Grand Opening and a Giveaway!

My Etsy Shop Snippet

I am so excited! I’ve finally taken the plunge and opened up an Etsy shop. It’s been on my bucket list for a while but due to this and that it never got done – until now.

The shop is dedicated to my writing and paper crafting projects and called “Carol D Creations”. I don’t have tons of items in the shop yet, but do come back often as I will be adding items almost weekly!

In honor of my grand opening, I am doing a giveaway! TWO lucky winners will be able to pick their choice of ONE PRINTABLE product. The two winners can pick from the eBooks, printable gift tags or printable bookmarks (standard or mini).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winners will be chosen by Rafflecopter on Monday, September 10. And for those who enter but don’t win, I will be offering a limited time special discount of 30%. Stay tuned for details after the giveaway is over.

Virtual Assistance 101: How to Choose the Best Virtual Assistant for You

Admin AssistantIn the final installment of this series, I want to discuss some things you may want to think about when choosing a Virtual Assistant (or an Administrative Support Consultant).

The most important factor in choosing a Virtual Assistant is fit. I say this because the VA/client dynamic is based on a long-term, collaborative relationship. You need to be comfortable with the Virtual Assistant and confident that she is the perfect partner for your success.

You may find the most amazingly skilled and experienced Administrative Consultant, but if you aren’t comfortable with your VA, or don’t get along, or you both don’t click, the relationship won’t work. AND, you won’t grow your business as you would like.

That doesn’t mean that an Administrative Support Consultant’s skill set isn’t important. Of course it is. You will most likely have a skill set in mind that you would like your potential Administrative Consultant to possess – or at least be willing to learn. There may be certain programs or applications you will want your potential Administrative Consultant to know how to use. You will want to know the background and experience of your future Consultant. You may want your future VA to be in the time zone as you – or you may not care. And you certainly should want your Administrative Consultant to be familiar with your niche.

On the flip side, There are also things about you that a potential Administrative Consultant (or VA) will want to know. What type of business do you own? How long have you been in business? Where do you want your business to go? What are the biggest challenges facing your business right now? What are your expectations regarding our potential partnership?

These, and other questions, will (and should) come out during the interview process. You will quickly find that most Administrative Consultants have a process in place that helps them and potential clients decide if partnering together would be desirable and mutually beneficial. Yes, you are busy; but, it is very important to take your time through the interview process.  Believe me, when you have found the perfect partner for your success, the time will have been well spent! (You can see my consultation process here.)

So, where do  you go to find an Administrative Support Consultant or VA?

A good place to start would be to get a recommendation from a few people you know who partner with a VA. Ask for referrals on Facebook or Twitter.

Another place would be Virtual Assistant directories. There are a lot of them out there, but to find the best VAs I recommend the Assistu Registry and the Administrative Consultant Association.

Or, you can do an online search for “Virtual Assistants” or “Administrative Support Consultants” or Administrative Consultants in New Hampshire” or the like.

However you find your potential administrative professional, I suggest you take some time reading through their websites, sign up for a few newsletters and/or start interacting with them on social media sites. After you have an idea of the ones you may be interested in partnering with, set up an appointment to talk with them. Go through their consultation process. You’ll know soon enough if you’ve found the right Administrative Consultant for you!

Remember, the purpose of the consultation process is to serve YOU, the potential client and the VA. I know from experience that going through the interview process helps the partnership start out much stronger and better enables the client and VA to create something wonderful together. So, no matter how overwhelmed you may be, don’t be afraid to take your time in finding the perfect for you and your business.

Over the last several weeks, we have discussed several aspects of Virtual Assistance. We learned what a Virtual Assistant is. What a Virtual Assistant is NOT. We talked about terminology.  We have discovered all the services a Virtual Assistant can offer. We talked about the benefits of working with a Virtual Assistant and how much a Virtual Assistant can cost. We even talked about how to become a Virtual Assistant. And, finally, in this post, we have learned how to find the perfect VA for you.

I hope you have found this series helpful. If you enjoyed this series or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me.

 

Virtual Assistance 101: How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Charge?

Admin AssistantThat’s the million dollar question, isn’t it. :) Whether you are an aspiring Virtual Assistant or Administrative Support Consultant; or you are wondering how much you should expect to pay an Administrative Consultant, rates are a hot topic. And, you will find tons of opinions on what the rates should be! Hopefully this article will clear up some of the confusion.

The difference between PAYG, retainer and “Service” rates.

PAYG (Pay as You Go) are rates that are charged by the hour. You pay for each hour that you use and they are paid for after the hours have been used. Some Virtual Assistants use PAYG for clients who are not sure how many hours they need each month.

