Category Archives: Virtual Assistant

Remote Desking in 3 Easy Steps

Guest Post by Jenny Holt

Managing a highly efficient team in a single building is a tough feat to manage, but when the team is based remotely the task is near impossible. With 68% of Americans believing that they will work remotely in future, businesses will need to make significant changes to their infrastructure to accommodate this. Thankfully, there are online tools that make this process a little more streamlined. Furthermore, these tools are accessible through mobile devices as well.

Remote Team Management Apps

When facts and figures come to the table, things change. In an open-plan office environment, the noise levels are said to drop productivity by up to 66%. With this in mind, allowing each person to clock in from a remote location should have a positive effect on productivity. There are a multitude of products on the market to help with team management, such as Trello, Basecamp, and Asana. With these, business owners can assign specific projects to their teams, assign tasks to individuals, and set reminders for due dates.

Online Storage and Collaboration Tools

Sending around a spreadsheet for multiple users to complete, wastes a lot of time and resources. Many online storage products allow users to share their information with specific team members in a controlled environment. This allows workers to have access to dynamic documents as well, such as the ones available on Google Docs. Online storage also allows customers to share large files without each person having to download the files first, which again saves resources. Other benefits of cloud storage include sufficient space and security for businesses to perform backups. Employees can take advantage of this too, as their work will never go missing again.  

Efficient Communication

Email is listed as one of the reasons employees are miserable with their jobs. Not only do they check their emails often during a typical workday, they are also known to take work home with them. Instead of using emails for every little thing, it’s important to learn that there are chat services that make this easier while still remaining more professional than platforms such as Whatsapp and SMS. Services such as Slack provide employers with an interactive way to communicate with the team. It also allows employees to create various groups to ensure that the right people receive relevant communication at the right time.  

No one should go to work every day and feel unhappy, wishing they were somewhere else. Finding innovative and interactive solutions to combat this feeling is key to a successful working life. Maybe remote desking is exactly what your team needs to shake things up, boost morale and create a better working environment.

More People than Ever Reaping the Rewards of Working from Home

Guest post by Jenny Holt

For anyone who has to put up with the time, cost and stress of the daily commute, only to spend the day being distracted by water cooler gossip and an over-officious micro manager, the idea of working from home seems like paradise. Well, for a growing number of Americans, heaven is a place on earth, as the era of the remote worker really does seem to be upon us.

According to the latest research, more than 3 million Americans work predominantly from home, a statistic that is rising dramatically year on year. The latest technologies in cloud-based systems mean that we have access to shared resources and document archives from anywhere in the world. So, is teleworking really as perfect as it seems? We take a look at some of the benefits and the pitfalls of remote working.

Saving money all round

With increasing fuel costs, the daily commute costs the average American almost $3,000 per year. And that is before you consider the stress and time of sitting in rush-hour traffic twice every day.

But it is not just the home worker who can save money. Increasingly, businesses are seeing the whole concept of the office as a luxury they can do without, resulting in huge cost savings through reduced management time and overheads.

A balanced life

When you step back and look at it, the whole concept of starting work at 9am and finishing at 5pm seems out of place in today’s 24/7 global economy. As a home worker, you can work the hours that suit you. Early bird? Perfect, put in a couple of hours work then take a time out to enjoy breakfast with the kids and do the school run, before returning to your home office.

Getting the balance right takes discipline, though. Personal and business commitments can start to compete with one another for your time, and neither your boss nor your family will appreciate being in second place.

Focused and engaged

The nation’s teleworkers are more engaged and productive, according to a 2015 study by the Society for Human Resource Management. Intuitively, that makes sense. You are more likely to soldier on and get some work done if you are feeling unwell, and there are generally fewer distractions than in a busy office environment.

As with most aspects of homeworking, there is a balance to everything. Some people find that they miss the bustle of the office, and feel cut off from the business. Ultimately, it is up to you to make sure you manage your time and commitments to enjoy the full benefits that the 21st century remote office has to offer.

