasons to hire a Virtual Assistant:
1. Reducing running costs
Many companies that hire full-time employees have found that the employees are not being as productive during the working day as what they could be. By hiring a virtual assistant you only have to pay for work that has been done.
Cost savings also include overheads like office space, internet connection, refreshments, electricity, training. Your company would be able to pay a virtual assistant that is proficient in the tasks that you require and you would not need to spend any additional costs on their training. Virtual assistants are continuously upskilling themselves to stay on top of ever-changing market trends.
2. Increased efficiency
A large number of a business’s employees day can be used up doing many repetitive tasks during the working day. Many of these tasks such as e-mails, customer queries, research, meeting scheduling, data entry etc. These tasks can sometimes take up so much time in your day that you are taken away from the more important work that is suited best to your skillset and qualifications. You could be paying an engineer 5 times more than a virtual assistant to be doing these tasks when their time could be spent on work that creates a larger income and faster output for your company.
3. Broader working hours
Because virtual assistants are spread across the world and work remotely, you can hire a VA to manage your business with clients outside of your time zone, without actually having to be available yourself.
4. Easier recruitment
If your company often has projects that come up suddenly and require a certain skill set that is not required regularly in your company, instead of going through the time-consuming process of hiring a full-time employee to do the work for you. For example, you might want to start advertising your business online but there is nobody in your employee who has that skill set. This is where a virtual assistant can be hired for only the time it takes each day that the project requires at a fraction of the cost of what it would cost to hire a full-time employee. You would also be able to make sure that the VA has referrals and experience in this line of work. For several reasons, a virtual assistant costs a lot less than a full-time employee.
5. No more micromanaging
When full-time staff is employed it is always a task to ensure that everyone is doing what they are paid for in the time frame required of them. Many hours are spent by full-time staff being non-productive. Sometimes you might even have to hire a manager to manage the staff for you. By hiring a VA this eliminates that need. You only pay for the work that is done and the time spent.
There are many tools and apps available in the virtual world to do that for you. And any VA worth their salt is focused and self-disciplined enough to ensure that the work is done in a professional and timeous manner. Messaging tools such as Slack and Microsoft teams enable you and your virtual assistants to run even more productively than you would in an office environment. There are also several time and project management tools such as Toggl, Trello, and Asana to ensure that all projects are communicated and done within the time frame required. Gone are the days of a lengthy project meeting. Everything can be done virtually.
The tools and information given above is only the tip of the iceberg of the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant. You will not regret it and find yourself with a more cost-efficient and streamlined company as a result.
As marketers we need to focus on the big picture. We must communicate the right message to the right audience, and we need to do it at the right time. With Facebook there are so many tools to help you do this. But have you ever wondered if your posts could be seen as Spam?
Marketers have their work cut out for them when it comes to connecting with their followers without scaring them away. To state the obvious – no one likes spam and I too want to run away when it’s happening for the 10th time that day. We get spam on all platforms of social media, phone calls, text messages, you name it.
As a consumer I want my Facebook time to be my catch-up time. I don’t want to be bombarded by companies trying to sell me something. But what is spam? The word “unwanted” is used in the Cambridge English dictionary, but as a marketer, Facebook spam for me is “like this page if you like chocolates” and the “follow us if you are happy” kind of posts. To be honest it’s bait, not just spam. That’s not how you increase your followers. As marketers we need to be informative and not annoying. So, no, posting all day long is not the way to get the most engagement.
How to avoid spam posts
Make it relevant
To ensure that your readers are not considering your posts as spam, make it relevant. Do your research to establish the time your follower is active and schedule your post to be seen when they are online.
Time your posts
In terms of how many times you should post is up to you. However, the amount of times you post should be calculated by the life cycle of the post. The average post on Facebook has a life cycle of 90 minutes and will reach 75% of it’s potential in the first 5 hours. Therefore, my suggestion is, give your post time to do its work. Get the most out of each post by posting less.
Something you should also keep in mind is your follower count. We must keep to the rule of thumb which is posting twice a day should you have 10 000 followers. For companies with less followers, focus on quality and not quantity. As mentioned above, we need to post relevant posts and content. To bind the two together, a quality post is relevant, so do your homework on your followers to ensure you have an audience you are talking to.
In my opinion, if you are a small business you are still safe to post three times a week. The most important thing to keep in mind here is to be consistent. Have a posting schedule for the week or a month with your campaign running and don’t just post for the love of it.
Posting the wrong information could very well be the worst thing to do for your brand than posting too little.
In the end, be true to your brand identity and share valuable information with your followers. The results will sock you compared to posting whatever and whenever you want and not following your campaign plan.
“Project management is the practice of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria at the specified time.
The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals within the given constraints”
I usually work on Bitrix and Asana and build my own project management tool on Excel. It meant moving out of my comfort zone to research project management tools I have not worked with before. I realised one thing while researching these two tools, they are there to make the SME’s and big corporate operator’s work easy and efficient. Now teams can have easy access to software that is cheap and easily accessible with only the click of a button.
Favro is “Collaboration and planning in the cloud” – thus a cloud based application. This is a planning app which is designed to help a team carrying out their complex business plans with ease and efficiency. This software can especially be used by marketers, production planners and developers because it offers some intuitive and easy to use features for activity planning. Developers also love it because it is fast and modern, staying up to date with current and relative tools.
Favro provides the following key features:
Which tools often used by Virtual Assistants integrate with Favro?
Unfortunately it is not a free plan. Two to more than 100+ users can work simultaneously. The more users the cheaper the plan, definitely a project management tool for bigger teams.
TeamGantt is “An online Gantt Chart Software“. This online project scheduling software lets users manage their projects easily and visibly. It has built-in resource management, so they can see what each person is working on any given day.
TeamGantt provides the following key features:
- Drag & Drop Simplicity
- Change start and end dates
- Reorder tasks
Which tools often used by Virtual Assistants integrate with TeamGantt?
A free plan is only available for 3 users and 1 project. The varying payment plans starts with 3-50+ users and unlimited projects.
Looking at the above, both tools are great and make life easier with freeing up time when used effectively. Both of these project Management tools work for both small to bigger businesses. TeamGantt provides more integration and a free plan for small businesses. It can also be used more by my virtual industry.
I am however a “work on your mobile” girl and is leaning towards Favro. TeamGantt does not support mobile platforms. Favro can also incorporate spreadsheets………….. It seems I found my next tool to test!