A RETAINER is a rate package where there is a set fee for “retaining” or “holding” a set amount of hours specifically for a client. For example: I have a ten hour retainer package for $650 per month. This means that the client on this retainer has reserved ten hours of my time per month just for him or her. (Btw, you can see all of my retainer packages here.) These hours are paid for in advance. Any overages are billed at the hourly rate.

SERVICE rates are not billed by the hour or plan, but rather, they are separate services that are charged for particular services rendered. For example: In my business I offer Facebook and Email Marketing services which are billed at a separate, all-encompassing rate.

Are rates negotiable?

Simply put, no. Would you negotiate the fees of other consultants or professionals? Of course not. They are experts in their fields and so are Administrative Support Consultants (and VAs). There are some Virtual Assistants that may offer special, temporary discounts or free offers; but, those VAs and Administrative Consultants who value their skills and service will not negotiate.

So how much DOES a Virtual Assistant charge?

Industry standards have rates set generally at $35 – $65 per hour. The more experienced Administrative Professionals will charge upwards of $80 – $100 per hour. And believe me, any Virtual Assistant or Administrative Consultant worth her salt is definitely worth the rate she charges.

On the flip side, there are Virtual Assistants who charge as little as $15 – $20 per hour. As a matter of fact, if you look on elance, you will find rates as low as $5 dollars an hour. However, when a Virtual Assistant charges such low rates, they not only undermine themselves, but their clients as well.

By charging low rates, it requires the VA to take on more clients in order to break even – let alone any profit. With more clients, it can mean less personalized care for each client. Also, with such low rates, one has to wonder about the VA’s confidence in her skills or her status as a business owner. Does she believe in the value she brings her clients?

Some things to keep in mind.

1. Each Virtual Assistant or Administrative Support Consultant sets her rates according to her skill and experience level. Most have several years of experience in the corporate world. And those who have more experience as a VA will often have (as a general rule) higher rates than those just starting out. (But not always!)

2. In the wise word of Anastacia Brice: “Virtual Assistance was never meant to be the low-cost, or even lower-cost alternative to getting administrative support. It was meant as the far more convenient alternative to getting administrative support.”

3. There are other benefits clients receive when working with a VA that they don’t get with an employee. These benefits – which are inestimable – were discussed last week. Not only do you get a lot more accomplished when partnering with an Administrative Profession, you get access to all her talents, expertise, and resources available to her.

4. You will find differences (sometimes big differences) between AssistU Virtual Assistants and other Virtual Assistants. AssistU graduates undergo rigorous training which shows not only with their rates; but, also in their level of service and expertise.

Have questions about the rates or anything else we’ve discussed in this series? Feel free to contact me.

In our final part of the series next week, I will give you some advice on how to choose the best Virtual Assistant or Administrative Support Consultant for you.

Missed a part of the series? go here to catch up:

Introduction

What a Virtual Assistant Really Is

What a Virtual Assistant is Not

What’s in a Name?

How to Become a Virtual Assistant

Benefits of Partnering with a Virtual Assistant

Services offered by Virtual Assistants

 

Virtual Assistance 101: Services a Virtual Assistant may Provide

Admin AssistantIn all truth, the services that a Virtual Assistant (Administrative Support Consultant) provides will depend largely on your particular needs and the skill set and knowledge of the administrative professional with whom you choose to work. That doesn’t mean that you have to partner with someone who doesn’t have all the skills you are looking for, as long as she is willing to learn and grow in her knowledge (which most are!).

At the same time, the services that can be rendered by an Administrative Support Consultant is only limited by your imagination! When you first start working with your Consultant, you will usually come up with an immediate plan of action; and then, as you grow in your partnership and relationship, more things will be discovered that she can take over for you.

Having said all this, I am going to you a general idea of some of the things that can be taken off your plate:

Writing services. Documentation creation and formatting; proofreading and editing; researching; and ghostwriting.

Travel arrangements. Booking airline tickets; car rental or limo services; hotel booking; and provide detailed itinerary summary.

Customer and vendor relations. Answer questions of customers and vendors; find sponsors and products for promotions and giveaways; create and maintain registrations for any classes you may have; deal with payments and problems.

Social Media Management. Promote events or products on Facebook pages, Twitter and other social media sites; maintain current profiles; automate status updates where appropriate.

Other services: Look for ways to promote client; reminders of important dates; keep a detailed schedule for client; order gifts; be a sounding board and resource.