How to Bill for Virtual Assistant Services

Guest post by John Tompkins, Founder of AllInvoice.com

Whether you’re a solo act or running a large organization offering VA services, coming up with a strategy to bill your clients is one of the first, and most important steps, you need to take.  The majority of VAs charge an hourly rate for services performed.  Deciding on your hourly rate is important, also do you charge differing rates depending on the type of work being done?  Additionally, you need to decide if you want to bill for a certain number of hours before work is done, if you want to bill after work has been performed, or on a specific date (or after a certain number of days).  Lets unpack these decisions and how they will affect your business.

While it is possible to work on a flat cost basis, or quote an amount per job, lets put those concepts aside and assume you want to bill your clients an hourly rate for services provided.  What that rate will be depends a lot on who you are targeting and who your competition is.  Your hourly rate will be significantly higher if you are a college educated US based VA than it will be for doing data entry off-shore.  Both types of services can have tremendous value, but one is more competitive on price and less sensitive to the individual performing the task.  Define what your expertise is and then look for competitors to see what their rates are.  If you are just starting out, try to be at a similar price point, or slightly higher if you offer a demonstrably better service.  Also don’t be afraid to offer different services at different rates.  If you can do data entry work and web design, don’t feel you need to offer both at the same hourly rate.

Your billing cycle is the next decision to work through.  There are three models to look at; billing before work is done, after work is done, or on a specific date.  Lets dig into each and discuss the benefits and drawbacks.

Billing before doing work

This gives you cash prior to you actually doing work.  You’ll need to decide on your hourly rate and the number of hours you want your client to prepay for.  For example, if your rate is $10/hour and you want to have 10 hours prepaid, a new client would need to shell out $100 before you start on their project.  If you decide to go this route, building trust with a prospect and appearing professional is key.  It also puts the risk on the client since you could disappear with their cash and provide no work at all.  Starting small or offering a certain number of free hours to test your service can be great ways to over come these objections.  Also, offering shorter term engagements at higher hourly rates allows a new client to try you out with a limited investment, and then gives them a lower rate for engaging on a longer term commitment after you have proven yourself.

Billing after doing work

This is the polar opposite of the above point.  It puts all the risk on you as a client could choose not to pay after you have done work for them.  This model is primarily used when your primary clients a larger institutions.  Make sure you have a very well written contract in place, and it is a good idea to make the term of service as short as possible, so if you do get stiffed on the bill at least you didn’t miss out on payment for months of services rendered.

Billing on a specific date

This is really only an option for long term stable clients.  An example would be someone who constantly hires you every month and to whom you submit a bill for the previous month on the 5th and expect payment on or before the 20th (net 15 terms).  If you can get clients who fit this payment system it is preferred, but don’t try to put short term or new clients into it or you risk losing money.

You might also need to bill for one-off, non-hourly products or services.  Deciding rates and how you will accomplish this before engaging a client can save you a lot of difficulty down the road.

Whatever you decide to do, I would recommend using a time tracking software solution.  Doing any of this can take multiple hours per week doing it by hand or on an Excel spreadsheet.  There are many software systems out there which will automate time tracking in any of the ways discussed above and also handle your invoicing as well.  Take a look at AllInvoice.com, which is built specifically for Virtual Assistants and Call Center time tracking.

In Summary

  • Figure out your hourly rate(s)
  • Decide your billing schedule
  • before doing work
  • after doing work
  • on a certain date
  • Consider non-hourly billables
  • Investigate time tracking/invoicing software

 

Why Remote Workers Are Happier Than Office Employees

Let’s accept it. Remote working is the way forward.

You ask your friend or a random person in the street if they are willing to work from home or anywhere in the world — I bet most of them will say YES to your offer.

In fact, several surveys show that every year more and more people are doing remote work.Technology has made digital communication and collaboration easy and possible.

Distance is no longer a barrier to collaboration Thanks to technologies which allow us to communicate and work with your colleagues in real time even if they are spread across the globe.

But with all the freedom that they enjoy we can’t help wondering, “Are remote workers really happier than those who are working in the office?”

