Virtually Anything

Archive for March, 2007

When Was The Last Time You Did It?

Posted by collinsadmin on March 16, 2007

Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m not talking about that (got your attention though didn’t I). I’m talking about when was the last time you said thank you?  When was the last time you told your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your co-workers, or your employees thank you?

It is human nature to want to be appreciated. How many times have you worked your butt off for somebody or something and then you got it done and you didn’t even receive a thank you? How did you feel?  Probably pretty bad.  You tried your best, you worked hard and they couldn’t even acknowledge you for it.

Now, I’m not saying that you have to go out and send a thank you card or even send a gift, I’m just saying two simple words like thank you could go a long way. Why should you say thank you?  If it wasn’t for your parents you wouldn’t be where you are today. If it wasn’t for your siblings and all the times you fought you wouldn’t be the person you are today. If it wasn’t for your co-workers who else could you vent to when the boss ticks you off? If it wasn’t for your spouse, who else could you go to for moral support when things go bad? If it wasn’t for your employees, would your company be running as smoothly as it is?

 Those are just a few examples.  So why don’t you just take the couple of seconds out of your life and tell everyone around you how thankful you are for them and how thankful you are for all the help that they have given you. You would be amazed at the response you get from just two simple words like Thank You! 

Food for thought,

Tracy Collins

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Benefits Of Outsourcing-Part Two

Posted by collinsadmin on March 12, 2007

I thought I would do a follow-up to my cost benefits of outsourcing blog post because the previous one was a little vague.  In this post, I hope to break a few benefits down into their own section as well as explaining why they are beneficial.  So without further ado here it goes:

No Additional Office Equipment: If you have to buy a new computer you are looking at approximately $1000 (that’s conservative). Then along with that computer, you have the printer, which you can get a cheap one for approximately $40, but that is just a basic printer no other amenities.  If you want a printer, copier, and scanner all in one then you are looking toward at least another $100. Don’t forget the technical support in case something happens to the computer. Then you have to consider where you will put the computer and printer so you need to buy an office desk, there’s another $300.  Then where are they going to sit?  Buying an office chair, another $100.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg, not to mention additional paper, ink cartridges, pens, software etc. That all adds up.

Legally required fees such as Worker’s Comp, Unemployment, and FICA: We’ll say you pay your employee $10/hr.  So for Worker’s Comp you are looking at approximately $127/yr, Unemployment Tax (Federal), approximately $56, FICA, approximately $1591/yr. Not to mention, hiring a CPA to take care of all these things for you.

 No imposing of your workspace:  Well what can I say about this.  How much is your ability to be as clean or as messy as you would like worth? $100, $500, or more.  My guess is it’s priceless.  

Of course, there are a lot of other expenses that go into hiring somebody in-house such as slack time (coffee break, restroom break, chit chat time etc) you have to continue to pay even during these times.  Also, vacation time, sick time, training time etc.  The list goes on and on. 

I just wanted to post this so that you can see with a little bit more detail about what goes into hiring an in-house employee. So save yourself a lot of headaches and money by outsourcing your tasks.

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The Impact Of Nay-Sayers

Posted by collinsadmin on March 10, 2007

How many times in starting your own business did you have friends and family members tell you to get a real job, get a full-time job, or don’t be such a risk-taker? God knows that I have had my share of people telling me are you going to get a full time job once your kids are in school, why don’t you get a full time job so that you can make more money, or is it really worth the risk in starting a business.

The majority of us have been there right? If Benjamin Franklin wouldn’t have tied that key at the end of a kite string and flew it in a storm we wouldn’t have electricity right now. That was quite the risk, he could’ve died but it was well worth it to him and all of us. What about Bill Gates, if he wouldn’t have created the Windows software where would we be in technology right now? I guarantee we wouldn’t be as much of a technological society as we are.

The list goes on and on of risk takers. If you sit down and think about all the risk takers you will realize how beneficial these risks have been to modern society. Did they have family and friends who were nay-sayers about their business? I’m sure they did. What was the impact on the risk takers business? We might not ever know but whatever it was, it didn’t stop them from following their dreams.

The impact these nay-sayers have had on my business has been that I just have more drive and I am less likely to give up. Sure I still have a lot to learn about being in business for myself but, I won’t stop learning. I have always been one that when somebody tells me I can’t do it, I will do it just to prove them wrong. Sure, I have failed but that is when I admit defeat and continue on to the next thing that I am told I can’t do.

So why are these nay-sayers so prevalent, my opinion is because of three different reasons.

1. Jealousy
2. Don’t want to see you succeed (remember misery loves company)
3. They don’t want to see the friends or family members get heart broken when the business fails.