Some Administrative Consultants also provide separate service offerings that have different listing prices depending on their special skill set such as: WordPress Assistance; Facebook Page creation and customizing; shopping cart assistance; email marketing; etc.

If you don’t already know the services you need or looking for, a quick read through different websites of Administrative Support Consultants and VAs will give you quite a list of of services! Or, if you have a particular need, but don’t see it on the website of an administrative professional you may want to work with, just ask. Most would be more than willing to either provide that particular service for you or direct you to someone who can. :)

Next week, I’m going to delve into something you may be already curious about: rates!

Have you missed any part of this series? Check them out here:

Introduction

What a Virtual Assistant Really Is

What a Virtual Assistant Is Not

What’s in a Name? (A little blurb about terminology)

How to Become a Virtual Assistant

Benefits of Working with a Virtual Assistant

(Post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy.)

Virtual Assistance 101: Benefits of Working With a VA

Admin AssistantUp until now in this series we talked about what a Virtual Assistant is; what a Virtual Assistant is not; we talked a little about terminology and how to become a Virtual Assistant. To finish up the series, the next few weeks I am going to talk about the benefits of working with an Administrative Consultant, the services an Administrative Consultant provide, rates and then, finally, how to choose the perfect Administrative Consultant for you.

On to the benefits of working with an Administrative Support Consultant (Virtual Assistant):

One of the most important things (one of many things!) I learned from Danielle is the difference between features and benefits. When you see a lot (most, actually) of Virtual Assistant websites, the Virtual Assistants talk about how clients don’t have to pay the expenses of health insurance or other benefits; they talk about how clients don’t have to deal with taxes, or how they (the VA) has their own equipment, etc. I used to list these on my website, too; but,  as I’ve learned, these are features, NOT benefits.

So what are the REAL benefits of working with an Administrative Support Consultant (VA)?

More time. Time to work ON your business as well as IN your business. Time to network and build your customer base. Time to cultivate your current client relationships. Time to focus on those things in your business that you love and best at.

Increased profitability. Working with an Administrative Support Consultant (ASC) may not directly make you money; but, by relieving you of your administrative duties, you will be able to focus on revenue generating activities, creating passive revenue streams and focusing on increasing your billable hours.

Greater efficiency. An Administrative Support Consultant can help you put business systems in place that will allow you to work more effectively and efficiently.

Creative space. When you work with an ASC, you will gain the creative space and freedom you need you grow and build your business.

More energy and less stress. When you have a partner on your side, handling many (or all) the administrative and non-revenue generating responsibilities, you will have less stress because you will not have to burden of doing everything yourself. You may even have the time to take some much needed time off!

Proactive partner. You don’t have to do it alone – even you mommy bloggers!. If you are doing everything alone, you may be shortchanging yourself  and the potential growth of your business. When you partner with an Administrative Support Consultant you can have someone who will be a sounding board for you to bounce off ideas. You can have access to all the skills, experience, talents, connections and resources of your administrative partner.

Next week, I’ll talk about the services that an Administrative Support Consultant typically provide.

Virtual Assistance 101: What’s in a Name?

Admin AssistantSo far in this series we talked about a Virtual Assistant Really Is, What a Virtual Assistant Isn’t and How to Become a Virtual Assistant.

When I talked about How to Become a Virtual Assistant last time, I started using the Term Administrative Consultant.  I promised that I would explain why.

You see, there are a lot of internet marketers, bloggers and small business owners over the years who have made themselves self-proclaimed experts of the VA Industry. They have spread their own ideas of what a Virtual Assistant is, how much they should charge, what they should do and how they should run their businesses – all of it wrong.

And their have been many Virtual Assistants who either have come to the profession disillusioned from the corporate world or lacked experience who have allowed others to define the profession for them – usually unintentionally because they didn’t know better.

Let’s face it. In the corporate world Administrative Assistants are usually over-worked and under-appreciated (like many other professions). They often are not seen as equals and aren’t always treated very well. So, when a woman comes to the Virtual Assistant profession, it can be difficult to change the mindset from employee to equal business owner. And for those looking for assistance, they often have the same blindness and regard many Virtual Assistants as employees rather than equal business owners.

There slowly has been, over the last couple years, a shift from using the term Virtual Assistant to Administrative Consultant or Administrative Support Consultant, thanks largely in part to Danielle Keister who has coined the term. The term Administrative Consultant better states what a Virtual Assistant is: an expert in administrative support; whereas, the term Virtual Assistant often gives the image of a subservient employee.

