Friday, January 31, 2014

VA Tips & Tricks Blogging Challenge 2014 - D is for Dogs

My office companions are my dogs Shaggy and Scooby. They are always with me in my office. They hurry into the office on a morning, so that the first one in, can lie under the desk. There is usually one under the desk and the other either at the side of my chair or behind my chair. Both dogs will stand and growl at each other to argue who gets to be under the desk.

The one thing that Shaggy does not like is when other’s come into my office. He thinks this is his space and mine and nobody else must be in here. He can be very naughty when I have office guests.

Shaggy has eaten and chewed my clients work a few times now (very embarrassing). The papers fall to the floor without us noticing it and when we come to look for the page, here it is on the floor chewed in bits, it’s a favourite hobby of Shaggy.

While we are busy working he will find something to eat and chew from the office, the carpet is mainly his target for chewing, just to be naughty as it means I must talk to him and give him attention while I am busy.

With the dogs being in the office it gives me someone to talk to during the day. I talk my frustration of the day out to the dogs. To me if I had someone in my office I would talk to them so the dogs are here, so I talk to them. If I need to work something out, say build a graphic I will talk to myself how I am going to do it and to me I am not talking to myself I’m talking to the dogs. Does anyone identify with this or is it just me. Some people have cats for company in the office, I have my dogs. Shaggy has took it upon himself to go where I go, he follows me everywhere during the day. I have had to pull my blinds up so that both dogs can watch out of the office window, the blinds are pulled up to above Shaggy’s head so that he does not damage them as he looks through the window, they love looking outside and watching down the street.

My trusty faithful dogs who listen to my daily moans and groans as I work are great company. I never feel alone at work, as I always have the dogs around.



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

VA Tips & Tricks Blogging Challenge 2014 - D is for Dressing your Office

We sit for hours on end in our offices or office space so why not make that space pleasant to be in. Paint it your favourite colour, drape nice material around your space to make it look nice. Place all your equipment around you so that it is easy to get to, have your files close at hand. Things you use daily need to be close to you.

Make sure you have a comfortable chair as you sit in it all day.

Hang up nice pictures on the walls, have nice family photographs around you. Your office needs to be a pleasant place to work in.

Don’t over clutter your desk, says me whose desk is a clutter mess. You can never have a big enough desk, the bigger the desk the better. Always have Post It notes handy, I have a few packs around my desk, at reach, as I use them all the time.

Put a vase of flowers on your desk. My hubby keeps me up with supply of roses from the garden.

Make sure your children know their boundaries within your office/space. Let them know what they can touch. If you have small children keep some toys, crayons and colouring books, reading books close by, this can occupy them while you are busy.

Let family know when they can interrupt you and when they can’t. The family must also respect the fact that you are working and sometimes you don’t want to be disturbed, especially by teenagers who might want that favourite skirt ironed and they don’t want to do it themselves, teach them independence.

Last year my hubby painted my office a nice bright peach colour, I placed nice pictures on the walls. I have placed another desk in the office so that my desk now has an L shape and I have much more room. Everything is close at hand or within reach. For the first time in years I love being in my office, my office is bright and a happy place to be in.

With our jobs we do spend a good 8+ hours in our offices so our surrounding need to be nice.

VA Tips & Tricks Blogging Challenge 2014 - C is for Clients who we all need

We would be nowhere as VAs without our clients. Clients are all different and we can work for a wide range of clients across the world. We are not limited to working with clients local as we don’t need to see our clients to work for them.

What is important is that we get on with our clients, we build up trust and as we do that, the clients begin to see how responsible we are and therefore they can give us more and more work as they see what we can do and achieve.

As a new client contacts you, arrange a meeting in a public place or over skype via a video call etc. Ask questions and show an interest in the clients company, their website etc, learn as much as you can about the client as that will help your working relationship.

We often as VAs draw specific clients to us, I tend to draw Trainers and these are the clients that I need as they provide me with lots of typing. I love to type and because of the clients that I draw in I always have a constant supply of typing.

Always try to turn your client into regular clients, brag about what you can do, tell the clients how you can assist them, be pro-active and assertive. Win over the clients trust and if that client is happy with you they will come back time and again or become regular clients and they will pass on your details to other people they know and meet, who they think would be able to use your services. Word of Mouth is a great way to spread the news of your business to new potential clients.

VA Tips & Tricks Blogging Challenge 2014 - B is for Business Plan

If you want to run/own your own Business, the best way to start, is to create your Business Plan. Sit and write/type down your idea. Write down all the steps it will take to make your idea work, put them into order, and start to organise your Business Plan. Writing down a plan/idea is being constructive and putting your idea into writing, is a positive step to making your business real. You need to list all the steps it takes to start your business, then write down the way you are going to run your business (your procedures), your networking/marketing plans/strategy, your bookkeeping, your goals and values, a mission statement, etc., put it all down in writing. This is your working Business Plan. You will look at this document often, updating it as your plans change and they will, as you learn more and more about running your business. Your Business Plan should be one of your first tools you create, to help you run your business.