Here’s my response to those three answers:

1. Not my problem if you’re jealous be your own risk taker
2. If/When I succeed I would be a much happier person
3. Okay, maybe a little bit of a legit concern but, you learn by doing and from your mistakes so a little bit of heartbreak isn’t going to kill me.

One of the bad things about nay-sayers is it puts so many doubts in your head about your ability to run a small business that you just finally get beaten down and you give up. But you know what, nobody can tell you how to live your life. Nobody can make your decisions for you. If you have nay-sayers in your circle ignore them or tell them if they don’t think you can succeed then if your business fails they can tell you I told you so.

So for those with nay-sayers in your circle for every one comment that they give you, tell yourself two reasons you can do it.

For those who are nay-sayers, small business owners don’t need your negativity, they have enough other stress. Instead be supportive and keep the negative comments to yourself for if/when their business fails. If it does fail, be supportive not vindictive.

Until next time,

Tracy

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What Are The Cost Benefits Of Outsourcing?-Part One

Posted by collinsadmin on March 10, 2007

Many small businesses owners are realizing that a business isn’t that easy to run by themselves. The main problem is a small business owner has to wear a thousand different hats, whether it be marketing, website design, administrative or customer service. We all know that you can outsource your marketing and website design but not too many people know that you can outsource your administrative work as well.

Many people think that outsourcing their administrative work is too expensive but in reality, it’s not. I am going to throw a couple of figures out there for you to consider:

Your hourly rate: $100.00
Administrative work: 2hrs/day
Total loss of money: $1000.00 per week

Your hourly rate: $100.00
Administrative work outsourced: 2 hr/day @ $50 per hour
Total Money Gain: $500.00

So now you are wondering how did I come up with that figure. Well, businesses owners spend an average of 2hrs/day working on their administrative work. That 2 hours per day are non-billable hours.

Those two hours could be spent doing marketing, contacting clients, filling orders for clients, or just to relax as well. Sure relaxing would cost you some money as well but you have to have some relaxation time in order to keep that brain focused on the more important things in your business. If you get burned out, that isn’t good for business either. If you handed some of that work off to somebody else, you could be putting an additional $500 or more in your pocket.

Just some food for thought.

Until next time,

Tracy Collins

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The Importance Of Customer Service

Posted by collinsadmin on March 10, 2007

Today I was trying to order some supplies at Vistaprint.com and of course my internet and computer decided they didn’t want to work for me (who can blame them considering it has been in the single digits in my neck of the woods). I was trying to place the order and I got all the way to the point where they were asking for my billing address and payment information and then the next step was to complete my order. So I verified all that and clicked the button to complete order, but instead of completing my order it went back to the shipping and billing information page. So I thought well, maybe I didn’t do something right so I clicked continue and then went to complete order again. I then clicked the accept order button and low and behold it went back to the billing and shipping page again.

I was a little annoyed at this time but I was more concerned that I was going to get billed double so I looked at the contact us page and found the phone number to call them. So I call them once I get through the menu options (boy are those annoying no matter what company it’s for) and I reach a real live voice (WOO HOO a real live voice) and she couldn’t have been nicer and more courteous to me. She had my problem solved, and my order ordered in a matter of maybe 10 minutes. Needless to say, I will use their services again and won’t hesitate to tell everyone I know about the great service I received.

On the flip side, I can remember a well known company that I had to contact their customer service and it was just awful.

I got a bill in the mail saying that I was a month behind and I was like oooh crap. So I took a look at my check register and see that I wrote it out and I looked to make sure that I mailed it which I did. I then got online and looked to see if that check had cleared and it had before the bill was due. So I called this company and after not being able to get to a real live person for at least 15 minutes due to their “menu options” (trust me I was livid by then). I did finally get a real live person and explained to them that the check cleared, what the check number was, the day it cleared and so on and so forth. They argued with me and told me that they never received it. So I tried talking to that customer service representative until I was blue in the face and finally I had had enough so I asked to talk to the supervisor.

The supervisor then proceeds to tell me that there was nothing they could do. I mean come on, they had to have some kind of evidence that I paid the bill with all the computers and things out there right. So finally she says, “if you can get me a copy of the check and fax it to me and also the date it cleared” she would fix it. Well, in this computer age, I don’t get copies of my checks that have cleared anymore. To make a long story short I got the check faxed it to them and then called her back. Then to top it all off, they were going to charge me a $3.00 late fee. A late fee after I just proved that it wasn’t late. I know, I know $3.00 isn’t that much but if they charge 1000 customers $3.00 when their payment isn’t late that is a total of $3000 that they just got from unknowing customers.