There are many, many wonderful Virtual Assistants who have chosen to keep the name Virtual Assistant. Most of the Virtual Assistants in the Assistu community have chosen to keep the term Virtual Assistant and they are a group of extremely skilled Virtual Assistants and amazing women. There are also more and women switching to the Administrative Consultant or Administrative Support Consultant (as I have) which is why I wanted to do this post.

Sounds a little confusing, doesn’t it?! It’s not really. I only explained this so if you see (like on my other website) or hear about either term, you will be familiar with both of them. For now, consider both terms (Virtual Assistant and Administrative Consultant) as interchangeable. The most important thing is to have a correct understanding of the Virtual Assistant (and Administrative Consultant) profession.

Starting next time, I am going to switch gears and start talking about some of the things you need to think about if you are looking to hire an administrative professional, such as a Virtual Assistant.

Virtual Assistance 101: How to Become a Virtual Assistant

Now that we’ve talked about what a Virtual Assistant is and what a Virtual Assistant is not, today we are going to talk about how to become a Virtual Assistant.

Like I mentioned before, a Virtual Assistant is a career choice, not some quick way to make a buck from home. It takes soft and hard skills, competency, hard work and consistency to build a successful business.

It also takes a change of mindset – especially for those who have been worn down by the corporate world. You need to act the part of the business owner that you are (or going to be). If you run your business as an employee, or allow your clients (and potential clients) to treat you as if you are an employee, you will not have the successful, fulfilling business you want.

You have the skill set and ready to build a business, so now what?

If you do a quick search around the ‘net, you’ll find a TON of advice, suggestions and programs – all designed to “help” you build your Virtual Assistant business. But the truth is, most of the advice you find online is crap and not worth your time or money. And worse, a lot of said advice is given by people who aren’t even Virtual Assistants themselves.

So, where do you go for help in building your business? I HIGHLY recommend you go to the same two women who taught me everything I know about Virtual Assistance: Anastacia Brice and Danielle Keister.

These two women are different in personality and style; and yet, both of these women have been absolutely invaluable in helping me build my business. They are my heroes and mentors. I respect them very much and am deeply grateful to both of them.

Anastacia Brice is the foundress of the Virtual Assistant industry and creator of AssistU, the premier organization for training new Virtual Assistants. I was blessed to have gone through the Assistu training program which gave me a solid foundation under my business. Graduates also have access to an amazing, ongoing supportive community for continued support in building your VA business. (Currently, Anastacia is in the process of revamping the virtual training program; but, she has put together a “Smart VA Starter Series” for those who don’t want to wait for the program to be finished.)

Danielle Keister is a veteran Administrative Consultant extraordinaire and creator of the Administrative Consultants Association. The Administrative Consultants Association is an online community and resource center for administrative experts. Danielle offers her expertise and knowledge to help others create successful and satisfying careers as an Administrative Consultant (a.k.a. Virtual Assistant – but more on the difference between a VA and ASC next week!). Her “straight-shooting advice” and value pricing business model has transformed my business!

In short, if you are looking to be a truly successful Virtual Assistant RUN, DON’T WALK, to Assistu and ACA!

(Confused about the switch from “Virtual Assistant” to “Administrative Consultant” in my post this week? Next week I’ll explain why I’ve stopped using the term “Virtual Assistant” and now use “Administrative Support Consultant” [thanks to Danielle Keister, who coined the term] instead.)

 

Virtual Assistance 101: What a Virtual Assistant is NOT

Okay, so last week we talked about what a Virtual Assistant IS. This week I want to talk about what a Virtual Assistant ISN’T. This is important because what a Virtual Assistant isn’t, plays a big part in the misconceptions surrounding Virtual Assistance.

A Virtual Assistant is not a telecommuter. A telecommuter is an employee who works several (or every day) days from home. A telecommuter generally reports to a supervisor and his or her work is overseen by said supervisor. A Virtual Assistant does work from home, but she reports to no one but herself

A Virtual Assistant is not an employee. A Virtual Assistant is a self-employed entrepreneur and business owner. She decides her own hours and business polices polices. She pays her own taxes and expenses. She alone determines what services she will or will not provide, when she will work and how much she will charge. She owns her own equipment and supplies. A Virtual Assistant is an equal partner in her clients’ success.

This is important. There are clients (or potential clients) who treat VAs like glorified employees. And, unfortunately, there are Virtual Assistants who allow themselves to be treated as a glorified employee. However, if the independent contractor and employee lines are blurred too much, both the VA and/or client can open up trouble for themselves with the IRS.