Searching the Internet you will find lots of templates and details available about Business Plans, lots of people have written steps that you need/can follow to write up your plan, details that you need to include. Do Internet research about Business Plans and you will find it is not a difficult task but rather an easy task to complete and it is one step closer to running your own Business. I think this is a task that puts people off starting their own businesses, they think it is difficult but once started, it soon becomes easy.


You can find templates for Business Plans on the Internet. You need the following within your plan:

·          Goals, Values and Objectives

·          Mission statement, logo, company bi-line

·          Procedures/structures on how you are going to run your business, how you will do your pricing, how you will invoice your clients, how will you collect overdue payments, how will you do your marketing, networking plans, what you will do when a potential clients contacts you, , how will you approach transcription work, typing, data entry etc. Copies of your company documentation (invoices, statements, forms etc.,). How will you work with a subcontractor etc.,

·          Marketing strategy

·          Networking strategy

·          Advertising strategy

·          Products and Services, what services will you offer clients, will you offer products like EBooks for sale on your website!

·          Pricing Structure/Budget

·          Skills, Training, Education, Resources

·          Target/Niche Marketing - which type of clients are you going to market your services to? How are you going to approach clients?

·          Company structure, how you are going to run your company. How will you do your invoicing, banking, statements, how will you do your books, approach clients, actually run your business

·          Contacts, keep database of all your contacts and clients. Build this up over time

·          Company Debt Collecting, procedure. You will come across clients who do not pay on time or simply don’t want to pay and you will need a procedure in place of what you are going to do to recover payments for work you have done.

·          Executive Summary, this sums up your business plan and is the most important piece of information within your plan, this is what you want the Bank Manager to read, is it sums up your whole idea of running your business. Make it interesting, highlight the major structures of your business, stress important points, this part must grab attention and basically sum up your whole business.


Determine your budget, you will need to advertise your company, you will need to do networking and marketing. Know how much money you have available to do this. Starting up a secretarial business does not cost too much if you already have the computer/office equipment you need. But you will need to advertise and market your company and attend networking events and joining business groups can cost you but it is part of owning your own business. You need to take these steps to grow your client database and get your company known in the corporate world.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Barbara Blackburn the World's Fastest Typist

VA Tips & Tricks Blogging Challenge 2104
B is for Barbara Blackburn,
the World's Fastest Typist

Mrs. Barbara Blackburn of Salem, Oregon maintained a speed of 150 wpm for 50 min (37,500 key strokes) and attained a speed of 170 wpm using the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard (DSK) system. Her top speed was recorded at 212 wpm. Source: Norris McWhirter, ed. (1985), THE GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS, 23rd US edition, New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.


What is the secret as to how Barbara Blackburn could type so fast? The key, so to speak, is in the keyboard design. Blackburn would type on nothing but the Dvorak keyboard, which has vowels on one side and consonants on the other, with the most frequently used letters on the center row. "It makes much more sense than the standard, so-called Qwerty keyboard (named after the first five letters on the top row)," Blackburn said. In fact, it was the Qwerty keyboard that was her undoing in high school typing class back in Pleasant Hill, Missouri.

"Typing was the bane of my existence." She remembered how her I-minus (I for Inferior) typing grade kept her from graduating at the top of her class. As it was, she graduated third in a class of 46 students. In 1938, as a freshman in business college, Blackburn first laid hands on a Dvorak keyboard. She took to it like a fish to water. In only a few years her speed was up to 138 words per minute.

Blackburn had been such a whiz in her other high school classes, it was no surprise that she would attempt to better her record as a typist, given a chance. The Dvorak keyboard was what gave her the chance. When a representative of the Royal Typewriter Co. came to her business college looking for someone to train as a demonstrator of the Dvorak keyboard, she decided to give it a try.

In no time at all she was as good a typist as she was a bookkeeper and stenographer. She had won statewide contests in the latter two fields as a high school student, but the woman who taught all three courses at Pleasant Hill "was ashamed to admit I was in her typing class," Blackburn remembered.

Carrying her own Dvorak typewriter with her wherever she worked after graduation from business college, Blackburn's extraordinary talents paved her way. From 1939 to 1945 she worked as a legal secretary, and when she decided she needed a change of pace and left the law firm, "I left with the reputation as the best legal secretary in Kansas City," she proudly recalled.

Suddenly there was a mad scramble of executives trying to nab her for their personal secretary.

Blackburn next worked at an electronics company, first as office manager and then as a sales engineer. She did speed typing demonstrations at the Canadian National Exposition and the Canadian Educational Conference. It was then that she was clocked for the the Guinness Book of World Records, in which she was listed for a decade as the world's fastest typist (the category has since been removed). Blackburn went to work at State Farm Insurance in Salem, where she was employed in the word processing department until she retired in 2002.

