Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ways to become a VA

Looking for VA jobs take some time, effort and careful evaluation. There are numerous VA job postings out there that may seem to be a good opportunity at first but only to find out that your time and effort is not worth the compensation you will get. There are various ways to become a Virtual Assistant - which can be any of the following:
  1. Freelancer: In being a freelancer, you can go to sites like Short Task, Cloud Crowd, Freelancer or Odesk. These sites offer pay-per-task agreement. I have tried Short Task and Cloud Crowd but I just find the rates rather small. A few cents can go far I know but I just didn't have the time and patience to watch those cents pile up.They remit payment promptly though.Freelancer and Odesk, are two popular sites to go to hook up a VA job. However, I have not figured out the art of effective bidding for VA jobs on these sites.
  2. Independent Contractor: I prefer to be an independent contractor. Offering my VA services as an independent contractor gives me the ability to set my rate per hour. All specifications like hours of work per day, a full description of the duties to be performed and the method of compensation is stipulated on a black and white agreement.
  3. Sub-Contractor: To be a VA sub-contractor, you have to look for companies or senior VA's open to this set-up because they already have an existing client database. Join their group by "applying" as a sub-contractor. If they find your VA skills fit to any of the skills that their clients are looking for then they "might" get in touch with you. Based from my experience though, this takes a lot of wait time and some are just not giving any follow up feedback after your "application".
On my next blog, I will share what sites have a wide-range of Virtual Assistant job opportunities especially for Independent Contractors.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Virtual Assistant Tools # 10: Express Scribe

If you are a Virtual Assistant offering audio file transcription services then Express Scribe is the perfect tool for you. Just download the software to your computer and you can start using it. What's great of course is it is completely free!

Here are some features of Express Scribe:
    * Variable speed playback (constant pitch)
    * Supports audio and video playback
    * Works with Microsoft Word and all major word-processors
    * Integrates with Express Delegate Dictation Workflow
    * Automatically receives and loads files by internet (FTP), email or over a local computer network
    * Automatically sends typing to those who dictated the work
    * Loads CD audio directly - start to work as it loads in the background
    * Can switch to 'mini' mode to reduce screen space
    * Integrate with dictation management systems

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Virtual Assistant Tools # 9: You Send It

Another very important Virtual Assistant tool is You Send It. A part of my task as VA is to manage a client's website. I often upload videos, documents and images. You Send It is a very effective way to receive large files which is usually a challenge when sent via e-mail. On the other hand, using this cool tool, I can also easily send large file by uploading it through a web browser, from my desktop or straight from Microsoft Outlook.

Here is how it works:

1. You upload your large file.
2. You Send It will  store your file securely and email your recipient a link to click on and download the file.
3. Your recipient receives the email notification, clicks on the link in the email and downloads the file. Done!

Start sending you large files using You Send It now!

Virtual Assistant Tools # 8: ZAMZAR

Most of the time, a VA needs to be resourceful and find ways to come up with a desired output. My client requires me convert .doc file to .pdf and what I used to do was to print the file and scan it as a .pdf. I realized that this is time-consuming and totally not an eco-friendly practice. Good thing I came across ZAMZAR, an online file conversion tool. Zamzar converts a wide range of different file formats. Zamzar is FREE and it's definitely a helpful tool for a Virtual Assistant.

You just have to follow these 4 simple steps:

Step 1:
Select files or URL to convert.
Step 2: Choose the format to convert to.
Step 3: Enter your email address to receive converted files.
Step 4: Click on Convert file and wait for an email from Zamzar including the link as to where you can download your converted file.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Virtual Assistant Tools # 7: Free CRM