So why am I going on and on about this? Basically, because you just can’t put enough emphasis on how important customer service is. Sure, we are outsourcing our customer call centers overseas because it’s cheaper to pay them but whatever happened to helping out our fellow man? Has money become such an issue in this country and this world that bigger corporations don’t care about how their clients (customers) feel just as long as they are getting a good deal with their employees.

I had a client contact me about doing some work for him, unfortunately I didn’t have the skills he needed but instead of blowing him off and saying he is out of luck it became my personal mission to find him somebody that could do that work for him. I found somebody too. I didn’t gain anything from it (well, I did get a referral). More than anything though, I had the satisfaction of knowing I helped out somebody and provided good customer service to them. Hopefully when they get to a point in their business where they need my services they will think of me because I helped them without asking for anything in return.

So honestly, would you rather take the extra couple of minutes and provide good customer service or would you rather be a big grump and not care about your clients? I would rather take the extra couple of minutes not only to gain customers but for my own personal satisfaction knowing that I helped.

Thanks for reading,

Tracy Collins

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What can a Virtual Assistant do?

Posted by collinsadmin on March 10, 2007

I know that a lot of people don’t use their virtual assistant to the fullest extent. There are also business owners who have no idea what a virtual assistant can do for them. In this post, I hope to put things more into perspective as to what a virtual assistant is, what they do and how you can use them to their fullest abilities.

First I will start off by explaining what a virtual assistant is. A virtual assistant is (as I posted previously) somebody who assists a small business owner in their day to day tasks or on a per project basis, virtually. Now a virtual assistant could offer website design, SEO (search engine optimization), bookkeeping, typing, answering phones, spreadsheets, or whatever you could think of that you don’t enjoy or don’t know how to do.

Think of it this way, what would you have a secretary or assistant do? Chances are they take appointments, follow-up with clients, type letters, organize the office computer, create a budget plan, create or update business and marketing plans, make travel arrangements, send out invoices, and much more. Well believe it or not, that can all be done virtually.

This is all possible with modern technology. Yes they can take appointments just by putting call forward on your office phone and your calls will be re-routed to the assistants’ office. They can clean up your computer by using some of the remote access software that is out there such as GoToMyPC. You can tell a virtual assistant what you want in a letter and they will type it up for you. There is just so much that can be done.

I know that a lot of business owners are afraid to hand off their work to other people. There are many reasons for it. I will try and tackle each one individually.

1. I don’t want to burden anybody else. Well, if somebody is offering what you need as a service, chances are you aren’t burdening them because they enjoy it.

2. I started this business and I will prove that I can handle it all myself. Sure, you started this business but do you really want to be run down and exhausted and not be able to enjoy the rewards of running your own business?

3. My spouse or significant other is handling all the mundane things (I get this one a lot). Okay, so this might be cheaper but have you asked your significant other if they enjoy it, if they need help, or if they are getting burned out?

4. Hiring somebody to do my work for me is expensive. Actually, I get this one a lot as well but honestly that is a myth. Sure you aren’t paying for it out of your pocket per se but you are costing yourself a lot of money. Just think, if you spend 2 hrs on your secretarial (administrative) work you are losing that 2 hrs where you could focus on marketing, getting in touch with clients, following up with clients etc. In that two hours you could get 5 more clients or keep 5 more clients that you have not spoken with in a while.

5. How do I know that I am not getting scammed? Very good question. That is when you ask for references, people they have worked with, how well they have done work. Think of it this way, how do you know when you hire somebody in-house that they aren’t going to steal from you, sue you for some unknown reason, be good workers etc. You don’t so the only difference is you are seeing those people face to face instead of talking to them on the phone or through email.

Well, I hope that this post has helped people gain some insight on the virtual assistant industry and how they can be beneficial to you and your business. Please if you should have any additional questions feel free to visit my website at Collins Administrative Services. Or you can also email me .

Until next time,

Tracy Collins

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The Age of the internet

Posted by collinsadmin on March 10, 2007

The internet has become a wealth of information at your fingertips. Information that normally wouldn’t be so easily accessible. When does it become too much information?

There is so much information on the internet that you just aren’t sure what is real and what isn’t. There are so many differences of opinions on so many different topics that you just don’t know what is the best for you. Now I’m not saying that the internet isn’t a good tool, because it definitely is. What I am saying is that there is just so many gray areas that everything is not just black and white anymore.

I was just reading some posts on Ryze about what the definition of a Virtual Assistant is. One of the remarks was that there are so many different services that the various VAs offer that the client would be confused on how they could use their services. That really is true once you think about it. When I started researching becoming a VA, I didn’t think I qualified as a VA because I saw so many people that were offering the more technical skills that I don’t have. However, I took all of the different definitions that I found of a VA and realized that I really could become a VA. My definition of a VA (just what you need is another definition) is somebody who can assist the business owner virtually. Now that could be typing, bookkeeping, calling customers or web design, you name it as long as you are assisting somebody without sitting in the office of that company you could be considered a virtual assistant.