Also, she starred in a television commercial for Apple Computers, which offered a switchable Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard with its Apple IIc model. When she was in New York to tape the commercial, she appeared on the David Letterman Show. But Letterman made a comedy routine out of what she thought was to be a serious demonstration of her typing speed, and Blackburn felt hurt by the experience. In her own words:

"The show aired on Thursday night, after I had returned back to Salem. They had taken my PR photo and blown it up to gigantic size) with the typewriter sitting on a stand (covered with a Plexiglas cover) in front of me and a little to the side with three men seated at a table with a big copy of my Thursday night paper sitting on an easel at the side. My photo took up the entire area behind the men. Letterman was standing beside the typewriter - his opening remark was "No doubt Ms. Blackburn is a very nice lady, but she has to be the biggest fraud and con artist in the world." That he is still running it about every year completely astounds me! I have a complete tape of all of my TV appearances during my publicity reign, but I REFUSE TO WATCH THE LETTERMAN FIASCO."


In the intervening years, Letterman's comedy style has become better-understood and we've grown more accustomed to it. Nevertheless, anyone who has seen her whizzing fingers in action, as well as the flawless results on paper (her error frequency is two-tenths of one percent), can have no doubt that Barbara Blackburn will forever hold her place as the world's fastest typist. Mrs. Blackburn passed away in April, 2008.


-- End --



Permission granted to post Article about Barbara Blackburn by Sonya Pulvers (Barbara Blackburn's daughter)

From: Sam Sent: 07 January 2014 22:32
To: Alison Fourie
Subject: Re: Feature article on website
Thank you so much for asking permission. Absolutely that would be fine, my mother was an incredible woman and an icon when it comes to the world of typing.
Have a great day.
Sincerely, Sonya Pulvers (Barbara Blackburn's daughter)
-----Original Message-----
From: Alison Fourie
Sent: Jan 7, 2014 5:22 AM
Subject: Feature article on website

I would like to ask your permission to place your article about Barbara Blackburn on my website I run a typing company and I found your article very interesting, and would love to display it on my website.
Looking forward to hearing from you.   Regards Alison,  AMF Typing Services©® Est 2001


Thursday, January 9, 2014

VA Tips & Tricks Blogging Challenge 2104

A is for Advice


My email is busy nonstop, mostly with prospective VAs asking for advice. I can only offer advice using my own experiences as a Virtual Assistant. I started out knowing nothing about this business and I learnt the hard way by just jumping in and doing the work. Today I have learnt many things along the way and feel that I am now capable of passing on my knowledge and sharing what I know with other new VAs starting out.

Most VAs today need advice on how to prepare their business plans, how do they invoice, how do they work out the rates, how to deal with clients and the work etc. I have worked with clients all over the world, so feel I have a fair bit of knowledge to assist others with. If a VA is able to apply the advice that I give and get something from it then the advice that I gave was worth it to me. I love to be able to help and advice others, I find it very rewarding.

It is easy giving advice using my own experiences as this makes the problems more realistic to the other VA.

The one bit of advice I like to give is to be organised, be in control of your business, show you know what you are doing, what you are talking about. Know your business inside and out, clients will quickly pick up on it if you don’t know what you are talking about.

The best people to go to for advice are the people who have been in the industry a long time, the seasoned VAs, the experts in the industry.

The VA industry has to be the friendliest industry out there, VAs are always helping each other and sharing their knowledge.

Apply the advice that you are given, don’t just sit on it and do nothing as that is a waste, apply the advice and go back for more advice as you need it. Never be afraid to ask for advice, a little bit of help can take you a long way.


Written 7/1/2014. © Copyright 2014 AMF Typing Services. All rights reserved.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

VA Tips and Tricks Blogging Challenge 2014

A is for Absentmindedness

What is Absentmindedness? It is not easy to explain and not too difficult I hope.

Absentmindedness is the ability to forget something simple that you should know or remember to do, work or other related things. As work is what I do mostly as a VA it is where I forget simple things to do.

Ah! Another day starts what am I going to forget today, with absentmindedness always around you never know what is next. Will I forget my favourite hard space or is it something new, never a dull moment. This phenomenon (Absentmindedness) can strike at any time morning, afternoon or night, it is not picky. Just when you think you have everything under control, it strikes. How to spell this word, do this graph, I just did this type of graph last week. It just doesn’t want to print today; I forgot to put the printer on. I need to fax this page but forgot to plug the fax line in. Simple but absentmindedness creates chaos.

An example for a specific client I need to use a hard space and keep on forgetting how to do it. Easy it is, easy to forget. Especially when you are busy and under pressure. I know it is control shift spacebar, but not at the time.

That small thing called absentmindedness creates this panic to get onto the Internet and ask a VA friend to assist, make me look silly at times, but part of work, maybe it is part of Alzheimer’s or not, who knows.

Solution, make a note and save it for your absentminded moments.

Written 30/12/2013. © Copyright 2014 AMF Typing Services. All rights reserved.


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