A Virtual Assistant can have multiple clients and numerous prospective clients and to make sure I don't lose them, I use FREE CRM. Again, I use the Free version despite the name FREE CRM has a monthly subscription - the PRO version. For a VA like me I use FREE CRM and enjoy the following features:
  • Contact and Lead Tracking
  • Sales and Pipeline Management
  • Support Ticket & Service Management
  • Advanced Security & Uptime
  • Superior Technical Support
It is very much like Sales Force but FREE CRM has a free version while Sales Force due to its popularity only has a 30-day free trial period. I honestly do not use some features YET. But when I have enough clients (more than I can handle- that is) to welcome new team members in my Virtual Assistance business, I know the Free CRM software will be very useful. FREE CRM and sales team automation tools enable your Email Campaigns, Call Automation, and Group Calendaring all in one place and all for Free. Free CRM has the highest uptime and reliability and the highest level of security in the industry.

Virtual Assistant Tools # 6: TechSmith Jing

As a Virtual Assistant it is a challenge to explain concepts to your client especially if it requires a step-by-step procedure or anything that requires concrete details. At this point, a VA would need a very effective screen capture tool. I have tried Skype's screen capture but for some reason, the load time is just too slow for me. Good thing there is Tech Smith JING. It is a very simple screen capture tool. I am using the F.REE version because I don't see the need for me to upgrade to a pro version. Everything I need for online collaboration is provided by this FREE and very helpful tool.

Take a look at how JING helps me in my daily tasks as a Virtual Assistant. Here is a short video showing how JING works.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Virtual Assistant Tools # 5: Skype

A Virtual Assistant MUST HAVE. Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free, while calls to both traditional landline telephones and mobile phones can be made for a nominal fee using a debit-based user account system.

Do amazing things for free
    * Voice and video calls to anyone else on Skype
    * Conference calls with three or more people
    * Instant messaging, file transfer and screen sharing.

This technology makes it easier and faster for Virtual Assistants to coordinate with clients anywhere in the world.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Virtual Assistant Tools # 4: Hour Guard

To charge my client for my VA services, I use Hour Guard - a FREE Time Keeper software. It helps me monitor my time  and compute for my hourly rate and generate invoice for my client.

All of the things that I do are listed in Hour Guard including a category for major projects – this has subheadings for each project that I am working on. As I work through my list each day every time I move to a new task I set Hour Guard to monitor how I am doing.

The Hour Guard interface is very easy to understand. You have five menus and five toolbar buttons that are pretty self explanatory. New Task allows you to create a new task and set its parameters, while new entry brings sub-entries to an existing task. Other than that, the user can generate reports or tweak the program’s parameters.Usage is very easy as well. Click start when you begin working on a task, and stop when you’re done. The application will store it as a time sheet entry.

The reporting feature provides an accurate view of how you need to charge for your time, will individual task break-ups. Not only that, but also it can be combined with the invoice generation feature of the program, present under the HourGuard menu. Invoices are stored as XML files.

Virtual Assistant Tools # 3: Remember the Milk

To keep track of my Virtual Assistant tasks, I use Remember the Milk. It's an effective time management tool that helps me handle my time and job effectively.

Here are a few things you can do with Remember The Milk..
Manage tasks quickly and easily.
An intuitive interface makes managing tasks fun. Set due dates easily with next Friday or in 2 weeks. Extensive keyboard shortcuts make task management quicker than ever.
Get reminded, anywhere.
Receive reminders via email, SMS, and instant messenger (AIM, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, Skype and Yahoo! are all supported).
Organize the way you want to.
Are you a list lover? Create as many lists as you need. Into tagging? Use the task cloud to easily see what you have to do. Want to store notes along with your tasks? You can do that too.
Add tasks wherever you are.
Adding tasks is as simple as firing off an email (even from your phone). See an important date on the web? Add it to your list with Quick Add.
Plan your time.
See what's due today and tomorrow, and the things you've missed. Prioritize, estimate your time, and postpone with ease. Set tasks to repeat every week or after 2 months.
Take your tasks with you.
Access your tasks on your web-enabled mobile device. Print your entire list or a handy weekly planner which shows upcoming tasks. View your tasks on your calendar with Apple iCal or Google Calendar. Subscribe to feeds with Atom/RSS
Search your tasks the smart way.
Find the tasks you want with advanced searching. Save your searches as Smart Lists, and easily see tasks that match your desired criteria.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Virtual Assistant Tools # 2: Gmail Fetcher

Being a Virtual Assistant means handling multiple email accounts. Good news Gmail has a mail fetcher wherein I can integrate all my Gmail email addresses under 1 account. By the way, you can also link your non-Gmail accounts using Mail fetcher - as long as it the email your going to fetch supports POP access. This great tool can hold up to 5 accounts in one place.

