Here are some tips on how to be a Virtual Assistant/Business Owner: I will  keep adding to these tips to return often to check to see if they have been updated.

Added 7 October 2010

• Act professionally at all times

• Have the determination to succeed, be positive no matter what.

• Provide a Quality client service to your clients at all times.

• Speak to your clients on the same level; you are a business owner, not a PA speaking to a Boss. Be on the same level as your client’s; do not address them as Mr. Jones etc, address them as Peter etc. Use first names. This immediately brings you on the same level. If you address that client as Mr. Jones, this is immediately putting the client on a level higher than you; they will assume that role and treat you as a PA/Secretary which you are not.

• If you feel you can give the client good advice and ideas on the tasks they assign you, do so, there is no harm in doing this. Show the client you know what you are doing; you know what you are talking about. Be confident and assertive in your approach to your clients.

• When you feel a deadline is not reachable, negotiate, you will be doing the work, you know how long it will take, give yourself plenty of time to do the work and be negotiable on a deadline that you can reach. It is up to you as a business owner to tell you client ‘this deadline is unreal’ explain what is involved within the job, a lot of clients have no idea how long a particular job will take. They will give you very unreasonable deadlines. Only you know what you are capable of and you know your limits. This is often a problem in Transcription, the clients do not know how long it actually takes to transcribe and often the deadlines are tight but its up to you, as you are doing the job to negotiate this with the client, not the client to set this deadline for you, simply explain what is involved.

• Do not take on jobs you have no idea how to do, a client will quickly find out you cannot do this job and they will not have confidence and trust in you again. Only take on the work that you have experience in doing, especially so when you are just starting out. If you take on a job that is new to you, let the client know it’s new to you, but that you are very willing to learn and try.

• State your business hours, state if you want to be contacted after hours or weekends, have this visible on your website, in your brochure, part of your terms and conditions. If you do not do so, clients will and do take advantage and contact you out of hours; clients will expect the impossible from you. Be in charge; be in control of your business.

• Have your prices/rates already set before you open your business. When a client contacts you, you need to be able to get back to them quickly with a quotation. Know how much you are going to charge for each service you are going to offer. You set the price, you can be negotiable if need be, but you, not the client sets the overall price of the job, after all you are a business owner.

• It is not easy running a VA business but if you schedule your day and especially if you have small children things will be easier for you. This is an example of what I do, I start work around 7am when the kids/hubby leaves for school/work, I then work till around 1.30pm, have lunch, then its time for the kids to come home, I assist with homework, lunch for them and then return to work around 2:30/3:00pm and work till around 6pm ish. I will come back to work after the kids go to bed if I have urgent work. I work the hours I need to work, to get my work done. If you have a husband/family, get /their support in helping with the children while you work.

• Keeps logs/schedules of what you are doing, always know what work/tasks you have in at any one time, this is helpful when you need to priorities. Know how to prioritise your work. Know how long it will take you to complete tasks. I know I can type 20 to 30 pages of typing a day, but if that typing has in graphs, flow diagrams, then it will be less and I make sure my clients know this. Your clients must know what you are capable of so that they can judge when giving you work.

• If you want to be a Virtual Assistant, most Vas are Business Owners around the world, take on this role. A lot of VA’s in South Africa are saying they are freelance contractors or independent contractors why I don’t know, if you are a VA and running a business, doing the work, doing your bookkeeping, marketing and networking etc, then surely that is running a business, not being an independent contractor. There is a difference as there is a difference between PA and VA, if you are working from a virtual location, running a business you are not a PA. A PA is someone who is employed and as far as I am aware a VA is not employed. Know these differences before you open your business so that you do portray yourself as a business owner and your clients will treat you accordingly.

• If you can use free software to do your job, there is no harm in doing this; Open Office is compatible with Microsoft Office. There are other free software packages available for word processing, desk top publishing and accounting. There is lots of free Open Source software around via the Internet; it is there to be used.

• Make sure you have good virus protection on your pc.

• As a VA you need to keep regular backups of your work and keep each clients work separate in different folders so that the work is easy to find when required. Do regular backups.

• Do not undercharge for your services, your skills, experience and daily expenses are important and they must feature in your prices/rates.

• Bounce your ideas of your peers, build good solid relationships with other virtual assistants, both local and international.

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