To shed light to this question, TinyPulse surveyed 509 employees in the US who are into remote working. They compared them with benchmarks calculated from responses from over 200,000 employees across all work arrangements.

Here are some interesting results.

How happy are you at work?

On a scale of 1 to 10, ‘Remote workers’ got an 8.10 score while ‘All workers’ only had 7.42.

Why do employees work remotely?

Most remote workers (41%) said that they enjoy the freedom of choosing when or where to work, however only 8% answered that they don’t like working in an office.

Check this infographic from Time Doctor to see more of the results.

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Top Tools for Virtual Assistants 2017

Guest post by John Tompkins, Founder of AllInvoice.com

I’m been putting together a list of the tools my business uses to make our operation run smoothly and provide the best level of service to our clients.  Our company has been around since 2008, offering virtual assistant and call center services from our Philippines operation center.  In the past 8 years we have used a lot of different online tools with varying degrees of success.  This is a summary of what we are currently using and why.  This is not a list of several different products that I’m aware of and that I’m providing marketing links to, these are the actual virtual assistant tools we use to run our business with 100+ employees.

CRM

Virtual AssistantWe’ve been using Zoho CRM since the beginning, and they have grown a lot and added many new features.  One huge benefit of Zoho is that it is very scalable and can fit any size organization and budget (we started using their free version for the first couple years).  They have also built an entire suite of complimentary products around their core platform, and give many customization options similar to SalesForce.

All of our leads go into Zoho CRM, and all of our clients are tracked there as well.  We also manage our email marketing to existing leads through their Campaigns App, which brings me to…

Email Marketing

As I said above we use Zoho Campaigns to manage all of our follow up emails.  The nice thing is that because we are also using Zoho for CRM we can get pretty fancy with how our emails work.  If a lead has been assigned to a sales rep their signature is automatically on each subsequent marketing email.  We can also send specific emails based on the lead’s industry or where they are in the sale process.  All of this adds up to a lot of initial work, but also better conversion percentages than using a blanket follow up template for all prospects.

Landing Pages

The majority of our business comes in through PPC advertising, and some very targeted campaigns and ad groups.  We’ve used the service Unbounce to build specific landing pages for every ad group we have.  Unbounce has an API with Zoho CRM so all completed leads forms are fed directly into our CRM and we can also push any other relevant info (AdGroup) which allows us to know financial data almost to the keyword level on our PPC marketing.  Its also easy to test different variations of landing pages to see which perform the best, and show mobile specific pages.

Time Tracking/Invoicing

Over the years time tracking and invoicing have been some of our biggest issues.  Our business model has clients prepaying for blocks of time, and then we debit that time as it is worked from their account.  When the balance is $0 its time to bill again (or stop the campaign).  Most of the solutions we tried in the past were more project management focused, or had very high price tags and many more features than we would ever need.  The solution is AllInvoice.com, and we ended up having to build it ourselves.  It allows us to manage our client balances, have multiple projects for each client with different hourly rates.  Our business is primarily prepaid, but it has flexibility to pay after work is done, or on a specific date for a certain amount.  The price point is also much lower for our number of users than anything else we’ve found.

Billing/Merchant Processing

Our billing and processing is done using PayPal Business and a word press plugin called Shopping Cart by Tribulant software, we also use a plugin by ApproveMe to collect e-signatures on our service agreements.  This has made for a simple system where new customers can sign a service agreement and then proceed to our shopping cart where they choose the right service plan for them and pay using a billing method of their choice.  Tying all of these plugins together can take some work but the results have streamlined our new client sign up process significantly.

Summary

As I mentioned at the beginning this is a list of the software products we use to manage our VA and call center business.  There are many other products out there which are very similar and possibly better than what I’ve discussed here.  I’d recommend doing some research and trying a few different options to see what fits for you.  Most of these applications offer a free trial period or freemium version so you can get a feel for how they work.  Always make sure you do your homework and educate yourself before committing to a product because changing to an alternative after you have fully integrated something into your operations can be a headache.  Best of luck in your business in 2017.