Here is how to set up Mail Fetcher:

  1. Click Settings at the top of your Gmail page, and open the Accounts and Import tab. (For Google Apps domains, open the Accounts tab.)
  2. In the Check mail using POP3 section, click Add POP3 email account.
  3. Enter the full email address of the account you'd like to access, then click Next Step.
  4. Gmail will populate sample settings, but we recommend checking with your other provider to learn the correct server name and port. Enter your Password.
  5. Decide whether to:
    • Leave a copy of retrieved messages on the server
      Always use a secure connection (SSL) when retrieving mail
      Label incoming messages
      Archive incoming messages
  6. Click Add Account.
  7. Once your account has been added successfully, you'll have the option of setting it as a custom From address. This allows you to compose messages in Gmail, but have them appear to be sent from your other email account. Click Yes to set up a custom From address.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Virtual Assistant Tools # 1: Google Docs

For a couple of weeks I will share some web based Virtual Assistant tools that I use to help me organize my work, collaborate with my client and keep contacts.

1.    Google docs:  I use this FREE web based tool to create spreadsheets, presentations, documents and forms which I need to share with my client for collaboration. All you have to do is create a Google account to enjoy this very effective Virtual Assistant tool. To give you an idea how Google docs work, here is a video:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Virtual Assistant Investments

Just like any other, you would have to invest a certain amount of money to jump start your business.  Here are some of the investments you have to consider before starting  your Virtual Assistance business:

1.    A very reliable desktop computer. The one I’m using has the following specs - 4GB memory and 2.93GHz processor (Intel Core 2 Duo) and it has never failed me so far. This set up costs around P30000. (this is when having a credit card helps. just make sure you get the “zero” interest plan.)

2.    A fast internet connection. The one I am using is Sky Broadband. 1.5 mbps at P999. Pretty cheap. I have been using it for 14 months and I only experienced trivial technical concerns or once that are “force majeure” like during and after Ondoy and other storm visits.

3.    Other equipments like a headset with a noise canceling feature (for seamless communication with your client- granting your internet connection is seamless too..;p). 

I have tried a USB headset that costs Php2500, it lasted 2 months so I opted to buy a cheaper one that costs P750 then it lasted 4 months so I bought a really cheap one (P250) - lasted 1 month. Current one I am using costs P800 and all I can say is - so far so good.  It’s been with me for 4 months. Hope it won't give up on me anytime soon. I have no idea which brand is good. Argh! Would you a know?

Another important equipment is a scanner. I bought a Canon printer-scanner that costs P3,000. I need it to send documents that require my signature or any document that needs to be in .pdf format. And a webcam perhaps, in case your client requires you.

Lastly, get yourself an ergonomic office chair. You deserve it and you really need it. (What? Lazy Boy? Of course not. When you start earning big time then that’s the time you buy a Lazy Boy. ;p) Not because you work from home and not in a corporate office, you no longer deserve to sit on a fancy, comfy, rotating chair. ;p

4.    You also have to have a quiet workplace. One that is  conducive to productive output. Now this is challenging investment. You can’t just renovate your house and build a quiet work place/room. So this part is entirely up to how creative you can get. (Buy egg trays and stick it on the four corners of your room- sound proof it. Ban cars, tricycles and trucks from using your street while you are working – befriend the friendly neighborhood tanod or village guard. Buy a dog with noise canceling feature. Whatever suits you? Be creative. )

Put in mind that you don’t have to buy all these all at once. So don’t let this discourage you from jumping into the VA bandwagon. Make do with what you have first or buy whichever you think is most important and when you have the budget, invest on good quality equipments.