A Virtual Assistant is not a “single-service” provider. Remember the definition of Virtual Assistance? A Virtual Assistant offers across the board administrative services; therefore, a VA does not offer only one service exclusively. For example: A VA may offer proofreading services; however, if that is her only service, than she is a proofreader, not a VA. Or, a VA may offer graphic design services; however, if that is all she offers, than she is a graphic designer, not a VA.

That’s not to say that a Virtual Assistant doesn’t offer the above or other services as a companion to her Virtual Assistant practice. There are many VAs (like myself) who offer web design or copy writing or other services according to their expertise alongside their VA services. These side services have their own prices and policies that are different from the VA business.

One last thing: Sometimes on the ‘net I’ve come across a “top ten ways to work from home” article or blog post that includes Virtual Assistance as an option. That’s great and all, but often on these lists you’ll find Virtual Assistance lumped in with doing surveys or cold calling.

Virtual Assistance is NOT some easy way to make a quick buck from home. Virtual Assistance is a career choice made by smart, talented, experienced women.

Now that we’ve covered what a Virtual Assistant is and isn’t, we will move on to two different areas of Virtual Assistance: Becoming a Virtual Assistant and following that, (for those who don’t want to be a Virtual Assistant but rather need assistance) how to choose the right Virtual Assistant for you.

Virtual Assistance 101: What a Virtual Assistant REALLY Is

Admin AssistantAs promised last week, today I am going to begin the series on Virtual Assistance. So, what is a Virtual Assistant (VA)?

The back story:

Virtual Assistance is a relatively new administrative  profession, that was founded and formulated by Anastacia Brice. Anastacia was working virtually before it was known, hip or popular. I encourage you to take a minute to read her story here.

In a nutshell, Anastacia was working with her mother as an executive travel planner and quickly realized that her clients needed more than travel assistance. Over time, she began working from home offering travel and personal assistance. Then, in the 1990s, the founder of Coach U was looking for someone to support his business while he was on sabbatical. Anastacia decided to work with him. From that, other coaches started coming to her for assistance in their own businesses. It is from these experiences that Anastacia not only formulated the Virtual Assistant profession, but went on to create AssistU, the premier virtual training program and community for Virtual Assistants.

Virtual Assistance defined:

There are a lot of people offering their own ideas and definitions of Virtual Assistance; but, why not go with the definition as laid out by the foundress of the profession?

Simply stated, a Virtual Assistant is a home-based administrative expert who provides across-the-board administrative services in a long-term collaborative relationship with her (or his) clients. These services are all done remotely using the latest technology (and a little creativity).

Working as a Virtual Assistant requires a plethora of hard and soft skills that are gained through education and experience; therefore, the most successful Virtual Assistants often have years of experience in the corporate world as executive level assistants.

It is important to note that Virtual Assistants are business owners – not telemarketers or employees: they pay their own taxes, set their own hours, chose whom they wish to work with and what work they do or don’t do.

The heart of Virtual Assistance:

The heart of Virtual Assistance is relationships. That is why Virtual Assistance works best in long-term collaborative relationships. Some VAs do project work; however, the synergy created in the VA/client relationship does not lend itself well to project work. It is in the long-term that the benefits of Virtual Assistance shine through most brightly.

Next week I will talk about what a Virtual Assistant is NOT.

Virtual Assistance 101: Introduction

I usually keep my Virtual AsAdmin Assistantsistant business and personal “stuff” separate (for the most part); but, over the last few months I’ve seen quite a few “mom bloggers” talking about Virtual Assistance and How to become a Virtual Assistant. I know that many of them mean well; but, unfortunately, they have it all wrong. In fact, they are doing themselves and the Virtual Assistant industry a disservice with many of the things they say. That is why I feel compelled to break my own policy about not writing about my business here.

There are a lot of misconceptions about Virtual Assistants, working with Virtual Assistants and the Virtual Assistant industry as a whole – many of which are perpetuated by Virtual Assistants themselves (sadly). I know that writing a few blog posts won’t clear up these misconceptions overnight; BUT, I hope this series WILL help those of you stay-at-home moms reading this who may be considering a career as a Virtual Assistant.

Over the next few weeks I am going to do a series of posts about the Virtual Assistance industry: what a Virtual Assistant REALLY is, what to think about before opening a Virtual Assistant business, rates, benefits of working with a VA,  finding clients, and how to find the right VA for you.

If you have any questions during this series about working with a Virtual Assistant or becoming a Virtual Assistant, feel free to contact me at carol (at) simplecatholicliving (dot) com or use my contact page. Your can also check out my business website at http://www.carolda.com/ for more information about Virtual Assistance.