Now granted, there are some people who don’t have any qualifications to run a VA business but they try because they are so desperate to work from home and run their own business. Those are the one’s that once they started doing it and realized how much work goes into it, they just quit.

Anyways, back to the age of the internet. The internet has helped so many people and businesses that all the scams, spam, people looking for a fast buck, has all been worth dealing with. Let’s face it, if it wasn’t for the internet, the VA business would be basically non-existent along with other professions. But how much is too much?

I couldn’t tell you how many times I have gone online to look for answers to questions. I also couldn’t tell you how many times I have gotten false information, or just too much information that I didn’t know what to do with it. I have gone online many times to look for answers to my marketing questions and I have gotten them, but numerous sites will say do something and you will be quaranteed to get clients but then for those ten sites, there are ten more telling me not to do that. I’m not saying either of those sets of sites are wrong because they very well might be right. What I am getting at is, how do you decide which ones to go by? The thing that I have learned is take all that information and do what you feel fits your personality and style best.

No one persons opinion is the correct opinion. Sure you might not agree with people but that is the best part about this world, everybody has there own personalities, morals, ethics, etc that nobody is the same. Wouldn’t this be a very boring world if we were all the same?

The internet has done a lot of good for this world but it has also hurt this world. I was just talking about this with my husband the other day. When my kids go to school and they have research to do they won’t have to use encyclopedias like we did when we were kids. All they have to do is type in what they are looking for and it’s right there at their fingertips. So my question to you, is the internet making us lazy? In some aspects of it, yes I think it is. Again, the good outweighs the bad.

Anyways, the internet is a very valuable tool as we all know but just remember not everything on the internet is the same as your thoughts and feelings. You need to go with your gut when you are trying to make a decision on something. You need to go with what feels right to you. In the case of a Virtual Assistant, if you don’t know if you need a virtual assistant or exactly what a virtual assistant is, ask somebody. Nothing is more informative then getting the information right from the horses mouth.

Tracy Collins

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Jumping on the blog wagon

Posted by collinsadmin on March 10, 2007

Well, I am taking the plunge and jumping on the blog wagon. This is my first post so hopefully I don’t bore you all too much.

I guess I should start out by telling you a little bit about myself. My name is Tracy Collins, I am 29 years old (will be the big 3-0 in about a month and a half) and I have been in business for about a year or so. Well, actually I started my business in July of 2005 and got my first client January 2006.

One of the toughest things that I have had to overcome running my business is marketing. I always went by the, if you build it they will come philosophy. Boy, was that ever the wrong thing to believe. Anyways, I have since realized that in order for me to build a successful business, I need to pull up the old boot straps and start marketing myself.

One of the hardest things that I found was finding a niche market. I really didn’t know of anything that I was passionate about. I knew I liked doing all the secretarial tasks (I’ve known I was going to be in this type of business since I was 12 years old), I just couldn’t find anything that I wanted to focus on. I have since figured that out as well and since I found something to focus on, it has been a lot easier.

I can’t emphasize enough how important having a niche is. Once you find a niche, it will all get a lot easier for you. You know where the target hangs out, you know what they read, you know what they need help with and it just puts a whole new perspective on things. Now, you can’t just say hey I am going to target authors or coaches and think that they will come to you because that just doesn’t happen either. You have to find out what magazines they read, what forums they are on, and then start advertising in the magazines and getting to know them via online networking. Trust me, it will payoff eventually.

When I say, get to know them via online networking, I don’t mean go into their forums and say I can do this and this and this to make your life a whole lot easier. You need to get to actually know them, their passions, their personalities, and you need to give to get. Trust me I know that as well.

I am a member of Ryze and have been for awhile. Unfortunately, I don’t participate as much as I would like to. Anyways, when I first became a member, I thought hey I will go in and tell people who I am and what I do and the business will just start rolling in. That’s not the case either. I learned very quickly that you need to go in and get to know those people (there are some really great people on there) and maybe you will get business and maybe you won’t. Sure, I have gotten business from there but it was only after I got to know the people first.

Okay, I will get off my soap box now. For somebody who doesn’t like marketing, I can’t believe I wrote a whole post on it. Oh well, if it helps one person then I did my duty. So until next time, thanks for taking a look at my blog hopefully it helps you out and gives you some insight on some of the trials & tribulations that go into running your own business.

Tracy Collins

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