Next time I will share software tools that you will need to jump start your Virtual Assistance business or Virtual Assistance job.

What’s the difference between Virtual Assistance business or Virtual Assistance job by the way? In my succeeding blogs I will vividly elaborate the difference between the two. Of course I was exaggerating when I said “vividly elaborate” but yes I will try to elaborate their diff to the best of my ability. =)

Until next time my avid readers..So far..1 follower – the fab Eve..Very good..
My husband reading from the other side of the world..Great!

Why not shoot a comment below this post if you’ve visited my blog.. Come on spam Your day to day Virtual Assistant!! (lol – I really don’t like using this “cyber” term because it just sounds so wrong in Tagalog but well lol indeed (laughing out loud indeed!))

Monday, August 2, 2010

Identifying your niche as a Virtual Assistant

First of all, finding a niche does not mean that you cannot be diverse.  Identifying your niche is one way to create a reputation that you are an expert or the "go-to" person in a particular area instead of being the Jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Chances are if you do not know what you can offer, other people will not know what to get from you either.

How do you find your niche? It would be very helpful to write down your skills and ask yourself these questions: What have you achieved to date? What have you enjoyed doing, and which skills have you developed as a result? Make a list of your strongest skills, which ones you enjoy using the most, which you need to develop, and which skills you dislike using.

In starting a Virtual Assistance business you can think about the answers to these questions:  Are you detail-oriented? Can you spot typo or grammar errors easily? Do have the patience to deal with irate customers? Do you have a knack for creating presentations? What were your previous job experiences? Can you do transcriptions? Do you have a background in website management?

However, at the end of the day, people will still ask you if you're able to do other things. So, make sure you understand that you need to find your niche merely for the sake of prioritization and as a way of marketing yourself as a Virtual Assistant.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Are you ready to be a Virtual Assistant?

Here are some questions you should ask yourself before venturing into this business:

1.    What are my skills, preferences and professional experience? What services you want to offer? What would be my niche?
2.     Do I want to work part or full time?
3.    Is there a need for the services that I will offer?
4.    Who are my potential clients? Where and how can I reach them?
5.    How much budget am I willing to set aside for this business?
6.    Do I have a business plan? Is it dynamic?
7.    Do I have a workspace, equipment and software that will meet my client’s needs?
8.     How much will I charge for my services?
9.    How do I market business?

Does Virtual Assistance Really Have a Future? by Lisa Taliga

I'm excited to be able to tell you about a recent report called 'What Does the Future Hold for Virtual Assistants?'

The George Washington University states that:
"...the virtual assisting industry is growing rapidly and is expected to be a $130 BILLION industry by 2008, but it could be larger."

Under the category 'Emerging Technologies', Virtual Assistance is listed alongside such major industries as e-commerce, electronic banking and portable IT devices!

It's believed that Virtual Assistance will be one of the top ten technological breakthroughs that will occur by 2010 at the latest. Virtual Assistants will soon be a widely accepted means of business support.
The potential target market for VAs is growing at a rapid pace, with more and more people setting up their own businesses from home and needing the services of professional VAs.

There is more than enough work to go around, and there is still 'room' for many more Virtual Assistants to join the industry. Indeed, most of my clients had never even heard of Virtual Assistants before they started working with me!

One of my clients said to me the other day: 'I used to sit in my office with all this stuff to do, wishing I could offload it to someone outside my office who I could trust, but I didn't know who to turn to. I had never heard of Virtual Assistants until you came along.'

This should give you an idea of the vast pool of potential clients that are just waiting for us to help them! Just think of all the other prospects who are overwhelmed by their workloads, wondering who to turn to!

Want to learn more about VIRTUAL ASSISTANCE? Click here..